Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Campbell House

One of the many historic buildings on Locust is the Campbell House, a nineteenth-century mansion-turned-museum that also happens to be the home of David Newmann, Joe’s bandmate and the building’s new caretaker.

Of course Joe and I had to stop by and check out his new digs on our epic walk down Locust.

The first word that comes to mind to describe the interior of the house is opulent. Robert Campbell made a fortune in fur trading and the family was close with, among other notable figures, General/President Ulysses S. Grant. So, as you can imagine, the place is chock full of rich fabrics, hand-painted china, and such a wealth of luxurious detail it can be hard to take in all at once.

The grounds are beautiful too, with an ornate gazebo and full rose garden.

The history of the Campbell family itself is also fascinating. Robert Campbell was a self-made millionaire and his surviving sons, one of whom was schizophrenic, had such reclusive habits that the Campbell house became known as the “Ghost House” during the later years of their lives (no one was ever seen to go in and out, but lights would turn on and off and curtains would move from time to time).

I don’t want to spoil the experience by giving away any more than those few tidbits, so I’ll just say that you can check out the Campbell House for yourself here. A tour is only $7, and it’s well worth it if you’re interested in the history of St. Louis or of the Civil War, if you just enjoy looking at fancy things, or if you would just like to get a sense of how the 1% used to live.

If you go on a weekend, you may even get a tour from Newman himself!

Speaking of, Newman’s apartment over the carriage house (the former residence of as many as six stable hands at a time) is pretty cool too. I especially enjoyed the little port-hole windows along one side, which formed part of the architect’s scheme to make each side of the carriage house reflect a different style.

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While we were there, I got to play with Newman’s awesome pet snake and Joe spent some time really getting into period character. All in all, visiting the Campbell House was a great way to cap off our Locust adventure!

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Photos from the Commute

I travel the same 2.2-mile stretch of Locust Street between Grand Center and Downtown twice each weekday as I bike to and from work.  Every time, I notice more interesting little details.

The heyday of Locust was in the nineteenth century, and the architecture along the way alludes to it’s illustrious past.  Many of the historic buildings have survived (to at least some extent), and layers and layers renovation and signage have since been piled on top, resulting in a fantastic muddle of periods and styles with a wealth of captivating detail.

Every day I bike past, I occupy myself by mentally framing the photographs I would love to make if I only had my camera and a chance to take the time to really look.

This past weekend I finally made the time to walk along my bike route , so here it is at last: my commute in photos.

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Herbstfeste

Fall has arrived in St. Louis, and with it have come a number of beer festivals.

The first, Schlafly’s annual HOP in the Citytook place last weekend at the Tap Room on Locust.  Given that it was happening only a mile from our apartment, the opportunity to sample over 40 beers (including a special Pumpkin Stout brewed just for the event) seemed too good to pass up.  So, Joe and I biked down to the huge white beer tent set up outside the Tap Room last Saturday and, over the few hours we spent at the event, filled our little glass sample chalices twelve times.  Along the way I discovered some new favorites, including the Vanilla Milk Stout and the Galaxy IPA.

The fun continued this past weekend with Oktoberfest (yes, in September) at Urban Chestnut, a microbrewery located a mere two blocks from our apartment.  A $5 Maß (liter glass) and a line-up of four German-style beers (including the stunningly named Oachkatzlschwoaf, an Oktoberfest-style beer brewed specially for the event), all in the UCBC Biergarten?  Yes, please!  This event was also a lot of fun, even though they were out of Maße before we got there and we ended up with regular old pint glasses.

Although I miss apple picking accompanied by fresh cider and even fresher doughnuts in the orchards in Maine, St. Louis is also giving me reason to appreciate the passing of summer (even though the return to cooler temperatures may have been enough by itself).

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Chance Interactions

Biking is a social experience.

When I ride my bike, I feel more connected to my surroundings and engaged with the city.  It’s much harder to tune out and much easier to notice the details.  It’s also much easier to interact with others along the way.  This morning two other bike commuters caught up with me at a stoplight on Jefferson and we rode together and chatted for a half-mile or so before splitting off and heading to our respective destinations downtown.

It was a beautiful start to the day, and it never could have happened had we been in cars.

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Shaking It Up

I have always been fascinated by cocktails.  And that’s hardly an exaggeration—even as a little kid I would amuse myself in restaurants by reading the cocktail menus over and over and imagining which one I would choose if I were allowed.

I wasn’t interested in the alcohol.  In fact, I hadn’t the slightest clue what any of the various alcohols tasted like, so I would skip past those and focus on the other ingredients.  What captured my attention were the seemingly limitless combinations of juices, syrups, sodas, fruit, herbs, and, of course, garnishes.  If I remember correctly, I also used to involve my parents in this game, asking which cocktail they would choose or offering them my own recommendations (based solely on the non-alcoholic ingredients).  They probably had to contend with more than a few disapproving stares over the years!

However, now that I am all grown up myself I can finally indulge in my fascination with these beautiful (and tasty) drinks.

In pursuit of this goal, I have recently acquired a wonderful Boston shaker and strainer from William Sonoma.   This thing is seriously the best.  It is so much fun to use, and the results have so far been delicious.

Now I’m not advanced enough yet to confidently create fancy cocktails from scratch with no recipe, so for now I’ve settled for observation and shameless copycatting.  Here are a few of my favorite creations so far:

The Daryl

The following is my interpretation of a recipe made by Daryl Koopersmith.  The credit for the original recipe is all his, the adjustments all mine.

  • Gin
  • Lime juice
  • Lavender syrup*
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Ginger beer

*To make the lavender syrup, boil one cup of water with one cup of sugar and several sprigs of fresh or dried lavender until the sugar is dissolved and the solution is tinted brown.

  1. Muddle a handful of fresh basil leaves at the bottom of a shaker.
  2. Pour over two parts gin, one part lime juice, and one part lavender syrup.
  3. Add ice, seal, and shake vigorously to combine.
  4. Strain the mixture into a glass and top with ginger beer.
  5. Enjoy!

The Painkiller / The Bellombra

This is a classic from the British Virgin Islands.  I discovered the recipe through Jaclyn and Simon, my fellow students abroad, while living in Bologna.  The first version below is the original.  The second is the makeshift version we put together in Italy where the ingredients were much harder to find (and more expensive).

  • Dark rum
  • Pineapple juice
  • Orange juice
  • Cream of coconut
  • Nutmeg
  1. Pour two parts rum, four parts pineapple juice, one part orange juice, and one part cream of coconut into a shaker.
  2. Add ice, seal, and shake vigorously to combine.
  3. Strain the frothy mixture into a glass.
  4. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.
  5. Enjoy!
  • Rum (ideally dark)
  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Coconut milk
  • Nutmeg
  1. Pour something approximating a shot of rum into an empty nutella jar.  Add a fair amount of orange juice and splashes of pineapple juice and coconut milk.
  2. Stir.
  3. Top with nutmeg.
  4. Enjoy almost as much!

So that’s a taste of what I’ve been working on so far.  But check back later!  I’m in the process of perfecting my own Bloody Mary.

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The Art of Being Late

Or, rather, how to be artfully late.

I’m not someone who makes a habit of being late.  In fact, it drives me crazy when I do end up late!  However, sometimes even I have those mornings when I press the snooze button once and then somehow don’t wake up again until 20 minutes before I need to leave.  But even though I’m usually just waking up to go to work and sit in my little corner with the same 8 people I spend every (week)day with, I still like to arrive looking good.  I find that it’s better to be 10 minutes late in the morning and feel put-together than it is to spend all day feeling frazzled.

So with that in mind, here are a few tips for dressing for success…quickly.

  1. Choose solid colors.  I find picking a dress in a neutral color to be easiest, and then spicing it up with a bright sweater or blazer.  Instant outfit!
  2. Choose a bold lipstick in a complementary colour.  Lipstick is the quickest and easiest way to provide a finishing touch that pops.  In fact, it’s so easy that you can even apply it as you’re walking out the door.
  3. Throw on some mascara for balance, but skip the eyeliner and shadow.  You don’t have the time to do them right, and you don’t want to show up looking like you scribbled it on in the dark.
  4. Leave your hair down. The quick ponytail is always an option, but few mists of sea salt spray and fist scrunches create messy waves that look intentional—a perfectly simple disguise for bed-head.
  5. Slip into some comfy flats.  No time for shoelaces and heels will just slow you down.

And voilà!  Not too shabby for 20 minutes.

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Jazzed about Exercise

Since my glory days of cross country and track in high school, I have not been someone who works out.  Oh sure, I would go for a run or accompany a friend to the gym every few months or so, and I walked and biked everywhere to get around, but regular exercise for the sake of exercise was not a part of my life.

Until now.

A combination of spending most days sitting, having a fitness center in my building, and starting to bike to and from work has inspired me to get back into tip-top shape.

It’s not much, but my (hopefully realistic) goal is to spend at least half and hour each weekend day in the fitness center and to bike 2.2 miles each way to and from work (for a total of 22 miles each week).

Now that I’ve put it up here, I have to follow through, right?  Time to get those high school abs back!

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The Collection of Teas on my Shelf

I love tea. A lot. In fact, it’s more than love. My feelings for tea border on full-scale addiction (as any of you who have seen me consume upwards of five cups in a single day well know). Part of the reason I love tea so much is that there is a variety for every occasion. Tired in the morning and facing a long day? A cup of cardamom black tea or Earl Grey with a hint of Lapsang Souchong and you’ll be ready to go. Need a pick-me-up in the afternoon but want to avoid the caffeine jitters? Have some oolong, maybe with a little rose or lavender mixed in for good measure. Need to wind down in the evening? That’s the perfect time to pull out some Jasmine or Lemongrass Green. And of course, chamomile or a vanilla rooibos will always hit the spot right before bedtime.

Ever since I first discovered the wonder of tea back in middle school (the gateway was Barry’s Irish Breakfast–a delicious and inexpensive classic black), I’ve had an extensive collection on my shelf. Since moving to St. Louis a few years ago, I’ve found a few tea treasures in the city to keep me stocked and happy.

First and foremost is the London Tea Room on Washington Avenue. Their tea menu is extensive, and as full of wit and whimsy as it is of fine teas and tisanes. I can never resist a pot of the 5th of November (a black tea with smoky berry notes) when I’m there, but the Coconut Oolong also deserves special mention (it’s delicate, creamy, and cost effective since oolongs only improve on the second steep). The Tea Room has also recently transitioned to a sit down cafe menu with a full selection of soups, salads, and sandwiches (of which my favorite would probably have to be the Brie & Apple, set apart from all the others by the genius addition of a tangy lime marmalade). Finally, no review would be complete without acknowledging the Tea Room’s stunning bakery array, with everything from quiches to cupcakes to fabulous black currant scones that are simply out of this world when taken with jam and clotted cream.

So what are you waiting for? You can find the Tea Room for yourself here.

While London Tea satisfies my cravings to enjoy the occasional cup of tea in the company of friends (and scones), most of my tea drinking takes place while I answer phones and emails at work or while I read and write or snuggle up on the couch in the evenings. While it is possible to purchase bulk tea at the Tea Room, most of my home supply comes from another St. Louis gem, Jay International on South Grand. The international grocery store and market is a fascinating conglomeration of sights and smells, and the perfect place to find, say, fresh spring roll wrappers or instant dashi and miso paste. As convenient as this is when I am trying to expand my cooking horizons, the real reason I love Jay is for the tea aisle. Yes, there is an entire length of aisle devoted to tea of all sorts, and most of it is loose-leaf and beautifully packaged in colorful tins. Don’t just listen to me! See for yourself a few of the teas I’ve found at Jay:

Ahmad Cardamom Black Tea

Ahmad Earl Grey

Heaven Dragon Lychee Black Tea

Heaven Dragon Ti Kuan Yin (Oolong)

Jasmine Green Tea

Lapsang Souchong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If what you see here has inspired you to check out Jay’s tea selection, head down to 3172 South Grand Boulevard and be sure to take some time to explore the rest of the store too.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this writing has made me thirsty. Time to put the kettle on!

(Update: Rose Black tea steeped with a touch of Lapsang Souchong and finished with a splash of almond milk? Heavenly.)

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Livin’ It Up at the Metropolitan

I know I promised a post about the new apartment a while ago, and now that I finally have Internet and some time to breathe, it’s a reality!

August has been a very hectic month (albeit in the best way possible).  It began with a busy week at work and a vacation in California,which were followed by 1) a move from the Cookie Tree to the Metropolitan Artist Lofts, 2) my parents coming in to town (and Robert moving back for the school year), 3) Sasha coming from New York City to stay for a few days,and 4) Lucy coming for a weekend as part of her brief sojourn in the US before her move from Paris to London.  Whew.  As you can imagine, I’ve barely had a moment to myself (and wouldn’t have had it any other way).  Most of all, I’ve been incredibly happy to have such a wonderful apartment (complete with queen-size futon!) to offer up as a place for all these exciting visitors to stay.

Now I could spend this post going into belated detail about the process of moving into the apartment and listing exactly how many trips back and forth with boxes were involved (and how many trips to Target!), but let’s be honest: you all know far too well what that’s like.  You’ve been there.  So, without further ado, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for anyway: PHOTOS!

Click any thumbnail to enter the virtual tour with full-size images.

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