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Hawaii Vacation: Making Our Last Day Count

Day 9: Last Day of Vacay

Leaving Maui wasn’t anything to cry about. That’s because we were leaving Maui for Oahu. I’ve decided that this is the best way to leave a tropical island without feeling sad and depressed. Simply hop to another island, and you’ll be just fine. If only that were the case for every sad thing in life. Pissed at work? Hop to an island. Husband make you mad? Hop to an island. Stuck in traffic? Hop to an island.

Well, this hop to Oahu marked the near end of our Hawaii vacation. We had one more full day before hopping back home, and Mikey and I decided to spend it on the North Shore, while Mom and Dad ran some errands of their own. It turned out to be one of the best days of our entire vacation, and the pics below will show you why.

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OMG Sea Turtles!

I had heard through some coworkers that there’s a certain beach on the North Shore that is famous for sea turtles swimming up on the shore. I didn’t know where it was exactly, and we never made a big effort to seek it out. We did, however, end up there without our knowing. The beach is called Laniakea Beach, and the reason why we stopped there was because we saw it was a good snorkel spot days earlier when we were at Chunn’s Reef for our surfing lesson.

We were right about the snorkeling. The charcoal-colored rocks off to the right side of the beach were home to dozens of tropical fish. Mikey and I swam in, around and above the rocks for a while, enjoying the exotic sea creatures below us before heading up to our towels to dry off in the sun.

Not long after we settled into the sand, we heard the tourist chatter start to pick up. A giant sea turtle was swimming close to the shore, near snorkelers and a surfer girl and her daughter.

Then, they started coming in droves. Well, not really droves, but two more washed ashore — pretty much one right after another.

It is illegal in Hawaii to touch sea turtles (or honu, in Hawaiian). There are a number of wildlife volunteers who work hard to protect the sea turtles. In fact, a few uniformed women were there at Laniakea to police the beach and educate tourists about the turtles.

We learned that many of the turtles are tagged for tracking purposes. The wildlife groups and volunteers can identify almost all of the turtles. They’re given names and aside from the tags, can be identified by the markings on their heads and shells. They wash up onto the shore periodically to rest, and boy, do they look tired when they slowly but surely inch their way up to the sand. In addition to resting though, they’re also sunning. The sun aids their digestive system. One of the ones we saw was a whopping 250 lbs. Another was a bit smaller. She had recently been injured, probably by a boat propeller. The wildlife volunteers told us they had helped rehabilitate her and that she was well on the road to recovery, but that she visits the shore more often. It’s likely her injury that keeps her coming frequently to rest.

Food Truck Love at Pupukea Grill

Once I’d taken what seemed like a few hundred pictures, we decided to pack up our belongings and head out to find some food. Luckily, the North Shore is littered with yummy food trucks along the side of the road. We stopped at Pupukea Grill for some ridiculously big and delicious nachos.

We sat down and found ourselves surrounded by autographed photos from surfers who have come far and wide to catch a wave at Oahu’s famed North Shore.

End the Day at Waimea Bay

And to close out our memorable day at the beach, we made a final stop at one of our family’s favorite beaches, Waimea Bay.

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To say it was hard to leave Waimea Bay would be an understatement. Mikey almost had to drag me out of the water. But reality settled in, knowing we had a good deal of laundry and packing to do before the long trip home the next day.

That night, Mikey and I spent a night out on the town with my cousin, Justin and his girlfriend. I had my first Dave & Buster’s experience in Ala Moana. Mikey showed off his basketball skills at the hoops station, and we went home with a couple of kitschy prizes as a souvenirs. A great way to spend our final night in Hawaii, especially considering I hadn’t seen my cousin in nearly two decades. That’s what happens when your family grows up military. Constant relocating to different parts of the world keeps you far from each other but somehow, always in the same boat.

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Leaving Hawaii and especially my grandma is always tough. As with every vacation, Mikey and I always ask ourselves, Can we see ourselves living here? Heck yeah, said anyone who has ever stepped foot in Hawaii. But for us, it seems to be a reality that is very much within reach. It helps that we already have family there. It helps that my side grew up on that laid-back island lifestyle. It also helps that I’ve been watching countless episodes of Hawaii Life on HGTV and know that we could absolutely afford property somewhere on those magnificent islands. One of these days, we may just make a permanent life in Hawaii happen.

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This Very Happy Hockey House

The Bear missing his Blues hockey

The Bear missing his Blues hockey

Its been a long, arduous winter. Drudging along with our mundane lives. Pained with the overwhelming feeling of loss and emptiness.

That is, until two Sundays ago when I woke up to find Facebook had revealed the most triumphant news in all the world — Hockey. Is. Back. After a few seconds of internal screaming, I gently tiptoed back into the bedroom, where Mikey was still snoozing and nudged him awake to announce the news.

“Hockey is back,” I said.

His response through closed eyes and clenched teeth, “Awesoommme”.

A week later, we were again wakened by good news — a text from Mikey’s friend, announcing that our 10-game package deal (now eight games, due to the shortened season) included tickets to the St. Louis Blues home opener at the Scottrade on January 19th. We jolted out of bed with excitement. In fact, I may have done a fist pump. Not sure.

And six days later, we found ourselves in matching outfits (Blues jerseys, mind you), making the pilgrimage downtown to the Scottrade Center to watch our beloved St. Louis Blues crush the Detroit Redwings. And crush they did. The Blues’ freshest face on the ice, Vladimir Tarasenko, stuck it to Jimmy Howard twice with shots worthy of the 10 minutes I spent watching the replay over and over this morning over breakfast. Blues Forward, Chris Stewart, also fell one score shy of a hat trick, making those who doubted his ability last season call themselves into question. And there was that sweet breakaway, courtesy of Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and made magical with a shorthanded five-hole zinger by Forward T.J. Oshie. By the end of the night, we were roaring from the top row of section 326 as the Redwings left St. Louis with a 0-6 score on the board.

We’ve had our fair share of random “I miss hockey” moments while the guys in suits and ties have been throwing hissy fits negotiating sans hockey for 119 days. But last night’s game couldn’t have been a better Blues “thank you” for the fans who haven’t gone a day without supporting them. As if it isn’t already evident, Mikey and I can’t wait to see what this short season will bring. Suffice to say, the future for the Blues is bright.

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An Afternoon at Pere Marquette State Park

It’s not often that we get to venture out for a hike in the dead of winter. But a few weeks ago, when my niece and nephew were in town from Texas, the weather was unseasonably warm for this time of year. So we (as in, the whole family — me, Mikey, Teddy, my mom, my dad, my brother and his four kids), bundled up in warm hiking gear and drove about an hour away from St. Louis to Pere Marquette State Park in Grafton, Illinois to walk some of the trails.

For The Bear, this means an endless sniff festival of leaves and sticks and dirt.

For Mikey, it means pausing every five seconds so that The Bear can mark said leaves, sticks and dirt.

For my mom, it means getting to stretch her legs on a nice long walk. (Walking is a hobby of hers. She’s even on the walking committee at her work.)

For my brother, it means getting to do something fun with all of his kiddos.

For the kiddos, it means seeing new things, exploring and actually, doing something they’ve never done before. This hike marked their very first hike.

And for me and my dad, it means a perfect opportunity to break out the camera and document another family excursion.

When Mikey, The Bear and I first arrived, we spotted a group of deer in the woods off the side of the road. This was one of the few decent shots we were able to get.

The rest of the family was running behind, so me, Mikey and The Bear decided to walk the Oak trail while waiting for our fellow hikers.

Just another Mikey-Teddy adventure.

Teddy takes a few steps...

Starting to get the hang of it...

Enough with the balancing act.

Patiently waiting for the family to arrive. He's easily entertained by his favorite toy, Marvin.

Trees pave the way.

Everyone arrives, and it's off on the Hickory Trail we go.

Climbing up a hill to an overlook point.

Below us is the Illinois River.

And there's the STL.

One by one, continuing on.

Riley trio

Second shooter

Photographed by Dad, which is why he's missing from the photo.

Overall, the hike was a great success. The kids definitely enjoyed themselves (The Bear included). So when they come back to visit in the summer, we’ll have to check out another hiking destination together. In the meantime, I hope Old Man Winter will grace us with more 50-degree weather this season — preferably on a weekend when we aren’t chained to our desks and can enjoy it.

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The Roller Coaster that is My iPhone 4S

Let me start by saying that I don’t even like roller coasters. I will forever be the girl sitting on the bench at Six Flags, waiting for her group of roller coaster goers to return from their latest thrill ride. So suffice it say that this emotional roller coaster that my new iPhone 4S has me on is far from entertaining. Action-packed, maybe (considering the amount of action the Apple Store has seen from me these past couple weeks.)

But enough with the intro. Here’s how it all began.

When the iPhone 4S announcement was made, Mikey and I decided to treat each other to the new phones for our birthdays (mine was October 14th, his is November 23rd). Poor Mikey was still in no man’s land sans smart phone and was in dire need of an upgrade. And my iPhone 3G was lacking in the whole instant gratification department. Took about 12 years and a few gray hair transformations to pull up driving directions on the Maps app and pretty much any webpage on Safari.

So I was uber pleased to learn that pre-ordering would be available starting October 7th in time for delivery on October 14th, my actual birthday. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. And so when October 14th came around, I went to work, left work and drove home in anticipation for what I hoped would be the new phones on our doorstep.

I hoped wrong.

I came home to the UPS packaging slip that said they made a delivery attempt. But because the packages contained $200 phones, they obviously couldn’t leave them unattended at the foot of our front door. Duh. I should’ve thought of that. I should’ve just taken the day off like a tech-obsessed gadget geek to wait for its arrival.

But there was still hope.

I called the UPS 1-800 number to see if there was still time to pick the phones up at a brick and mortar store before close of business. I gave the customer service rep my name and number, and he told me that someone from the nearest UPS pick-up location would contact me within the hour. When the phone rang, I was excited to hear that I could pick up the packages between 7pm and 9pm — but immediately disappointed when I realized that time frame wouldn’t work for us. We had dinner reservations with my parents at 7:30 and the pick-up location was about 45 minutes from our house. Driving out there to get them was cutting it too close.

So after hanging up with the UPS guy, all defeated and melancholy, I proceeded to mope around the house. Pacing back and forth and whining to Mikey and basically acting like a five-year-old who just got denied access to the candy store.

Until the phone rang.

It was the UPS guy again! He said that the UPS driver that was carrying our phones was still in the area, and that if we were planning to be home before 5:30, he’d be able to deliver it then. I gasped at his glorious good news and thanked him profusely. He then explained how he could sense the disappointment in my voice during our earlier call and figured he had to do something to lift my spirits. He didn’t lift them; he catapulted them. My mood immediately shifted from pissed to ecstatic. Mikey can even attest to the ridiculous happy dance I did in the living room, which I’m glad none of you were able to witness.

And so, at 5:23, the doorbell rang and the UPS delivery man handed over our new phones.

The next few days were great. Mikey had jumped head-first into the new chapter in his life, which I’m now entitling, “How a Smart Phone Healed My World, Made it a Better Place for You and for Me and the Entire Human Race”. He even joined Twitter and started tweeting (I’m such a proud wife!).

But then…

A few days later, I reached into my purse for my phone and found it was juiceless. The battery had completely drained. After plugging it in to charge, it even took a few minutes for the power source to recognize it. But eventually it did, and it charged to 100% without a problem.

Then, the same thing happened the next day. Reached for my phone to find it had zero charge. I had hardly even used it that day. The phone was warm too. Was the battery overheating?

After charging it up again, I realized something was definitely wrong. The battery percentage would drop anywhere from two to five percentage points for every five minutes that I was using the phone. It would even drop percentage points even if it wasn’t in use! Not cool at all. The weird thing was that Mikey’s phone was working perfectly fine. No issues whatsoever. Equally not cool at all (for me).

So to the Apple Genius Bar I went…

We ended up speaking to a manager. He ran diagnostics on the device and the report showed that everything appeared to be acting normally. One thing he did catch was that I wasn’t closing out my applications when I was finished using them. So there was a build-up of apps running in the background that could have been contributing to the poor battery life. So once again, I was hopeful. The Genius Bar visit was actually therapeutic, and I was ready to face another day.

But the next day was just as sucky.

I saw no improvement in the battery life. Still the same drop of percentage points with every five minutes that I was using the phone. And still the risk of percentage drops without my even touching it. I saw Apple discussion boards start to flood with complaints about the battery life. The stories sounded all too similar to mine. I was just waiting for an Apple acknowledgement or some media coverage to bring the issues to light. But waiting wasn’t helping me any either.

So back to the Genius Bar I went…

I explained my unresolved issues to the “genius”, and she hooked me up with a new 4S. I was skeptical but wanted so much to be hopeful. I brought iPhone 4S #2 back to the Riley house, and for the next few days, my optimism seemed to work. All was smooth-sailing.

Less than a week after I welcomed the second 4S into my life, the media finally picked up on the battery life issues that were circling among 4S users. Apple had yet to issue a statement but had reached out to some 4S users to start the process of pinpointing the problem.

A day later, I reached into my purse to once again find the battery on my brand new phone had died! The last I had checked, it still had 32% of juice left. Seriously, WTF?! I was about ready to throw the phone against a wall, but I don’t think the bride and groom of the wedding I was at would’ve appreciated that. So I refrained.

Luckily, I haven’t run into any issues since then. But when it comes to this new model, I wouldn’t be surprised if the battery fail happens again.

I was happy to stumble across an article in my Twitter feed today that said Apple has confirmed the battery flaw and will be issuing an iOS 5 update to resolve it. No news on when that update is coming, but reports say that the bug that’s causing the battery to tank is a result of the phone’s location services. When enabled, it continuously runs to determine whether or not you’ve switched time zones. And dangit, I’m not switching time zones. I’m right here!

So while I’ve definitely gone through an array of emotions with this frickin’ phone, here’s how I really feel. The phone does have some great features, including faster speed (light years away from the sluggishness of my 3G), an 8-megapixel camera and the oh-so intelligent voice assistant that is Siri. She’s pretty awesome and definitely outsmarts Samantha, the voice of our GPS device. But aside from that, there is a little voice inside my head (better known as, my dad) who is saying, See, you shouldn’t buy into the hype. Wait it out. Weigh your options. Do your research. Don’t make rash decisions. In this case, the hype definitely got the best of me. Given the time that this new phone was set to release, I thought the stars were completely aligned. But one of those stars must’ve been a black sheep of the twinkle twinkle family or something because now I just feel foolish. It is a lesson learned though. The next time I buy a phone, it’s gonna have to prove itself before I buy it.

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Finally! Hockey Season Returns

Last Saturday's Blues home opener against the Nashville Predators

Fall marks that special time of year when all of the sports world is buzzing with excitement. Baseball enters playoff season. College and pro football get into full swing. And the puck finally drops on hockey season. My husband, being the sports fanatic that he is, has managed to confine himself to the couch every Sunday for the past three weeks. And that doesn’t count the weeknight games, like the Cardinals playoff game we’re watching tonight.

How does a woman cope with this madness? My rule of thumb is that if he’s going to confine himself to the couch, I’m going to confine myself to the mall. It’s only fair.

Luckily for hubs, there is one sport that I’ve grown to love over the past two years — St. Louis Blues hockey. Mikey has played hockey most of his life. His position? Goalie. His number? 31. His favorite team? The Blues, of course. You can read more about his hockey history here.

I wasn’t completely enamored with hockey when we first met. But as of a couple years ago, when we started buying 10-game packages every season, I quickly understood why Mikey loved it so much. And it quickly caught on for me too. So why hockey more so than baseball or football?

It’s a fast-paced skill game that requires strength (both mental and physical), finesse, hand-eye coordination and rapid reflexes. Not a whole lot of standing around, spitting tobacco chew in this game. And there seems to be a much bigger respect that hockey players have for the game. For instance, you’ll never catch a hockey player touching the Stanley cup unless they’ve won it. It’s the idea that one must be worthy of hoisting the cup by enduring an 82-game regular season and the longest playoff in professional sports.

Another reason why I’ve become a hockey fan is yes, the players are hot. But they also seem completely down to earth, approachable and less focused on fame and fortune. You rarely see headlines of so and so player holding out on a poor contract for the sake of the almighty dollar. In a league where the league’s best player makes less money than a mediocre baseball player, I’ve come to appreciate hockey players for their devout passion to play the game.

Of course, since both humans in the house are pro-Blues, the four-legged family member has to get in on the action too. And with our trio now complete, we can officially declare our house a hockey house. The wretched pungency of Mikey’s goalie equipment in the basement is proof.

Unfortunately, I bought this jersey for Teddy a year ago without trying it on until last weekend. The Bear is built like a hockey player, so he was kind of busting out of it.

I think he wants a refund.

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College, we miss you.

This past weekend went down as a great one in the record books. One of Mikey’s groomsmen — an old college buddy and former hockey teammate — tied the knot at a beautiful wedding in Oak Park, Illinois, a bustling town on the outskirts of Chicago. We took Friday off work and drove up for the Saturday wedding. And in typical fashion whenever “the guys” get together, it was non-stop reminiscing about the glory days of college. It’s often the same stories that are retold over and over again whenever they get together.

Like the time they dared one guy to chug an entire bottle of hot sauce. Yep, it happened. Both the dare and the follow-through. Or the time one of the guys forgot the lid to his water bottle in another guy’s dorm room. He was too lazy to run back upstairs and get it, so he stuck a plastic bag onto a hockey stick, hung it out the window and had the other guy drop it from the 7th story window down to the 5th. It worked. Or the time one guy showed up to another guy’s dorm room wearing pink fuzzy slippers. It was the first thing he could grab when a 2 am fire alarm had gone off in the building next door. Or the time one guy accidentally shaved off his eyebrows. Not really much else to say there. Except, how awesome is that?!

When we cleaned out the basement a year or so ago, Mikey dug up his Icehouse neon sign. "Icehouse" was his nickname in college. Till this day, he's been known to appear under this moniker in many a friend's address books.

Aside from all their crazy antics, I got to thinking about all the college perks that have fallen to the wayside since entering the real world.

Like how I can’t take naps in the middle of the day between meetings (as I used to do between classes). Or how I can’t wake up 20 minutes before work starts and roll in with a sweatshirt and fleece pants. Or how I can hardly keep my eyes open past 11pm on a weekend — when in college, the wee hours of the night were my favorite time of day. These days, I can’t even keep my eyes open at a movie that starts after 9pm. Tried it at a 9:15 showing of Transformers. I was snoozing by the time the opening credits wrapped up. Lame, but true.

How is it that there’s a whole four years of “higher education” that gave me the privilege of doing such awe-inspiring things? It’s hard to believe all that good stuff happened in college. It’s hard to believe that these days, our reality is so far removed from what college was. It’s also hard to believe that I’ve been out of college for five years now, which makes me feel old and envious. But it’s easy to believe that everything in college — whether good or bad or intoxicated or sober — brought us to where we are today. And for the friends who I’ve kept in close contact with since graduating, I’d say we’re all in a pretty good place.

Just so you don't think I was a total waste of space in college, I was voted Most Likely to Succeed by my sorority senior year. And yes, that's something I DO take pride in! 🙂

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iTap: My Husband’s Happy Place

A few months ago, I blogged about how I think every person needs a happy place. Or three. Well last weekend, Mikey found his. And it’s no surprise to anyone who knows him, that this happy place is all about… beer.

It’s called the International Tap House or iTap for short. There are two locations in the St. Louis area, one in Chesterfield and one in Soulard. And the concept is yes, beer. But practically every beer imaginable. Take your pick of microbrewery beers from across the U.S. or venture out of your comfort zone to sample a brew from Japan or Germany or Australia. 40 beers on tap — always on rotation — and about 480 different beers by the bottle from 25 different countries. IPA’s, Hefeweizens, Kolschs, Pilsners. And everything else under the sun.

We went to the Soulard location last Sunday, and really enjoyed ourselves. Aside from the beer selection, here are some other reasons why iTap made our A-list.

  1. BYOF. Bring Your Own Food. iTap doesn’t have a kitchen, which I was kind of bummed about at first. Because eating is my thing. But they do allow you to bring your own food or order food into the bar. So you could have pizza delivered to iTap. Or, you can stop by your favorite restaurant, pick up your choice of grub and tote it on over to iTap, which is what we did. We brought a greased-up bag of Five Guys Burgers & Fries to the bar and enjoyed it alongside our beers. It really is a genius idea. Taking any kind of food you want into a bar. The possibilities are endless because you don’t have to order from a restricted menu.
  2. Great outdoor patio. Because when is drinking beer on a patio not a good thing?
  3. Friendly, knowledgeable bartenders/barbacks. We chatted up the barback that evening, who happened to be the brother-in-law of the owner. He gave some great beer recommendations — one of which has now surpassed Mikey’s #1 ranking, Guinness. It’s Buster Nut Brown Ale by Ska Brewing Company, Durango, Colorado. Bet the copywriter had a fun time coming up with THAT name.
  4. No smoking inside. It’s just nice to come home without feeling like I have to wash my smoke-drenched hair before I go to bed.
  5. Lack of loud music. The only dull roar you hear in the building is the sound of chatter and laughter. No need to scream at the top of your lungs to the person sitting a foot away from you. I enjoy having a voice at the end of a night out.
  6. Take it to go. As we were closing out our tab, Mikey realized there was a beer on the menu that he didn’t get a chance to try. So the barback conveniently told us that we could purchase beers by the bottle for carry-out. So we customized a six-pack of Buster Nut Brown Ale, Bell’s Oarsmen and Ellie’s Brown Ale by Avery Brewing Co. And a couple days later, we’re still enjoying our custom pack.

I think it’s pretty evident that we’ll be back for more. Mikey was happier than a kid on Christmas. After about four beers in, he turned to me, grinning from ear to ear and said, “This has just become my favorite place on earth. Ever.”

And to show you how hardcore we were about our experience there, we kept a running list of the beers we tried. There wasn’t a single one we didn’t enjoy. And the Bell’s Oarsmen, a seasonal sour beer, topped both our lists.

Paulaner Hefeweizen – Mikey
Avery White Rascal – Me
Bell’s Oarsmen – Mikey
Ace Pear Cider – Me
Duvel – Mikey
Guinness – Mikey
Buster Nut Brown Ale – Mikey
Ellie’s Brown Ale – Mikey

Judging by the distribution of beer between the two of us, can you guess which one was the designated driver?

So to sum it all up, iHeart (or rather, weHeart) iTap.

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Downtown Restaurant Week

Where can you get a 3-course meal for $25? St. Louis Downtown Restaurant Week. We’ve taken advantage of the week-long food fest for the past couple of years, and this year we chose Prime 1000 as our dining destination. For those of you familiar with St. Louis, Prime 1000 is located on Washington Ave. in the location where Kitchen K used to be.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give Prime 1000 a 6. The deep fried gnocchi I had for the second course was yummy, but the pork belly I ordered for the third course left much to be desired. Too rubbery, not enough flavor. But I would be willing to go back and order off the regular menu. Their steak selection looked pretty impressive.

The service was great, though. We had a very friendly server, and the owner (at least he looked like the owner — the long hair, multiple rings on his fingers and Ozzy Osbourne-esque trench coat was a dead giveaway) came by twice to ensure everything was up to snuff.

As the sun began to go down, the buzz around downtown started to pick up, too. Which is always nice to see. Makes you want to grab a table on one of the restaurant patios and people watch with a glass ‘o wine. Here, photos I took to document our dinner outing downtown.

Bottom row from left to right: 1) Deep-fried gnocchi, 2) Pork belly, 3) His pinot noir, my sauvignon blanc

Across the street from Prime 1000 is a global fusion restaurant, Mosaic. And parked right in front of us was a limited edition Audi R8, which was stopping people (er, men) dead in their tracks for a close look (er, drool).

And on the way home, I Instagrammed this. A downtown corridor at 10th and Locust.

It was a great night to be downtown. Wish every week could be Restaurant Week.

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Curling up with a good… e-reader?

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

I read a blog post the other day, entitled Amazon, eBooks and the demise of Borders and bookshop culture. The blogger posted it a couple weeks ago, right around the time Borders announced that all its stores would be closing for good. And it speaks to the fact that the way we’re reading these days is changing. The leisurely trip to Borders to peruse the stacks and shelves is no more. The common act of reading words on paper is dwindling fast. And getting lost in a good book isn’t really the same when you’re holding a screen in your hands.

I guess the blog post spoke to me and got me thinking back to when I was a kid. My nose was always stuck in a book. Nowadays, people have got their eyes glued to e-readers. Literally glued. To the point where they can’t power them down when they’re flying on an airplane and the flight attendant is practically down their throats, barking “sir/ma’am, that needs to be off!” Happens every time. And I just smile as I flip the page of my power-button-lacking real book.

It’s not that I’m opposed to anyone who has an e-reader. I’ll admit, it probably motivates you to read more, knowing that you can breeze through “book” 1 and instantly move onto “book” 2 with a few clicks of a button. But I just don’t see myself parting from real books. With a cover and pages you can actually feel. A tangible object that slips in neatly alongside the rest of the books in my nightstand. A real book, I can actually curl up with. A real book, you can actually bond over with your children at night. A real book, that doesn’t need to be charged.

As for Borders, it’s a sad thing to see them go. I remember when the hubs and I took a trip to Chicago for Valentine’s Day last year. It was a very laid-back trip. We spent a good chunk of the day at the Borders off Michigan Avenue, searching for good reads and dropping $80 on a few paperbacks. Not something you typically do when traveling, but I liked that we did.

And then, last week the Borders CEO sent a farewell email to all subscribers, and that made me more sad. It came off as an honest acknowledgement of the company’s struggle to stay afloat during these tough economic times. And thanked the customers that have remained loyal and played a part in their story all these years.

But my “awww, sad” moment quickly dissipated the moment I stopped into Borders last Friday to check out the liquidation sale. The line to the cash registers was practically out the door. The Seattle’s Best coffee shop was dark and dismal. There were ugly yellow and black discount signs that read like caution tape instead of the soothing “hey, sit down and stay a while” look that Borders typically goes for. And the place was buzzing with bargain hunters. It was just so uncharacteristic of a bookstore. Since when does a bookstore buzz? When there’s a liquidation, that’s when.

So what does all of this change in our reading ways make me want to do? Turn off the TV more. Step away from the computer more. Put down the iPhone more. And read. Regardless of how you read, I think the important thing is to read, period. Especially those young people out there. Justin Bieber will one day get old and crinkly, and therefore, smelly. When a book gets old and crinkly with stained pages and doodles inside, it gets smelly too. But it’s that good library book kind of smell. A smell that tells you this book has made others think — whether they thought the contents were good or bad. There are millions upon millions of thoughts that can be generated from a single book. Teeny boppers would beg to differ, but I think that means more than any Bieber ballad ever could.

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Food Truck Friday & Other Outdoor Eats

We haven’t had rain in St. Louis for over a week. The heat is out of control, and to say that we’re in need of a serious cool down is an understatement.

But we didn’t let the heat keep us cooped up inside this weekend. With enough inside work to do in the house (i.e. kitchen remodel), it feels like a must for us to get outside and take advantage of some of the summertime happenings around the STL. And naturally, the ones we take part in are ones that involve one of our most favorite things in the world… food.

This past Friday was Food Truck Friday in Tower Grove Park. It’s an event sponsored by the local foodie magazine, Sauce, where all the St. Louis food trucks line up to sell their yummy eats. You arrive with an empty stomach and take your pick of food truck cuisine. Anything from gourmet hot dogs to Filipino-inspired fare. And there’s even beer, courtesy of St. Louis microbrewery, Schlafly, and a couple of dessert trucks to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Clockwise from top left: 1) Arancini from Mangia Mobile. 2) Standing in line at Mangia. 3) Gateway Beer & Pretzel Dog from Papa Tom’s Gateway Dog House — complete with bacon, beer cheese, spicy mustard and a pickle. 4) The Guerrilla Street Food truck — which ran out of fresh lumpia after we waited almost forever in line!

Clockwise from top left: 1) The Sweet Divine food truck — to fulfill all your sugary needs. 2) Me, sweating like whoa but still smiling because I’m eating. And eating makes me happy. 3) The line at Papa Tom’s Gateway Dog House. Which also serves St. Louis’ very own Ted Drewe’s ice cream.

And in other non-food truck news, we finally stopped in at one of my favorite summertime hot spots. The hot dog and snow cone stand at Memorial Park in Brentwood. They serve almost every snow cone flavor known to man, and man, is it the perfect remedy for 100-degree heat! A few bites into my cherry snow cone made me feel invincible against the persistent sun. I need to make these snow cone outings a more frequent event before the stand closes up at the end of the summer.

So I guess that’s proof that summer can be cool when it’s hot. It all made for a pretty darn good weekend. Hope you had a good one, too!

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Filed under Food, St. Louis, Uncategorized