St. Louis Zoo

The final leg of our trip to St. Louis included a visit to the zoo. Of course I’m always drawn to the history of places, and the original buildings with their detailed architecture are beautiful! A lot has changed since the last time I was there. Trees are bigger, the sea lion and seal exhibit in the center has been redone, and it’s very easy to get lost in there now with all the growth. Of course, it rained not long after we got there and kept raining. We put on rain ponchos and tried to keep trudging on, but it got to be too much for our injured party between the rain and the hills. Her ankle couldn’t take it for very long.

Here are the places and animals we did manage to see…

The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis

Going to a live show is an amazing experience. The first live theater production I ever saw was The Nutcracker at St. Louis’s Fox Theatre. I don’t remember if I was 18, 19, possibly 20 – it was definitely before I was married. I went with my fiance’s mom, his sister, and his now sister-in-law. I remember the total awe I felt as we walked in the doors and fully understood immediately why it is called the Fabulous Fox! The Chinese-inspired ornate details everywhere give a feeling of luxury that makes your evening (or day) even more special. It’s the total package!

I suppose not everyone considers attending a live show to be special. Perhaps they take such things for granted. As someone who currently can only afford to go to a show if the cheapest tickets remain available long enough for me to swoop them up, I consider it to be extremely special and make sure I soak up every minute of the experience – from getting ready to the final bow! The additional eye candy around every turn of the Fox Theatre makes that experience anything but boring!

Here are many (probably TOO many) photos from a tour I took with my girls and my in-laws when we were in St. Louis for a short visit in July. {Click first picture to view full size images.}

Oh to be a photographer for the big shows! Here are some school productions I’ve shot.

Brewery Tour

All the years I lived in St. Louis, I never took the tour of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. I had to do the whole tourist thing 13 years after moving away to see the brewery. :D My two favorite parts of the tour were the amazing architecture and the free beer at the end of the tour. It sure puts the new tilt-up buildings that make up the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in Ft. Collins, CO, to shame. They just don’t build things like they used to. Now it’s all about how fast they can get it built and opened.



St. Louis Basilica

While on vacation in Missouri, we went inside the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis. Oh. My. WOW! These are not paintings; they are mosaics. Millions of tiny pieces of glass!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Post-Vacation Depression

Is that a thing? I think it’s a thing. Maybe coming home a day earlier to have time to unwind and do laundry isn’t so great after all. Maybe it’s better to get back and hit the ground running so you don’t have time to wonder if it was all a dream or if it really happened. Vacation passes by so fast, and then it’s just over. Back to the same old routine day after day. So I need to talk it out a bit.

I’m from St. Louis, Missouri. Yeah, I lived in various other places (Kansas, Ohio, and Florida) but St. Louis is the place I remember the most. I’ve lived in a south suburban neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, for the past 13.5 years. I have a lot of family and a couple friends in St. Louis still. The trouble with visiting St. Louis is that there are so many people to see, but there is absolutely no way to see everyone due to work schedules and logistics. Thanks to the “great white flight“, a lot of people have moved to new suburbs farther away from the city. Whatever drove them to shinier pastures makes it harder to see them the few times per decade we are able to make the trip.

Of course, my nature is to feel guilty if I’m unable to spend equal time with everyone. On the other hand, it’s unhealthy to shoulder that responsibility because without a doubt, there will be someone feeling hurt that we didn’t spend much (if any) time with them. It’s almost as bad as taking a vacation somewhere else instead of using vacation time to always go “home” and feeling guilty about that. I don’t expect them all to use all their vacation time to come to Colorado every time, though. Guilt over that one resolved! :D

Yes, I miss friends and fam in The Lou, but they all know where we live, too. ;) There’s some nostalgia about visiting St. Louis, but I also like to show off Colorado.

It’s hard knowing how much we’re missed – to the point where they wish so much that we could move back there. That would mean losing our jobs and starting all over, though. It would also mean uprooting kids and pulling them from friendships they’ve formed. No, this is where we live now and will live for quite a while longer. St. Louis may be where I spent my formative years and started my own family, but Colorado is our home now. Family wishing so hard that we could move back there is equal to our wishing so hard that they could move out here by us.

It also doesn’t help that I’m not a great planner and really suck at proactive communication. I’m a friendly person and can carry on a short, polite conversation with just about anyone, but I’m not good at long conversations. I run out of things that seem important enough to talk about. I don’t care for gossip, and I like to keep certain things private. So long talks exhaust me and really showcase my social awkwardness. That sometimes makes me seem like I don’t care or am unappreciative, which couldn’t be further from the truth!

So why the post-vacation depression? Because of all of the above. I didn’t see everyone I wanted to see. I didn’t spend enough time with all of the people I did see. I can’t help but think about other uses for the money we spent on the trip. Finally, I feel like I didn’t express enough how happy I was to spend whatever amount of time I did with each person. I’m an imperfect and flawed human being.

The dread of returning to work and catching up on emails, meeting notes, and any changes that may have taken place doesn’t help things, either!

Here’s the plan: Plop my arse down on the couch and watch some shows I missed last week and then meet tomorrow head first to plow right back into the normal routine.

St. Louis Style Pizza

If you grew up in one place and then moved away as an adult, you might understand what it means to miss certain foods and restaurants only found in the place where you grew up. When I was little and living at my grandparents’ house with my dad, he and his girlfriend would bring home pizza from Imo’s every Friday night. I was instantly hooked! There are no Imo’s restaurants in Denver, though. :( However, we discovered that there is a place called City Pizza & Pasta on the other side of Denver in Arvada that makes St. Louis style pizza – thin crust, Sicilian-style sweet sauce, and they even have provel cheese! That’s unheard of out here! :o They even have toasted ravioli! :o :o <- That’s a double gasp!

City Pizza & PastaWe’ve been waiting for a time when everyone was off work and school to to try this place, and today is the day! I’ll post photos and a review over on Bonne Cuisine.

There is a pretty large Italian influence in St. Louis. The Hill neighborhood is still largely populated by Italians, and they are trying to keep it that way to preserve the culture of the neighborhood. They have many amazing Italian restaurants on The Hill. If we still lived there, I’d probably have to set a goal of trying each and every one of them. I’ve only been to Rigazzi’s before a concert once.

There’s another Italian restaurant in Florissant that has not franchised and has been family owned and run for over 50 years: Roberto’s. Imo’s has my heart, but there are many who are loyal to Roberto’s.

I have to be honest, though. I usually prefer mozzarella on my pizzas, but I do love provel cold on salads. It’s still kind of fun to ask people at different delis if they have provel cheese. Without fail, every one of them asks, “Provolone?” and have never heard of it. :D

Coldwater Creek Contamination | St. Louis, Missouri

I grew up, for the most part, in north St. Louis county very near Coldwater Creek. News of radioactive waste having made its way into this creek is not new. However, every time this news surfaces, it seems to be swept under a rug and all but forgotten for several years before making headlines again. Perhaps this time, with the popularity of social networking sites and ever growing technology keeping social media alive, it won’t just be swept under a rug again.

Here’s the story about the known radioactive contamination of Coldwater Creek and the high numbers of cancers and auto-immune diseases in the area. You can read about it and watch a video of the news segment. I would have embedded the video, but that option wasn’t available. The statistics are staggering. The numbers may seem small, but these are only the known cases. My dad lived in the house at point A in the photo below far longer than I did. Was the cancer that took his life so early only linked to smoking, or could this have had any impact at all? We’ll never know, but it does make me wonder a little.

Here’s part 2 of the story aired the next night. This segment covers the West Lake Landfill.

Here’s a map of my neck of the woods growing up:

Coldwater Creek in Florissant, Missouri - North County St. Louis

Hazelwood Central is seen briefly in the news segment linked above and is also a short walking distance away from the creek.

Here’s a closer image showing the distance from the house I lived in from age 7 to 14 to part of Coldwater Creek:

Coldwater Creek in Florissant, Missouri - North County St. LouisThe Florissant Valley of Flowers Festival is held on the banks of Coldwater Creek in that open space you see to the right of point B. When I was young and living in the house at point A, I’m pretty sure we went to that festival every year. We shopped in that shopping center that backs up to it. I played outside almost daily. I know! That’s practically a foreign concept to kids in this day and age, huh?

Granted, I didn’t play in the creek and didn’t live closer to the source of the contamination. That was only about four miles away, though. It’s all very bizarre to hear about now.

I would say I’m glad we moved to Colorado when our kids were little, but the Denver area is not without its own dumping grounds. :O Humans are pretty disgusting creatures and make the worst messes of the planet than any other living creature on it. There really is no escaping it.

Bust for the Win in “St. Louis or Bust”

The idea of a summer trip to St. Louis came to me back in March, but I kept it hush-hush because I had no idea (due to the financial upsets over the previous months) if it would be possible. Then overtime opened up at work, which helped us loosen our belts in normal daily life at least. It wasn’t until we found out that Uncle Sam owed us money this year that I thought it really might happen. I even started a little light planning in my head for a day at the St. Louis Zoo (a MUST), a day at the local water park, and a gathering of friends and family on my dad’s birthday. What better way to get to see everyone without spreading ourselves so thin that we run out of time to see the sites?!

Reality started to hit. Once upon a time, I would have whipped out credit cards for gas, food, and entertainment to make such a trip happen. We don’t play that game anymore! Fifty points to the Karner house! :D Also in the past, we would put off home improvements to afford trips “home” instead. This time, we decided it was finally time to get rid of the nasty carpet (instead of the nasty dogs) and put new flooring down with part of that tax return. There would still be enough for a road trip. Or so we thought. We got a little sloppy with the budget, too. Strict meal planning and bargain grocery shopping went by the wayside. Too much dining out happened. Then the biggest whammy … the other knock sensor began to fail in my car creating roughly an $800 dent in the bank account (twice the round-trip cost for gas alone, not counting in-town driving).

There was still enough to make the trip happen, especially if we pushed through and made the trip there and back without stopping overnight and paying about another $100 each way for a hotel, and if we mooched off of friends and family as much as possible, foregoing a few favorite restaurants while there. So I continued to put off a final decision while going back and forth in my mind … we can do it … we shouldn’t do it … we might be able to … we really shouldn’t …

The “shouldn’t” turned into “can’t” when the responsible side of me finally stepped up and said, “Look, dumbass! You can’t do this!” My willy-nilly side was trying to put some pretty big wants in front of needs. We have a dog in need of dental work – and I don’t mean just a cleaning; I mean extractions to avoid infection and end some pain. Do you know how horrible I’d feel if I used money that could have been used for that to go on an unnecessary trip and the dog ended up with a bad infection? And I say “unnecessary” because everyone in St. Louis knows where we live and are ALWAYS welcome to come see us! No guilt or pressure … just sayin’ … That highway runs both ways. ;) Plus, when people come to see us, they get to spend more time with us. No waiting to see when we can fit you in!

There were a few more reasons, but I’ll end on that note. Our doors are always open to friends and family. We may have a full house with no fancy-schmancy guest room to spare, but we have two spacious rooms (living room and family room) where air mattresses can be set up. I think we even have a couple small tents should anyone want a little extra privacy while sleeping! I’m not kidding! :)

So it’s yet another staycation for us. We can’t complain about that, though. We live in COLORADO!!!

Good Friday Tornado – St. Louis, 4/22/11

This is the house we lived in for about nine months before moving to Colorado. We were only in this house for nine months while house-sitting for my husband’s sister and her family temporarily. It was to be for approximately two years, but a promotion was offered to my husband requiring a move to the Denver area. Of course, it was too good to pass up. I don’t think either of our families would have been in this house still, but it’s numbing to think about the “what if”.

There was once a charming covered porch on the front of this house. The roof of that porch is now lying on top of the porch itself. If you skip to about 1:05 on this video, the first house you see the media drive by is this one.

It’s such a disturbing feeling to see this. We’ve been out of that house for 11 years, but I look at it and still see our families. That house is a part of us, and we will forever be a part of it. Sentimental? Of course! Weather disasters like this are sad enough to hear about and see, but when they hit this close to “home” or this close to your heart, it’s just that much worse.

I’m very distracted by this today and am trying very hard to focus on work. I thought if I took a quick break to write just a little something, it might help. My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are effected by this.

St. Louis, MO | Charming Vacation Rentals Across America

Dibs on the cottage accommodation (left) at this bed & breakfast!  I loves me some exposed brick!  If you’re going to go to St. Louis, you may as well stay close to everything the city has to offer.  This accommodation in the Lafayette neighborhood (trust me, it’s pretty cool) puts you close to just about anything you want to see in and around the city. See more info on their personal website.

How cool is this place? It’s like going back in time! Originally built in 1880, it was restored/remodeled 101 years later. They don’t build houses like they used to! To think that the original owners probably loaded up in their horse-drawn carriage to go to the 1904 World’s Fair right there in their home town – awesome!

Despite the image portrayed of St. Louis (or was that East St. Louis?) in National Lampoon’s Vacation, St. Louis is a great old city. I’d still recommend steering clear of East St. Louis, though. Definitely see the Arch, the St. Louis Zoo (FREE), a multitude of museums, and so much more.  Here’s a list of 25 things to do in St. Louis.

How do I know so much about St. Louis, you ask? It’s my home town! I was born there and spent most of my life (so far) there. Yep! I lived in the City of Flowers … Florissant. I recommend trying St. Louis’s own Imo’s Pizza while in town. Another St. Louis restaurant for yummy Italian food is Pasta House. Their salad is to D-I-E for! I could go on and on, but my mouth might start to water!