1. We went to a Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Central Library downtown last weekend. I love children’s books, so seeing Maurice Sendak’s original artwork, as well as the supporting exhibit about Ursula Nordstrom, who discovered Maurice Sendak and many other beloved authors and illustrators, was so fun. We only spent about 30 minutes looking at everything, but it was a half hour well spent. The next day we enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather at the Botanical Gardens and had some ice cream at Ted Drewes. Yum!
2. I learned something about myself recently: I like reading books, but I don’t enjoy talking about books very much. I’ll tell you about what I’m reading and what I like, but I don’t want to sit and discuss the intricacies of the plot or the deep meaning. I just want to read, finish, and start another book.
3. My SIL is engaged (yay! she’s getting married in June) and is doing tons of wedding preparation. It’s a little fun and a little weird to look back at the plans Gavin and I made for our own wedding. She went wedding dress shopping again over the weekend weekend and while I know she would look good in literally anything, the dresses she’s looking at are ethereally gorgeous and I hope she has found the right one for her.
5. Painting our living room and hallways made such a difference in how I feel about our house. It’s amazing how something like a sloppy paint job in a drab shade of yellowish beige can bring you so down. I’m now, much to Gavin’s chagrin, eyeing everything in the house we haven’t painted yet. Nothing is safe.
6. Gavin and I have been working on making some emergency bags, both in the cars and house in case we have to leave town in a hurry or stay put in our basement for a while. It’s a little bit horrifying (and also feels silly), but better safe than sorry. While trying to figure out what we needed, I liked this series of small steps from the CDC because it wasn’t as overwhelming as many other sites.
7. Have you heard of Duolingo? I saw a blog post about it recently and checked it out. I figured I like having games to play on my iPhone and learning something is better than not. I’ve been brushing up on my (very dusty) Spanish and checking out a little German, which I have always thought would be fun to learn. I like all the cognates in German, especially this one.
I feel like everyone is moving to the country to have a mini-homestead these days! While we considered buying a house with land in the country when we were house-shopping two years ago, here’s why we ended up in our inner-ring suburban neighborhood instead.
1. We live close to everything. Our church, Catholic school, public schools, and parks are all less than two blocks away. Shops, restaurants, the library, and grocery stores are all less than two miles away. Living within walking distance of our church is my favorite part of all. People recognize us as “the walkers” and it gives us something to talk about. Plus, we can hear the church bells when our windows are open. We’re living the dream!
2. We have easy access to the city, including downtown and Forest Park. Forest Park is one of our favorite places to go and houses what I consider most of St. Louis’ finest. Because we live nearby (and within biking distance), we can visit more frequently without it turning into a huge trip.
3. Walking and biking are part of our lives. It’s much easier for me to set off on foot to a destination than it is to motivate myself to go on a “pointless” walk every day. I like having that exercise built into our weeks.
4. We could actually be a one-car family someday. This is a goal Gavin and I have been toying with since we were dating, and while the time isn’t right for us now, it’s something we could actually achieve living where we do. If we lived in a rural area, it would be a never, instead of a maybe.
5. Our neighborhood is diverse and we like it that way. Should we be blessed with children, we think it is important for them to grow up surrounded by all kinds of people. Plus it just means I can do things like shop at ethnic grocery stores for specialty ingredients and that we have authentic food from around the globe nearby.
6. Our small yard is enough work. Although we only have 1/8 of an acre, Gavin and I both feel like we spend quite enough time working on our yard. While Gavin can mow the grass quickly, we have a lot of beds and want to tear out most of our grass to create even more. I can’t imagine having a larger yard that needed even more work.
7. I like old houses, at least most of the time. While I don’t enjoy our old house when it seems like everything needs fixing, there are also times where I just love everything about it. There’s a lot to live: the tiled bathroom, the wood floors, the endless molding, the tiny but beautiful closets, the plaster walls. Plus, it keeps us humble to live like people did 75 years ago.
Last weekend, we went on a trip with my brother-in-law, Clayton, to Iowa City. Here’s what we did!
1. On our way up, we stopped in Hannibal, MO because Clayton and I had never been and my husband has only been once, in grade school. We paid to see the historic sites at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, but it seemed fairly expensive ($11) for what we saw. The museum a few blocks away was the best part. We had lunch at Java Jive and then walked down to see the river, which was very high.
As we were driving away, we saw signs for an observation lookout and parked the car to walk up. Our feelings: not worth the climb. Also, we walked all the way from the bottom, which was unnecessary since there were places to drive almost the whole way up. The butterfly garden after the first set of stairs was pretty cute though.
2. After getting to our hotel, we headed to dinner at Pullman. Gavin and I went half-and-half on the fried chicken and burger. The fried chicken was delicious and Gavin could have eaten twenty of the biscuits with honey. I thought the meat of the burger was the weakest part (sad) but the toppings and fries were delicious.
Then we walked around the University of Iowa’s campus, including through a few buildings.
Then we headed to lunch at La Regia Taqueria. We knew it was going to be good when we saw every kind of people eating the same tacos. And it was. I recommend the carnitas, while Gavin thought the fried fish was the best.
4. After lunch, we went to the Mormon Handcart Trail which is just a short paved path in a park with some informational plaques. There was a field of wildflowers next to it, so it was a lovely, if quick, walk.
And then we headed to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Pro tip: even though things look far apart on the map, they’re not. Just park in one lot, either at the library or the national historic site, and you can walk to the other. We didn’t know anything about Hoover as a president going in, so the videos and exhibits at the library were very informative. Did you know his wife invented the concept of Girl Scout cookies? We saw his gravesite and took a little walk through a prairie nearby.
We also enjoyed walking around his childhood neighborhood, especially the blacksmith’s shop and Quaker Meetinghouse.
That evening we had dinner at Nodo downtown and then listened to some of the free summer concert.
5. The next morning, we headed to Amana and got there before anything opened. In the rain. For what was supposed to be hike and bike weekend.
Hike and bike weekend was unfortunately cancelled (especially because it only rained for an hour!) but we were determined to stick it out anyway. We watched the video and then headed to the museum, where I really enjoyed seeing the artifacts, but will admit it was a LOT of reading. One of my favorite items was this sauerkraut-cutting machine.
Most fascinating to me was their tradition of everyone having the same style of headstone and being buried in the order in which they died instead of in family areas. I found it so interesting because my father-in-law’s hometown of St. Rose, Illinois does the same thing! Their headstones aren’t as simple, but they are all identical and people are buried in rows in order of their death. I’d never heard of such a thing before marrying Gavin, so seeing it elsewhere was crazy.
Then we walked around Amana, ate lunch at the Ox Yoke Inn, and drove through the other villages to see the Communal Kitchen, broom shop (complete with Iowa’s largest solid walnut rocker), and their Church. At the church, a woman who still practices their religion talked about where it came from (people thought the Lutheran service was too fancy) and what services were like then and what they are like now. It was interesting to hear how they handled their services, but unimaginable to us as Catholics.
If you want to see the older style trades being practiced, I wouldn’t recommend going to Amana on a Saturday. The woolen mill was not in operation and there wasn’t anyone demonstrating at the furniture store, either. We still enjoyed looking at the goods and then had a beer (or root beer) at the Millstream Brewing Company.
6. We had expected Amana to take all day when we thought we’d be making a four mile round-trip walk to our lunch, so when that part of the day was cancelled, we had some extra time. We decided to go see Inside Out. Afterwards, we got a pizza and ate it on the hotel’s back deck.
7. The next morning we went to mass at St. Mary’s in downtown Iowa City, where we saw three baptisms! Then we grabbed some Jimmy John’s and headed right home. We had a lot of fun, but as any homebody knows, the end of a vacation is pretty great too.
I cook a lot. And I own a lot of cookbooks — just ask my family what I ask for at every holiday! I have a whole bookshelf devoted to them, which I recently culled through to make room for future purchases. These are some of my absolute favorites.
1. The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. I am a total Cook’s Illustrated fangirl. Their recipes are almost always amazing and they are my go-to people for anything I need. Angel food cake? Check. Grilled pork tenderloin? Check. Stir-fried broccoli? Check.
2. The Best 30-Minute Recipe. Also a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook, surprise surprise. I basically love the whole skillet pasta section: Skillet Lasagna, Skillet Penne with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Sausage, and Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs are favorites. Some good recipes from other chapters include the All-American Mini Meatloaves, Simplified Pad Thai, and all, seriously all, of the salads.
3. Great Food Fast. This is a cookbook from Everyday Food with great pictures. Quite a few of these recipes are Rehkemper family classics. I recommend the Spaghetti Carbonara, Chicken with Poblano Cream Sauce, Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Scallions, Orecchiette with Sausage and Roasted Peppers, and Favorite Turkey Burgers.
4. Fresh Flavor Fast. I bought this Everyday Food cookbook because I loved Great Food Fast so much. Our favorite recipe from this book is hands down the Sweet Potato Pancakes.
5. Cake Keeper Cakes. This is a really specific cookbook devoted to snacking cakes, but every one we’ve tried so far has been delicious, PLUS this is a recipe genre that is often overlooked in other cookbooks. Gavin is more of a cookie man, but he definitely won’t turn down some snacking cake! We have looked forward to eating the Fresh Strawberry Cake with White Chocolate Chips every spring.
6. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This is my favorite canning cookbook, and I own several. Some of the recipes are weird but if you want to put up some jam, pickles, tomatoes, or salsa, this is the book. I like the Strawberry Jam on page 8 and the Jalapeño Salsa, but Gavin swears nothing compares to the (very mild) Fresh Vegetable Salsa.
7. Good Cheap Eats. I don’t actually own this book (yet!) but I recently checked it out from the library, read through it, and said to Gavin “I could totally have written this cookbook!” because her methods and recipes are so similar to my own.
1. This Sweitzer’s Superwash Merino DK my mom bought for me. The color really reminds me of my grandmother. It’s burning a hole in my craft closet, but I of course want to save it for the “perfect” project, probably a long cowl.
2. A Color Affection. I’m basically the last shawl knitter on earth who hasn’t made one yet, but I can’t decide on a set of colors. I’m thinking grey, white, and neon pink…or navy and two shades of blue…or neon yellow-green, teal, and grey. Decisions, decisions.
3. My Stroll Brights. I bought these when they were a limited release (they are standard now) and have loved arranging and rearranging them, but it’s time to get knitting before neons are totally lame.
4. Prisma Loop – this striped cowl has been on my to-knit list for quite a while. I even want to knit it in the exact colors shown (already in my stash!) which I rarely do.
5. This Hawthorne in Concordia. It’s just one of the colors I bought during the big sale last year and I find it super lovely. Green is just a good color for red(dish) heads!
6. The Whale Watch hat. While this exact style of hat isn’t my thing, these fair isle whales are ADORABLE and I must knit myself a hat with whales on it.
7. And last, my Knitcircus gradient yarn. This was a birthday gift last year and I have a few patterns I think would look great in it. I just have to choose one of them!
It’s getting legitimately nice outside here in St. Louis and it’s reminding me of all the wonderful summer things I can’t wait to do again this year. Here are seven:
1. Picnic. We picnic A LOT in the summer — before shows, at free concerts, just to go to the park. I’d say we average picnicking at least once a week, maybe more. We usually have salads when we picnic and I can’t wait to eat salad for dinner too!
2. Our CSA. We signed up for a new CSA this year after choosing terribly in 2012 and I am really excited. I’ll have to totally adjust my meal planning strategy but eating fresh vegetables makes me happy.
3. Grilling. I already broke out the grill this week, but I can’t wait to grill 4-5 nights a week. I feel like a master of something when I know just where and when to put all the various components on the grill and then carry in a big platter with all of it.
4. The Muny. We have season tickets to St. Louis’ outdoor musical theater (which is so much more amazing than it ever sounds when you describe it). We make popcorn and bring drinks and have a great time.
5. Garden. We have two raised beds in our backyard and I have visions of canning tons of tomato products in August and September.
6. Biking. I am a legitimately terrible biker — to my credit, you have to go up a HUGE hill to get out of our neighborhood. But I still like to go tool around Forest Park with Gavin.
7. Fruit. I tend to keep our grocery costs down by buying in-season fruits, which means we eat A LOT of apples all winter long. I can’t wait for strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, and peaches!