Side Blogging

wustl_main7

Well, I’ve failed at posting more regularly on this blog but I feel like I have a good excuse: I’ve been blogging for the Wash U Olin Business School. Sure, it’s only been two posts to date but those are two posts that could have been used for “That Guy.” So, I’m going to keep this short and tell you to check out my blog reel from time to time. And if you’re interested in the happenings of a place that I spend 10+ hours a week in, find the full blog here.

Now, here’s to Thanksgiving break and not having any class! For a second, I thought I was back in undergrad until I remembered that I have to work Monday – Wednesday …

Image: Moore Ruble Yudell

Tagged , , ,

Two Sentence Book Club

5088254388_3a32e61ab8_bLooking at past posts, I realized that the last book review I did was Beautiful Ruins and the last book I mentioned was Wuthering Heights. Well, folks, I’ve done a LOT of reading since then. And while I’m not as prolific as my friend Alison, I feel like I can hold my own when it comes to literary talk. So, as the weather gets colder and you’re more prone to curl up on the couch with a book, I figured everyone could beef up their reading list with these quick two sentence reviews.

Must reads:

Stay away:

I could go on but figured this would get you started. I’m currently reading “Bringing Up Bébé” by Pamela Druckerman, a book on French parenting seen through the eyes of an American in Paris. It’s fascinating, considering my background, but definitely not a good fit for everyone.

What have you been reading lately? Any thoughts on the books I posted above? Disagreements? What should be on my book list?

Image: az by d-221 books

Tagged , ,

Here We Go Again

Guys, I haven’t blogged in over a year! I’m a terrible person.

In that time, I’ve been doing a lot of what you’d probably expect me to be doing from the content of this blog: reading, eating out, home improvement, and a whole lot more. Clearly, if you’re looking for speedier updates, you should follow me on Instagram or Twitter. But, in case you’re not a social media user, below are some of the highlights of the past 13 months.

PS: You know it’s been a long time since you’ve blogged when the entire WordPress user interface has changed. Whoops …

We took a trip to Nashville/the Biltmore last fall. I have a bevy (I was just looking for an excuse to use that word) of recommendations based on my research so hit me up if you're planning to visit.

We took a trip to Nashville/the Biltmore last fall. I have a bevy (I was just looking for an excuse to use that word) of recommendations based on my research so hit me up if you’re planning to visit. Pictured here is Hatch Show Prints inside the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Me and close to 50 other St. Louis Tigers trekked down to Oxford, MS, for the Mizzou vs. Ole Miss game. Anyone familiar with Oxford will understand that my definition of a Library is completely changed. Pictured here is The Grove.

Me and close to 50 other St. Louis Tigers trekked down to Oxford, MS, for the Mizzou vs. Ole Miss game. Anyone familiar with Oxford will understand that my definition of a Library is completely changed. Pictured here is The Grove – tailgating spot extraordinaire.

I spent a quick two days in NYC this spring to shoot a commercial - first TV shoot and it was awesome.

I spent a quick two days in NYC this spring to shoot a commercial – first TV shoot and it was awesome.

We got a dog! This little pest is named Ginger and she terrorizes the neighborhood. Seriously, she has more energy than we know what to do with. I could probably spend an entire blog post talking about the joys and despairs of owning a pet.

We got a dog! This little pest is named Ginger and she terrorizes the neighborhood. Seriously, she has more energy than we know what to do with. I could probably spend an entire blog post talking about the joys and despairs of owning a pet.

Katherine graduated! She is now a master from Virginia Tech who has decided to double it with a masters from OU. The girl will be in school forever.

Katherine graduated! She is now a master from Virginia Tech who has decided to double it with a masters from OU. The girl will be in school forever.

We took a trip to Chicago to grace the Windy City with my presence. I know she missed me.

We took a trip to Chicago to grace the Windy City with my presence. I know she missed me.

We moved! So, you can ignore the house tour that is only two posts ago. This probably means that I should do a tour of the new place ...

We moved! So, you can ignore the house tour that is only two posts ago. This probably means that I should do a tour of the new place …

Per a long STL tradition, I made a trip down to the lake this summer. Good times were had all around along with the sunburn from H-E- ...

Per a long STL tradition, I made a trip down to the lake this summer. Good times were had all around, along with the sunburn from H-E- …

I started grad school! I'm enrolled in the part time MBA program at Washington University, which is basically eating up all my free time. I'm sure some posts related to that craziness will follow.

I started grad school! I’m enrolled in the part time MBA program at Washington University, which is basically eating up all of my free time. I’m sure some posts related to that craziness will follow.

Tagged , , , ,

50 cents and 50 seconds later …

In my last post, you might have noticed the “artwork” housed in the niches of the living room. I put “artwork” in quotations because it’s hardly anything fancy and cost me a total of 50 cents.

If you’ve been in any of my old apartments, you know that those frames originally looked like this:

FrameThis was originally a project that involved cutting up paint swatches and organizing them in an ombre effect. Over three frames, the swatches would fade from gray to green to yellow, to match the color scheme in my old space. Needless to say, that was a much more involved project than what I’m about to show to you.

When looking to update the frames, I wanted to find something consistent for the two niches that wouldn’t compete with the oversized art that will eventually go in between them.

My first inclination was to find some black and white photographs that could still be meaningful but complement any other pieces in the room. After scouring the internet (mainly art.com), I ran out of patience and decided to get a little more creative with something that I could pick up locally.

Since HGTV always says to design a room around one piece – most of the time fabric, I figured this was the opportunity for me to buy some cool graphic fabric and insert it into the room. What I quickly found out, is that I have some pretty specific tastes, which considerably limits the fabric options available to me. That’s how I found myself at Michael’s going up and down the scrapbooking aisle where I finally found these:

Frame 3At 25 cents a piece, I knew this was the solution, especially since they already matched the colors in the room, were modern, and basically cost nothing. A little trimming around the edges and you end up with this:

Frame 2Voila! A 50 cent, 50 second project that can modernize any room. The best part is that you really could use fabric or even wall paper if you don’t find any scrapbooking pages to your liking.

What did you do this weekend? Any similar projects you’ve been working on? I went to an STL favorite so be on the lookout for a review later this week!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

STL House Tour!

photo 6

The outside of my humble Dogtown duplex – those blue doors were not my choice.

Any self respecting DIY/design blog has a house tour and since I was going to start posting a few more projects, I figured this was the right time to show you the place, or most of the place, that I moved into in STL. (This is where you prepare yourself for a lot of photos and a long list of projects.)

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that this place is a work in progress. The second is that the lighting is bad. The third is that I have no control over the wall color, which means I lovingly refer to this place as the beige box. So, now that I’m done making excuses for myself, here you have it.

Living Room

Loving the big window in the living room.

Loving the big window in the living room.

Who doesn't love a good stained glass window?

Who doesn’t love a good stained glass window?

And now for the piece de resistance: a wall of books.

And now for the piece de resistance: a wall of books.

This room is probably the most complete, even though there are some big items that need to be replaced or added. Overall, it feels nice and homey enough that there isn’t a fire under my butt to get things changed – this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Right now, it’s very tone-on-tone so the goal is to bring in color, specifically more navy blue, key lime green and yellow/gold. This room’s to-do list includes:

  • Find some oversized artwork to go in between the two niches
  • Replace the coffee table
  • Replace the pillows on the couch
  • Put in a new entertainment center
  • Potentially put some artwork above the TV
  • Make a box of some sort to hold magazines, computer chargers and other miscellaneous knick-knacks
  • Get ahold of a more modern floor lamp – this one’s been through more moves than it should have
  • Replace the lamp on the console with something more modern
  • Think through a coat rack by the door

Hallway

Looking from the living room down the hallway.

Looking from the living room down the hallway.

My beloved wall of art.

My beloved wall of art.

This small stretch of interior real estate is very finished and I love it. It was the perfect place to hang all of the random prints and frames that were, up until a few weeks ago, lying around on the floor. You can find this great Chicago print I bought right before I moved, the vintage looking Gameboy artwork that used to hang next to my bed and even the old Mizzou drawing that used to be in an even bigger frame. My only goal for the hallway at this point is to:

  • Contribute more to the frame wall

Bathroom

This is about as exciting as it gets.

This is about as exciting as it gets.

The biggest downfall of this place is how small the bathroom is. It gets the job done but doesn’t leave much room for anything. A good shower curtain, some art and that’s all you need. Oh, and these items:

  • Buy a better toothbrush holder
  • Replace the horrible faux stained glass in the shower with plain contact paper – we’ll see if I can convince the landlord that this is better for everyone

Kitchen

Looking from the hallway into the kitchen.

Looking from the hallway into the kitchen.

If only I had stainless steel ...

If only I had stainless steel …

So, this kitchen is very nice: new cabinets, double sinks, and granite counter tops – most of the work is already done! There are a few small things I’d like to do, and already did with this project, but overall, I’m pleased.

  • Hang some oversized art above the kitchen table
  • Buy a better container for the dish soap
  • Streamline the magnets on the fridge
  • Add foam pads to the bottom of the chairs – they keep scrapping the floor and dirtying it
  • Find a centerpiece for the kitchen table – I’m thinking a mini herb garden would be nice
  • Find something to put above the cabinets that are above the sink
  • Come up with a better trash/recycling system – I’m afraid this is going to mean buying a new trashcan
  • Buy more wine – duh

Office

So many windows, which means more light to bring out the flaws.

So many windows, which means more light to bring out the flaws.

Ugh. It's so bad.

Ugh. It’s so bad.

This room is the catch-all for the random furniture that wasn’t used in the rest of the house. None of it matches, none of it is even nice so I’m basically starting from scratch. Get ready for the list from you know where:

  • Replace the desk; buy a desk chair
  • Modernize the desk lamp
  • Replace the bookshelf
  • Add a bar cart
  • Buy an area rug
  • Buy a lounge chair
  • Hang artwork
  • Find a floor lamp
  • Accessorize

Voila! My current quarters with a very long to-do list. I can’t predict when any of this is going to get done but I’m looking forward to the adventure.

Have you made any updates to your place? What changes would you suggest to the rooms? I’m seriously open to anything.

PS: Every time I proofread this, I keep adding to the various lists. This truly is going to be the never-ending project and I haven’t even talked about the bedrooms.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Instagram on My Wall

Even though my sister was asking for a food-related post, I thought I would switch things up with a DIY project that has been on my radar for quite some time. In fact, it was one of my first pins on Pinterest over a year ago.

I’m a big fan of Instagram and when I saw this elegant solution for displaying the small, filtered-applied photos, I knew that this was going in my house. The problem is that I never found the right frame. Specifically, a chunky, ornate one that won’t break the bank.

After I moved to St. Louis, I became acquainted with the Goodwill Outlet Store – yes, outlet. Instead of everything already being ridiculously cheap, at this location, you pay by the pound. The POUND! Five minutes after stepping foot in the store, I was walking out with this $1 beauty – it’s big and ornate but streamlined enough to be modern:

photoNow for color! The only place for this project to go right now is in the kitchen, which has a burgundy tile border that circles the room and will be the perfect color inspiration.

For this particular project, you’re going to need:

  • Paint – a sample size of Valspar Cut Ruby did the trick
  • Sand paper
  • A hook – unless your frame is already equipped with one
  • Wood screws – #4×1/2″ were small enough that they wouldn’t keep the frame from lying flat but long enough that they weren’t going to fall out
  • Wire to hang the photos – I liked the mirror wire cord since it’s a little more industrial but jewelry or fishing wire would be just fine
  • Mini wooden clothespins

The first step is sanding. You need to sand to not only get the finish off but also to rough up the frame a little bit so that the paint will stick. I used 80 grit to strip the finish but that was probably a little aggressive – anything between 40 and 60 would work. After about five minutes, you end up with this:

photo 3Step 2 is painting. Lay some newspaper on the floor and brush on some paint. After the first coat, I noticed that the wood grain was still showing through and while I didn’t love it at first, two more coats later and I decided to keep it that way – it adds character and breaks up the bright red color. If you’re looking for solid color, a coat of white primer would help you achieve that effect more successfully than painting color directly on the wood.

photo 2Now, it’s time to prep the back. This involves adding a hook, screws and wiring. To determine spacing, I laid my printed Intagram photos directly on the ground in a grid to see how many I had to work with – in this case, 30 (six across, five down). From there, I figured out the right measurements were 3″ between each wire with an inch from the top and the bottom. Put in the screws, add taut wiring between the two and voila! A clothes line for your mini clothespins and prints:

picstitchThere are plenty of different patterns that you could hang your Instagram photos in. Personally, I went with a layout that was a little more organic, less organized and ultimately easier to make look deliberate – the perfect grid would have been much harder to keep up.

photo 5So there you have it: an easy, afternoon project that gets your digital Instagram pictures onto your wall. From a cost perspective, this is how the budget breaks down:

  • Frame – $1
  • Hook – $1.58
  • Paint sample – $2.98
  • Sand paper – $4.47
  • Mini clothespins – $2.99
  • Wood screws – $2.36
  • Mirror wire – $5.88
  • Total – $21.26

The key to keeping this cheap is the frame. Steer clear of Michael’s and Hobby Lobby where they go from $30-$50 and you’ll be doing just fine.

What projects have you been working on lately? Any Pinterest pins you’ve had your eye on?

PS: If you’re looking for the perfect site to get your Instagram prints from, I recommend Prinstagram – 50 photos for $12.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Say hello to Pappy’s!

Happy Fourth of July! Errr … I mean post Fourth of July weekend!

I don’t know about you but I was very busy. Not only was it a glorious four days off, I had friends in from out of town, which means there was a constant stream of activity – BBQs, fireworks, City Museum, bars, restaurants etc. My friend Ryan even got engaged. All in all, nothing beats a mini reunion over good food and drinks.

One of the joints that we found ourselves at was Pappy’s Smokehouse, home of the most famous BBQ in STL. Heralded as one of the 101 best places to chow down in America by The Travel Channel, expectations were high. And apparently, everyone had the same idea since we had to wait 50 minutes before placing an order and finding our seats.

The menu is very simple, similar to the plain brick facade of the restaurant and wooden tables scattered throughout the inside. The only way you would know the place is of any importance is by the pictures of celebrities and celebrity chefs peppered on the walls touting the accolades of Pappy’s.

Your options are the traditional smokehouse selection: ribs, pulled pork, chicken, brisket, turkey and sausage. For about $18, you can get a half rack of ribs in addition to 1/4 pound of another meat – in my case, brisket. Let me tell you up front, no need for the second meat. After juicy, smoky-flavored ribs, the second protein was left forgotten on the plate. The brisket was just OK and the bite I had of the pulled pork was delicious but the big daddy of Pappy’s is the rack of ribs.

Obviously, the main focus of any smokehouse is the meat but we all know that a true BBQ experience wouldn’t be complete without the sides and Pappy’s delivers in spades. All the regulars are on the roll call: baked beans, slaw, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob, green beans and applesauce. I know, I picked the same ones you would have – baked beans and cole slaw a.k.a. the best sides I’ve ever had.

Let's dive in!

Before – let’s dive in!

It’s impressive when you remember more than just the proteins from a BBQ restaurant and I guarantee you’ll remember these. The beans were very sweet, but not heavy. Soft and even a little smoky, you’re left with the perfect blend of flavors. The slaw was a keeper too. The dressing was vinegar-based versus mayonnaise, which means it was light, citrusy, and a great refreshing, bite to follow up the richness of the meat and the beans. See for yourself, I left nothing on the plate … except the brisket because I was too full.

After.

After.

And here you have it, the abbreviated review of the best BBQ joint in STL:

  • Price: $$
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Ambience: 3/5
  • Service: 5/5 – while we had to wait a little bit, everyone was very friendly, brought us samples of beans in line and checked in regularly once we sat down after placing our order. A+

Oh, and before you ask me about the BBQ sauce, know that I didn’t have much since the meat was flavorful and moist enough. You’ll have to make your ranking of Pappy’s Original, Sweet Baby Jane and Holly’s Hot Sauce when you pay a visit.

How was your Fourth of July holiday? Try any new restaurants? Where’s your favorite BBQ?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Perfect Taste

Disclaimer: Unless you’re from St. Louis or are planning on visiting, you probably won’t find this post very interesting. However, I’m hoping that it inspires you to explore some of the wonderful local restaurants you have in your own backyard – you never know what you’ll find! Oh, and this post is long one.

I announced a couple of weeks ago that I had moved to STL, which is how I will be referring to the Lou from now on. It’ll probably mess with my SEO – Search Engine Optimization for all you non-marketing folk, but I’m perfectly OK with it since we need to work on rebranding this city so that it’s not overrun by high school enthusiasts.

I’m not going to lie, moving from an international destination like Chicago, chalked full of museums, architectural history, and an incomparable food scene, I was nervous about my new surroundings and how it was going to affect my cultural horizons. After being here for almost a month and exploring the Gateway to the West, I’m thinking that this place might make a suitable substitute – minus my awesome friends, DMK burger and public transportation.

While on one of my STL adventures, I stopped in at Taste, an upscale bar/small bites eatery in the popular Central West End neighborhood. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t offer much information on how it started but I will do my best to convince you that the food and experience are worth any detour.

Before setting foot into taste, you’re greeted by a simple wooden door, topped with a very explicit sign so as to prevent any confusion as to where you’ve stumbled to. It would be easy to walk right by it if you’re not paying attention but on the rainy night that I found myself there, the warm candle light couldn’t have been more welcoming.

No  way you're going to get this place mixed up with anything else.

No way you’re going to get this place mixed up with anything else.

Like I mentioned, Taste is first and foremost a bar – not a bar where you go for cheap drink specials and fried food. A bar that enables you to try liquors in combinations that you will probably find strange at first. Because of the hundred classic and innovative cocktails to choose from, I won’t elaborate on them here. Instead, I’ll direct you to their menu and give the best advice I received at a similar place: try a cocktail that has an alcohol you don’t usually gravitate towards.

Now, most people treat Taste like an upscale bar with a couple of amuse-bouches to choose from. I, however, wanted dinner and decided to indulge with six items off their snacks, small plates, large plates and sweets menu.

Gremolata

Roasted curried cauliflower with anchovy chili gremolata – don’t forget the bread crumbs!

First off is the roasted curried cauliflower with anchovy, chili gremolata. I was nervous about this one since I’m not a huge cauliflower fan but consider myself a convert. It tasted a little pickled, which combined some great vinegary, sweet flavors with the freshness of the vegetable and spiciness of the curry. Add some gremolata and you now have a sharp citrus tang that cuts through all the flavors while managing to bring them all together and playing to the velvety taste of the side of aioli.

Bacon fat fried cornbread. Ugh. I want some now.

Bacon fat fried cornbread. Ugh. I want some now.

Next up, we have the bacon fat fried cornbread. For those of you that know me, you’re aware that cornbread is one of my favorite foods. Fry it in bacon fat and you pretty much have the perfect meal – I’m not joking. I could have eaten a full plate of this and asked for more. The bread is perfectly moist on the inside, surrounded by a salty, crunchy outside that creates the perfect contrast of flavors for anyone to enjoy.

Potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil.

Potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil.

The third stop on our culinary adventure finds us trying the potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil. It sounds like a mouthful but it’s the best kind. The gnocchi is so soft and a little sweet with the hit of the dates. All of that is offset by the salty bacon or lardons, which make for a heartier bite.

Pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg.

Pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg.

Barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro.

Barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro.

The next two dishes, pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg, and the barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro, were not my favorites so I’m not going to elaborate on them here. They’re perfectly OK but you should save room for dessert.

Moving on to the sweets! We asked the waitress for a recommendation and after spending 45 seconds describing the churros but only saying that the “Manhattan shake” was good, we knew the choice had been made for us.

Churros, almond ice cream and chocolate.

Churros, almond ice cream and spiced chocolate.

Churros have a lot to live up to after having savored the ones served up at Xoco in Chicago, however when churros, velvet almond ice cream and spiced chocolate showed up, I dove in and didn’t look back.

These were the best churros I’ve ever had. Light, airy, sweet, dipped in chocolate. They were a little spicy but the almond ice cream was the perfect counter balance to the heat. I would go back just for those and the cornbread.

Alright, I’ve bored you enough. To streamline this process, I created a key below and will use it on any restaurant reviews moving forward (look at me and my business speak):

  • Price: $$
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Ambience: 4/5
  • Service: 4/5

So there you have it – my first STL restaurant review! How do you think I did? Anything else on the menu I should have tried? What would you have gotten?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Life Update!

So … I moved to St. Louis. Surprise! With that comes a lot of change – new job, new house, new city, new friends, but overall, I’m excited! Sure, I’m sad to leave Chicago; I’ve spent three wonderful years there but it’s time for a new adventure, one where I’m hoping to unlock the charm and cultural potential of STL.

There are a couple of posts I have in the works so I recommend sticking around. I promise (at least I’m going to try) that I’ll post a little more regularly a.k.a. I have a new job and I’m not as busy as I was at my old one. At least not yet.

In the meantime, let’s do another shameless plug for my Instagram account that I keep MUCH more updated with my whereabouts:

I made a trip down to CoMO for graduation. I also realized that I've been out of college longer than I was in college. I feel old.  PS: Bonus points if you can identify the iconic Mizzou building in this picture.

I made a trip down to CoMO for graduation. I also realized that I’ve been out of college longer than I was in college. I feel old. PS: Bonus points if you can identify the iconic Mizzou building in this picture.

2013-05-27_1369681785

I visited my parents in their new hometown of Austin, TX. A mandatory meal at the famous Salt Lick was on the schedule.

2013-06-08_1370713984

And now, I present to you my first car: a Honda Civic! I calculated the MPG after dropping $40 at the gas station and it came to about 36 – not bad!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let the Sunshine in!

The sun finally made an appearance in the Windy City this past weekend, which means Chicagoans rushed outside in droves, myself included. While we didn’t have a particularly harsh winter, it was uncharacteristically long making everyone feel a sense of relief at the first glimpse of spring.

Instead of bumming the day away on my couch, I took the opportunity to visit some of my favorite Chicago shops. I don’t go to them very often since they’re in West Town and require a trek from my Lakeview apartment but I figured there was no better way to spend my Saturday afternoon.

The first place I bused to was RR#1, a hole in the wall at Chicago and Ashland where you can find anything from luxurious, scented candles to vintage kids toys. Even though it’s small, you can spend a good 45 minutes treasure hunting through the layered and stacked items. The last time I was there, I spotted a red metal arrow (see image below because that’s the worst description ever) but couldn’t bring myself to spend $26 on it. Fast forward four months and it was still winking at me from the back of a bookshelf so I took it as a sign that it was meant to be mine. It serves no purpose other than the fact that it’s awesome.

photo copy 4The second store was Paperish Mess, another small shop at Chicago and Damen. If you’re on the lookout for prints to put on your wall, this is the place to go.

For a while, I’ve wanted to feature some more Chicago artwork in my apartment and the only one I have so far is the Lakeview print I found at the Renegade Craft Fair last Christmas. While looking around, I was immediately drawn to the work of Hiroshi Ariyama because of his style that combines traditional photography with screen printing. I decided to purchase an 8″x10″ screen print of his “6 p.m.” piece because of its nod to Chicago with Willis Tower in the background and a scene that I’m very familiar with: the El platform. In all honesty, I view it as MY Chicago – not the touristy one you see on TV or the White City you read about in books. It’s the one that you only  experience as a Chicagoan commuting on the Brown Line every morning, staring out across the Chicago river as you cross Wells Street Bridge with the sun rising. Now, I just need to find where I’m going to hang it.

Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 5.58.17 PM

What were you up to this past weekend? Any other shops you recommend I explore? What do you suggest I do with the red metal arrow?

Tagged , , , , , , ,