Yesterday I got a reminder that the city of St. Louis is turning on its holiday lights at Kiener Plaza next Friday. Yes, the 19th. Yes, before Thanksgiving. Christmas creep feels even more absurd than usual when the weather is 70 degrees every day! It’s hard to think about gift lists when I’m still harvesting ripe tomatoes and watering the lawn!

But the holiday lights do indeed go on next Friday downtown, and perhaps in your neighborhood as well. My neighborhood is Soulard, and our tree gets lit (and so do a lot of the residents!) on Dec. 4. Actually, I shouldn’t poke fun at an event that goes by the upstanding name of Fete de Noel, but ever since Santa and his Spandex-clad ho-ho-hos made an appearance a couple of years ago, I feel they’ve made themselves fair game.

But I digress — back to the downtown event. It starts at 4:30 p.m. but the actual switch is flipped at 6:26, with the party continuing until 8 over toward Macy’s. There will be fireworks and music … probably no snow, but they’re promising hot chocolate so I hope we at least feel a bit of a nip of cold on our noses!

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I’d been thinking about hitting the SciFest Family Fun Night at the Saint Louis Science Center tomorrow (Oct. 16), and I’d stashed away a discount coupon to help with admission. Turns out I won’t need it — an anonymous donor has sponsored free admission for everyone!

SciFest’s “Transform Your Reality” turns out to be pretty apt. Its local tie-ins this year include sports teams, farms, pets and restaurants, and the presenters go into the science behind those everyday topics. I like that my kids will think about the physics behind baseball pitches the next time they watch a Cardinals game.

Family Fun Night goes from 5 to 10 p.m. — but of course you can also buy tickets to the two remaining days, Saturday and Sunday, for the presentations and performances. See stlscifest.org for details.

I appreciate the recent comment I received asking for more posts … so kind!! I miss the blog a lot, not least because here I am the boss, and in the steady-paying gigs that are taking up so much of my time now, I am far from being in charge!

This has always been a therapeutic endeavor for me, something I did purely for my own benefit, and because it encouraged me to get out with my boys it was also good for their health.  I wouldn’t say that their health is suffering, but mine definitely is (at least, according to both my dentist and my hairdresser!) and so yesterday we blew off a Parent Association meeting at school and headed out for a sunset bike ride at Tower Grove Park instead. It was a beautiful fall evening, and I had barely shifted into Park before the 4-year-old was out of the car and over by the lily pad ponds, exploring with the joyful oblivion that only preschoolers seem to have. The 7-year-old was no less eager to start, but he dutifully hung behind to strap on his helmet.

Their ride wasn’t particularly long, maybe half an hour, but it was long enough to teach me two things:

  1. I have to get back into this habit of exploring for free.
  2. I have to suck up my fear of cycles and invest in a bike — there’s no way I can keep up with these two on foot!

Yes, I have officially fallen off the face of the earth. That’s what I get for accepting enough freelance projects to equate to a “real” job! I have missed so many of my favorite events this summer, including the International Institute’s Festival of Nations.

So I’m really hoping things slow down enough the next couple of weekends to explore two upcoming festivals in St. Charles: the Missouri River Irish Fest Sept. 17-19 (with the catchy slogan “halfway to St. Patrick’s Day”) and the St. Charles Oktoberfest Sept. 24-26.

I’ve not been to the Irish Fest, but last year my sons’ dance group preformed at the German event, and I have to say that I love the setting there along the river. We weren’t blown away by the carnival or the food, but since it’s just a few blocks to the historic Main Street district, it’s easy to find something better to eat. The fun is in the setting and the entertainment. I hear that the Irish Fest will have some demos of Gaelic football, among the usual dance groups and bands, which should be fun to see.

And there’s guaranteed to be good beer at both of these!

Our usual summer concert-going has been interrupted this year by my busier work schedule, a month-long visit from my parents (whom I dearly love, but my father was NOT impressed by the weather, and he was NOT going to sit around in the heat to listen to music!!) and various other commitments with the kids.

But coming up is one you won’t want to miss: Benton Park is doing a back-to-school concert on Saturday (Aug. 7) with three musical acts plus a scooter show, back-to-school food drive, live art, children’s art, carnival games, a food tent, a beer tent, free yoga, free massage … With all that, I hardly need to mention the bands, but I will do so anyway, because they rock:

  • The Saint Elizabeth (school) Percussion Group
  • Celia (a local kids’ performer who needs no introduction and no last name)
  • Big Bamou (New Orleans-style jazz and funk)

The concert runs a very family-friendly 4:15 to 9 p.m.  The only quirk to concerts at Benton Park is that, if the weather is hot (which this year is almost a guarantee!) the fans tend to stick to the shade along the edges of the basic where the stage is, leaving the bands to play to 50 yards’ worth of empty lawn. The upside is that the playground is close by, should the little ones get antsy.

Today was the best of St. Louis summer (a cool morning thundershower) and the worst of St. Louis summer (the subsequent 100 percent humidity afternoon). It probably wouldn’t have felt so bad except that I was helping a friend move furniture. And a washer. And a dryer. From her basement to the second floor.

I avoided most of the heaviest lifting, thanks to the one man among three women who was determined not to be outdone by any two of us combined, but I still worked up quite a sweat. I cannot imagine having done that or any job outdoors today.

And yet after I read this post for the blog I help edit, St. Louis Kids Magazine’s SmartParenting, I was oh-so-tempted to give blueberry and blackberry picking a try.The farm she writes about, Huckleberry Hollow, is only about an hour southwest of St. Louis off I-44.  Some friends who picked blueberries a couple of weeks ago raved about the experience too, telling us it was magical to just hold out your hand and have blueberries practically fall into it.

I think what I have to do is imagine how good those frozen berries will taste come December …

Happy 2nd of July!

July 1, 2010

What sets hard-core St. Louisans apart from the rest of us is this: True natives will brave the heat of summer for the VP Parade. The rest of us will wait for a cooler holiday — say, Mardi Gras — to make our parade appearances.

But I’m looking at the forecast and thinking I can stomach the heat this year, especially if we plan to arrive early and get the prime viewing spots right along CityGarden at Ninth and Market. The parade starts at Fourth and Washington around 10 a.m. and travels toward the end point at 20th and Market, so the plan is to arrive early with a box of donuts, let the kids play awhile, then sit down, relax and watch the parade pass by.

It looks like it will be a good one, too — marching bands (always my favorite), floats, helium balloons and “unique vehicles,” whatever that means. One hundred units total, stretching five miles in length. And, of course, it’s the kickoff to Fair St. Louis, the free event under the Arch. Even a non-native can appreciate those concerts and fireworks after the hot sun goes down.

I’m turning down everything for Saturday (June 12). Invitations, volunteer requests, shopping outings, you name it. I won’t be cooking, cleaning, gardening or working. No, I will be downtown watching the U.S. play England in the World Cup. The open-air festivities on the Old Post Office Plaza sound so much like the events I used to go to back in Europe that nothing short of an emergency room visit is going to keep me away.

Viewers are invited to bring their own seating but leave their coolers and glass containers at home; beverages and food will be available for purchase but there’s no charge to watch the game on the jumbo screen. The game, the fifth of the tournament, starts at 1:30 p.m. but the plaza will be primed from noon to 4 p.m.

You could, of course, stay home and watch it on ABC … and the same goes for the following day’s match between Germany and Australia. But most of the other first-round matches are on ESPN, and if you, like our family, have cut back on cable to save some $$$, watching it on the Internet is actually not the worst option in the world. ESPN3.com works pretty well, as does ATDHE.Net. So use that option to follow the other games, but take my word for it — go to the viewing party. This is how the rest of the world watches the World Cup, and they’re on to something.

This morning at the gym I had to laugh — two women were arguing over which weather forecast to believe. One TV channel said tomorrow would clear up and be sunny; another said that wouldn’t happen until Wednesday. Both women just wanted to be outside without rain, and I can’t say that I blame them. I am pretty tired of mud-stained jeans and socks myself.

It’s hard to advocate outdoor activities given the weather lately, but I’m going to go ahead and do it, for two events downtown. One is this Friday (May 21): the U.S. Bank Bridge Bash. It’s  a rare opportunity for kids to witness a wrecking ball taking a swing at a building, in this case the eyesore skybridge. For my boys, that 5 p.m. swing will be the highlight of the day. But plans also include food and live music from 4 to 7 p.m. between Eighth and Ninth streets on Washington Avenue.

And if wreaking balls aren’t your thing, maybe you’re into chess? It seems like most kids are these days — and with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the news so much, the trend probably won’t wane anytime soon. Starting this month, the folks who book the Old Post Office Plaza downtown have started promoting what they call Chess Club Mondays from noon to 7 p.m. We haven’t been down to see it yet (blame the weather!) but if you know anything about chess, it should be an interesting way to spend part of the afternoon.

I freely admit to being a wuss when it comes to biking in traffic. OK, to biking in general. I don’t even OWN a bike. My 6-year-old does, because I know it’s a skill every kid needs to learn, but he’s still on training wheels because it is not high on my priority list.

It doesn’t help that several of my neighbors are avid cyclists, and nearly all of them have been involved in automobile-related accidents serious enough to land them in the emergency room. They get right back on the horse that threw ’em, but when that “horse” is going up against a few hundred pounds of metal, I put my money on the car.

However, I am all in favor of events like Open Streets this weekend (May 1). Cars will be banned from stretches of Locust, Lindell, Sarah, Manchester, Newstead, and Clayton, on a route from downtown through Grand Center and into Forest Park. It’ll be repeated on June 13, Sept. 19 and Oct. 9. The first and third are “Bike to Busch” events where baseball fans are encouraged to ride to the game.

This is not a bikes-only event, and cyclists are reminded that pedestrians (like me!) have the right of way at all times. However, it’ll be a great opportunity for kids to get a feel for riding somewhere other than park paths and paved alleys. And there are several stations along the route offering bike checks, fitness demos, healthy snacks and more. Perhaps the best freebie of the day: tours of the Moto Museum on Lindell and its collection of vintage motorcycles.

For details, including the route map, times and day’s schedule, log on to www.stlopenstreets.org.