I’m psyched! One week from today, barring wickedly bad weather, the outdoor concert season starts at the Missouri History Museum! Yes, Twilight Tuesdays debuts for the spring season on April 27, seven short days away.

I’m especially looking forward to the third concert, which features one of my husband’s favorite local bands, Boogie Chyld, in a Michael Jackson tribute that was rescheduled from last fall due to inclement weather. (To check on a concert’s status, call 800.916.8212 after 3 p.m.)

The music begins at 6:30 p.m. on the north side (aka the front lawn) of the museum. There are chairs available on a first-come, first-served basis, but we always like to hang out on the lawn, where there’s more room for the kids to dance.

It’s not uncommon to see some pretty elaborate picnics at this series, but if that’s not your style you can purchase food on site.

The final concert in the spring series is June 8. Between now and then, you’ll have the opportunity to hear salsa, R&B, Sinatra tunes, gospel, rock and more. And did I mention the Michael Jackson tribute on May 11?

I love, love, love morel mushrooms. I love them sliced, battered and fried. I love them diced and cooked with mixed vegetables. I love them baked onto savory onion tarts. I love them with a creamy sauce over pasta. And lo and behold, my kids actually kind of dig them too.

Apparently my neighbors think I’m a sucker for paying a gazillion dollars an ounce for them at the Soulard Farmers’ Market when I could just, you know, drive over to Illinois and get them myself.  Yeah, if I knew where to look …

And now someone’s going to tell me. For free. The Spring & Mushroom Festival at Pere Marquette Lodge is Sunday (Apr. 11) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. An actual hunt begins at 12:30 p.m.  Woohoo!  There will be other stuff going on too, like live music and artisan crafts for sale. For details call 618.786.2331.

We spent spring break in Louisville, so I should not have been surprised when M. today noticed a truck that had “Louisville, KY” painted on the side and announced “Maybe it’s hauling bourbon!” Yes, we did tour a fine distillery at Buffalo Trace, all for the edification of the youngsters. Actually, it was pretty informative and they both got a kick out of seeing it, in a boy-and-machinery sort of way.
But now we’re back in town, heading into Easter weekend (already!?!?) and I have to note the beautiful weather — it seems custom-tailored for the opening weekend at the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Today was the actual opening, but festivities continue through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. My pick for “best time to go” is Saturday (Apr. 3) from noon to 3 p.m., when there will be live music from the Ryan Spearman Trio.

As usual, city and county residents receive free admission to the Botanical Garden on Wednesday from 7 a.m. to noon, which saves you a little on admission (but you’d still pay at the Children’s Garden). However, on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, you’ll pay regular admission to the Botanical Garden but get in free at the Children’s Garden.  You’ll have to do the math based on the composition of your group, but if you’re coming with a posse of kids, Saturday mornings are the time.

Ah, spring. Tantalizing us with 70s one day and 50s the next. Bringing out the daffodils only to dust them with snow. We love you, but do you have to be such a tease?

It’s the same story every year, but this is the first year I remember Easter egg hunt organizers have been so explicit that their events will happen rain or shine or whatever fickle springtime throws at them. We’ve been to some where it was absolutely frigid, and others where the kids were tossing their coats by 10 a.m. But thinking back, most have been on the chilly side!

The next two weekends are the biggies for egg hunts. One of the granddaddies of them all is Hare in the Air at Logan College of Chiropractic on Saturday (March 27). Arrive at the Chesterfield campus in time to register before the hare lands (at 11 a.m.) in order to get a color-coded sticker for the age-appropriate area (ages 2 to 8). For more info, call 636.227.2100 x4273 or e-mail hareintheair@logan.edu.

And to read about some of the largest egg scrambles in the metro area, check out the St. Louis Kids Magazine blog, to which I’m egg-ceptionally partial, seeing as how I’m a contributing editor.

This morning we saw a few St. Pat’s racers picking up breakfast at the Bread. Co., and their visits were overlapping with folks getting warm drinks to fortify themselves for the parade downtown. The Irish Village on Kiener Plaza is still going on, with live music until 6 p.m., but I haven’t been able to get my kids interested in much outdoors since last weekend. They’d rather be inside playing computer games — and I have to admit I don’t much blame them!

It’ll be a lot nicer on Wednesday (March 17) for the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ 26th annual parade in Dogtown, along Tamm Avenue. It’s supposed to be back in the 50s for the noontime parade. Luck of the (truly) Irish, I guess! There are more than 100 units in the parade, including many Irish dance schools and heritage groups. But make sure you park legally (the parking lots south of Manchester are a good bet, though you’ll have to hike back uphill to reach the parade route). And be sure to leave glass containers at home.

Unless you have a really good excuse to stay indoors, get out and enjoy the fabulous 50-degree weather predicted for this weekend! Two free options I like are:

  1. The Moolah Shrine Circus Parade along Main Street in St. Charles, Saturday (March 6) at noon. I admit to being a fan of the little cars, but what I really dig are the marching bands, and this parade promises to have some good ones.
  2. The Maple Festival at Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton, Ill., on Sunday (March 7) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This is a first-time event at this particular location, but we’ve attended the one at Rockwoods Reservation in Wildwood and had a great time.

If nothing else, check your yard for signs of spring (buds on trees, daffodils poking up through the dirt) and have your kids record their findings in a nature journal.  You can buy these with observation suggestions built in, or you can make your own by simply arming your child with a notebook and some crayons or colored pencils and asking him some leading questions.

Just as teens are leaving the blogosphere for Twitter, I’m showing my age by becoming involved in another blog, over at St. Louis Kids Magazine. (Go check it out — and leave some comments, because it’ll be featured on Great Day St. Louis next week and I want it to look fabulous!)  I post there occasionally but edit daily, which is why this blog’s been getting short shrift lately. Plus we’ve been out and about to all the usual sports practices and school meetings and such. But we did find time for some springtime fun last week, planting seeds for the new community garden on Cherokee at Ohio. One of the garden’s sponsors, The Community Arts and Media Project, kindly allowed about a dozen of us to track potting soil all over the floor, and no one batted an eye when the bomb-making started off toward the back.

Seed bombs, that is — I’ve written about them before, the globs of dry clay and dirt and wildflower seeds with a little water to hold them all together. You make them, let them dry out a little, then toss them anywhere that needs a dose of color.  This time of year in St. Louis, it’s hard to remember a corner of the city that hasn’t always been gray and dreary!

Our guerilla gardening endeavor was such a hit with the boys that they’re all excited for the next event at CAMP. Poor M. would be disappointed to know that his choir concert will preclude the possibility of his attending CAMP’s bookmaking event on Sunday (Mar. 7) from 2 to 4 p.m.   So please, if you see him, don’t spill the beans. Ages 5 to 15 are welcome, and you can either bring a monetary donation or supplies of your own — anything that can be bound together. RSVPs are appreciated but not required, at lalarky@gmail.com or 314.773.1391.

If you’re hoping to expose your children to more art, Sundays are the day to do it. The Saint Louis Art Museum, COCA and many other institutions offer art-related activities, often at no charge, on a monthly and sometimes weekly basis (see the link to Monthly Happenings at right for details). A nice addition to that list is the Laumeier Sculpture Park’s docent-led tours, happening the first and third Sundays of the month from this weekend (May 3) into October. Tourists meet in front of the Museum Shop at 2 p.m. and then set off on a one-hour exploration of the outdoor exhibit space.

Reservations can be made with the park’s education office at 314.821.1209, x16; you can call that same number for general information about the tour. Or you can visit the Laumeier tour page online. Incidentally, the homepage’s best feature — and an example I wish more arts institutions would follow — is a comprehensive database of the park’s artworks that can be browsed by photograph, location or artist.

This Sunday only, you can also explore the intersection of artwork and nature at The Green Center’s Annual Spring Arts Festival. If you’ve never visited any of the University City-based organization’s sites, this is a great opportunity to check out what it offers both in terms of classes and in terms of public-access spaces. The artwork comes from students in the Field Arts program, but there will be an opportunity for prospective students to tackle activities of their own in short workshops. The Green Center draws attention to its own demonstration gardens (including a geodesic greenhouse) with a plant sale. You can learn more about the center by visiting its main location on Sunday, at at 8025 Blackberry Avenue, from 1 to 4 p.m., by calling 314.725.8314, or by taking a gander at its homepage.

This weekend is one of those crazy ones with so many great events that there’s no possible way I can write about them all, let alone attend them all … so I’m picking out a couple of highlights, but be sure to look around using the links at right to find out about all the cool stuff I’m leaving out!

First, and dearest to my heart, is Saturday’s (May 2) Cinco de Mayo festival on Cherokee Street between Iowa and Nebraska. This is always a great festival, and as word gets out it’s starting to get crowded down there! My tips are to get your food at the stands on the periphery rather than waiting until the heart of the festival, where the lines are longest. I really love horchata, a refreshing milky drink made from ground almonds. It’s one of the agua frescas that are usually sold out of big vats — other common flavors are tamarindo and watermelon.

If you’re curious about elotes, the corn on the cob smeared with mayo and topped with cheese, give it a go — but be forewarned that it’s not for everyone, and I always hate to see full cobs in the garbage!

The music will alternate between Mexican and local bands. I’m not sure how Boogie Chyld always winds up in the lineup between the more authentically Mexican sounds, but I’m fine with it — they always perform a lively show. And local singer/songwriter Javier Mendoza is likewise always excellent on stage (barefoot or shod).

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with music starting at noon. There’s a parade this year, coming in from the west and sort of looping around the festival proper, that will be fun to check out. More details are at the homepage.
If you’re just not into the 1862 Mexican-French battle in Puebla that Cinco de Mayo celebrates, here are two other possibilities for Saturday:

  1. The Mehlville Moms Club Baby Mania Sale, 8 a.m. to noon at the Mehlville High School parking lot, at 3200 Lemay Ferry Road.
  2. A puppet show at the newly opened Old Post Office Plaza, downtown between Eighth and Ninth, across Olive from the building itself, from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Come back tomorrow for Sunday’s top tips!

I’m already planning the picnic for next Tuesday’s (Apr. 28 ) kickoff of the Twilight Tuesdays concert series at the Missouri History Museum. The weather sounds promising (68 degrees and partly cloudy), as does the band (The Smash Band). The good spots on the north lawn always fill up early, so my advice is to arrive before 6 p.m. and stake out a spot — and if the kids get too antsy, take them over to the playground near the Forest Park visitor’s center, just a couple minutes’ walk to the east of the museum. There will also be make-and-take activities for kids starting at 6 p.m.

The music begins at 6:30 p.m. and runs about two hours. There’s a listing of all the bands here, as well as details about catered picnic boxes and food for sale on-site. Note that at 3 p.m. each day they’ll make a decision to go ahead or not based on the weather outlook, and you can find out what that decision is by calling 800.916.8212.