The sign went up across the street on Sunday, as we were still cleaning up from the Mardi Gras party. FISH FRY! S. has been asking for weeks when the fish fries are going to start — he’s only 3, so apparently last year’s events made quite an impression on his 2-year-old brain! — and I was delighted to be able to show him the sign and tell him that this week, it’s on.

There’s another family eagerly scouting out the local fries, and they kindly commented on my blog with a link to their site, Friday Night Fish. I see that they don’t have St. Agatha’s Polish fry in the reviews yet, but they really should.  If I had three kids under age 7, as they do, I’d definitely be making a beeline to the church basement where you can get Tyskie and Zywiec (or similar Polish lagers) for a song.  Then again, I get to walk home …

As it happens, another St. Louis fish fry blog, No Meat for You!, will be descending on St. Agatha’s this Friday (Feb. 19) to do a review.  I suggest you come early — it opens at 5 p.m. — to beat the rush, because if the good Polish folks staffing the fryer run out of fish and you have to wait, you may be tempted to drink your calories from a bottle of 8-percent-alcohol Polish piwo.

Are we back to beer again?

Such is the hectic state of my life that I missed National Ice Cream for Breakfast day on Saturday (Feb. 6). Why someone chose to place this holiday smack in the middle of winter I’ve no idea … but I like to think the proximity to my birthday had something to do with it! What goes better with ice cream for breakfast than cake, right?

Actually, my family does occasionally eat ice cream for breakfast in the winter, because it’s absolutely delicious on top of a steaming bowl of oatmeal. If you’ve not tried it, I suggest you plan your own National Ice Cream Day tomorrow. The recipe we use for the oatmeal is this one from Eating Well magazine. Ignore the part about yogurt and top it with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream. (Substitute raisins for the dates if you prefer.) Besides feeling totally decadent, the ice cream has the additional benefit of cooling the oatmeal off quickly, always a plus on school days or, as it happens, tomorrow may turn out to be a snow day, in which case the oatmeal will give your kids extra endurance on the sledding hill.

Long before I moved to Soulard, I loved Mardi Gras. It all started in New Orleans, back in the early ’90s, and during the subsequent six years that my husband and I lived in Germany I learned how to beat the wind chill and enjoy a really good Fasching parade (as the whole carnival was known in our part of Deutschland).

And when we settled in here in 2001, we embraced the celebration wholeheartedly, choosing to avoid the drunken revelry that gives Mardi Gras a bad reputation and instead focus on the playful aspects of the day: the food, the parade, the fellowship with friends.

Our neighbors who live in the epicenter of Soulard during Mardi Gras don’t all share our warm feelings toward the event, and in an effort to placate them, the nonprofit that organizes the festivities (and, incidentally, donates tens of thousands of dollars back to the community each year for civic infrastructure and other good causes) continues to reach out toward groups who’re about the non-alcoholic fun. Last year’s first Family Winter Carnival was a big hit — so big they ran out of supplies quite early in the day, much to their chagrin. I don’t think they’ll underestimate demand again this year, but even if they run out of supplies to make masks, crowns and noisemakers, you can still enjoy:

  • the music of our favorite children’s singer, Babaloo (11:30-12:30)
  • the opportunity to paint art on an 8-by-32-foot wall
  • the Rams’ football challenge
  • the Saint Louis Science Center’s activity corner
  • the Segway timed trials
  • the children’s parade, starting at 9th and Lafayette and looping through the neighborhood

There will be food and non-alcoholic drinks available for purchase, plus a free heated tent where many of the activities will take place. And the whole thing ends at 4 p.m., long before the nightlife crowd starts rolling into Soulard.

I hope you have so much fun at the Family Winter Carnival that you decide to brave the crowds on Feb. 13 to experience the parade too.  Come back in a couple weeks, when I’ll be highlighting the ways your family can make the most of the Mardi Gras parade.

There is so much to love about The Loop Ice Carnival … the ice carving demonstrations, the ice slide, the ice cubes with dollars inside, the ice breaker (sledgehammer, not the flirty kind) … or, if you’re sick of ice, there are s’mores, hula hoop demos, yo-yo demos, giant non-ice slides, fire-eaters … very best of all, the streets and sidewalks are guaranteed to be ice-free by Saturday (Jan. 16).

As in the previous four years of this classically eclectic event, the shops and eateries along Delmar Boulevard will have deals and special entertainment starting at 11 a.m.  Pick up a map along the way and plan your day. I don’t have a link to the flier, but you can check out the blog for more info on the various events and participating shops at VisitTheLoop.com.

My vote as top attraction this year is for the ice carving at Fitz’s American Grill and Bottling Works. Do go inside — S. and I ate there a few weeks ago, and both of us were impressed (him with the seemingly limitless free root beer a tour will earn you, me with the much-improved quality of the food.)  As an extra bonus, it’s not far to the s’mores station at Craft Alliance!

Doesn’t it feel fabulous outside? The sunshine, the temperature … OK, it’s not quite tropical, but it’s definitely an improvement on what we’ve been experiencing. Last night I was talking with some friends about what we have planned for today. Sledding and hiking were on the list for several families, which played right into my current state of mind. I’ve been reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder. There’s an updated version out, and if you haven’t read it, do.  I guarantee it will have you bundling up your kids on even the nastiest days for a few minutes outdoors.

In the December issue of the Missouri Department of Conservation magazine, the author of the article titled “Get Out!” has dozens of seasonal tips for outdoor activities. The piece is a fitting introduction to the department’s new kid-centric magazine, Xplor, which launches its first bimonthly issue in February. Click here to sign up for free delivery.

Mr. Stinky Feet (Jan. 10)

January 6, 2010

As the snow slowly drifts down and the boys are dreaming peacefully of snowmen and sledding*, I’m going to jump right ahead to Sunday, for a rockin’ good indoor time. Jim Cosgrove, aka Mr. Stinky Feet, plays Off Broadway at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10, in KDHX’s family-friendly concert series.

M. and I took in Justin Roberts a couple of months ago at Off Broadway and had a blast. It turns out to be a good venue because it’s bar-like enough to make kids feel they’ve entered a forbidden realm (and it sells beer during the show!) but it doesn’t have that skanky smoke-smelling bar vibe. Most of the parents chose the floor seating — and I do mean floor — right in front the stage so their toddlers could get up and dance, but M. at age 6 was too cool for that, and he preferred to sit upstairs — on chairs, yay! — and chill out.

Tickets are $8 a the door, $5 in advance, kids 1 and under free.  If you’re a football fan, you may miss the end of the first game, but the concert only runs an hour, so you won’t miss much of the second.  And it’ll be worth it!

* If you’re on the blog looking for a good sledding hill, our favorite is at Lyon Park on Broadway at Arsenal!

M.’s spring break hasn’t even started yet and already I’m stressed about it. Anyone up for a playdate swap? If you’re on break this week, knee deep in bored schoolchildren, you have my sympathy! And, like you, I totally hope it rains in Florida, California, the Caribbean, North Carolina and every other spring break destination that I’m not at!

But enough bitterness. The folks at The Magic House are here to help us out, with extended hours (Mondays! Mornings! Friday nights!) throughout the next two weeks. For a detailed list, check the homepage.

You’ll also be relieved to know that City Museum is opening seven days a week starting next Monday (March 16). Check its events page for the new hours.

Last week a sign went up in our neighborhood advertising St. Agatha’s Lenten fish fries. I immediately started wondering whether the Polish congregation will lean more traditional Polish or more contemporary American this year. I loved the Polish sides and I sincerely hope they do a few of them this year. The guys in the neighborhood are all hoping the huge, strong Polish bottles of beer will be on the menu again. Why not flaunt your parish’s special talents, right?

That’s what the folks at St. Cecilia in South City do — their Mexican fish fries include specialties like meatless tacos and chiles rellenos. The fry runs from 4:30 to 8 p.m., plates start at $7.50, and the phone for more info is 314.351.1318.  Be sure to check the homepage, as live music will be scheduled some weeks.

Another form of live entertainment will be appearing this Friday to kick off Lenten fish fries at Our Lady of the Presentation in Overland: a radio remote from K-Hits 96.3 FM featuring Mark Klose.  Not sure whether he’s Catholic and giving up meat for Lent, but if you’re curious, stop by 8860 Tudor Ave. around 3 p.m. and ask him. For details on the fish fry, call 314.427.0486.  Each year the station does a World Fish Fry Tour. This year’s other two stops are St. Joan of Arc on Pernod in South City on Mar. 10 and Our Lady of the Pillar on Lindbergh in Creve Coeur on Apr. 10.

At St. Francis of Assisi in Oakville, they’ve been doing fish fries all month (including tonight, to get your Lent off to a good start on Ash Wednesday) and will continue through Good Friday.  The schedule and menu (though no prices) are online at the main homepage; look for the fish fry button on the left.

Most Catholic fish fries end the week before Good Friday, but some are scattered on only one or two Lenten dates. Such is the case at St. John’s Evangelical UCC, which serves dinners only on Mar. 20 and Apr. 3 from 4 to 7 p.m.  However, they do have frog legs on the $9 menu, making it worth a detour to 11333 St. John’s Church Road in South County.

But back to the Catholics, whose fries garner most of the attention this time of year.  I wasn’t able to find a link for these, but I’ve heard that St. Gabriel the Archangel on Nottingham is good (call 314.353.6303 for details), as is St. Mary Magdalen on Bancroft (call 314.352-2111).   That one’s raffling off a lawnmower at the final Good Friday fry, just FYI. Others can be find courtesy of the St. Boniface blog, which posts reviews throughout Lent.

And if you’re coming down to St. Agatha’s, at 3239 S. 9th St., the fry runs from 5 to 8 p.m. and plates start at$6.

ADDED ON MARCH 2

Check out this great map of fish fries throughout the St. Louis region.

mardi-grasThe other evening I was with a group of fellow Soulard residents, and we got to talking about how big this whole Mardi Gras thing is getting. Take the little Winter Carnival a couple of weekends ago. It was the first year for the family-friendly, Saturday afternoon event, it was barely advertised, and yet so many people showed up that they ran out of craft supplies within the first three hours. If I were making a bet, I’d wager that this year’s Beggin’ Krewe of Barkus Pet Parade on Sunday (Feb. 15) will be the biggest yet, because I’ve heard from families near and far that they’ll be coming en masse.

The parade starts at 1 p.m., but the day tends to open earlier (registration at Menard and Allen begins at 10 a.m.) and wind down later than the official event, with pets and their families simply milling around the neighborhood and enjoying the camaraderie. Everywhere from Russell to 9th Street to Lafayette, where the route officially ends at Soulard Market Park, dogs will strut and owners will mingle. Post-parade activities include the traditional weiner dog races and a new animal health area  (checking teeth, heart rate, obesity, etc.) Although it’s perfectly OK to bring your pet down to mingle and not march in the parade, organizers will be collecting a $10 donation for the Open Door Animal Sanctuary from everyone who chooses to march (you can sign up online at the Purina homepage or in person at the parade’s staging point), and they’ll also be keeping an eye on all comers to make sure pets are docile, healthy and otherwise respectable.  Would that the rules were so strict for people the following weekend …

I’m joking, actually — if you’re coming to the Mardi Gras parade on Feb. 21, I do suggest bringing the kids.  Just try to avoid the heart of Soulard — choose either the northern end of the route along Seventh Street, just south of Busch Stadium, or the tail end, on Seventh Street north of Anheuser-Busch/InBev’s regional HQ.  It starts at 11 a.m. and will most likely reach Sidney Street about noon. It usually includes more than 100 floats and marching groups, and it takes a couple of hours for everyone to complete the route.  The tail end of the route is perhaps more fun for kids because the float-riders are eager to unload their un-thrown beads, and the haul is usually really, really good.  This year’s theme is History, and the entries so far seem pretty tame, aside from the float celebrating the first issue of Playboy magazine — you might want to scan in advance for that one and distract your kids with snacks right about then!  I do recommend bringing plenty of snacks and drinks; there is usually not much kid-friendly fare, and if your kids are like mine they will not want to leave their spots along the barriers for something as mundane as food, no matter that they’ve been standing in the cold for two hours … they have to get their share of the 17 million strands of beads that will go flying during this year’s parade.  (That number, incidentally, comes from Mardi Gras Inc. — I didn’t make it up!)


Ski deal (today, Feb. 3)

February 3, 2009

A colleague of my husband’s was telling him last week what a great time his family had skiing a Hidden Valley Ski Resort. I’m a very indifferent skier, but I’m all about letting children have a variety of opportunities, so I checked into it. The price is great for kids 6 and under — free lift tickets! — but once you factor in ski or snowboard rental (starting at $28 ) and lessons (starting at $30), it’s a pretty expensive outing. But keep an eye out for special rates, like today’s Learn 2 Ski Day, when the lift pass, rental and a lesson are all $25 after 1 p.m. (To find out the next date, call 636.983.5373.) The next-best option is to go Sunday nights, when pass and rental combined are $40 for all ages from 3 to 8 p.m.

To find other discounts, check the Wildwood resort’s homepage.