I did my civic duty this week: served on a jury for three days. What seemed on Monday to be a huge inconvenience had by Thursday become sort of a pleasant routine — so much so that when our case ended early that afternoon, some of my fellow jurors took the rest of the day off from work. The pressures that had seemed to urgent Monday had faded even with a few days of enforced separation.

I’m left with many memories of the case, but my most tangible reminder will be the recipe a fellow juror brought in for me one morning after we’d been talking about feeding our kids.
Her son is nearly my age, and one of his favorite childhood foods was the White Castles his mom used to make and feed his friends. I’m no particular fan of White Castle, but my brother is, so I’m well enough acquainted with the odor that I’ll be able to call Kathy and tell her whether or not I agree with her son, that these knock-offs do smell just like the real thing.

White Castles

2 lbs. lean ground beef, browned
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1/2 cup water
1 cup dill pickle relish (drained, liquid reserved)
1/2 cup dill pickle juice
2 Tbsp. flour
Mix all the ingredients together and simmer for 20 minutes. Chill overnight. The next day, form into patties and heat. Serve on dollar rolls with slices of pickles.

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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’re just a few days away from one of St. Louis’ most colorful and lively events, and no, I’m not talking about the Cardinals’ opening game. This is a free event blog, remember?

The Washington University Powwow is Saturday (April 10) at the Fieldhouse. Doors open at 10 a.m.; activities for the kids go from 1:30 to 6 p.m.  The drumming and dancing goes on all day, but the highlight is the Grand Entry at 1 and 7 p.m.

There are more than a dozen contest categories, and I won’t go into them all here, but it doesn’t hurt to do a little advance reading and video-watching so that when your kids have the inevitable questions, you’ll be armed. However, the announcer will also walk the audience through what’s happening — this event celebrates Native American culture in a public setting where education is encouraged. So let your kids ask questions, and ask some yourself too.

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.

The Magic House is bleeding blue today for a special hockey-centric event: Kids wearing apparel with a Blues logo get in free when accompanied by a paying adult (one child per adult). It’s puck-drop time for a new exhibit about hockey, courtesy of the St. Louis Blues 14 Fund, featuring a regulation-size net, locker (minus the smell, let’s hope!) and computer games.

The Blues mascot, Louie, will be there from noon to 2 p.m., and fans can get their faces painted from noon to 4 p.m. Best of all, the Soulard Blues Band will play in the lobby area from 2 to 4 p.m.

For more details, check out the e-mail announcement here.

And though the Blues are on Olympic break, you can see two of the team’s players, defenseman Eric Johnson and forward David Backes,  in action in the big game against Canada tomorrow (Feb. 21) from 2 to 5 p.m. on NBC.