Meet Me In St. Louis Part 3 (and finally the LAST of Julia’s Birthday)

I’ll bet you all were hangin’ on the edge of your seats in anticipation of our last day in St. Louis, weren’t you?  So to recap – we had day #1 on the Delmar Loop and then day #2 on Laclede’s Landing.

So sad to leave our Hilton Hotel room!  We naturally, pushed it to the very last second and left a little AFTER check out time.  None of us wanted to get up and only ONE of us (guess who?) was responsible enough to pack.  Here’s a hint, it wasn’t ANY of the 15 year olds!  Oh and FORGET about the 28 year old.

Julia wanted to have a REAL tea party, just like in “Alice in Wonderland”!  lol  We reserved a table at the London Tea Room on Washington Ave. downtown.  It was strange to be on Washington Ave. because only a few years ago, when I was still working, this place was a slum!  Known for the prostitution and drugs.  BOY have they cleaned up!  Now, there’s a booming loft district and SO pretty.  Birthday Girl wants to live there one day.  I sincerely hope she makes enough money to live comfortably in a loft apartment 🙂

Image

(They decided on the “Cream Tea”, which I guess in London consists of a scone and a pot of tea?  That’s what a Cream Tea means at St. Louis’s London Tea Room, anyway)

Image

(Julia said she felt so sophisticated and grown up just like the REAL English people!  lol  She’d never had a scone before.  We ordered blueberry scones with “Devonshire Cream” which was TO DIE FOR!  Devonshire cream is like butter, only better.  I seriously need to figure out how to make this stuff!  Anyway, the scones were light and fluffy… NOT like the scones we’re used to.  I’d give this place 2 thumbs up for the tea and their scones 🙂

Image

(Julia feeling all grown up and elegant drinking her Chai Latte.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that they didn’t drink Chai Latte’s in London.  She liked the idea of the foamy milk.)

Image

(So Katie tells me AFTER ordering that the taste of tea makes her sick.  Here she is looking DEEP into her tea cup.  I’m not sure what she thinks is going to jump out and hurt her.  For my friends in the UK…  in our defense,  we’re REAL bonafide rednecks AND we’re coffee drinkers.  We really had no business in a London Tea Room.  lol)

Image

(In keeping with tradition, Hannah wouldn’t be Hannah if not causing trouble somehow!  lol  All through our little tea party, the girls spoke in their very best British accents.  Yeah, it was annoying so I kept my head down so as to not make eye contact with any of the other patrons.  When I looked up, this is what I saw staring back at me (Hannah with a fake “stache”).

Image

(I’m LOVING this pic of the girls walking down Washington Ave.!  They look like models to me 🙂

Image

(and so when it came time for the girls to take MY picture, I didn’t notice Julia walking like Derek Zoolander)

Image

(This is Windows On Washington, where the presidents always come to hold their campaign fundraisers while in St. Louis.  I used to deliver specialty foods here when I was working.  How’s THAT for a fun fact?)

Image

(The Loft Apartments where Julia swears she’ll live one day)

From Washington Ave., we drove around, stopping to take pictures of the awesome old city architecture.

Image

(I literally parked in the middle of the street to get this one!  lol  This is a view of the city from Market Street.  It’s a good thing it was Sunday and everyone who WAS out in the city happened to be at the Cardinals game!  Go CARDS!)

Image

(I’m not sure what this building is but it’s old and it’s beautiful!)

Image

(Just more lovely buildings 🙂

We ended up at Kiener Plaza where all St. Louisans gather before a Cardinal’s game.  Here’s where it got weird.  I began taking pictures of the girls and a lady walks up to me and asks if I want to be in the picture.  She offered to take my picture and being me, and being naive and being from the “country”, I said, “Sure!”.  Well, I discovered this woman was homeless.  Now, I love all people and the girls and I work hard to help stamp out hunger and homelessness.  We hold fundraisers and work with area churches to help these people.  BUT… I wouldn’t want one of them to hold my fancy new expensive camera!  She could have run with it.  Thank GOD she didn’t.  The girls and I took this opportunity to talk with her and learn about what’s going on in St. Louis with the homeless.  This opened the door for other homeless people to come up to us and tell their story.  It broke my heart, really.  However, it was good for the girls to learn what it was like to be homeless, straight from the horses mouth, so to speak.  I’ll tell you their stories in another blog.

Image

(Here’s the pic that the homeless woman took.  Notice the Gateway Arch behind the old Old Courthouse?  I love this scenery.)

Image

(And here’s the homeless woman who DIDN’T run off with my camera.  God Bless her!  Do you know that NONE of them asked for money?  They only wanted to tell their story to someone who would listen.  She asked me to tell her story to whoever would listen… so I certainly will do that!)

Image

(Homeless men sleeping in Kiener Plaza.  They weren’t bothering anyone.  They just needed a place to sleep and the shelters were completely full.  This breaks my heart but it was an opportunity to show the girls how very blessed we really are.)

Next stop:  City Garden!  Guess what?  It’s another FREE experience!  I’m so proud of the way they’re beautifying our city!  There was a time that I was ashamed to say I was from St. Louis.  NOW is not that time 🙂

Image

Image

(Hannah the Ham inside the eyeball of the creepy head sculpture)

Image

(Julia BEFORE she fell)

Image

(volunteers take care of this garden)

Image

 The girls and Pinoccio.

(The girls and Pinocchio)

City and gardenGirls and the bunny rabbitsJulia the Birthday Girl Me at the city Garden

DSC_0253

And this will conclude our tour of the beautiful metropolis of St. Louis Mo 🙂  We truly had a blast.  Lot’s of bonding, fighting, posing and eating…  Ah but it’s good to be home!

Ideas Please?

I’m panicking!  Help please???  My youngest princess is turning 15 tomorrow and I need to come up with something to make this year special.  Here’s why…  From experience with all my other girls, I’ve learned that this, year 15, is really the last year she’ll be mine 😦  *cue tears*.  Everyone knows that Sweet 16 is something very special for a girl.  15 is very special for Mommy!  

I’ve always made birthdays for my girls special and we’ve tried to do parties or weekend trips.  We’ve pretty much done anything the girls wanted to do within the limits of our financial situation.  SO… Julia’s the baby.  I’m struggling with  empty nest syndrome and I think sometimes, I’m not the one winning.  I’m trying to be graceful about losing my mind to the “empty nest”.  After all, FINALLY, after FOUR kids, I’ve realized that these girls were not born FOR ME!  They are little beings so separate from me and I have so very little to do with their lives  – except to give birth and pay for them.  They don’t need me after a certain age.  My job was to shape and mold them and HELP them to be the decent human beings that they were born to be.  Now, I want to celebrate Julia. 

So here’s the dilemma.  I’ve done a lot of cool things to celebrate her birthday already.  Last year, we had a bunch of friends over (her friends) and they spent the night.  We spent one day in downtown St. Louis and packed a picnic lunch.  We spread a blanket out on the ground at a park and looked up at the Arch.  We fed the ducks and geese at the pond we sat near.  Image

~Here’s everyone eating by the pond under the Arch.  It was a pretty cool idea and inexpensive to pack our own lunch.  The girls had a blast even though we didn’t spend a bunch of money on dinner reservations~

Image

~Here’s the view of the downtown buildings from our little picnic spot~

Image

 

~Here they are walking in the rain.  They did their best to ditch the parents (Ben and I) but I managed to catch up with them AT LEAST to get this shot.  lol~

After eating, feeding the mean geese who took our food and then attacked us, walking around under the Arch and people watching, we took a horse drawn carriage ride all along the riverfront.

Image

~Here’s the whole group of us!  The girls had the choice between going up IN the Arch or doing something else.  They chose the carriage ride and were SO giddy at being able to wave to the tourists.  We laughed so hard and just enjoyed the moment.~

Image

 

~Here’s the St. Louis Riverfront… view from the carriage ride~

We were done kind of early with the Riverfront and the girls weren’t ready to leave yet.  They’d decided to spend the rest of the day at the City Museum on Washington Ave.  This was a tough decision because it wasn’t in the budget BUT how could we say no?  The cost is $12 a person and $20 a person if you want to go to the Aquarium, which we did NOT.  It was particularly scary that day because a tornado went through the city of St. Louis and there were even fatalities right down the road.  Thank God the girls were all safe and it missed us.  They had a BLAST (despite the crazy howling winds outside) and they closed down the place 🙂

Image

~All the materials used to make everything in the City Museum came from recycled garbage!  Basically anything you’d throw away NOT food or sewage related.  lol  Here’s one of the ceilings.  I’m loving the mosaics on the column.  Not sure what the ceiling material is made of.~

Image

 

~This isn’t a good picture but I put it here to show you that there are other aquariums that are free to see.  There are fish and turtles everywhere.~

Image

 

~Here’s my oldest daughter Sumo wrestling a statue at the City Museum.  So you see, there something fun for ALL age children.  lol~

After the museum, the girls came back here and made their own pizzas.  They stayed up all night and left late the next day.  We got a LOT of birthday celebrating in that weekend and Julia and her friends are STILL talking about it.  So how do I top that?

One year, we took a FEW of her friends to the St. Louis Magic House.  We were supposed to go to SixFlags but as luck would have it, and as it seems to do EVERY birthday for Julia, it stormed so they couldn’t ride the rides at Sixflags while there’s lightening happening 😦  

Image

Image

Image

 

~here she is pretending to be a judge.  They learned all about the judicial system… among so many other things.  Again, having WAY too much fun pretending~

Looking back on it, we’ve done so many things for her birthday.  I’m running out of ideas and here’s where YOU come in handy 🙂  I need some ideas!  Keeping in mind that we’re only going to have 1 maybe 2 friends this time AND that Julia loves the city.  I would absolutely LOVE to get on a train, just Julia and I and go to Chicago for a few days.  We won’t be able to do that, most likely, because we just bought her first car.  I realize a car should be enough but she’s going to be paying us back for that and to me, it’s all about the experiences we share.  Memories need to made AND, like I said before, this is probably the last year that I’ll have her to myself.  I fully expect that NEXT year, when she’s 16, I won’t get to be even a little part of her party… well except to pay for it.  lol

I’d really love to hear from you guys on this because I’m at a loss.

Perfect in it’s Simplicity!

Have you ever had something stuck in your mind from a magical time of your youth?  Something that all other “like” things are measured by?  I have.  Pizza is like that for me.

pizza

When I was very little, my dad had a friend who came over from Italy to start a business in South St. Louis.  He spoke broken English and we couldn’t really understand him.  The LaFata family business was called Pizza A Go Go.  I remember my brothers and I sitting in this crowded little diner, watching Frank toss the pizza dough in the air, stretching and pulling.  Sometimes, Frank would let us try our hand at tossing the dough…. ALWAYS a disaster!  lol  There’s definitely an art to it and an art that I never DID learn how to execute properly.  In fact, as good of a baker as I think I am, I can not make good pizza crust.

Growing up in St. Louis during the 1970’s, we didn’t have pizza chains like Domino’s or Papa John’s.  I think I can remember a Pizza Hut but there was NOBODY who delivered.  SO going out as a family to our little hole in the wall, Pizza A Go Go, was an event.  We couldn’t WAIT to taste that pizza!  The sad thing is that we didn’t appreciate how wonderful our little slice of heaven really was.  We took Frank’s pizza for granted.  We thought ALL pizza tasted like Frank’s pizza. Oooooooo  SO NOT true!  My dad TRIED to tell us how good it was but we didn’t have anything to compare it to because Frank’s pizza was all we ever had!  I’d listen closely as Dad tried to convince Frank to share his recipe for his special sauce.  There were even special herbs that Frank added to the cheese.  I can still hear Franks’s loud  and thick Italian accent, as he’d shout “NAW NAW NAW (no no no), I-a-canna-not give-a- you- my-a-secret, Keeeeny (Kenny)!”  lol  God I loved that man!

Through the years, as I grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, we still had Frank’s pizza frequently.  My surviving brother and I helped run our family business and Frank brought his car in to be repaired or inspected.  I’ll never forget the last day I spent time with Frank.  He was sitting in the office talking to me in a sad voice.  Pizza A Go Go had been broken into several times and Frank was thinking of closing the doors.  The neighborhood had been taken over with crime and to top it all off, Frank had undergone open heart surgery and wasn’t feeling well.  He didn’t think his boys were interested in running the family business and Frank’s heart wasn’t in it anymore.  I could have cried.  I begged Frank to reconsider but he only looked depressed and disinterested.  I don’t remember talking to Frank anymore after that day.  I CAN tell you that I think he closed the doors on South Grand and I’m really not sure when his son, Paul, decided to reopen in a different location.  Regardless, I haven’t had authentic pizza since the 1990’s.

Pic credit to:St. Louis City Talk

Now I’m grown, with grown kids of my own.  My own kids grew up with chain pizza.  The kind of pizza that’s delivered without taste and cold, more times than not.  Quality doesn’t matter and the taste closely resembles a cardboard box.  That’s what pizza is to them.  We’ve tried several types of pizza through our travels but nothing compared to Frank’s.  In fact, I’ve pretty much grown to hate the taste of pizza.  The only redeeming aspect of pizza night is the fact that I can be lazy and not cook PLUS it’s delivered straight to my door.

That is until last night.  Last night I had a HUGE craving, sort of a “body memory”, for Frank’s pepperoni.  Pizza A Go Go is located over an hour away from my house so I called my husband and asked him to go out of his way to pick some up on his way home from work.  He loves me, so he did!  lol  My poor husband battled several accidents on the interstate during Friday night rush hour only to get to the NEW Pizza A Go Go and find out that they DON’T take debit cards.  We rarely have cash and who carries checks anymore?  lol  Whatever, it was SO worth it!  He went in search for an ATM and had to wait in line for that!  I’m not sure my husband thought is was as worth it as I did but we live by the rule, “If mama aint happy, aint NOBODY happy” in my house!  lol

NOW, this is what pizza is SUPPOSED to taste like.  I’m happy to report that Paul can make a pizza JUST like his daddy!  As soon as my slice of pepperoni hit my taste buds, I melted!  Oh and, it’s even good warmed up for breakfast, just like I remembered 🙂  Thanks to the Lafata family for making this old mom VERY happy!

I went online to try and leave a review and in searching for information on Pizza A Go Go, I ran across an article fro the St. Louis Riverfront Times , where they voted this pizza the best thin crust in St. Louis!  I thought the quote was dead on, “Perfect in it’s simplicity”.  So true.  Nothing flashy, that’s for sure but there’s something about the herbs or maybe the sauce or maybe the crust that just works.  And there’s really no trying to compare.  What I’ve learned:  If I want REAL pizza, it’s worth going out of the way, even if it’s an hour but ESPECIALLY if I can send my husband to battle the traffic!