Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie…

SL Pink Suit

Empty Pink Suit – St. Louis Citygarden

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St. Louis Arch and Old Courthouse

So I had a meeting in St. Louis last week.  The meeting was tedious, but my first time in town.  There was an interesting opinion piece in the New York Times about a month ago (Loving the Midwest) about how slow St. Louis is, e.g. nothing going on downtown.  I certainly found that to be true.  It was a beautiful, if warm and humid, summer evening when I walked from my hotel to the restaurant I was going to try – Gio’s Ristaurante & Bar (more about Gio’s later).  It was like a ghost town.  I wondered whether the Zombie Apocalypse had started and the concierge had failed to inform me.  Anyroad, I walked up to the Citygarden.  If you’re in downtown St. Louis, I recommend wandering around in there.  Great water features for kids to play in; very interesting sculpture; and beautiful plants.   This piece caught my attention – an empty pink suit.  I think we all know a couple of these.

Next to the Citygarden was Gio’s.  If you’re looking for good eats in St. Louie, I highly recommend this place.  It’s got great reviews, so I reserved a table for 7:15, thinking it would be extremely busy.  They must have thought I was a complete nutter when I walked in and said I had a reservation – I was the only person in the place.  Matt – my server and the bar tender – assured me that they were in fact open.  It’d been a long day of travel, so I started out with a Manhattan – bourbon, bitters, garnish, rocks…the usual.   (Matt got an extra-generous tip – best Manhattan I’ve had in a very long time.  Surprisingly enough, the best Manhattan I’ve ever had was at the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney World. But I digress.)

I started with the tomato and baked goat cheese salad with fresh herb, balsamic syrup, and olive oil – uh-MAY-zing.  For my entrée I got the Risotto del Giorno – risotto with grilled chicken, tomatoes, and spinach.  Probably some of the best risotto I’ve ever had.  It still had a little broth in it; I’m definitely going to try that technique the next time we make risotto.  I finished with one of the best tiramisus I’ve ever had.  With my meal, I had a couple of glasses of the 2010 Woop Woop Shiraz.  If you’ve never had this wine, you should really try it.  Great notes of dark fruit, with a full, clean finish.  It paired well with everything.  Apart from some German tourist who wandered in for a coke and a couple sitting at the bar, I had the place practically to myself.  Matt assured me though that it’s totally hopping when the Cardinals are in town.  There was a home game on the day I left.  I’m very sorry I missed it; maybe next time.busch stadium



Birds…and one lizard

SI ExifI don’t think I’ve written about the birds in the garden yet.  I’m pretty lucky to live on the edge of the Barton Creek Greenbelt which is a nice mix of trees (a gigantic live oak; cedars; Houston Yaupon hollies; a Texas persimmon; etc.) and meadow land.  The ecology provides abundant nesting opportunities as well as great feeding.  To encourage them to visit the garden I have seven various types of feeders (two tube feeders; a thistle feeder; a suet feeder, a humming bird feeder; a corn-cob feeder; and an English titmouse feeder) and four water features.  (I get all my seed (Supreme and No-Mess) from Wild Birds Unlimited – they’re great.  And if you use their ‘seed bank,’ you can buy in bulk and just stroll into the store and pick up a bag without having to worry about storing it. ) I used to have a Purple Martin house, but I never had any luck with it.  I’ll publish an inventory of birds I’ve seen, but this is a general overview of the standard visitors.

SI ExifI actually have a murder of crows living behind the house.  I heard them at dawn a couple days ago and got a picture of one today.  I like them much better than grackles.

Like every back yard in Texas, I’ve got cardinals.  I like this time of year – midsummer – because you can see different generations.  The newly fledged ones waiting for their crests to come on look like British punks with the spiked hair.  The juvenile males are really interesting because they often look like they have blue heads!SI Exif

Perhaps my favorite birds are the blue jays.  From their colours to their screeching to their thrust-and-parry feeding methods, there’s nothing subtle about blue jays at all.  One of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of them is from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

“…and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.”

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A blurry wet blue jay and my still-blooming clematis

This morning I saw a woodpecker.  These are pretty infrequent visitors, but I love them.  It’s amazing to watch them feed upside down from the suet feeder.

The black and yellow finches are fun to watch.  They’ll swarm around the feeders and the shallow ‘bird-bath’ fountain.  They’re definitely not intimidated by any of the larger birds.

While I really enjoy their calls, I’m not overly fond of the white-wing doves.  They’re a bit like flying pigs that gang up on the other birds and drain the feeders pretty dang quick.  They also have a tendency to fly into the side of the house; not an attractive sight.

This summer, I have whippoorwills living in the grove behind the house.  I love their calls but don’t ever expect to see any.

SI ExifWho doesn’t like humming birds?  But I never realized how territorial they can be.  The most I’ve ever seen is four, but there always seems to be a bully that’s keeping the others from the feeder.  That one sure seems to spend a lot of time and energy guarding that feeder.

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Other birds I’ve seen in the past:  a red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence; a painted bunting; mocking birds; grackles (filth, filthy birds); screech owls (again, no success with an owl house); tit mouse; chickadees; and Carolina wrens (such a loud call for such a little bird).  My neighbor said he once saw a wild turkey in the back yard.  I’m really sorry I missed that.  Probably the most unusual though, was a road runner.  It was during the extreme heat wave in 2011.  This road runner hopped over the fence from the desiccated green belt; drank from one of the small bird baths; hopped/flew to the neighbors giant live oak; and then climbed the thing to the telephone wires behind.  It was amazing!

And here’s the promised lizard…

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Happy 4th!

So it’s the 4th of July – one of my favourite holidays.  Didn’t do much today but putz around the garden, rearranging and pruning a bit.  I’ve been practicing with the camera; here are some odds-and-ends that came out half-way decent.  Gotta go fire up the grill in a minute – we’re having fajitas and beans…woo hoo!  (Last year when we were in Toronto on Dieciséis de Septiembre, we went to a Mexican restaurant.  The food was pretty good , but I nearly spit up my margarita when the table next to us ordered “fa-JEYE-tas”)

I’m nothing if not patriotic.

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So I’m a complete luddite – technology is definitely not my thing.  I don’t believe I qualify to have a smartphone.  I find it fascinating when folks are always chasing down the latest gadget/upgrade/app.  App-shcmapp, give me low-tech any day.  These for example…clay pot feet shaped like reposing lions.  I just love these things but have never been able to find more like this.

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They’re supporting a pot of caladiums I got yesterday.

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I also spruced up and put out more of my tchotchkes.  I did realize how many Buddhas I had.

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This is my pink ‘Rose of Sharon’ – it’s doing exceptionally well; much better than the ones on the Capitol grounds.

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This bird house reminds me of 4th of July at my great grandparents’ house in San Antonio when I was a really little kid.  My great grandfather, Hugh Brunnemann, made this out of bits of quartz and a roof shingle when he was little – more than 100 years ago.

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And here’s my attempt at ‘sunrise.’  I’m probably better at ‘Tequila Sunrises,’ but I’ll keep trying.

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Hope everybody has a great 4th and wakes up on the 5th with all fingers in tact…