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May 30th – My Favorite Quote

May 30th – My Favorite Quote

Today’s prompt for Blog Everyday in May is to share our favorite quote and why we love it.

My favorite quote comes from a high school science assignment. At the beginning of the year, we were given a list of quotes relating to science and we were meant to choose one that appealed to us. We then had to research a bit about the speaker and explain to the class what it meant, how it related to science, and how it could relate to other aspects of our world. I didn’t have a hard time deciding when I read the following quote.

William A. Fowler Stardust

I just thought that it was a beautiful way of discussing a pretty fundamental truth about our world. It makes you feel all warm and special inside, but it also is literally the truth. William A. Fowler was an astrophysicist who studied nuclear reactions and the chemical elements that make up the universe. He won a Nobel Prize for it, he knows his stuff.

This quote is also important to me not just by the meaning, though I think I would have always like it for that, but because it also represents the teacher who introduced it to me. My high school physics and chemistry teacher was a wonderful man and had a true passion for his subject. Students would tease him a bit because of it, but his enthusiasm for the subject made class so much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, he passed away in the middle of my senior year. It was a hard time for the school, especially those of us who had gotten to know him well during our classes with him.

I chose this quote to put in the yearbook by my senior picture as a bit of a tribute to that teacher. We are all stardust – eternal but ever changing, breaking down but becoming something new.

Rest In Peace, Mr. O’Hearn.

May 28th – Being A Tourist (On the Cheap)

May 28th – Being A Tourist (On the Cheap)

Today’s prompt for Blog Everyday in May is to “Share tips to be a tourist in your hometown or city.” My tips are going to be around my hometown of St. Louis, MO. Hopefully this post will give me some great ideas to share with our German family and friends who will be visiting St. Louis in August for our wedding! I’m going to focus on attractions that are free or cheap, because those are my favorite kind. And plane tickets are expensive, so people might not want to pay an arm and a leg to go see stuff when they’ve shelled out a bunch of money to fly over. So without further ado – my favorite free and cheap things to do in St. Louis!

1. The St. Louis Zoo

St. Louis Zoo
I’m shorter than a llama.

St. Louis has a pretty amazing zoo – and there is no admission fee. There are a few attractions within the park, and the closest parking lot has a fee – but if you’re willing to walk you can get free parking. The children’s section is really fantastic, even if you’re not a child anymore, and while it normally has it’s own fee, if you show up the first hour the zoo is open, you can get in for free.  Totally worth it if you can handle getting there before 9:00 AM (the zoo opens at 8:00 AM in the summer).

For maximum fun, I would suggest checking the schedule for the different shows and feedings. The sea lions in particular are really fun to watch.

2. Grant’s Farm

Grant’s Farm is another attraction with no admission fee, but a fee for parking. If you’re willing to walk about a kilometer, there is some free parking to be found – though I’m not 100% that it’s not on private property. Just don’t park in front of someone’s house.

Grant’s Farm is similar to the zoo, but it’s smaller and has some free beer for adults. It’s owned by Anheuser-Busch (hence the complimentary beer), and the Busch family has a mansion hidden away on the property that you can spot if you through the trees if you go to one of their Christmas attractions. There’s a large park where many animals roam – bison, cattle, deer, zebras – and before you reach the rest of the park you take a tram ride through. During the tram ride, you pass by a cabin that used to be the home of President Ulysses S. Grant. You get a nice history lesson during your tour as well.

After the tram, you arrive in the Tier Garten (German influence FTW) where there are many animal exhibits and an area where you can pay to feed baby goats. Totally worth it, they are adorable. If you have small children, you may want to go in with them as the goats are perpetually “starving” and lack the self-awareness to not trample tiny humans trying to feed them.

Grant's Farm Goats
Photo by Dave Herholz

After the Tier Garten is the Bauernhof (again, more German!) where they have food and some stables with horses. This is where you can pick up samples of AB if you are of age. When I went there with the Verlobter, he tried some Bud Light Lime and though it tasted like mineral water with some limey-beer flavor.

The Bauernhof Photo by Rick Mester
The Bauernhof
Photo by Rick Mester

When you’re finished, you take a tram back to the exit and avoid the gift shop – since we are travelling on the cheap this time.

3. St. Louis Science Center

The St. Louis Science Center and the Zoo are both located in Forest Park, which also has other wonderful free attractions like the St. Louis Art Museum and the Missouri History Museum. There are two entrances for the Science Center, though. One entrance is inside the park with a small, but free parking lot and some nearby street parking. The other entrance, and most of the museum is just outside the park and has a larger parking lot that charges a fee. I’m sure you can guess which entrance I always go to.

St. Louis Science Center
This one. The free one.
“Mcdonnell planetarium slsc” by Steven M. Ley

The entrance inside the park is the “old” Science Center and contains a planetarium and some kiosks to buy tickets to special attractions, if I remember correctly. There’s not much there. You then go through a tunnel, over the highway on a bridge, and then through another tunnel again to get to the main park of the museum. Like everything else, the Science Center has parts that cost money, specifically the Omnimax (it’s an IMAX, but round) and special temporary exhibits that are held in a giant domed tent. But there is plenty to do and see for free.

Dinosaur St. Louis Science Center
Like large, animatronic dinosaur murder scenes.
“Dinosaur Diorama at Saint Louis Science Center” by AfricanGeo

So those are my top three free/cheap things to do in St. Louis! What are some fun free/cheap things to do where you are from?

 

May 24th – Blogging Tips

May 24th – Blogging Tips

Today’s prompt for Blog Everyday in May is to “share 3 blogging tips.” I think this one is hard for me, because this is the first blog I’ve kept alive for more than two weeks – and it’s only been going since March! I don’t think two months is enough experience to really give tips, but here are three things that have been working for me so far.

1. Take Pictures of Everything – Even if you don’t post a lot of pictures, I think they can help give you a lot of inspiration. When I’m having problems thinking of something to write about, I will often flip through the pictures I have saved on my phone. I actually need to buy an SD card, because I’m running out of room and I’m scared to delete too much!

Why do I have this picture of a lottery ticket? I don't know. But I can't delete it because it might some day be useful!
Why do I have this picture of a lottery ticket? I don’t know. But I can’t delete it because it might some day be useful!

2. Be Active on Social Media – If you aren’t comfortable posting much besides you article links, I would still suggest lurking around places like twitter. I’m pretty sure that’s how I discovered Belinda’s blog and got introduced to this challenge! I’m always looking for accounts of people who blog about things I’m interest so that I can add more to my follow list. I think it’s important to see what other people are writing about – I often times get reminded of experiences I’ve had while reading about similar ones by others. Bloggers are also very supportive of each other – if you start commenting on someone’s blog or tweeting to them, they will likely start writing back. There have been many times where I haven’t felt like blogging, but then got a notification that someone liked or commented on something I did, and it motivated me to get up and write some more! I think sometimes “networking” gets a bad rap as being superficial, but I feel like I’m making some nice connections through social media.

3. Be Kind to Yourself When You Don’t Post – I think one of the problems with my previous blogs is that if I felt I missed a few days posting, there was no point returning. I’d let myself get really discouraged if I didn’t post as much as wanted, and then everything would just fall through. I think it’s important to find a schedule that works for you, but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them too. People are very forgiving and want you to feel well. An addendum to this – use scheduling tools! I’m not sure about other programs, but WordPress makes it really easy to schedule posts. This means your posting schedule doesn’t have to match up with your writing schedule, so you can write when you have the time and motivation, but space out the posts.

Does anyone have any other tips they’d like to share? I’d love to read them!

May 23rd – Summer Bucket List

May 23rd – Summer Bucket List

Today’s prompt for Blog Everyday in May is, “What is on your summer bucket list?”

Well, I’m getting married in America at the end of August – so my summer bucket list is less fun, summer trips and more wedding stuff we still need to get done.

1. Print and Mail Invitations – We already have them designed, so we just have to print them and prepare them. We went through an Etsy store (shout out to givewithjoy!) to get a digital copy so that we could print invitations both here and in America to save on postage. And this means that I don’t have to address the American ones, because I won’t be there! Thanks, Mom!

2. Buy Wedding Rings – Time is getting shorter, and we still don’t have the rings! Whoops! I think the Verlobter has a list of stores he wants to check out. He’s gotten a few recommendations from married friends.

By Podolskiy (www.podolskiy.de) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Podolskiy (www.podolskiy.de) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Buy a Dress for the German Reception – We’re going to have a second reception in Germany for our friends and family who can’t make it to the American ceremony. My parents already signed me up for a preservation service for my American dress, so when we return to Germany, my dress will be all vacuumed sealed. I also wanted something a bit less formal for the second reception. And, I bought the first dress in America, so the Verlobter’s family wasn’t there and I think they would really enjoy going wedding dress shopping – so this is a chance to bring them along!

4. Iron Out All the Legal Details – The United States – particularly Missouri, where we’re getting married – is way more chill about marriage paperwork than Germany is, so we need to make sure our officiant understands that we need a copy with an apostille (fancy, internationally recognized certification), not just a notary stamp. Germany is way into the apostille, but it was pretty hard for me to find information about it in Missouri. I did find a service that could take care of it for us, but they were expensive and it could take awhile, so I’m hoping we can just figure out which offices we need to go to and do it ourselves. Getting the license in Missouri should be easy – all we need is ID and my social security number (thwe Verlobter signs a statement that he doesn’t have one) and we should be good to go. It’s getting Germany to recognize all of it that will be tricky.

5. Figuring Out What We Do After the Wedding – We decided to postpone our honeymoon so that we could take a fancy long trip next spring, but we are remaining in the US for a bit after the wedding and have a few days set aside for a trip of some kind – but we haven’t decided where! If anyone has suggestions, we’d be grateful for them!

6. Herding the Cats (the Germans) – We will be travelling to the US with about eight German family members who speak varying levels of English. I’m nervous about getting everyone through the border smoothly, but the Verlobter gave them all an instructional PowerPoint presentation, so he is not concerned.

Much Graphic. Many Design. Wow.
Much Graphic. Many Design. Wow.

7. Have a Polterabend (Without my Grandparents Getting Ticketed for Noise Violation) – We want to introduce the Americans to a bit of Germany, so we’re going to have a Polterabend in America. My Grandparents offered their house for the festivities. My family was a bit concerned about the concept of smashing plates and other ceramic bits-and-bobs, until they heard that the Verlobter and I have to do all of the cleaning. We are not known for our housekeeping skills, so the family is quite excited for the rare sight.

8. Get Married!!! – I would hope this one is fairly self-explanatory.

 

 

May 22nd – Defining Beauty

May 22nd – Defining Beauty

Today’s prompt from Blog Everyday in May is to write about how we define beauty. Wow, this is a hard one.

Obviously I find things beautiful. I posted a picture yesterday of a poppy I saw when heading home from work – just because I liked the way it looked alone against the sidewalk. I’ve actually taken quite a few pictures of the flowers I walk past. I’ve always liked the way flowers look, but I think because I’m seeing different ones, I notice them more. There’s a mix of color, softness, and novelty that make them stand out even more to me now.

Flowers Photo

Flowers 3 Photo
Unfortunately, I think all of these guys are dead now.

I thinks it’s pretty standard to find aspects of nature beautiful – sunsets, flowers, landscapes of rolling hills or mountains, oceans, waterfalls – and on and on. I’m not very good at philosophy, so I’m sure it’s just a great combination of brain chemicals that humans get when looking at these things.

I’m also very interested in makeup – which some people put in a category of “artificial beauty.” I like to see it as a type of art in a way. It’s temporary art that you wear on your face, and that’s pretty cool. People all tend to have their own aesthetic when it comes to makeup. For myself, I like cool colors and metallic finishes. Other people look great with other combinations, though. And other people look beautiful without.

I’m really not getting to a definition here, am I? I’m a language teacher and a writer (kind of), definitions should be my thing, but beauty doesn’t really work with it. It’s got ties to society, biology, chemistry, philosophy, history, individuality, and a whole bunch of other words that end in “y”. I want to say that beauty is when I find something enjoyable to look at, but I also find words beautiful – ethereal, gossamer, those soft, billowy words, because I’m a cliche. I find phrases and sentences beautiful, the ones that I read a few times before moving on, but will usually flow out of my head. I find actions and reactions beautiful, especially ones rooted in kindness, relief, and love. I’m a sucker for those videos of people reuniting with loved ones after a long or dangerous separation. I find people beautiful, not by their appearance, but by their whole person.

I said I’m not very good at philosophy, but I’ll take a stab at it. I think the beautiful thing about beauty is that it is undefinable.

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