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Happy Girl Part II

Photo by MilliGFunk Photography

Even though it’s beginning to feel like it’s been a long time since I lived in Brooklyn, I still miss the arts scenes there. Taking the photography my husband gave me as a birthday gift through Bemis School of Art challenges me to continue to grow in how I executive my creative ideas.

I may not be exposed (punny, huh?) to the best art in the world in Colorado like I was in New York, but I still strive to live a creatively meaningful life. I wanted that to come through in our elopement ceremony and I want it to be apparent when you enter our home.

Photo by Jon Collins

For the ceremony, I created all of our flowers, made my veil, and wore sparkly white canvas TOMs wedding shoes.

Photo by Jon Collins

One week before our wedding, we were told unexpectedly by our realty management company, Advanced Realty Concepts, that our lease would be terminated early at no cause of our own,  just before my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. So in the midst of final plans for our ceremony and hosting our families who were visiting from four different states, we had to find a new place to live.

Two weeks later, we’ve moved into our new place, but I’m taking my time and being very intentional about how we decorate and organize our new home. It may not be a brownstone in Brooklyn, but that doesn’t mean we can’t come home at night to a place that inspires us.

I miss my friends who live in other places, but I feel closer to them when we share music and food. So on this lovely Monday morning, I’m listening to music by Portugal, the Man, recommended to me by my friend Factor as I eat breakfast that also reminds me of good friends.

Photo by MilliGFunk Photography - Taken at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, CA

My toast was made of fresh bread from a Colorado Springs bakery called Great Harvest Bread Company with jam I picked up from happy girl kitchen co. on a visit to see my best girls in San Francisco. To top it off, I’m drinking French coffee I bought from Colorado Springs’ Colorado Coffee Merchants, a roaster I took my best friend to when she visited me in Colorado in November.

With the Girls in Napa - Photo by HubbyGFunk

When you cultivate a life in which the little things are meaningful, the big things (like deployments and unexpected moves)  have less power to throw you off course, and geography feels like less of a barrier between you and the people you love.

Whether it’s locally-made bread or wearing TOMs in your wedding; making your own flowers or appreciating the sentiment behind a gift from a friend, I hope you’ll take a moment today to find peace in a little thing or two that make you happy.

Happy Girl Part I

Photo by MilliGFunk Photography

For my birthday this year, my husband (that’s right – this small town girl got married a few weeks ago!) gifted a six-week digital photography class to me through Bemis School of Art at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

I’ve toyed with photography a lot over the years, but finally invested in a Nikon D7000 DSLR in January. The class I’m taking at Bemis has taught me a lot – and has given me a hint at how much I still have to learn. I love the weekly creative challenges the class gives me though, and I’m looking forward to working on the techniques we’ve learned well after the class ends.

The picture above is one of my first indoor attempts at using Aperture Priority Mode on my Nikon. The lesson I learned here is that I should invest in a tripod (to avoid the blurring you see in the “happy girl kitchen co.” jam label).

My camera, my friends, my husband, my photography class, and good foods all help make this small town girl a happy girl, regardless of where we’re living at any given stage in our careers. Life isn’t necessarily about where you live. It’s about what you make of where you are. Taking this photography class at Bemis makes me feel closer to the creative life I lived in New York and Taipei, and it’s challenging me to make my life now as creatively satisfying as I can.

 

 

Missouri Cheeses - A Follow Friday Guest Post

Guest Post Contributed by Michelle Marcus

I recently returned from a trip to England where I got to taste many amazing cheeses, and each one was incredibly fresh. These cheeses I ate in England inspired me to help you find local, fresh cheese in Missouri.

Featured last fall in Feast magazine, Baetje Farms – located near Ste. Genevieve, Missouri –  produces several flavors of goat cheese. The cheeses have a light and fluffy taste, without the heavy gamey flavor that sometimes comes with a goat cheese. My favorite is the Coeur de la Crème because it is shaped into a heart, reflecting its name.

Moving across the state to the Kansas City side, Green Dirt Farm makes their artisan cheeses from sheep’s milk. The “Wooly Rind” is a Camembert-style cheese and is similar to a mild brie. A big step up from that is the “Bossa” cheese – thick, creamy, and full of flavor. The “Dirt Lover” is a triple crème, practically a buttery spread.

You can shop online for another Kansas City cheese from Yummy’s Choice, who has created a variety of feta cheese spreads marinated in extra virgin olive oil. Flavors include regular, mint, and spicy, as well as a Sun Dried Tomato Lebaneh, which is a combination of feta, cream cheese, with several spices and herbs.

In the middle of the state is Goatsbeard Farm, located in Harrisburg, which is about 20 miles northwest of Columbia. Goatsbeard offers a selection of Fresh Rounds, Fresh Tubs, Soft-Ripened Cheese, Feta, and Raw Milk Cheese. More information can be found on their website at http://www.goatsbeardfarm.com, and their artisan goat cheeses can be found in wine stores such as The Wine and Cheese Place and The Wine Merchant.

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To learn more about the cheeses in this post:

You can find Baetje Farms online at http://baetjefarms.com or at the Maplewood Farmer’s Market in the Schlafly Bottleworks parking lot on Wednesdays from 4-7pm.

You can find Green Dirt Farm online at http://www.greendirtfarm.com or in the cheese section at Whole Foods Market.

Yummy’s Choice is online at http://shop.yummyschoice.com or you can purchase their spreads at the closest Whole Foods Market.

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Michelle Marcus is a web developer, music lover, and food aficionado. To read more from Michelle, visit her blog: http://michelleamarcus.blogspot.com/.

St. Louis Christmas Eve Tweet-up

Friends in St. Louis

Where does the time go?

I wanted to write about this St. Louis tweet-up when it happened, but instead found myself swamped (in the best of all possible ways) with the holidays, travel and time with our (my fiance and my) families.

One of the highlights of all of that holiday craziness was the Christmas Eve meet-up that so many good friends in St. Louis joined me for at Hartford Coffee Company in South City, St. Louis. Amidst the bustle of the Christmas holiday and with very short notice, ten of my friends made the time to get together with me.

Thank you, @VersaDave, @Nanna_J, @NickGilham, @mamarcus17, @Tojosan, @michaeltomko, @TabithaKMeyer, @STLWineGirl, @Velo_City – and of course, my fiance, Nick – for starting my Christmas weekend out warmly. It meant the world to me to see everyone while I was home!

STLWineGirl and MilliGFunk

 

 

 

Smalltowngirl's Family Grows

Well folks, I have some big news to share with you. For more than a year now, I’ve known I’ve wanted to expand my little family. After much planning and preparation, I finally took the plunge yesterday, giving my entry-level Fuji DSRL camera a strong and might new sibling; a Nikon D7000.

L-R: Little Sister (Fuji), Big Sister (Nikon)

In Missouri, I did a significant amount of freelance writing and photography work for other blogs, and also for local and state-wide print publications. While my eye was strong enough to be hired as a second shooter on professional magazine shoots, I quickly learned that my camera was not.

I found that while my Fuji technically had the capability to the basics I needed it to, it was too slow to shoot RAW images quickly, and that its low-light capabilities (it didn’t have the ability to add external flash) were rotten. I realized then that if I wanted to continue to improve my photography, I would need to invest in better equipment — beginning with a better camera.

Smalltowngirl's Growing Family

The old Fuji has sentimental value to me: I bought the Fuji in 2006 on Camera Street in Hong Kong while participating in a year-long Asian fellowship program, and it was my first big purchase after finishing graduate school. I’ll hold onto it for the sentiment and as a backup camera, but the Nikon is my new baby. I can’t wait to start taking photo walks with it, but I admit – the new camera makes me miss my old favorite subject matters; St. Louis and rural Missouri.

Roadkill

I grew up in rural Missouri, and I lived in rural Missouri for more than two years before moving to Colorado this fall. How I managed to live in the backwoods for so many years without being involved in any serious roadkill action is beyond me. My good luck ended on Wednesday night though, as the fiance and I headed out of Colorado in our attempt to stay ahead of a big winter storm on our drive to Missouri for the holidays.

We drove along the two-lane highway east of Kit Carson, Colorado, just ahead of the winter storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow on the communities behind us. The sky was still spitting snow when we saw more deer than we could count on the highway in front of us. Afraid to slam on our brakes since the roads were slick with winter weather, we slowed down and moved into the opposite lane of traffic.

Although we managed to avoid most of the deer on the highway that night, one that had been straddling the center line edged toward our side of the highway. Even sitting up high in our SUV, this big guy was eye-level with us when we hit him. Thankfully, he didn’t jump, and we didn’t lose control of the vehicle. He was killed instantly – a blessing, really.

Our SUV sustained more damage than we originally thought. Not only did we knock our our front headlight, our front bumper and grill are both broken. The front fender is badly dented over the wheel well and crushed near the front of the car. There’s even damage to the back door, which is dented in several spots. The bottom of the door curls upward now, and air seal has disappeared, making highway driving much louder than it was before.Thankfully, my fiance, the dog and I are all okay, and the SUV is drivable.

As a small town girl, I shouldn’t feel so shaken up over hitting a wild animal on the highway. These things happen, right? But the truth is that part of me really is a city girl who can’t bear the thought of hurting or killing an animal – wild or otherwise. I’m thankful that my fiance and I are alright, but I really wish we hadn’t had the encounter with the big buck of small town Colorado.

Fight Cancer & Win in STL

I love the Cardinals, I love St. Louis, and I hate cancer. So when I was contacted to ask if I’d help promote an online raffle that The St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer has launched, I didn’t have to be asked twice.

The raffle gives you a chance to help the Cardinals kick of their 2012 season, go to an away game with the Rams or win a 2011 Cadillac SRX.

Fly With The Cardinals
Down to Florida for training camp that is. We’ll hook you up with four tickets to a pair of spring training camp games and two nights of hotel accommodations in the sunshine state. Hop in a Hertz rental with unlimited mileage and crank that AC on the way down to the stadium. Best of all, you can hang with the 2011 World Series Champs during an exclusive reception and dinner featuring a Season Preview with Mike Matheny. Rifle through your custom Cardinals sports merchandise package while listening to all the personal stories about that close series victory over the Texas Rangers. If you’re a true fan, you should be giddy with excitement just reading this. Buy in now for a chance to get all your best Cardinals’ swag signed at spring training camp.

Lock Horns with the St. Louis Rams
Are you a fan of the Rams? If you live anywhere near St. Louis, you better be! This is your chance to win an all expense paid trip with a friend to travel with the Rams team to an away game. You’ll be game-ready after flying with the Rams and riding in the official team bus with Sam Bradford and company. You’ll visit the field during pre-game warm-ups and then witness a gridiron battle on the road. This is the Ultimate Rams away game experience. If you’ve got your eyes on this prize, get into the raffle now!

How to Enter
Tickets are just $1 each for sports and $25 for the Cadillac giveaway. Visit www.rafflestl.com/sharetowin to purchase raffle tickets. And remember: proceeds go to local charities!

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About The St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer
The St. Louis Men’s Group Against Cancer (STLMGAC.com) is a nonprofit, charitable organization dedicated to raising funds for cancer research, prevention and care.

Understanding Tragedy in a Small Town

When you grow up in a small town, it’s sometimes tough to explain to the people you love why tragedies “back home” affect you the way they do. When I told my fiance that I’d received terrible news about someone from my hometown, his first question was about how close I was to the person who passed away. The answer was that I wasn’t close to him at all. But we were connected in many ways, and as a result, my heart is awfully heavy today.

I didn’t have to know him personally to hurt for his brother, who reached out to me when I moved from New York City to Small Town Missouri in 2009 and was a good friend to me. I didn’t have to be close with him to wonder how a family endures a tragedy of this proportion twice in a little over a decade.

So was I close friends with him? No. But because I grew up in a small town, I don’t have to know someone intimately to feel that their passing is a tragic loss to a community that – at one time – was the only community I knew. He didn’t have to be a close friend for me to realize the impact that he had on the lives of other people I’ve known and been close to at various times in my childhood and young adult life.

My thoughts and prayers go out to people from my hometown who are mourning today. Our paths may not have crossed in months or years, but they’re still part of my home town and my childhood, and I so wish that they didn’t have to hurt right now.

Colorado Coffee Merchants

Colorado Coffee Merchant

Colorado Springs isn’t a huge town, and if you took it away from the Rocky Mountains, it would be much like the hundreds of other mid-sized cities around the country.

The handful of tourist destinations here that have helped draw people to the community are mostly Rocky Mountain-centric (two exceptions that come to mind immediately are the United States Air Force Academy and Focus on the Family’s Visitor Center).

Colorado Coffee Merchants

Two things about Colorado Springs that I like to share with friends who visit — and which are not Rocky Mountain-centric — are its coffee shops and its micro brews. One of my favorite recent discoveries has been Colorado Coffee Merchants, a coffee shop and roaster on Fillmore Street in Colorado Springs.

Air Roaster at Colorado Coffee Merchants

Colorado Coffee Merchants roasts its coffee right in the coffee shop using an air roaster. I’ve not yet been there while they were roasting, but one of the baristas had explained to me that air roasting provides an even roasting of their beans.

Latte at Colorado Coffee Merchants

And while I’m not sure how or why air roasting would make a difference, she also told me that they boast that their coffee won’t leave the drinker jittery. I’ve been buying my coffee beans (the Roswell Park blend, if you’re curious) at Colorado Coffee Merchants now for well over a month, and unless I find a roaster I like better, this is my coffee shop of choice.

Colorado Coffee Merchants is an industrial sort of space that serves coffee, yogurt, and a few pastries. The shop is located near I-25 and Fillmore, at 302 East Fillmore in Colorado Springs. For more information, visit their website.

 

 

GiST: November 14, 2011

I have so much to be thankful for this week!

1. A Visit from a Friend
A close friend chose to spend her weekend with me this weekend. She traveled to Colorado Springs from San Francisco, and we had a good, low-key weekend. We hiked Palmer Trail in Colorado Springs, we tried a few local beers, and we ate well. I’m so thankful for her!

Melissa and Christina on Palmer Lake Trail, Colorado

2. Speaking in Small Town Missouri

This week I went back to my small Missouri town  to speak on social  media and digital marketing at the Y-USA Camp Marketing Symposium. Even though I no longer work for the Y, I still have a heart for the Y’s mission and it’s impact on kids and families. It was an honor to speak at the national symposium.

Y-USA Camp Marketing Symposium

3. My fiance comes home!

My fiance had to travel for a few weeks for a military exercise, but he comes home to me soon. The next time he leaves for an extended time will be when he deploys to Afghanistan in 2012. Please keep him and his soldiers in your thoughts.

Happy

4. Seeing Family
Though it was a very fast trip that was dominated by the Y-USA Camp Marketing Symposium, my parents picked me up and took me back to the St. Louis airport, allowing us a few hours together this week. It was great to see them.

5. Brides Across America

This nonprofit gives wedding dresses away to military brides who have either deployed (for service women) or whose fiances have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, or Bahrain within the last five years.

It moves me in ways that I can’t begin to describe here that someone is so thankful for their own freedoms that they would donate a free wedding dress to me as a thank-you to my fiance and I for his military service. What a tender gesture to offer women beautiful, new wedding gowns. Thank you, Brides Across America. I am so moved by your program!

Brides Across America Interview on Fox 2 News

I was interviewed by Fox 2 News in St. Louis during my Brides Across America experience (here’s the video), and some of that footage was re-used by Channel 11 News in St. Louis. The Fox 2 News Blog also used a quote from me in its write-up about the event!