The Great American Eclipse

Today was the Great American Eclipse, which we have been planning to observe and celebrate for months! Belleville was just barely in the path of totality…and then only if you live south of Main Street. Fortunately, we do!

We started our day with some Sunny D:

And we had a special lunch…eggs sunny side up on “moon muffins” (the nooks and crannies in the English muffins make perfect moon craters, and I’m pretty proud of what I came up with there!), and Star Crunch as a treat. I really don’t get where the start part comes in, as they were round, but they were yummy. We also enjoyed some grape Sunkist, but since it was so dark, we called it “Moonkist!”

We spent a lot of time outside, observing various stages of the eclipse through the solar filters we got at the St. Louis Science Center (Moose got to do the same at his school, where they provided solar filters for all the students). We also had fun making pinhole images with a colander:

I tried taking a picture with a solar filter over the lens on my phone. It didn’t work out too well, but at least it’s something:

But these pictures, which I took about seven minutes apart, at 1:09 and 1:16 in the afternoon, really showcase the change we experienced. The streetlights came on, and we did indeed hear crickets. We even saw the full horizon 360-degree “sunrise!”

The eclipse was over quickly, but we kept the celebration going through dinner, where we had “werewolves” wrapped in crescent (moon) rolls, Sunchips, and a special black cherry soda created by local bottler Excel called Darkest Hour. And I had to drive all over town to find them, but we did get to have Moon Pies for dessert!

This was a special event, both in the fact that any one area doesn’t usually see total solar eclipses too often (unless you live in Carbondale, apparently), and that it’s also rare for such an event to stretch from shore to shore in America. I worked really hard to make a big deal out of it, and I hope it’s something the children will always remember!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: The Brisket Mac Attack!

About two weeks ago, Beast Craft BBQ debuted a new “sammich” on their menu, and it had been a long time since I tried one of their sammiches! So on the way home from the grocery store, we stopped and I got the “Brisket Mac Attack”–Texas chainsaw brisket, smoky bacon mac ‘n’ cheese, shredded cheese, and grilled onions on Texas toast. I also got a side order of the mac ‘n’ cheese, because I don’t think I’ve tried it since they landed on their current recipe.

This sammich is not for the faint of heart…the sauce packs some major heat. But it was the perfect combination, because the mac ‘n’ cheese and shredded cheese helped cool it down some, the onions added a nice flavor, and the bread was toasted perfectly…well, the top piece, anyway. The bottom piece had completely disappeared under the meat and sauce, but I assume it was just as good!

Beast has had some other new menu items recently, as well, including pork taquitos which are AMAZING, and grilled peaches topped with blackberry butter and mint, the perfect summer side dish!

I will warn you, if you want to carry out food, especially on a Sunday in our experience, you need to be prepared to wait. Ryan was in the restaurant for almost half an hour waiting for my sammich and his turkey to be prepared, even though it wasn’t overwhelmingly busy, and he was a little frustrated by the time he made it back to the car. Calling ahead definitely alleviates some of that, but I think that on the weekends, you just need to expect that you’re going to have to wait it out.

Art on the Square 2017

It’s Art on the Square weekend in Belleville! This year is the 16th fair, which means Art on the Square has been a thing for as long as our Markel family has…as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first one was the exact same weekend that Ryan and I got married!

This is always one of our family’s most anticipated events of the year, and if I counted correctly, this is the 10th year we have attended. We all love walking around and looking at the different art. And we all love finding new favorites: styles of art, individual pieces, and artists! This year, we were especially impressed with the art made from sculptural felt, something I didn’t even know about before this weekend!

We went on Friday night for the first time this year…usually we go bright and early on Saturday morning. I don’t know if it was because of the impending rain, or if it’s always like this on Friday, but it was busy!

There was so much to see. Jewelry and textiles, glass and sculptures, photography and line drawings, and all the different kinds of paintings you’d expect. I may not understand all the different styles of art, and of course, they can’t all be my personal favorites, but even a novice like me can appreciate how much talent is on display in every booth!

Belleville always looks so pretty for Art on the Square!

Today is the last day of the fair for 2017, and then we have to wait a whole year for it to come back again!

Tasty Tuesday…on a Wednesday!–Beast Craft BBQ: Beer-Braised Carnitas

My love for carnitas is well-documented…I just shared a link to my crock-pot carnitas recipe (which I originally published here five years ago!), yesterday! So when I saw that Beast Craft BBQ, my very favorite BBQ place, was serving beer-braised carnitas last week, I was very excited. I was also worried when I first saw it, because I thought it might be a one-time thing that I was going to miss out on, but now it appears that their carnitas will be making a regular appearance on the menu!

So, um, I’m pretty sure I should never make carnitas again. Because how could I ever compete with the amazing smokiness in the Beast carnitas? And they were served perfectly, with Beast’s delicious lime sour cream, diced tomatoes, and white cheddar. All on top of one their tortillas, which I already loved (seriously, best tortillas ever!), but with the added benefit of having been fried! Did I mention that I had it with the Texas BBQ sauce? I’m pretty sure I’ve never tried it before, and it has a great kick! This is seriously my new favorite dish from Beast!

Honestly, after all this time, I figured that their food would always be great (because it always is!), but that there wouldn’t be much new to look forward to. I am pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong, and I have even heard that there might be something else new in the future!

Art on West Main

The Belleville Library West Branch on West Main has a new piece of art out front!

This life-size sculpture, “Looking for Schroeder,” was installed a few weeks ago. There are some whimsical details on this instantly-recognizable piece of art:

Lucy looks great from every angle, especially decorated for St. Patrick’s Day!

What a fantastic addition to the landscape on West Main!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Taco Tuesday!

Can you believe it’s been almost one year exactly since I last reviewed something from Beast Craft BBQ? It hasn’t been quite that long since I’ve eaten there, but I haven’t seen anything new that’s caught my eye since last January. I recently saw tacos on their menu, though, and I told Ryan that I was pretty sure I needed to try them the next time they were offered, and today was that day!

This was actually one of the “lighter” meals I’ve had from Beast. The pulled pork rib is delicious, but not as fatty as, say, burnt ends, so you don’t feel like you’re eating as much. It is a little drier, due to the aforementioned lack of fat, so you may want to add the sauce that comes on the side. The red cabbage, onions, and homemade salsa gave it a nice fresh taste, and I already knew I liked the Beast tortillas, so that was a welcome part of the meal. And, of course, I had the brussels sprouts on the side, which were as delicious as always!

It was fun trying something new from Beast again, and I’ll keep watching the menu for whatever new items they may come up with!