Barcelona, Spain- Honeymoon Day 2

Beginning where our last blog left off, we have just arrived in Barcelona, Spain and are making our way to our hotel. Our cab driver was a young man, most likely college age, who was outgoing and pointed out many landmarks and features of the city we would have never known otherwise. He wanted to practice his English and in return we got a great history lesson and tour of the city. Arriving at our hotel, Hotel Caledonia ( ) we paid our informative cabbie and went inside. Being only 9:00 in the morning, we obviously could not check into our room, but the hotel was kind and let us leave our luggage in a locked room in the lobby until we could check in that afternoon. The gentleman at the front desk then gave us a map and pointed out different places we could walk to. Exhausted but excited, we headed out to find a cafe for coffee and some relaxation. As we began walking, trying to follow the guides instructions, we stumbled upon this square with a cute corner cafe with outdoor seating. It was absolutely beautiful that day so we wanted to spend the day in the sun. Even with our limited Spanish, we ordered our drinks and enjoyed people watching and the architecture.

Not wanting to just sit all day, we began walking and happen to stumble upon La Rambla, a famous tree-lined pedestrian mall, famous in Barcelona to tourists and locals alike. Flower shops, souvenir stands, and gelato establishments are just a few of the different businesses that line this pedestrian walkway. In addition to the main road, there were what Denise called “alleys” which branch off of La Rambla which had more boutique shops and restaurants. We loved venturing into each of these which somehow always seemed to round back to La Rambla. We even made it to a famous marketplace which was FILLED with people and fresh produce, meats, cheeses, etc. Denise started to get a little claustrophobic so we left to continue exploring. Shopping is not the only thing that La Rambla is known for. Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s renown opera house, Teatre Principal, the oldest theater in Barcelona, and Palau de la Virreina, a Baroque palace that houses museum exhibits and cultural events all call La Rambla home. Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside and explore but it is definitely a reason to go back! ;)

After eating a delicious lunch, Denise got fried eggs and Dan a burger, we leisurely made our way back to the hotel to check in. One thing Dan’s aunt and uncle insisted was that we do NOT go to sleep until the evening in order to combat jet lag. They lovingly scheduled a city tour for us in the late afternoon to keep us awake. After checking in, we went to our room to get ready for the tour. Let me tell you, after being up over 24 hours and long flights, a shower never felt SO GOOD! Cleaned up and refreshed we made our way to the bus terminal where our tour was headquartered.

Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, and Santa Maria Church were the three sites we would be stopping and exploring along our bus city tour. Our tour guide, Maria, could speak seven different languages in addition to the two more she was currently learning. We were so impressed with how well she switched between English, Spanish, and French, the three languages aboard our bus that afternoon. Winding our way to our first site, Parc Guell, we began learning about the architect Antoni Gaudi, a prominent architect in the early 1900s who was responsible for many different buildings around the city. Pictures will do all these sites justice so we will let them speak for themselves. However a little history on all three.

Parc Guell originally started out as a failed commercial housing venture that in the end only two houses were ever built, neither one designed by Gaudi. Parc Guell was inspired by the English garden city movement which is why it made sense to turn it into a Municipal park. We were lucky to visit it when we did because starting in October they would begin charging admission due to the high level of traffic each year.

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church also designed by Antoni Gaudi. Construction on this massive cathedral began in 1882 and to this day it is still not completed. We were told the anticipated completion date is either 2026 or 2028. To go into the history and meaning of the cathedral would be an entire different blog but we hope our pictures inspire you to research on your own.

Santa Maria del Mar was our final stop on this amazing tour of Barcelona. An old Catalan Gothic church which was a major contrast from the Sagrada Familia. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words

Being completely exhausted, we walked back to the hotel, along the way grabbing some food and a little beer we finished this amazing day eating and drinking on our balcony overlooking the Gran Vie. What an wonderful and entertaining city! Next stop…the cruise ship! Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading,

Denise and Dan

Driving to our hotel

Driving to our hotel

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Walking to La Rambla

Walking to La Rambla

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Dan's throat hurt

Dan’s throat hurt

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Relaxing with our coffee

Relaxing with our coffee

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Love this hat!

Love this hat!

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We found a pet store!

We found a pet store!

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Sheep head! Gross!

Sheep head! Gross!

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Parc Guell

Parc Guell

Gaudi's house

Gaudi’s house

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Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

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Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar

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Night scene from our room

Night scene from our room

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Bacardi Breezers!

Bacardi Breezers!

What’s a Blind Tiger?

It’s about time we write a blog about one of our new favorite places in downtown Maplewood: The Blind Tiger. It’s been open for only a few months and is already creating quite a presence in the local St. Louis editorial scene (see below for links). Good food and good drinks, with an emphasis on top shelf whiskey, sounds likes a recipe for success!

A quick Google search for “Blind Tiger” will tell you the technical definition is an “illegal bar” or “speak easy”. While The Blind Tiger is neither of these, its owners have done a good job of transforming the former Jive and Wail (and later Jumping Jupiter) space to incorporate a speak easy theme without coming off as “douchey”. The lights are dim with a combination of small low level over head fixtures and a vast array of candles and oil lamps. The space is spacious with a sizable seating area as well as a full stage for shows/events (remember this space used to be a piano bar). The bar is sophisticated, with a wide assortment of whiskeys, craft beer, and wine. No vodka or gin though as this is a whiskey bar.

Since it opened, I’ve been fortunate to visit twice: one time with friends for a casual night out and the other with friends and co-workers for a birthday get-together. While the whiskey selection is vast, the other highlight to this establishment is the menu. The Blind Tiger advertises itself as “pizza, ribs, and whiskey.” I have yet to try the ribs, but if they’re even half as good as the pizza, I’ll be satisfied. Four different pizzas are available on either New York- or STL- style crust. Denise and I have tried two of the four, the cheese and “hog mess,” a mixture of vegetables and numerous meat toppings, and both were outstanding. I wish I could speak for other menu items, but the pizza is so good that I’m afraid to switch things up!

Now on to the whiskey. If I had to guess, the bar is home to at least 30 or 40 top shelf whiskey varieties. If I remember correctly Maker’s Mark is the “cheapest” whiskey on the menu… the selection is that good. Drinks can be ordered to your liking, and the bar manager has recently rolled out a few high end cocktails. However, if whiskey isn’t your thing there is always beer and red and white wine available. While one may wish for spirits, this is a whiskey bar, so no clear options. You may be surprised what a good Kentucky bourbon or blended scotch can offer!

The Blind Tiger gets an A in my book. Not because it filled the prime spot on Manchester and Sutton in Maplewood, but because they really have a winning combination: Delicious food, inviting environment, and sophisticated bar. Stop in sometime and try it out! I know Denise and I will be back again soon.

Links to third party reviews:

Facebook site:

Thanks for reading!


Leaving for Spain- Honeymoon Trip Day 1

Since we had an absolutely amazing honeymoon trip, we decided to take you through our first journey as a married couple. Denise had us write in a travel journal everyday so that we would remember the nuances and funny tidbits for years to come. So let’s begin!

We were so graciously and lovingly given a Mediterranean cruise for our honeymoon that included departing from Barcelona, Spain and stopping at ports in France and Italy before returning back to Barcelona to fly home. There are not enough thank yous in the world to get across how much we appreciated this amazing trip and opportunity.

We could not begin to tell about our trek across the Atlantic without including the somewhat funny (and scary) start to this wonderful vacation. Denise remembered that Dan had a big project going out at the exact same time we were leaving for our trip, so he worked tons of overtime to get it done. For instance, he worked a 17 hour day and didn’t come home until 1:30 am the day we were leaving. Being a kind wife, Denise decided to make him breakfast in bed before leaving for the airport. Fresh ground coffee, eggs, toast, and OJ were on the menu as she brought the meal on a tray to his bed. Chatting for a bit while he woke up and ate, Denise left to start cleaning up when she smelled like something was burning. She went downstairs and the STOVE WAS ON FIRE! AHHHH!!!! Denise had accidentally left one gas burner on and set the coffee press on it, causing it to catch on fire. While Dan struggled to get the fire extinguisher to work, Denise turned off the stove and then just threw water on it (Do NOT do this at home). Luckily there was no grease on the stove so the fire went out easily, but boy was it hard to clean up!

After almost burning the house down, we finished last minute packing, checking and re-checking, and giving our puppies many kisses. Dan’s mom was so nice by taking us to the airport and taking our picture outside the terminal, so we could start our journey right. We had a delicious lunch at Chili’s (killer margarita for the win!) and then had another drink at Schlafly before we boarded Air Wisconsin (U.S. Airways) bound for Philadelphia. From Philly we then would have approximately an eight hour flight to Barcelona where it would be 8:00 AM the next day.

We were given several pieces of advice to aid us in our travels overseas. Number one was that when we arrived in Barcelona we could NOT go to bed. In order to counteract jet lag we needed to stay up (thus we were scheduled for a city tour later in the afternoon!). Number two was that in order to get some sleep on the plane we should order a glass of wine and take a Tylenol PM. The first piece of advice we definitely followed, but as for sleeping on the plane…that did NOT happen.

Needless to say we made it to Barcelona safe and sound at around 8:00 AM, right on time with our schedule. We grabbed our luggage, hailed a taxi, and began making our way to our hotel. In order to leave some suspense, we will leave off here until next blog where we will tell the tale of our time in Barcelona.

Thank you for reading and see you soon.

Dan and Denise

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Wedding Bliss

Happy New Year! We know it has been awhile since we blogged and we sincerely apologize. As many of you know, holidays get to be hectic yet very enjoyable. We thought that as we start a new year we should recap a big event from 2013.

On September 7th, 2013 WE GOT MARRIED!!! Yep ladies and gentlemen, we finally tied the knot! It was an absolutely amazing time, filled with family and friends. We will recap the highlights, but let’s be honest… the pictures tell the best story.

Wedding prep began on the Tuesday before the wedding when Denise traveled with her friend Amber to her home town of Sabetha, KS where the wedding would be held. Sabetha is a small town with lots of charm and home to the parish that she grew up with (Sacred Heart Catholic Church). Luckily, Denise’s sister Cat and best friend Brenda were already in town when they arrived. Wednesday consisted of manicures, last minute gift wrapping, and prepping for the long day on Thursday. Dan also left St. Louis after work on Wednesday and traveled to Sabetha to help with final prep.

Thursday was “set-up” day. Our reception on Saturday was held at an old armory-turned-event center that we rented for the occasion (Sabetha Event Center). We were so fortunate to have access to the space on Thursday since it allowed us to finish set up and then relax on Friday before the whirlwind of the wedding began. In the morning, we met with Sabetha’s parish priest for a last minute conversation about the big day. Then we hustled over to the event center and got to work. Denise’s three sisters, her friends Amber, Brenda, and Shannon, her parents, and several family friends from Sabetha all pitched in to make the space absolutely beautiful (and boy were we tired afterwards! ;) ). My mom’s best friend Sharron was the genius behind the center pieces/table decorations, which were all incredible. As Dan and I remarked later, when we looked out during our reception we felt so touched and loved since we knew everyone who placed each place setting, center piece, tablecloth, etc. This mere fact added such a unique and personal touch to the day.

Friday was another day of set up as we helped Dan’s family prepare for the rehearsal dinner that evening. After the morning, Denise held a “thank you lunch” at the Mexican restaurant while the boys went with Denise’s Dad out to the Country Club for lunch. The afternoon was relaxing, of course, since everything was done for the big day. We had a rehearsal in the evening and a delicious and fun dinner to follow. Plus, we were so lucky to have a Deacon from our parish in St. Louis in town to help celebrate the mass and lead us in our vows. He was quite influential during Dan’s RCIA journey and was so generous to give his time. After dinner, Denise’s roommate from college, Sarah, and her parents went back to Denise’s parents’ house for wine and much catching up. Meanwhile Dan and his family stayed over at the Fairview Lodge, a local hunting lodge, that his family rented for the weekend.

Wedding day is here! It was a beautiful, sunny day filled with excitement. The day began at Denise’s parents’ house with all the bridesmaids and the “wedding woman” (i.e. Brenda) congregating to get their hair styled by a fabulous hairstylist named Christie. She did an amazing job as usual and everyone was so pleased with their up-dos. During this time, our photographers Chrystal and Lisa of Chrystal Rae Photography ( ) arrived and began taking detail pictures. We cannot say enough about how incredible they were throughout the entire day; both were professional, funny, and able to put everyone at ease while we took many pictures. Again, we will let the pictures speak for themselves. We had an amazing reception with delicious food prepared by Steve Roberts, proprietor and chef of the Country Cabin ( ) , a restaurant in a nearby town. Our cake was designed by a local Sabetha woman who made a beautiful and decadent creation. Flowers were by Village Sampler, and I could not have been more pleased with how gorgeous and well put together they were. Our DJ, Andrew, from Complete Music in Manhatten, KS,did a wonderful job working the crowd and getting everyone involved. To top it all off, Complete Music provided a photo booth as well, which was quite popular. Finally, Dan’s personal request, a candy bar, was a huge hit with both kids and adults alike.

So this blog turned out more long winded than expected, but so much thanks and recognition needed to be said! We had the perfect day… surrounded by helpful and loving family and friends, we began our new life together with so much happiness and joy. We hope you enjoy the photos and have a blessed New Year. Thank you for reading!

Dan and Denise

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Denise’s dress she purchased from Brides by Demetrios


Dan got Denise pie from a local cafe!

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Pregnant in Auschwitz: Toronto Holocaust survivor recalls split-second decision that saved her and unborn son


With such an amazing and powerful story our blog postings seem mute in comparison. The courage this woman possesses is something to forever strive for. Enjoy this incredible account of bravery.

Originally posted on National Post | News:

Miriam Rosenthal was four-months pregnant, starving, bone-tired, cold, filthy and afraid when an SS officer in big black boots and a crisp uniform appeared before the barracks in Auschwitz with a loudspeaker in hand.

All pregnant women line up, he barked. Line up, line up — your food portions are being doubled.

“Can you imagine?” Miriam asks. “Even women who were not pregnant stepped forward. I was standing with my younger cousin, but I wouldn’t go. She says, ‘Miriam, what are you doing?’ ”

“Something was holding me back. Someone was watching over me. I feel maybe my mother, maybe God. Two hundred women stepped forward and 200 women went to the gas chamber. And I don’t know why I didn’t step forward.

[related_links /]

“I have asked rabbis. I have asked some big people and no one can give me an answer. If you believe in God, then God…

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Bachelor Weekend in Chi-town!

Back in July, ten of my friends and I traveled to Chicago for a very important event: my bachelor party! Rather than merely a party, my friend Dave organized a bachelor weekend! Two days in Chicago with my best friends…what more could I ask for? I was shocked at how many people were able to make it, especially considering a handful had to fly into town.

By mid-morning on Friday the 12th, my friends Shea and Justin, my brother Matt, and I were headed North on Hwy 55 to Chicago. Once we arrived at the Chicago Getaway Hostel, yes I did say hostel, we got the party started with a couple drinks. The hostel was surprisingly nice (for a hostel). While the rooms were small, that’s the point behind a hostel – group lodging for less money. Not only did the hostel save everyone a lot of coin, but it was conveniently located in one of Chicago’s best neighborhoods: Lincoln Park. Thanks again for the great find, Dave!

Once everyone arrived and got ready to go out, we had a quick bite to eat at the complimentary BBQ hosted by the hostel. The food wasn’t bad for being free. Regardless, it’s good that we all ate something before heading to downtown Lincoln Park. Our night consisted of stopping at a handful of bars, having numerous drinks, etc. Let’s just say by the end of the night we all felt pretty relaxed. Details aside, everyone made it home just fine!

After a good night’s sleep, Saturday was upon us. After everyone got up and around, we all made our way to a restaurant a few blocks from the hostel. Most of us had lunch; all of us had drinks – this is a bachelor party weekend, remember? Following lunch we all walked over to the neighborhood of Wrigleyville to catch a Cards/Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Big shout out to Dave (again) for getting us all tickets, especially since we all were in the same section! The feel of the old ball park was very different from the new and modern Busch Stadium that I’m accustomed to. There were far fewer food/beverage stations, fewer entrances/exits, and much steeper ramps than even the old Busch Stadium. Even though the Cards lost, the game was a blast, partially due to the fact that many of us (including myself) had never been to Wrigley Field.

Following the game, we spent time exploring the night life of Wrigleyville. We stopped at many establishments, had a number of drinks, but in the end we all made it back to the hostel safe and sound. All in all I couldn’t have asked for a better bachelor party – wait, bachelor weekend! One day and two nights in Chicago with my best friends was more than I ever expected. After an early lunch on Sunday, Shea, Justin, Matt, and I headed back to STL. In the end it felt nice to be back home; my body needed to recoup! However, I can’t wait to get back to Chicago!

Thanks for reading! Sorry, no pics – standard protocol for bachelor parties. ;)


Small town hospitality

As some of you know, I have not always been a city girl; in fact I grew up in a small town in Kansas where everybody knows your name (ok…cheesy Cheers reference, but I couldn’t resist). I had an amazing childhood growing up in Sabetha, and going back always feels wonderful and comforting. But this post is not about my times building forts or playing pretend. It is about the support and love I have acquired over the years. A week after my bachelorette party, I was thrown a bridal shower by three important women in my life, my Aunt Missy (on my Dad’s side), Joan, and Sharron. Joan and Sharron have been dear friends of my parents and supportive of me since I was born (or so it feels). My Aunt Missy is obviously family and such a positive influence on my life.

This shower was thrown in Sabetha, so my soon-to-be mother in law and I made the six hour trip to be there. Not only would it be her first time in Sabetha, but she was getting to see where I grew up, where the wedding would take place, and where they would be staying for the wedding weekend. We had a fun time traveling, getting to catch up on the latest things in each of our lives and have some bonding time.

The three ladies were hosting the shower at the historical Harriet House. It was to be a Saturday brunch guaranteed to be a few hours of fun. I was so fortunate that all three of my sisters were able to attend, as well as some extended  family. My best friend Brenda, of course, made the trip with her beautiful son which made the day even more special.

The invitation had a recipe card attached with it so I was incredibly excited to see what each person decided to include for my kitchen catalog.  The Saylor clan arrived at the Harriet house at the same time with some time to spare. Several guests had already arrived and I was so happy to get to spend some time catching up with each of them. Sharron, Joan, and Missy had outdone themselves with the menu- a delish quiche, sticky cinnamon roll, and a yogurt parfait. It was absolutely fabulous and I know no one left hungry! After our decadent meal, the women had me move into opening the gifts. I cannot begin to explain how giving everyone was; I was completely blown away by their thoughtfulness and generosity. Of course, Brenda being “wedding woman,” she took charge in recording everything and keeping me on task.

The party was an absolute blast and I was so happy that people could get together and catch up. I loved seeing all the guests and looking around the room realizing how much love comes from growing up in a tight knit community. How fortunate was I that (and yes I will use my faith at this moment) God gave me such an amazing family and friend base that I will continue to grow and develop throughout my life. I hope you enjoyed reading and come back soon!


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