Scary Thoughts: A Weekend at Lemp Mansion

IMG_2535

This past weekend me and my two best girlfriends went to St. Louis for a girls weekend. It was a last minute trip and we were having trouble booking a hotel or B&B. In the crazy mix of emails I got my wires crossed and booked us at the Lemp Mansion.

I did not know it was a haunted mansion.

The Lemp Family Legacy started in St. Louis in 1838 when Johann Adam Lemp moved to STL from Germany. Their fortune was built on beer. While they had luck building their fortune times changed and events took a turn.

Suicide #1- William J. Lemp Sr. shot himself in the head after the death of his favorite son.

Suicide #2 – Elsa Lemp shot herself in the heart after having some issues in her marriage.

Suicide #3 – William Lemp Jr. shot himself in the heart  after the brewery fell on hard times.

Suicide #4 – Charles Lemp shot himself.

All four suicides were committed in the mansion. There are also a handful of natural deaths that also occurred in the mansion. All these events seem to be why The Lemp Mansion is one of the Top Ten Most Haunted Places in America.

Night One: We arrived late about 9:30pm. Dinner theater was in full swing on the first floor, restaurant level. The mansion was beautiful, old and elegant. They checked us in and lead us to the second floor where our room was. The second floor was much more eerie. It was strangely quiet compared to the boisterous cacophony in the restaurant. Our room was The William Suite which shared a Bathroom with The Charles Suite. The second floor was full of paintings and mirrors as was our bed room. It was very comfortable and spacious. There was a mood about the place however and we had to go to the bathroom in pairs. We all got ready for bed together and all slept in the King bed. As soon as the lights were off. It all got a bit creepier. It was an old house so some noises were expected but that doesn’t mean it didn’t put our senses on alert. I fell asleep easily though. Only later did a realize that, though the mansion was sold out, we had not seen or heard another guest.

When I woke up the next morning my immediate thought was to not open my eyes. I was super nervous something would be looking back at me. I could hear the other two girls still sleeping. Keeping my eyes closed lulled me back to sleep and I woke up later when Kelsey got out of bed. I walked to the bathroom and found the house unnaturally still. I ended up having another girl go with me. Showering was a disturbing experience, though my clothes were just cotton fabric they felt like protection in the old house. We left by the light of the sun, wary of shadowy corners as we made our way back out the back door.

Night Two: We were out all day. When we returned for the evening we arrived after hours and had to enter from the back. At first the key would not turn. We were nervous and creeped out but as we continued to struggle with the key we all just lost patience. Entering the dark building it was again eerily quiet. We arrived at the Charles Suite our bedroom for the evening excited that it was closer to the bathroom. This room had a door that opened across a hall from the bathroom, another door to the nursery, which is not a rentable room but a maintenance closet of sorts and a third door that opened onto the hall with the main stairs. As I curled up on the couch with a door near my feet and my head made me a bit edgy, but again I fell asleep.

I slept until the light shone through our windows. I showered all by myself, though I kept sneaking glances out of the shower curtain to make sure I was really alone. And we left in the morning with out incident.

We did look on the third floor as well as basement but renovations have changed the mansion in the last 10 years. Kelsey had been on a tour in the Lemp mansion once before and remembered a drop stairs to the attic. We were unable to find this. There are articles that mention tunnels to the brewery in the basement. The basement was all kitchen and dinning space there was one server station that was rounded that might possible be “tunnel-esque” but it was blocked.

All in all nothing terribly frightening happened, but it is undeniable that there was a temperature and ambiance about the place.
IMG_2543 IMG_2551 IMG_2553 IMG_2552 IMG_2548 IMG_2562 IMG_2563 IMG_2565 IMG_2566

How to Build a Fence

IMG_3999

My fence has been falling down for some time. The last two years the severe Kansas winds have really done a number on it though never enough that we couldn’t patch it. We decided this was the year it needed to be totally replaced, before the whole thing falls down.

Step 1: Materials

Picking the type of wood your fence is made out of is pretty simple.

Choice A: Types of Cedar can last 15-30 years without additional treatment. Cedar naturally deters pests (ie. cedar chests). They have a rich color that naturally fades to a muddy gray. Cedar can be very expensive though, almost twice as much as the next choice pressure treated pine.

Choice B: Pressure treated pine is much cheaper and much more common. The chemicals it is treated with extends the life of the wood by 10-20 years. It is a natural wood color but may have a green tinge due to the chemicals.

Choice C: The cheapest choice is spruce, but we procured our materials from Home Depot and did not see that they carried this type of wood.

We went with pressure treated pine due to cost. The slats were on sale at Home Depot for $1.20 each.

  • I bought roughly 2.5 pallets of slats
  • We used 40 – 4”X4” posts also pressure treated pine.
  • We used 70 –  2”x4”X8’ and 8 – 2”x4”x10’ also pressure treated pine.
  • Some 3,000 nails and 500 is screws.
  • We also used 30 bags of 60lb. Kwikcrete Concrete.
  • You will also need some gravel, which I had from a previous project. We used 1”-2” drainage gravel.
  • We purchased two gate kits to help with gate construction.

Tools:

  • hammers – heavy duty
  • drill – cordless
  • circular saw – cordless
  • reciprocating saw – cordless
  • saw blades – for metal and wood
  • pry bar
  • gloves
  • safety glasses
  • level – large 30”
  • post level
  • pencils
  • saw horses
  • measuring tape
  • motorized auger (rented)
  • shovels
  • sledge hammer

IMG_3609

Step 2: Fence Removal

We had three people for this step and it took 4 hours to get the visible portion of the fence down. Scott cut the fence down in 8’X6’-ish  sections and we sold it on craigslist. We pulled out posts where we could but mostly cut them down.

We then had to dig out the concrete and post ends where the four corners of the fence would remain. This was extremely labor intensive. This is where the shovels and sledge hammers came in handy.

IMG_3622

IMG_3621

Step 3: Posts

To put in the new posts we had to avoid the old posts that were left in the ground. We never even considered removing the non corner posts because we were short on time and the time and energy needed were not available. So, we marked roughly 6-10 feet between posts, to avoid old posts and to accommodate for gates. We didn’t but you should use a chalk line to mark the wall to make a guild line to help you make sure it is straight. We rented a gas powered auger with an 8 inch bit from the Home Depot Equipment rental. It cost $40 for 3 hours. This was a two man auger and was really helpful in speeding up the digging process, especially with all the clay in Kansas.

The auger can be a bit unruly and get out of line so the posts holes may need to be shaved and shaped up with a shovel to get all the posts in line. This is crucial if you want a straight fence.

A shovel full of gravel was used at the bottom of each hole for drainage. Then place in the 4”x 4” post and use the post level to make sure it is level. Then dump ½ to ¾ of a bag of concrete in, depending on the size of the hole, and add the appropriate amount of water. You many want to poke a few holes with a stick to make sure the water fuller permeates the powder. Let the posts stand for at least 24 hours to ensure stability.

IMG_3657

Step 4: Rails

Our fence is a 6 ft privacy fence so we placed our rails on the outside of the posts. One section was level however I had two sections that are on inclines and required us to eyeball where the rails belonged. We just used the level and the previous posts to make the completely level section however on the other two we would just gauge how far from the ground we would need to be to still have good stability nailing in the slats.

Step 5: Slats

This was probably the most time consuming portion. Remember your slates are not all perfect so you will need to gauge if they are getting crooked. We put up the slates with one nails space between all of them but found ourselves having to gradually correct the alignment periodically. A tool belt is pretty handy at this stage so your nails are handy. We could have had two people nailing in slats but this may cause the fence to look different in each persons sections as each persons “artistic” sentiment will vary. Instead I held up slats and was in charge of making sure we were following the incline as Scott nailed them in.

IMG_3998

Step 6: Gates

We used a gate kit but splurged for more decorative hinges that were bigger than the ones provided in the kit. Our doors are not exact sizes and require some artistic wood-working. The doors are also crazy heavy and will wear on the post the hinges are anchored in so make sure to reinforce this post.

Step 7: Upkeep

Per the internet you need to wait a year before painting or staining a pressure treated wood fence. This is because the wood needs to dry out from the pressure treatment before you paint/stain to prevent any moisturizer from getting trapped and rotting the wood from the inside out. So we already have work lined up for next year. Fences need to be power washed and re painted/stained ever couple of years. This will greatly extend their lifespan and prevent mold and other deteriorating effects.

In Conclusion:

This project was a true testament to my relationship with my boyfriend. My perfectionism came directly up against his craftsmanship. We definitely needed more communication but it was hard to get everything we needed done and also be constantly communicating so in the end there was a lot of miscommunication. Also it was hard for me to remember that while my boyfriend was the foreman this was also the first time he had ever done this so some mistakes were made and I had a hard time letting go of the things we could not change.
I’ll leave you with this piece of advice: If you want to build a good relationship, build a literal fence with your significant other.

This site had good pictures for building a fence.

For the Love of the Game

roayls

Baseball is a wonderful, magical and systematic sport. I attended my first game alone recently and all the things I loved about the game really sharpened in my mind’s eye. The game is so simple, ball and bat, and yet the game is won in the details.

Baseball math really came into light for me when the movie Moneyball came out, but as I learned about it, it was hard not to see how elegant the mathematics were. If any one player chooses to stand closer to the right instead of the left the other team could score. If the pitcher doesn’t read the hitter and throw just right he could find himself handing out a home run. It’s all so marginal.

The fans are amazing. There are so many teams that are historically terrible and yet they have a devoted following and if you just sit and listen at a game it almost feels like even the hecklers have been working out gaming strategies to help their team.

As I sat there I could feel the energy in the stadium. It wasn’t a particularly packed evening but the weather was nice, there was a slight breeze and you could smell the grass. Before every pitch and hit, the home team made there was a thick atmosphere of anticipation created by the many hopefuls praying, begging and yearning for the better outcome. It’s all very peaceful. I found myself drifting into this comforting white noise of all the chatting fans, announcers, and boisterous vendors. It was beautiful. The lights on the green field and all the boys in uniform…the whole experience was soothing.

photo credit

A Home Away From Home Away From Home

My husband and I have been married a little over six months now… and yeah, that’s still weird to say. It seems to me that much of our generation is having a hard time picturing ourselves as “grown-ups,” which is probably not unique to our generation, but we feel like it is our personal struggle because we’ve got social media and Buzzfeed to document and hashtag it. I won’t claim to be immune to any of that, but as a nod to an older time and in a show of solidarity, I did change my last name to my husband’s. It was a very “grown-up” decision I would absolutely make again, but it’s a part of the newlywed experience that is still a bit foreign. It’s a constant reminder that life will never be exactly the same again – and it’s never the most common occurrences that are the most jarring. My new “teacher name” (Mrs. New Last Name instead of Ms Old Last Name, but always with the same, slightly whiny tone) washes over me as it constantly comes in waves. Signing my name isn’t difficult… unless I can’t remember whether or not I’ve had time to change that particular account yet. No, it’s always the little things that still stop me in my tracks: the new name on a prescription from the pharmacy staring at me in its bold, all-caps official way; the new introduction as “my wife, Amanda” at a social gathering, or the subtly surprising pangs of nostalgia when I encounter a piece of my “old,” pre-husband life.

I don’t run into my past self too terribly often since we’ve been together almost four years now and we’ve integrated our lives fairly smoothly. But once or twice a year, we go visit my parents in my hometown. It’s an objectively terrible place to be most of the time; there is absolutely nothing for a visitor to do there in the winter (and we are always there for Christmas) so I usually spend most of the visit worried that my husband may leave me over some idiot thing a family member said, or perhaps just out of sheer boredom. I always feel like I’m the less interesting one in our relationship, so in the craziness that comes at the end of a ten-hour drive, I worry that maybe it will just take him seeing me in my natural habitat for him to realize the error of his ways and leave me sobbing on my parents’ doorstep.

That’s the thing, though… It IS my natural habitat. My head understands every argument against EVER living there again, and believe me, I still never will – due to the abysmal, unrelenting cold if nothing else – but my heart still aches every time we leave because subjectively, there is so much to do there. Memories lurk in every closet, around every corner, and even where I’d least expect them, embracing me in a rare and bittersweet familiarity until the car door slams and it’s time to go because it’s no longer solely my choice to stay. It’s a very odd kind of heartache, too, being torn between things you love and knowing that they are mutually exclusive. Not the kind you experience when you’re single and pining, or when you’re dating and waiting… This is a gentler, fleeting, yet more profound kind of hurt.

It’s an experience made more difficult because it’s a feeling my husband – the person who knows me best in the world and is often nearly identical to me – cannot understand. I was a transplant before our relationship began, so this is really only a new iteration of the journey that began for me when I moved away for college. But this life we have created together is more a permutation of his past because we still live where he grew up, basically. He doesn’t have to get nostalgic for home – in fact, he never gets the chance because we see his parents almost every week. It’s not often that we have these disconnects (we are quite happily married for numerous reasons, after all) but when it does happen, that just makes it all the more lonely.

Now we’re looking to buy a house of our own – yet another definition of home – and that prospect is terrifying on an entirely different level. My head swims with the names of financiers and inspectors, and I’ve developed an irrational fear and hatred of Homeowner’s Associations. Yet, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of hope. Perhaps this is the step that will make it all real: the prescription bottles, the party introductions, the whole grown-up shebang. I hope it will be a place where we can showcase and harbor our strengthening marriage. I hope it will be a place with more good memories than bad ones. And most of all, I hope it will be a new place we can both be nostalgic for when we’re away, so that leaving home can truly mean coming home, regardless of the direction we’re driving.

– Amanda F.

From the ghost of Valentine’s past

Let us take a stroll down memory lane today.

I have only had two Valentine’s Days that were notable enough for easy recall. In my twenty-some years, many of my Valentine’s Days were spent giving and receiving cheap, mass printed cartoon cards with little heart stickers, cheesy quips and possibly a piece of chocolate, if the parents were feeling generous. Of course, in those days, my love was for everyone, equally, as dictated by my school. Many of you probably experienced the same.

As we grew up and got more entrepreneurial, sucker bouquets and possibly a single solitary balloon were available for sale for at school, purchased from and delivered by the student council. Lucky me, I was actually the one taking orders and doing the delivering. I did it all cheerily but I was always secretly hoping for an admirer of my own. It’s all a bit fuzzy but I think I received only one bouquet in my four years and it was from a girlfriend who may have just been tired of my complaining. I do remember eating every one of the suckers in my five sucker bouquet and trying to suck my teenage angst out them via that sugary vehicle. Sadly, it did not work. That candy really was some sweet torture. It poignantly created a visual display of who was loved and who was not. In hindsight, I’m not sure if  the practice of selling some token for this holiday in schools is healthy, psychologically speaking.

The first memory I have where any traditional Valentine’s activity took place was with my first official “boyfriend”, yes I verbally checked. He was very gentlemanly and did all the preparations with no prompting on my part. I was instructed to come to his apartment that evening and he had dinner all prepared: a simple spread of salad, spaghetti and garlic bread. This was followed by chocolate mousse, wine and a movie. It was pretty tame. We exchanged gifts and had a quiet and cuddly night.

The second memory was with my current beau. We were doing the long distance thing and I was up with him for the weekend. I had the day to prep and get groceries. The menu had been planned two weeks earlier and all the recipes tested. There was a brief moment of panic when I thought his roommate, who also had a long distance girl in town, was also planning on staying in for dinner. They didn’t stay, Whew! When he got home I was already cooking, though later I would find out that I had not started early enough. I timed all the food all wrong. I definitely should have started cooking earlier. The appetizers took 30 min, which felt like forever. Then the salmon was done 30min before the potatoes. It was a bit of a disaster but Mr. Boyfriend was very gracious and took it in stride. We are still doing well so my terrible and disastrous cooking must be charming…. I hope.

This year my parents are coming through town on this special day so we are not planning to do anything special. My parents are not terribly aware of “lesser holidays.” He got his gift early, because I couldn’t carry it in to the house and had to ask for help. We will probably not have a special meal since we are saving up for a vacation at the end of the month. Is this a bad sign? I know that this holiday is a drag for many folks but for those of us in “love” it should be a day/time to celebrate being an “us” and show our appreciation to one another. I worry that my boyfriend and I are slacking on the “love one another” bit and definitely slacking at the “appreciate one another” bit. We are just trying to be practical, but is that a cop out? I could always do something simple and on a budget, but I feel so lazy in this extra long and hard winter we are suffering. Any advice would not go amiss. Please feel free.

Hope everyone of all relationship status has a wonderful day!

PS: I made these cookies and mailed them to Mr. Boyfriend prior to the dinner disaster. This might have helped my case. The icing is just a royal icing and I bought a set of stamps and used red gel dye for the type.

IMG_0830 IMG_0834 IMG_0826 IMG_0824IMG_0823 IMG_0829 IMG_0827 IMG_0811