Friday, April 30, 2010

Garden Update.

I introduced you to our backyard renovation a few weeks ago. Remember, I held a snake? Yikes. Several of my friends in the blogosphere have been featuring their garden work, so I wanted to give an update of how things are growing along in our backyard.

This picture was taken Friday afternoon. Since then, I've planted the four little pots near the gate with bright annuals. Every year I overfill these pots and regret it later when the roots don't have anywhere to go. This year, I acted much smarter and only put one annual in each small/medium pot. They are a splash of shades of pink as you leave the backyard. I also have two larger pots with several flowers over by the deck. I'm hoping they grow big and beautiful soon too!

But the garden plots are my real pride and joy. Pounds and pounds of compost/manure, vermiculite and peet moss fill each of our three planters. We have 38 square feet of garden, each square carefully mapped out and scheduled with various plants. I have done my research and reading, faithfully following the guidance of these resources.
  • Mel's Square Foot Gardening. I wasn't sure if this was just a gimmick, but Sol and I have become students of his gardening instructions. The real test is if anything grows!
  • I love extension offices, and this site is full of fantastic! Virginia Extension Office
  • Virginia Gardener's Companion. I feel like a smarter gardener having this guide. While it was the least helpful resource, it looks official on my bookshelf.
Currently we have onions, beans, strawberries, red pepper, broccoli, lettuce, beets, radish, carrots and cucumbers in the ground. Some I started from seed and others I purchased plants at the nursery. It's not about what you plant, it's about what you eat. So we'll see how that grows/goes!

Our worst garden pests are Belle and Copper, seen above playing with a hat. Copper has been busted twice for digging in the garden, and they were both in the yard the third time it happened. Some seeds were displaced, but the actual plants themselves seem to be a deterrent. They do not appreciate the fine art of vegetable gardening.

Not that we are surprised. They think it is fun to play with a hat.

For more gardening posts, check out Our Story, Love Your Lawn, Grey House Red Dog, T Squared, and Oh For Heaven Cakes. Let the growing begin!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Confederates, Teachers, and Poems.

Every cause has a day, week or month these days. I bought a purple cupcake and linked up with epilepsy awareness. Here in Virginia, April was recently declared Confederate History Month (oh the South!). Among other obscure celebrations, you'll be happy to know that April is National Poetry Month and today is "Poem in Your Pocket" day.

I'm loving teaching English because it allows me to get involved with various school wide activities. Word of RV Designs has spread, and people at school are asking for our help on various projects that need a little bit of design flair. This month I designed an image for a "Poetry Slam," and eventually it was made into buttons. Everyone's wearing my design on a button today, and it's pretty fun seeing my stuff around school! (Confession: I'm not wearing the button because I don't want to get a hole in my new sweater.)Because today is "poem in your pocket day," students are carrying around poems in their pockets, obviously. I've already many students read me their poems - one about a wild boar's teeth, another was a haiku, one that started "roses are red, violets are blue," and one called "Why God Made Teachers." They don't have to write the poem themselves, just share it with a teacher or administrator.

It's sort of neat because I've had students I don't know approach me, plus some of my favorite crazies. The poem about teachers was sweet and from a darling girl who wasn't sucking up. She meant it. I didn't realize how much I liked teaching and using poetry until recently, but I'm finding that there is a lot of benefit to middle schoolers. Short, sweet and engaging, it's a pretty solid part of our instruction.

Are you inspired yet? Google a poem you remember from you were a kid, find something new or write your own, and then put it in your pocket. Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ode to Pioneer Woman.

PW will be here in one week. Rachel and I are stinking excited and have been trying to find some fun way to catch her attention out of all the adoring fans that will be there. We'd love to appear on her blog. And not to exploit Finley, but we're pretty sure Finley in his jeans, western shirt and belt will probably do the trick.

I'm also planning on taking an 8 x 10 of this photo to PW.

I think she'll like it considering this picture of Marlboro Man that she is always using on her own blog. Pretty similar, don't you think? I love good cowboy jeans.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Taking Finn to Brunch.

Brunch time was during nap time Sunday, so we had to be a little more creative. The high chair was NOT fun to sit in. Yogurt melts were NOT a distracting snack. My adorable face was NOT fun to look at. But we were determined to enjoy brunch in Shirlington with Vicki and Rachel's cousin Nick.

But Finley is one, and one-year-olds are big boys who have better things to do than brunch.

Thankfully, Vicki came from Jamaica with this adorable book about animals of the alphabet. He sat and read it with Rachel and Vicki for quite a while because there were things to touch and move throughout the story. It was a great book for someone who is one.

We also took turns walking around Busboys & Poets with him, looking at the people, the crazy art on the walls and at the dogs outside. Finley got a few lessons on Civil Rights along the way.

The restaurant, original to U Street in DC, was delicious and a good place for Sunday brunch because Rachel could have a hamburger and I could have pancakes. Everyone dug the vibe, and Finn's squirms were forgiven in the noise and bustle of the restaurant. I'd gladly go back to Busboys & Poets with you, but I probably would make the drive into DC so we could wander around U Street afterwards. The book store there is bigger, and the history is rich. I worked in the neighborhood in the summer of 2006, and it's one of my favorite parts of DC.

And then we could eat later that day at Ben's Chili Bowl, and my life would be complete.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Againn and the Marriott Downtown.

I told you yesterday that Rach, Sol and I ventured into DC for some Friday night fun. This post is a little long because it has a restaurant review and a look at a lovely DC hotel.

Dinner at Againn was memorable. It's pronounced ah-gwen, and they serve up delicious British food. Featured in the Washingtonian a couple of months ago, I was eager to try it. We had reservations at 9 pm on Friday night (so very East Coast of us), and the place was still full.

We were greeted by this gorgeous bar with over 150 types of single malt scotch. They have the largest collection of scotch in the district. I wish I cared.

The food I care about. Here's one of many rounds of food. My beet salad...

and Rachel's mushroom tartlet. We also had a dozen oysters, mussels, fish and chips, and lobster salad. Oh. The food. Delicious. No complaints from any of us.

I don't know how authentically British the food was. I will let you know after I go to London for Thanksgiving. I do know that I liked it and was so glad I went.

After dinner, we headed to check out Nick's hotel room near the White House. The Adams Suite in the JW Marriott. It was ridiculous. Disgustingly awesome. Pioneer Woman, our favorite blogger, loves to share the hotels she stays in on the blog. Here's our ode to PW, DC style.

A beautiful table for dining or playing cards. We didn't sit here. We promptly moved the chairs on to the balcony as you could see in yesterday's post.

The sitting room with one of many flat screens. Modern but cozy. We didn't sit here either.

Rachel and I accidentally wore matching outfits. We didn't notice until 25 minutes into our car ride into DC. White tank tops, navy open sweaters, jeans and metallic sandals. Oh well. Look behind her sweet outfit into a little office nook, half bath and then the good fancy parts.

This is bigger than my bedroom. And the shower was tremendous with shower heads all around. And I want to take a bath just looking at that tub.

Suite bedroom. So cozy. If you laid in bed and opened all the drapes you would be able to see the Washington Monument from bed. This is how the rich and famous do it.

We left the Adams Suite as we found it because we spent all of our time on the balcony.

Look at the view and say you don't blame us.

I love DC.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Friday Night Reflection.

It's the middle of the night. Rachel, Sol and I just returned from a night out in DC with Rachel's cousin Nick, and it was so wonderful. I want to write a few thoughts down before I fall asleep, exhausted. We ate out (I'll write about that later), and then enjoyed a final drink and the boys had cigars at Nick's hotel on this balcony. It was amazing! We were able to see the Washington Monument, Capitol, and downtown DC perfectly.

While I sat there talking with my friends and enjoying the springtime view, I thought about how magnificent God's plan is. When Rachel and I graduated in 2005, we couldn't even image our reality now, teaching at the same school, celebrating Finley's first birthday and hanging out in downtown DC. I'm so very happy here right now living the day to day in Virginia. It's full of sweet surprises, challenges and blessings. And even an occasional glass of Chardonnay looking at the Washington Monument.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Notes From the Desk of Ms. Luhrs.

The End of VGLA
We've been scrambling around here to finish up alternative assessments called VGLA. Ten of my students in my self-contained English classes have been working hard all year to complete these assessments, mostly worksheets, and we've been collecting their work in individual binders. Then the binders are submitted to the county where they will be graded by fine educators like ME in two weeks. I have many thoughts about VGLA after completing the binders this year, and I'm anxious to do it again next year because I know we could do it better. That's my nature - do something again to perfect and streamline the process, even if the end product is annoying. VGLA is also used for our ESL students as an alternative to the multiple choice tests.

And then today, just as I'm ready to turn in my binders, we got this news. This is the last year for VGLA math, and reading will be phased out next year. So I'll only have one more time to perfect my VGLA skills before it is replaced with a modified multiple choice test. It will be similar to Kansas' alternative tests, and I'm more comfortable with it as a measure for our students in special education. It will be much less subjective. However, I'm sort of sad to see all the work that teachers have done on these assessments gone.

Since VGLA is done, we are finishing watching Remember the Titans today. Girls in my second period cried, and it was cute. We had to pass around the tissues.

An Eight Pack
Yesterday during civics, I was moving around the room helping various students complete activities. I picked up a paper that looked like trash to throw it away, but the student stopped me. "I need it!" he said.

"WHY?" I asked because it looked like a bunch of lines drawn carelessly on a piece of notebook paper.

"It's my abs!" he replied. Then he held it up to his stomach, and sure enough he had created a paper 8-pack. Instead of confiscating it, Mr. Hunt and I made him tape it to his shirt because it was too funny.

None of my students noticed, and you can't see me, but you should know that my finger is well and while a little sore, I'm typing with ten fingers again. Thanks for checking.

Mr. Hunt and I team teach civics two classes in a row. Most times Mr. Hunt has already taught the lesson once and usually takes the lead during fifth period. During seventh I jump in a lot more and help with more of the instruction. Yesterday I watched him teach a lesson where our students were business consultants giving "clients" advice on how to start a business. By proxy, I know a thing or two about business consultants. I ate dinner with one on Monday night.

So I switched things up a little bit seventh period, jazzing it up. I told them all about the lavish lifestyle of consultants and how much money I was going to pay them for their work. By the end of the lesson I had all the students knocking on their desks whenever one of the "clients" arrived. I hushed them down by telling them that the client was waiting and not to be rude. It wasn't much, but it was something. It was the kind of thing that I love about being in the classroom, adding little interactions to engage students.

As a bonus, I felt better about life after seventh period. I had been sort of blue and in a fussy mood but getting up and teaching made me feel better about everything.

Shine Your Shoes
Eighth grade formal is set for Friday, June 18. The kids are already getting their dates. My bet is that they change dates at least eight times before the actual formal. I'm still looking for a dress and a date. I'm willing to take suggestions for both.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Headboard and a Tiara.

Before I decided to get a new TV, I decided that I needed a headboard.

It seemed like a perfectly logical decision for a 26-year-old to make, especially considering I've owned my awesome bed for four years without a headboard. For months, I've been admiring the Lewis upholstered headboards at Pottery Barn. And then I learned that moving across the country for a job and going back to school are very good for your tax refund, so I bought it.

(I am one of 7% of Americans who spent their tax refund on something fun. The rest of the Americans used their tax refunds to pay off debt or save. Heard it on Marketplace.)

The cover is removable, a natural linen that can be washed at home which will help my allergies. Pottery Barn sells this headboard and cover on all of their sites, included PB Teen and Pottery Barn Kids. If I wanted to, I could switch out the linen for hot pink strips. Just saying...if I wanted too.

I love it, and it's perfect. I can curl up against it to watch TV or read a book. After a couple of hours Saturday night lamenting about my singleness and how much easier it would be to attach the bed to the headboard with a boyfriend, it is attached. Sort of - it doesn't move away from the bed anymore but would not survive an earthquake. Overall, I'm loving the varied textures on my bed, and anxiously awaiting some beautiful pillows my mom is making that will make the whole set-up even softer.

To complete the look of the new headboard, I had to move the photo collage because it was too low. I replaced it instead with this print by Curly Girl, a design I love so much that I also have it on a notepad I use for my daily to-do list. It says, "I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world." It fits, don't you think?

It's on a nice art board, so it looks okay on its own. I'd like to frame it, but I also think it might be fun and funky to just put a clunky old white frame around it on the wall without combining the two. What do you think? Framing is expensive and my tax refund is gone, so I need to choose carefully.

Now excuse me. My tiara and I have to prepare for 8th grade English.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dining Out Duos.

Sunday and Monday night I went out to dinner with two different people in two different restaurants in two different towns. And I want to tell you about these places because they were so fun - and even a little bit funky!

Sunday Night Pie @ Dangerously Delicious Pies with Caitlin. I met my Truman mentee in the NorthEAST part of DC for pie. While I'm in the NW part of the district a lot, the NE part is not as much my normal turf. It was sort of a punk rock pie joint. We stepped up and ordered our food, and a little while later it was brought to our table. Ok, a long while later. They were really busy, and the service was slow for just a slice of pie.

Now about the pie. Caitlin and I both ordered apple pie, and I got a cowboy pie to go. The apple was just okay. I think you are going to be a pie place, you should sell good plain apple pie. Especially in the capital of America. I think the crust didn't live hold its own (read: not enough butter.) Oddly enough when I later ate the cowboy pie (eggs, bacon, potatoes, peppers and jalapenos), I thought the crust was fantastic!

The atmosphere is fun and low maintenance. Caitlin and I were able to visit about her upcoming teaching experience in Mexico at a reasonable decibel, and the crowd with us was diverse. I probably won't make a trip again soon, but there were definitely some fun pies I'd still like to try! It was a little pricey, so don't expect me to cater your visit with a bunch of Dangerous pies. I'll bake you some cookies instead or buy you cupcakes.

Monday Night Tapas @ Jaleo with Mark. He's in town for business, so we grabbed dinner up in Bethesda Monday night. I had picked out one place in advance but stumbled upon Jaleo and decided it was a better choice. In the style of La Bodega, one of my top five favorite KC restaurants, the tapas we ordered were delicious.

Here's a measure of how good they were: when we got down to the last piece of any of the dishes, we split them. Neither of us said, "Oh no, it's fine, you take it," because it was so good. We had potatoes, mushrooms, steak (medium rare thank you!), homemade sausages, garlic shrimp and bread. Everything was perfectly prepared, right down to the beans that came with the sausage.

I was a happy and full girl at the end, and so was Mark. I would totally go back again to Jaleo, maybe to the one at Crystal City or in DC, and I might even try to hit the happy hour to get more food for less money. The principle of shared dishes and getting to try so many different things appeals to me, and in some small way, reflects what I imagine Jesus meant about breaking bread together. I'd also like someone to come along and split the white sangria with me. It doesn't come by the glass.

If you are interested in coming for tapas, or maybe even pie, summer weekends are booking up quickly. Still plenty of time for fall weekend visits, so claim yours soon!

What We'll Do for Chips & Salsa.

A common misconception is that Rachel and I spend all of our time together. It's not always true. We were together for about one hour total between Friday afternoon and Monday morning carpool. So this afternoon after school, we had a lot to catch up on. Blog business is picking up again, Finn's birthday is coming up, and as usual, I'm getting into shenanigans.

We were hanging out downstairs in my place, where the chips and salsa are. You know, that good chips and salsa I learned about from Erica? My mom buys it for me in really large jars, and Rachel & I were eating it with chips straight out of the container.

The bad part about hanging out in my place is there are no Finley toys. The cabinets can all be opened. There is a cat to bother. And he's a fast little dude, so you better pay attention when Finn is around.

But then we found this cool toy.

That's right - the dog's water bowl! It's one of Finley's favorite trouble making toys when he is downstairs. Just last week he dumped the whole thing on his legs. A new pair of pants later, I learned he couldn't be trusted with it. Today, we emptied it into the sink, and then Finn found it makes a wonderful noise. He pushed it around on the floor and kept peering inside for the water.

And then we got an even better idea. Clean it out and let Finley snack using the dog bowl. Don't worry, Mom, I cleaned it really well first. He loved it! He picked up each little cereal piece and munched happily away.

And Rachel and I continued to eat chips and salsa for four more peaceful minutes. An almost one-year-old doesn't have that long of an attention span.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Looking for Belle in Leadership Studies.

K-State celebrated the dedication of their brand new home for the School of Leadership Studies this past weekend. The Luhrs ladies are really proud to be involved with Leadership Studies at K-State, and Lu & Mom went up for the dedication this weekend.

They were also looking for Belle. You see, many months ago there was a call for photography for the new building. I submitted ten photos to a gallery in Kansas City, all pictures that appeared at sometime on this blog. Finley, local places, and even a picture of Lauren were included in my submission, but the gallery director picked a picture of Belle.

I was honored he picked the picture because he didn't know me. My nice friends over at Leadership Studies would probably have picked my photo just to be kind to me. But he didn't know me one bit, he just liked Belle.

If you want to see the photo yourself, you can see it in Manhattan. You just walk down the hall near where former President Wefald's office is...and you'll see it above some student worker desks.

They enlarged it and framed it and everything. I think I need it for my own house too!

When Mom was going looking for it, some of the men who worked for the interior design company were saying to each other, "We have to go find the picture of the dog - it's supposed to be good!" MY DOG. They were looking for my dog. Of course my mom stopped them and told them all about my special dog.

Belle looks smart in the photo too. I bet she is thinking about the quadratic equation or quantam physics. My sister is also smart. This is a very smart photo.

We're also proud of this building because we raised money to ensure that Mortar Board would have a home. Lauren and Mom are standing by our new office, and I can't wait to get home and see the inside. Look at the fancy etching - MB is in the big time now kids!

And yes, we wear purple all the time. Any day is a good day for purple - EMAW.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lessons I Learned Cooking with Erica.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 2009.

Today is Erica's birthday. She's was my first "grown-up" roommate, and we lived together in our first apartment until she got married to Jon in December of 2009. Erica's one of my besties, and we talk regularly about teaching, life and love.

And also about cooking. When we lived together, we cooked together, sometimes three or four meals a week. We planned shopping trips, menus, and shared recipes. It was the BEST and cooking for myself by myself is boring compared to cooking with Erica. Here are some of the valuable kitchen lessons I learned from her.
  1. Garlic should be used in cooking. Don't skip it if the recipe calls for it.
  2. Don't overcook chocolate chip cookies, or they will brown
  3. Spaghetti carbonara is a no fail meal. (The original recipe we both love comes from Beyond Parsley, but I've also played around to make this one yummy and just like Erica's.)
  4. Cinnabon muffin mix is the perfect standby for staff meetings.
  5. I don't like lima beans.
  6. Margarita's makes the best salsa you could keep in the fridge. Buy it in hot and keep it close for snacking after school
  7. Real ordinary people can cook gourmet. For example, salmon and pork tenderloin can be weeknight meals.
  8. One of the best instant desserts EVER is a graham cracker smothered in peanut butter, topped with a marshmallow and then microwaved for 15 seconds. It's really the best.
Thanks for the cooking lessons and happy birthday Erica. Make Jon cook today - you deserve it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

McChicken and Economics.

Where did the last two weeks go? I meant to update more regularly about what I was teaching and how it was going, but that large pesky paper from a week ago derailed my plans.

Civics continues to be a study of economics, and we're all having more fun. I'm so surprised how much more fulfilling economics instruction is than civics, but I think it is in the nature of our standards and how they are written. Civics is written to be incredibly boring. Econ is written to give teachers more opportunities for fun simulations and real world examples.

Good economics instruction for 8th graders is mostly in the strength of the examples you use to illustrate your points. Last week when one boy learned that the dollar is worth less than the pound in England, he was instantly jealous of the Brits and yelled, "That's like two McChickens for a dollar!"Later we used paper airplanes to help our students compare mixed and command economies. Mr. Hunt and I were the government in the simulation, and in the first simulation we gave the students many choices. They could pick their group, their design, and we rewarded the best flying planes with great candy choices.

During the second simulation we showed a video with specific instructions on how to build a paper airplane. We assigned the builders and the pilots, and then we rewarded each student with the same payment for their work, one jelly bean.

While it is a pretty simplified look at free markets and command economies, it works. Students were able to think critically about both systems and evaluate the positive and negative aspects of both economies.

I really like the way that we teach economics because it is nonthreatening and inviting. We're giving students who have no exposure to economics real and practical information, and they are thankful for that and respond with good effort.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I've Already Forgotten.

Since 2001, I have faithfully watched television using the TV on the left. We watched TV with that little dude in Boyd Hall, Alpha Chi, Juliette and apartment 404. Last Friday my life changed forever when the TV on the left was replaced with the TV on the right.

Meet my new best friend, Sam. You know, as in Samsung.

He's gorgeous don't you think? The sharpest picture I've ever seen on an HD tv (thank you 2010 models). He's just the right size for my bookshelf and my bedroom, and we've become good friends in the past week.

However, Sam is sort of a high maintenance friend and demands more of my time than my old bestie on the left. That's sort of how new friendships go, you know? You take a lot of time getting to know someone new, and then you ease into a comfortable routine where you don't have to be together all the time.

Right now I need to be with Sam, a lot.

I had cut back my TV watching to 11 hours a week by only watching my scheduled shows on my DVR and no extra episodes of ANTM, House Hunters, Daily Show etc. But now everything, including golf and E!, is a good excuse to spend time with Sam.

I'll be working towards moderation in the coming weeks. I would appreciate your support as I build a healthy friendship with Sam.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Look Who's Talking.

It's been a dream of mine that people would comment on my blog. Thanks for helping that blog dream come true a little bit on Monday. I am aware that there are lurkers on this blog. I myself float on and off of more blogs than I would care to admit. But I try to leave an occasional comment so people know that I'm listening, just in case they need someone to listen. So thanks for the comments about my new boyfriend Kevin - the love was nice.

It's also been a dream of mine that I would get a picture taken holding both little boys at their baptism. I was so excited to be there with their parents and some grandparents as their baptism was celebrated on Sunday. Rachel will have more details about the whole event. I have baby conversations and pictures.

Calvin: Are you sure you can hold both of us at once? Like really sure? I am not so comfortable over here on this side. Finn! How are you doing over there?
Finn: Wow are really beautiful this close.

Calvin: Phew. That's better. This tall lady has got some curvy hips for sitting.
Finn: The hips don't lie C-dawg. I think Tori wants her own babies someday. She's got the perfect hips for the 10-pound baller babies she's sure to have.
Calvin: Truth, my brother. Hey - think we can get out of here soon and get some milk?

Calvin: Dude - you have got to see her teeth! They are really small for her mouth.
Finn: Who are you to judge, man? You've got zero teeth. I'm the expert around here, and I think her smile is pretty.

The end. Roll credits.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Meet Miss Luhrs' Boyfriend.

This is Kevin Ortega. He is my boyfriend.

Let me explain.

Last Thursday, my noisy advisory students asked if I had a boyfriend. Before I could say anything, Delia said, "Yes. I met him, and we went to Silver Diner together."

I liked it. So I added, "Yes, and I had the pancakes. It was fun, right Delia?"

She agreed. My students wanted to know what he looked like, and Delia kept going with the details. "He's tall, skinny, like really skinny, and he's got spiky hair." (I really wish that you could hear Delia tell it. She's from Honduras, has a little bit of a lisp, and is straight up hilarious.)

Other students were eating it up. So the stories continued into after-school time. She couldn't remember his name, so I supplied Kevin. And the other students got jealous. Someone asked what his last name, and I told them I wouldn't tell them. I didn't want them looking him up on the internet. Another student guessed Ortega. Shoot - how did they know!?!

The stories continued the next morning. By the end of the period, everyone was super jealous of Delia and wishing that they could meet Kevin too! They started a sign-up on the board, and there are three names waiting for the next time we go to Silver Diner together.

Isn't Kevin the cutest? So sweet to go eat with my crazy 8th grade students!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Suburban Saturday.

Belle got her long awaited buzz cut today. I took her to a doggie daycare place up the street, and since we were there already for grooming, they did an "evaluation" to see if she would play with others for doggie daycare or boarding. Yes, Belle had to pass a test before she could stay.

And she almost didn't pass.

Apparently at first Belle was really nervous around the other medium dogs. She was a little jumpy about being in a new place, and my heart sank when the nice attendant came back and said, "I'm not going to say that she fails, but we're going to watch her a little longer."

I gave her a pep talk, and sent her back into the play area, "Belle! Failure is NOT an option in this family! Get out there and PLAY!"

She won them over, got a buzz, and came home exhausted and adorable about six hours later. Good dog Belle.

Then we got to work with Sol in the backyard.

Sol built the above ground gardening boxes for our vegetable garden earlier in the day, and I helped him mix up our soil for the box with compost, vermiculite, and peat moss. Then we filled our two 4 by 4 gardens. I'll make sure to keep you updated on the progress because it will be legen...wait for it...dary.

Belle and Copper relaxed around the yard, and Sol and I busied ourselves picking up pieces of the project. See that windowsill by me? It looks into my kitchen. I was cleaning it out when I reached in and grabbed a squirmy worm. "Whoa! Look the size of this worm! I'm going to put him in our garden to make it grow better."

Then I looked at the big worm again. And I called Sol and his mom over to look.

Worm - wrong. Snake - yes.

After I stopped screaming , Sol threw him over the fence.

A snake. I held a little squirmy snake in my hand. Sick.

Friday, April 9, 2010

So Glad It Is Saturday.

Here are a few of the things keeping me from blogging this week...
  1. A very large graduate school paper. It wasn't a final draft which made it worse because it gave me no incentive to get it all the way done early in the week. I sent it off to my peer reviewer at about midnight Friday, and I get to take a little break from my research for a couple weeks. That'll be good - I'm sick of looking at interviews and surveys and silent reading data.
  2. Dog fur. All I do is walk around and pick up Belle's fur. She is getting a buzz in the morning, I am vacuuming one more time and then this terrible shedding should be gone. In our three years together it has never been this bad, and I'm blaming it on our terrible winter.
  3. Beautiful spring blooms. Our whole neighborhood is bursting with color. Belle and I have been out walking for exercise and also just to check out the flowers and the trees. I took the pictures above around Holmes Run.
  4. Room redecorating. When I'm not picking up dog fur, I have been avoiding my grad school work by moving furniture around in my bedroom. It's awesome. Come see for yourself. (OR come back in the next week or so to the blog, and I'll show you what I've done.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Very Sweet Easter Brunch.

This year for Easter at the Luhrs Ladies' house we decided to mix it up a little bit and serve brunch. Actual brunch food like egg casserole, baked french toast and mimosas. Dessert was simple too with little homemade cheesecakes, and by request, copious amounts of monster cookies with pastel M&Ms.

The thing about Easter is that it's less about the actual food and more about the candy. So whatever is served plays second fiddle to the candy piled in every candy dish in our house. Easter marks the end of the seasonal candy bonanza that begins in mid-September with the arrival of Halloween mellowcremes and stays strong through Santa gummies, conversation hearts, and twenty varieties of jelly beans for Easter. Why hasn't someone invented a good Fourth of July candy? Or better yet, a candy especially for my BIRTHDAY in July? Hmmm?

I added to the candy craze at our house by creating these sweet Easter bunnies to hold some goodies.

The design came from Martha Stewart Kids, and I had fun personalizing them for each of our guests. I used 4bar envelopes from Paper Source in strawberry and poppy with blossom ears. Each finished bunny was filled with candy and placed at the table waiting for a guest.

It was a good meal with my family and friends. Adding to the overall sweetness were Mark and Lauren celebrating two years of dating, and Mark's little sister Megan and her boyfriend, Ryan. They are both at K-State so we had plenty of excuses to talk about everyone's favorite alma mater. Dereck was there for his third Easter dinner, and we love having him come too. Please know that if there is ever a future Easter where you find yourself without a place for dinner, you are welcome at my mom's. Because no one should be alone on Easter...

Here's the very best news: He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Low Light Photography.

The tough thing about shooting with an SLR digital camera without a working flash is that sometimes it's difficult to use in low light. It's even tougher to use after one of these...

Regardless, I'm always forcing the camera into people's hands asking them to take pictures of me with other people.

I think some people (Sheldon and Dereck, for example) know that they might end up on the blog so they start showing off or get nervous. Sheldon's modeling the cheese dip. Dereck has blog stage fright. I'm holding very still because I know there is no flash.

Rachel is always saying that if you take a picture at an angle, it instantly looks artistic. I don't think that is what Dereck was going for when he took this photo. If I remember correctly, he tilted the camera so that he could make Erica and I look the same height.

And even when the camera is in the hands of an expert like myself, it's still tough to shoot in low light. Especially when your subjects are not willing.

You all better clean up your act and get used to this stuff before London at Thanksgiving.

Yeah, that's right. Kenneth & Melinda are going to London, and we are too. I'm taking my camera and some of my besties and headed abroad this November. Who-hoo!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another Local Review - The Westside Local.

I hosted book club for March in KC, even selecting the book for the month. We read The Wednesday Letters, and while there were mixed reviews it proved to be an excellent reason to get together for lunch. I chose The Westside Local downtown for some local fare and good company.

It's located in a hipster neighborhood at 16th and Summit, just north of Southwest Boulevard. I felt transported to Williamsburg in Brooklyn where I ate at the Lodge with Andrea or that cute Scandinavian restaurant where I had brunch with Claire & Jeremy in DC. But I was in Kansas City with Kansas City people - it was like the best of both worlds!

The local fare was good - we picked a variety of things off the menu and enjoyed pretty much everything we tried. I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered the beet salad. After rejecting beets for so many years, beets and I have come to an understanding. I saved half of the roast chicken and beets for my mommy - we both loved the combination! Kate's roast beef and potato salad was so good she didn't leave any behind. Erica got confused and ordered a bizarre combination of pickles, deviled eggs, cheese, and crackers. The menu confused her, she argued, but all of the choices she made were good. (I know because I also had the pickles and eggs!)

Here's where I tell you the best part about Westside Local: the GARLIC FRIES. Local restaurants have been loving the sweet potato french fries lately, but they are nothing compared to the garlic fries we had. Tara ordered the chicken sandwich and fries, Kate & I split one fry and promptly ordered our own side of fries for the table.

The atmosphere was cool and urban. I hope this little restaurant makes it, but it was pretty quiet on a Saturday at noon. Please go to Westside Local and order the garlic fries. I would really like to eat the fries again in August when I'm home again. You will thank me for the fries, and I will thank you that you keep this gem open.

Kansas City Cupcakes.

I stumbled across a brand new bakery in the River Market downtown Friday morning and found cupcakes. I had to run into the bakery to avoid the pouring rain that drenched Kansas City.

I know a few things about cupcakes, so I was willing to test out their cupcakes. It's the sort of sacrifice I am willing to make for you. I know you want the best out of your cupcakes.

My favorite thing about the store was the fact that the cupcakes came in two sizes - bud and bloom. I picked four little buds, and they packed them up into this little box. The price was right too - only $1.95 per little bud cupcake! I discovered later that the cupcakes were made with flour milled in Kansas. Perfect touch.

I chose hummingbird (banana, coconut, and pineapple), carrot cake, chocolate and lemon cupcakes. The small size was good because the Luhrs Ladies could try different ones. My only complaint was that there was only one chocolate variety - plain chocolate! No red velvet, no peanut butter, no mint chocolate chip - Bloom needs to add some more chocolate to the menu!

Here's what we thought about the cupcakes.
  • The chocolate was dark and strong. Maybe a little dry. Lauren did not try this kind (of course!). She got a little bit on her finger and told me that she needed to use soap to wash it off because it was that powerful.
  • Hummingbird was good. Definitely something new in the cupcake world! Lauren liked it even though she isn't crazy about banana and coconut flavors - the icing may be what made it so great!
  • The lemon was refreshing. Perfect for spring into summer. Good amount of lemon flavor without feeling like you were chewing up zest.
  • Carrot cake was good because cream cheese frosting is almost impossible to mess up. The cake part fell apart a little bit, and we think that Three Women and an Oven makes a better carrot cake.
Go try it. I love local businesses and bite size cupcakes. We'd love to hear if you try something else yummy. I'd personally recommend the cookies.

Oh right. I didn't tell you about the cookies.

Confession: I also had a choco chunk cookie this morning when I bought one for Sheldon & Dereck. I was hungry. It was early. And the cookie was so so so good. They also had samples out of their iced oatmeal raisin so I tried that too. It was so good I had two samples.

I feel better now that I told you.

Peace, love and cupcakes.