Monday, August 30, 2010

A Baby Shower for Kate.

Lots of photos to share with you from Kate's baby shower. Kate registered for a few things that were yellow and gray with bees, so we took that theme and ran with it. It was a pretty sweet theme for her baby boy who will arrive in November.

Rhonda made cupcakes - lemon and chocolate chip cookie dough - and even frosted the cupcake to look like a beehive. They were delicious! Guests took home honey sticks with the sweet little message. Can you tell I had a lot of fun crafting? (Look for items for sale later this week in the etsy shop.)

Alison could join us from Sublette which was nice, and Tara found Kate a perfect baby blanket with bees. It was so soft that many of the guests wanted their own.

We know Baby G is a boy but not his name. I loved the bee banner because of the hexagons!

Sweets - honey and lemon themed, obviously. Bit-o-honey aren't as bad as I remember from back in the days of trick-or-treating. I also found jelly beans made with honey. Not my fav.

Tara, Abbey, Rhonda and Erica at the shower. Erica's home was lovely for the shower - look at all the yummy food we had. Strawberries dipped in chocolate AND coconut = perfection.

Anne coordinated a cute onesie making project, but I forgot to take pictures. Baby G is going to have some cute onesies with bowties!

More friends - Leah, Emily, Alison, Tara, Nanette, Abbey. I promise - I did NOT tell them to dress in the colors of the the party. Swear.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tomatoes and Other Notes.

1200 miles later, I'm back in Virginia. Everything is unpacked, my house is 85% clean, and I am going back to school tomorrow. I feel okay about this because I like my school friends and setting up the classroom for the year.

When I was home, my mom and I were lucky enough to get some great tomatoes from my grandparents' friends. So I made tomato sauce.

They were beautiful and red - rare this year because the excessive heat makes it hard for tomatoes to turn red. I've not had the best of the luck with tomatoes.

Belle's glad to be back in Virginia. She did great in the car, and she was a gracious house guest everywhere we went. Emily rode back from KC with me, and she also thought Belle was a good puppy. Her opinion matters because she is a veterinarian.

I did that fancy thing where you dip the tomatoes in boiling water for ten seconds, pull them out and put them in an ice bath to make them easier to peel. It worked.

We've got a week of inservice, meetings and getting our classrooms set up. I've got a grad school meeting and some work around the house before my first fall house guests come - Jennie & Joe!

For the first time, I seeded my tomatoes. I used a little spoon and got all that stuff out. Then I chopped them all up, pretty uniformly.

I spent a lot of time going through my mail today. Being gone for three weeks means there are a lot of bills, magazines, and ads for clothing waiting for me. Also, new license plates and a pair of brown riding boots for London and Dublin. Now I just need a plane ticket.

And a trench coat. Also, probably a bag that I can carry all my purse essentials and digital camera in its case around town. I'm open to suggestions.

I didn't add much to the tomatoes - a tablespoon of olive oil, a little garlic, and a little onion. I let it cook for about two hours, and the house smelled great the whole time.

I was strongly considering breaking up with TV. I even though about getting rid of my DVR. But now I'm watching the Emmy's, and I am falling in love again. The Good Wife! Modern Family! Community! GLEE! Maybe I should just not add any more shows. Except for maybe that one with Keri Russell and Will Arnett. It looks pretty good.

We ate it with healthy pasta and chicken Italian sausage. A touch of fresh basil for good measure would have been a good idea, but we just ate the sauce. And licked the bowl.

Rachel usually posts this link for you all - Fall TV Premiers - but the Emmys have me in the mood. I may or may not be watching with you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

So I Went to Wichita.

It is a really good thing that Kenneth & Melinda were stopping over on their way from Hong Kong to LA to London because otherwise our trip to Wichita might have been a complete fail.

Oh alright, I'm being a tad dramatic. There were other good things about Wichita, I just don't like to acknowledge them.

Jon, Dereck and I picked Erica up from school on Friday night. We headed to Wichita and had dinner and went out in Old Town. It was okay. Apparently Old Town isn't as much fun as the guys remember (or I "remember" from after Katherine's wedding.) I am happy that I got to be with my friends, and they made up for the setting.

Saturday started with breakfast at the Norton home. We are so lucky that Karen is willing to host us and share her yummy cooking with us while we had a "family meeting" to plan our Dublin/London trip. It's really happening! Other topics on the agenda: K-State football and Kenneth's homemade movies from Hong Kong. If only he would post them on a blog or something - you would love them!

Dereck and Jon made us drive by their old hangout - Boeing - and then we stopped by the Country Club to "surprise" Kenneth and Melinda. I use the word "surprise" very loosely. Sure, Kenneth was surprised to see us, but he didn't realize that the party was for him until an hour or so in. He just thought all his college buddies were just there to hang out for his sister's surprise party.

Oh Kenneth.

Truth to be told, I was probably just as excited to see this little man, Parker. He's just so darn cute! I also am a big fan of his parents, Sam & Brady. He's the exact same age to the day as my buddy Calvin.

So even though I don't love Wichita, I do really love the people who reside them sometimes and always.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fields of Kansas.

My uncle was cutting silage, and Grandpa wanted us to go see. I wanted to take pictures of how vast and open the land is. The sky is bluer in Kansas. And I think farther away from the horizon.

I am proud of these photos. I would like them enlarged to the same size as my TV and put in my house. The water tower in the background marks the road to my grandparents house. When we were little girls, my mom would stop every time we drove by so we could read the letters on the water tower. I can't remember the letters today.

Photos for you, with love from a seventh-generation Kansan.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sandstone Faces in Nelson, NE.

For twenty-seven years, I've been visiting my grandparents on the farm. And sometimes there are still surprise places that I have never been before. For example, the Sandstone Faces in Nelson, Nebraska. Mom, Grandma, Grandpa and I checked them out when we were there.

Check out the detail! Most of them were local personalities, but this one is Teddy Roosevelt.

I get excited about American Presidents, so obviously Teddy's sandstone face was my favorite. I also feel strongly about this cause associated with Theodore Roosevelt. Seriously, let Teddy win the race every now and again.

I think this building is quintessential small town. Look at the building across the street and the sky. But the Sandstone faces are unique to Nelson. We liked guessing why the people were chosen for the carvings and why they were making all sorts of crazy faces. And we're all still a little mystified at how exactly someone carves sandstone faces.

We had lunch together at Lovewell Reservoir - the bbq is always so good. This is the second reference to bbq from my trip home, expect one more. It just makes me feel like I'm at home!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

One Pet Maximum.

We're a one pet family. My mom has Roary, my aunt and uncle have Toodles, Sasha has Missy, Grandpa Lauren has Fancy, and I have the famous Belle. With only one pet per family branch, you would think we were low key animal owners.

Unless you spend more than five minutes with us all together. Because whenever any of us are together, we talk about our pets.

Funny Face and Barn Cat on the Farm, August 2010.

Turns out that we really do love all those animals. A lot. We all love storytelling - so we talk about their habits, sneak them little scraps of food, and love on our furry four-legged friends. They set the pace in our days and sometimes even boss us around. Seriously, I would sleep till noon if Belle would let me.

But the world is definitely better with all these characters. Studies say that pets are good for your health, and I believe it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Women, Girls and Ladies.

My mom and I spent Sunday through Tuesday traveling to Mankato and Manhattan to see family and friends we love. As we were driving, my mom was telling me about an experience she had recently with a group of pretty smart adult women. Their ages range between 23 and early 40s, and she was particularly concerned that the female leaders of the group kept calling them girls. "You girls are going to do this," or "You girls can sit over there."

We discussed this at great length because really there were no girls in the room. Women, ladies maybe. I remember my mom saying once that she hoped that when Lauren and I grew up there wouldn't be a glass ceiling anymore. But there are still reminders that even accomplished women don't get the credit they deserve. We don't address a group of male community leaders as "boys," but women willingly refer to ourselves as lesser.

Some might argue there's a place for it, for example, Girls Night Out (there are Boys Camping Trips, thankfully). But it's a little demeaning in a business, education or community setting.

We had lunch and visited with smart women while we were in Manhattan. Spending time with the great people at Leadership Studies and my Mortar Board mentors reaffirmed for Mom and I that the ladies we work with deserve to be called women.

It also made me wonder about being a professor. That's all I have to say about that at this time. I'm just wondering and pondering and thinking that one day, it might be awesome to be a professor and teach undergraduates and call them women and men. Never girls and boys.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Something sort of awesome is happening today - my sister, Lauren, is starting law school in Lawrence. How's that for a tongue twister? (She's blogging about the whole thing - so check it out at

Tuesday night we took Lauren the television for her apartment. My "baby" sister is a grown-up, living on her own, starting law school. Despite the fact that she will be 25 this September, I struggle to remember she is an a-dult. Like me.

Wait a second, I don't feel like an a-dult either. I don't even like the word a-dult.

After we dropped off the TV, we grabbed a light bite to eat at Salty Iguana. This seemed like a very Lawrence-y thing to do. We sat in the exact same booth that we did when my cousin, Sasha, had her graduation party there over a year ago. Another shock to my system: Sasha is also grown-up, lives on her own and is employed.

The two of them have to stop it, really. The more they resemble full fledged a-dults, the further they push me into growing up. Yes, I live on my own, far away from home. But I get to act all immature still sometimes because I hang out with 13-year-olds. For my job.

I'm proud of Lauren for making this big move to Lawrence. She ran and studied her tail off to get there, and I know she has the right kind of brain for it. Case-in-point: she liked studying for the LSAT while I am running away from the book I should be reading, "Non-Western Educational Traditions."

Now get to it, Lu. Show those Jayhawks what kind of a lawyer a Wildcat is.

Spin Pizza and Glace.

On some of my previous visits home, I have been borderline obsessed with eating at all of my favorite restaurants. It's been less of a concern this trip - I'm prioritizing working out instead of eating out. I'm happy to see my friends and be with family wherever, eating whatever.

But Spin! is one of my favorites. I'm especially happy now that they offer the Pizza Mia! at dinner. Always good at lunch, I am so glad to get my favorite things at dinner now too.

Kate, Abbey, Erica and I all ordered the Pizza Mia! My salad was delicious but I don't remember what was on it. I ate every.single.bite. Followed by the Fungi pizza. Two kinds of mushrooms = awesome. I understand why people don't like mushrooms, and that's fine with me. More for me.

Even though Spin! serves gelato, we headed next door to Glace. I had been home about 48 hours, and this was my second trip to Glace. I would go there every day if it didn't so directly contradict my working out.

Kate's baby bump is really showing up. I think ice cream agrees with babies. I'm beginning to get impatient - I'm ready for baby G to join the fun!

So far I have had four different flavors: Venezuelan dark chocolate, apricot sorbet, lemon blueberry sorbet, and peaches and cream. We also tried lavender, bananas foster (YUM), and even the chocolate sorbet! The servings are little, and they willingly give you two flavors.

This place is the kind of place that gives frozen yogurt and cupcakes a run in my book - especially when the temperature in Kansas City is over 100 degrees. I might sneak in one more short stop before I head back to Virginia and cupcakes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Here's a Good Idea.

As a middle school teacher, I think I know sixth, seventh and eighth graders pretty well. I've spent the last five years with them, at least five days a week and nine months a year. And I still really like my job, just so you know.

Besides a pretty good idea about the things they like and how to teach their developing brains, I also know a lot about embarrassing them. This comes in handy when your step-brothers are getting ready to start 6th and 7th grade. I take the role of oldest very seriously. This includes love, support, and an occasional act of embarrassment.

For example, on the second day of school Lauren, Belle and I walked them to the bus stop. Sure, on the first day everyone expects the family to go along. But the second day? Very clever indeed.

It is an even better idea to take pictures at the bus stop. Don't worry, Cooper isn't really mad in these photos. You have to pay him $20 to get him to smile these days, and I'm a public servant.

Mitchell smiles. No problems there. And Belle was waiting and watching for the big yellow bus.

To be fair, my brothers hold their own very well. We can talk about their classes, their teachers, and good comebacks. They think on their toes quite well. Here's my favorite example from my time in Indy. Mitch and I were at the dinner table discussing the first day of school.

Me: It drives me nuts when I get ready to start class and students don't have their supplies ready to go. Mitch - what should you have sharpened at the beginning of every class?

Mitch (without missing a beat): My knives.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

School Uniforms in 2010.

My step-sister Gabby started high school last week at a private school, and as every fashionista would predict, the biggest challenge was the uniform. Thankfully the administration at Gabby's school was looking out for fashion forward teenagers, and students get to choose their own shoes. All of a sudden navy, white and khaki just got a lot more exciting. Shoes are a statement!

Gabby (and Tracy too!) worked hard to find the best new shoes for the season and for school. First, a pair of patent leather purple Sperry's. I LOVE boat shoes, but I do not think I could pull off these beauties. I'll stick to the classic brown for fall! But Gabby's going to rock these out.

She also got an adorable pair of pink Keds. I am jealous of how bright her shoe world is.

Gabby's school uniforms are pretty different from the uniforms when I taught in Kansas City. Embroidered polos and skorts were not the norm in my urban middle school. But, I am a big fan of uniforms. I loved teaching in a school where I didn't have to argue about the length of someone's skirt or the words on their t-shirt. Uniforms are a great equalizer and remove many distractions from the classroom. So key in the formative years of middle schools, where no matter what teachers do, what your peers think matters a lot.

And while shoes can still be a clear and definitive status symbol, it's a pretty limited one. Students get over their neighbors Jordans and Uggs when they see them all the time. Shoe choice gives students some control without all the distraction and additional cost of fancy outfits from head to toe.

As an added bonus to the teachers like me, shoes are pretty straight forward. They are never sagging too low or showing too much cleavage. I like this - it makes my job more about the stuff I teach than the clothes my students wear.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BBQ with Dad.

Before I go any further in this post about barbeque, let's address the spelling of the word. It should be BBQ or barbeque. I have little patience for barbeCUE. I don't care what Microsoft Word says about the spelling, I like my barbeque with a Q.

I'm from Kansas City - we are serious about barbeque. My dad is too! Here are the ribs he made last week for dinner. They were so good - the meat was tender and fell off the bones easily and into my mouth. Aren't they beautiful?

Not everyone likes ribs - or something - so my dad also grilled chicken. It was super moist and covered in Sweet Baby Ray's, a really great barbeque sauce. And some was just plain too. I ate ribs one day and chicken the next because I love barbeque.

Dinner is a family afair with everyone together - three generations and two dogs. Here is Blake - third grader this year!

Please remember, whenever you eat BBQ and whoever you eat it with, to mind your b's and q's.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spencer and Belle.

My brother Spencer is four. He'll be five in November. While everyone else was at school, Spence was home with Lauren, me, and BELLE. Spencer loved his time with Belle, and he practiced all of her tricks and gave her way too many puppy treats.

I always knew where Belle was because I could hear her jingling tags and Spence yelling two things, "Puppy, puppy, puppy!" or "Sit, Belle, sit!" Here is Spencer wearing one of his 71 jerseys with his puppy buddy Belle.

Spencer does not have exactly 71 jerseys. He does have quite a few, and when I asked him how many, he said 71.

The kiddos all have dry erase boards on their doors. Spencer wrote a sweet note on the door of our room.
It says, "I love Victoria and Belle - and Lauren too." Sweet, right? Especially the little heart.

I really wish I had a video to show you the two of them playing hide-and-seek. Spencer would say, "Where's Belle? I can't find her anywhere!" even though she was in the room. And then he would squeal, Belle would scamper, and they would repeat their fun game.

I accidentally left Belle's bowl at the house, and a very concerned Spencer told me on the phone that they washed it and are keeping it very safe for us. I know he'll be excited to see Belle (and me) when we travel back to Virginia later this month.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Genius Bar at the Apple in Soho.

My apologies for the sporadic blogging. Remember how Rachel and I went to BlogHer last week? During our first session, my laptop died. His name was Reuben, and his untimely demise was a small tragedy. We suspect "diet pepsi" of the murder, but we could be projecting our personal feelings towards diet pepsi. Diet coke is just so much better.

So I packed Reuben up and headed to the Genius Bar in Soho. I was fine until I got there, then the gravity of the situation settled in and the tears welled in my eyes. I only waited twenty minutes or so until Mac Genius Robert called my name.

To fight back the tears, I told Robert a story. It's a story many of you know well, the one about the time when I tried to clean my laptop keys. I told it to Robert to prove my point - my laptop should not be dead from a mere two tablespoons of diet pepsi.

He looked at me strangely. I think it was the part about using a magic eraser. And water. On my computer. Not the part about the diet pepsi.

Mac Genius Robert spent the next fifty minutes very calmly assessing the situation, explaining the $755 repair costs (no thanks), and making sure all my data was safe. When I wasn't busy hanging on his every word, I was people watching.

Thank you, Apple Soho, for the quality entertainment. The woman with her dog was classic. There was another girl in there just bringing her computer in for a "check-up." My favorite pair of women are on the right below.

The assistant (in sunglasses) stepped up to the Genius Bar to inform them that her boss was ready, and yes, she is famous. She added the woman's name for dramatic affect, but neither the man in charge or I know who she is. I can't even remember her name. Famous lady proceeded to tell Genius Bar dude what a terrible machine her macbook pro was, and her assistant never took her glasses off while managing THREE cell phones.

I just laughed at them. I almost offered to take the macbook off famous lady's hands if it relieve some of her burden. Oh well, it made the situation with Reuben quite a bit better

Despite Genius Robert's valiant effort, Reuben is gone. The data is safe and awaiting the arrival of a new macbook pro sometime this week. To add to the delay, I'm Kansas bound. I drove through six states today to make it to Indianapolis, and after two days here I'll travel to Kansas.

That's where my macbook pro will be waiting for me. Name: TBD. Suggestions?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Padma Lakshmi and Sandwiches on Top Chef.

The week before we left for BlogHer, we received a final email with conference reminders. In the left sidebar was a call for bloggers who wanted to compete in a special sandwich competition at the Hillshire Farms booth in the exhibition hall.

I was sort of interested - I consider myself a sandwich specialist. I mean, I make them 3-5 times a week during the school year and have almost a dozen different combinations to keep them interesting.

And then, I saw that Padma Lakshmi was the judge in this Top Chef style competition. It's no secret that I'm more than a little Top Chef obsessed. Remember, this, this and that? I submitted my application to compete less than 30 seconds later.

Alas, I wasn't chosen.

I actually have no idea why. I think I would have been perfect for the competition. Tall. Sort of funny. Obsessed with TopChef. Loyal lunchmeat user. I was already brainstorming the ingredients I would bring with me from Virginia for the competition. I'm a little sore about it still.

As Rachel and I walked around the main hall, I saw Padma. She is more beautiful in real life than she is on TV. I wouldn't shut up about seeing her. We eventually found her again judging the Hillshire Farms contest up in the exhibition hall.

We lurked around the edges while I muttered about how it should have been me. Someone was putting chocolate syrup on their sandwich meat. Not okay, Top Chef contestants, not okay.

This is the closest I got to a photo with Padma - there she is in the background. She was too busy judging. And I get all nervous around famous people who aren't dressed up in silly costumes.

Rachel and I had a great time at BlogHer, and we even learned a few things about blogging. Probably the best part about the whole experience was meeting other bloggers. I met so many women that I am excited to know on the internet.

We also got quite a bit of free stuff - you know, SWAG (stuff we all get). We carried it all around and to Brooklyn and now home to Virginia. It was totally worth it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BlogHer: Yeah It's Happening.

Rachel and I are on a BUS headed to NYC. I have no idea what she is writing about this shared experience, but I know she is posting about it over on her blog. We've been hinting about it all week, but it is finally here - BlogHer 2010! Rachel and I are headed to a new level of awesomeness only achieved by attending a conference for women bloggers.

Why yes, I do think you are jealous. Rightfully so.

We got up this morning, put our last things in the bags and headed to the Metro. Sol dropped us off with our two bags.

Let's stop and ponder this for a moment. I am NOT a light traveler, even with all my practice over the past year. Andrea reminded me that when I went to visit last spring, my suitcase resembled a body bag because it was so big, and I was only there two nights. (In my defense, I really did think I would read all six books on the trip up and back.)

So these two bags are an accomplishment. Everything to keep us fresh and beautiful is in the small Vera. Two laptops and assorted chargers are in the cool Exxon Mobile backpack. It's happened - I'm officially a light packer, just in time to stop traveling.

The conference starts tomorrow, so we're going to be NYC tourists for a while today. We're in New Jersey as I write this, thanks to free WiFi on the bus. Rach & I debated for months about driving vs. taking the bus, and we only decided to take the bus on Monday. It is nice to not have to drive up and down I-95 this weekend before I head for Indy and Kansas next week.

Rachel and I don't always make new friends well. We're like the little kids at preschool who have each other and a cool toy (the internet), so they don't need anybody else. Cross your fingers that people like us. We're going to wear matching outfits (packed totally by accident), so that will probably help.

Or fail miserably.

BlogHer or bust.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reading Market.

Before the wedding, I spent some time wandering Reading (pronounced RED-ing) Terminal. It was a Philadelphia treasure with row after row of shops selling flowers, coffee, baked goods, and every type of prepared food.

I had to chose carefully what snacks I wanted - there were a lot of delicious options.

I picked baklava and a twisted pretzel. My friend Jill's dad wanted to put the pretzels in the welcome bags for out-of-town guests. They're a Philly classic too.

Only a couple of stalls had fresh produce, but they had lots of it.

I passed up any fudge from the shop, but I couldn't skip the sign. There were almost a dozen stalls run by Amish families, everything from candy and baked goods to pickled beets and beef jerky. It was a good thing I was there on Saturday because they are only there Wednesday through Saturday. It was a little piece of Lancaster right there in downtown Philadelphia.

There was plenty more around Philly that I want and need to see as a government teacher. Mom and I are planning on spending two nights in Philadelphia in October. My ONLY fall travel besides London. I promise - you can hold me to it.