Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Three Books of November.

Before we get to the books, an exciting announcement related to everyone's favorite bumble bee shower. Yesterday afternoon it was featured on Amy Atlas' blog, submitted by someone who purchased the items from the etsy shop. Totally a surprise to Rachel and me, but a really awesome surprise. If you don't know who Amy Atlas is, that's okay, but you should. Here's her bio. Sure it's not my party, but it is my design, and Amy links back to the store. That's pretty close to the big time for me. I'll take it.

Now for the books. It's a good thing we had Thanksgiving break or I might have only finished The Night Circus. I squeezed in two more books over the break!

The Night Circus was my book club pick. I was a little confused after the vote for the book, but we ended up glad we had read this book. It is a total fantasy - magic and mystery surround the circus at the turn of the last century mostly in Europe and New York. I liked it because it was so totally different than anything else I've read this year. I tried to research fair/circus food so we could do it up with a theme, but ended up with Giada's winter minestrone (super yummy) and homemade cracker jacks. I can not get enough of that popcorn. I'd recommend the book if you like fantasy books. It's got a love story tucked in there too, but the mystery and magic is where the best parts of the book are.

The Paris Wife tells the story of Hemingway's first wife, Cat, and their years in Paris. It totally IS a love story. It reminded me of Loving Frank, about Frank Lloyd Wright. You can see on the cover that the author of Loving Frank liked The Paris Wife. Obviously. I read this really quickly - probably in about two days - and really enjoyed it. I saw Midnight in Paris last summer and am interested in the lives of those crazy artists and writers in Paris in the 1920s. Occasionally it felt a little trite and imagined, but for the most part I really did like it. I can't make myself say that I loved it, but I did really really like it.

Shine is the third book I've read that was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. It's just barely for young people as the story is about teenage students/drop outs in Appalachia that are wound up in meth, a very very violent hate crime and a mystery. It was really difficult to read, but it might be my favorite of the three books. Three days later, I can't stop thinking about the characters, the plot and the ending which OH WHEE took my breath away. I finished it flying home from Indiana and my hands were sweating as I nervously finished the book. I don't know anything about Winter's Bone, set in the Ozarks, but I wonder if this could be similar in some ways. The book is probably the most coarse and graphic young people's book that I've read in a while, but it seems to be real life.

Up next: The Buddhas in the Attic, Christmas Train and a couple other things I've downloaded to the Kindle but not started yet. Maybe Cutting for Stone? I hear really good things about that book too!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Genessee Royale Bistro, for Brunch.

Dad and Grandma landed in Kansas City at the downtown airport, and Lauren, Mark and I picked them up for a pre-holiday brunch last Wednesday morning. Everyone was skeptical when I picked Genessee Royale Bistro for our meal. This is Mark's skeptical face, in fact. They were concerned it wasn't very big, the menu was pretty standard, and the location in the Stockyards was a little bit off the beaten path.

And then we started eating and all their concerns were silenced by the awesomeness. Behold my cornmeal pancakes (with apples and sour cream) and the homemade granola. 

And a very stockyard type of breakfast. The potatoes were incredible. Perfectly done so that the insides were still soft. Biscuits and bacon too. Oh do I love bacon.

My family was all pleased with their choices. My dad was so pleased that he complimented the manager/owner. This rarely happens, folks, so it must be good. 

The place was just adorable and cozy. I hear there can be a long wait at lunch but this could be due to the fact there are only a few tables inside the place. The lunch menu also looked awesome, but I would quickly return for the pancakes. They aren't open on Sunday, which is unfortunate because it is so so close to my church and would be a favorite post-church brunch for me.

I had brunch at Beer Kitchen on Sunday, but there are no photos (remember, camera in Indy). It was also fantastic. Jon said the breakfast sandwich at Beer Kitchen was the best he had ever had, and Dereck said that the french toast is his favorite ever. I also resisted a strong urge to order a burger (I love Beer Kitchen's burgers AND burgers for brunch), and I thought the french toast was also awesome. And it came with bacon too! Surprise!

KC is really doing brunch up right these days.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back from Thanksgiving Break.

I took a break from parts of my life for the past few days, and it was nice. I didn't do the dishes, clean my floors or walk my dog. Or blog. Besides the internetting, my nice family took care of all those details for me, and I took it easy. I read two books, wrote Christmas cards, worked on design projects, watched 37 football games and spent tons of time with my Indiana family. I'm a little tired heading into a full work week, but I know I'll find the rhythm again soon.

When my dad picked me up to take me to Indy last week, the sky was bright and sort of hazy. This is the view of the skyline from the downtown airport. When we landed on Sunday, it was dark and a little more ominous, but in photos the skyline would have looked bolder and more distinct. Imagine it - I left my camera in Indy. Silly me.

I do have a ton of pictures from my visit, a restaurant rave review, and book posts ahead this week. Provided I make it through Monday. Only four Mondays until Christmas break (not that I'm counting).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Need a Christmas Present Idea?

I've got two Christmas present ideas for you today. They happen to be things Rachel and I designed and sell, but they are totally designed and sold with LOVE. The first are the sweet little enclosure cards pictured above and available for sale here on the Etsy shop. I made these for some girlfriends Christmas 2010, and they were so popular I made a new design this year and decided to offer them to more friends and family! $15.00 for a set of ten personalized little cards and Paper Source envelopes in a sweet little bag.

If you're local in KC and you'd like order some, contact me at VLuhrs AT, and I have a special local special (cheaper + no shipping). Or feel free to order through the Etsy shop and I can ship them to you. Use the code SAVE10 to get 10% off your orders on Etsy before November 30.

Rachel's collection of custom design plates keeps growing in the shop as well. Hurry to order soon to ensure Christmas delivery. Probably by November 30th. Using the code SAVE10 to get 10% off,  obviously. She's got plates for kids, Santa's cookies, newlyweds and 28-year-olds who like melamine plates. This one is my current favorite, preferably in G5 and D2.

Rachel and I don't blog to make money. No adds, sponsors or anything, just us. We're adamant about blogging for the memories. (See Rach's post on Martha Stewart as a recent example.) This design business stuff totally comes from the fact that we made some stuff for ourselves and our friends and then other people wanted to buy it too. 

Don't forget to use the code SAVE10 and cross a couple presents off your Christmas list before Thanksgiving. Also, like us on facebook for future sales, coupons and discounts.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Living Room.

I live in a sweet little house with my pretty sweet little dog. I waited and waited to post photos of the living room until it was perfect. It's not exactly perfect, but I totally love how it's shaping up. Especially because so many of the items were bargains, and I never find bargains.

You have to look for bargains to find them. Sometimes I just get distracted by more expensive awesome. The yellow chair fits in that category. But it is so cute and happy and actually comfortable.

Tara says it is better for short people. But I still like it.

It's a little room that bleeds quickly into a small dining room. Here are some details about the things you can see from these photos. The two little white end tables are former pieces of a vanity that someone refinished and sold at the antiques mecca that is in the West Bottoms. Both pieces were $75 total. The drawers are lovely and perfect for dog leashes, mittens and the mail. They're tall like the couch so easy to use too!

I also found the blue table there too but it was sad, gray and overpriced. $45 later and a quick coat of paint, it was a perfect fit for my living room! It is sturdy and the right size for my smallish flatscreen. I don't have a cable box (still going strong) so I didn't need a lot of entertainment type space.

As usual, all the art means something. The framed print by the door was brought to me from Germany by Jennie. The canvas print behind the TV is my favorite shot from Dublin.

I acquired the brown couch, chair and ottoman from my pal Lindsay. They were a great price because I didn't need super new stuff. Despite my best efforts, my dog Belle sits on the couch all day waiting for me to get home. I wish I was kidding. Also, I made sure to take these photos in the morning because the couch looks army green later in the day. Silly couch.

I found these bright pillows at Pottery Barn. I have two blue ones. I could totally justify it because they cost me $12.99 each and that included the pillow. They were outdoor ones but you can't tell. Plus, if I lay on the couch with wet hair, the pillow takes care of the moisture. I'm such a smart shopper.

The lamp needs an updated lampshade probably, but it did get some oil-rubbed-bronze love, a la Young House Love. I have another one that I want to do too. Thanks Mom for the free lamps.

Still on the list: more art for the walls and more pillows. Bright, happy patterned pillows.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankful Thursday.

Today I'm thankful for a lot of things. I was driving to work and just feeling really thankful. Not even because Thanksgiving is next week but because I have a lot to be thankful for each day. Here's a few of those special things:
  • I have a garage and didn't have to scrape my car this morning.
  • My little brother is SIX today (these photos are two years old and still some of my favorites!). I'm thankful he is dramatic and tall. That's how I know we're related. Oh yeah, we look alike too.
  • He wanted Papa John's delivered for his birthday dinner. This cracks me right up.
  • People read this blog.
  • My mom. She made me sloppy joes last night, a special treat because she makes it with a little of this and a little of that and it can't be replicated. Then we went "shopping" in her house. I will be able to make some Christmas crafts almost entirely without going to the store. That's awesome.
  • I'm grateful to have a job, and even better, one that I look forward to each morning.
  • For Thanksgiving break. Even though last year at this time I was packing for Europe, I'm really looking forward to a stateside Thanksgiving.
  • I get to see the Kansas City skyline when I drive to work. It makes me extremely happy.
  • For the good people that fill my life. There are lots of them, and I know I'm happier on the days where we get to talk and share life together.
Happy week until Thanksgiving, friends. Hope you have plenty to be thankful for today too!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bluestem Bistro Brunch.

It seems like Bluestem Bistro has been everywhere in the news lately. Melinda suggested this restaurant because she heard about it on NPR, and their new cookbook was featured in the FYI section of the paper recently. A group of us met the morning after the latest Anderson wedding, and it was pretty close to perfect.

The 2007 New York Times review of the restaurant had the title, "Far from the big city and not missing them." It was an appropriate description for our group and this meal. A year ago, we were getting ready for a trip to Dublin and London together. Kenneth and Melinda moved home from LA, and I returned from the east coast where I went to brunch and blogged about food much more frequently.

And now we're home. Places like Bluestem are perfect for "recovering east/westcoasters." It's like the best of both worlds with great food and company in my hometown. There are no excuses about Midwestern life - it really is as good as we make it out to be.

This was the special. Three of us ordered the homemade biscuit with eggs, bacon, cheese, homefries and salad. And I definitely had leftovers and ate them. We all started us out with little bowls of granola and blueberry yogurt. Dereck had already cut up his french toast before I could snap a photo. Erica had the smoked salmon plate, and it was also beautiful. But I really loved the special.

I made my sister shoot into the sun with imperfect results. She did warn me. I was so happy and so very full, both from brunch and being home in the Midwest, that I didn't even worry about the  overexposure. It's like a post-brunch happiness haze.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Favorite Andersons, Part II.

When Erica married Jon in 2008 and became an Anderson, I walked around the whole weekend talking about "my favorite Andersons." Erica is totally my favorite Anderson. But then I would magnanimously declare one brother or another my second favorite Anderson. As if any of them really cared. I thought it was hilarious and named all the wedding photos on facebook, "My Favorite Andersons."

Two weekends ago we celebrated the addition of another Anderson to the family when Logan married Mark. It was a little bit like seeing a little brother get married because I've known Mark since he was a freshman rooming with Kenneth at the DU house. The same age as my little sister, we were super stoked to get to attend the beautiful party here in the neighborhood. The wedding was at Village and the reception was at Indian Hills Country Club.

The reception was during the same time as the Oklahoma State v. K-State game, so I liked to thank Mark for having such a nice watch party for us. Open bar and the K-State game = awesome. We were huddled around the tv for a large chunk of the early evening as we watched a shoot out of a game. At time-outs, we'd dance a song or two, and then end up back at the tv. It was a great game, even if the final seconds didn't go the way we wanted them too. After the game we danced, danced, danced till the band quit just after midnight.

I didn't do a great job taking photos except for with my favorite sister and my favorite Anderson, who was a bridesmaid in the wedding. There were many of our favorite K-State friends at the party, and we really had a lovely time. Thanks Mark and Logan for having us - hope Hawaii is treating you well!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby Everett, Again.

Do you need some sweet baby photos on a Friday morning? Okay. I'll help you out. Here are some more photos of Baby Everett. He came over to my mom's house a couple weeks ago, and Rachel and I got to practice our skills.

One where he was awake and then he got plain tuckered out and had to take a snooze.

And while the close-up photos are usually everyone's favorites, I also love this not-as-great shot of how big he is. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Game We'd ALMOST Like to Forget.

We would totally like to forget everything that happened inside Bill Synder Family Stadium that day. But outside the stadium, we had just the best time and want to remember So many friends and lovely people at the tailgate that day, it more than compensated for the game shenanigans. We started planning a big tailgate as soon as we knew that little Finn and his family would be joining us.

Speaking of family, how much do we look like sisters in this photo? And how much do the boys look like brothers? Poor Braden had a cute K-State outfit on before he had an accident. Oh baby.

There were a lot of Alpha Chis present at the tailgate, just like the old days! It's been ten years since we joined Alpha Chi, and the number of babies in this group is now FOUR! We took a photo with all the Alpha Chis and the babies but it's not nearly as cute as this one. Only Dinah made it into this photo. (If you want to see it with Alison wearing purple, check out Rachel's photoshopped version.)

There were lots of babies and it wasn't too difficult to watch them with the cars. But it did take lots of eyes and hands! We also had some of Mom's and Lauren's sorority sisters come by too. We had barbeque and lots of yummy sides to go with it.

This little boy's dad made him his Wildcat hat. Photo op! This is about the happiest we got. Once we got inside the stadium things went downhill. If only we had seen the Oklahoma State game and not the Oklahoma game!

As Mom said to Sol at the end of the day, let us know when you want to do it again next year. It was a fabulous tailgate with so many dear friends.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Friday Night in Aggieville.

Almost two weeks ago, Mom, Lauren and I went to Manhattan for Homecoming! We arrived during the parade and watched a little bit before catching up with some of our SAB friends. It was a beautiful night in the Ville - a bit cold but pretty as we watched the floats come through Aggieville. Not much has changed about Homecoming from our days of floats, Pant the Chant and sorority/fraternity pairings.

We met up with one of Mom's sorority sisters and had dinner at Kite's. I know what you're thinking. WHY would you eat at Kite's when So Long Saloon is directly across the street? The wait was like two hours. And there is only so long you can wait on a Friday night when you are really hungry.

But there was tons going on at Kite's, so it ended up being the right choice. Members of the band came in to play, complete with Darth Vadar and a lightsaber! ESPN Road Trip was filming a story about a really large burger. I restrained from jumping in the background of their shots.

Off and on over the years, donuts have been a late night staple for K-State college kids. Daylight Donuts would open at 1 am when Lauren was in college, and my mom's generation loves to talk about Vern's donuts in the basement of his house. Varsity Donuts is newest on the scene and a super creative twist on the late night donut experience.

Or the 9:30 pm donut experience. We were really tired and didn't stay out very late in Aggieville on Friday night. As for the donuts, the chocolate coconut was not so awesome. We really liked the apple and pumpkin donuts way better.

Varsity Donuts is in the old Palace building. I've loved pretty much everything in this space since before I started at K-State in 2001. Donuts are always fine with me because, as the sign on the door says, "Donuts make people happy."

P.S. The first two shots in this blog post were shot in manual and came out of the camera looking like this. Things are getting better all the time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Four Books of October.

A friend recently told me that she couldn't get down with my young adult lit recommendations that fill our collective kindle. To be fair, the ones she tried were from The Summer I Turned Pretty Series. They were pretty Judy Blume-ish and definitely teenage chick lit. But two of the books this month translate beyond the teen years in totally not Twilight ways. This is just good literature, my friends, and I loved loved both of the books. 

Okay for Now takes a smaller character from The Wednesday Wars, which I haven't read, and gives him his whole book. I loved this book. I was walking with Tara when I was about forty percent in and just begging her to read it so I would have someone to talk about the book with me. I cried many times reading this book, but it is totally worth reading. And finishing. The author's style is different, and he sounds like a middle school boy telling you the story because occasionally he will include or imply a heart-wrenching detail in a perfectly teenage way. I was 90% satisfied with the ending, but I think that the rest of the story is so over the top redeeming it is a worthy read for teenagers and adults. 

Inside Out & Back Again is written in verse so it takes less than a couple hours to read. Right after the fall of Saigon, the little girl and her family leave Vietnam and emigrate to the United States. I've got a thing for immigration stories, as you know. She's in elementary school, so this would be a tougher reader for middle school students to relate to because they don't like baby books. The material is middle level appropriate, it's just hard when the protagonist is young. It's autobiographical, and the story is also a great depiction of the uphill battle to learn English for many kids. Both of these first two books are finalists for the National Book Award, young adult category. My vote: Okay for Now.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian did win the National Book Award for YA Adult Literature in 2007 and totally deserved it. I think you should read Okay for Now. I insist you read Absolutely True Diary. It's not a middle school book because there are far too many things parents would complain about with middle school students. It is probably an ideal freshman read. The protagonist is a high school boy who leaves the reservation to attend school in a nearby small town and there are only two Indians in his school - him and the mascot. Sometimes funny, always creative and occasionally heart breaking, I really loved it. I have it in paperback if you need me to loan it to you.

and speaking of National Book Award finalists, Tiger's Wife made the list. I approve.

Faith was the October book club book and the only not YA book I read in October. What else is new? It was pretty great, and we all appreciated the inside look at the life of a Catholic priest. I also appreciated it because it is a Boston tale, and I thought the story around a child abuse scandal was well developed and revealed. I read it on a trip with my mom to my grandparents' farm and I updated her as we went with what I learned about the story. We had a rich and fascinating discussion around religion at book club and that was maybe the best part about the book. I liked the story, but I also love a good discussion. 

I cried or wanted to at all of these stories. Sorry to be the bearer of sad books this month, but that's what I read. Happy reading!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mortar Board, Backsnacks and Books.

I work with all the Mortar Board chapters in Kansas and Missoui - we call it a section - and I'm advising at UMKC. I missed summer conference this year to celebrate Anne & Ashley, Emily, and start my new job. So I was really worried that the section project wouldn't have a lot of steam because I didn't bond with my presidents.

Instead, Mom and I hosted 68 college seniors from 6 chapters for an afternoon of work at Harvesters on October 23rd. In our fourth year of the section project, we had our largest group yet!

My mom is a huge part of the success of this section project. She hosted the last two years when I lived in Virginia. She packs up the coolers full of water and diet coke, makes treats and brings snacks for the students before and after they work.

Together we packed over 1400 backsnacks, nutritious food for students to take home for the weekend. The longest time for many children is between school lunch on Friday afternoon and school breakfast on Monday morning, and this helps fill the gap.

It is the kind of work that you can see making a difference really quickly. We worked in long assembly lines and it's a fun way to work together with students from other chapters. I have special love for the K-State kids (below) and my UMKC kids. MMBL - much Mortar Board love.

I love to brag about the college seniors and the work they do. If you feel inspired by their dedication to service, support the Virtual Book Drive at Mortar Board. For every $2 you donate, a Mortar Board chapter gives a book to a child in need. Awesome impact for not a lot of cash. $20 = 10 books! (Specify UMKC or K-State as the chapter. Mmkay? Thanks!)

And if you want to give money to backsnacks, check out this information at Harvesters. Harvesters needs to buy all the food in backsnacks so that they have maximum nutrition and are kid friendly. So they'll be greatful for your support too.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Back from the Rain.

(from Sporting KC)

My life came and gobbled me up for the past week, and I'm just again finding my way out. Rachel, Sol and the boys were here from Wednesday through Tuesday and it was FANTASTIC! No school on Monday, a district training on Tuesday and again tomorrow, and I've had only two very brief days in my school this week. My school that I love, by the by.

Tuesday night was all about the Mo-Bo, and I scrambled to make three pans of peanut butter Rice Krispies treats for the Mortar Board bake sale at UMKC. Not technically "baking" but hopefully a big hit. I'm loving serving as an advisor, and I was glad to help with their bake sale for First Book. Also on Tuesday night, Erica, Jon and I had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. If you had the advertisement, twenty percent of the bill went to Mortar Board. I saw a few of the seniors while we were there too.

Last night we went to Sporting KC's playoff game. It was cold, wet and fun. I don't think I've been that wet and cold at the same time since the trip to Ireland last year. We stood in the rain for several hours, saw Sporting KC score two goals and win! I did not have enough layers on, but I can finally feel my toes again this morning. 

If there was ever a time to own a pair of Hunter Boots like the Queen, last night was it. Yes, I can't let this go. I KNOW you have to buy fancy fleece socks to wear inside of them. I KNOW that I won't use them very often. But I do think a good pair of rain boots would come in handy enough times a year to justify the Hunter price. They would be good for years to come. If only I could pick a color...
And I can't find any photos, but I'm pretty sure that Kate Middleton probably also has a pair.