Thursday, December 29, 2011

What an Honor.

FedEx delivered a sweet little package last week. I just happened to be home and was excited to see an unexpected gift arriving from Jennie in Chicago. As I tore open the package, I had a feeling I knew what Jennie was going to ask. As you can guess, she wanted to know if I would be her maid of honor! I totally cried. And then called her to say yes!

Jennie and I have been best friends since late middle school. Even though we haven't lived in the same city since 2001, we've stayed very close. In fact, if you search for "Jennie" on this blog, you will see her appear in many posts as we have traveled and stayed friends across the miles. I think she and Joe are the best, and I'm super HONORED to stand up with them next December when they say "I do." It will be a pretty fun year as we get ready for their Chicago wedding - one year from today.

I'm also Abbey's maid of honor in June, so this is going to be a fantastic year of planning and celebrating! What an honor to be a part of these big days with great friends.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Open House and Notes on Family.

I had a little party to see how many people I could put in my little house. It was an "open house" but thankfully most people came and stayed forever. I would rather have my house filled with friends than hang out by myself at Christmastime.

We had some long distance visitors, and it was good to be with Emily & Ryan, Vicki, Daniel and baby Gwen. We missed Rachel and Sol.

It was pretty perfect (minus a few friends that couldn't come). I made a few new dishes and learned a lesson about beer and wine. My friends drink beer. And plenty of it. Mom made a run during the party for more beer, and we drank almost all of that as well.

Important note about my mom at the party. She was there the whole time because she knows all of my friends, their significant others, and especially their babies. She helped take the apps out of the oven, made sure everyone had plenty to drink and kept the party going. Mom hanging around is normal and a huge part of why Kansas City is home. My friends mail her Christmas cards, and she sends ones back. Luhrs Ladies cards all around the country. I'm extremely grateful to have her around to be a part of my life, to know my friends and always be so supportive.

But I also recognize that this a natural gift she inherited. Her parents, my Kansas grandparents, were the same way. If you've ever met them, you're a friend. People always ask how my grandparents are because they were a part of the party for many years too. If you've met my grandpa, at a football game or on the farm, you don't forget it. I have friends who still have the K-State gloves he gave out every year. My grandma is the one with the details, who remembers where people are from and why they matter. This was what was modeled - know your children, know their friends, if someone invites you somewhere, GO.

Feeling blessed as ever. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Deck the Halls.

It's day two of winter break. Hurray for winter breaks! It feels like I've been on the move pretty constantly since July 19th when I returned to Kansas City, and I am looking forward to the next 10 or so days of baking, working out, and large quantities of family and friend time. I have two parties I want to list in the esty shop and a pile of books I'd like to finish before the end of 2012, and hopefully will be doing very little that is "blog worthy."

Enjoy the holiday video filmed at one of the high schools in the district. Some of the students featured in the video are my former students from Northwest! I paused it a few times to look for them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ornament Exchanges.

We had our annual ornament exchange for book club this year. It is one of our favorite traditions and some of my favorite ornaments come from the annual event (I mailed in my participation the two years I lived in Virginia!).

For the first time, I made my ornament. With some very nice wool felt and scraps from other projects, I pieced together these little partridges. The pattern came from Retro Mama, and I bought the wool felt from her etsy shop. She even helped me match the wool to the fabric I already had, which was great because I'm obsessed with it and loved finding a new use for it. Each of the four birds I made had different felt bodies and accessories, and the embroidery floss, buttons, ric rac and needles all came from Barbara's House, my favorite sewing store. Besides the wool, I also had to buy the boa cord which makes the plume at the top but it was easy to find at Wal-Mart.

I have a ton of boa cord left, and I'm happy to share. Let me know, and I'll mail you some pieces of it.

The sewing got better with each bird. The real trick is that it is tough to stuff the little bird and not have the blanket stiches pull and get funky, but I was able to make it mostly work.

I also went to an ornament exchange for my Junior League new member group and brought a partridge. It was a small group that night with only five of us, so I was pretty nervous that people would be disappointed with a homemade gift. Especially because the other gifts on the table were clearly from Nordstom, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. Awesome-sauce. But they were impressed, and my mom said she used to take homemade gifts to JL exchanges all the time with good results so I felt better.

The birds have all found a home - Abbey took home the ornament from book club, one went to Junior League, one to my secret Santa at school and one to Mom, owner of the best sewing store in town.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Section 118.

This weekend I went to two sporting events, and in a strange coincidence, I sat in Section 118 at both games. First up: K-State v. Alabama in the "Wildcat Classic" at the Sprint Center. Our seats were great. Actually, we were closer than it looks like in this photo! I love watching Frank in person. When he gets mad (and he was during the first half), you can hear his shoes stomping on the court. We had a lot to cheer about as K-State came back and kept the lead in the second half over Alabama.

I've got one trip planned to Manhattan with the family in February but want to watch them play more. It was so much fun to see them play in person, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season.

About twelve hours later, it was time for another game - the Chiefs and the Packers. Here's Lauren and I before the game - we weren't very optimistic at this point. We expected that we would see Jordy Nelson catch a few passes and check out how well Kyle Orton would play for the Chiefs. 

We sat in the lower level in section 118 (again!). Our seats were awesome, right at the 35-yard-line, and we had perfect weather for a December game. Another bonus: the Chiefs decided to play some football instead of letting the Packers continue their total domination. Kyle Orton decided to get some stuff done, and the Chiefs looked pretty great the whole game. They should have won by more. On TV they were calling it the upset of the season!

Every time something awesome happened, I looked at Lauren in shock. And then we cheered a lot. Our section stood and yelled the whole game! There were a ton of Packers fans there, but the Chiefs fans were loud, and it was a great reminder of why Arrowhead is so awesome. And "the loudest stadium in the NFL."

My church had it's first Sunday in our new building this weekend, so I squeezed in a trip to church between the two games. It was a really crazy 24 hours with two games and church, plus driving all over Kansas City. I was exhausted by the end of it - thankfully all my teams won and it is only two days till Christmas break!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gram & Dun.

If you are wanting to check out the Plaza lights, and you want to eat on the Plaza too, please go to Gram & Dun. It's local owned by the same people as Urban Table and BRGR, and this may be my favorite of the places. I think they might be Nato's neighbors, so if she leaves a comment telling about how awesome all of these places are, ignore her. She's biased. And correct.

Anyways, back to Gram & Dun. We were there for lunch after church, and it wasn't too crowded. We were able to take our time - and some photos! Our waiter even thought it was kind of cool. They have a great cocktail menu that I'd really like to try, but it was the right time of day for diet coke. When is it not?

I had a "sangria salad" and we split the "not-so-ordinary potato chips" for our starters. My beer can chicken sandwich was fantastic, and also enough food for two meals. I substituted to get the steak fries. Potato number two!

The real star in the sandwich department was the beef, sausage, pork and coleslaw sandwich. All three meets were perfectly prepared and can make KC barbeque fanatics proud. And this sandwich had a THIRD different kind of potatoes. Chips!

There aren't a lot of locally owned options on the Plaza, so let's try to keep the ones that are around.  It's only a few minutes away my house, and with the lights on right now, I'm always up for a trip. I'll even put up with the parking! What other locally owned restaurants do you like on the Plaza? Let's go, okay? I'll even go back to Gram & Dun if you insist.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookies & Pinterest.

Some of the most common things that I hear about Pinterest include:
  • I pin it and never do it.
  • I lost several hours of my life sucked into the vortex of Pinterest. And I'm probably never going to do it.
I've got this little board on Pinterest I like to call "Just Bake It." And my problem is not that I don't follow through with the projects. It is that I DO keep baking from this category and pounds of butter are flying out of my fridge and into various recipes. Thankfully it's Christmas and I can give the cookies away pretty easily.

Most of the time I start with a recipe I've made before that my friends like, one from pinterest or a random google search that results in a good recipe with good reviews. I usually only do the googling with specific ingredients I want to use. Dried cherries for example. Result: Giada's Dried Cherry & Almond Cookies. They were great but I want to try them with apricots and pine nuts.

The two cookies above were saved on my pinterest board for a little while before I made them. And I'm sort of obsessed with the homemade oatmeal creme pies. I ate a homemade one once at Ted's Bulletin in DC and have been craving them ever since. They got great reviews here around town, and while there are a couple of weird things in the recipe, they are super easy to make!

The dark chocolate and peanut butter cookies have also been a success. I baked them twice this fall and am glad to have a quick chocolate and peanut butter cookie in rotation. That Bakerella. She really knows her stuff.

Bake something. Just do it. I heard on the radio that the holidays give us an inexplicable need to use butter. I wish it wasn't so true.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

James' Puppy Party.

Remember when I lived in Virginia and Rachel and I planned parties all the time? Yeah. That was really fun stuff. Don't worry though, we still plan parties. In fact, check us out on etsy! <--Shameless plug!

Kate wanted to have a puppy party for James' first birthday party! He loves a little stuffed puppy and it was a perfect fit with a touch of red right before Christmas. Since the baby shower I designed for Kate still is my best seller, I was happy to oblige with some new designs just for Kate & Baby James. They aren't in the shop yet, but they will be over Christmas break.

There will even be a custom melamine plate that goes with all the designs! I have it in chocolate brown and red for little boys, and I'll be making a chocolate and PINK option for little girls too!

Kate and Adam throw great parties at their house, and it was a fun way to celebrate James and the start of the holiday season. The guests got to take home bags of puppy chow, (get it?) and I even got to hold the birthday boy for a little bit. A true honor because he's walking now with lots of places to go! I kind of love him a lot and was thrilled to help with his sweet little first birthday party.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spencer, Age 6.

Little brother, you are a study in contradictions.

You look like a big kid, keeping up with the big boys for many hours every day.
But sometimes you are really tired and need to take a nap at Hard Rock.

You've recently switched to a dedication to all things vanilla, including your birthday cake,
but I've seen you drink tons of hot chocolate.

The chocolate fudge sauce on top of the whipped cream on top of the hot chocolate made you cry,
and yet in this picture you've got chocolate crumbs by your lips.

You've got Dad's giveway characteristics,
but your occasional bouts of drama remind us of other Luhrs besides Dad.  Not naming names.

Tracy said you were nervous about losing those front two teeth
but super willing to show how a cute first-grade girl how they wiggle.

You didn't want to color me a picture when I was visiting,
but last week on the phone you were sure to tell me you loved me.

Lucky us to know you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ambrosia Macaroons.

I made five types of cookies this week, plus cracker jacks (again!) They were all very different types for cookie exchanges and friends, but I didn't have to buy anything besides butter, eggs and brown sugar. This tells you about my baking cabinet. It was overflowing with cookie supplies. These ambrosia macaroons happened because I was determined to use a bag of coconut and a recipe I'd been waiting to use since 2008.

Don't be fooled. If you don't like coconut, you won't like these. If you like coconut, you will LOVE these. Kate bit into one on Tuesday night and proclaimed it tasted like it was from a bakery. They were super easy to make and held up well throughout the week. Don't refrigerate or freeze these cookies, that's against the rules in the macaroon club.

These cookies are a little different from macaroons I have made before. I used the whole egg so they are a little yellower than macaroons with only egg whites. And the orange zest is super helpful to add a new twist. I love ambrosia salad, which was the draw when I tore this recipe out of Bon Appetit.

Ambrosia Macaroons
adapted for one bag of coconut from Bon Appetit, December 2008

1/4 cup (half of a stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
a dash of salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange peel (I scraped about half of an orange - more would have been fine!)
1 egg
1 egg white
1 14-oz bag sweetened flaked coconut
3-4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used semisweet disks from Trader Joe's for melting and dipping!)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat butter in bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sugar and salt, beat until blended. Beat in the orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut.

I chilled it for about twenty minutes before using my cookie scoop. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing about 2 inches apart. They won't spread but I had one or two kind of unstick and fall apart. I ate them before anyone could see that.

Bake macaroons until golden on bottom and browned in spots, about 25 minutes in my oven.

When they are cool, use a fork and drizzle melted chocolate over macaroons. It was way fun to swirl chocolate around the pan and had a dramatic effect on the finished deliciousness.

P.S. The Christmas fabric in the picture above is a tea apron from my great grandma Della. Love it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lukas Oil.

Remember when I used to be mildly obsessed with Peyton Manning? It was a big part of my classroom - we had a Peyton Manning corner - and I talked about how he was my boyfriend regularly with my students. This year hasn't been a good year for "us." Peyton hasn't taken a single snap, and he didn't make any new commercials.

But that didn't stop me from wanting to see Lukas Oil where he has played before and could play again. Or the future home of Andrew Luck. However you want to look at it.

Carmel High School, the high school closest to my dad's place, played in the state championship on Saturday night over Thanksgiving break. We all put on some royal blue and gold and headed downtown to see the game at Lukas Oil. We even ate at Hard Rock Cafe before the game.

Here's a fun fact: Spencer was so tired he slept through the entire meal at Hard Rock. I'm not sure the last time you were at a Hard Rock Cafe. They are not quiet. Also, they don't show football games on their tvs. They show music videos. Un-American.

Little brothers were complete with face paint even for the game. I have never seen Blake sustain excitement for as long as he did during the game. Screaming and yelling pretty much the entire first half.

I don't have a picture of Cooper, but if I did you can bet he wouldn't be smiling even though he was excited to go and spent the night running around with other middle schoolers. I wish you could see his sneakers. They were covered in blue and yellow duct tape. I think he may have needed to cut his feet out of them at the end of the night.

Carmel won the state championship with a complete shutout of the other team. We had a good time, ate some cotton candy, and now I can say I've been to Lukas Oil. Also, I swear Spencer had a good time too. He just wasn't excited about the photo opp in downtown Indy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Pajamas.

My stepmom's mother, Bonnie, does a sweet thing every year and buys all the grandkids new pajamas for Christmas. "Santa" comes with his big bag of presents and delivers them to the kiddos on Thanksgiving night. I was super glad to be included in the mix this year and am now the proud owner of new flannel pajamas. Perfect for a 28-year-old who pays her own heating bills and keeps it cool at night.

Before we continue, I hope you properly appreciated the nutsiness (new word!) that is my family in this big group picture. Spencer is missing his two front teeth. Mitch is packing a Santa belly inside that Ohio State sweatshirt. And Cooper the Elf kills me too. Even if Coop outgrows this not smiling stage, I think I will forever remember him this way.

Blake and Spencer's pajamas were adorable. Blake put his on first and Spencer couldn't bear to be left out. You can see the Luhrs dimples in these photos. Or a junior version of my dad.

The rest of the photos I just added for your enjoyment. There is just so little else I can say besides you're welcome!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuff, T-U-F-F.

I took a few photos for friends' Christmas cards this year. I don't think this one made the cut for Tara and Tom, but their dog Tuff is a very handsome hound. It was a very cold November afternoon, and poor Tuff was shaking even with his little coat. He's so dapper! I love to talk to Tuff and spell out his ironic little name. T-U-F-F, I'll say. He responds with a tail wag of course.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's That? A New Blog?

Friends, it's no joke that I love my friends. And I especially love when they blog about their far away lives. Add it to your blogroll because you'll be able to follow along with the adventures of the Nibargers. You know I will.

Check it out friends...

The Nibargers Wide Wide World

And in case Vicki is seeing this here before she sees it on Rachel's blog, SURPRISE! Happy Anniversary from your husband. Now write stuff. Serbia is a looooooooong ways away and Rachel designed you this sweet blog!

A Super Sweet 16 for Gabby.

Happy super sweet 16 to my stepsister Gabby. We had plenty of quality time together over Thanksgiving, united as two sisters against four brothers. I was happy to provide back-up and am amazed that Gabby does it all the time. Those boys are a lot of work! Gabby has grown into an awesome 16-year-old who does extremely well at school, just landed a role in the small cast of the high school play and will see the Muppets with me (the only one in Indy who would!). I know teenagers people, and Gabby is a good one.

Lest you worry about her on the road, don't. In Indiana, you don't actually drive on your own until 16 and a HALF. So Gabby will keep logging her practice miles, driving the minivan with "student driver" magnets on the outside. This makes me giggle...

Happy birthday Gabby!