Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Home Office.

I have an office in my house, right in the back of the house with good morning light. I think that is one of the best things about my little house. For the first time since high school, I don't sleep in the same room as any screens. My ipad and computer sleep (and recharge) in the office. My only tv is in the living room. I use a regular old alarm clock so even my phone isn't by my bed.

Having my computer in another room makes me feel exceptionally grown up and less like I'm living in a dorm where I eat, sleep, compute all in the same room. I love this little office. My crafting supplies are handy, and my big work desk from Ikea allows me to keep several projects organized at one time. I have room to be creative and productive.

This room is actually very Ikea-ed - the trestle desk, the Expedit bookshelf and even all the white boxes and little jars that cover the top. The furniture I moved home unassembled, and it was lovingly built by Erica's husband Jon and my mom and me. Just kidding. There was little love. Sometimes Ikea furniture is a pain.

Rachel and I were originally obsessed with buying the little jars to fill them with candy and snacks for parties. But now they're filled with crafting supplies - extra blades, thread, lollipop sticks, paint brushes, ribbon. And my button collection. Because everyone has a button collection, right? (Please don't correct me if I'm wrong.)

I found the rug on sale by Surya on a One Kings Lane sale, and it was delivered to Jon and Erica's before I moved home. That's how sure I was that I wanted it for this little room. Belle is often laying on it, chewing on a bone or her squirrel. She could not be coerced into a photo shoot.

The art on the walls is a mismatch of Kansas and Virginia/DC, just the way I like it. After a while I was less concerned about what "matched" and put pieces up that mattered. Like my favorite Curly Girl Print.

And even though I have a new square bookshelf, I still have all the books arranged by color. You know you want to too so just do it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy Kansas Day!

I made sugar cookies for Kansas Day. File this one under "totally normal usages of time." I'm slightly obsessed with making sugar cookies. I decided to teach myself how to make royal icing and am slowly getting better. Tara told me recently that according to Outliers it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, so I've got a little ways to go.

I added a bunch of sugar cookie blogs to my google reader, and the sunflower inspiration came from Sweet Sugar Belle. If you look at hers, you will be a little less impressed with mine. Also, you might lose like twelve hours of your life looking at her cookies. I warned you.

Still practicing and problem solving with the cookies around here (maybe a little obsessively). I have a cookie recipe I really like, but I'm still perfecting the timing of the whole process. And the consistency of frosting. Thankfully Valentine's Day is coming up, and that's a good excuse to try again!

And happy birthday Kansas!

Friday, January 27, 2012

On the Road.

Sometimes I find myself comparing life in Virginia to life in Kansas. Surprisingly, I spend about the same amount of time in the car. The difference is the mileage. In Virginia, everywhere we wanted to go was less than fifteen miles away. Pinkberry, church, work and even the White House. But with horrible traffic, a twelve mile trip could easily take forty-five minutes.

Since I moved home, I feel like I live in my car some days. The gyms I like to go to are both farther away. Work is a bit of a commute, over twenty-five miles round trip each day. I take the highway to work, church and to see my mom. The miles add up quickly even though the time in the car is about the same. I do not miss the traffic one.tiny.bit and I do some of my best thinking in the car these days.

To my mother's great delight, I spend less time on the phone in the car. That's precious NPR time. If I hurry and leave work on time, I can usually catch a good chunk of Fresh Air. And undoubtedly I've missed some big news event during my eight hours asleep or at work, so I need NPR in the morning and in the afternoon as well to catch me up.

When I first moved into the new little house, I was obsessed with Top 40 and country. Soon I was really tired of it - the songs repeat a lot - and I listen to a lot less music now when I'm driving or cooking. Mostly NPR all the time.

There is a very special exception in my car: mix CDs my friend Lindsay makes. Let's just say she's the mix master. No one else can put Christian music, Diddy and Wilson Phillips as well as she can. My taste in music and knowledge of different artists is definitely better because of Lindsay.

 Such a sweet soundtrack for the move home and miles around KC...
"I need to get back to the place that I belong" (Diddy)
"Why do we try? When it always ends up fine?" (Matt Wertz)
"Don't you know? Don't you know things can change? Things'll go your way if you hold on for one more day!" (Wilson Phillips)
"And the older that I get the more that I feel wiser. With the love of friends and family - get stronger and it carries me on through." (The Roots)
"And when all's been said and done, It's the things that are given, not won, Are the things that you earned." (Gomez)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dining al Fresco in Florida.

For some reason, I didn't accurately capture the gorgeous weather last weekend in Florida. It was beautiful. Vishal and I made a diet coke run on Saturday morning at 8 am and it was 62 degrees with a very sunny sky! The high each day was in the upper 70s. We ate dinner outside and enjoyed being so near the water. And it was so much nicer than last year when it was only in the upper 50s the whole weekend. The Floridans were freezing!

Vishal tried to suggest we eat at the hotel and play Uno, but then I reminded him my very favorite thing to do is try the local food. And he knows this because he's a loyal blog reader. He did some awesome research, rented a car and off we went to the Rumba's Island Bar and Grill in Clearwater. It was delicious. Caribbean jerk wings, fried green tomatoes and okra and a perfectly grilled grouper sandwich. Best grouper ever.

And of course, Pinkberry for dessert.

It was a good weekend with friends and my favorite national senior honor society, but it's taken me a while to get back in the swing of things this week. After a good night's sleep last night, I'm starting to feel more like myself. And I'm staying put in Kansas until March when I head to DC - YEAH!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Just in Case You Forgot.

I love Pinkberry. In a way that surpasses how much I love cupcakes. Yes, even more than my very favorite Baked & Wired cupcakes that I served at my graduation party and occasionally dream about during meetings. If I had to choose, I would pick Pinkberry first. And then eat it every day. This is actually a pretty healthy bad habit really. Fresh fruit, healthy yogurt and even a little protein!

I spent last weekend in Tampa for the Mortar Board midyear meeting, and I was lucky enough to eat Pinkberry twice. We arrived on Friday, and I was talking to my friend Vishal, who casually mentioned he had Pinkberry for breakfast on Thursday morning. Soon it was all I could think about. We found the Pinkberry in Tampa and plotted our trip there for Saturday. And we went again on Sunday.

And I would like it again right now if someone could make that happen. Why do I live so far from the fresh swirling deliciousness that is Pinkberry? Why?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cotton Bowl Leftovers.

Many people went to the Cotton Bowl to see K-State play Arkansas. Mom and I did not. We stayed home and watched the game and wished we were there, even though K-State didn't pull out a victory. Little sister Lauren got to go, and so did many of our friends.

But as a sweet bonus, one of the teachers I work with offered me her basketball tickets for the day after the Cotton Bowl. K-State was playing Missouri in Manhattan, and we were super excited to get the opportunity to go to Manhattan for the day.

Keep in mind when we left that morning, we weren't optimistic. Missouri was in the top 10. We lost terribly to KU in basketball on Wednesday night. We forgot to catch some passes against Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. It could have been a terrible trifecta of losses for our alma mater.

But K-State showed up on Saturday. We led the entire game and sometimes by as much as twenty points! It was a big upset for us, and it was so fun to watch. Richard came too and enjoyed his first trip to the Octagon of Doom.

It was gray and overcast but the perfect Saturday for us. Basketball games take a lot less energy than football tailgates and trips to the Bill. We rolled into town at 11, had a leisurely lunch at CocoBolos, watched all of the game, and had coffee with Candi in Aggieville afterwards. We were only gone ten hours unlike football game day which often takes at least twelve hours. It made me very glad that we're going back in two weeks to see another game.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Last Week.

Here's a not-so-glamorous look at my backyard. Wish I had some before pictures for you! Here's how it got this way...

On Sunday, January 8th, the sewer line leaving my house stopped working. No prior symptoms or warnings, just a really loud noise and then lots of liquid in my basement. Surprise! The plumber came out and took a look, snaked the line twice, and couldn't get it to drain again. The next day they came with a camera and a prognosis: the two large trees' roots had caused the sewer line to no longer function correctly.

Apparently this is quite common in cute little older houses like mine. So Belle and I moved to Mom's house for a week long slumber party (Lauren was still home too!) and they did some major digging in my backyard. I'm not exactly sure of the fix, but I am 100% sure that I'm thankful I'm a renter. It was very expensive. Prairie Village friends - I'd look into the insurance for this.

The backyard will stay disheveled until spring. Until then I will wipe Belle's paws. And occasionally her whole body because she likes to roll in the dirt now too. In the spring we'll figure out grass and how to grow it without Belle destroying it. And I might even have room for a small garden now! Those two tree type bushes were actually dead before they dug up my backyard, and they were in the only part of the yard with lots of sun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everett at Four Months.

I took some more photos of Everett last week in his nursery. I'm getting better at capturing this little guy but now he moves more so it's trickier! I think he's the sweetest. Smiles are hard to earn - we did get a couple - but he's pretty dapper. And tough. Look at his K-State and Under Armour gear!

Oh yeah, and look at those cheeks. Swoon.

Still working on focusing, lighting, etc. Thankfully Nan keeps letting me practice with Everett. Even though it isn't perfect, I included the photo on the right because Everett looks like a Cabbage Patch doll. A very tough K-State Cabbage Patch doll.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Victoria!

Happy Birthday VICTORIA!

No, it's not my birthday. It's Vicki's birthday. But in her State Department world she goes by Victoria. It is technically her name too. And so she decided she should go by Victoria in all parts of her life. On Gwen's birth announcement. On their Christmas card. Rachel and I like to tease her about "switching" her name but I totally get it. Victoria is practically the best name on earth.

This photo is from our last brunch together in Kansas City before their family of FOUR (including Gwen and puppy Jackson!) moved to Serbia. They're settling in to a new routine in Belgrade and hopefully will be blogging about their new adventures soon. And posting lots of pictures of baby Gwen, who is just a lovely little darling.

I miss them, even though we haven't lived in the same city since July. Serbia is a long ways away. I cried when I said goodbye after this last little brunch at Avenues. But there is hope in sight! In June, Mom and I are planning on traveling to Europe. I've been anxious to get back since my trip in 2010, Mom deserves a trip abroad and Belgrade (and Paris!) are the destinations of choice. Can't wait to see Gwen! And Vicki! And Daniel! And Jackson! Hurray!

Friday, January 13, 2012

New Year's Eve 2012.

For New Year's Eve this year, we went way more low key than when we welcomed 2011. We didn't feel really awesome when we woke up in 2011, but January 1, 2012 I woke up feeling fantastic.

We had dinner reservations at Westside Local, one of my favorite places in KC. (See previous trips here and here.) Dinner was good, and we tried several of their $2 local specialties for appetizers. My steak sandwich was delicious and perfectly tender. It's just great local food, folks. 

2012 is a big year for two of my besties - Tara and Abbey - and I'm so excited for the upcoming changes. Tara and Tom's first baby is due in April so we're busy with baby showers and preparation for the little guy or gal (it's a surprise!). Abbey and Drew are getting married June 9, and she is a super prepared bride. We're just planning all the really fun stuff now, including a bridal shower and rockin' bachelorette party.

Good to ring in the new year with them and good to be here to celebrate all the awesomeness in the coming months. Yeah 2012!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Donuts on Johnson Drive.

I leave really close to three local donut shops. No, that's not why I chose my house. But it is a really sweet bonus. When Lindsay was visiting from Dallas, we planned to eat donuts together. But I surprised her as well with a donut tour and taste test. We both love donuts, so she thought that was an excellent surprise.

First stop: Fluffy Fresh. It's the smallest of the stores, so we needed to go there first. For scientific purposes, we needed to get the same types of donuts at each shop. I didn't want to choose sprinkles and glazed as my sample groups and NOT be able to get them at Fluffy Fresh. It was a good idea to start there (proper planning prevents poor performance) but we were able to get my favorite donuts described above. Lindsay was experimenting with cake donuts frosted with chocolate.

Heading back to the west on Johnson Drive, we stopped at Lamar's next. Look at the sprinkles! Better loaded for sure. Lindsay got a chocolate with peanuts, which affected her results slightly because this one "tasted like a sundae in the mouth" and was harder to compare. 

Our final stop was the Doughnut Factory. Across I-35 and the railroad tracks, this Johnson Drive shop often appears at Friday morning meetings at work. We picked our three donuts, and then we answered a trivia question to win a fourth.

What's the capital of Montana? Duh. Helena. Rachel, Alison and I used to play that game whenever we drove places in the car. We would have preferred to get one of our three for free, but it gave us an excuse to try the red velvet. Which we didn't like.

Red velvet should stick to cake and whoopie pies.

Lindsay sample each of her donuts while I sliced, lined up, photographed and then sampled each of my donuts. While we liked a lot about the Doughnut Factory - trivia, good chocolate frosting, a funny man wearing a funny shirt - Lamar's was the best all around. Our summary is that if you need a dozen assorted donuts to take to work or Bible Study or for Saturday morning at your house, by yourself, then you should go to Lamar's.

And there will be some Johnson County residents who disagree with me, but there's really no reason to go to Fluffy Fresh. Especially with Lamar's two blocks away. We suspect the oil isn't as fresh (check out the glazed on the right!) and the frosting/cake donuts leave plenty to desire. Also, it's a weird place to hang out. So if the sign on the door says, "Sorry! Out of Donuts!" you'll be okay.

Trust us. We know our donuts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Six Books of December.


It was great to have time to read six books in December. It was so not so great because it made me feel overwhelmed about sharing those six books with you. Six books is a lot. But you need to read some of them, okay?

The Christmas List was our December book club pick and a good holiday read. I told myself I wasn't going to cry. HA. It's about the same as saying that you aren't going to cry during a Hallmark Movie. Good luck with that. It's probably best read around Christmastime.

The Buddha in the Attic is one of my must-reads from this month. I have it in hardback so it will be available for loaning. This one was a finalist for the National Book Award, and a really swift read about the experience of Japanese women coming to the United States to marry men that worked in restaurants, agriculture, and the service sector. It is written in collective voice - "We were on the boat, we worked in the fields, we had three babies in four years..." etc. It follows the women from their experience on the boat through their forced relocation into internment camps, and I appreciated the way it told the story of so many woman together in one narrative style.

The Great Gasby ended up on my reading list after seeing Midnight in Paris and reading The Paris Wife. I'm pretty much fascinated by the Moveable Feast of Paris in the 1920s. Gatsby was required reading in high school, and we read intently for symbolism. Some of it came back to me as I was reading, but I was also just mushy for Gatsby. And because they're remaking the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, it was almost impossible for me not to picture him as Gatsby. I think it will be perfect.
Cutting for Stone had been recommended to me several times and I ignored the recommenders. Whoops. I loved it and read it fast and furiously over Christmas break. I was transported to Ethiopia, India, and a NYC borough and into the world of surgery, family ties, and love. And war and poverty too. So many good themes. I was hooked from the beginning, but I have heard a few people struggled with the first one hundred pages or so of the book. It was tremendous. I would like to read more by this author - anyone have suggestions of what else to read?

My Name Is Not Easy is the only young adult book in the list this month. Another finalist for last year's National Book Award, it was good for the history lessons I learned. It was about the Eskimos and Alaskan Indian young adults who went to Catholic boarding school in the 1960s. The state didn't support village schools yets, so that was a popular option for many young people. It's historical fiction that weaves in real events from the 60s, including the Cold War and other Alaskan events. I read it very quickly, and while it wasn't my favorite, but I think it would be great for young adult discussion. OH! And I love the title of this book. The main character's Eskimo name is too difficult for the teachers to say so he changes it to Luke. So many of students can relate to just the title of the book.

Run is my second Ann Patchett book of the year and certainly not as strange as State of Wonder. It's set in Boston, easily one of my favorite settings, and tells a captivating story about a white Irish Catholic father raising two African American adopted sons. Read it right now, in the winter. Or wait till you get some snow. Either way, you should read it. Rachel and I were talking about how we would rank Ann Patchett books, and it was tough because they are all so different. This would be the one I most universally recommend, even though State of Wonder and Bel Canto are both tremendous as well. 

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 9, 2012

RV Parties on Heartsy.

We've got something new for you this Monday morning. Our Etsy shop, RV Parties, is featured on Heartsy. It's like Groupon for homemade gifts! For $12 you get a $25 credit to our shop good for the next month. We have added some new items (TONS actually!) in the past couple weeks so if you are in the market for a birthday party, baby shower or wedding shower, we have some new designs for you!

Rachel and I are also thrilled to be guest posters on the very popular I Can Teach My Child today. Click over and read our party planning advice. It's pretty good advice and the pictures are pretty.

Linking Love
RV Parties Etsy Shop
I Can Teach My Child
RV Parties on Facebook

Friday, January 6, 2012

Farm Cats in Winter and a New Year's Note.

My blogger friends have been all over the internet writing summaries of the year 2011, setting goals and intentions for 2012, and reminding me that I had to switch calendars. And the last couple years (2010 and 2009), I did year end wrap ups that were a summary of growth and changes from the years.

Even as I start to think about what I could write about 2011, I just keep coming back to a profound sense of gratitude. I am so happy to be home, in a cozy little house that I love, with days filled with a job I love and evenings and weekends packed full of time with friends, family, and by myself. Who knew the extrovert needed some time by herself and would love that time too?

In 2012, I'd like to continue to be reflective. To rest in God's grace and know the power of Christ's resurrection (Philippians 3:10). To be sure my time reflects my priorities, especially in terms of my faith, my family, my friends and a new one, my job. And as I say every year, to eat less cookies.

Happy New Year and EMAW.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tootles: One Handsome Hound.

Glamour shots of dogs are far easier when they don't involve Belle because she won't look at the camera. These were taken at the request of my aunt and uncle, and they came out of the camera like this.

I have used a digital SLR almost all of the time since December 2005, and I bought my current Canon Rebel Ti1 in June of 2010. Rachel purchased a fancier camera last year, and I got a major case of camera envy. Rach's photos were looking good. The jealousy monster almost got the better of me - I thought about selling my camera and upgrading to Rachel's, a huge chunk of money better spent on tires and brakes for my car.

When she came to visit last fall, we took a photography lesson with Erica May. It was really good and gave me the courage to shoot in manual, adjusting the aperture and exposure when I shoot. Just like I learned way back in high school. I also have been shooting in RAW, but I have been able to get away with making minimal adjustments in Adobe Lightroom. Fun fun!

I think I still have a ways to go to be awesome, but I am liking the practice and have fully gotten over the camera envy. I have a great camera and a good forum for sharing the photos on this blog, and those are really the two parts that matter.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Family Happy Hour at Christmas.

My family (minus Sasha, Mike and Mark who was taking the family) right after Christmas. We are practically wearing matching outfits. We totally didn't even plan it this way! K-State wasn't even playing, but we love to wear purple!

If you're just skimming through this post and looking at the family photos, that's totally okay. There's a lot of them. But this is my life, documented. I have an important family life lesson (a follow up to this one!) below the next photo, so pay attention.

If you are married with kids or without, you should take pictures of just the two of you. My grandma wanted me to take a picture of her and grandpa. And I think that's really special. Because that's where the story begins that eventually trickles down to two grown kids and three grown granddaughters. But we're so lucky to have the two of them too, and to have their relationship documented.

Do it. Because while kids are cute (see me and Lauren as great examples), I will always be glad to have pictures of my grandparents throughout the years as well.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Belle on Winter Break.

It's the end of winter break and it was an awesome one. Lots of time with friends, family, and of course, Belle! Some times she makes me nuts. She is overly eager whenever anyone comes to visit. For a couple of days now she has been barking at NOTHING in the backyard. That "nothing" is near the fence. Belle keeps shedding all over the house but it sticks the worst in the kitchen. I've been vacuuming every couple days, and it doesn't seem to get better.

Why would my dog shed in the middle of winter? This is beyond me.

But on Christmas eve morning, I had to take Belle to the kennel early in the morning for her Christmas vacation. I came home and was by myself in the house for a few hours. And it was too quiet. No one came running when I opened the dishwasher or the garage door. She didn't faithfully follow me around the house. It was sad, and reminded me that I need her around even if I have to vacuum all of the time.