Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Note from Finley.

Rachel Finley mailed me a letter this week. Here's my thoughts:
  1. I don't deserve the thanks because my mom picked out his awesome present. (Cars/Thomas the Train pillowcase!).
  2. Finley - you can come over any time. We'll ride around in the K-State truck. 
  3. I don't know who Bobby is.
  4. I'm so glad Finn and I are friends.
  5. I get to see Finley (and family!) in less than two weeks!
  6. Nope, I've got no idea what the foot elevator is. None.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dining in Lawrence at 715.

Sometimes I eat a little restaurant in the Midwest and pretend I'm actually dining in Brooklyn. 715 in Lawrence gave me exactly that feeling, until I rememberd my $7 lunch special and the square footage of the restaurant, two giveways I was on Mass Street and not Bedford Ave. Yes, for $7 I had a salad and a small homemade pizza. It was a spectacular value.

The food was yummy - see my friend Allison's panini stuffed with ham. Lauren, Allison and I ate there for Alison's birthday, but I forgot to take any pictures of the three of us. I was distracted by that weird Brooklyn/Lawrence dynamic.

We also went to the cutest sweet supply shop next door. Can you guess what I bought? Yep, things to make cookies! Allison advised me on the proper tip icing for frosting cupcakes and got some items to pump up her red velvet cupcakes. Lauren was a good sport and tagged along, but I think she thought we were a little bit nuts. No one should get that excited about sprinkles.

When we finished it was pouring rain on Mass Street, but that didn't stop me from poking my head in a few other little places down the block. Too many cute stores that I could spend a lot of time in (and probably money too!) Mostly I just think about the sprinkles and cookie cutters I'm going to buy the next time I go to Lawrence.

This is my 700th post. Just wanted to remind you that I'm glad you read, love love love it when you comment (it reminds me I'm not talking to myself!) and when you join in the fun. Come visit the Midwest - honestly, it's good for the soul.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Crystal Bridges.

I have only two regrets about my trip to Crystal Bridges in Arkansas. 1 - I really wish it was sunny so you could see the beauty of the buildings better. 2 - I really wish my New York bestie Andrea was there with me. I always always get more out of art museums with her along to point out things I miss or make connections. She's an excellent guide for any museum.

I spent a couple hours here while Tara went to her classes at the University of Arkansas. The collections were really neat, and thankfully I grew up going to enough art museums that I did recognize artists in the galleries.

Because of my love of all things American history, I also loved matching all the art up with the time periods. There was a nice collection of American Indian portraits by George Catlin. There were also many other famous paintings by names you recognize: Mary Cassatt, Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, and names that mean a lot to my family: Andrew and Jamie Wyeth. The Wyeth father and son painters are from the area very near my dear aunt Kathi and Uncle Ted. I saw some of the Wyeth family art here with them last summer.

It was really very busy on Saturday while I was there with groups of all ages exploring the (free!) museum. I had a sweet soda and a croissant as a snack, mostly because the lunch line was far too long for me to wait patiently. At lunch time, this whole cafeteria was full and more people were waiting to eat.

This piece is for my mother. It's "After the Last Supper" by Devorah Sperber, and it is made entirely of 27,000 spools of thread. There is a small lens you look through to invert the image and see it correctly but even upside down you can tell what it is. I couldn't even believe it.

It was really neat to see this great collection of American art so close to home. I'm sure it is worth a second trip to see art that I missed and explore the paths around the museum. For more information about Crystal Bridges, read this article. It was my first introduction to the museum last fall.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Few Thoughts.

2012 is swinging right along. Each week there have been four posts on the blog, less than when I lived in Virginia but still a pretty thorough documentation of happenings. This week so much has happened since Friday and is still going on that I haven't had time to write. Here are some highlights:

Arkansas! I went to Fayeteville/Bentonville with Tara on Friday and Saturday. That's where I drank this cup of tea and read this book. I actually really relaxed all day Saturday while she was in class. I read while drinking tea, diet coke and beer, plus explored the new art museum Crystal Bridges. I have some photos of it because you should see it. It's awesome. 

WWI! Sunday was totally a WWI day from start to finish. Richard took me the museum, we saw Billy Bishop Goes to War (you should see it!), and finished Downton Abbey. I totally cried.

Teaching! I'm teaching different classes at school this week so teachers can observe other teachers, and it is definitely entertaining. So far I have taught observation vs. inference, area & volume of a circle, drama and physical education. Sixth grade girls whine a TON during PE. I had three little girls tell me they were out of breath. I said, "From walking?"

Revival! Mom, Richard and I went to one in KCK, and it was the perfect start to the Lenten season. I got to sit next to my coworker's five-year-old who showed me nearly every page in his children's Bible. You best believe that I loved it (and him!)

Europe! Mom and I took the big step and bought our flights to Serbia, Paris and home again. It takes six legs of flying, but we've got it all booked and at a price we could both live with. We also booked a hotel in Paris for the last part of our trip, within walking distance to Rue Cler and the Eiffel Tower. I had to stop reading the Rick Steves guide right before bedtime because I get so excited that I can't sleep.

Lawrence! I had lunch and went to the best bake shop ever on Monday with my two favorite Lawrence residents, Lauren and Allison. Lunch was delicious, and you better believe the cookies I make with my new supplies will be delicious too. 

More photos to come. And probably a random story or too.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Besties on the Plaza.

Katherine came to town for Tara's baby shower and to hang out - and it was awesome! We got to do lots of relaxing and laughing. We also did a lot of "big city" things because Katherine was visiting from Goodland. Would you believe they don't have a Nordstrom or a Target? True story.

For more true stories, start reading Kat's blog here - Boots and Bling: How Tim & Kat Do Rural. I can personally tell you it is awesome.

That's all for today. I'm enjoying a whole lot of lazy this afternoon - happy President's Day!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pickups, Hearts and Onesies.

So there were also some cookies for the baby shower. To match the theme, I made hearts, pick-up trucks and onesies. I really wanted those teal hearts to be a little closer to aqua, but I'm still perfecting the color matching.

This cookie problem is getting a little serious, but it's also getting really delicious. The sugar cookie recipe is nearly perfect, and I switched to a new kind of meringue powder for the royal icing, and I can't begin to describe the difference in taste. If you do tackle your own cookies, don't start with the Wilton meringue powder. It really does not taste as awesome. The CK meringue powder was sweeter, didn't get as crunch and totally protected the softness of the cookies. I really think that Wilton dried it out.

Whoa! I totally geeked out talking about cookies again. Whew. This is a real problem. I think about cookies a lot right now. It also takes kind of a lot of time. This round of cookies took about five hours in decorating alone. But totally worth it. They are so pretty.

 I made another batch of cookies this week for Valentine's Day. Almost all of them were delivered, and there were two plates still at home waiting for photographing and special people. They were mustaches with chocolate buttercream and more pink hearts. When I came home, the cookies were gone.

I'll give you one guess about what happened to them.

Yep, correct. It was Belle.

I was mad. I totally cried. And then googled how much cocoa it would take to kill my dog. Mom helped me estimate how much cocoa she actually ate by eating six mustache cookies. I'm pretty sure 14 sugar cookies later that her belly had to be hurting, but she was totally fine. Weirdo. She was totally in the dog house.

And I've learned my lesson about just how high the cookies have to be stored.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Valentine's Baby Shower.

Tara and her husband both work for a company known for their clean red trucks. So a Valentine's day shower planned around a red truck with hearts was perfect. Especially because Tara & Tom didn't find out if they were having a boy or a girl it was better to stick with lots of lovely hearts.

Anne, Abbey and I hosted it at Abbey's mom house. Her supply of beautiful vintage linens definitely came in handy as a pretty backdrop for lots of yummy food. Anne made homemade strawberry oreos with frosting. They were awesome, and I had more than one. That's all I will say.

Mom was also there to celebrate Tara's coming babe. We all wrote advice to the baby - but my mom's was my favorite. I totally cried while reading it. All the little cards went into a red photo album with photos from the shower in between the sweet notes.

More hearts! Bright colors that matched the invitation and the cards.

Mom and I had a print from Ampersand framed for Tara. They are fantastic ladies and local! Anne's rice krispie treat pops were also delicious. That girl makes great shower treats. I made the favors but you'll get to see those tomorrow. So come back, okay?

Don't worry. I made everyone stand outside in the cold and take a group picture. It wasn't that bad and was pretty much worth it. I'd also like to point out that the guests wore Valentine's Day colors. Once upon a time I would have to tell them to do these things. Nope, not anymore. Look at all pink, red, and purple! O happy day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Yes and No.

We have to work today, but only on the KS side. Missouri kids are home.
The roads are fine.
There are two ceramic deer outside my office window.
It is still snowing.
I would rather be at home.

I did not find a donut today when I went on a random huge detour because someone said there was a new mom & pop shop near my route to work.
I did not need that donut.
The ceramic deer are not a tribute to Young House Love. In fact, I'm pretty sure that we had the deer before Sherry was obsessed with all white ceramic animals. (circa 1975 here)
I don't want to make up snow days, so this probably is better.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Luhrs Ladies Love the Little Apple.

Here are the photo highlights from our trip to Manhattan last Saturday. Lunch with Jan & Candi at Harry's Deli (Howdy's is now Harry's Deli which MAY make more sense). Huge sandwiches that were delicious. (The one on the right is called the Johnny Kaw!) And a K-State win over Texas A & M in the Octagon of Doom. So thankful for a day in Manhattan with Mom, Lauren, Candi and Jan - seriously four of my favorite women in the world.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What's Up Bedroom!?

For about the last 36 hours, I've wanted to say "what's up..." at the start of every sentence. I almost started a meeting yesterday, "What's up social studies teachers?" I considered saying to my principal, "What's up boss lady?" For my sugar cookies, "What's up sugar cookies?"  You get the idea.

I'm not saying it in a "what's up dawg?" kind of a way but more like "Hey, I'm loving life and getting stuff done."

So what's up bedroom!?

It's a pretty spacious little room. I probably have room for a little decorative chair or desk, but I'm not in the market for it right now. Just more surfaces to clean dog fur off of all.the.time. I think a little old school desk painted one of the pretty colors from my quilt would be perfect for under the window. It would make a sweet place to pile up my reading list.

This photo is from two weeks ago, but I'm totally digging books from the library and friends right now. The pile got too big thanks to three large additions from the library and so it split into two. I'm trying to read more than one book in the month of February.

The current table is probably a little small for next to the bed, but it gets the job done and Erica gave it to me for free! The bed is the same old cushion topped awesomeness it has always been, but the quilt was Pottery Barn on sale. What's up sale priced bedding? (There I go again.)

Look carefully and you can see the cords to my electric blanket. Best.surprise.present.ever. Thanks Mom!

You can just barely see the two prints framed up above but I love both of them. My great grandma Della received the picture of Jesus in the temple when she accepted Christ as a young girl, and I kind of love that it hangs in my room now. The other print is a large scale print by Jamie Wyeth that I picked up on a trip with my lovely great aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania. It's totally gorgeous.

The chair and dresser are also vintage (this room is totally the opposite of my Ikea office!). The chair is from the family, and my mom had it refinished. When it's not covered with clothes or extra pillow, I use it to take all my boots on and off. The dresser is my daddy's from when he was little, and Tara's husband Tom made me the toolbox out of reclaimed wood.

There's still some blank wall space, but that Lincoln print from Abbey will have a more permanent home soon. Everyone has pictures of Lincoln in their bedroom, right? I love everything about this little room because it is so warm in contrast to my office. I sleep really well here - and so does Belle in her little dog bed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A First (and ONLY!) 29th Birthday!

Thursday night at the Blue Moose. Prices have gone up (slightly) with macrobrews a steal of a deal at $1.50 and (most) other beers at $2.00. It is really hard to have only one beer when you can drink two Boulevard Wheats for less than $5. Or three beers for less than one East Coast beer!

We were at the Blue Moose to celebrate Amy's 29th birthday, and she was embracing it! She wasn't fibbing about her 29th birthday and said that next year she will also be totally honest about 30. This is her first and only 29th year, she said.

Thirty is occasionally scary (but not until 2013 for me), but each of our birthdays have become more of an excuse to celebrate all of our blessings than a sign of pending doom. So much to be thankful for - friends, new & old relationships, babies and weddings on the way, and really cheap beer.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Rolling on the River (Or My New Rolling Pin.)

Mom, Lauren and I went to the K-State game on Saturday (at least one Kansas team won that day!), and during the game, there was definitely some Proud Mary jamming during the second half. My mom can remember exactly when it was popular because her cousins sang it in show choir in high school in the 70s. I love that is why she remembers it.

Just goes to show that show choir was popular before Glee and probably will be forever more.

But back to the main attraction: my new rolling pin. This is not your grandmother's rolling pin. It's a little bit fancier than that. Joseph Joseph makes some very modern kitchen accessories, and I found this pretty pin on Amazon for less than $20.

One of the things I struggle with is making sure my sugar cookies are rolled out evenly. And not too thin. Abbey said she puts pencils on the edge of the dough to guarantee even rolling. I've read on a few blogs about using special rubberbands that go on the edge of the pin to keep it even. This pin comes with three sets of disks that can be switched out - 1/8", 1/4" and 3/8".

It really does work! However, it has introduced an even bigger sugar cookie debate. How thin or thick should the cookies be? I'm really loving the 1/4" because you get plenty of cookie and it's easy to manage. Some of my pals think that 3/8" would make a far better cookie. They may be right but I would get about 1/3 less cookies out of a batch of dough. So that's less cookie loving for everybody because the few I make would be just a little bit thicker. Is that worth it for a little thicker cookie?

I should just suck it up and do some sort of test. Anybody want to come over and taste test sugar cookies? Just let me know.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Family Dinner, 2012 Style.

First family dinner of 2012.
We added Richard.
He was surprised that everyone calls it family dinner, not just me and Erica.
I wore a dress from Banana Republic's Mad Men collection that I paid $36 for last fall.
This was the first time I had worn it.
We ate at Piropos for Restaurant Week.
Dereck ate at eight restaurants for Restaurant Week.
I dislike giving my camera to strangers because the focusing never comes out the way I want it to.
So sorry right half of the photo - you are just not in focus.
But my dress still looks good.
As usual at family dinner, we planned trips and future dinners.
We discussed politics, education and K-State sports.
And we ate a lot of really good food.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Doggy Door.

Belle and I are the same age right now. She is four which is 28 in dog years. Her age is starting to show a little bit and there are a few more gray whiskers around her eyes. She remains as enthusiastic and life loving as ever, but just for less hours each day.

We have the same routine whenever I come home. She sits on the couch until the garage door opens (my car is not enough to trigger her to move), and then she tears towards the door. She is waiting as soon as I open the door but too excited to sit and have me pet her. Belle races towards her food dish, and I scoop out a snack or her next meal. (Three cups of light Science Diet a day for her!) She has to eat when I come home, even a few pieces or she paces around until I oblige.

Then the dance with the door begins. She's always ready to go outside, make two sprinting laps around the backyard perimeter and take care of business. And then she likes to come back inside. Just to make sure I'm still there.

If I am still there (I always am if she is outside), then she wants to go back outside. Maximum time on the second trip out: five minutes.

Usually after three or four trips in and out of the door, she is content to stay out. She can watch the trees in the backyard for long spells of time, just so long as she is sure I'm still home. It's predictable, her pattern of in and out. But it makes me really want to get a doggy door. It would probably take the happiness level in our house to a whole new level.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The One Book of January.

Last January I read seven books. This January was a little different as I only finished one book. But it was almost 1000 pages, so that could explain why it took me a little while to finish. Many of my friends had already finished the book, so I was a little bit late to the party. And I've yet to talk to anyone who agrees with my opinion of the book. I liked it. I just didn't love it.

Fall of Giants is massive and not just in the number of pages. Ken Follett tackles World War I on three continents and with great detail. Even though he has many characters, they are fully developed, and I did really care for each of them. And I will read the sequel. But I didn't love it. I tore through the beginning, got really bogged down in the war, and prayed peace would come earlier than it did.

I have some complaints about his style, and you can tell this book was written by a man who thinks his name should be bigger than the title on the cover (a pet peeve of mine). My other complaints will give too much of the book away so I won't voice them here. If you agree with me, will you leave me a comment? If you don't agree because you loved it, will you leave a comment telling me what you loved? Maybe I missed something.

Also, while I have your attention, I added a link to book reviews and archives on the blog in the sidebar. Check it out if you're looking for something to read. The "about Victoria" section is also updated. Enjoy!