Thursday, June 28, 2012


It took us about 22 hours to get to Belgrade (Beograd) from Kansas City. We flew from KC to JFK and after a medium length layover, we flew overnight to Paris. AirFrance does a lovely job with the red eye, but sleeping is still almost impossible. (Though the free champagne apertif and little bottle of wine certainly did help!)

We transferred to another AirFrance flight for a two hour flight into Belgrade. This is definitely where I got my best sleep! We landed at 11 am local time, and we pretended it was 11 am. We did brilliantly, but it helped that we were met by our super excited hosts and whisked off to a delicious meal at Kalemegdan. This was one of our favorite lunch spots, overlooking the joining of the Danube and the Sava rivers. We also could see the large tennis pavilion where Novak Djokovic practices. Check him out during Wimbledon - he's Serbia's national hero these days!

Serbia is sort of like the breadbasket of Europe and the countryside resemblance to Kansas is strong. When we drove to Budapest, we saw farmers harvesting wheat with a combine just like my grandparents and uncles. We ate delicious fruits and vegetables, many things wrapped in bacon and fantastic breads. The wine was also very very good, and we had a few bottles of Serbian chardonnay while we were there. Lav, on tap, was our favorite local brew when we weren't enjoying the unoaked goodness of my favorite wine.

The weather was great while we were in Serbia, but definitely warm by the time we left on Tuesday. Ninety degrees is hot in the city! We had sunny skies every day and cool evenings for relaxing on the patio or having dinner outside. 

Serbia was the most economical part of the trip by far. The statistic we like to give is that at our favorite meal at Lorenzo and Kakalamba, we had two bottles of wine, two beers, a cappuccino, four entrees, two salads, with tip, for $100. And it was all very delicious.

Our time in Serbia with Vicki and Daniel was extremely educational as well as fun. With their current positions they know SO much, and I know Mom and I were both extremely grateful for their expertise about the country and agricultural issues in Europe. We learned a lot about history in the region, and where Serbia could go in the years ahead.

Mom and I are both pretty sold that we would visit these special friends anywhere they went in the world because having local hosts makes such a huge difference. You probably don't have a reason to go to Serbia, but if you did, you would really love it. Our trip would not have been complete without our time in Belgrade, plus driving through Serbia to Budapest and a dinner in Novi Sad, another great Serbian town.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I took 781 pictures (plus some iPhone gems!) while we were in Europe.
We were in four countries' capital cities thanks to a bonus stay over in Washington, DC (thanks Dulles, United, AirFrance and a little confusion).
Three different currencies (Serbian dinar, Hungarian forint, the euro) and a lot of mental math making the conversions.
A lot of waiting in line, tons of good food and beautiful sites and places.

We were gone for 11 days instead of 10, and I'm still feeling the jetlag.

But I'm so happy. It was an excellent trip, and I can't way to share some of the highlights with you. This is from an outdoor cafe in Budapest, and I love it. Happy!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Baby Miles.

Just checking in with these cookies for baby Miles. His mom is a big fan of my cookies, and I brought a special batch when I went to meet Miles a couple weeks ago. They were very simple, but it was the same weekend I made over 100 different cookies for several different purposes so it was difficult to get too fancy.

But I do know they tasted great, even though they were simple. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Two Photos of Friends.

This is like a little sneak peak of a party I'll show you all the details of much much later. It was chosen to be featured on the Hostess with the Mostess blog, but not until August. But I love these photos of my friends (and big baby Everett!) from Abbey's shower last May. So fun to have so many people together to celebrate Abbey at my mom's house!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hospital Hill 2012.

It was a gorgeous morning for our first Hospital Hill in early June. We had done some "training" including walking a ton of hills, so Kate, Abbey and I were ready for our first 10K. That's 6.32 miles!

Definitely a great morning for a walk - super cool (in the 50s at the start of the race) and a terrific crowd. We didn't really have a great corral to start with - there were groups for the half marathoners, as well as 10K and 5K groups, but because we were walking, we didn't really have a good spot. We avoided runners and dodged walkers going a little slower than us until it got less crowded just north of my church downtown. And then we set a really fast pace.

And we kept that really fast pace. We surprised ourselves! We got up the big, famous hills with not a lot of trouble. The 5K cut off first, so we walked close behind some of the slower half marathon folks. Finally, the 10K cut off by itself for a while. This part was lonely - not a lot of people walk the 10K. This is the point where Kate took off (she finished three minutes faster!), but we all powered on towards the end.

We were so proud of our results! Lauren ran a great 10K, and Kate, Abbey and I walked the 10K in under 1:30. We averaged about 14:20 miles, which is FASTER than the Trolley Run back in April. Also, at this race we got MEDALS

And then, to celebrate, we ate a lot of greasy and delicious food at RJ's Bob-be-que in Mission. Seriously, if you haven't been to brunch at RJ's yet, sign up for a race and get on it. We're doing the "Four on the Fourth" and could probably be convinced to go back to RJ's for breakfast afterwards. Let us know if you want to join us - Lauren is running and we're walking it! Four on the Fourth benefits Harvesters, probably one of my very favorite KC non-profits. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Progress in the Yard.

I may just be renting this little house, but I still take a lot of pride in how it looks. One of the major plans this spring/summer was to address the places where grass wasn't growing. Luckily I have some fantastic people who want to help me out, and they are pretty much experts.

It started with my friend Abbey's mom, Vicki. She's a master gardener and came over with a vision and her tools. Our first session was cleaning up flower beds, trimming the plants in the front, and splitting out some hydrangeas so that there will be a whole row of them on the north side of the house next year.

Vicki also provided some perennials for my backyard flower garden. I added two small annuals to brighten it up this year as it grows, and my ever favorite basil.

The next step was a major one. MULCH. Luckily my friends Tara and Tom work for a major Kansas City lawn and tree care company. They hooked me up with a pile of mulch as big as my car. It was fresh stuff, and after it sat there for five days, we got to work on moving it around the yard.

Jon, Erica, Abbey, Drew, both of Abbey's parents and my sister helped with the project. One of the major places we wanted to mulch was the area around the back fence because it was always muddy and grass refused to grow.

We also connected the backyard to the front with a new mulch path along the hydrangea garden. It makes it so much easier to move the recycling and the trash bins to the curb. On the left side of the picture, next to the brick patio, there used to be white rocks. They didn't looks so nice, so we just covered them up with more of the fresh mulch.

We mulched the front around the bushes, and I added two small planters that Mom gave me. In the picture to the right you can see that the two mulches combine to make a path and mark the hydrangea garden.

Moving the mulch was TERRIBLE work. My friends were troopers because they could see I needed the help very badly. The dust from the mulch got in our lungs, and it was sweaty gross work finishing the project on a Sunday afternoon.

But the house is really looking great!My landlord was just in town for Abbey's wedding and I think that he is going to update the rusty post at the front door and the window sills will get new coats of paint. He liked the path and said that we could also add pavers if we want to. There's one more room to be painted on the inside this summer, and I'm loving some new art I got inside for the walls. More to show you in the weeks ahead!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Cookies.

Happy Father's Day Daddy - from very far away. I didn't make you any cookies, but I know you will love the present we sent you! These cookies are for another father - Fiona's daddy! Tom was a tricky one - typical Father's Day cookies wouldn't be a good fit. Everything I searched for was ties and beer. Tom loves fishing, hunting and red wine!

But I found these fish cookies someone was selling on etsy and knew that I could recreate them myself. Tara got the bobbers ("It's like two presents in one!" she said) and I made the fish cookies. And some others that matched.

It was getting too close to the holiday when we had this awesome idea, and I didn't have time to order a fish cookie cutter. So I printed off this perch fish onto heavy cardstock. I cut one out and traced around the shape with a knife onto the cookie dough. I wouldn't recommend this method ALL of the time. But I don't really need a fish cookie cutter and was in a pinch, so this definitely worked for the 8 cookies I made.

They are some friendly looking perch, don't you think?

And I had to make stripe cookies. Like I told you on Friday, I'm sort of obsessed with these simple gems. It's a clean way to put a lot of color on my favorite round cookies and they are so bright! It sort of ties everything together. For dads or sorority meetings or whatever.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pi Beta Phi Frosted Cookies.

My sister, my mother and I were all in different sororities at K-State. My mom is serving as the president of the local Pi Beta Phi alumnae chapter, and a couple weeks ago she had a meeting at her house. She needed cookies, of course, so I made arrows and circles for their meeting. The arrows are my favorite, but the stripe cookies are a close second. I want to put stripes on everything (look for them again soon!)

I did my best to match the colors to the colors of her sorority - wine and silver blue - but the blue was a little tricky to match. Ironically, this was the same weekend I frosted the cherry cookies which are a perfect match to the colors of my sorority, scarlett red and olive green!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fiona, Asleep.

At the bridal luncheon, Fiona fell asleep in my arms. Is that the best thing about babies, or what? We used a quilt Abbey's mom made, and I found some nice natural night for the sleeping beauty. She was so asleep that we could move her around and put her on the deck with the sweet bunny quilt. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wedding Party!

One more post about the wedding - and this one features a lot of the details from the whole beautiful day. I didn't take tons of photos, Abbey's photographers at Orange Peel Photography did a great job, and I know that there will be many sweet memories of the day.

One year ago, we went with Abbey to pick out her perfect dress. It was totally for her - it didn't even need any alterations! (Actually none of our bridesmaid dresses did either.) Fiona spent the whole day with us, and as usual, she was the perfect baby.

Abbey crafted all of the flowers for our bouquets. Mine is on the left, and it was so fun to carry. It also looks lovely in my house on the bookshelves in my living room. Erica is holding her bouquet on the right. Each of ours was different! They were certainly low maintenance, a nice treat as we were moving around for photos for quite a while, and they matched our dresses perfectly.

Abbey and Drew got married at Village Presbyterian Church. It's the third wedding I've been to at the church, and it's definitely a special place to us. Abbey and I met at the church when we were both on summer staff there. I referenced it in my toast.

The reception was at the very lovely Lenexa Conference Center. Everyone was so impressed with the venue - big tall ceilings inside the old barn. I didn't get a great close up picture of the table centers, but you should know that Abbey hand threw, fired and glazed 150 pots for guests to take home as favors. Her mother planted them with little succulents, and they were perfect. No two pots were alike. 

Our green dresses were found at the end of last season from JCrew. There were three different styles (Kathryn isn't pictured, but hers had straps) and we all paid less than $80 for our dresses. And didn't get them altered. That's right - bridesmaid winners! The dress color is technically called "key lime." Fiona matched us too, but she didn't want to look at the camera for this shot.

Minutes before we took this photo, I saw her smile for the first time. She was just GRINNING at my mom. It was the sweetest thing!

All nine members of book club were there, sporting bridesmaid dresses or other cool colored gems. We know how to coordinate.

I did a lot dancing during the night - the DJ played many many of my favorites and requests. Erica, Anne and I paused for a photo. Here's the best one (Anne's husband took ten). And here's the silliest one.

It was a lovely wedding and a super relaxed one too. Everything was well planned and went really well during the whole day. Congrats to Abbey and Drew! Can't believe the day is already here and gone!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Toast to Abbey and Drew.

It was a huge privilege to be Abbey's maid of honor last Saturday. She also had a Matron of Honor, Kathryn, a best friend since high school. Here is my toast as nearly as I can remember giving it - I did write it down, but I added a couple of things as I went...

Abbey and I became friends during the summer of 2004 when Matt Vaughan made the very wise choice to have both of us on summer staff at Village Presbyterian Church. I wasn't sure about Abbey at first because she had her nose pierced! But by the end of the day, I was pretty sure that we would be friends because we both love to plan.

We have planned youth group events, trips for youth to Chicago and Washington DC. We planned my move to DC, and Abbey has picked every single one of my paint colors I've ever painted anything. We planned lesson plans together because we are both teachers. Our group of close friends in KC is also the best - we were a little surprised when Pastor Meg referred to Abbey as a Jayhawk - because the rest of us were K-Staters and we had her first! Our friends love to plan - book clubs, parties, bridal and baby showers and the ever popular Mission Pub Crawl.

Save the date - the Mission Pub Crawl is August 10th! (I really said this in my toast!)

We love to plan together.

I lived in VA when Abbey met Drew. We still talked several times a week, but it was almost three months into their relationship before I could meet him.

And I finally got to meet Drew at a bowl game watch party for K-State. Not for KU - it was most certainly a party for K-Staters. But to Drew's credit he was there and polite about our beloved Wildcats.

(At some point the DJ played the Wabash Cannonball, an EXCELLENT touch!)

Looking back, I realize what a sacrifice that was for Drew. But that's how Drew is - willing to do whatever, whenever to make friends happy.

A perfect match for Abbey who is exactly the same way. Willing to do whatever, whenever to make friends happy. No matter what the plan, I know I can count on Abbey and Drew from beginning to end. It's been a blessing and a privilege to be a part of the plans for today - I can't wait to see all the plans for the years ahead! Looking forward to many more year with the Thomases.

To Abbey and Drew!

Monday, June 11, 2012

My Favorite Wedding Present.

Abbey's wedding was on Saturday, and it was a total success. She was the calmest bride. Correction, she was just pretty much giddy all day that she got to marry Drew. It was the cutest thing. Especially because Drew was the same way!

I made Abbey and Drew a special present to get their new life started together. I started with notecards, vintage postcards I found on ebay, and this sweet little library stamp from Amazon. For less than $5, I'm so glad that I can now date and stamp whatever I want! Very carefully of course because my hands got inky changing all the numbers for these cards.

I chose three dates each month for the next five years. Some of the dates were random and some were intentional. Their anniversary, Valentine's Day, Christmas, New Year's Day, and their birthday (they have the same one!).

I didn't want to do every date, just some random days to keep track of how life changes over the next five years. I am very big on keeping track of what is going on in your day to day life. There could be moves, trips, babies, new jobs, parties on any of these coming days - it will be sweet to see how their lives change over the next five years.

The vintage postcard on the front is the Nelson Atkins museum before the Bloch Building and shuttlecocks were added. It's a special place to Abbey and Drew because he proposed here on the lawn!

I was thinking it would be neat to keep on a bedside or near the kitchen table. One line or two to keep track of events over the years. So excited to be with them at the beginning of their married life together!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Strawberry Cupcakes from Boxer Lady Bakery.

My friend Allison is a Teacher Leader with me, and she also has a serious love for all things sugar. People think we're a funny pair because we're both six feet tall and can talk about baking for a VERY LONG TIME. It's not unusual to find us on Fridays at lunch discussing our weekend plans totally around what we are baking for the weekend.

Allison is more legitimate than I am in that she has an actual bakery business, Boxer Lady Bakery. She got a huge following last year working at the Lawrence Farmer's Market, but now she does more special order work. Go check out her facebook page and like it, that's always a nice thing to do for friends with small businesses (again, did you already "like" RV Parties?)

Last week Allison made fresh strawberry cupcakes. She even made the glaze for the strawberries from scratch (nothing fake here, folks!) and they were delicious. Lovely too! So much care and detail went into each one of these cupcakes, and she will definitely remain the cupcake queen.

Happy Friday to you! It's our last day of work (sounds like an excuse for a cupcake!) and the wedding festivities continue around here. And our big trip is less than a week away. Today looks like a very very good day...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

It's Wedding Week!

After over a year of preparation, Abbey's wedding week is here! The weather looks great for Saturday, and we're definitely all excited that it is almost time to celebrate the Graham and Thomas wedding!

We started off the week of festivities last Sunday with a bridal luncheon at the house of Abbey's mom, Vicki. We had our favorite sangria in the backyard, enjoyed the beautiful gardens and good weather. Lunch was also delicious, and our bridesmaid gifts were the sweetest. I can't wait to wear my new necklace on Saturday - and after the wedding as well. Abbey handstamped a little silver heart for each of us - and I'm pretty crazy for the letter V so I will be wearing it often!

Speaking of the sweetest, I tried to get some pictures of Fiona asleep. She's resting on a quilt Vicki is working on, and I when I tried to take her binky/pacifier out, she went from nicely resting to looking like this.

She meant it. But it's also mostly so fun to have Fiona along - she's one of the gals! Vicki's best pal Peggy hosted a shower for Abbey earlier this spring, and she went with us to get our nails done today. I like to think that's how it will be when Fiona gets married. I'll just be around, having parties for her and taking her to the nail salon. We'll stick together.

Calm day of wedding prep today and then the rehearsal tomorrow (with Oklahoma Joe's!) and the wedding Saturday. So excited it's finally here! Guess I better put the finishing touches on my toast for Saturday night...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Meeting Mr. Miles.

There are two teacher leaders in each building, and the other TL in my building is Monica. We've worked together off and on since 2005 when we were both at Northwest, and I taught with her when her middle son was born. She's not (still) at work with me now because she is home with her new baby boy, Miles Langston. It's Monica's third son - God bless her - and I got to meet him on Tuesday. He's absolutely perfect and a lovely little nine-day-old baby boy.

Monica's oldest son was there as well which is great because he is a student at our school, and we get along super well. Except when sometimes I forget he is a student and not my brother and yell, "COLIN. STAND UP AND HAND ME THE PAPER." It only happened one time and thankfully not during a class. In my defense, Colin is about the the same age as two of my brothers!

Watching Colin with Miles is too cute. After I fed Miles a bottle, Colin was burping him and carrying him around. When it looked like Miles was going to cry, Colin would say over and over, "Oh no, no, no - you're not going to cry!" It was the sweetest thing to see a "tough" seventh grader cuddling his brother. (Don't tell him I said so!)

So here it is, Miles' debut on the blog. I'm excited to see another one of Monica's little guys grow up. They're the best.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cherry Cookies.

I really like the Queen of England. So much that I made Queen's jubilee cherry cookies.

Well that's not exactly true. I do love the queen, but I don't know that there is any connection between these cookies and the queen. I just bought this really awesome cookie cutter and was dying to use it.

I think the next time I have a plan that will be a little more sparkly but equally as delicious. And maybe a little brighter red. This "tulip red" is darker than I thought it would be! Not as healthy as a bowl full of real cherries, but I do love them.

Monday, June 4, 2012

2004 and Matt V.

Friday night we met up with some of our Village Church friends to celebrate Matt Vaughan. After twelve years at Village, Matt is about to begin training with Teach for America in KCMO. I'm plotting how we can get him eventually employed in my district so we can work together again. The four summers I worked for Matt were some of the best. He is easily one of the most influential people in my life and probably one of my top three bosses ever.

In the summer of 2003, I was supposed to work part time at the church I grew up at in Overland Park. It wasn't really working out like I thought it would, so I started making connections at Village Church to work in youth ministry part time. (God's ultimately always good plan for my life at work here!) I got to work with Lindsay, still one of my best friends, that summer and built a friendship with Matt. On my first day of work at the church, he reached in and locked my car door at the end of the day. He said, "Always lock your doors!" I STILL think of that day when I lock the doors!

Summer of 2004 was one of my two favorite summers - Abbey and I became best friends while on staff that summer. (Can you see the 2-0-0-4 above?) It's the summer Matt let me plan a mission trip to Chicago, and he never doubted my planning even though I was only 20! We laughed and laughed telling stories about that summer on Friday night.

I returned to staff in 2008 and 2009 as a "mission trip planner," and I got to work with Matt and Lindsay twice more. I also volunteered with the youth group weekly between 2005 and 2009 and attended church there. Matt was a regular part of my life, a blessing, and a dear friend. I know Village will feel his loss, but I'm so excited we still get to be friends and colleagues in the education world! Good luck in middle school, Matt!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Four Books of May.

Four books for ya this month - and some of them are well, different. It was not a very uplifting month of reading but a challenging one, something I like just as much sometimes. I read three tough books and then one very light and fun book to finish the month.

Swamplandia! was our book club pick of the month. I purchased it back in February when I went to Arkansas with Tara, and I even carried it around on a couple trips thinking I would get around to it. It missed the Pulitizer for fiction by thismuch, and the best description is that it is like a fine arts movie. Definitely a little bit dark and sort of mystical, it is a coming-of-age story about three teenagers who grew up in a Florida attraction full of alligators. If you like fine arts movies, then this is the kind of book you'll like. I did like it, but I was horrified for a large portion of the book. Also, in a totally humbling and horrifying way, I can't believe the author is 29. How does she come up with this stuff?

Looking for Alaska is by John Green, same author as The Fault in Our Stars from last month. While it is young adult lit, it is totally not for my middle school students. I can't tell you a lot about it except if you work with teenagers, you should read it. I am still not sure how he writes teenagers so well, but he does and it's so accurate. This group of teenagers is at a boarding school, and each chapter is titled by the days "before" and "after." I can't tell you before and after what, but it's soooo good. It's a good summer reader, and not just for teenagers.

Salvage the Bones won the National Book Award last year, and after waiting months at the library, I sort of made myself read it. Swamplandia! and Looking for Alaska weren't exactly upbeat, so starting a novel about a motherless family of four kids with an alcoholic dad and Hurricane Katrina seemed a little daunting. I'm so glad I did. This is the kind of book that haunts you in a really beautiful way. I would really love to talk about it with someone, anyone. Oh dear, it's just terrific. Let me know if you've read it so we can chat.

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life was so much lighter than everything else I read this month, and it was a sweet chronicle of the life of someone like you & me. And really pretty funny. It is an alphabetical collection of entries from the author's life. I included two passages to give you an idea (many are much longer but these two made me laugh and smile). I'd be happy to let you borrow it - just let me know.

It would be difficult to convince me that leaning has no effect whatsover on the outcome of my bowling. 

My brother, who give up with three sisters, was I won't say how many years old when he finally realized that he did not have to wrap the towel around his chest when he came out of the shower.

Happy reading!