Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Year's Christmas Card.

I haven't mailed this year's Christmas card. They are waiting in piles on my kitchen table to be signed, sealed and delivered to friends and family. For the fourth year in a row I designed my own card, and I can't wait for you to see them! They are my favorite yet. And also they serve as my apology for last year.

Last year's card, pictured above, was one that I absolutely loved. Inspired by Kate Spade's trendy patterns and colors, I put together a fun checklist and the bright patterns. So cute, right?

Hilariously, it was the most controversial Christmas card I have ever sent.

Problem #1. There was no picture of me on it. My friends felt like I was embracing my life by sending a picture of just me each year. The problem was that I helped plant this idea by stepping on my soap box about Christmas cards back in 2009. I even made a bulleted list of five reasons why it's okay I send a picture of myself on my Christmas card. But in 2011 when I didn't follow my own manifesto, I received a lot of flack for it. Erica told me she didn't even know what to put up in her house because she likes to leave the Christmas cards up for months to see her friends.

Problem #2. The checklist. I meant to inspire my out-of-town friends to come to KC with the box "come visit anytime." Two husbands married to my best friends here in Kansas City teased me about it for quite a while because I didn't check that box on their cards! They kept saying, "It's fine, we won't come over. It's fine. We'll never hang out again." On the other end, Rachel felt like it was rubbing salt in her wounds that we no longer lived in the same town!

Really no one was mad, I'm just a terrifically good natured easy target.  It's nice my friends want pictures of me and like me enough that they care I didn't invite them over. But really, everyone is welcome all the time. And I really wish I lived in the same town as Rachel.

The 2012 card is a design marvel, and I'm excited to share it with you next week. It makes me giggle even thinking about how much trouble last year's card caused, and this year's card will probably just make you smile. But who knows - I didn't see last year's hullabaloo coming at all!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Tie the Perfect Bow.


Remember that beautiful ribbon I told you about yesterday? I used it to tie the perfect bow. Mary Carol from Nell Hills said that one of the questions she gets most regularly is about how to tie the perfect bow. These are not the bows of the 80s, she says, but easy bows that add the right amount of flair to decorations. At her store in Briarcliffe, she has boughs of garland going up the stairs with a simple loop bow at each post. It was perfect.

I seriously loved the idea and couldn't believe how simple and elegant the look was! Here are her easy steps.


1. Cut a length of ribbon about 1.5 or 2 yards long for a large bough or wreath. Wide ribbon works great, with or without wire in the style.

2. Fold it in half but make one of the ends a little bit longer.

3. Use a cable tie to attach the gathered ribbon to the back of your project. Mary Carol swears by cable ties because they can be hidden away so easily on projects and don't slip.

4. Fluff everything. Trim the ribbon to the desired length for your project. And done!


I purchased the bough from Nell Hills (obviously, at this point) and added the ribbon. And it's nicely on my front door and featured in my Christmas card. Thanks for the suggestions yesterday about the ribbon - I think I will definitely use it to hang Christmas cards, a great suggestion from Rae of Jane's Girl Designs.) Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Decorating for the Holidays with Nell Hills.


It should be no surprise that I love Christmas. My love language is gifts and my top spiritual gift is hospitality. HELLO, Christmas! Presents, friends, family, and cookies!

To get in the spirit, I took a class last month with some basic holiday decorating tips from Mary Carol of Nell Hills. For those of you outside the Kansas City area, Nell Hills is a lovely story in Atchison and at Briarcliffe. Her stores are full of goodies at many price points, and she is KC's go-to lady for the holidays.

The class was brief with a few simple ideas that were easy to take home. In fact, almost everything I purchased that day was something Mary Carol recommended. I put everything together last Sunday and love how it looks in my little house. Here are a few of the goodies I found at great prices...


Mary Carol sold thousands of these lights at the Junior League Holiday Mart earlier this year. I bought one for a small tree near the front door. They are battery operated and on a timer, which I love. The batteries are supposed to last two-three weeks, so I expect to have to change them once this season. I heard today that Energizer is in trouble financially this morning, so I'm happy to help the cause. The lights were about $15, but this is probably okay. Have you bought lights lately? The LED lights for my other tree weren't cheap.


Sparkly little lanterns. Total cost was about $5. They are on my kitchen table with sparkly red chargers. I love the look together. Imagine with candles lit inside the lanterns. It's probably going to be more sparkle than most people can handle. She also sold thousands of these lanterns in two sizes at Holiday Mart.


I grabbed this adorable little tea towel for my mom. The design was featured on napkins, candle holders, and trays in Nell Hills. It's seasonal - and it says Paris on it! Double bonus.

Mary Carol had the fabric ribbon on the right designed for her holiday collection. With the bold plaid and the blanket stitching, I was instantly sold. On top of that, the price was right. Less than $15 for 10 yards of very wide ribbon. I used it in a project that I love, but now I have lots left! If you need some for a project, let me know! Or if you have ideas on what else I can use it for this Christmas, leave a note in the comments. I've got about 8.5 yards left!

I feel a little ahead of the game because it's only November 28th and technically Advent hasn't even started yet. Now if only it would snow. Then I'd really feel like it was almost Christmastime.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cupcakes, Cookies, Cousins, Family, Football.

One last post for posterity from my three days in western Nebraska. My cousin Molly is in the 8th grade and also loves to bake. Check out her adorable chocolate cupcakes with cornocoupia on top and pilgrim hats. The pilgrim hats combined two of my favorite sweets - zebra cookies and Reese's peanut butter cups.

Mitchell is bound and determined to grow taller than me. This is his best effort to push up taller and my best effort to keep him flat on his feet.

Cooper (and all the kids) loved my cookies. THIS.IS.HUGE. Kids are picky, especially 8th grade Cooper. So when Cooper was spending the night at my cousins' and called with a request for seven more cookies, I felt like I won the lottery.

I usually think the boys always look the same. And then I compared them to Thanksgiving last year (click over here) and decided they look so much older already. And Mitch really is so much taller.

Spencer and Blake spent a lot of time playing on the iPads when they were in the house - they were popular with kids of all ages. But we also went outside too, and I borrowed my aunt's lens to take some action shots of the boys.

There were footballs to catch, guns to shoot and miles to walk. It was cool on Thanksgiving and the next day, but it was still nice. The weather was beautiful while we were together, and it was a very nice, restful (tons of sleep!) trip to western Nebraska.

Come back tomorrow for holiday decorating. 'Tis the season!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Photos of Family.

We took a Christmas card photo in a field. There are a few things I would change to get a few of the shadows off our faces and to get a little less squinting, but it's tough to take a picture in an open field and have any shade. For the Christmas card photo, I actually worked some photoshop action so that Blake and Spencer have their eyes open. Cooper and I are in a race for whose eyes can be more covered up by our hair. I have since trimmed my bangs and look like a normal person again.

But really, I love this photo.

I also love this photo. My dad and his three brothers were all standing in the kitchen at my aunt and uncle's house, so I made them scoot together for a photo. They were standing, unsmiling, until someone said something that made them laugh. I can't even remember what it was that was funny, but it worked, and I love their "natural" expressions.

From left to right, Uncle Tom, Dad, Uncle Art and Uncle John. This was the first time I've been with all four of the Luhrs brothers since my grandpa passed away in 2008. It was pretty good to be with so many people with the same name.

Oh man, do I also love this photo.

And finally, one more photo that I just really love with people of the same name. While not all of my cousins could be with us for the holiday, we were super lucky to be with so many - Melyssa and Nic came from Omaha on Friday, Molly and Travis live in Imperial, and you know me, Lauren and Spencer. We were missing one more Nebraska cousin and three Alaska cousins.

Sometimes group family shots are awful, and sometimes they capture your family, as they are, and you are thankful. All three of these are frame worthy reminders of Thanksgiving 2012.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday.

When I'm with my dad for Thanksgiving, Black Friday is less about the shopping and more about the Black Shirts of Nebraska. We'll be getting ready for the game here in a bit as kickoff is early, 10 am Mountain Time. Yes, I'm so far west in Nebraska that we're no longer in Central Standard Time.

I did manage to squeeze in two Black Friday sales - one from Silhouette and one on another crafty project from Amazon. I was feeling extremely crafty. 

Thanksgiving was a total success yesterday. We had a great time with lots and lots of Luhrs family, and my aunt Lynn has a couch that can seat all seven of us kids together. My brothers have quickly become a house divided as Blake and Spencer are both sporting Patriots gear. Cooper and Mitchell are staying true to their hometown and love to tease Blake about the Patriots.

Here's everyone from left to right, with their ages this week... Mitchell (15), Blake (11), Cooper (14), Gabby (16), Me (29), Spencer (7), Lauren (27).

Happy shopping and happy family day.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving.

We're having cookies here. But because we also have five types of pie, a couple of cakes and cupcakes with pilgrim hats, it's totally acceptable to have cookies for breakfast while watching the Macy's Parade. Gotta space out the sugar. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Happy Thanksgiving. May your day be blessed with friends, family, seven-year-old brothers and/or cookies. Whatever you got, love it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leah's 30th Birthday.

Our book club has nine members, and we will be celebrating a 30th birthday almost every month between July of 2012 and August of 2013. No one has to share a birthday month except for Abbey and me, but our birthdays are a year apart. Abbey started the party cycle in July, and we have also celebrated Nanette and Kate's as well.

Each birthday celebration has been a perfect fit for the guest of honor. Abbey's birthday is the same as her husband's so we had a happy hour at Charlie Hooper's in Brookside. Nanette's was also a K-State watch party, and the Cats beat Oklahoma in her honor. Kate and her husband have birthdays almost a month apart, so they split the difference and had a 60th birthday party in honor of their new age total at their home. All events perfect for their personalities.

Leah's birthday was in November, and her request was a dinner out on the town. We wanted a place with a small private dining area and delicious food. Bristol in the Power & Light District won out, and we had a girls' night out last Friday to celebrate 30 years of Leah. There were wine flights, martinis, beers, delicious fresh fish and BISCUITS. The biscuit boy did a terrible job checking in on us, and I only had two. But the private room was lovely and such a nice way to spend a couple hours on Friday night.

No 30th birthdays in December or January. We'll celebrate Amy's in February and then have one almost every month until August! I already can't wait till 2013 - so many fun parties with friends ahead. I'm strongly considering a birthday trip to the mountains with these ladies for my 30th in July. Let me know if you have any leads on a place where we can drink wine and beer, read books, hike around a little and talk till our collective preferred bedtime of 10:45 at the latest.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Battle of the Books - Wrap-Up.

Our first ever Battle of the Books was Saturday (background here), and it was wonderful. Even though it was our first time with the competition in KCK, it went pretty seamlessly. And most importantly, the students had a wonderful time competing and talking about BOOKS!

Here were some of the highlights from the day:
  • elementary turnout! Teams that RSVPed that they were bringing ten kids often brought ten kids. And these kids knew their stuff! They were also adorable. I could not teach in an elementary school - I don't feel bad about giving middle schoolers the "glacier glare" but little kids are so cute!
  • enthusiasm! I often heard coaches and teams walking from room to room reciting the authors names of the various books. They were excited from arrival to departure. Sometimes I would hear students doing their school chants in the hallways.
  • volunteers! So many of my teacher leader pals from the district were there, my partner at work, and my mom too. Seven volunteers came from the UMKC Mortar Board chapter and demonstrated through their dedication that reading is leading. 
  • parent turnout! The rooms weren't very big so we asked parents not to come. They came anyways and were there in high numbers at the awards assembly. Teams would move through the high school with an entourage of siblings, parents and grandparents.
  • middle and high school excitement! They were never too cool. The high school students were even convinced to run during the relays. Our host high school had a team, and the student council president was on it. She asked me if she could open the awards assembly by welcoming everyone to her school. It was awesome and so cool to see her natural leadership.

We learned a few things about the competition, and we're already thinking about next year! The three types of competition from this year - Family Feud, Super Challenge and Relay - all worked well. However, the competitions went quickly and each room probably only needed 30 minutes to complete their round. Next year we will need to add in a fourth round of competition and clickers. In Super Challenge it was difficult to tell who buzzed in first.

I thought the relays would be much louder, but the students were too busy racing down to fill in the answers that they knew! I graded some of the relay results with my mom and Monica, and these students knew their stuff. We wondered about the timeline of just under three months to read ten books as a team, but it definitely didn't slow down the students. It helped that everything was a team competition, and the students could work together to correct, clarify and answer.

There are very few winners in the competition, which is an interesting dynamic. The assistant superintendent for elementary told me yesterday that she thought it was good for the students to compete and not all win. Some teams probably won their individual rounds but didn't place overall. Everyone took home a t-shirt, but only three teams from each level took home ribbons or medals. We may need two divisions next year so that schools can enter more than one team. We'll see...

I emceed the awards assembly. For some reason, this made me very nervous. The auditorium was full, and there were a lot of kids and families in there! Thankfully I was able to stick to my script and felt pretty comfortable moving through the event. I did struggle to make it about thirty minutes so I added lots of dramatic pauses to announcing the awards. But it really was fine, and I think ended the day on a positive note!

Photos from here - go check them out because there are more! And these kids are too cute. Thanks to everyone who helped make the day awesome, to Kate G. for the clipboard and my mom. She baked three different things for the event, provided water for volunteers and judges and calculated scores. Always a big thanks to my mom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sangria Toasts to the Happy Couple.

Instead of watching the K-State game on Saturday night, we went to our pals Sheldon and Michelle's lovely wedding. But we wore purple! Even our pastor who officiated wore a purple tie. As you know, any effort to will the Cats to a victory, Miami and 11-0 was thwarted by the Baylor Bears. It was a little bit sad. Okay, a lot sad. But the wedding was lovely!

The wedding was at our church downtown and the reception was at the Sawyer Room. When we arrived for cocktail hour, we found that the bar was serving TWO types of sangria - white and red. I love white sangria, and Erica loves the red! The bride & groom left a cute story on the bar about the sangria. Apparently on their first date, Michelle said she wanted to try the white sangria, and Sheldon shut it down and ordered the red. Michelle (much like yours truly!) is used to being in charge and knew she had met her match.

Dessert was all pie! The newlyweds cut into an apple pie, and there were hundreds of little pies for the guests - rhubarb, apple, chocolate, pumpkin and cherry. We were sitting at a very fun table of friends from church, and we passed a couple of plates of the little pies around so that we could all try them. 

We're so happy for the newlyweds - talking to Sheldon was one of the cutest things ever. He's SO stinking excited to be married. It was awesome. He's a K-Stater too, so I don't know if no one was telling him score updates, or he was just that elated about his new wife. Either way, he's probably right. Glass is way more than half full with these two.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Battle of the Books - Background.

I first learned about Battle of the Books my second year teaching in Fairfax, Virginia. It's a national nonprofit, and often when I talk about it people remember doing it when they were kids. The format can vary, but with my first experience we competed in advisories at our school. Not every group in the school participated, but Rachel and I both talked our advisories into doing it. Over the school year, our students worked on a book list of twenty books and competed in May when Rachel was on maternity leave with Braden. My team went out first. Her team won. I'm not still bitter or anything.

Flash forward to the middle of my first year back in KCK. Our district has a wildly successful math competition every year in February. About 1500 kids compete in Math Relays, and it's nuts! It is so excited to see so many middle and high school kids spending a Saturday excited about MATH.

I decided KCK really needed a reading companion activity. I started having conversations with other English/Language Arts Teacher Leaders, and we started brainstorming what could happen if we brought Battle of the Books to our district. It was pretty well received by district leadership, and before I knew it, the little event I wanted to start for the eight middle schools was a 4th-12th grade event.

Some of the planning was done last spring, but just barely. The high schools and middle school teacher leaders were on board, but a lot of the expansion to elementary schools happened this fall. The timeline was intentionally very short to avoid fatigue with the project. It doesn't sound like very long to read ten books in less than three months, but the point is actually just to read as many as you can because everything is done in teams. For example, the kids from our school read anywhere from five to all ten books. We also wanted to have it in the fall since Math Relays is a spring event.

I've learned a lot about littler students working on this project. For one, it's uncomfortable for some of our schools that not everyone can participate. Each team has up to ten kids. Elementary schools like to be very inclusive! And I learned that Youth XL is a real size. I thought it was the same as an Adult Small. They're very different actually!

Tomorrow we have just over 300 students coming to to locations in the district to compete in our first Battle of the Books. They represent 18 elementary schools, all 8 middle schools, and four high schools. The competition lasts all morning with three different competition styles, and I'm super excited. I'm also a little bit nervous! Each participant is sure to have a good time, and they all get to take home one of these adorable student designed t-shirts. Okay, I helped a little bit, but the idea was all hers.

I'm super thankful for my Teacher Leader pals who helped get this idea up and off the ground and the 30+ coaches who encouraged kids to read independently this fall. Because that's what really counts - kids & books.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bowl Bananza with Barbara.

When I stopped by my mom's last weekend, she had these two vintage K-State sweatshirts hanging on the fireplace. We all know I would wear them if they weren't priceless. I L-O-V-E crewneck sweatshirts. And K-State ones too? Sooo tempting.

The sweatshirts are a visual reminder of what can only be described as the most stressful season of K-State football in my lifetime. I love the team, Moses Synder, Optimus Klein and the updates currently in the works at the Bill. I do not love frantic conversations about airfare, hotels, ticket quotas, and a Texas team gunning for us on December 1st. And Baylor is worth considering as well. I thought this #1 business would be exciting. It is nerve wracking and very distracting.

I'm co-chairing a big event in our district this Saturday for about 300 kids. The other day someone at work asked if I was ready for Saturday. I 100% thought she meant the K-State v. Baylor game, so I answered, "Yeah, I mean I think you have to be careful with Baylor...oh. You meant Battle of the Books."

Seems like every day I talk to someone who is considered the trip too! My season ticket friends, more KC friends and from across the country as well. This is the big time! And if K-State is going to their first ever National Championship, none of us want to miss it.

As we make tentative plans for what would be my first trip to Miami, it's worth pointing out that I'm making them with my mom, Barbara, and sister. The Luhrs Ladies travel again! Almost 20 years ago, we set out for Tuscon, Arizona with my mom at the helm. She took us to K-State's second ever bowl game, and it was awesome. Lauren and I were 8 and 10, and she modeled that where K-State went, we would go too! (My grandparents were in Tuscon with us, my grandpa obviously in his purple cowboy hat and purple cowboy boots.) So while I know Miami is not my mom's vacation spot of choice, she's also gotten pretty excited about the possibilities ahead. No surprise because she's awesome like that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Review.

This book can't wait for an end of the month wrap-up. I thought it was so interesting and relevant that it deserved it's on post. On Monday night, I finished up Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Ironically, I'm about as far from an introvert as you can get. (See here for more information). But it's an important book for people, like me, who work with introverts and/or live with them. I loved it so much that half way through the book I called two of my favorite introverts and told them they had to read it! I now recongize this is a classically extrovert thing to do.

The author Susan Cain, herself an introvert, makes a powerful case against the extrovert ideal in our culture. For example, Congress is filled with extroverts. But what a difference it might make if instead leadership listened AND thought first before the spoke. American culture prizes and rewards those that are outgoing and speak up in groups. That's how we get the FDRs and the Martin Luther King, Jrs. But we should also prize and celebrate the contributions of introverts who thoughtfully made decisions that changed our country. Like Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks. Incorrectly remembered by too many as quiet women and not thoughtful change agents. (Both are examples she details in the book.)

At times while reading the book I felt a little bit guilty. I can get ahead, and stay ahead, by using my extroverted nature. I speak up in groups, always. I like to hobnob and socialize and small talk is never difficult for me. I am energized by large groups of people, and I have to choose quiet activities like reading at the end of the day to settle myself or the energy high from groups will keep me up all night.

But over the past year and a half, I have been practicing and trying to learn some of the natural habits of the introvert. Listening first. Relishing the solitude of my little house. My boss and partner at work are both introverts, and I have to give them thinking space. Thankfully they are both verbal processors and so once they think they are always ready to talk!

Much of the research is about children and development. I asked my mom lots of questions about what I was like as a little kid after reading those sections. One question inspired by the book, "Was I afraid of Willie the Wildcat and his strange head?" Susan Cain explains how little children react is often an indicator to later extrovert/introvert nature. It's hard to remember over twenty years ago, but she does remember my kindergarten teacher telling her that it was hard to believe that I was the youngest in the class. Makes me wonder if I was really that smart or just talked. A lot.

The book is occasionally technical, but balanced with observations and stories that keep it moving along. Again, I got it from the library. Again, I wish I had purchased it instead so I could underline in it and loan it to a friend. The implications for schools, parents, and even churches are great and well explained. If you are raising an introverted child, she dedicates a whole chapter to helpful tips so that your child is supported instead of labeled as "shy" which often has a negative connotation.

If you read it, let me know. The extrovert in me needs to talk about this book and process it some more with friends, especially my introverted ones!

Etsy print sourced here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cerner 7K.


Before the weather took a drastic turn for the worst on Sunday, we did a race out in KCK on Saturday. It was a windy Kansas day, but we were ready to tackle a 7K together at the Cerner 15K/7K.

There weren't a lot of other walkers. I think it was pretty late in the season, and the weather was a gamble. I also hypothesize that other recreational walkers were probably nervous about the distance (even though a 7K is really no big deal) and the weather. There were lots of 15K runners and a good turnout of 7K runners as well, including my sister and her friend Megan in their cute "Team Beef" jerseys.


We walked the 4.33 miles in 1:07 which is just a tiny bit slower than our times from earlier this year. It was probably the wind slowing us down. It was pretty serious! We decided several times over that we would have made terrible pioneers walking across the prairie. And whiny ones. Someone would have made me stay in Iowa.

The race ended in Community America Ballpark which was actually anticlimactic. We've sat practically on the field at T-Bones games anyways. We met up with my sister, she took this sweet picture (look at the clouds!) and then we went to Starbucks. And Judi's for donuts.

All that walking went to waste with calories consumed. Oh well. Could be the last race till spring, so I'm definitely glad we squeezed one more in with these fantastic ladies. And the long sleeve American Apparel type tees don't hurt anything either.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Celebrating Gordon Parks.


Last week I happened to be scrolling through twitter when I saw that my pal Erica (of Anecdotally Yours) was looking for someone to go with her to a celebration of Gordon Parks. Along with her husband, she volunteers and donates her sweet skill set to the elementary school. I responded immediately - pick me! Erica later told me she was going to ask me anyways - it was totally up my alley.

I had never been to the 18th & Vine District, so I was excited for the evening's agenda. We had a lovely dinner in the atrium of the Jazz Museum and visited with a local news anchor and columnist for the KC Star. He even offered to come talk to students at my school!


After dinner we walked across the street to the Gem Theatre. Erica's tickets were in the second row, and we were mesmerized by the performance for the next hour and a half. I didn't know much about Gordon Parks story, but he was truly a trailblazer in journalism, photography, writing and directing. Here are some things I didn't know...
  • He directed and produced Shaft.
  • He was the first African American photographer to shoot for Life.
  • He was the youngest of 15 kids from Fort Scott, Kansas
  • This year he would have been 100-years-old.
The performance was a combination of music, performances by fifth graders from the school, video clips (shot by Erica and her husband), photography and the choir from St. James Methodist Church. I cried a couple times, obviously, because schools that do good work in the urban core get to me. And because I know behind the scenes how hard it is for everyone that is involved.

The part that touched me the most was that even though it was a fancy fundraiser, the teachers were all there! They were recognized and visited with guests throughout the night. So many times teachers have a name but not a face, and it was great to see them get to join the party and be celebrated too!

Super thankful Erica took me along - we had a great time chatting and catching up. (She's the face behind the camera that captured me looking super unimpressed!) As you know, I love pretty much any excuse to throw on a dress and go to a party, and a good cause makes it so much better.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Never Too Busy to Serve - Article from Darling Magazine.

Out late with my mom last night, busy busy Friday, but this article arrived in my inbox today and had to share.

From Darling Magazine, the beautiful publication I told you about here, the article starts with the premise that Americans are always too busy. It's a serious contention explained in detail in this NY Times article and all too true. How often do you ask someone how they are and they answer, busy!? I'm guilty of it myself.

But the article from Darling takes it one step further and explains the benefits to your life when you volunteer. Healthier and happier!? I'm sold and believe it to be true.

Last night at the Happy Bottoms fundraiser, I got to listen to Sister Berta, the inspirational founder of Operation Breakthrough here in Kansas City. After the event was over, I wanted to shake her hand. I didn't really know else to say except thank you - her legacy of service in this town is practically unmatched. And do you know what she said about the event? That it made her so happy that were young people at the fundraiser. Too many fundraisers she goes to, she said, were with people much older.

We need the young people, she said.

Read about the busy trap here.
And about the benefits of service to your health here.
And buy that adorable print above in this etsy shop over here.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Instagram and Some Stuff That Came in the Mail.


Another seemingly random post, two days in a row. Apparently I didn't do much last weekend that was worth blogging about. But I have been getting a LOT of awesome stuff in the mail lately. Instagram round up ahead...
  • Abbey and I worked the baggage check at Holiday Mart in these sweet aprons. We heart the mart, and we LOVE baggage check. It's totally true. We like the organization, the jammin' tunes of "Ladies Night Out" and talking to all the customers about their purchases. We will continue to volunteer for this Junior League shift. We love it.
  • I went to an impromptu Happy Hour with my work pals Audrey and Allison on a Thursday afternoon, and it was so good. The timing was perfect and the conversations were good for all of us. 
  • My first Sugar Mamma's cupcake - Boston Creme - with a cup of Christopher Elbow Roasterie coffee. Oh dear. It was incredible. 
  • Awesome mail item #1: A programmable coffee pot from my friends Anne & Ashley. Flavor of the week - French Caramel Creme from the Roasterie. It amazes me that there is coffee ready at 6:30 in the morning and that my sweet friends just mailed it to me.
  • Awesome mail item #2: Pioneer Woman's second cookbook. Rachel bought me the Kindle version, and it works like a dream on my iPad. I made this soup on Sunday and have been loving it this week. Especially with corn tortillas and avocado on top.
  • Awesome mail item #3: A surprise from Laura Parke, a girl who makes. I won this prize on Instagram because I correctly guessed her Halloween costume after one clue. 
  • This group of Halloween cookies was pretty simple but made with love for my friend Abbey's mom who had knee surgery last week. I wasn't paying attention and put in vanilla extract instead of almond, but they were still tasty.
  • Fiona Rose, everyone's favorite elephant. Her visit to my house was somewhat chaotic. Belle barked at all the trick-or-treaters, my oven roasted chicken breast started smoking, and I ran out of candy at 7:45. But she's so snuggly.
  • My mom hosted a fundraiser in the West Bottoms for First Book last week. They raised $1700 by allowing people early access to all the shops for only $10. I found this V which looks awesome in my pretty tidewater office. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cookies, Voting, Etc.


Happy Wednesday! Here's a few of the things I've been meaning to tell you.
  • Tuesday was election day at school too! The students filled out a registration card, waited in line at the polls, and I checked their photo IDs. It is Kansas after all. And then they got stickers. Gotta train them young.
  • Erica and I packed back snacks with other Alpha Chis for a couple hours on Tuesday night. I love back snacks! The guy tonight told me that it takes pretty much all week to get the 17,000 back snacks packed that KC kids need each week.
  • Watch out world, it's straight up 1999 in my house. I programmed my thermostat AND my coffee pot Monday night. After a perfectly chilled night of sleep, I woke up to a nice warm house and a piping hot pot of coffee. I was super pleased with myself and energized to go vote before work!
  • I baked these cookies after school for the UMKC Roos Mortar Board Chapter. We're having a bake sale next Tuesday night at the basketball game to raise money for First Books, literally one of my favorite non-profits. Ten dollars buys four books for kids in our community. You can contribute online here for the local cause or considering giving books for students recovering from Hurricane Sandy.
  • It sort of seems like I'm always asking for something on this blog. But I figure that one of the projects I work with might pique your interest. It's all about making connections.
  • Speaking of which, my Mom and I are going to a very affordable happy hour fundraiser this Thursday for Happy Bottoms. Diapers are often very difficult for families in poverty to secure - they aren't covered and they aren't cheap. I can't even really think about it without wanting to cry - babies are so helpless and it breaks my little heart. Let me know if you want to join us!
  • Maybe I should do a giveaway too. (Did you enter Rachel's yet!?) Maybe closer to Thanksgiving? It could be a swap for one of these causes and some enclosure cards to a few lucky readers. This is starting to seem like a good idea...
  • And today, I just really hope for healing. That people would find ways to get along and work together.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bill Snyder for President.


Last Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, we had a great time watching the Cats win their ninth game of the year! We had soup and pork sandwiches from "Pig In, Pig Out" at the tailgate and got to our seats for the seven o'clock kickoff. The sun was definitely down and the lights were on at the Bill. It actually wasn't that cold until into the second quarter. Another beautiful day in Manhattan!

It was a great game, but we were considerably more nervous and on the edge of our seats. That fourteen point lead in the fourth quarter was not enough points to go home early. We were definitely there until the end of the game and that final interception. But a win is a win is a win. And Alabama and Notre Dame's games were much closer!

We have a tradition when we leave the game. It is to HURRY! We like to be in the car, buckled and out of the parking lot by the time Bill Snyder comes on to do his post game report. It is literally the highlight of the drive home. He usually has some hilarious one-liners about the team. After the West Virginia game and the two awesome interceptions, he said he told the young men that if they made three interceptions they would stop the game and have a pep rally in the middle of the field.

That man. So funny. We're also impressed with how well trained the players (young men, as Snyder refers to them) are when answering questions from the media. Stressing the importance of team and getting better week after week.

I love this team and our coach. I don't really think Bill Snyder should be president (did you vote yet?), but I do think he should be Coach of the Year. You can vote for that over here...EMAW.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Brunch, Babies, Besties at Julian.


Last weekend Kat and Tim planned an impromptu visit to town from Western Kansas. So we planned an impromptu brunch! We chose Julian in Brookside, and I called and made a reservation for our party of eight with two babies. We probably didn't need the reservation, but it was so nice to have our table set up and waiting right by the window. We were the only group in our dining room, and that suited us fine so we could visit and not worry about anyone around us.


We started with three orders of the ginger donuts. They were super fresh and awesome, and we all ate too many. Baby Everett also loved them.


The entree choices varied with how much we loved them. Tom and Jon ordered the breakfast burger - I'm surprised I didn't as well! Their burgers were overcooked which is never okay. The last time Jon and Erica had dinner at Julian, Erica's burger was very undercooked so go figure. The potatoes on the side (I had them too!) were perfectly seasoned and well done.


The best brunch choice was the french toast that was pretty much like bananas foster on a plate. With bread. It was delicious and perfectly prepared. Julian totally wins in the "sweet" category of brunch dishes with the donuts and the french toast.


The experience was pleasant overall because it was so quiet. We interacted with the chef, and she even took the great group photo. I would still like to try it once for dinner, but I'll keep it on the "easy brunch" list because I hate waiting in a crowd for brunch. Also, it's a baby friendly brunch spot in a nice part of town which is always admirable. And if you didn't get enough coffee at brunch, you can walk to the Roasterie cafe for more coffee! Perfect Sunday morning.

PS. Rachel is hosting a giveaway this week for a free plate AND a free pack of the enclosure cards. Click over and check it out. She's also offering 20% off all plate orders this week. Go enter and grab the discount code!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Four Books of October.

Four books this month. Two that are "young adult" and two for grown-ups. Here we go!

Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting inspired the French-themed book club that I posted about last week. It is a parenting book, but in a very cultural anthropology sort of a way. When Mom and I were in Paris last summer, we watched all the Parisian parents (and some nannies!) taking their children to school. Or as I know now, many of them were probably headed to the neighborhood creche. As a book club, we loved it. Half of our group has children so there was some lively conversation. There were also rebuttal articles and critical thinking about what we think can truly work in the United States and with the little ones we know. Discussion was lively, and there was plenty to say at book club!

Shooting Kabul jumped out at me immediately from the Scholastic book fair. The little sixth-grade-boy and his family flee the Taliban and Afganistan. As they are escaping, he lets go of his little sister's hand. And they have to leave her behind! Then, they get to the United States and September 11th happens! It is an easy read, but a tough read because of some of the background knowledge and cultural sensitivity necessary. I think teachers could teach it, and I totally would have in Virginia when I did immigration literature circles.

The Kitchen House is a book club kind of a book. It's easy to read, the characters are interesting and you need/want/have to know what happens. A few things annoyed me about it, in particular, the relationships between the plantation owners and the slaves in post-revolution America. The author did her research, but parts of it are slightly shallow in terms of racial significance. But it was suspenseful, and I would recommend it to groups or people who want an easy travel book.

Mockingbird is a National Book Award WINNER and for good reason. Caitlin is eleven, and she has Asperger's. Her brother is gone - and we learn very early in the book that he died in an episode of school violence at his middle school. The book is told from Caitlin's point of view as she tries to make sense of her whole world - friendship, teachers, her father's loss from "THE DAY OUR WORLD FELL APART," and missing her brother. It's beautiful, heartbreaking and a MUST read for anyone who works with children with Asperger's and/or middle school students. I finished it on Monday and mailed it to my dear pal Jill in Virginia who is a middle school counselor on Tuesday.

It's almost the holiday season which means I will have more time to read - YEAH! My bedside is filled with books from this list, but please let me know if there is anything else you think I have to read! I'm at 40 books for the year, so 52 is looking daunting before the year's end. Happy reading!