Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Nautical Crab Baby Shower for Emily.

I mentioned we had the shower back in March, but I was waiting for the Hostess with the Mostess feature before I put it all up on this blog. You may have already clicked over from Facebook, but if not, here are the crab details in all their glory and crabiness. Erica, Anne and I had a blast putting it together for Em!

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We set up the food table in Erica's well lit sun room on the back of her house. I was talking to my mom the weekend before the party, and she just happened to have fabric that matched perfectly - enough to cover the whole table too. I used Paper Source pool, midnight and papaya for the colors, and I couldn't believe the stripes were pool exactly.

I cut the crabs out on the Silhouette and laced them together with twine. They were easily tangled but adorable when I got them all in line!

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We asked guests to bring a card with their sweet wishes for baby Fitz. My favorite was from his dad - I teared up reading it! And there was a banner for the fireplace, of course.

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We also tied the crabs with stripes of navy and white striped fabric around mason jars. Again, my mom just happened to have fabric that matched perfectly! There were also little crabs on toothpicks. I purchased them on etsy (vendors at the bottom) and was pretty much obsessed with the detail they added to chicken salad sandwiches. Erica also made crab bisque, and Anne put together a lovely early spring fruit salad!

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Drink flags of course for Izzes and Paradise Iced Tea that I ordered from ebay. (Occasionally I get a little carried away.) But I must tell you that the Izzes were a big hit!  A lot of people had never tried one, and they are so refreshing! Plus, they have more juice than Ocean Spray. Truth.

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I don't know if you've ever had a reason to pick up crab chips, but you should if you like spicy! They are seasoned with a mix that tastes like Old Bay. We had a few bags out for show, but we also split them into smaller bags for perfect lunch portions. I liked the white bags, but you can imagine that the grease started soaking in pretty quickly. I found these crab chips at Dean & Deluca, but you can also order them online from Utz!

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A great etsy vendor donated crab lollipops for people to take home as favors. I baked the cupcakes into the baking cups and frosted them myself. Maybe Allison, my go-to cupcake maker was busy? I don't know, but I'm terrible at it. Thankfully cupcake toppers make up for it.

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And there were cookies of course. The crabs were bite size and delicious, which made it easier to eat an appropriate serving of five to six. We had some plastic crabs decorating the tables and other seashell decorations around the house. It was so good to see our out-of-town pal and shower her with love!
– Crab Toothpicks: MoonChi
– Custom Made Crab Lollipops: Custom Candy Creations
– Straws, Cupcake Cups, Bakery Twine: Cakes and Kids Too
– Crabs on Food Table: Amazon
– Mini Paper Bags: Hobby Lobby

Monday, April 29, 2013

Kingsville Livestock Auction and the Cleveland Painting.

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In December of 2012, my uncle Keith contacted me with a project. He wanted me to make a trip to Kingsville, Missouri, photograph a painting and design a postcard with the design. The painting was done by Serena Cleveland who lived around the corner from my grandparents' farm in north central Kansas, and it was hanging in the cafe part of a sale barn in Kingsville. I agreed, but the project kept getting moved to the back burner.

Finally, I had a Friday off in April and decided it was time to make the trip.

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I contacted the owners of the sale barn and asked if I could come out. Yes, they said, but it had to be early because they had a sale that night. When I arrived, they pointed me in the direction of the painting, and I spent the next thirty minutes exploring the cafe and the sale barn.

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The painting itself is very large! I was able to take so many photos up close and far away. I had never photographed a painting before so I experimented with lenses, lighting and aperture. I was glad to not have an audience because I probably looked like a bit of a dork.

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I took many close-up pictures of the painting too and used one of the detail shots on the back of the postcard. After I saw it in person, I also grew increasingly curious about the story. Two weeks below zero? That seems ridiculously cold!

When I returned home and processed the photos, Keith filled me in on parts of the story and wrote a draft for the text on the back of the postcard.

Then we contacted my bestie Andrea who works at Christie's in New York City. She was able to give us great information about the painting just by looking at the photos. She pointed out that the damage was probably done when it was in a different frame because of where the lines stop on the painting. And she clarified, which we wondered, that it was oil on canvas. Acrylic wasn't invented until the middle of the 20th century.

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Andrea helped us with the language for the postcard as well, and I love how official auction house it sounds. Keith edited it for the details he thought we could share and the ones that are important to the sentiment of the postcard. It's not just a random painting done by a former relative; Serena Cleveland is likely the first pioneer born in Jewell County soon after it was founded. I just love Kansas and family history!

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Here's the final text as it appears on the postcards.

M. Serena Cleveland 1873-1949
Jewell County Artist

M. Serena Cleveland was the oldest child in a family of three children, all of whom were accomplished artists. They were born to Knud and Tabitha Cleveland, Norwegian immigrants who moved from Iowa to Harrison Township in Jewell County, Kansas. They homesteaded on Norway Creek before 1873, making the Cleveland family among the earliest settlers of Jewell County, founded in 1870. Serena was one of the first settlers to be born in the county in 1873.

Painted when at the age of 32, Serena's painting of cattle is signed, dated "February 1905" and inscribed "T.K. Cleveland’s Feed Lots/ 2 weeks Zero, Mankato, Kansas", and depicts a notable moment in Kansas history. 

Despite suffering minor damage, Serena's depiction of these idle livestock continues to embody the spirit and livelihood of Jewell County some 108 years later. This painting is privately owned and hangs prominently in a restaurant in Missouri.

Serena Cleveland was buried in Harrison Township on her private family cemetery, her epitaph reads "Versatile Artist". 

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We made a test run of the postcards last week, and now we're anxiously waiting their arrival in the mail. The painting's dimensions made it difficult to do a traditional size, so we ordered extra large 6 x 11 postcards. They can still be mailed with a first class stamp.

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When I was a little girl, my sister and I often went to the sale barn in Mankato, Kansas with my grandpa. It was sort of like being the entourage to a celebrity because everyone loves Grandpa Lauren. We would climb up the big stairs and sit while he would just barely motion with his hand to bid on the cattle. So the trip to Kingsville and the sale barn brought back all sorts of great memories of child trips with Grandpa.

This part of Missouri is beautiful, and I so enjoyed the project Keith tasked me with. I kind of want some notecards with some of the other images - mostly the blue & orange chairs. They have so much personality, and I can imagine them filled with farmers and cowboys talking about the weather before and after a sale. Wouldn't those just look so cute printed up with a cheerful note inside? You can see all the photos from this little trip over here.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fervere, Handcrafted Bread.

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For the happy hour, I was supposed to buy crusty french bread for the strawberry bruschetta. But I also wanted to try Fervere down on the Westside. I read the review on Yelp, my sister's pal recently posted some gorgeous instagrams of the place, and I was sold it was worth a special trip. I was not disappointed.

The breads were incredible, and I loved being able to see the oven right in the little space. However, I must confess I thought I had stumbled on a new little gem. Wrong. They have been baking bread in Fervere on the Westide for fourteen years! Again, I'm not really as hip as I thought.

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They were already sold out of the Orchard Bread, even though I was there a mere hour and a half after they opened! People call ahead and reserve their Orchard Bread - apricots, apples and raisins with walnuts - and I think I might do that this weekend when we're down in the area!

I sampled all of the breads, and a very helpful employee helped me pick out the perfect ciabatta to use for the strawberry bruschetta. Fun fact, ciabatta means "slipper" in Italian.

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And then she changed my life by telling me about cheese slippers. They take these gorgeous loaves of ciabatta bread and bake them with cheese in the top. But in the summer on Saturday nights, cheese slippers become more than a loaf of bread. They are an event, and I can hardly wait!

When it's warm outside and the local ingredients are fresh, the bakers at Fervere prepare the loaves of dough and then don't bake them. They allow you to pick what goes on top! Fresh basil, heirloom tomatoes, more cheese or other seasonal local items. Then they bake them up while you wait. You can take it to Little Freshie or next door to Bluebird and have a glass of wine with your warm loaf of bread.

I know. I've just told you about the best thing ever.

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I did some research and their facebook page has some gorgeous pictures of cheese slippers. I hear that's also how they advertise when they will start up for the season. Like them on facebook so we don't miss when they start because I'm pretty sure I need a cheese slipper.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Happy Hour at Home.

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We have a great group of girlfriends, and there are several adorable kids in this group too! To celebrate Erica's 30th birthday, we decided to gather at my house so that it could be a happy hour with babies and toddlers running around too! We had lots of fresh dishes and strong cocktails and sparkling wine.

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These kids are so stinking cute. Fiona (one tomorrow), Reese (two), and Everett (19 months). They were on the move, scooting and walking around the whole house and reaching for more cookies off the table. I love that they love the cookies!

I found the plates on clearance sometime in the past year at Target, stored them away and thought Friday was the prefect excuse to use them! I love the coordinating patterns from Mara Mi. I opened all the cabinets and searched around until I found plates, bowls and straws to match the cute bright colors. The cookies matched in a total coincidence, and I picked up the beautiful yellow ranunculus at Price Chopper. 

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The food was pretty casual and tasty. I also wanted it to be filling because everyone is always hungry at happy hour. Here's the line-up (my friends helped bring some of the foods!):
  • Veggie pizza on flatbreads toasted in the oven. Anne made these delicious spring treats. We all gave Everett our olives - even those of us who like olives! He was just so cute stuffing them in his little mouth.
  • Hummus (Sabra basil and pine nut - amazing!) and Trader Joe's reduced guilt pita chips.
  • Strawberry Bruschetta. Ciabatta bread slightly toasted to make it easier to spread goat cheese. Amazing!
  • Circle sugar cookies
  • Bacon wrapped dates on long skewers baked into the oven until the bacon was crispy. We ate a lot of these! 
  • Trader Joe's mango coconut candies dipped in chocolate. You'll love them if you like mango & coconut.
  • Jolly Rancher jelly beans
  • Cupcakes from Dolce Bakery Co. in Prairie Village
  • Palomas. I juiced about 14 small limes from Trader Joe's to have enough lime juice for this. I actually used 2 oz. of lime juice to go with 2 oz. tequila, ice and pink grapefruit soda from Whole Foods. I reread the recipe and realized I could have used way less lime juice (stupid fractions) and forgot the salt.
And now I want another cocktail.

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We were missing one mom and two boys. Robert Joseph was born last week, and Kate stayed home with all her boys instead of coming over. I went to see him on Thursday when he was just two whittle days old, and we snuggled. He's the cutest cuddliest little guy. Going to see him again later today!

Click over to the RV Parties blog to read the five things you should do before every party. Tried and true.

Monday, April 22, 2013

K-State Open House.

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On Saturday we took 120 students (and a few parents!) from our KCK middle school to K-State Open House. I love Open House - it's like a college fair and a carnival all rolled into one. I don't think most of our teachers who volunteered nor our students knew what to expect. But I think even some of the greatest KU fans left impressed. Open House is awesome.

I had a group of ten students and an agenda. We were going to see a lot of campus. I'll take you through a few of our various stops as we walked about five miles.

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I really wanted to do the College of Agriculture scavenger hunt. The kids were game too! We needed six punches (from all over campus) to get free t-shirts. We picked up our cards and stopped at the AGR booth for a punch. And then it dawned on me that I don't think my students had any idea what agriculture was so I asked these nice college kids to explain agriculture to my students.

They did a great job! At this point, I had nine engaged students, snacking on free popcorn, and one boy pretending he was too cool with headphones in his ears. This only lasted until we stopped at...

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Shellenberger Hall! The students learned how to make bagels (it was harder than they thought!) and  sampled some whole wheat and plain bagels. Then we went up to the bake sale. I bought a dozen monster cookies for $5 and shared them with the group. It was the first time any of them had a monster cookie, and they were obviously impressed!

We continued our walk over to Leadership Studies and learned a little bit about the beautiful building. The students marveled at the newness, and we talked about how cool it would be to study in the Radina's coffee shop while we bought a bunch of Izze's.

They talked to a friend of mine who works at the School of Leadership Studies now and asked him what excuses the students use for not doing their work. I loved this question - I don't know how kids come up with this stuff! He told them it was all about the technology these days, and his favorite was "I didn't have internet!" There's internet everywhere in Manhattan. We picked up bags of goldfish (Fish! philosophy) and continued walking north.

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We secured another punch on the Weber Hall lawn, one student got lassoed, and then the students insisted we go see the bug show advertised on the door. Jokes on them - it was about the bugs that live in the four compartments of a cow's stomach. They were surprisingly interested. I was mostly disgusted.

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Inside Weber Arena, students were preparing for the Little American Royal later in the afternoon with their dairy calves. My group could barely stand the smell. The BOTAR in me was secretly loving all this, and if I didn't have a million other places to take them, I would have drug them back to the Little American Royal.

I tried to get a college student to explain livestock showing and rodeos to my students. I think they thought she was making stuff up. You put a harness on a cow? Only half were listening anyways because the other half could not handle the smell. Seventh graders are really dramatic.

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Since we were already to Weber Hall, we kept walking to Vet Med. Tons and tons of dogs - Belle almost got a sister, but dogs aren't allowed on charter buses! Inside the building, my group got to give a "dog at rest" an EKG, and then observe as the pre-vet students did the same with the dog that was walking on the treadmill. I should mention that at this point, the boy with the headphones is totally engaged - Open House is so cool!

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I literally chased down a shuttle bus for a ride back to the Union and our sixth punch. As soon as we arrived at Bosco Plaza, I was instantly distracted by Willie. I'm a super fan. We waited in line, and I took a picture with my two library buddies. We go every Thursday to the public library at the bottom of the hill. The one on the left was totally sold on K-State by the end of the day. And on college in general. She had so many great questions about classes, campus, and how many books were in the library.

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We returned triumphant to the quad to get our t-shirts and take pictures in tractors. I'd like to note that I did not ask this student to climb up on the tractor and take his picture. He did so willingly.

There are less pictures from here on out because we were moving quickly! From Waters lawn, we walked to West Hall for a tour of the dorms. The kids were super impressed. They were starting to get hungry at this point, but we were a long way from food at the Union, so I gave them more cookies and told them to keep walking! From West we walked to Justin Hall and played some financial planning games and looked at the apparel marketing and design booths. Finally, I let them eat and explore the Union and have some Call Hall ice cream for dessert.

The day passed quickly, and we loaded the buses again about 2 pm to head home. We could have stayed longer because most of the games and exhibits were open until 3 pm, but I knew the teachers had already had a long day. Plus, I don't know how much more walking some of my group could handle. We heard great things about engineering, chemistry, and architecture - there is just so much to see and do at Open House.

I think my group thought I might have been a celebrity because we saw someone I knew about every other stop - Emily Scott, Dr. Bosco (like five times), Leigh at Leadership Studies, Dr. Wissman and another professor at Human Ecology, plus my mom's first cousin Melinda (twice!). My group did have an advantage because I was their guide, and I think we saw a lot of different stuff because I was leading the way. But the overall feedback from all the students I talked to was so positive. They were carrying tons of goodies, wearing the t-shirts they won around campus and flaunting powercats painted on their faces.

It was the best kind of day getting to share my beloved alma mater with students I really enjoy. This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity because charter buses are so expensive, so I was sure to treasure it all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Quick Trip to Manhattan.

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I have to write down some notes about a whirlwind trip to Manhattan last week because I'm headed there again on Saturday. A professor, advisor, mentor and friend of mine, Dr. Wissman, invited me to speak about urban education in her honors seminar "Hot Topics in Eduction." I also went to lunch with a senior interested in KCK, met the new vice-provost (super impressed!) and talked student teaching with the College of Ed coordinator. I was extremely fortunate people advocated that I should be in the KCK school district as a student teacher. That was the fall of 2005, and eight years later, I still love this district.

The students in the seminar asked very tough questions, and I answered very honestly. I think more young teachers should come to our district and stay in our district, but it's difficult when they have no exposure. Before I started here, I couldn't name any of the high schools. Now I'm finally getting a grip on the thirty elementary schools too!

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The biggest surprise was the remodel to the honors room! It definitely needed an improvement, but I didn't expect to see my name on the wall as well. Or my picture!

Rachel and I are listed because we completed our honors research together our senior year (of course), and Erica and I are listed as Tomorrow's Teachers scholarship recipients. A totally random scholarship we both applied for as seniors that brought Erica to K-State and helped out a ton my freshman year. I was featured on the donors Christmas card one year with three of my students - Idalia, Taleah and William. I love that drawing with those kids.

We're headed back tomorrow. Send positive thoughts our way as we take 125 6th, 7th and 8th graders to Open House. It's one of my favorite days at K-State so I hope I still love it after a day with middle school students!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Reading Specialist.

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For two people who lived together and talk every day (or text or email, but mostly talk), I had a hard time finding photos of JUST Erica and I together! Some of these are oldies - Erica & Jon's rehearsal dinner, a couples shower we threw for the Nortons, and a trip to New Mexico for the Nortons wedding. Today is Erica's 30th birthday, and I'm so blessed and encouraged by her friendship. Also, I'm extremely well fed.

This is also a post about something Erica has inspired me to do. This summer I will start classes at Emporia State University to add a Reading Specialist certification to my license. It's a 22 hour graduate level program, and it's about time I add another certification. (That's a joke - I already have four.)

Erica has been serving as a reading specialist at a Title One school the same number of years I have been working as a teacher leader. I'm totally fascinated by the work she can do with kids targeting specific skills and planning interventions to get kids moving forward. Often over the past year I have found myself referencing in her meetings in my own district. Her skills were ones I wanted to have too as I work in supporting teachers and adolescent readers.

This spring it clicked that reading specialist was probably a good fit for me too. We have students who read below grade level in our classrooms without a ton of great ideas for what we should do! There are only a handful of secondary reading specialists in our district. This doesn't mean a job switch for me, just a new set of skills that will make me even stronger as a coach and building leader. I'm going to work pretty slowly on this but am jumping in with four hours this summer. I expect that Erica may have to be my tutor.

It's a total challenge for me to think about learning to read. Thanks for inspiring me and encouraging me, Erica - and happy birthday!

PS. My mom thinks this whole thing is hilarious. It's like I've been running away from my destiny the whole time. My grandma was a Title One reading teacher, so obviously I should be too.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

After Boston.

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I don't really have anything new to add to the sad conversation processing what happened in Boston. But if Rachel had run a little faster and not had baby boy #3 this year, we would have been there too. (Well not my mom, she would have been doing taxes.) Rachel is my favorite marathon runner of all time, and I've been to her races in Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City, and Chicago. I cry A LOT at every single marathon. Not just because of Rachel, but because I can't believe the things will people conquer to run 26 miles.

You should read Rachel's thoughts as a runner and a mom. And I also identify really strongly with the descriptions in this article about the people who watch marathons. I love the author's last paragraph...

"One of the many puzzling aspects of yesterday's attacks was the question of what, exactly, the perpetrators thought they'd accomplish by targeting what basically amounts to a celebration of human tenacity. If anything, the tragedy in Boston will further solidify the bond between runner and spectator. And when the Chicago marathon happens this October, I'll show up to run harder, and they'll show up to cheer louder. If anyone thought this attack would discourage the runners or the watchers, they've clearly never been to a marathon."

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My heart just breaks for Boston. I know right where it happened and was just there in 2012. This vintage photo from 2006 is Rachel standing in about the same spot as Brian Williams was reporting tonight on the NBC National News. The stories of the people showing unbelievable kindness make me cry harder. Marie was there and is okay, as were the other four people I knew that were running. (Why do I know so many runners?)

I was in the midst of surgery recovery when Newtown happened and didn't write about it so I think I'm still processing these horrific incidents. Last month a 14-year-old died in KCK in random gunfire. He didn't go to our school but the next week I was standing at metal detectors making small talk with the kids as they came in. I said to this little sixth grader, "Are you going to be able to get everything back in your backpack?" and he said, "I'm afraid of my neighborhood."

Straight up, that was his response. There are kids who are afraid at home, and I'm afraid the number of kids who are scared keeps growing. When the greatest sporting events and the quietest schools aren't safe anymore, how do we explain it the kids? Especially when we can't make sense of it ourselves. I'm definitely still praying for Boston.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Real Talk: Dinner.

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(Photo from my kitchen Sunday night - making a burrito for dinner with a side of asparagus. Prepping lunch snacks, veggies and fruit for the week. Baking some mini blueberry lemon tea cakes, just because.)

I wrote about my love love for Dinner: A Love Story last week when I talked about the books of March. But it really got me thinking about several aspects of dinner preparation in my own home, cooking as a single person. Erica and I have processed this at length over our long walks because (seriously) one of our favorite things to talk about each week is what's for dinner. I think this comes from the 2.5 years that we cooked and made dinner together each week. I could still probably tell you a couple of dishes they are having at her house each week for dinner because we talk about dinner all the time. Through reading the book and processing it with Erica, I have a couple of thoughts about dinner.
  • I don't make many dishes more than once. I tried to make a list of the dishes I have made over six times, and there aren't very many besides spaghetti carbonara and chicken & tuna salad. But in the age of Pinterest, food blogs and too many cookbooks, I'm not an "expert" at anything. Everything seems to take forever and with unpredictable results - even when the sources are good.
  • Cooking for one is overwhelming when portion sizes are out of whack. Just because I can make one dish and eat it for eight meals doesn't mean that I should.
  • Standing up and eating dinner by myself in the kitchen while I'm packing my lunch doesn't actually count as eating dinner. 
  • Fruits and vegetables were standard at every meal my mom prepared for me growing up. I'm good at breakfast (fruit) and lunch (both) but sometimes at dinner I just get tired and leave them in the fridge. 
  • I must make leftover friendly meals or have incredibly simple lunch options ready and available if there aren't going to be leftovers. By my math, between Sunday evening, March 31st and Saturday, April 6th lunch I ate 18 meals prepared at home. It isn't unusual that I would need breakfast, lunch and dinner most days of the week.
So I'm working really hard at dinner. Sometimes that means pouring myself a glass of something (beer, wine, sparkling water with lime) and slowing down. Listening to a little more NPR. A podcast I missed or Marketplace. Sunday I made dinner, packed a lunch, prepared veggies and fruit for the week and baked some blueberry lemon mini loaves during two episodes of Bones I missed (you don't really have to watch it!). Then I'm making myself sit at the table and read. Or listen to more NPR. Without anyone to talk to, it's still a pretty fast meal. But then I can appreciate a little bit more that I prepared food for myself.

I want to be better at what I know how to make. One of my very favorite dishes of all time is my mother's homemade sloppy joe. I still insist she make it for me several times a year. I'm afraid if I continue to be a "try it once Pinterest queen," my kids will never have a sloppy joe recipe that they demand from time to time. They'll say to me instead, "Mom, what's for dinner this week from pinterest?" knowing that it's a crap shoot. This is something our generation is losing. My parents both talk fondly about the dishes their mothers made for them - thanks Grandmas!

I have to make smaller portions and start with a protein. One pork chop. One large chicken breast for two meals. No more bottomless quinoa bowls that I have to eat until next Tuesday. I'm trying to rethink my plate with what is seasonal. I bought broccoli the last three weeks not to put in dishes but because I love it. So I can steam it or roast it and just eat it for dinner like I was raised. I'm also trying to remember to have enough fruit on hand for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

These are ideal dinner conditions, and they are often unattainable because of scheduling. I have meetings at 6:30 or 7 twelve weeknights before the month of April is out. (YIKES!) This will mean smarter planning. Or less planning. Quickly browning a pork chop of stir frying broccoli and chicken might be easier than trying something new and might mean Belle gets a much needed and loved walk as a bonus. Erica keeps a list of the seasonal dishes they love which helps with rotation. She's putting away the comfort foods of winter for more vegetable and grill based recipes for spring. I'm trying to build my list right now for what works and what I love.

Let's talk about this. Am I alone? Do you have a lot of 6+ dishes that you make over and over again or are you more like me, always trying something new? And how in the world do you keep track so that it's not starting over each week? Are you finding it's better or worse with kids? I am really trying to work at enjoying the dinner process more.

But not the dishes. I really wish I had someone to do the dishes.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bachelorette Party at Stone Pillar.

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It's time for another wedding! For the third time we celebrated one of the book club brides on Final Four weekend. Previous times (Kate & Abbey) the Kansas team won so we were bummed about Wichita State.

The hosts planned a wonderful evening starting at Stone Pillar Vineyard and Winery in Olathe. Saturday was gorgeous - just very very windy. We each sampled about eight wines and then shared a couple of bottles outside with snacks and a view of the vineyard. It wasn't California, but the gas to Olathe was surely cheaper. And goat cheese is delicious anywhere!

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Kate is officially nine months pregnant. We are waiting any day for baby G #2 to arrive. Like literally, any day. Preferably Friday, April 12th because it's one of my favorite April birthdays, and the day I picked in the baby pool. The wind was terrible on Saturday but good for accurately capturing the size of Kate's belly.

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After Stone Pillar, we went to Garozzo's for some classic Italian food. After we ate, Amy opened our gifts that we had brought. She was supposed to guess who the underwear was from as she opened it. There were only a few giveaways (Nanette - Kansas City Royals) and mine. Obviously, I bought very boring underwear from Victoria's Secret that had my name literally all over it. I thought it was hilarious.

Just five weeks to go until we celebrate Amy and Chris! Amy is such a calm bride, and our friend Leah is such a calm bridesmaid. It is fun to just get to be a participant as they just get stuff done and prepare for the big day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Four Books of March.

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I take a pair of seventh grade girls to the public library once a week. They'd like to go more, probably, so we try to stock up on like four or five books every time we walk down to the library together. On Thursday, Cristal said to me, Ms. Luhrs, why don't you read more? I said, I'm doing the best I can! I have to be a grown up and cook dinner, and clean up from dinner, and run another business and walk the dog. I don't just leave school at 3:30 and read the rest of the night like they apparently do!

The Book of Vice is written by Peter Sagal, the beloved host of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! When Lauren told me he was speaking at KU in early March, I really wanted to go. We both love his nerdy sense of humor. The book was non-fiction, something I don't really read normally, but he is funny and I learned a ton. About gambling, strip clubs and gluttony. I have a few friends who would find it hilarious, so I'm happy to loan my signed copy out. I did go to KU while wearing a KSU sweatshirt so Peter Sagal enscribed the book with "To the Luhrs Ladies - get out before they find you."

Love Anthony is the third book by Lisa Genova. I sobbed my way through Still Alice, didn't ever read her second book, and tore through this book. I didn't love this Nantucket based story about a boy with pretty intense autism, but I am a TOTAL sucker for stories with alternating chapter narrators so I liked it. It makes me move quickly through a book so I can find out what is happening in the other protagonist's world. From the little I know about autism, I did think it was well done in that regard. Genova is like a neurosurgeon, so she tackles the tough brain stuff. She just did a couple weird things in the story that I found hard to read. It did, however, really make me want to go to Nantucket.

The Aviator's Wife is probably going to make the book club circuit soon. It's about Charles Lindbergh's wife, and it's similar to The Paris Wife and Loving Frank. Famous man, good story about the woman they (sometimes) loved. My mom recently read a biography written by their daughter, and we were comparing notes. For what it's worth, I liked my fictionalized, slightly scandalous version better. I liked it and enjoyed reading it over spring break. If you like this genre (it's practically a genre now), this one is just the same and an easy read.

Dinner: A Love Story was given to me by a friend, and I am obnoxiously obsessed. There's another blog post in the works related to this cookbook/book, but it's just wonderful. She gave it to me on a Monday, I had the whole thing finished by Friday annd a refreshed, renewed, and excited perspective about cooking. It's really about family meals and follows Jenny Rosenstratch and her husband from when they were newlyweds with hours to craft gourmet meals, to new parents with two under two, to the age where she says "the heavens opened and the angels sang" because they could have family dinners. She feels this way EVEN with very picky eaters! Recipes, stories, awesomeness packed on each page. She worked at Real Simple and has a very popular blog that I didn't know about until I read the book. This is NOT a book by a blogger who got a book deal. This is a book by someone who deserved a book deal before Al Gore invented the internet. I won't shut up about this book and keep bullying people into buying it or buying it for them. (You should check with me before you buy it. I may have already bought it for you.) PS. The Lazy Bolognese is very good.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Easter & Resurrection.

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One of the pastors mentioned on Sunday that Resurrection Sunday is sort of a big deal not only because of the good good news it brings but also because it's the name of our church! I invited Mom and Lauren to join us downtown this Easter at the Kauffman Center. It was the closest we have come as a church to all meeting and worshiping at one time under one roof (there was some overflow outside the theater).

I was worried about there being enough room so we were sure to arrive early enough to get seats together. We sat with the Andersons in the third row in the Kauffman theater, the smaller side. It's beautiful, and a great place for Easter worship.

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Little Lu was in a wreck over a week ago, and Easter this year felt like an even greater reminder of the triumph that life is. We've just got so much work to do, and it's nice that God went ahead and had Jesus' conquer the grave to pave the way for that work.

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After church, we took some photos and walked down the hill to the Webster House for brunch. We've been for dinner and happy hour a couple of times, and we were definitely not disappointed by brunch!

We started with great cocktails - bluberry mojitos and mimosas. (Just another reminder that I really want to grow some mint in my garden this summer!) Lauren and I both had a great salad with dried cherries, candied pecans and goat cheese.

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Each of us picked an entre that was perfectly suited - my salmon benedict was amazing. We had considered brunch at the Bristol where you can try a little bit of everything, but we switched to the Webster House because the pricing was more reasonable. However, then the Webster House decided to offer a special Easter menu and the pricing was about the same as the buffet at the Bristol! They did include a lovely dessert buffet where we sampled quite a few different mini desserts. We were definitely stuffed when we left!

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Easter was beautiful with the sun shining and a blue sky. It felt promising, like winter might finally be gone and the spring temperatures and sunshine were here to stay. I like that kind of Easter.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Friends Around Town.

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A trip to Virginia wouldn't be complete without more of my favorite people and especially my favorite foods! I was a little delayed when I arrived on Monday, so we hurried to Tackle Box for the ultimate Georgetown meal. Fried shrimp, grilled vegetables and fries stolen from the boys' plate, followed by cupcakes and coffee from Baked and Wired. The boys were dining so leisurely and nicely at Tackle Box that we had a parking ticket for an expired meter when we were done!

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Later in the day we met my friend Adrienne, her husband Jon and daughter Avery for Chipotle and Pinkberry. While Chipotle is not unique to VA, it is certainly very special because kids will eat there nicely while adults catch up on babies, houses, and school. Avery is a very good diner and excels at fork usage. Seriously. Then I had Pinkberry, my fro-yo true love. It felt nice to be reunited.

Other places I ate at least once but could eat every day included, Taylor Gourmet (the best hoagie sandwiches ever, the Wegman's candy bins, Rachel's dining room table, and Dunkin Donuts. Actually, that last part is a lie. I much prefer my local donut shops.