Tuesday, July 30, 2013
So there was another thing that I wanted to do for my 30th birthday. I wanted to drive the family's 1945 Oliver tractor in the parade at the Jewell County Threshing Bee. (You can read more about the tractor back here!)
It's a really sweet tractor, and last year my cousin and sister rode on the back of the tractor while my uncle Keith drove. Not me, I wanted to drive it. My dad was a bit nervous about this because I can't drive a stick, but I've come to find out that it's only a little bit like that. I mean, there's a clutch. But Keith didn't actually teach us how to shift - we drove it in 2nd the whole time.
Jennie rode on the back while we drove the tractor through town, and we got the driving/riding thing figured out. Turns out starting without jerking around is way harder than stopping. I also cannot drive this tractor in reverse.
Here's an action shot of the parade. I don't want you to think it's a bigger crowd than it is. It's a medium sized crowd and a very short drive. You can see a video at the end of the post including a probably inaccurate tour of Mankato, Kansas.
After our bright shining moment in the parade, we went over to watch the Threshing demonstration. The men are taking the wheat through an old thresher to get the wheat, which is normally done with a combine today.
This is one of a few different activities going on during the Threshing Bee. We also watched blacksmiths and chainsaw artists while we were there.
Jennie wanted to drive after the parade, and she was a quick study too. It really wasn't too hard to learn. Important note: we think we were driving about 2 or 3 miles per hour because people passed us walking at a pace that can best be described as a "stroll."
Thanks to my uncle for his assistance with the video footage and the tutorial.
Later that night after dinner at the Buffalo Roam, Jennie and I hung out in the Beer Garden with some family members. It was pretty crowded in there and the band "Free Chicken and Beer" was playing some great songs!
The next morning we went on a walking tour of the farm and had lunch at the marina with my family. We got to spend a lot of fun time with my family over the weekend, and I'm so lucky to be a part of this family. It was so nice to share all the nice things about my mom's hometown with Jennie.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Jennie arrived late Thursday night, and we started the big birthday day with pedicures. We had a delicious lunch (and pinot gris!) at Cafe Sebastienne before having our hair styled at Parlor on the Plaza. It was really nice to be pampered, and Jennie and I would recommend it. The stylists were nice, the atmosphere was fun, and they did a great job not complaining about my thick hair. Also, the owner gave me $5 off for my birthday.
I really wanted to have a happy hour on my birthday where a ton of my friends could hang out in the same place. Remedy: Food & Drink is a fabulous bar in Waldo that my friends Amy & Taylor introduced me to earlier this year at St. Patrick's Day. Also, one of my high school classmates is an owner, and he was super kind about reserving some space for us.
We arrived just after four and some friends were already there waiting for us. People came and went until about seven that night, and I had almost forty friends come by and celebrate. Remedy has great beer on tap, fun yummy food (the eggplant fries are my favorite), and really pretty natural lighting.
The group included these lovely high school friends of mine, book club pals, sorority sisters, friends from JL and around town, and friends from my Village days. I didn't take nearly the number of photos I could have because I was busy talking instead of playing official photographer, but you can imagine how fun it was to have so many friends together in one place for me.
While I'm not sure I highly recommend being 30 yet, I do want to give a shout out to Cafe Sebastienne, Parlor on the Plaza and Remedy. Also, having a really fabulous group of friends never hurt either.
Friday, July 26, 2013
One thing on my summer bucket list was to finish my project life album. Little by little, I kept track of events over the course of the first part of the year, but it became exactly what I didn't want it to be. An item on my to-do list, and I was usually weeks behind. I loved the format of the mini-book more than this project life album, so I knew this wasn't a great long term craft option for me. But I was going to finish it before summer started, and I started working on my summer manifesto scrapbooking. I was so serious about finishing it that I put it on the official summer manifesto list.
I had to finish because I had other plans for summer crafting. Just.you.wait.
In early April, I switched up the colors and instantly felt pretty refreshed. More colors, washi tape to make things pop. I ordered a bunch of photos and knocked out all these pages in less than four hours (or eight episodes of Arrested Development). In the end, I wouldn't do it again, but I certainly like flipping through it.
If you feel like checking things off your list on this fine Friday, click over to Donors Choose. It's time we fund another project. Seriously, I posted it on facebook and there was no love. Fantastic drama teacher (and KCK secondary teacher of the year) Billy has two projects to fund. It may look like a money because he needs more than $1000 still. The reality is that once donors like YOU start funding with $5, $10, $25 donations the money starts FLYING in from matching grants.
Just do it. Go to Donors Choose and give even a tiny bit to support arts in my school. Kids need you.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
One last post about our time in Winter Park/Fraser. We were staying in a condo at the top of a very big hill, and on Saturday morning I threw on some clothes to walk down down for lattes with Kate. Robert didn't really adjust to mountain time, so he was ready to go too! My little godson was a perfect gentleman on this trip to Colorado. The trip down was pretty, the latte was delicious, and the trip back up was much harder.
Staying in Winter Park was very special to me because I've skied here on youth group trips probably almost ten times. I loved looking up at the mountain and pointing out to my pals where the best runs were when we skied. So I was extremely excited when our Saturday plans shaped up to be time at Winter Park.
I didn't realize that Tara had never been to Colorado before our trip, so she was all about the mountain activities. There were a lot of fun things to choose from on the mountain, but we picked alpine sledding and a trip to the top on the Zephyr Express. I've been on both the ski lifts we rode with skis on!
Alpine sledding is no joke, and we really whizzed down the mountains on the little cars. The ride operator almost didn't let Tara and I go in the fast lane because we were first timers, but we convinced him. It was crazy, and I'm pretty sure helmets should be required. Winter Park's alpine slide is the longest in the state of Colorado.
After the slide, Jesi, Tara and I rode up the Zephyr Express. I've been to Sunspot many times but always as a youth sponsor so this was my first beer at 10,700 feet. You can really taste the Rockies when you drink the Coors Light at this elevation. Sunspot is gorgeous, and one of my favorite spots at Winter Park. And now I can say that it's super pretty in the summer and the winter!
Each one of the activities we did cost $15. If we had more time, we would have upgraded to the $44 half day pass which would have meant multiple rides and access to all other stuff at the base of the mountain. I spent that money instead on Coors Light. (My parents are proud.)
Riding down the ski lift we could only ride in groups of 2, so I sat by myself and captured photos of the mountains looking back into Winter Park and Fraser. It was also fun to watch all the summer activity at the base of the mountain too. I was most impressed with the mountain bikers of all ages barreling down the mountain with their hard core gear.
The grounds at Winter Park are beautifully maintained, and I couldn't stop commenting on the flowers. They certainly benefit from the cool Colorado climate!
From the base of the mountain we headed back to the condo to pick-up and eat some lunch before we headed off the mountain. Abbey, Katherine, Erica, Jesi and I were driving to Goodland, and Nan, Tara, Kate & Robert were staying in Denver before their flight home in the morning. We received an excellent recommendation to eat at Jack-n-Grill, and the chips, salsa and guac hit the spot before we split up and continued on towards home.
We had a good time because these are good people and because Colorado is just so pretty it can't help but be lovely. I hadn't been in the mountains in the summer since 2004, and that is just far too long. We liked to play a game called "would you rather have a beach house, a mountain house or a lake house?" I am pretty sure my first choice would be mountain house, but if I had to have a beach house too that would be okay. Please disregard the fact I live really far from a beach.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Kate and I were talking about the trip near the end, and she said something extremely wise. She said the trip to Colorado was the type of trip where you realize you have really wonderful friends. She's right. It wasn't the type of trip where we came home with nine million funny stories and inside jokes, but the kind of trip where we came home thankful for each other.
Friday night was no exception. I planned a lot of the trip but didn't make any dinner reservations. When we arrived on Thursday, Tara mentioned that maybe we should make reservations for one of the nights. We casually picked a restaurant that Erica went to last year, and then Tara worked her super sneaky friend magic.
We arrived to a beautiful table set with a banner on my chair, favorite candies brought from Kansas City, a sign and a chilled bottle of Prosecco. It surprised me and overwhelmed me, and the waiter had to wait till I stopped sobbing so he could pour the Prosecco. Yep, true story.
Erica had been regretting for a year that she didn't have the burger at Heck's, so almost all of us ordered it. They were really good burgers, and a perfect burger treat. We also had yummy calamari to start the meal!
At the end of the meal, Jesi and I stepped outside to see the sky changing over the mountains. I hadn't done my research ahead of time, but we were actually pretty high up in the mountains, practically in the clouds. Devils Thumb Ranch was just gorgeous, and we loved its location.
As we left, the sunset with the clouds and mountains was really showing off. Geez, Colorado, alright already. You are a very pretty place.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Last year I was swimming around in Abbey's pool, and I said, "If I'm still single on my 30th birthday, let's take a girls trip to Colorado!" I think Abbey said, "That sounds fun and we should go even if you are dating someone!" So the idea for a trip was born.
We packed up and headed west to stay in the mountains a couple weeks ago. Erica and I drove from Kansas City, picking up Jesi in Manhattan and staying overnight with Katherine in Goodland. The next day we drove up into the mountains, stopping for lunch and yummy Colorado beer in Denver.
Nanette, Tara, and Kate flew with baby Robert, and they met up with Abbey who was already out in Colorado Springs. We all gathered at the condo Katherine had generously arranged for us and caught up. So much talking to do. Eventually we made our way to Hernando's for dinner.
There aren't a ton of places in Winter Park that people say are "must eats" but Hernando's is recommended by everyone. We were impressed. All three of the pizzas we tried were delicious, plus the family style Greek salad to start the meal hit the spot. I'm increasingly a fan of honey for the crust of my pizza. So much so that I am considering taking my own honey with me to pizza parlors that don't provide it. Is that weird?
Friday morning we made breakfast at the condo. Bacon, egg and cheese English muffin sandwiches, homemade granola I made before the trip, yogurt, fresh berries. Some of our friends were impressed, but Erica and I think this kind of planning is normal. A few group members scheduled spa treatments for the afternoon, but we all packed lunches (planned ahead again!) and went on a short hike near Grand Lake.
There was just a small elevation change, and Robert hung out in the Baby Bjorn like a champ. After part of the group left for the spa, Erica, Abbey and I continued walking further along the path through the woods. It was pretty flat and more like a walk in the woods. After two days of travel, it felt so good to stretch our legs.
After the hike we went down into Grand Lake for ice cream. I think you should always eat ice cream on vacation.
This should probably be on a canvas in my office at work, right? I think it is just so pretty. It would only be better if there was a moose in it.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
My friend Lindsay is so lucky. She lives very close to a lot of presidential libraries. In fact, Texas is home to three presidential libraries, and I started checking them off my list a couple weeks ago with a visit to the newest presidential library, George W. Bush's. I'm so surprised Lindsay waited till I came to town. Just kidding. No one else is as excited about presidential libraries as I am.
We went on a Monday morning, and it was pretty crowded. The average age was not affected by our presence. It's located on the edge of SMU, so I got to see parts of campus on this excursion.
YOU CAN NOT TAKE YOUR GUN INSIDE THE MUSEUM. That's what the guard told us over and over again as we waited to go in the museum. I tried to tell him I didn't want to carry a gun ANYWAYS, but he didn't seem to want to discuss political ramifications and the 2nd Amendment. Still it was pretty ironic, Texas.
It was a neat museum. Because it was so recent, it was like living history for Lindsay and me. The 9-11 Memorial was very well done, and they did a great job weaving in multimedia from those days. There is a very moving photo from Florida where an aide is whispering in the President's ear about the planes hitting the Twin Towers.
We also LOVED Decision Points Theater. Even though it shares a name with an autobiography President Bush wrote, it was actually cool. We got to make quick decisions responding to information and intelligence about a situation. It was hard to not be a little biased because we knew what happened in Iraq, but it would be such a neat way for students to experience history in less than five minutes. There were other simulations too, and we watched another group tackle Katrina.
There are some great views from the library. The picture below is of the Texas Rose Garden. I thought the name was very charming. And it kind of looks like the real Rose Garden in the White House.
It was a good visit and number six on my presidential library bucket list. (I've been to Hoover, Ike, Truman, JFK, George W., and Jimmy Carter). I've got to get to Little Rock to see President Clinton, and Andrea made an excellent suggestion about how we could get to FDR in Hyde Park. Lindsay said on my next Texas trip, we can hit LBJ or Daddy Bush's libraries.
PS. When I was looking at the picture at the top of this post, I asked Lindsay if she was holding hands with W. No, she said, she was shaking his hand. Just wanted to clarify in case you were also confused.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I whipped up a batch of cookies in between my Texas trip and my Colorado girls trip. I haven't quite gotten to three different kinds before my summer is over, but I'm still loving the 13 cookie challenge.
These lemon cookies are from the Junior League cookbook, Pinches and Dashes. It's a fantastic cookbook and several of my KC friends own a copy. The glaze is a must because even though there is lemon pudding in the cookie itself, the fresh lemon juice and zest in the glaze makes them sunshiney. Abbey thought they were so good that she already made them, and Erica already asked for the recipe too! I also heard from Ginny that they were served at a recent JL event in Wichita. So you should just bake them too, it appears to be the thing to do!
And if you're in the market for a great cookbook and supporting a good cause, grab Pinches & Dashes too!
Drops of Sunshine
Yields about 2.5 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 (4-ounce) packages lemon instant pudding mix (Jello was 3.4 oz when I found it, but it worked fine!)
3/4 cup shortening - I wish I had used butter flavored shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
For the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the flour, baking soda, salt and pudding mix in a medium bowl. Beat the shortening at medium speed in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, beating constantly. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture gradually, beating constantly.
Drop the dough by tablespoons onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown.* Cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheet. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze, whisk the confectioner's sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a small bowl until smooth. Spread over the cooled cookies.
*I made sure not to over bake and just cooled them completely on the cookie sheet and then glazed them there too! Super easy and a little less messy.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
When I went to Dallas, Lindsay said we needed to go to her favorite breakfast place, Oddfellows. I'm always up for a good brunch, and this place totally 100% wowed me. KC friends - it has a vibe like a Westside Local/Quay Coffee but with a much bigger menu. I appreciated the variety, and if we had time, I would have eaten breakfast there a couple times to try the different options.
We started with beignets because I love any excuse to eat fried dough in the morning. They weren't perfectly shaped, but they were perfectly prepared. We munched on these while we sipping vanilla lattes as big as your face.
For the main event, I ordered the yogurt, homemade granola and berries with local honey. I was showing my mom the picture, and she said it looked just like the place we ate in Philadelphia back in 2010. She was so very right, and it literally was the perfect choice. Linds and I are both
Later that day, Lindsay and our friend Katie took me too The Ginger Man. Located in an old house, they serve over 100 beers on tap. Once I got over the fact that people still smoke on patios in Texas, I began to enjoy myself, trying new beers and catching up with Katie.
The weather was unseasonably lovely, and we weren't hot at all sitting on the back porch drinking some beer. I think I could hang out here a lot. Plus, this will be remembered as the place I met my new favorite summer beer, Shiner Ruby Redbird. Hello, grapefruit and ginger beer? YES. PLEASE. I had a 12 pack of cans I found in Overland Park that is already gone.
Boulevard Wheat was on tap as well, but I skipped ordering what I can have every day here. Texas food was good to me, and I'm convinced there are a dozen more restaurants that Lindsay was telling me about that I would love to try on future trips.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Dad flew me to Dallas for quality time with my friend Lindsay. Honestly, that was my primary goal for this part of the trip. I wanted to do life with Lindsay in her city, celebrate her recent graduation and put boots on the ground in Dallas. I hadn't been to Dallas since a Cotton Bowl a long long time ago, and I was excited to get back.
We went to a Rangers game. I was a first timer to Arlington, and I have now been to seven MLB stadiums - Rockies, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Orioles, Nationals, and Cubs! We ate foot long corn dogs because when in Texas...but seriously, the corn dog was invented just down the road at the Texas State Fair. Also, you can carry in your own drink. We took nice cold (and cheap) Sonic sodas and water bottles. But you could take your own beer!
I bought tickets for Lindsay and me as a graduation present, and I carefully plotted with a Texas Rangers ticket agent for the perfect seats. WE WERE IN THE SHADE. It was only 90 degrees, but I wanted to avoid sweating to death and a sunburn. We had a great view of the field, and we could still see the score board. Which was good for me because I didn't know the words to "Deep in the Heart of Texas," and I wanted to sing along.
The Rangers won, and I would say it was a great day at the ballpark. We ate well, had fun and didn't melt. And everything really is bigger in Texas - this ballpark was huge!
I'm trying to decide what ballparks I'd like to go to next. I'm thinking it's silly I haven't been to see the Cardinals - they are so close! I would also love to go to a Phillies' game while Rachel lives in Philadelphia. Any other good recommendations?
Thursday, July 11, 2013
I realize that not everybody is a fan of these instagrams with the weather on them. But the reality is they were perfect for my trip to Texas. I "thought" that I was going to have a series of instagrams with 100+ degree temperatures. And then the weather got randomly mild for Texas, and these were just as important for documenting the cool temperatures of Texas in July. It was really just gorgeous, a very strange thing to say about Texas in summer. I also like that they are dated and have the location along with the weather. As the daughter of a pilot and granddaughter of farmers, it's natural to pay attention to the weather.
There might be a few more of these sweet pics in my instagram feed this weekend because today I'm Colorado bound for a book club birthday retreat in the mountains. Watch for #chiratescolorado and #thisis30 (Kate's clever suggestion) as we take the Rockies by a storm. Or something mildly like that.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The next part of the adventure with my brothers took us to New Braunfels, TX. Right outside San Antonio, we were headed to my dad's company picnic. We were also headed towards the heat - triple digits. It's a special kind of heat in Texas, especially when you eat Mexican food in a restaurant where the air conditioning isn't working quite right. (That's a two beer kind of dinner.) The heat just never goes away.
Our lodging was sweet. Picture a Residence Inn except built to look like a tree house in a water park. And when you step outside, the view is pretty incredible too. Hello Schlitterbahn!
Staying in the park means you get to
Right near the front of the line, Spencer panicked briefly and decided he wasn't so sure about the ride. He ended up loving it! We promptly returned back to the room and the company picnic. More sunscreen and then back out to ride the not-lazy river. We waited about 45 minutes for this one too, and it was really hot. It was a good lazy and not lazy little ride around the park. When it's not crowded, you can ride it on repeat, but Schlitterbahn was slammed that weekend so we had to get out after one trip around.
We played for a bit in a a crazy torrent river that moved you around with gentle and serious waves. Cooper and I each had one of the little guys by the hand on our trips around because it was pretty serious sometimes, but it was probably the most fun. And we didn't wait in line.
And that was it. I walked the boys back to the pirate ship later, but that was all we did Saturday. We were pooped and everyone was asleep before 10 pm.
Sunday morning was rainy and cool - like only 70 degrees! I was headed to Dallas, but I know the boys did some more rides. Mitch (16), Spencer (7), Cooper (14) and Blake (12) are good brothers, and we generally get along well. Coop was woken up FOR this photo, so that explains his facial expression. Very little explains Spencer's.