Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy 100th Anniversary JLKCMO!

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Last Friday, Mom and I took the afternoon off to enjoy Kansas City at its best. We ended up with shopping on the Plaza and the Art Fair, but the first celebration was a good one. The Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri marked their 100th anniversary with a luncheon at Bartle Hall. And Hoda Kotb was the speaker!
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In case you were wondering - or confused like many of the attendees - there is actually a very nice part of Bartle Hall on the south side by the Kauffman Center. It's like a huge hotel ballroom, and they did an excellent job setting it up for 800 guests.
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I was in the "cheap seats" in the back with Abbey, and Mom sat up front with many of her friends from her days on the Board. She's pretty impressive because she ended up serving three years on the Board, one as a step-up, as Treasurer, and two years as the Director of Finance. This math and money schtick is pretty common for my mom. Whenever she volunteered in the community or at school, she pretty much always did the finance job at least once.

This would make my brain hurt. But I'm trying really hard to stop saying "I'm not a math person," because I'm actually decent at math, money and numbers. And if I have daughters, they might be awesome math heads, and I want them to own that. #realtalk #soapbox
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Abbey and Traci volunteered but also got to join the fun for the luncheon. Hoda was delightful! She's just as peppy in real life as she is on the show and also pretty sassy. There was also a tribute to the League narrated y my favorite anchor Christa Dubill, and several community highlights celebrating all that the Junior League has done for Kansas City in the first 100 years. It's amazing to step back and look at all that they have accomplished!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Sister.

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I don't know if there were moments when we were little that my mom prayed we would just stop talking to each other. Or if she told us we had to go to separate rooms because we were being sisters and super annoying to each other. And her. Those moments probably did happen, but instead I remember doing nine million things with my sister. Dress-up, legos, puzzle museums, playing school (I was always the teacher), swimming. Little House on the Prairie, VBS, mission trips and wandering the farm at my grandparents. We had the best childhood.

But now we're grown-ups (see related discussions of that over here), and it's still just totally awesome to be Lauren's sister. She passed the bar last week and is officially an attorney. She has a sweet job at a dream firm that hosts parties during the Art Fair. She has fabulous hair. We're volunteering together, and I'm loving our time working on a huge project this fall. Our mom always says that whatever age we are is her favorite age, and I have to believe that 28 and 30 have to be just near the top of all time. Life is so good right now, and we get to share so many of the best parts together. The Plaza Art Fair, the American Royal, BOTAR, K-State football and Kansas City in the fall.

Happy birthday Lu. We're so lucky to be related.

PS. Yeah, we still occasionally fight like sisters. But hey, nobody's perfect. And sharing the same DNA with someone is like asking for an occasional fight.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The End of the 13 Cookie Challenge.

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And just like that, we've reached the end of the "13 Cookie Challenge." I've made two cookies in a row that were more like duds than successes, and I'm happy to put this challenge back on the shelf. I liked the excuse to reach for a cookbook instead of Pinterest. It was fun to stretch my cookie muscles beyond sugar cookies, and I found a few new cookies that I'm eager to make again. But butter, flour and chocolate chips are too expensive to bake into cookies I might not like.

The cookies pictured above where some not very pretty (or tasty) coconut fluff cookies. Not my favorite. And on Wednesday, I made a patch of pecan squares that were like pecan pie bars that were also a disappointment. They overcooked even though I baked them less time than recommending and were pretty tough to cut. However, they tasted much better than the coconut ones from earlier this summer...

In total I made eight cookies, and four were absolutely fabulous. I will be making a few of these over and over again, specifically...
(Rachel is going to be really disappointed. No chocolate cookies made the list. I don't know what's wrong with me - these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies were also very good. But now I've got to find some white chocolate chips. Pronto!)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crepes at Chez Elle, Again.

 photo Blog_0303_zps1c36ea49.jpg Sunday it finally rained. They say it will rain again today, and I'm thrilled. It's been so dry. We need a break from the dry air and all things that resemble summer. Plus, I love wearing Hunter boots and my raincoats. I'm hopeful that fall is settling in to stay.  I've seen the forecast for the Plaza Art Fair, and we're officially in "Bob's 47" weather. FALL. Please come and stay awhile.  photo Blog_0302_zps324ffc96.jpg
It rained while we were at brunch on Sunday, safely tucked inside with cappuccinos and crepes. They make delicious crepes at Chez Elle, but they are never hot enough for me. I would love them to be so hot that the insides get hot too. But they don't. Is this how all crepes are? Can someone clarify? I had a crepe in Paris, and I think it was hot. Was it because it was folded up?

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The flavors at Chez Elle are solid. The lemon curd and strawberries were amazing in what I ordered. If only it had a side of bacon to go with it, then it really would have been a meal. Until then, I think pancakes will continue to be my preferential morning food of choice because they're hot and go better with bacon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

K-State Recap: Grown-Ups and the Return of the RV.

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The Willebago returned on Saturday, and we were sure glad. Not only are Karen and Don loyal blog readers, they also put together a good tailgate meal. Don's cheeseburgers were amazing, especially with fresh tomatoes and signature New Mexico green chiles on top. Yes, please and thank you.
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Several of Lauren's friends made the trip up from Lawrence and KC. It was Ashley's first game in Manhattan, and so good to see her law school pals doing something K-State.
 photo Blog_0304_zpsfb8ffaf9.jpg And these guys were there too. They were super thrilled I was taking their photo, can't you tell? I've been talking regularly about this revelation with my KC friends but haven't written about it here. It sort of snuck up on me and caught me off guard. These guys are "grown-ups" now. And I suppose we're all grown-ups now. #thisis30

Somehow growing up with them - I've known Kenneth and Jon for 11 years now - I missed that they grew up. KNort is rocking the full part in his hair again, and Jon's about to become a dad. They work jobs where they have a lot of responsibility. And I suppose I'm a grown-up too. My best friend picked me up in Philadelphia in a minivan with her THIRD kid in the backseat. Book club conversations are about baby milestones and breastfeeding. I have to mow the lawn.

I can't really decide how I feel about being a grown-up, as I'm also perfectly comfortable with my mom driving me to K-State games and buying me dinner. It's just the weirdest thing to look around at the guys who we met on the Slab for homecoming and realize how dramatically life shifts. It makes me nostalgic and excited for what's ahead.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

K-State Recap: It Was Hot.

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It was hot. K-State won. Mom got us Cox BBQ and Anne made awesome cookies.
It was so hot I don't really have anything else to say about it.
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I love the new west stadium, a lot. And K-State students - don't wear cowboy boots with your short strapless K-State football dresses. That is completely illogical when it's 105 degrees at kick-off. You're at the Bill not a Taylor Swift concert. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Longwood Gardens.

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After lunch, we were getting ready to head to Longwood Gardens. But when two dads and husbands decide that they want to go golfing instead of walking around a large outdoor garden, they will go to great lengths to make it happen. Installing car seats is no one's favorite job, but Daniel and Sol made haste to get Gwen's installed car seat into the minivan.

Because Vicki is pregnant, and I'm six feet tall, Rachel got the 11" of space between the window and Finn's car seat in the back row. Doesn't she just look thrilled with this plan? Rach, Finn, Brady sat in the back, with Keaton and Gwen in the middle row, and Vicki and I piloting at the front. We made it work, and I loved the little bit of extra quality time it allowed me to catch up with Vicki. Everybody else was watching Robin Hood.
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Longwood Gardens is really great, and surprisingly awesome for kids. I went a long time ago when I was little and again while visiting my aunt and uncle back in 2010. After we paid our admission and loaded up on some sunscreen, we headed straight for the children's garden. It's perfect for kids because it offers plenty of opportunities to play with water fountains! Our crew didn't get too wet but we saw some little kids that were soaked and darting around the indoor garden.
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I just included this photo because the humidity in there was doing wonders for their CURLS. Straight up ringlet city.
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We walked over to a giant tree house that Finn and Braden both loved, and then we tried to take a picture of Rachel and me in matching outfits. It's good but you can't really tell how matchy we are - I'm wearing a nautical shirt, she has nautical shorts (though now she owns the same shirt). We're both wearing KJP bracelets, matching necklaces, and we were both wearing our Jacks until I changed into "walking sandals."

And the photo on the right? I was really hot. Internet, you're welcome. That's what I look like when I'm really hot. Vicki and Rachel insisted I share it's awesomeness.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Four Books of August.

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I have no explanation for why I read more in August other than I was slightly overwhelmed, too tired to do anything else, too hot and cramming it in before grad school started again. My homework assignments are piling up again, BOTAR rehearsals started last night, and I'm headed to my first football game in Manhattan manana.

Basically, expect less of me from here on out. I'm trying to go to bed earlier.

The New from Spain was recommended by the owner of Rainy Day Books and is a collection of seven short stories. There is a line in each of the stories about the "News from Spain." It's beautiful if you like short stories, but as is typical of short pieces, most of the stories leave you wanting a little bit more. If it were my copy and not the one from the library, I would have marked a few passages because they were so well written. Here's one of my favorite excerpts:

"I am writing about women, about love and humiliation. Men do it to us, but mostly we do it to ourselves. We love the wrong people; we love at the wrong time. We think that we can make it right, reconcile the irreconcilable. We are like game-show contestants who don't know when to stop. We could go home right now with the money and the washing machine, but we want the car so we keep going and we get the answer wrong, or choose the wrong door, or spin the wheel too hard, and then we have to go home with nothing."

Bam. It was a good one. I like when people can really write.

In the Shadow of the Banyan is a tough read also really well written. It takes place in Cambodia during the rule of the Khmer Rouge, and that is a time and place I didn't know much about. So I learned a lot, specifically about the struggle of families. It's heavy, but I read it quickly to find out what happened and also get through the awfulness. Vivian from Rainy Day also recommended this book (and the next) for book clubs.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home was our book club choice for August and provided easily the best conversation we've had about a book in MONTHS. I am a sucker for a teenage protagonist, but all the characters are discussion worthy. The setting is the 1980s and America doesn't "get" AIDS yet, which is a major part of the story line. I talked to my mom about it because it seems so foreign, but she thinks it's accurate. A major part of the story line is that because the protagonist and her sister both have tax accountants as parents they have a lot of crock pot dinners during busy season. So I served pot roast nicely prepared in a crock pot for dinner!

And the Mountains Echoed is the newest book from the author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. It's been out for a few months, and while I knew the story was more epic than the other two, I didn't realize it's more of a collection. The characters are interwoven but also not always directly connected. As always with his books, it is easy to be transported to Afghanistan, to love the people and the characters, and to be rightly reminded that we're still involved "over there." Hosseini is a good writer, and I'm glad he's not hurrying through and pushing books out. A Thousand Splendid Suns is still my favorite if you haven't read any of his books.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Lunch with Babies and Friends at Farmer's Road.

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I've said it before, and I'm likely to say it 82 more times so long as I'm blogging - I have the world's best friends. My visit to Pennsylvania was short, but a very pregnant Vicki drove up from DC and new mom Emily drove up from Maryland. They brought their kids and their husbands, and we had the best day in Pennsylvania with Rachel and her crew of boys.
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Gwen's going to be 2 in October, and she's awesome. Lots to say about everything going around her and the best ringlet curls. Especially in the humidity! I think she's ready for a baby brother based on her level of excitement about baby Keaton!
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After hanging out at Rachel's for a while, we went to lunch at Farmer's Road. Homemade sodas and awesome entree options. Kansas City friends - it's sort of a hybrid between a Westside Local and Unforked but with better prices. My apple and cheese sandwich with sweet potato chips and a soda was less than $6. Some of the guys needed a little more to fill them up, so we also ate a lot of homemade hummus and awesome options from the pickle bar.
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The really great feature was we could all order at the counter and then they brought us the food at our long picnic table. Easy to manage with lots of little ones, aged 6 weeks to 4 years.
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Finn's shades kill me in this photo. He's definitely my bud still, and I love having conversations with him about everything. He'll tell you lots of things. Favorite topics: Transformers, RescueBots and Duplos. He also has an opinion about what Gwen is doing that's usually hilarious.
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We all got to sit and enjoy the meal for a long time before babies needed to nurse, kids needed to potty, and they just couldn't sit anymore. Breaking bread with friends is always a blessing, and I'm particularly fond of this hodgepodge of east coast friends and their husbands. And their funny little people.
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The babies were very well behaved. Keaton and Charles are both adorable and snuggly. More babies for everyone please. The dads also were super helpful wranglers which made it easy for us to catch up a little while we sat together. There are no photos of the men from this outing, but they were around too. It was nice to see Sol, Ryan and Daniel as well!
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We attempted a group shot with the five little ones, but let's face it, we were outnumbered. Instead you get this group shot of my good pals. So very lucky indeed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

End of Summer Pie.

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I had a great time in Pennsylvania. It was the perfect way to spend the long weekend with people I dearly love - and all their babies! Rachel and I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch working on internet projects and watching the end of Friday Night Lights (Texas Forever), one episode of Dr. Who (so I'll start watching it now too) and The Great Gatsby (impressive). I told Rachel yesterday that it's a good thing that we like to hang out with our computers so much because it helps to make sure that I don't over extrovert her.

Monday marked the end of summer - though I'm pretty sure it's going to be 90+ at the football game on Saturday - and we celebrated in style at their pool which is part of an orchard. There was an early afternoon storm so the games started after we arrived. The first game was a pie eating contest! Finn participated in the first division and held his own as a four-year-old. Then they called for grown-ups. I assume this includes me. #thisis30

Rachel and I were really confused when we first decided to participate and didn't realize pie eating contests meant you can't use your hands. But we were totally sold once we saw that the pie was from the orchard.

The competition was hilarious - there's some highlights in this short video shot from Sol. We definitely didn't win, but we also didn't stop when the manager says, "Okay moms - you can stop!" I'm going to overlook the fact that she called me a mom. In the video, the manager is encouraging us to keep going, and Rachel totally beat me. It was hilarious - and I don't know if you can tell that we are both laughing so hard that we are almost crying.

It was also the best peach pie I ever had.

Their pool is really awesome - and it's so very east coast. I sort of pretended the set of "The Way Way Back" was just around the corner. Rach, Sol and I went down the slide a ton (so old and so fast) and went off all the diving boards. They have a platform diving board that is easily twice as big as anything I've done before. But by the time you climbed up there, the easiest way out was jumping off. We felt like big kids - and the little kids Brady & Finn chanted for us on everything we did. Go Tori go! Go Mama go! Go Daddy go!

Goodbye summer, you were very sweet to me this year.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Behind the Scenes at Sporting.

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One of the best, newest things in KC is still the Sporting KC park. My friends Abbey & Drew are season ticket holders, and I've been out to a couple of games this summer. I love that it is in Kansas City, Kansas, and that the stadium is so easy to access.
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A couple of weeks ago, Lauren & I had the opportunity to take a tour with the Kansas City Sports Commission. It's such a neat venue with lots of layers. After we walked around the field (pitch), we saw all the layers of suites. This fancy place serves lots of food during the games. I included the photo because the ceiling tiles are hexagons like on a soccer ball!
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These seats are the nicest in MLS for home and away teams. My high school friend Chris made himself comfortable. They were designed by the same people that make leather seats for Porsche. Or Ferrari. They're the same, right?
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The locker room was pretty cool. Their seats all turn back automatically to face the center of the room when they stand up. They are marked off because Sporting was playing a game in Chicago, and it's kind of bad luck if we all sat in their chair while they're away. They have dock stations in each of the chairs, large cupholders and run about $4000 each. One end of the locker room has a Smart Board. I was not impressed. Elementary and middle schools have Smart boards. We have one in our school. Come on Sporting.
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This painting by Michael Savage is fantastic - it shows the blue confetti that flies everywhere when they score a goal. The tour guide said it's from the first game played in the park.
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We ended up all the way at the top of the stadium on the tour. There's a great view of the whole stadium. Apparently during the game the cheers from the Cauldron Member's Stand floats up to the top, and they provide cheat sheets of the chants for people who are sitting up there. Unless there is cussing, of course.

After the tour, Lauren and I watched the first half of the game down in the Members Stand with some friends. We were totally surprised by how many people come out to watch all the the game there - Sporting has some hard core fans. If you didn't read it already, this NY Times post about soccer in Kansas City is amazing. It makes me so proud of KC (again).