Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Plaza Christmas.

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Let's finish up the Christmas season with everyone's favorite Kansas City feature - the Plaza Lights! This year we went downtown to the Christmas Eve service at my church and followed by dinner at Cafe Trio. Two years ago Mom and I ate a delicious meal at Cafe Trio, and I would love if it were a Christmas Eve tradition. It's a cozy restaurant, local, and extremely well run. Live piano music too.
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We had short ribs, salmon, pork chop and a steak, plus delicious salads and perfect desserts. I really recommend Cafe Trio, for happy hour and big meals. We've done both there this year with lots of love and happy tummies.
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Someone named Kip was good to me at Christmas. Well, actually, every day. But you get the idea. (My gift rhymes with "Jean Preuset!")
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And THEN, because Lauren and I live close to the Plaza and love it, we made another trip down on Thursday night. Dad, Tracy, Blake and Spencer came to town for dinner and shopping on the Plaza. I grabbed a couple of ornaments on sale at Halls - my favorite kinds - and we met up for dinner at Houston's. They don't have very many tables that can seat seven, so we had to wait for our 7:45 dinner reservation. The service in the bar was excellent, and it was easy to talk and visit.
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The food was good, very good, just kept coming a little bit fast. When they asked what they could do to make it better, Spencer requested a plate of bacon. The chef from the kitchen said, "Chopped up or strips?" Spencer quickly replied, "STRIPS!" He then proceeded to eat a lot of bacon.

When he finished, he leaned back and said, "I'm stuffed! Why does bacon have to take over my body?"

We hear ya, little brother. Truer words have not been spoken.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas in Jewell County.

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Ah Christmas. As per usual, a blessed time with a lot of family, sweet presents and relaxing. The first weekend of my Christmas break, we made our annual trip to Jewell County to celebrate with our Roe family. I love this picture of the three of us all old enough to drink wine, though I could swear it was just yesterday we ere putting together a Christmas skit for the family.
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We enjoyed having Mike with us for his second Christmas as part of the family. He holds his own with all our chatting, AND he often holds stuff. It's not unusual to hear someone calling him to hold the dishes to put on the table, move the big table and add logs to the fire.
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And we love opening presents with Grandma and Grandpa, married 60 years this summer.
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I make everyone take a lot of photos. My friends, boyfriend, family - we take more than the average group of people. I carried up a ladder from the basement and put the camera on timer at three different heights. Obviously we liked it at the highest angle; it's the most forgiving. Such pretty light in the living room, and such a fun family.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cookies. By the Dozens.

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First, let me say it is impossible for me to look at these gingerbread men without quoting Shrek. "Do you know the muffin man?" OR "Not my gumdrop buttons!" I love that scene in the movie, and it makes me laugh every time I see it. These could be my favorite cookies from the December cookie making blitz.
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I think I made about 35 dozen cookies this December, I lost count at about 28 dozen. I was extremely blessed to have lots of cookie ORDERS. And a boyfriend with a deep freeze. Seriously, it wasn't unusual for me to call Kip and say, "I need you to bring me the mittens, gingerbread men and trees." Ten dozen cookies were left unfrosted for a friend's huge cookie decorating party this weekend, but I still frosted a ton of cookies this year!
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I did frost about 160 cookies at once in the past week. I laid out all the cookies that I needed to frost on my 9 various sized cookie sheets. I probably needed one more half sheet, but then again, I'm not sure I'll ever frost 160 cookies at the same time again. A few times I looked up and just giggled at the mess in front of me. So.many.cookies. And I think all that powdered sugar went to my head.
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I spent about an hour preparing the icing, making the colors and getting it to the consistencies I needed. I was glad I spent all the time in advance preparing the colors and icing because it allowed me to just work, work, work. I worked in sections by cookie shape and by color, outlining and flooding in patterns that made sense to me. It was really orderly but definitely insane.
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This was the scene in my house a lot of days during December. I just discovered these half sheet lids from Nordic Ware, and I am obsessed. It makes it easier to stack things and keeps things safe and fresh in my little tiny kitchen. The cookies must dry completely before I put the lids on; royal icing is a fickle friend.
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I'm really proud of this bunch of cookies. The planning and attention to details really pulled them all together. The pink was not my favorite choice, but when it's subtle like on the gingerbread and on the (finally) perfected polka dot cookie I love it. I think these cookies will probably make people happy - or at least their stomachs!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Baby Madeline.

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Erica's baby is two months old this weekend, and that's CRAZY to me. I swear it was just yesterday that I got the text message they were at the hospital, asking if I could let Lucy out before I went to school. Oh Madeline, you are so very loved. You are also SO mad in this photo.
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Last week Erica, Tara and I went out south to the annual Alpha Chi cookie exchange. The hostess goes all out for Christmas, so we took some photos with Maddie in front of one of the trees.
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I had to take some photos of just Maddie so that we could put them in a little photo ornament. Mom wanted Maddie to have a "My First Christmas" ornament with her photo in it. It's SO very cute because Madeline is so very cute. Mom said those are favorites to pull out each year and see her babies before they grew up to be very tall grown-up ladies. Madeline, don't grow up yet. We love you so very little and cuddly too!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Shower for Baby Franklin.

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Our sweet friend Katherine is having a baby in early 2014 and elected not to find out the gender. It was pretty easy to come up with a gender neutral theme for early December, and Tara and I played up the glitz and glam of green and gold. I didn't design the invitations because I found a perfect one on Etsy that I just had to have. (Trying to do less, I swear.) With printing on pearl paper from MPix and gold envelopes, the invites were quickly one of my favorites. Ever.
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We had a great group of gals (and little Everett) join us to shower Katherine with baby necessities and best wishes. A few sorority sisters, a friend from high school and even one from their time in Buffalo, New York joined the fun last Sunday.

And my mom, of course. Holding a baby, of course. If you think I'm a baby hog, at least now you know it's genetic.
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I used the Silhouette to cut the gold vinyl stars for the champagne glasses, and Tara topped each of them with gold sanding sugar. We served mimosas with gold star straws, of course! Some people thought the numbers were for a game, which would have been cute. I mostly did it so that people would remember which glass was theirs. Tara served a big pile of our favorite muffins from Clocktower Bakery in downtown Overland Park.
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It was also super special to celebrate Katherine with her dear Kansas City family including one cousin, one aunt and her grandma. Her grandparents will be married 72 years on December 14th. Betty has 10 great-grandchildren and only 1 girl, so that did it for me. I'm convinced Katherine is having a girl so that her grandma can have more little girls in the world.

(Look closely in the photo of Katherine reading her new Coco Chanel baby book, and you can see all the gold stars I sewed together on my sewing machine.)
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Mom made gingerbread muffins from Annie Eats, and we are here to highly recommend the recipe. They have a great flavor, aren't too unhealthy and taste great with a cup of coffee or a mimosa. But honestly, what doesn't taste great with coffee or a mimosa? I will definitely be making these again.
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I meant to get a shot of the gold and green star ornaments Tara and Fiona made for the tree in the background. They were perfect for the theme!
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AND there were cookies. I had some really crazy ideas about how to frost these cookies so that they were shimmery gold with white too. It's not really worth explaining because when I tried to tell my mom and Kip they both got this "whoa, that's a crazy amount of work" look in their eyes. And I'm pretty sure I'll never frost in that order again. But they sure were pretty!

Kat and Tim were happy to take the extras on the road with them as they headed back to Goodland to prepare for their baby. Can't wait to meet him or her, but mostly sure it's a her!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Three Books of November.

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I read some books! Three really good ones too!

Will Grayson, Will Grayson was written in alternating chapters by John Green (love, love, love) and David Levithan (love, love, love). I have professed my love for John Green before, and he writes in a way that is exquisitely perfect for high school students. And Levithan wrote The Lover's Dictionary that I read three times back to back. The two main characters are both named Will Grayson who meet haphazardly in Chicago. There's teenage angst, LOVE, and a wacky musical at the end. I did really like it, though I think it's better read FASTER. I plodded through it a few pages at a time when I wasn't too tired.

The Astronaut Wives Club was the November book club selection, and it has to be one of the nonfiction books I read the fastest. The stories from the wives are fascinating, and because it is brief anecdotes it reads quickly. It led to a lively discussion at book club about life in the 1960s compared to today for American women which of course cycled back to our favorite topic of "doing it all vs. having it all vs. sleeping at night." I've been pretty much universally recommending it to people who were alive in the 1960s, enjoy space exploration or flight history, and/or are women. So pretty much everyone. There are a couple shortcomings because the anecdotal format means that some story lines are left a little loose, but it's a good Christmas gift for the folks listed above.

Bread & Wine: Finding Community and Life Around the Table has to be easily one of my favorite books of this year. My apologies to Kristin who emphatically told me to read it. I think she even insisted. And then Kate read it, and I still didn't pick it up. We are reading it for our December book club book, but it was the perfect over Thanksgiving read. The collection of essays are beautiful, and I bookmarked over forty passages on my Kindle. There's a whole chapter that should be required weekly reading for me (Be present, not perfect.) It is about food, fellowship, faith and family. When we flew to Indianapolis, it was early but Kip and I were both awake so I just read him passages over and over again. It would also make a great gift because there are many recipes to try. Also, you'll want to make risotto really badly after reading it. (I made it on Sunday.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Toddlers.

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I took some pictures of toddlers (again) over the weekend with mixed results. There were some cute photos of Rue and Trace.
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And then there were a WHOLE LOT of photos that turned out like this. Remember these angels from last year? They are still super sweet but skipping naps and taking away their new books sure does make them mad.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankful.

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So very thankful. For this man and being so very happy.
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So very thankful for brothers (of all ages) who embrace the photo props.
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So very thankful to put my phone in a basket during the meal and have another adult sister as of Sunday - Gabby is 18!
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So very thankful for hosts, families blended, cherry pie (though the Nebraska pie is still best!), and my dad's skills with a 22 lb. turkey.
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So very thankful that Blake loves a whole drumstick (the dark meat never gets enough attention), my grandma Mary and my sister.
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So very thankful Kip nicely cut the dowels to be used with the photo props - and sanded the ends so no one would get a splinter. (Check out the other photo props in this fun etsy shop - she has a set for Christmas too!)
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So very thankful my brothers dressed up as Santa and his helper to deliver the pajamas from Bonnie. Cooper even looks like a happy elf in this photo!
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So very thankful I'm not too old to get a pair too. They are Dr. Seuss and darling. What a very happy Thanksgiving with so many loved ones!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thanksgiving Morning.

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I can see why so many people get out and do 5K a Thanksgiving morning. Burn some calories and get the blood flowing before a lot of sitting and eating. It was a brisk 21 degrees at the start of the race on Thursday morning, so Lauren and I moved quickly on our walk, and Mitch and Cooper RAN. Kip was our driver and an ever improving photographer. I'm not bashful about being bossy with instructions when I hand over the camera. Surprised?
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We had a great big brunch at home with my favorite Quiche Lorraine and extra cups of coffee to warm up after the race. Because my step-grandparents live across the street from my dad, they can easily slip over to join the meals. Tracy's brother and my grandma from Nebraska were also in town, so the table was expanded for us all to enjoy our meals together, fire blazing in the background.
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Someone named Spencer drank hot chocolate, obviously. Little brother is eight-years-old, still into football players and jerseys, Minecraft and has been really working on some pretty sweet dance moves. We're totally related when it comes to our surprising agility on the dance floor. Don't let our height fool ya.
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The sweet labradoodle Wizard is still hanging on, but he is certainly aging. Then there is puppy Flynn - he's an Irish Setter mixed with poodle and is darling. FLUFF ball. He wasn't super impressed with all the hullabaloo and also was down for the count with a double ear infection! Normally he's a little smilier than this.
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After brunch we started to do more napping and prepping. Dad prepared the TWO 22 lb. turkeys, I finished a book, and Kip carried stuff. Like firewood so it was cozy while I finished the book. Later I learned how to make Tracy's pecan rolls, and I'm pretty proud of myself.
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Kip was practicing some photo skills in these shots - and what a difference manual makes. I gave him my canon rebel on P, and all the photos were overexposed. After a couple quick switches on the settings, and we ended up with these pretty shots of the rolls coming together. We actually made a double recipe and ended up with six pans of rolls. I kind of want to try them again just to cement the process in my memory!
 photo Blog_0382_zps95829561.jpgEventually I changed to get ready for dinner, but I was happy to just rest and watch some football with my family in between projects. I mean, I totally deserved that nap - I walked three miles in the morning!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bowling in Indy.

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Thanksgiving break was good. So very good, friends. As an extrovert who loves to travel, Thanksgiving break was good for my soul. Went on two little trips and spent hours with loved ones just sitting, no computer, no cell phone and loads of stories. I didn't open my computer until Friday, and then it was brief. Just a little tiny bit on Saturday too. No shopping, just t-i-m-e. It was so very good.
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Wednesday morning Lauren, Kip and I left bright and early for Indianapolis. Then we just chilled. Ate an easy lunch, watched TV and ran some errands for Thanksgiving. My brothers and Gabby were home from school to entertain us and then we joined up with everyone for a big family dinner at Crust, a new pizza restaurant, and bowling!

I'm not a bad bowler for someone who doesn't bowl often. I won the first game pretty easily with a 132, and Lauren and I tied the second game! It was fun to all be together on three lanes, dancing, bowling and talking a fair amount of smack. And the beer pitchers were in the shape of bowling pins which was really just too funny.
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My step-grandparents Fred and Bonnie are two of the loveliest folks around. I love this photo of them. Love love love. By the time the two games were up, we were ready to pack it up and head home. Some of us signed up for a very chilly 5K in the morning...