Friday, February 28, 2014

Food in New Orleans.

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Jennie has been anxiously waiting posts from New Orleans, but man oh man, did I manage to take a lot of photos while we were there for four days. But today's her birthday, so I'm glad I got a few together for her! Instead of breaking apart all the fun day by day, let's do it by theme. And let's start with the most important part of any vacation, what we ate.

Sometimes we planned ahead and asked for recommendations, and other times we relied on Yelp to tell us what was best within a couple blocks. Cafe Amelie was a Yelp find, and one of my favorite meals we had while we were there. It's awesomeness was amplified by how hungry we were after a morning of plane travel. We waited about a half hour for a table, and I managed to spill coffee all over my lap. #classicVictoria
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Once we had a seat, I promptly ordered a cocktail (a twist on the French 75 - I don't hate gin after all! Or maybe it was hidden by the champagne?). Jennie and I ate the most gorgeous sandwiches and caught up in the sunshine. We were definitely missing our third pal who was snowed in on the east coast and couldn't meet us. 
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Later that night we wandered around Bourbon Street waiting for a parade to start with beers and hurricanes. It was my first hurricane and several recommendations told us to drink them at Pat O'Briens. So we did!
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I also drank about every Abita beer I could find while we were there, and a couple of Tin Roof local beers as well. Our last night in town, we stumbled off the beaten path looking for craft cocktails with the locals at Bar Tonique. But much to Kip's never ending delight, I'm still a beer girl at heart - always love trying the local brews!
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Of course we ate beignets at the "world famous" Cafe Du Monde. I'm happy to report that the ones here in Kansas City are just as good! We waited in line for a table and each ate almost three beignets. A group of women next to us each had one beignet a piece. What's the point really?
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My favorite desserts were from Sucre. My dad and Tracy recommended it, and they got their recommendation from Oprah, so Jennie and I were game to try it. It's Carnival - or King Cake season - in New Orleans, and I took every opportunity to enjoy a slice of the delicious danish style cake. Jennie had the gelato, and we both carried home King Cakes.
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I delivered mine to Kip as a thank you for watching Belle. He shared it at work where I am surprised to report it wasn't a huge hit. (The Rice Krispies treats I made the next day with peanut butter? Gone in ten minutes. GO FIGURE.) I also loved the macarons at Sucre - it was the second time I have had them! Beyond Sucre, I also had a banana fosters crossed with bread pudding that hit the spot our last night there - I was in heaven!
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There were so many other fine meals: bbq shrimp po'boys (which mostly just means butter not bbq), fried green tomatoes (the breading was legit!), red beans & rice, gumbo, fried chicken and wood fired pizza. I think I even had a small sampling of jambalaya. We never got around to the turtle and alligator, but I guess you need a reason to go back?

Happy birthday Jennie!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kids.

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The theme for last weekend was very much about loving other people's kids. On Friday night, Mom, Kip and I attended a fundraiser for YMI Midwest. I was involved with youth ministry at Village Presbyterian from 2003 to 2009 when I moved to Virginia, and my former boss is doing great work with YMI here in the Kansas City area. I get it - youth need all the support they can get as they navigate the halls of middle and high school - and their youth ministers need all the support they can get as they support teenagers.

The event was fantastic because we got to learn more about YMI Midwest, and I got to catch up with the parents of so many of my former youth group kids. It was at the home of my first ever youth group director, and it's crazy to think that I have been connected with some of the adults at the event since I was a very tall 14-year-old. They have taken great care of me for almost 17 years, and I loved seeing so many dear church friends.
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On Saturday the fun, fundraising and festivities continued with a fundraiser for CASA in Jackson, Wyandotte and Johnson counties. We've learned a lot about the foster system in the Kansas City area lately, and a lot of it is heartbreaking. Doing what's right for kids can be a tough, long, journey. But the court appointed special advocate (CASA) can make a huge difference, and that's why Allison and I went out to support them at the Flights & Kites benefit.

Flights & Kites is hosted each year by my pals over at Kappa Alpha Theta and takes places at the downtown airport. It's a nice event because you can wear a dress or jeans (it's in an airport hangar), sample a bunch of wine flights and catch up with some friends. The food was catered by Accurso's, and I'm pretty sure I want to go to eat there VERY soon. It was all delicious! We bought raffle tickets to support CASA while we were there, and I'm the proud winner of four Royals dugout tickets after the event. I don't feel like I ever win anything, but I am so super excited to have another Royals game on the schedule for this spring.

Sunday the theme of other people's kids continued with this very moving sermon at church about loving all the children. We wrapped up the inspiring weekend with a baby shower for my friend Anne, and I was reminded that it really does take a village. I'm the product of good parenting, but also kind teachers and faithful youth ministers. Let's do stuff for the kids, okay?

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Trip to the Theatre.

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One of the many things that my mom did right was taking us to children's theatre, often. We were the right kind of kids for it, and she was the right kind of mom. We loved learning things together! According to my mom, our season tickets at Theatre for Young America started when we were 4 and 2. Lauren was little enough to sit in Mom's lap, and I have countless memories of shows we saw there and at The Coterie at Crown Center. It was all part of the way Mom did things - books, museums, plays and lots of football games. That was normal for us, and really, still is!

I LOVE to be asked to go on field trips at school. As a classroom teacher, I planned many trips, stressed about the details, permission slips, and how kids would behave. But we always had a really good time n the end, kids rose to the occasion, and we explored KC together. Now when I join field trips, there is a lot less stress. I get to be fun Miss Luhrs, do a little discipline, but mostly just be an extra set of hands as we enjoy our city.
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Friday we went to see The Afflicted at The Coterie. We took four buses of kids, and they really enjoyed the performance. It was one of the best shows that I have seen, with a good dose of history about the Salem Witches and modern day moral connections. At the end of the show, the actors ask questions about who was to blame and why people follow others, and it was so neat to see our kids interact with the actors and the tough topics.
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Sixth graders are kind of marvelous. They act so tough sometimes, but they were putty for the actors. When they made any noise at all, it was always gasps and shocks as they responded to the actors. They exclaimed "MAN!" when it seemed like one character hit another during the play. They were truly a captive audience.
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Friday was a sweet day because it was Valentine's Day but also because I got to do the very sweetest parts of my job - time with students and their teachers, a field trip, and an assembly to send our students off to Math Relays.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Battle of the Bean.

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I enjoy walking around Kansas City for various 5Ks because they support so many great causes, and I get to race through so many parts of my favorite city. And also usually chat with my friends while we walk! But for the first time recently, I worked a race instead of walking it! In January I volunteered with the Junior League for a race that supports one of my absolute favorite non-profits, Happy Bottoms. It was a fantastic morning working at the start and finish line.

The third annual Battle of the Bean took place in Leawood/Prairie Village. Having a race in January is always a gamble, but at this point in winter we were still snow free. There were two "teams" and each participant either chose a shirt that said "I run for coffee" or "I run for chocolate!" Volunteers received shirts too, and I totally picked team coffee. (Oh how my life has changed!). My job was to work the finish line clipping timing chips off the runners. It was warm-ish for a Saturday morning in January, and I loved my job. It was fun to wave them down and great them with a smile before quickly removing their chips. Some people tied their chips into their shoes which meant I felt like an elementary school teacher retying all those shoelaces.

I'd recommend the 5K to walkers and runners for next year. It starts and finishes at Foo's, so people were drinking awesome coffee before and eating custard afterwards. It's a quick little loop around PV/Leawood and parking was accessible. And best of all, it supports Happy Bottoms.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Soup Swap 2014.

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Buddy the Elf says that "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear." I think the best way to spread Valentine cheer is sharing soup with those so dear. So Erica and I planned another soup swap for this year in February to spread some love and soup.
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Kansas City got a surprised dusting of snow on Sunday afternoon which complicated childcare for a few friends, but we were happy to have all their mamas come and their little loves running around the house too! Rue, on the right, is my little buddy and would bravely come wandering through the party until she found me.

Erica and I put together a few little snacks for the afternoon gathering. We had coffee, hot chocolate and sparkling water (all the rage these days) for people to sip while they waited for soup. Erica made petite fudge cakes and a great layered cream cheese appetizer. There were Valentine's Day cookies (of course), and I made these spiced nuts which are my new favorites. Kip's parents shelled 16 cups of pecans for me at Christmas, and I love using my fancy Kansas pecans in everything. Sad to say we're down to less than 8 cups already!
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I ordered a big piece of fabric, and my mom sweetly finished the ends to make it a reusable tablecloth. I'd highly recommend the Premier Prints indoor/outdoor line for making easy to sew, heavy table coverings. Love this bright pink! The red on the counter are place mats I sewed to brighten the kitchen table before Valentine's Day.

The soup swap worked much like last year. This year everyone introduced themselves and told what soup they brought (friend mixing!) and drew a ticket out of the little jar. (I ordered the pink carnival tickets from Inspire Lovely.) And then just like last year, I called out the numbers in rounds and people picked their soups one at a time.
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There was great variety this year - I took home Julia Child's split pea (with a gorgeous slice of pancetta on top!), chicken noodle, chicken curry with chutney and chicken and leek. My mom brought this Kielbasa gem, that she recently made for my grandparents and Kip & I are big fans! My sister brought over her lasagna soup, and I think I'll be making a big batch of that next week too.

If it weren't so much work to make huge batches of soup, I'd have swapped for 8 soups! As it was, I didn't get the math quite right and ended up with only three quarts of Ina Garten's winter minestrone so someone took home a quart of my favorite chili instead. It's probably not too late for you to have a soup swap - even with just a couple of friends. The files from last year are still available for you to download. You'll be thankful to have a break for lunches and easy dinners, and you'll also be so glad that you got to see your friends for a bonus afternoon of soup swapping fun.

Remember that the best way to spread Valentine cheer is sharing soup with those so dear.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Three Books of January.

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I read three books in January. Well actually, I finished Cold Tangerines on February 1st but seriously, I won't remember in a month to write about it.

Freak the Mighty is a sixth grade text at school. I gave it to Mom to read first, and she said, "I wish you wouldn't give me these books!" because she stayed up all night reading it. I wish I had read it a couple of years ago because it is SO POWERFUL. So many lessons about disabilities and friendship. I totally cried, and I have a really warm feeling in my heart that our kids read this as sixth graders.

Heaven is for Real was popular several years ago and comes out as a movie later this year. I never got around to reading it, but my grandma brought me a copy at Thanksgiving. It takes place in Imperial, Nebraska, my dad's hometown! It was a sweet story and a good reminder that a lot of wisdom comes from children. I'm excited to see the movie (the preview made me tear up) even though I know it wasn't filmed on location. How cool would that have been?

Cold Tangerines is Shauna Niequist's first book. I love loved Bread & Wine (thought not everyone does) and while the essays in here were similar, they weren't all as compelling as what she writes in Bread & Wine. My favorite essay was about loving your body like you love an old house. (I looked for it online with no luck.) There's a middle book, Bittersweet, that I'll probably read sometime when I want another break from book club books and school related reading. (I bought over $200 worth of books for grad school this semester. Awesome? I guess.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ten Questions with Kip.

You asked some questions, so here are some answers. Well, really just Ginny and Rachel asked, but I feel like probably many of you have the same questions. And you get an added instagram photo as a bonus because it's one of my favorites. #happykids

1. How tall is he?
Kip says 5'11" and a half. (I love his honesty because of this article, and because I'm working really hard on standing up straight with all of my 72".)

2. What would he eat if he knew it was his last meal?
Probably a lot of things. But maybe fried chicken.

3. Professional or amateur arborist? Favorite tree?
Professional - his degree from K-State is Park Management and Conservation. Favorite tree - Burr Oak

4. What magazines/papers does he subscribe to?
American Hunter and professional magazines (see #3)

5. Favorite Taylor Swift song?
"Whatever is not playing right now."
Follow-up from Vic: If you could only listen to one radio station, what would it be? And why? 
106.9 - Country Legends. (We seriously JAMMED to the country from the 1980s and 1990s with my mom last weekend. Thanks Sirius!)

6. Beverage of choice (other than $2 domestic pours)?
Coffee. Black coffee. (He likes to gulp it so he normally puts one ice cube in it so it cools faster.)

7. Why doesn't he like the Olympics?
Too boring. (We watched Undefeated instead on Friday night. Recommended for anyone who likes football, city kids or Friday Night Lights.)

8. Favorite thing Victoria makes or bakes?
"Chicken tamale casserole and the peanut butter oatmeal cookies from my birthday. The sugar cookies are good - I've just had so many at this point." 

9. How did you meet?
Our friends Tara & Tom - the three of them work together. The important detail from this first meeting is we ate at THE CIGAR BOX. Lounge singer and all. 

10. What else can he make from rope?
He can splice rope. (I think that means anything.)

Got more questions? Leave them in the comments. It will give me something to talk about on this little blog. Also, in the spirit of lovey-dovey blog posts, be sure to click over and download the awesome Valentine printables Rachel made at RV Parties. I may be using them as well!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Weekend Trip to Jewell County.

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Oh, hey there! I've been meaning to blog but have spent the last couple of snow days doing as little as possible. Today is our third snow day - which is kind of nuts because we have conferences and the buses didn't even have to get out and about - so I have some time to blog again.

Last Friday afternoon, Mom, Kip and I drove out to Jewell County to visit my grandparents, aunt and uncle. It was Kip's first trip, and we really had the very best time. Saturday morning we ate breakfast with my aunt and uncle in Mankato before heading out to the farm for lunch and exploring. Kip has a heart for the country, and I know he loved learning about the family farm. Uncle Keith is a great tour guide, and we drove around to learn about different parts of the farm and see the spots where people hunt close by. They talked a lot, obviously, about trees. Kip's an arborist, and we had lots of conversations about trees native to Jewell County and not.

My mom took this photo of us in front of the farm house and I'm obsessed. She's a great photographer - look at the perfect focus and the frame of trees, the house and barn and a really funny Power Cat post rock. It was sunny but cold, so we didn't spend a ton of time outside exploring.
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Saturday night we went to dinner at the Buffalo Roam. It was the first Saturday of the month which meant that it was the special seafood buffet. You should have seen the crowds! We beat the rush and enjoyed a great selection of food together, and then Kip & I noticed the beer prices. The small size pour of Bud Light was only $1 and the big beers were just $2. This whole round of beer cost us only $10! We're celebrating Grandpa's birthday but also life.

Kip and I managed to put a little more food in our bellies after dinner as we stopped at the Sweden Creme for ice cream on our way home. That boy doesn't say no to ice cream. We had a really good weekend with my family, laughed a ton, and enjoyed this part of my family history. Kip went back to work today after two snow days and has already called  about a new leash he is making for Belle. He thinks he can make one from climbing rope that Belle won't chew through. I am thankful for his thoughtfulness and all the places we go.