Saturday, August 31, 2013

An outdoor wedding

We attended and outdoor wedding a few weeks ago.  It was a really lovely ceremony and not nearly has hot as it could have been, given that we are in August in Kansas.

Earlier in the year, a former co-worker has been married at the same property, only she had used the converted horse barn for her ceremony, reception, dinner and dance.  The more recent wedding used the outdoor space for the ceremony and everything else took place in the barn.

I am intrigued by the property - Mildale Farm.  It is really a beautiful space with a lot of options to  accommodate a variety of events.

Tucked in a space near the main house was this magical little garden.  The gate was open, so I made myself at home.  There was a black door with a glass window as a focal point.  I loved the urns flanking the chippy paint gate.  The plant with the yellow flowers was really lovely.  The garden was a perfect place for a small gathering or just somewhere to explore.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Vacation - It's good for the soul

 Our Colorado vacation was in many ways our celebration of the end of summer.  Once we returned, we began the back-to-school frenzy that we enjoy each year because of our careers in education.

We began with a very challenging climb at the Manitau Incline.  After we pushed ourselves, we spent the rest of the trip at a more relaxed pace.  Thank goodness!

We enjoyed some memorable sights, dining, and shopping.

On the drive through eastern Colorado, we saw an strange sight on the interstate ahead of us.  We thought it might be some antlers installed on the top of a vehicle, but as we drew closer, we realized that someone was hauling some gigantic wildlife statues.
 We had a good laugh at this unusual highway sighting.
I am sure that we were not the only motorists to pull alongside for a photo.

 We discovered some really great finds at each stop!  A few of our favorites were:

MainLine in Old Town Fort Collins.   We enjoyed some amazing food (Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Waffles), discovered a new favorite beer (Agave Wheat), and indulged in Bacon Bread Pudding (made with Captain Crunch). The restaurant atmosphere was super cool and our server was very friendly and had great recommendations.  We would go back here in a heartbeat.

The Lyric Cinema CafĂ© was showing Ghosts of the West.  We were debating how to spend our last evening in Colorado and thought it would be fun to go to The Lyric, a small two theatre venue that shows independent films.  We ordered a small snack and a couple of beers from the counter and took in the show.  We felt really smart and hip for seeing an indie film about ghost towns and hearing a short Q&A session with the filmmaker. And, my husband won a DVD in the drawing.  Seriously.  He's super lucky.

We scored with vintage shopping in Fort Collins.  We found The Flamingo almost right away.  The store was having a close out sale because the owners were combining inventory for a store in a new location.  We bought so much stuff!

We already had acquired several small furniture pieces that we found in Manitau Springs.  Our vehicle was so full by the time we were ready to head to our hotel.  I actually prayed out loud that the hotel didn't have valet parking.  I might have died of embarrassment at the state of our car.

We loved Walnut Creek and Kansas City Kitty and lots and lots of other places in Fort Collins.  We also survived a hail storm with a quick scramble to the city parking garage.
We even spent some time on the Colorado State campus.  We discovered their Flower Trial Garden, an amazing collection of all types of flowers in many, many beautiful colors.

Earlier in our trip, we took in our favorite antique store in Denver and found some great pieces to refinish at a small store in Manitau Springs.  This was one of those vacations where you really dread unloading the car.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Manitau Incline

We are sorting through photos from this summer and realized that we haven't blogged about our trip to Colorado.  We put together a quick trip west before the back to school frenzy.  We had some hotel gift certificates that we had to use and a work event, which explains our Colorado Springs to Denver to Fort Collins route.  Everything fit together nicely, even with the moving from place to place.

Our first day in Colorado was spent around Colorado Springs.  My husband found a trail that he thought would be fun to hike.  I agreed without getting any details.

On the drive, he began to share information from various websites.

Me:  What trail are we hiking again?
Him:  The Manitau Incline.  It is only a mile up.  It used to be an old rail line.
Me:  Sounds cool.
Him:  It's classified as a "difficult" trail.  I think that is because it gains 2,000 feet of vertical with 2,800 railroad ties. 
Me:  (Gulp.)  What the heck?  I am not feeling very confident.
I didn't get any reassurance from the first impression.
This photo is from the beginning of the trail where you tell yourself that you can do this.  The little kids coming down the mountain with their parents are proof that this is climbable.  I was also not yet sweaty, thirsty, sun-baked, hungry, and sore.  I was full of optimism and hope.

 Some sections were a little rough.  I had to take several breaks during the two hour climb.  In retrospect, I needed more than one granola bar for the trip and maybe some lunch to fuel my body.  We thought ahead to bring water at least.
 The view from the top was really cool.  I am so glad that I didn't quit, though there were moments when I thought my husband was going to have to pick me up on the way back down.
 We took the four mile Barr Trail back to the base.  It started to rain and thunder a bit, so we hustled.
 It was so nice to have some cloud cover and the beautiful views.
I am not sure who took this photo or when it was taken.  It was sent to us by people who had been on the trail recently.  As if the climb wasn't difficult enough, a bear might just wonder through.  No big deal.

If you are looking for a physical challenge, and want to earn some great views, check out the Incline Trail.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


This summer has been really special.  We have enjoyed mild temperatures and rain.  During a typical Kansas summer, we have a significantly different landscape by late-August - brown grass, trees starting to drop leaves, and a finished garden.

Our weather pattern has allowed us to extend the enjoyment of some of the things we love.

One simple thing is to be outside for more than a few minutes.  When it is over 100 degrees with high humidity, you rush around outside to make it back to air conditioned interiors.  When you have a temperature in the 80s, even with high humidity, it is a different ballgame.  You might linger a little longer outside.
 Our flowers have extended their blooms. The cosmos in the garden offer a brilliant pop of color.  Small dainty blooms.
 Our sunflowers were planted on a whim during one of my last late spring plantings.
 I have really enjoyed watching each flower bloom.  This picture is a favorite - watching the bloom "wake up."
 This particular variety, Lemon Queen, attracts pollinators galore and ends up being an impressive, towering plant.
Every Kansas garden needs a few sunflowers.

We are looking forward to the fall and the next garden season.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A statement piece

 Both my mom and dad have recently remarked about my husband's ability to see things differently.  An old metal grate becomes an organizer.  A wooden pallet becomes a wine bottle holder.  A rusted metal bucket lid becomes a wall decoration.  And, a neglected piece of furniture becomes a statement piece.

His most recent furniture project was to take a four drawer wooden dresser and remake it.

I requested a "wow" color and he delivered with Florence (Annie Sloan chalk paint).  The hardware was made a fresh black.

I can see this dresser working in a bedroom, or also in an entryway or dining room.  It has spacious drawers and cool detail on the front.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Make a wish

 My husband painted this sign and I love it.

I love it so much, I don't want anyone to buy it.

Yet, I wonder, why hasn't it been purchased yet?

Then, I want someone to buy it because I am curious to meet someone who likes this sign as much as me.  Maybe we would be friends?

Two thoughts in summary:

1.  I think too much.

2.  I am still delirious from the major garage clean out and organizing session from last weekend.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This is us

We were so fortunate to win a photography sessions with Marisa with Leibfarth Photography.  (A side note:  my husband is incredibly lucky and he wins stuff all of the time.  I win nothing...ever.  He wins all kinds of cool stuff.)

Marisa was kind enough to meet us at our house for the session.  She was really great - calm and prepared.  She had ideas about poses and setting.  We were so happy with the end result.

Leading up to the session, I was a little, well, me.  I was stressed out my next hair appointment was two weeks out.  I didn't have much time to think about what we were going to wear.  We had crazy schedules leading up to the Sunday morning session.  I worried it would be too hot or too sunny in the places we had in mind.

And then, I just decided that in the end, the photos would be "us."  I might have hair in need of a trim and color and I might have selected a different outfit, but it is me and together, it is us.  Once I got past perfection, I was much more relaxed.

We were so happy that Marisa was game for including our old pick up.  We love that old truck and just got it back from the shop.Our neighbors were also super kind to allow us to use their land.

We got the pictures and the perfectionist in me began to pick through each picture.  The one that really got me was the bottom right.  How did I let my giant, skinny fingers be so obvious!?!  Then, I remember seeing these same hands in a photo of my great grandmother.  I realized this connection when I saw a photo of my grandfather as a toddler, holding his mother's hands. I suddenly knew where I inherited those gangly hands.

So, I guess I am ok with my gangly hands being front and center in a picture.  It's me.  This is us.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The rugs are here!

Our new rugs just arrived from the mill in Texas, Ingrid's Handwoven Rugs.  We are really excited to have our latest batch.  In addition to several smaller rugs (around 2' by 3'), we did a custom ordered 6' by 8' rug for a family friend.  We had never ordered a rug that large and are really happy with the results.  (She seems to be, too!)

This batch is all in brown tones with few flecks of black scattered throughout.  We also have a small number of rugs in various other designs from earlier orders.

These make great gifts!  I tell everyone that there is no better feeling than waking up and setting your feet on one of these rugs - super soft and durable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's tomato season

 It's tomato season which brings with it some emotions.  While gardening and canning are very relaxing activities for me, there is a moment when it feels a little like a giant race against the clock.

We are extremely grateful for the delicious tomatoes to enjoy fresh and the chance to preserve some for us to enjoy later - it just isn't easy or fast work.

We have these brief flashes of panic and stress because the tomatoes ripen at their own pace. We may not have the time or energy to deal with the volume of tomatoes that presents itself at any given time.  However, you can't put off ripe tomatoes.  They just don't wait for anyone.

I usually feel that all of summer is a balancing act of joy and gratitude for a crop that we GET to process into delicious salsa, sauces, and more, and pure panic and stress that we will let good food go to waste or will spend hours in the kitchen when we are so tired that we can hardly stand.

This week was a great example.  We had a very hectic weekend with a lot of driving all across the state to meet our various obligations.  We picked tomatoes and canned a batch between going here and there.  We already had enough waiting for another round of canning and my husband asked me if I had seen the garden.

This was what I found!
After Monday's haul, we had every flat surface in my kitchen covered in tomatoes!  My mom joined me on Tuesday night to put up a batch each of pasta sauce and salsa.

While none of the tomatoes are blue ribbon material at this point in the season, they are delicious.  There is nothing better than a counter with beautiful jars of salsa and pasta sauce.  All the hard work pays off when we enjoy the great food.  In the meantime, I spend time calculating how to arrange my schedule around canning sessions.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Favorite vintage finds from Chicago

 We are still sorting through all of our Chicago trip photos and finds.  I mentioned in a previous post that we enjoyed shopping at P.O.S.H.  We walked around and around this little store and I fell in love with so many things.

One item that captured our attention was a number of brown leather shoulder bags.  These new vintage bags were from the Czech Republic and were the perfect size for an iPad. Each were well-made, in great condition, and had all of these neat pockets and holders to organize all of your supplies.

I loved them and thought it would be a great item for back-to-school.

The tag in the store read:
Discovered in a military supply depot in the Czech Republic, these Cold War era map bags for the Czech Army are made of genuine leather and vinyl.  Sure to serve you well with its curious lock and key pocket.

 One rule on vacation is to buy things that are easy to pack.  When I picked up the marble rolling pin, I thought my husband was going to threaten to leave me and my heavy luggage in Chicago.  This was also a find at P.O.S.H..
 The price was right and I have always wanted a rolling pin from marble because it holds the "cold" well and keeps your pie crust at a cool temperature.  Wacky, I know.  But, the price was so right and though I am a terrible judge of weight (especially on suitcases), my husband is very good at estimating the weight.  He assured me we would not be over the weight limit.

 These are my dear postcard that we picked up at P.O.S.H.  Love it so much!
And, this.  I am not sure how to describe it...a reclaimed wood base with a metal lower and a brass with patina butterfly and someone carved bloom into the wood base.  Sounds strange, looks weird, but I love it so much.  It has a roachy (my word for rusty) and refined look.

We went to Andersonville on the recommendation of one of the kind ladies at P.O.S.H. (who did not call the police to report two people repeatedly visiting their store and drooling over items).  She said it was a short drive or a train ride to this little place with some great vintage and antique shopping.  We followed her directions and found some unique stores.  In the very back of this store full of tartan plaid, vintage camping and outdoor gear, and everything you could imagine in an awesome family cabin at the lake, was this little gem hanging on the wall.  I saw it and said I had to have it.

We gave it a prominent place near our bedroom door.
My favorite non-vintage find was this great t-shirt.  We found one in a little boutique near our hotel.  They are also available on Etsy (which is source of this photo).

Chicago never disappoints for great food and great shopping.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Plant geek: urban garden at O'Hare

 We accidentally learned that the Chicago O'Hare airport has an urban garden.  Located in terminal G, it is tucked away on a second floor balcony.

On our flight into Chicago, I noticed the sign and made a mental note to check it out when we returned to the airport for our flight home.  We luckily had a few extra minutes to spare and I was able to take a closer look.

Even if you are not a plant geek, you should venture to this area if you are in terminal G.  The seating in this area seems to be the most comfortable and convenient (i.e. access to tables and outlets).  There were few people using the area when I visited and it seemed like the perfect spot to knock out some work while you wait for your flight.

And, even if you are not a card carrying plant geek, you still might get a little jazzed to see this set up.  The growing towers that hold the plants appear to be made of PVC pipe and there is a sophisticated system to provide light, water and nutrients to the plants.  It is really fascinating to see all of the different plants that fit into the relatively small foot print of the growing area.
 The panels that provide information about the garden explain that some of the airport restaurants use the herbs, greens, edible flowers, and tomatoes grown here.
 The growing towers remind me of an exhibit I saw at Disney Epcot several years ago - futuristic and high tech!
 Remember terminal G at O'Hare...check it out during your next flight through Chicago.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Plant geek: garden frames

 We found something really interesting in the landscaping along Michigan Avenue during our trip to Chicago.  One block featured these repurposed frames, painted in awesome vibrant colors, providing accents among the plants.

We walked by them several times and I finally had to take some pictures to be sure to remember how much I liked this idea.

We sometimes run across castoff frames and with a little paint and some help from my husband to install some stakes, I think we could try this in some sections of the yard.

What do you think?  Could this work in a Kansas garden?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chicago food recommendations

 I have been working on this post in my mind since we returned from Chicago.  One of our favorite aspects of the city is deciding where to eat...there are so many great choices!  During our last visit, we ate some great food at a combination of new and tried and true places.

My top two new finds:

1.  Firecakes is a donut shop in the River North area of Chicago.  We stumbled on it after we enjoyed some great BBQ at a place just around the corner.  (See number two.)  I had a maple glazed pineapple and bacon cute little donut.  My husband tried the giant vanilla iced donut.  Both of us loved our choices.
 Plus, their shop was in this cute little building that I loved - very simple...just what you need for a little donut shop.  Everything was just so little and cute, except that giant vanilla donut that put my husband in sugar shock.

2.  Bub City was a spontaneous lunch selection that was so good, we went back again for lunch the next day!  We enjoyed great BBQ, some good beer, and loved the atmosphere.  We also learned that they were one of the sponsors and vendors at the Windy City Smokeout.  We tried desperately to buy a couple of the t-shirts because we loved the pig and guitar sign, but they wouldn't sell until the festival was over and we were leaving town. 

Plus, who doesn't love a place that parks a giant classic car out front with cattle horns on the hood?

Our tried and true favorites

1.  Quartino is always at the top of our list.  We may or may not order most of the menu when we visit.  The food is amazing - regional Italian, affordable wines.  We love so much of the menu!  I am also a big fan of the decor - vintage, old school everywhere.  They bring the food as it is ready and encourage sharing.  You also have to use the bathrooms here; they are super cool.  Eat outside if you can.  I love to eat outside in the city to people watch and to take in the traffic and the noise.  My husband is game, but only if the temperatures are right.  If it is too hot, he prefers an indoor seat.  Quartino's sidewalk seating and their new balcony are just right for dining outdoors.

2.  Flaco's Tacos now has three locations - Water Tower, Printers Row and Wrigleyville.  We ate at two of the three locations during this trip.  We love their wonderful food (always delicious) and their great prices.  Again, we may or may not have ordered everything on the menu at some point or another.  We love it all.

3.  Portillo's Hot Dogs is the place where we check one of our classic Chicago foods off of the list - the Chicago Dog.  This stop is usually a quick and inexpensive lunch.

During other visits, we definitely make sure we enjoy some deep dish pizza and an Italian beef sandwich.  We just didn't work these into our plan this time around.

When we visit the city, we do a lot of walking.  We take the train into the city from the airport and walk everywhere with a few exceptions when we think a cab may be safer or when we are near complete exhaustion.  All of the walking helps balance out all of the eating!