Away From It All

This past weekend Chad and I packed up the car and drove down to Lake of the Ozarks to spend some time together as a couple and celebrate 5 years of being married – even if it was 3 months overdue!

It was so nice to just get away. We honestly didn’t “do” a whole lot, since it was during the off season and many of the local attractions were closed or limited. We just enjoyed each other’s company. We spent time together. We didnt have to mow the yard or pay bills or run errands.

We just rented Red Box movies.
We had deep conversations (some of them nice conversations and some of them hard, but needed conversations)
We laughed together.
We explored together.
We did some shopping in the local outlet mall.
We raced Go Karts!
We took pictures together (something we don’t seem to find time to do as much anymore).
We ate out at a fancy restaurant.
We had chips and dip for dinner one night because we didn’t want to leave the hotel.

It was honestly a great trip and very refreshing for our souls and our relationship to leave the busyness and worries and responsibilities of reality back at home in Kansas City for a few days.

Pics from the trip…

Lake of the Ozark on the way in:IMAG1727

Our hotel:
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At Baxter’s Lakeside Grill:
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Chad’s Prime Rib special with Wasabi Smashed potatoes… The Wasabi potatoes ended up not being his favorite so the waitress let him exchange them for the kind of potatoes I ordered. 🙂
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I got the Walnut encrusted Walleye with Apple Butter Bearnaise sauce and a side of Bacon and Bleu Cheese red potatoes. YUMMY!

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Pics together 🙂
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Back of the hotel w/ attached H. Toads Bar and Grill

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Also, you know Missouri is WEIRD, but endearing when you drive through a small town and this is their water tower:

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🙂

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What I am NOT thankful for.

So we went camping over a month ago with some of our good friends, but writing a blog about it has been fairly low on my radar between everything else I seem to be juggling these days. At the top of that radar is typically work. At the bottom of my radar is typically sweeping and mopping my floors because that would require picking everything up off the floor that we’ve thrown there during the week and that would require doing laundry since some of the stuff on the floor is dirty clothes and that would require not having as much homework as I do and…. well, you get the point. 🙂

So we went camping.

I gotta say it was a bittersweet experience for me.
I LOVED camping as a kid the few times we actually did.
I love our friends and spending time with them.
I love being outdoors.
I love cooking over a fire.
I love fire in general, especially burning things. (ask Chad. I am a total closet, or not-so-closet pyro/arsonist)

But I hate, hate, hate being cold.
Not THE COLD, but being cold.
I don’t mind THE COLD because with it comes scarves, seasonal coffee beverages, staying inside with a good book in front of a fireplace with actual fire in it (<– Fire! Yay!).

But feeling like my bones are about to snap in half from all the shivering and teeth chattering is not my favorite thing.

Thankfully, we were very active – for the most part – during the day going on walks, playing frisbee, having wood chopping tournaments, building bigger fires (OH YEAH!), etc.
It was the nights that were difficult.
I did not sleep, despite my 25 degree weather approved new sleeping bag, the 3 layers of pants and tops I was wearing, the blanket wrapped around me while I was inside my sleeping bag, the padding and blankets underneath me, the blanket on top of me, the hand warmers stuffed between my 2 layers of hunting socks, and the snow hat on my head. ALL OF THAT DID NOT KEEP ME WARM!

Leave it to Missouri to have an unseasonably cold weekend and the first 2 night FREEZE the very same two nights we chose to go camping. 🙂

Alas, the days were a blast and we have the best friends for camping!
The nights were long and cold and I questioned my sanity, but we made it through and when we got home I enjoyed a hot shower, clean clothes, and a warm Temper-Pedic mattress.
I have so much to be thankful for.
I am not thankful for sleeping in a tent when it’s below freezing outside, but otherwise God has blessed my life and I am thankful. 🙂

PICS!!!

Our awesome tent:

Wood cutting/chopping contest!

Video of competition! 😀

Our friend Patrick:

Our friends Rachel and Andrew:

Chad playing with our friend’s Great Dane: Chief – who is HUGE!

  

Chad survived playing with Chief:

Chief leading Ryan around. 🙂

CHIEF!

In the freezing cold water:

Eskimo Ashley. 🙂

FIRE!!

Turning 29 and Celebrating 4.

So….. exactly one month ago I turned 29.
I am currently living out my last year in my twenties – that is so strange to say!
When did I become so old?

What might have been an uneventful birthday due to a lack of planning and an overly busy summer for us and everyone else we knew, my birthday actually turned out really well! 🙂

First of all, I created an Amazon Wish List and posted it on my Facebook. When I did this, I was just feeling a bit brave and a little obnoxious, but it turns out that my friends and family actually loved the wish lists and I got lots of amazing presents because of this list! I am totally doing this every year. 🙂

I seriously got TONS of books that I really look forward to reading in the near future, plus two necklaces! Chad got me a new phone for my bday (desperately needed! haha) and I also got various cards, gift cards, and even an end table from my brother Matt and his FIANCE Anne that is designed to look like oversized books! (I’d been wanting this forever!)

Here is a pic:

Secondly, we were out-of-town for my actual birthday in Branson, MO to celebrate four years of blissful marriage, so we had plenty of fun activities to do in Branson on my birthday!

Here are some trips from the drive down to Branson…

Coffee beforehand:

I tried to get Chad to just smile at me while he was driving and this is what I got… (he makes me laugh so much!):

Finally, we got to our hotel, which was definitely a bargain since we were low on vacation funds, but it was mostly comfortable. 🙂

When we went out the day of my birthday, we already had mapped out what we wanted to do… We wanted to get breakfast, then see The Dark Knight Rises at the genuine Giant Screen IMAX (this ended up being a big Branson FAIL because the IMAX lost power 45 min into the movie!), and then we’d have dinner and then see this show recommended by Chad’s cousin called The Haygoods.

Let me be clear here. When Chad said that his cousin Taylor recommended “The Haygoods,” I immediately conjured up images of rednecks in overalls making music on whiskey jugs, corn cobs, and banjos!

I. could. not. have. been. more. wrong.

This was THE BEST show I think we could have seen in Branson!! AND one of the best shows I have EVER seen! It was 6 siblings playing tons of songs we already knew in their own style with amazing talent, dancing, lighting effects, stunts, and so much more….Here are some pics!

Opening song:

They could each play several instruments and would keep jumping back and forth between different ones per song!

A lot of their instruments would light up like this!

A lot of stunts like back flips, playing on top of the piano, instruments lighting on fire, etc… 🙂

One of my favorite parts where Dominic came out and played “Unchained Melody” on the sax! So beautiful!

This was also in my top 3 favorite parts of the show…. this one guys came out and started tap dancing on top of a table….

THEN…

A bunch of them came out and started tap dancing in Combat boots and street clothes!!
It seriously felt like a scene from RENT or something!! SO urban and so awesome!

Oh, and then the sister randomly starts playing the drums! She could play over 12 instruments!!

Here is a promotional video of the Haygoods show:

And another one that really gives an idea on what their shows are like, though we didn’t hear this particular song the night we went. 🙂

It was seriously the best! Chad and I were both hoarse from screaming and cheering and these were only a few pics of 100 or so pics that I took that night!
The Haygoods really helped make my birthday amazing. 🙂

The rest of Branson was spent celebrating our Anniversary with other shows, shopping, eating funnel cake sundaes, attending The Price is Right Live (Branson edition), and more. 🙂

Dolly Parton had a show called “The Dixie Stampede” that is set up almost exactly like Medieval Times… There is a dinner served to you that you have to eat with your hands while you watch a show where you have to pick sides and cheer for your side… in this case it was the North vs. the South. :p

I didn’t find out until after I took this pic that you’re not supposed to take pics of this event… so that was my last pic for this. 😦

Then we decided to do this brand new thing in Branson where they have a mock set up of The Price is Right! It is a LIVE show instead of televised, but you can still win real prizes! We didn’t win anything big, but Chad’s name got called as an instant winner to be able to spin the wheel and get your picture taken with the host and ladies. Everyone else had to pay $$ if they wanted to do this! 🙂

CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO OF CHAD SPINNING THE WHEEL!!

When we got back from Branson, some of my dearest friends and favorite women in Kansas City wanted to throw me a birthday get-together. We went out to eat at Ingredient and then back to Maria’s house for quality time, coffee, tiramisu, wine, chocolate pie, and more! So blessed to have these wonderful friends in my life! 🙂

Maria:

Anne and Melody:

The Plaza at night…

Anne and Rachel representing France! 🙂

Yummy!

All in all, turning 29 and celebrating 4 years of marriage was wonderful! 🙂

Dating Kansas City: Part 1 of 3

Tonight was the deadline for submitting papers to the 2012 English Honor’s Society Academic Convention in New Orleans.

Like last year, I am submitting a Creative Non-Fiction piece – more specifically a Personal Essay. If you don’t know what a Personal Essay is, or if you have an involuntary gag reflex to the word essay, and assume it is something boring and terrible:   C L I C K   H E R E

Some of the best books I have ever read have been personal true-life stories. Some of my favorite anthologies are filled with Personal Essays. My current favorite Personal Essayist is Anne Fadiman. If you haven’t read her book Ex Libris – you should. It made my world brighter.

Most of the Personal Essays (hereafter referred to as “PE”) I have written have either been unknowingly (for it is my most natural writing style) or for a school assignment.
The PE I submitted for the Convention just mentioned was for a school assignment that required us to do something we had never done before and then write about the experience. It was not supposed to be a review of something we had done. It had to fit within the parameters of a PE.

At the time the assignment was given we had been living in Kansas City less than a year. We had ventured out some, but we didn’t really feel quite home yet. Someone in class threw out the idea of visiting local restaurants. You know, the kind that are not found anywhere else in the world except Kansas City. I knew immediately that was what I wanted to do, and through that experience I would begin to feel at home in Kansas City.

Since I am an aspiring writer, I am going to post (in three parts) my PE for you to read here. I welcome all comments, but reserve the right to not publish some of them. Haha.

I will end this introduction to my writing by simply saying this: I have never really posted my writing online in any way before…

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
– W.B. Yeats

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Dating Kansas City

Nearly one year ago my husband Chad and I said farewell to the historic, coastal city of Williamsburg,Virginia and made the 1200 mile transition
to the land-locked metropolis of Kansas City, Missouri. It was admittedly difficult to part ways with the sandy beaches and salty waves of the East Coast
that had been my faithful companions as I got lost in the pages of my latest book. Nevertheless, life was moving us forward, as it often does.
At twenty-seven years old, this would be the first time I had ever had the chance to put down some roots.

Like any first date, this starting out point can feel a little unnatural or awkward.
Chad and I had found ourselves in an unfamiliar city we eagerly wanted to acquaint ourselves with.
The natural instinct is to try and discover all there is to know until the blurred edges of the unknown become sharp and familiar.
The question quickly became, “Where do we begin?” I knew that Kansas City was renowned for its Jazz and Blues music, its succulent barbecue
and for having more fountains than any other city except Rome, Italy. But these are just the outside persona of Kansas City.
Any tourist can experience these things in one day and then go home. To know someone intimately is to know the unique, often seemingly insignificant
details that separate them from others; to know a place requires uncovering those same types of details, and I was determined to go deeper.

I’ve found that some of the more distinguishing characteristics about a new place can be discovered between the paper menus and within
the eclectic décor of local restaurants. The distinctive “local” flavor of a city is built upon the hard-working backs of the entrepreneurs that feed its sheep.
I decided to set out on a journey to acquaint myself with Kansas City– to discover just how unique this city tastes.

First Impressions

            A first date with someone you are interested in is always accompanied by a heightened anticipation.
For my husband and me, our first “date” with Kansas City was no different as we visited the local restaurant: Crepes on the Square.
I felt like that girl getting ready for a blind date set up by her friends who didn’t know what to wear or what the evening would consist of.
It didn’t matter that we weren’t sure where to park or what the building looked like. This was to be our first encounter with a restaurant
that exclusively calls its home the Kansas City Metro.

            The restaurant was in the historic district of Liberty (a suburb within the Kansas City Metro) and was nestled comfortably between
other small locally owned shops. We chose a private table on the upper level of the restaurant where we could easily see everything.
As I looked around, I saw several oversized comfy arm chairs and coffee tables perfectly suited for enjoying a cup of French-pressed coffee.
This feature alone made me feel at home.

            The first thing that stood out to me besides the glorious scent of coffee meandering through the air was the décor.
The walls were gracefully lined with antique window frames hung by rust colored chains. The back half that was reserved for storage
was hidden by antique doors of different styles and colors hinged together to form a wall of doors.
It was a one-of-a-kind way to quarantine something as simple as storage and I absolutely loved it

            For being a small, locally owned restaurant, Crepes on the Square had a lot to offer!
The special of the day was the Reuben Crepe, but a Reuben has never been my cup of tea, so I continued to investigate the menu.
At this point, Chad and I were just hungry enough that everything sounded delicious. I finally settled on the mysterious Monte Cristo crepe.
I had been torn between several crepes that sounded amazing and chose this particular one because of my love for the story “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Although the story itself has nothing to do with the raspberry sauce that accompanies most dishes labeled “The Monte Cristo” – it still
inevitably played a role in my decision making process.

As it turns out, unfortunately, I should have nurtured a greater love for the works of Plato or Homer and
ordered the Greek crepe (my other consideration). The Monte Cristo was far from exciting, and the Greek crepe laughed scornfully
at my choice from the thin pages of the paper menu. Lesson learned – never choose your food based on an inclination towards certain
classical pieces of literature. Thankfully, my Wisconsin Cheddar soup was superb, including
the soft butter crackers sprinkled with rosemary that accompanied it.

(To be continued…)

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