Last Week’s Good Things

goodWhen you can’t sleep, what better thing to do then just get out of bed and write about last week’s good things? 

pierogie

Making and sharing pierogies for Easter – Although it seems like a gazillion years ago, Easter was officially during last week. On Easter Sunday, we had family and friends over – 13 in total. Late in the afternoon, Dan’s sister came over and the three of us became a pierogie making machine. Pierogies, if you are not familiar, are a Polish dish – very much like a ravioli. The family version that Dan and his sister enjoy is filled with cottage cheese, sour cream and lots of pepper. Our finely tuned system included Dan making and rolling out the dough, me filling, cutting and crimping, and Laura boiling, buttering, and baking. The result was delicious, and because it was such a beautiful day, everyone took their plate out to the patio. We sat around talking of pierogies of old, the welcoming of spring, and whatnot. That was a fine example of a holiday celebration.

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Austin KleonAustin Kleon is an artist and author. He has done a TED talk and a keynote at SXSW about creativity and being out there with your creativity – show your work. As part of Kansas City’s Middle of the Map forum, I got a ticket to go hear Austin speak on Tuesday night. Work has been more than hectic these days, so leaving work at a reasonable hour seemed decadent. Add to that, going to a cool space in the Crossroads arts district – where they welcomed me with a free copy of one of Austin’s books and a cold Boulevard Pale Ale – heavenly! Austin’s talk was all about fostering creativity followed by a charming Q & A session. He also has one of the most fun book signatures I have encountered.

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Happy Hour Symphony – I guess I can’t whine about work hours too much since last Monday, Dan came to pick me up at work so we could go to the Kansas City Symphony’s Happy Hour. I had no idea that these existed, but we got an invite to come along with friends. This is a free series offered by the symphony and it includes time prior to the concert where you can hang around the beautiful lobby in the Kauffman Center and have a drink and chat. The concert itself only lasts an hour, so many people were there with their kids. We heard three pieces played by various ensembles. I had not been in Helzberg Hall before, but it is fantastically gorgeous with not a bad seat and incredible sound.

Mary Roach – It was a eventful week! Thursday night, I met friends at another beautiful Kansas City space – the Kansas City Central Library. It always makes me think of a New York Public library at a smaller, but just as lovely, scale. Thursday’s menu was a talk by author, Mary Roach. Mary’s most recent book is Gulp, which is a guidebook of your alimentary canal. The talk was a dialogue with a library staff member, followed by questions and answers. Mary has had a pretty fascinating writing life – writing books about sex, cadavers, life in space, and the afterlife. A author who spins science well is a friend of mine.

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Happy birthday to Dan – Saturday we got to celebrate Dan’s birthday. Because he had to go into work in the morning, I spent some time doing some shopping and preparing for the requested birthday meal. The main dish was T-bone steaks which I got from McGonigles. I made twice baked potatoes with cheddar, sour cream, bacon and added a good amount of heat. Heirloom cherry tomatoes with avacados made the meal healthy. Dessert was Shatto vanilla ice cream with a choice of toppings. Friends were over to share in the bounty. We welcomed Dan into his new year delightfully well.

It is Wednesday already so I need to start enumerating what has been going on this week. I hope that your good things are piling up!

Last Week’s Good Things!

 

Mar16

Days scurry by so quickly, and when you are dealing with weather where one day it seems to definitely be spring and the next, definitely winter, it is hard to tell time at all. That is not an excuse, but it is an explanation as to what so many of us are experiencing lately. Euphoria – spring is here!!! Despondence – it is still snowing!! Oh bother! There were still lots of good things!

Birdsongs in the Morning – Until it changes, I forget how quiet winter is. On those days when it snows overnight, and I walk outside in the morning, the peace and beauty of the winter morning is pretty awesome. But it is so quiet! Not so when springtime arrives! I am now waking to the sound of birds singing, and when I walk out to get the paper, it is a chorus of songs. That in your face reality of a nature transition is both a good thing for the week, and a beautiful transition. Next thing you know, the hummingbirds will be here!

Biero
Kansas City Bier Company
– As we get closer to realizing our own concept of making beer for the people, Kansas City Bier Company is up and running. It is weird that it is in a place where we once shopped for baby furniture, but that weirdness didn’t last for long. Dan and I went there on Saturday at about 2:00. The day was okay, but nothing great. The place was bustling! Most of the tables were filled with people who appeared to be hanging with groups and having fun. There are only snacks offered, so the draw is the beer and the atmosphere. It was very fun to see! We both had a flight of all of their German beers. We spent some time analyzing and comparing notes. We both left feeling happy for the founders; glad that we made the decision to go there for a visit, and full of some good German beer. Added bonus: they gave me a couple stickers!

Proud and excited – Several years ago, I read this book by one of my favorite authors, Tracy Kidder. It was called Mountains Beyond Mountains and it was about a doctor named Paul Farmer. Back in the 1990s (?), Dr. Farmer started to go to Haiti to treat people – in between his training to be a physician. It became a passion. His work created a program called Partners in Health. Paul Farmer is a rockstar do-gooder who still balances scholarly work with his philanthropy. Last week, my nephew messaged me that he has been chosen to spend a year working with Partners in Health before he goes to medical school. I am so excited for him and the people that he will encounter. They will be lucky!

Engage – I really try to make each day one where I can feel proud of myself for how I let it happen. I do believe that we usually have a choice. This is a little off topic, but while I was eating dinner tonight I was watching my beloved Not My Grandma’s Ravioli. Mo’s cooking partner tonight was a grandma who had spent months of her youth hiding from Nazi’s and having many of her family and friends murdered. She seemed like one of the happiest people you would want to meet. She personifies the fact that attitude depends on your willingness to step out and engage. This video that I came across this week reflected that!

Funny things that Dan Says – He makes me laugh. Last weekend I was doing something late in the afternoon. Dan was taking a little rest on the couch (as both of us are prone to do on weekends). Before he laid down we had talked about what we were going to do for the rest of the night. When I noticed that he was awake, I asked him what was going on. His response: “I am laying here watching floaters in my eyes until I get a cocktail.” Just typing this makes me laugh. That boy has my number.

Have a wonderful rest of your week everyone and make sure you notice the good things!

 

Last Week’s Good Things

DSCF7851I am returning to my roots and doing my best to pay attention to all of the good things around me. Here are those that made me happy last week!.

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Kleenex with Vicks! – A sense memory of childhood is Vicks Vapor Rub. When I had a cold, my mom would pull out the little jar from the medicine cabinet and rub some of it on my chest and a dab under my nose. The mentholated heat and vapor got the healing going. Since right before Christmas, I have been the Kleenex corporation poster child. I go nowhere without a stash of tissues that I use in massive quantities. We had to replenish our stash at Costco, and when I went to get a new box, I found that a few of the boxes were separately wrapped. It was because these special four boxes were permeated with Vicks! The moisturizing tissues were a big step when that happened, but this is brilliance. It probably is not something that I want when I am healthy, but during these days when I am still a sniffly mess, this is a wonderful thing.

Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon via Food52 – Deb Perelman is the author of  the beautiful food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I have a number of recipes saved from her blog and I have given a few a go. They are always tasty, but they never look as beautiful as hers. Food52 is another food blog that I follow. More than a year ago, I clipped a recipe from Food 52 that is actually a Smitten Kitchen recipe. Friday, I wanted to make something warm and hearty to go with the cold, icy weather we are having. This rich mushroom stew was perfect. As the blog post noted, there was a fair amount of chopping prep, but other than that, it is an easy recipe to put together. It smelled delicious cooking, and it finished rich with its own meatiness. I used a mix of portabella and cremini mushrooms, and I even found some real, non-frozen pearl onions. I served it over wide egg noodles. Rather than top it with sour cream, I just added some at the end. I wish I had taken a picture so I could do a side by side. For a change, my dish looked just as good as the one pictured on the food blog!

Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon (via Smitten Kitchen, via Food 52)

Servings: (4) 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 lbs. 1/4-inch sliced portobello or cremini mushrooms
1 cup pearl onions (thawed if frozen)
½ carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional, but use vegetable to make it vegetarian; the dish works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
Egg noodles, for serving (polenta, buttered potatoes or farro work well too)
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms and pearl onions until they begin to take on a little color, but the mushrooms do not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. It helps to do this in a few batches. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms and pearl onions with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste. To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream and sprinkle with chives or parsley (optional).

 G&R

Goats and Rabbits – For Christmas, Sam got Dan some amazing business cards announcing Goats and Rabbits. Goats and Rabbits will be a Ryan family brewpub in Kansas City. The business cards were a step in making this idea that has been percolating for awhile now, real. This week, GoatandRabbits.com, Goat And Rabbits on Facebook, and @GoatsandRabbits (tagline: Kansas City’s greatest brewpub still not in existence), all went live. Dan and Sam have an on-going email discussion on the whats, hows and whys – with occasional input from other members of the team. This is fun and exciting and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Follow us and like us to find out.pitcher2

Excellent Customer Service from Mignon Faget – Ali got us a beautiful pitcher from a wonderful New Orleans shop for Christmas. This week, we used it for dinner so I washed it and set it in the drying rack. About an hour later, I was in the living room and I heard something that sounded like an exploding light bulb. I went into the kitchen and there was that pitcher – intact, but shattered. It was bizarre. I emailed the store, and before the day was over, they had my address and were sending a new one my way. They sent Ali a note with the tracking number as well as their thanks for being a customer. Actions like this mean so much. They didn’t have to replace it. A sincere apology  could have gone a long way. Kudos to them!

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Dark Horse Distillery Tour – Off of I-35 in Lenexa, Kansas there is an unassuming industrial park building where some pretty neat things are happening. Since 2010, the Garcia family has been putting together an operation where bourbon, rye, white whiskey, and vodka are distilled on premises. They supplement the liquor making with a beautiful event space that can host all sorts of social occasions. Thanks to Rotary, we had a New Year’s Eve day tour of the operation. The family spirit is everywhere. The sister was there to check us in. The marketing brother started us out with the story. The distilling brother went through the mechanics. They spent a lot of time answering questions and showing us around. This is a small scale shop where every step happens on site. There is a mill for the grain, that doesn’t look a whole heck of a lot bigger than what Dan uses for his beer. The bottler has four spouts – they bottle four at a time! Right now, the distilling brother hand numbers and signs each of the bourbon and rye bottles. They have dreams of growing, so I don’t know how long things will look the way that they do now, but this was pretty cool. The tastes were very good too.

I hope everyone who is reading this has come into the new year with many good things, and that they continue to accumulate each day of the year.

Last Week’s Good Things

Peach

1.  Jeff Tweedy Solo Show at the Uptown – In 2002, when he was in high school, Sam asked me if I would go to a concert with him. For some reason, I thought that the band that we were going to go see was Weezer (of The Sweater Song fame). I was wrong. It was another W band — Wilco. It was a small venue. We were right up front/ Sam even got the set list at the end of the show. Since that night, I adore Wilco, and I always think that Jeff Tweedy is one of the most romantic, swoon-worthy song writers around. I have gone to a couple more Wilco concerts since then, and they never disappoint. Last week we got to see Jeff Tweedy play the first show of his solo tour. He came out on the stage in the beautiful Uptown Theater and played guitars and sang songs for close to two hours. His conversation ran from putting a loud mouth person in the front in his place, to admitting that he probably was going to suck, but he was going to play anyway. I loved it all!

Marquis

2.  Good Citizen – Before the concert, I had stuck my license and a credit card in my pocket so I didn’t have to carry a purse. At some point – probably when I pulled out my credit card to buy something – I lost my license. I realized it soon after I got home.  I hoped that there might be a chance that it would come back to me. The concert was on Tuesday, and I told myself that if I didn’t have it back by Friday, I would go to the license bureau and get a replacement. Friday’s mail did not yield my hope, so I went to the license bureau and got myself a duplicate. Saturday, my old license returned to me. It came in a plain envelope – no note – no return address. Rather than worrying about the trouble a lost identification can cause, I got to be thankful for a kind person who took the time to return my license and piece of mind.

3.  Crossroads Academy Dreaming Big in Downtown Kansas City Event – On Thursday night, we got to attend the second annual event celebrating the work that is being done at Crossroads Academy. It was an evening of seeing some dear friends, eating great food from many Kansas City restaurants, and hearing about the work being done at this young charter school. I wrote about this same event last year. Again this year, it warmed  my heart to be in a room filled with so many good people doing good things. Bringing education to children in the heart of downtown is exciting. Having community members supportive and enthused about it is the best.

4.  Patrick is Back! – Just about every Sunday, Dan and I go to 75th Street Brewery for lunch. We have done it for many years, and during those years, we have seen favorite servers come and go. There have been some great ones and some memorable ones. The most memorable was several years ago when the kid who was waiting on us didn’t quite seem to have his dots all in order. When we asked what the special was, he couldn’t come up with what its name, but he drew us a picture of it. It was brilliant. For the past few years, we typically see Patrick the bartender on Sundays. Patrick greets us by our names when he sees us. He is friendly and attentive. It’s because of someone like Patrick that we return each week. It’s comfortable. In October, Patrick hurt his leg at work. He had been gone since then.Sunday we walked in and heard the familiar “Hi Dan! Hi Robin!” Patrick is back and that is a good thing!ibuprofen

5.  Ibuprofen – Every now and then, my back gives me trouble. I had my first go with it in college when I ended up out of commission for several days. I had one bout of it once when we were visiting New Orleans. That time, I would inexplicably fall down. It was around Mardi Gras time, so a person falling down was not all that uncommon. This week’s back pain is not that bad. I have managed to stay vertical when I wished to. It is, however, enough to make me know that it’s a problem. I have been pretty religiously pumping the ibuprofen and that certainly helps so much. Isn’t it great that things like ibuprofen are around? Aspirin wasn’t around for pain relief until the late 1800s. Ibuprofen came around late in the twentieth century. Going into a store, you can pick up a bottle of pain reliever for a reasonable amount of money and it usually goes a long way in making one feel better.

I almost picked the Hungarian Goulash that I made as my fifth good thing. I had to, however, give props to Ibuprofen!

I Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans

HPIM0111Both of our kids have chosen to make their homes in the cities where they went to college. It is not a certainty that these will become their permanent homes, but for now, New York and New Orleans are the cities that we visit to see our children.

The first time that I visited New Orleans was in August 2005. As we drove into the city that we would come to know very differently, we somehow ended up on Bourbon Street in the middle of an impromptu parade. For me, it was an overwhelming welcome, and I did not know what to think about leaving my child here.

Flash forward eight years. Ali is now a Tulane graduate, a City Year alumni, a seasoned first grade teacher, and a card carrying citizen of New Orleans. In the interim, she has experienced her new city ravaged and then recovering from one of the worse weather related disasters ever to hit the United States. The impact of Katrina, in my mind, cemented Ali’s desire to stay. She, along with many other young transplants, have a love, devotion and a sense of ownership in the recovery. She is a New Orleanian and along the way, I have also grown to adore this city.

Again this year, we spent Thanksgiving in New Orleans. As always, the city served up hospitality and a more than healthy amount of food and drink. We had oysters, po boys, shrimp, boudin, Abitas, day after Thanksgiving bloody marys at our favorite GLBT bar … We strolled the French Market and visited our favorite art coops.

Ali lives in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood – now referred to as simply, The Marigny. It is sits adjacent to the French Quarter, but it has its own character. The Marigny feels like you’re a part of the neighborhood even if you are just visiting. Houses sit right on the side walk so just walking out your door puts you in the path of community. Like the rest of New Orleans, it has good sounds. We noticed this trip that walking past houses, music spilling from windows tended to be great.

The architecture of the homes in the neighborhood is beautiful. Many of the homes have plantation shutters that run the front of homes from floor to ceiling. There are paint jobs that combine multiple hues to highlight the fancies of each structure. You see so many with symbols of New Orleans pride displayed – Saints flags, Fleur de lis abound. To a person, anyone on the street has a greeting for you – and when you are walking a cute dog, there is typically more of an interaction.

Such an easy place to love.HPIM2092 2

Last Week’s Good Things

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Cover Photo – Grace Connors!!

I am definitely late, and I am certainly tired, but if I don’t acknowledge the good things from last week, it will be a pity. It was Thanksgiving week, after all. The whole week was meant to recognize the good things. Here are five for me. Tell me one of yours if you care to!

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  1. Sharing – We travelled to New Orleans for Thanksgiving again this year. On Thanksgiving day, Ali went to Jose’s house for an early Thanksgiving dinner and then they both returned to her house where we indulged in dinner #2. Halfway across the country in New York, Sam was spending his Thanksgiving holiday both with his job responsibilities and getting to know Jean’s family. Over the days that her family was in New York, they got to hang out, watch movies, and cook together. Their Thanksgiving meal – observed over Instagram – included a massive piece of beef and Yorkshire pudding.  Ten years ago, it would have been hard for me to envision a time that I could feel okay about not having the complete control over everyone in our little family. Now, I realize that isn’t realistic nor fair. Both of our kids let us into their lives and seem to always enjoy our time together. However it happens; whenever it happens – it is a good thing. 
  2. Harmonica Playing Co-pilot – Not only did we have seamless travel to and from New Orleans, but we also had the pleasure of the Airtran harmonica playing co-pilot. This guy was awesome. He communicated with us through the flight with quite the monologues, and then he played a little ditty on his harmonica followed by “do I hear a woop, woop?” at which point, the cabin gave a woop woop. It was completely charming and fun.  DSCF7765
  3. Cybil at Borgne – For our last dinner in New Orleans, we went to John Besh’s new restaurant, Borgne. It is moderately upscale, but very comfortable. The menu was rich with seafood and fresh local ingredients. Sitting at our table, we were introduced to our server, Cybil. During the time that we were in the restaurant, Cybil provided perfect service. She charmed us with her warmth. She educated us with her knowledge of the menu and the processes behind it. The restaurant has a focus on craft beers, and Cybil knew her beers. There was one dish that involved a 7 day process of smoking a pork loin, crispy bits, mixing, and putting it into a pastry. Her description almost sounded as good as it actually was. There was a cocktail that was described as drinking a hug – yep! Our meal at Borgne was a delight, but Cybil made it memorable.  brees
  4. Fleurty Girl – Saturday was designated as Small Business Saturday where all of us crazy holiday shoppers were encouraged to eschew the lure of the big businesses and purchase at small local shops. We walked around the French Quarter area this weekend and one of the places that we stopped in was Fleurty Girl. I have bought things from them on-line before, but this was my first live encounter. It is what a small local business does best. In a very limited amount of space, this business displays jewelry, decorative items, clothing, paper goods, and other tchotchkes that are unique to New Orleans, but that also make the visitor want to take them home as a memorable souvenir. I did a good job of celebrating the Small Business at Fleurty Girl. Where else would you find a gem like the St. Brees candle?
  5. Celebrating an Anniversary – We got home from our trip on Saturday and were pretty tired. Our calendar, however, reminded us that we had Emily and Kyle’s anniversary party that night. The party started early – a bonus for us. Arriving early, we had time to hang out, chat with both Kyle and Emily, and enjoy their other early arriving friends and families. We apologized for our wimpyness and left early. Even though our visit was short, we both got the nice feeling of being part of a couple’s celebration of their first year of marriage. They have lots of adventures ahead of them.

Last Week’s Good Things

Nov 11

We are moving into the final weeks of the year. The temperatures we had to start the week made me realize that, but this weekend has been warm and pretty pleasant. More than a few good things happened this week as the days started to warm. Here are a few.

Courtney Barnett – It is true that almost every new music love of mine is introduced to me via NPR. I can’t think that is a bad thing. What’s the matter with letting the experts cull from so much new music, those bands and performers that pass their muster? It happened again this week that a single song played on the All Songs Considered podcast made me go home and and purchase an album. This week it was Austrailian singer, Courtney Barnett. Her music came up because she played the CMJ Music Festival back in October in NYC and everyone on the panel declared love. The song that they played was Avant Gardener, and I have literally had this song in my head since. It has droney guitars, lyrics that pull you into the story and make your own visuals, and a lazy delivery that reminds me sometimes of Lucinda Williams. Other songs on the album also build stories with humor and darkness – oftentimes both in the same song. She has some great syncopation and word choice. The double EP is titled A Sea of Split Peas. It made my week better!

I get adrenalin

Straight to the heart

I feel like Uma Thurman

Post-overdosing kick start

Reminds me of the time

When i was really sick and i

Had too much psuedoefedryn and i

Couldn’t sleep at night

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Conversations – Friday was a really good day. I got to spend the day working on a chapter and made good progress on it. Late in the afternoon, I walked up to Bier Station and met Barb for a beer and some talk. When I left, the sun had set and the almost full moon really lit up the sky. After a very cold start of the week, it felt great strolling home on that warm, beautiful evening. When Dan got home, I made a Friday evening cocktail and we sat around talking a little before I made dinner. After finishing, we stayed at the table awhile – just chatting about people and things that were on our mind this week. Days can become so scheduled and full. Stresses can cloud the positive things that are out there. I loved the solitary time I had that day to focus on my writing, but then having time together with favorite people made a really good day, better.

 Sherwood Center – The movement of stuff in the world is extraordinary. I don’t think that a week goes by that at least one new non-perishable item doesn’t make its way into our house. Sometimes you need to purge, if only to make way for what you know will be coming – more stuff. In the past, we did try the garage sale route to perhaps get back some of the dollars sunk into the things that we no longer wanted. However, the time and effort to get 25 cents for some old t-shirts and books, no longer appeals to me. That is why I love the agencies that come around periodically and take away boxes and bags of our unwanted things. The Sherwood Center is my go to service. They come when they are supposed to and they leave a receipt so I can take the donation off on our taxes. The best!

 

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Remembering the Sabres of the 70s – On Facebook a few days ago, the Buffalo Sabres posted a picture of #11, Gilbert Perreault wishing him a happy 63rd birthday. The photo posted (above) was from his glory days with the Sabres when he, Rene Robert, and Richard Martin skated together on the team. They were known as the French Connection and they made me into a hockey fan. One of the saddest days of my childhood that I remember (this makes me realize how good my childhood was) was when I won tickets to a Sabres game by guessing the correct score of the game in the weekly contest published in the Buffalo News. The day we were supposed to go to the game, there was a big snowstorm and my parents wouldn’t drive the 50 miles into Buffalo. I cried a lot. A few weeks later, my uncle got me tickets and took me to see my hockey heros. Seeing that picture this week brought back good memories!

holiday hero

The Holiday Hero Campaign and the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center Board – Doing good is easier for some than others. People with a lot of money can choose to distribute it to those projects that are important to them. That is relatively easy. But when people donate their time and their extended resources to support a project, it takes more effort. This week, the wonderful board of the Children’s Mercy Cancer Center hosted an event to kickoff the annual Holiday Hero Campaign. This campaign brings in dollars to the Cancer Center. The funds then support programming and research. Each year, a “hero” family is chosen. This year’s is one of the Spanish speaking families who have benefited from the Spanish Language cancer clinic now offered at the hospital. The event was so nice. There were board members, hospital staff, friends and family of everyone, and, of course, the Hero family. Through an interpreter, the father explained what thanks they had for the care their whole family got during their daughter’s treatment. Kicking off the holiday season amongst such good people was a good thing.

Rulin’s Update

woody1November 1, 2013. Two months left in the year – sixty-one days. The good(?) thing about having a blog is that it can hold the writer accountable. In January, I posted my “rulin’s” for the year, just as Woody Guthrie once did. We are getting close to a point where a pass/fail can be declared, but two months offers opportunity to at least pay attention to some of these things and perhaps sprint towards success. So today, I am looking back at my intentions, recognizing those successes, and looking forward to what I might be able to salvage.

Here were my 33 optimistic rulin’s followed by where I stand with each:

1. Finish writing my book. This is going to be the year.

Oh, what a sweet, optimistic thing I was back in January! Nope, not going to happen. But, I am really pleased with some of the progress that I made, advice I have been given, and even some new connections that I have made. I am hopeful that I am on a roll and that I will use my wonderful pool of advocates to maintain the push on me to get this done.

2.  I am going to drink more water. There, I said it.

I kind of think that I have done pretty well on this. I bought a new water bottle for work that I drain once a day. If not always successful, I am certainly more consistent.

3. My gym membership will be used more. I actually had some great momentum going at one time last year. I need to figure out how to gain that back.

Bad news on this one. I had the classic great run at the beginning of the year, but I have petered out terribly. Good news, I found my way back to the gym this week.

4. I will watch less television. Dan and I discussed last night that we would do at least one night a week television free.

We have not had a regular television free night, but it does happen. What I will say on this is that I have refused to pick up new television shows this year. I have my shows that get recorded and that we stay current on. What I tend to do, however, is turn on the television at night, just because. I am pretty sure that I can do better at this!

5. I am going to learn how to dance – my Christmas present from Dan.

We did this! We took our dance lessons and had fun doing it. Dancing – with any kind of expertise – takes practice. We have not done a good job at that, but there are still sixty-one days to make that better! 

6. I am going to fit into some of those clothes that I refuse to move out of my closet.

There are still sixty-one days to make this better…

7. I am going to spend time each morning at work, planning my day.

notebooks

When I do this, I am so grateful. I have tried different versions of planning tools this year. I found these wonderful composition books that I keep as a runner. One is for work, and one is for outside work. My work book has a weekly to-do list that I add to during the week and then transfer undone things to the new week. This has worked pretty well, as has using Wunderlist for master list keeping. I can definitely step up my game on this, but I judge this a partial success.

8. I am going to clean my office at work and keep it organized and inviting.

officeAgain, partial success. It looks like 2014 will see the opportunity to finally move out of our temporary trailer home and into a real building with most of the rest of our department. I am so eager for that to happen. In the meantime, my office continues to be a pretty nice location. I have a great view of the city skyline and I have embellished by walls with fun and colorful posters. Most recently, I strung ribbon near the ceiling and hung pretty postcards from the ribbon using fancy paperclips. Just walking into my office and seeing some of those images makes for a better experience. I am kind of psyched to decorate a new place!

9. I am going to re-up my Mug Club membership because going to lunch at 75th Street every Sunday with Dan is one of the things that makes me happiest.

mug

Perhaps the easiest thing on my list. Done.

10. I am going to learn how to draw Ali’s dog Banjo better so I can write stories about her.

I’ve worked on this, but I need to get back at it. I haven’t nailed her cuteness yet.

11. I am going to send fan mail (real postage stamped mail) once a week to someone I admire. I did this a couple years ago where I sent notes to authors of books I read. It was heartwarming how many wrote back and told me how much my note meant.

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I am doing this somewhat. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden got mail from Missouri, as did some authors. This is fun and I want to do better on. And I have some great postcards!

12. I will do what I can to make the possibility of us opening a brewpub one day a reality.

While I haven’t done a whole lot on this front, there have been some great conversations about this and potential for exciting things to be happening in the coming year.

13. I will be a better leader and employee by being more positive and creative.

One thing that I have tried to be this year is a transparent leader. I share what I know almost always. I am honest in my conversations and try to acknowledge when I am wrong and when I just don’t know the answer. I try to laugh and project a positive attitude. I am partnering with a co-worker in initiating some personal development activities for our co-workers. One of them is to show a couple TED talks over the noon hour. We had our first one recently and it went well. This week we start our SEVEN HABITS IN EIGHT MONTHS discussion group. I think that I have done okay on #13.

14. I want to video chat more with Sam and Ali.

We haven’t done this a lot, but we have done it more than we had. I like it very much!

15. Books – love them. I don’t really have to put it on my list because I will always read them, but I do want to read more! Good lord, there are so many wonderful books. Just yesterday, I got one in the mail that I had to order because Sam wrote me an email about how good it is.

My list will probably be shorter than last year, but I have had some winners this year. That book that Sam recommended was John Greene’s THE FAULT IN OUR STARS which is a beautiful book about two adolescents falling in love while dealing with their own mortality. I just finished BILLY LYNN’s LONG HALFTIME WALK about Iraqi soldiers being “honored” at a Dallas Cowboys game. Excellent. 

16. Magazine – love them too! I have not done a good job keeping up with the wonderful print magazines that come into our house each month. I will do better.

Still trying

17. Computer – love my computer too, but I spend too much time with it and not enough time with rulin #15 and #16.

Have not done well at this at all. Sixty-one days to do better!

18. Last year I bought the Hugh Acheson cook book and that became my adventure cook book for the year. I didn’t do great with it, but I did okay. I got Girl and Her Pig for  Christmas this year. That’s my rulin there.

Miserable failure on this. I have not cooked anything from this delightful book. This will happen.

19. The Italy documentation will be completed. I haven’t updated on this, I know, but I will. I am actually doing okay, but I need it on the list to keep me moving.

italy album

While I am not finished, the beautiful album that we brought back is complete, other than some captions. It makes me so happy when I pick it up and move through the page. I have to decide what to do with the left-over photos and other momentos that we brought back. I thought at one time to do an album just of the meals we ate. That may still be an option. Just writing this makes me want to gather everything and look at it. Oh Italy – what a dream come true!

20. Be a better gardener. I planted basil last summer and did not make a single jar of pesto. I think one thing that I need to do is figure out a good watering system.

Not for lack of trying, I had a horrible year for basil. I planted it three times and only towards the end of summer did I really have any plants. I think it may have been a soil issue. The marigold seeds that I thought I planted turned out to be pot marigolds that were very different from my beloved marigolds. They were pretty, but not what I want. Successes were lettuce that was used in salads, lemongrass that was delicious in a few meals, and I have a great stand of chives.

21. Keep a journal better.

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Those fun composition books have really worked here. I keep a weekly running page that I have been photographing and using as the header for my “Good Things” post. I also have been writing pretty regularly in my 5-year daily diary.

22. Do the crossword puzzle every day. It keeps your brain fresh!

Not too bad here. One of the things that I do at work is copy off the daily NYT crossword and put it in the kitchen for people to fill in while they are heating up their lunch. I keep a copy for myself. I don’t always get to it, but pretty often.

23. See my friends more, and be better about setting up times.

I will never be perfect at this, but I think I have done okay here. Always can do better.

24. More movies. This is one of those things that I really do think that if I put it down, it will make me go see more movies than if I didn’t.

Sixty-one days to see some of those movies that I really want to see. I need to prepare for Oscar!

25. More live music. Ditto rulin #24

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Not great, but not horrible here. We saw some great shows this year. Sallie Ford playing with Thao and the Get Down Stay Downs was super fun. Jim and Micaela getting in the photobooth with Sallie continues to make me laugh. I got to see my man, Jason Isbell and the super delightful, They Might be Giants. We went to hear wonderful Bob Walkenhorst a couple times (should go more), and music at BB’s Lawnside. Already have tickets to see solo Jeff Tweedy next month.

26. Keep up with my Newbery Challenge.

This is my gym reading. When gyming goes by the wayside, so does Newbery. Two months to pick it up.

27. Pick two music albums each month that I really get to know.

I would say that I have done okay on this. I have tried to highlight some albums on my blog that I do get to know. One of the things that I have done lately is to email the artists to tell them that I have done that. It has been sweet to see how many email me back to thank me and tell me that they like my blog.

28. Make a photo album of 100 pictures from 2012, and put the 100 photos from 2011 that I ordered last year into an album.

2012 album

Success. Again, I need to add some words.

29. Take more pictures.

Success

30. Figure out how to start an Etsy shop. We have some ideas that we have been kicking around and doing some stuff on. Time to get real.

I bought a book about how to do it. Hmm. Probably there is more to it. 🙂

31. Get the attic organized. I made such progress when we got to fill the dumpster, time to make it right.

There are sixty-one days in which I can make good on this.

32. Bring my guitar out of hiding and play it again.

It is out of hiding and I pick it up every now and then. I think I need to restart lessons. That can be a whole new rulin in 2014.

33. Keep Deliberate Obfuscation active and fun for me.

This has definitely been a success. It is weird how fulfilling it is to check my stats and see that people are actually reading. 

 

The 304 days that happened before today have been almost all good for me. I have high hopes for the remaining days of this year, and I am already getting excited about some rulins for 2014. Who else is doing some reflecting as we hit this countdown of the last days of this year?

Last Week’s Good Things

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The days were cool and crisp this week. The trees are really sporting their fall colors. For me, it was a very good week making for an easy post to put together. It starts out in an unusual way, but it certainly supports the theme of this blog.

An exceptional Obituary

I acknowledge that it is a weird habit. We continue to get the daily local newspaper and my day does not start out correctly unless I work through it. Admittedly, I do not read everything thoroughly, but I give it a good skim and read those items that interest me. One part of the paper that I always give a good skim is the obituary section. I have talked to others who also do this, so I know I am not alone. I do not necessarily look for people who I might know, but that has sadly happened. What my eyes gravitate to are the longer write-ups or a eye-catching photo. Last Sunday, I totally came across a gem. The picture showed a grandpa with a child on his knee. Cute photo; check. The write-up was lengthy; check. The content was the best ever. Of course, losing someone is a very sad thing. The best way that I find to work through that loss, however, is to keep the happy memories close. The Brown family reigns on this front. When an obituary starts out “Bill Brown finally stopped bugging everybody on October 15, 2013” and moves on hilariously from there, you know that you are witnessing a life well lived!

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House Celebration

don house-2This week marks twenty-five years of living in our dear house. I remember how exciting move-in day was. We rented a U-Haul. Friends helped us move the few pieces of furniture that we had. We paid them with thanks, beer, and pizza. Over the years, we have managed to acquire furniture enough to fill the rooms. What has been the biggest addition to our home over the years is regularly filling the rooms with people we love. Last night we happily celebrated the years with many old and new friends. Brisket and Macaroni and Cheese seemed like the perfect accompaniment to such a comfortable evening, and it proved to be a perfect choice. Because it was such a beautiful fall day, the patio held the homemade beer, firepit, and festive lights. Starting at 6 PM friends started arriving. Our last friend left before the clock struck 1 AM.

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It is hard to summarize such a night, but it did include arriving visitors being greeted by a cinnamon and clove scented jack-o-lantern designed and created by Ali and Jose, a beautiful martini bar created by Micaela where Kristin was introduced to her first “big-girl” martini, an adorable baby Elsie who charmed everyone and showed an inspired love for mac cheese, Kathie in a dirndl, a story from Scott about the maple trees of Baldwin, Kansas, Don’s beautiful pastel of our house, Melissa arriving proudly with a book that I had lent to her many years ago, a giant Corona bottle pinata inspired by Jose that was bashed with a golf club and offered treats of candy and mini tequilla bottles, a salted caramel snickerdoodle from Laura and almond cookies from Tracy that were mouthwatering, Jim demonstrating how to mix an old fashioned; a Tigers loss and a Cardinals win, and ending the night laughing at YouTube videos of talking dogs and make believe football teams. Once again, I feel particularly lucky.

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When we decided to have the house party, Ali said she would try to come. As the time got closer and she prepared to make her reservation, Ali and Jose were an item. Bravely, Jose made the trip from New Orleans to Kansas City to be initiated into Ryan world — super-sized. We broke him in, as any good Kansas City host would do. We fed him tons of food: Bryant’s for barbeque, Lidia’s for pasta; Anton’s for deliciousness. We engaged him in a heated Catchphrase battle. Finally, last night he got to experience Ryan party time. Report filed: Jose is a pro. Seeing Ali for an unanticipated weekend, and being able to meet and get to know Jose has been a treat. As I wrote a couple weeks ago when we visited Sam and Jean, as a parent the thing you want most is to see your children happy. There has been much laughter in the house this weekend.

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Obligatory Chiefs comment. The Kansas City Chiefs are the winningest team in football!  On Sunday, thanks to Ivan and Janet, we got to spend a beautiful autumn afternoon tailgating in the parking lot of Arrowhead and then watching the Chiefs beat the Houston Texans. We typically go to one game a year and I have a hard time remembering the last time that I saw the Chiefs win a game. It has been a long, hard, cold spell for Kansas City sports. This year, however, that has changed. We have a new quarterback and a new coach. The team is winning; the fans are believing. The stadium on Sunday was awash in red. As each member of the team emerged onto the field as they were being announced, they just looked so psyched. They felt the love. The win wasn’t as easy as was expected, but it was a win. The mood leaving the stadium was giddy jubilation.

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I haven’t bought in new music in a few weeks. This week I happened upon the new album by Bombadil and I am liking it very much. Bombadil is composed of four guys – three of whom went to school together at Duke. The songs on Metrics of Affection range from acoustic beauties, to accapella story songs, to down home foot tappers. Their voices are good. The flow of the album is solid, and it wanted me to look them up to see what else was going on with them. The album opens with a song called Angeline that has some funny rhymes and really holds together. There is a pretty, romantic song called You Can Have Me that is followed by a beautiful piano solo.

you can’t have everything you want

or even sometimes what need
even if you need it desperately

but, apple blossom, if i could, 
i’d carve a shuttle out wood,
and fly us out beyond the breeze.

all alone except for stars,
i would wonder how you are
the most beautiful of things

I have enjoyed this new music very much this week!

It was a wonderful week which left me with amazing memories! I hope that you made some good memories too!

 

 

Last Week’s Good Things

notebookThis is the New York City version of this week’s good things.  Because I was out of town over a weekend, it also is a very loose version of what “last week” means. Traveling does that to you!

It all started with the fact that I was extremely lucky to get chosen to go to a training sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Added to this was the fact that my hospital supported me going. The conference was in New York City and started last Friday and went through the weekend. I tacked on a few personal days on the end so Dan could come in and we could spend time with Sam and Jean. Oh, what a great time it was.

From a slew of many, here are a few of last week’s good things:

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The People of New York City – It seems a cliche to give the people of New York a hard time for being pushy and difficult. On this trip, I have to say, I very much noticed the kindness of people everywhere. I arrived in the city late Thursday, Once I checked into my hotel, I went around the corner to have a bite to eat. I was the only one in the restaurant and I am sure that everyone was ready to go home. Rather than feeling a nuisance, I was treated graciously and did not feel rushed in the slightest. I noticed the same kind of feeling everywhere I went. Walking along busy streets, I noticed that people went out of their way to apologize if they bumped into you. In the subway I got a few “excuse me” and “pardon mes.” Particularly in businesses, I was treated warmly and appreciatively. We buy into stereotypes too easily. chambers

The Municipal Archives – Tuesday morning I went to the Municipal Archives of New York City. I had been in touch with the staff there for a couple years. When I knew that I would be coming to visit, I really got serious. The staff had located some documents that were potentially helpful to the research that I am doing. I was going to be able to get there and look at them! The archives are located at 31 Chambers Street amongst all of the city government buildings. These buildings are pretty awesome to behold. We made our way to the location on a Tuesday morning after a Monday holiday. The subway was jam packed, but easily negotiable. Once I got to the archives and checked in, I became a little worried. We could not find my request. With assistance from the helpful staff, we located the papers and I was able to get to work. It was great! All around the spacious room, people were delving into boxes of records or microfilm. The staff walked about answering questions. There was a young man sitting next to us looking at city planning records dating back to who knows when. Two brothers were looking up family history prior to  taking a journey to Eastern Europe. For my part, while the records that I had to look at didn’t reveal much that I didn’t know, there were many interesting things that I found and I made copies of to bring home. It also made me so thankful that items associated with an event that happened more than eighty years ago were filed away in a box and someone from the midwest can send an email and have those items waiting for her when she comes for a visit!  2013-10-15 10.22.41

Meeting Some New FriendsAlso associated with my research, I got to meet a couple more family members of my research characters. We met J and his daughter for breakfast on Monday morning. We spent a delightful meal getting to know each other and recounting how all of this happened. I also got to hear about A’s special stuffed animal who shared breakfast with us. Because of this breakfast venture, I now know what Halloween costume is perfect for a seven year old growing up in New York City – Eloise, of course! I also clearly understood, once again, what a gift I have been given to find this story. I continue to try to write this history up well. In the process, I have uncovered some interesting things, that I have been able to share with kind, welcoming, accommodating family members. Meeting some new family members and being so warmly welcomed for what I have done was humbling. samandjean

Sam and Jean – As a parent, you want to see  your children in happy relationships. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole heck of a lot you can do to secure such a thing. You try to model well, but even that can be challenging. In the end, you just have to hope. So, the best part of the trip was getting to spend time with Sam and Jean. It was our second chance to meet Jean, and it proved to be quite great.  I smile just thinking about how good I think that they are together. They seem to make each other laugh a lot – which I think speak volumes. They appeared caring to each other in many ways. On Sunday night we got to take Jean out to dinner without Sam as he was working. It felt easy and comfortable. A very good thing for the week!  2013-10-15 12.10.19bouchon

Food of New York – This trip provided an over the top food experience. Due to the good food connections that Sam and Jean bring to the table, we had two nights where fabulous New York City chefs cooked for us. At Bouchon Bakery and Cafe in the Time Warner Center, we got treated courses that ranged from a beautiful potato soup to a peanut butter and jelly dessert presentation.  At Blue Hill in Greenwich Village, the table kept producing more  treats like fresh local vegetables perfectly seasoned with salts, a chicken dish with mushrooms and a tomato sauce that was unforgettable and a pumpkin seed candy that spoke autumn. We also had some nice Belgian inspired food at Resto. Delicious tacos in Brooklyn. Decadently greasy burger and fries at Shake Shack. Chewy wood-fired pizza and yummy appetizers at Franny’s in Sam and Jean’s Prospect Heights neighborhood. Goodness!

It was a fun week. Getting out of town and spending time with co-workers, thinking about how we can do our work more effectively, was inspiring. Spending time in an iconic city inspired me to understand the world in a better way. Enjoying food in an indulgent way was, nonetheless, magnificent. Being with people I love was more than good.