Monday, June 25, 2012

15th Wedding Anniversary and Local Discoveries!

I've been in a happy place a lot lately, and I like it!  It's a much better place than the alternative. Maybe it's because summer is here now and I'm filled with giddy anticipation of all the fun I plan to have. The trips to the pool, grilling with family and friends, camping, and all the fabulousness that summer has to offer. Not to mention the longer days and the abundance of sunshine.

My "Happiness Project," which I began full steam a couple of months ago, kind of fell off track a little and I'm really not sure why. I found myself feeling blah more days than I would have liked, but I guess that's just how it goes. You can't be happy all the time. But recently I've had more happy than blah days.

It really started a couple of weekends ago, when I went back to Nebraska and did the Warrior Dash with one of my best friends from high school. We've talked a lot online, but it had been almost a year since we've actually seen each other, so it was way overdue. After running the Warrior Dash, I spent the evening with her family up at their lake house. Even though we never got into the water, it was definitely what I needed. We sat on the dock and talked, I almost threw my phone into the water (I did lose what I had left of my case), we rode around the lake on their "T-Rex", and then wrapped up the night chatting on the deck, watching the beautiful sun set as it reflected off of the lake. It was the perfect, peaceful ending to a crazy, mud-filled day. It's amazing how a setting like that can remind you what's important.
Beautiful sunset on the lake.

Back home in KC the following weekend, we were joined on a four-day weekend by my mom who spent most of her vacation hanging out with us. Thursday we had lunch and then went to Men In Black III in 3-D and had so much fun, we saw it again on Saturday night in the regular movie theater. Friday we traveled just south of Kansas City to Powell Gardens, which blew away my expectations. The gardens were gorgeous, the scenic views were inspiring, and I enjoyed their fruit and vegetable gardens and vineyard, and being able to show my kids where it all comes from.

The rest of the weekend was shopping, eating, hanging out, and kids water play.

That led to another four day weekend, this time to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary! As of Wednesday night, I had no clue what we were going to do and where we were going to go. All I knew is that I wanted to go somewhere we haven't been before, I wanted to try to support local businesses where possible, and I hoped that whatever crazy ideas I had, Kevin would indulge me. Lucky for me, he did!

At the City Market

We started with a trip to the "Westside", just south and west of downtown, with a stop for lunch at the Blue Bird Bistro. It's the kind of place I might normally shy away from -- old apartments (could have been a house, not sure) converted into a cute little restaurant, serving organic and sustainable food. I say it's the place I normally shy away from, because I sometimes fear the unfamiliar. I'm afraid I'll stick out like a sore thumb from the "locals" or look like I don't belong. But I've learned over the last year or so that stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to wonderful experiences and new favorites (like duck tongue tacos or roasted marrow bone from "Extra Virgin"), so we parked our car on a side street and walked two blocks to the restaurant. I LOVED the colors!

The colors and the blue bird on the post makes me happy!

We walked in and were led up a long flight of stairs to our table. Had I known there were stairs involved, I might have wore different shoes! Once up the stairs we were taken down the hall, through one room into another. The wood floors and pale green walls made for a very welcoming and inviting atmosphere. The waitress poured water into our glasses from a beautiful blue wine bottle (that would be the perfect decor for my new yellow kitchen walls) and we poured over our menu. 

Love the glass blue water bottle

Kevin opted for a bacon egg sandwich, while I chose a bison burger with sauteed mushrooms and garlic and a side of some wonderful dill potato salad. I have to say I was very pleased with my choice and definitely look forward to going back sometime soon.

The burger was a little dwarfed by the homemade bun, but it made for a tasty mushroom, tomato sandwich!

With a list of other snack places to try, we didn't get to stop by Blue Bird Bistro's newest neighbor "Little Freshie," a "soda fountain and espresso bar" that I'm told has amazing snow cones. However, it's definitely on the list. We did drive quickly around some of the neighborhood, with me "oohing" and "ahhing" over the houses. I definitely wouldn't want to be that close to my neighbors, which was like a walkway's distance between each, but the colors, the architecture, the history in those houses...definitely something that is missing from the cookie cutter neighborhoods being built today. I wish I would have taken more pictures as we drove down the street, or had more time to really walk around and see it all, and someday we will as it's also now on "the list."

After leaving the Westside, we headed down to the Crossroads District for my first ever visit to Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates! I've had one of their chocolates once before and have been dying to go try it for myself! The chocolates are expensive at around $1.75 a piece, but their flavors are so creative, the chocolates themselves are so beautiful and soooo tasty, that they are really worth it!

(Top row) Bananas Foster, Chamomile Honey
(Middle row) Fresh Mint, Strawberry Balsmic, Butterscotch Bourbon
(Bottom row) Brown Butter Pecan, Fleur De Sel, Raspberry
The next stop on our tour of locally owned food spots was the City Market and the delicious Bloom Baking Co. We had stopped there once last year and I had the most amazing almond pastry and a delicious focaccia, and I have been wanting that almond pastry again ever since! Unfortunately, they didn't have them in stock, but the owner did an amazing job on selling me on some fresh brioche bread and their homemade bread pudding. Having never had bread pudding before, I split it for breakfast Friday and Saturday and it was good! A little rich, which is why I split it, but definitely worth the hype. We used the brioche along with the Bloom Baking Co.'s recipe that we were given for french toast for dinner with friends on Friday night and everybody -- including the kids -- agreed it was delish!

Bloom baking co. in the City Market - Yum!
With that checked off my list, we headed to the Country Club Plaza looking for fresh macarons at Natasha's Mulberry and Mott. Unfortunately they were out of macarons, but I did buy some homemade marshmallows for me and the kids.

The last stop on my list was Glace Artisan Ice Cream, also owned by Christopher Elbow. Much like his chocolates, his ice cream selection has a lot of interesting and surprising combinations. I would have liked to have try everything, but I decided on a scoop each of french lavender and fresh mint chip. Wow! Awesome flavors! Both were good, but the french lavender was by far my favorite. So much so that I had Kevin run across the street to CVS to purchase a small cooler so that I could purchase a pint of french lavender ice cream to take home. I never would have thought it would have been so yummy!
Glace Artisan Ice Cream on the Plaza's south side
I love that blue
French Lavender and Fresh Mint Chip. Yum!
All day, my husband had been indulging my whims and going with me on my tour of local KC food establishments without complaint, so after ice cream it was time to make his one stop -- Gomers Liquor Store. His day was made by finding the last 6-pack of Newcastle Founder's Brew and a 6-pack of DAB, and I continued my "buy local" mission by buying a 12-pack of Boulevard Wheat.

After picking up the kids and dropping them off at our friends' house, we headed to Zona Rosa for our anniversary dinner at Swagat Restaurant, Fine Italian Cuisine. This was the first time for both of us to eat real Indian food and we've been wanting to try this restaurant for a long time, so with no kids for the night, this was the perfect time. We started with an appetizer of Paneer Pakoras (homemade cheese, deep fried in spicy chick-pea batter) which Kevin really liked, but for me it was just okay. Dinner for Kevin was Chicken Tikka (skewered strips of boneless chicken breast marinated in herbs and spices, grilled in a clay oven) and for me it was Butter Chicken (Boneless chicken cooked with fresh garlic, ginger, touch of tomato in a light creamy sauce and spices). I took some pictures of the food, but it doesn't seem to look as good on camera as it tastes, so I'll skip posting that. But believe me when I say, it was YUM-MY! We will DEFINITELY be going back and I will be trying something different every time.
Swagat at Zona Rosa.
After dinner we walked around Zona Rosa a little, doing a little shopping for the kids at Crazy 8, browsing at Barnes and Noble, and stopping at Topsy for a treat for Kevin. I was saving myself for the creme de menthe brownies that my good friend Michelle had made for me us. So we headed back to pick up the kids and celebrate a little with our friends, who are celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary exactly one week after us. We celebrated by popping the cork on a wine we purchased 15 years ago during our honeymoon at the Biltmore Estate Winery.
American Chenin Blanc purchased during our honeymoon at the Biltmore Estate
And Michelle created a special presentation of brownies just for us.

Michelle's Creme De Menthe bars specially designed for our anniversary
And that was our 15th wedding anniversary celebration! The time spent just the two of us was definitely needed and enjoyed. There wasn't one argument we had to break up, no voices raised at disobedient children, no diaper changes, just us, doing stuff. And I also got to check some things off of my Kansas City list (but I also found more to add to it).

I'm in my happy place, and you know what? I'm happier there! Go figure! It makes it so much easier to love the little things!

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