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Perfect Podcast for October

Friday, October 13, 2017
For the past eight weeks I've spent basically every day on the road, so I have been devouring podcasts. They help pass the time and make the miles go by a bit more quickly than the top 40 hits on the radio. They also help take my mind off of all the craziness of the day.

If you're looking for a new podcast - and an appropriate one for October- give Deadly Manners a listen. It is pure fun that will definitely get you in the mood for Halloween. Think Clue plus an old school murder mystery radio show.

Each Chapter (episode) is only about 20 - 25 minutes long, so it's easy to listen to on a quick trip or commute. The story unfolds on a dark, stormy night (of course) at the Billings mansion where Mr. and Mrs. Billings are hosting a fabulous dinner party. The lights go out (of course!), there's a murder (what'd you expect?) and the story takes off from there.

You'll also recognize plenty of famous voices including Kristen Bell as Veronica Billings and RuPaul as the fortune teller.

It's very entertaining and provides some goosebumps perfect for October. Enjoy - and Happy Friday!

Happy October!

Sunday, October 1, 2017
Happy Sunday, friends - and Happy October! I don't know where September went. My job is busiest in the fall, so I really feel like this time of the year flies by. Unfortunately, it's my favorite time of the year, so I don't have as much time for all the fabulous fall activities that I'd like.

Because my schedule has been crazier than usual lately I've really been enjoying new podcasts on the road, convenient foods, and light are some of my favorite things lately.

Young Adult Literature
Any other fellow Happier listeners will know that this has been a recent topic on the podcast lately. Gretchen and Liz have discussed the benefits - and simply the fun - of reading Young Adult literature. I honestly haven't read a YA book in years, but I've lately been digging into them, and I've had so much fun. I read Liz's new book Flower, and it was such a cute story. I devoured it in one roadtrip. I also decided to read one of my favorite books from childhood, "The Farthest Away Mountain," by Lynne Reid Banks. It was such a trip down memory lane and comforting to read. YA literature is a nice change of pace. It's truly an escape! 

James Bonding podcast

Mike and I were on a James Bond kick last year - and now I'll forever be a Bond girl. Some of our friends who also love Bond suggested this podcast to me a few weeks ago. It's a ton of fun to listen to - especially now that I've watched all the movies. If you haven't watched many Bond films, you probably don't want to listen. They're long podcasts (read two hours) and it is literally just a bunch of people talking about Bond movies. Sometimes I feel like I'm a fly on the wall of a bar listening to a bunch of friends talk about Bond. They focus on one movie at time, or a topic like best cold openings, so you can really learn a lot about the movies.

Happier in Hollywood podcast

Of course I got sucked into the Happier in Hollywood podcast! To be honest, it took me longer than it should of to subscribe and start listening to this one. I thought either it wouldn't apply to my very non-Hollywood life, or it would be too similar to Happier, which I love. I was wrong on both fronts. Liz and her writing partner Sarah bring an entirely different vibe than Liz and her sister Gretchen. Happier in Hollywood is upbeat, relatable and funny. It is really interesting to learn about their lives in Hollywood but the topics they discuss and guests they bring in are always very relevant to almost any career. Give it a listen! Their catchphrase "It's a fun job and I enjoy it," is a really great reminder to your day.

PB Fit Protein Powder

If you're a peanut butter lover like me you should definitely give this stuff a try. I have been putting it in everything lately! Smoothies, yogurt, overnight oats, hot oatmeal, etc. It gives everything a yummy peanut butter taste and packs a protein punch. My favorite is making a peanut butter banana smoothie with frozen bananas and this powder - it seriously tastes like a milkshake!

The Return of Yumkin Pumpkin (and other fall beers)

Ah, fall....the pumpkin spice, the cool, crisp days, and the beer.  Everything is better in the fall - the weather, the food, the lattes, and the beer. I love all the Octoberfest beers, ambers, and pumpkin ales that show up on the shelves this time of year.  My local favorite...or quite possibly favorite pumpkin beer overall is Yumkin Pumpkin from Wichita Brewing Co. If you enjoy it at one of the Wichita Brewing Co. locations it is served with a dusting of cinnamon on the rim of the pint glass!

Hilariously Infertile's Instagram

Dealing with infertility is rarely met with laughter but having a sense of humor about it has definitely kept me sane this past year. I was so happy to discover Hilariously Infertile's Instagram account because it confirmed that I am not a crazy, terrible person for laughing at some of things we've been through or thinking some of the things I have while going through this. Definitely share it with anyone you know going through this, and in need of some comedic relief.

Actual footage of me walking into the fertility clinic

The Return of Dancing with the Stars

I love this show so much! I want to be a "star" just so I can be on this show, and to get one of those fantastic spray tans, of course. We don't watch very much TV at all in our house but this is one show that I love to make time for if I can. It's pure fun, and I love all the dancing and fabulous costumes. It's also a great show to have on while we're cooking dinner or working on our laptops (not a difficult storyline to follow). I'm cheering for Lindsey Sterling, Drew Scott, and Terrell Owens this season. 

Have a great start to the week, friends! Enjoy this pretty October weather. 

My Wichita List

Thursday, September 7, 2017
I have lived in the Wichita area for six years now and there are still quintessential "Wichita" things I have not experienced, and I'm embarrassed to even admit it. I have decided it's high time I check these things off my 'Wichita list.' I don't think I can really call myself a local until I do. I'm sure I missed some important ones - let me know what's a Doo-Dah must on your list.

  • Go to a drive-in movie at Starlite Drive-In.  (Cue that fabulous jingle, "Starlite Drive-In gives you more, call 524-2424!")  Not only have I not visited Starlite, I've never been to a drive-in!

  • Eat a crumbly burger from NuWay Cafe. This legendary burger place has been in Wichita for 87 years. How have I not eaten here yet? 

  • See the Keeper of the Plains at night - I've seen it plenty of times during the day, but I want to see this beautiful view-

  • Visit the original Pizza Hut. I actually have strong opinions about Pizza Hut's pizza (don't like the stuff) but I feel as a proud Wichitan, I've got to see the birthplace of this famous franchise.

  • Tour Frank Lloyd Wright's Allen House - I had lived here a few years before I realized we had a Wright home in town. I think his designs are so interesting and beautiful. I've toured his homes across the country but not in my own hometown....yet. 

  • Attend the St. Patrick's Day parade in Delano - I've always wanted to love and celebrate St. Patrick's Day more. I think this parade might help me do it. 

  • Have a green beer at The Shamrock - I plan to make this a stop before or after the parade. This well-known Wichita watering hole has been here since the 1930s! 

  • Visit the Sedgwick County Historical Museum - Technically I've been in the museum a couple of times but they weren't true visits. I ran in to look at an exhibit for an article, and another time I was just there for a meeting in their conference room. Both times I thought to myself, "This place is so neat. I really should come here for a visit." Hasn't happened yet but it really needs to!

Climbing Mountains

Sunday, September 3, 2017
Last month Mike and I spent a few days in Colorado where our family has a home in the Sangre de Cristo wilderness. It is just so amazingly beautiful there. I love waking up to the crisp, dry pine-scented air, and I love sharing my morning coffee and cereal with a friendly pack of mule deer. It is such a peaceful place - it is good for the soul.

Love this panoramic of Venable Lake 

The Sangre de Cristo mountains are truly majestic in this area, and Mike and I have discovered we both really love hiking. Last summer we hiked to Comanche Lake, a beautiful alpine lake, that sits right under Comanche Peak. As we sat at the lake, Mike and I stared up at Comanche Peak and its neighboring peak, Venable, and talked about how close we were. It wouldn't have taken us too much longer to make it up to the peak.  We had friends waiting back at the cabin though, so we promised to tackle a longer, more challenging hike the next summer.

So, this summer we decided to do the Venable-Comanche loop. The loop is a 12 mile hike that will take you up the side of Venable Peak (13,334') across a daunting ledge known as Phantom Terrace, and then down the side of Comanche Peak (13,227').

Mike at the top of the Venable-Comanche Loop - looking at Spring Mt. 

I would like to preface this by noting that I have an EXTREME fear of heights, so the fact that we set out to conquer Phantom Terrace was probably not the best decision we've ever made. But I was excited about hiking together and looking forward to the awesome views, and I thought, "How bad could it be?" I was feeling up to the challenge. The hike was exhausting, exhilarating, and emotionally the most challenging thing I have ever done.

Enjoying the view from the top! 

Phantom Terrace was intense. I was forced to face my fear of heights head on. This part of the trail gets its name because it is almost impossible to see unless you're right there. It is less "trail" and more ledge on the side of the mountain.

Can you spot the trail? Exactly. 

Some parts of the trail are just inches wide and the drop down is harrowing to say the least. I had a full on panic attack and started crying. I really didn't think I could move, or even get off the terrace. Looking down literally made me fear for my life. I have never been that scared before. Mike was so very kind and he coached me along, asked if I was okay, and checked to see if I wanted to turn around. (Go back down this? It took us close to an hour but the feeling of finally making it off the terrace was the most exhilarating thing ever. You come up and over and all of a sudden you're on top of the mountain. It was amazing. I felt like crying all over again. This is a pretty good video of what it looks like to finish up the last few feet of the terrace.

The six hour, 12-mile hike took us along some of the most beautiful trails I have ever been on and the views from the top of the Venable-Comanche loop were truly awe inspiring. We were able to see the back side of the Sangres into New Mexico, and had a pretty awesome view of the treacherous Crestone Needle.

We did it!

What a view!
Conquering Phantom Terrace felt especially satisfying as this past year has seemed to be filled with mountains and challenges that I haven't been able to tackle. Pushing past exhaustion and facing a very real fear head on while clinging to a ledge on Phantom Terrace was a cathartic experience that I needed to have. It felt good to push past fear, plenty of tears, and difficulties and finally be on top of that mountain. Struggling with infertility this past year has been filled with disappointments, challenges and situations where the answer has seemed to always be a "no." Climbing the loop and Phantom Terrace felt like a big, "Yes, I can" to everything that's gone on this past year.

Because of my terrible fear of heights, I truly didn't think I would ever do something like Phantom Terrace, and while up there I again thought, "This isn't going to happen." But it did - we did it, I did it, and I totally fought through it. I am trying to remember this experience as I head into year two of infertility. Like Phantom Terrace, parts of it have been terrifying, some has been frustrating, and most of it has just plain sucked. I have tried to be brave most of the time, but other times I have sat down and just bawled my eyes out. But Phantom Terrace reminded me that amazing things are possible - even if they aren't always easy to get to. The view at the top was absolutely beautiful and I felt grateful to be there. I thanked God for the amazing view, the incredible experience, and the wonderful husband who had been with me the entire way.

I know this next year will still be a long, hard journey with many more mountains to climb. But I'm going to try to remember how brave I was on Phantom Terrace and how I felt as I climbed on my hands and knees to the top. Life isn't always easy but sometimes it's the fight, and the climb that makes it all worth it.

"Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard see, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."  Matthew 17:20

Paddle Board Yoga

Thursday, August 31, 2017
It seems like all of a sudden SUP (stand up paddle boarding) is everywhere in Wichita. I had once tested out a friend's paddle board when we were at the lake, and I loved how much of a core workout it was.

I saw advertisements for paddle board yoga all summer and considered signing up but the class fee ($25-$30) and a busy schedule kept stopping me. My gym, the Derby Recreation Center, doesn't offer paddle board yoga regularly, but as a special event every month or so. When I saw a date in August at our local water park, I knew this was the time to give it a try.

I knew I could talk my fitness buddy, Abby, into trying it with me, too. If I was going to make a fool of myself and topple into the water mid-Vinyasa, I was definitely bringing a friend along for support - or at least to laugh with me.

Looking stylish in my Nike running shorts and a nautical bikini top.
Example of what not to wear, friends. 

I think the biggest concern I had before going to class was figuring out what to wear. When I texted Abby to ask her what she was wearing, she responded, "I was going to ask you the same thing!" I knew we were going to get wet, so I wanted a swimsuit on, but did I really want to do downward dog in front of strangers in my Billabong bikini? Not really.  

I opted for a swimsuit with running shorts and a tank over it. The swimsuit I chose to wear was not the best choice - my 'good' ones were packed for wake surfing on a lake trip we were leaving for the next day, but it worked out fine.  Class members ranged from all ages and all wore a range of outfits. Some wore just their swimsuits, others wore workout clothes, and I even saw a full-on wet suit. I guess it's whatever floats your boat, er, paddle board.

The class was a ton of fun - and much easier than I expected. The instructor walked us through the moves from the side of the pool for an hour. She did a great job of giving modifications for those of us who aren't experienced yogis (no, I am not going on my head on a paddle board).

We made it! Feelin' proud of ourselves.

I never fell off the board which surprised me. It's actually not that difficult to stay balanced on it. It is difficult enough to feel all the moves in your core though. I loved that it amped up a typically yoga class in that way.

I was also glad that I gave it a try during the summer when I could be outside in the fresh air and sunshine. The class is also held in the winter at the inside pool but taking the class in the summer was so nice.

To cover the paddle board fees, the price of just one class can be a bit pricey, but if you've never tried it before, I'd really recommend it.

Here are the places I know that offer paddle board yoga in the Wichita area:

SUP Wichita

Flatwater Fitness (held at Santa Fe Lake)

Derby Rec Center (not a regular class - keep your eye out for special events)

Limitless Yoga

Did I miss any? I'm sure I did. Lemme know.

Namaste, friends.

A different take on bruschetta

Sunday, July 30, 2017
Bruschetta is one of my very favorite foods. I love late July and August because my basil soaks up the hot sunshine and goes crazy this time of year. Which means I can eat a lot of bruschetta. Nothing says late summer like the taste of basil and tomatoes.

Mike and I recently ate at Free State Brewery, one of our favorite Lawrence restaurants, and their special appetizer that evening was bruschetta. I enthusiastically ordered it; Mike who doesn't really like appetizers graciously gave in. We were so glad we ordered it though - it was delicious. Free State's version featured a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and basil marinated in some kind of amazing balsamic blend. I immediately knew I wanted to try to replicate it at home.

My usual bruschetta recipe is pretty simple. I toast slices of French bread, rub garlic cloves on the bread, top with parmesan and pesto, toast it in the oven a little more, and then finish it with a tomato slice, olive oil, and a dash of sea salt.  This time though, I wanted the tangy balsamic goodness of Free State's bruschetta.

So, I started with a bunch of basil. I wish you could smell this photo! I just love the smell of basil...

I wanted to slice the basil into thin strips, because as much as I love basil, I don't always enjoy munching on entire leaves. The best way to get perfectly thin slices is to stack a bunch of your leaves, roll them up, and then slice thinly through your basil roll-up. So easy! 

Gather a bunch of basil leaves...

Roll it up like a little basil sushi....

Start slicing! You'll have perfect, fragrant basil strips...

I diced up a bunch of tomatoes, threw in my sliced basil, added finely chopped garlic and tossed it all in balsamic, olive oil, pepper, and sea salt. Then I let it hang out in the fridge all day.

The result? Absolutely delicious! I think I'm hooked on this version. I love that the balsamic soaks into the bread and it has so much more flavor after marinating all day. I still toasted my bread and rubbed it with a garlic clove, and I also decided to still top each slice with a small amount of parmesan and pesto as a base. It turned out really well and made the perfect summer dinner. Served with Rosé, of course.

Summer Reading

Sunday, July 9, 2017
My summer reading has been minimal at best but I’ve tried to squeeze in a few books on road trips and trips to the lake. This summer has been busy for both Mike and I. He’s on a new program with mandatory thirty percent overtime and I’m freelancing more than ever for four different places (which I love!) so when I’m not at my day job, I’m writing through the night. Busy, but a great busy, right?

I started the summer with a full reading list and lofty goals, so we’ll see how I do. Here’s to finishing strong.

What I’ve read so far –

Settle For More by Megyn Kelly

Whether you like her or not, I think most would agree Megyn Kelly is one hardworking, smart gal. This was the best book I’ve read this year so far. I took it with me on a long road trip and couldn’t put it down. Megyn’s story is really inspiring. She grew up in a middle class family in Albany, New York, and at just fifteen she experienced the traumatic loss of her father (that’s a tough chapter to read).  Her upbringing and experience of losing her father gave her a strong combination of ambition, drive and just a little bit of a chip on her shoulder to “settle for more” from the get go. After being declined from Syracuse’s school of journalism (who’s laughing now?) she majored in political science and then decided to earn her law degree from Albany Law School. She goes on to be a powerful corporate defense lawyer in Chicago, when suddenly in her early thirties she decides her true love is journalism. To the dismay of almost everyone, she quits her job as an attorney (and gives up a very nice salary) and starts working toward broadcast journalism from the ground-up (she started in an unpaid, intern-like role).

Megyn provides a lot of insight on what it means to be a successful woman in today’s workplace and world. She shares the highs and lows of her career, how she fought stereotypes, faced workplace sexual harassment head on, and deals with the struggles of being a working mom. The chapters detailing the infamous and very public feud with Trump after the debate are fascinating and will make you respect her for how she survived such an ugly time full of personal attacks and threats to her family.

I remember always being so struck by Megyn Kelly when I was working as an intern at Fox years ago. She exuded beauty, smarts, and confidence when she entered the room, and I always admired her. For me it was awesome to see such a kick-butt blonde in the newsroom.
 I really loved this book, and learned the importance of settling for more in life. 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler 

Sweetbitter was an incredibly well-written book, but for me it was a bit unsettling to read. Sweetbitter made me realize I’ve lived a sheltered, Midwestern life. The book follows Tess, a twenty-something who comes to New York City in a search to find herself and/or reinvent herself. She scores a job as a backwaitress at the city’s most celebrated, fine dining restaurant, but life for Tess and other restaurant staff is far from glamorous. You follow Tess through the grueling “training” (almost hazing?) of being the new girl at the restaurant, nights of drugs and drinking, starving from not being able to afford to eat, and living in a basically uninhabitable New York City apartment.  Oh, and there’s a frustrating love triangle, too. I was hoping for a happy ending with that but….again naïve Midwestern gal here. #spoileralert

The writing is absolutely fantastic, and it’s obvious Danler experienced this world first hand. Her years as a waitress in the city give the book it’s truthful and eye-opening edge. I flew through it but it didn't leave me with a feel-good feeling, which is fine. I finished the book feeling a bit how Tess often felt throughout the book – exhausted, empty, used, and jaded.

The Book of Hygge by Louisa Thomsen Brits

The only good thing about this one is it reminded me that if I’m not enjoying a book I should just stop reading it and move on to something I do enjoy.  I was really excited to learn more about Hygge (which my cousin Victoria first introduced to me) but this book was super slow and repetitive for me.  If you aren’t familiar with Hygge (say it “hue-guh”), it’s the Danish word for coziness and comfort – mostly regarding the home. Hygge is difficult to describe but it’s that feeling you get when wrapped up in your blanket in front of the fire on a dark, cold winter evening, or when you enjoy your favorite meal with your favorite people. There’s really not a good word for it in the English language. I was excited to learn more about Hygge and how to bring more of it into my home, relationships and workplace, but the book didn’t do much for me. It just wandered aimlessly through various descriptions of Hygge, and I got really bored. At least I’ve got a great grasp of what it is now. Who else is ready to hygger??

What I'm reading now: 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – I’ve seen the movie multiple times but have never read the book. I thought I should give it a read. (It’s written by a fellow Jayhawk journalist! Rock Chalk!) So far it’s supporting the old cliché, “The book is so much better than the movie.”

Flower by Elizabeth Craft and Shea Olsen – Who else listens to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier? If you do, you’ll know about this book.  Rubin’s sister and co-host, Elizabeth Craft co-wrote this young adult book. I’m excited to get into it!

A Night In With Grace Kelly by Lucy Holliday – This was one of those finds that you pick up when you go to the library for another book, but then get sidetracked once you spot another one. I love Grace Kelly so the title totally caught my eye as I walked by the ‘new book’ section.

Also on my probably-way-too-ambitious-because-summer-is-ending-soon book list:

My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg – I love Rick Bragg’s funny commentary at the back of each month’s issue of Southern Living. I’m sure this will be just as hilarious.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – As a bonafide  introvert I’m looking forward to learning more about my “type”

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza -  This one just sounds fun. Excited to read it!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
– Can’t wait to check out this one by the “Girl on the Train” author

The Farthest Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks – A childhood favorite that I’m super excited to reread as an adult.

A Night in with Audrey Hepburn by Lucy Holliday

A Night in with Marilyn Monroe by Lucy Holliday 

We’ll see how it goes. What were your favorite summer reads?

Happy summer, friends! 

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