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The Adventures of 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015
When I look back at 2015 I think of ‘new.’ New experiences, new adventures, new challenges. It was a year full of firsts from the big things like visiting our cabin in Rosita, Colorado, for the first time, writing for The Wichita Eagle, to the small things like trying Blue Apron delivered meals.

Mike enjoying a turkey leg at the Jewell County Threshing Bee in July.

All of 2015’s new experiences have challenged me to be more adventurous, honest, forgiving, open minded, and willing to accept change. And, I discovered I absolutely love collard greens. 

I spent the majority of my time at home this year on the patio - my favorite room of the house!

It was a good year; full of wonderful celebrations with family, time spent with good friends, and many nights spent burning pinon wood in the chiminea on our patio. 2015 brought a new Volkswagen GLI, half marathons, lake trips, a Threshing Bee birthday celebration, weddings, Thanksgiving dinner in Mankato, Garth Brooks in Wichita and plenty of toasting, dining, tailgating, cooking, writing, traveling, running, gardening, and laughing in between.

There were days that brought smiles, and there were days that brought tears, but once again I end the year feeling so very thankful for my many blessings.  
Thanksgiving in Mankato was fun and delicious.

Mike eating a Blue Apron meal. We were so skeptical - then so impressed.

My motto last year was, “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an Adventure.” I’m so glad that for the majority of the time I did choose to look at things as an adventure – because that’s really what life is – a great adventure. 

Mike and I took the UTV to 13,047 ft to Hermit Lake in August.

Here's to the next one. Happy 2016, friends.

Merry and Bright

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
This time of year it’s easy for things to become a blur. The gifts, the parties, the food, the wine, the busy schedule – it all becomes a lot in the month of December. So often I think we tend to say, “If we can just get through the holidays.” With this mindset, it’s easy to forget the things we really love about the season.

I went on a run last Monday night in the unseasonably warm December weather. It was really beautiful and perfect out. As I was running in the dusk all the homes in our neighborhood began to light up thanks to their handy-dandy timers. It was really magical to run along and see these sparkling displays come to life. We live in a neighborhood where people really love their Christmas lights, so I was surrounded by bright, glittery colors for the remainder of my run.

It got me thinking about Christmas lights – it’s kind of a peculiar tradition we have to throw brightly colored lights all over our homes and yards. It made me realize that Christmas lights are a small part of the Christmas season that I just really love.

I use white twinkle lights all over our house from the trees, the mantel, baskets of pine cones, to above our cabinets. I think they provide a much needed sparkle and warmth this time of year when it’s so cold and dark. In January I always miss all the Christmas lights in my house and throughout our neighborhood so much. Everything just seems so dark and plain.

As I ran by the dazzling displays of glistening reindeer and sparkling trees Monday night, I realized it’s so easy to forget about all the small things that I love about the Christmas season. For me, it’s just those simple strands of twinkle lights.

As I walked in the door after my run, I was greeted by my living room lit up by twinkle lights as well. I thought to myself how lucky I was to live in a country and society where we welcome light into our lives during this season.

What do you love about this time of year? I hope you remember to slow down and enjoy it. It truly is a wonderful season. May yours be merry and bright.

Thanksgiving in Mankato

Monday, December 7, 2015
For Thanksgiving, I used my last day off for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so we could celebrate early in Mankato and be back home Thursday evening so I could go to work Friday morning. While it may have been a short trip, I was a very fun trip. Wednesday morning my in-laws Ron and Judy, their dog Sydney, Mike, and I piled into the car and headed north. Much to our surprise the traffic was really light and we pulled into Jewell County in record time.

My parents greeted us in the drive as Weston and Missy welcomed Sydney’s arrival in full force. My mother, always the ultimate hostess, had the house all dolled up with beautiful Christmas decor and a lovely spread of appetizers for us to munch on. We were also delighted to spot a special Bloody Mary bar to kick off the Thanksgiving celebration. Mike whipped up a round of Bloody Marys for everyone with all the fixings.

 We sat around and visited, and then Mike and I presented our parents with their Christmas gifts – premium seats and parking to the Garth Brooks concert in Wichita on December 6! I even created a special version of ‘Twas the Night Before December 6‘ to announce the news.

Wednesday was a great day weather-wise so we all enjoyed getting out for a pre-feast walk with the dogs, and my mother and I took Judy to Possibilities for a little hometown shopping.

Mike and I made a special visit to see Grandpa in Superior before picking up Grandma for dinner. It is always nice to spend time with Grandpa. He’s always appreciative of a visit and a good story.

Back in Mankato, Ron, Judy, Grandma , Aunt Barbara, my parents, Mike and I, and - don’t forget the three dogs - all gathered around to give thanks, make a champagne toast, and dig in to our feast.

The food was wonderful as always, and everyone was left groaning and shoving their plate away. I think that’s a good thing on Thanksgiving. I always eat waaay too much sweet potato casserole, but I love it so much, it’s always worth it.  

A big thank you to my parents for hosting such a warm, welcoming, and delicious Thanksgiving. It was a very special celebration!

Birthday on the Hill

Monday, November 2, 2015
On October 17 Mike, my parents, and I set up a tent on the Hill at KU for our annual October tailgate. Since I moved away from Lawrence, we’ve started this tradition and it’s been really fun for all of us to relive our memories of KU and Lawrence together once a year. It’s always a beautiful fall day on campus, and it’s a great time to see friends who we don’t see very often.
With my former manager and friend, Spring, and her kiddos.  

Since the game was at 11 a.m. this year, our day started bright and early (okay, let’s be honest, it was so early it wasn’t bright). Mike and I arrived in Lawrence by 8 a.m. to swing by Einstein Bros. for coffee and bagels. We set up our tent and welcomed friends and family for bagels, coffee, our traditional Jayhawk sugar cookies, snacks, and of course, morning mimosas. 

Lots of good friends stopped by and it was so fun to catch up. I loved reconnecting with my former manager Spring, and her kids. We were happy we had Jayhawk cookies because we had a lot of kids running around our tailgate this year. How times have changed!

The Jayhawk sugar cookies were a hit with the kids!

Being on campus and in Lawrence always makes me really happy. I love it there. I’m always flooded with really happy memories. Sometimes I don’t want to leave after game! This year my family from Hugoton, KS, came to the tailgate because my cousin Wade is considering KU next year, and my cousin Marlyn is pretty darn set on it as well in a few years. Marlyn wanted to see my sorority house, so my mom, Elise, and Marlyn walked up the hill (huffed and puffed!) and I knocked on the door to see if any current Sigma Kappas would let us in. A friendly, smiley girl answered the door and welcomed us in. Each year I visit the house, the girls look younger and younger. This must be what it feels like to be 29. 

Bethany, Elise, and Marlyn on the Hill. 

I took Marlyn and Elise on a tour through the living room, kitchen, study room, and yes, even, the bathrooms. I could see Marlyn and Elise taking it all in. Marlyn looked excited, but Elise jokingly suggested a meningitis shot! Ah, college. I loved it but I’m good not sharing bathrooms and living quarters with 20 other girls anymore. 
Big Jay came by our tailgate to visit his biggest (smallest?) fans!

My dad, Kirk, Wade and I went into the game for the second half, and surprisingly the Jayhawks looked decent, and really could’ve have pulled off a win. The only upside to having a losing football team is you can sit where ever you want so we were able to sit really close to the field – and the cheerleaders to Wade's delight.

After the game we all met at Ten in the Eldridge for martinis and appetizers. The adults ordered a round of martinis, and the teenagers ordered rounds of wings. It was fun to visit over drinks and appetizers.  My parents, Mike and I then went onto Free State Brewery for dinner. It had been awhile since we’d been there, and I enjoyed one of my favorite dishes – although it was really hard to pick. Everything is so good there!

I really couldn’t have asked for a better birthday weekend. As we drove home Sunday morning, I was thankful for another birthday on the Hill, time with my family, and another memory made in Lawrence.


Make your Halloween Spooktacular

Friday, October 30, 2015
It’s a well-known fact that I love Halloween. It’s like my Christmas. I get so excited for the decorations, the food, the TV specials (you can NEVER watch Hocus Pocus too many times), the costumes, and the parties. This year instead of a Halloween party at our house, I decided to switch things up to host a ghoul’s night of wine, dinner and Hocus Pocus. Eight of my girlfriends came over Saturday evening, and we all had such a good time together. We sat on the patio by the chiminea talking and drinking wine before enjoying ‘Don’t Be a Chicken Chili’ and watching Hocus Pocus.

I was thankful for great girlfriends and an evening to enjoy this beautiful time of the year. Winter will be here too soon! If you’re getting your house ready for Halloween or your own ghoul’s night – here are some of my favorite Halloween entertaining tips and tricks.

1) Candy is dandy but wine is divine

We went through A LOT of wine on Saturday. Stock your wine rack with spooky sips. There are lots of Halloweenish wine names and labels out there. Take a look when you’re buying your wine – it will add to your party. Hob Nob has a limited edition Wicked Red. The label is fabulous, and red blend is really good!

2) Get creative with pumpkins
Pumpkins can be so much more than doorstep décor or Jack-O-Lanterns. I love incorporating them in whimsical and surprising ways. My mother always carves out a pumpkin to use as a vase for mums which always makes a beautiful centerpiece. I love to purchase the mini pumpkins and turn them into floating candles. If you have a big tub, you can fill it with water, and add your mini pumpkins filled with small votive candles. It’s super easy to assemble but makes a stunning display. Your guests will love it!

Floating, glowing pumpkins - magical yet so easy! 

Pie pumpkins – small but not quite mini – are great to add to your buffet. Hollow them out to use for your dips! Save the top for a fun decoration.

Use a pumpkin for your dip bowl.

And, then, yes, of course, make time to carve a Jack-O-Lantern ! It’s so much fun. Save the seeds to bake for a crunchy, healthy snack. I like to roast mine with Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

One of my favorite things ever -
a warm, glowing, spicy-smelling Jack-O-Lantern.

3) Keep the theme going with food

For my ghoul’s night I served Don’t Be a Chicken Chili, Monster Eyes, Pumpkin dip and veggies, pumpkin seeds, and 
a frighteningly decadent dessert bar. We also had Rachel Ray’s Pumpkin Pie Martinis to top off the night– scary good! You don’t have to go Pinterest crazy to give your food a Halloween flair. (Ain’t nobody got time for that.) It’s simple to give normal foods a Halloween twist with a few changes to the name or tweaks to the recipe. I also saved time by purchasing my desserts, and throwing together a monster mix (peanuts, gummy worms, kettle corn, candy corn, banana chips, dark chocolate) to snack on during the movie. No one will care or notice if some things aren’t homemade!

Monster mix - perfect movie snack.

4) Enjoy the October weather

If the weather allows get outside and enjoy it. Fall evenings can be crisp, spicy and delightful. We’re about ready to spend the next four to five months stuck inside, so I love to enjoy every October evening outside that I can. So, light up the fire pit or chiminea, grab a blanket and your wine, and go take in the beautiful fall weather.

October sunsets are the best.

Get the chiminea going - October evenings are crisp! 

5)  Document the fun

Take lots of photos, blog about it, post it on Instagram – whatever it takes to remember the fun. Holidays and special moments with friends and family are worth remembering. I love this time of year so much – it’s fun to go back and look at the celebrations, the food, and the decorations. It will also help you remember how to do it up fabulously again next year.

Wine and pumpkins make me happy. 

Happy Haunting, friends! 

Last day on the lake

Monday, October 26, 2015
We recently took the boat out for one last hurrah on the lake before winter. It’s hard to believe how quickly summer flew by. It’s already been about a year since we got the boat, and Mike was so excited to spend the summer on the lake. We spent many Saturdays on the water with friends, took our parents out, and made a fun trip to Table Rock Lake, so I would say it was a successful summer. 

The closest lake to us is about a 40 minute drive, and paired with loading up and preparing the boat, it’s a good chunk of your morning (and I don’t even do the majority of the work. Go Captain Mike!) So, I wasn’t exactly excited about fitting this trip out to the lake in an already busy schedule. But we needed to get Mike’s parents out on the boat, and take advantage of a sunny day before it was time to winterize the boat. So I went along with a smile and a cooler of wine. I was really happy I went. It’s like the saying about a workout – sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to go, but once you do you never regret it.

We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny fall afternoon on the water with Mike’s parents. We broke out the wine, cheese and crackers and enjoyed visiting. I was thankful for my family, the fresh air and the blue skies. It was an awesome reminder to not get too set on schedules. 

Until next summer, Mallory!


Monday, October 19, 2015
Today I am twenty-nine. When did I get to be this old? I still vividly remember when I was 9 going on 10, and I thought it was such a BIG deal to be going to double digits. But twenty-nine – wow! When I started my journey through my twenties nine years ago I don’t exactly know if I imagined what I would be doing at 29 or what 29 would feel like. I think the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to be a writer. When I was 20 years old, 29 felt ages away. Well, time sure flies. As my favorite author Gretchen Rubin would say, “the days are long, but the years are short.”

Sorority girls, pajamas and champagne - what else would you expect on my 20th birthday?
Celebrating my 21st with my best friend from journalism school, Matt.

The twenties are trying, testing, terrific, tumultuous, and terrifying. A lot goes on in your twenties. I don’t think I’ll ever experience such a dynamic and diverse decade in my life again. During my twenties, I went off to school, learned to live on my own, joined a sorority, met new friends, dated, broke up, laughed, cried, learned to write for a newspaper, made difficult decisions, worried about easy ones, earned two degrees, got a dog, moved, moved again, moved again and again, lived in New York, traveled, started new jobs, quit some jobs, lost people I loved, learned about myself, ran a ton of miles, got married to my best friend, bought a house, and so much more. Whew. What a decade, and I’ve got one more year of the roaring twenties left.

Wine and cupcakes for my 24th with my KC girlfriends when I lived in Lenexa. All I wanted for my birthday this year was a diamond ring.  Mike made me wait a few months. 

Quarter of century celebrated with good friends, family, and Baby Jay on 'the Hill.'

I think my 20 year-old self would be pretty pleased with 29 -year-old Sasha. My journey through my twenties wasn’t always easy, and far from settled, but it was pretty great, too. I’m older, wiser, stronger, and much more in tune with who I am. I’ve got one more year left, and I’m excited to see what year 29 will bring. I truly believe the best is yet to come.  “What a wonderful thought it is that some of the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet.” 

Birthdays on the Hill are now a tradition - here's #27 with my parents and Missy!

And this guy - celebrating 29 in Lawrence on October 17, 2015. Love you, Mike!

Wichita Wednesday - The Hopping Gnome & Central Standard Brewing

Wednesday, October 14, 2015
For the longest time, when you wanted a local beer in Wichita you had one choice – River City Brewery. And don’t get me wrong, I love RCB! Their wheat beer is one of my favorites. Then Wichita Brewing Company came along with another bunch of great beers and delicious pizzas.

But a new crop of craft breweries has been popping up, helping Wichita earn a little more respect with all of us craft beer lovin’ millennials. These local breweries have made for some pretty great weekend sipping.

The Hopping Gnome is a great little brewery right in the middle of the Douglas Design District. The space is small with exposed ceilings and brick, but the beers are big on flavor and their gnome game is spot on. As a former gnome-loving child, I immediately fell in love with this place when I walked in. I didn’t even need to taste their beer, but when I did, I loved it more.

Their Hopping Gnome motifs are so great - you can purchase shirts, glasses, growlers, and stickers with the cute little logo. The bar features illustrations from one of my favorite childhood books, “Gnomes.” Did I mention how much I love the gnome theme?! There are even boy and girl gnome signs on the restroom doors. 

Ok. On to the important stuff – the beer! Their beer is really good. The first time Mike and I went they only had the ICT IPA and Frank’s Oatmeal Stout on tap. Both are beers that Mike and I typically wouldn’t go for, but we were anxious to check the place out, so Mike chose the IPA and I went for the Stout – both were really fresh and full of flavor. When we returned later this summer, we both agreed the The Earl of ESB (Extra Special Beer) was our favorite.

The Hopping Gnome doesn’t serve food but every time we’ve been there they’ve had a food truck parked outside. It makes a great stop for a pre-dinner beer when you’re out and about, too.

Central Standard Brewing’s space is really, really great. If you want a cool place to hang out on a lovely fall evening with a flavorful beer, it’s the perfect stop.

Located just south of Douglas on Greenwood Street, CSB has a large patio area with picnic tables, twinkling string lights and whiskey barrels. As you walk in you immediately notice the cool factor – a marquee light sign that reads the beers, a wide variety of retro furniture, and huge garage doors that open up the brewery to the outdoors on nice evenings. My favorite CSB beer so far is Tawny Dancer. (their beer names are great!)

Another cool thing? You can buy a Crowler. Yep, you heard me. Not a Growler, but its smaller cousin in 32 oz. can form. You pick the beer, they seal it up and label it, and before you know it you’re walking out the door with a freshly canned beer. They claim that they are the only brewery in Kansas where you can purchase one. It’s pretty fun.

If you’re hungry there are a few meat and cheese trays, and a food truck parked outside. But really you’re going for the beer and the atmosphere, which is just fine.

I’m excited to go back to both of these new breweries – especially as the seasons change and different beers will go into rotation.

Go try them out if you haven’t! Happy sipping!  

Wichita Wednesday

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Welcome to Wichita Wednesday! Each week I’ll give a shout-out to my favorite Wichita haunts (tomorrow’s October – I can use this word). I love finding new restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and things to do in the ICT. Even though I’ve been here for about four years, I’m still discovering so many great places around town. Post a comment and tell me about your Wichita favorites. I’d love to add them to my list! 

Espresso-to-Go-Go is quickly becoming a favorite coffee shop of mine. Wichita has so many great coffee shops, but Espresso-to-Go-Go is climbing the favorite’s list because of its two convenient locations to my office. If I need a mid-morning break from my desk I can get some fresh air and quickly walk to either of their two locations in downtown Wichita. I love that they identify their locations as “The One with the Disco Ball,” 102 St. Francis, and “The One with the Unicorn,” 120 E. 1st St. N – because that’s totally how I distinguish them in my mind, too. I’m so glad they get me. 

Last week I went to ‘The One with the Unicorn” and decided to branch out from my standard Sugar-free Vanilla Latte, and instead asked the barista to suggest something new. (I’m so reckless!) He suggested a favorite that wasn’t listed on their menu – the Velvet Thunder. It was wonderful. Best coffee I’ve ever had. The barista described it as smooth but strong and it was perfect.  I’m ready for my next one already.

Alton Brown seemed to like Espresso-to-Go-Go as well when he stopped by while on tour in Wichita last fall.  If you’re downtown Wichita looking for a great cup of coffee, check out Espresso-to-Go-Go. They’re open 6:30 a.m.  - 4 p.m., at the Disco Ball, and 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Unicorn. Enjoy!

September Happenings

Monday, September 14, 2015
September is here and I'm packing away my white jeans and sun dresses with mixed emotions. I do love the long, warm days of summer but I really love the crisp, spicy evenings spent on our patio with the chiminea going and a glass of red wine in hand.  I can't believe how fast this summer flew by! September is already going by just as quickly…here's what we've been up to.

We spent Labor Day weekend with good friends at Table Rock Lake. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and our days were spent laughing and boating with our friends. The boys wake boarded quite a bit in the morning, and we would hang out in the sunshine in the afternoon. One evening we went into Branson for a mexican food at Branson Landing and shared many stories over many rounds of margaritas. On Sunday we went to the famous 'Pizza Hut on the lake' - let me tell you, Pizza Hut has never tasted so good. 

Heather watching Andrew wakeboard on Sunday morning. 

Fun at Branson Landing.  A nice little break from the lake. 

This past weekend was the annual Derby BBQ Festival.  Mike and I have always been out of town on this weekend, but this year we finally made it. We were happy we did, too, because we ate very well. Our friend's team competed in it and we were treated to more than the samples. Mike and I ate our fill of brisket, chicken, and ribs this weekend. I think I waddled out of High Park still licking my fingers. Our friend's team placed 3rd overall. Their next stop is the American Royal, so KC friends, stop by 'Chip on Our Shoulder' for some great (Wichita) BBQ!

Saturday night was Zoobilee which is always a blast - especially when spent with good friends like all of these people. It's a always a fun evening of great food and drink, and a wonderful way to support the amazing Sedgwick County Zoo.

This past weekend I also packed away the bright colored pillows and seashells, and pulled out all my fall decor and planted mums. Mike said I looked deliriously happy doing it. I do love fall! I'm excited to spend more nights with Carlos, our beloved chiminea. 

Happy September everyone! Have a great week. 

Podcast Crazy

Tuesday, September 1, 2015
I’ve recently discovered the world of podcasts and I couldn’t be happier. I know,  – I’m not just late to the party on this one. I’m like found-an-invitation-under-a-couch-cushion-for-a-party-that-was-7-years-ago-late-to-the-party.

I don’t know why I didn’t latch on to podcasts before. I guess I just never thought to download them, or never thought there would be anything that would interest me. This summer though while on my runs I became increasingly tired of hearing Omi’s Cheerleader on my Pandora and Spotify stations (don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song, but….) and I craved a change. I tried different types of music but Michael Buble just doesn’t cut it on a four mile run. And I love Michael Buble. So, I purchased audio books on iTunes and listened to those. I loved listening to books while I ran – it really made the miles fly by and was a nice change of pace. Downloading books gets very expensive though.

One day my mother mentioned Moth Radio and asked if I ever listened to it on public radio. She said the storytelling reminded her of something I would enjoy, and I would learn a lot for my writing. So, I dove into the world of podcasts in search of Moth Radio and it was like discovering buried treasure. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this free and enlightening content for so long!

Here are my current podcast obsessions that keep me entertained on my runs and my commute:

Moth Radio

Moth Radio is AWESOME. If you love storytelling and compelling true tales, you’ve got to check this stuff out. Their tag line is ‘True Stories Told Live’ and that’s exactly what it is, and it’s fascinating. The stories range from moving to quirky to hilarious. I’ve listened to stories told by a former White House Chef, a former Blue Man Group member, a professional gambler, and so many others. I love that you never know what to expect. Each podcast is about 50 minutes long and includes about three stories. Before and after the story is told, host Dan Kennedy gives you a little more information about the storyteller and their life. Moth Radio is probably not for everyone, but if you’re like me and love to hear people’s stories, you won’t be disappointed.

Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!

NPR’s very popular news quiz show is great to listen to on my morning runs. I love the mix of current events, celebrity interviews and hilarious commentary. I often find myself laughing out loud as I listen. Each episode they bring on a well-known personality to try to answer questions about current events. Trying to guess the real answer among the other absurd answers is addictive. Wait, Wait would be great for a road trip, too. 

Mystery Show

On Mystery Show, host Starlee Kine solves people’s mysteries. The one rule to the show is it can’t be a mystery that you can solve online. She must work through clues and people to uncover the mystery. Kine is completely charming and engaging and is enough of a reason to listen to the podcast. She often gets sidetracked on her phone interviews with sources going into conversations with them that are heart-warming and sometimes deep. She reminds me of Amelie wanting to help people and change their lives as she goes about solving these mysteries.

The mysteries are light-hearted and don’t involve murders or anything of that nature. Once you start listening you’ll easily be caught up in the mystery and inspired by Starlee’s kindness. 

What other podcasts should I discover? Leave me a comment - I'm totally hooked! 

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