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Little moments of Thankfulness

on
Monday, November 21, 2016
Happy Thanksgiving week, friends! I hope your week is full of smooth travels, time with family, and of course, plenty of delicious food. In anticipation of Thanksgiving, a couple of weeks ago I loaded up with plenty of Real Simple's Thanksgiving podcasts. All the turkey talk and pie tips got me excited for Thanksgiving, but definitely made my tummy growl mid-run.

At the end of the podcasts the host would ask each guest a series of Thanksgiving-related questions including the usual, "What are you thankful for?" All of the answers were great, of course, but one definitely caught my attention. The guest commented that she really didn't like being asked that question because she didn't like thinking about what she was thankful for just at Thanksgiving. She said she preferred to be a little more mindful, and notice the little things she was thankful for each day. 

I've been trying to note little moments of thankfulness each day, and it's really given me appreciation for a lot of things in my life - big and small. In fact, the other day, I realized just how much I love living next to a park. Our backyard backs up to a city park and I love the open, green space. I'm thankful that just steps from my patio we have a great place to walk and run. I often take for granted the glow from the baseball diamond and crack of the baseball bats that I enjoy while sitting on the patio.

As a dog owner, I'm also extremely thankful for the park's generous amount of doggie stations with plenty of bags, but plenty of wise words as well. Every dog station features an inspirational quote. Makes pick-up duty a little bit more enjoyable, right? 





I also really love this beautiful fountain area. At night it lights up in all sorts of beautiful colors!


It's been fun to appreciate the things I normally wouldn't even think about I'm grateful for leading up to Thanksgiving, like our little park.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! Be thankful for those little things! 



A very French Sunday

on
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Part of my birthday surprise from Mike this year was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. I love champagne and I've been reading The Widow Clicquot this fall, so it was really the perfect gift to celebrate 30.

The bubbles, the book, and the blonde who loves them both.

The Widow Clicquot....truly a Girl Boss.

For anyone unfamiliar with Veuve Clicquot and the woman behind the famous Champagne brand, it's an incredible story full of plenty #girlpower. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin became a widow at 27, and took over the family's champagne business. Because of her extraordinary work ethic and business-savvy, she helped build the brand into one of the most recognized Champagne brands in the world. Not only is it amazing that she was a woman entrepreneur during this time, she also faced a ton of political unrest and trade regulations during Napoleon's reign. Her story is really, really fascinating, so if you're a history buff, Champagne connoisseur, or a bit of both, definitely pick up this book. It could be the perfect read for the holidays when you might be sipping Champagne.


"Champagne! In victory one deserves it. It defeat one needs it."
- Napoleon Bonaparte



I thought it was only appropriate to have a classic French meal with such a classic French champagne. I decided to make Boeuf Bourguignon and used the recipe from Gourmantine (A really gorgeous food blog - check it out!).

Boeuf Bourguignon is definitely not a thirty minute meal - so I knew I needed to make this on a weekend. The bourguignon needs at least three hours to simmer in the oven. Be warned - your kitchen will be filled with the intoxicating smell all afternoon! 

So many layers of flavors! 

After hours in the oven, the flavors really meld together and you end up with a wonderful, hearty beef stew perfect for a cold night. This recipe will definitely be making more appearances this winter.








Celebrating 30

on
Friday, November 4, 2016
I turned 30 (still feels weird typing this) a few weeks ago, and if my birthday was any indication of how year 30 would go, it's sure to be filled with lots of love and incredibly sweet surprises.

Mike really went above and beyond on my actual birthday to make me feel special. Everything was completely unexpected, and I felt very grateful for such a wonderful birthday. We went to dinner at District Taqueria, one of my favorite Wichita restaurants, before we went to see Wicked, and he treated me to lots of lovely gifts.

A huge surprise was to receive a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. I love a glass of bubbly, and I've been reading The Widow Clicquot  this fall and have become fascinated with the woman behind this iconic Champagne. Mike not only knows what I love to drink, but pays attention to what I'm reading! Gold star! Now I just need to figure out an occasion appropriate to drink such a nice bottle of Champagne.

And Wicked was wonderful. I had never seen this musical and Mike and I were completely blown away. Loved, loved, loved the music. If you haven't seen it, it should definitely be on your list. I thought it was fantastic!


So surprised with this bottle of Veuve Clicquot! Now, when to drink it?!



On Saturday, Mike and I got up bright and early for the traditional 'birthday on the hill.'  It always seems like the birthday tailgate ends up being an 11 a.m. game, but mimosas, Einstein Bros. bagels, and the view of the Campanile in the morning make the early kickoff all worth it. 




Tailgates have evolved over the years. (Wish our football team would, too.) This year was especially fun because it was my first tailgate as not only an alum, but as an employee of the University of Kansas. Lots of my coworkers dropped by to have a mimosa and visit. It was really fun, and I again felt extremely proud to be a Jayhawk, and incredibly thankful for all the opportunities KU has given me.

It was also special because my cousin, Wade, is now a freshman at KU. It is really great to now have these tailgates be a 'family affair.'  I think it will only continue as Wade's parents have fallen in love with Lawrence, and his little sister, Marlyn, is set on being a Jayhawk as well. Rock Chalk!


At the historic Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence - one of my favorites!

After the game, Mike, my parents and I enjoyed our traditional martinis at The Eldridge Hotel and had the perfect table that looked out to Massachusetts Street. We had so much fun sipping martinis and people-watching, we decided to stay for dinner. It was a really wonderful evening laughing and telling stories over drinks with my favorite people.

Mike and I met some friends at one of our favorite old hangouts, The Sandbar, for a few tropical drinks and dancing, but headed back to the hotel fairly early, because let's face it guys, I'm thirty.

Thanks for all the birthday love everyone. Here's to 30! 



Remnants of a great birthday I found later in my purse. Proof of a good time!

















Low-key Halloween

on
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
If Halloween falling on a Monday wasn't already a bummer, my immune system decided to throw in the towel Monday afternoon. By the time I returned home from my school visits on Monday, I was completely wiped out with a runny nose, pounding headache, and sore throat.

Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday as any loyal reader knows, but this year, I felt so sick, the best I could do was light a few pumpkin candles and unenthusiastically hand out candy to our trick-or-treaters. My costume quickly turned into 'sickly 30-something.' Not one of my favorites...

My pumpkin candles were about as festive as things got this year at our house.

The Halloween season wasn't a complete bust this year though. I had decked out the house in all of its Autumn glory earlier in September. I also carved two Jack-O-Lanterns and watched Hocus Pocus over the weekend. If you know me, carving a Jack-O-Lantern and watching Hocus Pocus are absolute musts for Halloween. In fact, I couldn't find my Hocus Pocus DVD for about 30 minutes on Sunday evening, and almost had a complete breakdown.  (It's been a long recruitment season, guys.)


Our pumpkins, Jack and Jill, hanging out by the chiminea. 

Thankfully, we found the DVD, and all was well in the Kuchinski household.

One highlight of Halloween was this kale salad I fixed for dinner. I had found it in my November issue of Self Magazine and thought it was a great healthy, seasonal salad. With roasted butternut squash, kale, pepitas (pumpkin seeds!) and a delicious maple syrup dressing, it combined all sorts of great fall flavors.

Roasting the squash was basically the only prep needed for the salad.

The only change I made was using regular Kale. (Couldn't find red Kale at Dillon's) It was really, really delicious, and a great healthy option, especially for someone fighting a cold! Kale and squash are both loaded with Vitamin A and C.  If you're looking for a tasty fall salad, give it a try.

Delicious fall salad served with my favorite childhood placemats.

Red Kale Salad with Mustard-Maple Vinaigrette - Self Magazine, November 2016

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/8 red wine vinegar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
7 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/4 inch thick strips
1 large bunch red kale ( I used regular kale)
1/3 cups pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Whisk together first five ingredients, saving 1 1/2 Tbsp of oil for squash. Toss butternut squash in remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes or until browned. Wash and stem the kale and cut into pieces. Toss with cooled squash, pepitas, and vinaigrette. 

Hope you had a Happy, and healthy, Halloween, friends!


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