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The Land of Microbrews

Phil and I decided to take a long weekend trip this summer to visit our friends Matt and Jill in their new home in Denver! The four of us have been close since our college days, so every time we get together with them we always have such a blast!

Matt and Jill got engaged earlier this year, and we wanted to go visit them before they tie the knot this fall! Gorgeous couple, right??

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We started off the weekend by actually heading a little ways north of Matt and Jill’s to visit my cousin Erica and her husband Clint, plus their three kids. We love this family so much and every time we have the opportunity to visit them, we take advantage of it!

Erica and Clint live in this gorgeous neighborhood, with yards that back up to the most spectacular open view of the mountains! This was the view from when I visited them earlier in the year, and I was running on the trails along the back of their neighborhood!
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After relaxing for a bit and playing games with the kids, we decided to pack everyone up and visit a nearby brewery (brewery #1 of the trip), Wonderland Brewing Co.
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Microbreweries to Colorado = Farmland to Kansas.

It’s insane how many there are, and how quickly they pop up! This brewery (along with several that we visited over the weekend), happened to be really family-friendly with arcade games, ping pong and shuffleboard tables, yard games, plus tons of indoor and outdoor patio seating areas. It was such a great space, and we had a blast visiting over delicious beer and teaching the kids how to play ping pong!
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The next day we woke up early with Matt and Jill and took a mini road trip up to Silverthorne, CO, specifically to the Raven Golf Club at Three Peaks. This year the boys decided to have a golf tournament between the two of them where they would play a round at 4 different locations (because apparently there needed to be more competition in their lives). One of their “practice rounds” just happened to be at this gorgeous course literally IN the mountains, so of course, Jill and I decided to join them.

While the guys went out and played the front 9 holes, Jill and I stayed back and sipped on mimosas and had lunch in the club house…

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…THAT VIEW THOUGH! It was a seriously stunning location and it was great just to relax and catch up with Jill! After we had our fill of the club house, we were graciously offered a cart for free to drive and meet up with the guys.

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The views were simply incredible, so it was a blast just driving through the course and taking in the Colorado landscape!
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Soon enough we caught up with Matt and Phil, and it was a great time watching them play the back 9 and just drive around the course. There’s no pressure when you’re the permanent cart driver!

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We had a great day up in the mountains with them! 
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On the way back in to Denver, Mat and Jill wanted to stop in to one of their favorite breweries (brewery #2), Farmhouse at Breckenridge Brewery, which turned out to be really new to the scene. The building was new but was built with the rustic/country feel of an old farmhouse!
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We had an amazing meal, along with one of the BEST beers I have ever had. I wish I could remember the name (and believe me, I’ve trolled their website for a while trying to find it), but it was one of their brews that was aged in a Cabernet barrel, so you could taste both the beer and a slight taste of wine….DELISH!

On our last day in Colorado, we went on a full day of brewery touring! Colorado is in the top five locations in the U.S. that has the most craft beer breweries per capita (6.1), and I can definitely believe it. They were in strip malls, stand alone buildings, old buildings renovated in to breweries, and on and on. It was amazing how at almost every turn there was a new one, like Starbucks in Seattle.

The first stop on the tour (brewery #3) was Cooper Kettle Brewery, and it was the perfect Colorado summer weather to enjoy some brews out on their patio!
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Stop #2 (brewery #4 of the weekend) was to Dry Dock Brewing Co, and we especially love this brewery because they had a popcorn machine🙂 GENIUS.

Our last stop of the day was to Two22 Brew, which was an awesome place, not only because the beer flight we got was AMAZING, but also because $2.22 of every $10 of profit goes directly to Colorado non-profits. Such an awesome place!  222

We love Matt and Jill, and we always have the best time when we are together! Can’t wait to celebrate their wedding in Colorado this fall!2015-07-11 11.56.58

Nothing Better Than a Kansas City Fall

I know without a shred of doubt that if we were to ever move away from the Midwest, I would miss the change in seasons desperately. Even though as I sit here writing this entry, and I’m wearing approximately three different layers INDOORS, I still wouldn’t give up the chance to have beautiful Kansas City falls and springs for anything!

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This fall was an exceptional one, kicked off by Phil and I celebrating our First Wedding Anniversary on October 12, 2014!
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But what made it even better was that our own Kansas City Royals made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1985!! I have never seen the city so buzzed with excitement and pride, and it was an especially great time to be a Kansas Citian!

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The Royals began their post-season by defeating the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game, then moved on to sweeping both the Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, becoming the first team in Major League history to win their first 8 post-season games in a row!

The Royals moved on to the final World Series match-up against the San Francisco Giants. We were lucky enough to score tickets to Game #2, played at home in Kauffman Stadium! It was such an incredible experience, and especially memorable since the Royals clinched a win!
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Sadly, the Royals ended up losing in a heart-wrenching game #7 to San Francisco, but the season was an incredible one and it helped highlight Kansas City in so many positive ways!

This fall also brought forth some great memories with our friends, like running a leg of the KC Marathon Relay with my dear friend Julie…

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…meeting our friends Rachel and Wes’ amazingly adorable son, Cooper (I LOVE HIM!!)…

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…and of course some great times in Manhattan cheering on the K-State football and basketball teams!

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Now, if it were up to me, I would start putting up Christmas decorations immediately after Halloween (and yes, I start listening to Michael Buble Christmas in October…judge away). However, Phil has enforced a dark, strict cloud of “No Christmas Decorations Before Thanksgiving” (wah, wah). So as you can imagine, the second Thanksgiving is over, I bust out the decorations and start whipping up cookies so fast.

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We also made our first annual Christmas cards this year to send out to our family and friends. Our friend Ashley took the photos for us, and she did a fantastic job!

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Christmastime in Kansas City is always such a magical time, and one of my favorite parts is my family’s annual tradition of going to see The Nutcracker Ballet at the Kauffman Center.

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It is the most beautiful building, and even though I’ve seen the Nutcracker approximately 22 times (not kidding…I’ve gone every year with my mom since I was 4), it’s a wonderful experience every time!

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My brother, mom and I during intermission

This year was even more enjoyable because one of my best friends, Carrie was visiting Kansas City for the holidays, and she went to the ballet with her family on the same evening!

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Christmastime this year also provided us with so many great times with both of our families, including being constantly entertained by all of my cousin’s kids who are hilarious and adorable!

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For New Year’s Eve 2014, our good group of friends decided that a huge downtown party with hundreds of people wasn’t what we were looking for, yet neither was a small house party. We decided to ring in 2015 by creating our own NYE party, and it turned out to be such a success!

One of our friends found the perfect venue on the plaza, and had people sign up for food, music, beverage and decoration committees. We all contributed to the evening, and it made New Year’s Eve such a great event!

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2015 has already proved to be an amazing year, and we are excited to see what else this year has in store for us!

All Things #SmithsInLove

Remember this stellar couple that had the most perfect engagement photo?

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Me too…LOVE THEM!

The summer of 2014 seemed to take forever in anticipation of the #smithsinlove wedding (or as it became known to my family: Wedding of the Century, part 3). But their wedding season finally arrived and kicked off in late September with their bachelor and bachelorette parties!

While the guys headed out to Denver for golfing and gambling, the girls made our way down to Austin, Texas to celebrate one of Alexa’s last weekends of single womanhood!

Sarah (one of the bridesmaids) has some incredible hotel hook-ups and found us a great deal at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin, located in the middle of downtown, within walking distance of the famous 6th Street – a downtown district of bars, spanning several blocks, especially famous to the UT college students.
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Once the whole group arrived, we freshened up and decided to explore 6th Street first and foremost.

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Cousins in Austin!

We learned quickly that the Keep Austin Weird mentality holds incredibly true, especially along 6th Street where we constantly came across some very interesting people!

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We also discovered that walking along 6th street with a group of girls means you’re quickly invited in to bars and provided free champagne – which we gratefully accepted🙂 We had a great first night roaming around 6th Street and exploring the nightlife among the college bar district.

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After inhaling the amazing breakfast buffet that the InterContinental provided the next morning, we headed out to our first planned activity – the Pub Crawler! IMG_0961

We first heard about these “bars on wheels” from the bride, who rode on one around downtown Denver earlier in the year. She kept saying how much fun it was, and she definitely didn’t oversell it! Sarah researched around Austin, and ended up booking with PubCrawler of Austin.

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Our bike captain was hilarious (and did a lot of the pedaling for us) and incorporated a few scheduled stops at some of the more local and classic Austin bars like the Mean-Eyed Cat

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…and Kung Fu Saloon where we were served pickle juice shots – an Austin classic!

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We had a blast pedaling our way through downtown Austin while sipping beverages out of our custom bachelorette party cups!
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After our pub crawler tour of Austin, we made a necessary food stop at J. Black’s and had some of the best sliders and sweet potato fries I think I’ve ever tried!
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As we made our way back to our hotel, we noticed that 6th Street was having a huge weekend art festival! The Pecan Street Festival is held every spring and fall in downtown Austin which includes local art vendors, food trucks and tons of activities. We walked through the festival for a bit before returning to the hotel and resting before heading back out that night. 10599711_822892704440195_7647909817378978969_nIMG_0972
On Saturday night, we played some bridal games, exchanged gifts, then decided to venture out on 6th Street again since we really enjoyed our first night out. IMG_0975IMG_0977
The night was another success and Alexa met a few other bachelorettes while we enjoyed more of the 6th Street champagne!
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We decided to walk to Rainey Street from our hotel on Sunday and explore the area in Austin that is well-known for their famous food trucks. When we arrived, the food trucks hadn’t opened yet, so we decided to check out Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden, which was having their huge Oktoberfest celebration!
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The sign with their Oktoberfest events – Human Foosball and Chicken Poop Bingo – confirmed that we chose the right place for our afternoon!

Human Foosball!

Human Foosball!

They had the most extensive beer selection I’ve ever seen, complete with pinic-style tables and a huge beer garden with a polka band!
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We had a great afternoon sipping German beers and listening to polka, and were joined a little later by our cousin Diane, who is currently in college in Austin!

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That evening we went out on 6th Street and enjoyed our last night together as a group. It was an amazing weekend celebrating Alexa in Austin!

Just a month later in October, 2014, we were all reunited in Garden City for Alexa & Drew’s wedding!

It’s been a family tradition of ours to have a dinner with the bride’s family on the Thursday evening of the wedding weekend. We all gathered together for an intimate family dinner before meeting up with the rest of the wedding party, who arrived that evening!

The bride and groom!

The bride and groom!

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After dinner, we met up with the rest of the wedding party at the hotel bar and enjoyed some of the best karaoke performances I’ve ever witnessed.
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On Friday morning, Alexa and her bridal party met at Sunnyland Bed & Breakfast for the bridal luncheon!
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The home dates back to 1909 and has a gorgeous brick exterior and original wood interior.
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While there, we enjoyed a delicious brunch and Alexa presented us with our bridal party gifts!
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And Ella (the flower girl) enjoyed reading…
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I also got some time with the littlest flower girl (and my god-daughter), Nora!
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Following our bridal lunch, we met up with the groomsmen at the reception venue to help with decorating. I was incredibly impressed by the creativity of Alexa and my Aunt Vicki (the mother of the bride)! Almost the entire wedding reception was DIY, and they came up with the cutest decor!
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Sarah & I assembling the lanterns!

Sarah & I assembling the lanterns!

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I basically had a photo shoot with Ella whenever the opportunity arose…in this one, I told her to make her sass face.
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We spent the remainder of the afternoon decorating, then checked in to the bridal suite at the hotel, where we were all able to stay together the night of the rehearsal.

On Friday evening, we went to St. Dominic Catholic Church for Alexa and Drew’s wedding rehearsal!
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Alexa and Drew picked an amazing local Mexican restaurant, Las Margaritas, for their rehearsal dinner. Drew’s family did a great job with the event, and we enjoyed the celebration with excellent Mexican food and margaritas!
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The wedding day finally arrived, and the bridal party’s first stop was to Illusions Hair Salon to get our hair and makeup done. Alexa had been going there forever, and she knew the women who worked there very well. They were amazing and made the morning extremely fun!
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After a few hours at the salon, we headed over to the church to put on our dresses and finish getting ready for the ceremony…and took the opportunity to take some photos of the bride with her flower girls!
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And we received our flowers…gorgeous!! IMG_1451 IMG_1450
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The ceremony was absolutely perfect – for the most beautiful couple!
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Following the ceremony, the wedding party took a trolley around town and made a few pit stops to take some outdoor photos. It was the most gorgeous October day, and having that time with just the wedding party together was a blast!
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Once we made it back to the reception, we helped Alexa fasten her bustle and someone took what is my favorite photo of the entire weekend. I love this group of girls, and I’m so glad we were all able to be there for Alexa and Drew!  IMG_1522
Everything about the wedding weekend was perfect, and everyone had such a great time at the reception!
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We also helped Alexa with her make-shift bustle later on in the evening…
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Second favorite photo from the weekend.
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Needless to say, we’re ready for the next big event!

Washington, D.C.

Phil’s brother and sister-in-law were married in Maryland in May, 2012, and as a married couple they settled in to life in the northeast. Whenever they came in to town for holidays and family get-togethers, they would tell us that we needed to come visit and tour D.C. with them.

We decided last year, along with our friends Kyle and Ashley (who went to K-State with us), to book a trip out to see them in their adorable town, located in the very northeastern corner of Virginia, right outside of D.C.

Since I wasn’t able to travel until Friday morning (wah, wah), the rest of the crew flew in to Virginia on Thursday afternoon, where Tim and Courtney picked them up and took them out to grab a true northeastern seafood dinner at Tim’s Rivershore Restaurant & Crabhouse. They all had great things to say about this place! The restaurant sits right on the Potomac River in northeast Virginia and has some amazing home-cooked seafood.
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The gang decided to go for the gold and ordered the Hard-Shell Crabs, which if you’re on the coast means you get the entire crab served in front of you. Oh, and a hammer.
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Everyone said the crab meat was amazing, though labor-intensive to get to all of it! I’m bummed I missed out on crab night, but I’m glad they all enjoyed the experience!

So Friday morning rolls around, and the party finally arrives!!
Cue my big, dramatic entrance with a glitter bomb!
Totally kidding. But really though.

I flew directly in to D.C. where Phil met up with me, and we took the Metro downtown to drop my things off at the hotel and meet up with the group. We ended up having a really nice walk (the weather was perfect for monument-hopping) to the National Museum of American History where we met up with the rest of the gang.
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We took our time strolling through and really enjoyed looking at all of the different exhibits – especially seeing the original Star Spangled Banner and the Price of Freedom: Americans at War exhibit, which included a section on 9/11 and the present conflict in Iraq. This was definitely a surprise and a powerful encounter, with it being a major event that occurred during our generation.

Since the rest of the group had already spent the morning hitting some other big D.C. spots, including touring the Capitol…
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…we decided to duck in to a bar close by and grab some drinks and appetizers to tide us over until dinner. We landed on Old Ebbitt Grill as our recharge pit stop and ordered some local D.C. beers and oysters on a half shell.
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It was a nice place to take a quick rest and the bartender gave us a couple of breakfast recommendations to check out for the following morning.

After we felt like we had enough energy to tackle some more walking, we headed over to the White House! Several of us had done the tour inside already and agreed it was a one-time thing, so we took the opportunity to snap some photos out front.

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Afterwards, we walked over to the area where the World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial are all located (and where the Washington Monument could be seen).

Of course we found the Kansas wreath in the WWII Memorial, and got some great shots of us doing the K-S-U in front of the Lincoln Memorial!
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I’m glad we visited towards the end of the day, because we were able to witness a gorgeous sunset behind the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool!
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The massive size of the Lincoln Memorial always seems takes me by surprise. The tribute is beautiful with the inscriptions of The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address beside his statue. It was another truly moving stop as we looked out over the Reflecting Pool, admired the sunset and relaxed on the steps.
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We collectively decided that this stop was a great end to our monument touring, so we made our way back to our hotel to get cleaned up and ready for dinner and our evening out.

We decided to try out Founding Farmers for dinner, a restaurant located a little outside of downtown (just a metro ride away) and closer to the Georgetown University bar district, which we knew we wanted to check out after dinner.

Phil & I on the metro to dinner!

Phil and I on the metro, heading to dinner!

The restaurant was created with an actual farmhouse look with old wood beams everywhere, handcrafted community farm tables and silo-shaped booths. They had little touches throughout both floors that mixed the rustic farmhouse theme with a newer, modern restaurant.

FFThe place was absolutely packed, so while we waited for our table, we all posted up at the bar and ordered some of their house specialty cocktails. Everyone’s drinks were incredible and extremely creative, so we were really pumped about what our meals would bring!
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For the whole table, we ordered their Oven-Roasted Black Cracked Pepper Wings and Seafood Deviled Eggs as appetizers and DEVOURED them.
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Phil and I then respectively ordered the Prime Rib Dip Sandwich and the Shrimp & Grits. I have to say for my first seafood meal in D.C., the Shrimp & Grits weren’t mind-blowing, but they were still very tasty. I preferred Phil’s Prime Rib Dip though, mainly because their prime rib and fries were incredible!

I loved this chalkboard wall inside their bathroom, as well as the quote🙂
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After we had our fill of our delicious meals (and two bottles of wine), we made our way to the Georgetown bar district. We hopped around to a few different bars and came across some very interesting people, so needless to say it was an entertaining night!

The next morning we heeded the advice of the Old Ebbit Grill bartender, and went directly across the street from our hotel to grab breakfast at Art and Soul.
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I loved the restaurant mantra that the “Art and Soul kitchen serves simple, honest food.” They partner with farmers and local growers who provide products that are sustainably sourced (and amazingly tasty, might I add).
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The space was gorgeous and since it was a beautiful day, we sat outside at one of their high top tables and enjoyed some incredible breakfast food like my BLT Benedict with skillet potatoes…drool!
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BLT Eggs Benedict!

BLT Eggs Benedict!

AND they had a “Pooch Patio Menu” which obviously won me over. Seriously, amazing place!

Following breakfast, Phil, Ashley, Courtney and I headed to Arlington Cemetery while Tim and Kyle went to pick up our van at the metro station (since we were all returning to their home in VA that evening).
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We took our time walking around the cemetery grounds taking in what can only be described as a truly breathtaking site. Seeing all of the graves of those who fought bravely for our nation was incredibly humbling.
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We made our way up to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and witnessed the Changing of the Guard, as well as visited the tomb of John F. Kennedy. The grounds of the cemetery alone are beautiful, and I’m really glad we made sure to make this a stop during our trip.
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After Tim and Kyle arrived with the van, we decided to make a pit stop on our way back to Tim & Courtney’s house and stopped at Fox Meadow Vineyard, a winery in the Northern Virginia mountains!
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My favorite wine – 2013 FMV Le Renard Gris

We tasted six different wines (three whites and three reds) with food pairings and decided to order a couple bottles for the group and enjoy them out on the patio!
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The view of the vineyard with the mountains in the background was gorgeous and we had a great time relaxing outside, admiring the view and sipping on some local wines!
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The rest of the evening we spent lying low at Tim and Courtney’s, watching K-State football and demolishing pizza🙂

On Sunday morning, we got an early start to our day and headed to mass at the church near Tim and Courtney’s home. From there, we walked to the adorable downtown area to grab some coffee and pastries at Mom’s Apple Pie Company, which is just as precious as you would expect.
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Seriously, this place had the most amazing pastries, candy, wine and pretty much everything else you can imagine. I love that businesses in small towns can be a “one-stop-shop” and provide so much variety!
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After we were caffeinated and had a proper sugar high, we drove in to downtown Baltimore to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch the Baltimore Orioles play, and we were able to cross off another MLB Stadium off our list!
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Maybe my Kansas City eyes are so used to the Royal’s blue, but there was So. Much. Orange. EVERYWHERE!
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It was such an incredible stadium though – in the heart of downtown Baltimore, it’s completely covered in red brick with tons and tons and tons of different areas and amenities. It’s truly an experience, rather than just a multi-purpose stadium.
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Before the game started, we decided to check out one of their rooftop bars and grab some pre-game margaritas!
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Even the drinks were orange!
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It was seriously a gorgeous day for baseball, and even better was that our seats were located on the lower level, underneath the second-level seating so we had plenty of shade!
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Courtney let us know before the game that the Orioles are well-known for their incredible hitting team and for getting several home runs in a single game. She was not lying. They are a great team which made for a very exciting game to watch!

Since this was our last night, we decided to visit another seafood restaurant for our final east coast dinner. We landed on Mama’s on the Half Shell, which was just a street away from the Baltimore Waterfront, still in the main downtown area.
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Nestled on the corner between several other businesses, the restaurant has a very downtown city feel with their entirely dark wood interior and cozy booths.
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One thing Mama’s on the Half Shell is famous for is their Orange Crush drink. All of the girls decided to try one before our meal. It’s deceivingly fruity, and definitely not weak. It was a refreshing blend of fresh-squeezed orange juice, liquor, and shaved ice – perfect after a long day at the baseball stadium!
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After enjoying our beverages, we ate our fill of their incredible seafood including their crab dip served in a bread bowl, stuffed shrimp (my choice), salmon sandwich + mac & cheese (Phil’s choice) and of course, oyster’s on the half shell.

Crab dip!

Crab dip!

We lingered over our seafood coma for a while, then decided to check out the downtown Baltimore night scene and visited a few different bars on Thames Street.

Our favorite stop was Admiral’s Cup which was very sports bar-esque with flat screens everywhere (so the guys could watch the Royal’s game) and a live band. This is where we posted up most of the evening, and it was a blast!
b/Live Eats review of Admiral's Cup. ....Big bar in center of space, deep blue walls, big windows Dishes to shoot: shrimp ceviche,

Another place of note for us was a bar called Rye. With a prohibition/speakeasy theme, they are known for their classic and well-crafted cocktails. The drinks were fantastic, but the bartenders were definitely proud of their concoctions, because when we asked how they made one of our drinks, they refused to divulge the recipe.
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We had a great evening out in downtown Baltimore though and definitely enjoyed our last night of our vacation!

On our last morning in Virginia, we slept in then went back in to the main downtown area to The Secret Garden Café for brunch. This was honestly one of my favorite restaurant stops not only because the food was truly the definition of home-cooked comfort food, but also because of its ambiance.
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The building was built in 1840, and it was a home to many families until it was finally sold and converted into a restaurant. It has the feeling of a quaint, antique home with an absolutely stunning garden in the back (which is actually where you enter in to the restaurant). We settled in to a great last meal in Virginia with a nice view of the historic and quiet downtown.
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After brunch, we packed up and headed to the airport to drop off Kyle and Ashley, who had an earlier flight than Phil and me. Once we dropped them off, Courtney and Tim took us to Alexandria, VA.

Alexandria is located on the Potomac River waterfront and is a historic district, most famously known for being George Washington’s adopted hometown. It is definitely a tourist hot spot with preserved historic buildings mixed in with newer businesses, galleries and restaurants.
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It was a perfect location to walk around and explore before having to head back to the Midwest.

I definitely foresee more northeast visits in the near future! There are so many things to do and to see, and it was an especially great experience to visit those places with family and friends.

Throwback Thursday: Minneapolis, Minnesota

In April 2013, Phil and I decided to take a short weekend trip to Minneapolis to escape the craziness of our wedding planning and have some time just for the two of us! Although Minneapolis weather in April can still be pretty harsh, it ended up being an incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating getaway.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency (of course) in downtown Minneapolis, which ended up being located within walking distance to many different places we wanted to visit. Although much of our walking during this trip included trudging through snowfall, we were very happy with our location – would definitely recommend this hotel!

On our first full day, we did what anyone visiting Minnesota would do and trekked it immediately to the Mall of America. It was only about a 20 minute drive from our hotel, so we figured it would be a great daytime activity before we headed back for our plans that evening. People are definitely not exaggerating when they talk about this place! Just imagine your standard indoor mall back home, add a rollercoaster, some entertainment venues and triple the actual size and amount of stores…that’s the Mall of America.

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We took our time exploring each floor to hit up all of our favorite stores and made sure to check out a few new ones as well. We absolutely could have spent more time walking around but had made a big enough dent in our wallets were ready to make our way back downtown. As we were leaving though, we spotted a store with free wine samples, so obviously we had to make one last stop. The Old Vine Wine & Spirits (that’s right, they had a liquor store inside of this place) had not only wine tastings but whiskey and scotch tastings as well. We decided to pick up a couple of bottles of their local wine to drink with our dinner that evening!

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We decided to rely on Yelp to help us find a restaurant for our first evening out downtown. We saw a ton of great reviews for Zelo, an Italian restaurant which was located really close to our hotel and to the Target Center Arena, where we would be seeing the Minnesota Timberwolves play later that night. Added bonus and what sealed the deal for us was that they had a corking fee, so we could bring our newly acquired wine with us to enjoy with our dinner!
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Credit to Phil for taking photos of our entrees and remembering in great detail what we ordered! I went with the prosciutto wrapped scallops on risotto and Phil had the pesto crusted sea bass with wasabi mashed potatoes. I’m salivating just thinking about this meal and wanting it again as soon as possible!
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Following our amazing dinner, we headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves basketball game, and got to cross another arena off our list! We had really great seats and the atmosphere in this arena was a blast!

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We started the next day fairly early because we knew we wanted to check out the local breakfast scene, and I’m so glad we did! Again, Yelp hit the nail on the head and directed us to Wilde Roast Café. It was a fantastic breakfast dive, decorated in red velvet and peacock feathers and was themed after Oscar Wilde with a Victorian, 19th Century atmosphere. Its location was perfect too, with a gorgeous view that overlooked the Saint Anthony Main River.

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The décor was pretty eccentric and the food was amazing – especially on a cold Minnesota morning! You could tell it was a pretty popular spot because there were several groups of runners carbo-loading after a race somewhere in the area.
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Following breakfast, we decided to venture out of downtown for a bit and visit the Minnesota Zoo. We figured since it was chilly out, we wouldn’t have to fight any crowds and we could get some good views of the animals. I have to say I was surprised by how many people were there, but it wasn’t crowded by any means, which was great! Those Minnesotans aren’t fazed at all by colder temperatures.
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After our morning out and about, we came back to the hotel to clean up a bit and decide where our next food stop would be. For the third time, we consulted Yelp for some suggestions and again, we were not disappointed! We settled on FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar for some pre-game beverages and appetizers since it was a short walk from the stadium.

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What ended up being a great surprise was that we arrived right at the beginning of their Game Day Special, which meant $4 local taps at their bar, two hours before and two hours after every Minnesota Twins home game! We ordered a couple of beers and asked the bartender what he recommended for an appetizer. His recommendation of their local quail legs (never had them before) was incredible and Phil and I devoured them!
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After getting our fill of local brews and quail legs, we headed out to Target Field to watch the Minnesota Twins play (another MLB stadium to cross off the list!). We didn’t decide until that day that we were going to the game, so we just planned to ask around for anyone wanting to get rid of their tickets. What was amazing was that it started to snow on our walk to the stadium (that’s right…SNOW during a baseball game), so there were several people getting rid of their tickets to avoid the cold. We ended up buying tickets from this one man who had club level seats!! This meant we could hang out inside in the club area, but could still go down and watch the game in our stadium seats as well – perfect scenario for a snowy baseball game! Phil and I had a great time inhaling hot coco and ball park hot dogs to keep us warm.
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Phil and I enjoying the snowy baseball game!

Phil and I enjoying the snowy baseball game!

On our last morning in Minnesota and before we headed home, Phil and I made the trek from our hotel to The Basilica of Saint Mary to attend mass. It was an absolutely gorgeous church which was designed by a French architect in a beaux-arts style and was constructed starting in 1907. We really enjoyed taking in all of the architecture while attending mass there!
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We talk very fondly of our trip to Minnesota since it was a quick yet really enjoyable weekend trip with just the two of us. We’re already brainstorming where our next mini vacation will be!

Friday Favorites

This week has been a pretty standard one at the Laf house – cleaning, running with Jordy, a Just Dance night, you know, the normal.

My friend Carrie has been in town this week (and by “in town” I mean from Paris…yeah. Paris, France). She’s been one of my best friends since 8th grade, and after we graduated from K-State together, she picked up and said goodbye to America and bonjour to the French life! I’m so proud of her and all of her accomplishments!
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I keep mentioning to Phil that we need to sit down and plan a trip out to France to visit her – hopefully that can happen sometime next year!

Happy weekend and I hope you enjoy my favorite finds from this week!

Favorite Combo: Stripes, Hot Pink & Leopard Print. I saw this on one of my favorite fashionista blogs, Pinterest Told Me To, and immediately wanted to jump in her closet and steal this outfit from her! Love this combination of the solid skirt, striped top and the accent leopard print.
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Favorite French District:
 Montmartre, Paris. In honor of Carrie’s visit from France, I thought I’d give the adorable village of Montmartre a shout-out. When I traveled to Paris with my family back in middle school, we visited this area and it was by far my favorite part of the city! With a gorgeous view of Paris, it sits on top of a huge hill and is cluttered with crepe stands, artists sketching and cute cafes where you can stop in for a quick espresso. Although the district is a very tourist spot, the view alone from the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur is worth fighting the crowds.
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Favorite Accessory: Gamma Phi Beta Carnation Ring. I was a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority in college and I am still involved now as an alumna. It’s been a huge part of my life, and knowing this, my aunt gave me this gorgeous carnation ring (the Gphi sorority flower) for Christmas one year! It has become one of my staple accessories. I also decided to give a ring to each of my two of my wedding attendants who were my sorority sisters in college.

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Favorite Fine Art: Lindsay Cowles Prints. While perusing one of the Young House Love blog updates about their show house, I became obsessed with a print that they selected to hang in one of the rooms. After some research, I found out that the piece was a Lindsay Cowle Canvas Print. I’m so impressed with her work and her bright & bold use of color. I desperately want one for my own home (or perhaps this exact one)!
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Favorite Yum: Vanilla Crepes. Adding another item to the French theme, I stumbled across this delicious recipe for vanilla crepes the other day! I’ve never tried to make them before (I’m a self-pronounced pancake connoisseur), but I may have to add this recipe to my repertoire.
Vanilla Crepes

Favorite Kansas Flower: The sunflower is the official flower of the state of Kansas, and they tend to pop up in some of the most random places (these were found right up the street from my work)! Most of the local farmer’s markets have amazing deals on bouquets of sunflowers and it always makes my day a little brighter having fresh ones around the house!
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Favorite Dinner: Grilled Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Melts with Sun Dried Tomato-Basil Mayo. Seriously, this combination is perfection. I substituted the mayo for greek yogurt and it was still amazing!
Grilled Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Melts with Sun Dried Tomato-Basil Mayo

Favorite CANT WAIT: I mean…I Just. Can’t. Wait. The trailer releasing this early is just plain cruel.
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Favorite Smell Good: Harvey Prince Hello. My really good friend Julie gifted me a 6-month subscription to Birchbox for my bachelorette party last year, and the Hello perfume I received one month was by far my favorite sample! You know when you keep smelling yourself, that perfume is a keeper.
Hello Harvey Prince Perfume

Favorite Laf Thing: We decided to design personalized koozies (purple, of course) to use as our wedding favors at our reception, and they ended up being pretty popular! They seem to always crop up at events with family and friends and it’s really fun to see that people are still using them!
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Kure Beach, NC & Fourth of July

Another epic Fourth of July in the books!

The wonderful thing about the holiday this year was that we were able to spend a lot of time with both families!

First on the dock was to fly out to Kure Beach, North Carolina for a relaxing beach vacation with Phil’s family! They lived in North Carolina for a period of time when Phil and his siblings were younger, and their family loves the east coast as a result.

We stayed at this fabulous rental house right across the street from the beach that Phil’s mom found! It had several stories and tons of bedrooms and bathrooms to fit everyone, so we all had plenty of space. This is a similar view of our walk across the way to get to the beach area…I completely spaced it this trip and took a total of about 2 photos. Seriously that’s never happened to me before.
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A majority of the trip was spent on the beach or sunbathing and boogie boarding the waves, so we got plenty of NC sun! (This is probably another reason why I came home with no photos – too distracted by lounging and playing in the waves). We also got to enjoy my sister-in-law’s famous baking (tons and tons and TONS of cookies!) and some great family games in the evenings.

One evening for dinner we went in to town and ate at this really great seafood restaurant, Jack MacKerels Island Grill. As to be expected (and warmly welcomed), the place was covered in bright, beach side decor with fun lights and island-themed tables.
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While we were waiting to be seated for dinner, we took the opportunity to snap a couple of Laf family photos!
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Phil’s cousin, Adam and I went for the gold and ordered these massive king crab legs for our entrée. We had a blast cracking away at our legs and taking the longest amount of time by far to eat our dinner…and the crab meat was AMAZING. Living in a landlocked state makes you crave fresh seafood all the time, and I was glad to finally get my fill! Although the trip was short-lived, we had a great time with Phil’s family relaxing beach side!

As soon as we landed back home, we switched gears and jumped right in to my family’s annual Fourth of July weekend events. Like I’ve said before my mom’s family LOVES the Fourth of July. In some ways, I feel like it’s become a bigger family holiday to us than Christmas (which brings its own great traditions)! My mom is one of 6 children so our family is fairly large…especially now that some of my cousins are starting to have kids; it just makes it that much bigger and better!

On Friday morning, we took the little kiddos to the 4th of July Day Parade that my mom’s family has been going to for years. It’s a fun family event and it’s even more entertaining now that we have little ones around. Watching them get really excited when they are given candy as floats go by is adorable!
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After the parade and getting some pool time in, we headed out to my mom’s house for the main 4th of July event – yard games, grilling and shooting off fireworks! Every year my mom hosts the 4th of July festivities at her house since fireworks are legal to shoot off out there.

Usually the pre-dinner shenanigans start with one uncle who gets the responsibility for grilling out the standard main course (bratwursts and hotdogs) while the moms are in the kitchen preparing the side dishes. Meanwhile, the cousins and uncles usually take this opportunity to rev up our family competitiveness (it’s fierce) and play bocce ball, washers or polish horseshoes.
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After dinner, we set up in my mom’s backyard and enjoyed the fireworks show! We always let the few guys who are brave enough to play with fire actually light them off, while the rest of us sit back, relax and enjoy. I’m always impressed by the size of the display that we end up with…I can’t imagine how much is spent on fireworks each year.
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On Saturday morning, we all met out at this huge park in the area to take a family photo that included as many of us as possible, as well as individual family photos. My Grammy organized the attire and scheduled the session with a local photographer. It was a really fun afternoon and the photographer was able to gracefully handle our big group!

How we normally are…
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…and then behaving ourselves🙂
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Following the photo shoot, the ladies of the family headed over to my Grammy’s house for my cousin Alexa’s family bridal shower! Alexa decided on blush, gold and pearl for her wedding colors and there were several little touches that were added to the shower to implement that color scheme. Everything turned out so cute and she definitely scored some great wedding gifts!
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Continuing on with the crazy-packed weekend, Phil and I headed to our friends Emily and Andrew’s wedding on Saturday evening in Lawrence, Kansas, which is where they both graduated from college. The actual ceremony was at the Oread Hotel, this absolutely stunning hotel located right on the university’s campus.
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The ceremony and reception reflected their personalities so perfectly, and I especially loved how they decided to “go green” by nixing the ceremony programs and projecting their dinner menu on screens around their venue. They are such a great couple and we were really happy to be a part of their big day!
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Phil and I have been basking in the “barely nothing planned” routine of ours lately since our busy holiday week. We can’t help but feel it’s probably the calm before the storm, but we will certainly enjoy it while it lasts!