Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Hiking: Cave Spring Park

On the trail.

This weekend we once again hit the trail with a hike we found in our new Hiking Kansas City book, that at Cave Spring Park. The park is a small tract of forest along the former Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Pioneers and traders would stop at the small spring on their first day on the trail, after departing from Independence, Missouri. The park history included a marker for the pioneer trail camps, a few old chimneys that are the mid-twentieth century remnants of a Free Mason Country Club, and a marker for Harry Truman's grandfather, who owned the land in the late nineteenth century.
Cave Springs in the cave state.

This small cave, for which the park is named, had a tiny spring flowing from it's interior. There was also a small spring-fed pond on the other side of the park.
Little dude, big trees.
The park is only 40 acres nestled in the city, but there were many paths winding through the forest, making it feel much larger. There were also a few small streams and bridges, and we even saw a deer at the start of our hike. There was a small waterfall near what seemed to be an old dam, but a tree had recently fallen over the tiny falls, making them hard to see. All of the remnants of human history combined with some cool natural features made this a really sweet afternoon adventure.

Hiking crew. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Kansas City: Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

King Lear program and button.

Each summer, one of our favorite June activities is attending the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in Southmoreland Park. This year's production, King Lear, was dramatic and dark, but a great performance and a lovely time as usual.
Festival entrance.

The festival has a pre-show talk and many booths with concessions of wine, sandwiches, and popcorn, but we usually just bring our picnic basket and hang out on the lawn for a few minutes before the show. A fresh baguette, some cheese, dips, fruit, small chocolates, and wine are the perfect accompaniment to the drama.
We met The Bard himself!
Clouds in the distance.

The weather is often hot and humid during the festival, but this year it was a bit cooler and more comfortable than usual. There were beautiful clouds off to the north and east, which provided a bit of extra intrigue for the show- at the point when King Lear is leaving the castle the play includes a storm, which on the night we attended was supplemented with real lightning off in the distance. The performance starts at 8 pm, and the sun goes down throughout the first half of the play. It's quite magical to grow increasingly interested in the story and characters as the sun retreats, and the sunset truly heightens the drama of the performance. 
The view of the stage from our blanket.

The festival is free, but there are options for reserved seats or reserved blanket space. We just opt for the free grassy area and give a small donation.
Picnic basket.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Baking 2015: Lemon Pudding Cake

The completed cake.

For our Father's Day BBQ, I wanted to make a light dessert that was relatively easy to create. A few weeks ago I saw a Lemon Pudding Cake recipe in the NY Times- I've never made, or possibly even tried a pudding cake, so I was intrigued. As the weekend approached, I found a different recipe for Lemon Pudding Cake on Allrecipies, and decided to try it. It was summer perfection: a lemony pudding on the bottom, and a light sponge-like cake on the top. The recipe was easy to follow, did not require much effort, and was a hit with the fam. To dress it up, I might add a small dollop of fresh whipped cream and a small handful of seasonal berries next time.
Separating eggs, grating lemon rind, squeezing lemon juice.
Egg whites being beaten to peaks- this seemed to be the key for the sponge cake top.
In the oven surrounded by a bath of hot water, which also seemed key.
The completed cake- pudding and sponge cake. So delicious. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hiking: Jerry Smith Park

Storm clouds behind us on the trail. We narrowly avoided the rain.

 Recently, I purchased a book titled Hiking Kansas City. While there are many resources on the internet for finding natural areas, sometimes the wealth of information makes it hard to find spots nearby. Books like this one are oftentimes more helpful that the web, as they are concise and to the point. Plus, after spending hours in front of a screen for work, it is much more pleasant to page through paper than to spend time on my phone or computer. This past weekend, we took our first hike from the book, at Jerry Smith Park in south KC. We may have never learned about this great spot without the book.

The park was a little tough to find, but was really lovely once we arrived. We completed the 2.5 mile hiking loop through restored prairie, and walked around the small fishing lake. The park was full of wildflowers, and had many areas of stone where little dude could seek out fossils.  We also spied the seventeen-year cicada, and a variety of birds. I'm very much looking forward to hiking here again, and to seeing how the landscape changes with the seasons.
One of the forested parts of the trail.
More wildflowers.
Fossil hunting. We found a variety of coral fossils, and some worm-like fossils.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer to-do

Summer always goes by too fast, and while we have some solid traditions, like Royals games, garden time, camping, Shakespeare in the Park, and frozen yogurt trips, there are a few things we've desired to try or do more frequently, but never seem to get around to. This year we made a list of things we want to do, with the hope that a written out list will motivate us. Some of these are things we have done, but it's been a few years, others are things we have yet to try. The list is:

- Go to the drive-in movie theater

- Go to a T-bones game (minor league baseball)

- Picnic in Loose Park and picnic at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

- Go to a Sporting KC game (soccer)

- Have a garden party

- Go to Powell Gardens

- Spend a day at one of the local lakes

- Go to an outdoor movie

Here's to the long days of summer!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Travel: Chicago in summer

Travel kid takes O'Hare.

This past weekend we spent a few days in Chicago, visiting friends and family and attending a friends "new tax status party" (they got married). In addition to all the visiting, eating, and time spent at the hotel pool, we spent a day at the Museum of Science and Industry, a morning at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The amazing train layout at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).

MSI is always a favorite of ours. This time we did the Coal Mine, which provided a history of the industry, and was basically the greatest reminder for the need for government regulation of industry. I was really surprised to hear that small electronic life-saving gas monitors were not required until 2001. The industry fought the requirement for the monitors for miners as they were a few hundred dollars a piece. I was also surprised to learn that Illinois is the fifth largest coal producing state in the U.S.
The mirror maze at MSI.
More mirror maze. It was part of a larger exhibit that addressed patterns found across nature.
MSI explorations.
One of us simply can't get enough of the trains.

I hadn't been to the Gardens since I believe junior high or high school, and Joe had never been. The Gardens are a wonderful treat, and a great way to spend a beautiful day. In addition to the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Bonsai Garden, English Garden, and Waterfall Garden, we (not surprisingly) spent a while in their fantastic Train Garden. 
English Gardens.

With Grandpa and the bonsai.

At first little dude wasn't too interested in the bonsai, until he discovered those with paths and multiple trees. He called them Totoro bonsai.
Waterfall Garden.
Train Garden.

The Train Garden was a really neat layout (and having a small train enthusiast around, I do feel that I have gained some expertise in the matter). They have included monuments from all over the U.S., including Wrigley Field, complete with miniature ivy, and Old Faithful and Yellowstone Lodge (above). 
Japanese Garden.

When I was small, I can remember the Japanese Garden making a big impression on me. It was similar to how I remember it, but it was very cool to see it after having seen so many in Japan over the past few years. 
Frangos to take home to remember our trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Screenshot of an Eversnap photo from the photo booth at a friend's Minnesota wedding in June.

I'm still here!

I'm just not spending as much time online lately. As I mentioned back in January, you know, six months ago, I taught a course on Selfies this past semester. As I started to think more and more about social media, online image, and self representation in an academic fashion, I decided I needed a little Internet cleanse. In some ways it was refreshing, and in other ways I missed the documentary aspect of blogging. After a few months, and some experimentation, I have realized that I have very little interest in Facebook, a strong pull towards Instagram (not surprising for a visual person), and an occasional desire to blog things. I tried Yik Yak, and subsequently deleted it from my phone. Snapchat seems redundant and therefore pointless to me, but I'm still giving it time. 

I think I'm ready to get back in the occasional blogging game, but we'll see how the summer goes. 

Here's to a great season of relaxing on the patio, grilling, baseball games, and pool time.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baking 2015: Orange cake

Orange cake!

This week's baking project was a seasonal Orange Cake. The cake itself was fantastic- fluffy and moist with a lovely citrus flavor. The glaze and candied fruit topping, however, didn't work out as well. The recipe called for making candied orange peels, which were too sticky for my taste. They looked neat as a topping, but the texture didn't please the palette. The glazed topping was similarly too sticky, to the point where it was hard to slice. So, I peeled off the topping and candies and we ate the cake with a bit of whipped cream instead- this was actually quite tasty. I tried this cake because I wanted to make something seasonal for January, and I would try a different recipe next time. Part of the baking challenge is to try new things, and this type of cake was new to me. I learned that candied fruits aren't my thing (though I might try them in making a panettone next holiday season), that glazes are finicky, and that orange cake is delicious.
Making candied fruit- pretty and a lovely flavor, but not so great in the texture department.
Cake in the oven.
The altered, improved orange cake. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Books: The Worst Hard Time

This week I received an e-mail announcing the KU Common Book for the next academic year. Even though I'm rarely on campus, I still like to use the Common Book as a motivator to get me to read something new and different, or something that I otherwise would not have known about. Last year the book was The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. This book was a gut wrenching retelling of the horrors of the Dust Bowl years, and really drove home the importance of environmental stewardship. Yesterday, on a 70 degree January day (record-breaking), I couldn't help but think about the extreme environmental damage that we are doing to our planet, and to think of the terror that people experienced during the Dust Bowl. Reading the book also made me so very grateful for all that I have in my life today- any small hardships that I have experienced can't compare in any way to what people went through on the High Plains in the 1930s. The experiences chronicled in The Worst Hard Time are so recent, and so memorable, yet we as a nation continue to stand by and do nothing in the face of climate change. The book detailed how the changes of the Dust Bowl happened so quickly, and we fully know how quickly climate change is happening today, so why are we so passive, especially when small changes in habits, such as using bar soap, not using K-Cup coffees, eating less meat, or composting food trash can make a significant change in one's carbon footprint? We can only hope that more people will become aware of the small changes they can make and that we as a nation can start to reverse some of our environmental damage in the coming years before something monumental occurs again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kansas City: Airport art vending machine

I'm going to go ahead and say it- Kansas City is a very underrated place. There are many things to love about the city that I currently call home, and I'd like to use a bit of this space to document some of the greater things about KC. First up- the Souvenear vending machine that sits at Kansas City International Airport. The machine, which has apparently has high sales, sits in Terminal B near Southwest Airlines. It offers locally made products like screen printed t-shirts, limited edition prints, and jewelry. KC has a fantastic art community, so it only makes sense to extend this to the airport. How great that while most places offer cheesy mass produced souvenirs (of course we have those too), you can wait for your flight out of KC with a local beer and some local art?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Baking 2015: Baguettes

Oh la la!

 I made baguettes! 

The ease of baking these little beauties was quite a surprise. It took very little time and very little effort, but the results were fabulous. I used a recipe found on Food 52- all told, while there is a great deal of waiting time, I probably put about 20 minutes of work into making these. There was the initial ten-minute kneading, and after that not much else. They were fluffy on the inside and crusty on the outside, which I learned is possible due to the steam from ice that I included in the oven. The ingredients were simple and on hand. As part of my baking challenge I wanted to try more yeasted baked goods, and the simplicity of these has inspired me to try more as the year goes on. If you've never tried to bake bread, this is a great recipe to start with, and a new staple in our house.
Fluffy, delicious, and shockingly easy. Perfect as a snack or with soup. NOMZ. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

On Selfies

Post-haircut city street selfie.

Selfies: love or hate? 

This semester I'm teaching a course (Selfie and Other) that will address the selfie, self-representation in contemporary visual media, various types of portraiture, and the visual representation of self as Other (as in other cultures/groups that one considers othered/different), among other topics. As I plan for the semester, it has me thinking a good deal about selfies. I tend to fall in the love them camp. Some will argue for their narcissism, but I think they are a nice way to capture a moment in the way that you want to remember it- and to put yourself in the photo (click here for a great essay about the positives of family selfies). Plus, handing your camera over to strangers is always a little sketchy, and never results in the photo that you want, or is sometimes not possible. I present evidence of my love of the selfie here with these images, and I challenge folks to re-think their classification of selfies as just shallow narcissistic vanity. Sure, they aren't the most aesthetic photos I've ever taken, but they do capture the moment in a distinctive way
Holiday selfie at Crown Center.
Ready to tackle the day game-face selfie.
Family selfie. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Baking 2015: Oatmeal Rasin Cookies

Baking challenge 2015 continues- this time with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. They were chewy and hearty, and as per usual, I cut the sugar down from what was called for. I liked that the recipe didn't call for refined sugar (just brown sugar), but I still think most American recipes are too sweet. These cookies were also quite heavy on oats and raisins, really being barely held together by the other ingredients, making them feel less indulgent than other desserts.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Travel: Colorado

After a long journey we made it to the museum!

In early January we took the opportunity to head out to Colorado for a few days of skiing and outdoor activities in the mountains. Little dude and I left early and high tailed it to Denver to visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  The museum has wonderful exhibits on space, dinosaurs, and the natural environment. Our two and a half hour visit was definitely not enough time.
Moose. They also had a great exhibition on the work that goes into creating the nature dioramas.

We learned that a T Rex would replace all their teeth every four years, and constantly replaced their teeth throughout their lives. Little dude also got to hold a T Rex tooth- it was huge! The educational components of the exhibitions were truly fantastic, and there were lots of volunteers and interactive stations to provide more information.
The view of Denver and the Rockies from the museum.
Super moon in the dawn's light.

After meeting up with Joe in Denver, we headed up to the mountains, where we stayed with Joe's Aunt and Uncle. They are always so hospitable, great to ski with, and have a lovely log home. Enjoying their company is definitely a plus of visiting the Rockies. We spent the next two days skiing at Copper Mountain, with little dude in ski school and us on the slopes.
Ski selfie.
Top of Super Bee.
Little dude- pro skiier in training.
Ready for the mountain.
The village at Copper- I love the festive feel.
Ski scenery.

Blue run.

Back up at the top.


The last day of our visit we went up to Rocky Mountain National Park to snowshoe. The park turns 100 years old this year, and is always a treat for us, no matter the season. We visited the west side of the park, which has far fewer visitors than the east side- in a given year park attendance is 3.5 million, but only 300,000 people make it to the west side. In winter it is very quiet- we only saw a handful of other people during our visit, but we did see a moose up close!   



More snowshoeing.

This was little dude's first snowshoe on his own (he was carried on past trips), and he loved it. For us it was a short trip (just over a mile), but for him I imagine it felt quite long.

Park scenery.

More park scenery.

Before we left for the day, the munchkin completed the Park's Junior Ranger program- he was so thrilled to get a badge and try on the ranger hat! 

RMNP's newest junior ranger.