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Kansas City Restaurant Week (RW) started last Friday and runs through this Sunday.  This is an event where restaurants all over the city offer special discounted menus and donate a portion of those meals to various local charities. It’s a great time to check out new places and visit old favorites. This past weekend we made an event out of it and hit up four local establishments.

For lunch on Friday, we went to Grand Street Cafe near the Plaza. It’s been a favorite of ours for a long time, turning out consistently good food with the added bonuses of pleasant atmosphere, good location, and easy parking. Unlike most other restaurants that offer multiple RW options for each course, lunch here was a set menu with no options. When we arrived I was reminded once again how much I like the place. The decor reminds me of being on vacation, with the high ceilings, wicker accents, upholstered walls, and perfectly comfortable temperature. We ordered a couple of limeades (no booze – we’re working) and the RW menu.

The first course was a beet and greens salad with a goat cheese and fig truffle. This course was a bit of a disappointment in its banality. It was too large, too overdressed, the truffle was too dry, like it had been made the night before and stored uncovered in the refrigerator. However, the flavors of beet and greens and vinaigrette are classic and we both ate most of it. Now we get to a couple of dining pet peeves of mine, especially when it comes to establishments that consider themselves on the higher end of things. The server removed Mr. Awesome’s salad while I was still eating mine. This one is little, but still annoying to me. But this one I really hate: our entrees were brought out while I was still eating my salad. We had our salads for about 8 minutes, tops. Our table was too small for the big plates, so I asked them to remove the salad. That irks me like nobody’s business. Don’t fire the entrees until several minutes after the first courses have been delivered. How hard is this?

The second course was a steelhead trout with artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes and capers with a creamy mustard sauce. It was delicious. About this time, Mr. Awesome notices we don’t have bread, but other tables do. We assume it’s because we ordered the RW menu, until I see another server bring bread to a newly-seated table that had not ordered anything yet. We then chalk it up to a bumbling server.

Dessert was a smaller version of Grand Street’s signature phyllo-wrapped brownie. This is another thing that sometimes bugs me about RW: when restaurants deliver smaller versions of their menu items when ordered as part of the RW menu. It’s misleading to me, in a way. Again, it’s probably just me, but it still irks. The brownie, though smaller, was flaky, gooey, and intensely chocolaty. In other words, it was amazing.

The short version here is the RW experience at Grand Street Cafe was a little less great than a normal visit. But the presented menu was a good representation of the types of food they offer.

For dinner, we checked out the RW experience at Swagat, an Indian restaurant in KC North at Zona Rosa. We’ve liked Swagat for as long as they’ve been open, but don’t go often because, to paraphrase Cookie Monster (or Hootsie, if you want to get picky on me), Indian is a sometimes-food. The RW offering from Swagat was really appealing: the Swagat Dinner for Two, normally priced at $45, for $33:

Vegetable Soup, Vegetable Samosas, Chicken Tandoori, Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Rice, Nan & Kheer or Gulab Jamun

That, my friends, is a LOT of food, for a little money. We arrived around 6:30 and had no problem getting a table. Unlike at Grand Street, we had to ask our Swagat server for the RW menu. He was a little confused, but then said he started working there yesterday and would go ask someone else about it. A short time later, he came back and gave us the option, which we promptly ordered, along with some Chai tea and raita (cucumber yogurt sauce to cool off the mouth when things get spicy). Feeling adventurous, we ordered our meal Medium instead of Mild.

So much food! And so spicy! Oh man, it was like a workout, it was so spicy. No more Medium at Swagat for us. But the raita helped and everything tasted so good, we ate through the pain. In the end, we had enough leftovers for another feast for two. Seriously, even at the regular price, this is a bargain. But for RW, this is a steal. I can’t recommend this place, and the dinner for two, enough.

Stuffed full of Indian, we walked at the gym, then headed home to watch a movie. Someone at work recommended the Ethan Hawke film Predestination. I really enjoyed it, but Mr. Awesome was playing iPad golf or something and didn’t pay close enough attention to get much out of it. It’s sci-fi, but different and the performance by the lead actress (Sarah Snook) was very good.

On Saturday, we ate dinner at Zocalo Mexican restaurant. This was a new place for us, although we chose it because we’d had a terrific jalepeno cocktail from their stand last year at the Plaza Art Fair. With memories of warmer, longer days in our heads, we headed to the restaurant to drink some Jalepeno Coolers and eat whatever they had to offer for RW. Despite a reservation, we were seated at a tiny high-topped bar table. The restaurant was very busy, but it was still a little disappointing. It could have been worse – a group of four next to us were at the same sized tiny table.

There were several options for each course (four courses, pick any three, with an option to get all four for $5 more – so that’s what we did), so we each picked something different (except for the second course). For our first course, we ordered a scallop ceviche and a mushroom queso dip. The ceviche was good, but not great. It could have used more salt and acid, and maybe some more heat. The dip, however, was fantastic.

We made them leave the huge plate holding the dip on the table while we ate our second courses – spinach and cranberry salads. These were huge salads, with lots of blue cheese and dried cranberries. They were okay – what is it with this salad? It’s like the Meghan Trainor of salads – freaking everywhere and annoying as hell, but you still put up with it because there’s a reason this formula works. I digress. While we were eating our huge salads on our tiny table that was made tinier because of the huge dip platter, our server kindly asked if we wanted to move to a booth that had just opened up. We jumped at that chance and ordered two more Jalepeno Coolers.

For entrees, I ordered a the Mexico City Sampler (“chicken enchilada, pork and egg enchilada, mole chorizo & short rib enchilada, elote”) and Mr. Awesome ordered Red-Chile Prawns (“spaghetti squash, zucchini, jalepeno, brown butter, toasted almond citrus sauce”). These were both kind of disappointing. Mine was too much of the same heavy, smokey flavor, with everything running together and indistinguishable from any of its parts. The chorizo mole enchilada was too rich and fatty to enjoy, and the other offerings had no distinguishable flavors other than smokey and heat. Mr. Awesome’s prawns were three dreadfully overcooked shrimp on a bed of oily spaghetti squash. The flavors here were better, but it was too greasy and the shrimp were sad.

Desserts were a much better experience. We ordered the Tres Leches Cake and the Chocolate Torte, and both were excellent. The tres leches cake was moist and creamy without being too cloying, and the chocolate torte was warm and melty, and the vanilla ice cream served with it was a perfect compliment.

We decided that, if we go back to Zocalo, it will be for drinks and dessert. Those they do very well.

After dinner we went home and watched the movie Birdman. I missed Michael Keaton in movies. I hope this is his resurgence, because he is so good. The movie was entertaining and different, in a good way. I can’t say it was one of the best movies I’ve seen, and it didn’t stick with me the way, say, Whiplash has, but it’s good to see a film that is unconventional and original, but still approachable.

On Sunday headed to the gym to lift weights, The we went to Happy Rock Park, where we ran outside for the first time in over a month. The weather was perfect – up near 60 degrees, no wind, lots of sunshine. In under an hour, Mr. Awesome ran 6 miles and I ran just over 4. We celebrated our healthy behaviors by treating ourselves to yet another RW dinner – this time at our new favorite restaurant, Le Fou Frog.

We ate at Le Fou Frog for the first time about a month ago, and instantly fell in love with the intimate space, warm and inviting. We fell in love with the decor, and the charming Frenchness of it. We loved the servers, the boisterous kitchen, the proximity to our house (less than 15 minutes) and most of all, we fell in love with the food. When I saw they were participating in RW, it was a no-brainier and I made a reservation.

We were seated in a cozy corner booth near the kitchen. The place was full, as usual, but even full and crowded, it still feels intimate. We started our meal with cocktails – the French 75, a martini made with vodka, lemon, simple syrup and champagne. Since we were hungry, we started our meals with soup, a course not on the RW menu. I had some of the best french onion soup I’ve ever eaten – savory, a little sweet, mmm. Mr. Awesome had an excellent lobster bisque that was briny and rich.

For our first RW course, I had the Goat Cheese with Root Vegetable salad. It was a perfect size (not too big, not too small) and perfectly dressed. The seasoning was spot-on and the vegetables were crisp-tender. Mr. Awesome ordered the Vol au Vent of Escargot and Crayfish. It was a mixture of the proteins, garlic, parsley, and oil over a puff pastry. Drool. I am a sucker for escargot cooked this way, but it also usually makes my skin smell like garlic for a week.

Our entree courses were equally as perfect. Mine was a Quail Stuffed with Brioche and Foie Gras Sauce Perigoudine. The quail was tender and moist, the stuffing was earthy and satisfying. Mr. Awesome had the Shoulder Tender Filet au Poivre. It was cooked perfectly and he practically inhaled it.

Desserts were a Chausson aux Pommes et Poire (pear and apple tart) and a Mousse au Chocolat, which we split. Again, perfection, as was the coffee I had with dessert. As we were eating our desserts, one of the servers entertained the room with her rendition of the song Gimme Gimme from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (here’s a video of then-Broadway-newcomer Sutton Foster performing it on the Rosie O’Donnell show in 2002. My god, that last note, amiright?). That’s one of the most wonderful things about this restaurant, and it happened the last time we ate (with another server’s rendition of “When You’re Good To Mama” from Chicago). So Parisian. I could die at the table after finishing a meal at Le Fou Frog and have lived a good, good life).

We then went home and watched the movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey. It’s about an Indian chef in France, and I thought it was delightful. A nice, beautiful, heartfelt film.

On Monday we had the day off thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so we went for a long walk at the park, then cooked some Pho Ga at home, then went for another walk before coming home and watching some Parks and Rec and Top Chef.

Oh – and I finished The Goldfinch – loved it. LOVED IT.

Then I started and finished The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. I liked it, but I’m still processing it so I can’t say for certain if it will stick with me.

Today I started The Children Act by Ian McEwan. I’ve read a couple of his books in the past and they didn’t disappoint, so I’ve got high hopes for this one.

Man, this was a really long post with no pictures. Sorry ’bout that. Here’s an otter because otters are adorable:

See? Adorable.

And here’s a video of one of my favorite Tony Awards performances – Kristen Chenowith as Sally in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown singing “My Philosophy” at the 1999 show:

YAY MEDIA!

Mr. Awesome had the flu all week. He’s just now feeling nearly better, but he still has a cough and is a little achy. Because of this flu, we’ve been staying home and taking it easy, outside of work. 

We watched a whole bunch of Parks and Recreation this week, finishing season 5 and moving into season 6. Excellent show. So original and funny and smart. 

We also watched the following movies:

  • The Wind Rises – beautiful, serene, triumphant. 
  • The Theory of Everything – boring, sadly. 
  • The imitation Game – if Sheldon Cooper was a WWII code breaker that met a tragic end. Pretty good. 
  • Big Eyes – interesting and intriguing. Really liked it. 
  • Boyhood – great concept, but ultimately only interesting for the concept. We didn’t turn it off, but that’s about it.
 
We cooked at home, but nothing too crazy – some steak, some salad, some spaghetti. Last night, Mr. Awesome felt good enough to go out for dinner because we were both craving the same thing: chicken ramen from The Farmhouse. It was a perfect dinner experience – twinkling strings of lights, a warm, eclectic room, a Pandora station seeded with Steely Dan, and really delicious, farm-fresh, local food. Brussels sprouts salad, chicken ramen, Jude’s Rum cake. Perfection. 
 
We didn’t go to the gym all week, and finally went to walk on Saturday. Today, we went and I ran three miles while Mr. Awesome walked again. That run felt so very good. 
 
Tonight we made some Salmon burgers and watched Top Chef.  We then tried to watch the movie Tusk, but it was really gory and we weren’t into it so we watched Nick Offerman’s comedy special, American Ham. 
 
Let’s see… I think that’s it. Oh, and our cats are best friends. 
 
 

Yesterday, I mentioned that we got a new rug for the living room.  You can’t really get a feel for it with all the Christmas stuff, but here’s a picture anyway:

  

We hit it hard core at the gym today – an hour of weights followed by an hour of cardio. I ran for 35 minutes and used the elliptical for another 25.

We did some grocery shopping, then went home to start making one of my favorite meals – the labor-intensive Braised Short Rib Ragu. After searing the ribs, they are then braised for a couple of hours in a vegetable and wine stew. Then the ribs are removed and shredded, the stew is puréed with a hand blender, and the meat is returned to the purée. Finally, the whole thing is served over polenta (or gnocchi, or noodles, or whatever you feel like eating with the ragu). Sprinkle with parsley and dig in:

While the ragu was cooking, we watched a scary movie – The Babadook.  It was really, really good – scary and creepy, but not gory or shocking. Excellent performances by the mom and her cute kid. We both liked it very much.

Later, we headed to Wal-Mart to do some shopping and tried not to freeze when walking in between the car and the store. Back home, we watched some episodes of Parks and Recreation and relaxed. Another good day. 

Today was great!

Sleeping in followed by brunch at my favorite brunch place, The Farmhouse. French toast, French press coffee, and something called the Lord Kenzo that consisted of cheddar biscuits, sausage gravy, and a fried egg. Mr. Awesome and I split all of this goodness, then headed to Costco. 

At Costco, we finally found an Oriental rug for the living room. We have a nice rug there already, but it’s sort of bland and the room needs color. We also picked up some flank steak, because no steak is more suited to sous vide than flank steak – tough (unless cooked via sous vide) but very flavorful. It will be dinner some time next week. 

We got home and put the new rug in place – it looks great. I’ll get a picture when I don’t have Christmas stuff all over. We then tried for about an hour to move the old living room rug into our bedroom, but failed miserably when we couldn’t take the mammoth bed apart. The good news is that we cleaned out under the bed, and flipped out mattress. Good times. 

Next up on the get-stuff-done list wasto finally finish installing our new IKEA Kvartal track curtain system. It’s been a process involving lots of measuring, cutting (with saws and sissors) and patience, but today it is complete. 

They look fantastic. Then it was gym time. We decided we wanted to have burgers for dinner, so an hour at the gym was required compensation. I ran for 35 minutes (between 4.8 and 5 mph) then did an additional 25 on the elliptical. After heading home and cleaning up, we put the old living room rug in our dining area (looks really fantastic) and then took off for Westport and Blanc Burger. Salads, classic burgers, fries. Then some dessert at Baked – cinnamon roll and chocolate mousse.  

Home once more where we are currently watching a movie on Netflix called Stretch starring Patrick Wilson, Chris Pine, and Ed Helms. So far, it’s good. 

Tomorrow, it’s most likely IKEA for a pull arm for the curtains and whatever else we see that we never knew we needed. 

Day two of 2015 has been a good one. Did I ever mention how much Mr. Awesome and I love to sleep in? It’s just about our favorite thing to do. So today started like all vacation days start – with a nice sleep-in. We lazily woke up, and I read a little bit. I’m currently reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and can’t get enough of it. Then some breakfast and more reading. Great morning.

Days off during the week allow us to go to lunch at places we don’t normally get to go. Today it was sushi at Kato Japanese. After lunch, we headed to Zona Rosa to check out Dick’s Sporting Goods and The Gap for sales. Nothing fought our attention today, but we wanted something sweet so it was off to Barnes and Noble for something called an Oreo Stack. It was, predictably, delicious.

Next, I had to go to the skin doctor to get a rough spot on my shoulder looked at. It’s a slightly lighter circle, about the size of a dime, and has been there for about a month. The doc took a look and said that it was nothing to worry about. Said it was something like a blahblahkeritinblahblah and it was no big deal.  But like all things skin-related, I should keep my eye on it. So yay – no skin cancer!

Then it was time to head to the gym. It’s weights day, so we lifted for an hour or so (pull-ups, bench, incline bench, overhead bench, rows, biceps, triceps, abs – three sets of eight reps minimum on each). Tiring, but I felt strong and pushed through. After weights, I ran for 35 minutes (about 4.8 mph), then walked for another 25 minutes (4 mph). My legs. They are tired.

When we got home, we put the leftover ziti from yesterday in the oven, and Mr. Awesome made us some delicious date and goat cheese appetizers.

Drool.

We had a little bit of ice cream cake left over in the freezer from Christmas Eve, so we ate some of that for dessert.

Drool again.

After dinner, we got sucked into an episode of Dateline. Total guilty-pleasure show. Then we listened to a couple episodes of the RadioLab podcast. One was about a woman who started to run long distances to help combat seizures, and now runs ultra-marathons because the part of the brain they removed to eliminate the seizures, also eliminated her ability to be bothered busy time passing. Fascinating. The other was about the worth of things – medicine and whatnot. Again, fascinating.

This concept of listening to podcasts together is new. We both love them, but reserved for long road trips in the car. But since we have a computer as our tv, we can listen to a podcast in place of watching a tv show. Since we sometimes want to browse on our iPads anyway, podcasts are a really good option. I think this will become a more regular occurrence.

Happy first day of 2015!

This year is off to a great start. Slept in, watched some Top Chef on Hulu, then headed to the gym for 30 minutes of running on the treadmill (4.5 mph – nothing too intense) and another 25 minutes on the elliptical. Then some grocery shopping for a new recipe: baked ziti with spinach. We added some Italian sausage and it turned out beautifully. Leftovers for days. 

After dinner, we went to Price Chopper for pie (lemon meringue reminds me of summer when it’s so cold outside), then went back to the gym for another 2 mile treadmill walk. It’s incredibly handy to have our Planet Fitness next door to the Price Chopper. 

Now it’s all about  relaxing while watching Elliot Gould as a slick Phillip Marlowe in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. A cat on my lap, a dog on the couch, a great guy by my side – it doesn’t get much better. 

Here’s to a great new year. So far, so good. 

 

It’s been quite a while since I last checked in with an update. Lots of good things have been going on, and I haven’t stopped to check in.

I started my first semester of graduate school at the end of August. I’m taking two classes, and so far am doing really well in them. Lots of writing and reading and all that. I am enrolled in three more classes next semester, and with any luck will graduate in Spring 2016.

Mr. Awesome went to San Francisco the last week of August, leaving me to find my own stuff to do. My mom and I went to see Pee Wee’s Big Adventure on the big screen. That was a blast!

On Saturday, September 13th, Mr. Awesome ran in his first 10K race – the Plaza 10K.

In the zone.

He finished strong, and ran it faster than he thought he would.

I’m not quite ready to run a 10K race, so I volunteered to hand out medals to all of the finishers.

Handing out medals.

What a great experience!! It’s so much fun to see so many people finish a race, then to be able to hand them a prize. I had a great time.

The weekend of September 27th, we both ran in the 2nd annual UMKC Regalia Run. As usual, we were a little nervous before the run.

We got up early to do WHAT?!

But we got out of the car and ran anyway…

Up in the air.

Keep on truckin'.

When all was said and done, we both ended up with personal best 5K times, and Mr. Awesome placed third in his age group, netting him a shiny medal!

On October 12th, we ran in the Bill Cross 5K for BackSnack. I ran this one by myself last year, but this year we both took part. Again, we both ran good races, and again Mr. Awesome placed 3rd in his age group, winning another medal!

Aside from all the running, the big news around Kansas City was the miracle comeback of the 29-year slumped Royals. Oh man, did they play some great baseball! We were lucky enough to get a couple of tickets to Game 3 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) between KC and the Baltimore Orioles. The Royals were on a roll all postseason, winning game after game in extra innings, causing our city to go nuts with glee. Game 3 of the ALCS was the pinnacle of excitement, and we were so thrilled to be there!

Royals ALCS Game 3

The game was supposed to be played on a chilly Tuesday evening, but thanks to a rain-out of an earlier game, we got a gorgeous Wednesday afternoon instead. We drank beer, ate cheesy-corn brisket-achos (those are as crazy and delicious as they sound), and cheered our voices hoarse. Kauffman Stadium is such a beautiful place.

Royals ALCS Game 3

The Royals advanced to the World Series and put up a hard fight, succumbing to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7. It was an amazing thing, watching this team and this city come alive. We were so excited, in fact, that we are getting season tickets for next year. Bring on summer, already!

What else did we do…

  • Listened to Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) talk about his book on running and his fascination with Darwin and insects.
  • Saw a bunch of movies at our favorite theater, Alamo Drafthouse:
    • The aforementioned Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – fun with Mom!
    • Ghostbusters – classic.
    • This is Where I Leave You – meh. It felt like it was never going to end.
    • The Equalizer – Denzel gets revenge!
    • Gone Girl – almost as long as the book.
    • The Guest – surprisingly good thriller.
    • St. Vincent – Bill Murray. I would watch him take a nap for two hours.
  • Ate lots of great food. I love food.
  • I read a few books:
  • Went to see Jim Gaffigan talk about his love affair with food. I was surprised how much he looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was weird, but I quickly stopped caring because Jim Gaffigan is hilarious.

 

Oh, and then we ran some more this past weekend, in our second Cliff Hanger 5K. It was a chilly morning, and the course was hillier than I remembered, but we both did way better this year than we did last year. Mr. Awesome, on some sort of roll, placed 1st in his age group and won a medal AND a $25 gift certificate to Garry Gribble’s Running Sports.

2014 Cliff Hanger 5K

Daylight Savings Time ended this past weekend, which totally sucks. I like my extra daylight at the end of the day, thank you. So we’re in for a long, dark winter. At least the autumn was beautiful this year.

I took these while walking at the nature center across the street from my office:

Nature Center in Autumn

Nature Center in Autumn

Gorgeous, right?

I think this weekend we need a break, but I doubt we’ll sit still for too long.

We ran in another race last Saturday – the 5K Race with the Balloons as part of the Great Midwest Balloon Fest in Kansas City, Kansas. The race was held at the Legends Outlets and Kansas Speedway, and benefited several area charities.

We got up at 5:00am so we could make it to the packet pick-up area before 6:45am. It was a really beautiful morning – sunny, but a little hazy and humid. Because of the threat of rain (it rained a tiny bit while we were running), the promised balloons did not ascend while we were running the course. Instead, about four of them took off long after the race ended and we were heading into Bob Evans for breakfast (cinnamon pancakes!).

The race itself was a fairly easy, mostly flat course, with a little bit of gravel mixed into the road race part. Once again, this course was longer than 3.1 miles – from start to finish, my Garmin watch clocked it at 3.2 miles.

Mr. Awesome had another strong race, but his age group was the most competitive and he finished 5th in his group, but 20th overall out of 337 participants. His official time was 24:19. With the extra 10th of a mile, this gave him is best 5K time ever.

I also had a strong race – I finished in 36:05, but my Garmin told me I set a record for 5K distance.

After the race we ate pancakes and decided to walk to the speedway grounds from the shopping area to check out the balloon fest, since our race packets included free tickets. What a fiasco that was. There are no sidewalks between the Outlets and the speedway, so we had to walk in the grass. Then, all of the entrances to the speedway were blocked off and marked with NO TRESPASSING signs, and all indicators pointed balloon fest attendees to one entrance on the southwest side of the speedway. So, after walking about 2 miles, we realized we still had another 2 to go before we reached the entrance, and the balloons weren’t around anyway. We headed back to the Outlets, disappointed. If we could have cut across the speedway grounds without threat of security intervention, it would have been so much better. Hopefully, if the race is held next year, they will have a pedestrian entrance. Probably not, though.

So we went shopping at Legends instead. Mr. Awesome got some pants, I got some shirts. It was a good day.

The rest of the weekend was pretty low-key. Lots of walking, going to the gym, and eating stuff. You know, the usual.

This weekend I’m running in the Rivalry Run in downtown Kansas City. It should be fun. Mr. Awesome is sitting this one out with an injury, but hopes to be back in form by next weekend’s run.

Oh, and I stopped reading Bill Bryson’s One Summer. I got bored with it, and really didn’t look forward to reading any more of it. So now I’m reading Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres and I’m much, much happier.

On Saturday, we ran in the i-ROK Foundation 5K. The foundation was created in honor of Kori Quinn (i-ROK is Kori spelled backwards), who was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2009. The foundation was formed to ” to bring awareness to Ewing’s Sarcoma, to save lives, empower people, to find cures, and to help people and organizations in a variety of ways as they battle cancer.” Kori passed away in February of this year at age 18, but the foundation lives on.

We didn’t get a chance to walk the course in advance like we did for Smithville, but we did look at it on Map My Run:

It looked easy enough, but once on the course we realized that those elevation changes weren’t anything to scoff at. Those hills were TOUGH! Also, while the race was identified as a 5K, the actual distance was 3.26 miles, rather than 3.1 miles. This would affect our overall times.

Mr Awesome started strong and finished with an official time of 25:03. A couple of young guys started strong ahead of him, then had to stop and puke during the race. They ending up coming in after him. If not for the extra 0.16 miles, this would have been his PR.

I had to stop to tie my shoe about a half a mile in, and succumbed to weakness a couple of times and walked some hills (I vow to not do that again!). I finished with a time of 37:47. Again, the extra 0.16 did my time in.

Mr. Awesome has a point: some races come in short, and some come in long. We can’t celebrate the short ones and curse the long ones. We can only try to improve overall.

We stayed for the awards, which was fun, even though we didn’t win anything, other than bonus calories to use at breakfast!

After the race we went to Ginger Sue’s in Liberty and to the Liberty Farmer’s Market for tomatoes, peaches, and blackberries. Then we went to the gym and worked out our legs. As if running wasn’t enough. Then we went to Happy Rock Park and walked four miles on the Shoal Creek Trail. Because we’re gluttons for quad soreness and sweating.

Then we went home and took a three hour nap.

Saturday night, we headed to Alamo Drafthouse to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I LOVED it! It was so funny and smart, and the music was perfect. I am already excited for the second one, and it’s three years away! We spent some of our hard-earned calories on chicken fingers, fries, cookies (of course), and drinks. Good times were had by all.

Then we headed home and started watching the old TV show Cheers on Netflix. I watched some of it when I was a kid and it originally aired, but we’d recently heard it was great and held up well, so we thought we’d give it a go. Yep – it holds up great and is smart, funny, a little sappy, and entertaining. There’s 11 seasons worth of it, so I don’t expect we’ll run out of episodes any time soon.

I found a sub-plot in the second episode to be especially surprising – a bar patron (played by Donnelly Rhodes of Danger Bay fame!) comes in for advice on how to deal with his son’s fiance – a black man. Coach, in a round-about way, ends up convincing him that if he loves his son, he’ll accept him just the way he is, and would welcome his son’s fiance into their family. This, in 1982. I remembered back to something I read on Reddit recently:

“Over time, AIDS wiped out an entire generation of gay men. This has had an effect on the more recent generations since people that would normally have been mentors, big brother figures, teachers, etc. were gone, so the younger generation lost out on the wisdom and experience of the previous one.”

I never really stopped to think about that: an entire generation of men – most of them smart, creative, caring people – were decimated by a disease, the future robbed of their wisdom, contributions, leadership, etc. This segment in a 1982 episode of Cheers aired mere weeks after the disease was given a name. It’s startling to imagine what the world would be like had AIDS not destroyed as it did. In 1982, mainstream TV-watching America was being told it’s right and proper to accept an interracial gay couple into one’s family. Had that trajectory of acceptance continued, gay rights would be just everyday average rights. Instead, AIDS and the fear it generated pushed the gay rights fight back into shadows, and countless contributions to human advancement were lost or stifled.

Anyway, Cheers is good.

On Sunday, we made some terrific vegetarian chili. It’s so good, you won’t miss the meat at all. Really. I promise!

Three Bean Pumpkin Chili
Servings: 4
Calories per serving: 320

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can pureed pumpkin (like Libby’s)
1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can great northern white beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can vegetable stock
2 1/2 Tbsp. Williams Chili Seasoning
1 1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 Tbsp. light sour cream

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the pumpkin, beans, and vegetable stock, and stir to combine. Add the chili seasoning and cumin and stir, then taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve in 2 1/2 cup portions, topped with 1 Tbsp. of sour cream.

We prepared this Sunday night, and let it sit in the fridge all day Monday before reheating it for Monday’s dinner. And Tuesday’s dinner. It was so, so, SO GOOD! And crazy-filling, for something so low-calorie.

This weekend, we’re getting up bright and early on Saturday morning to run in the 5K Race with the Balloons as part of the Great Midwest Balloon Festival at the Kansas Speedway. I will NOT walk in this one, not even a little bit!

Last week I had what some call a “staycation.” I’m not a fan of that word; its silly suburban-ness feels forced even as I type it. I struggle to come up with another term, however. I stayed in town and had a vacation. Thus, staycation. Ugh.

I really don’t like that word.

Regardless of what it’s called, Mr. Awesome and I had a marvelous time not working last week.

On our first Friday evening, to kick off our staycation stay-at-home vacation, we ate a typically delicious dinner at our favorite restaurant, Justus Drugstore. That evening, we watched Muppets Most Wanted and it was hilarious. I’m a sucker for Muppets, but even Mr. Awesome thought it was great. Wocka wocka!

Saturday morning we arose bright and early to run in our first 5K since January’s Groundhog Run: Julia’s Warrior’s Run for Hope 5K in Smithville, Missouri. The Julia Bargman Hope Foundation is named after a Smithville middle school counselor, coach, and mentor who lost a 16-year battle with breast cancel in 2010. The foundation raises scholarship money for Smithville high school students and the Smithville Booster Club, as well as raising awareness to the fight against breast cancer.

A few days before the race, Mr. Awesome and I walked the course and found it to be very, very hilly. Here’s a course map:

And here are the elevation changes for the course:

We were both glad to know going in that this would be a challenging course. By knowing what we were in for in advance, we were able to plan on trying to go hard downhill, then hold back on the flat to have some energy left for that bitch of a hill at the end.

Mr. Awesome had a good run, but was 9 seconds over his best 5K time.

He finished strong in 24:09.

I had a good run, too. My Garmin watch helped keep me on pace.

Despite the hill, I managed to set my own PR with a finish time of 35:48!

After our run, we headed to breakfast at Ginger Sue’s in Liberty, then to the Liberty Farmer’s Market where we picked up some heirloom tomatoes and watermelon. Later, we headed back to Smithville for some pizza and deck time with our friends, the Andersons.

On Sunday morning I woke up before Mr. Awesome and finished a book: Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage: Stories by Alice Munro. This was my first time reading Munro’s short stories, and it won’t be the last. Her voice is really unique – strong and delicate at the same time. Her characters feel real and grounded, and the stories are like looking through windows into the lives of other people. I especially liked the story “Floating Bridge” which puts us with a woman on the day she’s told her cancer is in remission. It’s beautifully told and intimate, revealing not so much joy as uncertainty. So it is with all of the stories – intimate views of the lives of ordinary people, turned into something special.

We then headed to Bristol in the Power and Light district for their incredible Sunday Brunch. I can’t say enough good things about it. Everything we ate was fresh, flavorful, and creative.

On Monday we went for a walk at Watkins Mill State Park (they have a great 4-mile paved trail through the woods around a lake), went swimming, had Banh Mi sandwiches from Pigwich (oh man, so good), and went running and weightlifting at the gym.

Speaking of gyms (which we’re at almost every day): we started going to Planet Fitness last month when they opened near our house and oh my gosh do we love it! Lots of treadmills, elipticals, bikes, and every type of weight machine you can imagine. Plus a full bench setup (smith style), free weights, a Crossfit-style space (if you’re into that sort of thing), and a stretching area. It’s open 24 hours Monday through Thursday, closes at 9pm on Friday, and is open 7am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday. All of this for $10 a month! If I sound like I’m trying to sell memberships, I am – it’s cheap, it’s good, and fitness is important if you want to live the best life possible. Okay, I’m done with my sales pitch.

On Tuesday, we visited the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and had lunch at the museum’s Cafe Sebastienne. The museum is small, but has some terrific pieces. It’s free – check it out if you’re looking for something different to do over lunch.

Tuesday night we found a really old dog in the street outside our house. He was overheating and dehydrated, with no tags or collar. We brought him into our air conditioned garage, put him in a big kennel, and gave him lots of water and food.

As much as we both wanted to keep him, he needed some vet attention (he was limping and was really, really old) and Finnie isn’t keen on other dogs. So we took him to the Gladstone Animal Shelter where hopefully his owners will turn up to claim him. Send good thoughts into the universe for homeless and needy pets, people.

Wednesday found us celebrating Mr. Awesome’s dad’s birthday at Bo Lings. Thursday and Friday we went swimming some more, and Friday night we had dinner at Cascone’s in KC north. Shell pasta bowl… mmmm.

Saturday we headed to Legends Outlets and did some shopping. Saturday night found us at Alamo Drafthouse for the movie Lucy (entertaining, visually striking, but also ridiculous) and some of the best chocolate chip cookies in town. Seriously – if you see a movie there, you have to order the cookies.

On Sunday we went back to the pool and I finished a second book, The Odds: A Love Story by Stewart O’Nan. A concise story with few characters and a basic plot, but unique enough to hold interest. The writing is easy, but sometimes the sentence structure got in my way. O’Nan’s use of place as a character was effective and I felt like I could almost feel the water from Niagara, could almost smell the mildew in the tourist traps, could almost taste the liquor from the minibar. A quick pool read that didn’t leave me feeling cheap. What more can you ask for?

Sunday evening we went for a walk at Happy Rock Park on our favorite trail. We went for a walk on this trail most days, actually. It’s so great.

This week, it’s back to work – rejuvenated after having a week off.

In the next four weeks we’re running in four 5K races, and I’ll post recaps after they happen.

As for books, I’m currently reading Bill Bryson’s One Summer: 1927. So far, so good.

And… because I don’t think there are enough pictures in this post, here’s a picture of my tomato plants taken a couple of months ago:

They’re all much bigger now, and starting to produce some delicious heirloom tomatoes.