oklahoma joe’s.

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you guys. i’m not sure how we’ve lived so close for so long and visited kansas city fairly frequently without ever having gone to oklahoma joe’s before just a couple weeks ago. i mean, it’s on anthony bourdain’s “13 places to eat before you die” list. and as he says, “it’s the best BBQ in kansas city, which makes it the best BBQ in the world.” i have sadly not tried all of the BBQ in the world, but i’ve tried a fair amount, and oklahoma joe’s (currently rebranding as joe’s kansas city bbq) is the very best i’ve had, hands down, and i’m happy that i ate here before i died, and plan to many more times.

also, you guys, we’ve become those people. you know, the kind of people who walk up to a food establishment, see a crazy-long line, and don’t walk away. in fact, we get excited. long lines equal food that’s worth the wait. i love standing in line in the cold with the rest of the crazies, listening to the regulars telling the first-timers what they’ve absolutely got to order (burnt ends, the z-man sandwich), overhearing hardcore parents telling their kids “just a few more minutes” (liars).

also adding to the charm: the original ok joe’s location is inside of a working gas station mini mart. (close proximity to snacks while you wait – score!) the fact that we drove out of our way to a weird little spot in kansas to wait an hour in line to eat bbq in a gas station sounds nothing short of crazy, but it’s just the kind of crazy that we like to be.

i’m sure you can’t go wrong here, but we listened to the recommendations of the regulars and were far from disappointed. the burnt end luncheon is only served mondays, wednesdays, and saturdays, but it’s worth going on one of those days. burnt ends are a kansas city classic, and theirs were outstanding – crispy on the outside with incredibly tender meat, just like they’re supposed to be. they were great with the cole slaw. the z-man sandwich is slow-smoked brisket, smoked provolone cheese, and crispy onion rings – yes, on the sandwich – on a kaiser roll with their signature bbq sauce. i thought we might regret getting two brisket items and not trying their also well-known pulled pork, but once the food arrived, there was no time for regret and only time for devouring. the z-man was awesome with the just-spicy-enough red beans + rice.

sit inside if you can. (but if you can’t, call in your order and skip the line) the service is awesome (bonus points), and it’s fun to watch all the other food come out and dream about what you’re going to order next time. we’ll be back.  

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oklahoma joe’s | original shamrock gas station location
3002 west 47th avenue
kansas city, kansas

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a day in lincoln.

many of you know that a few weeks ago, my little sister moved to nebraska from california to begin her freshman year at UNL. throughout the years, i’ve grown so accustomed to living far away from everyone i’m closest with, so kevin and i are pretty much ecstatic to have hannah nearby now! we haven’t spent much time in lincoln, but with hannah here, we’re jumping on the husker bandwagon and planning to make more frequent trips in that direction. last saturday, we went down for the day to watch the nebraska football game downtown and to visit with hannah. below, a few photos and notes from our day…

we didn’t have tickets to the game, and just planned to watch at a bar somewhere downtown, but we were told there would be traffic and to leave early regardless. we left around 7:30am for the 11am game, and grabbed breakfast at a place we’ve been wanting to try out in west omaha, over easy. we usually stay on the east side for most of our eating out, but after saturday, we’ll be breakfasting way more often at over easy. the sausage breakfast sandwich, sweet potato tots, hash brown rounds, and homemade nutella pop tart were all fantastic, and they even have a drive-thru! is it saturday again yet? (we were too busy engulfing our food to take a picture, but i did get a shot of their pretty table settings and cool reclaimed wood wall!)

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we were hoping to watch the game at a local brewery in lincoln, but they weren’t open early enough, so we opted for the railyard area instead, a newer area in the haymarket district with several bars and restaurants connected by an outdoor courtyard and a big-screen tv! since it was only 10:30am and clearly way too early for beer…we got a mimosa and a bloody mary instead. cheers!

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hannah left the game early and joined us in the railyard just after halftime. we ordered some wings from one of the restaurants, buffalo wings + rings, and were pretty impressed. this was the only one out of about 40 pictures where all three of us were making normal faces.

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after the game, we walked to the bookstore in the union so i could buy a nebraska shirt. we got distracted and had to spend some time playing on these chairs in the union that hannah had told us about. we’re easily entertained.

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once we finished playing, we ran a few errands and took hannah grocery shopping, then came back to campus for awhile and hung out in her dorm room. kevin and i were hoping to pick up a growler at zipline brewery on our way out of town, but the beer we wanted (barrel aged harumeku) in it was a limited, small batch beer, so we opted for having a pint in their tap room instead.

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we had a great day spending time in lincoln and of course, spending time with hannah. already can’t wait to go back!

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lessons in home ownership, one year in.

I can’t hardly even believe this, but tomorrow, August 30, marks one whole year of being in our first home. It’s been an amazing year, full of excitement and contentment and frustration and challenge and everything in between. And so, in honor of our first houseiversary, we thought we’d put together and share a few lessons in home ownership. Here goes…

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1. There is no such thing as an easy DIY project. 

But seriously. Kevin and I are notorious for attempting the seemingly simplest projects and somehow still finding a way to screw them up. I find it hilarious when people assume that we’re crafty or handy, because we’re always talking about doing some project or another, but now the secret’s out: we’re totally incapable of successfully accomplishing anything on the first try or in the way the instructions were written. We’re especially averse to anything that needs to be level and/or hung on a wall. So I guess the take home message here is to just know what you’re getting yourself into. Which leads me to…

2. Take your timeline for literally any project, and then multiply it times infinity. 

So, is it just us, or do other people fall prey to thinking they can finish things waaaaay sooner than is actually realistic too? It can’t just be us. Probably the most laughable example of this mistake is our basement renovation, which we were so convinced in September that we could complete by Thanksgiving and newsflash, we’re still not done. A more recent example is thinking that we could stain and install distressed wood shelving in our dining room before my parents came last week. Ha! In actuality, we stripped a screw in the very first bracket we drilled in, got discouraged and gave up, and waited for my dad to get here so we could troubleshoot next steps.

3. When in doubt, just switch the entire breaker box off. 

We think our breaker box is labeled pretty effectively, but the pressure of having to use wire cutters and change an outlet is enough all on it’s own, so we opt for the no-surprises route and just shut the whole thing down. Which leads to a whole different kind of stress revolving around me incessantly asking Kevin how much longer it’s going to take while I nervously worry about food beer going bad in the fridge.

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4. Make a friend at your local hardware store. 

Because you’ll be going there a lot, so the least you can do is set yourself up for a pleasant experience. All the big box hardware stores are pretty far from us, so we’ve started running to a nearby Ace when we need to grab something, and now we’re basically besties with one of the cashiers. She might not know much about how to help us with projects, but she has the best customer service ever and it’s just nice to see a smiling and familiar face in a place where you don’t expect it. Plus, she was there when we bought our firepit, and helped us negotiate our 10% discount with the manager. #wilmaFTW

5. Embrace the pink tile.

Ok, so maybe you haven’t been blessed with the same 1950s pink wall-tiled bathroom as we have, but I’m willing to bet you’ve got something in your house that you just hated when you moved in and swore you’d fix right away. For us, that was the pink tile. And the knotty pine in the basement. And 1,000 other things. But let’s face it, there will never be enough time or money or energy to fix all the things, so you have to pick your battles, and embrace what’s left. For us, again, that’s the pink tile. But after almost a year of telling myself over and over that it’s not so bad, right? I’m actually coming full circle and starting to think it’s cute and retro, right?

6. Ask yourself if you reeeeeeaaallllyyyy want a big yard.

“We want a big yard” is just one of those things people say when they’re looking for a house, ya know? And after living in apartments with no yard space and residence halls for many years, we were definitely among those people. It was on the top of our wish list when we house-hunted, and those of you who’ve seen our yard firsthand can attest to the fact that we got what we wanted, times ten. And thus has begun the love/hate relationship with our yard. Mowing the backyard feels like it takes an entire Saturday, and weeding could easily be a full-time job, but I love all the open space, not being too close to our neighbors, a place for a garden, and enjoying summer nights under the string lights in our adirondack chairs. I think we’re still coming out on top :)

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7. You can never have too many Phillips screwdrivers.

Seriously, these things are like the bobby pins of tools – you know you have about 1,000, and yet you can’t find a single one when you need it. I have no advice here, other than to purchase one whenever you can, in hopes that eventually you’ll have so many that you’ll have to be able to track down at least one when you need it. Honestly, where do these things disappear to?

8. Always look under the carpet.

We bought our house with beautiful hardwood floors in the living room and hallway and crossed our fingers that those same beautiful floors would be underneath the carpet in all three bedrooms. Surprise! They were, and the first thing we did was rip that carpet right up to reveal wood floors in pretty good condition that just need a little sanding and a new coat of polyurethane. Oh! And after almost putting the carpeted – yes, carpeted – bar from our basement out on the street for the taking, we decided to peek underneath, and what do you know? It was knotty pine in perfect condition, so we cleaned it off and stuck it back in the basement. I’m so glad we painted the knotty pine on the basement walls, but I’m loving having this one piece where we’re keeping the wood as-is. So, always check under the carpet; you never know what you may find. (Of course, you may find asbestos-ridden tile, which leads me to #9).

9. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment in the pictures you send to mom and dad.

Because if you’re wearing a mask and gloves in the picture you send, it’ll ease the pain when your next text is all about how you’re removing tile in your basement and yes, in fact, it is 9×9″ and oh shoot that means it probably contains asbestos and your environmental health specialist mother basically tells you you’re going to die a slow death from mesothelioma. Ok, so maybe that’s just my family, but I can’t imagine mom and dad wouldn’t like to see their babies being safe doing whatever they’re doing. At least wear the hard hat for the picture, and then proceed as you wish.

10. If you aren’t married yet, add the following line to your wedding vows: “I will work peacefully with my spouse on home improvement projects.”

And if you are married, or have spent any amount of time living with your partner, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t, wow, God bless you, and please teach us your secrets or at least come over and mediate for us. Kevin and I’s methods of strategizing, problem solving, and doing things are totally opposite, so doing home improvement projects is basically the definition of a recipe for disaster. You’d think we’d learn by now, but we’ve had enough successes (eventually) that we keep at it. Sometimes that means walking away from something for a couple days to re-strategize without all the emotions involved, and other times it involves just staying out of the other person’s way and letting them try on their own. And still other times, it involves calling Kevin’s mom and asking her to please come help us put our basement flooring down (thank you!), because we got stuck after one piece of underlayment. #truelife

Cheers to one year of home ownership under our belt! I know this post was lighthearted and funny, but on the inside, I’m feeling pretty sappy. So grateful to our families for knowing when to give advice and when to let us make our own mistakes, our friends for listening to us complain about mowing or lamenting the missing pieces in yet another piece of IKEA furniture, and most of all, to Kevin, for putting up with my never-ending honey-do list and always working to make my dreams a reality. 

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our new firepit, and a love letter to our life.

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a few weekends ago, we bought a little firepit and set it up in our backyard. we’d been talking about getting one for awhile now, saying it would be the perfect addition to the backyard for cool summer nights and crisp fall days. and then, that weekend, the stars aligned (also known as there was only one left in stock at ace, and it was the floor model, and it was dented, and so we negotiated 10% off) and we brought one home.

which of course was almost immediately followed by a trip to the grocery store for all the makings of a s’more, a hunt for the metal skewers we knew we had lying around somewhere, and chilling one of our cellared bottles of boulevard bourbon barrel quad for the occasion. (the perfect s’more beer, if you’re wondering).

it was a perfect night. perfect breeze, perfectly roasted charred marshmallows, the perfect beer (ok, i’m sorry, i’ll stop), perfect company. we’ve spent countless nights outside in our backyard – grilling, dining, after-dinner cocktails, reading, harvesting – and they’ve all been wonderful, but this night, it just hit me. this is my life now. we have a house and a backyard and a grill and a garden and a firepit. it’s all ours, and it’s so beautiful. almost a year later, i still have to pinch myself sometimes, because i never thought we’d have this life this soon.

this firepit, that night – they’re a reminder to savor what we have and not take anything for granted. a reminder during all those times we fail at yet another home improvement project, that we’re so blessed to not be living in a residence hall anymore. a reminder during all those times we want to scream at each other during said home improvement projects, that we’re so blessed to have each other to navigate this crazy life with – the good, the bad, and even (especially?) the ugly. a reminder to take pride in and say thanks for the things that we do have, and quit spending too much time dwelling on what we don’t.

now, when’s everyone coming over for s’mores?

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{recipe} pearl couscous with swiss chard and quick san marzano tomato sauce.

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anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook, and that we cook quite a bit around here. my favorite thing to collect is cookbooks, i read food blogs and magazines like it’s my job, and one of our favorite saturday pastimes is shopping for ingredients for a complex recipe i’ve been dreaming about making and spending the evening holed up inside getting it just right. but summer is sort of the one exception to this rule. of course, due to the aforementioned cookbook collection/food blog obsession, there’s not exactly a shortage of recipes that i’m dying to make or techniques i’d like to work on. but summer for us means less grocery store trips and less meal planning, and more farmer’s market trips and more eating straight from our garden. making something out of what’s already there.

even though i do genuinely love to cook, we all have those nights. those nights where calling for delivery seems way easier or going out for happy hour appetizers seems like way more fun. on the night we made this couscous, i was thinking all those things, but also feeling a little guilt about the swiss chard starting to wilt in my fridge and the san marzanos on the counter that i kept saying i was going to make sauce out of and can for the winter. in this particular occasion, my guilt won out and we whipped up this riff on your basic spaghetti and tomato sauce by using couscous instead and making our own what i’m calling “quick tomato sauce” with san marzanos from our garden, and adding in some greens for good measure. as is usually the case, i was happy with our decision to stay home by about halfway through cooking dinner, you know, when the tomatoes and onions started to smell like sauce and i knew this was actually going to taste good – intentional, even – and not just be your average clean-out-the-fridge meal.

which is not to say that those kinds of meals won’t happen, too. we’ve had our fair share of taco combinations and pizza toppings and they aren’t always good. even still, those weird meals bring with them the satisfaction of making something out of what’s already there. and the hope that every now and again, the stars might align, the tomatoes will be perfect, and you’ll accidentally throw together a meal for two that actually turns out to be good enough to purposely make again and again thereafter.

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ingredients

-1 tbsp. olive oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 medium or 2 small red onions, sliced into half moons
-4 San Marzano tomatoes (or Romas), diced
-2 oz. (about ½ can) tomato paste
-1 bunch swiss chard, de-stemmed and loosely torn
-1 cup pearl couscous
-salt, crushed red pepper
-parmesan and lemon zest to top

directions

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat, add 1 cup couscous and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until all liquid has reduced and couscous is cooked through (it should be soft, but with a slight “bite,” just like al dente pasta). Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, while the couscous cooks, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until fragrant. Next, add diced tomatoes and allow to cook down for a few minutes. Then, add tomato paste and stir into the tomatoes and onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, adding a couple tablespoons of water or vegetable broth if needed for consistency. For the last few minutes, toss in the loosely torn swiss chard pieces and let sauce continue to cook until greens become just wilted. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.

3. Stir sauce into couscous, and divide evenly among plates (this makes 2 large entrée dishes or 4 side dishes). Top each dish with lemon zest and/or grated parmesan.
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