Dad’s 60th Birthday Dinner

And we take a break from all of the DC blog posts to show you pictures from dad’s 60th birthday dinner at Cy’s Hoof & Horn.

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They say that it’s better to spend money on experiences rather than buying things so rather than buying a present for dad we opted buy dinner for the family instead.

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For dad’s birthday Brian and I took mom, dad, and Jenni to our new favorite place to eat steak. Jenni get the filet mignon, which is what I had the last time. I thought it was good but I really, really liked Brian’s chicken fried steak so I ended up getting the chicken fried steak this time around.

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Brian and dad both got chicken fried steak also.

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I don’t know why we each had to get one, all three of us could have shared one piece. The chicken fried steak portions at Cy’s are enormous.

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Mom got a steak salad. Only my mom would get a salad at a steak place. LOL. At least her salad was topped with slices of beef, I guess.

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Brian and I can’t wait for his mom and dad to visit because we want to take them to Cy’s also. Now that we’ve discovered Cy’s we just want to bring everyone there.

Cy’s isn’t just a great place to eat steak, it’s a great place for a nice family dinner. I hope dad enjoyed his 60th birthday dinner just as much as we did.

Open City

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Brian and I found this neat restaurant by our hotel called Open City. It’s so close that you can see the hotel from the restaurant’s patio.

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The big windows fold out of the way so that even when you’re inside it feels like you’re outside. We asked for a table on the patio, but we didn’t really have to be outside to enjoy dining al fresco.

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The cover of the menu has a drawing of the restaurant’s facade.

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Lots of great items on the menu, including gluten free pizza. I’m not sure I’ve come across any other restaurant that offers these. Probably because it’s a risky thing to offer considering the crust ends up tasting like cardboard sometimes (or so I’ve heard). We found positive feedback about Open City’s gluten free pizzas online though. Someone sitting at a table close to us who had it even mentioned that they couldn’t tell the difference. That’s huge. I wonder if cooking the pizzas in their special firebrick pizza oven makes the difference?

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Oh, and the best part about Open City is they serve brunch all day long.

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I ate at Open City a couple of times with Brian (on our first day and also our last day in DC). I think he ate there more than that because (a) it was cheaper than eating at the hotel, (b) the food is great, and (c) it’s just a short walk from our hotel.

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We shared the carnivore pizza on our first time at the restaurant. With its generous smattering of pepperoni, bacon, ham, sausage, etc. it’s the perfect pizza for meat-lovers like Brian and me.

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We had to try one of their pies for dessert because they bake their own pastries. This pie consisted of chocolate mouse and chocolate ganache. They serve it topped with whipped cream. It was delicious! If I didn’t know it was so bad for you, I would have had one every single day I was in DC.

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There were lots of delicious pastries to choose from in the pastry case. They even had some vegan options.

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Brian and I decided to go to Open City again for our final meal in DC. Brian had the babe calzone the day before and he just had to have it again. It doesn’t look very appetizing but, after he had me try a bite, I realized why he liked it so much. The calzone was filled with the perfect combination of sausage, ham, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. Almost like the carnivore pizza folded over.

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I got the Open City grilled chicken wings with blue cheese. They were perfect. They were so good that I wanted to eat them all, except I couldn’t because I got so full.

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Open City on Urbanspoon

It didn’t help that I couldn’t stop eating the vegan, gluten free homemade potato chips. They weren’t greasy like they sometimes are at other restaurants.

If you ever find yourself in the Woodley Park area in DC, I highly recommend checking out Open City. There are many reasons I can think of why it’s popular with locals and visitors alike — they have great food; they offer lots of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options; they serve brunch all day; they bake their own decadent pastries; and they’re conveniently located close to a metro station. It’s definitely worth checking out!

Omni Shoreham Hotel

My first Omni experience was amazing so I was super excited to find out that we’d be staying at an Omni for the conference in Washington, DC.

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The opulent lobby is consistent with what you’d expect from an Omni hotel, except this hotel is in a really old building so it isn’t modern like the Omni I stayed at in Fort Worth.

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Our room was spacious but very old school in terms of decor and furnishings.

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The room had two skinny doors with glass door knobs. One door led to a walk in closet, while the other door led to a tiny bathroom. The small bathroom wasn’t really a surprise considering the age of the building.

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We had a nice view of the pool from our room which was good and bad. Good because the view was nice. Bad because we could hear noise from the pool even though we were seven floors up. I can’t imagine what the people below us had to deal with.

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Other old school touches in the hotel include shoe shine stations…

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Old fashioned railings, chandelier, and carpet…

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And rotary phones that actually work. I thought they were just decorations and I was startled when I heard ringing when I picked up the receiver.

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The backside of the hotel features an extravagant terrace…

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With a fancy fountain, beautifully manicured garden/lawn, gazebo…

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And a wildlife observation deck just beyond that overlooks a jogging/biking trail.

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The hotel itself was nice. The service was not as good as what I’d come to expect from the Omni brand. Housekeeping was really slow, but I think that might be partially due to the super slow, ancient elevators. LOL.

Dining options inside the hotel were limited. However, the one thing that the hotel has going for it is its fantastic Woodley Park location. There are lot of great shops and restaurants just outside the hotel and the closet Metro station is within a short walk. There’s also a Dunkin Donuts nearby, which worked out really well for Brian.

BonChon Chicken Fairfax

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We had the opportunity to try Korean chicken wings at BonChon Chicken in Fairfax, VA on Sunday. Thanks to Cousin Joy and her husband Erwin for picking us up from our hotel and taking us there. We never would have ventured out that far on our own.

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We were told up front that chicken wings would take a half hour so we started with some fries and fried calamari.

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The fries and calamari were delicious, and were great for munching on while we waited for our chicken wings, but we had to be careful not to get too full because we wanted to save room for the chicken wings, which are the stars of the show.

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We shared an extra large order of wings but we asked for a combination of the regular soy garlic and spicy hot garlic.

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BonChon on Urbanspoon

Brian and I had never had chicken wings like these before and, for the record, they were worth every minute of the wait. The breading had a wonderful texture that was the perfect combination of crispy and crunchy. The chicken wings had excellent flavor, though I will be completely honest, I did not try the spicy hot garlic because I can’t really handle spicy foods. Brian had both flavors so I will have to rely on his assessment. He said the spicy hot garlic was delicious but the spiciness catches up to you after a few. I could tell they were spicy because they were making Erwin sweat. LOL.

The restaurant is a great value, specially since you can share the food and eat family style. I sort of wished we had a BonChon Chicken back in Wichita because it’s a great alternative to fast food. It’s a nice, casual place to eat but the food is good and doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Since we don’t have a BonChon, Brian has been tasked with figuring out how to replicate the Korean chicken wing flavor. Stay tuned because we may be serving it soon at our next party. Who’s in?

Downtown Wichita Living Tour

Brian and I had a blast touring the living options in downtown Wichita this afternoon. I’m glad we were able to squeeze it in between my 1 PM Zumba class and my group exercise staff meeting. It was a beautiful day for walking around downtown.

We were able to see all of the properties but one, Innes Station, before the tour ended. We didn’t really mind missing it because we had seen those units before through friends who had once lived there.

Our first stop was WaterWalk Hotel Apartments. True to its name, the units are very hotel-like. The two units on exhibit were both furnished nicely with contemporary furnishings that are streamlined with sleek lines. Bulky oversized furniture would not be a good fit as the living and kitchen area aren’t very spacious. Brian and I agreed it would be great for someone who travels a lot or won’t be staying for an extended period. The units would quickly feel cramped after living there a year. I did find the two bedroom floor plan ideal for a roommate situation because both bedrooms had attached bathrooms so you wouldn’t have to share the same bathroom with your roommate. The rooms are identical in size so there would be no arguing over who got the better space.

Next up, the Finn Lofts. Located behind the Intrust Bank Arena, the location is perfect. The units are small but the minimal design makes excellent use of the space. One of the units we looked at was very European in style with the toilet area separate from the shower area. Some of the units also have this weird atrium in the floor plan. At first I thought it was the apartment’s designated smoking area but Brian was quick to point out that smoking isn’t allowed in the property. I guess it would work as a good spot for an indoor potty area for your pets.

Commerce Street Lofts had one of the better units on display. The unit we looked at had a nice, open floor plan with awesome skylights that bathed the space in natural light. The living area had access to a huge deck, twice the size of the decks of most houses. Located just down the street from Finn Lofts, living at Commerce would also afford you access to many of the great amenities that downtown Wichita has to offer.

Out of all the places we looked at, Eaton Place was the most dated. The unit we looked at had a nice view of Douglas Avenue, but the hallway leading to the unit was very dark. The unit itself was small with a loft bedroom that offered very little in the way of privacy. Brian and I found the floor of the unit creeky and not level, probably a sign of the building’s age. Eaton Pace did have a nice common area with a pool table and nice comfy furnishings. The common area also seemed brighter than the hallways leading up to the units. The skylights make a huge difference.

The Piano Player Lofts are similar to Finn Lofts in style, minimalistic and seemingly European. The kitchen was modern and very IKEA.

The unit at Rock Island Lofts was pretty nice. I liked the two level unit because the entertaining space is separate from your private space. The kitchen was large with granite counters and open to the living area, which made it a great entertaining space. Brian and I liked the layout of the upstairs because there was potential for an office and lounging space up there, opposite the bedroom. I did not like the fiberglass corner shower in the large bathroom. The bathroom was large enough for a nice giant shower. It felt like they cut corners on the bathroom, which had so much potential. The location is also a little iffy because it’s right above the old Suede and Finns bars. I imagine it might be kind of noisy on the weekends unless they spent money on good soundproofing. Hopefully, they didn’t cut corners on that too — quite possible considering what they did to the master bathroom. The apartment would have been really awesome had the bathroom not been such a let down.

I really looked forward to seeing how the Lux had been renovated into residential living because I worked there for several years (from 2002 to 2008), before we moved our office to the Bank of America Building. There were two units on display: 5X and 5J. The bedrooms in both were small but not really that different from the other apartments we had toured. Space downtown is at a premium. The interior style reminded me of the European style we saw at Finn Lofts. The layout of 5X was similar to the unit we looked at at Eaton Place but the loft bedroom had taller walls and offered better privacy. It’s also more modern. The living space itself felt small though, with barely any room for a dining table. They did such a great job on the renovation. The entire place, including the hallways, looks so bright and modern. I also loved all of the outdoor spaces. The rooftop terrace is awesome and had a phenomenal view of downtown Wichita. You can even see my office building from there. The only thing missing was a rooftop pool. Access to a pool would have made up for the smaller living space.

We saved Flats 324 because we had seen it before, back in 2010 when we were looking for a place to rent after selling our old house. The building was an old high school (the original Wichita High School) that’s been converted into several apartments with unique floor plans. The boiler room (basement apartment) was the highlight of the tour and it was the exact unit that we considered renting before settling on Quarters at Cambridge. Despite the high price tag, we really thought about it because it was the coolest space we’d ever seen. Ultimately, pragmatism won. The two bedroom (with attached garage) townhouse we ended up getting at Quarters at Cambridge proved to be a far better value. Anyway, as cool as it would have been to live in “the dungeon” (as we had called it at the time), I don’t think Brian and I could have done the place justice because we don’t really have a great eye for interior decorating. The current owner did a fantastic job of defining the spaces and decorating the place. It looks amazing! The boiler room apartment at Flats 324 was a favorite of mine five years ago and, seeing it furnished, it’s even more impressive today.

We probably would have had time to look at Innes, but I didn’t want to be late for my group exercise staff meeting at Andover YMCA. We ended up getting there a half hour early because the meeting got pushed back to 5:30 PM. I’m glad that we planned ahead and pre-bowled for this Sunday otherwise I would have had to miss bowling completely because of the later meeting time.

Overall today worked out great! I hope everyone had just as fantastic a day as we did.

Little Sister Gets Her Wish

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Every time I pick up Kira we drive by a Spangles and she always asks to eat there. Influenced by Brian’s dislike of the chain, I usually find ways to dissuade her by offering a better alternative. Last week, on our way to Color Me Mine, I finally caved.

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Kira and I had fun painting our projects. I cannot post the pictures here because they are meant to be presents. I’ll post the pictures once the have been presented to the intended recipients. Until then, have a fantastic week everyone!

Dinner with Friends

First we had dinner with our favorite neighbors on Wednesday night. We wanted to do something nice for them since they’ll be watching Molly while we’re in DC next month. But then Jim just had his surgery earlier in the week so instead of having him hobble over, we decided to just bring dinner to them. It took a few trips but worked out great in the end. Here are some pictures of the food we enjoyed that evening.

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Brian made pork roast. He had it in the slow cooker all day and it was nice, tender, and flavorful by dinner time.

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Mom made lumpia earlier that day and shared some with us. She gave Brian uncooked ones. Brian fried them up right before dinner so they were fresh.

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These were frozen rather than fresh (corn is not in season) but they were delicious just the same. Brian intended to make potatoes too, but said he got the wrong kind of potatoes so he nixed the idea and made rice instead. He got no argument from me because I prefer rice over potatoes any day. LOL.

We also had some rolls. Seems like Americans have rolls with most of their meals. It’s the strangest thing ever. I could take or leave rolls. At least Brian got Hawaiian sweet rolls, which is the kind that I like (when I do eat rolls).

Incidentally, Wednesday night was the same night that we had a work dinner at The Hill for the AllConnect launch. I heard it was a great time. I wanted to go but I was already committed to dinner with our neighbors which we had planned ahead of time.

I’ve never been at The Hill either. Tammie says it’s pretty good. I guess Brian and I will just have to check it out. Maybe we will go with our lovely neighbors.

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On Saturday night we met the Dills (Jay, Becca, and Mama Dill), the Larnengs (Rune and Kristen), and the Phelpi (Cory and April) at Sumo (the Phelpi’s favorite restaurant for celebrating birthdays) to celebrate Cory’s birthday.

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Just a few months before we met the exact same group at Sumo to celebrate April’s birthday. The funniest part is that we got the exact same hibachi table. I’m thinking we all sat in the exact same spots too.

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One of my favorite things at Sumo is their garlic fried rice. You can’t go there and not get it. It’s super good. But, man! It’s really garlicky. Even after brushing my teeth, I still had garlic breath. I bet my sweat will smell like garlic for days, too.

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We didn’t finish dinner until almost 10 PM. Brian and I were invited to go dancing with another group of friends to celebrate Holly’s birthday and I really wanted to go but we were both exhausted. Not sure why. probably because we watched a movie with grandma earlier in the day and didn’t get our afternoon nap. LOL.

Jokes aside, we are a couple of old farts and we go to bed around 10 o’clock most nights. Even on weekends. I think Cory’s birthday celebration continued at Club Rodeo after dinner. We missed out on that too.

I was out like a light within minutes of getting home. I may have even slept with my makeup on. I was that tired!

Even though we didn’t go to the after party at Club Rodeo, I’m glad that we were able to celebrate with everyone at dinner. It’s not everyday that one of our dearest friends turns another year older. Belated happy birthday, Cory! Until next year!

Celebrate Love Everyday

Remember to celebrate love everyday. Not just on special occasions like Valentines Day or birthdays or Christmas. Brian got a surprise gift this week.

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I’ve been really lazy about creating books of our recent travels because it is so much work. Finally got around to making one of Brian’s 40th birthday celebration in Dominican Republic. What I love most about photo books is that they let you relive fun memories of travels and various life experiences.

Photo books make great presents. I can attest to this as both a receiver and giver of photo books. If you need a special reason to make one, Mother’s Day is just around the corner. Plus, right now you can get one free 8 x 8 photo book from Shutterfly using code 1FREEBOOK. If you want to make a larger book the coupon code gets you $29.99 OFF the total. Hurry! This offer ends tomorrow, March 23.

Super Pi Day

We had the most amazing Pi Day celebration this past weekend thanks to our awesome friends who stepped up to the occasion. Check out these photos.

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Brian made mini Nutella pies.

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And also a Nutella star tear-and-share bread. It was a bit of a disaster actually but Brian managed to find a way to save it.

We didn’t plan very well when we were making it. We assembled the bread on our large cutting board and by the time we were finished it had gotten so heavy that we couldn’t move it without obliterating it. We tried to use various spatulas. Even our largest spatula wasn’t big enough to lift the heavy lump. We almost scrapped the whole thing if it weren’t for Brian coming up with a brilliant idea.

Rather than moving it, Brian devised a plan to just flip it over on to a pan. Except it looked horrible because we had jabbed it underneath so many times already with all those spatulas. So we flipped it over again and it didn’t look as bad. I’m glad Brian didn’t let us give up on it because it was delicious. At least now we know for next time that we need to assemble the bread on the pan that we shall use to bake it.

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The Frito chili pie didn’t take as much work.

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Neither did the Papa Murphy’s pizzas.

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Pizzas are pies! We took the easy route. LOL.

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Brian also made chocolate pie. The other pies in the photo above are banana pudding pies and were made by Kristen’s sister Cynthia.

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Shanda made cookie sandwiches.

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Nykole made cheeseburger pie.

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Sunni made quiche.

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Jay and Becca made a Whole 30 compliant pie.

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Kate’s shepherd’s pie. I was too late to take a picture of it intact.

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Hideki’s clever contribution to the pie theme was a huge hit.

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Another contribution from Jay and Becca. While technically not pie, it was delicious and we enjoyed it all the same.

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Meader and Holly’s avocado pie.

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We also had lumpia, courtesy of mom. Brian did not get to have any because by the time he got around to having some they were all gone.

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April made Nutella cheesecake.

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Thank you so much to all of our friends and most of all to Kate who celebrated not just Pi Day or Super Pi Day but also her birthday. Until the next century!

Bowl For Kids’ Sake is Around the Corner

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I recently put a new sign in sheet by my door to help raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl for Kid’s Sake. I was hopeful that I’d have several donations by now but I’ve actually had fewer visitors lately. I’m really bummed.

Big Brothers Big Sisters is a cause that is close to my heart so it would really mean a lot to me if you guys help me support them through our generous donations.

Did you know that 67% of former Littles surveyed agree that their Big played a role in their decision to attend college? Donate today to help develop more college grads, community leaders and entrepreneurs.

Will you make a donation today and join my effort to give a child the resources he needs to be successful. Your donation can start a child on the path to academic achievement. Click here to visit my personal donation page.

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