Throwback Thursday

I graduated from Leadership Westar exactly five years ago today!

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ZINCON 2014: Highlights

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Brian fit right in. All he needed was a badge.

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Brian with ZES Tony Witt, one of my Zumba idols.

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My friend Sarah at the kick-off of her very first ZINCON.

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There were a few awards given at the kick-off. Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar was our keynote speaker this year. He was great, but the highlight of the kick-off was definitely Claudia Leitte. What a treat!

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My first session was with Lindsey Taylor, another one of my idols.

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Then it was time for Reggaeton Rebellion with Loretta Bates and Marcie Benavides, two more of my Zumba idols.

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Loretta Bates is amazing!

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It wasn’t until halfway through the session that I realized Missy was in my same workshop! It was a great surprise!

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We got great pics with Loretta, Marcie, and DJ Francis.

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Lauren and Kelsi were on the same floor as me at the hotel.

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Mastering the business of fun!

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Zumba Step master class with Marcie.

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Here are some pictures from Zumba Gold training.

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I learned Zumba Gold from the best, Ann Saldi and Lars Wensink.

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Brian did some shopping for me while I was learning stuff.

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Brian also ran into Johanna and Yira from Santo Domingo.

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We met these two amazing Zumba instructors while we were at Barcel√≥ a couple of months ago. They’re like the Latin American versions of Lauren and Kelsi. These partnerships make me wish I had a ZIN BFF of my own.

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Here’s a picture of us waiting in line to enter the fitness-concert.

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While we were in line for the fitness-concert, a group of Venezuelan Zumba instructors entertained us by singing and dancing. Brian got some videos.

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We were in the line for the fitness-concert for an hour or so but the entertainment made the wait go by faster.

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It seemed like there were a lot more people at this year’s fitness-concert. I thought the fitness-concert last year was cooler though. This year people weren’t following the rules. They brought bags and water bottles even though they weren’t supposed to and people wouldn’t spread out so we could barely move to dance.

Here’s a video of the mass exodus after the fitness-concert.

Pictures really don’t do it justice. You just have to experience a ZINCON fitness-concert for yourself to truly appreciate the craziness.

The next day I had Zumba Step training with the amazing Marcie Benavides and Eric Aglia. Several other ZESes helped also.

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Here’s a picture of Marcie with all the ZESes who helped during training.

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If you think Eric Aglia (guy in the red pants) looks familiar, it’s because he’s one of the instructors featured in the Zumba World Party video game.

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I am in such awe of Marcie. I can’t believe this woman is 40. She doesn’t look like it at all. My goal is to hopefully be as healthy and fit as she is when I’m 40.

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I snapped a few photos to memorialize my Zumba Step training. I feel so blessed to have learned Zumba Step from the best.

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Here’s a picture of me with the trainers taken at the end of our training workshop.

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I had to get another pictures with Eric when I ran into him in the elevator because this guy is amazing. I was front and center for training but apparently I wasn’t memorable because he didn’t remember me from class. LOL.

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This is a photo of Francesca Maria performing at the theme party.

Dahrio Wonder and Gina Grant performed.

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Armando Salcedo and Heidy Torres performed.

Other performances included Myrto, El Chevo, and Mara. Claudia Leitte performed during the kick-off event. Wisin performed during the fitness-concert. For the theme party there were several performances. There are rising Zumba performers everywhere so each time someone came out they would say which country was represented.

It’s so amazing how Zumba brings the world together. There were 97 countries represented this year. ZIN members from all over the world traveled to Orlando to participate in this year’s ZINCON. Amazing feels like an understatement. I always say that there are no words to describe ZINCON. It just has to be experienced first hand.

This year’s theme party was not as elaborate as last year but the performances were great. People had some crazy costumes last year. It also felt like several people opted to skip the theme party this year. Last year that whole area right outside the ballroom was packed. We were shoulder to shoulder, and there were even more people inside the ballroom. I’m thinking that the $9 Bud Light bottles might have something to do with it. Yes, the drinks were crazy expensive. I think they were even more expensive this year than last year.

Brian and I were smart this year, though. The Walgreens next to the Rosen Centre sells beer and wine so we stocked our fridge and pantry. Since we were drinking every night we were there, we didn’t feel compelled to spend hundreds of dollars on drinks at the party. Plus, I didn’t really care to drink the Bud Lights because I had Angry Orchards back at our hotel room.

We didn’t stay at the theme party too late. We just stayed for all of the performers we’d never seen perform live before. After all of that, the official ZINCON house band took over and we’d watched them perform last year. They just do mostly covers anyway. They sang this year’s hits but it’s still the same guys. We didn’t really feel like we were missing much by taking off before midnight.

Besides, I had a big day the next day. I had a session with Filipino ZES Prince Paltu-Ob. He came highly recommended by my friend and fellow ZIN Gerard Patalano who I met at last year’s ZINCON. I’d heard great things about Prince from others also so I was super excited. I was actually the first one in class. I got there even before he did. We snapped this photo before our session started.

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I met other Filipino ZINs in our workshop. We snapped this photo after class.

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The session with Prince was my last one before the closing session. This was a big deal because this was the first time ever that they’d had a closing session on the schedule. Usually everything just kind of ends after your last session.

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Anyway, we finally got to see the third Alberto, Alberto Aghion. Everybody knows Alberto Perez aka Beto because he is the face of Zumba. If you’ve ever been to ZINCON, then you’ve also seen Zumba CEO Alberto Perlman. He always speaks at the kick-off event. There’s rarely ever an Alberto Aghion sighting. I guess you could say he is the “silent” partner. LOL. I always thought the guy was imaginary until now.

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This is the holy trinity of Zumba, the three Albertos, all in one place right here. It’s amazing the universe didn’t implode. You never see these three guys together. Or as Beto would say, chugether.

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Here’s something else you don’t see very often: Beto, Gina Grant, Kass Martin, Loretta Bates, Marcie Benavides, and Ann Saldi all dancing on the same stage.

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What a treat!

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Here’s a short clip. Pardon the audio quality.

After the closing session we headed to the pool to hang out. Holy cow! It was so packed. I think word got out that this was the place to be at the end of ZINCON. It was the complete reverse of the theme party. There were actually a ton more people hanging out at the pool this year than last year. There were no lounge chairs available. At all.

We were lucky that Pat and Missy decided to skip the closing session. They were already hanging out at the pool. They were leaving for the airport at three o’clock so we just ended up taking over their two lounge chairs. If it wasn’t for that, we would never have gotten lounge chairs. People actually ended up putting towels on the pavement and just setting their stuff down because there were no lounge chairs available. It wasn’t like this last year.

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I don’t really like the way I look these days because I’m way up in weight compared to a couple of years ago but I have to post this picture. I can’t believe I finally met Azuka Boutcher in real life. She’s another one of those mythical creatures.

She was one of the original faces of Zumba along with Gina Grant and Tanya Beardsley. It was the Gina, Tanya, and Azuka before it was just Gina and Tanya. And now there is only one. Just Gina.

I had met Gina and Tanya for the first time during the Gina and Tanya Rock the Stage Tour a couple of years ago. Azuka was already doing her own thing, Kazaxe, a this point. Azuka is not really one you will see unless you go to take one of her classes in Virginia. I mean, I don’t really see her traveling to Kansas so it was awesome to see her at ZINCON. I felt like such a stalker walking over to ask for a photo with her but it was totally worth it in the end. I would have regretted not getting this photo.

We had dinner at B-Line on our last night at the hotel. We didn’t really feel like venturing out because we still had to pack and at this point, I wasn’t even sure that we’d have enough room in our luggage for all the stuff that Brian bought for us. On our way back to our room, we ran into Ricardo Marmitte and his friends. All I have to say is, he is the coolest guy ever.

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Ricardo and his friends were so friendly and welcoming. If we didn’t have to pack and didn’t have an early flight the next day, I would have totally just tagged along with this group. I still kind of regret not taking advantage of the opportunity to visit and learn about everyone. I mean, how often do you get a chance to hang out with Zumba celebrities. Maybe next year.

And then, just like that, it was over. I have more pictures from ZINCON 2014 on my Flickr so be sure and check those out. I met some new people this year. Saw friends I had met previously like Charisse and Gerard. I also captured some videos. I could only send a few of them to Flickr. The rest won’t upload for some reason. I’ll probably post some of my favorites videos here — of those that I could upload anyway. Stay tuned.

ZINCON 2014: First Impressions

I really had high expectations this year after an amazing Zumba Instructor Conference in 2013. I didn’t think this year’s ZINCON was as cool as last year’s — I mean, last year was amazing, so it would be pretty hard to live up to it — but I still had a ton of fun. There were aspects of ZINCON that were better last year than this year and vice versa.

Check in was really smooth this year. I think it’s because they had the desks open for longer hours. Our bags this year were a different style than last year, which is good because I already have two of those one-shoulder backpack bags (one from the 2013 Conference and one from the 2014 Convention). We got a commemorative convention shirt, but the quality of the shirts isn’t as good as last year. Also notably missing were our ZINCON 2014 bracelets. I didn’t really miss those as much as other attendees. I thought the free luggage tag more than made up for the bracelets. I love, love, love my Zumba logo luggage tag. I actually used it on my carry on luggage on the way home.

I thought the signage was somewhat scaled down this year. The graffiti walls were a really nice touch, though. There were several throughout the convention center and Hyatt Regency. I wrote several notes. Brian wrote on them too.

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The graffiti walls were great! Totally made up for not having as many of the massive signs all over the convention area.

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Here’s a picture of me in front of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. It is hands down the largest convention center I’ve ever been in.

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The hotels around the convention center got in on the festivities by having drink specials. Found this board at the Hilton.

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We didn’t really spend a lot of money on meals (other than our $150 anniversary dinner at The Oceanaire) because we picked up groceries. This is what the pantry and fridge of a ZINCON pro looks like. LOL.

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We were so much more prepared this year compared to last year. It helps to know what to expect. We got wine, beer, and snacks. We didn’t go hungry at all.

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I also loved all of the flash mobs this year. They were popping up everywhere. Last year the focus was the Zumba World Party video game demo. This year they added the ZIN DJ stage which was really a great area for showcasing some talented instructors. The districts really got into it. I loved watching all of their performances.

One of the reasons ZINCON 2013 is hard to top is because it was so well-conceived. This year the theme was somewhat all over the place. It wasn’t as cohesive as last year. However, there are so many great things they added this year that we didn’t have last year. For instance, we actually got to see the third Alberto. I thought he was a myth for the longest time. He’s a real person after all.

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I guess part of the reason that I still think that ZINCON 2013 was the best is because it was my first. Your first is always the most memorable, I guess. However, there were so many awesome things about ZINCON 2014 so I think it’s equally amazing in its own right. If you’ve never been to a Zumba instructor convention, you have to check it out. There really are no words to describe this event. It has to be experienced in person. Oowa! Oowa!

Our Anniversary Dinner in Orlando

We ate out a lot in the days leading up to our anniversary. We hit our favorite places in Wichita where we hadn’t been in a long time so we ate at the Anchor and also at Redrock but we didn’t really “celebrate” our anniversary until Orlando because I wanted Brian to try the Oceanaire Seafood Room.

I ate at Oceanaire for the first time when I was in San Diego on a work trip and loved it. I remembered that they had a location down the street from the convention center in Orlando so I asked Brian if we could wait to celebrate our anniversary when we arrived in Orlando that way we could have our anniversary dinner at Oceanaire. The place is so expensive, special to a frugal person like me. It’s not really a place that you could just go to eat just for kicks.

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I really like the “Happy Anniversary” message on the menu. It’s a nice touch. Although, I liked the menu from San Diego better because it actually had my name printed on it.

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I’m glad I warned Brian about the prices on the menu ahead of time. He would have had a fit. He is just as cheap as I am. LOL.

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This is my super delicious sangria.

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I also like the fresh veggies.

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The chef also gives a small treat to first timers. Brian didn’t even want to try it. He saw the raw fish and that was enough for him. It actually wasn’t bad.

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The “congratulations” card they gave us signed by the staff was also a nice touch.

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It makes me want to celebrate every birthday and anniversary there. I’m cheap, but once or twice a year won’t be too bad. It’s a shame there’s not one in town.

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They have the most delicious crab cakes ever. This one was just as good, if not better, than the ones I had in San Diego. I like that there’s hardly any filler and the crab meat has just the right hint of sweetness.

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This ugly entree was the most expensive thing we ordered. $42 for this dish. It was just okay. I’d had better salmon before, for half the price. Actually I was thinking the dish would be around $32 but since I substituted the crab Oscar instead of the shrimp Oscar there was an up charge.

All I’m saying is that the crab cakes are worth every penny. I expected more out of this dish. Maybe I don’t know what good salmon tastes like? LOL. Maybe it’s because of the messy presentation? I don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t enjoy this dish as much as I thought I would have.

I didn’t complain or ask to exchange it though. I just ate until I was full, which is what I should do anyway rather than cleaning my plate every time.

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This is the hash browns Oceanaire-style. We ordered it because our server said it was their most popular side dish. This was just okay also. Other than how huge the serving is, there wasn’t really anything spectacular about it.

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Brian’s pork chop was just okay too. It was cooked well, but I thought it needed more flavor. That’s probably just me, though.

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The baked Alaska was good but it was rock hard. It had just come out of the deep freeze so it was solid. She could barely cut it in half even after heating the knife. It was that hard. Here’s a photo of it from the side.

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Here’s a video of the baked Alaska. The flames don’t always show up in photos so our server recommended taking a video instead.

The Oceanaire Seafood Room on Urbanspoon

Even though the Orlando location didn’t live up to the high expectations set by the San Diego location, our anniversary dinner was wonderful overall. Our server was delightful. Although, I think they are purposely nice to you though so you don’t feel so bad about the bill when it comes. LOL. I joked to Brian that we blew our entire food budget on one night. We were celebrating our 12th wedding anniversary though, so we had to pick a special place — one that’s worthy of the milestone.

Looking back though, I think we should have celebrated our anniversary at Twelve. I hear the food there is great and it would have been perfect because then it would have been our 12th at Twelve. Maybe I can talk Brian into a do over on Friday night. It’s just so far. I wish it wasn’t so far out on the West side of town. =P

Leadership Development

I have some really exciting news to share with everyone. I get to cross another item off my bucket list. I received my acceptance letter for Leadership Wichita 2014 a few days ago. I didn’t want to say anything before because I didn’t want to be embarrassed in case I wasn’t chosen. LOL. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, though.

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Getting the “big” envelope was pretty exciting. It felt like I was applying for college. Actually, I take that back. It wasn’t like I applied at Harvard. Pretty much anyone can attend Wichita State.

It was a lot like applying for grad school though, where I actually had to take an exam, submit an essay, and provide two letters of recommendation. But then I scored high enough on my GMAT that I wasn’t really concerned.

With Leadership Wichita I didn’t even know where to begin. The program isn’t something that I could simply apply for. I had to be nominated. And, I wasn’t even sure how that would be possible because the nomination form is very specific about who to nominate. You couldn’t nominate just anyone.

Leadership Wichita is something that I’d always wanted to do but I couldn’t even tell anyone because I was afraid they’d just laugh at me. So when Ginger and Don both approached me this year about representing our company in this year’s class, I was super excited. It felt like Christmas!

It’s a huge commitment so they wanted me to think seriously about it. I didn’t have to think about it, though. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do so I knew that I would clear my schedule for the rest of the year if I had to. I had secured my nomination. There was no way I was passing on this opportunity.

I needed three strong letters of recommendation so I told Jim Ludwig right away. As my mentor, I figured that he would be supportive and write a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I had one letter of recommendation down and needed two more. I couldn’t ask a friend or relative because I wanted to submit a strong application. I didn’t want to be accepted simply because I’m representing my work. I wanted to be accepted on my own merit. I wanted to be a strong candidate worthy of Don Sherman’s nomination.

Dr. Gerald Graham was one of my professors in grad school and a well respected leader in the community. I knew that a letter of recommendation from him would carry a lot of weight. However, I wasn’t sure if he’d remember me. His class, Organizational Behavior (MGMT 862) was one of the first classes I’d taken in grad school so it had been almost ten years. Lucky for me, I’d received additional training from Dr. Graham through work over the years so we would see each other occasionally. Despite that, I still worried that he would say no and I didn’t have a contingency plan in place. What a relief when he said yes! I was so thrilled when his letter of recommendation arrived in the mail.

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I knew that with Don, Jim, and Dr. Graham in my corner I had a pretty good shot at being accepted but I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I had my work experience and educational background covered, so I needed a letter of recommendation that shows my commitment to the community. I wanted to be a solid, well rounded candidate so I asked Natalie if the Treehouse could write a letter on my behalf since I helped with Labor Run 2013. I figured that this would show my community involvement.

I felt like I submitted a strong application. Don tells me that my package is great and he knows his stuff so that made me feel pretty darn good. I’m very grateful to everyone who helped me get in because I don’t think I could have done it on my own (though I probably would have kept trying).

This year’s program/schedule looks really interesting. I’m looking forward to getting started and representing my company well. I promise to make the most of this opportunity and make you all proud!

Blue Jean Bingo

Brian and I attended Blue Jean Bingo at Abode last night. It’s a benefit for Goodwill Industries of Kansas. It’s actually one of the more fun fundraising events I’ve attended. I’ll have to remember it again next year. Here are some pictures.

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If Brian doesn’t look like he is having fun, it’s because he never smiles in photos. Oh, and he was seriously concentrating on the game. He did not want to miss any of the bingo numbers. He held on to that bingo dauber like a weapon!

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I have never gotten as much use out of my official name tag as I did yesterday. Seriously. That thing was on me for almost 18 hours.

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They asked us to wear our metal name tags at our leadership conference so it was already on me when I left the house yesterday morning. I didn’t want to lose it so I just kept it on when I went back to work, so then I didn’t have to wear my regular badge. I didn’t plan on wearing it to the event, but I ended up staying at work until after 6:30 pm because of a problem.

I actually went back to work after our meeting because I wanted to complete testing the Spanish IVR. Darcy assigned it to me on Wednesday and I told her I wouldn’t be able to really test anything until Friday afternoon because of the leadership conference. Anyway, I didn’t get much testing done because of said problem. Things don’t always go according to plan I guess. You just have to roll with the punches.

I didn’t have time to go home and change. Brian picked me up from work and we just went straight to Abode. When we got there they had name tag stickers for everyone but I still had my official name tag on so I just kept it on. Who needs a “Hello, my name is…” sticker when you have a fancy metal name tag? LOL.

It only took ten plus years for me to finally get an official name tag. I’m really glad I have one now because I’ve gotten good use out of it.

Yes, I am nerdy. Please don’t make fun of me.

The food last night was actually not bad. The vendors who participated were Emerson Biggins, Old Chicago, Il Vicino, Abuelo’s, Chapada, P.F. Chang’s, and Truffles Catering. Of course, when drinks are free it makes everything taste better. There was also a chocolate fountain in case the delicious and decadent dessert selections weren’t enough.

I really wanted to win one of the bingo prizes. No such luck, though. The big winner at our table was Brigid’s sister Mary. She won bingo game number four, called by Bonnie Bing. Bonnie was the best bingo caller that evening by the way. The other celebrities were great, but Bonnie stole the show.

Anyway, Mary won a $100 gift card to Bradley Fair. Lucky girl!

At the end of the evening we checked out the results of the silent auction to see if I won anything. Brian always tries to stop me from bidding on items and he always fails. LOL. Since he often fails to stop me, I think he just prays that someone outbids me on my items most of the time.

I’m glad we checked the silent auction results before we left because I did win one of the items that I was bidding on. It was silent auction item #217, a necklace and a sign from Pink Boa. As we were leaving, I enthusiastically (it doesn’t take a lot to get me excited) showed Misty what I’d won in the auction.

She was like, “Did you WIN it or did you BUY it?”

She can be such a “Debbie Downer” sometimes. I WON my loot in the silent auction and she’s not going to convince me otherwise.

Anyway, I had so much fun playing bingo last night that I’m actually considering hosting a bingo night at our house. Do you guys think anyone would come? Or is this just too nerdy of an idea to catch on? What do you all think?

Shakira Grand Slam

Here’s some trivia for you. Did you know that Shakira has performed at three consecutive FIFA World Cup finals events? Oh, yes. And she was amazing all three times.

Here’s the proof.

FIFA 2006 (Germany)

FIFA 2010 (South Africa)

FIFA 2014 (Brazil)

All three songs are huge in the Zumba world. Seriously. Not just these three, actually. She has so many great songs that are perfect for Zumba. You could do a whole class of just all Shakira songs (though you’re not really supposed to do that). Just saying. I love Shakira! And, apparently I’m not alone. FIFA loves her too.

And They Say There’s Nothing To Do in Kansas

Looking for something to do? Here are some options:

KEYN Summer Concert Series
Every Friday, July 11 to August 15
Wichita, KS

Kansas Biggest Rodeo
July 31 to August 2
Phillipsburg, KS

Midget Nationals
July 31 to August 2
Belleville, KS

Busker Festival
August 22 to 24
Lawrence, KS

Tumbleweed Festival
August 22 to 24
Garden City, KS

Heritage Day
August 23
Yoder, KS

Little Balkans Days
August 29 to 31
Pittsburg, KS

Did I miss anything? Add your event in the comments.

Rustier Than a Hundred-Year Old Nail

We played poker at Nilla’s last night. Ugh. I played like such a novice. Last night made me realize how rusty I am. We need to start playing poker regularly stat.

Congratulations to our friend Becca who made the final table and chopped the prize!

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April said that she saw a poster for chess tournaments, which they also have at Nilla’s. I was thinking I might actually fare better at that. Unlike poker, Brian and I have actually been playing a lot of chess lately.

Misty’s Belated Birthday Celebration

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Stacy, Cari, Brian, and I celebrated with Misty at Bonefish Grill last Wednesday. Her birthday was actually Thursday, July 10, but we didn’t get a chance to get together because we all had busy weekends.

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Last weekend Brian and I had a practice round with mom and dad at Derby Bowl. We bowled 20 games between the four of us. Mom and Brian bowled four games each before they had enough. Dad wanted to practice his sparing and wen’t for two more games. I kept him company so dad and I both bowled six games.

The practice round actually worked. I bowled my first 200 game on our league that Sunday. I’m thinking if I practice more, I may bowl even more 200 games and I’ll finally be able to make my goal of bowling a 500 series.

Saturday night was Starlite Fun night with the Dills and the Phelpi. I really thought that I’d be able to stick around for all three movies. The second movie ended well after 3 AM. I wanted to see The Fault in Our Stars but we would have been there until morning. As it was we were extremely exhausted when we got home.

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Sunday was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat day with my little sister. It was my first time seeing the show and I thought it was fantastic. Kira was singing and dancing along in her seat.

Immediately after the show Brian and I had to rush to mom and dad’s in Derby for league night. It was a heck of a busy weekend. Thus, we couldn’t celebrate with Misty and the gang until later. It worked out for the best though because we had the good fortune of getting together on “Bang Wednesday” at Bonefish. It’s the best day to be there. Since all of the “Bang Bang” items were on special it didn’t cost much to treat Misty for her birthday dinner. Heck, her drinks cost way more than her food. LOL.

Belated Happy Birthday, Misty! Cheers!

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