Brian’s Birthday Weekend

Here’s the long story about this weekend for those who are interested. Last year I took Brian to the Dominican Republic for his 40th birthday. This year I wanted to do something special but not that grand. We were initially going to Kansas City, Missouri or somewhere drivable. Jay and Becca mentioned they were going to be visiting Sandals Whitehouse over Brian’s birthday and, if we wanted to tag along, we could get a really good deal now that Brian is moonlighting as a travel agent.

We’d been to Jamaica a few times already but we’d never been to Sandals Whitehouse so we were kind of excited about it. We were to leave on Brian’s birthday, Saturday, and return on Wednesday so I’d only miss three days of work. Since it was kind of a last minute trip, the hotel was already fully booked on one of the days so we just couldn’t make it work. Lucky for us, we held off purchasing airfare until we could secure our rooms so we weren’t out anything (except for some clothes and shoes I’d bought specifically for the trip but I can wear those this summer).

Because the Jamaica trip fell through, we had absolutely nothing going on. Naturally, I was accepting invites left and right. We got invited to a tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s, and then the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Beta Kappa Omega chapter’s 80th anniversary gala on Saturday, and then on Sunday we had a birthday dinner for Brian at Bonefish Grill (Thank you, mom!) and the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race showcase at the Wichita Orpheum Theatre. Had it not been Brian’s birthday weekend, I probably would have said yes to even more stuff. LOL.

SIDENOTE: It’s not very often that I have this much freedom on weekends because I teach Zumba every Saturday and Sunday at Andover YMCA. I just happened to have subs lined up this past weekend because I thought I was going to be in Jamaica.

Here’s our conversation leading up to the weekend…
BRIAN: You hijacked my entire birthday!
CHING: What do you mean? We had nothing planned.
BRIAN: That’s what I wanted to do.
CHING: Nothing? You wanted to do nothing at all? You are such a bump on a log! You need to live and do stuff.
BRIAN: I’m not a log.
CHING: No, you’re a bump.

I’d normally feel bad about taking the whole weekend over but we’d been celebrating his birthday pretty much all month (last weekend we had Abuelo’s and Redrock Canyon Grill) and we’re going to continue celebrating when his parents visit this weekend. On top of that, the weekend turned out fantastic. Even he will admit that he had a blast.

Anyway, we’ve been together for about 16 years now and we are compatible in every way. I think the only thing that really causes a bit of tension (though nothing serious because we don’t really have serious fights anymore, we make such a great team) between us is that Brian wants to do NOTHING and I want to do EVERYTHING. I suppose that’s how we balance each other out. I would probably die of exhaustion if it weren’t for Brian and he probably wouldn’t experience life as much if it weren’t for me.

Headed to Gianni Bacci's for lunch. Things were going swimmingly until it started raining. LOL.

This is a picture of us on our way to the tasting lunch at tasting lunch at Gianni Bacci’s. We had to pull over on the way there to roll the top up because it started raining.

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Brian got to try a couple of different beers with lunch.

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Thanks to our friend Ebony for the gala tickets.

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I don’t know about Brian but hearing Sheinelle Jones‘ keynote at the gala was definitely the highlight for me. She’s so inspirational.

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We got to hang with the Shermans also, which was an added bonus.

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On Sunday we met mom and Jenni at Bonefish for a birthday dinner in Brian’s honor.

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Mussels! Mmmm!

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Can’t go to Bonefish Grill and not have bang bang shrimp.

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Brian had the sirloin and crab cake with double mash side.

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Jenni had the fontina chop with au gratin potatoes.

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I had the imperial tilapia with double jasmine rice. I don’t care what they say about tilapia. I still like it.

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Mom had the bang bang shrimp tacos.

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We all shared a creme brûlée for dessert.

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We ended the evening at the Orpheum for the Down to the Wire: 24 Hour Film Race. What a wonderful weekend!

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P.S. This one is our favorite out of all of the film entries.

Lemon Parade from Eron Rawson on Vimeo.

2015 Celebrity & Chef Cookoff

Brian and I had a blast at the Celebrity & Chef Cookoff on Tuesday night. It’s a benefit for the Wichita Orpheum Theatre and it’s one of our favorite fundraising events.

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We missed it last year because we were celebrating Brian’s 40th birthday in the Dominican Republic. Our friend Jimmy (pictured above) who is on the Orpheum board was nice enough to save us a spot at the table this year.

The event has grown so much since the last time we attended in 2013. The event was held at the Wichita Marriott hotel that year. Because of the increased attendance they had to move the event to the Intrust Bank Arena last year and that’s where the event was held again this year.

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Brian and I are nerds and actually asked for permission to park in the special Lexus VIP parking lot across from the arena. Lots of other people parked there but I didn’t see any other yellow hang tags. I guess we didn’t have to ask for permission after all because it was pretty much open to the public. LOL. We always follow the rules, though.

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I’m not sure if they did the same thing last year but this year they had our bid numbers printed on our wristbands. It made me feel like a hospital patient, which was odd, but made bidding really convenient so, in that regard, it was brilliant.

I didn’t really find anything that I couldn’t live without in the silent auction but some of the live auction packages were really good. I really wanted the “Movie Night at the Orpheum” package where you could have a private movie night for up to 1,200 guests, which would be great for a birthday or anniversary celebration. The package included free popcorn and fountain drinks for 500 people. If only we had that many friends!

The other package that we found appealing was the “Rock the Intrust Bank Arena” package for a concert suite, food, and beverages at the Intrust Bank Arena for the Boston and Blue Oyster Cult concert on August 9. The package includes use of the concert suite, 16 tickets (which is about how many friends we have that might be interested in going), 3 parking passes and $500 to spend on food and beverages (not including sales tax and gratuity). This would have been a perfect way to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary, which is on the 10th. Alas, the bidding started out at our max budget. LOL.

I think they had record-breaking attendance this year and they also had great participation from area restaurants who generously donated food and services for the event. We got to try food from restaurants we haven’t even visited.

The following restaurants hosted tasting tables:

  • Bella Vita Bistro
  • Bob & Luigi’s
  • Café 402
  • Delicious Deliveries
  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
  • Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
  • Jersey’s Grill & Bar
  • Kanai Sushi
  • Lotus Leaf Café
  • Lou’s Charcuteria
  • Mead’s Corner
  • Molino’s Mexican Cuisine
  • Old Mill Tasty Shop
  • Chef Jeremy Pacacha
  • Rocco’s Little Italy
  • SAVOR at Intrust Bank Arena
  • Taste & See/Gianni Bacci’s
  • Todd Brian’s Brick Street Café & Tavern
  • Twizted Confections
  • Wagonmasters
  • Woodfire Grille at Kansas Star Casino

Brian and I had two totally different strategies for sampling all the food. I ate as I went so I was completely full halfway through, which was a real bummer because I really wanted to try everything. Brian, on the other hand, collected food from almost all of the tasting tables before feasting.

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Brian brought almost a dozen little plates back to our table. This is a picture of just a few of them. It was quite hilarious. I think both times he ran into Chef Jason, who was one of the judges, he had several plates full of food in his hands.

The other judges included Bobby Lane, Chester’s Chophouse Executive Chef, and Denise Neil, Wichita Eagle food columnist/writer. The late Tanya Tandoc was also slated to judge. May her beautiful soul rest in peace.

The team of Ben George, Executive Chef of SAVOR at Intrust Bank Arena, and Adam Mills, President and CEO of the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association won this year’s cookoff. Other celebrities who participate in challenge included Barbara Baan, host of KSN’s Baan Appetit; Dan Ihm, Vice Present and General Manager of the Kansas Star Casino; Coleen Jennison, Cox Communications Market Vice President for Kansas; Mayor Jeff Longwell; Gary Oborny, Occidental Management Chairman/CEO; Scott Redler, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers Vice President/COO; and Jon Rosell, Executive Director of the Medical Society of Sedgwick County (MSSC).

The other chefs who competed were John Conklin, Rocco’s Little Italy; second place finisher Jason Fisher, Café 402 located inside the Downtown Wichita YMCA; Paul Freimuth, Harvest Kitchen located at the Hyatt Regency; Paul Guerrero, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill; Jim McNulty, Kansas Star Casino; Jeremy Pacacha, Eurest Dining Services at Spirit Aerosystems; and third place finisher and last year’s co-champion Adrian Prud Homme de Lodder, Bella Vita Bistro.

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Even though four-time champion Chef Jason Febres (of Taste & See/Gianni Bacci’s) wasn’t competing this year there was some stiff competition. When I walked by to take these photos, I could tell that they were cooking up some amazing stuff based on the aromas wafting through the air.

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What an amazing event, benefitting a great cause — the Wichita Orpheum Theatre. We try to support the theater by attending events there every chance we get. Anyway, I hope Brian and I have the opportunity to attend the event again next year.

Tomorrow is the Final Day of Riverfest

I hope you’ve taken time this week to enjoy the Wichita River Festival. It only happens once a year after all. If you missed it, I guess there’s always next year.

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Brian and I got to walk in the Sundown Parade on opening night.

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Faith and her kids were there too. It was a ton of fun. Next year I’m thinking of inviting my little sister Nickira to walk in the parade with us. You can see more pictures here.

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Last Saturday we did Zumba at Ackerman’s Backyard at Riverfest.

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It was such a blast!

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I’m so grateful to Pat for organizing the event.

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Here’s a picture of me and Missy below.

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After doing Zumba, Brian and I waited in line to for the Wichita Wagonmasters River Boat Tour. I’d been to Riverfest before but I’d never had the patience to wait in line for one of the boat tours. This time we decided to wait it out because my friend Bill who is a Wagonmaster was the “voice” or tour guide.

It was super fun and totally worth the wait. The river boat tour is definitely my favorite event at Riverfest.

Tomorrow is your last chance to check out the 2015 Wichita River Festival and participate in some of the fun events. I encourage you to swing by and check out the festivities because it’s not happening again until next year. See you there!

2015 NPC Midway USA Championships

I can’t speak for Brian but I’ve been stuck in a rut lately and decided I needed some inspiration. As luck would have it, some of our friends were competing in a fitness competition so I ended up buying us a couple of front row tickets for that. Brian didn’t mind going because he knew he’d be looking at half-naked women all evening.

Here are some pictures from the show for you guys to enjoy…

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Some of the classes were stacked while others only had one, two, or a handful of entrants. Lots of competitors in this class.

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Top five below.

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With their medals.

Next class.

Top five with medals.

Another class.

Top five with medals.

Then the winners of each class take the stage to be judged together. They’re competing for the overall title.

Every inch of their body is scrutinized by the discerning judges.

They’re even made to switch places. It’s quite intense. Who do you think won this one?

Then we go through the whole thing all over again for the open classes. I don’t really know much about fitness competitions but I gathered, from watching all of the contestants, the open classes are tougher. At least in novice, previous winners can’t compete. In the open classes you’re competing with pros.

Top five with medals.

Next class.

One of the winners from novice made the top five.

Another class.

Top five.

Again the winners are judged together for the honor of overall winner.

Check him out.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer watching the women.

Our friend Jeanne is rightmost in the above photo and leftmost below.

Here’s a video of Jeanne.

These women had the most amazing booties. Actually, I take that back. They had amazing everything.

Here’s our friend Amanda. There were lots of competitors in her class.

Here’s a video of the introductions.

She got third in the novice class.

Here she is again in open.

Video from the open class.

There was some stiff competition but she managed to take home fifth.

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Morgan was the open bikini overall champion.

Here are some videos of posing routines.

Winners get to do a pose down.

I’m so glad we were able to watch our friend Jeanne compete.

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I don’t know about Brian I’m totally inspired. I’m up 20 pounds from my pre-thyroidectomy weight and I’m so ready to start shedding my excess baggage.

Congrats to all of the winners and all of the competitors last weekend. You guys are an inspiration to us all!

Mother’s Day Weekend

I hope everyone had a fantastic Mother’s Day weekend. We started ours off on Saturday night with grandma.

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They had a lovely reception at Cherry Creek for all the women residents. There were snacks, fruit punch (fake sangria) and sangria. They even had an acoustic guitar player.

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Grandma got a lovely carnation from Sharon.

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She also got first dibs on the sangria.

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For our part, we got grandma a Mother’s Day card and the Annie soundtrack that she’d been wanting since we watched the movie.

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Kudos to the Cherry Creek staff for putting together a nice reception for the residents.

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On Sunday morning we met dad, mom, and Jenni at Piccadilly Grill for brunch. We were on a bit of a tight schedule because mom and dad wanted to be at Derby Bowl for Logan and Matt’s first bowling league at 12:30 PM and then I had a Zumba class to teach in Andover at 1:00 PM. We managed to make it work.

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Here are some pictures of the fantastic brunch spread.

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The buffet today was double the size of their normal brunch.

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In addition to the regular buffet, there was a waffle station, omelette station, and a ham and roast beef carving station. They also had smoke salmon, various cheeses, and tabouli. Piccadilly is a Mediterranean restaurant after all.

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There was a huge selection of cakes and pies for dessert.

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Made me wish I didn’t have to teach Zumba so I could stuff my face silly. I still tried, though. At almost $25 per person, you best believe I tried to get my money’s worth. LOL. I’m kidding! I behaved (for the most part).

Piccadilly Grill on Urbanspoon

Anyway, I’m really glad that we got to have brunch today at Piccadilly. Brian told me that they’re going to be tearing the place down so today was the last Mother’s Day brunch before the demolition happens. I hope that Piccadilly Grill returns after the new building is finished. The thought of the restaurant closing really makes me sad. There are very few places that serve a fantastic brunch buffet here in town and Piccadilly is one of them.

If you’ve never been to Piccadilly Grill, I highly recommend checking it out. Specially since their days are numbered. Who knows when they’re reopen or if they reopen after the construction is complete. Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments below.

52nd Annual Honors Night

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Brian and I had the privilege of attending the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Honors Night a couple of weeks ago. It was at Beech Activity Center this year, the same place that Cards for the Cure has been held that last few years.

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You wouldn’t be able to tell that it’s the same place though because the tables were all decked out for Honors Night, complete with fancy table center pieces (each table had a different one) and a few bottles of wine.

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The event is a celebration of individual, corporate, and architectural achievements that enhance the Wichita community. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception received the Keeper of the Plains Award, an award recognizing an architectural project completed by a firm, organization, or individual, which has contributed to the beauty of our community.

I’ve never been inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (also known as Saint Mary’s Cathedral) since I’m not Catholic but the restoration is impressive. I definitely want to check it out one of these days and see the remarkable architecture in person.

Mr. Steve Clark received the Chamber’s most prestigious individual award, Uncommon Citizen. It’s an honor bestowed on those who have made uncommon contributions to the people and institutions of Wichita year after year.

Wichita State University received the Spirit of Wichita award which is only given to an institution that was previously recognized with an Over the Years award at least 20 years ago. This year’s Over the Years award recipients were Meritrust Credit Union, LDF, and Youth Entrepreneurs.

These videos are extremely well done so I had to share them with you guys. They’re so awesome that I almost want to win an award so that I could have my very own video vignette. LOL.

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Here’s a picture of the trophies. Below is a picture of Mr. Steve Clark with his Uncommon Citizen trophy and, below that, is a picture of Dr. Bardo who received the Spirit of Wichita award on behalf of Wichita State University.

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There are more pictures of the event on the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page. Brian and I are both grateful for the opportunity to attend the event and witness these honorees receive their well-deserved awards.

Congratulations to all of the awards recipients and thank you for all that you do for the Wichita community!

KANSEL Trivia Night

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Brian and I attended KANSEL’s trivia night with Karen and her husband Don and Shane and his wife Sarah a few weeks ago.

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They were quite serious about their trivia, complete with proctors throughout the banquet room and baskets for phones. Absolutely no cheating allowed.

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We may have sucked at trivia but we had the best team captain ever!

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!

21st Annual Wichita Heart Ball

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Brian and I had a blast last night at the 21st Annual Wichita Heart Ball at the Drury Plaza Broadview Hotel. We were excited for the opportunity to attend the event again this year because we had a great time last year.

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Our table consisted of a bunch of young people this year — my coworker Josh and his wife Jessica, Isaac and wife Crystal, Nykole and husband Allen, and Shanda and Nykole’s sister Tyfanee who was her plus one. Brian and I were definitely the oldest in our group, but not the oldest there. With the exception of the Sweethearts, most of the people who attend the Heart Ball are older. Let’s face it. Not many people in their 20s or 30s can afford the $300 ticket price ($500 per couple).

I’m not sure that Brian and I would even be able to go if it weren’t for the free tickets from work. Well, we probably could but I’d have to reallocate all my charitable contributions. If I dialed back my United Way and YMCA donations then we’d have the funds to go. LOL.

The free tickets to the Heart Ball are a nice perk, though. And one that I really appreciate because it allows me to not sacrifice any of my other charitable giving.

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The Wichita Heart Ball is probably the fanciest fundraising event/gala that we attend. The decor this year was even better than last year. The food looked fantastic as usual, but Brian and I agreed that the food wasn’t as good as last year.

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My steak wasn’t tough to eat but it was touch to cut with a regular knife. I think it’s because of the way they cut the meat. I don’t think it would have been as challenging had they provided everyone with steak knives. Brian’s main complaint was that his steak was too pink in the middle. He’s a well done kind of guy.

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The flourless chocolate torte was delicious and I ate every bit of mine. Last year there were two dessert options — the chocolate torte and creme brûlée — but this year you only had once choice. I’m thinking maybe the creme brûlée wasn’t as popular last year and so they just decided to go with the safer choice.

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Of course, if you didn’t quite get enough to eat, there’s always the chocolate fountain at the official after party — the Pulse Party is where everyone gets to cut loose to music provide by The Source.

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Had to take a selfie at the Pulse Party.

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We danced to a couple of songs and then had to rest our feet.

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My feet were killing me because I had to wear my extra tall heels. I would have worn the heels that mom loaned me to wear with the dress that she also loaned me but the dress was too long. The only way to keep the hemline from sweeping the floor was to wear super tall shoes.

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We took a few more selfies while we waited for the silent auction to close. We won a couple of baskets and had to wait to check out, which we couldn’t do until 10:45 pm.

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I was exhausted by the end of the evening but we had a lot of fun. I hope we have the opportunity to attend again next year.

Couples Painting Night

Despite the challenges we ran into trying to do a couples painting project together last Valentines we still decided to have another go at it this year. LOL.

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We initially had a few couples interested but then everyone bailed at the last minute except for Holly and Meader.

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When we first decided to do the couples painting thing this year, I was bummed that it wasn’t going to be a private event like last year. However, after everyone started bailing, I was relieved that it wasn’t a private event because we would have been on the hook for all of those painting fees. Another benefit of the event being open is that we got to meet some really cool people, who we never would have met otherwise. We also bumped into one of Brian’s former coworkers at T-Mobile, Levi.

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This is the couple painting project that we were going for; unfortunately, ours didn’t turn out as successfully. Brian wouldn’t even let me take a picture of his final painting.

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Mine started out a mess. Brian’s started out really well.

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Meader’s and Holly’s paintings started well and ended up awesome.

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I guess it works out well when you are creative and have a plan.

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Here’s a picture of my final painting.

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My painting actually looks better after I painted over everything. Brian didn’t like the way his turned out after he painted over it so there is no picture of his painting. I don’t think we will be putting these paintings on display. We will try this again next year. Hopefully with better results.

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