Belated Anniversary Treat for Mom and Dad

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During last weekend’s visit, we treated Donna and David to our favorite steak place — Cy’s Hoof & Horn Supper Club in Sedgwick. It’s a long ways from our home in Southeast Wichita but totally worth the drive. They have the best chicken fried steak I’ve ever had and it’s a huge portion. It’s more than enough for two people to share.

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Of course, I ordered the chicken fried steak because it’s my favorite thing on the menu. Donna ordered the same. David had the prime rib special.

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Brian wanted to try one of Cy’s legendary burgers but, after he told them to take everything out of it, it wasn’t so impressive. LOL.

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He said the onion rings were good, though.

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The homemade dessert that night was banana walnut cake with ice cream.

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I’m not sure what was going on that night. Maybe they were just super busy. The food was good but not has good as we’ve had it there. The service was slow and my mashed potatoes were on the cold side. Though I wished that it was hotter, I didn’t say anything. I hope that mom and dad enjoyed the dinner despite the service shortcomings.

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Belated happy anniversary, Mom and Dad B!

Celebration Continued at Freddy’s

After my Zumba class last Saturday, I met Brian, David, Donna, and grandma at Freddy’s Frozen Custard. It’s our most favorite burger joint.

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They had spent the morning going through grandma’s storage unit.

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Brian’s parents don’t get to visit very often so we made the most of this last visit. It was a productive visit. They were able to complete a lot of things on the “to do” list. The only down side that since it also happened to be Brian and grandma’s birthday month, we did a lot of eating out. I feel like I gained 10 pounds over the weekend.

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Grandma and Brian’s Joint Birthday Celebration

Brian and I are not really huge fans of Olive Garden but we had dinner there last weekend in honor of Brian and grandma’s birthdays. They’ve celebrated their birthdays together since the dawn of time (or really since Brian was born) and have only missed three years. The missed years were when Brian lived in Memphis.

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We don’t really care where we eat as long as we are all together. Brian’s mom and dad came up from Oklahoma. Kevin, Kasey, and their kids Kyndra and Andrew were able to join us for dinner as well. Here are some fun photos we took at dinner.

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It took some doing but I finally got a good photo of David, Kevin, Andy, and grandma.

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Here’s a good one of Andy and grandma.

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Brian and I got grandma a gift card to the Nifty Nuthouse, everyone’s favorite candy shop, and she got a bunch of other goodies from Brian’s mom and dad, including these giant chocolate covered strawberries.

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These strawberries are the size of apples!

Brian got a couple of Superman prints from his mom and dad, which are now hung in his bathroom in the basement. The placement is a little awkward but to each his own. Besides, we’re have a bathroom decorating contest in the basement and I’m convinced that my bathroom, which has the lithos we got from Julie and Viktor eight years ago, will win (with or without the help of the awkwardly positioned Superman prints).

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Brian really loved his prints! Thank you, mom and dad!

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Here are some pictures of food.

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Brian got his usual.

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David got his usual.

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Donna and I both got the chicken and shrimp carbonara.

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I was disappointed that they no longer put frozen peaches in the peach bellini iced tea but they let grandma order out of the kids’ menu and they gave us a whole basket of Andes mints at the end of our meal so all was forgiven.

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We had a great time at dinner (perhaps a little too much in Brian’s case). Thank you so much to everyone for celebrating with us.

Finally Found a Vet for Molly

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After months of searching we finally found a vet for Molly. Dr. Jon Aluise at Andover Veterinary Clinic met Molly for the first time last week and they seem to get along great. Brian and I liked Dr. Jon too because he seems like a nice person. Also, he graduated from the same high school that Brian and I graduated from (Derby High School class of ’95; Brian is class of ’92; and I’m class of ’96). Dr. Jon and Brian had some mutual acquaintances so there was an instant connection. That’s always a plus.

I found out later that one of my coworkers goes to the same vet clinic also. Good referrals are always great and give me peace of mind. We really want Molly to have the best care specially since she’s getting older.

Another great thing about this clinic is that they have boarding and daycare next door, so if Brian and I ever need to go out of town we have a nice place to take Molly where we know she will be well cared for. I’m so happy we found this new vet on our side of town. They have everything we need so we no longer have to drive across town for vet services. Hallelujah!

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.

Family Style Italian Lunch

I’m about to tell you about the best thing to happen to dining in Old Town. Gianni Bacci’s is pioneering a family style spaghetti lunch. You can find out more about it on their web site but Brian and I got to try out first hand last Saturday.

The lunch seatings are available on Fridays at noon and Saturdays and noon and 2 pm. We arrived at exactly noon so several people were already seated at the tables. There are two long tables that seat 14 each. I liked the amount of space between place settings because it didn’t feel like we were on top of each other, yet close enough to encourage conversation. Brian and I decided to sit across from each other for a change so I had strangers on either side of me. However, they didn’t feel like strangers at all.

Our meal started with an antipasti platter with prosciutto, salami, cheese, and grapes. Salad followed. It was good but I’m not much of a salad eater so I can’t comment too much on it. The main dishes were a garlic shrimp scampi with angel hair pasta and a beef penne pasta. They were both delicious. We also had some really good Italian sausage. There was plenty of food and garlic bread for everyone at the table. Several of us had seconds. I also liked that the bowls were lightweight so they were easy to pass around. For dessert we had lemon sponge cake with strawberry and whipped cream. It was so good that Brian ate it even though it wasn’t made of chocolate.

Brian tried two different beers: Sam Adam’s seasonal and the 90 Shillings IPA. He said that, of the two beer choices, he liked the 90 Shillings best. I kept it simple and just had a glass of moscato with my meal.

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The service was fantastic. Steven talked to the group a little bit and the chefs even came out and were introduced. Everyone was super friendly. Not only was the food delicious, it was a great experience overall. I’m thinking that we’ll probably be back at the end of the month. We’d go back this weekend but it’s Father’s Day and my in-laws are in town.

Since seatings are limited to 28 people, I highly recommend making reservations. Just call Steven Bacci at 316-613-3350, email steven@giannibaccis.com, or reserve your spot on their web site. This is the part where I tell you how to save money on your meal. Make your reservation by emailing Steven and — this next part is very important so I’m putting it in bold type — mention that Ching sent you. By mentioning that I sent you everyone in your party gets $2 off their meal. Then use the money you saved towards wine or beer and enjoy a fabulous meal!

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.

2015 YE Summer Partnership

I had the opportunity to help with the Youth Entrepreneurs summer partnership program at work this year. Our Topeka office has participated in the program for a few years. Last year was our first year to participate. Isaac and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with the kids when they came to tour our Customer Relations Center. These were the most brilliant young minds and they had great questions. I remember wishing that I could have spent more time with the students. This year my wish was granted when our Community Relations Manager Ebony reached out to me to be part of the 2015 summer partnership committee. My work schedule was already hectic but I didn’t even have to think about it. Of course, I said yes.

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Some important meetings prevented me from being with the class the full two weeks but I did get to interact with the kids a lot more this year, beginning with the mingle/speed interview session we hosted a few of weeks before our June 1 start date.

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I was there on the first day when the kids learned about the basics of electricity from Mr. Joe Drassen. It was a really informative presentation.

Several executives made it a point to speak to the class. Mr. Jimmy Martinez talked to the kids about how he got his start, the different jobs he’s held in the company, and what he learned along the way.

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We got to tour DSO. Pictured above is Mr. Phil Sadler talking to the kids about his area of the business. That same day is when the kids learned about emergency operations from Ms. Natalie Rolfe and Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) from Ms. Sherii Farmer.

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Since we were in the area, we took the opportunity to get a group photo of the class in front of the Keeper of the Plains. What a great looking group!

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Here’s a picture of the group at lunch.

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The class also got to tour our Emporia Energy Center and learn about our generation portfolio and public relations efforts. I didn’t get to go with them on that day because I had mandatory training with my department. That was a really cool day though because the YE class from Topeka met the Wichita class in Emporia so the two groups got to mingle and work together.

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The next time I got to join the group was when they went to our service building on Central to learn about safety and training. I was one of the drivers designated to shuttle the kids from the Wichita office to the service building on that day.

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The students learned about the importance of wearing safety gear and they got to experience climbing poles. Don’t worry. We asked them all to sign waivers ahead of time.

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The students were quite competitive, each one trying to climb higher than the last.

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Some of the students opted to skip the pole climbing in favor of getting up in the bucket. Others did both. It was really hot but everyone seemed to have a great time. It’s so much better when you can make learning fun. I think so, anyway.

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I was relieved when it was time to head back inside for the power town demo because I was melting. Couldn’t leave the kids, though.

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On the day that we were supposed to take the kids to the Symphony in the Flint Hills work site, we had transportation issues so we ended up staying in town instead. It worked out alright because I was a little nervous about driving the 12-passenger van for an hour and half. I’d never driven any kind of van before until that week.

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Since we canceled the trip to Strong City (kind of a bummer because we were going to meet up with the Topeka YE class there), I didn’t have to drive very far (just to the American Red Cross). The kids still got to experience doing some community service. Some of the kids helped with the fan distribution and disbursement of supplies. Our group helped fold brochures and stuff envelopes and bags.

On one of the days I missed, the class got to tour JR Custom Metal Products and Freddy’s Frozen Custard. I was bummed because I really wanted to join them on that day.

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I was grateful that our strategy summit ended at noon on Friday because I was able to make it back to the office in time for the final presentations. All of the teams did great but had to be ranked first, second, and third. Potato Power took third, WattStars took second, and Electric Eels finished first.

All of the presentations were very good and demonstrated the depth of knowledge the kids learned in such a short amount of time. During the two weeks the students were exposed to various aspects of our business and then some. Looking back at my own experiences growing up, I really wished that YE was around when I was in high school because the summer partnership experience is amazing. It allows you to learn about the company from the inside and meet people. It’s a great networking opportunity. In fact, one of the YE participants last year got an internship this year.

There are several great companies that participate in the summer partnership program. This year the list included Case New Holland, Morgan Stanley, Koch Industries, BKD, Eric Fisher Academy, High Touch Technologies, Cocoa Dolce, General Motors, and RSA. The Youth Entrepreneurs organization participated by hosting a summer partnership as well. Not only do the kids earn valuable experience, they also earn YE points which they can use to either fund their business or higher education.

I wish YE was around when I was young. I highly recommend it. It’s a shame it’s not available at Derby High School where my nephew goes. Classes are available at several schools in Wichita, though. Check the web site. If you’re a student (or have high school age children), this is an opportunity you definitely don’t want to miss!

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!

#HowOldRobot

Ever wondered how old you look? Wonder no more. Microsoft came up with a web site to help with just that. I played with it a few weeks ago. Here are the lovely results.

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The first photo I tried had me older than mom.

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I just couldn’t have that so I had to try another. Much better. LOL.

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I tried one where I’m by myself so my age isn’t influenced by others in the photo.

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It got better still.

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Here’s one where it said I looked younger than Jenni.

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These two photos are the best results I got.

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What I learned from this is that I look older next to mom and younger next to Brian. I’m just going to stand next to Brian from now on and stay are far away from mom as possible in photos. LOL.

Anyway, it’s kind of interesting. You should check out the site and try your own photos.

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