Monday, December 23, 2013

Strawberry Bread Is A Perfect Addition To Any Kansas City Holiday Breakfast

Looks like Kansas City is going to have a white Christmas this year.

While we don't always have snow for the holidays in Kansas City, one thing many of us do have is out-of-town guests and holiday meals to prepare.  

At my house, one breakfast item that has always been enjoyed by both my immediate family and other family members and friends is Strawberry Bread - especially with strawberry butter.

While I don't claim that it's healthy, it is easy, it is tasty, and it would make a yummy addition to any holiday breakfast.

By the way, thanks mom for handing this recipe down to me!

Strawberry Bread with Strawberry Butter

1 1/2 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 large eggs beaten

1/2 cup oil

1 cup strawberries (can be frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and soda.  

Combine the eggs, oil and berries.  Add to dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 5" x 9" loaf pan.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until bread is done.

Strawberry Butter:

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
10-oz. frozen strawberries

Combine ingredients in mixer or blender.  

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Maid's Version by Missouri author Daniel Woodrell Explodes Onto The New Book Scene

Best known for his book, Winter’s Bone, Missouri author Daniel Woodrell’s new novel, The Maid’s Version, contains all the elements that make his writing truly unique, powerful, and intriguing. 

Flashing back to 1929 and the small town of West Table, Missouri, The Maid’s Version, centers around Alma DeGeer Dunahew, a domestic servant for one of the more prominent families in town, and a mysterious explosion at the local dance hall which instantly kills forty-two of the area’s residents – including Alma’s scandalous sister Ruby. 

Alma and many of the townspeople feel the calamity was not an accident, but a purposeful act of malice, and throughout the book, different possibilities about who might have been responsible for such an evil deed are explored. 

Interestingly, the tragedy in The Maid’s Version is based on a real-life incident and possible unsolved crime that happened in West Plains, Missouri in 1928, which is Daniel Woodrell’s hometown. In fact, his family has a burial plot just 50 feet from the memorial to the unidentified victims of that catastrophic explosion. 

The Maid’s Version is only 164 pages in length, almost novella sized, but it is not a quick or easy read. It delves deeply into a community’s secrets, mistrust, anger and heartbreak. It is also heavy with themes that Woodrell commonly explores in his writing – including hardship, economic/class division, and social consciousness. 

Additionally, some might accuse The Maid’s Version of meandering at times in its story development, but what it is really doing is skillfully unpeeling the layers of a small Ozark town one character at a time, often in an uncomfortable manner because the residents of West Table are not “feel-good” people. They are suspicious, complex, and appear very hard around the edges – just like the novel. 

With an obvious tension, The Maid’s Version unfolds in a way that requires your complete attention. As you turn each page, you learn disturbing details about different townsfolk, their histories, their possible motives for committing the crime, and the effects that the horrific event has had on them and their descendants, even more than 80 years later. 

By the end, The Maid’s Version successfully and lyrically intertwines possible reasons for the sadistic explosion with the deep-rooted relationships among local families and the community until it overlaps into the story of what Alma believes truly happened on that dreadful evening. 

Although The Maid’s Version won’t necessarily leave you feeling content, happy or even satisfied at its conclusion, it is a good example of skilled literary fiction and a beautiful writing style that easily transports you into the Missouri Ozarks and into the harsh lives of the characters. You can almost physically feel their pain, anguish, and attempt at healing as they struggle to deal with a tragedy that scars them and their town forever. 

Daniel Woodrell- photo from Google
About the author: Daniel Woodrell is originally from West Plains, Missouri, a former Marine, and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Years ago, he also spent time living in Kansas City.  

The The Maid's Version is his ninth novel. His first collection of stories, The Outlaw Album, was published in 2011.  Today, he enjoys living in the Missouri Ozarks where he is contemplating his next novel.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Kansas City's Newest Mexican Restaurant Is Open For Business

Chuy's Mexican Food is now open on the Plaza!
With eclectic decor, fresh signature dishes, and a relaxed atmosphere, Chuy's Mexican Food is a fun and quirky addition to the Kansas City Plaza restaurant scene.

As soon as you walk in, you realize this is not quite your typical Mexican 
The Elvis Shrine

Brightly colored wooden fish hang from the ceiling, an Elvis shrine occupies a spot near the front (there is an Elvis shrine in every Chuy's location), and seemingly mismatched Mexican art covers the walls for as far as the eye can see.

The "Hubcap Room"
I happened to visit Chuy's at lunchtime.  I was greeted at the door by friendly staff, had no wait for a table, and was seated in a room with a hubcap ceiling (another Chuy's decorating tradition.)

Our waitress was friendly and seemed very familiar with the menu.  She also gave us free samples of Chuy's well-known creamy jalapeño sauce and the boom boom sauce, which is used on their Chicka Chicka Boom Boom entrée.

As far as the menu, there was quite a variety of items to choose from.  They had the usual Mexican restaurant items like tacos and enchiladas.  They also had several signature dishes including the "Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken" and "Big As Yo Face Burritos."

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom 
Most entrees ran between $6 and $11, came with green chile or Mexican rice and refried or charro beans and were made with your choice of seven sauce selections (including ranchero and deluxe tomatillo).  For $4.50, they also offered six menu items for children.

Chicken Chuychanga
The wait for our food was about average, maybe 15 minutes, and when our order arrived, it was piping hot and quite tasty.  I ordered a chicken chuychanga, which was $9.29, and my dining companion ordered the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for $9.99, which was an enchilada filled with fresh-roasted hand-pulled chicken, cheese, New Mexico green chiles and more.  The size proportion of the entrees was fairly large and thoroughly filled us up.  

Making fresh tortillas
As for the history of Chuy's, it was started in Austin, TX, in 1982, and now has more than 40 locations throughout the U.S.  Their "claim to fame" is that they pride themselves in making everything fresh - from their Salsa Fresca and tortillas to their signature sauces and margarittas.  

Their food philosophy is to "bring you the best, healthiest Mexican food on the planet," and their business plan is to "continue expanding and dominate the Mexican restaurant food scene across the U.S."

Inside Chuy's Mexican Food restaurant
Open since October, Chuy's address is 209 W. 46th Terrace, and their phone number is 931-2783.  

They do offer curbside service, and their hours are:

Sunday - Thursday 11:00 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.  
Friday - Saturday 11:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m.

Happy Hour at Chuy's runs Monday - Friday from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m., features a fully-loaded nacho car (yes, it's a car), House margaritas for $4.25, House Texas martinis for $7.50, and domestic beers for $2.75 each.  

While Chuy's doesn't "reinvent the wheel" in Tex-Mex food or "south of the border" cooking, it is a fun dining choice, and if asked if I would dine there again, my answer would definitely be yes.  

Diners enjoying Chuy's
Chuy's on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 30, 2013

Little Free Libraries Are Popping Up In Kansas City Neighborhoods Throughout The Metro

Little Free Library in Lee's Summit
Little Free Libraries don't require a card, their books have no due date, and you can easily create one of your own.

So what is a Little Free Library?  Basically, it's a unique weather-proof box that you can build or purchase, place in your yard and fill with books for anyone to take, return, keep or swap  for other books.  

Little Free Libraries strive to bring neighborhoods together and promote literacy in a fun and easy way, and it seems to be catching on.  

The Kansas City metro area now has several Little Free Libraries, and I recently checked out the one at 6th and Miller in Lee's Summit.

This particular library turned out to be a triangular-looking red box, decorated with a charming face, and filled mostly with adult books by an eclectic group of authors including Stephen King, Cheryl Strayed, Geraldine Brooks, Debbie Macomber, Nicholas Sparks and Harlan Coben.

What was so much fun was that as I stood there opening the door of the Little Free Library, I felt almost as excited as I do when I visit traditional libraries because I had no idea what I would discover inside.  

In fact, while looking through the approximately 30 books sitting in the library, I felt like I had discovered a miniature literary treasure chest.  It made me think "If this was in my neighborhood, I would use it all the time," and  "What a great way for moms in the area to share children's books with each other."

Little Free Libraries registered in our area include:

15754 Dearborn, Overland Park, KS 
1500 W Elm Terr, Olathe, KS 
601 SE Miller, Lee's Summit, MO
8030 Glenwood, Overland Park, KS
4916 W 78th Place, Prairie Village, KS
4317 W 67th St, Prairie Village, KS 
6509 Holmes, Kansas City, MO
105 SW 15th St., Blue Springs, MO (no photo)
1100 W Main St, Blue Springs, MO
4221 Brookridge Drive, Fairway, KS
625 S Valley St., Kansas City, KS
7019 N Cherry St., Gladstone, MO
3807 NE 72nd Terr, Gladstone, MO
2717 Broadway Terr., Leavenworth, KS

A world-wide non-profit organization, Little Free Library will have between 10,000 and 12,000 registered locations by January 2014 with the movement continuing to grow beyond expectations.

If you would like more information about the group, have an interest in creating or registering a Little Free Library, want to partner with others in  our community to build or promote Little Free Libraries and more, visit or littlefreelibrarykc for local information.

Click link below to hear Prairie Village woman discuss her Little Free Library:

Creator of Prairie Village Little Free Library Discusses Her Motivation

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Killer Tornado, A Kentucky Derby Winner and A Prominent Businessman Are All Remembered In Kansas City

What do a killer tornado, a Kentucky Derby winner, and the first Chairman of the Jackson County Sports Authority have in common?  They all have memorials located right here in Kansas City.

The Ruskin Heights Tornado Memorial

On May 20, 1957, at approximately 7:50 p.m., an F5 tornado ripped through the Kansas City metropolitan area.  Thirty-nine people died and 531 were injured.

The tornado’s path was approximately 71 miles long and at times more than half-a-mile wide.    It devastated areas of Hickman Mills and Ruskin, killing 25 people in that area alone.

Besides loss of life, property damage was horrific.  The Hickman Mills Bank at 107th and U.S. 71 Hwy lost its south wall and had to be protected by the National Guard.  Ruskin High School along with more than 100 nearby homes and a busy shopping center took a direct hit, and cars on 71 Hwy were tossed in all directions.

Although it happened more than 50 years ago, the tornado is still one of the worst twisters to ever hit the Kansas City area.  The memorial to this tragedy is on Blue Ridge Blvd at the turnoff to Ruskin High School. 

Dedicated on May 18, 1958, this tall brick structure includes the names of those who perished along with a plaque outlining the path of the deadly twister, a reminder of a dark day in Kansas City weather history.

Video of the Aftermath of Killer Tornados Across The Heartland

Memorial and Gravesite of Lawrin – Winner of the 1938 Kentucky Derby

Located right in the middle of a cul-de-sac at 59 LeMans Ct. in Prairie Village is an unusual memorial and the burial site of Lawrin - the 1938 Kentucky Derby winner and only Kansas-bred horse to ever win the great race.  Buried beside Lawrin is his sire, Insco, who also was an experienced racehorse.

The well-kept graves are surrounded by a black wrought-iron fence, and the “mini-cemetery” even includes a nice informational board with several photos of the majestic Lawrin on the day of his Derby win.

The jockey riding Lawrin that day was none other than Eddie Arcaro, who went on to win four more Kentucky Derby victories.  It was Arcaro who skillfully urged Lawrin across the finish line when the horse started to tire and drift toward the middle of the track with only an eight of a mile left to go.

Lawrin’s memorial site was originally the site of Woolford Farms, which was owned by Herbert Woolf (of the Woolf Bros. clothing store).  Woolf sold the farm in 1955, the year Lawrin died.  The land today is now part of a gated residential community with an unusual memorial to a horse that briefly made Kansas City the talk of the country.

Video of Lawrin Winning the 1938 Kentucky Derby

The Dutton Brookfield Memorial

The Dutton Brookfield Memorial has a prime real estate space in Kansas City - on Blue Ridge Cutoff overlooking Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums.  

Dutton Brookfield was the chairman of the Jackson County Sports Authority in 1966 when he helped successfully convince Kansas City to approve a $43 million plan to build new baseball and football stadiums – which went on to become the Truman Sports Complex.  Brookfield claimed he took the job because “They came to me and said I was the only one who could get it done.”   He was right.

Brookfield was born in Kansas City and graduated from the University of Missouri.  In 1955 when his father passed, Brookfield took over the Unitog Co., which manufactures work uniforms.  

He also ran unsuccessfully for mayor twice – in 1963 and 1971 - and was a former president of the Chamber of Commerce.

Sadly, Brookfield died in 1979 from burns/complications he suffered in a tragic house fire.  He was visiting his summer home in Minnesota when a fire broke out in the kitchen.  Brookfield was severely burned.  His wife was also injured.  Henry Bloch (of H & R Block) and his wife, who were staying with the Brookfields at the time, escaped injury.

Today, Brookfield’s memorial proudly watches over the sports complex he helped create for Kansas City, a perfect place for his memory to enjoy the city that he guided and loved.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Known Pitcher Cemetery Is Rich In Kansas City History

Historic Pitcher Cemetery

Established in 1830, Pitcher Cemetery is not just a family burial plot, it is also the final resting place for pioneers, a Revolutionary War soldier, and the site of two mass graves.

Located at 3306 Blue Ridge Blvd. in south Kansas City, this small half-acre graveyard was originally established for the Colonel Thomas Pitcher family and is possibly the burial site of up to 200 people.  

Mystery Grave
Colonel Pitcher was a local pioneer and Civil War veteran who is believed to be buried in the cemetery's "mystery grave" along with his wife, Nancy,  and their young son, William. 

Ledstone Noland Gravesite
Not far from the mystery grave is the final resting place of Ledstone Noland, the lone Revolutionary War soldier in the cemetery.  Noland served as a Private in the North Carolina Militia from 1776-1783 and passed away in 1839.

Pioneer Headstone
Scattered throughout the graveyard are many unmarked stones.  These are the burial sites of pioneers who passed away from illness while traveling through the area.  Pioneers often could not afford carved headstones, so their graves were marked with simple stones.

Cholera Epidemic Mass Grave
The cemetery's two mass graves are located close together at the back of the property.  The first site holds the remains of cholera victims who died when an epidemic swept through the area between 1849 and 1851.  The second one contains those killed in a Civil War skirmish near the old Pitcher School House on October 21, 1864.  It is rumored that the grave contains both soldiers and civilians, but it is unclear exactly who is buried there.

Civil War Mass Grave
At one time, Pitcher Cemetery was in dire shape, but in 1990 it was restored by a group of caring volunteers and remains in good condition today for anyone who would like to explore it.  It is open to the public and has no set hours.  There is a small shelter house with a picnic table nearby and a small parking lot directly in front of the cemetery.

A bulletin board stands at the entrance of the cemetery with bits and pieces of odd and interesting information.  The graveyard itself feels secluded and is surrounded on three sides by thick woods.  This is important to know because if you don't use bug repellant here, the chiggers and mosquitoes will eat you alive!

As far as the overall feeling of Pitcher Cemetery, it emits somewhat of a heavy, sad aura combined with an old, historical vibe.  There are reports of strange lights, odd sounds, and mysterious shapes floating throughout the cemetery, but while I was there, I did not see anything out of the ordinary. 

If you decide to stroll through this hidden little historic gem, it should take no more than an hour and is a great little lesson in Kansas City history - definitely worth checking out!

Inside Historic Pitcher Cemetery

Monday, June 17, 2013

Kansas City's Spirit of Freedom Fountain Needs Expensive Repairs

Spirit of Freedom Fountain
Kansas City is known as the "City of Fountains" for a reason.  Except for Rome, it has more operational fountains than any other city in the world, including the Spirit of Freedom Fountain located at 4700 Cleveland Avenue.

Dedicated to the city on September 13, 1981, and erected from the dream of former Kansas City Council member and community/civic leader Bruce R. Watkins,  the Spirit of Freedom Fountain celebrates African American contributions to Kansas City and includes a 5,000-pound metallic free-form sculpture sitting atop a pedestal of cascading water which flows into a basin equipped with six clusters of water jets spraying directly into the air.  

The Spirit of Freedom sculpture was designed by Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt and is meant to capture the improvisational jazz feel of Kansas City.  The fountain was funded with money and donations raised through the Spirit of Kansas City Foundation, an organization set up by Bruce R. Watkins.  

A close-up of the Spirit of Freedom Fountain
Although still currently operational and available for for weddings, the Spirit of Freedom Fountain is on Kansas City's list of fountains in need of critical repair.  The iron base supports of the pedestal are visibly beginning to bulge out, and the cost to repair the fountain is $135,000.

According to Mark McHenry, the Director of Parks and Recreation, in a recent interview with Fox 4 News, Kansas City's capital improvement budget allots approximately $250,000 a year to maintain and repair fountains, which is not nearly enough to fix the city's multiple fountain problems.  

That is where the City of Fountains Foundation comes into play.  They are a nonprofit organization working to raise the needed funds to bring all of Kansas City's 48 publicly-owned fountains back to pristine working condition.  They believe that  Kansas City's fountains symbolize our world-class status and are a visual display of community pride. 

So, next time you are in the Midtown/Plaza area, stop by and check out the Spirit of Freedom Fountain and soak up a bit of Kansas City history.  

There is no parking available at the fountain itself, but you can park on a close-by neighborhood street or in the parking lot of the nearby Bruce R. Watkins Cultural Center and then easily walk to the fountain, which is just off of the Brush Creek Trail. 

A snow-covered Spirit of Freedom Fountain

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Johnny C's Knows How To Please A Kansas City Lunch Crowd

Johnny serves up fresh baked cookies
The combination of quality food, good service and reasonable prices is sometimes hard to find in a lunch spot, but Johnny C's Deli and Pasta in Kansas City offers just that.

Opened in 1992 by Johnny Caracci and inspired by wonderful memories of preparing and eating homemade Sicilian cuisine with family in his grandmother's kitchen, Johnny C. wants his customers to experience that same feeling of happiness when they eat at his place.

Entering Johnny C's
To be honest, I never would have known about this restaurant if a friend had not told me because the location I visited (there are actually two locations)  at approximately I-435 and Front St. was so nondescript.  Tucked into the middle of a commercial strip mall at the end of Universal Avenue, it is not in a place where you would normally ever drive by and see it.  

In fact, as I walked toward the front door of Johnny C's, I looked around and wondered, "Why have a deli here?  How many people are actually going to find it?"  Then I opened the restaurant door.  Surprise! The place was packed.  

The Muffaletta Sandwich
My next thought was, "Bummer, now I'm going to have a long wait,"  because there were approximately 15 people ahead of me in the order line.  However, just the opposite turned out to be true, and in less than five minutes, I was placing my order with Johnny C. himself.  Their operation was running like a well-oiled machine, plus they had both sides of the counter open to serve double the people.  

As far as lunch deals, on the day I was there, the menu included two specials.  The first included a serving of homemade lasagna, salad, bread and butter, and a medium drink for $8.99. The second special was a 1/2 sandwich (ham, beef or turkey), a cup of soup, chips, and a 22-ounce drink for $8.49. 

The dining room at Johnny C's
The rest of the menu included a variety of cold and hot sandwiches along with  spaghetti, garlic toast, soup, several types of salads, an option to "build your own sandwich," and yummy desserts like freshly baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies and the "cake of the day." 


Cost wise, most of the sandwiches, pasta dishes and salads ranged in price from $5.99 - $7.99.  The sandwiches were served with chips, and the pasta came with salad plus bread and butter. I thought the Italian steak and chicken cordon bleu sandwiches sounded yummy, but in the end, I ordered a Swiss beef sandwich which included roast beef, Swiss cheese and barbeque sauce.

The Swiss Beef Sandwich
I then found a table in the dining area and waited for my order, which didn't take long either.  While I was sitting there, I noticed that the walls were covered with old family photos.  They were kind of interesting and gave an otherwise typical-looking restaurant a more unique and inviting vibe.  

Once the lunch rush died down a little, Johnny also came out from behind the counter to speak to his patrons, stopping by each table to say hi and check in with the customers.  It was a nice personal touch.

Johnny C. checking on customers

Overall, I found my eating experience at Johnny C's to be quite enjoyable, and if I worked in the vacinity of I-435 and Front St., I would eat there often.  It is such a better lunch choice than the fast food places around it, like McDonald's and Taco Bell, and if you're in a hurry, you can call in your order ahead of time, and they will have it ready for you when you get there.  

Johnny C's marinade and salad dressing
Keep in mind that both Johnny C's Deli & Pasta locations have limited hours and only serve lunch items, but they do offer catering services, including box lunches, deli trays and sandwich trays.  They also sell bottles of their own salad dressing and marinade. 
So, if you're ever in the area, give Johnny C's Deli and Pasta a try.  It's not fancy, but Johnny will make sure you leave full and happy.
Johnny C's Deli and Pasta

7012 Universal
Kansas City, MO
(816) 483-3354
Open Mon - Fri
9:00 a.m. -  4:30 p.m.

1113 North 5th
Kansas City, KS
(913) 281-3663
Open Mon - Fri
9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Johnny C's Deli on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's Spring In Kansas City - Or Is It?

 A storm is brewing along the bike/jogging trail in Overland Park.

Approaching Oak St - Downtown

It's going to rain again.

Another cold, gray day in KC.  We need spring weather!

Ahhhh... sunshine, tailgating and baseball at "The K"

 Looking up at the beautiful fountains in Kauffman Stadium.

 Saturday night at the is good (especially since The Royals are winning this season - so far!)

Westport Road in full bloom.

Almost looks like Mayberry, doesn't it?

Looking onto the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Spirit of Freedom Fountain located at 4700 Cleveland Ave.

Surprise... more rain - looking down Main St.

There's more than one mode of transportation in Kansas City.

The Library District - 10th and Baltimore

It's May... and it's snowing.  The story of our spring in Kansas City...

Snow and tulips