Postcard: Wichita, Kansas – There’s No Place Like Home

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

Early last week, as I prepped for my weekend business trip, the tune “Kansas City” from The Jacksons: An American Dream TV mini-series played in my mind. It played till I realized I wasn’t head to Kansas City but to Wichita. My mistake…

Of course, when I remembered where I was headed, it made me think of Dorothy and Toto. It made me think of the quest for home and the journey to courage, wisdom, and heart.

If you’re in need of another Jackson reference, consider The Wiz movie adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. Then just ease on down the road.

Or maybe, you want a different literary reference all together. In which case I have this one for you: The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverley Cleary which my dudes and I just finished reading before my trip.

In the story our protagonist, Ralph Mouse, gets trapped under a water glass by two school teachers (kindergarten and second grade). They debate whether or not they should take him back to Wichita, Kansas with them to sit in a cage on the windowsill of their respective classrooms.

Regardless of the reference that says: “Wichita” to you, I have to say it’s not a place I enjoy visiting, at least not usually. I’ve been both for business and personal reasons. The city doesn’t appear to have a lot to offer.

It doesn’t help that my work trips are short with specific constraints. I mainly see the inside of a conference center. The only view of the city and its tourism happen through the window of a moving vehicle.

We stayed at the Drury Place which had all the charm of centuries gone by with the modern amenities of our techie society.

My favorite thing was the fact that there was a mail chute or tube system that ran to every floor. In its heyday the letters would fall to a black cast iron box in the lobby with the words: US Postal Service painted in gold. It was sealed but it reminded me of my love of handwritten letters. I wish I’d taken some pictures.

The hotel offered a program called: Kickback. Essentially an appetizer buffet that you could make into your evening meal: hotdogs, pasta, baked potatoes, and other snackable items like nachos. Also, included were three alcoholic beverages. A nice way to thank guests for choosing their hotel I’d say.

The beauty of my job is that each event gathers large groups of people together. A Petri dish, if you will, of human behavior. A writer’s dream. And this trip was no different. The people of Wichita, both guests and staff, were friendly and warm with ready smiles.

And I met a couple of characters along the way:

The chef who said he needed a hug and a kiss on the mouth (really?) in order for us to continue enjoying the freshly popped corn. (Part of Kickback which means it’s complementary.) Needless to say I offered the hug but I don’t kiss on the first date.

And then there was the cabbie who insisted on calling me baby, like we were a couple. Ha … we skipped right to terms of endearment? Yes, as I said, friendly people.

Side note: my experience taught me, if you go to Wichita, rent a car. Cab service is practically obsolete. (You have to call ahead by at least an hour.)

The weather was windy yet sunny and warm. A far cry from the snow and sleet my family had to contend with while I was away. And bonus … no tornados.

Saving grace of this trip: Redrock Canyon Grill.

Service was impressive. Watching the servers was like watching a well timed dance performance. As wait staff glided in and out, maneuvering around one another to clear plates and drop off refills and ask what we needed. It didn’t matter that they weren’t our server, if it needed to be done and they were near by, they handled it. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

And the food? AMAZING. We had the Shrimp Cargot to start (I didn’t get a picture); followed by salad with a signature sweet ranch dressing (so delicious); then the main dish of steak and redskin mashed potatoes (oh the mash with green onions and garlic … yum); and of course the end of the meal … a dessert called Something Chocolate (truly divine).

If you ever make it to Wichita, this place has to be on your list. Warning … go early because this is the spot. People were wrapped around the bar, spilling out of the waiting area and teeming around outside by the open fire pit.

Thanks to the memorable dining experience (I now need to lose a few more pounds); and the friendly people, Wichita has climbed a few ticks up my list of places to visit.

But despite all of this, I have to agree with Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.” And for me home isn’t Wichita but at least now I would look forward to going back.

What place has surprised you and ended up on your favorites list? If you’ve been to Wichita and have suggestions of places to see or go, let me know because I’ll be headed back at some point for work.

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Postcard: Seeing Seattle

The skyline of Seattle, Washington at dusk. In...

I made my annual business trip to Seattle. This is the first time in four years that the weather was truly rainy and grey. All the other trips have been filled with green scenery and sunshine; a little misty but never rain. Imagine my surprise to have the reality of Seattle touch my personal experience. Fortunately, I was indoors most of the trip attending a convention.

In spite of the cooler temperatures I loved my five days in the city. On the one and only clear sunny but wet day, I had a bounce in my step and a smile on my face as I walked the two short blocks to a local eatery, 13 Coins, for a meal with a friend I haven’t seen in over a decade.

13 Coins had floor to ceiling studded brown leather booths. It made me think of dining cars in old train movies. There were alcove tables where couples could sit rubbing elbows on the same side of the table watching passersby.

The ambience gave us a stately privacy to catch up over a fabulous breakfast. Sorry I forgot to take pictures. But if you ever make it to Seattle, I encourage you to put 13 Coins on your food tour.

But wait there’s more tales of fine dining…

Usually when I travel for work, my cohort and I hit the local Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse for the purpose of a perfectly cooked filet mignon. This time we abandoned our own tradition and ventured a try at a new steakhouse:  The Capital Grille. Yummy!

I won’t compare the two restaurants . They’re both delicious. It just depends on the kind of delicious you want on any given day.

My favorites from the meal were the cream corn with bacon (to die for) and the coconut creme pie (heavenly). My travel companion’s vote would be for their lobster mac and cheese.

If you don’t have The Capital Grille near you, put it on your list to experience in your travels.

But rich food isn’t all that Seattle has to offer. This city is vibrant and alive; always awake. As we left the grille, we were amazed by the number of people roaming the city streets. People who seemed to be window shopping in the city’s thriving downtown area without any concern for the late hour.

Picturesque hotels and bright neon lights which were just as busy as the foot traffic. The highways were congested as residents made their way to adventures unknown to us. It’s this hustle and bustle that has us committing to tacking on extra days during our next visit so we have time to sight see, hit the tourist traps, and experience Seattle leisurely.

We had lunch in our hotel the last day before heading to our final business stop. The best part was the tomato bisque in an asymmetric bowl. After which we packed up the car and headed to the gorgeous Suncadia Resort, an hour or so outside of the city. Breathtaking landscape … Snowcapped mountains … Autumn colors touching the trees. Pictures don’t do it justice.

We arrived late for our presentation due to snow. Thankfully, our clients were gracious; inviting us to stay the night. But we’re Michigan girls so we know how to handle driving through snow; our first snow event of the year. And despite our love for the Seattle NW area, we were ready to get home to family and friends. So we caught our red eye flight and left the dynamic city behind.

Tell me your Seattle stories. Or, give me the names of some other Seattle restaurants to try. My travel partner is a foodie and up for new places.

So long Seattle, see you next year … I’ll be ready for a new escapade.

Cereal? It’s What’s for Dinner!

What’s for dinner? This is the topic of conversation every night when I pick up the boys. It goes something like this:

Child:  What’s for dinner?
Parent:  Food.
Child:  What kind of food?
Parent:  The kind you eat.
Child:  You always say that.
Parent:  It’s always true.

Most nights, for me, it’s cereal. Not in the replace-2-meals-a-day sort of way. I’m not on a special or trendy diet. But rather in a my-boys-are-so-picky sort of way.

Here’s what I mean:

I have one who doesn’t like to eat meat. You name it:  chicken, beef, or pork. The other one doesn’t like anything with a carbohydrate in it. You know:  potatoes, pasta, or bread.

Neither one will eat a veggie. If it’s green (especially leafy) they aren’t touching it. No matter how you dress it up. I know the trick of putting cheese on it but wait … you’ll soon understand.

Sometimes they will eat fruit but only certain fruit and only if it’s fresh not canned. So pineapples, grapes, and apples always make the cut. Please don’t put a peach in front of them. Why? Because of the peach fuzz. Apparently:  “It freaks me out a little, Mom.”

Keep in mind it’s not just types of foods, it’s textures too. For example, they both say yes to apples but one says no to applesauce and the other enjoys it from time to time.

I have one who avoids dairy. While the other loves yogurt and creamy ice cream. I mean we can’t even order pizza because melted cheese “freaks out” the dairy hater. And that means no cheese on veggies.

You may be surprised to know that they will eat a number of beans and legumes. Not typical for kids or at least in my experience.

Now we haven’t even talked about allergies. One who can eat anything as far as we know. And one who can’t have any type of nut and had a reaction to crab legs so we’re avoiding sea food with him in general.

Do you see what I’m faced with? The easy meals that satisfied me as a child won’t fly with my kids. No Kraft Mac and Cheese (even if it’s the cheesiest). No PB&J sandwiches. You can have the J but then we have to deal with the bread issue. No fish sticks. Oh and they aren’t big on hot dogs.

Tell me, how do you create a home cooked dinner that meets the needs of these picky palates? You don’t. So I don’t. I’ve stopped trying. Instead I make them vote and negotiate amongst themselves about dinner options. This technique has its own challenges.

One says:  “I want to get something at home. I want to go straight home.” [You have to say it with a whine in your voice to get the full effect.]

The other says:  “Not me. I want to eat at a restaurant and get an order.” [You have to say it defiantly.]

But once they agree, I deliver and then come home to eat whatever flavor of cereal we have; usually Frosted Flakes but lately Coco Puffs or Lucky Charms.

Cereal? It’s what’s for dinner.

As I run into people I haven’t seen in a while they all make similar comments:  “You’ve lost a lot of weight.” And I consider it a compliment. I don’t mind hearing it. Some people even have attitude about it. Like this is a personal affront to them.

Regardless, I am not trying to lose weight. Sorry … I’m not. Dropping pounds and inches isn’t on my radar in a proactive way. That’s not why I’m eating cereal for dinner.

Even though some may say (including my husband) that I’ve given parenting control to the kids, I like to think of it as choosing my battles. They eat but they have to decide and practice negotiation. They eat things that they like so we don’t argue (as much).

And I have the added benefit of weight loss and maintenance as a result. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this method.

Maybe I am on a special diet! But if you have advice on meal options for my picky family, please let me know!