Back 2 School Survival – Monday Motivation!!

Debbie Millman found herself savoring the simple beauty of her home garden while spending more time at home. Her touching words that she shares about finding solace and peace through moments of reflection while at home are inspiring. Click on the image below to hear her touching words.

Choose your adventure: 8 safe day trips to get you outside

Back 2 School Survival – It’s Fri – Yay! Here is a great article brought to you by Kansas City Magazine.

Choose your adventure: 8 safe day trips to get you outside

Stir-crazy yet? After nearly six months of social distancing, that’s to be expected. And yet, things aren’t exactly back to normal. Never fear, we’re here to help with 8 great day trips from Kansas City. We picked spots that are safely spacious—think secluded hikes, prairie ghost town and massive earthen mounds—but which offer excitement, fresh air and much-needed changes of scenery. Get out there, but remember to use common sense and follow CDC guidelines.

We’ve selected 8 of the best day trips between one and four hours from KC. They’re broken up by four themes: culture, food, adventure and history. They’re organized by distance, starting with trips that are just an hour from town. There are four adventures in each direction and for each theme. So if you’re headed east, we’ve got four adventures on the way with four different themes; if you’re into food, we’ve got four adventures in different directions. Have fun out there!


1. Adventure: The best hiking in the KC area is up in Weston

To stand on a rocky Missouri bluff while experiencing breathtaking views of rolling green hills, you need to take the quick trip up to Weston.

Weston Bend State Park has a few walking trails, but West Ridge Trail is the best: A large portion of the trail abuts the Missouri River and gives hikers sweeping views of the flowing water and the other side of the state line. West Ridge’s two-and-a-half-mile loop is moderately difficult with a few steep elevation changes, but the trail itself is pretty smooth. Still, it’s smart to be on the lookout for exposed roots, rocks and mini mudslides after a rainfall.

West Ridge easily connects to Harpst Trail and Paved Bicycle Loop. If you take the long loop through all three trails, it’ll take you about two-and-a-half hours. There’s a lookout point a few feet from the West Ridge Trailhead—we recommend saving this for the end of your hike as a reward for your efforts. The scenic overlook, a planked deck tapered around a tree, gives panoramic views of the state line river and Fort Leavenworth’s imperial-looking clocktower. —Nicole Bradley

While you’re there: Visit O’Malley’s Pub. The historic bar sits six stories below the limestone bones of the old Weston Brewing company, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

2. History: Retrace the footsteps of an iconic American freedom fighter in Osawatomie

Photo courtesy of John Brown House

After a mob executed an abolitionist minister, John Brown vowed to “consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery.” He achieved that through martyrdom following his failed plot to raid a Virginia armory and free African Americans held in bondage across the South. But Brown first took up arms in defense of black personhood while living in a small cabin in the rural Kansas town of Osawatomie. There, the man who would become an icon of freedom engaged in battles during the “Bleeding Kansas” era, starting with his bold leadership in bringing frontier justice to some of the thugs responsible for the sacking of the peaceful abolitionist settlement of Lawrence. Of all Brown’s heroics, the most impressive may be the skirmish documented on the signs at the John Brown Memorial Park in Osawatomie, where he led a severely outnumbered group of freedom fighters to a draw against a militia led by Missouri slaver John W. Reid. —Martin Cizmar

3. Culture: Walk through the earliest era of KC at Missouri Town 1855

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While you’re there: Right outside the park you’ll find Jazzy B’s Diner, which has both traditional KC ’cue and sea-food. We like the funky blue cheese potato salad and a saucy brisket sandwich.

At Fleming Park in eastern Jackson County, you can glimpse KC life in another era. That starts on the way into Missouri Town 1855, where the buffalo roam, and continues inside the thirty acres set aside for the park. In these idyllic pastures, you’ll find antebellum homes and barns moved here for preservation, along with a working blacksmith shop firing a coal furnace and a dry goods store stocked with period products, some of which are for sale. When the park is open, expect to find reenactors dressed in period garb playfully encouraging you to vote in a mock election or giving a brief history of the Missouri mule. —Martin Cizmar

4. Food: Get nationally-recognized bread in charming downtown Lawrence

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Photo by Rebecca Norden and Caleb Condit

1900 Barker is a tiny bakery and coffee shop owned and operated by the Petrehn brothers—Taylor, the baker, and Reagan, the coffee guy. It’s just five years old and has been nominated for James Beard Awards the past three years, making it the only Lawrence establishment to have ever garnered a nomination for the prestigious national food awards.

From the outside, there’s not much to call your attention. The small white building was once home to a laundromat. The unremarkable exterior belies the wonders within. Before you pass through the glass door at 1900 Barker, a tempt-ing scent will reach you—a subtly sweet yeasty aroma that somehow smells the way a warm hug feels. Inside, it’s a sight to behold. There’s a glass pastry case filled with impossibly golden, many-layered croissants, pretty galettes finished with fresh fruit and perfect mini quiches. Behind the counter, racks and racks are stacked with an endless supply of naturally leavened bread, including long baguettes, oval olive and rosemary loaves, chunky hunks of cranberry almond, dark squares of Danish rye and round wheels of seeded multigrain sourdough. If you’d like your pick of the daily offerings, get to the shop early and be prepared for a short wait. It’s well worth it. —Natalie Gallagher


5. History: The site of a brutal bludgeoning spree is now open to thrill-seekers and paranormal investigators

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Photo courtesy of Villisca Ax Murder House

In the tiny Iowa town of Villisca sits a house that would be completely unassuming if it weren’t for the sign in the yard reading “Ax Murder House.”

On June 10, 1912, eight people were bludgeoned to death here. It’s believed that the killer(s) hid out in the attic while waiting for the family to return home from a church function. After everyone fell asleep, the killer(s) emerged and bludgeoned Josiah and Sarah Moore, their four children and two young girls spending the night. The investigation yielded a number of suspects, but nobody was ever convicted, and the case remains unsolved to this day.

The house was a rental for many years before being restored to its original condition in the nineties—the owners removed the electricity, plumbing and garage and added an outhouse, chicken coop and barn. The house has been the subject of a number of books and movies and has been featured on paranormal docu-reality shows such as Ghost Adventures and Most Terrifying Places in America.

Today, the house operates as a museum and tourist attraction. Visitors can take tours during the day for ten dollars. The tour includes a video and a quick lesson on the history of the house. Then the tour guide will leave you and your group alone with the house—and whatever other residents may still be there. For true thrill-seekers and paranormal enthusiasts, a group of six or fewer can reserve the entire house for overnight tours and investigations for just four hundred twenty-eight.—Ethan Evans

6. Food: A new hatchling joins the generations-old chicken fight in a Kansas mining town

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Photo courtesy of Chicken Annie’s

It’s no secret that for the past eighty years, the town of Pittsburg, Kansas, has been embodied in a fried chicken feud. After their husbands were injured in the dangerous coal mines that dominated the local economy at the time, two women—one named Mary, the other Annie—started rival fried chicken stands a few hundred feet away from each other on a country road.

You may not know that they’re still squabbling down in Southeast Kansas. Today, the rivalry between the originals on the rural north side of town seems to have cooled while a fresher fight between Chicken Annie’s Original and Pichler’s Chicken Annie’s has picked up steam.

As with any small-town feud, it’s not something an outsider can get to the bottom of while parachuting in (“Oh, we all get along great!” said one server; “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians,” grumbled another), but the good news for road-tripping diners is that you don’t really need to pick a side.

Mary’s, Annie’s and the other Annie’s all make basically the same lightly seasoned brand of bird (Mary’s batters with egg and milk while both Annie’s only use egg) and serve it with sides like tangy German-style slaw, green beans and chip-chopped fried onions. I preferred Chicken Mary’s—which was also the busiest spot in town on a Friday night during quarantine—but there’s no wrong choice among them. —Martin Cizmar

7. Adventure: An abandoned town is as cool as it is creepy

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Photo by Nicole Bradley

Type “Dunlap, Kansas” into Google Maps, and there sits a small square around an unincorporated town on the eastern edge of the Flint Hills.

Dunlap was once a town for Exodusters—freed slaves fleeing to Kansas—during the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War. Exoduster Benjamin “Pap” Singleton migrated to Dunlap from Tennessee and started a colony there in 1880. Life for the Exodusters wasn’t easy. They were forced to segregate and treated poorly by white settlers. There was even a separate cemetery for Exodusters.

The population of Dunlap dwindled around the time of the Great Depression, and the town filed for bankruptcy. In 1988, Dunlap’s post office shut its doors, and in 1993, Dunlap’s last black resident was buried in the colored cemetery. Not much is there today. A few deserted homes and an abandoned high school gymnasium still stand despite the school being demolished over a decade ago. One poignant reminder of the town’s history is the Colored Cemetery. The Dunlap City Cemetery sits right on the edge of town while the Colored Cemetery, which was inducted into the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, is about a half mile out in the rolling Kansas hills. —Nicole Bradley

8. Culture: Stroll the original Main Street, USA

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Photo courtesy of City of Marceline

Back in February, Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes rode down Main Street, USA, at Walt Disney World. What took him thousands of miles and a Superbowl victory is much simpler for the rest of us: Hop in the car and drive a couple of hours to Marceline, Missouri—home of the original Main Street, USA. Marceline (population 2,233) was Walt Disney’s hometown, and its Main Street is the model he mandated for the Main Streets at his theme parks around the world.

Walt’s father, Elias Disney, brought the family here in 1906 to start a forty-eight-acre farm. Although the family left four years later, when Walt was nine, the town held a place in his imagination.

“More things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have happened in the past or are likely to happen in the future,” Walt once said.

Start your trip at Ma Vic’s Corner Cafe for a Dusty Miller, the ice cream treat original to Marceline since the early 1900s. From there, it’s just a few steps to the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, a ten-thousand-square-foot, two-story structure housed in the 1913 Santa Fe Railway Station. Walt’s only sister, Ruth Disney Becher, gifted thousands of family artifacts to the museum. On the grounds you’ll find the resto-ration of the Midget Autopia Ride, the only ride to leave Disneyland and be operated outside of a Disney property. You can walk or pedal your way around the track in your own custom Autopia car.

Nearby is a bandshell that’s familiar from Disney films. Note that the marquee proclaims the “World Premiere of the Great Locomotive Chase”—Walt and his brother Roy came home in 1956 for the premiere and greeted each child as they entered the theater. Walt addressed the crowd on that occasion: “You children are lucky to live in Marceline. My best memories are the years I spent here.”

In attendance was a little girl named Kaye Malins, who grew up to become the director of the Disney Museum.

Even the post office here, named for Walt Disney, is unique—they stamp mail with a one-of-a-kind cancellation. Not far away is the Disney Farm and Barn, which has a replica of the barn. Walt kept the blueprints of the original structure, such was his obsession with this little town. —John C. Tibbetts

Spring is Here

Small townhouse perennial summer garden. Also available in vertical.

Oh, the joys of chirping birds and sunlight and the smell of flowers (no, really—go outside and smell them. They’re grand this time of year).

Yes, it’s spring, which means that you really do need to get out and make your home more, shall we say, viewer-friendly. Time to clean out the extra leaves that blew in over the winter. Time to lay down the weed killer, fertilize the lawn, repaint the shutters and for heaven’s sake, stop stalling already and actually use your flower boxes this year.

In fact, with quarantine still upon us, spring is the perfect time to pick out one thing you’ve put off doing outside and just do it already. Stuck? How about a mulched flower bed right out front?

Get a good amount of mulch delivered, if possible (buying it by the cubic yard is usually a lot more economical than bags). Pick a spot that gets plenty of sunlight (and eyeballs). If you have to clear some grass, use a flat spade and take your time cutting out the sod—that’s a big job. Then buy three times more flowers than you think you’ll plant and space them so they’ll crowd each other just a bit when they really get blooming. Use a good root starter to ensure they acclimate to the new soil well.

After you’ve planted, spread the mulch about 2 inches deep to ensure moisture retention and good appearance for the entire growing season. Then, make sure you water the new plants at least once a day to the point where you’ve really soaked the entire root base of every plant.

There, was that so hard? Now you’ve done something you haven’t gotten around to for years. And spring has barely started. You’re welcome.


Create a Home Office (More Easily Than You’d Think)

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For those working from home these days (and who isn’t?), the thought of having a home office, at least temporarily, has cross just about everyone’s mind.

However, if you’re thinking of a more permanent home office arrangement, consider this:

Space optimizers. With bedroom space being at a premium for most people, the thought of completely devoting a whole bedroom to just office use just isn’t realistic. However, with a install-it-yourself Murphy bed and a portable desk, you can make most any room in a dual-use space for about $1,500—a sizable investment, but one that will provide usable sleep and working space for years to come. Add a set of portable shelves, and you can change up the layout of the room without sacrificing functionality.

Lighting. One key to efficiency is a good blend of sunlight and targeted space lighting. With LED choices more prevalent than ever, cost-efficient lamps and fixtures can direct artificial light exactly where it needs to go. If at all possible, position the desk near a window so that ambient outdoor light can filter in and save your eyes from the glare of an over-bright screen.

Seating. In addition, provide yourself with comfortable seating and more than one sitting spot. Having a desk chair and a reading chair gives your brain some variety and also gives you an excuse to get out of your desk chair more often—a huge bonus for your back and muscles.

Home offices can work. Investigate your options and make a plan today.


Raised Seed Bed Gardening Made Easy

Happy family standing in the garden of the new house

Gardening has, thankfully, made a resounding rebound the past few years as people realize that, eureka, natural beauty is something to be sought after. And one of the prime ways to set your yard, back or front, apart is to build yourself some raised seed beds.

Now, for those of you who read “build” and think “would rather walk into traffic,” fear not. The amount of prefabricated parts and kits on the market these days all but ensures you won’t have to do any of the post-digging and nailing or drilling ancient people had to do, say, 10 or 15 years ago. Just find a material that suits you and assemble away, with few if any tools required.

Now, whether you choose to add legs to your seed beds or leave them on the ground is your call. But what you choose for your material is critical. For your planks, use a composite material or rot-resistant wood like cedar or redwood. Thick planks are better, with 1 -1/2-inch boards working best to hold soil and moisture in the bed.

Next, make sure you add the right soil. If you’re bothering to create new garden beds or boxes at all, don’t skimp on the soil. If you don’t happen to live in a part of the country with good native soil, make sure you’re using a nutrient-rich mixture with plenty of compost, manure, peat moss, topsoil and other black organic material. This will help ensure good results from your plants from the get-go.

Your yard deserves creativity. And raised beds have never been easier to build and install. Raise your game and have at it!


Inside Family Fun!

Happy family on floor lying in living-room

We know: You’re trapped in your house, you’re starting to see sides of each other you probably didn’t want to, and you just want this whole quarantine thing to end.

But as long as you’re stuck together, you might as well have fun together. Here are a couple ideas:

Themed dinner nights. Don’t just veg out again in front of the TV eating takeout chicken strips or cereal. Make it an event. Find your best outfits and make a themed party of it. Roaring ’20s, Western night, even Halloween costumes. Dress it up, post pictures on an Instagram story and make some memories.

Game competition. Sick of bored, er, board games? Pull them back out and make a family competition out of them, with prizes. Create a point system for, say, rounds of Jenga, Yahtzee, Splendor, even Monopoly or Catan. Winner actually gets something cool, just for enduring the agony of playing the same-old stuff. Let the games begin!

Work together in the yard. There is no time like the present to get some of those spring-cleaning yard projects done. Everyone will gripe. Everyone will groan. That’s OK.  Crossing items off that list will be worth it.

As long as you have time on your hands, together, invent things to do—together. We’re all in this. Might as well make the most of it.


Lower Interest Rates Mean One Thing

House property prices concept with money pillars from coins

With the coronavirus sending the world into economic uncertainty, the Federal Reserve has done its part to maintain stability by reducing lending rates to near zero.

What that means for homebuyers is that mortgage rates have plummeted to some of their lowest levels in recent memory. As of publishing time, Mortgage News Daily was quoting 30-year fixed-rate conventional loans as low as 3.24 percent and 15-year fixed loans at 2.96 percent. What does that mean for buyers? With good credit and financial history, homes in nearly every market are as affordable as they’re going to get.

Every housing cycle has a trough (they wouldn’t be called cycles without them), and right now, with unemployment numbers creeping up, housing could hit one. However, because many people will be selling in this market, the combination of low rates and the need to sell will give many buyers more options than they’ve had the past 10 years. Many more.

So, now is the time, if you’re even thinking about buying, to size up your job, credit and housing situation and do a hard assessment of your goals. Do you have the cash to put down, or will you? Do you have the credit to secure a good interest rate? And lastly, are you looking seriously or just dabbling? If you’re ready on all fronts, think seriously about putting some cash on the barrel head. The time has never been more ripe for buyers who mean business—and might not be for years to come.


Spring Cleaning: Make an Impact with your Tidy Home

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If you find yourself around the house a little more than usual lately, make the most of the time by creating a list of spring-cleaning chores that everyone can help with. If you can get over the moans from the kids (and maybe your back), you’ll have a home that’s more fun to live in and looks much better to a prospective buyer.

Make like a tree … Nothing makes a yard look unkept like leaves left around shrubs, next to the house or anywhere else. Rake them, blow them out, do what you have to do. But get them out and to the curb!

Weed the walkways. While you’re outside, make sure there are no weeds or grass growing between pavers, sidewalk slabs or around steps. And rather than use chemicals, whack them out with a trimmer or just pull them out, if possible.

Dust and detail. Throw open the curtains and dust the daylights out of every room. Nothing will add a bright and inviting sparkle to all your rooms than light shining off freshly dusted furniture, shelves, railings, stairs and countertops.

It’s spring. Take advantage of some of your free time right now and make that house shine!


Organizing Your Closets

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When it comes to making the most of your living space, organizing your closets can provide a two-for-one benefit for little or no additional cost. First, it can make simple existing in your own space so much more doable and enjoyable; and second, neatly organized closets can make your home that much more attractive when it comes time to sell (think: Easy staging).

Shelve it. Nothing helps make the most of what might be very tight closet space than an expertly arranged assortment of shelves and racks. Forget a boring ol’ rod for your hangers: Not only will shelves provide certain places for certain items, but they’ll also keep more items within view. And depending on the arrangement, you can still have ample space for those special items that can never be folded, only hung.

Room for shoes. While you’re freeing up some space for your clothes, give your shoes a better home, too. Creating racks or neat shelves for your shoes keeps them off the floor, from being lost and from making your bedroom or entryway looking sloppy. Scattered shoes have a way of saving, “I don’t care.” Neat shoes equal a neat impression.

Around the house. After you’ve organized your clothes and shoes, move to utility closets, game closets and those spaces where you’ve stashed all your cleaning products. They could all use the kind of organization that keeps everyday items within reach and keeps them neat for visitors, whether they’re friends or potential buyers. You never know who might be looking, so keep it neat!


Selling and buying a home in these trying times

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Looking to buy or sell your home in the near future? Have no fear. Despite fears about the Coronavirus, in between the Fed and fantastic technology, it’s still a great time to list your home or shop for one.

Let’s start with technology. Real estate agents have never had a better toolbox with which to serve their clients. Agents and other real estate professionals are or are fast becoming experts on virtual property tours, setting listing appointments with video conference tools like Zoom and FaceTime and closing on sales remotely.

In addition, lenders have sharpened their remote business skills with out-of-town buyers and sellers and will continue to meet with customers remotely to the best of their ability.

And speaking of lending, the Federal Reserve recently slashed the federal funds rate (otherwise known as the overnight lending rate, or the rate at which banks lend each other money overnight) to 0.25 percent, compared to a historically-low 1.75 percent just one month ago. That has dropped the average 30-year mortgage rate to a rock-bottom 3.22 percent. That means buyers with good credit can secure a fabulous rate for the next 15-30 years on a home that may have been out of their monthly-cash-flow range just a year ago.

As with any health-related situation, the current Coronavirus troubles will pass. Homes will last. Don’t get caught up in the fears that many people are allowing to drag them down. If you need to or simply want to, check out your local property listings. Modern technology and some very favorable lending rates could put you into the home you’ve always wanted sooner than you think.