Explore: The Elms Hotel & Spa – Excelsior Springs, MO


A few weekends ago, some friends and I took a little trip to Excelsior Springs, Missouri for some serious pampering. We stayed at The Elms Hotel and Spa, which was absolutely lovely.

A short drive from Kansas City, the service and atmosphere at The Elms were perfectly restorative, just what the doctor ordered. Or, at least, what she should have.


Fence Stile Vineyards – This little winery is seriously adorable. We packed a picnic and grabbed a bottle of their wine for some fun late night dining. If you hit up this spot in the evening like we did, bring the ingredients for s’mores. They often have a firepit going and who wants to miss an opportunity for melted chocolate and gooey marshmallows? No one I want to hang out with.

Spa at the Elms: This place is a wonderland for beauty treatment lovers. I tried the seaweed wrap (which was on my bucket list), the therapeutic massage and the milk and honey bath. All three were lovely. One of the greatest things about the spa is that by purchasing a treatment you gain access to the Grotto for 24, glorious hours. There, you’ll find a dry sauna, steam sauna, hot tub, cold plunge shower, steam shower and exfoliation bar – not too shabby.


88 at the Elms: Eat brunch here. The Santa Fe breakfast burrito is pretty solid. It pairs perfectly with a mimosa and fun conversation with close friends.


The Elms: Where else?



Sweet Potato, Chicken, Rice and Black Bean Soup


In my opinion, soup is the perfect meal. Healthy and hearty, it keeps well and makes a great second dinner or lunch later in the week. This particular version is really special. The sweet potato and corn add the right notes of sweet to balance the savory components of brown rice, chicken and black beans. A squeeze of lime juice at the end is the secret ingredient.

When you make this for yourself, there is something you should keep in mind. There is a lot of chopping. Take the time to process all the ingredients before you start cooking. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a full sweat as your garlic burns or impatiently tapping your foot as the rice cooks. I know this from a LOT of personal experience. Soup is no reason for heartache or stress, ever.


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6 Winter Coat Trends


This year, stores are offering really great coats. And, not just a few. I found fantastic options from a variety of places. Below are six trends you should consider when choosing the new way you’ll be keeping warm this year.

My favorite coat trends for 2014:

1. Oversize or cocoon: These were all over the runway. I’m not sure how this look would work on my curvy frame, but I am feeling this blush color.

2. Statement: Think printed or bejeweled. This leopard print number from Loft is on trend and a showstopper.

3. Fur (Faux-sure): Can you believe this is Forever 21? The dark blue is so fun and would be perfect for dinner and dancing with the girls.

4. Shearling: I love shearling in coats and am seriously lusting after this darling one from the Gap.

5. Robe or wrap coat: A “robe” or wrap coat is one of the chicest ways to stay warm this year and oh so flattering.

6. Bright color: Coats are seriously colorful this winter. I love the cobalt shade on this one and think it deserves a spot in my closet.

Which trend is your favorite? I think I need a coat for each. How about you?


My Picks: Front and Back Earrings


I picked up these little beauties from Jewelmint and am so happy with them. I love how easily they can add life to something that’s been in my closet -for-ev-er, like this black wrap dress.

Have you tried front and back earrings yet? If you’re unfamiliar with them, the back of the earring actually has decoration on it, giving your lobes a completely new look. So, the pearls that are fanning out on the bottom of this pair are behind my ear, while the front has a simple stud. Fun, right?


Trick-or-Treat Halloween Cupcakes


Last weekend, I went away for a quick spa trip with some friends, and consequently, someone was very mad at me for several days. Things turned around yesterday when I offered to make cupcakes with her. This kid loves chocolate.

(Ellie now says, “Cheese” when you take her picture. From now on, I suspect all photos of her will look something like this.)


I had been wanting to create a Halloween inspired treat for the blog and was struggling a little. I’m not the best crafter or cake decorator, but I wanted something that fit the season and was kid-friendly. Finally, I landed on the idea of Trick-or-Treat cupcakes. Basically, each of these little goodies has a candy treat inside – except for two that are just plain cake. That’s the trick part. Sneaky, huh?


Here I am with a “treat” cupcake. You’ll be pleased to know Ellie’s was also a treat, but she thought the peanuts from the Snickers were “bees,” and I was promptly tasked with removing them from the cupcake.

I should warn you. These cupcakes can be dangerous. Ellie got her finger stuck in one and was sure she couldn’t get it out. Luckily, help arrived quickly, and it was removed. No fingers were harmed.


These cupcakes have the texture of a brownie, as opposed to a traditional cupcake. The chocolate flavor is intense, and they are really dense. The flavor is great, but don’t expect a light crumb, like you’d find in a cupcake.

That being said, if you have a favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, you could easily swap it here (or use a box mix). (I will never tell a soul.)

The cream cheese icing is lightly sweet and tangy. I could have eaten a gallon of it, but quickly put it in the sink and filled it with water after frosting the cupcakes to avoid disaster.

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Lately, things have been pretty rough around here. I haven’t mentioned it, but my mom recently had quadruple bypass surgery and a whole host of other things worked on over the last few weeks. She is home now and doing much better, and it feels like I am tentatively letting out the longest breath. The last four weeks have been tough, but we seem to be heading towards better things.

So, in this month’s round-up, you’ll see little details from our life. It won’t look much different, but it has felt completely different.


This is the beautiful, white stray cat, who Ellie refers to as “White Kitty.” It is becoming clear the cat thinks she belongs to us….Ellie has offered to teach her to go down the slide. Trying to get in our house without our new pet following is becoming increasingly difficult.

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Fast Food: Perfect Baked Chicken and Maple, Orange Butternut Squash


Today, I’m sharing the second set of recipes in my new Fast Food series. This one features flavorful baked chicken and the most delicious butternut squash. I served ours with applesauce, but a green salad or peas would be great too.

Both recipes go in a 375 oven and take around 30 minutes to cook. I’d start with the butternut squash and then, once that is in the oven, move on to the chicken. The squash gets a little special treatment after it comes out of the oven, as orange and maple syrup are added. Make this tonight for your favorite people.

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1. 9 to 5 Chic always has the best working wardrobe, but this off-duty ensemble has me inspired.
2. Gal Meets Glam is traveling all over Europe with her honey. I’ve always had a limited interest in London, but photos like these have me ready to book a flight.
3.Baked goat cheese with roasted garlic – I think that’s all I need to say here. (Also, I picked up her new cookbook, and it is pretty spectacular.)
4. I love how chic these lacquered walls look. Unfortunately, I don’t think the husband will go for this one, so we should try it at your house. What time works for you?
5. Obsessed with this dress from Frankly Basic. The color, print and shape will have you pulled together in one easy step.
6. Luisa shared a few articles about cooking for other people. I agree with her assessment of each post, but would love to know what you think. Also, have you seen this article from Mark Bittman? It’s pretty thought-provoking as well.

Special Mention: My friend Kim K. shared this article about introductions and friendship. It is lovely and has me rethinking how I’ll handle my next meet and greet.


Mad for Plaid


Plaid has been a long time favorite of mine. It could be my lingering obsession with Cher-inspired pleated skirts or too much time was spent layering at The Buckle during my youth. Either way, I really can’t get enough of it. This year, it’s back in vogue, but if I’m being completely honest, it is always in for fall. Period. Because, it doesn’t get much more “fall” than plaid.

While it is one of the most cheerful prints, it is not always the most forgiving. Pay attention to the scale of your plaid when picking a piece to wear. A large version can make you appear bigger, which is not on everyone’s wishlist. It is certainly not on mine. Think about which area of your body you’d like to emphasize and go from there. If you’re throwing on a shirt, look for a fitted jacket to put over it.

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This month, I wanted to feature an outfit that is completely kid friendly. My plaid shirt is machine washable and doesn’t have to be ironed. My riding boots are comfortable and low heeled. The coat I pulled on is warm for chilly mornings, but can be folded and shoved into a bag when the sun comes out. I still feel pulled together, but can run after an ornery two-year old if needed, which is pretty critical.

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