15 October 2015

Blue Springs, MO

Last month I made a trip out to Kansas City, MO to visit one of my very best friends, Steffi Olson. Steffi moved to Missouri just two years ago with her husband to start a new life. Although we chat with one another almost every single day, and share pictures either through text messages or by simply perusing through each other's Instagram and Facebook accounts, seeing each other in person was very much something that both of us needed. I was also very much excited to meet her 5 month old son Hudson and for him to get to know his Auntie Nicole. However, what I was looking forward to the most was to spend some quality time with Steffi.

With this being my first real trip to the midwest (I know layovers don't count), I didn't know what to expect. I flew in late Thursday and was greeted with a lovely surprise. I was under the impression that she was coming alone, but when I walked out, Hudson was right there with her! It was such a nice welcome, especially after spending half the day travelling. I'm always worried about how babies will respond when they first meet me. I'm one of those people that gets deeply offended if a baby doesn't like me, but Hudson greeted me with a huge smile on his face. It didn't last too long though because as soon as we got on the freeway, he started wailing. We think he might've been freaked out with me sitting in the back with him and thinking his mom had left him. I totally get it though. I would be freaked out too if my mom stuck me in my car seat next to a complete stranger, haha.

I tried my best to console him, but we all know that no one is better at that than mom. So we exited, pulled over and I took the wheel. I just want to remind you all that I'm a little blind. Although I wear glasses at night when I drive, I still get a little paranoid and I was on super high alert since I was driving in a place I had never been before. Don't worry, we made it home safely and it turns out, it wasn't the last time I'd be doing it.

The next morning, I woke up to the sounds of Hudson cooing. I miss being in a house with a baby so it was nice to experience that again, even if it was just for a few days. We spent the day running errands, getting lost and visiting shops. Since Friday was my first time being out and about in KC in the day time, I realized just how green and lush it was. It was a nice break from all the brown and dry brush we have here in San Diego.

We had lunch at this place called Culver's, which is basically like their In N Out. I don't know, maybe I was just really hungry, but I think Culver's could give In N Out a run for their money. I really liked the meat patty and it tasted just like a homemade burger, which I'm sure we can all agree on, is the best kind of burger. The bacon they use has so much flavor and is nice and crispy. Culver's also makes their own root beer and it was probably one of the best I've ever tasted. I was kind of sad we didn't get to eat there again. Next time, Culver's, next time. After lunch, Steffi brought me to a used book store near their house where she got me that lovely Cheshire The Cat coffee mug. It was like a little playground for me. They sold books, movies, music (I'm pretty sure I saw cassette tapes), collectibles and toys.

That night, Steffi and her husband Scott took me to a restaurant called Smokehouse Bar-B-Que and we ordered BBQ ribs and Burnt Ends, which I've been told is the thing that KC is known for. Scott ordered some for himself and shared a couple of pieces with me. Let me tell you, we need to have BBQ restaurants here in San Diego serving them burnt ends if they aren't already. If you don't know what burnt ends are, they're basically the fatty end of a brisket that's been cut off, cut into a cube and cooked into absolute BBQ perfection. I almost regretted ordering ribs, but I was completely oblivious to this burnt end business until Scott's plate came out. My meal was delicious though and the beans at Smokehouse were the best I've ever had. I would've loved to take a gallon tub of beans with me to take home. This was also the first time I had Texas Toast with my ribs.

After dinner we headed home and Steffi and I were able to finally sit down and just have some BFF quality time. We watched TV and talked about whatever subject came to mind and discussed what we were doing the next day. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that it rained pretty much the whole day that Friday. However, I had just come from San Diego, where we were all suffering from weeks and weeks of heat waves so the rain was a welcome change.

On Saturday, we started the day off at the salon. Both Steffi and I had major brow issues and needed some help from her favorite brow esthetician. Bless her heart because she did a great job shaping my pathetic excuse for eyebrows. It's been almost a month and while I haven't gotten them waxed since, it is now much easier for me to maintain the shape myself. Although we were only out less than an hour, it was still nice to have that time to do girly things and just be... girly! It was something I needed and I'm sure Steffi did too. We stopped off at a Starbucks before heading home and popped our PSL cherries, so to speak. It was the first time either of us had a Pumpkin Spice Latte and they are actually not that bad. I can see why someone could get addicted to it.

After getting ourselves dressed and ready, we headed to the Fall Fun Fest, which Blue Springs holds every year. It's pretty much a street fair, where they close off a stretch of the road, and this one being Main Street. Just like with any other fair or festival, parking was sure to be a headache, so we ended up parking the car a few blocks down, in front of Scott's friend's house. Saturday was a great day to be out and enjoy the outdoors. The sun was shining and the weather was perfect. It reminded me of a nice Spring day here in San Diego.

During our walk from the car to Main Street, I saw how different Missouri was to San Diego. The houses were older and had that quaint feel to it. I kept telling Steffi that everything looked like what you would see in movies about small towns. You could tell that whoever lived in the houses, they had been there for years and years. No one had fences and if they did, it was to fence in their own vegetable garden. I felt somewhat nostalgic because it reminded me so much of spending my summers in the province of Zambales, Philippines. Everything from the narrow streets, to the old beatdown cars parked on the drive, gardens, wide open spaces surrounding each house, made me feel at home in a weird way. It was like I had walked these streets before.

After the short walk from the car, we finally reached Main Street and it was lined with all sorts of vendors, the majority of whom were food vendors all selling BBQ, all claiming it was the best in town. I had decided early on that I was going to try BBQ in some form, but actually picking which vendor to go to proved to be a somewhat difficult task with so many places to choose from. Half way down, I saw the words “Brisket Fries” in big letters and knew that was going to be the one. We walked the whole stretch and visited the small feeding/petting zoo at the end of the street where Hudson, Steffi and I got to feed all sorts of animals. There were pigs, goats, antelope (I almost wrote anchovy), a camel and there was even a zebra.

On the way back was when we decided to eat lunch. Steffi got a corndog, Scott a giant turkey leg and I got my brisket fries. I don't even know how to describe what I felt when I took that first bite. The brisket, it was perfect. It was flavorful and tender; it melted in my mouth. I kept saying, “I wish I could have this in my mouth all the time.” Yes, I said those exact words. Yes, it was THAT good. After eating, we made our way to the other side of the fair where all the rides where setup. On the way we made a stop at a booth to look at some handmade bracelets. Steffi had the great idea of picking up a pair as a sort of unofficial official friendship bracelet. Of course, I was all for it!

The rides at the Fall Fun Fest were the typical ones you see at any fair: some sort of variation of the Zipper, a Tilt-O-Whirl, a carousel, etc. I'm not a huge fan of those rickety rides because I always think they're going to fall apart, and I don't think Steffi was either. However, she did end up taking Hudson on his first carousel ride. It was pretty funny because towards the end, you could tell Hudson was over it.

Another highlight of the Fall Fun Fest was discovering a young new artist called Bri Pi. I bought a couple of buttons from her booth and was tempted to buy prints, but alas, it was a little expensive for me. I'm so glad we stopped to look at her work, though. I'm sure I'll be hearing about her at some point in the future because she has real talent.

After spending a couple of hours enjoying the Missouri sun, we headed home to rest. Later, Steffi, Hudson and I made a trip to our beloved Target to pick up a couple of essentials (you know, a new mascara, the usual). We left Scott at home to start on the homemade pizza we were going to eat for dinner. Steffi also wanted to make some iced tea so she picked up a new glass pitcher. It's kind of funny because she and I always talk about our countless trips to Target and here we were finally going to our favorite store together. I wish we could do more Target trips; they're always better with your best friend.

When we got home, Scott had already finished making the dough and was prepping all the ingredients for the sauce. The house smelled amazing and I really could not wait to try their famous (well famous in their house) homemade pizza. It was pretty cool watching Scott knead the dough, although I was a little disappointed he didn't toss it in the air like they do on TV. While waiting for the pizza to cook, we all hung out in the kitchen watching YouTube videos. Scott even took out his BB-8 and showed off its cool tricks. I got a kick out of the messaging feature, which allows you to record a video through your phone and the BB-8 “transmits” it like they do in the movies.

Before long, the pizza was ready and we all grabbed a spot in front of the TV for dinner and a movie. Steffi had planned on making iced tea with the tea she bought at World Market the previous day, but while pouring the water into the pitcher, the glass cracked and we were left with a literal hot (water) mess. I was a little sad since I was also looking forward to it, but I think we were all just relieved that the glass had not decided to completely break apart and shatter into a billion pieces on the kitchen floor. Catastrophe avoided.

Taking that first bite of the pizza, I felt the same sensation I felt when I took a bite of those brisket fries earlier in the day. The dough was thin, but it didn't taste like cardboard and the crust was crispy. I don't know exactly what Scott had put in the sauce, but the flavor was rich. I could taste the tomato, the onions, the garlic, the different spices and they all worked so perfectly together. They also put other cheeses on top of the traditional mozzarella and it packed a complimentary punch to the savory sauce that lay underneath it. I still daydream about that pizza.

Sunday was my last full day in KC as I was leaving very early in the morning the next day. Scott drove over to a place called LaMar's Donuts, which Steffi had told me about a couple of days before. She raved about them and although I do trust her opinions on food, I wasn't exactly convinced. I mean you'd have to really be clueless to mess up a donut, but sometimes some places just miss the mark. Scott came home with a half dozen assorted donuts and needless to say, they didn't last long. I picked up the traditional glazed donut and it did not disappoint. The dough was so soft and moist, I almost couldn't believe I was eating a donut. And you know what? I'd take LaMar's over Krispy Kreme any day.

It was another glorious sunny day and it was perfect for a day out at “The Plaza” in downtown KC. Formally called the Country Club Plaza, but referred to as the The Plaza by the locals, it's an impressive 55 acre shopping district. Steffi, Hudson and I were only able to walk down a few blocks when we went. I think The Plaza is meant for multiple trips so I'll make sure to cover more ground the next time. Steffi was on a mission to find a jewelry holder at Anthropologie so we made our way over. She spent some time trying on a dress, so Hudson and I sat down people watching and he, naturally, charmed everyone's socks off.

For whatever reason, I had the sudden urge to buy a fedora. I knew Urban Outfitters would have some, so we walked across the street to find one and I ended up finding exactly what I was looking for. Needless to say, our shopping trip was a success. We walked a few more blocks and went into several shops before finally deciding to head home. At this point, I had learned that it was much better to sit up front with Steffi than to sit with Hudson in the back to avoid any incidents like the one that happened on my first night there. However, he was feeling extra fussy, which Steffi later said was due to a stomach ache, and cried as soon as we took off. Like Thursday, we again had to pull over and I drove us home. Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind it at all. I just felt terrible for Hudson and wished there was some way we could've consoled him. Driving in the day time was much better than in the night, by the way. I felt less paranoid and had sort of learned my way around by that time.

Back at the house, Scott was busy making BBQ ribs from his smoker. We came back and the sweet, smokey aroma permeated throughout the entire place. Smoking ribs takes pretty much the whole day and that's why Scott stayed back and let us girls (and Hudson) go shopping by ourselves. Plus, how much fun would it have been to follow two girls around from shop to shop all afternoon? After about an hour, dinner was ready. The ribs were smoked just right; the meat fell right off the bone and it was soft and juicy. Like a true Filipino, Steffi cooked some rice to eat with the ribs. I had never eaten BBQ ribs with rice prior to tha, but I think I'm going to start.

Although my flight the next morning was at 7am, meaning I'd have to be up by 5am, I remember staying up just until midnight. We spent the night watching TV and hanging onto the last few hours we had to actually spend time with another. I was sad to be leaving my best friend. Like I mentioned in the beginning, Steffi and I keep each other up to date with each other's lives on a daily basis and yes of course, I do miss actually being able to see her, but it wasn't until I visited that I realized just how much I had missed her and just how much our friendship meant to me. She is one of the most amazing people I know and watching her with Hudson, I was completely in awe. Steffi has blossomed into a wonderful woman, one that I absolutely admire and adore. I don't think I tell her this enough, but she is one of my heroes. Knowing what Steffi has gone through to get where she is today, I feel so incredibly proud and inspired. Watching her be a mother to Hudson, I don't even know how to express the admiration I have for her. I witnessed the difficulties of being a mom and saw how she handled it all with grace, patience and love and I can only hope that one day, I can be the same with my child.

As if it wasn't obvious by this novel that I wrote, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Missouri, going shopping, eating lots of good food, watching Shark Tank, feeding Hudson, and sitting around drinking tea and having girl talk. It's been one of my favorite trips in the last couple of years and I hope I can make it out to KC again in the near future. Thank you so much Olsons for having me and for being the best hosts (homemade pizza from scratch AND smoked BBQ FTW!). You guys definitely haven't seen the last of me!

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