Prairie Pines Playhouse: Murder Mystery Theatre

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Outside the Prairie Pines Playhouse, Kansas. 1 July 2017.

After the crazy debacle I talked about last week (the lost suit adventure), getting a night out and another of Ryan’s big planned dates was an amazing experience. As  I said, I focused my research more on small things to see and do – basically going through my regular travel bucket list – but Ryan looked up experiences.

This is how he stumbled upon the Prairie Pines Playhouse and their Murder Mystery Theatre – a half scripted, half improve show with audience interaction served alongside a four course meal. He was searching great activities to do around Kansas – at this point we pretty much knew that staying in one place would get boring pretty quick; I mean, I love you Kansas!! There are so many great features of this playhouse that I’m going to have to pull the experience apart piece by piece:

Clothing:

So while I talked about our crazy suit adventure last week, it turns out that there was no reason for us to freak out. This place is pretty casual – it is improv in the middle of Kansas so (and trying not to sound too judgmental)  so I feel like I should have realized this. In Ryan’s tie and slacks and my black dress and heals, we were the most dressed up people in attendance. I noticed this as soon as I stepped from the car and assessed the situation.

I had Ryan roll up his sleeves, unbotton the top few buttons, and loosen his tie for a dressed down formal look which worked for a date – I wasn’t as worried about myself since a black dress, heels, and red lipstick are a pretty universal look. If you are wearing heels, just be aware that you will be walking around on gravel, grass, and other uneven  surfaces.

The Location:

If you like a good mix of beautiful and rustic, this is definitely a place for you. I decided not to bring my good camera on this trip because it was an inside show and I figured that it would be too late to do any camera work. Boy, was that a terrible plan!

The appetizer course consisted of meat, cheese, and veggie platters and was served on the patio before the show began. At this point you were encouraged to place your drink order and then grab some food to bring to the table or to walk around the grounds with until 10 to 15 minutes before the show was meant to start.

The grounds aren’t huge but lots of walking around space. There are little almost cabin looking spaces which were really cute as well as a natural rock falls into a a gorgeous pond willed with flowers. On the other side, there was another pond with a taller rock area you could climb that has a few bench swings along one side – though these didn’t seem to be used often based on the wear and spiderwebs.

Inside was just as nice – that mix of lovely and rustic. Again, this is called the Prairie Pines Playhouse for nothing – I would love to see this place in winter – another season they do plays in.

The Show:

So yes, I fell in love with the atmosphere of the place, but that would have been nothing if the show wasn’t worth the trip, however, the show was definitely worth it. The show we saw was The Altos – a murder mystery with advertised as the Sopranos: only lower. Basically, a mobster who everyone has a problem with is killed and people are gathering for his funeral. However, it turns out he isn’t dead and throughout the play, tries to figure out who is trying to kill him.

At first, some of the actors made us a little nervous – there were flubbed lines and some craziness. However, since this is a comedy and an improve show, these flubs quickly became part of the running gags and made the show more dynamic and funnier than I could ever explain.

But remember, this is also an improv show and there is audience interaction. Audience members are picked to interact with actors on and off the stage throughout the show. Ryan got picked to go up as the mobster’s son – Tony – and he seemed chomping at the bit to speak the whole time, obviously enough that he was teased about it quite a lot. He threw the actors off a bit but seemed to be a hit with the audience. Then, unexpectedly, he got tapped to go up again by one of the older ladies – she apparently missed his scene earlier in the play – to go up and play the informant. While he was funny the first time around, he was twice as sassy in the second go making a crack about the no-alive mobster’s size which resulted in a threat to put him – Ryan – in the urn instead.

So be aware when you go, no one is safe and while you aren’t forced, no one has to be as sassy as Ryan – just play along, follow the actor’s lead and do what feels right!

The Food:

The food timing was between the acts of the play and you are served by the actors, in character – we got a lot of commentary, including the priest discussing the probability that Ryan could be possessed and his interest in doing an exorcism later. In terms of the quality of the food, we had mixed feelings. Frankly, it was catered food and getting the chicken with pasta, it didn’t blow up away. However, it was good enough that we ate enough to be almost uncomfortably full and had really large portions. For the price you pay for the food, the play, and everything else (drinks were extra), we couldn’t really complain.


Overall, I highly recommend going to any event or play held at the Prairie Pines Playhouse, and if I were ever in the area again, I would definitely go back. The plays are limited and, especially the Christmas show, fills up fast, so keep an eye on this venue and and call in to reserve space early – when we went they were saying this Christmas was at least half filled already.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Prairie Pines Playhouse: Murder Mystery Theatre

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. 1 July 2017.

So here we go through part one of day 2 (or the first full day) in the whirlwind trip through Kansas (even if we were really in Missouri). While Ryan was in charge of the big ticket item dates, I put my time and research into smaller places that I would want to visit on one of my normal travel expeditions. And this, of course, leads us to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

If you know my background – an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries (which is a fancy way of saying I studied things like museums, publishing, social heritage, media, and international business movement and technology across entertainment fields – basically a wide range of topics) – you know that I love museums. I have a brief insight into how individual galleries are curated and then how things move through the whole of the museums from this degree and, alongside my collected knowledge from my college art history class, this makes exploring so much more fun, especially when I have an audience who doesn’t mind hearing all about it.

With this background and my love of photography, this pick was absolutely fantastic.

First off, the museum itself is lovely – built with classical architecture and rooms upon rooms of art and a sculpture garden that is sparse enough to feel like a park while still calling itself part of an exhibit.

This is the part of the museum that we actually came out to see. I absolutely loved all the Shuttlecocks sculptures and understand how these became the statement piece and symbol of the whole museum. The sculptures are scattered throughout the garden in patches and across levels which is great for both pictures and picnics while surrounded by all kinds of art. Outside, the sculptures fall into the modern art classifications, but has a range that makes it interesting enough to keep running around – I loved the maze (but walk slow because I have seen many slam into the clear walls), the metallic tree, and (I must mention again) all of the different Shuttlecocks. Even if you aren’t looking for a museum day, this is a lovely areas just to come and have some lunch if you are in the area.

We didn’t spend much time inside, except for lunch, but we did run through the impressionist gallery, and, if this is any indication of the rest of the museum, every gallery would be worth stepping into if only for the unorthodox set up. Again, we were in the impressionist gallery, but throughout there were other types of art – furniture pieces and small scale sculptures which used an interesting juxtaposition. For me, if a gallery had a Degas ballerina sculpture (which this did), I am more than happy.

But onto lunch: as with all museums, food here isn’t cheap, however, unlike other places, the portions were rather generous. The staff was friendly and efficient and the room was lovely – hanging lights and natural daylight, with black iron tables surrounding a fountain. We had sandwiches and soup (I had half portions of both) and a blondie for dessert, plus infused water and every bit of it was fantastic. It is all freshly made in front of you so if you don’t want a specific spread or veg on your sandwich, they can make it without, without any extra work. Again, the portions were really generous and I was happily full on the half portions! Also, if you can agree on the type of sandwich, you can split the whole for cheaper than buying two halves.

I’ll end it here without going over and over my strange, nerdy discussions over curation and storytelling through the placement choices, but I will say, if you visit Kansas City, go see this museum. It’s beautiful, full of so much to see, has a full itinerary of events going on all the time, and, as someone who loves the arts, visit and make a small donation for the upkeep because your trip (minus parking, food, and special exhibits) doesn’t cost you anything!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

Photography Post

So here are a few of my favorite pictures from my NorCal trip right before New Years. I enjoyed these places so much and just wanted a quick shout out. You can always find more on my Flickr.

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While the above is not really a tourist location that I can send you all to, this is my cousins’ house out in wine country. I love the area around their house. There are so many different features like this horned gate and rusted old cars that speaks so much to my ‘forgotten places’ aesthetic and really works here. It also helped that we were here in winter so the plant life was working very well for me.

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This was on the left side of the buffs (and Point) near Bodega Bay. This was from the second day of the trip and I loved the color contrast. Climbing around the varied rock faces to get these rocks was so much fun.

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I can’t tell you how many images of this girl out on the floating rock I have but she was mesmerizing. This might be my favorite shot of her. She’s such a still force in the wake of all the visibly mobile water. It still has me wondering how she managed to get out to her perch – there really was no direct path even if she’d been there at a lower tide!

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On our day out, we stopped on the right side (going into the city) of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d never gone up the side road, along the coastal mountains but the views were breathtaking. Of course, it was crazy trying to find a spot but it does seem to get easier the further up you go.

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I love the Ghirardelli factory and always have. I have so many memories from the city and a stop at the factory was always the best part. While it can get busy here, it never feels like I have had a successful trip unless I climb up the long hill.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Photography Post

Exploring the Coastline

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The Point, Bodega Bay, California. December 2016.

It’s a new year, but last year’s travel.

Last week I wrote a bit about driving up to Petaluma and some of the driving/scheduling disasters that happened (and what could be and what really couldn’t be avoided). Now we’re moving onto a few of the things we got to see running around with my family and, as always, my camera.

We didn’t get out as early as I would have like nor as early as I would have had I been on my own, however, we were still able to spend a lot of time exploring the coast and bay not far from my cousins’ house. Because we ended up with quite a crowd, we ended up caravanning it (the rules of which I will cover in the next few weeks) which meant following my aunt through the twists and turns of coastal highways and side-streets. Still, so much fun.

The first area we passed through was Bodega Bay. We didn’t end up stopping – it was crowded and, again, we started late – but my family had spent the morning before fishing and crabbing which (while cold) they loved despite coming back empty handed. I can definitely see why people would want to hangout in this area for a day – there’s a lot to do and all of it is relatively close together. There are also plenty of popular yet delicious food shacks if you are stopping for long enough – the lines are long but everyone assured me that it’s for good reasons.

We drove up to an area my cousins called The Point, but as far as I can tell is the coastal beaches around Jenner. I loved looking at the water and waves from the cliff edge and there was so much of it to see. The area is full of hikes and beautiful shots for photographers of all skill sets. Where we stopped, there were hikes that branched off in both directions and promised hours of fun. These hikes include a few paths down to small beaches though make sure you have the right shoes – some of these are definitely crawl worthy.

We didn’t go far (for reasons I’ll discuss in a future post) on this spot and next time I visit going back with an early start is an absolute necessity. Just like all the beach areas we past, even in the chill of December, these areas can get crowded so be ready to search out parking.

Which brings up to Goat Rock. Why is Goat Rock named Goat rock? Well, we couldn’t figure that out, but running around in it’s shadow was so much fun. In terms of getting here, you’ll need to pay close attention – it’s hard to find or, at least, the turn in is easily missed. Then you have to pay attention to signage – some of the roads are one direction at a time based on who gets to the stop sign while others are small, passing roads on curves which mean you have o slow down and drive carefully.

The view is worth it. When you get down to the parking lot at the base of the rock you will have beaches on either side of you: check out both sides. First, we did not climb the rock and I’m not sure you are supposed to – but something to check out. It might be a hefty climb so really research and prepare for this.

Facing the rock, to your left there will be great views of fun rocks with a lot of beach spray – great for pictures but we were there during winter so fog was kind of heavy which made it both interesting and difficult to photograph. The rocks closest to you has mussels all over which make the stones really interesting when you play with water and light shots. Just watch your step as you will be climbing around rocks which can get loose and cause accidents.

On the right side, there’s a whole different view. The rocks along the beach were interesting but my favorite part was a rusted out old tank. It looks like it was flipped forever ago and has a lot ware. It’s completely brown and orange with so many exposed gears and is so rusted out it looks more like wood than metal – go ahead and walk through it though because it’s definitely solid.

There are tons of small towns and wineries up and down this region so you can pretty much pull in anywhere and find something to do or see. Just check on days for wineries; we pulled into Korbel only for it to be innovatory day so there were no tours or tastings!

Still an amazing day. Next time, I will be taking earlier days so I can do more – all the hikes! – and maybe sticking to summer (less rain and chill!).

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Exploring the Coastline

My favorite travel photos.

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Conwy Castle, Wales. Summer 2013.

One of my friends is going to be taking his family on a trip through the UK soon and told me last night that they decided to add Conwy, Wales to the itinerary. I was over the moon. Conwy was one of the amazing days I spent on my UK trip in 2013 (How was that already three and a half years ago?) and it got me thinking about some of the photographs I have been able to take over my past trips.

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Bex and I atop Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. Summer 2013.

I’m not usually a fan of posed pictures but I couldn’t not add one of us. This trip is probably the highlight of my entire traveling career. We both did so much and pushed so many of our personal boundaries. It was our first big trip that we planned out ourselves and it couldn’t have gone better! Plus, it inspired this whole blog.

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Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy. June 2015.

I have so much love for Mont Saint-Michel. It’s not really a castle but it inspired Disney’s Tangled animators and I was just as inspired. I need to head back when it’s night and the tide comes in – the full Tangled experience!

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Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany. June 2015.

The whole day we took this tour was amazing – castles, castles, castles! This castle inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle, but here, I couldn’t help thinking of Beauty and the Beast. I love the look of the clouds, the forest, the castle – it’s just lovely.

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Statue Garden, York House Garden, Twickenham. December 2015.

This park was a bit of a hike and a long day, but a day off of work was well worth the effort. The whole Twickenham area was picturesque. I love the individual statues personalities in this fountain and could have spent hours running around here but I never would have had I not been living here and created my London parks tour.

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Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park. May 2016.

Visiting Sonoma was one of the last real trips I took and I fell in love with the city all over again. I attended this school for three and a half years but it wasn’t until I revisited and looked at the school through my new camera lens that I truly began to miss living in this beautiful town.


I am looking for more and more chances for travel, but for now, I’m enjoying looking back at my pictures and simply reminiscing.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

My favorite travel photos.

Wine Country: Sonoma County

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One view from Hanna Winery and Vineyard. Sonoma County, California. May 2016.

So this post has been a long time coming but it’s been month after month of crazy so it’s taken much longer than expected. However, following the earlier post about foodie-ing out in NorCal, here goes a quick set of the wineries we visited while visiting the Sonoma County area.

But first things first, I don’t really drink; I’m simply not a fan so I didn’t really participate with the tastings. I still feel really confident recommending these wineries, however, because of my amazing friends, huge wine lovers, who set up these tastings and they are members of most of these wineries and their wine clubs.

Mercury Wine Tasting Room,  Geyserville

Our first stop after breakfast was this cute little store front in Geyserville – an almost single street looking town with tons of rustic feel. It would be so easy location-wise to fly right past this location, but when you visit, you’ll be so glad you stopped.

This winery is a family business (like most) with one brother who sells and the the other who works mainly on the design and creation side of things. The whole feel of this shop is a little hippy and a little eclectic. With details like fun house mirrors and fun art pieces alongside the wonderfully socialized Freddie, the dog, this location was so much fun.

The tasting room isn’t huge so there was a little wait (but we were not idle which I’ll explain in a moment!) but it was definitely worth it. The service was amazing and friendly – again, I don’t drink so we had a great laugh about the water quality, clarity, and vintage! – and they make you feel like family.

If you like wine and having it delivered to your house, this is one to go with! They can set you up in store and the membership comes with perks such as invitions to food and wine events as well as free tastings.

Ramazzotti Wine Tasting Room, Geyserville

So when I say we  weren’t sitting idle, those of us who drink were right in the next room sampling from the Romazzotti wine collection. These two sampling rooms are for two different vineyards but they share a single store front and once again, the service was great. When we went in, two older ladies were serving and they let us sample using my friends Mercury Wine club membership.

There was no rush and they didn’t mind chatting with us as we sampled and waited for our other appointment. Freddie moves freely from room to room which was so entertaining and the wines are different enough to make the tastings interesting. These wines were much more classic rather than Mercury’s more innovative styles.

Everyone sampling at both locations left very satisfied and a few bottles heavier!

White Oak Vineyard

Beautiful.

That’s all I could think when we hit this stop – I’m a budding photographer (though I’m not really a fan of that wording … ) so finally getting to a location that looked like a winery (meaning visible vineyards) was amazing!

Between the fountain, architecture, sculptures and the expansive lines of growing fields, this location feels elegant, rustic and eclectic all at the same time. It’s all about the details here; I loved the inside tables (as pictured below) with the glass covered wine corks – just a gorgeous detail.

The interior is beautiful as well and hearing – from another amazing tasting team – about the special tastings in the most beautiful store room was great. This is a cat vineyard whose cat had recently passed -they’re waiting to see if a new cat will adopt them and you should definitely ask about it – but you can check her and other vineyard cats out in the special Cat book that they sell at the wine counter.

When we went, we received a free tasting as well as a discount on the wine purchased when we showed our Visa Signature Card without ever paying with said cards. While Visa Signature has been discontinued in favor of a new program, checking out these kinds of deals is always worth it!

There’s also a new winery opening up across the street and White Oak is excitedly waiting for more people to come through these two and enjoy an amazing array of cross-traffic – again, they will be different enough that a two-stop location will be well worth crossing the road.

Alexander Valley Vineyards

Making it to tasting rooms within the open vineyards was just perfection after perfection and Alexander Valley was no different. This felt almost carved into the mountain with all the lovely stone and rock work that built up the different buildings and cellars of this vineyard.

The parking lot is small and you have to be careful of the pair of dogs who reside here – one really likes to sleep in the sunny driveway! – but this small cabin-like stop is worth it. Speaking of dogs, they sell the Vineyard Dog book (by the same people who photographed the cat version) and it is so cute!

Beyond books and wine, they also sell fun animal shaped wine aerators and veggies from local farms. Their shop was great fun to look through even as a non-drinker. We were on a quick stop tour but you should definitely check out the other features offered – cave tours and vineyard hikes? A next time must.

Hanna Winery and Vineyard

This was our final tour stop and a great way to end the day.

The views from large windowed doors that make up the majority of the outer walls was unlike any vineyard we had visited. The sun was at just the right level and everything about the scene was so open and refreshing I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Every vantage point gave a new perspective of this grand wine country and the interior – the brick fireplace with the metal-worked fireplace screen, wooden counters, everything – was just as captivating.

A breath of fresh air doesn’t do it justice. Seriously, just go!


Again, I am not a wine drinker – I’m barely a drinker at all – but each of these stops through Sonoma wine country was so unique and filled with so many different treasures, that I truly feel all confidences in recommending each and every one.

There are many more wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards worth visiting in Sonoma and the surrounding counties but these are the ones I’ve had experience with and had the pleasure of photographing. So go: explore and enjoy! And, of course, as always, stay safe – a sober driver is not a joking matter!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

P.S. If you are interested in these pictures and many more, my Flickr is linked here!

Wine Country: Sonoma County

In LA? Surf’s Up!

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Surfer at Huntington Beach Competition. Huntington Beach, California. July 2016.

If you area visitor in the LA area right now – and, alright, even you locals as well – the first thing I have to say is sorry: these fires suck! Air quality is bad, lighting is all screwy from the ash clouds, and it is so hot that no one really wants to do anything. This is not the California I signed up for when I moved home but at least us locals are used to fire seasons and the burning in the chaparral – again, for you visitors, I am so sorry.

But this week and into the weekend there is a pretty cool excursion which more or less helps you escape the orange lighting  which makes LA city look a lot like an angry Mordor upon approach:

The Vans US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach.

From young surfers to older and more experienced pros, these athletes are quite the sight. The event has spaces for two simultaneous surf competitions, as well as BMX and Skateboard arenas.

Whether you are a beach junkie (yes!), photo-bug (yes!) or a fan of any or all of these sports (a little calmer but still, yes!), then this is worth the drive. These are also pop up shops including a Van’s mega-pop up which sells exclusive 2016 US Open gear if the heat gets too much for you or you are just looking for a break.

We went last Saturday which was day 1 of the competition and it was already pretty crowded so I’d plan to get there early especially as the finals roll in this weekend. There is lot parking but that usually fills up hours before things get truly underway and parking on the street isn’t crazy expensive so I would plan to park on the street and walk in – again, be wary as you may have to walk a fair amount!

Unfortunately, while we were there, the fog was so heavy that there wasn’t much to see on the water. For the three hours (two of actual surf time) we snapped pictures, each site seemed to get less than a single heat scored. Still, a lot of photographers – my father and myself included – did pick up a few good shots of practice runs from the pier during the standstill.

Photographers! Remember to set up and protect you camera and gear for the conditions (moisture, wind, sun, heat, salt, ect) and that the pier gets crowded so finding a good vantage point can be really hit or miss.

I didn’t mind the conditions except for the little bit of fuzz in my pictures, so as long as you enjoy watching the surfers do their thing regardless if you get perfect shots, you’ll have a great day.

Because of scheduling and the fog, we only stayed a short while but I have heard that you get quite a show from the other competitions as well, so they are worth stopping into. The skate and BMX competitions start closer to noon so keep an eye on the schedule. If I managed to get back out there this weekend, my camera and I will definitely be running around every inch of the competition!

Until then, remember your hats, glasses, and sunscreen and stay safe out there LA!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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