A Lovely Day for Tea Lovers at the Midwest Tea Festival

What? You’ve never heard of the Midwest Tea Festival! Well, keep reading to get the scoop on this fabulous day long event that celebrates the art of tea. During the festival, hundreds of tea lovers gathered to learn about tea culture and history, how tea should be prepared, where tea comes from, and enjoy plenty of tea tastings!

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As Lily and I entered the auditorium, I was dazzled by just how many people were there for tea. This year was my first in attendance so I had no clue what to expect. Although, when I heard the words Midwest Tea Festival I pictured a room full of fancily dressed ladies all sitting down for tea. While that is fantastic, this festival is nothing like that. It’s better! Attendees were able to go beyond simply coming to tea and actually dive deep into what makes a tea.

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Ararat Shrine Auditorium was full of local Kansas City merchants and vendors from across the country who brought their best teas for sampling. A few vendors came with yummy treats perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea. Some merchants also showcased their tea related arts and crafts. However the Midwest Tea Festival focuses more on expanding the knowledge of tea.

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The event included several tea industry experts speaking about tea. We also took time to get to know the people behind some of our favorite teas. All the vendors and merchants we met were so eagerly gracious in sharing their stories and explaining where their tea comes from. We even learned about how some teas are harvested and the process of how business owners select teas to sell in their shops. Those who attended also had the chance to participate in tasting sessions and workshops which added to the tea culture experience. Each was led by experts in the field and featured tastings, in-depth discussions and traditional techniques.

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The Midwest Tea Festival provides tea lovers from all over the country, the knowledge to develop a passion for and truly appreciate tea. While it only an annual event, there are still more ways to connect with local tea culture throughout the year.

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The Cabinet of Curiosi-Teas program is designed to help continue your tea education in the company of other tea enthusiasts. The first Cabinet meeting will be held on July 9th at Garza’s Goodies, 8011 Wornall Rd, Kansas City, MO. This group tasting session is limited to 30 guests so purchase your tickets now! (They’re $30) The group will taste a curated collection of high quality teas from Mandala Teaa premiere boutique tea vendor in Rochester, MN. Guests will also leave with more tea to enjoy at home.

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The Midwest Tea Festival has partnered with the English-Speaking Union-Kansas City Branch to take your tea and literature education even further with the Kansas City Tea & Literature Club! Together they will host an evening book club every 3 months beginning in January 2016. The next meeting will discuss The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck on July 11, 2016. China will be highlighted by tea host Kyle Rutliff from Shang Tea. Each session focuses on a tea growing region of the world and the featured book will be connected to that region. There will be time for discussion of the book and about a 30 minute presentation on the tea and tea culture of the featured region.

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Book club members will be introduced to tea from the featured region, enjoy delicious treats, and discuss the book and regional tea culture. The Midwest Tea Festival and the are asking a $10 donation for each session to benefit their educational programs. Kansas City Tea & Literature Club will be held on the second Monday evening of every third month at Se Faire Belle Salon.

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Before the Midwest Tea Festival I thought I knew enough about tea to call myself a fan but everything I learned there completely blew anything I knew out of the water! This event is a must for local tea drinkers. Thanks for reading! Share this with someone who loves tea.

The Elegance of Eating at La Bodega

Some of my best meals have been at La Bodega. Thinking back to a recent dining experience there reminded me of a story I heard on Christina Cooks, a Create TV cooking show.

One of my favorite restaurants in Kansas City always has atmosphere where traditional dining can take place. When dining at La Bodega, time seems to slow down, I relax, enjoy myself and the food. - Kiara Loves KC

Christina Pirello, the host of the show, shared a story of a trip she made to Spain. While there, Pirello met a young man who struck up a conversation about the culture of American dining. He commented on how he shocked he was that Americans can simply eat anywhere including on the streets. (Picture grabbing a quick cheeseburger from the nearest food truck or scarfing down breakfast on the way to work.) Now I have a thing for good food trucks but I also understand the next point made in the story.

Pintxos de Higo are crusty slices of grilled bread topped with sweet roasted red peppers, creamy and fragrant goat cheese, and a smoky fig coulis. La Bodega in Kansas City. - Kiara Loves KC

Pirello said the conversation made her realize that Americans have somewhat lost the elegance that should come with eating. I must agree when I consider how often I pack grab and go snacks for days out with Lily or we hurriedly eat whatever quick bite I can find. Yet, one of my favorite restaurants in Kansas City always has atmosphere where traditional dining can take place. When dining at La Bodega, time seems to slow down, I relax, enjoy myself and the food. Whether its been for a birthday dinner with friends, a date night, or adding flavor to an adventure day with Lily the result is always the same. Eating at La Bodega is a guaranteed experience of elegance.

Eating at La Bodega

Albóndigas Caseras are meatballs in a spicy garlic cream sauce. La Bodega in Kansas City. - Kiara Loves KC

This meal consisted of pintxos de higo, judías verdes, albóndigas caseras, and champiñones à la plancha. (See translations below.) Oh, and a glass of La Bodega’s signature sangría. After all, what is tapas without wine? Select items from the tapas menu are half priced during their daily 4-6 pm happy hour. The words happy hour always have a magical way of making food taste so much better. At least they do for me.

Champiñones à la Plancha are hearty flavored roasted mushrooms with garlic and a white wine parsley sauce. La Bodega in Kansas City. - Kiara Loves KC

Each dish was amazingly delicious. No surprise there. What did catch my taste buds off guard was my first sip of the sangría. What I drank was more like a wine flavored glass of water than the bold, spicy, and sweet mixture I’m accustomed to drinking. I should have simply asked for a new glass but I didn’t. Also, the waitress, without asking first, took the glass before I finished. However, the rest of the meal made up for it.

Judías Verdes is a bowl full of crunchy green beans, crumbled feta cheese, red onion, peppadew peppers, juicy tomatoes, basil, with a green olive vinaigrette. La Bodega in Kansas City. - Kiara Loves KC

Pintxos de Higo are crusty slices of grilled bread topped with sweet roasted red peppers, creamy and fragrant goat cheese, and a smoky fig coulis.
Judías Verdes is a bowl full of crunchy green beans, crumbled feta cheese, red onion, peppadew peppers, juicy tomatoes, basil, with a green olive vinaigrette.
Albóndigas Caseras are meatballs in a spicy garlic cream sauce.
Champiñones à la Plancha are hearty flavored roasted mushrooms with garlic and a white wine parsley sauce.
La Bodega’s official sangría recipe is a mix of Spanish tempranillo, red grape juice, Spanish brandy, triple sec, lemon and orange slices, grapes, and cherries.

The History of Spanish Tapas

Whether for a birthday dinner with friends, date nights, or adding to an adventure day with my daughter, La Bodega in Kansas City is a guaranteed experience of elegance. - Kiara Loves KC

Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, sophisticated cuisine. The word tapa means “pot cover” in Spanish. According to The Joy of Cooking, original tapas were the slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This prevented fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation, because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. Also, in some countries it is customary for diners to stand and move about while eating tapas. This traditional way of eating in Spain brings food and socializing with friends together. Such tradition also occurs with each meal at La Bodega.

Tapas is an everyday event in Spanish culture. These moments are meant to be enjoyed without hurry. Such tradition is also an occurrence with each meal at La Bodega in Kansas City. - Kiara Loves KC

My latest dining experience at La Bodega represents number three in my KC Originals challenge. Thanks for reading and please subscribe for more of our Kansas City adventures!

Best Mother’s Day Weekend Ever

Sunday May 8, 2016 and the days leading up to it were my best celebration of Mother’s Day yet! No, I didn’t get breakfast in bed (ugh crumbs) or a day at the spa (maybe soon). However, what I did get I loved, none the less. A fantastic Mother’s Day weekend with my incredible daughter, Lily.

 First Friday in 18th and Vine Jazz District. Mother's Day weekend 2016

The weekend got kicked off at the first 18th & Vine jazz district First Friday. It had the vibes of being more like a neighborhood block party. The street from the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey office to Cajun style restaurant Danny’s Big Easy was closed off. Sounds of music and the smells of barbecue drifted through the air. We watched part of a two-step dance at the Negro League Baseball Museum. The best part was seeing local artists selling their artwork in the middle of everything.

KC Streetcar grand opening. Mother's Day weekend 2016

Our next stop for the night was the KC Streetcar’s grand opening. The City Market held a movie night in the park as part of the celebration. Lily and I sat among a small crowd to enjoy A Streetcar Named Desire. We noshed on home style jerk chicken dinners from one of the vendors at the Jazz District first friday while we watched. Before the end of the night we rode the streetcar to Union Station. Even though it was almost midnight, we were squeezed in like a tin of sardines.

Midwest Tea Festival in Kansas City. Mother's Day weekend 2016

The Midwest Tea Festival took place Saturday at the Ararat Shrine Auditorium. This annual event is a lovely day of being educated on the art of tea. We learned about how tea should be properly brewed, the process of a tea harvest, and how to train our palettes to distinguish between flavors in a cup of tea. We were introduced to the people behind some of our favorite teas and many more vendors selling every kind of tea related product imaginable. After experiencing the Midwest Tea Festival, I consider it a gateway to go from simply being a tea drinker to actually becoming connected to the culture of tea.

City Thrift Mother's Day 2016 sale

For the rest of the evening we shopped deals at City Thrift’s Mother’s Day sale. City Thrift is a non-profit thrift store. All proceeds benefit City Union Mission, dedicated to helping Kansas City’s less fortunate with rehabilitation, career, and life counselling programs. City Thrift already has clothes, appliances, furniture, and more for super low prices but on special occasions they have additional discount sales. Like a Mother’s Day extra 50% off everything in the store kind of sale!

Lulu's Thai Noodle Shop in Kansas City. Mother's Day weekend 2016

On the big day, I slept in. Happy Mother’s Day to me! It was almost 11 am before I rolled out of bed and we ate a small breakfast of waffles, eggs, and bacon. Then we spent more time lounging around. Where we would eat for lunch was a tough choice between brunch at Krokstrom and crossing off another KC Original. I ended up choosing Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, which made the fourth restaurant from the challenge. Lulu’s food is as delicious as the place itself is gorgeously decorated. We ordered Lulu’s Sampler, a flavorful adventure through the best of the street food menu. Included were steamed pork dumplings, pan-fried veggie dumplings, Crab Rangoon, and Vietnamese spring rolls. Lily also got her first taste of bubble tea. She got strawberry and I ordered chai tea flavor.

I hope your Mother’s Day was just as fabulous as mine! Feel free to leave a comment sharing your events of the day. If you liked this please subscribe for more of our Kansas City adventures and special giveaways coming soon. Thank you for reading!

The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art's annual Passport to India Festival featured food, music, dancing, art, and culture all in celebration of India. - Kiara Loves KC

My Epic Completely Free Kansas City Staycation!

Vacations are a time to break away from the routines of everyday life. They’re a time for some rest and relaxation. Which is good, if you want to rest. Not me. I had 10 days to do nothing but explore Kansas City. And, the best part is, I didn’t spend a dime doing it.

I’ve gotten pretty good at free activities in Kansas City. Partially out of necessity. I’m not wealthy so there’s no logical sense in living like I am. And, partly for the fun of it. I like free stuff. I also like that I never have to look too long before I find things to do that keep money in my wallet. This vacation was no exception. Here’s what my daughter, Lily, and I did on our epic Kansas City staycation.

River Market Antiques Easter Egg Hunt

An Easter egg hunt at River Market Antiques in Kansas City gave us the chance to spend the day finding fantastic antique treasures.

An Easter egg hunt at River Market Antiques gave us the chance to search for plastic eggs with discount coupons in them.  What really happened is Lily and I spent the day finding the most fantastic antique treasures throughout the three levels of the mall. Each of the booth owners has local ties to Kansas City. Read more about River Market Antiques in my story on our day of exploration.

Batman v Superman at Union Station’s Extreme Screen

Union Station's Extreme Screen gave viewer's one of the best movie experiences for watching Batman v Superman in Kansas City.

One of my favorite movie theater’s in Kansas City is the Extreme Screen.  The first show of each day (at 12:30 pm) is only $5. Plus kids under 5 get in for free. Which means Lily and I can watch whatever’s coming out on the big screen for a very cheap price. However, on this particular occasion, the concession stand attendant had an unclaimed ticket for the 8 pm showing of Batman v Superman. When I made plans to see a movie I expected to have to pay. So, the truth is, this almost wasn’t a completely free staycation. Find out what I thought of the film in review.

Disney On Ice Celebrates 100 Years of Magic

Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic took us through some of the most beloved children’s movie classics.

Disney’s 100 Years of Magic took us on an ice skating adventure through some of the most beloved classics in children’s movies. The show was packed with Disney’s favorite characters, songs, dancing, and fireworks. Lily loved every moment, from Pinocchio to Frozen. We were able to attend thanks to one of the parents at my job. Take a look at my post for 100 Years of Magic if you want to know what to expect from a Disney On Ice show.

The State of the City Address

 The Uptown Theater opened its doors for Mayor Sly James to give his annual State of the City Kansas City address.

Kansas City’s Uptown Theater opened its doors for Mayor Sly James to give his annual speech on the current climate of our city. During the presentation I learned about several organizations in Kansas City that are working hard to make positive differences. Those who attended the address were also treated to a surprise concert. Learn more about how Kansas City is doing in my post about Mayor James’ State of the City Address.

The Money Museum

The Money Museum, located in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, is dedicated to educating visitors on the role of the Federal Reserve, how the U.S. economy works, the history of American money, and so much more.

The Money Museum is located in the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. It’s dedicated to educating visitors on the role of the Federal Reserve, how the U.S. economy works, the history of American money, and so much more. By far, this was Lily’s favorite adventure from our epic staycation. She really enjoyed the interactive displays which had lots of facts about where money starts and where it ends up. If you live in or are visiting Kansas City this should definitely be on your list of things to do.

Annie Get Your Gun at Musical Theatre Heritage

Annie Get Your Gun is just one of the many fabulous shows in Kansas City's Musical Theatre Heritage. This country western musical tells the story of famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley.

Annie Get Your Gun is just one of the many fabulous shows in the 2016 Musical Theatre Heritage season. This country western musical tells the story of famous sharpshooter Annie Oakley, her days in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, and the love of her life Frank Butler. For the opening night, KC Fringe volunteers, of which I am one, were asked to help with the event. Read more in my review of the musical.

The Model Railroad Experience at Union Station

The Model Railroad Experience, Kansas City's Union Station, houses miniature town-scapes with trains running through them.

Lily has minor fixation with trains. So when I let her takeover one of our staycation days, the model trains were her first choice. This Kansas City gem is a locomotive lovers dream. The Model Railroad Experience houses miniature town scapes with trains running through them. Each display is as unique as the model trains.

Kaleidoscope at Crown Center

Kaleidoscope is a kid friendly hot spot in Kansas City that requires children to use their imaginations to create special arts and crafts.

Lily’s second pick for the day’s activities was Kaleidoscope. This kid friendly hot spot in Kansas City requires children to use their imaginations to create special arts and crafts. Materials are provided by Hallmark Cards. Kaleidoscope is divided into sections for making music, painting, crafting, and more. Each creative session is 40 minutes long. Visit the website for session times and hours.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Passport to India Festival

The NelsonAtkins Museum of Art's annual Passport to India Festival featured food, music, dancing, art, and culture all in celebration of India.

We spent the last day of our epic staycation at the annual Passport to India Festival. The event featured food, music, dancing, art, and culture all in celebration of India. Throughout the day we enjoyed local groups highlighting traditional Indian dances. Museum volunteers showcased fashions from India and demonstrated how to correctly wear a sari. We also watched several interpretative performances of Indian stories. Check out my post on the Passport to India Festival, which includes all special activities from the day and photos.

I hope you’ll be inspired to go on some new Kansas City adventures of your own! If you liked this you please subscribe to Kiara Loves KC and stay connected to our story of life in the city. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and, Instagram. Thank you for reading!

My Reason for Blogging

If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while you may have noticed my recent going back and forth on my bio. “Capturing the amazing life Kansas City has to offer” and “You don’t have to be rich to live an amazing life” My blog and photo style have changed several times over the past 2 years, just like I have, but my reason for blogging has not.

As I continue to grow in blogging I want to make sure that reason is clear.
I started blogging as a way to show gratitude for the life God has blessed me to live. A life where I have always had everything I needed, most of what I wanted, and so much more than I deserved. All without being “rich”.

My blogging and photography styles have changed many times over the years. As have I. Yet, my reason for blogging has always remained the same.
Downtown Kansas City, MO

So while I am capturing life in Kansas City, the fact that my life is filled with things anyone could have, do, or see is a more important message. When I say you don’t have to be rich to live an amazing life it’s because I am not rich yet my life is an amazing gift from God.

Through faith I have learned how to survive and thrive with what I have. Every post and photo I share is my story of God’s amazing blessings in my life.

As always, thank you for reading! Please sign up for our Kansas City adventures and special subscriber-only giveaways.  You can also stay connected with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.