Thursday, January 19, 2012

Kearney, NE

The fam & I just got back from 4 days in Kearney, Nebraska. The reason for our adventure four hours east was so the Mr. & I could partake in the annual NE District Minister's Winter Retreat. The girls got to miss 4 days of school. (Though, their backpacks weighed heavy with all the schoolwork they must do while ON this trip.) When we attended last year, it was a really hard trip. It was a horrible snowy yucky mess. PLUS, we had car problems, which left the girls & I trapped in the hotel room most of our days. This year, we had an excellent time!
The Mr. & I attended morning & evening sessions, engaging in really refreshing worship & listening to the speaker, Pastor Rod Loy, who was very chill & just a regular guy, passionate about God, & full of amazing stories. I felt very encouraged about our own passions in ministry, having a heart for young people & those young at heart. I could have listened to story after story after story. But, really, it just made me excited to tell my own stories someday. Stories of God-appointed moments. Impossible scenarios that cannot be explained without a bit of a miraculous ending. Stuff that makes your skin tingle & your heart thump. Stuff that makes you believe anything is possible, because, really, anything IS possible.

While in the hotel room the girls got to watch a marathon of "The Little House on the Prairie" episodes on television. (Loved it, but sooooo thankful we don't have cable.) We spoiled them with video rentals from Redbox. And they kept themselves quite occupied with the usual hotel pool & hot tub action, along with toys brought from home --& ALL that homework!!!

But this time around, we managed to find things to do OUTSIDE of the hotel as well...
The bestest fun the girls had was right across the street from our hotel, at The Big Apple Fun Center. (Wish someone woulda told us about this last year when we were stranded!) We paid for passes to play at Ballocity. We ran around, mostly with the place to ourselves, having an absolute BLAST! One of my friend's calls Ballocity a "McDonald's play area on crack". That is EXACTLY what it is. You can shoot foam balls from cannons & guns that are set up on any of 3 different levels. (I can attest that getting hit in the face stings a little.) My favorite thing to do was to lie underneath a giant vat of balls that dumps at different intervals. (I'm not so sure Zoey liked it.) The Mr. & I were climbing all over up in that play area too. We all pretty much squealed for 2 1/2 hours straight.
In the arcade, we not only got photo booth pics, but I won the jackpot in the Cyclone game! I was so proud as the machine spit out 140 tickets. (The Cyclone, or possibly called something else in other arcades, is a game of reflex. A light spins around the "board" & you have to tap your "buzzer" in a specific spot in order to win the jackpot.) I got skillz. The girls left with prizes: bottles of disappearing ink, plastic whirlygigs, tubes of green lipgloss, animal pencil toppers & eyeball poppers.
And I left feeling: awesome, & reminding everyone throughout the night how awesome I was.
We happened to go to dinner on a night when United Way of Kearney volunteers were helping out the servers & hosts/hostesses to raise money. (I can see the Mr.'s blue shirt & blue jeans on the left in one of their facebook photos.) All tips went to the United Way. I thought that was cool! Our host, & UW volunteer, Ken Anderson, was the most jolly & welcoming person I've ever met that "worked" at a restaurant. The Cellar menus are huge & heavy & it was awkward as we sat around our little table with 4 of those wonky & weighted tablets.  The onion rings, served with ranch, are yummy. So that slightly made up for the cumbersome restaurant props. This is silly, but I always judge a restaurant on how good their ranch is. The Cellar's ranch is the good kind. Maybe only I know what that means. haha! I shared the 4 cheese (or 5 cheese?) ravioli with Zoey. It was just ok. I think I've watched too many "Kitchen Nightmares" episodes because I kept picking the place apart as Gordon Ramsay might have. (He would have had a FIT with those menus!) I WISHED I had ordered the Western Burger. The Mr. gobbled his up. It was voted the best burger in Nebraska by the Nebraska Beef Council. And it is SOOOOO delicious. I would know. I stole a bite. Pazely had the longest corndog on the planet. And she loved it.

My friend Sarah, a former Bridgeport neighbor who recently moved to Kearney, picked me up at my hotel. We ate lunch at a place she'd never been, but heard good things about. Tru Cafe, in downtown Kearney, is AMAZING!! I loved the mismatched table & chair sets scattered about the place. The atmosphere was one of those totally chill hangout places where you can eat lunch & then plant yourself for another hour or so. The whole bring-a-book-or-your-laptop vibe. And they often have live music events. It's just perfection. I enjoyed the best potato soup I've ever eaten, alongside a half chicken salad bagel-wich & iced tea. Yummers to the max. There are also some handmade items in a little room off to the side for sale. Handmade AND the best potato soup in my tummy? Score.

My Knit Witz crew have been telling me about this shop for about a year now. I FINALLY got to step foot inside the place! It is so cool. And, it's just a couple blocks from Tru Cafe. I WISH I knew the name of the lady that was working there that day. She was so nice & so helpful. I even brought some Marina yarn from home & had her show me how to knit with it. I left there with some Bazinga yarn, in THIS color palette, & a skein of silk yarn from India, made from recycled sari's. It is so gorgeous!! (Most yarn shops will wind your skein into a ball if you ask!) I have no idea what I'm going to make from either yarn, but I wanted to leave with treats. And I did.

Definitely great coffee. Friendly staff. And cozy spaces to sit. (Couch seating in coffee shops get great bonus points in my book. Coffee houses sans sofas are an anomaly.) Sarah & I both sipped on Moosetrack Mochas (chocolate, caramel & toasted marshmallow flavorings), & had a bit of a knit while we wasted away the last of her lunch hour(s) from work before we had to ske-daddle. The coffee was smooth, not like the bitter Starbucks flavor I so dislike. Served with a chocolate covered coffee bean sitting in a wee nest of whipped cream, right on top of the lid, over the sippin' hole. I've been on a spiced chai latte kick forevers. So, it's been a while since I've ordered a drink with any actual coffee in it. I was pleasantly surprised. And wished I lived closer. I'd be a customer for life.
On a side note: Of course, you know me & my camera. Snapping photos everywhere I go. The manager approached me & asked me what I was taking photos for. As I enter different establishments & places of business, I sometimes forget to ask if it's alright to take photos. Like then. I felt like a dork. But Ryan was cool once he found out that I am just a photog nut & a blogger. And not trying to steal their plans for a time travel contraption that is powered by  palatable roasted coffee beverages.
(Or am I???)

Pane Bello
We seriously lucked out with most of our eating choices while in Kearney. Pane Bello is an Italian eatery & bakery. They also serve coffees, make fresh breads & pastries daily, &, along with their lunch & dinner menu, serve breakfast all day. I had a halvesies of soup & a panini. The smoked gouda chicken panini was tasty, although the tomato bisque soup was just disgusting. It was watery, not like any bisque I've had & it had a strong taste of ham. Pazely had mac-n-cheese: so happy to see homemade mac-n-cheese served at a restaurant instead of the boxed Kraft kind that we usually see. Her side of choice was a chocolate chip cookie. Zoey chose the pepporoni pizza, which she loved. And we ordered a cookie for her as well. The cookies were SO DELISH! They are giant & soft & a fun after-meal dessert for the kids. Of course the Mr. & I couldn't leave without dessert of our own. We ordered 2 canoli's to go. We could only eat one. We saved the other one for later, inside our mini hotel fridge. (And then, when I felt like it was "later", I ate it. All by myself.)

There is SO much more to do in Kearney. We were sad to not make it the Children's Museum, & wished the weather was warmer for a visit to some of the nice parks in town. I would have loved to walk up & down the shops in downtown. And to have found more "gems" along the way.

I'm so thankful for a refreshing, energizing, inspiring trip.
I'm so thankful for fun with my fam.
Click HERE to view ALL the photos from our trip.


  1. Sounds like you had a great trip and you found lots of cool places to go back to.

    Look at all that yarn!!! Yum!


  2. Yeah you finally got to the yarn shop. Your trip sounds too good to be true. God Bless, here's to a great 2012


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