Archives for category: Midwest

Sometimes you really luck out when you take a different way home. Bored with my same old commute, I was so lucky to find these winding back roads of our beloved Sunflower State. The first time I got lost, I used my gps. The second time, I just let it roll and I found these awesome tee pee things.

And then when this route became slightly more familiar, but no less spectacular, I decided to make it my permanent commute. There’s even an apple orchard on the way. Not to mention gorgeous golden and green landscapes.

One day, by chance, the farm I had always taken for a corn field (I’m too busy driving to pay attention to everything!!) turned out to be…sunflowers! What a fantastic lovely and sunny ending to my day.

20120807-213452.jpgMy breath got caught in my throat at the stunning sight of ten billion sunflowers. My brakes squealed as I turned around. I called my husband to tell him I’d be a little late. He told me dinner would be ready. Aw. The lovely sight of farmland (and thinking of my darlin, making dinner) never gets old.


Also on the roadside taking pictures was a sweet Topeka woman who had a nice camera and good wide angle lens. She told me her husband had recently passed away and that these flowers were her favorite. We chatted and had a lot in common. She was as beautiful as the sunniest sunflower. I’m sure her photographs were lovely and I hope she remembers that moment in time as fondly as I do.

Kansas, you sure are special.


Want to know more about me? Check out my About page for starters and my other adventures: Puerto Rico and The Flint Hills. Recently I got caught up in Tropical Storm Debby, but not without my camera!

Leave a comment and tell me about your best roadside experiences!

Support art and purchase my photos here.


Morgan and I couldn’t wait to frolic in the open prairie and document The Kansas City Symphony playing alongside cattle drives, cowboys and cowgirls. We packed our camera bags early in the morning and set off for the three hour drive west.

Along the way, we stopped at abandoned barns, old stone farmhouses and lofts, played in the corn fields, avoided poison ivy, looked at the cows and tried not to kill ourselves on the winding backroad farm routes. It was glorious.

Prairie grass is so soft and floaty, but Kansas is windy. WINDY. So much dirt and dust covered us head to toe. I loved every bit of it.


The Symphony in the Flint Hills is so special. Every year the KC Symphony plays out in the middle of the heartland. The songs evoke a far away time of our American past: frontier, new lands, freedom. When I saw the open space, I imagined this landscape hundreds of years ago sprinkled with buffalo and a completely different culture.

The event is not just about the Symphony or the Flint Hills. It has the power to bring people together from east and west to appreciate this beautiful land and remember a past that is rooted deep in the heart of every American.

It also calls on a changing present: Morgan and I documented our adventure with Instagram and Twitter (@kansaslovebird #flinthills), veggie burgers were served and devoured, and the astronomy society brought their amazing GPS telescopes so we could see the rings around Saturn in broad daylight. There was a bridge made of completely recycled materials. Hey, Kansas! You’re awesome!

The governor was there to celebrate a new nature trail, and as part of the media crew, we were invited to document! Wow!

The event was also about education: learning about the geology of this amazing place, the migratory birds, the native grasses, music, and dancing.  And of course, cowboys and cowgirls.

Morgan got a little misty when the final notes of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” coincided with the last light of the sun, while I got chills during the finale when the whole crowd pitched in to sing “Home on the Range.”

For most of the folks, the bluegrass and two-steppin’ topped off the evening. But for Morgan and me, our night wasn’t over yet. We decided to drive a bit down the road. It was pitch dark and we wanted to do some nighttime stargazing. I’ve never seen such a glittery sparkly star-filled sky. I think we saw three shooting stars. It’s true, in Kansas, you can “wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind.”

Click the link to see our video and see that Kansas WIND. Great footage, Mo Milla!

Morgan Miller is a Kansas City photographer and guest blogger for Kansas Love Bird. Thanks Morgan for being such a great gal pal and ammmmmmazing photographer. 

Take a look at the slideshow to see the adventure.

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Thanks, Flint Hills. Much love.

Nice hat, Dad. And gas was only $0.31/gallon.

I don’t know why, but eventually you become your parents. The other day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I said “WARSH.” Like as in, “I’ll warsh the dishes!”

Can you imagine?

Thank goodness I was on the phone with the only person I know who says “WaRshington DC.” He didn’t even notice.

My parents (yep, step-parents and in-laws too) are of my dearest friends. Moms are incredible and all-knowing. They understand their daughters. Sometimes you just need Mom: step-Mom or in-law Mom. But this isn’t about Mom. Whether he’s cool headed and calm, helps you with your cars, or is feisty and cracking jokes, he’s Dad.

My step-dad is cool and calm. Always. Except for the time my brothers snuck out of the house during an ice storm in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve… He is my personal sports guru. You want him on your Trivial Pursuit team.

My in-law-Dad loves his NASCAR. Indy every year. He’s my go-to car man. In 1974 he brought home a 5,000 gallon big rig tanker from the National Guard and another time a 1980s Excalibur. Amazing! But mostly, he’s more amazing for his knowledge of oil changing, tire pressure, gauges, and everything “cars” that I don’t know.

Now my dad-Dad is feisty and hot-headed. He can be impatient and gets worked up easily. Just like me. Go figure. But – he is hilarious. I laugh so much with him. He is SO East Coast and yet embraces his Midwestern values (and accent!) with pride. I love it when I hear that Ozark-ness over the phone. It melts my heart. He gives the bestest advice ever, and boy, he can tell a story! Best buds, Dad. Forever.

Dad bought this Harley for $150. Wow. That’s pretty awesome.

I think of this particular story when times are especially tough:

You see, my dad, uncle, and granddad had a cattle farm and turkey hatchery. My brother and I were babies. Dad was working National Guard on the weekends, Mom was working hard at school. Raising two kids wasn’t easy when they were running the local Kentucky Fried Chicken. On top of that, Dad had the cattle and the hatchery. Just when Dad thought times couldn’t be tougher, he found himself shoveling turkey crap in the hatchery. Tripped, fell, and broke his teeth.

To this day, Dad tells me that story when the going gets rough and reminds me in his own sweet way, “Sometimes you’re the shovel, sometimes you’re the sh*t.”

So true, Dad. Love you.

What’s YOUR favorite Dad advice?

Dad in jump school – Fort Benning, GA

Dad, you really look cute in hats!

Made with turkey from Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch • Tampa, KS

If you’re like me, you really do appreciate where your food comes from. I mean, let’s be honest. I can’t drive five miles without seeing some kind of farm animal! My dad, uncle, and granddad raised cattle and had a turkey hatchery for crying out loud.  I’ve always been aware of my food and a little too aware when I’m standing downwind of a cow pie… But, as a working mom, loyal wife, blogger, teacher and small business owner, it’s easy to get sidetracked with all those attractive little boxes of food everywhere.

When I can have local and organic food, I know it’s special. Not always possible, but it really makes a difference. Tomatoes taste better off of my backyard vine, strawberries are sweeter picked from a patch, lettuce is crispy and earthy, and burgers are juicer.

Detail from Local Burger’s lovely mural by Heather Reynolds

Local Burger in Lawrence, KS makes it easy to feel good about the food on your plate. The food comes from local farms, and local vendors. Even the ketchup is local.

Bison, elk, venison, turkey, chicken, all local! And if you want to take some home, you can.

When I’m ready to try red meat again, I’ll be getting it from Local Burger.

I know meal planning can be a challenge. In my world, quick easy take-out meals are essential at times. But even still, I try to be conscious, healthy, and aware of my food.  There’s really nothing quicker than a banana or an apple.  Or a delicious meal from Local Burger.

Today, I had the most amazing turkey burger; even the pickles were special. It was classic: lettuce, tomato, onion, and of course, ketchup. My side salad was tart with vinegar and apples. The service was fast and friendly. Thank you, Jess.

It really is the World’s Most (delightful) Local Burger. At least here in Kansas.

 More detail from Local Burger’s mural by Heather Reynolds

Symphony in the Flint Hills with guest blogger coming next week! Today I used Camera+ for the photos you see here.

Don’t know if you knew this, but Kansas’ state flower is the sunflower! How sunny and cheery. I love it.

Here we go! I’m taking the KansasLoveBird team (yep, TEAM) to the Prairie! More to come. Be sure to follow on instagram and twitter for instant updates: @Kansaslovebird #flinthills #kansaslovebird

I’m taking along goodies. Love you, lovebirds.

My Grandpa’s gorgeous Minolta


What a cute little fishy.

120 film

Dreamy with “The Dreamer”


 “…I love the Art Institute of Chicago, the MAM in Milwaukee, the Tate in London, Monet’s house, the Mayan pyramids in the Yucatán, Picasso’s Museum in Paris, but mostly I love the Nelson-Atkins. For me, it’s like going home from college on a winter vacation… It is home! A place where I am welcomed loved and expected to be haunting…”        

                                                                                     Tim Rowland  

Pattern Detail

Detail, Water Garden

Collage Detail

Detail, ReTiRo: A Life Story

Tim Rowland, relaxing on the Porch

A day with an artist

When you’re  ready for a romp around a new city, or just ready to see the old familiar in a new light, you can’t ask for a better day or experience than with an artist.

Ready for adventure? Always! Look at things from a different angle? Yup, pretty much everyday. Really, spend a day. Just one day with an artist. Whether you are an artist yourself or you have a friend or cousin or neighbor. Be silly. Let GO. Let that energy of being different, seeing different, doing things differently be okay and real  and inspiring.

I went to art school and met fantastic weirdoes. We drowned ourselves in art history.  We made music. Went on roadtrips. Sang in bars. Explored forests. Traveled. Taught each other true heart.  We built a lifetime of friendship. These good folks changed me and continue to open my eyes today.

And the other day, I decided to spend some quality time with one of them.

Tim, outdoors. 

Tim. Artists need natural light.

One of these influential and fun artists is Tim Rowland. Often called Timbarow or ReTiRo, Tim, like many other artists has a few names that we call him. By any name, the artist is the same. Tim is an inner city art teacher! How cool to share knowledge, teach, and inspire others. Way to go, Tim! And with Tim’s work, it doesn’t matter. It’s all-relevant, Dreamlike, fairy tales, fantasy, and fun. Spending a day with him opened my eyes to a city that I know well—and reminded me that it is yet discoverable!

Here is what we did and what I learned:

  • 10am – photoshoot. So much FUN! Giant historic home, kids running around, coffee brewing, family exchanging good mornings. Super-high energy. Grand piano in the dining room; plinking keys. Fluffy dogs. Antiques. Summertime!

  • 11am – wandered through Tim’s studio and gardens and outside on the porch where we chatted about Midwest life, adventures, art! Picked up my daughter. She was ready for adventure too.
  • 12pm – went to the Thomas Hart Benton home and museum. What an amazing human he was! Spent his life making art, working hard, teaching, taking care of business. It was my first time seeing the home, which is part of our glorious National Parks, and Tim’s second time since his father took him as a child. It was a fond memory, I could tell. And a good one to add to my collection.
At Thomas Hart Benton’s House – Did you know THB invented harmonica tabs? Not me!
  • 3pm  – A Local Brewery –  pit stop and howdy! Always time for smooches for my dearest favorite artist and brewer (my hubby, who makes some of the finest brews and art, and also a good friend of Tim’s – bro-hugs exchanged).
Tim and a shout out to Loo, my hubby (he draws and paints these lovable characters!)
  • 4pm – a late lunch at a local cantina and dessert next door at a local panaderia (bakery) where we got ice cream, cookies, and a new experience for me: Mexican corn (elote) covered in some kind of buttery mayo cheesy goodness, I was stuffed but Tim swears by it’s power and yumm. I promise I’ll try it next time.
  • 5pm – good byes and blessed by a great day with a great artist. What fun, frolicking around KC.

Tim in Thomas Hart Benton’s studio

Tim n Tom

What do you think when you see a Klimt? Or a Basquiat? Oil paint, glitter-gold, gorgeous figures, pattern, classically trained. Spray paint, pattern, female figures,  distortion, large-scale small-scale, subway and street art. These styles and techniques come together in Tim’s work and are exaggerated when you step into Tim’s studio. You can instantly see Tim’s worldly influence from New Orleans to Paris, all the while paying serious homage to his KC roots.

The doors, the walls, ceiling: covered with collage, oil paints, pieces of old instruments (a cello!!!) and gorgeous repetitive patterns, beads, lights, wires. There is no end or beginning from where the paint drips on the floor, where the canvases are stacked, the chairs, or walls meet. Just a perfect 360° bubble of paint and pattern and sparkly gilded-gold awesome.

Detail Studio Door with Cello

From childhood, Tim has been influenced by his surroundings: his parents as his biggest influence, education as the foundation, and this city, Kansas City, as a nurturing home. As Tim puts it:

“…It is where I experienced life. I have been around the world, but really there is really no place like home. Kansas City can be as cruel as its weather, but wait five minutes and it will change. It’s a big city with a small town appeal. Just large enough to do incredible things but small enough to know everyone by name. It has a myriad of secret gardens and treasures. I had my first kiss here, my first ballgame, and my first art opening. It holds a sacred place in my heart. I went to school in the Northland. …I always saw the city beautiful [skyline] headed to school. The view inspired me. I moved to Midtown Kansas City in the early 2000’s after college graduation and seeing the world, I love it! It is my home.”

Aw, shucks, Tim. I couldn’t have said it better!

Autoportrait at age 26

See the cow? An homage to Tim’s childhood and our beloved “cow town”

Did you know Thomas Hart Benton was from Kansas City? (blogger connection: THB went to the School of the Art Institiute of Chicago. So did I. Then THB taught at the Kansas City Art Institute. So did I—kinda cool, eh?)

Do you know any artists? How have they changed your life?

I love hearing your comments and thoughts! Don’t forget to share this on Twitter, Like on FB, and Pin it! Much much love, love birds! Up next, the Kansas Love Bird team (that’s right team!) will be heading to the Kansas Flint Hills to document The KC Symphony for the annual Symphony in the Flint Hills. What an honor! Get ready for lush grandiose scenery, music, tents, wine, and lots of fun out on the range: We’re going to the PRAIRIE.