So…this is awkward.

Is anyone even out there anymore? Or did you all just disappear like I did?

Sorry to leave you hanging…that was wrong. I just wasn’t really sure what the heck I was doing for awhile. But all that has changed!

I’ve decided to close the Near and Viajar chapter of my life and start something new. I’ll keep all of my digital travel memories up here of course, but I won’t be updating this blog anymore.

If you’re still around, thanks for waiting. Feel free to start following along again over at my new blog, Raising The Barre.

My favorite place in KC

If there is one place in Kansas City that has completely stolen my heart, it’s definitely this one:

For so many reasons Loose Park is one of the most beautiful, romantic places I’ve ever been. I became hooked on my first visit last summer right after I moved here, but I really fell in love during the fall…

Seriously, how beautiful is that?

The winter months at Loose Park were just as utterly breathtaking though. Even though much of the place’s color had been drained out, my favorite little getaway was still brimming with life and personality.

I’ve always felt that public parks speak well to a city’s culture, and Loose Park is no exception-it’s a great spot to people watch. On any given day there are drum circles to be heard, frisbee games to be played, ducks to be fed, and kites to be flown. This place makes my heart smile.

(Recognize that smaller row of trees in the background? They’re the same ones from the second photo!)

Now that spring is upon us and the days are officially getting longer, I can’t wait to see everything turn green again. In a few short months I’ll have officially observed an entire year’s worth of transformations at Loose Park…I can’t believe how fast this year has gone.

So excited to see what spring will bring!

Do you have a favorite park? If I had to choose, I’d probably pick Parque del Retiro in Madrid, but Central Park in NYC is pretty fab too :)

Weird Fruit Day!

When I was little, my mom used to do some pretty awesome things. Since she usually worked on weekends, every so often she would call my brother and I off from school and declare it “Matthew and Kimberly Day.” She would literally call our school and tell the receptionist that her children would not be in class today because she was taking them to the beach. Or the zoo. Or Navy Pier…or wherever we decided we wanted to go that day. It was almost embarassing when the receptionist would be all “Uhm…ok…are your children sick?” And my mom would respond with “No, we’re going to the beach today. Have a nice day!”

CLICK.

Other times, when we’d actually have to go to school, my brother and I would wake up to find out it was Weird Fruit Day. I’ll never forget that morning when instead of eating a normal bowl of cereal for breakfast, we had things like mangos, papayas and star fruit. I remember going to school and asking my friends what they had for Weird Fruit Day only to be met with blank stares. Sneaky mom.

When I saw star fruit on sale for $.98 each at the grocery store today, my heart skipped a beat. Happy Weird Fruit Day!

If you’ve never had star fruit, let me just tell you they are totally delicious. They’re like a cross between a grape and an apple in terms of texture, but more grape-like in taste. Sort of?

They made me smile today. It’s always the little things, isn’t it?

Homemade Granola Bars

Since I am no longer galavanting around the world like I used to, I’ve been distracting myself by cooking. A lot. Have you noticed? I need an outlet!

On that note, I don’t want to alarm anybody here, but this might be the most delicious creation to ever come out of my kitchen. Not to be confused with healthy…I’ll give you fair warning there is a lot of sugar in this recipe. But, maybe the sugar gets cancelled out since there is also a lot of healthy-ish things like sunflower seeds and oatmeal and dried fruit and CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER!

I really didn’t know what to expect from these, but can I just say they are blowing my mind?! So sweet, chewy, and deliciously peanut-buttery. They’re addicting little squares of crack, I’m telling you!

Want to know what these little babies are perfect for? That dreaded afternoon slump. It usually hits me around 3:30 when I begin talking myself out of my evening workout because I’m too tired…or hungry. These homemade granola bars are the perfect pick-me-up!

You know what else would be totally awesome? If you popped one of these squares in the microwave for a few seconds and topped it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You know, in case you really want to be bad.

Check out Jenna’s blog for the recipe because I followed it exactly. The only difference is I used milk chocolate chips instead of dark, dried cranberries rather than a blend, and cut mine into squares instead of bars. Whatever you decide, you should really make these…and then share them because they are just too good to keep to yourself.

Now, go gather up some oatmeal, oat bran, peanut butter, shredded coconut, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips and honey and get to business!

Overnight Oats

I don’t know about you, but I am just not hungry for breakfast right when I wake up. I always have to bring my breakfast to work with me, and usually don’t become hungry enough to eat it until almost lunch time. Pretty sure that defeats the whole purpose of eating breakfast in the morning to kickstart your metabolism, no?

Well, in an effort to simplify my morning routine today I made a bowl of overnight oats last night! Overnight oats have been floating around the blog world ever since I can remember, but for some reason I’ve never tried them. I tend to really enjoy a warm bowl of oatmeal so for the longest time, I just could not wrap my head around the thought of cold oats in the morning. I decided to take a risk last night, however, and I was so excited to wake up and skip out the door with my already-prepared breakfast. Until this happened….

Doh! It’s always the way, isn’t it? I didn’t cry…but I wanted to.

Anyway, I wasn’t even hungry when I got to work (naturally) but practically force-fed myself because I so badly wanted to try the breakfast that re-routed my entire morning.

The verdict? Loved them! Oh you creamy, luscious, sweet bowl of oats…MARRY ME.

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dry oatmeal

6oz greek yogurt (I used honey flavored from TJ’s)

Splash of milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk <—– newest obsession)

Sliced banana

1 T peanut butter

Directions:

Mix together dry oats, yogurt and milk and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, add more milk to achieve desired consistency while continuing to stir everything together. Top with sliced banana and peanut butter.

Have you ever tried overnight oats?