Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I'm a Movie Theater Elitist.

I'm just going to start this post by just putting it all out there. I am a movie theater elitist.

I'm aware at how this may sound to those of you reading at home. Who cares about movie theaters, you may ask. It's a decision that is usually made for you- whatever is closest to you, or, in our small town, the only one that exists! Your options are often limited, so why be picky, right?

WRONG. In fact, I feel so strongly about this, that Adam and I vow to not put one penny into an AMC or a Carmike Cinemas in 2014.

I've always loved movies, and so has Adam, so when we started dating, we started seeking out new independent films, which are only available about an hour away, over the Kansas line, at a group of theaters called The Fine Arts Group. Since we discovered these four wonderful theaters, Adam and I find ourselves often- driving a solid sixty minutes just to watch a movie!

On Christmas Day, Adam and I were in town with our family so we planned to see The Wolf of Wall Street at the local theater, a Carmike. In our town of 20,000, Carmike is the only option within 30 minutes, and they're very particular about what they show. Over the years I have only been surprised once at an independent movie they chose to screen. Everything is run-of-the-mill, and perfectly suited for the kind of people that purchase those big popcorn buckets. They show the blockbusters. (And once in awhile, really creepy conservative, Christian films, and sometimes, operas).

Adam & I are just not those kind of people that want to be contained to just blockbusters.

Let me explain.

Christmas Day was a perfect example of the kind of people that frequent the movies at Carmike & AMCs. They arrive late, with their huge popcorn & large sodas, squeaky plastic Twizzlers. They squeeze into rows while the previews are screening. They chat during the previews. Their phones glow as the lights are already lowered. They talk LOUD. They laugh even LOUDER. They are the kind of people that think that because they paid $10 for a movie ticket, they can do whatever the hell they want. And you know what, they can.

So we arrive early, select our seats, and we encounter two patrons right away. One was on his cell phone having a very loud conversation about family medical history, and the second was having an equally loud conversation while chewing through his popcorn bucket. We moved toward the front of the theater, and were comfortable- until a big ol hot mess of inebriated blonde hair stumbled in. She and her boyfriend talked at conversational level throughout the entire movie- and every funny part was accompanied by her throwing her body forward and back in a dramatic display of excitement. About an hour and a half after the movie started- I had had enough, and told the staff. They sent someone in who stood there for about five minutes- and Blondie calmed down. This happened three times, until someone behind her had enough and called her out on it. Then- something that never happens, occurred- several groups of people chimed in and told her that she was being ridiculous- and she didn't say another word for the rest of the evening.

Why is this such an issue at these theaters? Because even though the passive-aggressive "Don't talk; don't text, turn your cell phone down" commercials play before the movie, this group is desensitized to those warnings. Why wouldn't they be? Who's going to enforce those rules? The staff? On the rare occasions that I have had to complain to the staff, it's so very ineffective because the offender cools it while the staff stands there- and then continues when they leave. I have never seen a staff member escort a patron out in an AMC or a Carmike.

It doesn't have to be this way. There's a chain of movie theaters called Alamo Drafthouse. Their policy is strict on what they tolerate and what they don't: No talking. No texting. No exceptions. Even Madonna was recently banned from an Alamo Drafthouse after texting during "Twelve Years a Slave" at the New York Film Festival. (Read the story here)

Why don't theaters such as Carmike & AMC adopt a similar policy- and actually enforce it? I think that it's because they're worried about alienating movie-goers if they come on too strongly. I call BS on this- and here's why. NOBODY likes a talker or texter during a movie. It's annoying & distracting. And I've talked to several people that have said that they refuse to go to movies because of the experience (and the price- but that's a topic for another day). I, too, feel let down if I spend money and 2 hours at a movie with an incessant talker.

Which brings me to: Our 2014 Vow. After leaving the movie theater this evening, Adam said to me what I was already thinking: "I think this is the last time we come to Carmike." He took the thought right out of my head! (One of the most amazing things I love about him: he can read me like no other.) At that point we vowed to only spend our money at Independent theaters, which are far superior, and here's why:

#1. Everyone arrives early! At the Fine Arts theaters, I have rarely had the displeasure of having to scoot over, bend my legs, hold my breath while late-comers squeeze by with their plethora of snacks.

#2: No One Talks- Ever! My absolute favorite reason to go to these theaters. The crowd is so different- usually middle-aged to older (Adam and I are usually about 10-15 years younger than the crowd). Let's face it. Most of the troublemakers in movie theaters are 21 and younger. It's gotten so bad that I don't even attend a PG-13 movie anymore, unless it's at the 1:00 pm daytime matinee!

#3: They show independent films, as well as blockbusters! The beauty of these theaters is that they show both the movies that are offered at AMC and Carmike, as well as the wonderful independent films that change your life.

#4: It's the SAME PRICE as an AMC or Carmike! One of the biggest reasons that people tell me when I share with them the greatness that is Fine Arts Group, is that they are too expensive. Ha. They are the exact same price- $8-10 for an evening ticket, around $5 for the matinee.

#5: It's generally a fun place to be. I love these theaters because of their nostalgia. Back when going to the theater was a treat, patrons reveled in the paisley carpet, the buttery smell of popcorn, the velvet seats. Adam and I truly love movies- and the film experience- and I feel so at home here. We love these theaters so much, that Adam actually proposed at the Glenwood Arts in 2012!

I encourage you to try an independent movie theater. I am leaving you with a list of some movies that we have seen in the last year at the Fine Arts theaters that were not available at our mainstream theater. Check them out and let them impact your life, as they have impacted ours. (Click on the links for trailers!)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Well-Fed Newlywed: Homemade Noodles

Happy Thanksgiving Week everyone! This year, we are celebrating Thanksgiving with my side of the family. What's for lunch, you ask?

Oh, you know. Turkey. Stuffing (I call it stuffing even though my mother never actually put it in the turkey), Gravy. And noodles! My grandma Bettie and my grandma Pat always made noodles for holidays, and everyone looks forward to them each year. This year, for my bridal shower, I received the most amazing gift- a recipe book from Adam's family. In it were recipes from every branch of the family- cousins, aunts, in laws! There were even recipes from Deneise, Adam's mom, who passed away in 1994.

So about a week ago Adam asked me what dish we were bringing for the holiday, and he said that his mother used to make noodles. I started flipping through the book, and low and behold- there was Deneise's noodle recipe! As soon as I told Adam the recipe was in there, he insisted I make them. But the recipe looked so incredibly simple! How could this 5 ingredient recipe yield such a yummy dish?

Today we decided to make a "practice batch" of homemade noodles and chicken (even though Adam insists that chicken has no business being in the noodles). To my surprise, they were so simple- nothing to them! Without further adieu, I share my mother in law's noodle recipe- with a few little twerks added for the chicken!

Note: You can serve these on their own, or my personal favorite, over buttery mashed potatoes. My Grandma Pat used to make the two together and she still does if I'm sick! (Shout out to Grandma!) 

Deneise's Homemade Noodles

1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
1 cup flour
Chicken stock/broth

Combine 1 beaten egg, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 tbsp milk. Add 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour. Roll very thin on floured surface. Let stand 20 minutes. Roll up loosely, slice 1/4 inch wide, unroll, spread out and let dry 2 hours.

Cut with a pizza cutter into smaller section of noodles (we like them the size of a pinky finger). Drop by handfuls into boiling stock or salted water and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking. The amount of chicken stock you need depends on how soupy you like your noodles. It will reduce. We started with a full container of chicken stock and 1/3 box of chicken broth. Add more if necessary! Your noodles will expand and soak up the broth. Add salt & pepper to taste.

To add chicken: Boil your chicken in the chicken stock, remove from pot, shred it with a fork, and set aside. Add the noodles, cook through, add the chicken at the end.

 Makes 3 cups cooked noodles.

Family Recipe Book; Mixing Bowl/spoon, eggs, milk, salt, flour. You can't tell but my measuring cups are these wonderful little M Cups that modeled after the Russian Dolls that fit into each other! They are so great and were given to me by my friend Anna!

Adam cracking the egg to start the dough! 

Rolling out the dough onto the floured surface. If it sticks, make sure that your rolling pin is floured. You cannot overflour! It's that easy. 

After rolling and slicing, they are long noodles. I made three horizontal cuts in these noodles to make them shorter and more "spoon sized"! 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Well-Fed Newlywed: Homemade Refrigerator Pickles!

For our wedding, we received homemade dill & bread n butter PICKLES from a family friend! Adam and I were super excited to try these pickles, and after we devoured them within a couple of days, I got it into my mind that we would also set out to make pickles! How hard could it be, I wondered! Well, pretty damn easy, I found out!

I used this recipe from It Freezes Beautifully: 
For you lazy peeps, Imma just repost it here, with all of the wonderful changes I made:

Garlic - 1 clover per pint jar (2 cloves for quart jar)
Cucumbers - Enough to fill your jars - I used the pickling cucumbers from my garden.
Ball pickling spices 
Fresh dill  
Ball Pickle Crisp granules
Pickling cucumbers (smaller cucumbers with bumps on them!)

2 cups vinegar
4 cups water
3 TBSP Kosher Salt/ Sea Salt
So, funny story. I took off to Walmart with this recipe and ended up with what I thought was Pickling Salt, but it was actually Ball Pickle Crisp granules, which is not salt, so don't try to use as such! Most recipes call for pickling salt, but of course I wasn't going back to the store (because I sure did wait until 9 pm on a Saturday night to make these pickles!) Other recipes warned not to use table salt as it will make your brine cloudy. Enter the sea salt. 

Put your water, vinegar & salt into a stockpot and bring to a boil. Make sure that your salt is dissolved. (This is where recipes differ- it says that you should let it cool, but I was impatient and put it in warm).

Set your jars out on the counter and, assembly-line style, fill with the following: 
Sprigs of dill (however much you're feeling- I put 2 sprigs in the bottom and one on top) 
1/2 tsp Pickling Spice 
1-2 clove of garlic (I smashed my garlic with the back of the knife and put it in like that so the garlic juices would flow.

Chop your cucumbers (or slice, or put them in whole) on top of the pickling spice, dill & garlic. I sliced most of mine into spears, but the small ones went in whole. Put 1/4-1/8 teaspoon of the Pickle Granules on top, then ladle the brine over the cucumbers. Seal with the tops of the jar lids, and put into a sink filled with hot water. This is supposed to seal the lids even tighter to keep freshness. 
  Then, put your jars in the fridge for atleast 48 hours. I tried them somewhere around the 36 hours mark, and they still tasted like cucumbers! At 72 hours, they were perfect! I took them to work and handed them out. It was fun hearing the CRUNCH of a perfectly pickled pickle! 
These pickles should last around 6 weeks in the fridge (if they last that long!!)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Wedding Tin Can Ham (Salad)

Sometimes, you get a gift and you don't quite know what to do with it. 

Then you find out who gave it to you, and it makes sense. As part of a wedding gift, we received a fully cooked, tin can ham.

First, a little background. My dad's best friend Andy has floated in and out of my life since I was little, living between Wisconsin and Missouri, always arriving unannounced after driving umpteen hours, crashing on our couch, and waking up to the same can of Folgers he left a year earlier. It was always great to see Andy, but now that I think of it, there is something I remember about him... 

Andy, Me, Dad
He never eats full meals. Andy's always snacking. Peanuts, crackers, chips, but never a full on dinner! So when we received a beautiful wicker basket full of tons of snacks, I should have known it was from Andy! This basket was chockfull of cheese spread, crackers, nuts, champagne, glass flutes, cookies, and more. It came especially in handy when Adam and I were opening gifts and needed some finger foods! 

I'm picking through the basket for a snack, when all of the sudden, I see this cooked ham: 
At first, I laughed. It reminded me a bit of Spam, with it's pop tab. My Grandma used to slice Spam and serve it to me on a slice of white bread, folded over to envelope it. It made so much sense at her house, but I never ventured to Spam again in the comfort of my adult life.

Over the last week, I've been thinking about this ham. How to prepare it? Should I even ingest a preservative laden pork product? Well yes, I thought. Unfortunately, tin can hams just don't have much appeal to foodies, so classing this ham up was going to be left to my imagination.

So I thought about the ham. I told people about the ham. I even looked it up on Pinterest, to no avail. Since I was left to my own devices,  I decided a couple of days ago that I was going to make ham salad! Having never made ham salad before, I treated it like tuna salad, which I thought was a pretty good idea.

I peeled open that tin can ham and sliced it- then threw it in my food processor! (This is not pretty). I added dill pickle relish, a little mayonnaise, chopped red onion, and a bit of pepper (you do not need salt, trust me on this!), and some mustard!

I have a tasting rule- if I'm going to taste it, so is Adam- so if I die,  he dies too. (Just kidding- I like his opinion!) (Side note: Often he says "It needs......something" offering no suggestion!) I scooped some ham salad onto two buttery Ritz crackers, and watched Adam's face light up. He loved it!

We toasted wheat bread, added some swiss cheese (Pinterest idea!) and had kettle cooked chips with our ham salad sandwiches for dinner! The best part: it makes tons and tons of ham salad! (But I dont know if I'm still going to be gogo for ham salad tomorrow!)

 Lesson Learned:  When Life Gives you a Tin Can Ham, laugh and make ham salad!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

We're Married! (+ New Look for the Blog!)

As you can tell, the blog got a makeover! Oh- and Adam and I got married! (But more on that later!) Just wanted to stop in (since it looks like I haven't blogged since APRIL--ehh sorry!) and let everyone know of the changes. No longer Laylan Land, we're "Pennel For Your Thoughts" (

What started out as me blogging my crazy life has turned into a Newlywed blog! I'll feature new recipes, date night ideas, lessons learned as a newlywed, and even advice for the newly engaged! We are already having so much fun, and I know that life has some good things in store for us.

I'll be writing up the wedding in some soon-to-be-published posts! Stay tuned...

Mr. & Mrs. Pennel

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kale Chips!

I like kale. Kale is a versatile green that is CHOCK FULL of tons of great stuff for your body. See below: 
So are you eating your kale? No? Why not? Oh, you don't know how to cook it? Well shoot. There's lots of ways to eat kale. I kept hearing about kale "chips", and I thought, hey, that sounds easy. Imma give it a try. The one complaint I heard was that they didn't have the right seasoning. Last night, I decided to try something, and it was pretty dang tasty. Behold, the best kale chips ever.

Laylan's Kale Chips!
1 bunch of kale, washed & dried, ripped into bite size pieces
Olive oil
Weber Steak Seasoning
Drizzle olive oil onto an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet.  Put your kale on top and toss to coat. (Turn it over a couple of times so that the ribbony edges have a little olive oil on them). You don't want too much olive oil, or they will be greasy, and a little goes a long way! 

Once they are coated. shake the steak seasoning over the kale so that there's a little bit on every piece (Also- a little goes a long way here, too!) Then do the same with salt. (Salt is optional, but I prefer it a little saltier). 

Bake at 325 for 15-17 minutes. The edges of the kale will be brown and crispy. You can eat them hot or put them in tupperware and eat them for a few days! 

These were a hit at my office and my coworkers were sneaking them out today and popping them in their mouths! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Central Foodie: Bacio's

Adam and I have become quite the foodies over the last few years, and for what other reason than we just like to eat! We like to try new restaurants from our little town, to nearby Kansas City, and any time we go to other cities or states, I'm always Yelping the best restaurants in the nearby areas for good eats. One of the worst things I have ever seen is tourists walking through Times Square carrying McDonald's bags. WHAT? You're so close to a plethora of choices, and you go with McDonald's? I don't get it.

Anyway, I'm going to start reviewing new restaurants (you can also check out my other reviews on Yelp: My Yelp Profile!) and I'm going to start with Bacio's.

Bacio's is brand new in Warrensburg, open for only a few short weeks. I was instantly irritated that there is nothing in the local area that even mentions Bacio's. No press release, no Facebook/Twitter social media presence, no website. The only reason I knew it was open was because of their sign flashing "NOW OPEN". But people driving by don't even know to look there- because it's in Monetti's old location and without knowing a new restaurant was there, how would they know to look for updates?

But Laylan likes italian food. Especially pasta. So I was paying attention to that sign. And when it said, "NOW OPEN", you can bet your sweet potato bottom I was in line for some pasta.

I just mentioned that Bacio's (pronounced BAH-CHEE-OHS) is housed the location formerly owned by Monetti's. Anyone who went to Monetti's would call it the quintessential Italian restaurant: loud "Italian" music swooning in the background and a kitchen that you could see right into-to watch your food be made. Lots of pizza dough flying, frantic chefs in white clothing, lots of yelling orders.

We walked into Bacio's and were greeted with a pleasant new color scheme and decor. It has changed into the mob-like Italian restaurant you would see in a mafia movie, with the kitchen closed off, white linen tablecloths, and little vases with fake flowers on the table. (The Italian music is still there).

The menu is expansive- five or six pages of options! I didn't know where to start, but I ordered the Pasta Albanese- spinach fettuccine alfredo with chicken breast (10.95) and Adam ordered the Pasta Siciliano- chicken breast, spaghetti noodles, lemon butter, capers, and artichokes (12.95). We also ordered house salads with Caesar for .99 cents more each.

The bread came out first- soft bagel-shaped bread with parmesan on top and a bowl full of foil packaged butter. These were okay- but the bagel idea kind of threw me off.. they weren't cut so they were to be pulled apart to have butter spread on them. Seems like they could have gotten the bread aspect with a loaf or rolls instead.

The salads weren't good- freshly watered iceberg lettuce (meaning dripping with water), black olives, onion. Unremarkable.

Our pastas came quickly- and were HUGE portions. Mine came with 2 whole chicken breasts! I was a little put off by the pasta because it came out looking like pesto- bright green sauce covered my noodles. I realized that it was fine chopped spinach (likely frozen) blended into the sauce to give the appearance of being very green. When I ordered this, I envisioned fresh alfredo with wilted, fresh spinach folded in. My second complaint is that my pasta had an immense amount of butter/oil on it. So much that it was pooling in my dish! Now I know alfredo. I know it has three ingredients: Parmesan, Heavy Cream, and Butter. I'm wondering how many sticks were used in my dish alone!

However, it was very, very good. It was very well seasoned and I didn't need to add any additional salt or pepper. I ate half and took half home- and I encountered the oil issue again at home. I had to physically soak  excess butter out of my bowl before eating it.

Adam's dish was good, but he tried to order something "new" this time, and didn't care for his dish. It was also a large portion- two chicken breasts and a mound of pasta. I tried it and thought it was flavorful and fresh.

Overall, I'd try Bacio's again for the pasta fix- and really, you can eat two meals for $11.00 because the portions are so big! You can't beat that!!

Side note: I asked the waitress why they didn't have a social media presence. She said, " Well we just opened". To which I replied, "I know, which is exactly why you need a Facebook page!" She said she'd let her manager know... but it's been a week and I see nothing! Get on it, Bacios!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Happy January!

I'm so blissful lately. Adam and I have always been a close couple, but since we got engaged, my witty, funny, (sometimes offensive) soon-to-be husband has turned into the sweetest, adoring, mushy gushy, most romantic man I've ever met. I'm not complaining! He's fantastic either way, but I'm enjoying this wonderful time planning our wedding together.

Every part of this wedding has been fun (and sometimes frustrating) to plan, but we're doing it together. The most important thing for us was to have a highly customized wedding with a close circle of friends and family that we love. We have taken advice from other couples, family, friends, and put together a perfect Adam-and-Laylan kind of ceremony.

Bridal Party
We decided not to have a bridal party for a few reasons. In 2011, Adam's brother got married and only he and his wife stood up before everyone. We really liked the simplicity of this! On top of that, I have three sisters and five nieces that are old enough to be bridesmaids, and I didn't want to choose. What we decided instead was to have our families dress in a certain color palette for the day to make family pictures easy and complementary.

Being Married By Someone We Know and Love
Adam and I aren't particularly religious, so being married by a pastor wasn't something we really wanted. Instead, we have a friend that is an ordained minister and is delighted to be marrying us. We felt that it was important to be married by someone who had a good feel for the people that Adam and I are and this was the perfect choice.

One of the only issues Adam and I disagreed about was the music for the ceremony and reception. I didn't want a DJ blabbing through the whole reception, doing The Chicken Dance with my guests. That didn't appeal to me or the theme of the wedding. I preferred a string quartet,  which Adam found boring (even though he loves classical music). He thought our guests would fall asleep.

We compromised by finding a DJ that was comfortable playing music that we chose to keep the reception going even though we aren't big dancers. We chose a Motown/ 60s/70s theme with songs like "And Then He Kissed Me", "Baby Love" and "Dancing in the Moonlight". We chose a huge selection of songs to appeal to all sorts of tastes.

An Adult Affair 
Another important aspect of the wedding was that we felt that it should be adults-only. There were several reasons for this, but the biggest one was that our venue doesn't differentiate between a 3 year old and an 11 year old, and the prices of kids ages 12-18 were nearly as much as the adults, even without alcohol (included in the adult price). Since we're paying for the wedding and reception ourselves, we chose to include more adults than allow children.

We know that some families may find it hard to attend a wedding without the kids, and we completely understand, but this was a choice we had to make for us.

We are eight months away from the wedding right now but I know it's going to go by so fast! I've already started purchasing table decor and starting my do-it-yourself wedding projects (like a keepsake corsage for my mom and Grandma) I looked at wedding dresses yesterday and found a style that I absolutely adore, and Adam has been begging me to go cake-tasting lately! We'll go soon, I promised. 

Stay up to date with us at and with my ten wedding Pinterest boards at I plan for all sorts of weddings, not just mine! Check it out!