Cielito Lindo

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: we have no shortage of excellent options for dining out in downtown Lawrence. But when you’re dining out with a three year old and a one year old, you tend to consider your options a little bit differently. Which restaurants have the space and atmosphere that will accommodate a laid-back kind of family-style dinner? If you don’t want to break the bank, but want a sustainable meal, where should you head? With my sister-in-law plus family in town last weekend, we headed to Cielito Lindo, knowing full-well that it would be prepared to take care of our needs.

Also noteworthy: HUGE patio for summertime.

Plenty of space inside this colorful get-away.

Located one block east of Mass Street, Cielito Lindo is one of the bigger restaurants in downtown Lawrence, which makes it an ideal spot to go for family gatherings or larger parties. It even has a spacious front patio that comes in handy when the weather turns warm and you need a cold margarita! We didn’t have reservations for our 6pm Saturday night dinner – and I was initially a bit worried this would cost us some serious wait time – but to my delight, our party of six (including the two bity ones) was seated immediately.

Vibrant and lively, the surroundings here are abuzz with laughter, conversation, and celebration, which only seems fitting for a Mexican restaurant. It’s easy to relax in this family-friendly environment. The food, too, is fairly inexpensive and quite substantial. Many entrees are under $10, and chips and salsa is on the house! This was especially helpful with my three-year-old niece, who was thrilled to have chips and salsa to enjoy before her meal came (admittedly, I shared in her happiness).

The husband's enchilada dish (2 chix, 1 cheese)

My enchilada dish! (1 chix, 1 beef, 1 cheese)

The menu here includes everything; there are salads, fajitas, enchiladas, burritos (chicken, beef, and pork), and plenty of vegetarian and seafood options as well. A kid’s menu is available, too. The mister and I both ordered enchiladas (although different dishes) and margaritas, and it hit the spot. The service was surprisingly quick (especially for how busy they were), and the foot was hot and flavorful.

There are plenty of restaurants to pick from when dining out in Lawrence, but considering your expectations for your night first can help inform your choice. With two small kiddos in our party, we knew it would be most enjoyable (for them, and for us!) to find a restaurant that would make us feel comfortable. Cielito Lindo is a great option whether you’re a family, party of kids, or party of wild and crazy adults. Ole!

Find Cielito Lindo at: 815 New Hampshire, Lawrence Kansas 66044. [785.832.1545]

You can also find me in the Lawrence Journal World’s CheckOut publication which prints weekly on Thursdays.

Cindy’s Simple Life

One of the charming aspects of downtown Lawrence is the variety of shops we have sprinkled from 6th Street to 12th Street, between Vermont and New Hampshire. Vintage, cooking, candles, shoes, KU apparel, I could go on, but the truth is we have no shortage of specialty boutiques! Though I have to admit, I have a distinct appreciation for the shops that offer something a little different and unexpected. Walking into a store full of quirky items that I didn’t know I needed always strikes my fancy. Considering this, it’s no wonder found myself enchanted while roaming around Cindy’s Simple Life recently.

Located a few steps off Mass Street on 8th.

This place definitely has the cozy general store feel.

I had an inkling that this visit might provide a rich opportunity to pick up a few birthday gifts for friends. The truth is, I don’t think I could have chosen a better shop for this very purpose! With unique greeting cards, journals, toys (for adult kids, and little kids), home goods, bath/body products, collectibles, and even dog accessories and treats, this place has truly fantastic items. During my visit, Tom Luxem – part owner of Cindy’s Simple Life – said that some of the more popular items have been the greeting cards, beautiful (frame-worthy!) wrapping paper, and S’well bottles (good for cold water, or hot coffee).

Pretty rad wall of cards, right?

S'well bottles are chic and shiny. #winning

Cindy’s Simple Life is a self-proclaimed “Urban General Store,” and it’s obvious from the minute you walk into the shop. The store has an open floor plan, and the skylight brings additional warmth to the already cozy environment. The inventory is neatly organized on adjustable wire shelves throughout the space that make browsing easy. Now consider all of this with the colorful flowers and peace signs decorating the walls, and it completes that welcoming feeling – and simplicity – of small town living.

The Front Porch Culture products were my fave!

Success! Lots of goodies to send to friends.

Cindy’s Simple Life is a happy little shop, and I enjoyed every minute that I spent there (if you must know, I got carried away, and 45 minutes later…). More importantly, I was able to successfully score some funky/thoughtful/useful gifts (isn’t it great when things actually can live up to your expectations?) for a couple of my friends who have birthdays on the horizon. If you’re in the market for some gift items, or just want to have fun browsing, you ought to stop by the store. While it’s efficient to shop specific stores for specific items, it can be incredibly relieving to get lost in the unexpected, too.

Find Cindy’s Simple Life at: 16 E. 8th Street, Lawrence KS 66044. [785.312.1121]

You can also find me in the Lawrence Journal World’s CheckOut publication which prints weekly on Thursdays.

Off-Mass: Howard Pine’s Garden Center & Greenhouse

One of my favorite memories I have of my grandma and grandpa’s house is the lively rose and hydrangea bushes that lined the eastern entrance of their elegant abode. The fragrance and appearance of these shrubs is present in my memories of childhood summer visits. This is no doubt one of the reasons I have a true affinity for these living beauties, and hope to one day accomplish a similar quality of landscaping for my own home entryway. In the meantime, I can head over to Howard Pine’s Garden Center & Greenhouse and dream about the myriad possibilities of home gardening.

Tucked away off of 3rd Street, North of I-70.

Stocked with all your gardening supplies.

If you take North 3rd street out past I-70 you will see Howard Pine’s Garden Center & Greenhouse tucked away on the right side of the street. This is where you will find Jerry Pine – son of Howard Pine, and current greenhouse operator – carefully tending to needs of the plants and generally managing business. During my visit, I scurried around the grounds with him as he simultaneously told me about the Pine family’s long history and prepared the outdoor pansies to withstand the cold front moving in that night.

The largest (of multiple) greehouses here.

Pansies! So so so many pansies here.

It is, indeed, a long history! The Pine family has been farming here in this exact location since the mid-1800s, although it wasn’t until 1962 that Howard Pine’s Garden Center & Greenhouse was established. Operating on about two acres of land (much smaller than what it used to be), you will find a plethora of veggies and flowers here, ready to be welcomed into your own home garden. Much of what is sold here is local, and it’s all plant growth regulator (PGR) free. There is even a large sign hanging in the main greenhouse that explains PGRs are not used so that flowers can grow to their fullest genetic potential. Ah, the benefits of shopping local!

Gorgeous, no? Sooo, how much to buy the whole greenhouse... ??

Oh, hey cabbage! The blossoming shades of green are picturesque.

The garden center and greenhouse is extensive and glorious. If you, like me, need a hint as to what to purchase in the next few months, this is the advice I was given: purchase your broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes now; shrubs, trees, perennials in April; and annuals, tomatoes, peppers, etc. in May. While I don’t yet have that fabulous rose bush that my grandma had, I’d guess regular visits to the Howard Pine Garden Center & Greenhouse – and chats with the knowledgeable employees – will put me right on track to one day make grandma proud.

Please do not distrube the seedlings, thank you.

This little lady is Petunia. Jerry says, "It's her place!"

Find Howard Pine’s Garden Center & Greenhouse at: 1320 N. 3rd Street, Lawrence KS 66044. [785.749.0302]

You can also find me in the Lawrence Journal World’s CheckOut publication which prints weekly on Thursdays.

Jefferson’s

With basketball season in full swing, it seems only appropriate to visit one of the more popular Mass Street spots to catch a game and eat some wings (/oysters/burgers/anything on the menu, really). Jefferson’s has been serving the Lawrence community since 2000, and they’re best known for their wings, oysters, and fried pickles! If you’re jonesing for a hot meal, cold beer, and lively atmosphere, Jefferson’s will treat you right.

Hard to miss near the NW corner of 8th & Mass St.

Yeah, this place is pretty popular.

The first Jefferson’s restaurant opened in Jacksonville, Alabama, in 1991. The Lawrence location was number two, and today, between Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Illinois, and Kansas, there are more than a dozen Jefferson’s restaurants across the country. With the family friendly sports theme, this place is often busy and usually has a pretty great special going on, to boot. Posting their specials on social media sites (Facebook and Twitter), Jefferson’s will occasionally announce $.45 wings, $5 burgers, half price appetizers, and if you’re lucky enough, a free side order of fried pickles!

Oh yeah, and...this place is MADE OF MONEY!

Sit outside, or inside... there's not a bad seat here.

Besides having multiple locations across the country and rockin’ some serious specials, this place is also unique in that it is covered in dollar bills. Yep, covered! It’s quite the sight to see in person. Happy customers have been leaving their “mark” on the walls for years. In fact, if you’d like to make your own contribution, Jefferson’s menu instructs customers to ask the wait staff for markers and push pins if interested. Talk about serious buy-in from loyal customers!

Mmmm, my chicken finger wrap with potato salad.

So much delicious food. Enough for leftovers!

As you can tell, Jefferson’s is pretty great (and I haven’t even mentioned our food orders yet). The restaurant offers the tried and true staples: apps, salads, wings, sandwiches, wraps, baskets, oysters, kids’ menu. Easy, right? I went with the chicken finger wrap with potato salad on the side. The mister ordered a cheese burger with fries and wings. And of course, we had to get the fried pickles!

I know that many of you out there have experienced Jefferson’s, but for those few who haven’t, let me tell you this: fried pickles are where it’s at. The wrap was great, and the potato salad – better than my mom’s (sorry, mom)! But fried pickles are a specialty and Jefferson’s has it down pat. It goes without saying that we left with happy bellies, and leftovers for the next day, too. Our total for the meal – with a beer and lemonade included – came to just $26.58.

Find Jefferson’s at: 743 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence KS 66044. [785.832.2000]

You can also find me in the Lawrence Journal World’s CheckOut publication which prints weekly on Thursdays.

Bloom

Every year around this time, as spring approaches, life seems to pick up the pace; would you agree? Daylight savings occurs and suddenly, with the extended daylight, we embrace the grand illusion that we actually have more time in our day! It’s a funny little trick that swallows me up every single year (please tell me I’m not alone in this). As a result, stress levels rise a bit (since we’re over-committing ourselves and squeezing every minute of the daytime to put to good use) and before you know it, the frenzy of life has swept you away once again. It’s in these heated moments that we ought to remind ourselves of the importance of self-care and scheduled “me time” (as they say). It’s remarkable what a bubble bath and a thick slathering of floral body cream before bed can do for your mind and body. With Bloom specializing in bath, body, bed, and home, this boutique screams gently whispers “me time.”

Full of everything you need to relax.

I need to come back for those cute jammies...

I visited Bloom in hopes of finding a simple treat for my mother-in-law. There’s no shortage of options at Bloom: bubble bath, perfume, hand cream, mini jewelry dishes, pajamas, and makeup bags, just to name a few. It’s all ideal for gift giving due to the small sizes of products and generally affordable price points. What’s more, the vibrant colors and feminine designs of the packaging make for added excitement and appreciation. The Library of Flowers products, for example, are so beautifully decorated with floral designs, I would buy a few just to brighten up my bathroom. Another item that caught my eye was the Tokyomilk perfumes, which combine unique scents – such as hyacinth, iris, citrus zest and crisp greens – into one fresh experience. As you can imagine, it would be a delight to put together a gift basket incorporating many of these specialty items.

Soaps, lotions, etc.

I loved these sweet bottles of perfume.

As usual, I had a difficult time deciding what items to buy for my gift (a good problem to have, in my opinion). Ultimately, I went with a mini jewelry dish ($7.95) and a package of relaxing bath milk ($14.95) from Library of Flowers. It’s a great gift for someone who makes time for serious relaxation! This type of gift can also serve as a reminder – a kind nudge, if you will – for someone who might be slightly stressed and frenzied. So enough with the grand illusion, let’s be real: it’s time to hit the pause button and embrace the almighty “me time.”

Even some cute cards!

Jewelry dish + bath milk = perfect gift.

Find Bloom at: 704 Massachusetts Street, Lawrence KS 66044. [785.749.7321]

You can also find me in the Lawrence Journal World’s CheckOut publication which prints weekly on Thursdays.