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Sources of inspiration, idea generation, style development

Discover Creative Inspiration in a Midwestern Metropolis

Creative inspiration Kansas City

Traveling has been a huge part of my life. My family has never lived in the same city as our extended family. So we found ourselves driving 4 to 8 hours each summer to North Carolina to visit relatives. My parents would also arrange a family trip to some place new—a different location each year. These yearly vacations would later prompt me to travel all over the world.

Exploring new places means trying new foods, uncovering histories, understanding cultures. I know that many artists will sketch when they travel. I have never really been that way. I prefer documenting with my camera. Photos can capture colors, textures, and moods that are very difficult to depict in a quick drawing.

I happen to be traveling a lot this year, so I decided to start this “Explore” series. Each trip, I’ll post images and stories about what I have seen, heard, tasted, and felt. I will also point out things that inspire or attract me. My hope is that sharing my travel experiences will encourage you to look more closely at your surroundings—familiar and unfamiliar.

The trip

LOCATION : Kansas City, Missouri, USA
DATES : June 27–29, 2016
OCCASION : Father-in-law’s birthday

When my husband and I first met, we realized we had a lot in common. Similar upbringings. Close ties to family. A love of traveling. And the St. Louis Cardinals. Within the first year of knowing one another, the Cardinals won the World Series. We took that as a good sign.

It was a no-brainer to join my in-laws in Kansas City for a couple days to see the Cardinals play the Royals. Neither Devin or I had ever been to KC, so the idea of barbecue and baseball was way too good to pass up.

With less than 36 hours in the city, we tried to hit some really good spots near the hotel. Fortunately, we stayed right across from the Country Club Plaza, allowing easy access to great food, shopping, and sights.

Since I’m all about visual storytelling, I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.

06.27.16 : Monday

8:29 PM

Much consideration has gone into the art and architecture in the Plaza. This statue of the former Prime Minister of the UK is one of several commemorations of historical figures throughout the area.

Churchill Statue Kansas City
You’ll find statues of dignitaries and historical figures throughout the Plaza.
The Plaza Kansas City
Soft blue clouds were deceptive as we crossed Brush Creek to head to dinner. We had hoped the temp would lower after sundown. That was not the case. 😓

06.28.16 : Tuesday

9:42 AM

The look of the Plaza is completely unexpected in a midwestern metropolis. Tiled rooftops, walls, and walkways transport you to Seville, Spain—completely intentional. The structural and urban architecture were designed in the early 1920s (one of my favorite artistic time periods) by Edward Buehler Delk, funded and founded by developer J.C. Nichols.

Fountain in Kansas City
Saw this funny fountain on the side of a building and just had to take a photo.
Tiled Wall Kansas City
Gorgeous colors and wonderful rendering of a Spanish town in this tiled piece. Wouldn’t mind having a wall like this in my home (eventually).
Tiles in the Plaza Kansas City
Some of the beautiful tiles along sidewalks in the Plaza. Definitely saving this color palette: sapphire + terra cotta + burnt orange + Carolina clay + chocolate + cream.

9:57 AM

Despite the morning rain, we ventured out for coffee. We ended up at a place with a familiar name. I remembered Kaldi’s Coffee from my college days in St. Louis. Since then, they seem to have expanded all the way across Missouri and into a couple other states, as well. They made me an awesome soy cappuccino: rich, creamy, and not skimpy on the milk + coffee! 😆

Kaldi’s Coffee Kansas City
The foam on top of my soy cappuccino was so pretty. I hated to mess it up by, you know, drinking it. 😏
Kaldi’s Coffee Kansas City
While waiting on our coffee orders, I glanced up at the ceiling and saw this great composition.

12:52 PM

The sky cleared up nicely by the afternoon. Morning’s rain cooled things off for about an hour. Then the heat settled in. I’d still take that midwest heat over Houston’s. 😓

Brush Creek Kansas City
The Plaza was an easy walk across Brush Creek from our hotel. The structural features on either side of the creek make it pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.
Bell Tower in Kansas City
The morning rain moved out and exposed crystal blue skies. A beautiful backdrop to the terra cotta, cerulean, and cream in the architecture.

1:14 PM

It was my father-in-law’s birthday and we were in Kansas City, so we knew we were gonna eat a sh**t ton of barbecue. And we did. And it was delicious. The concierge at the hotel recommended Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue—a short walk away from where we were staying. In hindsight, a farther walk would have been better. We definitely needed to burn some calories after that meal. 😞

BBQ Kansas City
Fantastic barbecue from Fiorella’s Jack Stack. I’m good on beef and pork for at least a month.

2:34 PM

We kept passing windows and doors with this logo on them. It’s the logo for Country Club Plaza, which is now privately owned. The design is right up my alley: simple shapes and thick lines that allude to the Spanish architecture.

Country Club Plaza Logo
I saw this logo throughout the Plaza and finally stopped to take a picture of it. Love how it describes cultural elements with simple curves and lines.

7:32 PM

One of two times we’ll get to see the Cardinals this year. They lost to the Royals the night before, so we really wanted to see a win that night. Yadi and the guys did not disappoint!

Baseball Game in Kansas City
Our incredible seats behind home plate. Kauffman Stadium is a really nice venue and the people were extremely friendly and helpful, even with the Cardinals’ win! 😆

Trip Details


Intercontinental Kansas City At The Plaza : Definitely not the cheapest place, but there are several hotels in the area to choose from. I’m sure there are some nice Airbnb spots, as well.


Kaldi’s Coffee : Great Midwest-based coffee shop, serving carefully selected seasonal coffees, fresh smoothies, and tasty treats.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue : If you like smoked meats, this is your place (at least to start). We got other BBQ recommendations from various sources, but if you’re staying in the Plaza, Jack Stack is a fine choice.


Country Club Plaza : This area is walkable and full for great art and architecture. Most of the shops and restaurants are high-end, but there are some more affordable options, as well.

Kauffman Stadium : Love baseball? No? Well, as long as you don’t absolutely hate the game, try to make it out to the ballpark. It has a great atmosphere and super-friendly staff. And, yeah, their baseball team is pretty good, too. 😒


For a summer trip to Kansas City, I packed the following:

  • Dressy top (for nice dinner)
  • Travel pants (medium weight, easy to clean, doesn’t tend to wrinkle)
  • Tank tops (Cardinals gear, of course)
  • Skirt
  • Leggings
  • Dressy sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Poncho (actually forgot this, but it would have been great to have, just in case)
  • iPhone (for taking and editing photos, amongst other things)

Your turn

Do you have any travel plans this summer? What types of things do you look for while exploring a new place?

Remember September

Remember September

Update : 06.14.16

My father, Peyton Jr., passed away on February 13, 2016, after a 16-month fight against colon cancer. He was a humble guy who loved people. Family and friends were always extremely important to him. He is incredibly missed by many.

This post is dedicated to Dad. I will always cherish September.

Something Special

Yes, I realize it is November. But there’s something special about September. Professor Jeffrey Peretz of New York University explains, “It’s the end of summer, it’s the beginning of fall, it’s that Indian summertime, it’s the transition from warm to cool.”

Well, Professor Peretz is actually referring to the song by Earth Wind and Fire. A fun NPR piece describes how “September” is the quintessential party song. No one can stay in their seats when the beat starts and you hear the words:

“Do you rememba… the 21st night of Septemba…”

On September 1, 2013, this joyous ode to the beginning of autumn introduced my now-husband and me, and our wedding party, to our guests. The song got everyone to their feet and set the tone for a dance-filled evening. I’m actually holding back from dancing in my seat just thinking about that moment!

Devin and me arriving at the reception to “September.” Yeah... I was pretty excited.
Devin and me arriving at the reception to “September.” Yeah… I was pretty excited.

So, that’s the obvious reason why I love September.

As sports fans, the ninth month signifies the wrap-up of the incredibly long regular baseball season and the beginning of the post season. Of course, this year, the Cardinals had the best record in the MLB, so September was particularly awesome. October… Not so much. Yeah. I am still heartbroken that we lost to the Cubs this post season. But I digress.

Dad, Devin, and me at a Houston Astros game... In our Cards gear (like true fans).
Dad, Devin, and me at a Houston Astros game… In our Cards gear (like true fans).

Oh, and then there is the fact that fall begins in September, usually around the 21st of September (coincidence?).

But as of last year, I have another reason to find importance in this month.


Midnight Plane to Houston

On September 18, 2014, I found myself on late flight from Nashville to Houston. A few nights before I had spoken to my mom over the phone. She was tired and scared and physically alone, dealing with an immense situation. My father had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer and was in the ICU, on an ventilator. His liver was failing and there was no certainty about what would happen next.

I thought I was going to lose my dad that September.
We all did.

I was not prepared.
No one was.
No one could be.

Dad had been progressively losing weight over that spring and summer, but my family and I assumed it was stress. He had been through a lot over the previous 11 months.

See, in April, Dad moved to Houston to start a new job. He would travel back home to Knoxville every so often and Mom would visit him occasionally, but the separation was understandably difficult.

Also, his father—my grandfather—had been in hospice since the spring and passed away in June.

It turns out that tumors—not emotional distress—were the issue. The growths were throughout Dad’s midsection, consuming all the nutrients that he was taking in. A tumor on his back was so large that it crushed his spine and took away his ability to walk.

All of this had put Dad in the ICU. In an induced coma. With a tube down his throat, doing what his lungs were not strong enough to do on their own.

On the morning of September 19th, Mom received a call from the oncologist. He explained that there were two options: try a tiny dose of chemotherapy in hopes that it would slow the destruction of Dad’s liver, allowing his organs to regain strength, or…

I’m not gonna even mention the other option, because it really wasn’t an option.

My brother arrived at the hospital from Knoxville and the three of us (my brother, Mom, and I) stayed in Dad’s room for the night. The medical staff revived Dad from his induced coma and began the chemotherapy.

I didn’t sleep that night. Neither did Dad.

Dad slept most of the morning, but had become responsive. I asked one of the nurses if I could play some music from my phone. Dad has always loved music, especially R&B, soul, and funk. Maybe it would aid in his recovery somehow.

I chose “September.”

As the song queued up, Dad lifted up his hands and forearms and started to move them left to right, to the beat—an abbreviated version of his typical dance move. I was ecstatic.

Dad and me dancing to Ray Charles during the reception.
Dad and me dancing to Ray Charles during the reception. Photograph by B+B Portraits.


Celebration + Survival

Long story made slightly shorter, the chemo worked that day: Dad’s levels began to improve and he was soon moved out of the ICU.

This past September marked one year since Dad’s diagnosis. His recovery since his time in the ICU has been truly miraculous: he is walking on his own, gaining some weight back, and seeing a cessation/reduction in growth of some of the tumors. Although the future is not certain—and rarely is it certain—we all feel grateful for where he is today.

September. It has contained both the best day of my life and the worst.

It is a marker for celebration and survival.

Dad and me walking down the aisle. Photograph by and courtesy of George Middlebrooks.
Dad and me walking down the aisle. Photograph by and courtesy of George Middlebrooks.


From Adversity to Art

Now, I’m sure you want to know what the hell all of this has to do with art and design. Well, in grad school, the focus of my work was transforming awkward and painful situations into interactive art. I put my personal experiences into a new form that could be understood by a broader audience. My “found narratives” became visual stories.

As a teacher and designer, I want to help others tell their own stories in a way that connects with others. We all have stories to tell. My goal is to assist in choosing and ordering these narratives in a manner that educates, entertains, or excites. In essence, I am encouraging people to become visual storytellers.

September has presented narratives to me. Ones that I absolutely cannot ignore. Despite any pain or emotions that may be associated with this sequence of events, I feel the need to record it and remember it. And so decided to make something to communicate these stories. And now, share them with you.

Icons that represent the month of September, in my mind.
Icons that represent the month of September, in my mind. These icons are available for purchase as a font. Click here to learn more and to purchase the font.