Stories from middle America


It’s the holiday season, and I’m writing a post for a lifestyle blog.

So, what does that mean?

You guessed it: the ubiquitous holiday gift guide!

Rather than focusing on a roundup of gifts made by people who don’t live in my area code, I’d prefer to highlight those doing (and making) cool things where I call home.

In partnering with the Omaha organization Heartland 2050, I continue to realize the importance of positive community development. Shopping local is a wonderful way to support your city’s residents and its economy. (And listen: you live where you live for one reason or another. Don’t you want that place to be a better city? One with a richer culture and greater opportunities? I thought so; you’re smart like that.)

There is a Makers Market this weekend where some of the items I’ve suggested will be available. I’m sure the event will feature plenty of other worthwhile items that aren’t on my list, but could certainly pique your interest.

If you’re not in Omaha, a few of these suggestions are available online.

1. Film Streams Membership

This past Thanksgiving weekend, I went to a late night showing of “Birdman.” I sat alone, drinking a Dark Side (a delicious beer brewed in Lincoln, Nebraska) in this charming nonprofit theatre “committed to screening films based on their creative, artistic, and social merits.” It was a treat – an incredibly relaxed, entertaining, and rewarding evening. I often have those experiences at Film Streams. And I feel proud that it is in my city.

2. Joslyn Museum Membership

Opened in 1931, the Josyln is Nebraska’s largest art museum. An impressive collection of art, ranging from American Indian to Modern, pepper the walls within the beautiful art deco architecture. It also regularly welcomes temporary featured exhibitions. General admission to the permanent collection is free to everyone. But a membership helps supports the museum, and provides free access to ticketed exhibitions and events.

3. The Object Enthusiast:

Emily’s ceramics are stylish and functional. She expertly (and tirelessly )makes everything herself, and each piece feels like a one-of-a-kind. My pick is the large mint teardrop vase with polka dots.

4. Beansmith Coffee

I’m late to jump on this local bandwagon, but jump I have! This coffee is delicious. My favorite is the Mockingbird blend, maybe just for the smell alone. (Oh, and word on the street is they are opening up a second location downtown.)

5. Intro to Woodworking Class at Bench

This is not just for the men. Anyone can appreciate learning basic woodworking skills. And playing with power tools is awesome.

6. Heather Kita Jewelry Design

We interviewed Heather earlier this year, and her work has remained with me. I already own a geometric pendant necklace, and plan on investing in a few other statement pieces. I’ve got my eye on the Turquoise Crescent Pendant.

7. A donation to The Union for Contemporary Art

Art should be about connectivity. It shouldn’t be divisive, and something only certain sects of the population are encouraged to appreciate. With a goal of “the arts to become a bridge, connecting our diverse community in innovative and meaningful ways to create a stronger, more inclusive Omaha,” the Union is doing some amazing work.

8. 1877 Society Membership

I’m the committee chair of this new group of library enthusiasts in their twenties and thirties who support and advocate for the Omaha Public Library, its programs, patrons, services, and staff. Clearly, I couldn’t overlook including a membership to the 1877 Society on my list! And did I mention it supports our library system?

Happy holidays!





I first met Anne Hepburn through her work as a Krug Park bartender. I could immediately tell Anne was a woman I would like to get to know. Anne struck me as a truly genuine woman. And the more I got to know her, the more right I was.

This past summer I joined Anne in her backyard to enjoy a mason jar of red wine and a great chat about her personal style, her passions, and her thoughts on today’s cocktails.


Tell us about your background.
I guess I have never had any aspirations for a career, per se. When I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist or a marine biologist, but those were always just interests for me. I have always just done what feels right at the time.

I love music, so for a while I was booking bands, working at a record store. I like socializing, so I bartended.

I went to college initially because it was what was expected of me. It took me 10 years to finish my undergrad in English and art history at UNO. After that, I wanted to explore a bit, so I moved to Portland, Oregon, having never even visited before. I sold everything I owned and just did it. I got a job at a bookstore because I felt it was the easiest way to meet people who had similar interests as me. Some of my best friends to this day came from that job, so it was a good decision.

I then decided that I should go back to school, so I got my master’s degree in library science. I worked for a while as a librarian at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. I loved the people, but I eventually sort of lost interest in my work, and my passion never matched those working around me. Libraries are incredibly underfunded and under-appreciated, and I despised the need to constantly justify our existence to the guys doling out money.

I decided to come back home. I worked odd jobs, but was mainly at Slowdown, bartending. I then got the job at Krug Park when it opened in 2011. I truly enjoy my work there. It never gets monotonous, every day is different, and I get to be creative.


The favorite part of your job?
Creating cocktails. It’s part art, part science, and part history. I love researching old classic cocktails and methods and putting a modern touch on them. I also love incorporating whatever is fresh and in-season. Mostly, I just end up making drinks that I would personally drink, if I was going to order something that day.

I think about what the weather is like outside, what’s going on in the world, and concoct something on the fly based on that. My main philosophy, (if you can put one to booze) is that a good cocktail doesn’t have to be fussy, or expensive. It should be accessible to anyone looking to try something new.


What about your hobbies?
In my spare time, I usually am at home, working on some project around the house. I’m really into cooking and baking, so I am in the kitchen a lot. I also had a gigantic garden this year, which is probably more garden than I can handle, but it’s such a therapeutic exercise for me.

I spend my time at work constantly moving, talking, engaging with people. In my spare time, I prefer silence: not TV, not even music usually. There are days that when my boyfriend comes home from work, I realize that I haven’t spoken a word to anyone all day. I take long walks with my dog, Walter. He’s sometimes the only one I talk to all day.


Describe your personal style.
I never really put a ton of effort into style. That sort of thing never really interested me that much. I will choose comfort over fashion every time. I guess I prefer simple and basic designs. A dress with boots is probably my favorite style. I love cardigans, I hate t-shirts. I’ve never found a pair of jeans that fit me the way I want them to fit. I don’t wear makeup, except for mascara, and occasionally eyeliner. I never even owned a hair dryer until I got bangs.

Finish this sentence: I am passionate about …
Living an authentic life. I speak my mind. I do what makes me happy. I love my boyfriend, Kelly. I love our dog, Walter. I am passionate about intelligence, learning, and about being true to yourself.

I see so many women being girls, instead of being the women they should be proud to be. I see it a lot in my job. For instance, that thing, where a woman orders a drink from me using some stupid Betty Boop-like voice. I just think “that’s not your voice! use YOUR voice! You’re probably a freaking lawyer and you’re talking like a child!” That baby-fication of women makes me pretty irate.

As an Atheist, I believe that I get this one shot. And I’m not going to waste my time doing things that bore me. I don’t believe in some Big Reward at the end. The reward is in a good martini, or a walk with Walter, or a summer day with no humidity, or a steak cooked perfectly medium rare.


All photos by Hooton Images.


Isn’t the change of season refreshing? Comparing clothing to food, it would be like a whole new line up of ingredients – just add a sweater or leggings or a wool stocking cap. The extra ingredients seem endless for me when I first revisit the fall/winter side of my closet.

I layer up to stay warm, but it can also be very comfortable. I mean, you never look bad in a  big chunky sweater. And it can sure help on those days where you just don’t have a ton of energy in the morning. No one has ever looked sloppy in a cashmere pullover, am I correct?

A sweater is a safe bet. Therefore when I made a quick trip to H&M on Tuesday, it was a no brainer for me to add this chunky knit to my ingredient lineup.

IMG_6772 IMG_6773

There are loads of color options. And since it retailed for $19.95, it didn’t hurt my wallet to add two of these to my wardrobe!


HM-2On September 18th, Omaha finally became home to H&M- a Swedish multinational retail-clothing company, known for its fast-fashion clothing for men, women, teenagers and children.

No one was more excited than me!! Adding to that excitement, I was invited to join a local blogger breakfast by hostess and friend, Sarah of Fash Flood.

What did that mean?

Well, basically I got to go into the store, shop, eat snacks and meet the employees, two hours before everyone else lined up at the doors.

While shopping, I learned of a really cool green project that H&M is creating with their denim line. If you bring in a bag of unwanted clothing you receive 15% off your bill and your unwanted clothing goes toward making a recycled denim line sold in H&M stores around the world. That is something the COOP group can really get into. (See more of this Go Green Wear Blue campaign on H&M’s website.)


The line was  this long 2 hours before the store opened.


I liked watching the crowd get excited as the big ribbon cutting ceremony started.


There was a DJ at the entrance where employees showed off their dance moves. And singing, break dancing and cinnamon rolls. I had a permanent grin on my face.

The store was so pretty and clean in the beginning, but that will probably be the last time any of us see it that way.

My partner in Forever 31, Niki, met me there to participate in the fun. Half way through our 150th selfie we realized there was a contest on Instagram to earn rewards from H&M. Both of us ended up winning $100 toward our purchases that morning! We were beyond at that point. Bring on the dressing room!!

HM-1Selfie after selfie. Try on after try on. Niki and I were full force enjoying our selves.

HM-6Myself, Niki, Sarah and Dawn


To be a part of that day really made my month, not to mention I was able to add some really good threads to my ever changing closet. I’m sure you will see them in a few outfits posts to come.

Go take a peek at the store if you find yourself in Westroads mall!

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