Study Abroad

Hello followers!

Good news– I’m back in Kansas for another school year at KU. So be on the look out for more Kwirky Kansas posts coming your way.

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 5.07.52 PMIn other news, I am looking to study abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia this spring. My classes have been approved and I am on my way but one thing is stopping me. Money. It’s always financial burdens that holds us back from lives most exciting adventures. So followers and fellow bloggers I am coming to you for help. While I am applying for scholarships, I am also raising money to study abroad. Studying abroad for six months will cost me about $23,000 and I need your help in raising the funds. If you can donate to help my cause great! I would greatly appreciate it. If not, do me a favor and share my link with those you are connected with.

For more information about my reasoning for studying abroad and how to donate go to

Thanks for your support and like I said look out for new posts soon!



Massachusetts Street

The heart of Lawrence, Kansas is downtown on Massachusetts Street.  According to the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts Street obtained its name because the Lawrence founders were from Massachusetts.

Now, there are about 90 stores on Massachusetts Street, or “Mass Street.”   These stores include downtown shopping, dining and entertainment.  Click on the infographic below to see a collection of the stores offered downtown.  These stores are considered some of the top places to visit on Massachusetts Street.

For those of you who have been to Massachusetts Street before, be sure to visit new businesses like Hot Box Cookies and Mass Street Soda and keep an eye out for new businesses each year.

Top new businesses in Lawrence:

Hot Box Cookies

One new business on Massachusetts Street is the only made-to-order cookie delivery shop in Lawrence.  Hot Box Cookies began in Columbia, Missouri, but recently opened a new location at 732 Massachusetts St. in August of 2013.  Their slogan is “Custom Baked- Delivered Late.” This business delivers cookies until midnight Sunday- Thursday and until one a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Hot Box Cookies offers fresh baked cookies until midnight or one a.m. in Lawrence.  Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Hot Box Cookies offers fresh baked cookies until midnight or one a.m. in Lawrence. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

The idea for Hot Box Cookies came from a group of college students in Columbia who felt a need for late night cookie delivery.  The business did well at that location and the students decided to expand to another college town: Lawrence.

“There was not a cookie delivery service [in Lawrence] and I know college students don’t really like to leave so our late night cookie delivery business was a perfect fit for a college town,” said Zac McIntyre, general manager for the Lawrence location.  “I just think Lawrence is Mass. Street so it just had to be on Mass. Street.”

However, being a new business provides a challenge.  McIntyre said that they find it hard to get the word out about their Lawrence location.

McIntyre said they also struggle to remind the community that Hot Box Cookies delivers late at night.  He said that most people who have been in the store don’t know they deliver late either.

The most popular cookies are the chocolate chip, cookies and cream and red velvet, said McIntyre.  The cookies and cream cookie contains Oreo cookie pieces, white chocolate chips and regular chocolate chips.

Cookie prices range from $1 to $1.25 for specialty cookies.  There are also “Ice Cream & Icing Sandwiches” for $3.25, “Frozen Cookie Dough Pucks” for $1, shakes for $4.50 and cookie sundaes for $4.75.

 Mass Street Soda

Rows and rows of soda can be found at Mass Street Soda.  If you can't find what you are looking for ask Thompson or

Rows and rows of soda can be found at Mass Street Soda. If you can’t find what you are looking for ask Thompson or Baysinger.  Photo by Cassidy Ritter

How nice would it be to travel around the country and around the world trying local sodas?  Matt Baysinger and Luke Thompson, owners of Mass Street Soda, did just that.  Upon their travels, they researched what it would be like to bring soda from around the world to Lawrence.  After about four years, the two opened Mass Street Soda on April 8, 2014.

Mass Street Soda provides customers with sodas ranging from two dollars to four dollars for bigger bottles.  Its sodas are from 10 different countries and almost all U.S. states with the exception of Alaska.  There are some sodas customers can’t get enough of and others that people only try once like the beef jerky soda.  There are also several sodas that sold out within the first few days of being open, said Thompson.

Mass Street Soda offers a variety of sodas.  Regular size bottles are $2 and larger bottles are $3.50.  Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Mass Street Soda offers a variety of sodas. Regular size bottles are $2 and larger bottles are $3.50. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

“One was Butterscotch Beer that looked similar to a Harry Potter butter beer,” said Thompson.  “It’s not butter beer because it’s not licensed but that’s what it’s made to look like.  There’s one called Lennonaid that looks like a socialism soda because it has a hammer and sickle in the front and Lennon on the back…. Then there’s a North Carolina cherry drink called Cheer Wine that people love, especially from the south.”

Customers can also find seasonal sodas inside.

“It’s just like beer where some of these small bottlers will only produce one or two sodas and maybe they only make it this month so once we sell out of it we can’t even get it for another year,” said Thompson.

“We’re constantly trying to find new sodas,” said Thompson.  “People come in and ask us for a soda and if we don’t have it then we will try to find it somewhere.”

The official grand opening of Mass Street Soda will be in June.  For more information be sure to check out Mass Street Soda on Facebook.

Best restaurant: Free State Brewery

According to the survey used in the infographic, Free State Brewery is the best restaurant on Massachusetts Street.  Free State Brewery also won best restaurant for Best of Lawrence in 2013.

Chuck Margel, owner of Free State Brewery, talks about how Free State Brewery started in 1989 and the environment he and his employees strive to create for its customers.


New flights, State Capitol and travel presentation in Kansas

Spirit Airlines announced its plan to offer flights to Kansas City.  Spirit flights will be from Kansas City to Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. The flights will begin Aug. 7.  Kansas City will be the 56th city to join Spirit Airlines network.

Keeper of the Plains in Wichita by Dale L Puckett

Keeper of the Plains in Wichita by Dale L Puckett

The Kansas State Capitol is finishing a 13-year renovation costing $300 million.  The Statehouse restored the copper dome, which will slowly turn green throughout the decades.  The renovation also includes a museum in the basement.

Steve Elmore, music teacher from Wichita Collegiate School, will share his travels through Kansas.  The presentation, “Kansas Like You’ve Never Seen It,” will be held at the Celebration Centre on Highway 56 at 7 p.m., Monday, April 28.  The slide show portrays  interesting sites that are unknown to most tourists.

Live tweet, tour around the University of Kansas

The University of Kansas is a historic part of Kansas.  The University is located on the eastern side of Kansas in Lawrence.  There are a variety of attractions on campus, both academic and recreational.

University tours begin at the Visitor Center located at the corner of 15th Street and Iowa Street.  The Visitor’s Guide and large campus map will help you find your way around campus.

This group of Student Ambassadors are waiting outside of the Student Union to show new students around campus.

This group of Student Ambassadors are waiting outside of the Student Union to show new students around campus.

The Student Union is a very popular building on Main Campus.  Many walking tours begin there after checking into the Visitor Center.  During my live tour, via Twitter, I ran into Mason Jones, a student ambassador for the University.

“I chose KU because my tour was the most memorable experience,” said Jones.  Jones said that being an ambassador allows him to share his experiences and love for KU with others interested in attending.

The tour begins at the Visitor Center, busses over to the Student Union and ends at Strong Hall on Jayhawk Blvd.

To follow my tour around campus find me on Twitter (@CassidyRitter) and search #KwirkyKU.  Or look at my live Twitter feed on the right side of this post.  Feel free to tweet back about your own campus visit.


The University of Kansas accessibility map shows what floors can be reached in each building.

The University of Kansas accessibility map shows what floors can be reached in each building.  These maps can be picked up at the Visitor Center.

The Visitor Center also has an accessibility map.  This map shows all buildings on campus, both Main Campus and West Campus, along with the floors that can be reached in each building with a wheelchair.  The map also has specifications for 10 campus buildings.  Watson Library is one of the buildings mentioned in the map stating where the ramp accessible entrances are located.  The accessibility map also provides access information for parking, lift keys and Para Transit/ Lift Van.

The Para Transit/ Lift Van reads: “Students who cannot board, ride and disembark the regular KU on Wheels buses may arrange Para transit rides, a door-to-door service that is part of the KU on Wheels program.”  This service is also available for students, faculty and staff on crutches.



Moon Marble Company sells more than just marbles

Moon Marble Company sells a variety of marbles, including homemade marbles, in addition to traditional toys and games. Visitors are able to see how marbles are made aside from shopping.  These demonstrations are offered three times a week.  For a map and image of Moon Marble Company, please see the infographic below.  The company has been in Bonner Springs for 17 years inside what was originally owner Bruce Breslow’s wood shop.Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 7.21.23 PM

“In the woodshop, we had a lot of scrap wood, and I didn’t want to just throw out these pieces…,” Breslow said.  “I started gluing them up and turning them into board games, and I needed marbles.”

Breslow went to a local variety store but found only one type of marbles- green cat’s eyes from Taiwan.  Eventually, Breslow found a company in West Virginia willing to ship a variety of marbles to Bonner Springs.

“Several weeks later, the semi-truck backed up to the back dock and I bought 85,000 marbles,” he said.  “I’ve been in the marble business ever since.”

After starting the business, Breslow came across the idea of showing people how marbles were made.  In order to do that, he first had to learn to make marbles. He read all he could about marbles at the library and called other artists to ask questions.  Once Breslow received a torch from his wife, he made molds out of wood from his shop and melted Coca- Cola bottles to practice making marbles.

Breslow said the first few were hard to shape into a perfect circle, but after a week he got the hang of it.

Three marbles made by Sarah Sally LaGrand, Bruce Breslow and Aaron West from left to right.

These marbles, from left to right, were made by hand by Sarah Sally LaGrand, Bruce Breslow and Aaron West.

Many of the marbles in the store are handcrafted.  One marble takes at least 25 to 30 minutes to make, not counting the small pieces that go inside some marbles.  Those little parts and pieces are made in advance.  Due to the time constraint to make one marble, Breslow has some marbles shipped to Moon Marble Company.

“We never know who’s going to need marbles,” Breslow said.  “[There are] a lot of companies that produce games, and we send a lot of marbles to them.”

Moon Marble Company has sent marbles to collectors from Australia, Africa and Cayman Islands.  Breslow said he has also sent marbles to China.  Fish hatcheries have come to Moon Marble for clear marbles as well.  Theses marbles are placed in the bottom of the fish tank and help hide the eggs from other fish so they aren’t eaten.

Aside from marbles, Moon Marble Company has a collection of games and toys.

“I thought, well, I don’t want to look like every other store…,” Breslow said.  “So I buy toys and games that I remembered having as a kid, things we did when we were kids.… it didn’t take me long to realize I wasn’t the only one with a childhood, so I buy things that I talk to other people about who are younger or older, and then I look for those things too.”

One of the many

One of the many childhood toys sold at Moon Marble Company is the original Slinky.

Lynn Svoboda is a customer from Omaha, Neb.  Svoboda and her family have made it a tradition to by Moon Marble when visiting Bonner Springs.

“It’s just fun seeing all the old toys you remember as a kid,” Svoboda said.  “And it’s always easy to find something for these guys [her three children] that won’t break the bank.”

Manager Melinda Sells has worked at Moon Marble for 17 years.  She loves Moon Marble because of the people, customers and welcoming environment.

“This place is not the same as all other places because when you come in here today, the next time you come in, I’ll ask you how you are?” she said.  “And if you had somebody with you, like if you had your mom with you today, I’d say how’s your mom?  We get to know the people, and we want them to feel comfortable.”

Moon Marble Company is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Breslow also gives demonstrations of the marble-making process Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and again at 3 p.m.  Moon Marble will also be hosting a Marble Tournament from 10:30 a.m. to noon on May 3 for the 8th Annual Marble Day in downtown Bonner Springs.  For more information visit the Moon Marble Company online.

“Giant Seats” now available with Allegiant Air

Allegiant Air now offers six “Giant Seats” for passengers willing to pay a little extra. The “Giant Seats” are in a semi-reclined position. They also offer an extra six inches of legroom and extra seven and a half inches in width as compared to a typical economy seat.

The State Department updated a travel warning for Ukraine. The previous warning discussed Russian efforts to occupy Crimea. The new warning says, “Russian forces

St. Maarten Hotel  Photo by Dale L Puckett

St. Maarten Hotel
Photo by Dale L Puckett

have occupied the Crimean Peninsula in support of the Russian Federation’s claim of Crimean annexation.” There was also information added about hazardous demonstrations, some of which “appear” to be Russian forces.

Travel Editor, Kerri Westenberg, for the Star Tribune wrote an article titled “From the Travel Desk: Confessions of a travel editor” in which she explains what she is most cautious about when traveling. Westeneberg talks about taking photos of rental cars to inspecting the hotel beds for bed bugs.

National Library Week attracts people to U.S. libraries

In Lawrence, Kan., there is a Little Free Library.  The only rule is if you take a book, give a book.   Photo by @SquirrelsOfKU

In Lawrence, Kan., there is a Little Free Library. The only rule is if you take a book, give a book.
Photo by @SquirrelsOfKU

When traveling, keep in mind National Library Week is from April 13 through April 19 this year.  After visiting the Seattle Public Library, Glenn Nagel decided he wanted to visit other libraries across the U.S.  Nagel has traveled to 12 libraries photographing and exploring each of them.  CNN has taken the idea of traveling to libraries in the U.S. and invited readers to share their photos.

Sunday, April 13 was the last day of the 2014 Masters.  For golfer, three of the top 10 courses to play are in the U.S., according to CNN.  These courses include Pebble Beach Golf Links in California, Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina and an ocean course in South Carolina (Kiawah Island Golf Resort).

Looking for something to do with kids?  Universal Studios in Hollywood has opened a Minion world based on the movie “Despicable Me.”  When visiting, guests become Minions themselves, the little yellow characters from the movie.  Guests start in arch-villain Gru’s suburb home and move to the Minion Prep room for a 3-D ride.

Sit and listen to the world around you

Background info: For my journalism class, we were asked to get out of our comfort zone and listen to people within the community. We called this a listening exercise because it gets us away from phone interviews. It gets us to talk to strangers around us. The key for any good journalist is to listen; this exercise helped with that.

Growing up, parents always tell their kids not to talk to strangers. Journalists are taught to do the exact opposite. We are told to listen to those around us and investigate. We are told to talk to strangers. So, Mom and Dad, sorry in advance for talking to strangers.

On Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence there is a wide variety of people: families, grade school kids, college students, street musicians and the homeless. To get out of my comfort zone I talked to a homeless, street musician named Dutch.  Now normally, I wouldn’t sit and talk to a homeless person on the street. Going to talk to a random person, homeless or not, can be a challenge on its own; however, the assignment said to be out of our comfort zone so I did just that. I did bring my roommate with me, just to be safe, but she stayed across the sidewalk while Dutch and I talked.

Dutch was sitting on the corner of 9th Street and Massachusetts Street playing his guitar. He was missing the middle finger on his left hand and had tattoos on his left arm (one of which was a robot dog his son drew for him). He had grimy, dirty hands, but dressed in a black button-up vest and a black fedora. After talking to him, I found out he is originally from Virginia but came to Lawrence to be closer to his two sons, has played guitar for 16 years and has traveled from state to state for two years. His favorite place to play street music is in New Orleans because the people are supportive and encouraging.

Now, Dutch is at a point in his life where he knew he needed to step up and take more responsibility. He said that when he was younger he lived life by the motto of do what you want. Now, he lives life by a different philosophy- obedience of the Ten Commandments.

Dutch brought up religion a lot in our conversation. He said that as you grow older faith is more important. Dutch tries to follow the Ten Commandments and attends church twice a week. He said, “It is my responsibility to go to church to encourage young people.”

Taking the first step to talk to Dutch was the hardest. After that, conversation flowed.  I could only stay for about 30 minutes though because I started to feel uncomfortable. After about 10 minutes of talking, two other homeless people came up to Dutch and I asking for money or a “smoke.” One kept going up to my roommate as well telling her how pretty she was and trying to make conversation. Yes, we went during broad daylight and there were many people around us, but things started to feel uncomfortable to the point where we couldn’t stay any longer.

Kansas to start new tourism campaign

Kansas sunset along U.S. Highway 54 about 10 miles west of the Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport in Wichita.   Photo by Dale L Puckett

Kansas sunset along U.S. Highway 54 about 10 miles west of the Dwight D. Eisenhower International Airport in Wichita.
Photo by Dale L Puckett

On Wednesday, April 9, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas tourism officials will launch a promotional campaign for tourism across the state.  The event will be held at the Exploration Place in Wichita Wednesday morning.  The campaign will be under the Kansas tourism brand- “There’s No Place Like Kansas.”

Logan Mize, Kansan and country music artist, will be at the event.  The event will also have period re-enactors and representatives from many Kansas tourist destinations.