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!



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.

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.

Wamego is home to all things OZ

One of L. Frank Baum’s great grandson’s, Roger S. Baum, writes Oz children’s books. One of which, “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return,” will be a movie set to release in theaters May 9, 2014.  To get a head start on all things Oz be sure to visit Wamego, Kan.

Oz Highway, or Kansas highway 99, leads you to Wamego, Kan.  Offered downtown is the Oz Winery, Toto’s Tacoz and the Oz Museum. In L. Frank Baum’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written in 1900, no specific place in Kansas is mentioned. This allowed Wamego, Kan., to embrace and adopt Oz.

“When you think of Kansas, you think of Oz,” says Clint Stueve, executive director of The Columbian Theatre in Wamego. Stueve said he overtime he travels overseas people ask him about Dorothy. “They ask you about Toto because the only reason they know about Kansas is because of that book,” he said.  “I mean, it’s America’s fairy tail.”

Eight-foot tall Tin Man in the Oz Museum's gift shop. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Eight-foot tall Tin Man in the Oz Museum’s gift shop. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Why Wamego?

Wamego originally adopted Oz in 1995. It all started with a local man named Todd Machen. Machen had a large Oz collection that was on display in the Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. During this time, The Columbian Theatre had just opened in Wamego, where Machen lived. Many board members asked Machen if he would be interested in putting some of his collection on display at The Columbian Theatre. Once the collection was on display, tourists flooded to Wamego.

“We had 12,000 people come in over the two-month period that the exhibit was open,” said Stueve. “I mean our gallery was popular, but I’ve never seen that much popularity. I mean, we had visitors [from] overseas and from most of the states.”

Austin Hibbs is the gift shop coordinator at the Oz Museum. Hibbs said that the town needed some extra tourism. Before the town adopted Oz, their tourism came from the Tulip Festival and the windmill in the park. After seeing the amount of tourism one collection brought to Wamego, the board of directors at The Columbian Theatre wanted to do more.

“The decision was made at that point to open a museum so more than just that original group of people could come see [the Oz artifacts],” said Hibbs.

Museum History

Scarecrow in the Oz Museum. Photo by Cassidy Ritter.

Scarecrow in the Oz Museum. Photo by Cassidy Ritter.

The movement to create the Oz Museum was led by Clark Balderson, currently the owner and president of Dymax in Wamego. Balderson and many board members formed the Oz Museum and purchased its location just a few doors down from The Columbian Theatre. A contract was signed with Machen in 2003, and doors opened in April 2004.

The museum was built with a grant from the state of Kansas and support from people in Wamego.

In 2009, five years after opening, the museum brought in a new collector from Chicago. Most of the collections and artifacts are privately owned; however, the museum also has connections with the Baum family.

Two of L. Frank Baum’s great grandsons both have Oz collections they share with the museum, said Stueve.

The Oz Museum also has collections from all over, including some artifacts from Judy Garland’s son, Joseph Luft. Garland played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” film by MGM in 1939.

“A few items around here are the museum’s,” says Hibbs. “We are actually building our own collection, as people want to donate and give things to the museum.”

Today the museum has a collection of Baum’s books, board games related to Oz, a small theater showing the movie and many other Oz artifacts. They also have two of the four originally flying monkeys used in “The Wizard of Oz” film.

“The museum houses more than just memorabilia from the famous 1939 MGM musical starring Judy Garland,” says the Oz Museum website. “It encompasses earlier silent films.”

Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy's house. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy’s house. Photo by Cassidy Ritter

Stueve says: “I think once your eyes are open to Oz, you don’t realize how much it has impacted our culture until you become intimately aware of Oz, and so now everything I see was in some way inspired by Oz. You don’t watch a television series without seeing an Oz reference. You don’t watch a movie without seeing an Oz reference. The Wizard of Oz, the film by MGM, is the most viewed movie in all history. We see how big of an impact a movie has on our culture, but for it to be the movie that everybody has seen, that’s huge.”

Fun Facts:

  • “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum has been around for 114 years.
  • Many of the munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz Film” have visited the museum.
  • The flying monkeys used in the film are about three or four inches in size.
  • In 2013, 30,000 people came to visit the Oz Museum. Three or four thousand visitors came from foreign countries.
  • The Columbian Theatre is in phase two of creating a Yellow Brick Road. When phase three is done, the Yellow Brick Road will end in the park with a spiral similar to what was in “The Wizard of Oz” film.
  • One of L. Frank Baum’s great grandsons travels doing talks about Oz in character as his great grandfather.


Cassidy Ritter: Wamego, Kansas, is home to all things Oz. There is the Oz Museum, Toto’s Tacoz and the Oz Winery. Kristen Clarke said the winery was built after the museum.

Kristen Clarke: The museum kind of brought the theme of Oz to Wamego specifically.

Ritter: When Noah Wright and Brooke Balderson took over the winery, they re-did the labels to have more of an Oz related theme.

Clarke: Everything is based off the book. That’s why on our “Squished Witch” label it has her little shoes up in the air. They are silver instead of ruby red because in Fank L. Baum’s original work the slivers were silver. They changed it to Technicolor in the movie.

Ritter: In the back of the store is the cellar where the wine is made.

Clarke: We bring the grapes here because we do purchase from a handful of different wineries around northeast Kansas and some other states as well. But we bring the grapes back here, press them and then hand bottle, label, cork, everything.

Ritter: Besides selling wine, the Oz Winery offers tastings and wine pairings. On occasion, they host small parties or events. The winery also has a collection of t-shirts and wine accessories. I’m Cassidy Ritter with Kwirky Kansas.

Work done year round at Kansas winery

Off the beaten path in McLouth, Kan., is Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery.  Year round, owner, Don Bryant, is constantly working on the vineyard.


Cassidy Ritter: Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery is located in McLouth, Kan.  Onsite is a bed and breakfast.  They sell an assortment of jellies along with five different wines.  The most famous wines are the “Jefferson Red” and “Indian Summer.”

Don Bryant: Right now is the time that we like to prune our grapes.  You know, adjust the trellis if required.  We’re probably almost halfway though with the process.  And then once growth occurs, there will be a requirement for the spring.

Ritter: In the wine cellar, the grapes are placed in the crusher and stemmer.  The juices are then placed in sealed wine tanks.  Wine yeast is added and tested for quality and taste.  This process is called fermentation.

Bryant: In fermentation, the majority of it occurs within about a week’s time.

Kris Johnson: I thought it was awesome.  It was very quaint and cozy, yet it’s very scientific- the whole process of making wine.  And it was fascinating.

Ritter: Said Kris Johnson, who recently visited Jefferson Hill Farm and Winery.  This is Cassidy Ritter with Kwirky Kansas.