Des Moines Dates: Strudl Haus

Ever since I’d heard about the Austrian restaurant Strudl Haus opening, I’ve wanted to try it. My tastebuds were craving the flavors we experienced on our Austrian honeymoon in 2010, and I’d heard it was a delightful spot.


This morning, Joe and I decided to take advantage of Emmett’s playdate and make a day-date for brunch, with baby carrier in tow. What a difference five and a half years can make in a marriage! While we aren’t currently in a position to book a flight to Salzburg, it’s a mini-escape to hop on Indianola Avenue for a taste of Europe on Des Moines’ near south side.

The small, sunshine-colored cafe opens into a compact dining room of unexpected elegance. A case of pastries catches the eye as you walk in – convenient if you’re just swinging by for a simple breakfast or dessert treat.


We navigated the narrow room and took a seat in the burgundy-upholstered back booth, where we were quickly greeted. The crowd was an mix of couples and families with well-behaved small children who seemed excited about an after-Church treat.


For starters, we split Nutella crepes, and for brunch I opted for the omelette with sausage and Joe went for the Strudl Haus eggs (served over easy and smothered in hollendaise sauce). The food was delicious, but the little details – like the coffee service on silver trays and petite chandeliers on the ceiling – made the meal feel special. We reminisced about all of the food we enjoyed on our honeymoon, and were in-and-out in about an hour.


The spot impresses me as super-versatile — as perfect for a weekday morning coffee and croissant as I imagine it would be for one of their more expensive themed wine dinners. Since Strudl Haus specials change frequently, it would be smart to check their Facebook page or call to see what the weekly offering may be. Prost!

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Filed under Des Moines Dates, Des Moines Dining, I love Des Moines

Books & Baubles

This spring, I went to a Stella & Dot trunk sale/brunch my friend Nicole hosted just before Mother’s Day. It was the perfect timing to pick out a pretty and personalized piece of  jewelry for my hometown bestie who had just had a little girl & was celebrating her own 30th birthday. And, as tends to happen at those kinds of things, I got a lovely necklace for myself that helped me feel more hip when I was waddling around in my maternity gear.

Our mutual friend Amber is a Stella & Dot stylist/middle school teacher and a fellow bookworm, so this fall when I was thinking about a low-key reason to invite some of my lady friends over, I thought a book swap and jewelry party might be a great excuse. I figured I would get a little lonely being home so much with the baby during maternity leave, and it’s actually easier to have people come to me than will myself to get out in the evening hours.


It was pretty low-key entertaining. I lit a fire, picked out a Songza playlist, set out a spread of cheeses, Amber brought the baubles and friends came with books in arm. I labeled all of the plastic wine cups with names of female authors, to make it a little theme-y. It was fun to relax with Eileen and see a bunch of lovely women at once. I’m also getting a jump on Christmas shopping! If you’re interested in Stella & Dot, you can shop through this link, long-distance, until Dec. 8.

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I’m excited to read “This is Where I Leave You,” by Jonathan Tropper, which was my pick from the swap, and Joe was jazzed that a Bill Bryson book was left.


P.S. Apparently Joe was trying to explain what the heck a Stella & Dot party is to his co-worker, and described it as “hipster Mary Kay”. Ha! Not quite, but I thought that was adorable. 


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Mantra of a second time mom

So much is different this time around – partly because the second baby has her own identity, preferences and quirks, but also because I am a different woman than I was in the first month of my first child’s life.


Part of the difficulty of transitioning into life as a mom wasn’t the late night feedings, or the early morning wake-ups. It was shedding that skin of selfishness and negotiating what it meant to be a mother in addition to all of the other things I am and hope to be. Over 28 months with Emmett I have developed much more patience, I have worried and seen that worrying doesn’t lead to much more than a headache, I have reveled in the unfolding of his personality and our expanded family life. I’ve learned that — just when you think you’ve got things figured out, the winds shift and what worked like a charm yesterday isn’t going to cut it anymore. Re-calibrate.

I’ve proven to myself that I can be a mother and all of the other things I want to be — just not necessarily all of them at the same time. It’s not to say I’ve never dropped a ball during this juggle, but I’ve discovered the joy in trying. I’ve appreciated the gentleness of Joe’s spirit always coming to my rescue when I’m hanging by the last frayed nerves.


Eileen is such a sweet baby. She’s found her voice and has an appetite that tethers me to the couch for stretches that can seem to go on and on. But, this time, I’ve been able to believe myself when I think some iteration of: This, too, shall pass. This is a phase. Babies don’t keep. 

I’ve been reading passages of Big Magic out loud to her, a manifesto on what it means to live creatively. Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us:

You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.

I’ve recognized that motherhood, parenthood, the daunting and divine task of raising human beings — is a creative endeavor. And in the feedings and diaper changes and mundane acts of love, there is a challenge to give this child the best version of ourselves we possibly can. (Sometimes this requires a deep breath and a hot shower.)

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A Storycorps interview about my grandpa’s WWII Service

This summer, at our family reunion, I recorded an interview with my grandpa about his service in WWII. I had some trouble uploading it to the StoryCorps app initially, but in honor of Veteran’s Day, I thought I would try again this morning, and it worked!

The interview is about 23 minutes long, and I’m grateful to have been able to record and share it. It’s interesting to hear the turn of events that dictated my grandpa’s time in the service. He served in the Pacific, and some of his extra training beforehand probably kept him safe — which resulted in my own life more than 40 years later!

Listen here. 


Thank you, grandpa – and all veterans – for your service!

P.S. This is my post about my first StoryCorps interview with my grandpa. He really wanted to talk about his war experience!

Perhaps at a family Thanksgiving, you can collect stories of your own!

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Link love

A few things I’m looking at/listening to/geeking out over lately:

A friend-of-a-friend is living the dream as an adventure backpacker and writer. If you’re not feeling a sense of wanderlust already, Around the World with Justin will definitely inspire it!


Maternity leave has me actually tackling housekeeping duties like laundry, dishes, cooking, etc. so I’m trying to make them feel less mundane by listening to On Being episodes. I appreciated this episode, “What we Nurture,” which is a conversation about the extreme vulnerability of parenthood. Also, geeking overt this episode on the social compact of college campuses with their communities, because that’s the kind of scholarship/work I’m into professionally.

This story about a man being lost at sea for 14 months is crazy! Real-life Castaway stuff.

Speaking of cooking, I’ve taken to actually tearing out and making (or assigning Joe to cook!) recipes from Cooking Light. The Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja (we nixed the olives and cilantro) was a winner! Emmett was on a meat strike, which is particularly annoying, given his restrictive diet, but he declared “I like this beef!”


I’m on Season 4 of Parenthood, and that show is for music fans what Gilmore Girls is for bookworms. My friend Sara tipped me off that there is an epic Spotify playlist that includes all of the songs featured on the show.

I read about this Sugru product on Little Green Notebook and it seems like a fun holiday stocking stuffer for the dude in your life who has everything but is constantly tinkering and fixing things or DIY diva.


Of course, as a proud alumna, I’ve also been following coverage of the events related to the University of Missouri and campus racism. Although the hate speech and activities that led to the protests are extremely disappointing, I’m glad there are student leaders on campus who are elevating the issues to create a national conversation about diversity and inclusion in higher ed.

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Readers are leaders

As one of those grown up kids who stayed up late to read with a flashlight, I consider this a magical moment of motherhood*: My little boy, zipped up in his outer space pajamas, cozy in a robe and slippers, hair still wet, sticking up and smelling fresh from his bath, snuggled next to me in the dim light of a late October night. We’re sitting on cushions, sipping hot chocolate and reading from the Curious George treasury together — three stories — before he’s off to bed.

He finishes my sentences more than I can believe, with a brain that soaks up words. The kid begs to watch his favorite television shows, but he’s also interested in bringing books in the car and wants to “read” to us from his favorites, which makes this bookworm mama melt.


My sister-in-law threw me a book-themed baby shower before he was born, and we’ve continued to expand our collection thanks to lots of really great gifts. I thought I’d share a few new favorites in case you’re book-shopping for a toddler this season.

roadworksRoadworks by Sally Sutton 
Singsongy rhymes and fun-to-say noises + all of a toddler’s favorite road machines.


Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin
I have long been a fan of her illustrations  and this is a whimsical bedtime book parents will treasure.


Snoozefest by Samantha Berger
Starring a sloth named Snuggleford Cuddlebun who goes to a music fest, so need I say more?

51W+-TrvlbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Eileen got this from her aunt and imaginative cousins as a welcome-to-the-world present, but Emmett’s been helping her break it in.

dragons-love-tacos-book-coverDragons Love Tacos by by Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri
One of the first things Emmett memorized/thought was hilarious was the part in this book where dragons breathe FIRE (because of spicy salsa, of course).

What are your fresh favorites for the kids?  As for my bookshelf, I just started Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” as our next book club pick. I downloaded it to my phone because reading-while-nursing is the only way it’s going to happen!

*Lest things sound too idyllic at our house, I will ‘keep it real’ and let you know that between the hours of 12-4 a.m., I was bouncing back and forth between two children and thus needed three cups of coffee to simply function. 

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Eileen’s entry into the world

Welcome to the world, Eileen Marie Jayjack! Born on October 13, 2015, weighing 8 lbs. 10 oz. and 20.5 inches long. (For those of you into the stats.)


I’m feeling pretty great, because this birth experience was the exact opposite – minus the induction at 41+ weeks – of the traumatic ordeal of Emmett’s entry. (30+ hour labor, 3+ hrs pushing, forceps, NICU stay.) I’ll sum it up by saying it felt like I’d mentally prepared for a marathon, but ended up just having to run a 5K. More birth story after the jump, for those of you who want to read about dilation and whatnot.

Otherwise, we’re on our way to adjusting to this new normal. This mystery porch greeting was the most lovely thing about our homecoming. (We took her home in the outfit I wore 30 years ago!)


As soon as we crossed the threshold, a toddler tantrum/baby blowout and crazy dog combo had pretty much the entire family boarding the Hot Mess Express. It will get better, I know.


Eileen’s birth story

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