Category Archives: Iowa adventures

Quilty in CB

We survived our first mini road trip as parents, schlepping all of Emmett’s gear to Council Bluffs. Joe’s best friend was in town with his baby boy, London (the baby for for whom I made this quilt) and Joe’s parents hosted a cookout. It was a gorgeous weekend to hang out and eat kabobs.


Speaking of quilts: The ladies in the fam went on a little Omaha adventure to catch a quilt exhibition at the Florence Mill, a historic building from early Mormon settlements in the area.


These quilts were like nothing I’d ever seen before – art tapestries that had a kind of metaphysical feel.


The show by Shea Wilkinson was titled “The Serpent in the Story.”


The quilt designs looked alternately like something you’d see on a slide under a microscope, or like a nebula captured by a telescope.


She machine-quilts freehand. 20130629_150906

I thought the quilts displayed up against the old mill wood was a neat contrast.

20130629_150635This was one of my favorites:


Even though I’ve been going to Council Bluffs for years now to visit Joe’s family, I haven’t gotten very far on my bucket list of places to see in the area. I still want to check out the Union Pacific Museum and Squirrel Cage Jail (both walkable from Joe’s parents’ house) and I just read in Midwest Living about the Fontenelle Forest. Hopefully we can go on a little family hike there this fall!

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Cabin fever fighters

February is cabin fever time, so if you’re feeling the winter doldrums, here are some cool things my friends have been up to lately that I thought were pretty awesome and asked to share:

Brad of Argo Adventures and Blur Mediaworks posted photos of a recent silo ice climbing trip that he took in Eastern Iowa. How cool does this look?



I’ve gone “rock” climbing inside of a silo before, but I’ve never seen this type of thing. Brad said he went to the Cedar Falls farm mentioned in this article to try it out. Would you be scared?

Ice climbing isn’t in my immediate future, but soon something like this adorable cardboard Dutch rowhouse project my friend Siobhan posted might be. Her family is ridiculously creative (find them at Balen Blanken) and ever-so-sweet! They were inspired by these darling little play houses on A Beautiful Mess and got crafty. Personally, I think they outdid the original. Voila:



Siobhan is mom to little Frances here and was thoughtful enough to gift me a few parenting books and a cuddle suit for our baby when I saw her at the YNPN Launch last month. I love knowing there are creative moms in our community who I can reach out to for guidance and support. Her husband, Jonathan, is also extremely talented and will be in the StageWest production Good People that opens this Friday.

Continuing on the topic of creativity, Marissa just launched The Moon & The Honey, a lovely Iowa-focused weddings/home/kiddo blog that I’m sure will be gorgeous. She’s seeking submissions of engagement/space shoots and the like, if you know anyone!



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(Sky Zone) Make ya wanna jump, jump!

Iowa is in the midst of a major drought, with temps this summer that felt hot enough to boil the mercury in a thermometer. So of course on the one weekend a big group plans to get together to go tubing (in an admittedly low river), it rains. My garden and the bajillion acres of crops in this great state need it, so I can’t really begrudge the bad weather, but I haven’t donned my polka dot swimsuit since Punta Cana so I was a little bummed.

Our group convened at Smokey Row to come up with a Sunday Funday Plan B, and after nixing the National Hobo Convention (most of the fun stuff happened earlier in the week), lazer tag (you only get like 12 minutes of actual tag) and rock climbing (someone said you all have to learn how to belay), we chose Sky Zone. Mostly because it was Rob’s 30th birthday and he wanted to go.

Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park. For someone as uncoordinated as I am who has managed to live for 27 years without breaking a bone (knock on wood), this sounded like a potentially disastrous yet delightful idea. We gave ourselves 20 minutes to go home and change into workout gear, which I of course interpreted as “put together a costume.” What can I say, I want to get my money’s worth out of my New Orleans leopard pants.

Photo courtesy of Liz’s iPhone!

We opted for one hour of jumping ($12 per person), which gave us access to the open trampoline area, foam pit, two basketball dunk hoops and dodgeball zone. You have to wear gross blue suede high top shoes  — although they did kind of work with my costume — but I have to say we had a great time. Especially since we’d just spent two weeks cheering on Olympic athletes from the couch. I almost felt like Gabby Douglas’ pinkie for a second while doing a series of trampoline assisted toe-touches. Magical! 3-D dodgeball for adults is also pretty rad. We teamed up and against some kids, too, which was fun kind of ridiculous.

Everyone was pretty sweaty when our hour was up! And SORE! The Jillian Michaels Yoga workout we’ve been doing at our house has nothing on an hour of jumping. Muscles I didn’t know existed in my back were sore the next morning.

After Sky Zone our group caravaned to the Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid, just off the High Trestle Trail for lunch, beverages and bar games. They have shuffle board and a giant jenga set made out of 2x4s, so what’s not to love?

Bottom line: Even when epic plans get rained out, Des Moines can bring the fun. I recommend SkyZone with a big group, and if you’re nervous about it filling up, you can reserve jump times in advance online.

And yes, that headline is a reference to Kris Kross!

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July, July

We had a hot birthday weekend down at the farm, with air so heavy with humidity that you felt like you should suck it through a straw, if you weren’t already sipping a specially mixed beverage out of a whole pineapple.

(The OXO racheting pineapple slicer Joe brought home from a work demo was a big hit! It cores, it slices into a sweet spiral and it creates a vessel for a tropical cocktail. A totally unnecessary kitchen utensil that doubles as a party trick.)

I only have a point-and-shoot camera, but I felt compelled to capture all of the angles and wildflowers. We typically head to Cash Farm later in summer and fall, so it was a treat to explore the property in a wild bloom.

Mia and I went on a long walk down the gravel rode and gathered up a little bouquet and moooed at the cows, who then came running toward the fence, scary stampede style.

Ty defied gravity. (Note to self: When it looks like kids might be trying to DIY a zipline, they’re definitely attempting to DIY a zipline.)

Beer was brewed, pinatas broken. Dogs tongues lolled around. They wanted water, and this:

We all rather like it down at the farm.

It felt nice to take it slow. These next few weeks are going to be a whirlwind.

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Keeping Iowa Weird: Grotto of the Redemption

Geodes, crystal stalactites, Catholic icons in a rocky hand-built cave. Entering the Grotto of the Redemption feels a bit like slipping into a dream, or finding yourself in a giant fish tank decorated by a particularly pious owner. It’s disorientingly beautiful and strange to walk through the Stations of the Cross while the rocks sparkle around you.

We visited the Grotto on Easter morning on our way to Church and an egg hunt in Whittemore, Iowa, where Joe’s grandparents live. Even if you aren’t seeking a religious experience, the Grotto of the Redemption is one of those sites in the state that every Iowan should check off a bucket list! I want to go back and do the full tour and everything at some point.

This June marks the 100th anniversary of the Grotto (there will be festivities!), which was the life’s work of Father Dobberstein, a German priest who built it as a shrine to Mary to fulfill a promise he made while sick with pneumonia and praying to get well.

If you go to the Grotto and aren’t the teetotalling type, I would be remiss to not advise you to stop by the watering hole in Whittemore for a “Whittemore Fog,” a local specialty shot that factors into the parties of the super fun family I married into.

Joe’s uncle Randy sweet talked the bartender into giving us the recipe, and she took me and Joe’s cousin Caitlin into a back room for a lesson in making them. It’s a combination I’d never put together, but somehow it works. Everything is walking distance in Whittemore, so after a few rounds we ambled back to the house under the full moon.

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Weekend peek: Galena bride

This weekend, we went to Galena to witness the wedding of my wonderful friend Arin. We arrived into the picturesque historic river town as a light rain fell, and I got to sit out on the Victorian B&B porch with the bride while she got ready.

Arin looking radiant on her wedding day.

Arin is co-owner of Ephemera and, as such, is around brides and invitations and pretty things every day. So in this inspiration-board and wedding blog world, it might surprise (and delight) some to know that she put her faith in her fiance when he offered to surprise her with wedding plans. She knew the date, but not the details! Josh certainly delivered, and friends and family pitched in with their talents. (When out friend James sang at during the ceremony, it brought even the reverend to tears!) I won’t share too much, because it was Arin’s day and she might want to write about it, but I loved to see how happy she was at each little moment. (UPDATE! Arin and her ring on APW. I know she’ll absolutely need to write about the whole experience and I cannot WAIT to read it!)

A quick hug with the bride after the ceremony.

It was a tiny little wedding at a sweet little chapel a few miles out into the country off the main street, and then dinner at a Greek restaurant in the heart of things. Simple. Special. Lots of happy crying and even some flaming fried cheese!

Doesn't Joe look dapper? I'd enjoy a supper club dinner reception with him any time!

Have you ever been to Galena? It’s the most darling town just east of Dubuque. We went there a few times as a family growing up, but I think Joe and I will have to return for a romantic weekend full of walks up the winding roads, historical haunted tours and canoeing on the river.

P.S. We camped in north-eastern Iowa on our way to James and Katie’s wedding last fall and I blogged about a few of the stops here.

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Madison County winter hike

Three cheers for this mild Iowa winter!

(Although a little snow on the trail could have looked lovely and this would be an excellent place to snowshoe/cross-country ski.) We headed south of Des Moines on Saturday to explore the Clanton Creek Natural Resource Area and get a little hiking in. We tried to do this hike about three years ago, but were thwarted when our car died on the side of the highway. I’m glad we finally made it!

We parked at the East Trail Head and followed the out-and-back main trail for a total of about eight miles. It felt much longer on the way out (isn’t that always the case?) but made for a good total distance. There’s also a two-mile loop you can access from the east side, but if you’re driving down from Des Moines I feel like you’d want to go the distance, right? The West Trail Head is very close to the 6-acre pond, if you’re into fishing. Here’s a map, although it doesn’t have miles marked and I have no idea what the purple dots represent. There are a few hike-in campsites, which I find exciting. I get super cranky-pants at campsites where we wind up next to teenagers whose idea of spending QT in nature is throwing beer cans into the fire. We will return for an overnight adventure, perhaps when the Madison County Winery tasting room is open!

The main trail makes for a hilly hike, past prairie grasses, through the forest and under some pine trees. It’s easy to follow, although we did not see any mile markers along the East-West route, and there are no maps at either trailhead. The trail crosses the creek in two or three places.

We thought we'd see a map at the west trail head. No such luck!

The creatively named 6-acre pond

Sky blue sky.

A winter walk.

I would love to see a Boy Scout Troop take on this trail and outfit it with some maps, better mile markers and perhaps a trash bin at the parking areas, because we did see a small amount of litter around there.

Wilbur was loving the nature smells.

It’s hard to believe that next week is February. This felt like a lucky November afternoon instead of late January! P.S. Did you know you can rent snowshoes at Active Endeavors? Last I checked, they were about $12 or so for the day.


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