Category Archives: Travel

Midwest family adventure: Columbia, MO

A few weeks ago I had this daydream: A fall weekend in Columbia, MO – the crunchy college town that still possesses a piece of my heart.

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image via painted post

We’d load up the bikes and hit the trail right away to do the 30-mile round trip to the blufftop winery overlooking the Missouri River. Then we’d get up the next morning and explore the Mizzou campus before heading to the Roots N Blues N BBQ music festival. Then we’d drive another two hours to meet one of my very best friend’s babies and hang until dinner time. Back in DSM late Sunday night. Crazy? Maybe. I started to think of it as a kind of parenting triathlon – a test of endurance.

Thankfully, the forecast for the weekend was gorgeous. But as anyone who’s spent more than 20 minutes with a toddler knows, their emotions are harder to predict than the weather in the Midwest. One minute, E can be happily flipping through a book and then you offer him a banana and the kid flips out.

Ultimately, the weekend turned out to be a lot of fun (despite a few scattered meltdowns), and I’m glad we pushed ourselves to make a little mini adventure happen. Here’s how it went down.

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Filed under music, Travel

CoMo a go-go

Now that our #freedomweekend in D.C. is a memory, I needed another mini trip to circle on my calendar and excitedly type in as my e-mail password. (Because, duh, passwords should be fun things you’re looking forward to!) Nothing major, just a little family-friendly getaway.

And then I saw that two of my favorite bands will be playing in Columbia, Missouri as part of their Roots N Blues N BBQ festival this fall. Needless to say – tickets purchased and Airbnb lodging secured! David Wax Museum and The Avett Brothers will both play Saturday shows.

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We made a lunchtime pitstop in Columbia for a few minutes on our way back from Saint Louis over Memorial Day. But it was only enough time to encourage Emmett to kiss the columns and for me to stroll a few blocks of downtown and lament that landmarks from my college days have met such a yuppie demise. I’m looking forward to getting the full (minus a football game) experience in September.

I hope the weather is golden and autumnal and that we are able to ride bikes from the city out to the sweet town of Rocheport and enjoy a picnic at the Les Bourgeois winery A-frame, overlooking the river. Then I hope our little man gets into the festival spirit and dances his diaper off shakes that little tush to the tunes past his bedtime.

It will also be perfect timing to check in on this lady and her arriving-any-day baby girl. How funny is Amanda’s cabbage patch crew of shower attendees?

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Let the Columbia countdown begin!

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As it happens

I was going to tell you about my day last Thursday, about how — after the funeral for Joe’s grandmother, I took the train from East Chicago into the city to take the bus back to Des Moines, and had a few hours alone.

How wonderful it was to walk past the Art Institute of Chicago, one of my most favorite places, and wander into the Lurie Garden and dip my feet into the shallow urban creek and read a few chapters of a book in solitude. The sound of jazz in the distance. The scent of midsummer blooms with names like ‘purple lance astilbe’ and ‘white dragon knotweed’ and ‘queen of the prairie’ transcending the Chicago’s smells. The view of the Lake and sailboats bright blue and white, just like the clouds. The skyline and street-level architecture familiar to me. The energy of the city streaming in through my smile. I drank it in.

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But really, sometimes it’s just relishing the aloneness. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of event-planning and logistics, and quiet time by myself allows me to recharge so I feel like I have the mental capacity to get. it. done. Also, I think we readers are never alone, and never get annoyed by waiting when we have our books.

(On the ride out, we listened to The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime on CD. Personally, I’ve finally discovered Joan Didion and am ob-sessed, although I sometimes have to read a sentence three times and I really have zero knowledge of the politics of Latin America. This week, I finally tore through Someone Could Get Hurt and did a lot of out-loud laugh-snorting.)

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Filed under Books, Life lessons, Travel, What I'm into

Freedom Weekend

There I stood, sandwiched between the U.S. Capitol building, the Washington Monument and a mall full of marching bands and red-white-and-blue floats. Free to wear a skirt and ride a bike and Instagram about it. America.

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We spent Independence Day weekend in D.C. and the Virginia wine country, thanks to a wedding invitation and my mom’s willingness to watch Emmett while we flew out for the fun, which also coincided with our fourth anniversary.

Highlights of the #freedomweekend: 

Hitting up the happy hour at District of Pi, the D.C. outpost for a favorite St. Louis deep dish spot, with my brother and his girlfriend.

Hotel sheets and a full night sleep.

Meeting up with some favorite college friends and having an awesome Pimm’s cocktail and hearty breakfast at Founding Farmers together.

Deciding on a whim to hop onto the Capital Bikeshare cruisers and cycling down Constitution Avenue when it was closed to traffic for the parade. The street was lined with people waving flags, and of course I waved back at the kids.

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We swung through the parade staging area, so I felt like we got to see the parade without waiting in the sun. I get all teary-eyed hearing patriotic songs and this was a pretty nice consolation for missing out on the Yankee Doodle Pops concert back home. (Did you guys go?)

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Geeking out at the Newseum. Can’t beat celebrating the First Amendment on Independence Day, right? So many of the exhibits offered reminders of how wonderful – and hard won – all of our freedoms truly are.

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The hotel pool at the Holiday Inn Express with the best view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Watching my beautiful friend Mara marry her best friend. Mara has impeccable taste, and the wedding at Early Mountain Vineyards was gorgeous, thoughtful, delicious and fun! 20140705_195351Dancing the night away with my high school crew. They own the dance floor.

10368316_10102113350770140_313293401580712690_oAnd just spending some quality time with Joe. Cheers to 4+40 more years!

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Travel

Honey lovers

I finally finished a wedding gift I dreamed up for my cousin Kelley and her husband Paul — almost six months after they tied the knot. You have a year to give a gift, right? Also, the ferns in her hair and the pearl-studded pins? So incredibly gorgeous.

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Theirs was the amazing Hood River wedding (read about our adventures that week here) and I knew I wanted to create something special for them. Kelley and Paul raise honeybees and love the outdoors, so I decided to make them a quilted table runner meant to look like their initials carved in a birch tree, with some honeycomb-style hexagons pieced and quilted on top.

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With a newborn, I haven’t had a ton of hands-free time. Joe gave me the girl-you’re-crazy look when I started this, but I was possessed by the idea.  I’m so happy it turned out like I envisioned!

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I freehanded most of it, but for the letters inside I printed a font I liked and copied it onto the fabric with disappearing ink that I stitched over. I also traced a heart design and then stitched over that. 

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The hexagons were all cut after being traced from a quilting template. Sewing hexagons together is kind of tricky!

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My heart is full of joy for this dynamic duo!

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Omaha adventure: Fontenelle Forest frolic

And suddenly, fall was upon us.

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Friday night, we headed to Council Bluffs for a surprise 30th birthday party for one of Joe’s best friends. We decided to stay the weekend to hang out with family, and I really wanted to check out the Fontenelle Forest after reading a blurb about it in Midwest Living. I love going places with my little nieces and nephews because they have such creative spirits.

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My hometown (Lisle, IL) is also home to the famed Morton Arboretum, and the Fontenelle Forest had a similar outdoor education feel to it. There’s a visitor welcome center and the main feature is a mile-long wooden boardwalk that loops through the forest.

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When we arrived, they were bringing out birds of prey for a demonstration. This kind of falcon apparently swoops down on small birds from above, punches them and then follows the stunned creatures to the ground to finish them off. Intense!

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We strolled along the boardwalk, but the forest encompasses 2,000 acres and features a number of different walking trails totaling 26 miles. I could imagine members who return regularly would have plenty of places to hike, and with each changing season the experience would feel different. When we went, they also had an eco exhibit running throughout the welcome center and along the boardwalk, with little huts and sculptures made from recycled materials.

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I especially loved “Acorn Acres,” which had a wooden xylophone that made the most beautiful sounds.

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Admission to Fontenelle Forest, which celebrates it’s centennial this year, is $8.

After our forest frolic, we met up with a friend and her boyfriend at McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe, a vegeterian/vegan restaurant. I got the veggie enchiladas, which were delicious.

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Any suggestions for other Western Iowa/Omaha spots to explore? This Nebraska Passport is a neat idea.

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Hood River Flower Power

On wedding eve, the women in our family traveled to an organic flower farm to assemble bouquets, boutineers and fresh-cut table flowers for my cousin’s ceremony and reception.

My cousin Kelley is a total earth goddess and this seemed like the perfect way for us to celebrate and prepare for the Big Day with her.

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Armed with some boxed wine, red solo cups, clippers and floral tape, we got to work.

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Wendy, the owner, even showed me how to prepare a real boutineers — something I attempted as an amateur for past fundraising events.

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DSC_0227Before long, the group had created cheerful Mason jar bouquets ready to grace the tables the following day.

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The wedding the next day was at Mt. Hood Organic Farms which is not only the most beautiful venue I’ve ever seen, but the prettiest one I could imagine. Emmett kept my hands full, so I didn’t get nearly as many photos as I would have otherwise taken, but here’s a family shot in the shadow of Mt. Hood. This was the view from our dinner table!

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Kelley grew up in Santa Barbara, California, but was always a free spirit whose sense of adventure I admired and emulated. She went to college at Notre Dame and I feel so lucky she lived close by during those years. I’m thrilled her husband is an outdoorsy Midwestern guy from Minneapolis; hopefully there will be a group Boundary Waters trip in the future!

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Travel