Category Archives: Travel

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.

orange flower



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





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


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



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!


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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Just Peachy: Hood River Fruit Picking

Orchards line the highway in the Hood River area. It’s fascinating to see thousands of containers lined up in the grass, ready to transport the fruit commercially, but there’s also a 35-mile “Fruit Loop” dotted with U-Pick farms.

Fruit LoopMap via

Peaches were in season, and we picked 13 pounds of them at Draper Girls Country Farm.

Draper Farm

The peach trees provided plenty of shade, and it was fun to reach out and grab the golden, fuzzy delicious fruit in reach.

Peach close

Who can resist these sweet peach cheeks? Peach cheeks

Picking so many peaches the day before we planned to fly home was a bit silly, but they baked down into a delicious peach cobbler we had the whole family over to sample.

Peach box

The farm even had a little goat pen, so I got my baby animal fix.


They also had a big swing that framed Mt. Hood – a fun family photo op. Emmett will be so smiley and expressive and then the minute we try a posed picture, he goes into cranky crunch.


We stopped at a lavender farm not far down the road on the way back to town. It. Smelled. Amazing. The aroma of lavender was almost hypnotic, like some place in a storybook that lures little girls to sleep for a thousand years.




They had u-pick bunches for $5, but I didn’t think I had enough room to pack and bring it home. They also have a little gift shop with plenty of other items made from their acres of lavender, too.

If you’re staying in Hood River, see what’s in season! I can’t believe it’s almost time for apple-picking here in Iowa. We love going to Center Grove Orchard. I’ve never been to The Berry Patch, but would love to visit next summer.


Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Cooking, Travel

Scenic cycling by tandem

On our first full morning in Hood River, we decided to do a cycling excursion with the fam along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. I think it was about 20 miles round-trip from the shop to Mosier and back.


Formerly U.S. Highway 30, it’s now closed to cars, and the trail curves around cliffs overlooking the Columbia River. It was the most scenic bike ride I’ve experienced. Joe and I rented a tandem Raleigh road bike from Discover bike shop in Hood River. Joe said that the joke on RAGBRAI is to call tandems “divorce bikes.” He thought it would be funny if I took a picture pretending I threw him over the cliff:

bike cliff

Riding a tandem as a couple definitely demands extra communication, trust and patience. I couldn’t see over his back, or break, shift or steer, which took some getting used to — especially as we climbed the curvy highway up to the trail head. Once we got in a rhythm and Joe started calling out when he planned to shift, or when we needed to coast and we figured out a somewhat elegant mounting and dismounting, it was totally fun. Of course, we had a flat about a mile in, but the shop outfitted us with a spare tube and thankfully Joe knows how fix things.

675deb9e012511e39cc922000aaa090c_7For people who live in more mountainous areas, the trail is relatively easy. We Midwesterners are used to things being a little more flat, but we survived. My cousin Beth was a total trooper!


It only makes sense to pause for scenic vistas, right?


377d5894013211e38e0d22000ae903cf_7One of the neatest features was riding through these old tunnels:

1150470_10101640020842040_1263989307_oWe heard there was a cute ice cream shop in Mosier from two women who loaned us a bigger pump to fix our flat, and the thought of a creamy celebratory cone definitely provided the inspiration to power through some of the hills. Once we got there, we learned the ice cream shop had closed. Thankfully, a convenience store next door to it had frozen treats. I enjoyed my favorite – a caramel magnum bar – while looking out at a totem pole.


It was uphill after our treat, but once we got back to the scenic overlook, we were able to coast back to the trailhead.

9c5c2664012811e38a7322000a1fa414_7Still married!

945cd244013511e3904e22000a1f928e_7After not biking for the duration of my pregnancy, it felt amazing to get back in the saddle. I’m still struggling a bit to get back into shape post-baby, but I so appreciate the ease with which my body moves now that I don’t have a big belly altering my center of gravity and the insane swelling in my legs and feet has gone down.

I’d love to bicycle up the trails to the Ankeny Aquatic Center, like Joe and I did last year, but I think we’ll have to wait until next summer, when Emmett’s big enough for the bike trailer.

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Touchdown, DSM

I can’t wait to catch you up on our adventures in Hood River, Oregon, where we spent the past five nights on a family vacation to celebrate the wedding of my cousin. Hood River is about an hour outside of Portland, and the area is rich with fruit orchards, breathtaking views and kite surfers out on the Columbia River.


We picked peaches, enjoyed a picturesque wedding at the most amazing organic garden, stopped at a lavender farm, went on a bicycle adventure and brewery tour and generally soaked up time with our family. I’ll be sharing some of the fun in the coming week – my last few days of maternity leave!

P.S. Emmett was a champ on the plane rides and Joe and I surprisingly had ourselves organized enough to avoid meltdowns or hassles. Most people say flying is relatively easy with a two-month old because at his age, they sleep most of the time. We had him in the Ergo on the flights and were also able to gate check the stroller for free.

Emmett earned his wings at 8 weeks

Emmett earned his wings at 8 weeks

I’d say our smartest move was to invest in a big canvas sea bag from the Army Surplus, into which we jammed the Pack’n’Play, two small duffel bags, the Boppy and assorted diapers. It weighed in just under the 50 pound limit and saved us money on checking an extra bag or two. We rented a carseat from the rental car place, but it didn’t fit him as well as his one from home, so that may have been a wash.

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One night in Mnpls

Our quick overnight trip to Minneapolis was lots of babystastic fun!

The main attraction was really getting together with friends and their sweet four-month girl, Willa Irene, but of course we wanted to explore the city. We stayed in a 3-bedroom airbnb condo at the base of a spectacular neighborhood, which was a great launching spot for our adventures. It was also really nice to have a kitchen and living room, so we had communal space to hang out and spread the babies out on blankets and make a breakfast to share.


As soon as we got in, we had lunch at Rye Deli and ice cream from Sebastian Joe’s.


We took the long way home and walked past all of the beautiful architecture in the Lowry Hill neighborhood behind out condo. I would move to Minneapolis if I could afford this abode: 20130802_153008

That evening, we chaperoned Emmett on his first date: a Twins game. He was a gentleman, naturally.


It was a perfect golden evening for our walk to the game. I marveled at how much more of a city vibe Minneapolis had on a Friday night than my beloved Des Moines. We walked through crowds of people going to the theater and all of the rooftop bars seemed crowded. Target Field is pretty gorgeous, too.



The next morning, we made breakfast at the condo and then walked a few blocks to the Sculpture Park. We arrived in the middle of a 25th anniversary celebration, so they had dance troupes and kids crafts.


Joe and I couldn’t believe how many of the works were by the same artists we have at the Pappajohn Sculpture Park here. Seeing their pieces there was like running into cousins of your good friends – they were recognizable and familiar but had their own personalities.


It was free first Saturday at the Walker, so we explored the galleries while we waited for our “Art Golf” tee time. (You actually get free admission to the Walker with your mini golf tickets, too.)


There are two artist-designed 8-hole putt-putt courses on the lawn this summer, and we played Course A, but it turns out Course B is the cooler one, in my opinion. The holes are pretty silly – and tricky! And very kid-friendly. Pretty much every group had babies in strollers or carriers.

We tied our friends in our best-shot tournament*, then it was lunch at the Midtown Global Market before we hit the road home. I fell in love with Minneapolis, and we’ll definitely be back.

*If you’re in Des Moines and looking to golf for a cause this summer, the CBC Charity Golf Tournament in Grimes on August 29 benefits “I Have a Dream.” Sign up your foursome today!

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Meeting up in MN

Continuing our quest to turn Emmett into a seasoned traveler before he cuts a tooth (and taking advantage of Joe’s summer schedule), we’re planning a quick one-night excursion in Minneapolis in a few weeks. It’s a meet-in-the-middle kind of trip with the goal of going to a Twins game with Joe’s college BFF Rusty, his wife Cathy and their similarly tiny baby, Willa. So excited!

il_570xN.469510477_axquimage via The Feel Good Art Boutique

I took a cue from Betsy and booked our first airbnb condo for the night. I think it will be cool to have a space where the six of us can chill out and call a home base, and the price was right.

We’re only a few blocks from the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, which I’ve never seen. If the boys get baseball, I think a trip here is only fair. And apparently there is an artist-designed mini golf course?! Totally tackling that with Emmett in the Ergo baby. I clicked through the photos of the holes and (surprise!) discovered my friends Cavan and Scott are in one of the photos!


So far, Eliza, the airbnb host (who will be gone when we’re there) has been awesome about offering suggestions for some short-order dining options. I want to get a taste of the city, but don’t want to bring two infants in a place where we can’t bolt if they get fussy.

Here are her picks:
-Common Roots
-Lu Sandwich
-Tao Natural Foods
– French Meadow
-Midtown Global Market* (a mall of ethnicĀ  and small restaurants such as Mexican, African, Swedish, Vietnamese, Hamburgers, etc)
-Seward Cafe (not that close) (not that close but amazing french deserts)

*Joe and I had amazing sweet corn tamales here once!

We only have about 36 hours in the city this time, but I’d love to know your suggestions so I can keep them in my back pocket for a future visit!


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