Category Archives: movies/art

My Writing Elsewhere: The Lovely Bones

I have a piece in the March/April 2017 issue of DSM Magazine that I think turned out nicely. It’s a profile of Lee Emma Running, a Grinnell artist whose latest work would fit in nicely with the Des Moines Art Center’s current “Alchemy” exhibition. (Which is also the theme of this spring’s Big Hair Ball!)


Read “The Lovely Bones” or check it out in the splendid layout (pp. 88-96) here.

I enjoyed interviewing Lee in her Grinnell studio, and I’m grateful the magazine editors endured a little more back-and-forth with me to make sure it the piece had just the right tone. It’s such a privilege to tell the stories of artists like Lee. I even got to see her pieces at Olson-Larsen Gallery, including a kind of walk-in installation. The 2017 Valley Junction spring gallery night is set for April 21, if you’ve never been.


The magazine held its unveiling yesterday evening at The Republic on Grand, a new hipster Marriott in the East Village. It was so packed! They have a rooftop heated bar that looks out to Principal Park, which would be a great spot to catch the fireworks on a Friday night in spring. I am always thrilled to see friends featured and Jami Milne shot the stunning cover.


The ethereal underwater ballet shot is beyond lovely, but I’m more obsessed with the “Layers” portraits she did of high school students in the RUN DSM slam poetry program. I saw a bunch of the teens perform in a showcase last weekend and I felt like they were total celebs.


Leave a comment

Filed under movies/art, Side projects

Mixed media

A few favorite things I’ve consumed with my ears, eyeballs and lips:

My cousin and I share pretty much the same taste in music  — I went with him to Lollapalooza about 8 years ago when I may have gotten into a catfight at a Regina Spektor concert — except Bobby’s been keeping up much better than I these days. So I asked him to make me a mix CD for Joe and I to take on our Decorah road trip, and he delivered! It was so much fun to get a package in the mail, and I even held out and didn’t peek at what tracks he’d chosen until we popped the mix in. I was actually pretty surprised by how many of the artists/bands had performed at 80/35 over the years. Jenny Lewis, Spoon, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, etc.




A couple of fun new-t0-me acts that were featured: Lord Huron, Leon Bridges, St. Paul and the Broken Bones

Good tunes are essential when you decide to get up to photograph the sunrise over a prairie.


The best part of the whole thing was laughing at the annotated track listing slip, because I could practically hear Bobby saying some of the funny stuff in there. Cousins are great.

I heard about “Testament of Youth” a few months ago (on NPR, natch), and requested the Des Moines Public Library acquire a copy because they didn’t have it in their collection. I’m surprised I’d never heard of the 80-year-old classic before; it’s an autobiography of Vera Brittain’s time coming of age during WWI, published in 1933.

The book was recently adapted to a movie, so it’s getting some renewed interest — and it means that my copy from the library has one of those awful movie adaptation covers.


I’m totally into it. Well, technically, a third of the way in to the dense but fast-moving 650 pages. Hoping I can finish it before the baby arrives! Brittain’s voice is certainly of her era, but the strong feminist opinions she expresses feel totally modern. Girl. Crush. I’ll definitely watch the movie after reading the book, but I highly doubt it can fully capture her spirit, though it did get good reviews!

I’ve been doing lots more reading than anything else these days, but Joe and I streamed “Chef” (Jon Favreau) on Netflix a few weeks ago and it was such a fun movie. I will warn you, though, don’t watch it without having access to an awesome hot, spicy sandwich. It’s going to make you hungry!



We also streamed “The Grand Seduction,” which isn’t sexy as it sounds and was cute in a “Waking Ned Divine” kind of watch-it-with-your parents way.

These “Steel Cow” paintings by Iowa born-and-raised Valerie Miller were all over Decorah and I am in love. We took home a magnet they were selling at Seed Savers, where they had giant mural canvases up on two of the barns. Each animal (mostly cows) has her own name and persona and I just love them.


There’s a Steel Cow on the side of the Co-Op in Decorah, too, and I just have to also give a shoutout to the Gray Duck Chai “Eddie Wu” chai + lemonade drink I picked up there.


It’s based out of Minnesota and is a cold spicy-sour-sweet that is crazy in your mouth. Somebody bring me a case? It’s insane.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, movies/art, What I'm into

What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.


Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.


Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

Omaha Visit 027

Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.


A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!



Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Cooking, I love Des Moines, Iowa adventures, movies/art, What I'm into

Art appreciation with tiny ones

I don’t think I’ve been to the Des Moines Art Center since June, when I was overdue with Emmett (huge/cranky) and my mom and I walked the nearly two-mile distance from my house in an unsuccessful effort to induce labor.

Technically, Emmett was at the Art Center in utero twice, with the first time being for the Pollock Ball — before I was ready to announce his existence. He got the full experience today when we visited with cousins Caroline and Norah and aunt Ellen. He typically hangs with those ladies four days a week, but for me to tag along on an adventure was a treat.


It felt like a very grown-up day with the tiny ones because we timed things about a half hour off and were forced to hang out at La Mie for a few minutes before the Art Center opened. (Woe is me, right?) I can’t stop laughing at Caroline’s expression in this photo:


She loved the sweets, but apparently loathes the dreaded sticky hand syndrome that comes with snarfing danishes.

I was so impressed by how patiently the kids wandered the galleries with us. Emmett quietly chewed on the Ergobaby strap the whole time and seemed mesmerized by the colors and the natural lighting that streamed through the halls. Caroline delights me with her perspective on the world.


Every one of us was in awe of “Gravity and Grace,” the fantastic exhibition by El Anatsui, which runs through Feb. 9, 2014. (Details here.)

Image via Huffington Post

Image via Huffington Post

Photos aren’t allowed in the exhibit, but this Huffington Post article gives some insight into the work when it was installed elsewhere. There’s even a little area to watch a video about the artists’ process and for kids to get creative. Caroline and Norah both got right to work on mini masterpieces.



If you have a tiny, live in Des Moines and are looking for a way to beat cabin fever, the Art Center is hosting a “Baby & Me Gallery Talk” series 11 a.m. – Noon on Wednesdays Jan. 8, Feb. 12 and March 12. It’s free and drop-ins/strollers/babywearing are all encouraged.


Sometimes on the days I’m home with Emmett the only thing that saves our sanity is to gear up and go somewhere. Although you all really should have seen us this morning. I thought maybe I could put the baby in the stroller and walk the dog in freezing temperatures in the 10 minutes before I had to leave for a meeting. Not so much. I’m surprised nobody driving by the screaming child, skittish dog and frenzied mother trailing six yards of scarf didn’t call us in as loonies.

1 Comment

Filed under Baby, I love Des Moines, Iowa adventures, movies/art

Why Houses Matter

Last Friday, we went to the opening for “Why Houses Matter,” an art show curated by Rachel Buse. Rachel says the only thing she loves more than art is houses, so the theme of this show makes total sense. Her first job was as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the nonprofit Rebuilding Together, which rehabilitates the homes of low-income owners, and the organization came in as a sponsor for the show.


Rachel’s own aesthetic seems to embrace imperfection —  things with a certain lumpiness or a kooky-charming crookedness about them. (Sometimes even an ugliness that she manages to make appear endearing, by virtue of her enthusiasm for the subject shining through.)


The show features works from five different artists: Holly Wist, Julia Franklin, Tiffany Sinnott, Tatiana Klusak and Ramona Muse.

Rachel called in and shared a little bit about it on Talk of Iowa the other day.



I think Rachel is one of the most genuine, creative people in Des Moines, and I had fun helping her hone her talk “The Moment Before Making” for TEDxDesMoines last year.

The 2013 TEDxDesMoines is coming up soon – Sept. 8. Get tickets here. (If you really want to go, but can’t afford a ticket, let me know and I might be able to help work something out.)

Leave a comment

Filed under I love Des Moines, movies/art, What I'm into

Do your Friday dance

Holy seacow, you guys. This week raced by, didn’t it? Do a little Friday dance. Bonus points if you’re adorable and surrounded by stuffed manatees.


Yes, I had a little manatee photoshoot with Emmett last week. I’m a weirdo.


Anyhow, here are few things this weirdo has been into this week:

Clicking: I’ve bookmarked another go-to blog for interesting tidbits and inspiration: sho & tell. She curates some pretty cool things in her posts, and I love following writers who share short works. She posted about this Chandelier Tree in L.A. the other day. What a spellbinding concept. It would be a cool public art installation to try in Des Moines, on a big, gnarly Oak.

Reading: I started “Tell the Wolves I’m Home. My friend Mara recommended it, and it made Oprah’s Book Club. The chapters are really short so far, which makes it easy for me to pick up and put down. I only have short stretches of reading time nowadays, so that’s helpful.


Watching: Joe and I started streaming the Netflix series Orange is the New Black this week. We watched the Weeds series together and this is created by the same woman.


Listening: My friend Danny (the singer from Seedlings) veers from folk-rock into electronica in his new project, MAIDS. He let me listen to one of the songs from their upcoming EP in the car the other night, before our writing group. He’s crazy talented. They’re hosting a release show on August 2 at Vaudeville Mews.

And at the end of August, they’ll be playing in a mini music fest, Shoot the Chutes, that my friend Andy is helping put together:



Filed under Baby, movies/art, music, What I'm into

Three Netflix watch instant movies that have helped keep me sane

We’re into day six of being past-due, my friends. My mom had to go back to Chicago yesterday and even gulping down castor oil on my birthday did not do the trick. I am housing one stubborn baby and/or have the most comfortable Steve Urkle uterus (because that’s basically what a preggo belly is, right?) for a baby to hang out in. Sigh. I’m getting an induction massage this afternoon – fingers crossed!

Do know that I recognize I am being a total brat complaining about this, because it’s much less scary to be overdue than had I gone into labor months prematurely.

Anyhow, what’s a beached whale of a lady to do (when not watching fireworks at the Iowa Cubs game, or sitting in her lawn in a zero gravity chair) whilst waiting? We’ve been watching some instant Netflix movies lately and I figured I’d let you in on which ones in case you’re also experiencing ennui.



There was a little buzz here about this movie when it came out because it’s supposed to revolve around the Iowa State Fair Butter Sculpture. It’s actually pretty darkly-funny and not family appropriate at all. It namechecks some Iowa things, which makes me smile. I was surprised by the big-name actors in what seems to have been a pretty low-budget film, but they appeared to have a blast making it!

The Giant Mechanical Man


My watch-alone guilty pleasure show is “The Mindy Project” (it’s seriously hilarious) and this movie stars Chris Messina from that show and Jenna Fischer from “The Office.” Also, Topher Grace is in it and I kind of love him. It’s a pretty slow, predictable movie (IMDB summary: An offbeat romantic comedy about a silver-painted street performer and the soft spoken zoo worker who falls for him) aside from enjoying the actors in it, but I thought it was a nice enough little film.

Safety Not Guaranteed


This movie features another Mindy Project cast member, Mark Duplass, and Aubrey Plaza from “Parks  & Rec.” It’s quirkier (Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel) and sweet.

For movie reviews from someone who actually knows what the hell he’s talking about, let me direct you to my friend Nick Renkoski’s blog. He’ll help you spruce up your queue in no time!


Filed under At home, movies/art

Des Moines date-in-a-box: Retro roadtrip

Time to don some Wayfarers and your favorite Hill Vintage dress, hop in the DeLorean (or, a hatchback will do) and head East! This date night brings the fun of the fifties to your backseat. Whether you’re dating a Sandy or a Rizzo (hey-o!), who can resist a drive-in double feature?

© Time Inc.via Life Magazine photo archive

Your destination: The Valle Drive-In in Newton. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to the Valle Drive-In, but I do have a fuzzy recollection from when Joe and I first started dating of how fun it was to pack lawn chairs and sleeping bags and go on a little mini road-trip together. It’s about 45 minutes to Newton, and the movies start at dusk, so you probably aren’t going to get home at a decent hour, if you see both shows. Bonus points if you put together a fun mix for the ride. The last song should probably be “Wake Up Little Suzy,” by The Everly Brothers. Feel free to leave other driving-to-the-drive-in song suggestions in the comments!

To eat: I’m pretty sure you can bring your own food to the Drive-In, but if you want to eat in Newton and keep with the classic kind of theme, there’s a Maid-Rite on 1st. Ave., just about 4 miles from the movie. (Confession: You guys might revoke my Iowa card right here and now, but I’ve never been to a Maid-Rite, nor have I had one of their famous loose-meat sandwiches. Can you believe it?)

I think we’ll be packing up our Passat for a night at the Valle Drive-In this summer. I might just experience my first Maid-Rite, too. Then I’ll be a true Iowan. A belated Des Moines-iversary trip to Newton in June sounds like the perfect way to celebrate FIVE YEARS of living in this great state.

This is part of a series of Des Moines-area date suggestions for lazy lovers (of friends!) who need a plan!

1 Comment

Filed under Des Moines Dates, movies/art

Quiet lately

Compared to the hustle of last week, last weekend wound things down.

Reading: The Buddha in the Attic, which is more a gorgeous lyrical long poem than a novella. (Recommended by my local bookseller, Alice.) It’s lovely. The writing is delicate and strong at the same time – like a spider web of words.

Recovering: The Drake Relays 1/2 marathon was this past weekend. I survived, then moved about the house on Saturday after the race with minimal bending of my knees. I am officially an old lady. Joe and I watched Beginners after the race and lots of episodes of United States of Tara on Netflix instant. I was grateful to be pretty much immobilized.

Admiring: Joe’s handiwork laying down the new patio path. He’s the kind of guy who plans and measures. I played in the garden planting our seedlings in the rain and all of my clothes are still in a big muddy pile at the back door.

Stitching: A project that I don’t have a pattern for. Just an idea, some fabric and needle and thread. I’m really hoping it comes together because I love the print and I’m attached to the vision. It’s going to be a present. I hope it turns out!

I love a quiet weekend at home.

1 Comment

Filed under At home, movies/art