Category Archives: music

Codfish Hollow or bust

We basically time traveled last weekend and had 24 sweet, sweet hours that felt way more 2007 than 2017.

When I heard Nathaniel Rateliff was playing a barnstormer concert in Iowa, I had this pang of I’m-so-not-in-my-20s-anymore longing. I’d caught a few barnstormers shows”back in the day,” but honestly concertgoing has, for the most part, been a casualty of parenthood.

I mentioned the show to Joe and told him I really wanted to go, but didn’t want to deal with the logistics of figuring out how to make an overnight trip to Codfish Hollow in Maquoketa work. Turns out, tickets sold out in 30 seconds, but my awesome husband scored a pair, plus overnight babysitting. The show was actually part of a larger GARP music fest which is put on by the guy behind the indie music site Daytrotter, and for a day it was like being able to teleport to our pre-parenthood life.

We left Des Moines a little before noon on Saturday and took our time heading East, with a stop at the Daly Creek Winery & Bistro in Anamosa for a late lunch and little wine tasting. (We are Iowa Public Radio sustaining members and the bistro offers a 2-for-1 deal as part of the member card.)

After lunching on the patio we drove past the state penitentiary, which is quite something. Our route took us along the Grant Wood scenic byway (this is where the artist who painted American Gothic grew up) and for a quick visit to Maquoketa Caves State Park for drive-thru spelunking. (We will return in a few years when the kids are older and we have proper attire.)

We made another nature pit stop at the Hurstville Interpretive Center which has some neat conservation displays.

Codfish Hollow is essentially a farm off a gravel road that transforms into a polite mini Woodstock. We parked in what was recently a cow pasture (there was ample evidence of its typical residents) and tailgated a bit before heading down to the venue area. Joe was pumped about the idea of sleeping in our van (#vanlife but not really because we’re just parents trying to pretend we’re cool for a night) so we folded down the seats and blew up an air mattress and it was actually pretty great to not have to break a camp in the morning.

To get down from the pasture to the barns, you can walk or take a hay rack ride driven by an older farmer named Marv.

Oh, the tractor ride, the barn surrounded by sunflowers, the music and food trucks and dilapidated buildings housing pop-up art shows… I was basically crying with happiness because the spirit of the day exemplified everything I’ve come to love about Iowa. Also, by this point I’d had several margaritas.

We explored the grounds and listened to some bands outside on a blanket under a starry sky. Nahaniel Rateliff didn’t take the stage until 10:45 p.m., but it was a totally energized show. Joe and I danced and had these goofy grins on our faces the whole time.

If you have a chance to see a show at Codfish Hollow, plan to make a weekend of it. We brushed our teeth in a Casey’s bathroom, crashed a fireman’s benefit breakfast in the tiny town on Wyoming, Iowa on our drive home and pulled into Des Moines just as our hipstermobile turned back into a carseat-toting family minivan.

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Filed under Iowa adventures, music, Travel

My writing elsewhere: DSM Magazine May/June 16

Joe and I sat next to Katie and Jay Byers at the David Wax Museum concert in January, and some friendly conversation during a break turned into an invitation to their Valentine’s Day house concert. Of course, I had to turn it into work when I thought about what a neat story it would make for DSM Magazine. The story, “Bringing Down the House” is out in the May/June issue, which was released today.


I love being a regular contributor to such a gorgeous publication, and this issue’s launch party at Hotel Renovo also featured a Mac & Cheese bar – a fun idea!

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Filed under I love Des Moines, music, Side projects

Music for a woodland clearing

My chic friend Julia hosted our last book club on the totally hygge* landing of her gorgeous A-frame home, complete with a wood stove. While we were sipping spiked ciders, all of the ladies commented on what a great mellow mix she had going on in the background.

Oh, that’s “Music for a Woodland Clearing,” she said, and then told us about Songza, a streaming service that helps you pick a playlist based on your mood/time of day/activity. I’m hooked.

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If you can’t read that small print, the other similar playlists include A Stiff Drink in a Dim Place, Sadcore Hibernation, etc. There are happy ones, too, obviously. “You Betta Work: ’90s Runway.” Fun.

*I just learned this terrific Danish word that expresses a kind of coziness that’s hard to fully capture in English.

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Filed under music, What I'm into

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.


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?


Let the Columbia countdown begin!

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Filed under music, Travel

Joe’s big 3-0

Joe turned 30 on Oct. 2, and I wanted to make the day extra special for the huz/babydady old man.


I made Joe’s favorite pineapple upside down carrot cake and had to laugh at how pathetic the candle situation looked after he blew them out and we started dishing up.

In mid-September, I was feeling a little bit stressed and overwhelmed and knew I couldn’t pull off a big party with all our friends, so I came up with a concept that would be fun and different and manageable: a little bicycle scavenger hunt/bar crawl for Joe and a few buddies that would culminate in his present reveal.

I decided to invest in a nice Weber grill as Joe’s birthday gift (thank you, freelance checks!) since the grill we’ve been using was purchased second hand 4+ years ago and is on its last, wobbly legs. Home Depot assembled it for free and I managed to fit it into the Subaru and hide it in our neighbors’ garage for a few days. To throw him off the trail, I told Joe not to look in our garage fridge because his present was in there. (Psych! Totally worked.)

The morning of his birthday, I let him in on the plan.


Earlier in the afternoon, I’d left rhyming clues at two neighborhood bars (The Alpine Tap Room and The Library). The idea was that the guys would cycle out in search of the clues and enjoy a few beers while the wives/ladyfriends chopped veggies and meat for kabobs. Then they’d come back to grill out. The answer to the two riddles were “meat” and “heat” — get it? Because his present was a grill?

I included a few packages of beef jerky and money for the pinball machine at the Alpine and a clicker lighter thing at The Library. Joe loved it, and said that the people at both bars were really excited to see the group, because everyone wanted to see them get their clues. I’m super glad I kept it to just two bars, because the men didn’t seem to get my subtle rhyming hints to only have one drink at each stop. There may have been a few hangry – OK time to come back for dinner! texts exchanged.

Speaking of two-wheeled fun, the weekend before Joe’s b-day, we went on our first family bike ride with Emmett. He’s in his carseat inside the trailer. With a monkey.


Mostly unrelated, but our friend Danny just released his first music video with the project MAIDS…

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Filed under I love Des Moines, music

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

Currently digging

I’m not going to lie, we haven’t left the house much the past 10 days, except for doctor’s appointments. I knew theoretically that breastfeeding was going to be time consuming, but I really didn’t quite understand how all encompassing it is at first. My “What to Expect in the First Year” book was even like, Yeah, nobody told you it would be like this, or if they did, you wouldn’t believe them. Sucka. 


While bumming around the house, I’ve been listening to some new-to-me music: Father John Misty. It’s kind of a psychedelic alt-folk from the guy from Fleet Foxes. So good. I’m just looping his playlist on Youtube. Anything else you’d suggest?

Ridiculously late to the game here (like, 15 years late): I was more of the Gilmore Girls generation, but I just started watching Felicity on Netflix. (You can stream 80+ episodes!) I think this will get me through some bleary-eyed pumping sessions. I don’t know if there was any debate back in the day, but I am definitely on Team Noel.

On Saturday, we were determined to get down to the Farmer’s Market for some sunshine and, of course, a papusa. Emmett obliged like a champ. I almost cried listening to a violinist play Hallelujah“on the corner. Of course.


We picked up kale from Table Top Farms, green onion sausage from Crooked Gap, red pepper chevre from Reichert’s Dairy Air and some summer squash and Joe used them all to top a pesto-sauce pizza for dinner. It wasn’t a very photogenic pizza, but it was delicious.

On the positive side, I’m enjoying being able to touch my toes once again, and when I stepped on the scale yesterday, I already weighed in at 30 pounds less than I did at my last prenatal doctor’s visit! I have a feeling the last 20 will be a lot more difficult to lose, though. Yeah, do the math, I gained 50 pounds! I am going to argue that a good portion of that was water, but it’s a good thing my 10 year high school reunion isn’t until fall.

(Fellow new moms: this essay in The Atlantic, “What Nobody Remembers About New Motherhood” is a good one.)


Filed under music, What I'm into

Symphonic Sunday

Joe and I were lucky enough to snag tickets (thanks Sophia!) to Des Moines Symphony 75th Anniversary Season Debut. We got to hear the newly commissioned piece “Symphony In Sculpture,” which was inspired by the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park. I thought that was particularly fun, because so often you look into a program booklet and see 19th century Russians with crazy awesome mustaches. But here was something so close, so contemporary, being brought to life on violin strings and through the crash of cymbals.

Plus, I couldn’t believe when I read in the program that the Minnesota composer Steve Heitzeg sometimes uses MANATEE BONES in his work:

At first I was shocked and appalled, but then I figure that the manatees probably perished naturally or from their #1 foe, motor boats, so it was actually rather beautiful. What manatee, in its wildest marine mammal dreams, would imagine participating in a symphony?

The music was paired with video images of the sculptures, which was a neat touch. I think my favorite movement was the one that was inspired by Juno & Ancient Forest because it utilized some interesting percussion. Michael Morain wrote up a much more knowledgeable review, if you’re interested. He also has a great blog post with snippet samples performed by Des Moines Symphony trombonist Casey Maday.

It was Joe’s first symphony and we got to sit next to Karen and Arin, plus eat celebratory 75th anniversary symphony cupcakes afterward!

Going to see the Des Moines Symphony at least once should be on everyone’s bucket list. Adult tickets start at right around $15, and even if you’re in the back row and don’t know your Engelbert Humperdink from Franz Liszt, you can appreciate the beauty of the music. Check out the rest of the landmark season lineup at

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Filed under I love Des Moines, music

Playlist of the moment

I mailed out a mix CD to my dear friend from high school who I never see because she’s been in grad school in California and was in the Peace Corps in Tanzania before that. I’ve been listening to it myself on repeat pretty much since, too. It’s a little bit like knowing you’re beneath the same pale moon, listening to the same mix.

This isn’t super helpful because I’m not linking directly to the songs, I know. Sorry!

Lowery ❤ Mix, II
Kick Drum Heart, The Avett Brothers
Laredo, Band of Horses
We Are The Tide, Blind Pilot
Heart’s On Fire, Christopher Denny
This Tornado Loves You, Neko Case
Born With a Broken Heart, David Wax Museum
Fall Song, Colourmusic
See Fernando, Jenny Lewis
Come and Get It, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed
Douglas Douglass, Pearl and the Beard (who we saw at True/False this spring)
Reverend, Pearl and the Beard
Race you, Elizabeth and the Catapult
Rainy Day Medicine, Jenna Lindbo (my friend from Girl Scouts)
Cornbread And Butterbeans, Carolina Chocolate Drops
Say Yes, Langhorne Slim

What are you listening to? I need some music suggestions!


Filed under music