Tag Archives: Des Moines

A morning at the museum

The State Historical Museum of Iowa still flies low on the radar of free fun in Des Moines. (Almost as low as the biplanes that hover in the foyer!) I’m 31 and will always be a sucker for giant Mammoth skeletons, too.

The Museum’s new “Hands on History” exhibit just for small kids makes it worth a morning trip to the East Village, especially if you’ve never been and are looking for an opportunity to keep toddlers occupied.

We first went with my mom and brother in December – but if I didn’t blog about it, did it really happen?!

This morning, the Museum hosted a free Des Moines Film Society showing of “The Secret Life of Pets” that was followed by a Q&A with a local guy who did storyboards for the movie.

They also had their new mobile museum RV in the front and my friend Michael showed us one of the prototypes for Iowa’s state flag!

I’m a total history nerd, so I appreciate the exhibits that showcase Civil War memorabilia, and also geek out at the old-school natural history exhibits.

The State Historical Museum is a must-stop for Iowa transplants such as myself looking to catch up with fun facts and state pride. The RAGBRAI exhibit is fun, and there’s also a nifty one about Iowa’s movie ties. Our next-door neighbor is the curator, which I also think is very cool. Did you know the author of the Nancy Drew books was an Iowan?

When we got home, I read the kids “The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth” a new Usborne lift-the-flap book I got at a friend’s Usborne books party. It felt fitting after our morning museum adventure!

(As a kid, I once got to sleep over at the Field Museum in Chicago and it was the coolest. “From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” was also one of my favorite books during that time.)

Speaking of history – Did you see the Gaslamp is going to be hosting a “Buzzed History” series? It kicks off March 29.

Check out the State Historical Museum spring break activities after the jump.

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5 DSM events I’m working on

My dear, neglected blog! Summer has been a whirlwind and it looks like we’re plowing right into fall, so I wanted to check in and share some upcoming events that I’ve been a part of before they pass me by.

All of these events are super different and some I’ve been involved with through my Community Relations position at DMU and others are more extracurricular. Across the board, I’ve met some fun, dedicated people collaborating to make Des Moines an incredible place.

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I’m part of a group working to spread the word about The Avenues of Ingersoll & Grand rebranding. Inspired by this series and the murals in DSM, we’re putting up some temporary murals along Ingersoll Avenue next week to help celebrate the launch & generate some social media buzz for the district. The Ingersoll Wall Crawl is Monday evening, Aug. 22 from 5-7 p.m. It’s free/open house style, but maps are available at Moberg Gallery (where we’ll also have some drinks!) and we’ll be giving away swag for people who tag @theavenuesdsm in photos from the night.

American Heart Screening

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The Refugee Health Alliance is hosting a free screening & panel discussion with the filmmaker of “American Heart,” an award-winning documentary that takes viewers on an intimate journey into the lives of three refugees who are patients at a remarkable health clinic tucked away in St. Paul, Minnesota, which serves as a crossroads for these embattled refugees and their devoted doctors. I previewed this movie with our group and was moved to tears. I’m especially excited for our DMU students to see it, but it’s open to the public and refreshments will be served. Monday, Aug. 29 at the DMU Student Education Center Auditorium. Film starts at 5:15 p.m. (I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to offer social work CEUs for this, if that’s something you’re interested in.)

DMU Clinic Climb 

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Are you a young professional looking to take control of your health and wellness, but not sure where to start?  Join Des Moines University Thursday, September 15 for an evening of networking and learn about DMU services and academic programs while on a progressive dinner touring our multispecialty clinic. You’ll meet health professionals, learn about choosing a primary care provider, see our running & cycling clinic, and more. Register here and use the code “YPHEALTH” to attend for free!

Women Rolling Collectively: Ride with Her

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According to the League of American Bicyclists, women riders only make up 24 percent of bike trips nationally. If you’d like to change that statistic, this October 1 ride is for you! Funds raised will support female-focused programming at the Des Moines Bicycle Collective.

Riders will have the option of a 15-mile (one-way) or-30-mile (round-trip) route that will travel from downtown’s Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge to the Ankeny Market & Pavilion. Multiple stops along the route will feature opportunities to learn basic bicycle maintenance, practice bicycle safety and gain confidence to ride central Iowa’s streets and trails. Riders of all ages, backgrounds and abilities are welcome. I got a ticket for me and for my mom who is going to come into town for the ride! Registration is just $25 

Best Buddies Iowa Chef Challenge

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Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

This event is October 13, which is Eileen’s first birthday! I plan to spend the day with her and then head to this evening event at Embassy Suites. I’ll share more details when they become available, but I’ve learned so much about how this well-run nonprofit fundraiser works. Local restaurants and chefs work with Buddy Pairs to create  signature small plate dishes, and there’s a live and silent auction. They’re adding a Moscow Mule bar at this year’s event, too! Seeking auction items is outside my comfort zone, but if you have something you would like to contribute, let me know! I’ve been so grateful to some generous friends who’ve already agreed to help.

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11 Favorite moments from my 2016 caucus

A Buzzfeedy listicle of 11 reasons my caucus experience rocked:

  1. Pre-partying at the DMSC Give a Damn fashion show. Drank a free beer, got funky with a patriotic eagle, saw models strut it, got a silly caricature drawn and banished my FOMO on caucus-related fun. Oh, and hung out with Nate Boulton who is running for Iowa Senate and is a great guy.

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2. Getting up before the sun to hear NPR Morning Edition broadcast from our local coffee shop. I was there from 4:30-6:30 a.m., which was really too early to hear anything, but it was packed and buzzing with excitement. Eileen slept through it.

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3. Walking to our Roosevelt HS caucus site with my little family. Our caucus site was a little bit of a haul with a stroller and babywearing, but totally walkable in the nice weather.

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4. Selfie with Iowa legend Dr. Deborah Turner in line. I was in the Drake Alumni Executive Roundtable with Dr. Turner last year and have a little bit of a girl crush. The line to caucus was out the door and Joe and I were split up because we have different last names, so I enjoyed chilling with Dr. Turner.

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5. Getting a text from my mom that she was watching our precinct on C-SPAN. Turns out she was probably watching precinct 43 in the Roosevelt cafeteria and I was precinct 44 in the auditorium, but C-SPAN was there! Hi, Mom!

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6. When person #420 got big laughs from everyone in our precinct. Because we are mature, adult citizens. I was 497 of 516! Last time we caucused, we broke into smaller rooms, so I wasn’t really expecting this huge crowd.

7. Taking this #babiesforBernie photo with my neighbor-friend-fellow-mom, Amy. Babywearing for the win! We tried to convince some O’Malley folks to side with Sanders together.

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8. Exposing our kids to this unique political process. Even though Emmett mostly just watched Toy Story on the iPad, he was a champ. We didn’t get home until 9:45 p.m.!

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9. Hearing the stump speeches for each candidate from precinct captains. The Sanders guy was so sweet. “I’ve never spoken in front of a crowd this big!” And the O’Malley guy was funny and warm and eventually came to our side, I think.

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10. Meeting new neighbors who live just down the way and have a daughter a few weeks older than Eileen. The element of meeting and talking with people who live on your street is pretty wonderful. It’s like a block party without the food or booze. (Although I heard about one Des Moines caucus that got moved to a bar!)

11. Watching all of the results come in and validating the heck out of anyone’s experience on social media. So. Many. Beautiful. Iowa. Crowds. Also, sticker guy and hilarious tweets.

What a nail-biter! Our Caucus ended up sending 6 delegates for Sanders and 5 for Clinton. The process was disorganized, but I guess as they say — you can’t complain if you didn’t volunteer!

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What I’m into: Caucus week edition

Totally nerding out in my corner of America because it’s CAUCUS EVE.

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Free caucus download via xo-lp.com

As an Iowan By Choice, I take the privilege of our first in the nation caucus seriously — especially now that we don’t work at the paper and can participate. I gleefully take all of the pollster calls (most recently in the midst of a carwash) and am so excited and a little nervous to head to the Roosevelt auditorium with my family and neighbors and engage in civil political discourse. I know many of my thoughtful neighbors and there seems to be strong support for Hillary, although I plan to caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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While I would absolutely love to see a woman in the white house, for me, Bernie represents the social justice candidate. I’m not disillusioned with Obama and don’t think a “political revolution” happens with a single candidate. This article does a pretty good job of capturing my feelings.

We went to see him at a rally this summer, and every time Sanders’ voice comes on NPR, Emmett recognizes it! Speaking of NPR, I think I’m going to get up early (because, let’s be frank, I’m typically up feeding a baby at 4 a.m.) and head to Smokey Row for live Morning Edition before work:

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Descending the soapbox now! Entering the kitchen!

I’ve been back to work for about a month, and the biggest stress has been trying to figure out how to get dinner made and served without everyone in the house having a meltdown. This past week we nailed it, repurposing leftovers and utilizing our groceries wisely.

Our latest go-to is variations of tamale pie, which is one-skillet and allows for lots of improvisation. In a cast-iron skillet, sweat veggies like zucchini, pepper and onion in chili powder, add meat (we’ve used ground turkey and most recently leftover pulled pork from a crockpot meal) and top with wet cornbread mix, then bake. (Something like this recipe.) It comes together quickly from scratch and is great for lunch the next day.

We’ve also been eating fresh drop biscuits with soup because mixing them up with pantry staples is a great activity to keep a toddler busy while we get everything together.

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Playroom refresh + indoor toddler fun

We used some of our time off over the holidays to tackle our extra bedroom and convert it into a brighter space that works better for living with two kids in a 1.5-story, nearly 100-year-old home.

I didn’t think to snap “before” photos, so use your imagination. The guest room was formerly painted a dark indigo with a queen bed, chair and cedar chest taking up the majority of the space, and a Blues Brothers poster on the wall from Joe’s bachelor days. Here it is now:

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The art on the west wall is a piece by Joe’s Uncle Mike LaVelle that we received as a wedding gift. It gives me a happy, peaceful feeling and Eileen loves staring at it.

To turn the space into a playroom/guestroom, we painted the walls Prairie Sky by Behr and swapped out the queen for an IKEA Hemnes daybed that expands into a king for when we have company, and conveniently hides a traffic-jam full of plastic vehicles as well as bedding.

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(We donated our queen to the USCRI refugee resettlement program. Learn more about that here.) Joe updated the ceiling fan with more contemporary glass sconces and a coat of white spray paint. We added toy storage on either side of the bed, and brought in the easel and little desk and chair.

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On the east wall, we hung the chicken wire bulletin board Joe made for me awhile back. I think it’s perfect for tacking up birth announcements and kid art. And on the north wall, we hung the embroidered alphabet blanket my Aunt Mary Lee made for Eileen. Her stitching is so impressive!

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I unearthed and hung curtains I sewed for our upstairs that we had swapped out awhile ago, and the (slightly uneven thanks to an unfortunate trip in the dryer) sheers were already in the room. Now we’re just missing a rug and some throw pillows, which I’ll probably D.I.Y. later, maybe once I get my hands on some Roam collection fabric.

We’re definitely loving the extra room to snuggle and play.

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Speaking of, I’ve included a few of our favorite indoor activities lately after the jump…

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An afternoon at Big Creek State Park

Joe and I celebrated our fifth (!!!) wedding anniversary this weekend, without any big plans. The weather was wonderful so while we sat sipping coffee on the porch we brainstormed a few ideas to spend the day outdoors.

Big Creek Park and Shelter

Joe had the idea to head to Big Creek State Park, which is in Polk City adjacent to Saylorville Lake – about 30 minutes northwest of Des Moines. I had never been, but he bikes through with his brothers-in-law each April on a guys trip, and it turned out to be the perfect place to celebrate with our little family!

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Swimming: I can’t really call what we did swimming, but I can attest that a toddler will be able to amuse himself for quite some time repeatedly dumping buckets of water and sand at the shoreline. And, at least compared to some other Iowa watering holes I’ve dipped my toes in, Big Creek (which was created by the Saylorville Dam) felt relatively clean. I’m not sure it’s because we went so soon after flooding, but the beach looked like it had been freshly plowed (?) and was somewhat difficult to walk on, but tidy.

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Picnicking: I was impressed by the array of shelters available. There are several huge family reunion style shelters up close to the beach/main parking area (and several other older shelters at different spots along the lake), and a bunch of small group or single-family mini shelters scattered throughout, too. There are a few little bathrooms in that area, too.

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We just grabbed one of the numerous picnic tables in the shade, though. We packed lots of snacks, but wound up ordering hot lunch from the concession area, where the grill was going. They also have ice cream treats and snow cones available.

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Mega park: I seriously wanted to be about 8-years old again when we saw this park. I love huge, castle-like wooden parks and this one had lots of towers and turrets and tires.

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Emmett is currently obsessed with Baby Einstein, and there’s an episode where a knight gets locked in a castle that we had to reenact about 30 times. I can’t wait to go back with all of his cousins, because it’s got tons of cool features without being high-tech at all.

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Biking/boating: I didn’t realize you can rent not only canoes but pontoons (from the announcements they were making, it sounded like they had them as big as 12-passenger!). Boating didn’t happen for us because by the time we’d hit the beach, eaten lunch and played at the park, Emmett was starting to melt down. Joe had packed our bikes, though, so we did a handful of miles along prairie paths while Emmett conked out in his Burley trailer.

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The super cool thing is that it’s possible to take the Neal Smith Trail from downtown all the way up to Big Creek (about 28 miles). Don’t forget to download Iowa By Trail before you go!

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We capped off our anniversary celebration with a kid-free dinner date to Skip’s and to see “Inside Out” because we never get to the movies these days! 

P.S. I still stand by this post I wrote awhile back on “magic words for a happy marriage.”

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Local mama love

I’ve been mulling a post marking my second year of motherhood for a few weeks, but I just can’t seem to gather my thoughts. So much has changed since the first bewildering weeks, and yet two years in, I’m still asking myself how the heck other parents do it on pretty much a weekly basis.

So, while I continue to gather thoughts, I wanted to give a shoutout to a few local moms I admire. There are a couple dozen I’m missing here, obviously:

If there was some sort of pageant for captain of the crunchy mamas, I think Jenn Riggs would be crowned. I first saw but didn’t meet Jenn at a baby story time during the first few weeks of maternity leave. She was this cool looking lady with crazy curls and tattoo sleeve and this relaxed, happy vibe. Coincidentally, a few weeks later I joined a “natural fit mamas” workout class that Caeli Esser was instructing, and Jenn happened to be the coordinator. Jenn’s the kind of natural connector and resource that new moms need. She’s honest that it’s not always easy, but radiates joy.

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She’s a doula, and started a forest friends play group concept, and any woman who can double fist a glass of wine and a small goat is clearly a goddess.

(Also, if you’re looking to connect with moms in the outdoors, I saw there’s a DSM chapter of ‘Hike it Baby‘ that got started!)

The whole city seems to be awaiting the birth of Ms. Emily Lang’s baby girl, and although that occasion will officially make her a mama, her work with youth as an educator and inspirer has already cast her as a mother figure. Keep your eyes on RUN DSM. I’m so excited that my daughter might just get the chance to go to school with hers. I hope that they pass poems in class. Her spoken word piece on 10 things she wants her daughter to know is full of goosebump moments:

Everyone needs that friend with whom you can be totally truthful, vulnerable and ridiculous. Extra bonus when she has a few extra months of motherhood on you and can be both a guiding star and sounding board for joys and challenges. For me, that’s Arin Hummel. You might know her as the co-owner of Ephemera, the darling stationery shop with the red and white awning in the East Village. Arin and I came of age together and I’m so glad we get to share this next stage of making-it-up-as-we’re-going-along parenthood together. And also moments where we’re more just goofy ladies giggling in the back of a burlesque show, out past bedtime.

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I’m so glad to know such cool women/mamas. I think I might also do a post about how a babysitting co-op works, because lots of people ask and I’ve found ours to be a super supportive network. Shoutout to co-op mama, Alexson, who had her second baby yesterday! We’re growing!

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