Tag Archives: friends

36 Hours in STL

Southwest Airlines just started a direct flight to Saint Louis, Mo., and since Joe was going on his annual boys’ bicycle trip this weekend, I decided to brave the quick 45-minute trip with the kids and see my college besties for a super short weekend. Whee!


(I’m a bit miffed that the flight attendant told me I had to take Eileen out of her Ergo carrier for takeoff and landing, which has never been an issue for me on past flights when Emmett was a baby!) But, anyhow…

I feel so fortunate to have quality friendships that we’ve nurtured over the years and miles. These girls are two with whom I feel totally comfortable, and even though a trip like this can feel hectic, it’s so relaxing to just chill together.


Our kid-focused adventure involved a visit to the Museum of Transportation, where you can climb on a bunch of historic trains, take an electric trolley ride, and more. We were pretending this “E” train was about to hit us, if that’s not evident by the expressions.


We didn’t even make it though the automobile exhibits, but with kids who don’t need a nap, you could explore for a couple of hours.


Amanda and Christa live a few blocks from each other in Saint Louis’ historic Shaw neighborhood, close to Saint Louis University and Tower Grove Park. Amanda and her husband have purchased several multifamily properties in the same area and Christa and her husband recently bought a gorgeous two-unit and are giving the landlord life a go, too. We also walked down to a property one of their friends rents on Airbnb that has rabbits and chickens in the yard, which Emmett loved.


Saint Louis sometimes gets a bad rap, but I think it’s really gorgeous and love how invested my friends are in their community. It’s so fun to see all of the new bars and restaurants and businesses popping up when I visit the neighborhood every couple years.

We grabbed lunch to-go from Lulu’s, a vegetarian restaurant in their neighborhood, and got Girl Scout Tagalong nitro ice cream from Ices Plain & Fancy (which is basically in Amanda’s back alley!) for dessert. Dinner was home-cooked asparagus risotto and French 75 cocktails and then just hanging out with spa-style face masks on, talking on the balcony as the storm blew over.

Then it was back to Des Moines for a loooong nap!


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Filed under Family Fun, Travel

Ladies night: Clothing Swap

During college, my roommate and I would  shop each other’s closets to save money and try out a different look. (Let’s be honest – when Amanda borrowed from my closet, it was when she needed to dress as a librarian/7th grader and when I raided hers it was so I could go out on the weekend and maybe just maybe not be carded.)

So when I got invited to a clothing swap hosted by a few girlfriends this past weekend, I was super excited. At this point in the year, I’m tired of my winter clothes and re-evaluating what I want to keep for spring and summer. Clothing swaps are a great way to let go of nicer items you love but that aren’t working for you any more and that you’re too lazy to consign.


image via Oh Happy Day {free printable invites}

The recipe for a clothing swap is pretty simple:

A home to host it in. (It’s preferable to send the spouse/kids out for the duration, so the entire main floor can serve as a giant dressing room.)

Hangers/tables/rolling clothes rack if you’re really fancy & a few full-length mirrors. We hung dresses in one room, folded up pants in another and piled tops on the kitchen table. I schlepped my cheap Target mirror down the street to pitch in.

Wine & snacks & a playlist. Not necessary, but ‘duh.’ A party atmosphere is way more fun for shopping.  Get goofy and sometimes you might accidentally try on someone’s real jeans that they’ve abandoned momentarily because they’re trying on another outfit.

Suitcases/hampers for bringing clothes, shoes and accessories to the swap and bringing your fabulous finds home. We didn’t have any fights break out over any of the pieces — you just toss an item you want into your hamper/suitcase to reserve it.

A “no fat talk” rule. Bodies change. Some of your friends are taller/thinner than you. This is not the time to get hung up on your insecurities. Celebrate the things that look great on each other and laugh off the fact that multiple people got stuck when trying on the same garment and needed to be extracted from it.

A donation plan. The hostess should plan to bring leftover items to Goodwill. We also had some work-appropriate outfits that are on their way to Dress for Success.

I’m amazed by how well everything worked out. It’s not like all of us wear the same size or are the same shape, but everyone went home with at least one killer “new” outfit. I have the perfect cardigan to complete this swap outfit, which I plan to wear on a trip to Boston next month!


Personally, I scored huge when a friend walked through the door with this pair of brown leather size 7 Fossil boots she’d outgrown after having her son. My feet grew after pregnancy, too, and I’d just given some of my favorite boots to my nieces, so it was like boot karma.

It was also really fun to see another friend  rock a pair of corduroys I’d bought awhile back thinking I was going to grow three inches and lose 20 pounds. (What?!)

Also, for some reason, we all showed up in black tank tops and jeans, although there was no instruction to do this. All in all, a brilliant idea hosted lovingly by some cool lady friends. Try it!

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Filed under I love Des Moines, What I'm into

At home with the Heggens

Last week, my friends Danny and Katy and I finally made good on a volley of “LET’S MAKE RICOTTA” text messages. What? You don’t text your friends about cheese?

I had cheesemaking on my 30-before-30 list, a my friend even got me a sweet kit, but Emmett and I always seem to drink all of the milk in the house before I can manage any attempt to morph it into cheese. Danny is on a make-things-and-document-it kick, and I knew he’d DIY-d ricotta before, so I talked him into inviting me over to whip up a batch, especially since we don’t see each other at YNPN Des Moines board meetings any more. (Tear.)


We donned aprons and made this creamy Smitten Kitchen ricotta because pretty much every post on Smitten Kitchen is a mouthwatering gem and they could attest to its taste and ease. Making the ricotta was insanely simple. The Heggens have way nicer kitchen utensils and even bought a bottle of silly alcohol-free red wine for me. The ricotta takes just a few minutes on the stove, and then we had to let it drain/firm up, so could hang out on the back porch and chow chips and drink “wine” and talk about the situational leadership model I learned about at a retreat. Because we’re geeks.


We went a step further and turned half the ricotta into spinach-and-ricotta dumplings, sauteed in marinara sauce. They were pretty delish. I can’t find the Cooking Light recipe online (it’s in the current issue), but this is pretty similar.

Joe and Emmett came over for dinner after the cooking sesh/Emmett’s nap, and Danny even let Emmett try out his ukulele.


I’m pretty terrible at making time to hang out with my friends. But I’m a champ at eating Sunday dinner. So, we should probably make and eat Sunday dinner with friends a lot more often.


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Filed under At home, Cooking

Top this: XO-LP giveaway fun

Smart friends and witty puns make life all the more enjoyable, and when you can combine the two — it’s magic.


illustration via XO-LP

I’ve known illustrator/pun-master/connector Laura Palmer of XO-LP fame for most of my time in Des Moines, and it’s been amazing to watch her journey into #goingsolo to follow her entrepreneurial dreams.

We kept running into each other coming/going at events like the September issue DSM unveiling (I wrote a story on soon-to-open jazz club Noce and she’s featured in a style story) and decided we had to actually make a point to see each other beyond a quick wave.

So the other week we grabbed coffee at Zanzibar’s and we finally caught up on life. I highly recommend starting any day with puns and caffeine. I also picked up a hand-illustrated frame mat (only $5!) that was super chill to sit and color in my pajamas. Emmett’s been all about blasting off! lately – can’t wait to fill this.


LP and I talked about making things and momentum and I told her about how much fun I had crafting my clay pizza earrings the other week.

I guess that’s how we got to today’s giveaway: I had enough supplies left over to bake up a fresh pair of pizza earrings, and I wanted someone who appreciates a slice of life as much as we do to have them.


Head over to Laura’s blog to find out how you can win a one-of-a-kind pair of pizza party earrings!

And Laura’s never one to leave anyone empty-handed. Her shop is full of great items, and she has a whole section of free printables to reel you in, too.

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Filed under Getting crafty, I love Des Moines, Side projects

A friend’s memoir

My friend Josh recently had his memoir, “Down from the Mountaintop,” published by the University of Iowa Press. I haven’t read it yet, but he’s an incredibly thoughtful and talented writer, so I’m sure it is excellent.


(The book is on sale for $10 through April 15 with the promo code IAAWP2014.)

The blurb:

A lyrical coming-of-age memoir, Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Doležal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents’ quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. Unable to fully embrace the fundamentalism of his parents, he began to search for religious experience elsewhere: in baseball, books, and weightlifting, then later in migrations to Tennessee, Nebraska, and Uruguay. Yet even as he sought to understand his place in the world, he continued to yearn for his mountain home.

For more than a decade, Doležal taught in the Midwest throughout the school year but returned to Montana and Idaho in the summers to work as a firefighter and wilderness ranger. He reveled in the life of the body and the purifying effects of isolation and nature, believing he had found transcendence. Yet his summers tied him even more to the mountain landscape, fueling his sense of exile on the plains.

It took falling in love, marrying, and starting a family in Iowa to allow Doležal to fully examine his desire for a spiritual mountaintop from which to view the world. In doing so, he undergoes a fundamental redefinition of the nature of home and belonging. He learns to accept the plains on their own terms, moving from condemnation to acceptance and from isolation to community. Coming down from the mountaintop means opening himself to relationships, grounding himself as a husband, father, and gardener who learns that where things grow, the grower also takes root.

Congratulations, Josh!

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Filed under Books

Pretty, pretty

I was so excited to see that Ephemera, the stationery/cute stuff galore store my friends Arin & Karen own, got the spotlight this week on the 100 Layer Cake blog. Swoon:


Hop over to the site to see the styled shoot, and hop into the store for a last minute Valentine!

Like this one by Emily McDowell Illustration, which is hil-ar-ious because it’s so true.


Ephemera is also now renting their lovely back room for $50/hour. It fits a party of up to 15, so if you’re looking for a sweet spot to host a shower/crafternoon, book it! It’s so hard to find a good place in Des Moines where you can bring in your own food and treats and not have to wrangle with caterers and it’s already so pretty.

Speaking of lovely places, Marissa’s nursery went up on Apartment Therapy this week! Her little boy should be here any minute.


I’m sure she’ll share the news on Pitter Patter Clunk when he finally arrives!

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Filed under Getting crafty, I love Des Moines, What I'm into

Felt love

My friend Amy’s felt book, So Pretty! Felt is out, and I wanted to share the trailer a few friends made for it’s debut.


It’s extra awesome when talented, creative ladies make something magical like this. Way to go, Katie and Bethany!

A bunch of craft bloggers are doing “So Pretty! Felt” book-related posts, if you’re interested.

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Filed under Books

Boots and a bump: Nashville trip recap

Hey y’all. (Please read that in your best Tami Taylor drawl.) I got back from Nashville last night and wanted to give you a recap in case you have plans to visit Music City sometime soon. Me, waiting for my 6 a.m. flight:


My high school ladyfriends and I try to reconnect for an annual spring break trip when possible, and this year we chose NashVegas. Although the weather didn’t exactly cooperate (it was 18 degrees colder than average for this time of year, and rainy), we still had a good time and made some funny memories, which is what it’s all about, right?


Staying put and getting around: We stayed in the Midtown/West End area, which is walkable to downtown — especially in daylight. Just remember it’s downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back. We stayed at the Aloft, which was unfortunately under construction during our visit and doesn’t have a pool, but there are plenty of other hotels in the area that could be nice and affordable. (We walked past Union Station on our way downtown and stopped in the lobby — if you’re looking to spend more for a romantic getaway, maybe, that’s a swank and historic spot.)

Instead of renting a car, we decided to do a combo of cabbing it, walking and purchasing a day bus pass ($5.25). We definitely got our money’s worth out of the day bus pass, although it may have made us a little too ambitious. The cab ride to the airport is a flat $25, even though it’s only about 10 minutes from downtown, but the bus also stops there.


Sightseeing: When we arrived, we walked around the Vanderbilt campus, which is gorgeous – filled with Magnolia trees and close to cute independent shops in Hillsboro Village. We rode the bus out to Belle Meade Plantation for a tour (totally scored a Groupon discount!), which ends in their little wine tasting room. On a nice day, this would be a great place to bring a picnic and hang out on the grounds. We went to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts for a culture fix, too. If you’re looking to do tons of daytime activities, the Music City Total Access Pass ($50 for four attractions) might be a good option. We weren’t super ambitious on this front due to weather and apathy toward country music iconography, but I went to a wedding at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden a few years ago and had it been sunshiney totally would have tried to go back.

Dining: We whiffed it with our first dinner at Cabana. It was chock full of bachelorette parties and the food wasn’t anything to write home about. Not worth the hype, although when I was there a few years ago for another Nashville wedding, I remember it being better. We had lunch at Urban Flats in The Gulch, which is supposed to be Nashville’s up-and-coming neighborhood and is also a wine bar. It was good, but in retrospect we should have gone to nearby Whiskey Kitchen, which I’ve heard rave reviews about. We tried to have dinner on Nashville’s East side, which is apparently supposed to have more of a hipster vibe, but got off the bus at a sketchy spot and abandoned that plan. Instead we stumbled upon Fat Bottom Brewing, which was my favorite from the trip although also a slight torture because I couldn’t sample the goods.


OK, I had one sip of their red and it was amazing. There was a live band out in the beer garden, really cool decor and we shared a cheese plate and beverages while we plotted our next move. We had some good luncharitas (virgin Strawberry daquari for me) at Chuy’s near our hotel. Apparently it’s a chain, but they did a good job keeping the freshly made chip baskets overflowing.

Our last night, we had dinner in the street-level Merchants bistro downtown.


Their classic black-an-white decor was a beautiful contrast to the neon of Broadway. They have a solid classic cocktail menu and delicious peach cobbler dessert, too. Breakfast our last morning was at the famous Pancake Pantry. We waited half an hour in the cold to get a table, but you have to love a sweet stack. (I kind of wish we’d gotten lunch up the street at Fido at some point, because I once had an amazing salad there.)


The main drag: Spring break in Nashville was bustling, despite the weather. The first place we stopped in was Rippy’s to watch some March Madness and eat onion rings. There may be photographic evidence of a mid-afternoon drunk best man from a bachelor party pulling me out of my seat to dance to live music. My humongous belly made everyone in the place laugh.  We enjoyed karaoke at Lonnie’s Western Room (karaoke in Nashville is for serious singers) and hung out at Tootsies on our last night. (The band kept asking for a “holler and a swoller,” which I thought was hilarious.


There is a constant stream of live music that spills into the streets. We didn’t exactly shut the bars down any of the nights, which was just fine by me! I love that my friends and I graduated 10 years ago and still enjoy traveling together. The Nashville trip was a fun last fling before the baby this spring.

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest

Thumbs up for this week

This week was frontloaded with awesome. Is it really only Wednesday night?

Monday night date night involved meeting up (on our bikes) at El Bait Shop for their special craft beer/cheese flight paring with The Cheese Shop of Des Moines. We each got one of the $15 samplers, which came with 6 beers and 6 cheeses. Talk about our kind of dinner! The goat cheese and Peace Tree pairing was my favorite. My only criticism is that I would have liked this served with a few slices of bread or crackers. But it was a great deal!

Then on Tuesday, I went to the 100 Chicks for Charity meeting at City Bakery, where the glamorous and generous Chelsea shared the “I Have a Dream” Foundation mission and story with a group of women. I teared up!

But I couldn’t enjoy (really, gorge on) the pastries for too long, because right after the meeting Joe and I met up with my friend Jennic and her husband Justin, who invited us for a double date to see RAIN, the Beatles tribute. I grew up on oldies, so I had a fun time singing along with the mostly Boomer crowd.

Jennic (who I wrote about forever ago) and Justin own KangarooBoo, the coolest little toy store. It has an excellent online presence and sweet shop in Valley Junction. They focus on eco-friendly toys that are made to last. If you have a baby shower/toddler b-day coming up, you have to check them out!

I’m also super excited for my friend Amy, whose book So Pretty! Crochet just came out through Chronicle Books. Two extra awesome things about this book: My dear friend Cara is one of the contributors, and there is a shiba inu modeling some of the crochet cuteness. Hooray for Wilbur lookalikes.

I’m looking forward to a second half of the week that’s a bit slower-paced, but grateful for all of the cool things happening right now!

What’s the best part of your week?

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Filed under Books, I love Des Moines