Tag Archives: I love Des Moines

Our #tourdmparks 2017

Those of you who follow my Instagram may have noticed it was inundated with #tourdmparks photos this month. Some of my friends thought that I’d imagined up this hashtag and the challenge of visiting 31 parks in July, but the Tour was actually put forth by the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department, and there were prizes involved.

I am getting serious about trading my car for an electric cargo bike (the kids will both be at the same preschool a few blocks from our house in a few months), but sadly my 20-year-old Subaru is worth less than the Yuba I have my eye on.

I don’t know yet if we’ll win the $1,000 cash prize for checking off all of the parks, but I did realize in the process that I am totally becoming my mother! When I was growing up, she was always enrolling us in Junior Ranger programs, and we spent an entire summer staking out the Lisle police station at shift change so we could collect all of the “cop cards” in a local challenge. It was insane, but memorable.

Getting outside is the norm for us, but we tend to visit the same places, and I am less apt to squeeze in a park trip after dinner when I’m not on a mission. One epic Saturday, we hit 10 of the 31 parks! Emmett has definitely gotten into the challenge. I see a glimmer of the spark my mom passed to me when we would make a plan to tackle more of our list. (He came with me to all of them, but Joe and Eileen missed a few.)

I think my favorite thing about the Tour DM Parks challenge was that it encouraged me to get out of my neighborhood bubble. I loved the view from the Laurel Hill Cemetery, which is somewhere I never would have ventured.

Right after this was taken, we got some drive-through ice cream, and then had to eat it hanging out in our trunk at the next park because there was a brief but strong storm that blew through!

When I spend time on the south side or the east side, I realize how different other people’s experiences of Des Moines are. Emmett had no trouble making buddies from all backgrounds at the parks and we also had fun meeting up with friends at a few of the spots.

A few highlights: 

This rope tower inspired a morning of Emmett pretending he was Spider Man. It was just the two of  us, so I got in on the fun and engaged a lot more in play with him than I typically do. The energy he had on our first day out really set the tone for us to tackle this together.

Stopping by Captain Roy’s on Birdland Marina at the midpoint of an amazing bike ride during sunset was lovely. I kept thinking how, without the challenge, we probably wouldn’t have taken the kids out for a 15-mile evening ride, but it was exactly what I needed.

We made staying up late a trend that weekend and got in a canoe as a family (!!!) for the Gray’s Lake moon float. The full moon was hiding when we were out, but the sunset was hot pink and the kids were adorable.

Nahas Aquatic Center was perfect for two non-swimmers. It’s almost entirely zero-depth, there are big umbrellas in the water and two water slides that had hardly any line.

It will be fun to do this again as the kids get older. I know I’m at my best as a mom when I can find ways to connect my kids to being out and experiencing all our city has to offer. Thanks for the challenge, Parks and Rec!

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Nine year Des Moines-iversary

Nine (!!!) years ago, Memorial Day weekend, I moved to Des Moines – site unseen and friendless. It didn’t take me long to become an Iowan By Choice, and I am so happy to be raising a family in this city.

Justin Meyer shot some family photos for us at Greenwood Park on Saturday morning (I was worried about the rain and then remembered Justin is so talented that he could make us look good if we were standing in a Target parking lot) to celebrate Emmett’s upcoming third birthday, Eileen’s babyhood and my 31st, which is around the corner.We let Joe be in them, too.

We rode bikes to the Iowa Cubs game (knothole gang ftw) and through Gray’s Lake and had a al fresco dinner with neighborfriends yesterday, and a lemonade stand and dinner with Joe’s family tonight. (I’m going to try to forget Emmett’s bedtime meltdown tonight, thanks to two fun days without naps.)


My whole blog is basically a love letter to Des Moines, so I’ll spare you my lists of favorite things at the moment. But I will ask those local readers to contribute feedback to the Capital Crossroads 2.0 planning survey (open through June 20).


Emmett insisted on sticking out his tongue for 48% of the shoot. He is, after all, almost 3 and calls us “taco” all the time. As in, “mom/dad, you’re a taco.” Eileen gave one smile the whole time, but I kind of love her signature RBF.


My dress is by Mata Traders (Joe was a great listener when I pointed it out at Backcountry Outfitters and got it for me for Mother’s Day!), which is a really cool fair-trade and sustainable brand I’m in love with at the moment.

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Friday afternoon felt like we were finally teetering on the cusp of spring. The sun was shining, I was wearing peep-toe shoes and I had a box full of fro-yo with which to treat my friends. The day called for a pop-up party!


Des Moines’ East Village is where I go when I want to feel lovely and loved in this city. It was a day to emerge from hibernation, but instead of stressing about inviting people to my disaster-level mess of a house, I brought a box of fro-yo from Orange Leaf to my besties over at Ephemera.


{not sure if you can see it, but the print over Arin’s head says “i’m more fun in the summer” and ain’t it true!}

They took a quick break from designing gorgeous custom wedding invites to celebrate a sunny Friday with me. I used to be a regular in the shop in the early days, and it always feels good to be back, surrounded by so much joy and beauty. We decided to make East Village shoppers days with an impromptu treat that shares Ephemera’s fun D-I-Y spirit.


The party box comes with cups of varying flavors, and additional cups with your favorite toppings that nestle right into the box. Pop them into the lid, sprinkle away and you’re all set. Just grab a couple of packs of dollar-store party hats, napkins and noise makers and you can create a celebration anywhere, instantly! It’s a fresh, more allergy-friendly alternative to celebratory cupcakes.


I have a reputation as a ridiculous bag lady, so if I’d tried to pull off this concept without Orange Leaf, all the ingredients would likely have spilled everywhere. This was so. easy. and fun! (I will say I would love to see some better insulation on/ice in the party boxes, though, because even a few minutes in a hot car could kill the chill.)


{these sweet teachers were super stoked to be on the first day of spring break!}

Missed us in the East Village and w
ant to get in on the party? Comment here with the place in your city (Des Moines or wherever) that you’d host a fro-yo pop-up-party of your own. I’ll randomly pick four people to receive $25 gift cards to Orange Leaf! It could be a favorite park or other place people might enjoy a sweet pick-me-up. I’ll pick the winner on Friday, March 18!

Disclosure: Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt contacted me with the opportunity to try their new Pop-Up Party Box for free, and receive some gift cards for myself and readers. All opinions are my own honest feelings! Thanks, Orange Leaf! 



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Shifting skyline

We bundled up for the pre-dawn trip downtown, armed with coffee and hot chocolate, to catch a peek at the implosion of the Riverfront YMCA. Our family stood with the crowd of gawkers gathered across the riverbank, and my boy’s eyes grew so wide at the fireball and the sight of the building crumbling to the ground. The excitement lasted only a few seconds, but worth waking up for.


I’ve seen quite a bit of evolution in Des Moines’ urban landascape since I moved here in 2007 (most notably to me, the planting of the Pappajohn Sculpture Park), but for some reason this dramatic YMCA moment felt like a watershed we needed to witness. To be part of the before and after of our shifting skyline.


photo series via my friend Libby Crimmings 

If you’re into architecture and urban design, this is a fascinating time to be in the city, and there are plenty of opportunities to be part of the process. Huge projects, like the Waterworks Park “Change is in the Works” and smaller, neighborhood initiatives like the “Redefining Roosevelt” streetscape initiative we got a flyer on this week. The East Village is a colony of cranes these days, and ground just broke on the new Renzo Piano-designed Kum & Go headquarters. (All of this makes our drives home from school totally exciting for Emmett, who is big into construction sites.)


Let’s hear it for Des Moines! I’m curious: What new or upcoming development has you most excited about the future of our city? It could be brick-and-mortar, or programmatic. Leave a response in the comments and you could win one of these super cool Des Moines T-shirts from Hangry Hippos! Stacy recently launched a fun line and I’m excited to spread the word. I’ll pick a winner Monday, Oct. 12. (Hopefully I will have had a baby by then!)

P.S. Joe’s cousin’s wife, Jen, is part of this awesome “Transform Public Spaces” initiative in San Francisco that’s up for a Google Impact Challenge grant. Check out the amazing idea and give them a vote. It’s super easy; you don’t have to register or anything.



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Chaturanga, now

I don’t practice yoga regularly, but whenever I make time to pop into a class, I enjoy it. It takes me awhile to stop feeling self conscious about my limited abilities and wandering mind, but eventually, I feel more in tuned to my body’s movement and more mentally focused.   nzLEVIBTPxvZtBdrImlRLVfVB-McCjOC-nzrTt7LaBiZ=w1263-h946-no

So when my BFF from home, Regina, came to town, we tackled #12 from my 30-before-30 list and did Yoga in the Park at Gray’s Lake together. (I figured it would be a good counter balance to bringing her to the Iowa State Fair later that day for Bauder’s Peppermint Ice Cream Bars!)

Yoga in the Park is free and runs from 9-10 a.m. in a wide grassy area at the southeast corner of Gray’s. It’s a different instructor each time, and the week we attended it was Pauline Tan, from Spark Barre Pilates & Yoga. She has a great Australian accent and reading her bio, it looks like she moved to Iowa from Naperville, IL, which is where Regina lives. Crazy, huh?


I would estimate there were a few hundred people from a wide variety of skill levels there.We biked down with mats in our backpacks, then popped over to the Farmer’s Market for some green smoothies before indulging at the Fair. If you’re looking for a relaxing way to kick off the weekend, I highly recommend it! Drew and Sandi who will be teaching classes in the coming weeks are great.


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Iowan by Choice

Discovered amidst a puddle-wonderful crowd at the grand opening this month: My sliver of yellow brick in the Des Moines Social Club courtyard.

Iowan by choice! — it says.


Part of me can’t believe it’s been seven years since I moved to Des Moines – late Memorial Day weekend, 2007 – and part of me feels like I’ve been here a lifetime. Somewhere along the line, I made a choice: I adopted Iowa.

My favorite nights in our city are when Des Moines feels like a small town with a glowing skyline. When all of the quirky characters, friends and neighbors from different corners mix, electrifying the atmosphere with a buzz of excitement for the moment: glorious summer Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market, sundown at the Arts Festival, the rainy finish line at the Relays road race or the opening of a venue designed to bring us all together. Sweep us in, swirl us through what’s possible when passion finds financing.


It was a stormy afternoon and then, as if on cue, a rainbow arched across the cloudy sky as I approached the Social Club on opening night.

Standing at the doorway was my dear friend Danny, bursting with good news. Up by the elevators, a friend from book club talking to another from my babysitting co-op. Two artists I know breezed behind me. Babies in carriers everywhere — and somewhere around, David Byrne!

I like that this is a family town. Later, a red ribbon snaked through the crowd and even my small son got to grab hold of a piece.


Des Moines is my home, it’s where I’m raising my child, but I still remember what it was like to be new and lonely in this place, surrounded by strangers. A true transplant, I’d moved here sight unseen. I can’t pinpoint when, exactly, the roots took hold , but it had a lot to do with the people who invited me in – to coffees and cake nights and adventures.

Development — urban or personal — it’s a long game we’re playing. Visions, plans, progress, dreams, reationships — it’s a slog. For every exhilarating, culminating day are thousands of days of tedium and redrawing plans. For every life-altering friendship, there are disagreements, dance parties, quiet porch conversations.

I commend everyone who is pouring their creativity into our city, making things happen, big and small. Introducing people. Joining forces. Brick by brick, friends.



First and third photo via #dsmcopening on Instgram


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Sun’s out, hotdog gun’s out

Shooting the hotdog gun at an Iowa Cubs game was one of the big ticket items on my “30 before 30” list. I got to cross it off on Friday night with 13 months left to go! I have a LOT to accomplish in the next year, though.

Before hot dog gun shooters go out onto the field, they wait in a shed-type area under the bleachers. If you’re a big dork like me, you have a huge smile on your face and ask one of the staff to take your picture.


I would say I scored a B- in my hot dog shooting. I was supposed to wait until the Cubs staffer riding in the back of the gator tapped my shoulder before shooting, but I saw a group of people I knew standing in an area and… well, I got excited and pushed the button. It was premature. I also had another dud that didn’t get over the fence along the third base line.


The way the gun is positioned, you’re really aiming back over your shoulder. As a spectator I’d never realized that!


My family and Joe’s family both were in town, and my nephew Oscar was able to nab one of the hot dogs. Emmett didn’t make it long enough to see the Friday night fireworks, but he was a trooper.


Watching the sun set over Des Moines from the cheap seats in Principal Park is a favorite pastime.

So, how’d I get to shoot the hot dog gun? It’s a super secret. Kidding. I just asked. They even sent me a certificate in the mail! Then you call and reserve your game.



Or, when the honor hasn’t been pre-reserved, a trick is to go hang out near the splash fountain by the bleachers between the first and second innings and again before the sixth. That’s where I hear they recruit people and you might just be able to walk up and ask.


P.S. Not on my “Before 30” list but something else cool that happened Friday: An piece I wrote for the Des Moines Business Record was published: Guest Opinion: Help foster nonprofit leadership.



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May? More like Month-of-Awesome

May is primed to be an amazing month, if only the sun would get the memo and start shining.

I plan to hit up the Downtown Farmer’s Market and cross a few things off my “Before 30” lis, like SHOOTING THE HOT DOG GUN (!!!) at an Iowa Cubs game. I’m so excited. (Get your tickets: May 16.)

Other fun events on the calendar:


It’s Tulip Time in Pella, starting today! I don’t think we’ll make it this weekend because I’m going to a Kentucky Derby Party I wrote about for the latest issue of DSM Magazine, online here.

I hope the town is still blooming mid-month when my family comes to visit.


Check out all of the Des Moines Bike Month events here. (Yes, the festivities include an urban chicken coop tour!)


The Des Moines Social Club is hosting its grand opening on May 10.


The “I’d Rather Be Short” book signing is coming to B&N in West Des Moines on May 15. My creative muscles need some exercise.


Personally, I’m excited to head to St. Louis this month for a baby shower that will feel like a wedding reunion. Our dear friends had a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic a few years ago around this time, and now they’re having a baby girl!



I pulled together the invites and other friends are pitching in to help host, but the shower will be at the home of a Mizzou friend who is known for her fantastic shindigs. We may even attempt to take Emmett to the City Museum while we’re in town!

I’m sure I’m missing a million things. Happy May Day!

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Little things

Monday mornings rarely go smoothly unless I make time on Sunday night to organize and set out everything I’ll need to launch my week. Instead, this weekend we threw routine to the wind and Superbowled at our friends’ house.

Subsequently, I had to bolt my green monster and dash out the door with wet hair Monday morning in order to make a meeting on time. Lucky for me, the appointment was with an empathetic person who has a toddler and 5-week-old, and took place at Mars Cafe, the best coffee shop ever. And THIS happened:


A potentially manic Monday morphed into a manatee Monday with some custom mocha art by Daniel Bosman, an all-star barista who has a knack for turning my frown upside down. Day made. It’s the little things.


Special thanks to my friend Alexander who asked Daniel to learn manatee latte art for me!

This weekend, I also paused to appreciate the ‘little things’ by taking a sewing class at Stitch. It was so great to sit at a workspace that wasn’t my cluttered dining room table, and they had fresh coffee and bagels for us.


We made little elephant pincushions from this pattern. I’m not going to lie, it was a challenge. I told our instructor, Veronica, up front that I was pretty sure my finished elephant would only balance on three legs and I was totally OK with that.


Not exactly a soothing sewing experience, but my elephant ended up actually looking like an elephant, and it had all four of its legs. I’ll call that a success.


Ephemera was having a little Valentine-making party down the street, so I popped in there and beasted a cupcake/made a card before heading home.

Other little highlights of the past week:

Starting a short story collection for book club. We’re reading Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” by Alice Munro, who just won the Nobel prize in literature. I’ve never read her work, and I’m enjoying it doubly because I’m looking forward to the discussion with a bunch of awesome ladies.

Making a special batch of chocolate chip cookies for a friend. I used coconut oil and “enjoy life” chocolates because she’s currently dairy-free and they actually turned out delicious. I was reminded that it doesn’t take very long to whip up a batch. There may be some in the oven this second. OK, I may be eating raw dough this second.

Sending a bunch of home-designed Emmett Valentines via snail mail. They’re starting to hit mailboxes and make other little ones smile! I was pretty bummed that we didn’t get Christmas cards out this year, so I may have gone a little crazy. Seeing this photo from a friend made me so happy. Who doesn’t love fun mail? (It’s not too late! XO-LP has a cute set of color-your-own, itty-bitty Valentines like you used to give in school.)



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Des Moines Dates: Tarot for two

We needed to do something different. To get out of the sweatpants+Netflix rut of marriage in a Midwest winter. I wanted to check something off my “30 Before 30” list, and my aunt had gifted us some Christmas cash to spend on a date night*. So, naturally, I e-mailed some psychics and scheduled a couples tarot card reading.

Ula and Vianne of Visions Psychics were recommended by friends, and I liked the idea of going to a neighborhood psychic (they can come to you, but also offer readings in a home parlor in the North of Grand neighborhood.) We opted for two 15-minute tarot card readings, which they performed together at a round table lit by candles.


I don’t really believe in psychic powers, per se, but I do feel that we all carry certain energies as part of our personhood. We weren’t searching for deep answers or anything, but it turned out to be an interesting experience.

I’m not sure if my aura or extensive presence on the internet clued them into my career in communications, but a big surprise was that the American Southwest kept coming up in connection with my moneymaking and career future/spirit guide. Hmmm.

Joe was excited to hear that his cards indicated something to do with food/alcohol and Colorado. I did get emotional when they showed cards that indicated a parent had died when Joe was younger. We told them that was true for me, but not him, and Ula elaborated in a way that made me reach for the tissues.

Do I feel like we’re really going to uproot ourselves from Des Moines to pursue some sort of brewery-running life in the mountains? Not at all. But after the reading, we went to Louie’s Wine Dive and split a carafe and lobster poutine and talked through what they said and had some good laughs together.


We’ve been really wrapped up in the day-to-day logistics of parenthood, home ownership and work/volunteer responsibilities that it was nice to use our psychic reading as a catalyst for dreaming together and talking through some topics that we wouldn’t otherwise bring up on a random weeknight at home, or if we had just gone out to dinner.

*We saved money by calling on our babysitting co-op for free babysitting, using Christmas money and going out for a drink and appetizer instead of dinner, but the evening was still a little spendier than our typical outings.


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