Tag Archives: I love Des Moines

DSMove this Sunday

I just heard about DSMove, an event that will take over University Avenue from 23-41st Street this Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013. It looks like this is a project that was initiated by an MPA capstone cohort at Drake — the program I graduated from in May — and the Des Moines Bicycle Collective.

I wasn’t involved in any of the planning for this event, but I know some of the people who were and will definitely be strolling Emmett down the Open Streets concept. It appears they’re looking for volunteers, too. Sign up here. Hope to see you there!


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TEDxDesMoines 2013 recap

What an exhilarating and exhausting weekend. This year’s TEDxDesMoines was a blast.

catchingherbertI learned about a crazy array of topics, from crowdsourced design solutions to critical materials supply chain shortages, tried on Google Glass and got shot by Stefen’s quadcopter, Herbert. I sat in the front seat of a sweet electric car*, plus met some really cool people — including a first year Drake University student who is German but went to high school in Taiwan and came to Iowa because she saw Drake at a college fair and everyone was really nice. Totally roping her into the TEDxWomen team.

Watch the complete playlist of 2013 TEDxDesMoines Talks.


I’ve helped my friend/TEDxDesMoines curator Alexander Grgurich plan and execute events for a few years now, especially last year after we traveled to the TEDxSummit in Qatar, when I realized what a massive undertaking putting a TEDx together can be. I can’t claim much credit for how amazing this year’s event was, and I’m super-impressed Alexander was able to pull everything off without keeling over. (Though we did have some strategy sessions at Mars Cafe where it looked like maybe he hadn’t slept in awhile.)

Sharing the TEDxDesMoines energy, I want to find a way to help Nabil realize his dream. He wants to drive (well, “burn out”) his supersweet electric car on the Grand Concourse at the Iowa State Fair to show how awesome they can be. Wouldn’t it be a fun drag race? This is his daily ride!


Anybody have connections with the State Fair folks? Can we at least get him in the parade?

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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.)

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We built this city

The blog post that 80/35 headliner David Byrne wrote reflecting on his time in Des Moines was blowing up my news feed this week, but I wanted to share it with my (five?) out-of-town readers who might still question what’s so great about this city.


Downtown Des Moines shining in the sunset from our seats at the Iowa Cubs game last week

I’m going on seven years as a transplant, and sometimes I worry that people who stop through for a weekend won’t “get it.” But Byrne took the time to explore on bike, and I think that allowed him to really soak in the city.

In Byrne’s words:

…I have a chat with some of the others in our group about Des Moines as maybe an ideal place to grow up or raise your kids. I got very mixed reactions when I advocated this idea. The town isn’t particularly hip, but I sort of counted that as a factor in its favor—kids would have to discover what they thought was cool for themselves. Or make it up. Or come to the conclusion that trends does not a life make.

…I saw people out and about, and I thought to myself—this is America as it’s supposed to be, or close to it. It’s imperfect, but people here seem to have found a way of living that is not based around either extremes of manic striving or desperation. It may not be cool, but it might be beyond cool. Here among the winding creeks and fields of corn they may have arrived at some kind of secret satisfaction.

I like to think this blog is about making my satisfaction with this city not-so-secret, and I’m really excited to raise a kid here. Sometimes people grumble about a perceived lack of diversity, but last week the little neighbor boy was playing on our driveway with some friends from around the block, and it was like the kids were chosen by a casting agent to represent four different races. (They were all comparing muscles and playing foursquare. It was adorable.)

Make your own cool, kids.

Cubbie Bear

Emmett went to his first I-Cubs game on his one-month birthday. Of course we introduced him to Cubbie Bear.

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Creative coworking space on 35th

Joe and I took a stroll down 35th Street the other night to check out the open house at “Flock,” a new coworking space for designers. I hope they do well!


There’s a sitting area with couches when you come in, and a Mac outfitted with Adobe Cloud, a conference room/photo studio, work tables, paper samples and design books, lockers and kitchen space and some tiny private rooms in the back. I took pictures with my phone like a creeper, so I didn’t get very many good ones.


I remember when I started writing for Juice how the old Impromptu Studio brought some great people together, and of course I was a fan of my friend Alexander’s former Foundry coworking spot.

Flock’s designer niche is neat, but I think they need some more shared equipment. Flock on Facebook. A Fast Company article on coworking.

20130524_192104Flock is in that St. George’s square spot, which always seems to have different indie shops popping up. I love that 35th is a Greek street in Des Moines, with St. George’s Church a few blocks north. (Don’t forget the Greek Food Fair is June 1-2! We went last year and got baklava sundaes.) Mostly unrelated, but I ran into Brian from Saturday Mfg (remember their office holiday party decor and Thelma’s boxes?) and they’re looking to hire a business development person.


P.S. This weekend marks my 6th year living in Des Moines! We had dinner at Exile with some of my first friends who are moving to Madison next week, but otherwise I spent it hanging out at home, watching the storm and switching out my winter wardrobe for summer skirts and dresses. Clothes everywhere and right now I fit into none of them! Reuniting with my summer prints and patterns did breathe some brightness into the cloudy weekend.

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Freelance fun, city love and a bike sale

I still get really nervous when a freelance piece I’ve written goes out into the world, but I was truly delighted by how my Register profile of Gong Fu Tea turned out:


The design really made the story pop. I’m not going to lie, “research” for this story was fun. (Remember the tea date Joe and I took the other week?)

If you’re free tomorrow afternoon, consider checking out the “Connect. Create. Collaborate.” event the Des Moines MPO is hosting (3 p.m., 420 Watson Powell, Jr., Way, Suite 200). I had a meeting conflict, but really wanted to go because Lee Fisher, who came to speak at TEDxDesMoines this summer, will be presenting. He’ll also be at Drake for a “Sustainability in Urban Environments” Conference keynote.


Lastly, the Bike World Warehouse Sale starts Saturday morning! That’s where I fell in love with and purchased my sweet little red Terry Prism last year. If you go, bring a checkbook or cash and they might be willing to haggle a little on the price. No promises, but you might get a deal.


They have super great deals, especially if you’re planning to do RAGBRAI this summer. The 2013 route looks like the best EVER.

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(Sky Zone) Make ya wanna jump, jump!

Iowa is in the midst of a major drought, with temps this summer that felt hot enough to boil the mercury in a thermometer. So of course on the one weekend a big group plans to get together to go tubing (in an admittedly low river), it rains. My garden and the bajillion acres of crops in this great state need it, so I can’t really begrudge the bad weather, but I haven’t donned my polka dot swimsuit since Punta Cana so I was a little bummed.

Our group convened at Smokey Row to come up with a Sunday Funday Plan B, and after nixing the National Hobo Convention (most of the fun stuff happened earlier in the week), lazer tag (you only get like 12 minutes of actual tag) and rock climbing (someone said you all have to learn how to belay), we chose Sky Zone. Mostly because it was Rob’s 30th birthday and he wanted to go.

Sky Zone is an indoor trampoline park. For someone as uncoordinated as I am who has managed to live for 27 years without breaking a bone (knock on wood), this sounded like a potentially disastrous yet delightful idea. We gave ourselves 20 minutes to go home and change into workout gear, which I of course interpreted as “put together a costume.” What can I say, I want to get my money’s worth out of my New Orleans leopard pants.

Photo courtesy of Liz’s iPhone!

We opted for one hour of jumping ($12 per person), which gave us access to the open trampoline area, foam pit, two basketball dunk hoops and dodgeball zone. You have to wear gross blue suede high top shoes  — although they did kind of work with my costume — but I have to say we had a great time. Especially since we’d just spent two weeks cheering on Olympic athletes from the couch. I almost felt like Gabby Douglas’ pinkie for a second while doing a series of trampoline assisted toe-touches. Magical! 3-D dodgeball for adults is also pretty rad. We teamed up and against some kids, too, which was fun kind of ridiculous.

Everyone was pretty sweaty when our hour was up! And SORE! The Jillian Michaels Yoga workout we’ve been doing at our house has nothing on an hour of jumping. Muscles I didn’t know existed in my back were sore the next morning.

After Sky Zone our group caravaned to the Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid, just off the High Trestle Trail for lunch, beverages and bar games. They have shuffle board and a giant jenga set made out of 2x4s, so what’s not to love?

Bottom line: Even when epic plans get rained out, Des Moines can bring the fun. I recommend SkyZone with a big group, and if you’re nervous about it filling up, you can reserve jump times in advance online.

And yes, that headline is a reference to Kris Kross!

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Five years, nine years, 27 years

The beginning of June always makes me a little bit introspective.

My birthday is June 8, and that usually meant a fresh journal that I would promise myself I’d commit to writing in, this year. It would fall around report card pickup day, which felt like a mini-commencement of sorts.

And then, nine years ago, my dad died, three days before my 18th birthday. His struggle with depression and strokes during the years before deeply impacted my outlook as an optimist who also veered toward the morbid. I did a lot of introspective work — which sometimes manifested in teenage anger, so as not to make it seem like that time was super Zen for me — and really spent time putting onto paper what I believed.

Five years ago, right at this time, I moved to Iowa not knowing a single person and never having spent any real time in Des Moines. (I did spend about five hours in the Meredith building in college, but I won’t count that.) There were times that first summer when I was really lonely. I worked with great people, but the weekends would sometimes stretch out and I’d bring a blanket to the lawn of the Art Center, ride my bike by myself and read books under the trees in Waterworks park. I still remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when the reality of having set off on my own truly set in. I lived by myself, without TV, and those were quiet days. A long phone call here and there, but I’m glad I learned how to be comfortable with just myself.

Today, a story ran in the paper about non-native YPs who are sticking around. It was fitting timing. I could nod my head along to all of the sound-bitey things that they said about living here, because I agree with them all, and they translate well to people who want to know: Why Iowa?

But in my heart, it’s the little things that make me feel like I’m a transplant who’s taken root. It’s the layers that these places around me are taking on. Greenwood Park is now those lonely reading days, layered with the spine-tingle I felt when Joe and I heard Opera music wafting from a house on a training run, layered with the times I’ve stopped to pet the velvety noses of the horses at Irish Run. It’s leaving the salon in the East Village and finding Garrett basking on a square of sidewalk that he shows me is oddly warm, thanks to the sun’s reflection from the neighboring windows. (And then realizing our friends at Ephemera have been standing and laughing at us from across the street, while we mime at some spot invisible to them.) It’s walking Wilbur down Kingman on a full moon night, like we’ve done so many times, and noticing a house that never before caught my eye. It’s friends in the backyard with sparklers. It’s the 18th papusa from the Farmer’s Market, but the first of the year. It’s simple. Simple. Simple. You wouldn’t understand. The most mundane moments can catch my breath.

I was talking about this with a friend tonight — about belonging to this place and things taking on all of this meaning because I chose them as my own. New moments open up, the city grows and I love it best not for the newness but for the promise of so many layers to come.

A pioneer should have imagination, should be able to enjoy the idea of things more than the things themselves. — Willa Cather, O Pioneers!


Filed under At home, I love Des Moines