Tag Archives: Joe

Love note

Seven year itch? I’m not feeling it. (Technically, we’ll be married seven years this July.)

I don’t know that I’d describe marriage as a lot of “work” as some would, but more like a conversation that deserves your full attention. It’s give and take and ask and tell and laugh and cry.

I’m not always a perfect listener and Joe isn’t always a perfect communicator, but our conversation is always honest, sometimes really funny and definitely headed in the same direction. I like talking with this guy.

We got invited last minute to the Heart Ball this past weekend, a black-tie event that had Joe scrambling for an appropriate suit (The Backroom in Beaverdale to the rescue!) but holy smokes did he turn his look around quick. I got all gussied up, too (and even put on my own fake eyelashes, which really clinch a fancy look). Joe looked so good, he even let me take 17 selfies of us.


I’m looking forward to our Valentine’s tradition of homemade heart-shaped pizzas, although I have to work late on Valentine’s this year!

P.S. I wrote a fun little column for LIFT Iowa about “work wives” this week

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Sweet little giveaway

To all my friends with a sweet tooth: RUN*, don’t walk to the nearest Barnes & Noble, grocery store or Lowes and snag a copy of the Cuisine At Home “Cookies, Brownies & Bars” Summer 2014 special issue.


*It will be on stands through late July, but you’re going to want to run in order to burn some calories before you get your buttery hands on this bad boy.

Joe brought home a few samples from test batches for me to try and I have three words for you: Puppy chow bars. Yes! These are a thing. A sweet, sweet thing.

Puppy chow was a staple treat for my high school cross country team. Our friend Carly’s mom made it for almost every meet and we’d be covered in powdered sugar after our races. It may have been 20% of the reason I ran at all.


I’m giving away a copy of this issue to a reader who leaves her (or his) favorite dessert in the comments. You can just tell me what the dessert is, or get a bonus entry if you share or link to the recipe. Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, April 14. I’ll pick someone at random.

Like all Cuisine magazines, there are no ads, just awesome recipes, instructions and photos. (Joe’s job is to art direct photo shoots and design the layout.) His favorite thing in the book were the carrot cake blondies. They also have Thin Mint & Samoa (aka Carmel Delight) hacks as well as some classics and some super interesting ideas like cheddar caramel popcorn bars.



Filed under Cooking

Magic words of a happy marriage

I love a good roundup of cute Valentine gifts for your significant other (find some here, here, here and here), but this love-hyped week I’ve been reflecting on the 3.5 years of marriage Joe and I have enjoyed and what’s made it work so far. Some studies have shown a four-year and seven-year itch is common, especially for couples with kids.


A few months ago, I noticed something super simple we do that I think is critical for a happy house. We say some magic words on a regular basis. Nope, not “I love you,” although there’s plenty of that, too. We thank each other. Maybe kind of a lot. Maybe not more than any other happy couple, married or not, or any other unattached housemates who enjoy each other’s company. A few times a day, I would guess.

I’m not sure if we’ve done this since moving in together (which we did back in 2008), or if it’s a more recent development. Regardless, I think thanking each other became more powerful after we became parents. We thank each other for executing simple household chores: “Thanks for taking care of the laundry.” “Thanks for taking the dog on the final nighttime walk in the blistering cold.” “Thank you for making dinner.” You get the picture.

It’s so easy to get stuck in the your chores/my chores routine/rut where general appreciation for what the other does is something that’s taken for granted and rarely expressed. I think that can create a feeling like your partner doesn’t even think about how the counters got clean or the floor swept, and lead to a poisonous resentment.

We have a pretty even division of labor in our house, but the scales probably tip toward Joe when factoring in fixing things and cooking — tasks he typically takes on. Having a kid definitely adds to the piles of responsibility, of laundry and dirty dishes and diaper duty and nighttime wakeups and daily dropoffs and pickups. We’ve figured out a relay of sorts that works for us, and I think that’s when we really came to appreciate those daily things we do that make the other person’s life easier. And in that realization, we’ve been saying thanks.

So, not really a juicy marriage secret or anything earth-shattering. Just something super simple and free that fosters a feeling of being valued, of efforts seen. It’s not really a marriage tip at all, but an observation about how we can be better people to live with — or work with, for that matter.

P.S. Don’t want to get your Valentine stuff? Surprise her (or him!) with tickets to the Des Moines Metro Opera Wine & Food Showcase. It’s happening Feb. 21. Joe and I went with a group a couple of years ago and it was lots of fun.  

Readers, I’d love to hear your tips for a happy marriage, too. 

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Filed under At home, Des Moines Dates, Life lessons

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

First Father’s Day: Emmett Stephen edition

Joe became a dad on Thursday, June 13, when Emmett Stephen Jayjack joined our family. I’ll save our hospital adventures for another post, but in the meantime I wanted to share the magic that is watching your best friend and little boy bond, even if it’s at 4 a.m. during the first week of motherhood and you’re slightly delirious. This. Is. Love.


We aren’t all the way home yet, but Emmett is doing great. He weighed in at 8 lbs, 6 oz. at birth and measured 22 inches.


I can’t get enough of the way his big cheeks and little chin make him pout and how long his little fingers and toes are. This picture of me from yesterday morning isn’t quite an accurate reflection of my current zombie state, but I had to pull myself together for at least one photo with the little man. I like to think he’s throwing a “W” for Cubs Win here.


Emmett’s name comes from some wonderful men in our lives. My grandpa, uncle and same-age cousin are all Robert Emmett* Kelley, and each one of those men is so smart, funny and caring that we wanted to represent them with the first great-grandchild on that side. Stephen is Joe’s dad’s name, and Steve is such an amazing grandpa to Emmett’s nine cousins, I’m excited to add to the brood.

Fingers crossed we get to bring Emmett home to meet Wilbur and hang out in his own room today! That would be the best gift.

*My grandpa was named Daniel Patrick at birth and then his parents changed his name to Robert Emmett at his baptism. Isn’t that funny? He’s named after the Irish revolutionary, Robert Emmet but with an extra “t.”


Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons

Saying goodbye to 715

The Des Moines Register is moving out of its big, flagship building on 715 Locust down the street to Capitol Square. I can understand the need for the move, but I am prone to nostalgia.

Even though I only worked at The Register for about three and a half years, it will always have a huge place in my heart. It was the magnet that drew me to Des Moines in the first place, my first job and it’s where I met Joe*.

It’s not just like the building is significant only to me. It’s where dozens of Presidential hopefuls have come seeking endorsements, where reporters have captured decades of history, where RAGBRAI gets planned and thousands of other things to other people. I imagine our house ancestor, Sec Taylor, walked through the same doors we did.


A page from the 1929 Register and Tribune Promotional Book, featuring Sec! Joe and I are talking about turning our spare bedroom into a mini Sec Taylor museum, after we finish the nursery.

The Register is sharing some of this history in fun, interactive ways, and the massive globe from the front lobby is going to make its way to the State Historical Museum, where our neighbor Leo is the new curator!


*Did I ever share the story of how Joe and I met? Maybe not, because I know I come off as a creep.


One of our fun engagement photos

We sort of met at an employee benefits meeting – you know, where they tell you about health insurance plans and whatnot. I still remember that I was wearing a yellow and black polka-dot shirt. I read all of the nameplates of the people who were supposed to be at the meeting, and was amused by the name Joe Jayjack. The letter J is one of my favorites to write. I secretly hoped he’d be a dashing guy about my age – but what were the odds?

Joe used to work late at night designing pages, and he moseyed late into the meeting after having overslept. I was instantly smitten, but Joe has pretty much zero recollection of me. We worked on separate floors, and I would find reasons to walk past his desk for the next few months, and asked Cara’s husband to fill me in on whether or not he was cool, because they sat near each other in the newsroom.

Joe’s more reserved with strangers (although I think that’s definitely changing), so it took awhile for us to connect  me to figure out how to invite him to a party. Turns out, his personality was just as awesome as I’d hoped, based on his black frame glasses, pearl-button shirts and shy smile. I had no idea in that benefits meeting that I’d be semi-introduced to my best friend/lifemate, and I know that story sounds borderline stalkerish of me, but I like to think I just have a trusty radar.

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Filed under I love Des Moines

Breakfast table thoughts

Joe and I try to sit down together for breakfast every morning, a holdover habit from the days he worked nights and we’d have only a few waking hours to see each other. We tend to take turns making breakfast while the other one walks Wilbur, stirring milk and honey into mugs of coffee and whipping up a fried egg on toast, or peanut butter banana honey toast, or a breakfast burrito or oatmeal or a bowl of cold cereal if we’re tight on time.

We sit there and divide up the morning paper, and read each other snippets of interesting things, and always our horoscopes. I don’t truly believe in astrology, but reading them feels like opening up a fortune cookie – a succinct little secret – and I enjoy that.  I’m a Gemini (as our baby will likely be) and Joe is a Libra.

Yesterday, my horoscope said something along the lines of how, when I look out and take stock of everything going on in my life, I will get the sense that “these are the good days.” And I do. It takes my breath away at the strangest moments.

The other night I had this epiphany that we should all just walk around staring in awe at each other and the sheer improbability that we would end up on this planet at overlapping times in the illimitable solar system. Wouldn’t it put this delightful shock into our everyday transactions, that we share so much just by being here on this planet at the same time?


I captured one of our breakfast table moments with the very second Instagram I ever took, sometime last spring, and it makes me smile at how much younger Joe looks without a beard. He shaves it on Opening Day and starts growing it on his birthday, October 2. He turns 30 this year!

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Filed under At home, Life lessons

The Homebrewer’s Wife

Let’s subtitle this post: The many perks of being married to a homebrewer. (Remember my post about Guinness and spent grain cinnamon rolls?)

Joe started brewing a couple of years ago, inspired by our brother-in-law, Andy. Aside from one instance when I came home from an adult tap dancing lesson to see smoke billowing from the kitchen, it’s been an excellent adventure that’s turned me into a bit of a beer snob. Homebrewing is a hobby that gradually becomes a way of life.

In went a great retro keg fridge for the garage this past spring. Nothing chases an afternoon of yard work better than a lemon basil beer.

We’ve started to make brewpubs a must-stop element of any trip (even our honeymoon in Austria), and recently talked beers with the brewmaster at Old Man River in McGregor, Iowa over a late lunch at the bar. (The brewery crafts Backpocket beers, which are awesome and extra fun because of the great graphic design on the labels. We learned they’ll be opening a Backpocket Brewery in Iowa City soon!)

And then last night, the guys overdid themselves by developing and cooking a four course beer dinner for me and Ellen and Caroline, who paired everything with juice. (It was a supersweet surprise, complete with the wearing of aprons and a printed out menu.)

They found the framework of the dinner on CraftBeer.com, but came up with the specific beer pairings and tweaked the recipes themselves. (They even went to random meatlocker warehouses in search of lamb! They ended up getting it at Gateway Market, though.) The idea is that we’d sample the different microbrews with dinner, then help select the next beer type they’d try making. And I’d have to stay out of the kitchen all day, reading and going on walks with the dog instead of emptying the dishwasher? SOLD!

Isn't this Cubs apron hilarious? Ellen made it for Joe last Christmas. The guys also made some spent grain bread to go with the meal.

Here’s what they made for us. It was all delicious, and the photos I took with flash couldn’t do it all justice, so I won’t even post most of them.

  • First Course: Linguine Carbonara Paired with a Belgian-style Dark Abbey Ale (they paired it with a New Belgium Abbey Belgian Style Ale)

  • Second Course: Indian-spiced Crab Cakes Paired with an India Pale Ale (paired with Red Hook Long Hammer IPA)
  • Third Course: Roast Rack of Lamb Paired with a Brown Ale or Porter (paired with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar)
  • Fourth Course: Imperial Stout Float (paired with Belles Special Double Cream Stout — topped with some awesome organic spiced chocolate shavings.)

And to think that four years ago today, I wooed Joe by inviting him to my apartment for dinner. I made a bruschetta chicken bake off of the back of a Stove Top Stuffing box and we took the black lab I was dog-sitting for a post-meal walk around the neighborhood! I was so nervous that night and I still remember what I wore. Last night it was great to relax by the fire and laugh and drink with my family. Being married to a homebrewer/guy like Joe has some pretty solid perks, I must say!


Filed under Cooking

Goodbye, summer!

The end of summer tastes like Iowa pork chops.

It smells like a campfire.

It feels like dew that rains all over your toes.

Its golden hour looks like this:

Cash farm is a green haven for the long Labor Day weekend with Joe’s mom’s big family. Everyone sets up tents and the kitchen overflows with food and there’s music, whiskey, late nights, early morning Mass in town on Sunday and “graveyard” games (which aren’t played in the graveyard).

I used the quiet time to read My Ántonia (which is breathtaking; any lover of the Little House books will feel right at home in this prairie story) and recharge after a busy summer. Things won’t slow down much this fall, I’m afraid, but it’s sweet to have a marker between the seasons like this.

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Good morning, Guinness

The elaborate breakfasts Joe used to spoil me with back when he’d work evenings have dwindled now that we’re on the same earlier morning schedule — the one real drawback of his new job. (I can hardly complain, since it means I don’t eat a microwave quesadilla in the dark by myself for dinner.) But the other night Joe prepared a baked breakfast in advance and I had to share.

He got the recipe for chocolate cinnamon mini-buns with caramel stout glaze from the latest issue of his home brewer magazine, and so we had a Guinness-glazed breakfast.

Basically, you make dough using spent grains (3/4 c) from the brewing process, water (1.5 c), yeast (1t), flour (3 c)and oil (1/3 c).

That makes enough dough for two batches of the rolls, filled with melted butter, cinnamon, sugar and mini chocolate chips. The glaze? A Guinness reduction, of course.



Filed under Cooking