Six Des Moines Attractions to Explore This Spring 

Oh my goodness did this winter seem LONG!  Perhaps it was because I lived in Tucson last year, but the transition from winter to spring this year just felt SO GOOD!  I'm so glad it has finally arrived with green grass, leaves on the trees and warmer weather.  I'm just giddy about the fact that I am wearing a tank top and shorts while I am writing this.

Since I essentially hibernated over the winter, I am in love with the new energy and growth that spring has brought me.  Here are some of the best places I've discovered to explore in the Des Moines area, lately.

1. Ledges State Park

 Ledges State Park in Madrid is a beautiful area for hiking, sloshing through the water, and camping.  The sandstone ledges provide a beautiful backdrop for serene hikes.  

Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park
Ledges State Park

2.  Jester Park and Golf Course

Jester park offers a lot of well maintained trails great for short trail runs, as well as a paved road throughout the park that can easily be run on as well.  The Jester Park Golf Course, is a great public golf course located in the same area.

Check out the bison and elk enclosure and the almost complete cabins they're building!

The beginning of a run at Jester Park.

My first attempt golfing at Jester Park Golf Course. 

 3. Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge 

The Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge in Prairie City is a short drive outside of Des Moines offers an indoor learning center, outdoor trails, and a large buffalo and elk refuge with a path designed for visitors to drive through.

The learning center is a great learning experience for younger individuals to learn about Iowa's native prairie and animals.

Comparing my wingspan with some of the largest raptors in the U.S.

Playing with a large elk shed at the Neil Smith Wildlife Refuge.

4. Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt  

Chichaqua Bottoms offers a HUGE area and extensive trail system for hiking and other activities, like hunting and canoeing.  Several years ago they released river otters back into the wild in this area and some visitors are lucky enough to see some of the otters that live in the area.  There are TONS of duck and bird blinds scattered throughout the park.  

A little bit of hiking fashion.

Exploring the Chichaqua Bottoms area after a controlled burn.

Checking out the crustaceans at Chichaqua Bottoms.

 5. Downtown Des Moines 

If you could find me anywhere on a Saturday morning, it would likely be the downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market.  Des Moines has an amazing farmer's market (even bigger than last year) with tons of fantastic vendors selling wares ranging from produce, to handmade home goods, apparel, and more.  It's hard not to make friends with strangers in this environment.

My favorite booths are Iowa Coffee Roasters, Storybook Farms, Big Sky Bakery, and Maytag Dairy.

Iowa Coffee Roasters made my day.  When I went planning just to get a cup of coffee to drink while I was exploring the farmer's market I got a lot more from this booth.  While I just wanted coffee to drink, Patrick asked the roaster a ton of questions about where he got his beans and the flavor of the roast.  The people at this booth went above and beyond, giving us samples of beans, to take home with us and try at home.  The light, medium and dark roast were all amazing.  I plan to return to this booth and purchase coffee every weekend from these individuals.

Storybook Farms has the BEST strawberries.  Even when it is early in the season and not many other vendors have produce yet, Storybook's strawberries are to die for.

Big Sky Bakery has fantastic bread!  I recommend picking up a loaf of their focaccia bread.  The sweet pepper and garlic is my favorite.  

Then there's the Maytag dairy farm.  P and I visited the dairy farm a few months ago, hoping to tour the facility.  Unfortunately I didn't do my research and the farm no longer does tours of their facility, however they will show you a video shot in the 80s that provides information about their company's roots and you can wave at the ladies that hand wrap each wedge of cheese.  While the cheese is phenomenal, the trek to their storeroom in Newton is a little far, so I was excited to stumble across their booth at the farmer's market.  Pick up an chunk of their flagship blue cheese or a bit of Havarti. 

I am impatiently awaiting the return of Table Top Farm  to the farmer's market with the best heirloom tomatoes I have ever had. 

While you're in downtown Des Moines, park in one of the parking ramps that provides free parking for the farmer's market and explore Des Moines extensive SkyWalk or the well-lit pedestrian bridges.  

A picture of the aftermath of the three alarm fire in the former Younker's building in downtown Des Moines taken from the SkyWalk. 

Some clever street art spotted at the Des Moines Farmer's Market.

A strawberry from Storybook Farms. 

Blue Cheese from Maytag Dairy Farm in Newton, IA.

Pedestrian bridges in downtown Des Moines

 6. The Bridges of Madison County, Winterset, and Madison County Winery

I think just about everyone has heard of the covered bridges in Madison County.  About an hour outside of Des Moines, the drive is short and the bridges are an interesting part of history.  If you're planning on doing a self-guided tour, print a map from the Madison County Webpage.

Definitely check out the Madison County Winery.  The Strawberry Blonde wine is a must try!  Plus, if you're not a wine drinker the beers they have on tap are pretty tasty as well.

If Westerns float your boat, swing through Winterset and tour the birthplace of John Wayne. 
Holliwell, bridge.  One of the esteemed covered bridges in Madison County.

An adorable theatre in downtown Winterset, IA.

Of course I had to check out this one room school house, located on the way to one of the Madison County covered bridges.  

Arbonizing My Life 

Eeek it has been a long time since I have written a blog post and I have so much to share!  One of the most exciting changes in my life has been the start up of a home based business with Arbonne, a health and wellness company.  Here's a little about my journey:

When I share with people what I have decided to do, I am generally met with a few different answers - A. What is Arbonne? B. Sounds like a pyramid scheme or C. I love Arbonne!  It has totally changed my life!  I will be the first to admit that when a co-worker approached me about talking to his wife about Arbonne my response was a mixture of A and B.  The next day, I went home with a little orange bag of products to try for a week and a coffee date that weekend to discuss how I liked them.  I was scared to death to try the products.  

Now, my story will make a lot more sense with a little more background information about me.  I have CRAZY oily skin, meaning my face will look like an oil slick by midday.  I also have some serious stress induced acne and some scarring and discoloration.  My hair is naturally frizz prone and curly.  Because of my - ahem - difficult complexion and hair, I have become a self-proclaimed product junkie, researching the best products to battle oily skin, acne prone skin, frizzy hair, and so on, then trying product after product from Sephora and salons, hoping that SOMETHING would finally work the way I want it to.  I also truly thought that I was using the best products that I could be using - Murad, Bumble and Bumble, Sachajuan, YSL, Dior, Hourglass... I honestly was scared to try Arbonne because I didn't want to rock the boat and end up with worse looking skin or hair than I started with.

So that night I went home and looked at the numerous products in the RE9 Advanced kit.  At first I was a bit overwhelmed with figuring out the order I needed to use the products in and my anxiety heightened when I tried the cleanser.  It felt gentle and soothing - not astringent like the other oil control and acne products I had used for so long.  I followed the steps and I was surprised how great my skin felt when I was done.  I went online and do a little research to see what I was putting on my face and again, I was a little frightened to discover that the product was formulated for anti-aging.  I immediately thought I was using products geared more toward my mom's age group, but the way my face felt clean and hydrated kept me trying the products.  Several days into using the products, my husband noticed a difference the clarity of my face and I started taking my makeup off and washing my face right away when I came home because I looked forward to using the products.

That weekend I grabbed my checkbook in preparation for my meeting with Jody, my co-workers wife who introduced me to the products, ready to purchase the entire line that I fell in love with.  When I got there, she shared an even bigger gift with me - the knowledge of what I am putting on my body and the opportunity that Arbonne offers.

Jody started the conversation by talking a little bit about Arbonne as a company.  While the thirty-year-old Arbonne company has Swiss heritage, the products are made in the United States using the best combination of botanical ingredients and science.  I was interested to learn that Arbonne adheres to the European cosmetic and beauty standards.  In European nations, over 1300 products are banned or restricted for usage in cosmetics, including mineral oil and animal by-products.  That number in the United States is... can you guess?  Only 11!  Read more about European cosmetic restrictions.

As a person that tries to be conscious about the products I use and how they impact both the environment and myself, I did not think that I could find products that were health friendly, environmentally friendly, and give me the results I was looking for.  I was wrong.  I definitely was thinking more about how I looked with my makeup on than the effects my daily regimen was having on my body with the attitude, "It's just on my skin, it can't be THAT bad."  Wrong.  Think of birth control, nicotine, and chemotherapy patches.  Our skin is the largest membrane in our body and sixty percent of what we put on top leeches in within 26 seconds.  Umm... I think I would rather not slather on french fry grease and boiled down dead animals. 

To read more about what we put on our skin and the latent effects, there is TONS of information on the internet.  I suggest googling "rendering and cosmetics," or "VOCs in cosmetics."  You will find a lot of information, granted some more credible than others.  Read about the 515 chemicals you're putting on your body every day.

Please excuse the Photoshopped image.  Photo credit Daily Mail Online.

So, clearly Arbonne's products are great, but their opportunity is greater.  Jody shared with me the success that she had with Arbonne to reach financial freedom quickly.  As a super busy teacher, learning that all I had to do was place amazing products in the hands of my friends to earn a little extra income was FANTASTIC.  What I didn't expect, however, was to see how Arbonne truly changes the lives of others.  By sharing Arbonne, individuals that need financial freedom and time at home have reached their goal, while others, including myself, have become more comfortable in their skin.  Before, I was using an increasingly large number of products to try to battle the damage that I was doing to my skin by using those products themselves.  To reach a point where my skin, hair, and body naturally look healthier and feels better and I can wear less makeup? That is priceless.  I am also very proud of the personal growth I have achieved with Arbonne.  As a shy individual, talking to others has not always been easy for me.  Arbonne has given me a topic and way to help others improve their lives as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Arbonne's story or checking out their products, please visit their website at

If you are interested in more information about trying the products or the business aspect, please contact me!

To check out a product review of the RE9 Advanced skincare line written by my beautiful friend Cassie, please visit her blog

Below are pictures of my Arbonne skin care journey.  While the difference may be hard for strangers to see, I can definitely tell and feel a difference.

Before using the Arbonne RE9 Advanced skin care set.  I was Murad skincare and  Dior primer and Hourglass foundation for makeup.  You can DEFINITELY see how much makeup I was putting on to cover skin damage. 
Excuse the silly picture.  I took this approximately two weeks after I started using the RE9 Advanced skin care.  I also used the Arbonne foundation mixed with my Arbonne daily moisturizer to make a tinted moisturizer.  Hurray!  My skin looked clearer and healthier at this point that I was able to wear less makeup! 

And... I took this picture after using Arbonne for about two and a half months.  No foundation or tinted moisturizer here!

Noteworthy Places - Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Last weekend my parents had the opportunity to visit Des Moines.  (YAY!)  Along with checking out a few different shops in the East Village and eating lunch at the infamous Zombie Burger, we decided to swing through the Des Moines Botanical Gardens.  It was exactly what I needed to pretend like Iowa weather was a little closer to spring.  With an 80 degree interior and about 80 percent humidity, I could have spent the day basking in the sunlight, watching the Koi fish, and checking out the neat and exotic foliage.

Here are a few snapshots from the trip.

Seems like a pretty good place to write some lesson plans, right?  I think I might grab a bench and check it out this weekend. 

 Balayage on Short Hair?  What you Should Know.

So, as my last post explained, I've been growing my hair out from a pixie cut for the last year.  I've spent a TON of time on Pinterest drooling over the cute balayage/ombre color styles, but thought my hair was far too short to try the style - UNTIL I went with a friend to an Aveda open house in Des Moines and met a colorist that with chin length hair and gorgeous balayage highlights.  I decided to take the jump and I'm pretty excited that I did.

First, here are some things I learned and you might want to consider -

If your hair is curly or you plan on wearing it curly, the balayage will be a little more broken up and you can likely get away with more drastic balayage without getting that weird spotty or chunky look.

Ask your colorist to make sure the highlights are on the bottom layers, almost a peek-a-boo kind of highlight.  The color should also be "melted," meaning lighter on the ends then blending into your natural color at the top.  You can also get away with more dramatic highlights framing your face than in the back. 

Ask for the color to start at about eye level.  You want a sun-kissed look, not two inches of root grow-out look. 

The lightest color will need to be AT LEAST two shades darker than your base color, otherwise your balayage will not be very noticeable.

Expect for the color to cost more than average highlights and take a little more time.  Balayage can be more labor intensive than regular foils.  Without dying my hair a base color first, my highlights ended up taking about three hours.

Here's the end results!  Let me know what you think!

 Growing out a Pixie Cut

I have a love/hate relationship with my hair, as I'm pretty sure all women do.  Over the past, five years I've bounced around between pixie cuts, inverted bobs, chin-length bobs, and shoulder length cuts - growing it out, chopping it off, and thus repeating the cycle.

Here's a year in review for my hair.  This might serve as a helpful guide for those of you that are trying to grow out a pixie or looking for ideas to style those in-between awkward styles.

I started off with shoulder length hair.  (Long enough to put in a pony tail.)  

At that point I was tired of the daily pull it back in a pony tail routine, so I opted for a long pixie.  The long bangs and hair around the ears ended up driving me nuts because my hair is naturally sort of wavy/curly and needed to be straightened daily.  What I thought would be less work ended up being more work.  

So instead of being patient and letting my hair grow out, I decided to opt for a quick fix and cut it even shorter.  (This is a picture of P and I on the way to a Blackhawks game if you're wondering about the hair accessory.)

Here's a picture of me pouting because I was frustrated with styling my hair.  Now - let me give my disclaimer here.  There have been times that I have had pixie cuts and LOVED them.  I just continually struck out with hair stylists giving me pixies in Tucson.  My hair had grown out slightly here that I could rock a kind of messy, semi-curly look. 
After that we grew into about this lovely awkward stage.  It was REALLY hard to get a straightener to work on hair that short. 

From there I was able to grow my hair over my ears and work toward a bob-esque do. 
Still working toward a bob - finally got my hair over my ears just as we moved back to Iowa. 
Once my hair grew over my ears I was able to start wearing it curly again. 
Finally getting into more of a style!  I was able to have some cute layers put in.  
Long enough to straighten and rock a half-back style with a bit of a french braid. 

... Annnnddd here we are now.  A chin length bob with slightly stacked back and recently added blonde balayage highlights. 
Here's the curly picture of the grown out pixie. 

Hope this gives you a guide to help you grow out your pixie!   Good luck! 



 What We've Been Up To

Let's just say that I'm really good at letting everything else get in the way of some leisure time, but I promise P and I are still around exploring our new roots in Des Moines.

Here's what we've been up to: 

Center Grove Pumpkin Patch

A few weeks ago P, his mom and I had the opportunity to go back to one of my favorite places, Center Grove Orchard to explore their pumpkin patch.  Instead of coming back with just one pumpkin a piece, we might have gone a little crazy...

Patrick and his mom Patty with their specially selected pumpkins.

The haul of pumpkins we came home with

Huddling behind a haybale.  It might have been a little cold and windy...

Hawkeye Football Game

I will still always have an attachment to Iowa City and a fondness for calling it "home."  I love the fact that it isn't a far trip to meet my parents in Iowa City to watch a game.  Although we were freezing until the sun came out the 4th quarter, we certainly had a lot of fun.  

Herky has a secret - he's Batman...

Free pom poms always make your day a little brighter. 
Freezing at the game and wearing a hand felted flower that I picked up at the Des Moines Farmer's Market.  It might have be a pin, but with a few bobby pins no one ever knew that it wasn't meant to be a hair accessory.

Crafting with Friends

I love the fact that we finally live close enough to our friends and family that we can spend time together again.  My beautiful friend Cindy had the BEST idea of hosting a pumpkin themed craft night.  I might have spent two hours mod podging sequins onto my pumpkin... 

The girls and I before the crafting began. 
Our finished pumpkins.  We clearly like a little sparkle.  
My finished pumpkin. 

Let's see if I can blog proactively before Thanksgiving and Christmas... no promises... :)

Current Indie Obsessions

Uggghhhh... It has been so long since I have taken the time to write a blog post, so here it is, albeit long overdue.

It seems like in the last year I've taken a break from music.  Throughout college I spent a decent amount of time exploring new artists and songs that I liked, but after starting a "real world job" a lot of that went to the wayside.  In the last few days, I've decided to get back into that music exploration.

Here's a list of a few of my new found obsessions.  Enjoy!  

1. Lorde - Royals 

I know that everyone has heard this song and it's been viciously overplayed, but how can you not love letting this tune get stuck in your head?  

2. Pacific Air - Float 

Pacific Air is actually a band that I discovered in Tucson while attending a Ra Ra Riot concert with a friend.  As much as I loved Ra Ra Riot, Pacific Air was an exceptional opener.

3. Tune-Yards - Gangsta 

Because the best bands are always discovered while listening to NPR...

4. Max Frost - White Lies 

LOVE his gnarly voice

5. Joywave - Tongues ft. Kopps 

A fun vocal electronica tune that will stick in your head all day.

6. Tove Lo - Habits 

Gritty, a little cliche, and somewhat raunchy, but I'm intrigued by the improvement on the Kesha-esque image.

7. Disclosure - White Noise 

The perfect upbeat background electronic for a workout.

8. Lana Del Rey - Diet Mountain Dew 

Ok, so maybe this isn't a new obsession, but it's another song that continues to pop into my list of favorites.

9. Youth Lagoon - Dropla 

The perfect background sound that fits in splendidly with the rest of my more mellow songs.

10. Ra Ra Riot - Can You Tell 

Again, maybe not the newest song, but still remains one of my favorites - plus, they're amazing live.

Iowa's Cozy Places and Spaces- Exploring the Autumn Outdoors Edition

One of the best parts about being back in Iowa is the change in seasons.  After living in Tucson and essentially missing the seasons for a year, Patrick and I are really ready to experience fall again.  That said, I think we've done a pretty bang-up job of exploring some of the best places to visit in the fall around the Des Moines area.

Here's where we've gone and what we've done (so far)...

1. Center Grove Orchard 

Center Grove Orchard is only one of the happiest places on Earth.  It's a great place for adults and families. 

I particularly enjoyed checking out their one room school house.  (I'm certainly glad my classroom doesn't look like this!) 

The appropriate apple picking apparatus. 

Sporting my new Kate Spade for Keds kicks with a freshly picked apple.  The apples tasted soooo good fresh off the tree. 
2. Iowa City's Northside Oktoberfest

Iowa City's Oktoberfest is always a blast.  With tent after tent of local craft brews, how can you go wrong... except maybe making a typo on hundreds of tasting mugs...

How can you not love the free spirited citizens of Iowa City for making sweaters for trees?  Trees need love, too, dontcha know. 

The University of Iowa will always seem like home.   It was great to go back and enjoy some great brews in one of my favorite cities. 
3. Big Creek Lake Park

Big Creek Lake Park is one of our favorite places to hike.  With beautiful tree lined trails and paths that lead right up to the lake, it's a great place to relax (or catch a few frogs.)  

4. Clive Greenbelt Trail

Surrounded by beautiful prairies and cozy neighborhoods, we've met some of the friendliest people in the Des Moines area walking, running and biking on this trail on weekend mornings. 

5.Gray's Lake

Gray's Lake is one of the cutest, inner-city places to get outdoors I have seen.  The trail around the lake includes a cute bridge packed with special plaques commemorating weddings, lives of loved ones, and special events, plus you can always walk or ride on over to Confluence Brewery for a mid-workout beer. 

 6. The Amana Colonies

Making yarn from wool in the Amana Colonies. 

The Amana Colonies was a cute and quaint little town for an afternoon visit.  Definitely stop by White Cross Cellars and pick up a bottle of the "Monk's Red" Red picnic wine and pick up some apple cider from the Chocolate Haus. 
7. Jester Park

With plenty of great trails to walk and trees to climb, Jester park offers tons of great wooded trails that are awesome for hiking or running. 

Hiking adventures at Jester Park. 

 Zombie Mob in a Flash

It's been a while since I've had a change to write a blog post because life has been crazy!  Last week was homecoming week at my school and since I work as part of a residential program, my goal was to go all out and really make homecoming week special for the boys on my dorm.  We had a blast bringing in clothes to help the boys dress up.  My favorite day, by far, was walking dead Wednesday.  Another teacher and I were faced with the task of making 32 teenage boys and 4 staff members into zombies in about the span of two hours.  Our goal was to make each "zombie," or student, look a little bit different.  After a lot of face paint, fake blood, latex, and a monstrous mess, we created our zombie mob.

Unfortunately I can't post a picture of my zombie clan and handiwork, but here's a list of what we used.

-Ben Nye face paint in three different colors of corpse-esque gray (found at a local theatrical store).  This paint promised to be more hypoallergenic.  (We thought this would help some of our acne prone kiddos not break out so much.)
-Target Halloween face paint (the $10 multi-color pack.  You'll use the yellow, green, purple and blue from this palette a lot!)
-cheap black eye shadow (I used the Rimmel London brand)
-cheap makeup brushes ($1 E.L.F. brushes from Target)  I bought several blush and eyeshadow brushes
-fake blood (either purchased or created)
-a squirt bottle
-a LOT of wedge shaped makeup sponges
-liquid latex (purchased from a Halloween store)
-cotton balls

We followed these steps:

-Using one of the three colors of the Ben Nye gray face paint and a wedge shaped makeup brush, paint the subject's face.  Don't worry about being neat - sloppy is fine, remember, you're likely in a hurry.  The sloppiness kind of adds to the effect in the end, too.
-Take one of the E.L.F. eyeshadow makeup brushes and the eyeshadow and place black shadow all over the eyelid to the brow.  Sweep the shadow under the eye to create the effect of a recessed eye socket.
-Using the blush brush, sweep the black eyeshadow under the subject's cheek bones to create a sunken effect.
-Brush the remainder of the black eye shadow from the brush and blend the face paint and the eyeshadow together.
-At this point, if you would like to add some structural detail, liquid latex may be used to quickly add a "rotting skin" type of texture.  While the latex is still wet, you may add small bits of cotton from cotton balls to exaggerate the texture.  Latex should be dabbed over the top of the cotton to create a more skin-like appearance.  Allow the latex to dry for several minutes before adding face paint over the top to blend the latex into the skin.  The cotton balls and latex can be shaped to create scars, open wounds, or peeling flesh features.  I usually added green, yellow, purple, and blue face paint to these areas to create a more bruised or rotting color.  FUN TIP: Place a few layers of latex on the skin, then use tweezers to rip blister-like semi-round holes in the latex.  These holes can be filled in with red, purple, and black face paint then covered with fake blood to create a chemical burn/ blister effect.
-To make the subject's hair look gray, we rubbed a bit of flour in.  The flour may be set with hairspray if you want to ensure that it will last for a little while.
-The last, but most fun part, is adding the fake blood.  We asked all of our students to dress in clothing that could be ruined.  We had several jugs of fake blood and a few squirt bottles.  For each student, we chose to identify specific types of injuries, like gunshot wounds, slit throats, etc. The blood was placed depending on the wound.  By letting the blood drip onto the clothes, the injuries seemed more realistic.  The final touch was spraying all of the students down with fake "splatter" from the squirt bottles.  FUN TIP:  Coat the subject's arms with flour and then add the fake blood.  If you rub the flour, the fake blood will clump in some places and create an even grimier, clotted texture.

I followed some slightly different steps for my own zombie makeup, however it will give you a better idea of some of the techniques that can be used with the latex.

The steps I followed as well as the materials and some pictures of the process are below: 

First I coated my face with the lightest foundation I owned (several shades lighter than what I normally wear.)  Then, using a wedge shaped makeup sponge, I dabbed liquid latex on my forehead and under my eye.  You may need several coats of latex.  Be careful that you do not get the latex too close to your eye.  BEWARE!  The smell of the latex will likely make your eyes burn and water  For my hair, I used cheap, strong hold hairspray to make my hair crunchy, gross, and tousled - I also stuck in a few leaves and sticks on the way to school.  

Once the latex on my forehead and under my eye dried, I used tweezers to pull some of the latex away from my skin.  On my forehead, I was going for a chemical burn/blistered look, so I used the tweezers to create round, blister like spots of open skin.  Under my eye, I wanted to create an effect like the skin under my eye had been ripped away.  To do this, I gently pulled the latex down away from my eye with my tweezers.  After I finished using my tweezers, I dabbed the foundation on top of the latex to make it closer to the color of my skin.  To add some more architectural detail, I added some latex and cotton on my cheek to create an open wound effect. 

Once the latex was dry, I filled in the spaces with red face paint.  After this picture, I added black and purple face paint inside the "wounds" to create a darker, more realistic color.  I also added some yellow and green face paint stippled and blended around the "wounds" to make the surrounding skin look a little bruised and rotten.

Once you have finished shading in the "wounds" with face paint, add fake blood to the wounds.  don't be afraid to let some drip. I also added black eye shadow around my eyes, up to my eyebrows and below my eyes.  I pulled some eyeshadow around the sides of my nose, around my hair line, and under my cheekbones too to create a more skeletal look. 

And, there you have it.  Zombie makeup in a flash! 

Weekend Adventures and Design on a Dime

A snapshot from my Monday night walk with Patrick and Iroh.  There isn't a thing that I don't love so far about living in Des Moines.
Let's just say I LOVE the fact that this weekend was a long weekend!  I was able to get ahead with my lesson planning, finish some decorating and DIY projects, spend some time with friends, and relax a bit with Patrick.  What could be better?

A bit of motivation for finishing a few decorating and DIY projects was the fact we had some friends coming over on Saturday for a Labor Day weekend grill-out.  Plus, the more time I have away from work usually means at some point I'm going to start tinkering with some sort of DIY project.  Amazingly, I've found that Des Moines literally the best junk/vintage/antique/found object stores I have ever seen.  I'm pretty thrilled with the way our new house is becoming a home.  Take a virtual tour of some of my favorite parts.  

My pretty little workspace in the office with a DIY dry erase memo board above it made from wrapping paper purchased from RSVP in Iowa City and a discount frame from Michael's.  Table: Pier 1 as-is clearance, desk calendar: Anthropologie, Pug book ends: T.J. Maxx, lamp: Target.
Our little library.  The books look like they're placed randomly, but they're actually organized (somewhat) into categories.  I like how the pops of color of the bindings gave me the opportunity to add just about any color to the room.  Bookshelves: IKEA.
A cozy reading nook in the office, complete with pillows, an ancient chair that I picked up years ago from Artifacts in Iowa City, and Sheldon, my stuffed otter that Patrick picked out for me at the Phoenix Zoo.  The breeze and the natural light from the window makes it a pretty comfy place to curl up and read a book... or write a blog post. 

A DIY chalkboard art project.  My inspiration came from My Vintage Window's perfect "imperfect" tutorial "How I Letter In Chalk".  I used a chalkboard marker for sharper detail.  Chalkboard marker: Michael's, Frame: World Market.
The "bigger picture" of where I displayed the chalkboard art.  Also, Patrick and I thought it was fitting to set up a cabinet to showcase the rest of our wedding wine.  Liquor cabinet: Target. 
What happens when Hobby Lobby has 50% off all their lanterns?  You make terrariums!  We picked up some small succulents at the Des Moines Farmers market and added some dried moss and rocks around the bottom to hide the plastic pots. 
The "bigger picture" with our couch, coffee table, and map.  Polka dot pillows: IKEA, brown pillows: Pier 1 clearance, sofa: LazyBoy coffee table: IKEA, wall art: World Market with added hearts created using a heart shaped paper punch and white card stock.  (Ignore Patrick's computer cable.)   
A few finishing touches in the living room.  I love our tiny little cloche and plant (yes, it's real) from Seed.  The glass jar was a steal found at Found Objects (East Village) with faux moss from Hinge (Valley Junction), a letter "T" wooden letter press block from Vintage No. 35 (Valley Junction) and river pebbles from Target. 
One of my newest obsessions- fairy gardens.  This cute container was found at Earl May.  We added some polished rocks Patrick found in the desert when we lived in Tucson.  Can you spot the little gnome hiding in there? 
Patrick and I had TONS of Polaroid pictures from our wedding and I had been looking for a good way to display them.  After a trip and some inspiration from Vintage No. 35 in Valley Junction, we have some "artwork" that anyone can find something to comment about.  Metal grate: Vintage No. 35, Vintage postcards, game pieces and grocer's tags: Vintage No. 35, Clothes pins: Walmart. 

It seems like every time Patrick and I move, we find that the average bathroom has one towel rod.  Let's get real.  If two people are using that bathroom, how are your towels going to dry if you have one towel rod?  Instead of installing a towel rod that wouldn't match the first one, we opted for this guy a towel "hanger" found (on sale) at World Market. 
...And this was by FAR my favorite DIY project we've done in the house so far - a vintage ladder with hanging lanterns.  A few weeks ago, Patrick and I walked into an expensive home decor store that shall remain unnamed and spotted a rustic ladder hanging above one of their display tables.  We fell in love with the look, but the price was out of the question.  We took the inspiration and created a similar look for about 1/5 of the price.   Vintage Ladder: Vintage No. 35 (cut down to size), Eye hooks and rope: Home Depot, lanterns: Hobby Lobby (50% off!), candles and dried moss: Hobby Lobby.  Didn't Patrick do a great job tying those different knots?  I love the light fixture feel this project created above our table.  I can't wait to redecorate it for autumn and winter. 

Well, there you have it!  A few of the projects we've completed with the house so far.   I can't wait to add more as we complete them!  Relax and enjoy the last few hours of your Labor Day weekend!  

Happy Crafting!  

Hopefully your weekend was as relaxing as Iroh's! 



Finally Home

Iroh became our official hotel pillow and bed tester.  I think we have some issues with manners that need to be worked out...
Although this is a rather belated blog post, Patrick and I made it safely to Iowa.  We opted to drive through Colorado and Nebraska instead of retracing the steps we took on our move to Arizona last year through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  I will admit, driving through Colorado and Nebraska was DEFINITELY the better decision.  The mountains were beautiful, we got to spend some time with friends along the way, and we enjoyed each and every one of our stops -even though we both were experiences some strange cold/flu/allergy/ likely stress induced illness. 

New Mexico!  We were finally out of Arizona.  Our first stop was Albuquerque, NM where we spent the night, then enjoyed Starbucks with our amazing friend Emma. 
Hooray for Colorado!  Stop #2 was Denver.  If we didn't know that we were heading home, I think we both would have been happy to stay in Denver.  The town was beautiful, people were friendly, and we even found a place to get some awesome coffee. 
The next state was Nebraska.  We were scheduled to spend the night in Omaha, but decided to drive straight through to Des Moines, instead.  Poor Nebraska gets such a bad reputation for being a boring state to drive through, but I still maintain that driving through Kansas was far, far worse. 
Annnnndddd a hot mess picture of the Iowa state boundaries sign.  The picture ended up looking so terrible partially because I was bouncing  up and down and partially because our cat was clawing my legs. 
Once we arrived, we were lucky enough to have family able to help us unload our Pod.  (Thank goodness we were able to unload the pod faster than it took to load it!)  We enjoyed a quick lunch of burritos from Pancheros, which tasted amazing after not having them for a year, then the unpacking frenzy began.  After arriving on Thursday, nearly everything was unpacked by the time we started work on Monday.

Stay tuned for more posts about our new jobs, our exploration of the Des Moines area, and making our new house a home.

The view from our new living room!  No mountains, but it certainly looks like home. 
Iroh enjoying his new view. 
One of the first nights we were back I met up with the girls to get some Crab Rangoon pizza at Fong's downtown.  It feels so good to be back with friends- and friendly strangers!  Kudos to the friendly dude who offered to snap our picture - and the gentleman in the back with the epic photo bomb. 

One Year Later

Happy one year anniversary to my amazing husband!
The pod is finally loaded... and there is literally nothing in our apartment.  It looks like the cat, dog, and I are going to be pretty bored for the next 9 days until we start our trip back home.

We were really lucky that my husband's family was able to help us load the pod.  Otherwise it would have taken FOREVER!  Our pod was 8x8x16 and it was packed almost to the brim.  I guess we forgot last year when we moved we had no furniture...  It took a lot of finagling, but I think everything is finally secure.  My body and my brain hurt by the time we were done.

A picture of our pod right after delivery.  The loading and unloading system is pretty ingenious! 

After loading the entire day on Saturday, we finally decided to complete the last two loads on Sunday.  Since the pod is a little inconvenient to place in one of the coveted parking spaces near the apartment, we had to put it at the end of the parking lot, load the vehicles, and drive the boxes down to the pod.  Usually someone would ride on the tailgate of my husband's truck to make sure we wouldn't lose anything on the way.  We loaded the last few items into the truck while it started to sprinkle and we were hoping we wouldn't get more than a few drops.  We were wrong.  About halfway down the parking lot those sprinkles turned into a full fledged monsoon downpour and I was drenched.  Patrick ended up pulling into a covered spot at the end of the parking lot where we waited an hour until the rain finally stopped.  Luckily all of the items in the truck were lawn chairs, patio furniture, and bikes - all items that can get wet without being damaged.

Me after being completely drenched by the rain on the last trip to the pod.
Saturday was also our anniversary so we didn't necessarily celebrate in the traditional sense, but what is better than spending the day with your husband surrounded by family that was there at your wedding?  Plus we're loading everything we own so we can move back home.  I think it sounds like a pretty great way to honor our first year of marriage.  Besides, the day before our wedding last year we loaded everything into a U-Haul so we could leave the day after our wedding to move to Arizona.  Maybe in a few years we'll find ourselves not moving on our anniversary again.

A picture of the cake topper I created for our wedding last year. 

Saturday morning Patrick and I were able to open our wooden box from our wedding.  I referenced our wooden box in my post about my dad.  (You can read about it here.)  As a brief explanation, our wooden box was an idea that I saw online and my dad created for us with some adaptations.  The general idea is that my dad crated this beautiful oak box with space inside for letters and a bottle of wine.  Before our wedding, Patrick and I wrote letters to each other, which we placed in the box during our ceremony (kind of in lieu of a sand ceremony or a unity candle.  My thinking was honestly, what am I going to do with those after the wedding?)  My dad also created a space to put a bottle of wine that we would drink on our first anniversary.  I am so glad we decided to go with the wooden box.  This year we had it placed on a table in our bedroom so I got to see it every day and once Saturday rolled around I was so excited to open our letters.  We opened them right away in the morning before we packed the box.  When Patrick handed me mine he confessed that he had re-written his letter.  Before the wedding, he had been too stressed to write a letter that included everything he wanted to include so he re-wrote the letter three days ago, back-dated it to 07/17/2012, placed it in an envelope and put it in the box.  I did get to see what he had written last year - a list of some of the items he wanted to include in the letter that had been so difficult to write.  It is true, though, in the hustle of everything before the wedding, it's hard to clear your mind enough to think of exactly everything that you want to say.  I wasn't upset that he had re-written the letter, but it was classic Patrick to try to make sure everything was just right before I saw it and a reminder of another reason why I love him so much.  We've decided to write letters to each other and purchase a new bottle of wine every year to continue the wooden box tradition.

A few of the items we kept in our wooden box, including our letters and wine. 

After the day was over, we ordered some Dominos and enjoyed our bottle of wine.  The only dishes we opted to not pack were the plastic two-person set in our picnic basket, complete with two little plastic wine glasses.  We were getting a kick out of "clinking" the glasses together.

"Clinking" our plastic glasses together.
Sunday evening we did have a chance to drive around for a bit and enjoy some of the scenic parts of Tucson again before we leave.  I snapped a through shots as we were driving through Saguaro National Park and we even saw a little wildlife.  

Photo taken in Saguaro National Park

Photo taken in Saguaro National Park 

Can you spot the deer in this picture?  Sorry for the blurriness... I had to zoom in and increase the color intensity to make the deer more visible. 
Now I'm off to clean the apartment to make sure everything is spotless for the next tenants.  You would not believe how many dust bunnies, or clumps of cat fur, there are in your apartment until you move all the furniture.  I'm excited I get to enjoy my beautiful flowers and pumpkin scented candle from my husband.  I created a mixed pack of beer for him last week and he made me promise we wouldn't get each other anything else for our anniversary.  What a stink to go and get me something anyway.  I'm in love with these light lilac daisies though!

Anniversary gifts from the best husband ever.
Have a great day!  

Packing and a Unit Plan

Life has been a little crazy around here with all the packing and preparing to return to Iowa.  I'm getting more and more excited as we can start ticking the big items off our list of "things that need to be done" before we can move.  Yesterday we were able to cross off a big item- selling my car.  It is a little bittersweet because I've had my little Corolla since I was 16 and it has been an amazing car.  Sure, it was never a show-stopper, nor was it beautiful or swanky, but it certainly was, and still is, reliable.  I couldn't be more pleased that we're selling it to a sweet girl that is so excited to have it as her first car.  It will be wonderful for her!  

On the packing side of things - holy moley.  You never realize how much stuff you have until you start putting it all into boxes.  My apartment is a box maze right now.  Literally.  Can't wait to load everything into our Pod this weekend and ship it off to Iowa.  If you're ever looking into moving, definitely look into Pods.  It will be SO much easier to not worry about a driving a huge U-Haul across the country.  (Trust me, it's about as much fun as it sounds... and I didn't even drive it.  It does take about 11 days for everything to be delivered which means we'll be sleeping on an air mattress for a while and living out of suitcases, but anything beats the U-Haul option again.

So life is really starting to fall into place!  Everything is settled with Patrick's job.  We have both of the vehicles sold and one waiting for us as soon as we roll into Iowa.  Plus I can't wait to live in our new townhouse!  Now I just have to hear back from the job I interviewed for.  ;)  Keep your fingers crossed.

Speaking of job interviews, I decided to create a unit plan to showcase what I would envision teaching for three weeks in a 9th or 10th grade classroom, hence the creation of my monster 130 page unit plan covering Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried.  For anyone who hasn't read this collection of short stories it is AMAZING.  There is a ton of controversy over whether the collection should be classified as fiction or non-fiction, which makes for some great opinion based discussions with your kiddos.  I would LOVE the opportunity to teach this unit with a group of students.  The idea actually stemmed from a unit that was taught by one of my Practicum cooperating teachers and a National Endowment for the Arts lesson plan that can be found online at the following website
I thought there were some good points in the NEA lesson, but I decided to expand upon it and add a LOT more fun activities, including a mini-lesson that I taught over one of the stories while I was in my Practicum class.  The unit is Common Core aligned, has 15 days of clear lesson plans and materials, tons of vocabulary and terminology posters, extra extension/final project activities, pop quizzes, a final exam and everything else you need to help your high school students succeed.  Browse through the previews below then head on over to my Teachers Pay Teacher's store at the following link:

Let me know how you like it!  Also, I must admit... it felt pretty good to write lesson plans for secondary students again!

Happy Teaching!


Visiting "Home" and the Moving Countdown

Patrick holding some peas fresh from the garden on his Mom's farm.  Mmmm...

Last week Patrick and I had the opportunity to travel back to the Midwest for a number of reasons.  First, my niece was being baptized and we were asked to be godparents, second, my husband and I needed to find some housing, and third I had a JOB INTERVIEW.  (Exciting, right?)  So we made a quick trip back to the Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota area.

"Beer is food" indeed.  We were able to meet a few of our friends in Des Moines for a tasty meal at Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Company after looking at properties to rent.  I could get used to eating here!

...And we had just enough time to stop at our favorite frozen yogurt place in Iowa City - Dane's Dairy.
We are incredibly excited about our new place in Grimes and I think the job interview went pretty well.  I'm waiting with fingers crossed that I'll hear good news by the end of the week!

Elphie has finally forgiven me for taking her to the boarding kennel and she's ready to cuddle for a bit.
I was excited to pick up Iroh and Elphie from the boarding kennel today.  They must have had a good time because they have been pooped out for the entire day.  I think I know how they feel.

Iroh has been one tired boy all day today.  Hopefully that means he had a lot of fun at the kennel while we were gone. 
Well - let the count-down begin - just about 3 weeks until we're moving into our new place in Grimes! Who wants to help us unload when we get there?

Homeward Bound

We finally found out we're heading back home!  Photo taken in Saguaro National Park.
Last year my husband and I decided to be adventurous and look all over the U.S. for places to start our careers.  We agreed that we would go wherever the first person found a job, and as luck would have it, I found a teaching job first in Tucson, Arizona.  So, we moved - the day after our wedding...  After we moved, my husband was hired by an amazing company, but we weren't the biggest fans of Tucson.  Sure, it was nice, and a great place to start our adventure together, but we were pretty far away from any family and friends from back home.  Around November, my husband heard that his company could potentially be bidding on a job to start in the Des Moines area, which could mean a transfer that would land us back in Iowa.  We waited and waited and waited for what literally seemed like forever, and now we finally have the final word that we're heading back at the end of July!  We snapped a few pictures to announce the good news to family and friends. Take a peek and share our joy!

Photo taken in Saguaro National Park.

Finally Saying Thanks 

First look picture with my dad on the day of my wedding.  A memory that I will never forget.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography.
Ok, I realize this post is a little late considering Father's Day was on Sunday, but, hey, it's never a bad time to appreciate Dad.

I will admit that I probably wasn't the easiest child to raise.  Sure, I didn't get into much trouble, but I was certainly headstrong and opinionated - even when I wasn't knowledgeable enough to form a decent opinion - and I always thought I was the authority on decision making.  Whenever I was set on making whatever poor decision I was about to make, my dad would frequently redirect me and say "you're frontal lobe isn't fully developed until you're 21."  This was my dad's way of saying I was too young, too stubborn, or too uninformed to make the best decision and this was why he was offering his guidance.

And he was right.  I never fully appreciated everything that my parents did for me until, probably, long after I was 21.  About the time I was getting married was the time I was starting to realize the part they played in helping me through life, college, and becoming the adult I am today.  Our relationship is a lot different now, and I would like to think it's a lot better.  After teaching second grade for a year, I now understand how difficult it is to pour your heart, soul, and a lot of effort into something and have a child not appreciate the outcome.  Granted lesson plans and child rearing are on totally opposite ends of the effort spectrum, but I understood a little bit about how it could be so difficult to reason with a child with an "under developed frontal lobe."

So, since I've been blogging a lot about my wedding, let me tie this in.  I struggled for a long time figuring out what to give my parents on the day of my wedding.  No tangible item could really express the appreciation that I had for them, but I wanted to try.  I opted for books.  I have an affinity for books, being an English major, so it was fitting in that aspect.  A lot of that affinity likely has to do with the memories I have of trips to the library and reading stories together with my parents.  But, regardless, I picked out books, the one for my dad being "My Father, My Hero."  Now, my family isn't a super emotional, over the top family, so this expression of emotion was probably a lot as far as my family goes, but on the pages of the book, I decided to write my own thanks.  I didn't get the opportunity to see my dad open it, but my mom said he cried.  I would like to think partially because I was finally an adult, and finally able to say thank you for everything he had done.  In other words, my frontal lobe was fully developed.

Another thing I wanted to do the day of the wedding was a first look with my dad.  If you're a reader that is planning your wedding, it is absolutely a moment that I urge you to fit into your pre-wedding events.  The moment that I was able to share with my dad was priceless and our photographer Misty was even able to snap an amazing picture of the moment.  It's honestly one of my favorite pictures from the wedding and we have it displayed on the wall of our living room.  I hope if you choose to fit this idea into your wedding you treasure the moment as much as I do.

First dance photo with Dad.  Photo taken by Misty Como at Focused Photography

It's also customary that the father of the bride gives a speech at the reception after the wedding and my wedding was no exception.  A few weeks before the wedding I had asked my father to make a wooden box for Patrick and I that we would use in lieu of a sand or candle ceremony.  The idea was that Patrick and I would each write each other a letter that we would put inside the box and read on our first anniversary.  During our wedding ceremony, we put the letters into the box and sealed the box.  The box also contains a bottle of wine that we will drink while we read the letters.  The box my father made was beautiful, but I didn't make the connection until he gave his speech.  When I was born, my father made my crib - a task which took countless hours of what he called "love and labor."  The box was another work of "love and labor" completed by my dad.  The box now sits on a table in our bedroom and I can't wait to open it in about a month on my first wedding anniversary.

The top of the wooden box my dad made for our box ceremony during the wedding. 

Overall, make sure you cherish your family and fit this into your wedding.  They are the ones that make the memories you'll remember. 

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