For The Love of Goats!

These hungry goats had a sweet treat at a mulberry bush!
These hungry goats had a sweet treat at a mulberry bush!

We have a goat-lover in our family. She asked for a goat two years in a row for Christmas, and she is adamant she’ll be a vet someday. (If any of you are a veterinarian and would like to take a very curious six-year old under your wing, please contact me. She has a list of questions for just the right person!)

So, when I learned that our city, Storm Lake, Iowa, was hiring a herd of goats to eat away problem vegetation near our city parks, I knew we had to have an adventure! The goats from the Hungry Herd will graze by the beautiful lake shoreline for nearly two months. The goats made their debut in Storm Lake last fall when they ate away unwanted vegetation at a few sites around town. They did such a great job that they were invited back. This keeps humans from having to cut away brush in treacherous areas ,and it keeps the goats fed. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!




The new gazebo at Sunset Park provided a perfect place to picnic.
The new gazebo at Sunset Park provided a perfect place to picnic.

Earlier this week, we packed our lunches and headed to Sunset Park for a picnic. I didn’t tell the girls of the newest Storm Lake residents, but as we got closer to our picnic area the goat-lover spotted her favorite animal. She was beyond amazed to see these critters at the park! We got a bit closer and watched the animals at work. (Please note that as it states in this memo from the city, the goats are working animals, not pets. The fence is electrified, so do touch the fencing or try to pet the goats).

This little goat-lover couldn't get enough of her favorite animals!
This little goat-lover couldn’t get enough of her favorite animals!

As we picnicked in a nearby gazebo, the goats roamed closer to us, giving us a lunchtime show. Before she could swallow the last bite of lunch, my little goat-lover made herself comfortable in the grass near the goats. After sitting there for several minutes, she came running back to excitedly announce that she figured out how goats scratch themselves, but she wondered if they could get sunburns. (Another question to add to her growing list). It was fun to see her make observations by watching goats do what they do best.

It was fascinating to watch these little animals at work.
It was fascinating to watch these little animals at work.

Truth be told, even the non-animal loving girl and myself really enjoyed our afternoon. There is something calming about being outdoors. Iowa is full of amazing places to enjoy nature and farm animals, even in the middle of a city park!

The simple things really do bring joy to our lives. A picnic by the lake and a view of goats were all we needed for a memorable Girls Adventure. Now it’s your turn to enjoy nature and find your own adventure! Find a herd of working goats (I hear they can be found near Trumbull Lake too), visit a farm, pack a picnic, or watch the birds, squirrels and bunnies. For the love of goats, get outdoors, and have some fun!

I found this little story written by my goat-lover after our adventure. "Once upon a time there was 3 girls. They love to go on adventures and one day they saw goats."
I found this little story written by my goat-lover after our adventure. “Once upon a time there was 3 girls. They love to go on adventures and one day they saw goats.” It’s pretty safe to say she enjoyed our latest Girls Adventure!

Go Fly A Kite!

This butterfly was ready to set sail!
This butterfly was ready to set sail!

We had some good ol’ fashion fun flying kites! The conditions were just right for a little kite flying adventure one warm, weekend afternoon. So, we grabbed our kites and headed for a wide-open space in the middle of Storm Lake: Buena Vista University’s Forum Lawn.

We didn’t plan to stay long. In fact, on the way out the door my hubby asked if we needed sunscreen. I replied, “No, we’ll be back in 10 minutes.” I don’t have a successful kite-flying history and didn’t expect this time to be any different. The excitement usually mounts as we unwind the string and wait for the breeze to keep the kite flying high. And we wait, and wait, and wait until we finally call ‘dragging the kite along the ground’ as good as it gets and head home defeated.




The girls learned to carefully let out string, pull it tight, and move around as needed to keep the kites soaring above our heads.
The girls learned to carefully let out string, pull it tight, and move around as needed to keep the kites soaring above our heads.

Well, this particular day ended up being one for the kite flying record books. At least our family record books! The Iowa wind cooperated. It wasn’t a blow-the-hat-off-your-head day, and it wasn’t still and sticky. It was just right.

At first, we fumbled a bit untangling the strings and getting those flimsy pieces of plastic in the air. Then it happened. By luck (and my hubby teaching the girls how and when to let out string), the kites took off! It was amazing. BVU’s campus was a beautiful backdrop for our adventure. The brick buildings, the well-maintained grounds, and the shimmering lake added an element wonder to our experience. Watching a giant butterfly glide above the buildings that hold many memories and stories (my hubby and I met and fell in love on that campus), was the perfect way to spend the day with my family.

This beautiful kite was so fun to watch!
This beautiful kite was so fun to watch!

After well over 30 minutes of effortlessly flying a kite, my little one handed over the strings and gave up her post as master kite flyer. Within mere seconds, the gliding butterfly started twirling and plummeted to the ground. And just like that, it was over. We packed up our kites, sweaty kids, and went home for celebratory root beer floats.

So, go fly a kite! Find an open grassy spot, and let your inner child (and kite) fly free! (Bring the sunscreen and some water just in case it takes longer than expected). Kites are cheap, and the memories will last forever. I know we won’t soon forget the afternoon we spent on BVU’s Forum Lawn flying kites.

flying kites+beautiful views=fun family adventure
Flying Kites+Beautiful Views=Fun Family Adventure

 

A Library Adventure

Posing with Dan Wardell. The girls insisted on bringing their dolls to the library for this adventure:)
Posing with Dan Wardell after this fun program. The girls insisted on bringing their dolls to the library for this adventure:)

Our summer is off to a great start! We have been finding many adventures and have explored a few new places. Yesterday, we had an adventure in a place we’ve explored many times. Our library!

As part of the Storm Lake Public Library‘s Summer Reading Program, IPTV’s Dan Wardell entertained the kiddos with a program encouraging reading and healthy lifestyles. Now those topics may sound a little boring for young children, but I have to tell you, the program was anything but boring!

The kids were moving, they were laughing, they were interacting with their peers, and they were engaged. The grownups even had the opportunity to get involved in a new version of the ‘Hokey-Pokey.’ Shaking my imaginary tail all about wasn’t what I had planned for my morning, but I was a good sport and played along.

The girls were super excited to see the IPTV car at the library!
The girls were super excited to see the IPTV car at the library!

To get a peek at Dan’s Reading Road Trip adventures, check out his blog. You may notice a few familiar faces! A photo of my girls having fun with Dan Wardell after the program can be found here.

If Dan Wardell is planning a trip to your library, take your kids or grandkids. You will enjoy the 45 minutes of fun just as much as the kiddos. And no matter your age, check out your library this summer. You never know what adventures you’ll find in or outside a book!




The Henry Doorly Zoo: Omaha Weekend Part II

The Dessert is one of the girls' favorite spots at the zoo. Of course, I could say that about 20 or more exhibits too!
The Dessert is one of the girls’ favorite spots at the zoo. Of course, I could say that about 20 or more exhibits too!

Now that spring is feeling more like spring and we have a glimpse of summer, I have to tell you more about our trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, NE. After enjoying a day at the Joslyn Art Museum (read more here) and playing in the hotel pool, we spent the second day of our annual spring trip at the zoo. If you haven’t visited this zoo, you are missing out! The Henry Doorly Zoo tops the list of best zoos (seriously)!

We have been to this zoo more than a handful of times with our girls, and every trip is a fun-filled adventure! The zoo is clean, the animals are amazing, and it is always changing, which is why we keep coming back. The girls consistently request a trip to the zoo, and it is hard to say ‘no’!




Here is a quick list of what we love about the Henry Doorly Zoo:

We had a view of the tree tops and an entertaining monkey family at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant.
We had a view of the tree tops and an entertaining monkey family at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant. And this little one got her favorite lunch, PB&J! Can’t get much better than that!

Food. We all need food, especially when we plan a whole day of walking and admiring animals. This zoo allows you to bring in your own snacks/lunch. There are several nice picnic areas, both indoor and out, that we have taken advantage of over the years. With small children, being able to pack a lunch and snacks is a major plus. Concession stands are available throughout the zoo as well. This year, we went an even different route. Now that we don’t need a stroller (which doubled as our lunch carrier), we decided to eat at the Durham TreeTops Restaurant.

The Lied Jungle is home to this happy sloth. The animals are so fun to watch!
The Lied Jungle is home to this happy sloth. The animals are so fun to watch!

My husband got a tip from a co-worker about this neat eating option, and we are so glad we tried it! It is a cafeteria-style restaurant that overlooks the Lied Jungle. We ate a late lunch which totally worked in our favor. We got prime seating right next to the window. While we ate and rested our tired feet, we watched a baby monkey (sorry, I’m not good with animal names so I can’t remember the exact kind of monkey, but it was definitely in the monkey family) play with its parents. This was hands down the best part of our zoo experience. The baby monkey was quite mischievous! I think all four of us could have spent the entire afternoon watching that little family!

The Aquarium is a nice reprieve from both the heat and the cold. The sea life is great to watch too!
The Aquarium is a nice reprieve from both the heat and the cold. The sea life is great to watch too!

Year-round fun. Although winters in the Midwest get bitterly cold, the zoo is open year round. And we have encountered this zoo in every season! It is just as beautiful when the sun shines as when there is snow on the ground. There are so many indoor attractions that the cold is manageable. And when it is hot out, the indoor attractions (Lied Jungle, Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night, Lozier IMAX Theater, Scott Aquarium, and more) are a nice reprieve from the hot sun! Many of our favorite animals are moved indoors during the winter too. The giraffe lover in our family loves to see those majestic animals up close in the barns!

This ornery orangutan wanted all the snacks he saw humans consume!
This ornery orangutan wanted all the snacks he saw humans consume!

Our family personally likes to visit the zoo during the ‘off-season.’ During our spring trip, we didn’t have to fight droves of people in the parking lot or in the zoo, we didn’t have to worry about sun screen, and we still got to see our favorite things! The downside to going during non-summer times means we might miss a few things like the Red Barn Yard, camel rides, and the Skyfari. We’ve managed to keep so busy that we’ve barely missed those things!

These majestic animals are indoors during cooler weather. We are excited to see the African Grasslands complete with elephants!
These majestic animals are indoors during cooler weather. We are excited to see the African Grasslands complete with elephants!

Always something new. Although we’ve been to the zoo many times, we always see something new. Sure, we’ve been to the aquarium, jungle, and dessert more times that I can count, but each time different animals catch our attention. We’ve watched an orangutan beg for food, a gorilla make funny faces, and watched baby lions grow up. We have a list of animals we must see (giraffes, zebras, lions, and monkeys), but we always seem to stumble upon a new animal or two we’ve never noticed before. Recently, the zoo added elephants, which we missed seeing by mere days. Alaskan Adventure, a splash park featuring over 75 bronze sculptures is also slated to open in 2016. I guess that means we’ll have to plan another trip to Omaha soon!

These two love reading maps and helping us navigate the zoo!
These two love reading maps and helping us navigate the zoo! This photo was from a trip last fall.

After a whole day at the zoo (you’ll want several hours to explore this wonderful place), we were ready to relax and enjoy the last night away from home. The Joslyn Art Museum and the Henry Doorly Zoo were perfect places to find adventure in Omaha. There were so many other great things we would have loved to do while in the big city (Wildlife Safari Park, The Old Market area, and The Rose Theater just to name a few), but we just ran out of time. Visit this website to plan your own trip to Iowa’s next door neighbor. You never know what fun awaits on the other side of the river!

We had fun on our spring trip to Omaha!
We can’t wait to see where our next trip takes us!

Date Outside the Box

Chocolate Cake is on the menu for April 29th. Sign up now to get a slice plus a great meal! Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.
Chocolate Cake is on the menu for April 29th. Sign up now to get a slice plus a great meal! Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.

Black table cloths, mood music, artfully folded napkins, and time with my hubby. Those ingredients are the perfect recipe for a date. And last week, we had another day date (those are becoming more popular) with those exact elements. The location was a little outside the box and may come as a surprise to some of you, but I’m always up for an adventure! Our outside-the-box, Friday lunch date took place at the Storm Lake High School.

And no, we didn’t eat cafeteria food. We ate at Kreative Kitchen, a student-run restaurant found in Room 31. On Fridays from 12:00 – 12:45 PM, students serve up a menu they carefully planned and prepared. Carry-out and dine-in options are available for $6 a person. Reservations must be made by calling the school or filling out an online form here the Monday before the meal (upcoming menus are available online). There is a little planning ahead required, but I guarantee it will be a fun experience.




Some of the Creative Kitchen student chefs. Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.
Some of the Creative Kitchen student chefs. Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.

We weren’t sure what to expect with this date experience, but we kept an open mind and empty stomachs. We stopped at the school office and got directions; although we could have followed our noses! Once we found the right room, we were greeted by the students and the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher, Ms. Whitney Davis. All students had a role in making the restaurant run smoothly from taking money to pouring drinks, serving food, and washing dishes.

My hubby and I sat at work stations converted into fine dining tables and enjoyed the atmosphere. It was impressive to see the set-up. It was much different from the home-ec room at my high school! We only chatted for a bit before our choice of drinks and meal arrived. We enjoyed fried chicken, mac and cheese, and potatoes and gravy. (Sorry, no photos. I got distracted by my surroundings and hunger that I completely forgot to snap a photo!) Once our plates were cleared, we were served dessert-banana cream pie. We were able to chat a bit more and even had some time left to run a couple errands together before my hubby had to be back to work.

Tosadas: A past Kreative Kitchen meal. Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.
Tosadas: A past Kreative Kitchen meal. Photo Credit: Storm Lake High School.

We left feeling good about our Kreative Kitchen experience. It was a cheap meal. Really, where else are you going to get a home-cooked meal, drink, and dessert for $6? The atmosphere was fun and different. We knew we were in a classroom, but it was transformed to enhance our dining experience. As we walked out of the school, we got tangled in the traffic of changing classes. That transported me back in time just a bit, bringing up memories of days gone by.

The nostalgia and time with my hubby were pretty great. But, I have to say the best part was that we supported kids in our community. We go to sporting and music events and support fundraising efforts. Kreative Kitchen is just one more way to support our schools and the kids and teachers who work hard every day to make an impact in our world. The student chefs at Kreative Kitchen are learning very important skills, and who knows, one of them may just be an award winning chef someday.

So, support Kreative Kitchen. Have a day date. Bring your friends. Pick up to-go orders for your office. Kreative Kitchen prepares meals for 20-50 people each week. You could be one of them! You don’t live in Storm Lake? Support similar programs in your area. Check out what your area schools are doing and put those events on your must-do list. You never know what out-of-the box idea will lead you on a fun adventure!

These students have worked hard to plan, prepare, and serve great meals this semester. Photo Credit: Storm Lake Pilot Tribune.
These students have worked hard to plan, prepare, and serve great meals this semester. Photo Credit: Storm Lake Pilot Tribune.

The Joslyn Art Museum: Omaha Weekend Part I

The girls had never been to an art museum so were excited for our new adventure!
The girls had never been to an art museum, so were excited for our new adventure!

So, Omaha, Nebraska obviously isn’t in Iowa. And, it is far from being a small town. But because Omaha is packed full of adventures and is a super close neighbor to our great state, I just had to share our recent trip to the big city.

Each spring we take a mini trip. We pick a location and pack a three-day weekend full of family-friendly fun. These trips have become an annual event to celebrate the girls’ birthday and give us a change of scenery after a long, cold winter. We have found many fun places to explore on these trips, and our time in Omaha this year was no exception.

The Joslyn Art Museum was the first stop on our weekend away. An art museum with children, you ask? Yes! It was a great place for both children and adults to explore. There are so many activities for families at the museum. Be sure to check them out here before your next visit.




Here are our 5 favorite children’s activities the Joslyn Art Museum:

KicksART Saturday Activities

The KicksArt Saturday crafts allowed the girls to create their own frosty inspired art.
The KicksArt Saturday crafts allowed the girls to create their own frosty inspired art.

We just happened to be at the museum on a KicksART Saturday, which only occur six times per year. During these free events, hands-on activities related to one of Joslyn’s current exhibitions are provided for kids and families. Participation in KickstART Saturday events also gets the adults discounted admission to the ticketed exhibition for the day.

We viewed whimsical drawings, paintings, and prints by award winning author-illustrator William Joyce, made watercolor art inspired by one of Joyce’s books, watched an animated short film which brought a book to life, and participated in a sing-a-long. The girls enjoyed the activities, and as a book lover, I enjoyed seeing illustrations go from book to film.

Art Packs

This little one loved the Art Pack! Learning more about the ballerina statue was also super fun!
This little one loved the Art Pack! Learning more about the ballerina statue was super fun, but she sure felt special carrying that backpack around the museum.

One of the girls’ favorite parts of the museum experience was checking out an Art Pack. Stop at the Scott EdTech Gallery to pick up one of the many backpacks that encourage kids (suggested age range is 3-12) to get a closer look at a particular work of art or gallery. In exchange for your driver’s licence, your kiddos have a backpack full of information and activities to keep them learning and busy for 30-45 minutes.

My quiet little one proudly wore the backpack throughout the museum and helped us find our way to the famous Little Dancer statue. We admired the statue and then followed the directions provided in the backpack. An over-sized towel was provided to create a cozy viewing spot. A book, games, and paper for drawing their own ballerinas were all included in the pack. It was definitely a fun way to interact with the beautiful art at Joslyn.

Art Works

This little gal spent several minutes creating a masterpiece. She paid attention to every little detail and was so proud of her work.
This little gal spent several minutes creating a masterpiece. She paid attention to every little detail and was so proud of her work.

Creativity flowed at Art Works. Nine hands-on stations designed specifically for children provided endless fun and learning. The girls were able to build, create, and use their imaginations in many different ways. One girl enjoyed weaving a paper basket, while the other explored a digital painting station. We discovered that basket weaving is not on my husband’s list of talents!

Art Works allows kids to be real artists for the day. The hands on activities were great!
Art Works allows kids to be real artists for the day. The hands on activities were great!

Both girls enjoyed the drawing station where they tried their hand at drawing a still-life picture. My husband and I loved watching their creative processes in action, especially because the girls interpret art so differently. Although they were looking at the same objects, their pictures turned out so differently; not unlike real artists I suspect. If you are in Omaha with kiddos and need an afternoon indoors, Art Works at the Joslyn Art Museum is definitely worth the stop.

Café Durham

This photo does not do this piece of work justice. It was a fun conversation piece during lunch!
This photo does not do this piece of work justice. It was a fun conversation piece during lunch!

After creating, exploring, and viewing numerous works of art, we were ready to rest our legs and refuel. Thankfully, Joslyn is also the home to Café Durham. The café provides breakfast pastries, lunch, and deserts throughout the day. Brunch is available on Sundays. A nice selection of made to order salads and sandwiches as well as a kids menu were available. We enjoyed our lunch and shared dessert (one of my girls inherited her dad’s sweet tooth and just couldn’t pass up cake) and chatted about our morning. A large sculpture hanging from the ceiling near the seating area was also a topic of conversation.

Art Appreciation

Beauty at its finest! I was in awe by the craftsmanship of this piece.
Beauty at its finest! I was in awe by the size, colors, and craftsmanship of this piece.

My favorite part of our Joslyn Art Museum adventure was being surrounded by art. I loved being enveloped by beauty and was in awe during my entire visit. I’ll admit, I don’t know much about art and famous artists. I’ve never taken a formal art class, but I sure do appreciate those who have the mind and ability to create it. I loved exposing my family to all that was within the walls of the museum. And whether or not my girls end up being artists themselves one day, I hope that exploring the Joslyn will help them appreciate art and beauty around them for years to come.

And the price of our adventure? Just the cost of lunch! Admission to the Joslyn Art Museum is free. Free! Ticketed exhibitions have nominal fees; however we ran out of time to check out the current exhibit. That’s on the list for another visit. On our next trip we’ll also be sure to meander outside through Joslyn Art Museum’s Sculpture Gardens.

It was fun to see where the girls would stop and ponder art for a bit.
It was fun to see where the girls would stop and ponder art for a bit.

After over 4 hours of exploring and learning about art, we were ready to rest our feet and check into our hotel. We enjoyed more Omaha attractions before weekend’s end. More on those adventures coming soon!

So, while you are planning your next outing, don’t be afraid to include some art. Whether it is at the Joslyn or a local art gallery, get out there and let your eyes enjoy the adventure!

Celebrating Spring

Spring is here! Or is it? We had a dusting of snow last night, yet again. I think it’s safe to say we are all ready to say good-bye to winter once and for all! Last weekend’s celebration of Easter had us in the mood for warmer weather, blooming flowers, and bright and cheerful colors.

All ready to decorate eggs!
All ready to decorate eggs!

For me, Easter has always marked the start of spring no matter what the calendar (or weather) says. Theologically speaking, Easter is the beginning of new life. It is a joyful celebration of amazing things yet to come. Spring holds the same truth. New life is found in fields across the state as calves are born. Birds are singing and busily building nests. Early blooming flowers add cheer and color to the

Once the eggs dried, the girls added stickers to their special eggs.
Once the eggs dried, the girls added stickers to their special creations.

landscape. Lawns turn green and give us a glimpse of warmer days ahead. (This morning, I even overheard someone at the gym mention mowing their lawn.)

The promise of brighter days gives me the energy to celebrate the season with my girls. Our preparations for Easter started our spring celebration. One of my most favorite traditions is decorating eggs. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl, and I love it as a grown up. Somehow my girls always end up decorating most of the eggs, but I make sure I get one or two special ones. This year the dozen boiled eggs were

I managed to snag one egg to decorate! I placed masking tape shapes and letters on the egg before dipping it in the colored dye. This one says A {heart} C.
I managed to snag one egg to decorate! I placed masking tape shapes and letters on the egg before dipping it in the colored dye. This one says A {heart} C.

decorated in no time. I didn’t want our fun to end, so we added special touches to the eighteen other regular eggs sitting in the refrigerator. It is super fun to pull out multi-colored eggs to make scrambled eggs or cookies. I think we may need to color eggs again soon to add a little happiness to our baking. I don’t see why we need to save these special things just for the holidays!

We used jelly beans, colored frosting, and cut marshmallows dipped in colored sugar to decorate this guy.
We used jelly beans, colored frosting, and cut marshmallows dipped in colored sugar to decorate this guy.

To add a special touch to our Easter celebration with family, the girls and I had a little adventure in the kitchen and made a springtime bunny cake. (You can find the directions I followed here, tips on making a box cake mix yummier here, and my favorite frosting recipe here.) My girls give the absolute best compliments when we are cooking together. I was told that I am ‘the best cake baker,’ and that ‘I make the best frosting.’ I’m pretty sure

The best part of making frosting is always licking the beaters. I want a mixer with three beaters!
The best part of making frosting is always licking the beaters. I want a mixer with three beaters!

they were just buttering me up so they could lick the beaters, but those comments sure do make me feel good! And, its those special little moments that all three of us will cherish for a long time.

Spring wouldn’t be complete without flowers. We had been patiently waiting for my daffodils to bloom for a couple weeks. They had become a labor of love for one of my girls. My little outdoor girl uncovered them a handful of times after the threat of frost. She gave me daily reports on the

These add a little happiness to my dining room decor thanks to a 6 year-old!
These add a little happiness to my dining room decor thanks to a 6 year-old!

clumps of green leaves and how many ‘dils’ (blossoms) were about to open. One afternoon, after she had grown quite restless indoors, I sent her outside to check on the flowers. Seconds later, she came running breathlessly into the house asking for my special flower cutter. She proudly brought back a fistful of ‘dils’ and leaves to arrange in a vase. They now sit in the middle of our dining room table for all to admire.

Our springtime adventures have only just begun. We have seeds to plant and parks to explore. We have baby birds and animals to find. We have bikes to ride and sidewalks to decorate. We have so much to look forward to because spring is finally here. Be sure to take some time to create adventures and celebrate the beauty of spring!




Seeing Stars at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium

Our family thought it was fun to see the Native Cultures of North America artifacts and learn about the types of housing found in different regions.
Our family thought it was fun to see the Native Cultures of North America artifacts and learn about the types of housing found in different regions.

Winter is the perfect time for family adventures in small town Iowa. Although my family loves to explore nature and be outside, we have found many ways to enjoy the indoors during the cold, snowy months. We recently spent an afternoon in Cherokee, Iowa at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium, where we found an adventure around every corner.

A block away from Cherokee’s main street, the museum was easy to find. We explored the main floor of the museum for quite some time. We learned about the Native Cultures of North America (this gallery changes several times a year, so it may be different during your visit), viewed a room beautifully furnished in mid-nineteenth century style artifacts, and discovered the history of Cherokee. My girls enjoyed checking out the art on display which currently features drawings of animals (artist changes monthly).




I have always been fascinated by fossils. And to think these were found in Iowa! Amazing!
I have always been fascinated by fossils. And to think these were found in Iowa! Amazing!

The lower level of the museum was a treasure-trove of fun exhibits for children and adults alike. Fossils and artifacts told stories of early Northwest Iowa inhabitants. Not only were there neat things for us to see, there were plenty of hands-on activities for kids. We got to see a rock glow in the dark, make animal tracks while learning about native mammals and birds, and dig for fossils. Areas designed to learn about space travel and dinosaurs were also part of the lower level.

The inside of the planetarium was impressive. A fund drive is in the works to update the 50-year old projectors. It is amazing to see so many beautiful stars!
The inside of the planetarium was impressive. A fund drive is in the works to update the 50-year old projectors. It was amazing to see so many beautiful stars!

Even with an hour and a half of exploring, we weren’t able to see everything before it was time for a planetarium presentation. (These presentations typically occur at 2 PM on the last Sunday of the month or by special appointment; be sure to check their website for more details). This was a real treat. Before heading into the planetarium, we listened to a program about the constellations. This part got a tad bit long for my two five-year olds, but I found it very interesting.

This bone is as big as a 5 year old! There were so many things to explore about Archaeology, Art, Astronomy, Geology, History, Natural History, and Paleontology in one place!
This bone is as big as a 5 year old! There were so many things to explore about Archaeology, Art, Astronomy, Geology, History, Natural History, and Paleontology all in one place!

The planetarium was impressive. It was the first in the state of Iowa; amazing for a town with around 5,200 residents. In the middle of the afternoon, we were able to see the night sky without buildings or lights obstructing the view. As the lights went down, ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ filled the round, cement room. We learned how to find the constellations and special stars. My girls are still talking about the red star ‘Betelgeuse’ (it sounds like ‘Beetle Juice’). I know we’ll be looking for it in real sky sometime soon!

Our girls didn’t mind the dark and did a great job sitting through both presentations. That being said, next time I’ll probably leave them at home for the planetarium experience. The content would be perfect for older children and those not afraid of the dark (some kids in attendance weren’t so keen on being in a dark room). The planetarium (and museum) would make a great activity on a Northwest Iowa road trip with friends or even a day date (think- star gazing with a special someone).

More fossils. My favorite thing!
More fossils. My favorite thing!

We enjoyed our afternoon exploring the museum and loved seeing the stars. A summer Girls Adventure in the quaint town of Cherokee is already in the works and will surely include a stop at the Sanford Museum and Planetarium. Admission is free and the fun is endless, so be sure to add the Sanford Museum and Planetarium to your bucket list!

Going Back in Time at The Sioux City Museum

The 'El Toro-Angry Bull Sculpture' in front of the Sioux City Public Museum is part of the 11th Sculpt Siouxland exhibition which currently has 19 permanent plus 9 visiting sculptures on display in Downtown Sioux City.
The ‘El Toro-Angry Bull Sculpture’ in front of the Sioux City Public Museum is part of the Sculpt Siouxland exhibition which currently showcases over 20 sculptures in Downtown Sioux City.

Looking for a fun way to explore Northwest Iowa history? Head on over to the Sioux City Public Museum, in Sioux City, Iowa. We recently spent an afternoon in the downtown, state-of-the-art facility. The hands-on and interactive displays made learning about local and regional history a lot of fun.

Once inside the museum, we were transported back in time. Sioux City’s rich history is fascinating, and even if you don’t live in the area or aren’t a history buff, you’ll find something that catches your attention. The photos of the cattle-filled stockyards and a video of a devastating Christmas-time fire in downtown Sioux City were just a couple of my favorite exhibits. A full-size fire truck, air plane, and tipi were also impressive.




Inside the museum, you can take have a photo of you in the Iowa Corn Palace taken and emailed to you as a complementary keepsake!
Inside the museum, you can take have a photo of you taken in the Sioux City Corn Palace and emailed to you as a complementary keepsake!

There is something for people of all ages at the Sioux City Public Museum. While my husband and I enjoyed reading about the different historical moments and checking out the artifacts, the girls found entertainment in the interactive displays. They put together puzzles and pushed buttons all while learning about history.

'The Big Dig' was a perfect hands-on activity for this busy 5 year old.
‘The Big Dig’ was a perfect hands-on activity for this busy 5 year old.

The girls’ hands-down favorite exhibit was ‘The Big Dig,’ which replicates a fossil dig site. They had fun getting their hands dirty (one was covered in the sandy-rock substance) and discovering dinosaur bones. One of the girls could have stayed there all afternoon (the dirty one, of course)! She had fun pretending to be a paleontologist for the day.

This little one wasn't nearly as impressed as I was to see fossilized dinosaur eggs!
This little one wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was to see fossilized dinosaur eggs!

The museum houses many amazing permanent exhibits; more than I can share about here. You’ll have to check them out for yourself! The museum also hosts a variety of temporary exhibits spotlighting local and regional history. We enjoyed the antique and vintage fashion exhibit as well as an exhibit showcasing an impressive collection of fossils, meteorites, and much more. I’m pretty sure my inner child was channeled when we found fossilized dinosaur eggs! In person. In Iowa. How awesome is that!

These photos and the sound of auctioneers in the background, transported you back in history.
These photos and the sound of auctioneers in the background, transported you back in time.

Did I mention that the Sioux City Public Museum is completely free? Unbelievable for what we got to see and do! After nearly two hours of exploring, we checked out the gift shop and fed the donation cow before leaving. When planning your visit, be sure to check out the Sioux City Public Museum’s website here for hours, parking information, and a list of current exhibits.

Before we even made it out the door, the girls had to sample their goodies! It was a sweet ending to an afternoon of exploring Sioux City history.
Before we even made it out the door, the girls had to sample their goodies! It was a sweet ending to a fun afternoon exploring Sioux City history.

Our adventure wasn’t quite over though. You can’t explore Sioux City history without stopping at the Palmer Old Tyme Candy Shoppe. The shoppe, known for the making the Twin Bing, houses a small candy-making museum plus rows of amazing, sugary goodies. With mouths watering, we picked out a few treats to take home. I also enjoyed checking out the great selection of gourmet food items. If you are in need of an unique gift or a just a treat for yourself, you must check out the Palmer Candy Company in

It was interesting to learn how candy has been made at Palmers for nearly 140 years
It was interesting to learn how candy has been made at Palmer’s for nearly 140 years

downtown Sioux City. As their tagline says, they have been ‘Making Life Sweeter Since 1898!’

*Take a look at more photos from our Sioux City history adventure here.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad Provides Year-Round Fun

The scenery from the train was beautiful; even in the winter. I could only imagine what it would look like in lush greens and burnt oranges.
The route was definitely scenic. The area was beautiful; even in the winter. I could only imagine what it would look like in lush greens and burnt oranges. A little snow would have added a more ‘wintery’ scene for us, but we enjoyed the warmish winter day.

‘All Aboard!’ called the conductor at the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. We excitedly stood in line to board the ‘Santa Express.’ Our tickets were punched just like in Polar Express, and we eagerly climbed the stairs to find our seats. We patiently waited (as patiently as you can wait with two 5-year-olds) for the train to depart.

A week before this big adventure, we told the girls that we were giving them an early Christmas present. (We had a hard time coming up with gift ideas for them and decided a memory-making trip would be fun for all of us). We kept the details under wraps. The girls loved the element of surprise and, through guessing, discovered we were planning to stay at a hotel. They were over-the-moon excited about that. I couldn’t wait for them to find out about the rest of our trip!

We arrived plenty early to get our tickets, but that left us a little time to explore the gift shop and the train station before boarding the Santa Express.
We arrived plenty early to get our tickets, but that left us a little time to explore the gift shop and the train station before boarding the Santa Express.

The morning of our big trip had finally arrived. One little one seemed to think I was crazy when I asked her to put on Christmas jammies for the day (the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad website encouraged children to wear pajamas on the train). We gave the girls a goody bag with hotel snacks and a new Christmas movie. We all piled in the car and were ready to embark on our first ever Christmas trip. Soon, we heard a little voice ask if we were to the hotel yet. We decided now was the time to spill the beans about our destination.

Two little jaws hit the floor when they learned a train ride was in their near future! They had been asking to ride a train or plane for quite some time. It hard was to contain the excitement! The movie helped time pass as we made our way to Boone, Iowa.




It was super exciting to have Santa and the Conductor walk through the train. The girls loved getting little bells of their own from Santa.
It was super exciting to have Santa and the Conductor walk through the train. The girls loved getting little bells of their own from Santa.

Before we knew it, the train was slowly chugging down the tracks, headed to the North Pole. We enjoyed watching the landscape change. At one point, we were on a bridge high above a river that looked like a tiny stream. Many times we heard, “This is the best day ever!” At one point, a story about Santa’s Scenic Valley Ride was read to us and holiday trivia games were played. Kids were given activity books to pass time. Halfway through the ride, we arrived at our destination: The North Pole. Truth be told, I had one very disappointed kiddo when she discovered it wasn’t the ‘real’ North Pole, but soon Santa Claus boarded the train, and cookies and hot chocolate were served. It seemed a bit magical!

We nabbed seats near the front of the train car. The seats faced each other, which made it easy to interact and enjoy the ride together. Here was our view of the 'North Pole.'
We nabbed seats near the front of the train car. The seats faced each other, which made it easy to interact and enjoy the ride together. Here was our view of the ‘North Pole.’

Once Santa made it through all the train cars, the train slowly backed down the tracks, heading for the station. The sounds of Christmas carols being sung and little bells being rung filled the air. Soon, the one-hour ‘Santa Express’ excursion was over. It was a great way to kick-off our holiday season and our Christmas trip!

After checking out the train a bit more, we left Boone and made our way to Des Moines where we enjoyed the rest of our weekend. Swimming in the hotel, eating at a fun restaurant, driving through Jolly Holiday Lights (before winter flooding closed them down for the season) were the highlights of the remainder of our trip. While eating breakfast at the hotel the next morning, one of my girls stopped me and said, “Mom, can we go on a trip for our birthday? Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles can get us gifts, but you and dad can take us on a trip.” I think it is safe to say that our Christmas Adventure was a hit! It’s amazing the memories you can make in Small Town Iowa. Those memories will last so much longer than a big pile of toys under the tree!

Our entire family enjoyed our trip on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. The conductor made the girls feel extra special by posing for a photo!
Our entire family enjoyed our trip on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. The conductor made the girls feel extra special by posing for a photo!

**Although Christmas is behind us (I’m trying to catch up on sharing our adventures), and the Santa Express is done for the year, there are plenty of other opportunities to take a ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad. Check out the 2016 Schedule here. You are sure to find an adventure, or even a date night (there is a special Valentines Dinner Train), on one of the nostalgic trains! While you are there, check out the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum to learn more about railroad history.

**Click here to view more photos from this Small Town Iowa Adventure.