A Tale of Two Rivers: Part 1

This little gal loved the Mighty Mississippi! She kept asking if she could dip her toes in the water!

Our summer flew by! It was packed with swimming lessons, soccer camp, more swimming, and many fun adventures. Instead of a big summer vacation, we opted for several little trips. Two of those trips inspired this two-post series: “The Tale of Two Rivers.”

We literally traveled from one side of Iowa to the other this summer (and many places in between)! In mid-June we had the pleasure of attending a beautiful wedding in Dubuque, IA.  We packed our weekend full of wedding festivities and exploration near the Mississippi River.

While the river was the focal point of our trip to Dubuque, the area was full of many fun things to see and do. In fact, my to-do list was longer than the time we had! Here are the highlights of our weekend away:

Mississippi River Walk:

I seriously couldn’t get enough of the beautiful views! The river at night was breathtakingly beautiful-no photos do it justice!

We arrived in Dubuque close to the girls’ bedtime, but after being in the car for several hours, we needed to stretch our legs. (The girls were so excited to stay in a hotel that there wasn’t going to be much sleeping anyway!) Directly behind our hotel, Grand Harbor Resort, was a paved walking path near the river. We took a leisurely stroll as the sun set and enjoyed the picturesque views of the Mississippi River. We were all in awe.

There is something majestic about a large body of water. The sights, the sounds, the smells; it all tells a story. While the uses of the river have changed over the years, the beauty still remains. Imagine being some of the first Iowans living along these banks. The river was a major source of transportation and commerce. While some of that remains today, only the Mississippi can recall the stories of its glory days.

Shot Tower has amazing architecture. It is worth the trip off the beaten path!

The River Walk was a great place to spend the evening. Along the way, we stumbled across an interesting looking building slightly off the beaten path. With the urging of the girls, we got took a closer look and learned that the tapered square-cut masonry building was Shot Tower. Built in 1856, the square cut masonry structure was once used to manufacture gun shot. It has been empty for decades but is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Although you can’t see inside, the history and shape of this building make it worth seeing!

Historic Homes & Buildings:

Shot Tower wasn’t the only interesting building we found. Dubuque is Iowa’s oldest city with a rich history. Take a drive through the city’s historic districts, and you’ll get a glimpse of what the city looked like in it’s early days. The well-preserved homes and buildings are beautiful. We took a little time to enjoy the ‘eye candy.’ From the backseat we heard many ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘wow’s along the way. The girls were just as impressed as I was.

Community leaders have worked hard over the last twenty-plus years to revitalize the city, and it shows. Dubuque offers so much to both residents and visitors. From historical sites, colleges, museums, beautiful parks, and the Mississippi River, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Grand Harbor Resort Water Park:

That big red bucket filled dumped on unsuspecting (or willing) water park goers every 8 minutes!

Grand Harbor Resort is home to a super fun water park. We all enjoyed spending a morning there! My favorite parts were the lazy river and the hot tub (have I told you I’m not a water person?). The girls loved the smaller water slides and climbing on the Huck Finn II Treehouse. Every 8 minutes, 350 gallons of water dumped from the top of the treehouse for a ‘four-story splash.’ By the time we were ready to leave, one kiddo would dash over to the dumping zone to be drenched while the other stood just far enough away to get her toes wet. I think she takes after me!

Cherry Lanes at Diamond Jo Casino:

These two enjoyed their first time bowling!

After enjoying a beautiful wedding ceremony and reception over the river the girls were getting restless. We needed a change of scenery and decided to go bowling at Cherry Lanes in Diamond Jo Casino across the street from our hotel/reception center. We had a blast! We all bowled horribly, but we laughed so much. I think next time I need the bumpers like the kiddos!

*If you take little ones there be sure to ask for children’s bowling balls; they have them! We learned this at the start of our 10th frame. Our poor girls got in a major arm workout!

Fenelon Place Elevator:

Another spot listed on the National Register of Historic Places was the Fenelon Place Elevator. Its claim to fame is being the ‘World’s shortest, steepest scenic railway.’ Your ride includes views of historic Dubuque, the Mississippi River, and three states. Unfortunately, we arrived at the elevator only to discover that it was closed for maintenance. We had two very disappointed kiddos and one sad mama! It just means we’ll be making another trip to Dubuque someday to go for a ride! And although we weren’t able to ride the elevator, I can only imagine the incredible views, so it made my list!

Eagle Point Park:

Checking out the lock and dam from Eagle Point Park.

Since Fenelon Place Elevator was closed we needed a quick plan B. We followed signs to Eagle Point Park to see what adventures we could find. It proved to be a really neat stop. We drove through the park and admired many beautiful shelter houses, perfect for picnics and parties. At one point, we parked the car to enjoy the beautiful day and the view. Eagle Point Park provided a splendid overlook of the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam #11. We could see Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin from our vantage point.

Learning how a Lock and Dam works.

After our drive through the park commenced, we drove down by the lock and dam to get a closer look. I’ve been to several lock and dam sites in my lifetime and am always amazed at how the system works. While some of it was over their heads, it was a great learning experience for the girls too.

National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium:

We got to touch these guys!

We ended our tour of Dubuque at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. The riverside museum campus is full of both indoor and outdoor exhibits which celebrate the culture and history of America’s rivers. We spent several hours admiring river animals and fish, learning about early river commerce and travel, and touring a steam-powered dredge built in 1934.

The girls were able to sit in a boat carved from a log. Can you imagine this being your mode of transportation?

The museum isn’t just for kids either. There is something for everyone! Get ready to get your hands dirty (or wet). We were able to touch stingrays, sturgeons, and crayfish, and make wood shavings in a blacksmith shop. A 4D theater, gift shops, and a cafe with a view of the river are all conveniently located on the museum’s large campus. If you have a few hours to spare while in Dubuque, be sure to stop at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. You won’t be disappointed.

I’d say we did pretty good hitting the highlights of this beautiful area! I can’t wait to head that direction again and explore even more of the majestic Mississippi River. But as the title of this post eludes, the Mississippi wasn’t the only river we enjoyed this summer. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our river adventures!

*See more photos from our Mississippi River adventures here.

Finding Treasure

No summer is complete without finding treasure of some kind or another. My girls are collectors, so many summer days are spent hunting for treasures to add to their growing collections.

The shoreline of Storm Lake is a great place to find treasure!

One of our most favorite treasures to hunt for is ‘sea glass.’ These little gems (old, broken bottles and pieces of glass that have become worn down from waves and sand) are quite delightful. We comb the shores of Storm Lake for sea glass, chat, and take in the warm sun (and if we are lucky, cool summer breezes). We excitedly show each other what we find. Most of the time, the pieces are white or brown. On a great day, we’ll find the rainbow: Blue, green, and even purple little gems that have washed ashore. Our hunting grounds are top secret. Did you really think I’d give those away? I can assure you, once you find your first piece of sea glass, you’ll be back for more!

Drift wood and sea glass; two of our favorite treasures to collect!

Sea glass isn’t the only thing we find along the rocky shores of the big lake. One of my girls recently started a drift wood collection (only pieces small enough to fit in a jar are allowed in my house). We’ve picked up smooth and pretty rocks too. I’ve even found a fun way to incorporate jars of sea glass, drift wood, and lake stones into my decor as year-round reminders of our summer adventures. Not all treasures are carried home though. The fish bones, large pieces of drift wood, clam shells, bugs, animal footprints, and feathers are all fun to look at and talk about but are left for the next person to discover!

Driftwood, pine cones, feathers, and rocks are our beach toys when we are on treasure hunts!

The University Cove Beach near Scout Park in Storm Lake is a treasure trove. We find plenty of drift wood (and an occasional a piece of sea glass), get our feet wet, and play in the sand all in one adventure. I never seem to plan ahead and bring beach toys, so we’ve found creative ways to play in the sand. Sticks make great writing tools, and found objects are perfect for making pictures in the sand. The possibilities are endless, especially when surrounded by young, creative minds!

Hats are perfect for carrying home treasures when mom forgets buckets!

At the end of an afternoon of treasure hunting, we’ll head home with pockets stuffed full of fun finds. One of these days I’ll remember to bring along a bucket or two, but until then, I’ll stick with the spontaneous fun we have adding to our collections one handful at a time.

Sea Glass! I have to admit, I love collecting these little gems too!

It’s your turn to find treasures! If you don’t have a lake, don’t worry. Treasures of all kinds are just waiting to be found. All you have to do is open your eyes, and explore the world around you. You never know what you may find!

Picnics with Pocahontas

Pocahontas welcomes visitors along Hwy 3. The tee-pee is the perfect picnic spot. Do be careful when trying to capture these photos though-it did require me to run across a busy highway!

Summer vacation is here, and I’ve had several requests from readers for adventure ideas. So, to kick of your summer adventure list, I have to share our favorite picnic spot. Nothing says summer fun like a picnic lunch! This picnic spot has fun things to explore, a great view, and is a little bit different than the traditional picnic spot you may be imagining. For the last two summers, the girls and I have made a point to picnic with Pocahontas. Yes, you read that correctly. We love to eat lunch with Pocahontas-the Native American woman noted for saving John Smith’s life in early colonial history and depicted in a famous Disney movie from the 90’s.

This mural in Downtown Pocahontas, IA was captivating!

Right off Highway 3 on the edge Pocahontas, IA stands a 25 foot tall Pocahontas. She greets those entering the ‘Princess City’ and waves farewell to those headed East. If that isn’t impressive enough, next to Pocahontas is a towering, metal tee-pee. And inside that tee-pee is where the girls and I have enjoyed several picnic lunches. The tee-pee provides protection from the elements and a great view of Pocahontas herself!

The city and citizens of Pocahontas have worked hard to make this area inviting to all those living or visiting the town of 1,700. In the last few years, not only has the tee-pee been built, but a log cabin and beautiful murals have spruced up the road-side stop. A hidden totem pole adds to the tee-pee dining experience. If eating in a tee-pee isn’t your thing, a nearby picnic table still provides a great view of the city namesake.

The Pocahontas County Courthouse has a beautiful lawn! The Veteran’s Memorial is also worth the stop. We found the names of both of my husband’s grandfathers there!

If you are able, I highly recommend taking a morning or afternoon (or both) to enjoy this quaint town. The girls and I have had fun exploring downtown Pocahontas. There are a cute shops to browse, a beautiful courthouse lawn, and a Pocahontas mural to enjoy. Make sure you have an hour or so to spend at the Kaleidoscope Factory.  Leonard Olson has a one-of-a-kind personality and store. The girls and I were amazed as we watched him turn a block of wood into a beautiful kaleidoscope. Read more about our kaleidoscope adventure here.

The girls loved playing at Elbert Park! This tunnel and the bridge were the park highlights.

If you want to spend some time outdoors or have kiddos in tow, Elbert Park is a great place to explore. Along with playground equipment, near the park you’ll find baseball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a campground, and a super fun-looking swimming pool. The girls and I found a cute bridge that connects the ball fields to the park and had fun watching little fish swim below us.

The ‘Princess City’ has a lot to offer visitors! So, find a warm sunny day, and plan a picnic with Pocahontas. I’m certain you’ll enjoy the adventure!

Springtime Adventures in Nemaha, Iowa

A ‘Mighty’ Small Town, indeed!

How many times have you driven past or through a tiny Iowa town without stopping? If you are like me, you can’t even count that high! I am trying to break that cycle, though, and be more purposeful about checking out the nooks and crannies of this beautiful state. Earlier this spring, the girls and I left our home for an adventure in Nemaha, Iowa.

Nemaha is a teeny-tiny Northwest Iowa town located in Sac County. It is 11 miles from Storm Lake (where I live). Eleven miles! And I had never been there, or even driven through it for that matter. In the last fifteen years, I have driven by a sign that read, ‘Nemaha 3 Miles’ hundreds of times. But I had never driven off the beaten path. In my defense, I’ve never had a reason to go there. I’ve never been invited, and the town hasn’t been on my direct route to anywhere.

The girls are ready to hunt for eggs! You can’t see them in the photo, but hundreds of eggs were hidden on this field and surrounding area!

But there we were, in Nemaha on a warm and sunny spring day. This time we had been invited. I had gotten a tip about an annual Easter Egg hunt held at the baseball field (the field and nearby shelter house were very easy to find). Since my girls had never taken part in an organized Easter Egg hunt (other than those at a grandma’s house), we turned it into an adventure.

The Easter Egg hunt was well-organized by the Nemaha 4-H Club and was fun for the little ones. Each kiddo found enough candy and prizes to keep them busy and parents were happy their kids had a chance to run off some energy. The cinnamon rolls and doughnut holes served after the hunt were a big hit! Be sure to put this event on your list for next spring!

My girls loved the bridge at the playground and pretended I was the alligator in the swamp. Aren’t they nice?!

After the Easter Egg hunt, we drove around Nemaha. It is a quaint, farming community. The girls were most excited to see a park. The city park is nestled beside a cute, 130-year old Methodist Church. The park had a gazebo perfect for a picnic plus a fair amount of play equipment. There was plenty of shade and protection from the wind that blew that day.

We explored the park and discovered a cute little tree with a hole at the bottom. The girls decided it was the perfect place to build a fairy house. They started to collect sticks when I looked down and saw a SNAKE! It slithered ever-so-slowly over the pink tennis shoes my daughter was wearing into the hole in the tree. I screamed. We all ran. In different directions. Once my heart beat slowed to a more normal rhythm, I rescued my girls from the top of a slide. Watching our feet as we quickly made our way to the car, we decided to forego a picnic and opted to eat indoors.

We thought this would be the perfect fairy house. Little did we know that something else already called it home!

As I drove away, my adventurous girl exclaimed, “Man, I should have touched the snake!” The three of us giggled as we retold the horror and humor of our time at the park. We sure made memories on our springtime adventure in Nemaha! I’m fairly certain all 85 residents knew of our presence too. Shrieks of “SNAKE” and fits of nervous laughter were surely heard across the ‘Mighty’ Small Town that day!

The next time you are about to drive by a small Iowa town, stop for a bit and explore. Or better yet, plan an adventure to one of those places and stay awhile. The memories you make just might last a lifetime!

Fairy Garden Fun

I just love succulents! This selection was found at Prairie Pedlar last summer. So beautiful!

I’ve been looking back at past posts and dreaming of summer adventures! After running across our adventure at Prairie Pedlar last summer, I just had to share more fairy garden fun!

Warm and sunny days are in our future, making this a great time to create a fairy garden. And although this warmer weather makes us want to play in the dirt, fairy gardens can be made anytime. In fact, one of my most favorite fairy gardens was made in the dead of winter last year when my girls and I were longing for warmer days ahead! Many of the plants used in these magical gardens grow indoors and can be purchased year-round. Artificial plants can even be used for easier maintenance (I have several of these, so no judging here). No matter your preference, these little fairylands add a little pop of sunshine year-long!

Getting the soil ready for the fairy gardens.

Our fairy garden fun began almost two years ago when a dear friend invited a few gals and our children over for a morning of garden exploring. She sent us all home with cuttings from her ever-growing succulent collection. Care instructions were easy. Leave the the plants outside or bring them indoors. Give them sunlight. Make sure they get watered, but not too much. Best of all, they are hardy and can live in dry conditions. Perfect for the non-green thumb that I am!

Planting the baby succulent plants.

I knew right away that these baby plants would be the beginnings of a fun project for the girls and me. We gathered supplies for a fairy garden: Container (I used plastic pot saucers), soil, moss (found at Hobby Lobby), and an assortment of found items (pebbles, sticks, shells, glass beads). Last but not least, we needed little fairies!

I’m happy to report that after almost two years, the gardens are still growing strong!

We got to work, and in no time each girl had a beautiful fairy garden. They carefully arranged and re-arranged the items in their gardens. They used their imaginations as they built a magical place for their fairies to live. Small pebbles, shreds of tissue paper, small twigs, and tiny bits of white clay were used to make fire rings and marshmallow roasting sticks. Once they were finished, we found homes for the gardens in our sun porch. We opted to keep them inside as we have very naughty squirrels in our neighborhood!

I love my ‘grown up’ fairy garden! The colors and whimsy are much needed on dreary days!

After seeing how much fun the girls had making their own fairy gardens, I decided I needed my own grownup version. So last last winter on a snow day, the girls and I got busy again. This time I started with a hand-blown glass lantern as my container. I chose all artificial plants and flowers and used sand as a base instead of dirt. Although I had purchased a fairy and a few other accessories at a craft store, I found a couple objects around the house to add whimsy to my garden such as a thimble and small plastic eggs. Let your imagination be your guide when creating a fairy wonderland!

The girls’ small hands were perfect for moving the tiny objects around in the lantern. While designing our little garden, I sent one of my girls outside to forage for sticks. She happily obliged and was able to add her own personal touch to our jar of happiness.

This little one likes to add treasures to her fairy garden. It now includes acorns, feathers, sea glass, and many rocks found on our walks!

There’s just something fun about fairy gardens. Maybe its the idea of magical fairies coming to life. Maybe its all the tiny little treasures artfully arranged. Or, maybe its the bright colors that remind us of sunshine. Whatever it is, our fairy gardens bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart every time I see them.

If you get a chance, create one of these magical fairylands for yourself. Put one in a pot, design one under a tree, or put one in a glass lantern. Use a gnome instead of a fairy. You are only limited by your imagination. One thing is for sure, you are bound to have some fairy garden fun!

Adventure in Valentine’s Day Decor

I love Valentine’s Day and the hearts and bright colors it brings to my decor! The old window frame and pitcher are staples on my mantel. I like to swap out the rest for each season.

I equate me trying to craft to a mother of toddlers trying to use the bathroom alone or sneaking chocolate. The exact moment I get started, I am no longer alone. I am caught. Don’t get me wrong; I love my little crafting companions, and most days I enjoy creating with them. But, there are moments I just want to be left alone with my creative processes.

The day I recently decided to embark on a solo Valentine crafting adventure was no exception. The girls were playing so nicely with each other. One with her Legos and the other right next to her sis with a city of cars. I could hear them happily chattering away as they played. So, I jumped at the opportunity to play around with craft supplies.

This little set up makes my heart happy! I love swapping out different colors for different seasons. The tray is so versatile and can be found here.

But wouldn’t you know, as soon as my supplies were all laid out, and I was about to get started, I heard a sweet little voice say, “‘Can I help you, Mommy?” What happened to my quietly playing children from just one minute ago? How could they have possibly heard me? I’m convinced that children have some sort of ‘Mom is alone and doing something fun without me’ radar. Soon, another little gal was in the doorway stating that she would like to do a project too.

Well, what was I to do? Put the supplies away? Tell the girls to go back to playing? I knew neither of those things would make all of us happy, so I chose option number three: Have a Valentine’s Day Decor Adventure!

More punches of red for Valentine’s Day.

My craft for the day was to make a Valentine’s Day banner to hang on my mantel. With some quick thinking, a search on Pinterest, and use of my stash of well-intentioned craft supplies (who else has one of these stashes?), the girls’ craft was to make a coordinating framed piece of artwork. These projects turned out to be pretty simple, inexpensive, and adorable. Feel free to use them as inspiration as you prepare for Valentine’s Day (my most favorite holiday of the year-not kidding).

Valentine’s Day Banner Supplies:

  • Old book (I picked one up at a thrift store for $1)
  • Cutting mat of some sort
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Red paint
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Large black sharpie
  • Heart-shaped paper doily or other decoration
  • Glue (glue stick, school glue, or decopage)
  • Twine
  • Small clothes pins or hole punch

Banner Directions:

  1. Remove desired amount of book pages and trim edges so all pages are the same size. I used 8 book pages for this project. (My fabric cutter and mat worked much better than my paper cutter to trim edges.)

    Supplies for the banner ready to go! The blades on my paper cutter are dull and ripped the book pages, so I opted for my fabric cutting mat in a pinch.
  2. Find the middle of each book page and measure 1.75 inches up from the bottom. Mark that spot with a pencil, and use a ruler as a straight edge to make a diagonal line from that spot to each bottom corner. Cut along those lines and discard the triangle piece of paper.
  3. Put a little blob (technical term) of red paint on a paper plate or other container. Add a small amount of water to dilute the paint.
  4. Using a scrunched up paper towel, dab the diluted paint around the edges of each book page. Allow to dry.

    A paper towel serves as a great tool for dabbing diluted paint around the book page edges.
  5. Use a black sharpie to write your desired message on the book pages. I used ‘Be Mine.’ (I had planned to use paint and stencils, but due to extra help and executing two different projects at once, I opted for a simpler technique).
  6. Glue a heart-shaped paper doily (or other decoration) on one book page.
  7. Once dry, hang on twine with small clothes pins. Another option would be to punch two holes in the top of each book page and string onto the twine before hanging.
  8. Hang up the banner, and enjoy the festive DIY project you accomplished!

    The finished banner!

Framed Valentine’s Day Artwork Supplies:

  • Old book pages
  • Wood picture frames
  • White or off-white paint (mine was a small bottle of ‘antique white’ from Walmart’s craft section)
  • Paint brushes and/or sponges
  • Cutting mat  or ruler and scissors
  • Red paint (or other Valentine-y colors)
  • Random scraps of paper, ribbon, burlap (or whatever else inspires you)
  • Glue

Framed Art Directions:

  1. Disassemble the frame: Set aside the glass and cardboard backing. Place the wood frame on a painting surface.
  2. Paint the frame with a thin coat of white paint and let dry. I like to use a sponge brush for this step. You will need 2-3 coats of paint. Let dry between each coat.

    The girls hard at work painting the frames.
  3. While paint is drying, cut a book page to fit inside the frame.
  4. Decorate the book page using paint, glue, and random scraps. (We looked at Pinterest for inspiration, but the girls really used their imaginations at this point).

    This little lady traced a heart stencil on her book page and then used a round paint sponge and red paint to fill in the heart.
  5. When the decorated pages and frames are completely dry, reassemble the frames and insert the decorated book page.

    The finished pieces are pretty darn cute! The sky is the limit with this project. I see shamrock and Easter egg decorated pages in our future!
  6. Be sure to write a name and date on the back of the frames just in case  your children become famous artists (or if your memory fades and you can’t remember who made what).
  7. Find a spot to display the unique piece of art, and admire the handiwork of your child (or yourself)!

    The girls were pretty proud of their projects!

While it took extra time (and a TON of patience on my part) to complete these projects, the girls and I had fun creating together. We found homes for their masterpieces (and mine). The fruits of our adventure add a little something special to our Valentine’s decor. My girls love decorating our house (they are little Joanna Gaines wannabes). They thoughtfully found places for all our Valentines decor, and while some things aren’t quite where I would put them, I think I’ll leave them be. All too soon I’ll be doing these things on my own again.

This framed piece of art has a home on my end table. An old book and a bird finish off the look.

So, enjoy creating something unique this Valentine’s Day. It may mean you have extra help and a bigger mess, but seeing your kiddo’s artwork (even if it is scribbles on paper) around your home will warm your heart. It is an adventure worth taking!

Happy Decorating Adventures, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

That Night

These two anxiously waited for the snow to start falling. A few hours later our yard transformed into a winter wonderland.

It was after 7 PM. Most nights at that time I am trying to herd kids into the shower, finding outfits for the next day, throwing in one more load of laundry, or cleaning the kitchen while the girls beg for just one more minute of play time. Let’s be honest, I’m usually doing all of those things at once while thinking of tomorrow’s adventures and to-do list. By 7 PM, I’m ready to wind down and have a bit of quiet after a busy day. But not that night. That night I found myself peering out the window watching my neighbor shovel snow off his sidewalk and then mine (we have pretty awesome neighbors).

The snow was piling up. It was falling from the sky with vigor. I was content inside my warm and cozy home. But then something changed. As I watched my neighbor clear not only my sidewalk but my front steps too, a crazy idea popped into my head.

This little gal took her job seriously but had so much fun!

“Who wants to go outside?” I hollered at my family. Forget winding down and quiet; I was suddenly in the mood for a snowy night-time adventure! Immediately, one kiddo-who was in mid-squabble with her sister over how to play checkers-perked up and ran to find her snow gear. Before I could put on a single boot she was out the door to find shovels. We worked at clearing snow from our deck-my spunky gal singing and chatting non-stop while she worked.

Soon the rest of the family joined us. Shovels in hand, we all worked at moving the wet, heavy, perfect-for-a-snowman snow off the driveway. The man in our group decided a shovel wasn’t quite doing the job, so he revved up the snowblower. In no time, our long driveway was free of snow-for the moment anyway.

The girls did not want the snow blower on the driveway because they wanted to do the scooping. Their sadness turned to giggles as the big machine tossed snow near them.

For some reason, it didn’t seem very cold outside. Sure we were bundled, and I was wearing an amazing pair of leather glittens I was gifted for Christmas (look these up, you need them), I think we were all warmed by the spontaneous fun we had in the glow of street lights. The girls and I giggled as we threw shovels full of snow at each other. A playful snow ball fight ensued, where magically no one cried when they got hit in the face by the icy flying snow.

We all enjoyed a warm treat after the cold.

Promises of more snow the following day and cups of hot chocolate lured the girls inside for the night. It was well past bedtime when the last drops of hot chocolate warmed our insides. We all collapsed together in the living room for snuggles and a re-run of Full House before the girls went to bed. Showers were forgotten, dishes were left on the counter, and I hadn’t even begun to think about the to-do list for the day ahead. Those things could wait. It was that night. The night we will talk about in years to come each time it begins to snow. It was that night when the busyness of life was pushed aside for an impromptu giggly, snowy night-time adventure.

This little gal loved pounding me with snowballs-and I had to toss a few right back! Her laugh was contagious!

So, here’s your challenge: Just this once, put aside your phone, the dishes, or whatever it may be that is keeping you busy, and find a spontaneous adventure! Whether you bundle up and build a snowman for the first time in years, crank up the music and dance your heart out, or you grab supplies for a spur-of-the-moment ice cream sundae party, make tonight (or tomorrow night) that night. You’ll be happy you did.

A Lesson in History in Odebolt, Iowa

We had fun exploring the Iowa Rural Schools Museum and the Peterson Pioneer Home in Odebolt, Iowa.
We had fun exploring the Iowa Rural Schools Museum and the Peterson Pioneer Home in Odebolt, Iowa.

After a morning exploring and learning about gardening at Prairie Pedlar (read about it here), the girls and I decided to head to Odebolt, Iowa for another Girls Adventure.

I wasn’t sure what we’d find, but my motto is, “You can find adventure anywhere with a little imagination.” Lucky for us, we didn’t have to try too hard to find an adventure in this small town. We just happened to be in town while the Iowa Rural Schools Museum was open.

We walked into the school house and stepped back in time. The curator was very friendly and gave us a personal tour of the building. She did an exceptional job engaging the girls and helping them learn along with me. It was evident that she has a passion for school houses. Not only has she researched and written a book about them, but the school house we were standing in was the very one she attended as a child.

The girls thought it was a treat to play the pump organ! They loved the hands-on learning they were able to do.
The girls thought it was a treat to play the pump organ! They loved the hands-on learning they were able to do.

The girls sat at desks, wrote the alphabet on slates, practiced playing the organ, read the children’s books, and looked at toys used by children long ago. I imagined what it would be like to have children of all ages in one classroom. Those teachers were amazing!

The building was full of amazing artifacts. There were books of all kinds, writing tools (so glad we have moved beyond ink pots and feathers), a working pump organ, and so many more beautifully restored toys and school related items. We learned so much about life and school in the earlier years.

These two love being students no matter where they go!
These two love being students no matter where they go!

Do you know how to tell if a school house was built in the 1800’s or 1900’s? How about, why was the organ taught to children rather than piano? The answers are quite interesting. Stop by the school house for a tour and you’ll discover the answers for yourself!

Next to the school house was the Peterson Pioneer Home. We enjoyed the tour of that as well. How life has changed in the last century! There are days when being mom is a challenge. Then I imagined life as a mom in the pioneer house-yikes! No electricity, and laundry and dishes were done manually; after heating water. And the steep steps upstairs-wow! I sure hope no one needed the outhouse after they were in bed. And don’t even get me started about an outhouse! I must say I am fascinated by history and how people once lived, but I am very happy to live with modern day conveniences!

This kitchen was so tiny! It was missing a sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator!
This kitchen was so tiny! It was missing a sink, dishwasher, and refrigerator!

The curator at the museum also recommended that we head across the street to check out First State Bank, famous for its role in the movie Peacock in 2010. I’ve heard it is worth the peek and would have loved to take a look, but my kids were melting, and fast. My mom-radar told me that in about point five seconds we were going to have an epic meltdown, so the bank went on the list for our next trip to Odebolt.

Inside and out, the Iowa Rural Schools Museum was beautiful and well-kept.
Inside and out, the Iowa Rural Schools Museum was beautiful and well-kept.

The next time you are in the area, you need to stop in Odebolt to check out the school museum and pioneer house. The Rural Schools Museum hours are Wednesdays from 10-4 and Saturdays and Sundays from 2-4 Memorial Day – October. The Peterson Pioneer Home is open Sundays from 2-4 Memorial Day – October.  Both are open by appointment and for special events.

You never know what adventure you’ll find in small town Iowa. I’m glad we had a chance to explore Odebolt. A little lesson in history was a great way to spend our day!

Picture Perfect Day at Prairie Pedlar

I just love hollyhocks! These were just one of the beautiful flowers showcased at Prairie Pedlar.
I just love hollyhocks! These were just one of the beautiful flowers showcased at Prairie Pedlar.

Summer was full of activities for the girls. And although our ‘summer vacation’ is officially over, it is fun to reminisce about all we accomplished! We completed swim lessons, library programs, free movies, and soccer camp. We played at many parks, rode bikes, had picnics, and spent a few lazy afternoons inside. And, this summer the girls did something new that they haven’t stopped talking about. They were a part of the Caterpillar Club at Prairie Pedlar Gardens near Odebolt, Iowa.

The Caterpillar Club aimed at helping kiddos learn about gardening in fun and interactive ways. The group met twice this summer (my girls were only able to make it to one session), and was led by Jane Hogue. I have to tell you, Jane is passionate about gardening and does such an amazing job getting kids excited about gardening too. Even the reminder email was full of gardening excitement!

These fairy gardens turned out super cute! The girls have enjoyed watching them grow this summer.
These fairy gardens turned out super cute! The girls have enjoyed watching them grow this summer.

Clad in garden gloves and tennis shoes, my girls excitedly joined the group at the old school house on the grounds for a lesson before exploring. They learned about weeding and caring for plants and even had the opportunity to pull weeds, which they told me they had fun doing (sounds like a new job for them at home)! They made little dolls from hollyhock blooms, had a snack, and learned more about plants. Before the morning was over, they designed their own fairy gardens, complete with a ‘fairy rock’ (a magical rock with a hole all the way through where it said you may just catch a glimpse of a fairy)!

I enjoyed meandering through the gardens. The colors and special touches, like the birdhouses, were fun to see.
I enjoyed meandering through the gardens. The colors and special touches, like these birdhouses, were fun to see.

After leaving the girls at the school house, I realized I had two and a half hours of time to myself! It was a freeing and very strange feeling-you know what I mean if you’ve ever been around young kiddos! I decided to do a little garden exploring myself.

Although I do not have a green thumb, I enjoyed looking at the different plants and getting ideas. I especially loved the fun way the succulents were potted.
Although I do not have a green thumb, I enjoyed looking at the different plants and getting ideas. I especially loved the fun way the succulents were displayed.

If you haven’t been to Prairie Pedlar, you need to plan a trip. The gardens are absolutely amazing! I wondered through the beautiful gardens and enjoyed the uninterrupted warmth of the sun. Even non-gardeners like myself will enjoy the serene landscape in the middle of the countryside. I marveled at tadpoles in a pond and admired brightly colored bird houses (I so badly want to replicate those in my garden at home). I peeked at the plants in the greenhouse for a bit before I took refuge in the shade. A quaint bench under a tree was the perfect spot for relaxing with a good book. The gardens and corn fields were the perfect backdrop. I can see why more than twenty weddings were booked at Prairie Pedlar this year!

The quiet little spot I found to read just happened to be under a wishing tree. Isnt this fun?!
The quiet little spot I found to read just happened to be under a wishing tree. Isn’t this fun?!

All too soon, it was time to reunite with my girls. I found them twirling around on a tree swing and picking mulberries (or should I say eating mulberries)! The girls and I stayed on the grounds a little longer and enjoyed a picnic lunch on the grounds (I planned ahead). Before we left, the girls hunted for ‘fairy rocks’ in the gravel driveway with the Hogue’s 6-year old granddaughter.

Many fun statues like this one were hiding in the plants.
Many fun statues like this one were hiding in the flowers.

We had a picture perfect morning at Prairie Pedlar. My girls are already asking when they can go to ‘Gardening Class’ again. I must say I am looking forward to it too! Prairie Pedlar offers many different classes and opportunities for people of all ages throughout the season. And if classes aren’t your thing, be sure to stop and explore. An adventure awaits at Prairie Pedlar.

*Check out more photos from our picture perfect day at Prairie Pedlar here.

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!