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!

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!