An Adventure of a Different Kind: The First Day of Kindergarten

Hello! My blog posts have been fewer these days, and for good reason. I enjoyed the last weeks of my summer and made sure the girls and I had as much fun as possible before school started. We played, we created, we explored, we relaxed, but best of all, we made many fun memories. I am super behind on posting about our fun adventures though and hope to get back into a routine very soon. We found so many fun things I can’t wait to share with you!

First Day of School Family Photo
Look how grown up these two are! They were so excited for Kindergarten to start!

My girls started a countdown until the first day Kindergarten early on in the summer. They got more excited as the day got closer. We started our preparations by having our very first Girls School Shopping Adventure! The girls routinely go to the grocery store and run errands with me, but we had never had a full day of shopping together. The three of us were pretty excited!

The shopping trip took us to Sioux City, Iowa. With school supply list in hand, we began our great shopping adventure in Target. An hour later, our cart was piled high with 4 boxes of crayons, 6 bottles of glue, 24 pencils, 2 boxes of Kleenex, and all the other things Kindergartners need these days. I imagine there will be a lot of learning and plenty of germs to go along with those items this year!

Our next stop was lunch. We compromised on Panera Bread (okay, not so much a compromise but a carefully guided decision by mom). While I watched the girls from across the table, I realized that they weren’t so little anymore. And although that made me slightly sad, I was pretty darn proud of the two girls my husband and I have raised.

Shopping Fun
The girls had fun shopping and posing with all the dog statues we found-amazing how many stores have these things!

We spent four more hours shopping the day away. The girls picked out clothes for school. They had a blast trying on clothes in the dressing room and modeling in the mirror and for each other. My girls truly felt good about themselves. They were beaming with happiness while they found their own style. I took the time to just stop and watch. I hope and pray they have this confidence as they grow.

The girls found it especially fun to pick out clothes for me to try on as well. Although I didn’t come home with any new outfits (the day was for them, not me), I found it to be an eye-opening experience. One girl picked out anything with sparkles, and the other was full of compliments. They didn’t see the flaws I saw when I tried on the bikini they thought I just had to have. If only we all saw the world, others, and ourselves through the eyes of a five-year old!

Welcome Back Conferences
Ready to unload backpacks and meet teachers!

With backpacks bursting with supplies and kids full of anticipation, we attended Welcome Back Conferences at school last week. The girls met their teachers, found their lockers, and explored their classrooms. I found comfort in meeting the wonderful teachers I would be entrusting my babies to this year. The countdown was in the single digits. Kindergarten was almost here.

We spent the last weekend before school started making more memories as a family. We hung out with friends and enjoyed time at Lost Island Lake. A trip to Tropical Sno for treats began what I hope is a yearly tradition. I read the girls special poems (you can find them at the end of the post) about Kindergarten and kissed my babies goodnight.

First day of School
The girls were excited for their first day of Kindergarten!

Then, this morning, I brought my oldest (by one minute) and youngest to Kindergarten for the very first time. This was a new adventure. One I wasn’t really sure how to prepare for. This was uncharted territory. But as I watched my girls navigate through the big school and find their classrooms, I realized that this adventure will be a good one. They are ready for this (and so am I). I, along with a whole village of people, have prepared them for the world ahead. And although my role in their lives is changing, I am looking forward to adventures of a different kind!


I Love You, Baby Girl

I remember the day you were born,
And now I take you to Kindergarten in the morn.
You are becoming an amazing little lady.
I thank God for you each and every day.
I love you, Baby Girl-
My girl with big blue eyes and hair full of curl.
You are confident, brave, and don’t like to sit.
You’ve always had a free spirit.
You love to play in the dirt and jump in puddles,
But end the day with stories and cuddles.
You’ll always be my Baby Girl-
My girl with big blue eyes and hair full of curl.
You love to create, sing, and play,
And you hope to be a teacher someday.
I can’t wait to see what you do,
The world is full of possibility for you!
I’ll always be there for you, Baby Girl-
My girl with big blue eyes and hair full of curl.
I pray you always stay true to you,
And let God guide all you do.
And while in the morn I’ll be sad to see you go,
I am excited to watch you continue to grow.
I am proud of you, Baby Girl-
My girl with big blue eyes and hair full of curl.


 

Hello, Little One

Hello, Little One,
Your smile shines like the sun.
You bring laughter to my life,
Your quick wit and humor rarely lead to strife.
You are sweet, kind, and have a big heart.
In time of need, you are ready to do your part.
I love to see you play piano, dance, and sing.
I look forward to what your future will bring.
I’m proud of the little girl you’ve come to be.
Watching you grow means so much to me.
Tomorrow is the start of your Kindergarten year-
The beginning of many wonderful things, my dear.
While you are excited, nervous, and scared,
I know you’ll have stories of fun and friendships shared.
In many ways you are bound to grow.
The plans for you only God will know.
I pray this year will be great for you.
I’ll be here as you try things new.
May the road ahead be full of happiness and fun.
I love you, Little One.

A Picnic in the Clouds at Little Storm Lake Discovery Center

Observation Tower at Little Storm Lake Discovery Center
The observation tower is nestled in the trees, making it a fun place to explore!

Our Girls Adventure took us new heights when we went to Little Storm Lake Discovery Center and Boardwalk . This fun area is located on 85th Avenue in Storm Lake, Iowa near Highway 110. This hidden gem can be hard to spot, so be sure to keep your eyes out for the sign.

The area includes a short walking path, a two-story observation tower, and boardwalk into the marsh. Signs along the path and boardwalk share tidbits of information about the area. Although the area is small, it allowed for lots of fun with my two adventurers.

We first explored the area a year ago and had fun climbing to the top of the observation tower, or as my girls called it, ‘tree house.’ In the winter, the tower could be spotted from the road through the bare trees. Once it disappeared in the foliage, the girls started asking to go back. This time it was part of a long-awaited Girls Adventure.

We picked a warm, but not too hot, day for our adventure and packed a lunch for an added perk. One lucky teddy bear somehow got stowed away in our car and was along for the adventure too! The girls were excited for our hike and picnic. The hike, while very short, was lots of fun. The big trees made us feel like we were in a forest and not near a highway. We looked at the plants and trees and tried identifying a few of them (I’m afraid I’m not nearly as good at that as my mom was when I use to go for walks with her-I’m bound to get poison ivy someday).

Picnic in the Clouds
A picnic in the clouds provided us with a great view and so much to chat about!

Around the bend was our destination. The girls ran the rest of the way to the ‘tree house’ and excitedly climbed to the top. Before I could make my way to the girls, they had the blanket ready for the picnic and were checking out the area with the viewing scope at the top of the tower. It took me a little longer to get there; for some reason I ended up with our lunches and the stowaway bear!

We enjoyed our picnic in the clouds. One of my girls even said eating at the ‘tree house’ was better than eating at a restaurant! I have to say, I agree. Where else in the area can you have rooftop seating and a great view?! The birds and animals got quite a few crumbs that day too, so I’d say it was a win-win for a lot of us!

The breeze through the trees kept us cool and kept the bugs away (you’ll want to bring bug spray if it is a less windy day or if you head out there in the evening). We watched the clouds above us change formations and named the different sounds we heard. We talked about what we might see in the marsh before we made our way down the steps to check it out ourselves.

Surrounded by Cattails
We were surrounded by cattails and croaking bullfrogs on the boardwalk.

Cattails surrounded the boardwalk into the marsh. Some towered above my head, so I can only imagine what it was like for the girls to walk through the path. By the time we were to the middle of the boardwalk, it seemed like we were in a sea of cattails. We could hear an occasional bullfrog croak and watched red-winged black birds fly through the grasses.

Just as we were about to read a sign about area fish one of my girls let out a loud shriek and clung to my leg. Once I saw what she saw, I also let out a scream and quickly jumped up and down (I’m not ashamed to admit that I was not brave in this moment). Soon all of us were jumping up and down and screaming. A snake had come up through a hole in the boardwalk, looked at us, and went down another. Although we hadn’t made it to the end of the boardwalk, instinct told us to run to land. So, that’s what we did. Cattail leaves tickled our legs and arms adding to the scare factor. With hearts beating fast, we all erupted into laughter as we tried to catch our breaths once on land. I am so glad no one else was there to witness all our excitement!

Great Day!
Happy Trails! We had a great time exploring the Little Storm Lake Discovery Center and Boardwalk.

I couldn’t talk my girls into getting back on the boardwalk, so we explored an old structure someone had built from downed tree limbs before heading back to the car. My girls walked hand-in-hand down the rocky path talking about the fun we had and how mom ‘screamed like a girl’ on our Girls Adventure.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you check out the Little Storm Lake Discovery Center and Boardwalk. Snakes and all, it is such a fun place to explore. Don’t forget to bring your lunch to have your own picnic in the clouds!

Magical Moments at The Kaleidoscope Factory

Leonard Olson at The Kaleidoscope Factory
Leonard was right at home showing us how to use the lathe and make kaleidoscope parts.

The Kaleidoscope Factory in Pocahontas, Iowa needs to be on everyone’s bucket list! I first read about Leonard Olson’s unique shop in a magazine a few years ago. A friend shared about her trip to his old shop in Pomeroy, Iowa a year or so after that. Then, a few weeks ago my girls and I drove through Pocahontas on a weekend and were intrigued by the resident gnome on the building’s roof. We decided then and there that we had to come back during business hours to finally see the place for ourselves! So, last week the girls and I  found ourselves at the Kaleidoscope Factory on a Girls Adventure we won’t soon forget.

We took one step into the little shop on Main Street and knew we were in for a fun adventure. Big tools were waiting for us right inside the door, and wood shavings curled in piles on the floor. Wooden toys and hand-made kaleidoscopes lined the shelves. It was like walking into a magical workshop. There weren’t any “Do Not Touch” signs. In fact, we were given a hands-on tour of the shop by Leonard Olson himself.

Making a kaleidoscope
The girls learned how to make a kaleidoscope and even got to pick out the colored beads.

Leonard is as special as his one-of-a-kind kaleidoscopes. He loves his work, and it shows. He happily showed us around and let the girls help put together a kaleidoscope kit. Leonard explained the steps and taught us a few things along the way. For example, when you look in the mirror is the image you see larger, smaller, or the same size as your actual self? For the answer, you’ll have to visit Leonard yourself. (No cheating!! Leonard will give you a much better explanation than Google anyway!)

Once put together, the kaleidoscope was ready for our viewing pleasure. It was magic! The mirrors, PVC pipe, and beads made beautiful images. Each little movement made a different, yet beautiful image. We were in awe. There is something about a kaleidoscope that makes everyone, no matter the age, smile.

Looking at Magic
The changing images were magical!

Leonard hasn’t always been a kaleidoscope maker. He spent 30 years in the health insurance industry, mainly as a computer programmer. Ultimately, a heart attack made him switch gears. He received a kaleidoscope as a gift while recovering in the hospital and noticed how it attracted so many people. Viewing a kaleidoscope can be contagious! Making kaleidoscopes began as a self imposed therapy after his heart attack. Eventually, Leonard’s hobby became a full-time venture. He hasn’t stopped making kaleidoscopes since, and it is probably safe to say that while he is in his early 60’s, he’s not looking to retire anytime soon!

After having a lesson on putting together a kaleidoscope, Leonard let the girls hold a wood block with a hole in the middle. As they looked it over, he explained that he would turn it into an egg. We watched in amazement as he did just that with a couple tools and a lathe. There was no template or pattern; the work was done by very experienced hands. He used sandpaper and sawdust to make the egg shiny and smooth. With a dab of tung oil rubbed into the wood, it was finished. The warm wooden egg was handed over to two very excited 5 year-olds.

Leonard then showed us how to turn the wooden egg into a kaleidoscope. The girls picked out just the right color combination of glass beads (lots of pink), and watched as Leonard fit the mirrors and pieces together. Within a few minutes, the kaleidoscope was ready for viewing. Although we had already looked through one kaleidoscope today, we were in awe again as we peered through tiny hole and watched beautiful images appear and morph into more beautiful images.

Egg Kaleidoscope
The finished egg kaleidoscope! The girls found a special place in their room to showcase this beauty.

By this time, my girls were getting hungry, and our visit was about over. Leonard allowed the girls to play with the wooden toys he has for sale as I looked at more beautifully made kaleidoscopes. I couldn’t leave the little egg kaleidoscope we helped make behind, so we bought that along with a few kaleidoscope kits as reminders of our amazing Girls Adventure. If you want to check out a sampling of what is for sale at The Kaleidoscope Factory, check out the website.

With kaleidoscopes in hand and amazing memories fresh in our minds, we said good-bye to Leonard and The Kaleidoscope Factory. We continued on our Girls Adventure with a picnic and more fun in Pocahontas, Iowa (that’s a post for another day). We’ll be back though, and hopefully you will to, to witness even more magical moments and adventures at The Kaleidoscope Factory.

Adventures at the 2015 Buena Vista County Fair

Buena Vista County Fair
We had great adventures at the Buena Vista County Fair. As a side note, I loved the old door signs found throughout the fair grounds!

‘Mmm, it smells so fresh!’ announced one of my girls as the other one pulled up her nose and asked, ‘What is that bad smell?’ I giggled as we parked near the animal barns at the Buena Vista County Fair Grounds. From the start, our day was full of adventure and learning! By the end of the day, we were all a little sweaty and stinky, but none of us really seemed to care!

It was our first trip to the fair and we were there bright and early to watch the 4-H Swine Show. We enjoyed watching the 4-Hers proudly show their pigs. It was a perfect opportunity for my non-farm girls to learn a little bit about 4-H and pigs. The doughnut holes and juice provided by a local business were a plus too!

Goats at the Fair
The goats were just some of the animals the girls made friends with at the fair!

We walked around the many buildings to see the animals, 4-H exhibits, vendors, open-class exhibits, and animals again! My girls loved the animals! They learned the names of the horses and laughed at the goats. A couple of friendly 4-Hers held their rabbits and allowed the girls to pet them. That made their day!

The Open Class Building was fun to explore. I loved to see all the projects, vegetables, food, and flowers people brought to show off. The Ugly Lamp Contest entries were especially fun. I’m already scheming what my ugly lamp will look like if they have the same contest next year.

My girls enjoyed the play area in the Open Class Building designed just for them. It was a new venture this year at the fair, and according to one of the people working there, it was a popular place for many kids. Children were allowed to play, read, or color while their parents looked at the exhibits in the building. We were also lucky to be part of a special story time by Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. Other Mystery Readers read books to children during the fair.

Clover Kid Ribbons
The girls were so excited to get ribbons at the fair! What a great way to include younger kids in on the fun!

After we took in some of the sights, it was time for a very special event at the fair for my kiddos. This summer they were introduced to Clover Kids, an extension of 4-H for younger children. They were able to bring projects and/or a stuffed animal to be judged at the fair. I can’t even explain how excited my girls were to do this. The kiddos were asked questions about their projects and stuffed animals and were given participation ribbons. Snacks and activities were available while they waited. They were so proud, and I was too. As a former 4-Her, it was fun to introduce my girls to something that could eventually be a big part of their future.

We ate lunch in the shade, saw cats and guinea pigs in the small animal show, said good-bye to the animals, and decided to go home to take a break from the heat. The girls didn’t have enough of the fair though, so we went back in the evening so they could show Dad their projects and introduce him to their favorite animals. We checked out the car show and looked at the farm machinery too. After eating the yummy free meal sponsored by many local businesses, we let the girls have fun at the carnival. There was something for people of all ages at the fair.

Carnival Game Winnings
This little one was a big winner at the Buena Vista County Fair Carnival!

I have to admit, I was impressed by my first trip to the Buena Vista County Fair. It wasn’t a huge fair, but we did spend a good share of the day checking out the events and exhibits. The people I talked to shared that this year’s fair was better than it had been in previous years. Fair-goers liked the lower gate fee and the addition of more family friendly activities. It will be exciting to see what the future holds for the Buena Vista County Fair. Stay up to date on next year’s activities on Facebook.

Next summer, make sure you check out the Buena Vista County Fair or other county fairs across the state (there’s still time to catch a few fairs before fall-click here for a list of county fairs in Iowa). They are all unique, offer fun activities, and showcase the pride and joy of so many people. Big or small, fairs are celebrations that bring the generations together. We look forward to more adventures at county fairs in years to come!

Our 10 Favorite Things about the 2015 Buena Vista County Fair:

  1. Gate fee was only $1; kids 5 and under were free
  2. Parking was free
  3. Clover Kids activities
  4. Free meal on Friday night
  5. Carnival rides and games
  6. Animals, animals, and more animals
  7. 4-Hers who gave us a closer look at their animals
  8. Variety of open class exhibits
  9. Watching animal shows
  10. Having fun adventures with my girls!

Check out more pictures from our adventure here!

Exploring Sanborn, Iowa

Vander Haag Truck Museum
The Vander Haag Truck Museum looks very inviting from Hwy 18. We had to check out this fun spot in Sanborn, Iowa.

My girls and I had a fun afternoon exploring Sanborn, Iowa! After a morning of strawberry picking at Getting’s Garden, we headed into town for another Girls Adventure. (Be sure to check out my post about our strawberry picking adventure here.) Instead of driving by and just wondering what there was to do in town, we stopped and found that Sanborn has a lot of offer.

Our first stop was the city park. It was conveniently located a block away from Highway 18. The park had a nice variety of playground equipment and a large open shelter house. The girls had fun on the jungle gym and the many slides. After they worked up an appetite, we enjoyed a picnic which included our over-flowing flat of freshly picked strawberries!

Sanborn Playground
The playground at the Sanborn City Park was a fun place to play and have a picnic.

The Sanborn Aquatic Center was adjacent to the park and looked quite refreshing, so we explored the area by the park to let our lunch settle before swimming. There was a lot to explore in a small area. We found a big, orange train caboose at one edge of the park. At the other, we found a bear tree-carving, a small well-kept garden, and a beautiful Veteran’s Memorial.

Train Caboose
The girls had fun checking out this train caboose located near the city park.

The girls were then ready to swim. I happened to have swimsuits and water toys in our car (I remembered driving by a pool last year), so we were set for an afternoon of fun! The aquatic center included a water slide, diving boards, a water-walk, zero-depth entry, lap lanes, a baby fish slide, a tiki hut, and geysers all for $5 a person. It was the perfect size for this water-fearing mom and two adventurous 5-year olds. The girls splashed, played, and practiced their swimming skills for over two hours. They were not happy when it was time to leave. I must admit, the time flew by for me too!

Sanborn Aquatic Center
The Sanborn Aquatic Center was great place to cool off for kids of all ages!

The pool was very well kept. There were plenty of chairs for lounging and umbrellas for shade. Snacks were available for purchase during break times, and several tables were nearby for the hungry kiddos. The most impressive part to me were the very clean bathrooms. (I typically try to avoid pool bathrooms, but I wasn’t afraid of these!)

On our way out of town, we saw a quaint old-time filling station. The orange and browns of the Vander Haag’s Truck Museum were so inviting that we just had to stop. The museum is only open for special celebrations and by appointment, but we explored the grounds a bit. The girls had questions about the old gas pumps, found cute statues, and took a quick ride on a tire swing. We’d love to see inside the museum sometime and will put that on our list for another day!

Vander Haag Museum Fun
The girls just loved these little statues located near the entrance of the Vander Haag Museum. They pretended they were statues too!

If you’d like to see check out the memorabilia sooner than later, you are in luck! The museums are set to be open during Sanborn’s upcoming Railroad Days at the end of July, 2015. Another place to check out would be Miller Park which features a paved walking path, shelter house, and playground equipment. A disc golf course and a golf course and county club are also located near Miller Park and provide many recreational opportunities. Those are also added to our Sanborn bucket list. We just didn’t have enough time to see everything!

Bear Statue
This bear greets guests at the Sanborn Aquatic Center. He seems to be waving hello and good-bye to all those who visit!

I had two very tired girls on the way home. It was a quiet and peaceful trip for me. I couldn’t help but think about all the fun we had at Getting’s Garden and in the town of Sanborn. You never know what you’ll find when you check out new places!

Here are some tips for exploring towns new to you:

  • Pack your swimsuits, you never know when you may need them
  • Don’t hesitate to pull over and explore something new
  • Pack a picnic lunch, but also check out local establishments (especially if they sell ice cream!)
  • Check out local parks and recreation areas
  • Ask locals for recommendations on attractions and/or restaurants to visit; they may point you to unknown treasures
  • Keep an open mind and have fun exploring something new!

Getting’s Garden: Strawberry Picking at it’s Finest

Getting’s Garden
We could hardly wait to get out to the fields! The memories made at Getting’s Garden will last a lifetime!

Strawberries! Rows and rows of sweet, red, juicy, strawberries! It seemed as though the berries were calling us to the fields once we arrived at Getting’s Garden, a third-generation, family-owned and operated strawberry farm, near Sanborn, Iowa. The girls had been asking to return to this very spot since our visit last year, so I knew it would be a perfect Girls Adventure. It proved to be a very sweet adventure, indeed!

The girls were ready in record time in anticipation of our trip. The hour and fifteen minute car ride passed quickly as we played car games and listened to music. The excitement grew as I turned into the driveway of Getting’s Garden. The three of us were soon riding the Strawberry Express, a gator-like vehicle, to the fields of luscious berries.

Picking Berries
People of all ages filled the fields to find the perfect berries for jams, pies, and snacking!

Once in the field, we were given a box, assigned a row of strawberries, and got to work picking. The work was fun, the company was great, and the perks were even better! We hadn’t been picking long when one of my girls asked to taste the fruits of her labor. Soon sticky, red juice ran down her chin, and a smile spread across her face. I must admit I had to give into temptation once, too. Okay, I confess, I was tempted by these sweet little berries more than once. But, I swear they were just asking to be eaten!

We stayed on task for the most part, admiring the berries, and plucking them from the vines. Our box filled quickly. Soon it was almost overflowing. One of my girls, with big eyes, told me we better stop picking. With a glance at the box I realized she was right. We had more berries than we knew what to do with! It was just so hard to stop picking once we started. We rode the Strawberry Express back to the Market where the berries were weighed and put on a shelf while we shopped.

Yummy Treat from the Market
We had quite an appetite after ‘working’ in the field. We enjoyed a yummy treat at the Market.

The Market was full of all things strawberry. Pre-picked berries, jams, salsas, and everything in between were available for purchase. Sweet strawberry treats caught our eyes. We tried the Strawberry Angel Dream-a heavenly miniature angel food cake with fresh strawberries and a heap of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Maybe it was the fun we were having or maybe it was the fresh berries, but in the words of a five year old, “It was sooooo delicious!” (I seriously heard her say that between every bite!)

Feeding Animals
Even my non-animal lover was coaxed to feed a donkey from her hand. The cheese puff-eating pot bellied pig was a favorite.

Before heading out, we stopped to visit the animals which were new to Getting’s Garden this year. For $1 the girls fed goats, sheep, a miniature cow, donkey, a miniature pony, a bunny, and a pot-bellied pig. The animals seemed to be a big hit with the kids visiting the strawberry patch! After all the animals were fed and a few photos were taken we were ready to head out.

We paid for our berries ($2.05 a pound during the 2015 picking season), and picked up a case of those yummy mini angel food cakes. We were sad to leave the fields full of berries but were excitedly making plans for whipping up yummy strawberry treats of our own.

Strawberry Sisters
The girls showing off their prized berries. They had so much fun and have already asked when we can go back to Getting’s Garden!

If you’ve never picked your own strawberries before, get out there and give it a try! Pickers of all ages would enjoy what Getting’s Garden has to offer. We’ll be back next year for sure! We made many ‘berry sweet’ memories on this Girls Adventure!

To see more photos from our trip to Getting’s Garden and other Girls Adventures, click here.

**The strawberry picking season is short, so be sure to follow Getting’s Garden on Facebook for their hours of operation.

Crafty Girls: Creating Memories and Masterpieces

Intently Painting
This little gal carefully painted her mermaid. Making messes together can led to great memories!

Being creative can lead to a great adventure! This Girls Adventure was full of creativity, laughter, and fun. The day was made even more special when my mom joined us for an afternoon of painting at Cool Catz Pottery Studio in Storm Lake. While Cool Catz, a paint your own pottery studio, has recently closed its doors (I’m super sad about this!), I still wanted to share this experience since the idea is more important than the location.

While at Cool Catz, my mom and the girls thoughtfully picked out the pottery pieces they wanted to paint. (I decided to be a helper rather than a painter on this occasion.) One of my girls chose a bunny and troll to paint while the other picked a mermaid and a cup. My mom found two bowls that she and my dad will use for popcorn (my parents make the best homemade kettle corn ever!). After a quick lesson on paining techniques, the brushes were put to use. My girls, although only 5, worked on getting the details just right. They made pieces that were uniquely theirs. The girls critiqued Grandma’s work and helped her pick out paint colors.

Painting Pottery
My animal lover had so much fun painting her very own bunny. Both girls were so proud of their work.

The finished pieces were left at the studio to be kiln-fired. I was able to pick them up a week later. My girls quickly found special places to keep their handiwork. They were so proud of their work and couldn’t wait to deliver Grandma’s popcorn bowls. All masterpieces are now proudly displayed and will be treasured for years to come.

We chatted and laughed while making masterpieces that afternoon, creating not only art but lasting memories. Now each time my girls see their painted treasures they will think of the afternoon spent with Grandma. And when my mom enjoys popcorn in her hand-painted bowls, she will remember the fun she had with her granddaughters. I will forever cherish the time spent with three generations of crafty girls.

Grandma and Her Little Helper
Grandma and her little helper had fun picking out paint colors together.

Now its your turn to have a crafty adventure! Grab family members or friends and make memories. Although Cool Catz is no longer open for business there are plenty of other ways to get creative. Check out local art galleries, newspapers, colleges, and community education agencies for area classes and events. Or, try out one of these Northwest Iowa locations (not an extensive list by any means, but it will get you started):

It’s also okay to get creative in your own living room or kitchen. Have your grandma teach you to make her famous homemade rolls, get out the kids’ watercolors and create together, put together a puzzle, bake cookies together, try out a Pinterest project as a group, admire family photos or quilts, or have Grandpa teach the little ones how to make a birdhouse. Get several generations together, and do something a little different.

All Done!
All done painting! Waiting a week to pick up the finished pieces was so hard. The girls couldn’t wait to see their new treasures!

The great thing is, it won’t matter if you aren’t an expert painter, baker, or bird house maker. It’s okay if your cookies get burnt or you have a Pinterest disaster. (Those mishaps may bring more laughter and make your experience even more memorable!) What will matter is that you’re having fun while creating memories with the ones you treasure the most. I can’t think of a better adventure!

Rainbow Walk: Finding Beauty in Everyday Places

Yellow Dandelion
This beauty was the yellow item on our Rainbow Walk.

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Purple; the colors of the rainbow are everywhere! For our Girls Adventure this week, we went on a ‘Rainbow Walk.’ Now, this was not my original plan for our adventure; it wasn’t even my ‘Plan B.’ It is one of those things that I thought up quick out of desperation because the original plan and the ‘Plan B’ were a total fail.

I learned a couple things in this process. First, when your plans don’t go as you wish, fun can still be had! ‘Plan C’ or even ‘Z’ may be better than your original plan. And, really simple activities can be big time fun for kids. Enjoying time in nature and seeing things from a child’s perspective can be exciting for grownups too.

Orange Light
Orange flowers and tail lights caught our eyes.

We chose to start our little walk in a neighborhood by the lake in Storm Lake, Iowa. We packed a snack to enjoy by the lake, and then planned take a stroll along the shore to search for treasures. Well, it was terribly windy. (I swear it was not windy when we left the house!) We just about blew away when we attempted to have our snack, so we ditched that plan and moved further away from the lake. One of my girls then loudly declared she wanted to go home, NOW. I knew then and there I needed to come up with another plan, and FAST! The idea of a ‘Rainbow Walk’ suddenly popped into my head.

Here’s how it works:

1. Find items that match the individual colors of the rainbow (we started with red).

2. Take a photo of that item.

3. Identify the next color of the rainbow, and repeat steps 1 and 2.

4. Once items for each color have been found, you’ll have a photo collection of the rainbow you found in nature, on your block, at the park, or in your city. (For rainy day fun, go on a ‘Rainbow Hunt’ in your home using the same process.)

Purple Shoes
Purple proved to be a little tricky-shoes ended up being our pick.

The girls and I had a lot of fun with this idea. The girls took turns taking photos and finding the colors. They were excited to use the camera on their own as well! We had contests to see who could find a color first, how many items of one color we could find, and who could find the biggest or smallest thing of a certain color. For small kids, this is a fun way to practice colors, counting, and sorting by size without realizing they are learning.

We stopped at a bench for awhile to enjoy a snack (without blowing away) and continued our walk. Before we knew it, we had walked over a mile and had many fun child-view photos to enjoy.

Bunny Chasing
The girls were excited to chase after a bunny while on our adventure, and I loved watching them explore the world. They are my treasures!

Now, if you don’t have small children to share this adventure with, don’t worry! Rainbows are fun and magical no matter how old you are! Get out there, and take a moment to enjoy the rainbow of colors around you. Immerse yourself in nature, and soak in the beauty this state of Iowa has to offer. You just never know what you’ll discover at the end of the rainbow!

Greenhouse Girls

Jones Nursery Sign
Jones Nursery and Garden Center is located on Highway 7, West of Storm Lake, Iowa.

Flowers, veggies, and plants, oh my! Our first Girls Adventure of the summer took us to Jones Nursery and Garden Center on the outskirts of Storm Lake, Iowa. The sun was finally shining after a week of rainy, gloomy days, so we took advantage of the change in weather. The girls and I quickly made a list of the vegetables we needed for our garden and drove across town. In the past, I’ve tried to go to a greenhouse on my own, but I decided this year would be different. I was up for an adventure, and it proved to be a great decision!

With our list in hand, we found a cart and started to look around. Jones Nursery is a quaint greenhouse with a nice variety of plants. It was easy to navigate with two busy kids. The girls found all the vegetables on our list, except broccoli. Determined to find it, one of my 5 year-olds found a greenhouse employee on her own and asked for help. The employee was very helpful, and low and behold, the broccoli had been hiding. To her delight, my little one was able to pick out her very own broccoli plants with a free lesson on assertiveness.

Old Bed Planter Box
One of the planter boxes at the greenhouse was made from an old bed. Antique doors and wagons were also made into decorative planters.

Once our task of finding veggies was accomplished, we continued to explore the greenhouse. There are many new features at Jones Nursery, so if it’s been awhile since your last visit or you’re still looking for a few plants this year, take a moment to check them out. There is a new pallet house in the back, fun yard art, and many neat plantings scattered throughout the nursery. Seeing all the vibrant colors and new plants brightened my day.

My girls enjoyed looking around too. They explored the garden areas and tried out the benches and swings. We played I-Spy with colors and counted the pink flamingos hiding among the flowers. The girls and I read the names of the plants and picked out our favorites. We giggled and laughed our way around the greenhouse.

Baby Worm
Baby worms are quite fascinating. Look closely to find the smallest worm ever!

We continued the Girls Adventure in our backyard. I dug holes, and the girls patted dirt around our baby plants. Well, one of my girls spent the whole time picking up worms from the overturned dirt and the other worked on slowly planting one pepper plant while naming the rest. We have ‘Hot Girls’ (jalapeno peppers) and ‘Banana Boys’ (banana peppers) currently growing in our little plot of dirt. The girls watered their new plants while I finished planting. I didn’t do the best job supervising though. I turned around to find my more adventurous girl covered head to toe in mud. She thought it was fun to walk across the newly watered garden in her brand new shoes. I didn’t care too much though. We were having fun, and it wasn’t anything a washing machine and shower couldn’t fix. I started the day knowing it would be full of adventure, right!?

Planting Peppers
Planting Peppers was an important job for this little gal.

Our trip to Jones Nursery was a great way to kick-start our summer Girls Adventures. We took the ordinary task of finding plants and turned it into something more. It didn’t take more than finding joy in the simple things, a little imagination, and getting our hands dirty to have a great adventure. And as we watch our vegetables grow this summer, we will be reminded of all the fun we had one spring day at a little greenhouse in Iowa.

So, whether it is Jones Nursery in Storm Lake or your own local greenhouse or plant store, go have an adventure. Take time to explore, play games, and discover how the ordinary can become extraordinary.