Game Night: Group Date Fun

Looking for a fun date night idea? I have an idea for you that involves fun, laughter, and friends. Recently, my husband and I hosted a game night at our home and had a blast! And yes, even though we were in our home and our friends were over, I count this as a date night. Our kids were in bed, and we were doing something other than cleaning or watching TV. That has to count for something!

Apples to Apples Game
Apples to Apples is a favorite at game night!

For the last year or so, we’ve been getting together with three other couples for game night. The hosting couple gets to choose the games and menu. We’ve done all sorts of things such as playing card or board games, eating out at a local restaurant, and having a family-friendly backyard party complete with s’mores. When the group first started, some of us didn’t know each other very well, but over games and food, we have developed friendships. (Which is a great benefit in small town Iowa.)

For this particular game night, everyone brought snacks to share. We ate yummy goodies and played a round of Apples to Apples, a hilarious board game of comparisons. The laughter and conversation started rolling. The game ended, and I pulled out a secret game I had been saving just for this occasion. I scored a never-opened copy of The New Newlyweds Game, copyright 1986 for just $2 at a thrift shop. It proved to be big time fun! The object of the game was to have the wives guess the husbands’ answers to Memory, Personality, Sensuality, and Potpourri questions and vice-versa.

The New Newlywed Game
This game was definitely worth the $2 I paid at a thrift shop. The laughter didn’t stop!

I’ll apologize now; we were laughing so hard that I completely failed to snap photos. (Plus, due to the content of the game, I’m sure my friends would appreciate having their identities hidden!)  The game was straight out of the ’80’s; before being politically correct was a priority, and before TV doctors included McSteamy and McDreamy.

We all quickly learned that we don’t know our spouses as well as we thought. To the defense of all of us, the questions were really tough. This was not a multiple choice test! We learned a lot. Like, one of the husbands would like to break out his MC Hammer pants. (Pretty sure we will hold him to that!) More than one of the participants got schooled on the meaning of whoopie, which has nothing to do with Whoopie Goldberg or whoopie pies, in case you are wondering!

The Newlywed Game Questions
The questions in The New Newlywed Game had us rolling in laughter and learning a thing or two!

Two rounds of the game left our cheeks hurting from laughter. That vintage game sure added a little spice to game night! I will be on the hunt for more of those gems but plan to bring out The New Newlywed Game at future game nights. So be prepared if you ever find yourself at my house for an evening of games!

How fun would it be to find other games and go all out to have an ’80’s-themed night?! Just imagine the big hair, neon colors, and playing cassettes on a boom box. A vintage game night can be made family-friendly too. We recently acquired a marble game called Avalanche which was made in 1966. After finding the rules online, my girls and I been having loads of fun.

The great thing is, you can break out a game and make it a family affair, group date, or a night at home for just the two of you. So, keep your eye out for those old boxes tucked away collecting dust and revive them. You never know what fun and laughter will come from opening the lid and sharing a game with others.

Get these games for yourself:


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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!


Checking out the Calves
My girls checking out the calves at the 2014 Cherokee PRCA Rodeo before the action started.

“This is the best night ever!” yelled one of my girls. She along with the rest of our family had a great time at the Cherokee PRCA Rodeo in Cherokee, Iowa. But, this was her statement before the bull riding and barrel racing even began! The night only got better once the action started.

The Cherokee PRCA Rodeo has become an annual event for our family. We’ve been there three out of the past four summers and haven’t gotten tired of it yet! The rodeo offers three nights of entertainment during the last weekend in May. Next year Cherokee will celebrate 50 years of rodeo, so they know what they are doing when it comes to hosting a good show.

Friendly Goat at the Rodeo
The goats at the petting zoo are one of the highlights of the evening. This photo is from 2014, when the weather was warmer!

The weather was cold and windy this year, and the threat of rain was imminent, but that didn’t stop us from embarking on a family adventure. We brought blankets for snuggling and packed rain ponchos in case of a torrential downpour. We arrived early to get a front row seat and check out the kids activities. The petting zoo was full of friendly goats longing to be fed by excited children. Pony rides and a mower train were also on hand for some good old-fashioned fun. Of course, we had to feed and pet the goats (one of my girls wanted a goat for Christmas last year, so this was amazing for her). The girls were all smiles and giggles as they rode the mower train.

Doughnut Time
Although it doesn’t look like it, this little lady was super excited for doughnuts and wan’t too keen on sharing!

After looking at the hats, purses, and boots at the vendor booths, we made our way to our seats. The smells from the food booths were tantalizing and although we had eaten before we arrived, we had to try the mini doughnuts. They were delightfully warm and full of cinnamon-sugar goodness. By the time our fingers were licked clean, the show was about to start.

The cold kept us in our seats and cuddled together under the blankets rather than on our feet, but with front-row seats we had a good view of the action. Across the board, the cowboys had a rough night. They were quickly bucked, and calves dodged lassos left and right. While some would have been disappointed by the run of bad luck, you wouldn’t have known that with my girls’ reactions. They clapped and cheered for the cowboys and laughed at the rodeo clown. The barrel racers and bull riders were the favorite events of the evening. The glitz and sparkles of the Rodeo Queens and their horses also caught my girls’ eyes. It was fun to see how everyone came together to pull off a great show. Unfortunately, half-way through the bull riders, it started to sprinkle. The rain gradually picked up and it was getting late, so we decided to call it a night. The bulls don’t mind rain, so the show went on for the majority of the crowd.

Staying Warm During the Rodeo
All bundled up and watching the barrel racing at the Cherokee PRCA Rodeo.

Although we were sad the rain cut our evening short and made us miss the traditional end-of-show fireworks display, we had a great time at the rodeo. On the way home, our girls excitedly reminisced about the different events until they couldn’t keep their eyes open. I’m sure the next few weeks will be full of rodeo talk and play at our house. And when my little girl tells me she wants to be a barrel racer or Rodeo Queen when she gets big, I will smile and remember the big fun we had at the small town Iowa rodeo.

Remember to put the 50th Annual Cherokee PRCA Rodeo on your calendar next May. If you can’t wait that long, look for other rodeos in your area. Summer is rodeo season, so check out local town celebrations and fairs to find events close to you. Here are some other tips when planning to go to a rodeo:

  • My Girls with Miss Rodeo Iowa
    My girls with Miss Rodeo Iowa, Rachel Burton in 2012. They look for the new rodeo royalty each year, but nothing will top the first year!

    Check the weather. It can still get cold at night in May. Bring blankets and extra layers if needed. I’m so glad we did this year! The show will go on even if it rains; plan ahead so you can enjoy it in comfort.

  • Arrive early. If you want a front-row seat you will need to stake your claim early. I recommend seats near the front with small children so they can easily stretch their legs (This rodeo is two to three hours long).  We were on the rodeo grounds an hour early and in our seat at least 30 minutes before the action started. When the weather is nice, seats fill up quickly.
  • Check the schedule for special events. Cherokee’s rodeo offers a Family Night on Thursday and a Women’s Night on Friday. If you have children, the Family Night show may be worth checking out due to reduced prices and special activities.
  • Buy doughnuts (or some other not-good-for-you treat), optional. There is something fun and exciting about trying something different or new when you are on an adventure.
  • Visit the royalty. Miss Rodeo Iowa and other rodeo queens are likely to be at local rodeos. They work hard year-long to represent Iowa’s rich Western heritage and are great role-models for future cowgirls. These girls can be found signing autographs and posing for photos prior to the rodeo.
  • Last, but not least, have fun and enjoy the Small Town Iowa Fun that a rodeo brings!

***UPDATE*** The 2016 Cherokee PRCA Rodeo will be held June 2-4.


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.

Fiesta Time!

Dunk Tank at Fiesta Latina
Trying out the Dunk Tank at Fiesta Latina 2015 at Chautauqua Park in Storm Lake Iowa.

It’s time for a Fiesta! Party. Fiesta. Whatever you call it, it is sure to be a good time. On a Saturday afternoon in early May, my girls and I attended Fiesta Latina, an annual festival sponsored by Buena Vista University’s Raices group and had a blast. This family-friendly event celebrating the Latino culture was held at Chautauqua Park in Storm Lake, Iowa. While I’ve known about Fiesta Latina for several years, I’ve never attended. It didn’t take long to see why more than 1,000 community members and BVU students come to this event each year.

Latin music and children’s laughter filled the air. Before I could park the car, my girls spotted an inflatable maze, so we made that our first stop. After some tumbling and climbing, the girls tried their hand at the dunk tank, gunny sack races, and a balloon/dart game. We took a break to watch a talented Mariachi Band before another round of games. All the games were free, and just for participating the girls were given tickets to exchange for prizes. The prize table was right out of a child’s dream. Sidewalk chalk, kites, Barbies, little cars, Elsa dolls, and everything in-between lined several long tables. After a quick lesson on counting and the value of a ticket, the girls decided to share their tickets and walked away with a yo-yo and a Frozen kite. Pretty awesome for a free event!

Balloon/Dart Toss at Fiesta Latina 2015
Throwing darts at balloons-she missed them all but had so much fun trying!

We weren’t able to stay long at Fiesta Latina, so I made a list of activities we’ll have to try next year:

  • Face Painting
  • Crafts (paper flower making, maraca decorating)
  • See the Latin Dancers
  • Try some yummy food (nachos, tacos, and sweet corn)

The students from BVU’s Raises group were friendly and did a great job hosting this event. My girls and I had fun learning about the Latino culture and playing new games. Be sure to look for information about Fiesta Latina in May, 2016.

If you don’t live near Storm Lake, Iowa and want to join the fun, check out the cultural events offered in your area. Colleges, schools, libraries, churches, and historical societies are just a few great places to start looking for ideas.  Big or small, you may find these events are full of small town Iowa fun!



Night on the Town

Date night in Sioux City, Iowa
Date night in Sioux City, Iowa

We lucked out on this date! We rarely plan ahead, and this was no exception. We got a sitter a week in advance, knowing we needed an evening to ourselves. By the middle of the week we didn’t know what we were going to do. Ideas were thrown out in between getting supper on the table and tucking kids into bed, but no decisions were made. Then the sitter (a wonderful family friend) gave us a gift. She offered to keep our kiddos at her house overnight. What luck! We graciously accepted and started to think of what we would do with the extra time. By Friday morning, less than 12 hours to our alone time, we developed a plan. We decided to go to Sioux City, Iowa. I know this may not be considered a small town, but there is definitely some small town charm in this city.

Our date started on an hour-long drive. At that point, I honestly didn’t care where we were going or how long it took, I was just happy to be alone with my guy! After stopping at a couple of stores to pick up a few things, we headed toward the Historic 4th Street District. If you haven’t made it past the mall and shopping in Sioux City, you must head downtown! The older buildings are well-kept and have stunning architecture. We took a little stroll to check out the eateries before stopping at SoHo Kitchen and Bar. Check them out on Facebook  here. They had a variety of fun items on the menu. We shared an appetizer and the Bacon, Mac & Cheese Burger with Sweet Potato Fries (calories don’t count when you share, right?) in hopes of making it to the dessert round. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for the giant warm chocolate chip cookie I had my eye on!

The food was great, and the company was even better. We were able to catch up and have much-needed adult conversation. We weren’t ready to call it a night yet, so we walked hand-in-hand down 4th Street as the sun started to set. I had to sneak a little romance in there somewhere! There were beautiful murals on the buildings as well as some great garden areas. Theaters, specialty shops, restaurants, and bars lined the streets. Downtown Sioux City is also the home to the Sioux City Art Center and the Sioux City Public Museum, which both offer free admission. They are definitely places I’d like to visit in the future.

After our stroll, we tried our luck at the newly built Hard Rock Casino. Truth be told, we aren’t much for gambling, but doing something different was on our agenda. We watched others win (and lose) money and checked out the music memorabilia. The energy was catching, but we decided to head home and keep our money in our pockets.

The hour drive home after a fun-packed night was well worth it. Being able to sleep in the next day without an early morning wake-up call from our kiddos was an added bonus. We picked up our girls from what they called ‘a vacation’ and went about our normal weekend activities. Our first date night of the summer was a success. I am already looking forward to the next one!



Homegrown Iowa Girl

My family and I welcome you to Homegrown Iowa Girl!
My family and I welcome you to Homegrown Iowa Girl!

Hello! Welcome to Homegrown Iowa Girl! This blog marks the start of a big adventure for me, and I hope you come along for the ride! I am excited to share with you the adventures and fun my family and I find in our corner of Northwest Iowa. Small town, rural Iowa has so much to offer. I personally think it is overlooked and under appreciated, so my goal is to highlight the amazing and out of the box ways to have fun in this beautiful state. I hope to inspire you to make every day an adventure!

Our adventures will be both big and small. They will be amazing at times, and ordinary at others. They will be in our backyard, in local parks, and in other fun places. Some adventures will require planning, and others will not. Some will be within walking distance of our home, and others will require a little time in the car. But whatever we do, I know it will be an adventure! With young children in tow I know we will have tears, fits, and those not so fun things, (I need to remember to pack plenty of snacks!) but we will also have laughter and fun. No matter what, we will be making memories and learning about the place we call home.

I am so excited for summer to be here. My list is growing with ideas for Girls Adventures, Small Town Iowa Fun, and Date Nights. I’m ready to cross things off and share those adventures with you. Get your list ready, as I’m sure you’ll find a few more things to add as you follow our fun!