Preparing for Summer Adventures

It’s finally here; the time to start planning summer adventures! The school year is winding down, and summer activities are starting to fill the calendar. In between the swim lessons, softball games, and sports camps, I hope to have many scheduled and impromptu adventures with my family.

The girls and I enjoy our (almost) annual strawberry picking at Getting’s Garden. This adventure is always at the top of their ‘must-do’ list!

Each spring, the girls and I create a list of places we want to explore before school starts again. We use this list as a guide all summer when we are in the mood for an adventure. This year, I grabbed an Iowa Travel Guide (get one here) and let the girls flip through the pages for inspiration. While our list is still a work in progress, some of the highlights include: Prairie Heritage Center in O’Brien County, The Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars, strawberry picking at Getting’s Garden near Sanborn, and the Swinging Bridge by Columbus Junction. While we may not get to all of these places, making this list has created excitement for the warmer days ahead.

Although we may need to drive a distance to get to some of those destinations, I know much fun will be had exploring our little corner of Iowa as well. Adventure can be found in every nook and cranny of this beautiful state. If you live my neck of the woods or plan to visit the shores of Storm Lake, Storm Lake United has complied a list of activities for you:

25 Things to Explore in Storm Lake During 2018

1. Take a tour on the Buena Vista county drive trail.
2. Go on a shopping spree at our unique retailers.
3. Go back in time and discover our heritage by visiting the Harker House or the BV county Historical Society. 
4. Dine at one of Storm Lake’s fine restaurants.
5. Admire local and regional artists at the Witter Gallery and Synergy Live Edge.
6. Run the Annual 5K.
7. Head to King’s Pointe Waterpark for a fun day in the sun with high-speed slides, water playgrounds and a relaxing lazy river or swim inside at the indoor waterpark when the weather turns cold.
8. Enjoy LakeFest 2018 by jamming to you favorite artist, running the Faith, Hope and Charity Marina to Marina Run or by checking out the Kiwanis Annual Car Show.
9. Visit the Little Lake Discovery Center Boardwalk and climb to the top of the observation tower for a scenic view of Storm Lake.
10. Rent a boat, aqua bike, kayak, or paddle board and enjoy the 3,200 acre lake Storm Lake.
11. Go golfing at one of the many golf courses of Buena Vista County including Sunrise Pointe Golf Course, Lake Creek Country Club, Alta Golf and Country Club, Newell Municipal Golf Course and Little Sioux Golf and Country Club. 
12. Enjoy a meal during a Taste of Storm Lake in Chautauqua Park and support local nonprofits.
13. Listen to a free concert by the Storm Lake Municipal Band at the Sunset Bandshell on a Sunday afternoon during the summer.
14. Soak up some sun and build sandcastles at one of Storm Lake’s many beaches.
15. Go fishing in Iowa’s best Walleye lake during the Free Fishing weekend at the beginning of June.
16. Celebrate the Fourth of July weekend by joining us at the Star Spangled Spectacular in Chautauqua & Sunset Parks.
17. Visit the Farmer’s Market and buy some fresh produce from area growers.

18. Rent a bike and pedal on the Bike and Hike Trail.
19. Go camping at one of Storm Lake’s campgrounds or rent a cabin located by the lake.
20. Come to Wood, Wines and Blues to sample wine, watch professional chainsaw carvers and purchase great craft items.
21. Cheer on the Buena Vista University Beavers at a home game.
22. Explore the wildlife display at the Buena Vista University Science Center.
23. Locate all the wooden chainsaw sculptures throughout the City Beautiful.
24. Grab a putter and conquer 18 holes of miniature golf at Pirates Pointe.
25. Visit Santa’s Castle during the holiday season and get an autographed book from Santa Claus.

Embrace 2018 in Storm Lake and enjoy the City Beautiful!

This log cabin is just one of the treasures located near the BV County Historical Society.

Check out that list! If you don’t see anything that interests you, perhaps you’d enjoy a competitive  game of Disc Golf at Manderville Park, a leisurely stroll around the Living Heritage Tree Museum, a night under the lights at a Storm Lake Whitecaps baseball game, the amusement rides or livestock shows at the Buena Vista County Fair, a blast from the past at the Cole Museum, the thrill of a car chase at the Buena Vista Raceway, a picnic at one of our many lake-side parks, or the amazing talent at production by the Buena Vista Community Theater. There truly is something for everyone to enjoy.

The Cole Museum is full of history. This Plow Totem Pole greets you at the entrance.

Who said there was nothing to do in rural Iowa?! An adventure is always right around the corner! It is about finding joy in the simple things, not being afraid to get a little dirty, and using your imagination to create your own fun. So, get out a paper and pencil and start your list. What adventures will you find this summer?

Chilly Roadside Adventure

Even though we are still experiencing winter in Iowa, it doesn’t mean we need to skip outdoor adventures! My guest columnists recently shared their outdoor adventure which reminded me of a fun roadside stop the girls and I found while on an adventure late this fall.

This dino is waiting for a visit! Can you name his ‘bones’?

We happened to be traveling along Hwy 141 on our way home from Des Moines. Instead of taking the most direct route home, I opted for the longer, scenic route. One that also just happens to go right past my parent’s farm. There are always many perks to scenic routes!

Instead of driving by the sculpture park near the golf course on the edge of Coon Rapids, IA, we decided to stop and stretch our legs a bit. Although the day required hats and mittens, and our bodies weren’t quite use to the cold fall/winter air, we stopped anyway. We were in a seize the day kind of mood!

We hopped out of the car, and started to explore right away. The girls immediately ran to something that looked like a merry-go-round. When I finally caught up to them, I discovered that this piece of park equipment was made from recycled farm machinery. It turns out that old tractor seats, complete with seat belts, and a manure spreader wheel make a pretty cool merry-go-round. The seat belts made the girls day and the expression on their faces when I explained they were on an old manure spreader wheel made mine!

This little gal loved the seat belts on the merry-go-round. We all giggled when we found out she was on an antique manure spreader wheel!

We explored each piece in the park. They were all so different and unique. Each sported a plaque with name of the piece, the artist’s name, and the year it was created. This park has been collecting new sculptures for over 10 years. Although we were there after the leaves had fallen and flowers had frozen, I could imagine the beauty of this tree-lined roadside park. Quirky birdhouses hung in the trees, and a picnic table and benches dream of visitors on warmer days.

Getting a close look at an antique tractor. Get ready, Grandpa, these two will be helping you on the farm soon!

Along with many fun pieces of art, the sculpture park is also home to a boat ramp, Paddlers’ Trail, and a bird watching platform overlooking the river. We followed the gravel path to the bird watching platform. Had it been a warmer day, we would have spent lots of time looking for the birds and river animals pictured on the platform. The girls thought it made a pretty fun stage, too. We spotted a pair of cardinals as our noses started to freeze and decided it was time to continue on with our adventure.

We made plans to explore Coon Rapids again in the summer. Along with the golf course and sculpture park, Coon Rapids is home to the Carroll County Fair grounds, a frisbee golf course, aquatic center, trail system, and Whiterock Concervancy. Whiterock has been on my bucket list for awhile, but that will be saved for when we have a full (and warmer) day to explore.

Checking out the birds and animals native to the area. While she would have loved to see the snakes and otters, we did enjoy watching a pair of cardinals.

The girls and I enjoyed our scenic drive and impromptu adventure. We ended the day visiting our favorite farmers before heading home.

The next time you take the scenic route, stop and explore a bit at a roadside park. You never know what fun you might find. Those cold, mid-winter, outdoor adventures can be just as fun as the summer ones!

We found this guy working on the farm and had to ride a few rounds before heading home! A great way to end our girls’ day adventure!

Pumpkin Patch Confessions

It’s fall! If you were in Northwest Iowa today, you may think we’ve skipped right to winter! Nonetheless, I love this time of year. The changing colors, the combines in the fields, the comfort foods, the gigantic piles of leaves, and the pumpkins are all good for the soul!

Once October rolls around and Halloween draws near, many of us start our annual pilgrimages to a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. We have many patches in our corner of the state. In fact, I wrote about them awhile back here. Many memories are made at these patches. I’ll always remember the first time we picked out pumpkins as a family. And the time we rode go-carts, jumped on a gigantic pillow trampoline, and ate caramel apples.

And while it is fun to reminisce about these fun times, it doesn’t always happen that way! I don’t want you to get the impression that all our adventures are made of butterflies and roses. My girls (and occasionally myself) have fits, get itchy, melt in the heat, and cry, sometimes all within a matter of seconds. It’s just a lot more fun to share the happy stuff on here!

The point is, I’m just like the rest of the moms out there. While I think my family is pretty great, I know we are far from perfect. We have outings that seem more like disasters than adventures. But when we look back, we can find bits of fun and humor in the chaos. It’s more about perspective than it is about the facts in my opinion. While our adventures may not always go my way, looking on the bright side can help make things seem a lot better.

This brings me back to the pumpkin patch. I love them. My girls love them. My husband even has fun at them. The girls ask (more like beg) to visit them and pick out their own pumpkins. And sometimes, it just doesn’t work to go. The last couple years we got lucky. The girls had field trips to area orchards and pumpkin patches. Thanks to their school, they got that magical experience all kids deserve when it comes to picking out the perfect pumpkin! We managed to find time to have pumpkin fun as a family too.

Then this year rolled around. Our weekends were busy, or it rained, or something got in the way of a pumpkin patch excursion. There were no pumpkin patch field trips this year. Not to disappoint my kiddos, or myself for that matter, I came up with a plan. It wasn’t what I really wanted to do, but I tried to remember my perspective philosophy. As long as we had fun and picked out our pumpkins, that’s all that really mattered.

And that’s just what we did. One day after school, the girls and I had our own pumpkin patch adventure. At the grocery store. Yep, you read that correctly, the grocery store. Fareway in Storm Lake, IA to be exact. It was a cold and windy day, and my girls somehow made it to school without coats (I swear the forecast said it was going to be warmer). But we were picking out pumpkins!

We searched for the perfects ones. We turned them over and inspected them, just like we would have done at a pumpkin patch. I heard “Mom, come see this one!” on several occasions. The girls found the ones they wanted to carve and paint and then helped me hunt for fun ones to use to decorate. The bumpy ones and most unusually colored or shaped pumpkins and gourds made the cut. By then we were all shivering and ready to go home. We paid for our pumpkins and went home to decorate!

The girls helped dig out the fall decorations, found Halloween music on Pandora, and went to town adding a little cheer to our home. We had fun, and we our had pumpkins. It turns out, you can make pumpkin patch memories in a grocery store parking lot. As one of my girls said, “Fareway has the best pumpkins!”

So, if you haven’t had a pumpkin patch experience yet this year, don’t fret! Just bundle up, head on over to your nearest grocery store, and pretend you are in a field full of pumpkins. Once you shift your perspective, you can find an adventure just about anywhere!

Springtime Adventures in Nemaha, Iowa

A ‘Mighty’ Small Town, indeed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fairy Garden Fun

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

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

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

Getting the soil ready for the fairy gardens.

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

Planting the baby succulent plants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventure in Valentine’s Day Decor

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

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

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

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

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

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

More punches of red for Valentine’s Day.

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

Valentine’s Day Banner Supplies:

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

Banner Directions:

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

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

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

    The finished banner!

Framed Valentine’s Day Artwork Supplies:

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

Framed Art Directions:

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

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

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

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

    The girls were pretty proud of their projects!

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

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

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

Happy Decorating Adventures, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

That Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all enjoyed a warm treat after the cold.

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

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

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

A Lesson in History in Odebolt, Iowa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture Perfect Day at Prairie Pedlar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For The Love of Goats!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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