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?

Finding Treasure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Date Brings Unexpected Fun

The photo does not do this burrito justice-it was huge and was full of fresh flavors!
The photo does not do this burrito justice-it was huge and was full of fresh flavors! This will not be our last date at La Juanita’s!

Last week my husband and I went on a day date. With the busyness of the holidays and raising two kids, we haven’t had much alone time lately. So, when my husband called me at 11:30 AM the other day asking if I wanted to meet for lunch, I eagerly accepted. I was spending the day cleaning and running errands, so this was an unexpected and welcome distraction. Although I knew the reason for the date was because his truck was in the shop and he needed a ride, I was glad he was making some time in his busy day for me.

I scrambled to get ready (I was in sweats and needed to become somewhat presentable) and formulated a plan. We typically have a difficult time deciding where to eat, so I took it upon myself to at least have my idea well thought out this time. Soon, I was headed downtown to meet my favorite guy.

Once inside La Juanita, you'll have to check out the murals. You can find many parts of our community on the walls.
Once inside La Juanita, you’ll have to check out the murals. They add a special touch to the burrito eating experience!

I suggested we try La Juanita‘s for lunch, and he obliged. He hadn’t been there since his college days, and it had been a few years for me, so it was about time we checked it out together! La Juanita’s is known in Storm Lake for incredible food, especially their burritos. And, let me tell you, they did not disappoint! We each got a steak and cheese burrito and were glad we did. Maybe it was because I forgot to eat breakfast in the rush of getting kids ready for school, but that burrito was AMAZING! I could tell it was made with fresh ingredients and a bit of cooking magic. The prices were reasonable too. For a little over $12 we each had a huge burrito and a drink.

Check out all these amazing treats at Delicias Bakery! They make tamales on the weekends. I cant wait to try those soon!
Check out all these amazing treats at Delicias Bakery! I can’t wait to stop by on a weekend and try their tamales!

We had a chance to chat a bit and enjoy the atmosphere before it was time go the second stop on our day date. We walked along Lake Avenue to Delicias Bakery. This is another great locally-owned business. The owner, Diego, is very friendly and is pro at making fun treats. The lineup of treats is huge! And, if you haven’t been there before, Diego will explain what he has made for the day.

I’ve been to Delicias Bakery a few times, and although there seems to be a little different selection each time, I knew whatever we picked out would be fun to try. (Helpful hint: Once you get to Delicias, grab a tray and tongs at the front counter. Then, head to the back, and fill up your tray before paying for your treats.) The sugar coated and fruit-filled pastries and breads don’t break the bank either. For less than $2 we enjoyed some new-to-us sweets.

Here are the treats we enjoyed on our trip to Delicias Bakery.
The treats at Delicias Bakery were tasty!

We opted to enjoy our treats in the bakery. There are only a few tables in the front of the store, so feel free to take your goodies home for enjoyment if you feel so inclined. The baked items are more ‘bready’ and less sweet than the doughnuts and cookies than I’m use to but would be great with a cup of coffee if that is your sort of thing.

We shared our treats and enjoyed a bit more chatting before my guy walked me to my car. It was lightly snowing, which added just a touch of romantic ambiance to our walk. While I didn’t start my day expecting a date, it was a fun way to spend a little extra alone time with my guy. It didn’t take more than a lunch hour and $15 to add something special and unexpected to our day. An extra bonus was not having to find and pay a sitter. I have a feeling we’ll be having more day dates in the future!

Finding Christmas Spirit at Santa’s Secret Workshop

Christmas is in the air! Christmas is literally, everywhere! The trees are up, the stores are busy, and we are all frantically checking our lists. At times, it can be a challenge to ‘get into the spirit of Christmas,’ let alone get all those things checked off the list. Last weekend, the girls and I found just the place to get ready for this season of giving.

We found Santa's Secret Workshop! We did a little window shopping along the way too!
We found Santa’s Secret Workshop! We did a little window shopping along the way too!

Tucked away on the second floor of the Masonic Temple on Lake Avenue in Storm Lake Iowa, is Santa’s Secret Workshop. For nearly three weeks in December, an otherwise empty space is transformed into a store with a very special purpose. Kids can do their own Christmas shopping, and the proceeds help fund service projects at Storm Lake St. Mary’s School.

Since 2008, Santa’s Secret Workshop has provided smiles and fun, not only for the little shoppers, but the volunteers, too. Last year alone, more than 220 children went shopping for their loved ones. While I had heard many wonderful things about it in the past, this year was the first time we experienced the splendor of Santa’s Secret Workshop for ourselves.

Before making the trip downtown, I told the girls about Santa’s Secret Workshop and asked them if there were any gifts they needed to get. They thought for a moment, and then one little one piped up, “‘So-and-so’ (I’m not spoiling the surprise of ‘who’ just yet!!) always gets me a gift, I want to get them something too.” A few seconds later, the other little one added, “‘Another so-and-so’ gets me a gift, I’ll get one for them.” The people they picked surprised me. It warmed my heart to know they were really thinking about the giving rather than receiving for a moment.

The girls emptied their piggy banks to buy gifts at Santa's Secret Workshop. It turned out to be a great lesson on counting money too!
The girls emptied their piggy banks to buy gifts at Santa’s Secret Workshop. It turned out to be a great lesson on counting money, too!

Just as we were bundled up and ready to leave, the girls ran to their room. When I found them, they were emptying their piggy banks (I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I had planned to foot the bill).  After a quick math lesson, they each stuffed $5 (the flyer noted that gifts ranged from $1-$5) into a purse, and we were set to go.

Once we found Santa’s Secret Workshop (follow the signs), we were asked to make a list of who the girls needed to purchase gifts for (one of my girls added another person to her list at the last minute ‘so they wouldn’t feel left out’) and how much money they had available. The girls were then led into the shopping area by a St. Mary’s volunteer. They shopped for and even helped wrap their special gifts. The girls and the other little shoppers emerged from the store beaming, carrying their precious gifts and a stuffed animal they were able to pick out just for themselves. With help from their shopping volunteer, the girls paid for their purchases. One spent every cent she brought, and the other, the one with two people to shop for, had $3 left over. With gifts in tow, we spent a little time checking out some of our other favorite Storm Lake stores.

Shopping at Santa's Secret Workshop
The girls with their shopping helper. They had such a great time picking out special gifts!

There are three extra gifts under our tree this year. And though they could get lost in the sea of other presents we have to give, they are my most favorite. I cannot wait to watch my girls proudly give those gifts to three very special people this Christmas.

Maybe it was watching my girls selflessly empty their piggy banks, or maybe it seeing them radiate with excitement about the gifts they had chosen, or maybe it was witnessing a group of high school students volunteering their time to offer an amazing opportunity for children, but I couldn’t help but feel full of Christmas Spirit at Santa’s Secret Workshop. We will gladly put Santa’s Secret Workshop on our list again next year!

Done Shopping!
The girls with their gifts! They haven’t stopped talking about the gifts they chose and the fun they had at Santa’s Secret Workshop!

So, if you have young children or grandchildren, take a few moments to shop at Santa’s Secret Workshop in Storm Lake, Iowa. It is full of Small Town Iowa Fun and Christmas Spirit! Your last chance to check it out this year will be Saturday, December 19th from 10 AM to 2 PM. You won’t want to miss this amazing opportunity!

And while you are downtown, take a moment or two to check out some other great shops like we did. My girls particularly enjoyed visiting the birds at Celia’s Antiques, checking out the toys at Sugar Bowl, eating doughnut holes at the Storm Lake Bakery, and finding treasures at Kristi’s Kandies & Heirlooms. Find a list of other Storm Lake businesses here. There is plenty of Christmas Spirit to be found in downtown Storm Lake this holiday season!

Merry Christmas!

*Check out more photos from our shopping adventure here.

BVU Athletics Provide Family Fun

Buford the Beaver
The girls were so excited to see Buford at BVU’s Homecoming festivities!

Athletes + Cheerleaders + Buford the Beaver + Popcorn = Family Fun! If you haven’t checked out a BVU athletic event, you need to put it on your to-do list! Our family has enjoyed cheering on the Beavers over the years. As mentioned in my post about the Estelle Siebens Science Center, BVU holds a special place in our hearts. Bringing our girls back to campus for athletic events is just one way we share our love for the university. Living in Storm Lake makes getting to the games very doable, but if you live in surrounding communities, a road trip to the heart of Storm Lake would be well worth it!

This weekend, our family helped BVU celebrate Homecoming. A whole host of activities were available for current students, alumni, and community members throughout the weekend. Before the football players even hit the field, fun was being had! There was a carnival for kids on the campus lawn including inflatables, tattoos, photo opportunities with Buford the Beaver, lawn games, and the ever popular balloon-animal making clown. Campus tours, a picnic meal and beer garden were also available. Our girls enjoyed the festivities, and we loved showing them around campus a bit more.

Go, Fight, Win!
We had a great time cheering on the Beavers!

After enjoying a picnic lunch, we made our way to the field. The cheerleaders were popular with the crowd. My girls were in awe of their impressive formations. The football game was exciting to watch too, especially the last half. And although the Beavers weren’t able to pull off a win, it was a great day to be a Beaver fan. It was the first time our girls sat through an entire football game, so I was pretty impressed by that too! If watching a football game wasn’t enough, the J. Leslie Rollins Stadium & Peterson Field are in an amazing location. You can watch football and see a beautiful lake at the same time. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Game Day
The girls loved the Beaver tattoos and the popcorn! It was a great day for football!

I overheard someone at the homecoming game talking about how they’d rather go to a BVU game than an Iowa State game. (This was intriguing, so I kept listening.) She continued on by telling her friend that the campus is beautiful, you don’t have to park too far away, you get plenty of space to sit compared to stadium seating, and you get a front row seat practically anywhere you sit. These are all very true points. You don’t have to travel far in Northwest Iowa to enjoy a college game!

Earlier this season an evening football game was played under the lights. We weren’t able to attend but heard the field and lake were just breath-taking. I sure hope that night games become a BVU tradition to enjoy in years to come!

Balloon Animals
The balloon animals were a super fun perk of the per-game festivities. BVU provided many family-friendly activities.

Football isn’t the only game taking place on campus this time of year. Our family has watched tennis, volleyball, and soccer this fall. While we know very few athletes, we still have a great time cheering for all the BVU teams! It has been a great learning experience for our girls. It is fun to watch them start to understand a game. They are able to read the scoreboard now which keeps them interested. Another great perk is that many athletic events at BVU are free to attend. In fact, football and basketball are the only events where fees are collected. You can find a schedule of upcoming athletic events here. Although many fall sports are coming to an end, winter sports will be starting soon. No matter the season, there is always a team to cheer for!

Go Beavers!
BVU athletic events are a great way to spend time with family members and friends!

It doesn’t matter if you graduated from BVU or live in Storm Lake, making a trip to Buena Vista University’s beautiful campus for an athletic event is sure to be a good time. (I really can’t think of any excuses for not going!) So, dig out your blue and gold attire, gather your family and friends, grab some popcorn at the concession stand, and enjoy cheering on the many BVU teams!

Go Beavers!

Girls Night and an ABC Walk: Finding Fun From A to Z

What do we do while Dad is away? Have a Girls Adventure, of course! So, while my husband was gone on a business trip last week, we found our own fun in Storm Lake, Iowa. It was a school night, so we had a limited amount of time, but we made the most of it!

The Start to our Night
This is where our Girls Adventure started! We had great food and conversation before going for a walk through downtown!

We started our evening with a girls supper at a downtown restaurant. The girls wanted fast-food but I bribed them with the promise of cheese balls so we could go ‘fancy’ for the evening! Eating out is a treat for our family, and eating somewhere that serves more than chicken nuggets, french fries, or pizza is an even bigger treat for me!

Boz Wellz Pub & Eaterie on Erie Street proved to have something great for all of us! The meals for kiddos are very reasonably priced and come with smile fries (a huge hit). One of my girls tried the grilled peanut butter and jelly and was in ooey-gooey heaven! She licked every last drop from her fingers! We were too full for dessert, but next time we will be saving room for the famous cheesecake or another one of their amazing desserts! I know my girls will hold me to that!

The food was great, but the company was even better! It was fun to have the girls all to myself and not have to worry about cooking or cleaning up the mess. They were excited to be somewhere different too and were super chatty. I learned a lot about their new friends from school and tidbits about what they were learning. It wasn’t all smiles though. Truth be told, I had to put a stop to a couple squabbles and ran to the bathroom with a child on more than one occasion, but I tried to stay positive about it all so we could have fun! Ultimately, across the booth from me were two little girls who were turning into amazing young ladies. I enjoyed their company and look forward to more girls nights with them in the years to come!

Letters on Every Corner
Letters are everywhere! We practiced reading the signs and finding the alphabet.

After eating more than my share of good food, I was ready to call is a night, but my girls had a different idea. They asked to go for a walk, so that’s just what we did! We grabbed our jackets (I can’t believe it is getting so chilly in the evenings already!), and we started our walk around downtown. The girls noticed the letters on the Boz Wellz sign and decided they wanted to find the letters of the alphabet as we walked. Soon, our walk was dubbed an ‘ABC walk.’

We started with the letter ‘A’ and moved through the entire alphabet, trying to spot the letters on business windows and street signs. This activity was super entertaining for the five-year-olds, but I have to admit, it was fun for me too! It was a great evening for a walk, and the added challenge made it even better. Soon, we were finding letters all over the place!

More Letters!
The girls loved spotting letters on the building where their dad works!

We did a little window shopping along the way, and took time to see what Downtown Storm Lake has to offer. It was a fun way to explore our city and learn more about it. (There were a few businesses I didn’t even know about, so be sure to take a closer look your downtown. You never know what you might discover!) The girls and I found all the letters, even the tricky ones like ‘Z’, ‘Q’ and ‘X,’ in no time. After our mission was complete, we went home to snuggle and read stories before bed. I’m fairly certain we all fell asleep with smiles on our faces!

Getting Dark on our ABC Walk
It started to get dark on our ABC Walk, but that did not stop us! It was fun to see our downtown in a different light.

I could have cooked supper at home and gone through the usual week night routine. But, I didn’t. I could have said ‘no’ to the walk and called it a night. But, I didn’t. I could have gotten upset about the arguments and potty breaks during supper. But, I didn’t. I lived in the moment, made decisions on a whim, kept a positive frame of mind, and let the girls have a little control over our evening. I’m so glad we did something out of the ordinary, because in doing so, we turned an ordinary evening into an extraordinary Girls Adventure!


Elephants, Rhinos, and Giraffes: Discovering the Unexpected at BVU!

BVU Homecoming 2014
Our family enjoying the Estelle Siebens Science Center during Homecoming 2014.

Buena Vista University (BVU) in Storm Lake, Iowa, is home to more than just the Beavers. Many students have called this place ‘home’ over the years, and I am one of those lucky ones! The campus holds many fond memories for my husband and I. We met there over 13 years ago, made lasting friendships with amazing people, and graduated with degrees that prepared us for our careers. Sharing our love for BVU with our girls comes easily. Since they were little, we have been making memories and having adventures on the beautiful campus.

While we enjoy all types of activities at BVU, our girls’ very favorite place on campus is the Estelle Siebens Science Center. This stunning, state-of-the-art building houses an impressive collection of North American and African animals. An enormous elephant skeleton greets you as you walk into the glass-walled rotunda (AKA ‘The Beaker’). The skeleton of a rhino is just around the corner. Although we have seen these animals countless times, they never cease to amaze us.

Elephant at BVU
The girls and my nephew with the elephant skeleton. Our friends and family enjoy making trips to the science building when they come to visit.

The girls know their way around the building by now, so after seeing the elephant and rhino they lead us down the hall to the elevator (or ‘alligator’ as use to call it). There is a beautiful staircase that leads upstairs as well, but the elevator is way more fun for a 5 year old! The second floor is full of things to discover. Every time I am in the building I see something I haven’t noticed on a previous trip!

I can’t even begin to list all of the animals we see, but some of our favorites include the crocodile, giraffes, bears, leopard, and lion. There are numerous birds and animals you’d only find on a safari flanking the hallway. Then, there is the elephant head mounted on the wall above all those who pass by. It is just amazing to be so close to these animals. They are not what you expect to find in Northwest Iowa!

Little Lion
This little one enjoys the animals so much! Here she is pretending to be the lion!

While in the building, we read posters about research projects BVU students have completed. We look at the photos of past science graduates (the girls know right where to find the photo of their uncle Kale). We also make sure to stop in the second floor study lounge to visit the fish aquariums. And if the girls are lucky, their favorite BVU professor will be in his office and will allow the them to have a piece of candy. (Yes, we have been in the building enough to make friends!)

We love BVU’s science building and all the treasures it holds, and even though neither my husband nor I were science majors, we have an appreciation for what goes on within its walls. We try to visit when classes are not in session (weekends or late afternoons); however, we have found that the students and professors enjoy sharing their ‘home’ with the public.

The Fish Aquariums
The fish are fascinating to watch. The kiddos like to find ‘Nemo’ in the aquarium.

Whether you have children or not, the Estelle Siebens Science Center is definitely worth checking out! There is something for everyone to appreciate. If its been awhile since you’ve been to campus, be sure to take advantage of tours scheduled during BVU’s Homecoming celebration October 9-11, 2015. The schedule of events can be found here. The entire campus is full of beautiful buildings and interesting things to discover! We are so proud to have BVU a part of our past, present, and future and hope you love it just as much as we do!

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!

Upcoming Wood, Wine, and Blues Festival Includes Family Friendly Events

Beaver Wood Carving
The beaver wood carving welcomes people to the campus of Buena Vista University. This is just one of the more than 26 tree sculptures in Storm Lake.

Every town has something that sets it apart from others, something that makes it unique and special. Storm Lake, Iowa has more than one of those things. From the community’s ethnic diversity to the beautiful lake and the enormous lighthouse welcoming visitors to town, Storm Lake is unique in so many ways.

One of the other fun things found in the lake town includes more than 26 tree sculptures! Where else can you find that many unique pieces of art made from trees scattered throughout a community? And, to sweeten the deal, there is an entire weekend devoted to creating more of these wooden gems!

The annual Wood, Wine, and Blues Festival will be held August 14-16, 2015 at Sunset Park in Storm Lake. The three day event hosts wood carving competitions, a triathlon, wine and arts in the park, a beer making demonstration, music, and a mini golf tournament. To find the full schedule of events, click here.

Reading the Tree Sculpture Map
The girls had fun reading the map and finding the next tree sculpture. They said it was like finding treasures. Indeed it was!

While this event has a lot of adult fun, there is plenty for kiddos to enjoy. Watching the chainsaw masters magically change a block of wood into a work of art is entertaining for people of all ages. It is amazing to see what emerges from the sawdust. On a recent Girls Adventure, my girls and I took a self-guided tour around Storm Lake to find as many of the tree sculptures as we could.

We stopped at Storm Lake United and picked up a brochure that included a list and map of current tree sculptures. With the map in hand, we ventured throughout the city in search of the the beautiful tree carvings. Many of them are grouped together, so chances are you won’t have to go far to find several of them. In less than a mile loop around Buena Vista University’s campus and surrounding neighborhoods, we found 6 tree sculptures, including one that isn’t even on the map yet! We look forward to seeing even more of these one-of-a-kind treasures be created at the Wood, Wine, and Blues Festival!

Hy Noon Kiwanis Triathlon
In past years, we have had fun watching the swimmers in the lake and cheering on the athletes at the Hy-Noon Kiwanis Triathlon.

The Hy-Noon Kiwanis Triathlon  is another great family event on Saturday, August 15. While not everyone may be up for a 800 meter swim, 12.63 mile bike ride, and 3.1 mile run, the triathlon is fun to watch. Cheering on the athletes is a great way for families to get involved and support a great cause at the same time. The Hy-Noon Kiwanis Club uses the proceeds from the event to help eliminate MNT (maternal and neonatal tetanus). To get more information, click here.

Pirates’ Pointe Mini Golf Course is sponsoring the Captain’s Cup Miniature Golf Tournament on Sunday, August 16. Kids up to age 16 play for prizes including cash, Pirates’ Pointe certificates, waterpark passes, and a TV. It is sure to be a day full of fun for many kiddos and their families. Check out King’s Pointe’s Facebook page for further details.

There will be something for everyone in Storm Lake August 14-16, 2015. Be sure to check out the Wood, Wine, and Blues Festival activities along with all the other great things that make Storm Lake, Iowa special! While you’re there, pick up a map and challenge yourself, your family, or a group of friends to find all the wood sculptures in town. You’ll see for yourself just how phenomenal these sculptures really are!

Storm Lake Staycation Proves You Don’t Need to go Far For Fun

“What do you want to do?” “I don’t know; what do you want to do?” Does this exchange sound familiar? My husband and I often have this conversation before a date night or in this case, when deciding on a vacation. This summer these words were said quite a few times and before we knew it, our kid-free weekend loomed near. We needed a plan, and quick!

Great Date Night
We had an amazing time at the White House 220 Cupcakery! We didn’t have to go far to have fun!

We wanted to do something fun for just the two of us, it needed to be within driving distance since we had two nights of free childcare (we were cashing in a Christmas gift from my parents-a way awesome gift for parents with small children), and we wanted to do or go somewhere different from previous trips. We crossed more things off the list than we added, but then suddenly, in the final hour, I had a plan! We were going to have a staycation!

I must admit, my husband wasn’t as keen on this idea as I was. He wanted to get away, but I was determined to show him that staying at home could be a vacation too. Hey, we weren’t going to have kiddos around for two whole nights-that is a vacation right there! I found many positives in this situation. We could sleep in the comfort of our own bed, sleep past 6 AM if we wanted, we didn’t need to spend time packing, we would save a bunch of money on gas, and we could do some of the things we’ve always wanted to try in our town of Storm Lake, Iowa.

I figured we hit most of our must-haves. We would have fun, be within driving distance of home, and minus staying in our own house, we would be doing something different. I started making a list of the things I wanted to try. By the time my list was done, there was more on it than we would accomplish, but we had options!

My list went a little something like this:

If anyone says there’s nothing to do in Storm Lake, give them this list. It will take a little while to accomplish all of these. This isn’t even a comprehensive list-it was what I could come up with 5 minutes of spare time. With more time, I could find things to keep someone busy for a week!

Anyway, with our kids safely deposited with grandparents, it was time to start our very first staycation! Our first stop was the White House 220 Cupcakery in Alta. You can read my blog post about this amazing experience here. We picked up a few extra cupcakes and enjoyed them later that night with neighbors over a bottle of wine.

Breakfast Gazebo
This gazebo was the perfect spot to enjoy our breakfast from the Storm Lake Farmers Market!

We slept in the next morning. It is amazing what a little extra sleep can do! We decided to head to the Storm Lake Bakery for donuts before heading to the Farmer’s Market. The bakery was out of everything breakfast-ish. I guess that’s what happens when you sleep in! After deciding that cookies probably aren’t the best way to start the day, we continued on to the Storm Lake Farmer’s Market. We checked out the vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, honey, jellies and jams, and baked goods. We picked up some amazing local honey and a couple cinnamon rolls. We walked a few blocks and enjoyed our breakfast in a gazebo on the corner of Lake Avenue and 4th Street.

After a trip to Wal-Mart, (I know this is not an amazing stay-cation stop, but going to a store together without two extra helpers was enjoyable), we made a picnic lunch to enjoy by the lake. Another thing checked off the list! We went for a walk and checked out the water rentals by Kings Pointe. We were bummed to find out the water bikes were out of commission for an undetermined amount of time. So, we resorted to plan B and borrowed our friend’s jet ski on short notice. It had been years since we had been on the lake, and it was so much fun! I don’t think I ever really appreciated the enormity or beauty of the lake as much as I did when I was actually in the middle of it! If you don’t own a boat or other watercraft, here are a couple places to check out in Storm Lake: Kings Pointe and Storm Lake Marina.

After an afternoon of water fun, we cooked ourselves a yummy meal to enjoy in our backyard. We watched a movie at home and called it a night. The next morning we took advantage of the time to ourselves and we accomplished a few jobs around our house. The draw back of a staycation is you don’t really get away from the things you know need to be done!

Storm Lake Municipal Band
Bring your own chair or blanket to enjoy the Storm Lake Municipal Band at the Sunset Park Bandshell. Make sure you put them on your summer 2016 schedule!

Another afternoon leisurely stroll on the walking path led us to Sunset Park where the Storm Lake Municipal Band was setting up for an afternoon concert. We stuck around to hear them play awhile before heading home. The group of musicians did an exceptional job entertaining the crowd. We saw one of the last concerts of the year, so be sure to check them out next year. You can find their schedule here.

By the time we got home, our kiddos were back again too. They were excited to tell us about the ‘vacation’ they had with their grandparents, and we were excited to see them. There was no luggage to unpack or mounds of laundry to tackle, so we had plenty of time to hear their stories.

I’d say our staycation was a success. We crossed 6 of the 12 things off our list. Not too bad! The others will be saved for another day-perhaps even another staycation! So, if you find yourself wondering what you are going to do for a date night or even a weekend vacation, start to look around your hometown or surrounding communities. You may just find there are plenty of new and fun things to do without leaving the comfort of your own home.