Kansas + Iowa

After last year’s epic tour of the Midwest for Thanksgiving we decided to split up future holiday visits to our families. It’s just too crazy to try to see everyone in one trip. So we put our Mason family celebration in Kansas first, and we made it a little early so we could get more affordable flights. I also really wanted to squeeze in a side trip to Des Moines to see friends there (plus all their new babies), so we rented a car to make that happen.

We were really hoping to experience a true fall season, something we both greatly miss. And wow were we rewarded with fall in all its glory. We had great weather most of the time, with just a bit of chill and plenty of brilliant leaves to run through.

And of course we had some excellent food. We went straight from the airport to Oklahoma Joe’s for some authentic KC barbecue. Oh my gosh, it was unbelievable. And huge! Talk about a change of pace. I had enough fries to feed 3 people, and my whole lunch was like $6!

I don’t normally like ribs that much, but theirs were in a league of their own. Just fall-off-the-bone tender. I’m thinking we should make this a tradition every time we visit.

Something about the sky on the way home was really lovely. Black trees against a golden sunset and fields of hay bales. I must have been away long enough to appreciate it in a new way.

Friday we drove up to Des Moines. Can’t say I see a lot of this in the bay area.

We wanted to see the new Des Moines Register building. When we worked for the Register, the old building was in pretty sad shape. Now their new space looks fantastic, all shiny and new.

We checked out their recording studio and got to pretend we were on the Bryce Miller show.

It seems like so many of our former coworkers have moved on to other jobs, but we still know a ton of people there. It was great to catch up.


Harper got to ring the copy desk joke bell. 

After that we headed to the always adorable East Village where we got to say hi to my friend Karen from Ephemera.

We also had to check out Stitch, a new knitting/sewing store that is exactly what I would create if I could design my own craft store.

I definitely left with some gorgeous yarns. I couldn’t help myself.

Des Moines was looking particularly lovely that night as the sun set.

This is the part where I could just kick myself for not taking some pictures. We went to visit our friends Tim and Gretchen who just had triplets a few months ago. (I always think of them when I think my life is hard.) They are handling it amazingly well. You can follow Tim on Instagram if you want to see their adorable babies.

After that (yes, this was an epic day) we met up with our friends Brianne, Joe, and baby Emmett and our friend Arin with her baby Jonah for dinner at A Dong. It was kind of crazy with 3 babies, as you can imagine, but so much fun. We miss A Dong so much!

After that we just hung out, drank wine, and ate cupcakes from Creme Cupcake. They only had vegan stuff left at the end of the day, but my coconut cupcake was damn good.

The next morning our babies got to hang out a little bit.


Someday the paper will go from chew toy to actual reading.


Sweetness.

Harper gets a kick out of all dogs, so of course she was entertained by Wilbur, who looks like a fox.

Emmett is just such a sweet baby. I kind of wanted to put him in my bag and carry him off.

Before we left town that morning we decided to take a walk around Brianne’s lovely neighborhood. I was kind of obsessing over the trees, but they were so pretty.


You too could own a pair of hand-knit baby legwarmers

I mean look at that!

I definitely get a lump in my throat when I think about how much I wish I could do this every day.

But I’m glad we got the chance to spend some time together.

When we got back to Lawrence we had a big family gathering with our Mason cousins. Harper got to play with her cousin Isla, who was only 5 weeks old when I met her last year.

Both of the great grandmas were there, which was so cute. We got to take some four-generation photos.

Harper got ultra spoiled with gifts. She basically giggled and shrieked all night. I think she was really overstimulated, but I know she was having fun.

Auntie Erin had to put in a bunch of laps while uncle Jason made the stuffed dog bark.

Later we got to have a little date while my mom stayed with Harper. Erin and Jason invited us to Merchants Pub & Plate in downtown Lawrence. We had some drinks and dessert (sweet potato donuts – fab!). Then we stopped by Erin’s parents’ house to meet their dogs. Believe it or not they have 3 Newfoundland mixes and a Great Pyrenees. Miss Bella owned the dog bed though.

Speaking of dogs, Charlotte was pretty jealous of Harper getting all the attention. She did eventually warm up to her though.

And she knew exactly where to stand when we had friends over for dinner.

The rest of the time we got to relax a little.

We made a big trip to Home Depot so Mike could take on some home-improvement projects.


The extent of our plumbing knowledge. 

The rest of us took some photos in the back yard. Mom’s weeping willow was looking so beautiful.

And we found Harper looked really cute in this red metal chair.

I also did a little shopping in downtown Lawrence. I picked up some cute earrings for Megan at Made, which carries all handmade goodies (including some familiar ones from the bay area!).

I also got a onesie made for Harper from Acme Tshirts. They have so many good ones to choose from.

We were sad to leave, but we have more family visits coming up in December. My dad and stepmom will be here mid-month. And then we’ll be traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota for Christmas. Looking forward to seeing many more familiar faces.

KC – DM – SF

Finally I am getting back to normal after an epic vacation to the Midwest, followed by an epic tour of San Francisco with my good friend Rachel, who was visiting from New York.


Of course I had to visit my sweet Charlotte.

I planned a trip home to Kansas for my Nana’s funeral. But I ended up adding on a cleanout of my other grandmother’s house — where we had an estate sale — a baby shower, and a trip to Des Moines to see my good friends. I do not know where I found the energy, but I managed to feel great the entire trip (as long as I got to sleep well at night).

I got to see most of my entire extended family and all my Des Moines friends, which made the trip so worth it. They even gave me a Fiat 500 to drive at the rental car place!

I also got to admire Erin’s Subaru Outback, which I think is the car we will be getting soon. As you know, I am in love with my Yaris, but it’s simply not big enough for two adults, a baby (and all that gear), plus two big dogs.

In Des Moines I even took a Nia class, which I needed more than I realized. I soaked up all the Midwestern things you don’t get so much out here, including a few rainy nights (I so love that sound of it hitting the grass), hospitality, good service at restaurants, trust of strangers, and last but not least, giant water glasses.

It’s probably silly to complain about a water glass, but they are seriously so tiny in restaurants here. And now that I’m extra thirsty all the time, I appreciate a big glass even more.

Oh yeah, I had to have some potato oles while I could get them. 🙂

The baby shower was a real treat. My sister pulled out all the stops to make food that a pregnant lady would love, including pickle bites, deviled eggs, and red velvet cupcakes.

My mom found some adorable vintage items to use as decorations.

And I loved our host Rae Ann’s idea to decorate with baby clothes that were also gifts.

I wish I had photos of our diapering-a-baby game because it was hilarious. At least I won my round!


I adore this photo. My mom, sister, and I with my grandma.

The next day I drove to Des Moines, where Brianne had gathered some of our friends at her adorable house for apple picking.

I got to hold my friend Arin’s new baby, Jonah, who is just the tiniest sweetest little guy.

I also got to meet my friend Karen’s new puppy Charlie (I’m in love with him!) and my friend Amy’s little girl, Linden (darn me for not taking pictures of them). I so wish I could have stayed longer. I miss those ladies so much, especially now that we are all going through such major life transitions.


Charlie!

It was nice to get back to California, though. Business has been busier than ever, so I can’t be away too long.


P.S. How cool is it that the electric car chargers at the Oakland airport are actually getting used?

Rachel came to visit the day after I got back, and we took her on a quick but totally packed tour of the bay area. She got Bette’s breakfast, Tony’s pizza, and fig bars at the Berkeley Bowl. Then we went into the city all day Saturday. We were foiled by a foggy Golden Gate bridge, but I think we did pretty much everything else.

We started out at the Ferry Building, where we got Vietnamese lunch from the Slanted Door’s takeout place.

Then we saw the sea lions at Pier 39 and took a streetcar back to our car. We stopped in the Mission for some shopping on Valencia, including Paxton Gate, which is the craziest store ever. It’s like part taxidermy, part science experiment, part secret garden.

Then we attempted to get some Bi-Rite ice cream, but were foiled again by a street festival and long lines. Fortunately, I remembered that you can buy it by the pint at the Bi-Rite market, so we did that and ate our ice cream in the grass at Delores Park.

After we rested our feet for a while, we grabbed some desserts at Tartine and then ate at a Mexican restaurant that I can’t remember the name of. We slept good that night!

Luckily, Rachel got a good bridge view the next day. Our doggies sure did miss her when she left, but hopefully it won’t be so long before we see her again.

It is so crazy to think that next time I do all these things I’ll have a baby with me. (By the way, you’ve got to read this.)

I was also thinking that I wonder if I will ever go to those small Kansas towns where my grandmothers lived again, now that they don’t live there anymore. So much is changing. Some chapters are closing and new ones are opening. I’m just trying to take it all in.

Pupusas

One of the things we most loved to do in Des Moines was go to the farmers market on Saturdays and get a pupusa from the pupusa stand. We haven’t been able to find any pupusas in California that come close to how good those were. The ones here are too small, too perfectly round (as if a machine made them), and don’t have enough filling. The Des Moines ones are stuffed so full the filling starts to ooze out the sides until it gets crispy on the grill. YUM.

So I finally decided, why not try making them ourselves?

The reason I thought we might actually be able to pull it off is that a few years ago Mike spent a morning with the El Salvadoran grandmother that runs the pupusa stand and learned how to make them. And while I didn’t expect us to get to that level of pupusa-making any time soon, I thought we could at least get close. My favorite filling was the bean/cheese combination, so we went with that.

Here’s the recipe we used for the corn masa and filling.

Here’s the recipe we used for the coleslaw/curtido.

Mike notes that for the filling we used red beans instead of kidney beans and Oaxaca cheese instead of jack. For the curtido he sliced everything using the food processor, and cut the carrots into coins instead of grating them.

We doubled the filling recipe and did 1 1/2 times the masa recipe. In the end we had way too much filling, so we either should have left that the same or did a full 2x the masa. I think we got about 8 good-sized pupusas.

It definitely takes a while to do all the steps, so it helps to have another person cooking with you. We cooked the beans first and let the coleslaw marinate for at least a couple hours before we made the rest.

Once you have your masa mixed up, make sure it’s always covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Basically your technique is to take a ball of masa, and using your thumbs, start to make an indentation in the center. Then you’ll pinch the edges until you have what looks like a little ceramic bowl, maybe 1/3-inch thick. Try to make it as uniform as possible. Place some filling in the center (my favorite was about 1/2 bean, 1/2 cheese) and fold the edges in until it looks like a taco. Then you carefully press the edges closed, and start pressing the whole thing flat until it becomes a disc about 1/2-inch thick and 6 inches long.


I should have taken more photos of this process. Sorry!

The masa wants to crack, so you just have to keep pressing it closed and trying to keep the filling close to the edges, but still inside. If a little bit is sticking out, it’s OK.

Then you oil a hot griddle and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they start to get browned. It takes a fair amount of oil to make sure your pupusa is fully coated and doesn’t get too dry.

To serve,  you add a big scoop of coleslaw and some salsa verde and you’re good to go.

The first couple we made were pretty good, but once we got the hang of it we started making some really good ones. I wouldn’t say they were farmers market level, but they were the best ones we’ve had in California, for sure. Success!

My Des Moines Top 5

I had to bid Des Moines farewell, but I thought I’d tip my hat to what I believe is a vastly underestimated city by giving you my Des Moines Top 5 (once upon a time a feature I put together for Juice magazine).

1. The East Village. OK, so maybe it’s cheating to make a whole neighborhood one item, but I really do think this part of town has become the heartbeat of the city. All of the independent business owners that adopted this neighborhood have made it into an extraordinary place to shop, eat, and socialize. I appreciate all the shops that carry local handmade goodies (Ephemera, Vitae, Domestica, Porch Light Antiques…), I’ve always loved the sights and smells at Eden, and I am definitely rocking my Raygun T-shirts here on the west coast.

2. A Dong. Mike and I probably ate at this Vietnamese restaurant more than we ate anywhere else in the city. Mostly because of the vegetarian options (yummy noodle soups and crispy egg rolls), but we grew to have a soft spot for the servers like Thai and Neal.

3. The crafty community. Thinking about the people I met in Des Moines through my crafty endeavors and won’t see everyday is probably the thing that gets me the most teary about leaving Iowa. I was just blown away by the talent in Des Moines and the drive that locals had to create events like Craft Saturday and Market Day. Creativity is so important to the growth of a community, and Des Moines has it in spades.

4. Beaverdale. I’m so glad I got to spend the last four years of my time in Des Moines in this great neighborhood. The brick houses, quiet streets and friendly neighbors are like something out of a movie, but it really exists. I will truly miss those Snookies’ ice cream cones in the summertime.

5. My yogis. It sounds totally cliche, but it’s totally true — Yoga changed my life. If I hadn’t met Sandi Hoover from The Family Tree back when she was teaching at Firehouse (now Harmony), I don’t know where I’d be. Both of those studios are alive and well, and you should definitely check them out if you haven’t yet.


Fall in Beaverdale.

Cozy knits

Is it time for fall yet?

I say that because even though the leaves are turning and we have three pumpkins on our front porch, it has been so unseasonably warm this October that it hardly seems authentically fall. You might remember that last year in early October it snowed!

But two weekends ago when I did my craft show, it was so warm I got overheated and sun scorched, and most people weren’t in the mood to buy chunky knit scarves.

So, I’m hoping for cooler temps this weekend, because I’m doing the East Village Bazaar again.

I’ll have all kinds of cozy knits, even more than last time.

Organic and stripey knits.

Chunky wool knits.

Knits for your head.

Knits for your hands (with vintage buttons, too).

Knits for your coffee cup.

And knits for your house.

I’m also signed up for Craft Saturday on November 6, and the Green Gifts Fair Nov. 7. So, ready or not fall weather, the knits are comin’!

East Village Sunday Bazaar

Mary Marie Knits is making her fall debut this weekend at the East Village Sunday Bazaar.

The bazaar has been moved slightly due to the World Food Festival, so it will be at E. 3rd Street, between Locust and Walnut.

I’ll have some lovely fall-ish items, like scarves, fingerless gloves, and cup cozies. It’s been feeling pretty summery around here this week, so hopefully people will be in the mood for fall. I’ve been pouring some new candles, as well, and I’ll have those, too.

Hope to see you there!

Swag from the swap

I just had to share some of the goodies I picked up at the Swap-o-Rama-Rama. Volunteers got goodie bags filled with crafty gifts from local artists. Even the bags themselves were handmade from old t-shirts.

I have been wanting one of Urban Posture‘s screenprinted kitchen towels for a while now, so that was a bonus. I have one of their t-shirts and I wear it all the time.

And how cute is this feather headband by Whiskerpaws?

Overall I think the swap went really well for a first-time event and I’m glad I was part of it. There were just enough people there to keep it busy without overloading the piles of clothes and the workshops that were going on.

Now we’re talking about organizing a craft swap, where people can bring old fabric, yarn, paints, etc. that they don’t need anymore. Love it!

Get thee to the Swap-o-Rama-Rama

I almost forget to tell you about this event tomorrow!

Des Moines is hosting its first Swap-o-Rama-Rama at the Des Moines Social Club, 1408 Locust St. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. I’ll be volunteering at the door, and then at 2 p.m. I’ll be giving a quick demo on how to make a T-shirt rug. You cannot make a T-shirt rug that quickly, but people can at least learn how to get one started, using T-shirts they pick up at the swap.

Basically, the way it works is that people pay $10 at the door and bring a bag of used clothing. The clothes get sorted into jeans, tops, skirts, etc. And then you can rifle through them and pick out some things you might want to wear. The rest of the day you can go to workshops and learn how to embellish, resize, and upcycle those clothes into all-new-to-you garments. There will be sewing machines there and everything.

Cool, huh?

The ladies of Vitae Design Collective (seamstresses extraordinaire) are also helping put together a fashion show.

So, after you hit the farmers market, come on over!

Practically free entertainment

Last weekend Mike and I went to a Des Moines Menace soccer game. The team’s on a roll this year, so it was the second time we got to watch them win at home.

Tickets are normally less than $10 anyway, but we heard they were down to $5 for this game if you wore red. So we donned our red clothes, only to have someone hand us free tickets to the game as we were walking in. Nice!

We purchased a $5 bag of kettle corn, which we devoured in a shockingly small amount of time. But later in the game as free T-shirts, Frisbees and water bottles rained down on the crowd, Mike caught this black tee. So I’d say we came out about even.

File that under reason 5,126 that Des Moines is a great place to be in the summer.

4th of July recap

I think last year the 4th of July weekend was when I really fell in love with Des Moines. I spent two days at the first 80-35 music festival where there was great music, clear skies, a fabulous view of the downtown skyline and just about every friend I’ve made in town. Hippies, hula hoops, a distinctive smell wafting around. It was one of those blissful summer weekends you could never recreate if you tried.

So I knew I shouldn’t expect that again this year, but it was pretty disappointing when the first night of the music festival was doused in rain. After our 40-mile bike ride that morning we were all tired and a little cranky. The rain just put us over the edge.

But Saturday seemed to make it all OK. The sun never came out, but we took our waterproof fabric roll to the festival and listened to great music all day.

Then we caught the fireworks show on the way to our car.

Hope you had a great 4th!