A rockin’ reunion

My sister, Megan, dad and me.

So last weekend I went home to Kansas to see my dad play bass guitar with his band from the ’70s, Plain Jane. They were being inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame, and since I’d never actually seen my dad play with them before, I didn’t want to miss it.

Dad and my stepmom, Bonnie.

He left the band in 1978, and I was born in ’80. The rest of the band continued to play up until 1992.

I can remember having a Plain Jane poster in our basement, and my dad getting out his acoustic guitar to play random songs on occasion, but really I know him as a computer programmer more than a musician. So it was cool to see that other side of him. Isn’t it funny to imagine the life your parents had before you came along?

It was really fun to see them play, but I think it might have actually been more fun to hear all the stories from back in the day. They traveled all over the Midwest to play shows and had quite a few adventures. They apparently played a regular gig at a strip club in Salina, where they had to introduce all the dancers. They ate a lot of Denny’s because it was the only thing open late at night. I’m sure there are a lot more stories they’d rather keep to themselves…

Here are some photos of the band in the ’70s. Gotta love the hair! My dad is at the bottom right.

There were lots of changes to the lineup, and apparently at one point two guys who went on to be in the band Kansas were in Plain Jane. One of them, Rich Williams, is in the next photo at top left.

Mike took this video of Plain Jane singing one of their original songs at the induction ceremony.

I am dying for one of their T-shirts now. I just love the logo – classic!

Snowed in

It turns out, the blizzard was for real. Not only did we get what forecasters predicted, we got more. As of this morning Des Moines had 14.5 inches of snow.

Our trashcans have been our snow rulers so far.

We are literally stuck here, as the front door only opens about a foot, and we can’t get out of the driveway or our street, which remains unplowed.

Some of the drifts are pretty incredible. My poor neighbor’s lighted trees have been absolutely buried.

But his sparkly deer actually look about right now.

When I went out to take pictures I couldn’t find the steps!

Our herb pots are under there somewhere. Probably should have brought them in.

Reggie loves the snow.

Sadie won’t go outside but for a minute or two. They shouldn’t be out long anyway because the wind is just brutal.

If you’re snowed in, too, I hope you’re staying warm and safe. I’m catching up on knitting and reading, and trying to steel myself for tomorrow’s shoveling (in my homemade Snuggie, of course!)

Engagement photos

Coincidentally, I happened to meet Joe Crimmings while I was working on Juice’s wedding issue back in January. He shot photos of one of the most chic urban weddings I’ve ever seen, and I ended up looking through hundreds of them to choose just a few for the issue. A week after we finished the issue, I was engaged.

Later I wrote a story about Joe, and his incredible journey of surviving cancer in college, then recovering and ultimately celebrating five years cancer-free with a major triathlon and the birth of his son. It was a very powerful story.

But in the end we chose Joe to shoot our wedding and engagement photos because he is incredibly talented, easy to work with, and most importantly – willing to drive a zillion hours to our location and bring his lovely wife, Libby, as the second photographer. We are so lucky to have them as part of our wedding.

So, enough blabbing. Here are some of my favorite photos from our engagement session. They were all taken in Des Moines, and I think they capture us so well as a couple — urban and outdoorsy, not too serious, and of course, in love. 🙂

If you’d like Joe to shoot your wedding or other important life event, see his work here.

77 miles and one happy ending

I finally rounded up an assortment of photos from my day of Ragbrai. Just a quick recap for anyone who doesn’t know – Ragbrai is a bike ride across the state of Iowa that takes place every July when it’s just about as hot as it can be here. They cap it at 10,000 official riders, but when you add all the unofficial people it can be a lot more than that. I’ve heard about how cool it is for years, I’ve written stories about it, I’ve gone to it when it came near Des Moines (because Lance Armstrong rode it a couple times when he wasn’t doing the Tour de France). But I’d never actually been a part of the ride itself, and it just felt like time. Plus, I knew my best friend, Erin, and her boyfriend Jason, would be riding this one day in particular because it was stopping in his hometown (Ottumwa, Iowa).

So that wasn’t really a quick recap at all, but there you go.

I was pretty nervous going into the day because due to training for the Bolder Boulder 10k race in May and spending the week before Ragbrai doing Nia, I didn’t have as much time to devote to cycling as I wanted. When we did do our 60-mile ride (and I am kicking myself for not bringing the camera that day – it was gorgeous!), I struggled at the end with an uncomfortable seat and was not sure how my butt would survive an even longer ride. Plus, the logistics of getting us all there, a car left at the finish, and a place to stay overnight the night before so we could get up at the crack of dawn, were a little crazy.

And you will just never believe where they put me and Mike. In a juvenile detention center! That is one place I never thought I would sleep. But it did give us our own bathroom (sort of), and a door to shut at night.

Oh, and did I mention that Ragbrai is notorious for teaching people from out of state that Iowa is absolutely not flat? These rides are long, hot, and hilly. But as I discovered, they are also wonderful.

Though it stormed early in the morning, the clouds cleared and we had a sunny day to ride, with temps in the mid 80s. With the humidity, it did bake us in the afternoon, but July in the midwest could easily be in the 90s or even 100s, so we got lucky there.

In the first town we got the whole group together and stopped for Chris Cakes, a pancake stand that turns out more pancakes in half an hour than you’ve probably seen in your whole life.

Dad, about to chomp.

They were the beginning of a day of eating anything and everything we could find, so that we could replinish the 2,000 calories or so we burned. My list goes like this: A banana, a Larabar, pancakes, a hardboiled egg, coffee, mac and cheese, chips, Gatorade, chocolate milk, peanuts, a Clif bar, a strawberry smooothie, chocolate ice cream, an apple, and I’m sure there’s more I can’t remember. By the time we got to the end we were starving, and ate a whole dinner with strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert. A la mode, of course.

By lunchtime I was feeling a little out of it, and not sure the rest of the day would be great. But after I rested for a while, ate more, drank more, and saw Smoky the Bear and several riders with thongs on the outside of their bike shorts I felt a little better. At that point Erin and I separated from everyone else so we could talk and the hills flattened out a little. Then I stopped at a gas station and spotted two people drinking the miracle drug out of cartons – chocolate milk!

I immediately went inside and bought some. I’ve heard many times that chocolate milk is the perfect substance to help you recover after an athletic activity, and I often drink it after a run. I felt soooooo much better after drinking it, that I made it up 3 of the most monstrous hills I’ve ever ridden. When we finally met up with the rest of the group I was on some kind of weird chocolate milk trip/cyclist’s high. I felt like I could conquer the world. So I ate some homemade ice cream (why not?), and we kept on going till the end.

The whole group, minus my stepmom (the photographer).

And weirdly, my seat felt fine the entire time. Yeah, it hurt in a way that riding 77 miles will do to you, but it didn’t cut into my enjoyment of the ride at all.

You just can’t imagine what it’s like to ride across these normally deserted country roads with thousands and thousands of people from all over the country. There is every kind of rider in every age group, from kids to grandparents. There are pelotons of superfast people going by. There are fit people, plumpy people, people in costume, people who drink every single night (and day) and still manage to ride. Ragbrai is everything people say it is, and more.

I loved seeing the little town squares, and their cute little general stores.

Oh, and I just about forgot to mention the happy ending. As we pulled into the driveway at Jason’s mom’s house, he did this!

And she said yes!

Now Erin and I get to plan our weddings together. She and Jason went on to finish the whole ride, and I’m so proud and happy for them.

Big Hair Ball

At the last minute I scored a free ticket to a local event that I always heard was cool, but had never actually experienced myself, the Big Hair Ball. It’s a fashion show, where wildly huge themed hairstyles are the stars. It’s sponsored by the Des Moines Art Center, so a lot of the artist community — hairstylists, makeup artists, fashion designers, etc. — comes together to make it happen.

The lighting caused some of my photos to blur, but I thought it actually looked kind of cool.

The show also featured something I never thought I would say existed, Des Moines’ burlesque group, St. Vitus and the Taxi Dancers.

I have to say it was a little weird seeing people I’ve interviewed on much different topics dance around in their bras, but what the hell. It was a great show.


I left my heart in the Rockies

We went to Denver without strict plans other than to run the Bolder Boulder 10k race on Memorial Day, and to see friends and family throughout the trip.

Race day was a little maddening. We took the park-and-ride to save time, and then proceeded to sit in traffic, not even picking anyone else up, for about an hour. By the time we got to the start both Mike and I had missed our waves, we hadn’t eaten in quite a while and I had to pee. Thankfully they had portapotties, and we were able to jump into another wave and start the race. But those waves were mostly consisting of walkers, which made it very difficult to try and weave in and out to keep running.

About halfway through, some kind of dehydration hit me, I guess, and my forearms started cramping up really badly. This had never happened to me before so it kind of freaked me out and I ended up walking a lot of the second half, grabbing Gatorade wherever I could. I very nearly thought maybe I shouldn’t continue, but when I got into Folsom Field and the whole place was just going nuts (people were walking on their hands and leap frogging to the finish), and I ran the rest of the way. Mike told me later that someone handed him a beer instead of water early in the race, and he ended up doing a Slip ‘n Slide in someone’s yard. It’s that kind of run, and you should totally do it if you get a chance. Just drink a LOT of water beforehand.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about going back to Boulder (a place I never wanted to leave in the first place). I guess I thought things would have changed a lot, but they really hadn’t. Vendors were still peddling dream interpretations and Lara bars at the Creek Festival. Houses are still half a million dollars. Coffee shops still sell fair trade coffee and vegan cookies. Everyone still looks fit. I think I lost three pounds just entering the city limits.

All the street performers were out in full force, including the digeridoo players and this guy juggling swords while balancing on a ball.

A lot of people, including some of my friends, hate Boulder. It seems to inspire either a love or hate reaction because it is such a unique place. I still love it, and I think I always will.

We took a side trip to Ft. Collins to check it out since neither of us had ever been there. We both had kind of the same reaction – it was just kind of meh. Feel free to convince me why I should love it, too.

It was nice to have some friends who’d moved to Denver show us around the great neighborhoods there. Apart from some seriously cranky drivers, I did like the area a lot, especially the cutesy brick houses and blocks of yoga studios and knitting boutiques. (See also, my next post about the food).

On our last day, blessedly sunny and gorgeous, Mike wanted to really get into the mountains. So we decided to drive up Mt. Evans, the only fourteener with a paved road all the way to the top. I’d never even heard of it, and none of our friends mentioned it, but I can tell you now YOU MUST GO THERE. It was so cool, and quite an adventure, even in the car. Some of the roads at the top just skim the edges of huge dropoffs with no guard rails. Every once in a while you see a marmot pop up around a corner.

Part way up you pass Echo Lake, which is just gorgeous. And you can hear the Aspen leaves rustling as you drive by with the windows open.

Near the nature center there’s an area full of 1,800-year-old bristlecone pine trees. They look like something out of a fairytale book with knotty branches that lean into the wind. This was also about where we started to see snow, and by the time we got to the top it was full-on winter.

At the summit there is a building that actually used to be a restaurant before it burned down. Mike climbed a slippery ridge to the very top of the summit, where he got to sign his name.

This one bowl was especially beautiful, and if you looked closely you could see that people had been skiing down it. It looked way too avalanche prone to seem safe to me, but people in Colorado are just a lot more hardcore than you can imagine. One guy even biked to the top of the mountain despite the fact that that meant sharing a tee-tiny road with other cars coming around the switchbacks with almost no visibility. Yikes!

I have to say I was pretty proud of my little Yaris for making it to the top (and then all the way down).

North woods hike

Last weekend we went up to the cabin in northern Minnesota so we could check out some wedding venues in the area (more on that later). We took our friends Brigid and Aaron so they could see what we’re always talking about, and though we didn’t have much time and the weather cycled through at least three seasons while we were there, we did get one afternoon of exploration in.

Mike knew about a waterfall that’s sort of hidden – no signs, no tourists pulled over to the side of the road. We hiked down a pretty steep hill covered in toppled trees and all kinds of mossy growth and lichens. It reminded me a little of the Portland walking photos from Posie Gets Cozy.

I loved these little sprouted saucer-like growths.

And then suddenly we were face to face with a massive waterfall, absolutely gushing from recent rains and spring meltwater. It was terrifying and gorgeous at the same time.

Sigh. Too pretty for words.

Weekend gardening

I love these precious few weeks in May when everything is in bloom, but hasn’t been destroyed by heat or thunderstorms.

I especially love watching the ferns in our back yard unfurl.

The tree in our front yard is blooming, too. Most of the trees in our neighborhood are purple right now, but I love our delicate white blooms.

I planted some annuals in our side garden bed. I’m partial to white and pink vinca and these orange zinnias.

If I had more money to spend on it I would have splurged on some daisies. But my budget was basically two trays of annuals with a buy one get one free coupon. Sad face.

Aren’t these pretty?

Someone who lived here before us planted them in another part of the garden (along with several rose bushes) and now they pop up randomly here and there.

Mike’s growing some seedlings in the basement while we wait for our tomato and pepper plants to arrive from Seed Savers. I’ll keep you posted!

Don’t mess with my nest

The other day I noticed this mama bird building a nest at the back of our house. We kicked them out of the underside of the roof last year, so I guess this was the next best thing. Hope to see some little birdies in there soon.

Snowy Sunday

Spring, where have you gone?

Just yesterday I was home in Kansas looking at these sunny daffodils in the yard. Now I’m back to Iowa, where it’s been snowing all day. Boo.

I was going to use it as an excuse to wallow in sickness, as I returned feverish with a swollen throat. But a few pills later I feel better, and there’s always so much to do on a Sunday.

For me, errands and freelance work. For Sadie, monitoring the yard.

For Mike, working on his garden fence. For Reggie, well, she seems to have the day off.