While in Dubuque

We extended our waterpark adventures by spending the night at Grand Harbor and exploring the riverfront. The riverfront is where John and I got engaged nine years ago, so it’s extra special to us. What a view!

Stone Cliff Winery is just a five-minute walk down the path, and it was the perfect evening to sit outside, share a bottle of Apple Cranberry wine, and eat flatbread pizza. Very rarely do I indulge in multiple glasses of wine in one sitting, but that wine is a new favorite.

Was Dubuque this pretty when I lived there?


“Waterpark INSIDE!”

Elijah absolutely loved the indoor waterpark at Grand Harbor in Dubuque.

We planned ahead with this weekend away and scheduled it for a time Casey and Lillian could join the fun. Casey and I were both curious how our kids would handle the waterpark, and their bravery surpassed all of our expectations. We started in the kid’s area with the basic splash pad-like activities, but it wasn’t long before we were riding down the big slides over and over again. While the adults hung on tight, the kids just laughed the entire ride down. It was pure joy for both parties.

I really couldn’t tell you if the adults or the kids had more fun.

Girls’ Trip: Texas

It was a long winter. Somewhere in April, during another snowstorm, I was texting Kathleen and both of us agreed we needed out of Iowa. We wanted friend time and temperatures warm enough to make us sweat. Just a few texts later and Lindsay was inviting us into her home in Woodway, Texas.

Kathleen and I flew into Dallas within 30 minutes of each other on Wednesday and spent the next three days exploring Waco with Lindsay. Who knew we could still stay up until 2 a.m. multiple nights in a row?!

Magnolia, The Silos, The Findery, Magnolia Table, Spice Village, Homestead Heritage, and Baylor all made the list of must-see stops.

I visited The Silos when John and I visited in November, but this place is always expanding. If you’re visiting, save your appetite for the many food trucks in the outdoor space. Seeing people walk around with mason jars full of tea really set the mood.

As for Magnolia Table…whoa. Will a Day come where this restaurant doesn’t have a line? We drove by around 11:30 and saw a ridiculous amount of people. We decided to dine elsewhere and return for dessert before they closed at 3. When we arrived around 1, they had stopped taking people in line between 11:30-12 since it could be up to a three-hour wait! We were still able to taste the food since they have a “to go” area that allows customers to order the sandwich of the day and various pastries. They also have an area where you can order food, lemonade, or coffee while you wait in line for your meal. These people know how to make money.

Food was a highlight of the trip, and I’m returning to Iowa wanting more fresh guacamole and overflowing shrimp tacos.

A big thanks to Lindsay and Andy for hosting Kathleen and me and allowing us to have a warm weather countdown when we needed it the most! We’re planning ahead for next year so more Loras friends can join. Location TBD.

National Presentations

The sights of San Francisco were awesome and the sunshine was a gift from God, but the highlight of the conference was seeing my students present to a national audience. Four girls presented, all seniors, for three different sessions.

  • Vulnerability Within Opinion Writing
  • Our Lives Through The Lens
  • 16 Editions, 32 Weeks

The final exam for my class should have been the presentation for these girls because they demonstrated their expertise in their content area at a national level. They aced it.

My presentation was the same as it was in Dallas, “Sports Writing: Players and Coach, not Scores and Stats” and I had about 250 people in attendance including both students and advisers.

Another portion of the conference was the adviser’s recognition luncheon, which is where I was awarded my CJE. I actually snuck out of the ceremony early in order to make it to my students’ session, but it was great to sit at a table with advisers from around the country and share success stories as well as current struggles. Most schools, including mine, only have one publication adviser, so these conferences are oftentimes the only professional development I receive within my specific content area all year.

I still have a list of notes on google docs to sift through, but I’m confident the conference stretched my students, myself, and our program.

The fall NHSJC will take place in Chicago in November, and I already have one student proposal accepted to present.

San Francisco Hot Spots

Fisherman’s Wharf. Ghiradelli. The Golden Gate Bridge.

Even though it was windy, my happiness level to feel the sun touch my cheeks brought me a love I hadn’t felt since visiting my parents in Arizona two months ago! It’s been a long winter in Iowa, people.

After getting into San Francisco really late Wednesday (early Thursday morning), we were thankful to have a late start to our day. The FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise) Tour was from 9:30-noon, and it was really fun! This fashion college includes majors in graphic design, interior design, and fashion design. The reason this stop was on a tour at a journalism conference was that we talked about how to write-up fashion, especially if you are a journalist covering a runway show. Our guide not only gave us a tour and explained how their graduates work with famous designers and brands, she held out pieces of clothing and asked the girls to write up how they would describe the outfit. It was an interesting exercise and one I had never thought about for a journalist.

The rest of our day was spent exploring the city because the conference didn’t actually kick off until 7 p.m. This gave us plenty of time to take in the hot spots and enjoy some sushi.

The girls were mad about the miles we put in, but I did my best to redeem myself with Ubers back to the hotel. I couldn’t let us return to Iowa without seeing the famous places San Francisco has to offer. Besides, I warned them to wear comfortable shoes. They’ll forgive me when they look about at these gorgeous photos.

*Please note the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. This was a new sight for me!

Conference Goals

Last April I had the opportunity to attend my first National High School Journalism Conference (NHSJC). The location that spring was Seattle, and I loved taking in a new city, drinking my weight in Pike Place coffee, and learning new material with other teachers passionate about journalism. When I returned home, I created some goals for myself…

My goals were:

  • Spend more time on our newspaper’s website
  • Submit student work for contests
  • Complete my own JEA certification with the hope of presenting at the national level someday.

Looking back at these goals helps me receive the professional lift I’ve been needing lately. Within a year I’ve been able to submit both newspaper and yearbook work for contests, and a few students have walked away with honorable mentions. One of my students submitted a handful of yearbook photos and will find out this weekend if she placed. Hopefully, I’ll have more tell you about that in a few days.

As for spending more time with our school’s website, this goal is still in the works. I’ve spent a lot more time with our newspaper’s social media, especially Instagram, and I’ve added a Beginning Journalism tab to our website to feature more sophomore and junior writers. Other than that, brand new content is not being created for our website. This needs to change, but there are only so many hours in the day.

I completed my CJE and will be award this certification at a luncheon on Saturday during this year’s spring NHSJC. In addition, I presented in Dallas and will present again on Saturday. My topic is the same, Sports Writing: Players and Coaches, not Scores and Stats.

Saturday’s programs are a part of this year’s NHSJC in San Francisco. A group of 12 students, myself, and another chaperone will depart tomorrow afternoon for this conference. I’m looking forward to geeking out with other journalism teachers while taking in a change of scenery. God bless anywhere that has palm trees. Our trip includes lots of awesome adventures, so I’ll report back with photos.

A Delayed Christmas Gift

Our weekend away was a belated Christmas gift to my parents. Instead of buying them a present to put under the tree, my siblings and I blocked off a weekend on our calendars to get everyone together in the same place as our “gift”. (We did this two years ago in Coralville, and just check out those photo of me pregnant and snuggling Colin in this post.)

Upon John’s recommendation, we booked rooms at Hotel Renvovo in Urbandale. John has stayed here a few times for work in the last six months and had nothing but praise for the unique, urban farm inspired design of the hotel. If you’re a Chip and Joanna fan, you should stay at this hotel. The decor fits the area because it’s located right next to The Machine Shed and Living History Farms.

While I was worried about a snowstorm hitting the weekend of our preplanned vacation, I didn’t think about illness. Unfortunately Tony and Ashley’s family had to sit the weekend out due to the flu. They were definitely missed. Is it spring yet?!

Even though our pool time took place indoors this spring break, I just needed to get out of town to reset. Mission accomplished and I’m in a better place mentally than I was three days ago. I’m praising God for spring break and so sorry for anyone in education who doesn’t have this luxury. I know I’ll go back to school next week a better and more patient teacher.

Scottsdale Valentine’s Date

John and I celebrated Valentine’s Day early with dinner at Hand Cut.

While the dinner and drinks were great, the dessert. Oh. My. Gosh. The dessert.

Salted Caramel Butter Cake with slow roasted peaches and vanilla ice cream.

John and I both declared it the best dessert we’ve ever had. 

We’ve celebrated 16 Valentine’s Days together, but celebrating in Scottsdale was a first. It’s safe to say they just keep getting sweeter.

“Outside!” “Outside!”

I promised Elijah the 3+ hour plane ride would be worth it because we could play outside as soon as we arrived in Arizona.

He stood on John’s lap and chanted “Outside!” “Outside!” as soon as we landed. He made a lot of friends with fellow passengers who were feeling the same way.

Soaking up the weather and spending time with my parents were our entire agenda.

Thankfully my parent’s place had yard space (hello, green grass!) with plenty of ducks for Elijah to watch and chase

Pool time, walks, shopping, climbing Camelback, and iced coffee allowed us to fit a lot into four days.

It’s honestly unbelievable what a few days in the sunshine can do for a person’s mental and physical health.

Thanks to my parents for giving us a reason to escape the snow.

Magnolia Market

No, I didn’t find Chip or Joanna.

I did find Lindsay and Andy. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with the content in this post, I suggest you watch Fixer Upper on HGTV. Chip and Joanna take rundown houses in Waco, Texas and remodel them into absolutely stunning yet functional homes for families.

In one of their episodes, they build Magnolia Market at the Silos. This touristy spot includes the Market, food trucks, a garden center, and a bakery. It’s designed to be a place to shop but also bring families and friends together. The yard includes tables, lounge chairs, yard games, and room to spread out and relax.

If you can’t make it to Magnolia Market, read their book. I blogged about, The Magnolia Story, earlier this year, and I stand by my recommendation.

Thanks to my Loras housemate, Lindsay, and her husband, Andy, for welcoming us to Woodway and Waco. Lindsay is a professor at Baylor, and we had the opportunity to take in the campus following our Magnolia visit. Who knew there were real bears on campus?

Catching up with these two was even more magical than Magnolia.