NewBo City Market opened in Cedar Rapids at the end of October. It’s just lovely. By now, I’ve been able to sample from nearly every food vendor, going back for more from Zaytoon’s Mediterranean stall and extra scoops of Zanzibar ice cream (a flavor that’s more chocolate than chocolate!) from the produce stand.



IMG_0760The bar there serves Iowa beers and wines in wide-mouth mason jars. There’s a cooking school, a Zoe-sized metal chicken statue, and a rotating list of craft vendors. One Saturday, unusually, a handwriting analyst set up shop.

This Thursday was the first truly spring-like day for us, and C and I took advantage by eating Maggie’s Farm wood-fire pizza — topped with garlic, mozz and caramelized onions, oh my — out in the sun. Still only about 45 degrees. Don’t care. This inspired the idea for outdoor pizza-eating gloves, still in the prototype stage.




I’ve got a real good feeling about work and life this week — staying ahead, morel certification interviews, USDA reports, getting serious about that gym time. It’s all leading up to a victory breakfast Friday morning at Hy-Vee, home of the perfect crispy-on-outside, rubbery-on-the-inside-pancake.

So in line with that, laid-back lady jams for you:


I’d really like to slow down for a minute after a lightning-speed weekend. Really, lightning-speed start to 2013 — we’re on the spring side of March and sprinting forward. With so much to look forward to (biking, Milwaukee, an Easter break, North Shore camping, babies + weddings, Iceland!) it’s easy to wish away the days. Let’s stop right here, take two deep breaths and listen to hippie music.


The sounds from Morgan Creek Arboretum last week speak for themselves. Just a little foray into field recording:


IMG_0715It was one of those not- quite-sunny, not-quite-warm blustery days that herald the end of the fall or the start of spring.

And then this sun dog.

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Fat hike.

Muddy, mucky, slushy, sunny, cycle-y after-work hikes this week. I tried out C’s new fat bike (a Surly Pugsley — how distinguished). I fell off C’s new fat bike. Then I got back on.

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We didn’t need gloves or trails.

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Foot-thick platters of petrified river water, radiating the lightest blue tones, groaned to a  halt against the dam just north of downtown CR Monday. Water below the floe has been flooding still unprotected northwest-side neighborhoods — perturbed by the holdup, I suppose. The whole river north of the city is a chunky, volatile mass of ice and snow. Like rock candy, mixed with twigs and river-bottom sludge.

I was tickled to see this dad arrive at the riverside parking lot with his elementary-age kids, along with a half-dozen other nature watchers. We all nodded and made twinkling eye contact, acknowledging our shared need for Earth time.

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The jam is next in a series of spring signs that kicked off a month ago with murders of crows roosting by the hundreds in my neighborhood trees (“crow trees,” I call them, and you have to say it in a grumpy, gravelly voice). These cackling crews are annoying at 5:30 a.m., terrifying outside at night. You hear the incessant caws and look up to see them circling dank orange skies. Shivers.



For the past year, I’ve been volunteering as a ticket-taker/resident smiling face at Cedar Rapids’ Legion Arts theater and gallery in the city’s New Bohemia district. That part of town has exploded with life since my move here, and Legion Arts is its long-time resident, the Great-Grandad of everything going on there today.

They schedule a special mix of folky singer-songwriters, many got their start at Legion Arts and return once a year to sold-out crowds, and international artists like last night’s Terakaft. After a sober first set, the Malian desert blues duo — which should have been a quartet, but they were plagued by passport and visa issues while slowly recovering from civil war — and the crowd brightened up, and the second act turned into a spontaneous stage-front dance party. Smiles and shuffling feet and hand-claps all around.

With that show record, I’d love to see an Abigail Washburn summer stop there for a perfect blend of Appalachian folk and traditional Chinese songs.

Weeknight hike.

Canada geese and chattering hawks (or young eagles?) and migrating swans. Good reasons to skip gym time Thursday night in favor of a hard slog on snowy trails @ Palisades-Kepler State Park. Hard slog = good reason to head to Zaytoon afterward for falafel sandwiches.

Ready for the time change tomorrow and more light for evening adventures.


Greenish thumbs.

I was tearing apart cabinets looking for drinking glasses the other day with little luck. C and I split a 12-pack of wide-mouth canning jars from the grocery store last fall to use as beverage glasses/tea containers/ice cream totes (a delicious story for another post), so I knew there were six fresh glasses hiding somewhere in the petite kitchen. Side note about mason jar glasses: Yeah, they’re pretty trendy right now, but what the folks on all the hipster lifestyle blogs don’t tell you is they’re also spill-proof—even wake up in the middle of the night flailing hands around your nightstand for a cool drink of water-proof. And I have a real problem with that, thus, mason jars.

Turns out, all my glasses are being used to hold plants at the moment. A dozen paperwhite bulbs bursting to life in drink-ware of various shapes and sizes, lining all the window sills and workspaces and generally growing out of control. They’ll also be the perfect vessels for starting some spider-plant babies this spring from a mama plant I bought at the greenhouse sale in college.














At some point in the last five years, I became a crazy plant lady (because cats are dumb, but dumb cane is not). There were the college acquisitions and the night-before-graduation panic run to the florist for some sunflower relief, but the hoarding got out of control when this guy wandered into my life. He was the gateway bulb to basil and cacti and a series of succulents and potting techniques and soil types and bathtub replanting disasters.

Allow me to talk about these things like they’re children for a second here: It’s really been a learning experience, figuring out which plant needs what when. Some seem to thrive on neglect, one likes one living room window but not the other (right next to it) living room window light. I’m learning about being root-bound, like swaddling a baby, and how certain greenies like it and certain just need to be free to test their boundaries and go on road trips with their friends (teenage plant things). I still kill a lot of plants. But I’m getting better—and I’m grateful for the ones that can’t be harmed no matter how hard I try not to water them for 10 days while I’m out of the country.

Matsell Bridge.

After at least two months of weekend hikes to exotic locations (within 45 minutes of CR), other Midwest travels, a move and winter burnout threw the adventures off in February.

Back with a vengeance and an extra layer of pants this weekend to explore Matsell Bridge Public Access’ mix of evergreen woods and open fields, where shrubby tree shadows played tricks in the blinding noon light. I played a quiet game of Name That Track — rabbit, dog, cross-country ski, double-tired off-road truck, and now, my wandering feet.


C and I plan to see Chasing Ice in Iowa City this weekend, which is appropriately what we’ve been doing all winter. Next chapter, Chasing Tulips. Not as extreme.