Saturday, June 27, 2015

Des Moines Art Festival - 2015


At the end of June every year, Des Moines hosts a free art festival in the area surrounding the sculpture park downtown. It's an award-winning festival that actually won "best festival in the world" for its budget category last year from the International Festivals & Events Association.

Nationwide opens up its parking garage for free parking, and we also saw dozens of people riding their bicycles to and from the festival. When we arrived, the first thing we saw were the volunteers working to build a Habitat for Humanity house, which will later be transported to its permanent location

We were right by all of the food booths and tents, and Andrew and I hadn't had lunch yet, so we got some vegetarian noodles. We walked a little bit and found kids playing in the "creek" that runs through part of downtown, so we let the kids splash in there while we ate our noodles.

The kids got to color at the Habitat for Humanity tent, and Andrew got them each a dish of ice cream.

After that, we found an interactive art exhibit. The kids got to drizzle paint on a giant bird sculpture that will be finished and hung at the airport later. They worked for a good while on it! After that, they painted 2D birds. Their goal is to get 2,000 painted birds to also hang at the airport with the sculpture.

Oliver & Jo's birds:

When the kids finished their hands-on projects, we let them run around the sculpture park. They enjoyed running up and rolling down the hills and, of course, checking out the sculptures.

We were only there about an hour and a half, but we got to see and do so much! There was a lot we didn't do, too, like the free shuttle tour of public art, listening to live music, and doing some art browsing/shopping. It would be easy to spend all day there, but that's not exactly practical with little kids. They had a great time with everything we chose to do. Our total cost for the day was $16: $8 for the noodles and $8 for two cups of ice cream.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Foam puzzles are the best puzzles for preschoolers

I just have to give a shout-out to what I think is the coolest toy innovation for kids: foam puzzles. In all fairness, we actually only have one foam puzzle, but it's fantastic!

After our kids graduated from the shape puzzles, where you drop characters into their corresponding shapes, we tried to buy them miniature jigsaw puzzles (the classic cardboard kind). We also purchased wooden puzzles. Neither of the kids liked these. They would try to shove pieces together, and Jo especially would get angry when the puzzle pieces didn't lay flat or got slightly bent.

I was browsing Zulily for Easter gifts this past winter, and they had a Frozen foam puzzle (25-pieces) for almost nothing. Not knowing what to get Jo (and knowing she likes Frozen), I decided to get it for her. It's been a big hit with both kids. Oliver was able to piece it together himself right away, but Jo needed some help. She liked to work on it with me, and we did so regularly. Fast forward a couple months, and she's putting together by herself completely. She puts it together, pulls it apart, and puts it together again.


It's also hard to break. She can pick it up, move it around, and the puzzle isn't falling apart. It saves on tantrums. There are few products I feel are just so great, but this is one of them. I then went online to find a foam puzzle with more pieces. We're now expecting a 98-piece Cinderella puzzle in the mail, ha! But at least it'll be a good challenge for quite a while.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Witmer Park


The only playgrounds within walking distance from our home are at schools. Although people have told me it's OK to play at the school playgrounds, I still prefer to go to actual parks. Besides, it gives us an excuse to drive around and check out the city!

We park off 34th Street. If you drive on 34th, north of Forest, you can turn in as soon as you see a wooded area (Witmer Pkwy). There's a small parking lot in front of the pond. From there, there is a short trail to walk on that takes you to the playground. The first part of the park, near the pond, is full of trees and shrubs. When you get to the playground, everything opens up. There's a playground, a field (where there are sometimes free movies in the park), and a couple of baseball fields. Across the field is 37th St, where there's street parking.

We've been to this park multiple times, and it's never been crowded. Often, we're the only ones at the playground. There are usually people out walking their dogs, so it's not too isolated.

When we went today, there were firefighters who had attached their hoses to the hydrant and were spraying into the pond. I thought maybe they were filling the pond, except the pond was quite full! I later found out they were doing drills. The kids enjoyed watching them work. Well, that's not entirely true. I kept asking Jo if she saw the firetruck and the hose and the firefighters and the hydrant, and she would add in excitedly, "And the potty! A green potty!" Indeed, there was a port-a-potty.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Greek Food Fair

There's a Greek Orthodox Church in our neighborhood in Des Moines, and they host a Greek Food Fair during the first weekend in June every year. My friend, Mary, from my knitting club told me about it last year, but we weren't able to make it. This year, we decided to check it out. We had to get to an ATM first, so we drove. That ended up being a poor decision, as parking wasn't readily available, so next year we'll certainly just walk the mile to the fair.

They had large tents set up, most with tables, so people could eat in the shade. Greek music played, and, apparently, there had been Greek dances before we arrived. We found a kids' tent, which had chalk set out.

The food tents were set up kind of like a farmer's market. One was a grill that sold kabobs, and we got a chicken kabob for the kids to split. Another tent sold Greek salads. They were being preprepared with lots of feta cheese (not my favorite...), and I didn't want to bother them to ask them to make one without. Another tent sold a variety of hot dishes, including a green bean dish and some pastries stuffed with cheeses and spinach. I chose an herbed potato that was fantastic. Ted's Coney Island (a local establishment) was there selling gyros in another tent. There was also a beverage tent that sold water, pop, Greek beer, Greek wine, and Greek coffee.

We bought a ticket punch card for $15. For our $15, we got the chicken kabob for the kids, herbed potatoes for me, a bottle of water, a piece of baklava, and two cookies. The kids actually really liked their kabob, although it took a little coaxing for them to try it. I really enjoyed both the potatoes and the baklava, and the kids devoured their cookies.

It was a really nice fair, a laid back event for a hot, almost-summer weekend. I think the only thing that would have made it better was a cool breeze or some more cloud cover. As you can see from the photo below, the kids got a little cranky near the end. They were hot and said they wanted to go home.