Thursday, December 22, 2016

Beaverdale Lights

This is our third holiday season in Des Moines, and we've taken a drive through Beaverdale every year. Our first year here, Santa was actually standing in the circle where Ashby Avenue meets Wallace Lane, and he was handing out candy canes. We haven't seen him there since the first year, but every year the lights get better and better. This year, literally almost every single house in a 3 block stretch was decorated. It's beautiful!

I took a quick video of parts of the drive. It's worth driving through, especially if you have kids who love to see the lights!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

I'm giving you an eclipse for Christmas

...That's what my letter reads to my husband, anyway.

While I can't create an eclipse (sorry to disappoint), I can plan a fun gift to give him the opportunity to see it! On August 21, 2017, a large part of the United States will have a total solar eclipse, something that hasn't happened in the contiguous states since 1979!

There are several cities that are in the path of totality, including: Salem, Oregon; Idaho Falls, Idaho; Jackson, Wyoming; Casper, Wyoming; Grand Island, Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; Carbondale, Illinois; Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Charleston, South Carolina. Northern parts of Kansas City and southern parts of St. Louis are also in the path of totality. Carbondale is where NASA will be live-streaming from! If you want to check out more cities or other places in the path of the total eclipse, Eclipse2017 created an interactive Google map of the eclipse path here.

I believe most, if not all, of those cities are planning viewing events, and hotels are booking up quickly. For example, Jackson (which is located near Grand Teton National Park and isn't that far from Yellowstone) has announced on their eclipse page that "almost every hotel room is already booked," but they remind people that there are some first-come, first-serve camping available at Grand Teton National Park. It would probably be a a gamble to bank on getting any of those spots, though! I recommend calling hotels directly for availability, no matter what location you're considering. Many of these cities show absolutely no hotel availability at all online. However, when I called a couple hotel locations at their local number, I was able to track down an affordable room left in St. Joseph. You might have better luck at some of the larger cities, since they will have more hotels. Don't forget about campgrounds as possible choices, too! One RV park I called was booked and had a waiting list, but then told me they had a few primitive tent sites they could rent if we wanted to tent camp. Finally, one more possibility to check on would be home vacation rental sites like AirBNB and VRBO (I saw some rooms left there for Jackson Hole, but they are going for thousands a night!).

To make this gift complete, I'm giving Andrew some eclipse viewing glasses (because you can't look at an eclipse directly without proper eye protection!). There are some on Amazon that are available for prime shipping to get before Christmas, and a few come with posters of the event! Here's a link to a pack of 5 pairs of viewing glasses with a commemorative poster for $14.99. There are other, similar packages on Amazon for the same price. Most of them say something about the "All-American eclipse" because the total eclipse will really only be visible from the United States. Also, know that some cities and states have actually had their own viewing glasses and posters designed, so you can get viewing glasses that say "Wyoming Stargazing," for example. St Joseph has T-shirts, viewing glasses, and posters available for purchase on their site. The city of Carbondale announced that there are posters commemorating their viewing event for sale at the Southern Illinois University craft shop. So, do a bit of Googling if you are hoping to find items that will commemorate the specific viewing event you plan on attending.

Ultimately, Andrew will get a letter with our hotel reservation information on it, a map of the path of totality, information about a few of the viewing events nearby, and the viewing glasses & poster for Christmas. I think that's a pretty cool, unique gift!

I hope this tip helps someone plan a gift for someone who is difficult to shop for. And, yes, the eclipse is still 8 months away, but unless you live in the path of totality, the time to plan for a trip to view it is waning (not unlike our moon).

For more information about the eclipse, check out