Iowa 2017

IMG_1213Midwest sunset on a farm

Two weeks ago I came home from a week-long vacation visiting my boyfriend’s family in Iowa. The main reason we went was for his cousin’s wedding.

We flew out of Honolulu and had a five-hour layover in Portland, then a three-hour night flight to Minneapolis. All of the flying culminated with a more than three-hour drive to Evansdale, IA. (We stopped in Wisconsin for, yep, cheese. And pickled Polish sausage).

Besides the wedding and reception, here are some highlights from the trip.

Cheese Curds

IMG_1114Case of a variety of cheese curds at the Amana Colonies meat shop

These small masses of cheddar cheese are the start of the cheesemaking process. Before cheese is made into blocks they start out as curds. You can have them fresh or fried. I tried both and have to say that fried is better. They taste like marinara sticks. They are also called cheese balls.

Lightning Show

The weather was unpredictable during the day–hot, cold and windy–but there were thunderstorms. And Midwest thunderstorms are not like ones in Hawaii. There were bolts of lightning, and it was neat to drive on the freeway and see that. One night there was a lightning show in the backyard.

Amana Colonies

IMG_1119Amana Meat Shop & Smokehouse

Our first adventure in Iowa was to the Amana Colonies, a German Pietist settlement in Iowa County. We only spent a few hours here, going to the Meat Shop & Smokehouse, Amana General Store (with a year-round Christmas market located inside!), Lehm Books & Gifts and Chocolate Haus.

Hansen’s Dairy

IMG_1189Decor in Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo

Our plan was to take a hands on tour of Hansen’s Dairy Farm, but we had a semi-packed schedule. The next best thing was to go to one of their storefronts in Waterloo for ice cream. We went twice during our stay! We even bought three pints of ice cream to eat at the house, but only ate one. Very creamy. Very tasty.

Downtown Ames

We needed to kill time before Reiman Gardens opened at 9am, so we walked around downtown Ames. We had an excellent chai latte at Cafe Diem and were treated to yummy chocolate–and nice customer service–at Chocolaterie Stam.

Reiman Gardens

IMG_20170621_095443Me and Elwood

Located on the Iowa State University campus in Ames, Reiman Gardens was such a pretty place! There was a lot to see on 17-acres, including the Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, where we came face-to-face with colorful butterflies (there are 800 of them??) and Elwood, the World’s Tallest Concrete Gnome.

My first trip to the Midwest was an experience. The quintessential farm was seen (including a pig farm!), but my time was spent in small, urban towns. It was definitely different from living in Hawaii (rush hour traffic is nonexistent in Iowa, from what I remembered, and no mountains or ocean, of course).

In fact, the trip went by slowly because there was no rush, of any kind. It seemed to me that people took it easy and that didn’t bother me one bit. Yes, we did get bored but a small town is just that, small. Not much to do. Even Des Moines was small.

However, I still had fun. I saw fireflies glint in the backyard (everyone helped collect some when it was mentioned that I had never seen them), ate a lot, and experienced a different way of living.

It was awesome.

And I now want a small collection of mason jars; they were everywhere in the clothing stores we went into, and as centerpieces at the wedding reception. They are so cute!

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