Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at North Iowa Drive-Ins

As June Dairy Month comes to an end, I thought I'd better share about my family's last two stops of our 2nd Annual Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip.  The final stops are similar in many ways.  They are both located in North Iowa where we live.  They are both "drive ins".  They are both open only seasonly during the summer.  And they both serve soft serve ice cream.  They are the Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura and Stan's Drive-In in Osage.

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip to Viking Drive Inn in Ventura and Stan's Drive In in Osage

Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura, Iowa
The Viking Drive-Inn is located in the town of Ventura, which is located on the west side of Clear Lake.  Did you know there are more than one town that Clear Lake goes through?  We finally visited this local ice cream shop for the first time earlier this month and it lived up to its popular status.  When arriving we had to park down the road and then once the kids and I got to the front door, we could barely open it up to get in, to order.  Like I said, the place is very popular and on a nice, Saturday afternoon, the place was packed.  Inside is room for six people to sit up at the bar, but there is lots of seating outside, where there are several picnic tables to sit at.

Black Raspberry Ice Cream at the Viking Drive-Inn in Ventura
The small Black Raspberry cup offered
BIG flavor and a BIG serving
I made ordering simple by asking what their most popular flavor was.  The gal who assisted me said, "Black Raspberry".  So that is what I got, a single Black Raspberry for myself and classic chocolate cones for the kids.  I liked the Black Raspberry ice cream's unique and rich flavor.  The kids' chocolate cones also had a nice, smooth chocolate soft serve flavor.  I ordered small portions for everyone, but the sizes were anything but small.  I'm not complaining, I love ice cream, but just so you know, their servings lean to the large side of the scale ;)

If you are biking or driving around Clear Lake be sure to stop by this little ice cream shop.  They also have a classic drive-inn food menu too if you're hungry for more than ice cream.

MP and LP enjoying chocolate ice cream cones

Stan's Drive-In, Osage
Stan's Drive-In in Osage is also another popular ice cream stop in North Iowa.  This is a fun place to eat and have ice cream with your family with a little bit of nostalgia.  I mean, how many drive-ins can you drive to today where you can have a car hop come to your car, take your order and deliver it to you in minutes?  The first thing that really impressed me about Stan's was the speed of service.  The place was packed of cars under the drive-in awning and back by the picnic table sitting area.  No matter where you were, the two car hops got to everyone fast and friendly.

Stan's Drive-In, Osage
Just like at our other ice cream destinations this summer, I asked the car hop what their most popular items were.  She told me the chicken breast filet sandwich with their special sauce and their arctic delights (think DQ's blizzards).  So that is what I went with.  My chocolate cookie dough arctic delight was exactly what I was looking for.  The soft serve ice cream was thick, rich and smooth.

Have you been to either of these popular drive-ins in North Iowa?  What's your favorite flavor of soft serve ice cream you've ever had?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!  Also be sure to check out our other destinations this month to Snookies Malt Shop and Heyn's Ice Cream.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops

* This post has been compensated through the AE Dairy Blog Ambassador program.  All views and opinions shared are my own. *

Want an inside look at how my brain works?  Well...  Last week on Facebook I asked my fans for summer kid snack ideas, which inspired me to create my Kid-Friendly Trail Mix.  It also gave me the idea of freezing yogurt.  One fan commented that they put yogurt in a piping bag and pipe out dots on wax paper and freeze, creating Fro-Yo Bites.  I decided to combine that idea, with my kids love for making homemade popsicles, along with this weekend's Independence Day holiday, and created Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops!

#ad Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops featuring AE Dairy Greek Yogurt

Red, White & Blueberry Yogurt Pops

3 6oz AE Dairy Greek Yogurt containers, vanilla flavor
1 1/2 cups AE Dairy Skim Milk
8 medium-large Strawberries
1 medium Banana
1/2 cup Blueberries

In a blender, mix one container of yogurt with a 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in strawberries til smooth.  Pour mixture to the 1/3 line of each mold.  Next, blend another container of yogurt with another 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in the banana til smooth and fill molds with the mixture up to the 2/3 line.  Lastly, blend the final container of yogurt with the last 1/2 cup of milk.  Blend in blueberries til smooth.  Fill each mold full.  Set popsicle sticks (that have been soaked in warm water for 30 minutes to keep them from floating up in the molds) in each mold.  Freeze for at least four hours.  Yields 12 popsicles (plus a little extra for immediate sampling).

What would you caption this photo???
This is cold...
It is sunny outside...
Mom, stop taking photos, I'm trying to eat
Don't have a popsicle mold?  Put the yogurt layers in tall glasses creating a fun and colorful smoothie!  No matter how you enjoy this festive treat, you'll love the tangy, yet sweet flavors.  Each layer has its own spotlight as you make it through the popsicle.  I asked our son LP what his favorite flavor was and his exact words were, "The strawberry, and the banana, and the blueberry."  So there you go - it is all good!

Do you have any Red, White & Blue recipes you're going to make this weekend to help celebrate Independence Day?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!  Be sure to share below and remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix

Summertime for our family means going on mini-adventures, playing outside as much as possible, and visiting family and friends both near and far.  Last week we had a play date with some neighbors and wanted to bring a kid-friendly snack along.  Our usual go-to is puppy chow, but with it being warm outside I thought it'd be best to switch it up so we wouldn't have one giant chocolaty mess.  I decided to make this salty and sweet Kid-Friendly Trail Mix.

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix Recipe - perfect for your next summertime playdate

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix

4 cups Puffcorn, original
2 cups Bugles, original
2 cups Teddy Grahams, chocolate chip
1 cup Ritz Bits, cheese cracker sandwiches
1 cup Goldfish, cheddar
1 cup M&M's, plain

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to evenly distribute.

For a fun red, white and blue snack this 4th of July, try Patriotic Custom M&M'S in the Trail Mix!

Kid-Friendly Trail Mix - a sweet and salty summertime snack for the family
This is a fun, summer snack for kids, and those that are kids at heart.  In fact our family has enjoyed this Kid-Friendly Trail Mix so much in the last week we are on our second batch!  Our 4 year old son LP loves the Teddy Grahams in the Trail Mix, where our 2 year old daughter MP's favorite is the Puffcorn.  I personally love the Bugles and My Farmer enjoys the Ritz Bitz.  And you can't go wrong with Goldfish and M&Ms, right?

What would be your favorite part of this Kid-Friendly Trail Mix?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

And a big thank you to my Facebook Fans for helping me think through summer kid snacks ideas and for helping me decide what to post this week!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City

It's June Dairy Month, so that means our family is celebrating by visiting iconic Ice Cream Shops and Parlors around the state of Iowa as part of our 2nd Annual Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip!  During the first week of June we visited Snookies Malt Shop in Des Moines.  Week two we traveled to Iowa City for a wedding so we figured we'd better make it a blogging experience too by visiting Heyn's Ice Cream!

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City #JuneDairyMonth

Heyn's Ice Cream is in the heart of Iowa City, or at least it felt that way for this Cyclone family...  To tell you the truth we've never really been to Iowa City and have definitely never drove that far in to Iowa City.  But I'd have to say it was worth it!  Heyn's Ice Cream was delicious!

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City
My Farmer making his decision...
Upon entering the ice cream parlor we couldn't help but check out the cute Holstein dairy cow decor and the wide variety of ice cream flavors and serving options!  Heyn's makes over 40 flavors of hard ice cream, so you should be able to find something that fits your taste buds.  I wanted to try several flavors but decided to go with their top seller - Monster Mash!  Monster Mash is a vanilla ice cream with monster cookies mixed in it.  It was perfect for me since I love cookie dough ice creams.  My Farmer went with Kara's Creation (which is an Oreo cookie, caramel, peanut ice cream) and gave it a two thumbs up review!

Ice Cream cone options at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City - Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip
Cone options at Heyn's Ice Cream
Like I said earlier, they have a variety of serving options for their ice cream - shakes, sundaes, twisters (think Dairy Queen's Blizzard), parfaits, banana splits, and of course several cone options.  We decided to splurge and go with one of their hand dipped Dream Cone options.  Both My Farmer and I enjoyed their Butterfinger Dream Cone.

Single scoop Monster Mash Ice Cream in Butterfinger Dream Cone at Heyn's Ice Cream in Iowa City - Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip
The finished product!
Single scoop Monster Mash in a Butterfinger Dream Cone

A friendly Hawkeye family guarding the entrance to Heyn's Ice Cream
So, if you are ever in Iowa City, or anywhere within an hour... you should make the trip to Heyn's Ice Cream, even if you're a Cyclone.  Don't be scared of the Hawkeye families that guard the outside of the store.  You can buy the homemade ice cream in take home containers of pint, half gallon and gallon sizes if you feel like you need to make a quick exit! ;)  But seriously, it was very good ice cream - it was rich, flavorful, creamy and fresh!  Heyn's now holds my spot for top hard ice cream in Iowa.  (My pick for top soft serve in Iowa is the Whippy Dip in Decorah.) And the people, Hawkeyes and all, were friendly.

Have you ever been to Heyn's Ice Cream?  What is your favorite flavor if you have been?  Do you prefer soft serve or hard ice cream?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Over the Rainbow in Love with MP's 2nd Birthday

Just over a week ago our daughter MP turned two years old and we celebrated with immediate family at an afternoon birthday party at our home.  Two years old is the last year I feel like you, as parents, can really guide and ultimately decide on a theme for a birthday party, so we decided to do something fun, bright and colorful just like her - a rainbow themed party.  (Last year for her first birthday we had a butterfly themed party).

Our best attempt at a family photo at MP's birthday
Left to Right: MP, My Farmer, LP, JP, myself
I love entertaining and hosting family and friends at our home, so throwing birthday parties for our kids is a fun treat for me.  I remember several birthday parties that I had as a kid and helping my Mom decide on a cake and theme.  I love incorporating the kids in the planning of their parties too.
Kid-friendly, Painted, Colorful Rainbow Birthday Party Invitations
Creating MP's Rainbow Birthday Party Invitations
 After deciding a date and to go with a rainbow theme the first thing we had to do was make an invitation.  I had MP (and her big brother LP) help make the invitations.  We used cotton balls to paint a rainbow of the front of each card.  I pinched clothes pins on each cotton ball to make it easier for the kids to grip.  In the inside of the card, we had a simple, colorful poem inviting them to the birthday party.

Rainbow Birthday Party Food - Rainbow Fruit Tray and Rainbow Veggie Tray
Rainbow Fruit Tray: Strawberries, Mandarian Oranges, Pinneapple,
Green Grapes, Blueberries, Purple Grapes
Rainbow Veggie Tray: Cherry Tomatoes, Carrots, Yellow Peppers,
Broccoli, Celery
While the invitations might be the first thing we prepare for the birthday party, the biggest and probably most important thing is the food.  We served a nice supper for our family of shredded pork sandwiches, my famous baked beans, a rainbow fruit tray, a rainbow veggie tray and chips & dip.  It was so nice out, that we set up tables outside and had a picnic.  

Homemade Rainbow Birthday Cake
MP's Rainbow Birthday Cake
The focal point to any birthday party of course is the birthday cake.  Since we went with a rainbow theme I decided to make a double batch of white cake, and split each batch into three layers, so I could make a six layer rainbow cake - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  I used my basic frosting recipe to stack each layer together and to frost the outside.  I then had some multi-colored sprinkles from my pantry to put on the cake in the shape of the number two.  I just cut out a two from a piece of paper to make a stencil in order to keep the sprinkles in the correct area on the cake.  The cake was a hit!  We served the cake with our traditional homemade ice cream.

The best part of the cake was that MP loved it...
she even asked her Dad if she could have a bite of his!
Rainbow Birthday Party Decorations - Photo Clouds
We made photo clouds for decorations
The last thing to think about for the birthday party was the decorations.  I always keep birthday decorations simple.  We put some red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple streamers on our deck since we had most of the party outside, and we made some photo clouds.  The photo clouds were simply free-hand clouds cut out of poster board that had photos from over the last year on them.  I then used the streamers to make a colorful loop so they could be hung from doors and windows.  I always love looking back at photos over the last year when it comes birthday time and enjoy sharing those photos with our family by displaying them around the house.  We also had a bright and colorful flower bouquet for our dinning room table.

The party was a great time and I know MP felt very loved.  The best part of the party was when we gathered everyone to sing Happy Birthday so MP could blow out her candles, she started the song and was the first to say Happy.  It was very cute!  I guess she was excited to have some cake.

When it is your birthday, what is your choice of sweet treat?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip at Snookies Malt Shop in Des Moines

Happy National Dairy Month everyone!  Our family loves dairy products and we appreciate all of the long hours and hard work that dairy farmers go through 365 days a year.  Did you know that Iowa has over 1,400 dairy farms?  During June Dairy Month last year our family made an effort to celebrate dairy farmers by visiting small town, local ice cream shops throughout Iowa (and if they're open only seasonally, the better), and we're doing it again this year!  I know, a small price to pay to show our support, right?  We are an ice cream loving family and it is fun to go on Iowa road trips to discover these fun and nostalgic places.  Last year we visited The Whippy Dip in Decorah, Hansen's Farm Fresh Dairy in Hudson, Blue Bunny in LeMars and Birdsall's in Mason City.

2014 Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip - The Whippy Dip, Decorah, Hansen's Dairy, Hudson, Blue Bunny, LeMars, Birdsall's, Mason City
2014 Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip
Top Left: The Whippy Dip, Decorah, Top Right: Hansen's Dairy, Hudson
Bottom Left: Blue Bunny, LeMars, Bottom Right: Birdsall's, Mason City

Earlier this week we headed down to Des Moines and figured we needed to go to one of their classic ice cream shops, Snookies Malt Shop in the Beaverdale neighborhood.  An added bonus was that we were able to invite some of our extended family that lives in the area to join us!

Snookies Hot Fudge Shake
with a Maybe cookie on top!
Snookies Malt Shop is a retro ice cream drive-in that serves soft serve.  They are known for their malts (hence their name...) and their free puppy cones.  When I stepped up to their walk-up window (they also have a drive-in and sit-in dinning room) I asked the staff what their top seller was and they replied with chocolate malts, but then one of the gals working added that her favorite was a hot fudge malt.  So, I told her I'd take a hot fudge shake (sorry, I just don't care for malt flavoring).  It was a classic, soft serve shake and I enjoyed the hot fudge.  A fun treat that they add to all of their shakes and malts is a short bread cookie as garnish (and an animal cracker on other classic ice cream dishes).

MP and LP didn't even want to look up
from their dishes of ice cream for a photo...
What makes Snookies special is the atmosphere.  It is family friendly and you can tell that the Beaverdale neighborhood takes a lot of pride in it.  In fact, there are people that camp out for their opening day every April!  It was fun to meet up with one of my sisters, my nephew, a cousin, and her son for our initial stop on our Iowa Ice Cream Road Trip.

They were all tuckered out by the time we left Snookies (MP is on the right)
Have you ever been to Snookies Malt Shop in Beaverdale?  Do you prefer malts or shakes?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Iowa Staycation in Des Moines

*I received complimentary admission to facilitate this review as a 
US Family Guide Blogger.  All views and opinions shared are my own.*

My family loves exploring our "backyard" and traveling around our home state of Iowa.  One place we love to take a day trip or a weekend vacation to is   Des Moines.  Besides being the state capital and home to several family members, there are a variety of fun, family-friendly destinations.  A new spot we recently checked out was Monkey Joe's in West Des Moines.

Iowa Staycation in Des Moines at Monkey Joes, West Des Moines
LP with Monkey Joe
Monkey Joe's is a fun, inflatable-filled indoor play and party center perfect for kids ages 12 and under.  When we visited the West Des Moines location.  There were seven inflatables, including two for kids ages 3 and under.

Iowa Staycation in Des Moines at Monkey Joes, West Des Moines
LP on the "Pirate Ship"
LP loved the "Pirate Ship" inflatable.  He especially loved the slide part of it.  I was surprised how fast the slide was, but he thought that was the best part!  He definitely had no fear when jumping and bouncing around the entire play center, but really, what four year old boy does???  LP was the perfect age for Monkey Joe's.  There are other indoor play places in the Des Moines area; I really feel like Monkey Joe's is the best fit out of all the options for preschool and elementary aged kids.

Iowa Staycation in Des Moines at Monkey Joes, West Des Moines
MP watching her big brother LP go down a slide
MP wasn't sure about all the bouncing and jumping, but she loved pointing out all of the monkeys in the play center.  And boy are there a lot of monkeys.  She also enjoyed checking out the arcade area, running around and watching her big brother go down slides.

As a Mom, my favorite part was that adults got in for free and there was no time limit.  I also appreciated their pride in keeping the place clean and safe.  I saw each employee at one point or another cleaning around the center.  And to keep kids safe, when you enter they give each adult and child in the same group a matching number bracelet system; they then check each bracelet before you leave to make sure the correct kids are leaving with their parents or guardians for the day.  Even our 4 month old daughter JP got a bracelet!  She never left the comfort of my baby carrier I was wearing on my chest, but she still got one.  Also, one quick Mom Note: remember socks for the entire family, including yourself.  Socks must be worn around the play center, and if you don't bring your own, you can purchase a pair from Monkey Joe's.

The Des Moines Monkey Joe's is located at 1600 Valley West Drive, Suite 200 in West Des Moines, across the road from Valley West Mall and next to Hy-Vee and Goodwill.  It is open Monday-Saturday, 10am to 8pm and Sunday 11am to 6pm.  I recommend you follow them on Facebook and Twitter to receive special discounts.  Also, you can get a $2 Off Admission coupon right now for the West Des Moines location from US Family Guide.

What do you look for in a family friendly staycation?  Have you ever been to a Monkey Joe's?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Comments for a Cause - Retrieving Freedom

It is a new month, which means it is time to introduce a new cause!  Before I talk about June's cause, let's talk May numbers.  Last month I had 45 comments, creating a $22.50 donation to North Iowa Hospice.  Thank you to everyone that commented to help me support a reader suggested organization that I've seen help friends and family here recently.  If you have any Comments for a Cause organizations or mission suggestions be sure to share them with me by commenting at the bottom of this post, or on my Comments for a Cause page.

In the month of June I'm excited to be supporting an organization that supports veterans (I have a sister and brother-in-law who both are), diabetics (I have a sister-in-law who is), and autistics, and is expanding in our local area, Retrieving Freedom.  In June I will be donating $0.50 for every comment on my blog during the month to them, and my friend Beth Ann from It's Just Life will be doing the same on her blog.

Retrieving Freedom, Inc. is a non-profit organization that trains service dogs for placement in three main areas: Veterans, Children with Autism, and Adults and Children with Diabetes.  They breed and train the chosen dogs with specific traits needed for their duties as a service dog for those three specific areas.  The dogs go through a two year training program before they're placed with an owner.  Retrieving Freedom will customize the training of the dog to fit the precise needs of the person whom they will be placed with.  As they say, "Retrieving Freedom is not a 'one dog for all' type of organization".

Retrieving Freedom operates out of two locations: Senatobia, Mississippi and Waverly, Iowa.  Scott Dewey and the team in Waverly are excited to be having their Grand Opening of their Training and Placement facility on June 27th.  You can check out the schedule here, or learn more on their Facebook page.
It takes $23,000-$25,000 to produce a fully trained Retrieving Freedom dog who are all associated with Assistance Dogs International.  Let's help this worthy and noble organization by commenting on any post all month long.  Thank you Shannon Latham at The Field Position for helping me become aware of this local organization.  

Have you ever heard of using assistance dogs for Veterans, Autistics and Diabetics?  Remember to Comment for Cause!

Country Fair Blog Party: Summer Lovin'

It doesn't seem possible that today is June 1st!  But it does seem like summer has officially started as our family has signed up for the summer reading program at our local library, we've planned some day long trips to visit friends, family and new places, and we're starting to do some post-plant field work.  Before I get into all of this Summer Lovin, let's talk about last month's Celebrations Country Fair Blog Party.  Here are my three Blue Ribbon winners:

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats Fiesta Mac
There were so many reasons to celebrate in May, one of the firsts being Cinco de Mayo.  Now don't get me started on the Americanization and misinformation of this holiday and how I feel like it is turning into the new St. Patrick's Day, but anyways... I love any reason to eat Mexican food!  I love Ally's, of Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats, Mexican spin on an American classic:  Fiesta Mac.  This is a great dish for all families that love macaroni & cheese and tacos.  What could be better than putting them together, right?

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Little Blog on the Homestead's Mother's Day + Infertility
The next big celebration in May was Mother's Day.  I feel absolutely blessed and honored to have celebrated my fourth Mother's Day last month and to have three kids to celebrate with.  I know Mother's Day can be an emotional holiday for many reasons - those whose mothers have passed away, those whose children have passed away, and those that haven't been able to have children.  I appreciated Nicole's, of Little Blog on the Homestead, courageous and true post about her feelings as someone dealing with infertility.  She gave a few tips on how to celebrate with all Moms in her Mother's Day + Infertility... 5 Things You Should Know post.

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Oak Hill Homestead's I Hate Mowing the Yard
My last Blue Ribbon winner for the month goes to Kathi of Oak Hill Homestead.  She shared a neat and informative post on uses of wild plants in her I Hate Mowing the Yard post.  This post came at the perfect time last month as my interest had spiked about morel mushrooms and other wild edibles.  I actually have signed up for a wild edibles class that will share about plant identification and cooking preparation that I'm really looking forward to.

I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up this month as we enjoy some Summer Lovin'.  Throughout the month of June we are looking for your posts that have anything to do with Summer - Summer Bucket Lists, Vacation Ideas, Summer Recipes, Summer Treats, etc.  You name it, you post it - anything that makes you love Summer.

This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Bloggers, feel free to link up to 3 posts this month and be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.

Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Country LINKed
Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom
This Uncharted Rhoade
Tip Garden

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What new blog did you discover through this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!