my american fix

Welcome back, readers!

A last minute business trip sent us home to Iowa just a few weeks ago.  With only 5 days at home and short notice, squeezing in visits with as many people as possible was no easy task!

We arrived on a Tuesday evening at DSM airport.  After a short wait for baggage, we headed to the rental car counter for Hertz.  (We sold both of our cars before we left, so a rental car is needed!)  Then in a surprising turn of events, we were informed that Hertz actually didn’t have any cars available…even though we (and numerous other upset customers) had made reservations in advance.  So we arrived at BC’s parents’ home in a taxi, much to the surprise of everyone.

Naturally, Linda had prepared a delicious Mexican fiesta for us, given our current lack of the cuisine.  It was great to catch up with everyone, including our two nieces who had changed dramatically since our last visit!  Especially the youngest, who was only 2 weeks old last time!  Of course, it took her a little longer to warm up to us.

As I mentioned previously, this was a business trip at its core, so BC was off to work on Wednesday morning.  For me, a chauffeured ride from my father-in-law brought me to breakfast with my dear friend, Julie, at the lovely establishment that is:

Panera!  I miss you.

Panera! I miss you.

After returning from a tasty breakfast, it was time for round two at Hertz.  After turning in my taxi bills and signing my papers, I was given the keys for my car.  Please keep in mind that I have not driven since our last visit to the US at Christmas time!  I was a tad nervous…but luckily it came back to me much more easily than ‘riding a bike’ did.  From there, I headed to the office not to pick up BC, but to get another good friend, Mandi, for lunch and chatting about her recent engagement!  Mandi has moved to NYC since we’ve been abroad, so we were really lucky to be in town at the same time.  We hit up an extremely delicious and trendy East Village burger joint by the name of Zombie Burger.  While I find the gourmet burgers here to be AMAZING, it was this treat that really hit the spot:

Fried dill pickles!  A long standing craving of mine!

Fried dill pickles! A long standing craving of mine!

The lack of dill pickles in Europe is a frequent complaint of mine.  I heart them.

Anyway, from there, I headed West for about 2 hours to the lovely and tiny town of Mondamin, IA.

Really happening place!

Really happening place!

This is my hometown, of course!  I always look forward to driving down this street and heading to my parents’ house for some family time!  My mom had invited my brother’s family, grandparents and aunt & uncle over for one of my dad’s infamous fish fries that evening.  During the evening, my nephew and I snuck away to do our normal routine of him performing some sort of stunt, and my photographing of it.  Here was his best skateboarding trick of the night:

Pretty impressive, right?

Pretty impressive, right?

PS - Owen, please stop getting older.  Thank you.

PS – Owen, please stop getting older. Thank you.

The following day was family bonding day, as both of my parents took the day off.  I started out with a pitstop at Erin’s dad’s house.  You may remember from my last post that Erin & Tyler were heading to Copenhagen while we headed back from Norway.  They had just arrived home from Europe and were trying to sleep off some jet lag, but I had a few things to bring home for them.  Even though we had just seen them, I will always take the chance to see them again!  Erin had also gotten me a few of her new favorite coffee/coconut water drinks to sample!  Now I just have to wait a year to enjoy them again…

We then continued our trip onward to the Woodbine Country Club with my older bro and my dad for a nice little 9-hole round of golf.  It had been almost 2 years since my last golf excursion, not that it would have made a difference, so I was quite happy to have played almost all of my own shots and even parred one hole!  Boom.

My partners on course.

My partners on course.

After the round, my mom and grandparents met us at the clubhouse for our traditional meal of chicken phillies and homemade chips!  Can you say, “delicious?”

The fam bam.

The fam bam.

Then we made a pit stop at my grandparent’s cute farm house to change out of my golf attire and I could see where my grandma had put the Dutch tulips I got her!

Isn't it adorable?

Isn’t it adorable?

Three generations!

Three generations!

While I have the camera out...

While I have the camera out…

From there, I headed North with my mom to Sioux City to visit my younger brother and see his new digs.  We arrived at Hinton Elementary just after kids had departed for the day to see a tour of Mr. Rife’s new classroom!  (My mom would want me to tell you that they had a field trip that day and that’s why he isn’t dressed up!  You’re welcome, Mom.)

Really cool, modern school!

Really cool, modern school!

There it is - so weird for me still..."Mr. Rife"

There it is – so weird for me still…”Mr. Rife”

Then we followed Curtis to his new apartment, where I even got to meet the girlfriend!  So fun for me to catch up on everyone’s lives after being gone for 9 months since the last visit!!  From there, we made the all-important stop at Target for me to stock up on all the American treasures to bring back…such as fruit snacks, NyQuill and goldfish.  There may have even been a few Halloween candy purchases in there…?!?  I’m not going to lie to you, it was actually pretty overwhelming to be in such a gigantic store filled with everything you can imagine, given my current shopping options, and especially since it was an unfamiliar Target location.

Then on another staple establishment known as Buffalo Wild Wings! 🙂  Why wouldn’t you want some delicious BBQ boneless wings when you’ve only got 5 days to pack in as much American-ness as possible!? 🙂  It was amazing, as always.

When we returned to Mondamin, my dad had already started a traditional Rife family backyard fire.  We sit around the fire pit every chance we get (weather permitting) and take in the calm, quietness that is small town living!  Neighbors come and go when they see the fire lit, so you get the opportunity to catch up.  I REALLY love this tradition!!

The scene.

The scene.

My parents' garden lit up at night.

My parents’ garden lit up at night.

My mom and I headed to ‘the city’ (aka Omaha, NE) in the morning for a doctor’s appointment, a walk down memory lane for me as I drove through UNO where I went to school for 2 years, and then even a pit stop for some quick shopping.  We stopped in Mo. Valley for lunch with my dad, and then I was headed back to the lovely Des Moines, IA.

I stopped at the new HyVee (the best grocery store chain in the Midwest – yeah, I said it.) in Urbandale on the way home to get a prescription filled and find a few additional items that only they carry.  After all of my experiences at our local Albert Heijn, this was WONDERFUL.  There was so much aisle space to wander, but I was again overwhelmed by the amount of options.  I imagine some very long grocery runs when we do get back to the US.  I will have to look at everything!  Also, just so you know, I felt like a really big weirdo taking a photo in here.

Seriously, this place was unnecessarily huge though.

Seriously, this place was unnecessarily huge though.

I got back to our home base with just enough time to change my clothes, pick up my husband from work and meet some friends at the classy dive known as High Life Lounge.  This place has literally not left the 70’s.  Shag carpet (luckily the original carpet was replaced a couple years ago – probably a healthy choice), old leather chairs, cheap beers and comfort food make for a great time!  It was fun to catch up with good friends in a familiar location…and let’s not forget, I got cheese balls!  Mmmmm.  With ranch dressing.  Mmmmm.  (Good thing I had just completed that bootcamp…)

The guys.

The guys.

A few of the gals.

A few of the gals.

THE FOOD!

THE FOOD!

Saturday was definitely another highlight of the trip.  Cyclone football day!  We were lucky enough to be home for the biggest rivalry game of the season: Iowa vs. Iowa State!

But for me, the day started out with a visit to my most favorite little shop in all of Des Moines…EPHEMERA!  Karen & Arin are the best, and I had brought them a little Dutch treat too.  You should visit them, friends.  You can find them in the East Village under this adorable awning.

Out front at Ephemera.

Out front at Ephemera.

This is where I met the crew…my friends from the EY days: Julie, Lindsey, Billy & Lauren!  We packed in my sweet rental and headed to Ames, IA for a fun day of tailgating and catching up with friends.  We had about 5.5 hours before game time, so we had to make use of our time wisely.  We started at BC & I’s standard tailgating spot where we were happy to see things somehow went on without us. 🙂  Then I made a trip with my group as far away as we could possibly go to visit more friends, and then all the way back for some yummy tailgating foods.  I was reminded during the walking of how overly competitive and just plain dumb some people can be about football…don’t miss that.  But that couldn’t stop it from being an awesome day!!  And we had beautiful, sunny weather too.  Unfortunately I was too busy enjoying myself to take many photos, but here are a couple shots for fun.

From our usual spot (after take-down had begun).

From our usual spot (after tear-down of the tent and such).

America!  We watch football in the back of our SUV's.

America! We watch football in the back of our SUV’s.

The girls.  Boo Iowa.

The girls. Love them all, even if they do have ‘Iowa’ shirts on.

The ladies, Billy and myself made our way to a restaurant in Ames to view the game, as we hadn’t felt the need to splurge on tickets.  BC did get a ticket to the game, so he headed in to sit in his regular season ticket area with his great friends and his dad.  Here’s a shot he got inside the game:

Jack Trice Stadium - sold out game!

Jack Trice Stadium – sold out game!

A bummer that the outcome was not in our favor.  Luckily though, I was able to beat traffic on our return journey to DSM…a victory in my book! 🙂

Sunday morning came quickly, and we were excited to spend our final day in the States with our families.  My parents and nephew had come to DSM to spend the morning with us and BC’s family.  Of course, there was even more skateboarding going down…entertainment for both Owen & Alayna!

He even had a hill to work with this time!

He even had a hill to work with this time!

She was so entertained by it!

She was so entertained by it!

Linda had prepared another fantastic meal, with all of our favorites, and we didn’t walk away hungry!  Always nice to spend some quality time with family…especially when it’s a bonus trip!

Rife crew - as indicated by my father's hat.

Rife crew – as indicated by my father’s hat.

Me with the little ladies.

Me with the little ladies.

The Carlson family.

The Carlson family.

The time had come to say our goodbye’s, finish up our packing and head to the airport.  Although it took some work, we got everything in our bags and loaded up the rental car.  Goodbye, everyone!

Our send-off!

Our send-off!

Boy weren’t they surprised when they got the call to pick us up at the airport again! 🙂  You see, after arriving at the airport and having a refreshment in the lounge with our friend B.J. who was headed back to NYC, we noticed that we were a little behind schedule in boarding our plane.  The gate agent annouced that the plane was being cleaned and that we would board when it was finished.  She made this annoucement about 3 times before everyone really started to get concerned.  Turns out someone had gotten sick through the entire aisle of the plane, poor guy or gal…so we were not going to be able to take that aircraft.  (Fine by me – couldn’t be pleasant in there anyway.)  Unfortunately, by the time the replacement was departing, we would miss our connection to Amsterdam, and we were on the last flight of the night.  So…why not extend one more day in the USA?!  Not that we even had the choice.

We spent our extra day with me running some last minute errands that I had just ruled out previously and BC got some additional work time.  Most importantly, one extra day meant that we could make the all-important stop at Chipotle!

Why is it so good!?

Why is it so good!?

Eventually, we made our flight and headed back across the pond to our new home, where the adventures continue!

Planes + sunset = my fave.

Planes + sunset = my fave.

It was great to see everyone that we could during our bonus trip home.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of people that we didn’t get the chance to visit as well.  That’s why we will be home again soon!  Thanks to everyone who went out of their way to make our trip AWESOME!

Until next time,
-MK-

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