Friday, May 29, 2015

So... you wanna go to Pella?

I think this photo collage really explains itself. However, let me spell it out for you.

*12:45pm, phone rings*
Michelle: So... do you want to go to Pella and get Dutch letters?
Me: Well, I have a meeting at 1:00 and a track meet at 5:30. If my meeting was done by 2:00... Let me Google it to see how far it is.
Michelle: Okay, call me back.

*12:50pm, call her back*
Me: It's an hour and forty minutes from my house. So if I can be done with my meeting by 1:30, and you're waiting in my driveway, and we just go straight there and back, it could work. What do you think?
Michelle: Let's do it.

1:30pm - Leave for Pella
3:20pm - Arrive at Jaarsma Bakery
3:40pm - Leave Pella
5:32pm - Arrive at track meet.

3+ hours in the car for a dozen Dutch letters and some cookies? Worth it.

So tell me friends, other than the obvious fun of road tripping with your sister, what Iowa hot spots and delicious treats have you driving all over our great state?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Seeing Chicago with Shoreline Sightseeing

I was given free admission to the architectural tour to facilitate my review of this Chicago attraction. All opinions are honest and my own. 

So here we are! The final installment of my trip with the #NorthIowaBloggers to Chicago. This excursion was actually on our first night there, but it's the second "view" of Chicago that I get to share with you. The view from the SkyDeck was incredible, but the river tour provided to us from Shoreline Sightseeing was amazing in a different way. And much like our experience at Lou Malnati's, it was MADE by our tour guide, Victor. We boarded at Navy Pier, so prior to our tour, we grabbed dinner at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, and took a stroll along the pier. There's a lot of construction going on as their build their new vision for Navy Pier, so if you're headed to Chicago this year, I would schedule a visit back after the completion of their project. 

I went on a similar tour about fifteen years ago when I went to Chicago on a school trip, and it has always been one of the things that I remember fondly. When we stepped onto the boat for our tour a few weeks ago, it was a completely different experience, though. First of all, I had no idea how much and how quickly the Chicago skyline could change. There are new buildings popping up in every direction. So if you've been on this tour before, it's worth going again. Learning about the new construction projects was just as much fun as seeing the historical buildings. One of my favorite buildings is pictured here, and modeled sort of like a champagne bottle, built during prohibition as a way to sort of thumb their noses at authority.

Thanks for the awesome tour, Victor!
When I think about traveling with my kids, and the things I want them to have, you all know that I'm big on learning and on "experiences" - things they will look back on twenty years from now and still love. This was one of them. I honestly wasn't sure, when thinking about future Chicago trips, if this would be appropriate yet for my young family, but as I mentioned previously, our tour guide Victor was amazing. My kids would have loved his stories and flare. So beyond the fact that I know they would love the boat ride, the story-telling that went along with the tour was impeccable.

On the flip side, if you're from the Chicago area and love architecture, don't forget how easy it is to fly on Air Choice One into the Clear Lake/Mason City airport so that you can check out the architectural walking tour of Mason City. The tour features designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as buildings in the Chicago style, Classical style, and Tudor and Victorian styles, among others. receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Dear Dad...

I held onto this as a draft for a long time before deciding to hit publish. I don't often let people in on this side of me, even my husband. It's not pretty, and it makes others sad, and it's hard to say without crying (which I did), and it's really not my "brand" as The Gym Mom. However, there are people that I need to let in, and there are other people that get it - people who, like me, might not be able to say the things I've waited years to say.  So with that, I pushed publish. 

Hi dad,

I've been thinking about you a lot this week. It's always a tough time of year. This year seems bigger somehow, though. Like 10 years is supposed to be something monumental.

I miss you, dad. I miss you so much that it hurts. My heart hurts. Whoever said that "it gets easier with time" was a liar. The pain may be less frequent, it has to be in order to function, right? But as more time passes it hurts deeper. The hurt is more intense. I miss your laugh and I miss our drives and I miss your stories. I miss you, dad.

Sometimes I am angry with you, dad. You're supposed to be here. You have missed too much. You will miss too much. You were supposed to be at my wedding and you were supposed to hold my babies and you're supposed to listen when I've had a long week. You're not here for those things. Sometimes I am so angry, dad, and that covers up the hurt for a little bit.

My kids don't know enough about you, dad. It's my fault, really. I try to tell them about you, but I don't get very far before I lose it and the hurt comes back again. It floods through me, making it hard to tell them about all the hours we spent in your truck, just so I could visit their dad. It makes it hard to tell them about our camping trips and our family Sundays. You would love them, dad. I know I should do better. I want them to know you, but it's so hard. I want my kids to know more about you, dad.

I just want to make you proud, dad. Every single day I want you to be proud of me. I graduated college, dad, just like you told me I had to - no matter what. And believe me, there were more than a few obstacles at times. But I promised you, and I made sure I kept my promise. I work so hard, and I wish you were still here to push me. Like the time I was trying to get my front pike roll in the living room. You didn't let me quit. I just want to make you proud, dad.

I need one more day with you, dad. There are things I need to show you; to tell you. Sometimes you show up in my dreams, but even in the dream I know you're gone. I need one more day to tell you I love you. To write down all the stories and memories that died with you. To show you videos of the things you've missed, and to have you make some more Chex Mix. I need one more day with you, dad.

It hurts, dad. It always hurts. I don't like to let people in when I'm missing you, dad. They don't get it. Losing you when we did; the way we did. You don't recover from that. When there is no "why" it's hard to make peace and move on. Mostly you just find a way to keep moving forward. It's not really something I would ever want people to understand. It hurts, dad.

I love you, dad.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Back at Lou's

Our group was provided with a gift card to Lou Malnati's to facilitate this review. All opinions are honest and my own.

Thanks for the great
experience, Jason!
When I told my kids that I was going back to Chicago to eat at Lou Malnati's without them they were super disappointed. A lot of times when we visit my aunt and uncle we will get Lou's pizza, and you may remember that on our trip in February A voted Lou's as having the best pizza crust. Lou's is a great environment for families, especially if you have kids. They had a lot of seating space, including an outside patio where we hung out until they opened. Yes, we literally sat on the front steps waiting for the restaurant to open - we were tired and hungry!

We ended up sitting upstairs and had this fabulous waiter, Jason. I will continue to insist that he receive a raise or a promotion. Jason was incredibly patient with our crazy orders, and if he is any indicator of other servers, you will be well taken care of. We had a group of 8, each with her own likes/dislikes, dietary needs, and personalities, but he handled it like a pro. We started with a trio of dips, and followed that with the Lou's salad. If you've ever been to Lou Malnati's you probably know that their house dressing is so good that you'll want to take a bath in it, but for the newbies, make sure you try the Lou's dressing. Jason actually brought us a plate full of their dressings. I hear that they were all excellent, but since I was busy bathing in their special recipe, I didn't get a chance to try them all. Blogger fail. Sorry!

Most of us ended up ordering some version of the personal pizza. Mine was sausage, a classic, and a favorite. A couple people split the "Lou," which is what we typically get when we eat with my family, and Donna, of asked about gluten-free options, so Jason recommended the sausage crust. Her pizza literally sat on a giant piece of sausage instead of pizza dough. My husband for sure would have been in heaven. It looked amazing. As it was, it was all I could do to make a valiant effort at finishing my own pizza, in all its cheesy goodness.

As we all sat and complained that we'd never be able to eat another bite, Jason surprised us with dessert! Obviously when you are given a dessert, you have to try it, whether you're ready to unbutton your pants at the table or not, so we dug in. It was a delicious chocolate chip cookie bottom covered in ice cream and cool whip. So here's the interesting part. I think it must have been magic dessert with supernatural healing powers. Don't laugh, I'm serious. For some reason, after eating my share of the cookie I suddenly felt much better, and probably could have eaten at least half a bag of Garrett's popcorn or a Chicago dog.

So there you go, folks. If you want real deal pizza (not the tourist version), salad dressing you should buy by the gallon, and cookie desserts with magic healing powers, Lou Malnati's is the place for you. I know that I for one will be back when I visit the city again in July, and have no doubts that the kids will be asking to come back if we get to return to the IGI Chicago Style meet next winter! receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Different Look at Chi-Town: SkyDeck Tour

I was given free admission to the SkyDeck and commemorative photos of the experience in order to facilitate my review. All opinions are honest and my own. 

One of the most breathtaking sights you will ever see is the view of the Chicago skyline from the Willis (Sears) Tower SkyDeck. Friday started bright and early, after breakfast in the club, of course. We took a short(ish) mile or so walk from the Sheraton to the SkyDeck, where we arrived shortly before hoards of children on a field trip. Their teachers knew - the SkyDeck is an amazing place to take children. I know that I'll be taking my children the next time we're in the city!

I enjoyed the opportunity to explore at my own pace, using their handheld electronic tours, which would be great for my kids because they were short and sweet and you could do the ones you wanted. Even the elevator gave you quick blips of information along the ride, which I thought was a great way to take "guided tours" into the 21st century.

I ended up buying some souvenirs for my kids because I thought it was such an iconic place, but one piece of advice: don't buy anything while you're on top, there's a much bigger selection in the gift shop back at the bottom! There's also a small food court area. Did you know you can have birthday parties there?! I thought that was kind of cool - what a great experience to give kids!

My favorite part of the experience was going into the sky boxes, though! It was slightly terrifying, but not, all at the same time. My fear is not of heights, but of railings, so that actually worked out well for me. Because we got up there several minutes before the middle school kids we were able to have some extra space to be crazy, taking pictures on the floor, jump shots, and group photos.

So then came the *really* fun part. On our walk to Willis Tower I told my fellow bloggers that at some point I was going to need a handstand pic. Last year, because we're cool like that, a few of the other gym moms and I started taking handstand pics at camp because a) the girls' coach had posted one from her honeymoon, and b) we had way too much time on our hands. The trend continued, and we'd share random handstand pics with each other. So that became #HandstandsAcrossAmerica. So now each time I travel, I take a handstand pic (I also have one in front of the Washington Monument and one in front of the White House).

Anyway, as we were sitting there, Loni, of Lifestyles of the Pantsless, said, "you need to take your handstand pic!" I was absolutely terrified. That's crazy, right? I don't care how safe it is, being upside down in a plexiglass box a-ca-cha-billion feet in the air is crazy. But then I realized that this was one of those opportunities that I could regret, or I could tell my kids about. I went with being able to tell my kids. So after Loni helped me into the handstand (because I refused to kick up into a glass wall), I got what I think is one of the most epic photos I will ever pose for. This will forever be one of my favorite memories of the trip - not just the handstand, but the Sky Deck tour. It's not a place where you would necessarily spend a ton of time, and it seemed like the line got really long as the day went on, but I will say it's one of those things you should do once in your life. receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

#SPGLife is the life for me

Note: I was given a free room at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers as part of a blogger tour with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce to facilitate my review. Opinions are honest and my own.

My hotel life may never be the same. The last time I stayed in a hotel in Chicago I was 13 years old, the windows didn't open, and there were syringes in the flower pots outside the hotel. Let me tell you how incredibly far away from that experience my visit to the Sheraton Chicago was. Wow. I can't even put it on a number line. They don't belong on the same spectrum.

Less than a mile from the train station, we were able to ride the CTA train from O'Hare almost right to our hotel for only $5 (and $3 on our return trip). The hotel didn't have a shuttle, but it was only about a 45 minute train ride, and as a group of bloggers we were intrigued by the prospect of people watching! The nearby train station was also great because I don't think we saw hotel parking anywhere downtown for less than $60/night.

So we marched ourselves from the train to the hotel, where we were greeted warmly. They were on top of their game and knew that we were arriving. As soon as we said we were bloggers, most of the staff knew exactly that we were coming and were excited to welcome us. Sure, we're writing about our experience, but that's not always the reception you get as a blogger, so their organization was greatly appreciated.

The lobby was impeccable, with beautiful lighting and flowers, and a restaurant attached. We went to check into our rooms, which were neat, clean, and full of outlets! Have you ever traveled with a pack of bloggers? Outlets are a huge priority. In fact, let me show you the lengths I will go to to find an outlet:

Photo Credit: Donna Hup of
 Yes. That is me. Crawling on the dirty airport floor in an attempt to fix a set of outlets in our terminal.

Moving on. After we set our stuff down, we went to check out the "club access" that we had been given. And this is where my life changed. I was introduced to the world of #SPGLife (Starwood Preferred Guests). The Sheraton Club is a place where you can watch TV, attend to business, grab a water or Coke product, and generally just relax. The views from the 33rd floor were incredible, and I'm pretty sure we all could have spent a lot more time here. We ended up visiting again for hors d'oeuvres (yes, I had to Google that), for breakfast on Friday morning, and a final visit before we walked to Millenium Park and left for home.  They served a great breakfast, had coffee, tea, and juice available, and while the breakfast and hors d'oeuvres were provided at a certain time, the club was open 24 hours.

After hanging out in "'da club" we headed out to Navy Pier - again, less than a mile to walk. I thought the location was ideal. We were right on the river, close to a train station, right off Michigan Avenue, and right by Navy Pier. As a mom of three young kids, short distances are really the key to a successful vacation. Lugging diaper bags and small legs all over the city wouldn't necessarily be my idea of a good time, but the Sheraton was located next to enough attractions that we could spend a whole weekend filling our time right within walking distance.

When we returned from Navy Pier, and after we had visited the club, we came back to a wonderful surprise of chocolate covered strawberries, champagne, and Voss waters, along with a note welcoming us and asking us to contact the hotel with any needs we may have. This was an incredible touch. I don't have a lot of experience with blogger travel, but those in our group who do travel told us that this is not the norm, so we definitely appreciated the wonderful treat to end our first day!

Basically what it comes down to is this: I have always shied away from downtown hotels in Chicago due to the higher price, but this was a great lesson for me in "you get what you pay for." I don't think I would ever prefer to drive downtown Chicago if I could help it. Parking seems stressful, there are all kinds of fun one-way streets, and then there's Wacker running literally all four directions throughout the city. Being in a clean, safe, beautiful location, close to shopping, attractions, and many varieties of food is worth every penny! I'll definitely keep this in mind for future events - especially if our team returns to the IGI Chicago Style meet on Navy Pier. receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

5 Mommy Tips for Your Crazy Weekends

In a span of about 24 hours this weekend we will have four Spring Show performances, a shift in the concession stand, a t-ball game,  and a trip up to Minnesota for a football game. Throw in a VERY active two-year-old, and several graduation receptions on Sunday, and you have yourself a very busy weekend. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for the world, but sometimes you need a little help along the way. Here are some of my tips for those crazy weekends!

  1. Charge the camera battery. Make sure your camera is charged, you have the right SD card (or insert appropriate term for your camera here), and maybe even an extra. iPhone-ography is great, but when I can I love having the hi-res photos at the end of the day.
  2. Pack food ahead of time. When we're on the road it's so easy to hit the gas station or fast food restaurant, but especially when we're talking about a) kids and b) kids who are athletes, the healthy diet is just as important when you're on the road as it is at home. I pack things like protein bars, dried fruit, and crackers - things that can just sit in the car. However, we also have a ton of little coolers to we can toss in sandwiches, bottled water, or string cheese.
  3. Have a shared calendar. My husband and I have a shared Google calendar. When we are running all kinds of crazy directions with different kids it's important that we know who is going where, and when. Our Google calendars sync automatically across devices, and help us stay organized. 
  4. Bring extra clothes. Just because it's sunny at the gymnastics performance doesn't mean it won't be raining at the football game. I try to make sure that at the very least we have both sweatshirts and t-shirts along to prepare for variances in weather. Oh, and you have a baby/toddler along? Forget about it, you're packing 3 extra outfits for that child alone!
  5. Breathe and enjoy! Running around like crazy people is all part of raising kids who are involved in activities, but don't forget to enjoy the activities. Sometimes the running part is so stressful that you forget the fun part of it all. Once you're at the event take time to prepare, smile, take it all in, and enjoy the moment!

What tips would you add to the list? What helps you get through your crazy weekends? 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Meal Planning Revisited - Wild about Wildtree

I was provided with free samples of Wildtree products to facilitate my review of this product. All opinions are honest and my own. 

A while back I wrote about how I meal plan and only grocery shop once a month. As summer approaches and I'm trying to combine summer activities with my summer work/travel schedule, the opportunities for healthy family meals begin to dwindle. You know how it goes, grab something from the concession stand here and the drive-thru there. We do try to pack sandwiches and things, but sometimes the junk food choices are unavoidable. That means the meals that I *do* get to cook at home become that much more important, so when I got the chance to partner up with Jennifer Leerar and the Wildtree products, I jumped on it.

Jennifer sent me some sample products, as well as a bunch of great info, and I learned a lot about why Wildtree could be a great move for my family. For example, I refuse to add extra salt to food. I don't even put it on the table, because a) processed foods often have a lot of sodium, and b) it's so unhealthy for you. I don't even put the salt on the table (much to my husband's dismay), and the only foods I let the kids add it to are corn on the cob and air-popped popcorn. Wildtree products are not only organic, but significantly lower in sodium and sugar when compared to "regular" products - like 115mg of sodium in the Wildtree spaghetti sauce blend (with low-sodium National Brand tomatoes added), vs 440mg in Trader Joe's low-fat Marinara.

My daughter is obsessed with vegetables, and A loves raw veggies with dip, so I started out by trying the Wildtree Dill Dip Blend in a homemade veggie cream cheese dip for our Mother's Day lunch. The kids gave it a double thumbs up! It was fresh and delicious!

Wednesday night's dinner was already planned to be fettuccine alfredo, so instead of using the jar of sauce in my cupboard, I replaced it with the Wildtree mix. I thought it had great flavor, A gave it a thumbs up, R thought it was excellent, and J said he maybe liked my home made a little better, but it was by far better than the jar. I'm pretty sure he *had* to say that though - you know, his duty as a husband.

Finally, I added bit of the taco seasoning to a Bloody Mary. It definitely added a different kick to the drink. Although, that being said, I am really excited to order some of their *actual* Bloody Mary mix, since that's my summer drink of choice!

Finally, and I swear I am going to do this someday, Jennifer hosts/facilitates meal prep parties with Wildtree products! You order your seasonings and sauces for whichever bundle you're interested - kid friendly and comfort foods were two that jumped out at me, and then you get a grocery list, enlist your BFFs, and prep all your healthy meals together ahead of time! What an awesome, and fun option for something that can often be time-consuming. receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

And then there was Cooper Manning...

Do you think the Mannings ever sit around and argue about who the best player is? Now Peyton Manning is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. However, we have to remember, Eli has more rings. And then of course Archie is a Pro Bowl QB who has many accomplishments in his own right, though he never played on a winning (NFL) team, let alone won a championship. So what about Cooper? Poor kid. Rumored to have been more talented than his brothers, Cooper was unable to continue playing due to medical reasons. That’s gotta be rough, a life as “the other” Manning brother.

At J’s game on Saturday I was taking pictures on the sidelines, and a kid taking video for the other team approached me. That in itself was super awkward, because you know, who does that? But then all he said was, “The guy who scored that first touchdown, do you know who his brother is?” Because I was apparently supposed to be impressed not with the athletic prowess of one of their star players, but that someone on their team had an athletically gifted brother. How frustrating to be an incredible football player or pianist or juggler, only to be known and introduced as “______________’s brother.”

With R heavily involved in gymnastics for a good portion of her life, we’ve put a lot of effort into finding A other opportunities. He has enjoyed trying out t-ball, wrestling, gymnastics, and flag football over the last few years, but where he really hit his stride (pun intended) was in track. Last year he trained with J, ultimately running the 100 (3rd place, fastest qualifying), 200, and 400 (1st place) at the Iowa Games in Ames, IA.

When R expressed an interest in running track this spring, I was torn as a mom. We spend a lot of time on R’s activities – should I let her “take over” an activity where her brother is the one who gets to shine? But that’s not her fault, and I want her to be able to explore many opportunities, not just lock her into one from the time she is born. Will they compete against each other? Is that okay? Will that make them push themselves to be better, or will it cause resentment? Or maybe I’m making it into a bigger deal than it has to be.

This is one of those times where I don’t have the answers. I decided that in different age groups and different genders and because they are young that it would be okay for both kids to join the track club this spring. But what I want to be careful of is causing unnecessary resentment or competition. I never want any of my kids to be unnecessarily labeled “______________’s brother” or “_____________’s sister.” I want them to be independent and find success and happiness in their own right. Maybe that means helping them develop their own niche, I’m not sure yet.

I wonder if this will be harder as E gets older, having the boys being competitive. How do you handle these situations? Any good tips or suggestions for celebrating each child’s individual awesomeness and talents?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ridin' on Air Choice One

As part of a blogger trip with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, I was provided with a free ticket on Air Choice One to facilitate my review. All opinions are honest and my own.

 I had just started hearing about the new airline at the Mason City/Clear Lake airport, Air Choice One, when I signed on to go on a blogger trip to Chicago with the North Iowa Bloggers. A couple of the team moms opted to use their service when team took off for the IGI Chicago Style meet in February. When my mom realized that she wasn’t going to be able to drive out on Thursday with the kids and I, Air Choice One had early enough flights to Chicago (at great prices) that we realized she’d be able to spend most of the day with us still (unfortunately, though, work kept her from attending). When the team went to St. Louis? Guess who flies there, too (hint, this post is about Air Choice One)?!

So anyway, I was super excited to check out Air Choice One last week as an option for traveling the Midwest with my kiddos. The MCW airport is conveniently located right between Clear Lake and Mason City, meaning you don’t have to drive through the city and battle traffic to get there. But even better? They have free parking. I know. What?! Unheard of. But what an amazing gift when you get back from your trip! Because the last thing I want to do after I get done traveling is pay another $50-100 for airport parking. Hello, I already spent all my money on apology gifts for my kids for being gone.

Air Choice One flies small planes, ours was an 8-seater, multiple times a day (I imagine this is to accommodate business travelers). What I realized as I was talking to Sara Broers of Travel with Sara though, is that those frequent flights make an ideal situation for either spending a day in the city or a weekend. Now I know you’re thinking that flying is never going to be as “cheap” as driving no matter how reasonable Air Choice One’s prices are, right? Wrong. If you consider that you’ll use 2-3 tanks of gas (I can do it in my van in 2), plus road snacks, plus $60+/night parking at your hotel if you’re downtown, and then add in what YOUR TIME is worth? I’m a busy momma, I don’t always have 6-7 hours in a weekend to spend driving. You’re probably at least even, if not coming out ahead.  And don’t’ forget the stops for diaper changes, getting hit in the back of the head with toys, and the fun that ensues when the devices you travel with hit the “low battery” mark.
Them People @ the Airport
Free books for travelers from
the Ventura Library

I would definitely recommend Air Choice One for business travel or a weekend trip with the family. The small, local feel of the Mason City airport provides for a super low-stress check-in process, and they have your bags waiting for you right there when you get off the plane. They even have a little café, Them People, which offers free books for travelers. O’Hare is… O’Hare, and you’ll want to leave plenty of time to navigate the massive airport because finding a small airline in that crowd can be a bit daunting.

They fly small planes, so you’ll want to be aware of weather. One of our bloggers, Laura, flies with her pilot husband and pointed out that while big planes can often fly above the weather, small planes may have more of an issue. The other thing we learned is that they have a small staff. They run from the front ticket counter to the back boarding counter. Have you ever seen O’Hare? Huge. So don’t be afraid to call them if you are needing updates about flight info. In fact, we ended up calling the Mason City people a few times for info about our outbound Chicago flight, and they were amazingly helpful. That’s #IowaNice for you!
Can we just take a second to appreciate
the patchwork beauty that is a sky view
of north central Iowa? 

On the flip side, I cannot say enough about the idea of popping over from Chicago to enjoy something like 4th of July festivities in Clear Lake or a concert at the Surf and dinner at a place like Ge-Jo’s for a small-town weekend getaway. For anyone looking for a break from the chaos that can be city living, a long weekend in Clear Lake can be just what the doctor ordered. Even as a north Iowa native I was impressed with all the events and amenities Clear Lake has to offer everyone, be it a girls’ weekend, romantic getaway, or family vacation.

PS: The pilots and crew were all super friendly, and great about posing for pictures, so make sure you enjoy your time with them. It makes a flight way more fun when your pilot will pose for a “thumbs up” picture while you’re taking your group selfies. receives free products for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation. This disclosure is done in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission 10 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.