Tag: Clear Lake (page 1 of 2)

A Long Minnesotan Goodbye: The Viking, The Landing & The Lady #FarewellTour2015

My farewell tour to North Iowa was like a Minnesota goodbye. It was long and drawn-out in the best possible way.

Beth and I said many of our farewells together. As we unpack in St. Louis, she packs for North Carolina. Here are some highlights from the final leg(s) of our Farewell Tour:

I visited Amy Hild’s gravesite with several North Bloggers. After we paid our respects, we convened at The Viking Drive-Inn where she used to speak fondly about working many summers ago. It’s a tiny restaurant that serves summer treats like soft serve ice cream, corn dogs, and burgers. If you weren’t specifically looking for The Viking, you might not know it’s there, except for the people milling around outside with ice cream cones. There didn’t appear to be a sign. Customers can sit at several outdoor tables a small or find a stool at the small dine-in counter.

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Small ice cream cones really aren’t that small and large cones are behemoth. The Viking’s chocolate ice cream hit the spot, but I did notice many people enjoying their most popular flavor, black raspberry. I can see why Amy enjoyed working at the Viking so much.

  • River City Sculptures On Parade

I’ve had my eye on Humpty Dumpty since the new River City Sculptures came to town in May.

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His real name is Mr. Eggwards and he’s one of 40 sculptures sprinkled throughout downtown Mason City. River City Sculptures on Parade partners with SculptureOne, a nonprofit that also brings a similar public art program to Sioux Falls, SD, Mankato, MN and Eau Claire, WI. Artists allow the cities to borrow the sculptures for one year. In September, residents can vote for the statue they want the city to keep, while they’re all available for purchase. The entire River City Sculpture walk is 1.6 miles long.

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I crashed Beth & Donna’s sculpture walk long enough to meet Mr. Eggwards. It appears that he has his eye on Beth.

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I’m not sure if you are supposed to ride this bird. Beth and Donna made me do it.

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  • Enjoying a meal with house vinaigrette, red sauce & calamari at Pasta Bella.

Pasta Bella opened in Mason City about one year ago and it’s the only Italian restaurant in town. Fortunately, we really enjoy their food. I am especially fond of their intriguing house vinaigrette, which is thicker than most and red-hued, and like their well-balanced red sauce. It’s not too sweet and not too tangy. Pasta Bella serves generous portions of their fried calamari (rings only) with a lot of lemon. On our last visit, the calamari was fried perfectly and tasted fresh. The 1910 Grille at the Frank Lloyd Wright hotel serves delicious fried calamari (both rings and tentacles), albiet the portion is a little smaller. 

Pasta bella farewell Collage

A basket of warm garlic knots come with each meal and staff pack carefully them in to-go orders. In fact, the last to-go meal we ordered here was packed immaculately so that nothing dribbled or tipped. The pizza here is delicious, too.

Strangely enough, there aren’t that many lakeside restaurants located along Clear Lake, Iowa. I’ll always remember The Landing because it’s where I tried my first Moscow Mule. This cocktail is typically made with ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice and served in a copper mug.

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Moscow Mules aren’t Iowa specific, but they seem to be more popular in North Iowa than any other place we’ve lived. The Landing also offers a concise menu and dishes are served in big metal baskets lined with newspaper. The sweet potato fries are especially delicious and worth the swap.

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If it’s sunny, don’t forget to bring a hat or sunglasses. The sun shines bright onto the patio. Live bands often play on the patio in the evenings and it’s really a relaxing location to watch the sun set.

Lady of the Lake
Our final farewell tour event embarked on a cruise on The Lady of the Lake, a paddle wheeler boat that circles Clear Lake. Many of our friends who have lived in the Mason City-Clear Lake area have ridden the Lady of the Lake many times. People often rent the boat for weddings or work functions while public cruises are offered daily.

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You can only pay for admission and snacks/drinks with cash or checks. Don’t forget to bring your own water bottle on board if it’s a warm evening, otherwise water costs $1.

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This evening was perfect for a cruise. We enjoyed the clear skies and slight breeze.

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  • Ritz Onion Rings at the Clear Lake Farmers Market. 

The Farewell stop I made before driving to St. Louis was at the Clear Lake Farmers Market on Saturday morning. I heard about the famous Ritz Onion ring food truck and craved a taste. The Ritz was a famous Clear Lake supper club that opened in the 20’s and operated until a fire destroyed it in 1999. Their onion rings were beloved and I’ve heard the version from this food truck taste the same.

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So hot coffee and onion rings might not be the best combination at 9 a.m., but it was totally worth it for a taste of Clear Lake history. One portion of onion rings ($7) is huge. The batter is shiny like lacquer and very crisp and the onion is tender instead of sliding out of the shell. If onion rings is not your thing first thing in the morning, you can also order donuts and breakfast sandwiches from the food truck.

Now that our farewell is over, it’s time to get acquainted with my new home of St. Louis, MO. Thanks you for joining me on this crazy Midwestern journey! More to come after I unpack a few more boxes. 

North Iowa: Notes Upon Leaving

Two years in North Iowa and I only have a few regrets. I never did catch a concert at the Surf Ballroom or complete my Every Bar in Mason City Quest. I didn’t make it to Bill’s BBQ or Band Fest or tour the Stockman House. But, I made lifelong friends and I embarked on many marvelous adventures within two short years. North Iowa and I won’t be strangers.

In between cleaning, sorting & house showings, I’m scrambling to cram in as many North Iowa #FarewellTour2015 activities as possible. My friend Beth (It’s Just Life) is also moving next month and we’re determined to make the most of our week. We’re anticipating to walk around downtown Mason City to see the newest River City Sculptures on Parade, attend June’s North Iowa Social Media Breakfast, dine at Pasta Bella, and enjoy a ride on Clear Lake’s boat Lady of the Lake. I’ll post snapshots of our adventures on my Instagram & Twitter accounts with the hashtag #FarewellTour2015. 

Like the other cities we’ve lived, I’ve found many favorite places and spaces. Here are some of my notes upon leaving about the businesses that have made us feel especially welcome.

CoffeeCat serves the best chai and plays Alabama Shakes, so it’s my happy place. For a community of 27,000 people, we have a handful of great coffee shops. CoffeeCat’s my favorite.

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I’ll never forget how sincerely the owner welcomed me to town when we first moved. I love their real (not made from liquid or sugary powder) chai tea, and the fact that they offer to sweeten it with honey or vanilla. The baked-from-scratch sweets here are also my favorite and taste like real butter. Catherine usually offers fluffy slices of cinnamon struesel coffee cake and, if you find seasonal rhubarb-lemon bars, buy one! At Coffee Cat, I met friends for dirty chai teas (chai + espresso) and waited for my car repairs. The Alabama Shakes and Bon Iver always played at some point during my visits and I felt like I was home.

I found an honest car mechanic at DeWildeIt’s hard to figure out where to take your car in a new community. Asking for referrals is always best. DeWilde isn’t glamorous like the brand name dealerships, but you won’t have to pay for everyone’s fancy snacks and deal with all of that upselling. If you really want to piss me off, storm into the lobby waving my dirty air filter for all to see. I bumbled around until I found DeWilde. I saw this business recommended in a local Facebook business review group and from a friend who grew up in the area. The owner has always given me honest assessments, even telling me when I didn’t need maintenance yet! Who does that?

All About EyesThis optical shop is relatively new. The staff is professional, has quickly accommodated me, and didn’t pressure me to buy things I didn’t want. They even squeezed me in for an emergency appointment this spring. I’ve visited optometrists since I was in elementary school. This place stands out.

I don’t trust most people with my hair, but I do trust Summer at Color Couture

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My latest do from Summer, taken in the car before I could mess it up:)

The staff at Brookview Animal Health Center walked us through our first two years of dog ownership. Our realtor recommended Brookview and I’ve been happy with this veterinarian clinic since our first visit. As first time pet owners, we took Trayse to the vet a lot! The staff at Brookview always treated us kindly and helped educate us about what was normal and what needed treatment. They got us in quickly for appointments and were willing to talk to us over the phone about minor concerns when we weren’t sure if they needed attention.

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Trayse’s previous vet was unable to clip his nails without administering sedatives. The Brookview staff provides free nail clipping hours for current clients and had no problems clipping his nails. They make it a simple process and always reward him with a treat.

I love everything Camille of Soyphisticated Candles crafts in her shop in Mason City. Camille makes her candles from renewable soy wax with no pesticide or herbicide residue and pours them into jars made from recycled glass. The scents she creates are unique and subtle. While some candle companies make scents so overpowering they make me nauseous, these don’t.

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I also like her wax warmer melts and soaps. I’ve been cleaning my face each day with the Happy Face bar of soap that incorporates charcoal, tea tree and green clay. My friends swear by her grapefruit exfoliating soap bar.

Everything from Louie’s Custom Meats & More just tastes better. 

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I first learned about Louie’s from Sara Broers. It only took one visit to get hooked. Louie and his crew go out of their way to assist customers and answer questions how to cook each type of meat. They’ll make sure you get the specific cut and amount of meat you want, even if it’s not in the meat case.

Purchase local beef from the awesome women cattle farmers of Sugar Creek Farm & SkyView Farms

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Kelli of Sugar Creek Farm, Osage and Laura of Skyview Farms, Nora Springs are women who raise their cows with love and produce excellent beef. You can find Kelli at the Clear Lake Farmers market and occasional drop-offs in Mason City. This year she’s also raising chickens that customers can reserve. Laura sells her beef directly to consumers.

If Jake had his way, we’d dine at Las Palmas every weekend. 

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Jake and I take turns choosing date night spots. Our typical rotation went something like this: Jeni picks a new place, Jake chooses Las Palmas, Jeni picks a new place, Jake chooses Las Palmas, etc. On our second visit, the bartender greeted us like old friends and even remembered our last drink order. We’ve been loyal ever since. Warm chips and salsa are complimentary and the kitchen even packs them in our to-go orders. We like that the salsa has a little bit more kick than the other places we’ve tried. Jake’s favorite dish is the giant burrito filled with steak and drizzled with cheese sauce while I go for anything with shrimp.

The closest we’ve found to Mexican-style street tacos are from Mr. Taco. His brick and mortar restaurant is located along Northwood’s main street and his food truck  rotates around Mason City. Las Palma’s Mini Tacos are anything but mini and remind us of a street style taco/fajita hybrid.

The Barrel Drive-In serves my favorite chicken in Mason City-Clear Lake. While I’ve found fried chicken at other places in town to be soggy or cooked to hell and back, The Barrel’s broasted chicken has always been crispy and tender in all of the right places. Plus, it’s affordable and the staff neatly packs to-go orders if you call ahead. Dinners come with a small iceberg lettuce salad with their homemade French dressing and your choice of broasted potato wedges or french fries.

Barrel CHicken

I’m a ranch snob and Papa’s American Cafe makes my favorite version. 

Ranch dressing papa's

The popcorn from the Kum & Go on 4th Street SW & Pierce is my favorite road trip snack. 

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Market 124 is my go-to shop for gifts. They sell a lot of Iowan-made items and have a paint-your-own-pottery studio. 

market 124 pottery Collage

Photo Credit: DonnaHup.com

There’s no shame in the Casey’s Pizza game.

casey's pizza box

We found Cheers at the Willow Run Lounge. Plus, they served us our cheapest, strongest drinks. 

77 Willow Run

The names Mediacom & Beelzebub are interchangeable in our household. This is the only internet provider we used in North Iowa, but I would recommend looking into other options. We have never experienced so many outages with any other internet company in Minneapolis or Fargo. Mediacom does not feel the need to alert customers when there are widespread issues they are trying to repair. You just have to call and ask them why it’s not working or working very slowly and will probably not receive a straight answer. It’s easier to deal with their customer service on Twitter. Our internet connection ran slowly even though we paid for a premium speed. If the internet goes down for a whole day, expect to be reimbursed $5-6 for your troubles.

Eat a snickerdoodle or sweet & salty chocolate chip cookie from Kara’s Cookies. 

Kara's Cookie

Attend North Iowa’s Social Media Breakfast. Currently, this event meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 8:30-10 a.m. at First Citizens Bank in Mason City. I use social media every day and learn a lot from each meeting. It’s a great way to meet friends and connect with other businesses for possible collaborations. Contact the founder Sara for more information.

UPDATE 9/8/15:

  • A huge thanks to Brett Schoneman for helping us navigate and frustrating and complicated corporate relocation house sale.
  • Thank you to John at Manly Services for being one of the only contractors in North Iowa courteous enough to call us back about repairs we had to make on our home before the company would buy it back. If you can’t take more businesses, have the consideration to call people back. I have a huge list of contractors I would never recommend to anyone.
  • Lori Quade helped us clean our home and prepare it for showings. We’d recommend her in a heartbeat. Send me an email if you’d like to connect with her.

Flying To And From Chicago on Air Choice One: Highs & Lows & Things You Should Know

As part of a bloggers tour with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, I was provided with a free boarding pass to Air Choice One to facilitate this review. All thoughts are 100% honest and my own.

I come from a family of pilots, but I’ve never ridden on a small plane.

My dad and brother have offered to take me up in two-seater planes many times, but I’ve always refused. I’m prone to motion sickness and avoid things that move (where I can’t drive or sit in the front seat) such as boats, busses, trains, and small planes.

So, how did I end up on a Cessna? The Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce partnered with North Iowa’s new air carrier Air Choice One and invited eight North Iowa Bloggers on a trip to Chicago. The trip was intended to demonstrate how easy it is to travel between Mason City and Chicago and spread some Clear Lake love. When Jake and I moved to Mason City in June 2013, the airport actually sat vacant until Air Choice one began offering flights November of 2014. Now, one can either fly to Chicago or St. Louis on a Cessna for about $150, roundtrip.

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Although some of my friends have flown on Air Choice One, I missed the part about the planes being Cessnas. I’d seen their photos showing off their spacious leg room and had this mental image of something like this 65-passenger CRJ-700.

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We arrived at the Mason City airport two hours early. It shares the building with the Jefferson bus terminal and restaurant called Them People At The Airport Cafe.

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Yup, that’s really the name. Them People replaced Bumbleberry Bakery (Yup, that’s also the real name, too) about the time Air Choice One began its contract.

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Donna’s mustard to my ketchup. The prices are very affordable (like $4 for a breakfast combo) and I love the colorful flooring.

Unlike MSP, our airport may only host one airline that flies to two destinations, but there’s free parking! When I tweeted about our free airport parking, a Twin Cities friend replied that she didn’t even know how to comprehend that statement. The same person who prints your boarding pass and examines your luggage may also usher you onto the plane. For big city folks, flying out of a small regional airport is really a unique experience.

I remembered Beth had flown Air Choice One before so I asked her, “Hey Beth, are there snacks on the plane?”

“Um, no,” she responded. “It’s a really small plane.” I shrugged but kept picturing that CRJ-700.

“There’s also no bathroom,” someone added. “Just a camper potty and a curtain.”

“WHAT? NO BATHROOM? HOW CAN THIS BE?” I wondered. We passed through security, which enforces the same protocol as any large airport. One has to toss their bottled water here and there isn’t anywhere else to buy a new one. I slurped water from the bathroom sink.

“Hey Sara,” I asked, “Is there beverage service on this flight.”

“Um, no.” she responded.

Imagine my surprise, when I saw our plane pull up to the terminal.

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What is this? A plane for ants?

I was really glad I took that motion sickness medicine an hour before. We filed out onto the tarmac.

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Obviously, we had to take a photo with the pilots before boarding.

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Donna and I switched seats with two of the taller gals and sat in the back. If I sat up as tall as possible, I could touch my head to the ceiling. We looked around and did not see the camper potty, but did notice the curtain which means we rode to Chicago in the bathroom.

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Our in-flight reading: The new Clear Lake Chamber magazine.

I’m not gonna lie. The flight to Chicago was bumpy. The weather created some turbulence that almost overpowered the motion sickness medication I took. I had a difficult time on this leg of the flight. We landed at the O’Hare Airport and an Air Choice One rep guided us from the tarmac to the main terminal where we took the train to our hotel downtown.

The actual flight home on Saturday was much smoother, but we experienced some glitches. For, we weren’t supposed to fly home on Saturday but on Friday! We had arrived at the airport early Friday afternoon just as the weather began pouring rain. Air Choice One’s ticket counter is located at the very end of the hallway where the ticket counters end. A Shel Silverstein poem came to mind.

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At some point when we were scrambling to find a ticket agent, we asked an airport employee to point us towards Air Choice One. “Air Force One?” he asked in disbelief. “Not exactly,” we responded. He asked where we were flying to and when we replied, “Mason City, IA” he asked “Why the hell would you want to go there?”

We live there.”

Hopefully some of our North Iowa enthusiasm rubbed off on him:)

Flights everywhere were cancelled or delayed. An Air Choice One rep informed Libbey of Chamber that our flight could arrive 30-minutes late, but that they’d text us the details. We waited. A half-hour after our flight was supposed to land, we had still heard nothing so we called the airline who told us our flight was cancelled. We asked why they hadn’t provided an update about the cancellation and they replied they were just calling us as we were calling them.

Air Choice One had two flights scheduled to return to Mason City the next morning, but the early flight was partially booked. We knew we wanted to send the mothers of young children home first and drew straws for the last open seat. Three bloggers had to return home on the late flight the next day.

Stormy weather affected airlines across the board. I was not frustrated that the flight was cancelled due to bad weather, but that the airline did not communicate this in a timely manner. Since our flight was cancelled due to weather, we were responsible for our meals the next day. The rep from Air Choice One did offer a coupon for a hotel that provides discounts to stranded travelers, but the Clear Lake Chamber generously secured our lodging.

Since flights everywhere were cancelled, many tried to board the hotel shuttles.

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We met some chaos as we attempted to board the first shuttle. Our group of eight found seating, and people continued to file onto the shuttle after the seats were filled. The driver announced he was unable to drive if people were standing. “The next one will come in 15-20 minutes,” he pleaded. Nobody wanted to get off the shuttle. It became clear that the people who were standing simply would not exit, so two of us bloggers followed Sara off the shuttle so it could at least leave the station.

Another one arrived shortly after and we found a seat. The shuttle incident made me feel like I was at my wit’s end, but I was encouraged by my companions’ calm demeanor. They’re experienced travelers who are accustomed to navigating unexpected bumps in the road.

We stayed at a very clean and very quiet Doubletree hotel. The Sheraton Chicago had a club room lounge where we enjoyed free snacks and sodas, so we jokingly asked this front desk staff member if they, too had a club room. He very sternly informed us about their “no partying” policy. We giggled and quietly ate our warm Doubletree cookies before going to bed.

The good news is that both flights to Mason City were on time the next day and each left a little earlier than scheduled. Unlike our flight to Chicago, our passage home was smooth sailing. We’re very thankful to the pilots for getting us all safely home to Iowa. After all, this was the most important thing.

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Photo Credit: Travel With Sara. Waving goodbye to the three bloggers left behind at the O’Hare.

As I mentioned in my post introducing this Clear Lake Chamber-sponsored Chicago series, our community warmly welcomes Air Choice One. We’re two hours from the Minneapolis and Des Moines Airports and appreciate having a the option to fly to Chicago and St. Louis. My personal suggestions to Air Choice one are to communicate delays and cancellations with their passengers in a timely manner, via phone call or text, since the company doesn’t provide updates their website. I also hope Air Choice One continues to interact with their customers over social media. Someone needs to be available to answer tweets and Facebook messages promptly, most especially when flights are scheduled. I’ve noticed an improvement and hope they keep up the efforts.

Air Choice One is a convenient and affordable option for transportation to and from Chicago and St. Louis. The ticket agents and pilots were exceptionally friendly and personable. However, keep in mind that this is a small airline before booking. They don’t have reciprocity with other airlines and don’t provide lodging or food vouchers for flights delayed due to weather. Cessnas fly at a lower altitude than jumbo jets and so they are more affected by weather. Also, this airline offer fewer flights each day and can only carry eight passengers per flight. Therefore, if you get rescheduled, you may not get home as soon as you’d hope (which could be said for bigger airlines, too).

Also, your mom was right. Always pack an extra pair of clean underwear. I’m sure glad I did.

Thank you again to Air Choice One for providing boarding passes and the Clear Lake Chamber for inviting me on this trip!

Natural Plus Nursery Tour + Gardening Tips For People Who Treat Plants Like Tamagotchis

My mother and her mother grew beautiful roses. They loved to garden and my childhood home was surrounded by snapdragons and peonies. A magnolia tree grew beneath my bedroom window and I looked forward to spring when it would bloom. Back then, I had to stand on a little rock in the garden to sniff its blossoms.

I did not inherit my family’s green thumbs. When we lived in Fargo, I was determined to have a bountiful container garden on our apartment patio. In typical Jeni-style, I became extremely excited about my vision of a glorious container garden and moved forward with zeal.

To begin, I bought big garden pots, lots of dirt, and heirloom seeds which I started too early. The herbs sort of grew, but the vegetables didn’t. It became apparent that I just wasn’t going to grow beets and carrots in pots on my patio. When we went out-of-town for a weekend in July, everything died. The situation reminded me of that time I got tired of taking care of my Tomogatchi and threw it under my bed. This time, I felt way worse because the plants were real, living things. I call it the great container garden disaster of 2012. It was a lot of work to haul all that dirt back down the elevator. Now, we live in a condo development. The beets will have to wait, but I think I could bring out those containers again for an herb garden.

My friend and blogger Mary owns Natural Plus Nursery in Clear Lake, Iowa with her family. She and her husband recently bought it from her in-laws who started the business in 1978. The A-Frame house below is made from recycled barn wood. She invited us over for a tour and garden-themed snacks prepared by Beth.

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For this post, I thought it would be fun to ask Mary for advice she’d give to hesitant gardeners like me. I wanted to know what’s her quintessential garden tool and what plants are easiest to grow.

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Mary responded that her motto is:

 “Just plant it!”

She adds that gardening isn’t rocket science. If it grows, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s ok. You can always try again.

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For plants that are easiest to grow, Mary recommends basil and any perennial (as long as they have enough sun). She explained how starter plants can be easier to begin with, since they are already established and you don’t have to begin them from seed.

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She simplified gardening to plants needing two main things: Water and sun. “Don’t forget to make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom of the pot,” she added.

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For new gardeners like me who are completely starting from scratch, she recommends obtaining gardening gloves. For planting a vegetable garden, she considers her tiller an essential tool, adding that they are sometimes available to rent.

More plants are arriving in time for their Open House during May 1st-9th. Learn more about Natural Plus by visiting their website or Facebook page. Mary gave the North Iowa Bloggers a $100 gift certificate to give away to one of our readers. The Rafflecopter entry form is located at the bottom of this post. Enter by selecting one option or multiple. It’s really up to you!

What advice would you give to a new gardener?

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puppy chow

Dirt N Worms

Never too old to eat dirt and worms dessert.

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Yes, this is a mini margarita.

Natural Plus Group Photo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Five Favorite Food Reasons To Visit Clear Lake, Iowa

Disclosure: In exchange for traveling with the Clear Lake Chamber to Chicago, I have agreed to write five posts about the trip. It is my commitment to share my honest opinion about my experiences. This first post introduces our trip and the Chamber. 

Writing a post about Clear Lake, Iowa is a breeze for me, because I have a really easy time thinking of things I like in this city. There’s a Raygun shirt that says, “Clear Lake: The Hamptons of Mason City. It’s funny because it’s kind of true.

Clear Lake Dock

They’re our neighbor with the biggest body of water! It’s probably the biggest lake in North Iowa which makes it a popular vacation/summer home destination. Jake and I have our favorite spots in our current hometown of Mason City, but venture to Clear Lake often. When I received an opportunity to travel to Chicago with the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce and seven North Iowa Bloggers via our new carrier Air Choice One, I jumped.

Two years ago when Jake and I moved to Mason City, our airport was actually air-carrierless! The airport sat vacant until last November when Air Choice One began its contract. We heard tales of the previous air carrier’s unpredictability and hoped along with the rest of the city that things would improve. Now, flights go to and from Chicago, IL and St. Louis, MO for about $100 per roundtrip ticket. We’re a two-hour drive from the MSP and Des Moines airports and an hour from Rochester. I hope Air Choice One will continue to improve its service. We need a dependable air carrier and I’m hopeful about these new flight options. This will be my first time flying this airline.

For those road tripping north or south along I-35, Clear Lake is located next to the freeway making it a convenient place to grab a break or meal. The Surf Ballroom and Buddy Holly Crash Site are also located within the city. These are five of my favorite food reasons to visit Clear Lake:

My favorite butcher shop is in Clear Lake.

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I drive to Clear Lake almost weekly to purchase meat from Louie’s Custom Meats. Sure, I could purchase meat closer to home, but I like this small, family owned and operated butcher the most. Plus, everything we get here just tastes better. The prices here are affordable and I can also grab a growler of beer produced by Lake Time Brewing, a Clear Lake Brewery.

You can get broasted chicken in Clear Lake.

Barrel CHicken
Jake and I get fried chicken cravings occasionally. We’ve indulged this craving at other places in North Iowa, but like the broasted chicken from the historic Barrel Drive-In the best. The skin’s crispy and the meat is tender and moist.

You can enjoy cheap cocktails and better bar food at Rookies in Clear Lake.

Rookies Collage

We’ve mentioned Rookie’s often, because it really is one of our favorite date night spots. I hear the atmosphere can get rowdier on weekend evenings, but we’ve always found a laid-back vibe at dinner time. Rookie’s is connected to the restaurant Sevens so customers can order more than just bar food while sitting around the big, shiny bar.

This is not to say their bar food isn’t good, though. Rookies serves one of my favorite version of sweet potato fries in North Iowa. They’re sprinkled with an addicting seasoning salt and served with a creamy dip that tastes like bacon. One of our other favorite entrees is the sautéed lemon-pepper cod served with a crisp green salad. The fact that I can sidle up to the bar and eat a better than average salad with homemade lemon vinaigrette is enough to make me loyal.

An old school supper club is located in Clear Lake.

half moon Collage
Half Moon Inn is an old school supper club near the Surf Ballroom. There is no flashy sign and the building isn’t showy, so you might not know it’s there unless someone tells you to look for it. Many rave about Northwestern Steakhouse’s Greek-style steak, while other friends prefer Half Moon.

We haven’t visited Northwestern yet, but liked the charred flavor of our ribeye. It was tender and the juices had a compelling acidic note. Meals start with a cute, pre-bread basket cracker basket with butter and dinner salads. A small loaf of bread arrives later with the entrees. The blue cheese dressing indeed included chunks of blue cheese and one can order hash browns as their potato side. Most restaurants in North Iowa offer shredded hash browns as a potato option and I love this.

You can dine lakeside at The Landing in Clear Lake. 

Landing

To my knowledge, the Landing is the only lakeside restaurant located in the city of Clear Lake (however there is a popular supper club called the Muskie Lounge in Ventura). The Landing is connected to a small hotel, so don’t be surprised to see vacationers hanging out on the yard or their patios. We enjoyed a meal here late last summer near the end of the season and have looked forward to returning. You’ll really get your money’s worth if you dine here on an evening with live music.

The Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce welcomes questions from visitors. Contact them online or visit their office at 205 Main Ave. They also share information through their tourism blog and visitors’ guide

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