First Visit To The Surf Ballroom, Second Time Locking Myself Out Of My House

I locked myself out of my house this morning taking out the trash in my pajamas.

Like every Friday morning, I jolted awake remembering that I needed to take out the trash and recycling. I popped in my contacts and quickly brought my trash bag, cans, and cardboard outside. When I reached for the doorknob to return inside, my stomach sank as I realized it was locked. Jake had gone out-of-town for work the day before and I had made sure to lock every door in the house before bed, including that one I always forget remains locked after I shut it behind me.

I stood outside in my worn and tattered leggings and soda pop sweatshirt scratching my head. It was just before 7 a.m. and not a neighbor was in sight. Since I hadn’t intended to make eye contact with another human being that morning, I neglected to brush my hair or brush my teeth, and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t hard to think through that sleepy NyQuil fog (still recovering from a cold). I saw my neighbor’s dog peeking at me through the window, so I knocked on her door and felt relieved when she answered.

She was kind enough to lend me her phone to call the locksmith. Of course, I had to call the after-hours phone number and suspect I reached some poor sap on his cell phone, mid-slumber. “I’ll be over in 20 minutes,” he said, “but since we don’t open for another hour and a half, I’d have to charge you the emergency unlock fee.”

“I’m not sure I have any other options,” I replied, glancing at my neighbor who I interrupted as she was just getting ready to leave and thinking of my dog who hadn’t gone to the bathroom since the night before. After thanking her for helping me so early n the morning, I slipped out the door and poked around my garage like I meant to be there poking around in my jammies. Eventually, I gave up pretending like I meant to be hanging out in my garage and resigned myself to sitting in front of my door. Literally. We don’t have a front step, so I literally sat in front of my door.

The locksmith arrived just about when he said he would. He really worked at my door knobs, complimenting our no-pick locks. With images of him smashing in our door with a battering ram or resorting to breaking a window, the lock popped and he kindly let me back in. For $75. I texted my husband to share the news and apologize for generating the unexpected cost. “You are a very unique individual,” he replied. Fun times at the Flaas.

Speaking of fun times, I really did have a lot of fun at the North Iowa Green Expo Thursday evening at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. I feel a little sheepish to admit that I’ve lived in Mason City for almost two years and this was my first time visiting the Surf.

Surf Ballroom

The theme of the Green Expo revolved around Earth Day (no pun intended). Most of the vendors featured environmentally friendly products and services.


This photo was horrible to begin with so let’s add some filters;)

I was surprised to find fresh leeks at One Step At A Time Gardens located in Kanawha, a small town located about an hour east of us. Last week, I wanted to prepare a recipe with fresh leeks and gave-up after not finding them at three stores. One Step At A Time offers CSA memberships and sells pasture-raised chickens.


My friend Mary and her family own Natural Plus Nursery. This photo is what happens when the photographer says, “Smile and give a thumb’s up!” We made our thumb’s up and said to each other out the corners of our mouths, “This is going to look totally awkward.” When Sara showed us the photo on her phone, we were like “Ohhh, it doesn’t look too awkward but when I looked at it up close I laughed because it totally was.

Next weekend, Natural Plus is hosting us for a spring preview before their public open house. I’m going to attempt to plant a container herb garden again.

Natural Plus

Thanks for the photo Sara!

Several vendors offered food samples. My favorite butcher Louie’s Custom Meats and the new Clear Lake Supper Club featured Niman Ranch meat products.


The Clear Lake Supper Club is only open for special events. They announce the dinner’s theme and prix fixe menu and then accept reservations. A vendor selling the Big Green Egg grill offered samples of spicy smoked pork (bottom right), ribs, and scotch eggs.

PicMonkey Collage

Other exhibitors featured cloth diapers, earth-day themed artwork, and energy-efficient options for homes and businesses. Although I have a background in studying herbalism, I haven’t entered the Pandora’s box of essential oils. I giggled when I saw a vendor selling kits of essential oils for cats and dogs. My dog leaves the room whenever I light a scented candle, so I’m thinking aromatherapy’s not in the cards for us. Smoked meat’s my aromatherapy. I have to admit, I spent a lot of time wildly chasing hopes of that scotch egg I saw on other people’s plates. I never did get a bite, but enjoyed all of the foods I was able to taste.

It won’t be long before I return to the Surf, because it’s the new location of the Clear Lake Farmers Market. Plus, it’s about time I attend a concert there.

Coming up next: 

  • Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Boxed Mix: It’s time for another strange and silly boxed mix review! Believe it or not, my review of Duff Goldman’s Purple Rain cake mix has become one of my most viewed blog posts and videos. This one was really fun to create.

Red Lobster

  • Japanese DIY Candy Kits: I first learned about these kits through My Subscription Addiction’s review of Japan Crate. I ordered two kits themed around a pizza parlor and “Happy Sushi House.” Unfortunately, I made the mistake of choosing free shipping instead of Amazon Prime shipping and so these could take two months to arrive. I think they’re arriving by pony express. From Japan.
  • Ham Ball Cooking Lesson with Val of Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids: My friend Val is graciously hosting me at her home to cook ham balls. I want to learn how to make real ham balls with a real Iowan.

Ham Ball video Still 1

  • Also ag-related, Beth and I are going to bottle feed a calf next week. It will be my first time meeting a bovine!


  1. Beth Ann Chiles

    Fun post! Very fun other than the locking yourself out part.

    • Jeni

      That was sort of fun in its own right. Just kidding.

  2. Feisty Eats

    I wonder if your home owners insurance would cover the locksmith? Might be worth a shot?

    • Jeni

      I never thought of this!! Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll see if they are AAA will cover it.

  3. Sara Broers

    A fun day……. and a memorable one- On the bright side you even made it to the Surf Ballroom!

    • Jeni

      Now it’s time for a concert.

  4. Katie

    Can’t wait to see the Red Lobster post! I did a P.F. Chang frozen dinner recap once and it was the most popular of my early blogging days posts.

    • Jeni

      I just read your frozen dinner recap. Rip and dump lol. I might have to grab one of these for a busy night.

  5. Libbey Patton

    Someone brought over some of that Scotch egg to my booth and I was too *chicken* to try it! An adventurous [meat] eater I am not. It did look pretty interesting though! I loved the carmelized onion goat cheese crostini that the Supper Club had, glad you got a photo of it!

    • Jeni

      Those crostini were fantastic.

  6. Joe Flaa

    I’m just glad you got back into the house ok. Wish I could say I’ve never done anything like that but I can’t. Aren’t you glad that the locksmiths are good guys or just think what could happen.

    • Jeni

      I am! I’ve heard some locksmiths say that your lock can’t be picked and then charge you for a new set-up. This company has a good reputation in the community.

  7. Donna Hup

    I still have not been to the surf ballroom (shhh don’t tell anyone). I’m glad you were able to get back in your house 🙂

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