Engagement Photos

It was chilly in Minnesota this weekend (although according to the Northerners it was “really nice”). I no longer consider myself a true northerner. As far as I’m concerned, Iowa is the South. It’s typically 20 degrees warmer there than in ND/MN in the winter. Pretty big difference.

Anywho. Kyle and I braved the elements to have our engagement pictures taken outdoors on Saturday, by one of my lovely and talented sisters, Jen. She did a great job and kept us (ok maybe mostly me – Kyle was a good sport but I think he thought we were a teeny bit crazy) laughing the whole time. Our shoot involved a couple of outfit changes. These took place in an abandoned farm outbuilding. I’m not sure what the building’s original purpose was, but I was grateful for the windbreak, rotten floors and all! Here are a few of my favorite pics Jen captured. Check out more of her work here.

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Wedding Dress Shopping

It’s supposed to be a super fun experience. All the shows on TV depict women in various states of rapture after they find “the one.”

I’m lucky I first went to I Do Two to search for my wedding dress. It lived up to all my expectations. Kelly, the owner, is fantastic. She was super patient and genuinely excited to hunt through her (enormous) stacks of dresses to find the perfect one for me. It’s not easy to help someone into wedding dresses! They’re heavy, unwieldy, and involve a lot of lacing, tightening, and peculiar petticoats, each specific to the style of dress.20160107_120209

I must have tried on 14 dresses at her store. I narrowed it down to two, and then came back every day all week to try on the finalists (my mom, sister, youngest niece, and I went there on a Monday). I purchased my dress that Friday. I love it!

It’s a way nicer dress than I’d ever have been able to afford at a regular store. I Do Two is a consignment shop. If, like me, you think that means you will be buying a used dress, you are mistaken! I think only two of the dresses I tried on had previously been worn. I didn’t know this was a “thing,” but apparently lots of ladies buy two dresses and then wait til right before the wedding to decide which one to wear. Those ladies must have a lot of extra money! At any rate, it works to your advantage. I bought a dress that had an original price of $800 for 400 bucks. It was quite a bit too big for me, so I’m having it altered, but I would have had to have any other dress altered as well.

Here are some of the dresses I tried on at Kelly’s shop. (Did I mention she’s wonderful?)

Looking at these today, I guess I should have put on some makeup and made an effort with my hair before going shopping. Ha!

Like I said before, I had a difficult time deciding between two dresses. Here’s the one I didn’t get. 0104161248

 

I really liked the scalloped edge at the bottom. It was hard to choose, but I’m super happy with the one I bought! (Thank you to my sister and mom for taking these pics and patiently watching me try on dresses all afternoon!)

I did go to David’s Bridal after I Do Two. I felt like I should, for some reason. A rite of passage? However, by the end of my session – or whatever it’s called – I was mad. The lady put me in dresses that were 6 sizes too big, despite having dresses on the racks in my size. I don’t know what she was thinking. She said, “Oh, I guess someone put this dress in the wrong spot on the rack.” I could see that happening once, but multiple times? It’s like she thought I was lying about the size I wear. She seemed truly surprised when I was swimming in all the dresses she first pulled.

Additionally, she was unkind to my 5 year-old niece, who was beyond excited to be there, scolding her for touching plastic-wrapped dresses and accidentally stepping on the train of one I was trying on. (I got to return the dirty look when she herself stepped on said train 3 minutes later.) This niece was busily kindergartening it up when we were in Kelly’s store; between stores, my dad picked her up from school and swapped her out for her 3 year-old sister, who was beyond bored by dress shopping by then.

The saleslady at DB was also condescending about the amount of money we wanted to spend, sweeping past a dress I saw on a mannequin and admired, “Oh… that’s a Vera.” Didn’t say anything else. I was left behind to figure out that meant it was much too expensive. She then refused to show me any similar dresses at lower price points. I have a hard time believing an A-line dress with lace doesn’t exist by someone less expensive than Vera Wang. But what do I know. We left before I had even finished trying on her second round of dresses.

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My 5 year-old niece with me in one of the few dresses that fit at David’s Bridal

On the way home, I told my mom, “I’m so glad we went to that consignment store first. That lady was so nice. If we had come here first -” and here my mom finished the sentence, “You would have been in tears.” Yup. Hit the nail on the head!

In all, if you’re shopping in Minnesota for a wedding gown, I highly recommend Kelly at I Do Two in Otsego. Her collection is enormous; I had a fantastic experience with her, and I can’t wait to wear my beautiful dress! I’ve never seen one like it before! Y’all can see it. On May 28. 🙂

Sentinel Sale and Surgery

Ok, here’s the rest of my major news. In October, a Des Moines art appreciator approached me regarding two of the four Sentinels I had remaining in my studio after my sale to the Williston Public Library last May. He purchased Sentinel No. 5 (my personal favorite!) and Sentinel No. 6.


The timing of this sale was perfect, as I had had an appointment with an eye doctor in early September. At that appointment, I was informed for the second time (I was told this by a different optometrist last year, too) that I had essentially developed an allergy to soft contact lenses. Something to do with my eyes making too many protein deposits. I don’t exactly remember all the technicalities.

All I knew was that it constantly felt like I had huge chunks of stuff in my eye. No matter how much I cleaned them, my contacts were only comfortable for a few hours every day. Turns out my eyelids were like “sandpaper” from all the deposits. So, my choices were to wear glasses for the rest of my life, or have laser eye surgery.

Being an artist, and a person who would rather die than be blind, I was (naturally!) terrified of surgery. My then-boyfriend, now-fiancé encouraged me to have Custom ASA laser correction. He had it a few years ago and has loved his results. I was too scared. I decided to have the surgery if I could get the doctor to trade art for surgery. He couldn’t. So I thought, well, that’s that. And I continued to wear my glasses. And I hated every minute of it.

Wearing glasses is annoying to me for several reasons. I don’t want to sound vain, but I never feel pretty when I’m wearing glasses. For some reason it makes me feel half-dressed. So it’s hard for me to feel really awake during the day for the same reason. And then there’s the part where I like to play volleyball, and the part where glasses fog up going in and out of warm and cold places (and I live in Iowa, so this happens a lot!), and the part where my glasses gave a small field of vision and made it hard to see everything I was working on in my studio in one glance. In short, I was really frustrated.

And then, I was approached (sort of out of the blue) regarding the Sentinels. I decided it was a sign and went through with the testing for ASA. I went to Dr. Ejaz Hussein because he seems to have the most experience of anyone in the Des Moines area. I was near tears at every single testing appointment (there were several) because I was so scared. His assistants were very kind and answered all of my questions, over and over again. I decided I was going to have only 1 eye done at a time, despite numerous reassurances that it would likely go well and I should just do both at once.

But then my grandfather died, sadly, and my schedule for the two surgeries got thrown a bit, because I really wanted to go back to ND for his funeral. I was exhausted and gave in, deciding to have both done on the same day.

I had them done on Thursday, December 10, and I flew to ND on Friday morning. ASA has a much longer recovery than lasik (a month vs. a day). It was a little weird to go through airports with dark sunglasses, not being able to see very well, but it went fine. With ASA, your vision is good the first day, then it deteriorates for a few days before beginning to rebound.

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Getting a ride to the surgery center

Having the surgery done was scary. Kyle was with me and he was calm and confident the whole time, which made me feel better about it. You get to the surgery center a couple hours before your surgery and they start give you a bunch of eye drops, every 15 minutes, for numbing and for softening your tissues, I think. Then they give you Valium. Which I needed because the closer it got to my turn, the more I wanted to cry. Then you walk down the hall and sit in a dentist looking chair (I think… I was sorta doped up!). The nurses point to a poster on the wall and ask if you can read it. Of course I couldn’t. My prescription was 20/1000 – way worse than legally blind.

The doctor comes in. He and the nurses put things on one of your eyes so that you can’t blink. You go under the laser machine and they get it positioned. It tracks your eye, so even if you deviate from looking at the red light, it will follow your movement and zap the right places. Next they put a tool like an electric toothbrush on your eye and scrub away the surface cells. I think Kyle said that was the only part of his surgery that was uncomfortable, but I didn’t think it was bad (I thought a different part at the end of the surgery was bad, and that part didn’t bother him at all). After they scrub your eye, they start up the laser. It shoots a bunch of little dot beams on your eye, burning it to the correct shape. Kyle told me beforehand it only lasted about 15 seconds for his surgery. The nurse overheard us, and said, “Umm, actually, it might last up to a minute for you, Amy, because your correction is so severe.” Ohh kay.

I asked a nurse to hold my hand during the surgery. She did.
So you lay under the laser and it does its thing. I didn’t feel anything, but I could smell it burning tissue away! Man that was weird, to lay there knowing the surface of your eye being burned is what you’re smelling. And you don’t care much. It’s very detached.
Anyway. After the laser was done, they flushed my eye with ICE cold water. They warned me beforehand and geez, they were not kidding. It’s the worst brain freeze I’ve ever experienced. That’s the only part I didn’t like, and it’s the part that didn’t bother Kyle at all.

Then they put a contact lens on as a bandaid, and some drops, and that eye was done. At this point, I remember looking up at the ceiling and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can see each ceiling tile, and all the dots on them!” The doctor asked if he could proceed with my other eye. I said, “Yes!” And he did. Afterward, they sat me up and asked me to look at the poster again. I could read all of it. I looked at a nurse and I could see her whole face clearly, right down to each individual eyelash. This time, I did start to cry. “Oh no, don’t do that, you’ll cry out the contacts!” I got the feeling they were very used to people crying out of amazement and joy right after their surgery. Ha!

Kyle got to watch the surgery live on a TV in another room. Here are some pictures he took.

After the surgery, you go home and lay around with your eyes closed for 24 hours. You’re supposed to take it easy for a few days. I didn’t, but I wore sunglasses all the time and was really anal about my nieces and nephews being careful of my eyes when they sat on my lap over the weekend. You also wear really beautiful hard plastic eye shields to bed for the first week. You tape them to your forehead. Hot.

There is a really strict regimen of eye drops for a week before and several months after the surgery. The first week after is the worst for that, but then it gets better. You slowly taper off the drops – not quite two months out, I’m down to rewetting drops as needed, a steroid drop 3x a day, and a thick ointment at night.

I struggled with reading and halos at night for about a month, but since then, everything has been perfect. I’m also getting used to falling asleep while being able to see. It was so weird; I had a really hard time falling asleep for 6 weeks. I think it was because I was so used to taking my glasses off right before bed. Because my vision was so poor, taking off my glasses before bed was like shutting off my eyes (almost literally). The action sent a signal to my brain: Time to go to sleep now. It was hard to sleep without receiving that message! I still find myself automatically groping the bedside table for my glasses a couple of mornings a week, too. Old habits die hard!

At any rate, you are probably bored of reading this. So, I will tell you that at my 1 week follow-up, I was 20/20. And at my 7 week follow-up, I was 20/15! That’s better than “perfect” vision! I’m super happy with the results and I think it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. I’m grateful for the sale of the Sentinels that made it possible!

If you’re interested, I have two Sentinels left. They are unique in that they are terracotta (red clay), whereas the others are stoneware (grey clay). Here are some pics! They are made of an architectural clay, so they will withstand the outdoors and would be beautiful in a garden. They also have drain holes in the bottom, perfect for rainwater to escape. Let me know if you want to make one yours!

What about you? Have you had laser eye surgery? What were your results?

PS. The main difference between ASA (also sometimes called PRK) and Lasik is that there is no flap cut in your cornea for ASA, but the recovery time is much longer (1 month vs. 1 day). Why have ASA, if the recovery time is so much longer?

There are four clear advantages of Advanced Surface Ablation over LASIK (according to Dr. Hussein’s webpage (http://www.dmeyemd.com/)

1. It is a safer procedure since there is no flap creation and thus less thinning of the cornea.

2. There are no flap related complications.

3. CustomVue wavefront technology may be more accurately applied to the cornea in ASA than with LASIK. [Better visual results]

4. There are fewer problems with dry eyes after ASA.

News!

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written. Sorry! The good news is that I’ve been busy. So, I have a lot of really exciting news to share with you… I’ll share two things today and (maybe) others later in the week!

I’m excited to say I’m profiled in the latest issue of DSM Magazine. It’s an extremely high quality publication, and I’m really excited to have been asked for an interview. If you want to check it out, you can read it online here.

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The other big piece of news is personal – I recently got engaged! My fiance’s name is Kyle, and I think he’s pretty great. We are going to get married at the end of May. I can’t wait!

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Come check out Des Moines… you just might want to stay (forever!)

Hello there. Happy 4th of July! I hope you had a wonderful holiday. Mine was great. I’m going to tell you a little bit about it in this post,  where I’ll also fill you in on all the fun stuff happening in Des Moines this summer. I’ve been pleasantly surprised (much like I was when I visited the Art Center) at the number and quality of things to do and see here. I’m not gonna lie – I’m writing this post mainly to try to lure my east coast friends into moving here, or at least visiting!

Let’s start off with some factoids about Des Moines. We’ll start with something easy and then move into some lesser-known tidbits. Are you excited? Ok. Hold on to your pants.

*Des Moines is the capitol of Iowa.

*Des Moines has a skyline. With tall buildings, not tall stalks of corn. (I did not know this until I drove into town last summer.)

*Des Moines’ metro population is around 560,000.

*Des Moines is home to Meredith Corporation (publisher of Better Homes and Gardens, among others).

*Des Moines is home to the Drake Relays, an annual track and field event that draws some of the best athletes in the world. This year the Relays hosted 23 Olympic gold medalists. The city was pushing for a bid on the 2020 Olympic trials (not sure if we won or not).

*Des Moines’ downtown is entirely walkable by sidewalk (duh). However, if you hate the outdoors, you can always use the 4 miles of skywalks, which connect almost all of the buildings and parking garages downtown (map here). There is also a free shuttle that runs every 10 minutes, in a loop from one end of downtown to the other and back. I’ve been in the skywalk once. I think the weather here in the winter is pretty nice. I only scraped my windshield 3 or 4 times all winter (this is purt near miraculous to a ND girl)! The average temp in the winter is 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ok, did you get your fill? I did. A little more than I wanted, actually… let’s talk about what to do here now!

I was telling you yesterday that I’ve been pleased with my decision to live downtown. I really like the location. As an artist, it’s a treat to be able to walk through a world-class sculpture park every single day (John and Mary Pappajohn park). I also live close to the main public library, which was recently renovated (2006) and is architecturally beautiful, with its sleek lines and coppery facade. There is a good deal of green space in front of the library, on which various activities are held.

Last week, that green space was home to the main stage during the Des Moines Art Festival. This free event is huge – they block off two of the major streets downtown and fill them with artist booths, vendors, and other businesses from the community. One of the coolest ones was Habitat for Humanity – they built an entire house over the weekend and then carted it off for a family in need.

Different musical acts play on the main stage throughout the festival, and it’s free to pull up a lawnchair or blanket, plop down, and listen to your heart’s content. The biggest name they had this year was Aaron Neville. I was quite sure I’d never heard of him, until he started singing. I’m so bad at remembering musicians’ names 😦 As soon as he opened his mouth, I realized I knew almost all of his songs well enough to sing along (in my head, of course… singing is not one of my talents!).

Anyway, the Art Festival is juried, and competition for a spot is stiff. I read that they typically have 1100-1200 applicants, from all over the country, for around 185 spots. Yikes! Needless to say, most of the work shown is excellent. If you can get in, the exposure is tremendous. 200, 000 people come through every year, over a three-day period.

In addition to the live music, art, and food, there is also a film festival – the Interrobang Film Festival, to be precise. This is ALSO free to the public. An impressive number of films were shown, but I didn’t check any of them out, so you’ll have to click here to read about them, if you’re interested.

If the Arts Festival isn’t enough, Des Moines also has a giant Farmer’s Market downtown, every Saturday morning, May -October, from 7am-noon (8-noon in October). There are around 300 vendors at the market, and I’ve heard that crowds can swell to 10,000 on any given Saturday.

Another one of downtown’s biggest annual events is a music festival called 80/35, which was started in an effort to put the city on the map as a fun place to visit. 80/35’s inaugural year was 2008 and it has been a huge success ever since. It attracts upwards of 30,000 people, all of whom are looking to see big names (on the paid, main stage) and up-and-comers (on myriad free stages). Talent they’ve booked in the past has included the Flaming Lips, the Roots, Avett Brothers, Ben Harper, Death Cab for Cutie, and many others (those were the ones I vaguely recognize; like I said earlier, I’m terrible with names!). This year the headliner is the Wu-Tang Clan. I have heard of them!

(Here is the schedule.)

Anyway, it just so happens that my apartment faces the green space in front of the library. It also just so happens that the main stage is on that green space, directly facing my building. Consequently, I have become very popular at work as of late. Ha! I cleaned my toilet tonight, just in case I have company! Everyone in my building gets a free ticket for both days (Friday and Saturday). I think this is so they get us out of the building… if we’re at the party, we aren’t going to complain about the noise, right? Pretty smart!

I’m looking forward to seeing what this event is all about, and I’ll do my best to blog about it sometime next week. To finish up my narrative: I’m starting to feel at home here. I really like the area, events, weather, and people, and I’m going to do my best to figure out how to stay here once my Artist-in-Residence contract is up.

There are a couple of other things I want to tell you about, but this is getting long, and my bed is starting to look very inviting. I’m going to switch to list mode. Every $ = 10 bucks (approx.)

Nitefall on the River: live music in the Simon Estes outdoor amphitheater, Wednesday nights startings at 6pm. $$+

Jazz in July: live outdoor music, rotating locations, 4x a week. Free

Yankee Doodle Pops: DSM Symphony Orchestra, fireworks, Capitol lawn, for the 4th of July and New Year’s. Free

I went to this and it was fun! Crowd was estimated at 100,000 people, but it felt welcoming and was family-friendly.

Des Moines Metro Opera: various shows and events. $$$$

Iowa Cubs baseball (Chicago Cubs’ farm team): various days and times, fireworks after Friday evening games. Sundays, bring 3 canned goods and receive a free general admission ticket. $

Jasper Winery: summer concert series; live outdoor music every Thursday from 6-9pm. Free

Free Flicks: DSM Parks and Recreation, movies outdoors on giant screen, various days, 9pm. Free

Dancing at the Lake: Learn ballroom dance at Gray’s Lake, every Thursday 7:30pm. Free

Yoga in the Park: Gray’s Lake, every Saturday 9-10am. Free

This is just a fraction of the many, varied, things to do in Des Moines this summer! Come on down! Hope to see you soon…

(Community Calendar)

Horchata Recipe

I got a hankering for some horchata yesterday. Horchata is a traditional Mexican drink, made with rice and cinnamon. Some recipes also call for milk. My ancestry is Scandinavian, so I didn’t know horchata’s refreshing deliciousness even existed until last summer, when I ordered it at a Mexican restaurant in Colorado, on the advice of friends I was dining with. It was love at first sip.

I’ve tried to make it a few times since then, almost always failing miserably. I think I finally got it figured out, though. I guess I like my horchata with more milk and vanilla than is typically used. This weekend, I started with a recipe from from allrecipes.com and made some adjustments to it based on my past experiences. Here is my final recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

1 1/3 C. rice

2 C. water

3 cinnamon sticks

—-grind up rice, water, cinnamon in a blender—-

Add an additional 1 1/2 C. water. Let entire mixture sit in the fridge for 12 hours.

Next day: strain, add 1 C. whole milk, 1 C. cream, 1/4 C. agave nectar, 1 T. vanilla. Mix well. Serve over ice!

Horchata and stirfry... delicious lunch!

Horchata and stirfry… delicious lunch!