The year in review

It’s the end of another year, and that always makes me want to look back and see what – if anything – I’ve accomplished in the year just past.

This time last year I was in New York City for Iowa State’s appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl. My strongest memory of that trip was not the holiday decorations, nor the cold (since it was actually fairly mild), but the insane number of tourists in the city. I mean, INSANE. I vowed right then and there never to return to NYC between Christmas and New Year’s. It isn’t worth it.

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Highlights of 2012 included a lot of travel outside the state of Iowa: Hawaii (above, on the Big Island); the Deep South states of Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia; Tennessee; Kentucky; North Carolina; Virginia; Alaska; the Upper Midwest (Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota); the New England states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and glorious Maine (all spectacular in the fall); and the Southwestern states of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. Twenty-three states in all. That travel (for the Iowa State University alumni magazine, VISIONS) kept me pretty busy all year.

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But I did find time to take in plenty of activities in central Iowa: The Winter Blues Fest in January, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the CelebrAsian festival, Zoo Brew, a Lego exhibit at Reiman Gardens, the Octagon Arts Festival, a Sunday afternoon concert at Prairie Moon Winery (above), an Iowa Cubs baseball game, the Holly and Ivy Tour in December, and several Downtown Des Moines farmers markets. I also photographed the sights along the Downtown Des Moines riverwalk and took a walking tour of the Des Moines skywalk system last winter. Both of those were a lot of fun. Also in Des Moines, I visited La Mie Bakery, one of my favorite places in the whole world, and I wrote about West Des Moines’ newest grocery store: Whole Foods Market. My “love letter to Whole Foods” was reposted on the Whole Foods Facebook page, garnering me a whole slew of page views I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

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Elsewhere in Iowa, I visited the 1966 Grinnell College Yearbook Project exhibit at the Faulkoner Gallery on the Grinnell campus; the small, German-inspired town of Manning; Victorian Albia; the historic Lincoln Highway Bridge in Tama; Santa Maria Winery in Carroll; a pumpkin farm near Bondurant; and the multi-faceted town of Mason City. I took a driving tour of Sac County’s barn quilts, hiked at Swan Lake State Park, attended an opera in Indianola, and enjoyed the Prelude to Christmas in Amana. I finished my three-part Grant Wood Tour of Iowa in May (with a visit to the American Gothic House in Eldon, above) and June (with visits to the Grant Wood Studio in Cedar Rapids, the Tipton Public Library, and Iowa State’s Parks Library).

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I ended the year with 23,687 all-time page views (beginning with my first post in August 2010). Two popular page views were the aforementioned Whole Foods post and the Manning, Iowa, post. But to my great surprise, the most views I received all year were on a little story I did about my own city of Ames. The Downtown Ames post (above) received 183 views the first day, 473 views the second day (the highest single day ever for Iowa Girl), and 150 the following day, for a three-day total of 806. These may seem like small numbers to big, nationally followed bloggers, but to me, this was huge. (Thanks, Ames, Manning, and Whole Foods shoppers!)

Happy New Year!

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