Hatton House Diaries

One day, we decided to buy a 125 year old Victorian House in Des Moines, Iowa…….

Willowsong Midwifery and Sustainable Architecture at Green and Main July 1, 2016

13567322_1247065885305776_3956780907685438015_nIt’s rare for a project to come about that ties together so many things I love, but the “Heart of a Seed” project on Kickstarter is way up there. It is the sustainable rehab of a historic building in Des Moines that will eventually house the midwifery practice that supported me through my last two pregnancies. The husband and wife team behind this project are both friends of mine, and I’m writing to spread the word about the last week of their Kickstarter. As an added bonus, the next reach goal will fund a mosaic by my friend, Nicole K. James. I hope you’ll be interested in backing this project.

Cosette Boone is an amazing midwife. I’m quite sure I would have lost my baby had I not sought her care. She honored my concerns, helped me get blood tests, treated me with kindness, and even sought out research about my condition to help me stay calm while we treated and waited. We chose to use her services at Willowsong Midwifery/Healing Passages because I knew I’d get the highest quality prenatal care, and because the community she and her staff have created would allow me to build relationships with other mothers in my baby’s age cohort, which is important to any woman, but particularly one returning to babydom after a long break. Because of their Village philosophy, I left care with a circle of friends all mothering babies roughly the same age as my daughter.

Chaden Halfhill is a friend from my past as a representative in the architectural community. I’ve admired the craftsmanship of his firm, Silent Rivers, for many years, and he was one of my partners in running the Natural Living Expo for several years. His vision for community revitalization through preservation is one that resonates with my own philosophy, and the spaces he creates through that vision are beautiful and award winning.

Through this project, we have the opportunity to help create a preservationist minded spaced for families to welcome their babies into the world in a space that’s physically beautiful and spiritually grounding. We can save a historic building and create a safe out-of-hospital birthing experience for generations to come.

Please join me in giving what you can to help this project meet their reach goal of $46,368.







18th Annual River Bend Home Tour on September 6th and 7th September 1, 2014

Filed under: Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 11:39 pm
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1601ArlingtonFinalNo, the Hatton House is not on the tour this year. I can pretty much promise you that we will never be on the tour during a World Cup year, and certainly not the WC year I release a book (you can learn more about my soccer life at this website). But you SHOULD go on the tour. Here’s why:


There are some amazing spaces on the tour this year. The original farmhouse (1510 9th) for the neighborhood, the sister to the Hatton House (1601 Arlington), the home of the former neighborhood president (410 Franklin), 1824 7th which has come a long, long way since this blog post, and so much more. You won’t want to miss a single one.


The hosts on this tour are really fabulous. Some experienced, some not so experienced, but all doing brave, amazing work in turning River Bend around one house at a time. Make sure you talk to the homeowners about their stories of restoration and preservation. You won’t be disappointed by the tales these remarkable people have to tell.


I’ve lived in River Bend for three years, and the transformation I’ve witnessed has been amazing. When you take part in the tour, you financially support the work that’s being done here, but you also become a part of the history of the transformation taking place here. Witness the changes and be a part of what’s happening here. 

So join us. Be a part of this neighborhood, just for a weekend. 

Here’s the Facebook event.

Here’s the event page on the neighborhood website. 

 See you there!


Shop the Hatton House Studios Store! November 30, 2013

Home Cooked LoveWe have a Goodsmiths store now for the art created here! Proceeds go to supporting the restoration of the house, so you get handmade art AND that feel good thing in helping restore the house!


We do custom murals (with the mural artist behind Simply for Giggles fame!) and are happy to help you with commission work as well in ceramics and paintings. Shop here:  https://www.goodsmiths.com/hatton-house-studios

More items added soon!


#FlashDineDSM, the Local Take on Diner en Blanc September 3, 2013

Filed under: Keep It Local,Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 12:37 pm
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flashdineA few weeks ago, I got a Facebook invite to Des Moines FlashDine III, and was intrigued. The instructions were to wear white, have white table linens, and come dine, BYO everything, at a location to be announced the day before the event. The event photo was from a previous event at the downtown sculpture park, and it looked like people were having fun.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t even look further into the tagline “A local take on Diner en Blanc,” but you could get lost in the beautiful photos on the international website for that event. People in white, dining at beautiful sites around the world, holding white sparklers to the night sky afterward. The whole effect is so lovely, it would have made my decision to go so much easier.

We’d spent most of the day Sunday cleaning house, as the Hatton House bedrooms have never really been put right, and with a Labor Day paint sale going on, I wanted to purge n’ paint my weekend away. We’d pretty much abandoned the idea to go FlashDining when I got a Facebook message from one of our friends that they were going, and they were bringing their boys our son’s age. Now it seemed silly NOT to go. We should take a break, go do something cool, not spend the weekend slaving away in 6 year old debris.

Now, what to bring. A quick search of Twitter showed a few ideas of food that would serve well at room temperature, so I thought about what we had in abundance: eggs and tomatoes, and dug into the fridge to find swiss cheese, goat cheese, Balsamic vinegar, and required items to make Gruyere Cheese Ring (or as Doug calls it with plain Swiss “Cheese Ring for the Proletariat” and tomatoes with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar. Not too bad for 40 minutes notice!

The event was gorgeous. People brought out beautiful meals and table decorations, creating linked bubbles of intimate dinner parties. The heat wave we’ve suffered lately broke, leaving an almost cool night along the river. We ran into friends we haven’t seen lately and listened to music and had conversations while the kids chased each other around the terraced landscaping. It was perfection, lovely and unexpected.

I did a little more digging and found the original importer of Diner en Blanc to Des Moines was Larry Cleverly of Cleverly Farms. Larry has a great following in the local food culture of Des Moines, and he told me he read about Diner en Blanc in Paris and thought, “Let’s do this in DSM.” It was that simple, he said, “I picked a date, put it on my farm page & tweeted about it. The first two years we had it in the Sculpture Park and about 125 people attended.” This year, thanks to some publicity help from a few friends, he was able to get it more widely publicized, but hopes the event will continue to grow organically. He pointed out that, to his knowledge, the 2011 FlashdineDSM was the first such event outside of Paris, because, y’know…that’s how things tend to spread…Paris–> Des Moines. Oh, how I love this city!

You can follow FlashDineDSM on Twitter, and try to catch the FlashDineDSM IV. We’ve been kicking around the idea to do a monthly dinner club of some sort here at the Hatton House. An event to keep pushing us to complete projects to show off, and to share our home with Des Moines. We had so much fun flashdining, we may have to push ourselves to get the dinner club off the ground here at the Hatton House, only with maybe a little more than 40 minutes to cook next time! If nothing else, look for FlashDineDSM IV sometime next Summer!


Historic Des Moines Alert! Tell St Augustin’s Church 100 Year Old Homes Are Important August 21, 2013

I saw a post in Des Moines Rehabber’s Facebook Group and wanted to share with you here. Reposted from Steve Wilke-Shapiro with permission. Steve is working on setting up standards in Des Moines so that there will be an approval process before historic buildings are destroyed, but that process is not yet in place. Please consider contacting your city council member about these homes:

From Steve: I have it on good authority that St. Augustin’s intends to pursue demolition of the two 100-year-old homes it owns adjacent to its parking lot on Grand. These buildings are listed as contributing structures in a National Register Historic District. A serious potential buyer is working to evaluate moving the structures, and the church is required by agreement with the City to facilitate this resolution… they have been actively avoiding complying with that agreement, going so far as to file a lawsuit against the City.

If you have an interest in historic preservation, I encourage you to communicate to your council representatives and encourage them to delay issuing a demolition permit until one of three things has occurred: the potential buyer has completed evaluation of relocation, a redevelopment plan has been approved, or two months has passed.

The key is to ask for a “cooling off” period. We only get one shot to save these historic buildings – when they are gone, they are gone. St. Augustin’s has not communicated a plan other than to tear them down, so it is clear that there is not an immediate need. A period of two more months would not adversely affect the Church, except that they want what they want.

This is an emergency… the Council meeting is Monday, August 26th. The more people who communicate by then, the better chance of averting a complete loss of these historic homes.

Excerpted from the Greenwood Plat District Nomination Form:
4005 Grand Avenue: (Contributing, 1908)
This is a two-story hip roof Classical Revival style house plan. The house fronts south on Grand Avenue but it has a double façade, with semi-circular roofed dormers fronting to the south and east. A frame wrap-around porch covers the south half of the east façade and the west part of the south façade. The main chimney with corbelled cap is located on the east end of the main roof ridge. A secondary chimney, equal in scale but unadorned, is on a rear wing. There is no garage but there is a porte cochere to the west of the house.

4011 Grand Avenue: (Contributing, 1909)
This is a two-story Classical Revival style hip roof house plan. The building massing is complicated. The core rectangle is elaborated with a three-sided full-height bay at the east (right) side of the façade, while a shallow wing on the rear of the east wall also features a full-height three-sided bay projection. Hip roof dormers are placed above each of these bay projections. The architects were Liebbe, Nourse and Rasmussen – a well respected historical Des Moines firm.


Book Character Day – How an Iowa Start Up, An Iowa Author, and One Frantic Mama Come Together May 8, 2013

wpid-2013-05-08_08-07-15_945.jpgIt’s Book Character Day at my kids’ school, and my daughter loves getting into character every chance she gets (she was an amazing Wednesday Addams for Halloween this year). She informed me last week that she wanted to be Vee from Jill Hathaway’s book Slide. Aviva met Ms. Hathaway at an Iowa Author event put on by the Des Moines Public Library last year, and promptly fell in love with her book, Slide, and proceeded to beg me incessantly all winter long to check if her new book, Imposter, had been released yet. I looked up Jill on Twitter and asked for costume help, and got the response “A pink wig!”

Perfect. I happen to own a pink wig. Done and done. I went off to (or rather, failing to) convince my son to dress up as something other than a movie character (yes, I know they’re based on comic BOOKS, but I was going for creativity points). Then Monday night, Aviva checks back in with me about her costume, and I told her about Jill’s tweet, and my pink wig. I got back a disappointed look and “it’s kinda more red than pink, Mom.” Oh sure, when I wanted it to be a red wig, she thought it looked pink, but now….this feels like the beginning of pre-teen drama, but hey, I can be flexible for going the extra mile on book character day! We can pick up temporary hair color on the way home from soccer practice Tuesday night….plenty of time.

Plenty of time…until I left my wallet in my bike bag after my first of the season ride during the day, and showed up at Sally Beauty Supply with a checkbook, a phone loaded with Dwolla, but no debit card, ID, or cash. Haven’t we all been this parent at one point or another? It’s an hour before closing, the post-soccer kid is starving, you’re starving, and you’re $2 away from having the tasks of the day complete, lacking TWO STINKING DOLLARS. I asked if I could use a check without ID, nope….then I asked if they accept Dwolla, they didn’t even know what I was talking about…I was about to leave in failure, and start racing from dinner to home to back to the store in what I’m sure would have ended up a stressful and potentially disastrous evening of putting together Vee’s look, when a woman stuck her head around the corner and said “Did you say Dwolla?”

Turns out, also shopping at Sally’s was Geoff Wood’s sister, who explained that her brother was involved with ThincIowa and Silicon Prairie News, and she was so surprised/excited to hear someone mention Iowa tech startup Dwolla, that she rescued me and bought the $2 temporary pink hair color for our book character day adventures. Which turned out looking very cool in Aviva/Vee’s hair this morning, even if you can’t see most of it in this photo.

That’s Iowa for you, whether you’re looking to restore a 125 year old house, or start a tech company, it’s far and away, the place to be. The living is easy, and the people are especially nice, in a city that often feels more like a small town than a metro with half a million people. I’m Dwolla-ing Geoff $5. I hope he uses it to buy his super nice sister a beer, smoothie, or whatever appropriate thank you for saving my evening last night!


Things We Love About Des Moines: City Bakery January 1, 2013

Filed under: Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 10:03 pm
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Ever since Baby Boomers closed, we’ve been looking for a new breakfast place. We found City Bakery at 407 East 5th Street,  not for from Baby Boomers’ old spot. There’s French Press coffee, fluffy eggs, and my son’s favorite, brioche….loaded with blueberries in this case. Check them out on Facebook, or in person in the East Village.


River Bend, It’s Not Funny Anymore October 2, 2012

When I first moved to River Bend, I thought it was funny, the reaction some people had when I told them where I was moving. “Oh, you’re moving THERE? Do you think it’s safe?” I gave them the same eye roll I give people when they talk about “rush hour traffic” in Des Moines. Oh, you charming people, who have to strive so hard to find something wrong with our idyllic world in Central Iowa. Granted, I grew up in the part of the northeast that is also pretty utopian (at least until you check the price tag). Montclair, New Jersey had racial and economic diversity, but it had a wonderful community spirit in the 70s and 80s that taught me that there is great strength in a diverse community that works together.

It was that diversity that I found lacking in other places I’ve lived in Central Iowa. When I first moved to Ames, and then spent 15 years in Des Moines North Side suburbs, it was “nice” in the anti-septic way I suppose works for some people. People would pull into their attached garages after work and rarely even say hello to each other. In 15 months of living in River Bend, I’ve made more neighborhood friends than I made in 15 years on the north side. I love that about River Bend: it’s real. People talk to each other, care about each other, care about making the neighborhood a better place. On the north side, my daughter was told she couldn’t play with one neighborhood girl because we support the gay marriage of one of her aunts. In River Bend, my children will grow up knowing that regardless of race, economics, or marital preference or status, they will have plenty of children to make friends with.

When I learned from a friend that Big Tomato Pizza refused to deliver to her just a few blocks from my house, it wasn’t funny anymore. I never thought River Bend was unsafe, even before I moved my family here. But now that we’ve lived here for 16 months, I’m offended. I’m a night owl, and I’m often up way past midnight. This summer, I would run after dark several times a week, by myself, with headphones. That’s how safe I feel in my neighborhood. I could go to the gym, but I’d rather wait for it to cool down after sunset, and run on the often totally deserted streets of River Bend, on our well lit streets, looking at the beautiful hundred year old homes in various degrees of revitalization.

Do I believe my neighborhood was different in the past? I know the very house I live in used to be home to drug users and dealers, just the same as a Civil War hero used to live here and host parties where Louis Armstrong played. I also know that since Officer Yanira Scarlett started working as out neighborhood liaison about 4 years ago, crime is down 30%, to the point that we are now statistically safer than many suburban neighborhood to the west of us. Neighborhoods change, and while I find the history of this place to be fascinating, it shouldn’t be used to discriminate against the people who are here today. Yes, we are a diverse community, racially, economically, spiritually, and in almost any –ly you can think of, and it is that diversity that makes us stronger. To continue to not deliver to River Bend is to disgrace the hard work that has taken place here over the past decade by residents, community activists, and the Des Moines Police Department. I’m not claiming to live in a perfect world, but if it’s a neighborhood where I have been safe running at night, isn’t it safe enough for a pizza delivery guy?

Thank you to ABC5 for reporting on this story tonight, 10/2/12, at 10 PM. I hope we can turn this slight on our neighborhood into a chance for Big Tomato Pizza and the rest of Des Moines to take another look at River Bend. We think you’ll like what you see.

Update: Here’s the link to the channel 5 story: http://www.myabc5.com/story/19711436/denied-pizza-delivery#.UGuhBBYawjA.twitter


New Writing Partner, Thanks to the Animal Rescue League July 24, 2012

Filed under: Family Stuff,Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 4:37 am

We decided it was time to bring a new friend into the house. We had taken in a cat that couldn’t be cared for by his previous family, and when he ran away, the kids were heartbroken, and we were missing our mouser/birder. (Sometime this year we’ll get the roof work done, but until then, the attic is one giant birdhouse.) While looking for our lost cat at the Animal Rescue League, we peeked at the cats up for adoption, and saw Pumpernickel. He was hanging on the side of his cage, seeming desperate to come home with us, and his determination paid off. We haven’t set him loose on the attic, but he does seem to be a great cat for my writing. Sleeps with me, but not on the keyboard….we’re off to a great start. Welcome, Pumpernickel. Thanks for picking us.


If you’re in Des Moines, the ARL has too many kittens and cats right now. Please consider going to see if anyone is hanging on the side of a cage, waiting to go home with you.



Historic Hatton House at the Natural Living Expo (Code Name: Simply for Giggles) March 29, 2012

Filed under: Everything Else,Things We Love About Des Moines — hattonhousedsm @ 2:55 pm

In my past life, I once owned a store called Simply for Giggles, and co-ran an Expo about making healthier choices in our daily lives. You can meet me and all those past lives at the Natural Living Expo, March 31st and April 1st. I will be at the Simply for Giggles booth, selling our remaining inventory and talking about our future plans for the Hatton House!

The Expo is a great place to find out about the many really cool companies in Des Moines that can help you live your life with less toxic stuff and more healthy stuff! Hope to see you there!!