Something new in Somerset

Somerset in north Ames can be thought of as  a semi-new-urbanist development.  You can go here to read about New Urbanism if you are so inclined, but it has to do with “promoting walkable, neighborhood-based development as an alternative to sprawl” according to the Congress for new Urbanism.

Many Ames-ites  love The Cafe, a cozy restaurant that features a good variety of locally grown, in-season foods. The last time I went by there I saw what looked like a garden beside The Cafe and behind the gym. This new addition in Somerset remains a mystery to me…whose garden??? Whoever the owner, I have to say I am IMPRESSED! We’ve had way more rain than usual around here and the most experienced farmers and gardeners are behind schedule, but this garden looks like it was willed into the ground by a pro!  (alas, 2018 update:  it is no longer there)

A community garden in Somerset, Ames Iowa?
A community garden in Somerset, Ames Iowa?


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Mixed Use Development

Ok, I know, I’m getting a little technical here, but for anyone who lives or is going to live anywhere, this is important! Where you live will eventually affect your lifestyle.

One of the reasons I love Ames is because it is a small college town of around 50,000, including students, and its “livable”, so very very livable. You could actually walk to Target, there are sidewalks and bike paths all over the place, and the city mothers and fathers are even trying their hand at mixed used development.


But I do wonder how it all works out in actuality. Here are some pics from West Towne. Do you know anyone who lives there? Do they like it?


In West Towne, the businesses are on the ground floors and the apartments are up above. On the other side of the road are single family homes and up the road a little are the gas station and a few restaurants, and it’s all within walking distance. Of course, if you live in a small town or over on Clark Ave, you already have a lot within walking distance, although you probably don’t have apartments.

More theory says that you can grow and still stay in a mixed used development. You and your friends might start out there in an apartment, work at the local salon, then start your own business in the neighborhood and move to a house with the two kids and a dog, and still be in “your” neighborhood, and you’ll care about that neighborhood, because you’ve put down roots there.

Your quality of life will be better because you don’t have to spend so much time driving everywhere, you’ll see the same people more often, make more friends, feel more connected. You won’t have to lose two hours a day away from your family driving on hot, congested highways. You could walk, or ride your bike to work, maybe even get by with one car!

Anyway, you get the idea! But the businesses have been slow to come to West Towne. It might be starting to pick up…it will be interesting to see. So…stay tuned!

Is there hope for suburbia?

I love so many of the residential areas around Ames for their old unique houses with mature trees and creative gardens and landscaping.

And then……there is THIS (photo above). Lets just be kind and call it “generic”. But the other day, my friend and I were walking in this area of West Towne and came upon a little more grown up version of suburbia. It felt different, cooler, greener, more loved.

Ok, so maybe suburbia just needs a little time and love. And in defense of West Towne, there are places right across the street from these houses, coffee shops like Cafe Milo, tanning and hair salons, businesses to work in, and bike paths that will take you to the other parts of town. Here are a few pics of the hope I saw for suburbia while I was walking.


People live there a while, decide to paint the door red or add their own favorite flowers. They make sun tea on the sidewalk and the houses stop looking so painfully the same.

Ames Prairies, less work, more resilience

Living in Iowa, one eventually gets prairie on the mind and right here in Ames, one can find tastes of prairie.

You might ask, “Why are they growing those weeds here in town?”, but when you do some reading about them, you learn that prairies are complex communities of plants and animals that are strong and resilient because of their diversity. Across from the the Memorial Union today I walked along the suggestion of prairie in the landscaping of St. Thomas Aquinas church.

I love their rose covered arbors too. While others around campus are frantically trying to keep up with the grass mowing, those with areas of prairie are spending time contemplating the butterflies and bees. And when summer turns up the heat and the monoculture grass dies down to an ugly brown, something in the prairie diversity will thrive and keep it green and alive.




Sunday night supper at Es Tas


Ames Summer 101. Finally getting out today….hmmm….. where to get some supper?   Campus Town?   Something not too heavy?

Why yes, Es Tas would be perfect. At its new location, 216 Stanton, Es Tas authentic Mexican now has more room and the same great tacos.

Check out the menu and you’ll see fish and shrimp, as well as the usual meat choices for your tacos, but what I love the most are the fresh deep-fried flour taco shells. Romain lettuce and fantastic guacamole don’t hurt either. Even though it doubles as a bar, early Sunday evening was quiet except for the music and I was almost tempted to try out the foosball. Sure, college towns can be…well….full of college students, but if you time it right, us family types can enjoy some quieter times too.

Prices may have changed. This menu is from 2008

ps the burgers are good too!

summer is HERE!

Yea, it’s summer! Are we excited or what?!! I am trying to get excited. I’ve been thinking about summers past, the way summers were, the way I wished they were.

I am an adult now though, doesn’t that mean I can design my own summer, just the way I want it?

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and that’s a good thing too.  You find surprises, discover things about yourself, your place, your people. Anyway, I am going to really try to post every day this summer….I’m calling it Ames Summer 101.

I think it is important to be connected to your place, and my place right now is Ames, Iowa. I scold myself because sometimes I get bored with Ames, but really, it is like the perfect place to live and I want to celebrate that and share it this summer.

That said, my first Ames Summer 101 post is going to point out the fact that I am going to be traveling away from Ames later this summer, to Poland hopefully! But my first step to Poland took place in Ames, here:

Downtown Ames has an old post office that just exudes character, and being a relatively small town, the lines aren’t too long and one often sees an acquaintance or makes a new one while admiring the architecture or murals on the wall.

The passport man behind the counter was extremely friendly and helpful and I found my passport in my apartment mailbox just 9 days after completing the application process here!

I also love how patient they are here with me when I want to pick out some “pretty stamps” to put on my letters for you all!