Make your "merry and bright" extra bright by clustering decorative candles.


We teamed up with the home stylists at the new West Elm Des Moineslocated in the East Villageto share some easy tips for preparing your home for the holiday season:

Tip 1: Layer in rich, luxe textures to make your decor sparkle. Consider adding a Faux Fur Throw or Lush Crinkle Velvet pillow cover for just the right amount of glamour.

Tip 2: Don’t be afraid to be playful. Novelty decorative items like these Bottle Brush Ornaments  will remind you of the childlike joy of getting ready for holiday festivities.

Tip 3: The holidays can be stressful at times. Set a calm, relaxed vibe with lots of candles.

West Elm’s design crew can help you figure out ways to refresh your home for the holidays, set your table for a special meal, or make over a space. Visit the store or make an appointment for a consultation online at

The Silent Rivers Woodshop is well known for creating gorgeous custom-built furniture. Our artisans masterfully crafted 250 pounds of cherry wood into this beautiful 12-foot dining table for a home remodel that created gathering spaces for our client’s large extended family. ... Read more »

Blake Clyde and Savannah Trotter can sing underwater in the Des Moines Playhouse production of "The Little Mermaid."


Theater Review by Michael Morain

You know what’s hard? Telling a story underwater.

When Norwalk native Jason Momoa pulled on his Aquaman suit and plunged to Atlantis in the recent movie "Justice League," some of the special effects weren’t entirely convincing even though the movie reportedly cost $300 million to produce.

So let’s just take a moment and put our fins together for the folks staging Disney’s "The Little Mermaid" almost 1,000 feet above sea level at  Des Moines Community Playhouse. The creative team, led by Maxwell Schaeffer, dove headfirst into the challenge and came up with a winnerwithout a Hollywood budget or the magic animation of Disney’s 1989 movie.

The show is a marvel of problem-solving and the power of suggestion. Three rows of waves (designed by Nicholas Amundson) sink to the stage or rise to the rafters to set the scenes above or under water. A reef’s worth of tropical costumes (Angela Lampe) shimmers with sequins, swirls with 200 yards of chiffon, and glides around on Heelys, those shoes with the built-in wheels. The merpeople slowly wave their arms from time to time as if treading water. (Megan Helmers did the choreography.)

At their best, the combined effects recall the stage version of "The Lion King," where the plain-to-see stagecraft is part of the fun. You can either focus on it or forget it; take your pick. Unfortunately, this show’s video projections aren’t as clever as the rest of the spectacle. Images of seashells and cartoon hearts don’t accomplish anything that creative lighting couldn’t do better.

But the visuals are just part of this world. Its inhabitants deserve some attention, too.

Savannah Trotter (a senior at Waukee High School) plays the title role and Johnny Kroll (a sophomore at Drake) is the object of her fishy attention. The Playhouse newcomers make a winsome pair. Trotter’s Ariel sings with spot-on phrasing and a beautiful, clear tone that swells with the score’s emotional currents, especially in "Part of Your World." Kroll’s Prince Eric ably carries the scenes after Ariel barters her voice for legs.

The interspecies couple is surrounded by a supporting cast of 29 that includes Ariel’s six sisters and their father, King Triton (the polished baritone Jerry Stoner), who bellows a lot but has a good heart. Young Flounder (Jackson Michael Gabby) is adorable, and the truly birdbrained Scuttle (Christopher Rozenboom) leads a flock of tap-dancing seagulls.

The show’s splashiest numbers, "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl," could drown out even a good soloist if he wasn’t careful, but here the soloist is great. Blake Clyde’s nimble Sebastian, the crab, skitters through the tricky lyrics and pumps up the melodies like a pro. (Brenton Brown directed the music, which relies on recorded backup rather than a live orchestra.)

And then there is Ursula. In a sumptuous purple dress and a towering white wig, Jackie Schmillen looks like a goth Marie Antoinette and sounds just as much like an evil diva as Pat Carroll did in the animated movie. It’s the sort of juicy part that makes you wish for a spinoff, like "Wicked," to tell the story as the sea-witch sees it. Schmillen grabs the role with her tentacles and never lets go.

Disney’s "The Little Mermaid" continues through Dec. 23 at the Des Moines Community Playhouse. For show times and tickets, visit

By Design Furniture & Interior Design presents dsmDining —
Scenic Route Bakery's scenic kale salad is available until 3 p.m. for busy late luncheon diners.


By Wini Moranville

Many local restaurants conclude lunch service at 2 p.m., which probably makes sense for business. But for those of us who always seem to be running late during the holidays, here are a few non-chain sites that serve lunch outside of the usual hours:

• Cheese Bar: Food is served all day, Tuesday through Saturday. Time your visit just right, and you can enjoy Champagne and sparkling wines for $5 a glass (from 2 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday). Try the smörgs—open-face sandwiches crafted with precision and refinement.
• Bubba—Southern Comforts: Lunch is served until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Better yet, the happy hour runs from 2 to 6 p.m., with $6 appetizers, select wines and house spirits. Late lunch with discounted drinks? What’s not to love?
• Scenic Route Bakery: A great choice if you’re shopping the one-of-a-kind boutiques in the East Village, but get there before 3 p.m., as that’s when lunch service stops. The bright and varied kale salad, with garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds, roasted red pepper, and goat cheese, is an all-out winner.
• Table 128: Lunch is served until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Try the Brussels sprouts salad and always get the chef’s fresh, homemade, anything-but-predictable soup.
• Wine Experience at Jordan Creek: This little hideaway inside Younkers is a great place to stop for a late-afternoon glass of wine and good sandwiches, salads, quiche and more. Lunch is served all day, every day.

Wini Moranville, who writes...

Second generation by Design customer We loved working with Ashley’s mom…and now I’ve had the pleasure of designing a room for Ashley too! Ashley’s mom did an amazing job sharing the importance of buying quality furniture with her daughter…even when you have a young family. ... Read more »

Bravo Greater Des Moines recently awarded grants totaling $3.8 million to 89 Central Iowa organizations, an average of $42,969.63.


Bravo Greater Des Moines has awarded a record $3.8 million to 89 Central Iowa organizations (also a record) through its Local Arts Program and Cultural Enrichment Grants. Of the recipient organizations, 21 are new Bravo partners. The grant money comes from hotel-motel taxes provided by 17 local governments. Wondering who got the cash? Here's the full list

Liz Lidgett describes these earrings as "wearable art." Artist Jen Lawler says the labradorite beads "roll freely, emitting flashes of color."

Two of dsm's favorite people have been busy recently on a fun project. Siobham Spain, director of the cool new artists' beehive, Mainframe Studios, and Liz Lidgett, a great go-to wiz for art and style, have come up with a neat little gift guide featuring the work of local artists. You can see it online with a single click here. The initial items are fun, fresh and affordable (from a $12 string-art kit to the $120 earrings, above). And we love the idea of holiday gifts with a genuine Des Moines connection. By the way, Mainframe has a holiday open house Dec. 9. Details are here.

Investing in the production of Deck Perception guarantees you'll receive one of the first ones out, if you're game.


When Jay Byers isn't tied up with chamber chores as president of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, he may be helping with the marketing of a new card game. The game Deck Perception was created long ago by Byers' father and is now being developed commercially by Byers, his brother and an entreprenurial young nephew. A Kickstarter funding campaign sought to raise $5,000 by yesterday. It's now over $7,200.

The game is intended for three or four players, each dealt a card that is displayed so only their opponents can see it. Through careful observation, clever questions and deductions, each seeks to be first to identify their card. Byers calls the game "a great gift idea for the gamers in your family." Learn more by clicking here.
A portion of each pledge will be donated to the Keep Iowa Beautiful Robert E. Byers Environmental Scholarship Fund.

John Hiatt performs in Des Moines in March. Tickets are on sale now.


Tickets are now on sale for a March 28 concert featuring bluesy legend John Hiatt at Hoyt Sherman Place. Explore the future of other arts and cultural events with a pair of easy-to-use online calendars. We at dsm magazine and the Business Record maintain this calendar with handy filters so you can see just the types of events you're searching for. Looking for even more categories? Check Catch Des Moines.

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