LOVE Story: August in Iowa

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August in Iowa was one of my favorite times of year as a kid. It meant so many wonderful things – getting ready for back-to-school (yes, I was a nerd), a new perm from my mom, the Mulligan Stew, and all the fresh garden produce!

First of all, I loved back to school. A true nerd loves shopping for new notebooks and pencils, and that was me. Since I went to a private Catholic school, there was no back-to-school clothes shopping, but rather new uniforms and plain white button-downs. I also loved new teachers, new schedules, new sports schedules, and a clean slate.

Let’s talk hair. Every year in August, about a week before school started, my mom gave me a boxed perm. I loved having big frizzy hair, which was the style back then. One year, my mom apparently bought an expired perm kit from one of the small-town stores in the area. It left with me fried bangs that literally broke off all over the kitchen table. I cried (and Mom probably did too!) and threw a fit, but it didn’t stop me from asking for more perms!

The Mulligan Stew is an event hosted by the St. Joseph Church community where I grew up. It took place in mid-August and was our last hurrah before school started. It was also where I could show off my new hairdo..haha! I have vivid memories of me riding my bike around with my hair blowing in the wind (and boy did it smell!), while Dad helped make the stew and Mom set up games and booths. The Mulligan Stew’s main event was the homemade stew, and it was GOOD. But as a kid, I especially loved hanging out with friends, playing games, and looking at the homemade food for sale. Mom’s jam and cinnamon rolls were always a best seller!

Lastly, and most importantly, the highlight of August was Mom and Dad’s garden. They always had a huge bounty that produced all summer long, but August was the best. It’s when tomatoes seemed to multiply very quickly, until they were coming “out our of ears”, so to speak! We enjoyed freshly sliced tomatoes (with salt and pepper), bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (BLTs), and just a simple tomato and toast. Dad ate them like candy, and then Mom eventually canned what we couldn’t eat. What I wouldn’t give for some big juicy tomatoes from Mom and Dad’s garden!

Oh, the memories! 😀

If you’re looking for recipes using fresh garden tomatoes, I’ll share a few below. Happy August!

Dad by the swing full of fresh tomatoes.
My dad proudly showing off his freshly picked, DELICIOUS tomatoes!
A picture of the garden.
Mom and Dad’s garden in peak form.
Closeup on tomatoes growing on the vines.
A close-up on a tomato plant.
Mom and the Illgs looking at the garden.
Mom showing off their garden to Dad’s sister and her husband.
Mom, Rob, and I sitting on the swing.
Me, Mom, and Rob (my little bro) sitting on the backyard swing. There is my WILD hair! 🙂

My Love Stories are short stories about love, family, and life. I’ll be talking a lot about Mom and the story behind her recipes, but will also share other memories about other people as well as talk about recent happenings in our lives. The pictures I’ll share will mostly be in black and white, so that you can quickly see that there is a STORY.


  1. Funny because I was just talking about Dad’s garden with some friends the other day. You don’t see any weeds in those pictures! (I know that was probably as much about Mom as it was him). The thing I remember most about his garden is that he never watered with a sprinkler – he watered with a hose by hand because every plant had to get the correct amount of water. Those tomatoes were the fruit of his labor – and they were the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever had. What I wouldn’t give for a plate full of those today 🙂

  2. I loved when you tried to find creative ways to shorten the length of the school (skirt) uniform. 🤛👌. Something about a ruler and the knee! ❤️

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Haha…very funny!

  3. Sue Kollasch Jenkins says:

    I have some of the same memories Sue! School clothes, smelly perms and cucumbers, beans & tomatoes coming out our ears. The memories just makes my Thursday that much better!

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Oh thank you, Sue! Those childhood memories sure do make me smile!

  4. Jackie Thill says:

    One more comment.
    I remember riding my bike past the preparations for the Mulligan Stew (Dad was helping make the stew and Mom was helping to set up the craft booth), when a wasp landed on my shoulder. Not knowing what it was I leaned my head against the insect that landed there and got stung! Didn’t change my love of the event, but obviously the memory remains. Perhaps it means I need to forgive that wasp 🤪😂

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      Gosh, I don’t remember you ever talking about that nasty wasp! Yes, forgive it. 🙂

  5. Jackie Thill says:

    These are such great memories and truly a love story. Dad and the tomatoes is one of my favorite photos from our youth. I laughed at the picture of you and Mom and Rob on the swing. You all look adorable, but it struck me funny, after reading your description of the perms, how similar your and Mom’s hairstyle was. Anyway, thanks for the memories!

    1. Suebee Homemaker says:

      HA! I love that picture too. Wish I had some of Mom and Dad IN the garden. Do you? 🙂

      1. Jackie Thill says:

        I don’t have any that I know of Sue, and my photos aren’t so well organized as yours. In the days when I was home to catch them working in the garden I didn’t have a camera.

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