Tuesday, August 28, 2007

All's Fair--Part II

On to the sheep! Well, you didn't think I'd miss out on yet another fiber source did you? I didn't get to see too many because the only sheep there were for the 4-H'ers. For those of you who don't know, the 4-H is a youth organization sponsored by the Department of Agriculture that promotes leadership and life skills, usually associate with the farm but not necessarily. The fair is the opportunity for the 4-H'ers to show their stuff. These were the sheep that the kids were showing--yes, showing. Like a dog show, but with sheep.

Baby Doll Sheep

Cashmere Sheep (I think)

I guess we weren't there on sheep day in the Sheep, Goats and Swine Barn because all we saw were goats. And as is usual for goats, they were busily eating whatever was in reach.

Getting ready for the show ring.

Goats in the show ring.

The grass is always greener or the hay is always sweeter.

Cute, aren't they?

We skipped the rides. Al said he didn't feel like taking his life in his hands by getting on something that might throw him some distance in the air.

There was also the fresh squeezed lemonade, corn dogs, cotton candy, candy apples, funnel cakes, petting zoo, 4-H posters and exhibits, quilts, cross-stitch and knitted items, and canning and baked goods. We even saw a pie judging contest, which was kind of odd because people were just sitting around while two older ladies sat high up on a stage, tasting and judging the pies. How do you get that gig?

Surprisingly, I didn't see a butter sculpture. What's up with that? I know the Iowa Fair has one, but apparently, Nebraska likes to do things differently. Cheese sculpture!

Yeah, I don't know what it is, either. I guess we'll have to go back at the end of the fair to see.

The only really bizarre thing that I've never seen at another fair was the Ride a Camel tent. Al tried to get me to take one for a spin, but I politely declined. I said Hell no I'm not getting up on that thing! Look how far down I have to fall off. Unfortunately, Al didn't get any pictures of the camels.

Here are some other pictures that Al took. It was such a great day.

Gorgeous horse

There's a time and place for things like this--the fair is neither the time nor the place. I bet the Methodist Church selling homemade pies did a much better outreach than this guy.

Mini Donkeys--Aren't they cute?!?

Big ol' Veggies

Don't ask


Tractor Museum

Monday, August 27, 2007

All's Fair--Part I

It's hard to believe the weekend was only 2 days because I did enough for at least 3 days. And that's a good thing. I'm bored with being bored.

In between putting more dirt around house, running errands, and going to the fair, I finished the latest installment in Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire series with Sookie Stackhouse. I love these books. Harris has created a world that is real while being spooky and supernatural. In Sookie's world, vampires have come out of the shadows since there is now a synthetic blood for them and they don't have to feed. Well, they may not have to but that doesn't mean they don't want to. And if there are vampires, why wouldn't there be werewolves, fairies, and shifters? Well, there are; Sookie herself is a telepath. In these stories, they are in northwest Louisiana, where I lived for about 4 years, which is also part of the appeal for me. They are funny and smart books. They do have supernatural characters, but they aren't gore-and-guts fantasy/horror, and they have romance, but they aren't graphic romance novels. Harris has created her on little niche here. The latest installment is All Together Dead. I can't wait for the next one.

The Nebraska State Fair was the big event this weekend. This is usually one of those things that Al would say we'll go then conveniently forget or not mention it again in hopes that we won't actually go. So, I was one happy camper that we actually went because I love things like the fair. The further out in the country the better, and the more hokey the better.

The fair is in Lincoln, which is only about 45 minutes away, but it was still like a mini-vacation, getting out of the big city. (Bwaaa hahahahah--I can't say that with a straight face.) We parked in the grassy lot, with hundreds of our closest friends. Crowds don't usually bother me very much; what's exhausting is watching for the signs when Al has had enough before he's so fed up with kids running in front of him that he just wants to leave. But we got there early enough that it wasn't too bad. And the weather was gorgeous for most of the day--mostly sunny with a cool breeze blowing.

The first stop was the Small Animals Tent. They should have just named this the Plenty o' Poultry tent. So many chickens and roosters and geese. And this is the best way to see a goose--restrained from pecking by the large cage. Just the same, I gave those cages a wide berth. I loved looking at the different chickens; some of them are so beautiful. One of them was a gorgeous dark reddish brown that is what I've been looking for in hair color, but I resisted the urge to pluck a feather. I did, however, look around the ground, just in case. No luck.

Leghorn--But Peggy says it's a Welsummer. Damn. That was the only one I thought I remembered the name of because I kept calling it a Foghorn. Thanks Peggy!

Look at all the feathers! Even on the feet.

Pretty chicken

Running duck--Don't know why, but we love these

This was also the loudest exhibit at the fair. I love hearing all the cock-a-doodle-doos, but I can see where it would be a little annoying. The geese were relentless in their need to be noticed and feared. You may think I'm kidding about geese, but they have an attitude. They will chase and peck you, especially if there are goslings involved.

Heaviest goose

We finally moved on to a very different kind of animal--llamas and alpacas. I really love these animals and I've mentioned that I have a nice little pastoral dream of having my own little ranch with fiber to spin and sell at exorbitant prices on the web. So, I enjoyed talking to the alpaca owners and the alpacas themselves. Seems they were a little more interested in sitting in front of the fans than conversing.



We also watched the border collies herding cows, but we didn't get any good pictures of that, unfortunately. Those are amazing dogs. The cows, like sheep, remember where they came out and try to head back that way instead of going through the obstacles to a different pen. But the cows kick a helluva lot harder than the sheep and those dogs have to be fast. I thought for sure one dog was going to be trampled, but he just tucked and rolled out of danger.

But of course, it wouldn't be the fair without the food! We actually did pretty good--only chicken fingers and some honey ice cream. I really thought about trying the fried Twinkies or Oreos, but I decided to pass. If I had been there by myself, I probably would have tried something, but Al has such great will power, so I bowed to peer pressure and turned them down, too. Actually, Al wouldn't even think of eating a fried Twinkie, but I'm intrigued and would in a heartbeat. That's why he's so skinny and I have to take the croutons off my salad because I've had my limit of carbs for the day.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the food shacks.

Sensing a theme? Well, it's just easier to walk around and eat if your food is on a stick.

More fair stuff coming!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If . . .

If someone starts a sentence with “No offense, but . . .” chances are real good you’re going to be offended.

If you go to lunch with your friend and her adorable 21-month-old little boy, every waitress in the restaurant will come over to talk to him, but no one will bring you another glass of iced tea.

If a network is going to constantly publicize a new TV show months and months before it premiers, it’s not surprising you could care less when it actually airs.

If the doctor says it’s a simple procedure with a local anesthetic but asks if you would prefer to be knocked out, say “Yes, knock me out.”

If a picture paints a thousand words, then a book must paint a picture.

If you don’t work outside the home, and your spouse wants you to spend weekends helping with home projects, then weekends are just like any other day.

If you really don’t care about someone’s opinion, then why do you bother asking?

If you even hint at being bored, someone will find something for you to do and it will usually involve a committee.

If you go to the state fair and don’t eat something really bad for you, then you don’t have full “fair experience.”

Pictures of the NE State Fair coming soon!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Was Just Thinking

Quick Note: I may have trouble with vacuum cleaners, but at least I don’t have this guy’s problem.

Some Random Thoughts for Today

August is like the Wednesday of months. It’s not the beginning of Summer, nor is it the beginning of Fall. It’s still hot, but every now and then there’s a cool breeze that teases me that Fall is actually coming.

Birthday cake is just as good when it’s a left-over.

I saw Hairspray with my friend and her daughter, who said she was there for the music, but I think it was for Zac Efron. It was a great movie, though not as edgy as the original. And Christopher Walken and John Travolta’s musical number was so romantic.

That last sentence is the weirdest sentence I’ve ever typed.

I love taking a walk and hearing the faint rumble of drums from the high school band practicing. It’s another sign that Fall is coming.

Fall is my favorite season, can you tell?

How long do you have to keep birthday cards before you can throw them away without feeling guilty?

Why do gray hairs stick out straight, rebelling against the curl of the other hairs?

Gerard Butler. I saw 300 and it was amazing.

You’d think a library card would stay active as long as it was being used, wouldn’t you.

On the same page in the local paper were ads for two concerts: Marilyn Manson and Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana sold out within hours.

Would it be weird for me to write thank you cards for Al’s birthday gifts? I don’t think Al will do it, and I get to enjoy his gifts, too, so maybe it’ll be OK.

The Snickers commercials are too weird; they almost make me not want one. Almost.

My mom
gave me this award:

Yea for nepotism! I’m supposed to pass it on, but I’m too nice to leave anyone out, so everyone gets the award.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Such a Chore

Why is it the seemingly simple things can be so difficult? Those every day things that we all do, those chores that come with just existing. Beds have to be made, furniture has to be dusted, trash has to be taken out, and carpets have to be vacuumed.

Ah, there’s the rub. Vacuuming. I’m the world’s worst vacuumer. And no, I’m not going to use the obvious description, I’ll just say that I stink at it.

It seems easy enough. Push the machine around the floor and violá! Clean floors for casual seating. But it’s not that easy. It has to be set for the correct height; otherwise I either don’t pick up enough or I feel like I’m pushing a tree stump around the room. Plus, apparently there are rules about whether I can use the bristles on certain surfaces. I’ve been warned and threatened not to use the “bristle setting” on the area rug and the pseudo-wooden floors. First, I had to figure out if our vacuum even had an option for not using the bristles. And it did! Go figure.

So, once all settings are correctly set, then I can start the actual work of vacuuming. Seems like the easy part, huh? But no. Because vacuum cleaners come with an electric cord that is something like 200 feet long. Well, at least it feels that long as I’m trying not to back up on it or trip on it or get it tangled around my ankles as I walk the room. I swear it’s alive—some skinny snake with a sneaky cat mentality that wants to get under my feet.

Of course, when I am trying to get to that last quarter of the room, that’s when the cord some how shortens to 2 feet. As I head into that corner, I can feel the resistance as I try to stretch to that last little bit. Then it comes unplugged and I have to find another outlet before finishing. Or not. I mean who’s going to notice, really?

That’s the scary part, though. There are some neat-freaks who would notice; they would notice that the tell-tale vacuum tracks stop before that corner. I had a friend who’s mother actually had a pattern she would expect her daughter to do while vacuuming, and she knew when she didn’t do it because the pattern on the floor wasn’t correct. That’s just wrong on so many levels.

But the artwork that is vacuuming patterns is nothing compared to the things I’ve had to dig out of the vacuum cleaner. Why is it that I can vacuum over a little leaf 20 times and still have to bend down and pick that stupid thing up because the vacuum cleaner won’t suck it up. Yet, go anywhere near a shoe lace or a sock, and I’ll spend the next hour dislodging it from the bristles. I’ve turned many an ankle sock into a tube sock. It’s a gift, really.

And don’t even get me started on using the accessories. I’ve hit myself in the head so many times from trying to suck cobwebs out of ceiling corners that now I just say “Hello Charlotte” and move on. Besides, changing the machine into hoses and tubes is a lot like work.

So, I hate vacuuming. It’s only fair—it obviously doesn’t like me, so I don’t like it back. Luckily, my hubby doesn’t seem to mind, and if I put it off long enough, he’ll get fed up and do the vacuuming. He seems to actually enjoy it. And I’ve noticed that there’s always a lovely pattern in the carpet when he’s done.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rip Roarin' Fun

What's better than hanging out with friends, eating a lot of food that's bad for you, drinking a lot of stuff that's not much better, and putting out grease fires on the grill from the fatty hamburger patties? Not a whole helluva lot.

Unless of course, you also get to eat birthday cake, that's a bonus. The lady at the bakery did a wonderful job with Al's cake. She didn't have the Grim Reaper I originally wanted, so she put everything else she had on the cake. It's a little over kill, but that's what's fun about birthday cakes. Here's a picture:

The best part was everyone running around with black teeth from the frosting.

I got some great tips and food ideas from you guys, so I'm going to return the favor by giving you the recipe for the party favorite, Chocolate Trifle.

This never fails. I've heard that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, and it must be because I had a lot of people telling me they loved me Saturday night. And no, I don't think it was the beer and/or scotch talking. They were telling me that as they were licking the chocolate off their plates.

So, here's how it's done. You'll need:
1 package brownie mix
1/2 cup of Kahlua
1 large carton of Cool Whip
3 small packages of Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 bag of Heath toffee bits (or you can break up 6 Heath/Skor bars)

Put the Cool Whip in the fridge the day before you need it. You want it soft enough that it is easy to spread.

Bake your favorite brownies. While they are still warm, poke holes all over and pour 1/2 cup of Kahlua over them. (I forgot to do this but no one seemed to notice, so it's optional).

Make up 3 packages of Instant Chocolate Pudding. Don't chill, just mix it up. I usually do this in stages and transfer to a big bowl because it's just easier to mix them one at a time.

Get out the toffee bits and prepare to assemble!

In a trifle dish (or a bowl, a trifle dish is just prettier because you can see the layers), layer as follows:
1/3 of the brownies
1/3 of the total pudding
1/3 of the Cool Whip
A big ol' handful of Heath toffee bits

Do this 3 times (you may have pudding, Cool Whip, and Heath bits left over--that's the cook's serving). (Tip: Put the brownies and the pudding around the edge first so that it's easily seen, then fill in the center. But for the Cool Whip, I think it works easier to put a huge blob in the center and push it to the edge with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula.) End with the Cool Whip and toffee sprinkled on top. Chill in the fridge. Tip: So that you don't lose any toffee or Cool Whip to the plastic wrap, stick toothpicks around the top so that the wrap rests on the toothpicks and not on the top of the trifle.

Decadent and delicious.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Oh, the Joys of Homeowning

I skipped down the stairs to the basement last week to get Al’s birthday presents and stepped on something wet.

Well, that’s weird. Why would there be water right here? And why does this basement smell musty?

Yep, water in the basement. Never a good sign, but apparently a very common one, especially with the amount of rain we’ve had. I used to love stormy, rainy days, but now I start hyperventilating if it gets cloudy.

We’ve had that musty smell before, but I never noticed wet carpet before. Al and I spent the evening on our hands and knees, checking for wet spots. Luckily, there were only 2 areas where it was wet, but that’s 2 too many. Al thinks what’s happening is that the ground is so saturated that the water is coming up through any cracks in the basement floor. There’s nothing coming through the walls or windows.

This must be a popular problem because the basement dudes can’t come for another month! I knew this was the “busy season” but a month? Oh well. This company was recommended to us and seem to be worth the wait. In the meantime, we’ve put more dirt around the house and added extension down spouts to the drain pipes to get the water away from the house.

But this has to be done and as quickly as possible. Al will start talking to his assignment guy in November, so we could be moving by next Spring. That means the house will go up for sale and we still have to replace the kitchen counters and sink.

Dollar signs! I see nothing but dollar signs in front of me!

This is the first house we’ve owned in 10 years, and we knew we’d be selling it in a few years, such is the life of a military family. But it feels like ever since we moved in we’ve been getting ready to sell again. It’s all stuff that the “experts” say will improve the value—the master bath (updates with tile floor), the kitchen (new floor and still-to-come counter tops), nice lawn (new sprinkler system)—but it’s expensive enough without redoing the basement floor.

I blame all these real estate shows. It’s not enough to have a clean home with sound structure, you have to have a designer showcase with granite counter tops, tile floors, stainless steel appliances, wood floors or spotless carpet, perfect floor plan, perfect size, perfect yard, blah blah blah. Because heaven forbid a prospective buyer thinks they might have to paint or change the house to their own liking. I’m a little testy on the subject, can you tell?

But what am I doing sitting here? I still have a party to get ready for this weekend. We’ve had about 30 people say they’re coming. That’s a lot of spinach balls and jalapeno poppers, so I better get busy. Oh, but I did order the cake. It has the grim reaper on it saying, “Relax. I’m just here for the cake.” Kind of cute, huh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

You're too nice

And I don't deserve any of you! Thanks for the support and understanding.

This has been a very busy weekend. Al's birthday was Saturday, and he turned the big 4-0. I was loving and supportive because I had already been there done that. Ah hell, no I wasn't. I think my first words to him that day were something like, "So, do you feel old?" I almost commented on all the gray hair, but I had already told him I find that sexy, so it wouldn't have worked to tease him with that. However, the groaning voices when he gets out of the recliner were fair game. When did that start? When did we have to grunt and sigh as we got out of a comfy chair?

It's not really a birth"day" for Al, it's more like an extended celebration. Last Thursday we went to a "mega scotch tasting" at our favorite pub, The Dell, and this coming weekend we're having his actual birthday party. I had been trying to plan a surprise party for him at the Dell, but the guys at work told Al they were ready for another scotch tasting party at the house, so Al came home and announced we were having a party. Apparently, in addition to wanting to try some of the various alcohol offerings, they also requested their favorite foods from previous gatherings. Cheeky bastards. But of course, it's a compliment, and that works for me.

Here are a few pictures from the last few days.

We've had so much rain; we get heavy thunderstorms every couple of days.

The Mega Tasting at the Dell is a yearly party they have where for $100 you can taste the expensive stuff they hide in the back. It's very generous because there wasn't a bottle there that cost less than $200, and several were rare or really really really hard to get. Al tasted 12 single malts that night (I'm the designated driver, so I was swimming in Diet Coke). I think his favorite was the 35-year-old Glenfarclass, but I don't remember for sure. Plus, they have a new chef, so the "cleansing palate" platters were full of really good olives, chocolates, and cheese. Eating is a good thing at a tasting. I took a couple of pictures to give you an idea what it's like.

In the meantime, I'm reading Poltergeist by Kat Richardson. It's pretty good, good enough that I don't want to put it down. It's the second in the series, but I didn't read the first one and I think it would have helped a little. The book is about a private detective who died for 2 minutes and when she came back she was able to see "the grey" or that area between life and death, so it took me a little bit to understand what was going on since all of that was set up and created in the first book. In this one she is investigating a research group who has created a ghost, but when one of the team members dies, she has to find out if it was the ghost or a human being. Oh, and it's set in Seattle, so I'm enjoying descriptions of the area.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


The reluctant blogger lightly raps on the partially opened door. As the door opens wider, she peers around it, then cautiously moves into the empty room.

It’s dark and smells musty from nonuse. The only light is coming from the thin rays of sun shining through the slats of the window blind and the steady heartbeat of the sleep light on the laptop, sitting on the desk. As she walks towards the desk, she finds the squeaky spot on the floor, ruining her attempt to sneak up on the sleeping computer.

No turning back now, so she slides the chair out from the desk and sits down. She blows the dust away from the top of the laptop and opens it. The light from the computer surrounds her, encircling her and the keyboard in the same glow. She brings up the blank post page for her blog and stares at all the white space, wondering what to do with it. An optimist would see a blank canvas, eagerly awaiting creative inspiration. A pessimist would see the same blank canvas as taunting and intimidating, daring her to be creative. And the optimistically pessimistic person has great hopes for the blank canvas, but struggles to fill it, doubting herself along the way.

But the blog has become a great link to friends who live far away and to new friends who live even farther, so she can’t just stop completely. Taking breaks is helpful, a breather to focus on other blank canvases ready to be worked on. She remembers her New Year’s Resolution was to find balance—balance the many tasks she needs to do with the projects she wants to do.

Then the reluctant blogger begins to type. More light filters through the blinds, and the sound of clicking and tapping fills the once empty room.