Monday, September 21, 2015

OK, Canada!

Well, with just two days left of Summer 2015, I can officially say it wasn’t my favorite. Between the house reconstruction and my wobbly knee, it had its challenges and disruptions. But I am very pleased to announce that both the knee and the house are almost entirely back to the way they once were. Hallelujah!

On September 3, we declared Woodhaven back with the ceremonial removal of the FL

We decided to celebrate the return of our house to its normally dry, unmoldy state by leaving it. A long-discussed road trip finally became a reality. With a mostly empty trunk, passports, and a salivating curiosity about ice wine, Rob and I recently trekked up to the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It was delicious.

We were a little wary as we made our travel plans, as the area we wanted to travel through had been in the news quite a bit. Fires. Lots of them. By the time we hit the road, the fires were all at least 80% contained. And hotel room rates were really cheap.

As we drove over some mountain roads, the evidence of massive forest fires was heartbreaking. Deep black terrain, charred matchsticks that had once been trees, the occasional chimney or heap of twisted metal sheeting that had once been a home or car.

We drove through several small towns that still had tent cities occupying their local parks or school fields. Probably both for displaced residents as well as fire crews.

And signs. I saw so many signs. Many of them handmade, some professionally made in bulk, some in front of businesses that would otherwise be advertising a lunch special or sale. Each one thanking the firefighters for their dedication and bravery.

The most touching signs were the handmade ones along the road. In almost every case, a home could be seen in the distance. Probably once hidden by trees but now sitting with unobstructed views of black landscape. It was sobering to see the houses with maybe ten feet worth of unburnt grass around the perimeter, showing where the firefighters had taken a stand to save the home or barn.

It was a reminder from when my parents had a house fire in 2007 of how fire fighters innately understand that while their job is to contain and extinguish the flames, the fire can also threaten people’s homes and livelihoods. They understand the personal impact of their foe and it continues to astound me that they work hard to protect other people’s property in the midst of risking their lives.

Thank you, indeed, fire fighters.

And then we entered Canada and all seemed to be forgotten.

Although we could see trails of white smoke on the mountains, there was hardly any sign of fire across the border. It was rather weird.

We spent the next two days exploring what some say is Canada’s best wine region. Having never explored any wine regions that far north, I can’t confirm or deny that moniker. But I can tell you the Okanagan Valley is beautiful, friendly, and produces some fantastic wines.

All we really knew about the OK Valley before we left Woodhaven was that the area is known for this thing called ice wine.

Ice wine is a tricky beverage because weather conditions have to be just right to produce it. Basically, the grapes grow and ripen like any grape would. But then, if you are lucky, at some point in November-ish, the temperature drops to between -8 and -10 degrees Celsius and the grapes freeze. And if they stay frozen for six hours, you then gather every willing hand you know and pick the grapes as fast as you can.

With these conditions, the water in the grapes freezes and what is left and extracted is very concentrated, very ripe grape juice. Each grape might only have literally one or two drops of liquid to offer, so it can take 30 pounds of grapes to produce one small bottle of ice wine (regular wine typically takes 3-4 pounds to make a bottle). But oh my, that wine is AMAZING.

Ice wine is sweet and thick. It is fruity and desserty. It is heavenly and can last in your fridge for weeks after you open it. Personally, I can’t imagine taking that long to finish a bottle.

Ice wines are typically made from Riesling grapes – in large part because that is a grape that grows happily in areas that get cold enough where ice wine is a possibility. However, we tasted and brought home ice wines made from Syrah and Merlot and Viognier and Tempranillo, as well as grapes we had never heard of like Verglas and Ehrenfelser.

So we went in search of ice wines but found so much more!

The OK Valley is stunning. It is bounded by tall, rugged mountains and there is a long lake in the middle of the valley. Wineries and vineyards dot and climb up both sides of the lake. We drove the length of the lake over two days; it is a 3 hour drive one way. It’s a long lake.

Taken out the car window, not doing justice to the beauty

We were hoping to find wines made from grapes we had never heard of. And indeed we did (ever hear of Blaufrankisch or Zweigelt? Yeah, me neither.). But for the most part we were familiar with the varietals we were tasting. But even some we are VERY familiar with – like Pinot Noir (so much Pinot Noir in Oregon…) – they tasted very different up north.

While Pinot Noirs from Oregon’s Willamette Valley are typically light and delicate and demand food to bring out flavors, the Pinots in the Canada’s Okanagan Valley were bold and full of flavor and could be thoroughly enjoyed without food’s help. Much to our surprise, we bought a few Pinot Noirs to add to our collection at home. I thought we were set for Pinots for yeaaarrrrs.

We also found really friendly people. Every single person we encountered in the tasting rooms (called “Wine Shops”) was easy going, friendly, and completely unassuming. We got one of our best winery tips from our waitress at breakfast as she was serving us omelets. No winetude anywhere!

(“Winetude” is a term a few us of coined one day years ago while wine tasting in Napa. It refers to the snobbish attitude that can sometimes (often?) accompany wine tasting where one is made to feel stupid and unworthy and that perhaps $15 is far too little to pay for the privilege of tasting the handcrafted, artisanal wine that just happens to be mass produced. Oh, and please don’t think that logo glass is yours to keep. Hand it over, missy.)

Something else I loved about the Okanagan Valley was that it wasn’t just about grapes. The soil there is apparently really fertile so there is all sorts of stuff growing in the valley. In amongst the vineyards were orchards. The wineries shared the road with produce stands. People were harvesting grapes alongside people picking apples. It was actually a great communal feeling. Everyone seemed to be working hard and there wasn’t a sense of one crop or job being more important than any other.

Oh, and yes, by what I thought was a coincidence but Rob tells me he hoped it would be true, we were in the valley while grapes were being picked. I hesitate to say it was The Harvest because their harvest season lasts for a few months depending on what they are picking since there are so many varietals, not to mention the ice wine.

Nevertheless, people were busybusybusy and the valley had a distinctive grapey aroma. All of that plus the sunshine and short-sleeves weather, well, I liked it even more than some of my favorite visits to Napa and Sonoma way back when. Yes, the Okanagan Valley is that fun!

Another nice find about Canadian wine: the prices. Man, for the quality of the stuff we were drinking, that stuff is cheap! And that doesn’t even count the currently very favorable exchange rate at the moment. Thanks to a strong US dollar, everything in Canada is on sale right now. WHOO HOO!! Buying wine in Canada was more fun than a big sale at BevMo!

Speaking of bringing wine home, that was an interesting experience, too.

Before we left Woodhaven, we did our due diligence and discovered that we could each bring one bottle of wine home duty-free. After that, each bottle was going to cost us a whopping 25 cents in duties. That’s when we decided to bring the car with the bigger trunk.

As we chatted with folks in the Wine Shops, we found out that American winos have it really good. Canadians who want to bring back wine from the US have to pay $10-15 per bottle. Yep, in some cases the duty is almost as much as the wine itself. So needless to say, we were very pleased to have our American accents and Washington license plates.

We also heard that often the US border patrol people aren’t so interested in filling out all the paperwork for just a few buck’s worth of wine duties. Reportedly people are often just waved through. But we weren’t sure where the break-even point was. How many bottles of wine is enough to justify paperwork? Well, we were about to find out.

As we approached the border station, there were four guys in intimidating uniforms hanging out and gabbing. Which is to say they weren’t very busy. Which is also to say, they had plenty of time to do paperwork.

Rob handed the guy our passports and the questions began.

Where are you from? Where are you headed? Where were you in Canada? How long were you there? Why did you go to Canada?

To that last question Rob answered, “We came to taste the wine.”

“Do you have any alcohol to declare?”

“Yes sir.”

“How much?”

“Seventy-two bottles.”

The guy then looked into the car at me in the passenger seat. Not sure why us being wine lushes is my fault but whatever.

“Seventy….two…bottles. Can you please open the trunk?”

Rob popped the hatch as the border guy asked us if we had a business or orchard or some other commercial reason to be bringing back so much wine.

“No sir, it’s all for us.” I helpfully added that we wouldn’t be back for years. Mr. Border Patrol didn’t smile like I thought he should.

With our $20 bill ready to pay our duties and receive change, both Rob and I tried to hide our surprise and confusion when our passports were returned and we were told to have a nice day.

So we still don’t know how many bottles of wine it takes to justify duty paperwork, but it is apparently some number greater than 72. God bless America.

So long, Canada, and thanks for all the wine!

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Stressed Chef

It sounded like a great idea back in July. Surely I would be recovered from the Fair after four days of rest. And be interested in food again. And it truly did sound like a great way to “stock my freezer full of delicious meals!” And preparing meals with a bunch of like-minded gals would provide lots of girl bonding, right?

All that delusion is how I ended up at a Pampered Chef party last night. And how I am even more achy and tired today. Oy.

The party was a bit different from other Pampered Chef parties. I think. I don’t know for sure because I have expertly avoided them until now. Because, well, I don’t cook. I don’t like to cook. The only reason I have a kitchen is because it came with the house. The best thing I make is reservations. We have pizza places on speed dial. All that.

So people know it’s rather futile to invite me to cooking-oriented demonstrations. Especially after that one Cutco knife in-home demo in which I showed the young sales person the scars on three fingers from having used knives that were too sharp. I’m a disaster in the kitchen. It’s a proven fact.

The cold hard facts
But THIS party wasn’t a typical Pampered Chef party. THIS party involved handing over $80, getting a shopping list, going to the grocery store, and hauling all my ingredients to Gretchen’s house in a large cooler and four shopping totes. There would be recipes provided and we would spend the evening happily assembling meals that are stored in the freezer until I am ready to make dinner.

This Freezer Party thing is billed as a great way to fit delicious home cooked food into your busy life! Let's meet up and prep meals to freeze and cook later! WHOO HOO!!

I was sure this would be easy shmeasy. Especially since I have done exactly this type of thing at those meal prep places like Dinner’s Ready and Dream Dinners. At those places, I show up, throw some prepared ingredients in a freezer bag, make maybe 15-20 meals in less than 2 hours, and I’m outta there pretending all the while that I can cook.

With Gretchen’s party, I wasn’t exactly sure how Pampered Chef was involved, other than they might try to sell me a spatula or a knife or something. Also $80 sounds like a HUGE bargain for 10 meals. Even more of a mindblower when I realized the meals served 4 so I could split them in half and have 20 meals for me and Rob for just $80. $2 a serving? Seriously? See why I signed up??

Somewhere in the midst of the Fair, Gretchen mailed out the shopping list. She warned it would add maybe another $60 to our $80, based on the last time she did one of the parties. Even so, $140 for 20 2-person meals that I could pretend I had slaved over was still a steal at just $3.50 per serving.

“I think I might need help grocery shopping,” I warned Rob two days ago as I finally reviewed the 2-page list of assorted ingredients. I often ask him to tag along for the heavy lifting.

“Is there a lot of stuff?”

“Well, no, it’s not really that bad. It’s the meat.”

Assistance needed in the meat department, please
This is where I need to explain that buying meat terrifies me. I don’t understand it. Recipes will say something benign like “4 lb pot roast” but then there is nothing in the meat case that is labeled “pot roast.” Apparently it is universally assumed that everyone knows that a “pot roast” is actually called a “chuck roast.” Why don’t we just call a pot a chuck then? Why the double speak? It’s like talking to someone in IT, this whole meat thing. It’s its own language and I’m convinced it’s designed to make cook-friendly carnivores feel smarter and fancypants somehow.

Rob looked at the list. Chicken breasts, stew meat, diced ham. We agreed I could handle those. The sirloin steak made me a bit nervous, though. And then the pork loin chops. Are those with or without bones? And how thick should they be because we’ve gotten some from Costco that were like an entire 4-H hog show's worth of loins.

But I really started to get twitchy with the required beef chuck roast and beef short ribs. Yes, I know a chuck is a pot but I’ve been deceived before. And ribs. “Beef short ribs” sounds so temptingly simple but bones or no bones? Rack or individual? And golly, 4-5 pounds of them sure sounded like a lot.

Rob smiled at me and assured me I would be fine. He could stay home and tend to the languishing mostly-ignored-for-10-days garden.

Off to the store, I had confidently crossed off all the produce items and the 8oz block of cheese from my list when I found myself face to face with the meat department.

Taking a deep breath, I started easy and grabbed the stew meat. Then the diced ham. Except, grrr, there wasn’t the size bag I needed. They only had small bags. I started feeling that itchiness of frustration rise. I calmed myself and resolutely put two of the bags in my cart.

OK, now chicken breasts. Let’s see, I need…16-24 chicken breasts?!!? That’s like an entire coop of chickens! I have never bought that many chicken boobs at once in my life!

Scratching around the poultry section, I only found packages of 2 or 4 breasts. I then started eyeing some frozen packages but, not clear on how I would be preparing my breasts, I decided that might not be a good option.

As the itchiness returned, I concluded that I would stop by a different store on the way home. There is a religious group here that has BIG families and they all shop at that other store. That store MUST have large quantities of chicken breasts at value prices, I assured myself as I circled “16-24 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (min 8 lbs)” on my list and moved on.

And then got stuck again. The pot chuck roast things were all too big. The sirloin steaks were $13 each and I needed 2 of them. The pork loins came in too many different thicknesses. But it was the beef short ribs that sent me to the brink of my composure.

“What the HELL is ‘flanken’ style ribs?!?” (Fun Fact: spell check doesn’t know either)

I paced the meat cases as my anxiety rose. I started to have flashbacks to that time I was shopping in Babies R Us for a shower gift and had absolutely no clue what I was looking at or for. None of the words were familiar. Sling seat. Nasal aspirator. Boppy pillow. Butt Paste. It was a foreign language. And much like that time, I started to try to give myself a pep talk next to the ground hamburger (with the shower, I think it was the burp rags).

“Toni, get a grip. You are a grown woman. You are an intelligent woman. You can figure this out. You WILL NOT be taken down by beef ribs, short or otherwise. Now hold it together. You can cry in the car later. YOU WILL NOT CRY in front of the cow parts.”

It was here that I called Rob, desperately hoping he might be running an errand or grabbing lunch somewhere nearby. Disastrously, he was at home.

“Ask the butcher for help.”

Yes, that was also his manly, meat-savvy advice with the Dead Bird Pot Roast Incident of 2011. And still 4 years later, I could not muster the self-confidence to admit defeat by short ribs to the guy in the white coat and hair net.

“I think I need to regroup. I’m going to move on to another section of my list. There are a lot of cans listed. I understand cans. I like cans. I’m going to go buy some cans.”

Almost suppressing his amusement, Rob told me he loved me and assured me I could handle grocery shopping.

I ended up at that other store. That other store spoke in Basic Meat, not the graduate level flanken that the other store did. They also had many many many Value Right packages of chicken breasts. Score!

Relieved and no longer fearing a public meltdown, I hoisted my 20 lbs of meat onto the conveyor belt.  Much to my disappointment, there was no commentary from the cashier. I had conquered the meat department!!!  I was buying more meat...all by myself!...than I ever have in my life!!!! I wanted to talk about it! Aaaaand….nothing.

So grateful I have a blog.

The Party
Ok, so we’ve established that am confused by meat and I hate to cook.

Also, I should note, I am an easily distracted cook. I must concentrate when I am measuring or determining ingredients or cutting something. I can submit as proof numerous baking disasters including similarly white ingredients, and those knife cut scars I mentioned earlier. I need quiet and calm and no talking when I am cooking. In fact, please don’t hang out with me in my kitchen and talk to me if I am cooking you dinner. It only distracts me and it might mean moving the dinner party to Urgent Care.

So given this, why I thought a cooking party was a good idea, I have no freakin’ idea.

I guess it hadn’t really occurred to me that we would be cutting stuff up. Those meal prep places have that all done for you. You just match the ingredients with color-coded spoons representing measurements and dump it in your baggie. It’s cooking Garanimals style. It’s cooking Toni style.

If I had put two brain cells together, it would have been obvious that I would be doing all the prep myself. All the prep using all the fabulous products and gadgets offered by Pampered Chef. It’s a product demo party – DUH!!

But somehow I missed that (Fair head) so I found myself having to cook last night. I had to chop and dice and measure. And worry about contaminating Gretchen's kitchen with salmonella with my 17 chicken breasts.

Since I was splitting the 4-person recipes in half, I also got to do math. I believe I will forever remember than half of a tablespoon is equal to 1.5 teaspoons. And that 1/6 of a cup equals 3 tablespoons.

That last one was amusing to figure out. I needed half of a third of a cup. I was talking out loud, confirming my math.

“OK, so a half of a third is a sixth, right? Does anyone have a one-sixth cup measuring cup? Oh, wait, here’s a big one that has one-fourth and one-eighth marked, so I could just measure half-way between those, right?”

At this point, Gretchen was consulting her measurement conversion chart and murmuring, “This is why I teach first grade.”

A pinch of this, a dash of that
The measuring thing was a bit of an adventure, too. It turns out that my $80 up front bought me a whole bunch of special Pampered Chef spices that were critical to the recipes. Nine bottles of stuff like Asian Seasoning Mix, and Crushed Peppercorn and Garlic Rub, and Lemon Rosemary Rub, and Three Onion Rub. So many rubs!

You’ll notice that they are in alphabetical order. Because now that I am home, they are. But at Gretchen’s house, I resisted the urgent need to be efficient and organized. Because well, I’m publicly quirky enough as it is.

I was told that the caps of the rubs had little lines in them to serve as measuring spoons. But with having to halve, I determined that using the fancy Pampered Chef multi-measuring spoon was more precise. Except that all of its fanciness didn’t fit into any of the bottles.

Now if you are in the business of making things handy in the kitchen...and you have your own line of $8 spice bottles AND your own line of measuring spoons...wouldn’t you think it would be an obvious conclusion to design your spoons to fit inside your expensive bottles? Wouldn’t that convenience be a point of differentiation? Don’t you suppose cooks might pay extra for that “isn’t that clever” timesaver? Ummm, hello?

So yeah, I kinda wasn’t sold on the Pampered Chef gadgetry. Now mind you, I don’t enjoy cooking so maybe I’m missing something. On the other hand, I might very well be one of their key targets – the Reluctant Cook who needs expensive tools and implements to make the kitchen experience fun and exciting. If that’s the case, they missed their mark.

Like, for example the can openers that nobody could figure out how to use so we all felt stupid. Once the cans were opened – typically by the Consultant’s helper – we then had to use a special tool on the opener itself to take the lid off. The little grabber tool was so tiny and hard to see, I had to take my glasses off, too. Gretchen eventually rescued us by sneaking us her old-fashioned opener when the Pampered Consultant wasn’t looking.

Or the guillotine-like chopper for the bell peppers that looked like one of those apple corer things but with even sharper blades and a base that required precision. I had been chopping along just fine the old fashioned way, but the Consultant showed me how I could lose about 2 minutes and a finger if I used the Veggie Wedger instead.

I had made a little pile of chopped peppers and zucchini and was scooping it up with my hands to dump in my freezer bag when the Consultant showed me a fancier way. Instead of having to wash my hands, I could wash my hands AND a fancy little scraper thing to push the veggies into a pile. Then I could add the table and floor to my clean-up duties when about 10% of my veggies went sideways while trying to transfer them to the bag. Yay, thanks Pampered Chef!

The fast chopper thing that worked by pounding on a plunger to chop was pretty cool. I worked out a lot of stress on that. In other news, I think I might have over-chopped the onions. And the carrots. And the celery. But I was in a better mood afterwards.

I was working on grating an 8oz block cheese with a fancy gadget when the Consultant happened by.

“How are you liking that grater? Pretty handy, huh?”

At this point I was unfortunately past the point of pretending I was feeling pampered. I looked at her with a weary smile and said, “Honestly, I usually buy cheese that’s already grated. This is a lot more work than I would put in at home.”

That then led to a discussion about how the pre-grated stuff has added cornstarch to keep the cheese from clumping, all the while I was thinking, “Other than the fact that it is white, I like cornstarch. Cornstarch is not a problem for me. Am I supposed to be anti-cornstarch? Why is cornstarch bad?”

Did I mention I hate cooking?
I did my best to enjoy the party, I really did. It was a fun group of women and I enjoyed their teen kids. And the sample meal we had as a snack was pretty tasty.

But eventually, after I had completed 12 of my 20 baggies, I sort of hit a wall. I was tired, my body hurt from standing, my head hurt from the helpers' toddler and his baby sister just doing what kids do.

I had danced around the kitchen quite a bit, moving from my small work station near the Scentsy candle to the cutting station to the grating station to the trash bag to the recycling box to the sink. All the while trying not to bump into one of the other dancing cooks. Gretchen’s mom and I are pretty chummy now even though we didn’t say much to each other besides “So sorry! Excuse me! Whoops!”

In all fairness, I did sort of enjoy the first 6-8 meals. I was zipping along and enjoying listening to the chatter in the kitchen.  After that, though, I was singularly focused on using up all my $139.17 worth of groceries and stuffing them in my freezer for some eventually use. I really hope they end up being edible and that I actually put in approximately the right amounts of the right ingredients. I really have no idea. I’m just relieved nothing was white.

My other options were some scrapers or a recipe book. Obvious choice.
When I got home about 3.5 hours later, I hobbled into the house smelling of assorted rubs.

“How did it go?”

“So much cooking. So much cooking. I’m never doing that again. So much cooking.”

I shared with Rob some of the highlights of the evening, including the fact that I had won a prize.

“Cool! What did you win?”

“A brush thing. I don’t know what it’s for. She said she uses hers for everything.”

Evident that we are still in the midst of our master shower reconstruction, I added, “It looks like it’s for grout.”

Rob burst into laughter. Because really, why would a kitchen gadget company give away a grout brush as a prize?

Well, the joke’s on him.

I fished out the brush this morning to take a closer look. It is officially a “Dual-Sided Cleaning Brush” that is “...the ultimate cleaning tool for areas...around faucets, sinks, drains, and grout lines.”

HA! I'm good at cleaning. I like to clean. Maybe I do have a future in the kitchen after all!

The fruit of my loins...sort of

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Final Fair Post ~ Behind the Scenes

Well, I am munching on vitamin-rich sweet mini peppers and am sipping on my third bottle of water of the day. Breakfast was a homemade fruit smoothie predominantly featuring Greek yogurt. I think I inadvertently skipped lunch, unless an apple and peanut butter counts.

I have gotten my hair cut, had my final physical therapy appointment for my knee, and grabbed a great nap during my monthly acupuncture appointment. I haven’t walked any distance worth measuring because the couch is too inviting.

And this, friends, is what Post-Fair Recovery and Detox looks like.

Well, more precisely, this is what it looks like:

With a couple day’s distance and rest, I can sincerely say I had many moments of enormous fun and unrestrained happiness during the Fair. (FAIR COURT!!! And LLAMAS!! TOGETHER!!!)

Posting it one more time because I can.  Best Day at the Fair!!!

But to be honest, it was a bit of a rough go this year.

A few distractions
As I kept trying to figure out why I was so tired so early into the 10 Fabulous Days of Fair, Rob repeatedly reminded me that I had a cranky knee I didn’t entirely trust and a house full of disruption from that annoying mold water leak thing from May (yes, it is still a part of our lives. Here’s hoping for a return to normal by Sept 1!). So I started out at something of a weary disadvantage.

My knee actually ended up surprising me. It was a champ! It let me walk an average of 3.35 miles per day, and it managed going up the stairs in the Grandstands just fine. Even when I wasn’t holding the railing because I was carrying food. Imagine that, me carrying food. At the Fair.

I still hobbled down the stairs, though, and had to contort to safely navigate the ridiculously high bleachers in the horse arena. But aside from one wiggly jiggly moment getting out of the car on the first day, my knee did great. My physical therapist told me yesterday that I still have a little ways to go but we agreed that I can get there myself with a return to my daily exercises and stretches. YAY!!!

As for the re-construction of our bathroom and game room, it was more of a distraction than I realized. There were several mornings we had contractors in our house serenading me with air compressors and Russian talk radio while I was trying to write and rejuvenate.

Other mornings we were sort of hanging around waiting for workers to come and go so that we didn’t have to sequester the cats in some guest bedrooms all day.  And then there were the morning when the cats were exasperatingly aware of our plan and insisted on taunting us from under the middle of our bed.  Nicely played, Zak and Sarah (mostly Sarah).

One day we entered the Fair while on the phone with our contractor discussing the pros and cons of epoxy grout. A critical decision at that moment, but it really wasn’t where I wanted my head to be while trying to bask in the glory of The Fair.

So yeah, it was sort of hard to be All Fair All the Time with all that fun swirling about.

It’s not supposed to be a job
I also had a bit of a roller coaster with the blogging this year. I enjoy it immensely, but at times it started to lose its joy and instead sort of felt like an obligation. I’m talking about the newspaper gig.

Because I didn’t want to write about the same stuff as last year, I found myself working hard to find new stories or different angles on old ones. I had a blast learning about the Mounted Patrol (thanks again, Pam and Larissa!). And about how a bunch of local contractors volunteered to build a schmancy new office for the Junior Livestock Auction (thanks for the tip and the tour, Martti!). But as I was searching out new things to write about, I found myself thinking more like a reporter than a blogger. And I don’t want to be a reporter. Nor am I trained to be one.

There were also several times when I wasn’t enjoying or watching the Fair in front of me because I had my nose in my laptop trying to get a story or photo to load. This made me grumpy. The Fair and writing about it are both such joys for me. I don’t want it to be work and I don’t want to miss moments of happy because of some self-assigned sense of newspaper blogger duty.

And so, unless I change my mind drastically in the months to come, I think this was my last year blogging for the newspaper. That was actually a source of some of the tears as we left the Fair on the last night. In the midst of the tears, I handed myself my resignation and said good-bye to a hoot of a run with the local news source. They have been very kind and supportive and generous, and I have so appreciated the opportunity to share my love of the Fair with a wider audience. But my bloated, gurgling gut is telling me it’s time to close the gates and call it a day.

It was worth a shot
In an attempt to get more sleep this year, I decided I would write in the mornings AFTER sleeping... instead of my past Fairs approach of writing and then crawling into bed at 3:00am or 4:00am. It seemed so logical, this sleep then write thing, that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before.

Well, it’s because it doesn’t work.

I gave it a shot the first few nights. I almost felt like I was playing hooky when I came home, took a shower, and then went to bed.

I woke up at a decent hour, with 6 or 7 glorious, previously unheard of hours of sleep behind me, and settled in to write and….blank.

I quickly discovered that the energy of the day’s activities got muted with sleep. I found myself having to consult my notes and my photos the next morning to remember what had thrilled me the day before. It just took a little more effort and the words didn’t come as easily.

There were also a few nights when I went to bed without writing and I just couldn’t not write. I was laying there in bed, composing sentences and descriptions and captions for the Feast Parade. So I gave up, got out of bed, and started typing.

I eventually settled into a very good compromise that allowed for both energetic words and meaningful sleep. I would come home and write and then deal with the photos and the captions in the morning. The photos always take a chunk of time, both to select and to upload (yay slow DSL in the boonies!). So this actually worked very well.

I am mostly telling you this so I can read it next year and remind myself how to do it right. (Hi, Toni in 2016!)

Let’s face it, you are what you eat
The whole food thing this year fascinated me. I was dumbfounded that I had so many issues early on! No, seriously, I was truly surprised.

Now, in retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought I could jump in on Day 1 and follow up grilled cheese, corn on the cob, a snow cone, and a frozen banana with some fried chicken and deep fried cookie dough and not have “issues.” But issues I did have. Oh, boy did I have. Without going into gory details, I will just say that the wee hours of that first night can best be described with three words: “dry heaves” and “Gas-X.”

I have long said that one of the reasons I ask Rob to take pictures of me eating all of this crappy food is because I know my day will come when for whatever reason (diabetes, clogged arteries, no teeth) I will no longer be able to eat junk like this. So when that day comes, I shall have many many MANY photographic memories of the good ‘ol eatin’ days.

I will admit I am starting to wonder if that day is closer than I think.

Another interesting development this year was my skin. After several days of inhaling sugar and grease and fat, I started to notice that the skin on my face looked different. It was sort of leathery and saggy and grey-ish. Not in any dramatic way, but enough that I took note of it.

With just two days now of pounding water and a return to dietary sanity, I can already see signs of improvement. My skin has better color and it just looks more…hydrated?

I still have several days to go, I suspect, before everything returns to normal. And I am thankful that things will return to normal because eating all that crap really did make me feel and look sort of crappy.

Say cheese!
A few friends have very generously commented that the pictures of me eating are attractive given the subject matter. That is a huge compliment and an even bigger relief. Because I gotta tell you, it takes work to get a photo of someone eating and not have it be gross or unappealing or offensive in some way.

Eating, as I have found, is a surprisingly personal and somewhat intimate activity. So having a photo taken while engaged in this activity is actually somewhat nerve-wracking. It can be a vulnerable moment, as well as a self-conscious one if people happen to be watching.

Note observer in plastic apron.  At least she looks amused and
not all judgmental like that woman when I was eating
the hot dog.

This is one of the very many reasons why I am so grateful for Rob. He has become quite adept at taking appropriate Fair Food Feast photos and doing it quickly so I am not too embarrassed. Or maybe he just wants to get the photo shoot over with so he can eat his own food. Whichever. I'm still grateful.

For every photo I post of me eating something, it is safe to assume there were about a dozen photos taken and at least 9 of them deleted for various reasons. Eyes closed, chewed food visible, too much teeth, should be rated at least PG-13 if not higher. For that last one, I will just say that corn dogs and frozen bananas pose their own brand of challenge.

All the really bad ones were deleted before we got home
but here's one that I kept for some unknown reason.
Lovely, right?  At least isn't not a corn dog.

I don’t like me right now either
Ok, so I promised I would share how much weight I gained with all the ridiculous eating I did during the Fair. I have tracked both my weight and my mileage for the past three years. I am astounded by the results.


In 2013, I walked an average of 3.59 miles per day and gained 2.6 pounds.
In 2014, I walked an average of 3.65 miles per day and gained 2.6 pounds.
This year, I walked an average of 3.35 miles per day and gained 2.6 pounds.

There are so many reasons this makes me shake my head. And I agree with you, it is just plain wrong and it isn’t fair.

So because the results are freakishly consistent…and because I know I have some friends right now who are trying really hard not to hate me…I think this might be the last year I track my poundage. I will continue to wear my pedometer, though, because “what gets measured gets done” and walking is very good for my back.  Among other things it seems.

In conclusion...
So that's that. I guess Fair 2015 is officially over. And I truly am sad despite some of the bumps and rough spots this year. When I was crying in the car on Sunday night, Rob wisely assured me that the exhaustion and bloating behind some of the tears would soon give way to reveal the true delight and joy and blast-and-a-half I had at my beloved Fair. Just two days later, he's right. Again.

Woodhaven Ramblings will now return to the odd and quirky topics that I am desperate to write about the rest of the year. Rest assured that I will be back next August in some capacity writing about my Fair. Maybe with the newspaper, maybe not. Maybe daily, maybe not. But definitely with joy and enthusiasm. And hopefully all body parts and rooms in the house in proper working order.

Thanks so much to all of you who came along for the Fair ride. I am so grateful for your comments and encouragement and shared laughter. There is no bigger compliment than when you tell me, "I felt like I was there. And next year I want to come, too!" Because the Clark County Fair truly is the Summer's Best Party and I want all my friends to party with me.

Monday, August 17, 2015

THE FAIR 2015 ~ Day 10

Well, it’s over. Ten days of fun, food, stomach aches, sunscreen, llamas, Magic Brooms, concerts, motor sports, and deep fried hangovers have come to an end.

Pretty much like every year, I started to get emotional as the sun set and the wind picked up. We stayed until the Fair closed at 10pm so I could pick up my photos and canned goods. By the time we were leaving the Fair, it was already being dismantled.

I held it together until we got in the car. And then, for the first time ever, the tears actually materialized. By the time we got home, I had gone through several napkins left over from the Ceremonial Elephant Ear (see Parade below). Such a mix of emotions. Sadness, relief, wistfulness, mourning, gratitude. I’ll likely write more about that in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, here is a hodgepodge of moments that comprised The Last Day of the Fair 2015. Sigh.

I guess word finally got out about The Best Fair EVER! ‘Bout time…
Due to some churchy obligations, we didn’t arrive at the Fairgrounds until just before 2:00pm. I expected we would just saunter in and have enough time to grab lunch before settling in to hear the Fair Court Tryouts speeches. Instead, we had this:

I should have used my panorama setting to get the other
2/3s of the line.  Drat!!!

I have never seen the Fair so crowded. We parked in a section of grass I didn’t even know existed. When we approached the gates, there were lines everywhere. Luckily our passes got us in pretty quickly but that only dumped us into the masses that much faster.

Truly, I have never seen so many people at the Fair as today. And they stayed until late, too. With 30 minutes until closing, the line for the milkshakes was as long as it would be at 3:00pm. And we had to wait 15 minutes…at 9:30pm…after we ordered…for our elephant ear. Trust me, people, this is unchartered territory for our little Fair. Great for the vendors, but honestly, just way too many people for my liking.  I prefer not to cry with so many people watching.

I wonder what you have to do to get a free snow cone around here?
There are two Hawaiian Shave Ice stands on the Fairgrounds. Last year I determined that a pair of sisters made the best ices (they were generous with the syrup). So I would visit which ever snow cone hut they were working in.

I was excited to see Emily and Hannah working again this year. Hannah works the shavy machine, Emily works the register and pours the syrup. Always friendly, always efficient, always generous with their pours (they might consider bar tending when they are legal; they’d rock the tips).

Best Ice Jockeys at the Fair!
Thanks for all the syrup, Emily and Hannah!

Another notable quality about the girls is they are totally undaunted by the bees that swarm their snow cone hut. Despite traps dangling around the counter, the bees just can’t help themselves. The sickly sweet syrups are so intoxicating. (I get it, bees, truly I do.)

Just as I was finally at the front of the line, It Happened. Emily got stung. For the first time this year. And only the second time ever.

Emily remained very composed despite the stinger visibly hanging out near her armpit. She was in pain and tried to work her cell phone to get coverage so she could go to First Aid to get the pokey thing removed. But, well, the other snow cone was busy, too, and there was no coverage to be had.

So Emily tried to work the register and pour the syrups with one arm raised high. It sort of worked but not really. Meanwhile, Hannah kept working the shavy machine while nervously eyeing the line that kept getting bigger. Then Rob, sizing up the situation and being the man of action that he is, told Emily to meet him around the back and he would see if he could get the stinger out.

Now mind you, we don’t officially know Emily and Hannah. Or, well, they don’t know us. They might recognize me since I was a frequent (daily) customer for two years, but they certainly don’t know my name. And they would understandably be really freaked out to know that I know their names.

My secret? We know their cousin. But they don’t know that.

So while Rob didn’t think twice about offering to pull a bee stinger out of Emily’s armpit, I gotta think it was quite a leap of trust or desperation for Emily to agree.

A few moments later, Emily popped back into the snow cone, visibly relieved and stinger-free. She doused my snow cone with syrup, took my $5 and made change, and was back in business in a flash.

So the real event of the day was the tryouts for next year’s Fair Court. Have I mentioned the Fair Court before? The three young women on horses that represent the Fair throughout the year? The cowgirls with long fluffy hair that I sort of stalk at parades and rodeos and on their Court Facebook page? And by “sort of” I mean I wave at them and write about them and get their autographs and try to contain my sheer giddy glee when they pose for a photo with me and my favorite llamas. You know, the Fair Court. I’m sure I’ve mentioned them.

From the rodeo in July.  See, I'm really not kidding.


The last day of the Fair every year is when the next year’s Court is chosen. The contestants spend the day being interviewed in private and in public. They make speeches, they answer impromptu questions, and they model and pose and smile. They also ride their horses, pretending they are in parades with balloons and umbrellas and raincoats (duh, it’s the Pacific Northwest; it almost always rains on our parade here).

My favorite part of the horseshow is when the girls do that superfast rodeo wave thing that looks really easy but I’m sure isn’t. In my infinite horsemanship wisdom, I judge all Fair Court Contestants most strictly on their rodeo wave. For me, it’s gotta be a wave, not just a hand held up. And it’s gotta be so fast it’s blurry. And it’s gotta be low because it just looks cooler that way.

Color Coded
This year there were six contestants vying for three Court spots: one queen and two princesses. For reasons I wish I understood, the contestants didn’t compete in numerical order. GAH!! On Day 10 of the Fair with my brain deep fried and in a sugar coma, keeping the numbers and names straight was just too much. So I resorted to taking notes by the color of the outfits.

Pre-tryouts line up of nervousness.  And I mean I was nervous
for them.  They all looked pretty calm considering.

My favorite contestant for the Speeches portion was Contestant Orangey Peach. When asked her favorite animal, she said “armadillo.” When asked where she wanted to visit outside the US, she said, “Madagascar.” Impromptu, unrehearsed, gut responses. Orangey Peach was original, quirky, and unexpected. I wonder if her second-favorite animal is a lemur?

I thought Orangey Peach did great in the horsemanship part, too. She was going so fast for her rodeo wave, her hat flew off!! Awesome! Yay super fast wave and flying hat!! Except, well, in later talking with a real horse person who knows these things, I found out that a flying hat is a very bad thing.

“The saying is, if you lose your hat your head better be in it.”

Yikes! That didn’t bode well for Orangey Peach. Sad face.

I also liked Contestant Sparkly Turquoise in the horse part. She handled all the parade obstacles well and she had a solid wave. Not quite as fast as Orangey Peach’s but low and waving, definitely.

Contestant Red (different outfit for horses, ouchy my head) impressed me in the horse part, too, when her horse decided it didn’t like umbrellas. Instead of forcing the horse or giving up and going on to the next obstacle, Red kept it together and simply restarted. Grace under pressure.

I thought Contestant Fuchsia (spelled very differently in my notes) was a natural at the speeches. She looked so at ease, I bet she actually remembers most of what she said.

Contestant White Shirt knew how to work a crowd. She was very comfortable being in front of people and smiling and posing. When her bio included being a cheerleader, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Three cheers for White Shirt!

I was really impressed by how unflappable Contestant Brown was during her speech. Understandably, each of the girls lost her place once or twice during the memorized speeches. While other girls apologized or giggled nervously (I would have done both, probably through tears), Brown simply took a breath and paused as if for effect while she regrouped. I wish I had that poise when I was 16. Or 47.

And the winner is….
…not going to be revealed until February. Yes, seriously.

All that build up and it turns out all that was decided tonight was the Court itself. So we know which three girls are the 2016 Fair Court. YAY! But not which one is the Queen. Boo!

Nevertheless, congratulations Fuchsia (Mikaela), White Shirt (Serenity – my pick on Day 7!), and Sparkly Turquoise (Shaylee)!

Hi girls!  Let me introduce myself.  I'm Toni.  I'll be your
benevolent stalker for the next year.  Just ask Missy, Tessa,
and Brooke.  They'll fill ya in.  

Apparently it used to be done this way forever. And then it changed in 2011. And now it’s changing back. Oh my head.

In any case, the Fair Court Adult People will be working with Mikaela, Serenity, and Shaylee over the next 6 months. They will get to know them and better assess their gifts and skills and such beyond just one very long day of intense scrutiny.

Then on Saturday, February 6 (yes, it is already on my calendar), there will be an Official Coronation and the 2016 Fair Court Queen will be announced. I have cowboy boots now so you KNOW I will be attending. Because that’s what good stalkers do.  And by good I mean benevolent.  Really, I'm not scary. I'm friendly.  Maybe a little quirky but harmless, I promise.

Maybe next year they will train them to make letters with their hooves
We decided to make one final pass through the Llama Greenway just cuz. It was dark and most of the llamas and alpacas had been loaded up and were well on their way home. A few, though, were staying the night since some of the owners find it a lot easier to leave the Fair with their animals when there are no bleachers or straggling llama llovers to contend with. Oops.

As we neared the Greenway, I saw a bunch of green and red lights doing a disco show in one of the pens. Occupied pens. Occupied with alpacas. Then I noticed there was music playing. And there were three people sitting off to the side in camp chairs giggling.

“Wait…is that the Village People?!?” I asked nobody in particular as I watched the lights dance all over the surprisingly placid camelids.

“Yep!” More giggles. “I bought the lights from one of those booths. We’re not taking our guys home until tomorrow so we’re just hanging out here people watching.”

Because what could be more entertaining after 10 days of working the Fair than watching people try to process seeing alpacas being serenaded by the Village People complete with disco lights? Brilliant! If I had had a sweatshirt, we would have stayed (and danced) a lot longer.


And we thought the baboon in the monkey show was famous
So apparently there was mostly undetected greatness at the Fair today. A friend of ours detected it. We didn't see it ourselves but we trust the source. Especially since the source confirmed the greatness with the greatness itself.

Do you recognize this guy?

Thanks for sharing your picture, Martti!

He apparently was at the Fair all day and pretty much nobody recognized him.

Our friend and his wife debated all afternoon whether or not it was really him. The husband is a movie buff so he was sure it was. The wife was undecided. I mean, really, why would an award-winning Hollywood actor come spend the day at our Fair eating Hawaiian Shave Ice?? Well, OK, Emily and Hannah do make a mean snow cone, and judging from the background in the photo and the quantity of snow cone left, he bought his treat from the Dynamic Ice Duo. But still.

Our friend happened to walk out of the Fair at the same time as he did so they struck up a brief conversation.

"It sure must have been nice to walk around the Fair and not be recognized, huh, Mr. Malkovich?"

"Yeah, it really was."

Turns out his daughter lives in Portland (thanks for the sleuthing, Rob!) so maybe we'll be seeing more of him.  Or maybe we already have and had no clue.  Incognito on, Mr. Malkovich!

Fair Day Data
  • Total walking logged on my pedometer: 2.84 miles 
  • Time at which we saw today’s first set of Magic Brooms being carried around: 4:15pm
  • Re-entry hand stamp:  extraordinarily inky tractor that I ended up wearing everywhere including my left thigh

Fair Food Feast Parade ~ The Finale
Well, here it is. The final parade.  I wish I had had better food for my last day.  The first two entries were sort of a bust.  But it ended well.  Very well.  All in all, I have no regrets.  Nothing I wanted went uneaten.  Except a Caesar salad.  Why oh why are there no Caesar salads glopped with tons of fattening dressing at the Fair?  Sigh.

Garlic fries from the Greek vendor.  Last year they rocked.
This year they were cold and limpy.  BOO!!!!

Hawaiian Dog from Boppin' Bo's.  Bo should stick to elephant
ears.  This was so disappointing!  It tasted like a Ball Park Frank
and the bun fell apart.  The pineapple was good but sticky.  Blah.

Last Smasher!  Back to where I started with the Northwest Berry.
One of my favorite finds of the Fair this year.  I might stalk
them to see if I can get some off-season Smashers...

Thanks for the abundant syrup, Emily!  And hope your bee
sting is better.  

Buttery, salty corn.  Oh, how I love this corn.

The last corn dog.  In honor of the earrings I wore the other day
I decided to skip the ketchup.  Old school.

The Grand Finale.  Our Last Day of the Fair
Ceremonial Deluxe Elephant Ear from Boppin'
Bo's.  Fried doughnut dough with butter, cinnamon, sugar,
strawberries, vanilla ice cream, and whipping cream.
Rob and I shared it.  I love this tradition.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

THE FAIR 2015! ~ Day 9

As we were leaving the Fairgrounds tonight, a little boy asked his mom what time it was.

“Oh, it’s late! It’s about 9:30.” And here I was feeling old and guilty for leaving so early.

The Fair closes at 11:00 tonight but I just don’t have it in me to stay that long, especially with an early church morning tomorrow and then a full day stalking the incoming new Fair Court. I definitely need to be rested up for that.

Because we left so much earlier than typical, we are stuck in traffic leaving the parking lot. I didn’t know there could be this much traffic at the end of the day. That’s one benefit of leaving as all of the vendors are clipping tarps up to close their booths.  But at least I can use the time productively.  Yay little laptop in the passenger seat!

We have one more day of the Fair to go. I am both relieved and sad. It will be so much more of both tomorrow. But first, today.

Not only is Larissa on the Patrol, she is a former Fair Court Princess! I tried very hard to hold it together until I was out of earshot.
Our first stop after lunch was a set of barns out by the horse arena. I had seen them before but I always thought they were off-limits. The fact that there are signs in front reading “FAIR BOARD PARKING ONLY” suggested it might be a bit exclusive.

Much to my surprise, though, the barns are the home to the Fair’s Mounted Patrol. They are a 40 year tradition of volunteers on horseback who ride around the parking lots at night. They all wear red and white checkered shirts and matching cowboy hats. On any one night there are about 20 of them trotting about.

I saw them at the end of their patrol a few nights ago and, not knowing any better, assumed they were some sort of drill team practicing by moonlight. Natural conclusion, right? Except for the lack of music or flags or glitter...

Chatting with one of the younger members of the Patrol (thanks for the chat, Larissa!), I was relieved to find out that they spend most of their time helping people find their cars. Not surprising since the acres of grass all pretty much look the same, especially at night when the sugar crash is setting in.

Occasionally the horse riders find teenagers in the parking lot who are told to take their pre-or post-Fair partying elsewhere. Very rarely if ever are there issues of vandalism, theft, or other things the Patrol might need to radio out to the sheriff about. Perhaps the most unexpected service they provide, though, is closing car doors.

Yep, apparently it is not that unusual for people to be so excited to get to the Fair that they leave their car and forget to close the door behind them. While I would like to say I can’t imagine doing that, I can. And it’s quite possible I have done that and I would never know it since these nice people on horseys would have closed it for me.

Thanks for closing my car door, Larissa!

One of these days I will remember to bring earplugs
We hung out for two unexpectedly long hours watching the Tuff Trucks show. It is basically a dirt obstacle course that people with chiropractors on speed dial try to drive their mostly banged up trucks through. The drivers’ goal is to finish the course in the shortest time. The audience’s goal is to see a truck flip, roll, or otherwise show us its tummy.

Three observations to give you a flavor of our county’s version the sport:
  • Several trucks proudly displayed the Confederate flag and I think I am the only one even noting it
  • The show was about an hour longer than anticipated because there were so many local farm boys wanting to hot dog their trucks in the dirt
  • A 1990s Subaru almost won

Llama wrangling: the next generation, thank goodness
Because of my knee and back and utter exhaustion, Rob and I reluctantly begged out of competing in the Llama Obstacles today.

We’re old. We just aren’t up to crawling through a teepee, into a tunnel, and up and down ramps. By ourselves and especially not with a camelid.  Plus, well, there was absolutely no way we could compete with this:

Dawwwww!!!  Isn't she adorable?!?  Her shirt rocks, too.

It’s good to have friends bearing goodies
We had procured our dinners and were on our way to finding a table when a voice came up behind us, totally invaded my personal space, and said with strange excitement, “I feel like I just found Waldo at the Fair!!”

Hi, Lauralea!  Thanks for the scones and the blog fodder!

Turns out it was our dear friend Lauralea. The same Lauralea who won first place in the Fair’s scone baking contest this year. The same Lauralea who had apparently been hoping to find us today. The same Lauralea who blew my mind and then my taste buds by producing a freshly-made-this-morning award winning scone from her purse and offered it as dessert.  I love Lauralea!

I typically don’t like scones. They are too dry and often don’t have enough flavor. But Lauralea’s scones are something different entirely. They are moist and hold together and actually taste like the flavors advertised.

Lauralea's blue ribbon scones were her own twist on a family recipe. As a nod to the traditional flavors of a county fair, she made a caramel apple scone peppered with sautéed caramelized apple chunks. Yeah, you’re right, she totally needs to start selling them.

Oooooh.....  Caramel apple scone.....

Stand up, wave your hands all over the place, and we'll point at you
We caught another hypnotist show tonight. Yes, it’s true, we’re hypnosis groupies.

About 10 minutes before the show started, two young teen boys sat next to us. On a hunch, I asked them if they planned to try to get on stage to get hypnotized. They were.

“Do you want some tips?”

Their eyes lit up and they listened very carefully as Rob and I explained how to get Jerry’s attention and get called up on stage. We noted that they were not in the ideal seats – aisle and in the front third of the audience is best. Nevertheless, we gave the eager volunteers some pointers that we assured them would work.


Rob and I are currently 4 for 4 on getting people noticed by Jerry and invited on stage. Like I said, groupies.

Fair Day Data
  • Total walking logged on my pedometer: 2.35 miles (so much Tuff Trucks...)
  • Time at which we saw today’s first set of Magic Brooms being carried around: 2:35pm
  • Re-entry hand stamp: Holstein cow (those are the ones with the spots, right?)

Fair Food Feast Parade:
I was in a good food groove today and felt like I was keeping a good pace and then… my stomach magically realized we only have one day left of craziness.  Sad face.

This happens every year and I have no idea how or why. But on the last two days, my appetite starts to fade and I start returning to my more typical food intake. It was rather sad to watch Rob eat a deep fried Twinkie tonight and have absolutely no desire to join him. BOO!!!

But did I mention I got to have one of Lauralea’s scones?? It was the last thing I ate today so at least my taste buds ended on a happy note.

Chicken Teriyaki Wrap from Sweet Al's near the horse arena.
SO GOOD!  I was concerned it might be a bit too healthy
with the lettuce and cranberries but it was so worth it.
Definitely a find.  And Rob enjoyed the Teriyaki Bowl, too.

Your basic 1/3 filled bag of potato chips that I won't allow myself
to eat after tomorrow.

Who needs a spoon for this Hawaiian Shave Ice?  Two new
flavors today -- strawberry and mango.  I liked both and was
pleased the strawberry flavor wasn't too strong.

Back to my favorite ice cream bar snack.  I shall miss these.

Round 2 of the Yakisoba noodles from the Hawaiian Cafe.
I feel like I am on some sort of farewell tour.  :-(

Strawberry lemonade from near the Grandstands.  Waaay
better than the stuff they sell in the Granstands themselves.
Although those drinks are delivered to your seat so
there is that...

OK, this is not available for sale at the Fair but it should be.
This is a caramel apple scone made fresh this morning by
my friend Lauralea.  Lauralea just happened to win
first place in this year's Scone Baking Contest with
this recipe and she was kind enough to let me sample
one.  OMG!  I don't like scones and I loved this!
Please tell Lauralea she needs to sell these.  Thank you.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

THE FAIR 2015 ~ Day 8

We had to set an alarm this morning because the electrician was coming to reinstall some lighting in our cabinetry. Imagine my surprise when the first thing I heard on the radio were the words “Clark County Fair.” Although the station was running a contest and giving away free tickets to the Fair, my first thought was “The Fair -- it’s EVERYWHERE!”

Today was sort of a little bit of this, little bit of that day. No major events, no legendary photos to frame. Just a meandering day sprinkled with little moments that are quintessentially FAIR.

Rain, glorious rain
It rained today! Everyone was so happy! Well, except for the Smashers vendor since sales were down.  It only got to 68 degrees, a blissful change from the high 80s/90s and humidity we have not so quietly endured the entire Fair. It felt very strange to wear pants today and not be slathered in sunscreen. The respite is already past tense, though. Back to sun and 80s tomorrow and Sunday.

The sign will advertise sunscreen tomorrow

Teenagers are so fun!
I finally got to meet a teen friend’s boyfriend! SO nice to finally put a voice and personality to all the pictures I’ve stalked on Instagram. And SO fun to embarrass the heck out my friend when I told her boyfriend how adorably cute and giggly she gets anytime she talks about him.  From my stalking I know the feeling's mutual so I really wasn't tattling too much.  Nevertheless, the 50 shades of red on her face were priceless.  Thanks for the show, Hannah!

Does anybody really know what time it is?
As we were strolling along, a kid about 11 or 12 stopped me and asked if I knew what time it was. I looked at my watch (yes, I still wear one) and told him, “It’s about a quarter to 2.”

To which he replied, “In other words….”

I stared at him, having no idea what he meant so I repeated myself. He still looked confused but then his buddy caught on.

“Dude, it’s 1:45. Don’t you know what ‘a quarter to’ means?”

I then showed the kid my watch thinking that might help.  It didn't.  There's a really good shot he doesn't know who to read a clock with those handy thingys moving around.

I am still dumbfounded.

Timeless. No watches anywhere.

Sugar wars
While we were waiting for the Demolition Derby to start, one of the cotton candy guys started yelling at someone below him.

“You’re cuttin’ me off, man!! Stop it!!”

A number of people looked a little scared, thinking the high-strung candy man was yelling at them.

Instead, it turns out he was decidedly peeved with another cotton candy guy who apparently didn’t understand the intricate rules of etiquette and territories when one is hocking spun sugar on a stick.

Maybe cutting him off wasn't such a bad idea...

Toasted Buick on a stick
The afternoon's Demolition Derby included a heat of newer, more plastic, less reinforced cars. They are fun to watch because they fly apart faster and with more distance than the traditional metal tanks of the '60s and '70s.

One car was disqualified early because it had a little fire under the hood.  It stayed off to the side and was babysat by a guy with a fire extinguisher.

The show was great fun, but the after party was even better.  We lingered in the stands to watch the carnage being cleared.  The one hot car just wouldn't cooperate.  It kept catching on fire.  The motor sports employees kept dousing it with water, but much like one of those funny birthday candles (unless it's your birthday, then not so funny), the flames just kept coming back.

Eventually they decided it was safe enough to look under the hood.  Except that the hood was really hot and was bolted down with two chains.  And that's why God invented forklifts.

Best quote of the day
While standing in line for chicken strips and commiserating quietly about the woman at the front of the line who thought you could haggle on the price of dinner:

“It’s the Fair. Just open your wallet and let the money fly out.”


Hey kids, get off my bench!
Rob and I have a bench. We consider it Our Bench even though it has a commemorative plaque with someone else’s name on it. Whatever.

Our Bench is in the Big Air Conditioned Building and we annually and repeatedly park ourselves there to cool down, rest, and gaze at the canning display. The bench is also somewhat near the building’s entrance, so it is a good spot to be able to greet friends who invariably wander through.

This year, I have honestly been rather miffed that Our Bench has been occupied about 90% of the time we have wanted to use it. Being the compassionate, giving people that we are, we have refrained from asking the squatters to kindly move along. But it has still been rather inconvenient.

Today, perhaps because of the rain and the reduced need to find respite indoors, Our Bench was ours! Finally!

Our bench comes conveniently equipped with its own trash can.

I thought he was having a hissy fit
In the middle of the Demolition Derby tonight, something happened that I had never seen before. A driver of a stalled car actually got out of his car, threw his helmet on the dirt, and went storming towards the exit. This while other cars were still banging and crashing and kicking up dirt all around him. Another driver right next to him got out of his car, too, and I was certain they were going to start punching each other out.

Instead, it turns out the first guy was as mad as a cotton candy vendor about a bad call by the derby officials. Eventually the red flags were flown, the derby stopped, the officials reconsidered, the driver got back in his car, waved thanks to the second guy, and revved up and joined the chaos when the green flags returned.

While I finally understand why he did what he did, I am still questioning the judgment of going on a walkabout in the midst of a demolition derby. I'm wimpy that way.

I would have bet on me, too
As the evening was drawing to a close, another teen friend came running up to me while we were in the milkshake line and asked if I would be willing to videotape her if she went on the Sling Shot ride (it’s pretty much what it sounds like). I suspect I looked sort of confused...because I she went on to explain:

“My mom said I can go on it if you videotape me.”

Still confused but curious, I accepted Rob’s blessing to leave him to his milkshake. As I was swimming upstream to the exit, Mom yelled out, “HEY! You’re LEAVING the milkshake line?!?”

Turns out Mom…who knows me well…thought she had a sure bet that I wouldn’t leave food behind at the Fair simply to watch her daughter go on a crazy carnival ride. Unfortunately for Mom…but lucky for Maddie…I had just finished some pie and the milkshake was for Rob.

So off we went to the Sling Shot, Maddie working her magic to convince a friend to join her in the madness. The friend wasn’t so sure, despite the fact that he’s a bull rider and was shrugging off having been stepped on by a bull a couple of nights ago. But, well, Maddie is very effective...and cute.

Reports are the Sling Shot is super fun, you barely know you are spinning, the view was great, and they would both do it again. Did I mention teenagers are fun?


Fair Day Data
  • Total walking logged on my pedometer: 3.18 miles
  • Time at which we saw today’s first set of Magic Brooms being carried around: 2:12pm
  • Re-entry hand stamp: very inky rooster

Fair Food Feast Parade!
I feel like I ate a lot today. We’ll see once I go through and post the pictures. I am finding that the deep fried stuff feels like a pound of dough in my stomach. Not a real pleasant feeling and one that lingers for quite a while. This doesn’t necessarily mean I will stop eating those delights; I just need to have them earlier in the day.

Starting off the day with a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich
called The Rancher.  Chicken, cheese, bacon, tomato, and ranch dressing.

Making my way through the Smashers menu.  This one was
orange and tangerine.  It tasted like a healthy Tang.  I have
tried 3 of their drinks and so far I don't have a favorite.
They are all so good!

Helping Rob with his seasoned fries from the Burger Buggy.
Not sure if it's the MSG or the next entry that is the source
of my headache.  Ugh.

Taking one more for the team!  Deep Fried Twizzler Twinkie.
They stuck some Twizzlers in the middle of a Twinkie and then deep fried it.
Two days ago I was told they weren't doing them this fair because they
were a bust in Sacramento.  Well, all I can say is it helps to know Eric.
In any case, The Review:  Better than I was expecting!  Once I
was able to gnaw off some Twizzler, it tasted like a cherry Twinkie.
Turns out cherry Twinkies are pretty good!  It was a little
challenging to eat, though, since the Twizzler didn't melt
or change its consistency in any way.  Bottom line:
better than the bacon wrapped peanut butter cup and I would
have it again once I worked through other things on the menu.

Corn!  Fiber is good this time of year.

Chicken strips!  I like to dip mine in a ranch dressing-Sriracha sauce
blend of my own invention.  Trick is to sneak the Sriracha when
that lady at the yakisoba stand isn't looking.

Am I the last to know that Barq's root beer has caffeine in it??

Sneaking in some late night Church Ladies pie.  Strawberry
rhubarb.  Mmmm.  And no, not a la mode.  It seems
ridiculous to say right now, but ice cream always
seems like too much with a piece of pie.