Iowa State Fair Trip Report Day 1

So….the Iowa State Fair trip. Sorry it has taken so long for me to get these posted, but I was so exhausted every night when I got home from the fair, I didn’t get much done, and after I got home I had to head out on another work trip. Plus, I think you will find these are fairly EXHAUSTIVE, so enjoy!

I thought to myself as I arrived at the airport and headed for security, “It has been so long since I flew for fun rather than work, I am not sure I remember how.” It was a little odd not traveling with at least one board member. I barely remembered to get my boarding pass out to go through the security line. I had been extra organized and checked in and printed it out prior to coming to the airport for once, which was probably a good idea since the lines at the United check-in looked long. Since I was only going to be gone for three nights, I only took a carry-on bag. (And hoped I wouldn’t find too much to purchase at the State Fair to take home.)

I was flying out of concourse B, but I trekked out to concourse C to Villa Pizza, as I was in the mood for marinara sauce. They don’t have a lot of options left for stromboli flavors at that time of night apparently, and the mozzerella/pepperoni stromboli was disappointing – I ended up tearing it apart and mostly eating the interior bits and cheese, dipped in the accompanying sauce. You also get a side dish, and I chose the garlic rolls, because those tend to be good, and they were, especially dipped in the sauce. Plus, they will give you a free refill on your drink.

I was on a United flight, and it was full, but I had no problem finding a place for my bag in the bins. I did get whacked by a bottle of water someone put in the overhead which dropped out, I am discovering that is the hazard of sitting in the aisle seat. I have been hit by dropped things and have seen numerous people hit by things that have shifted during the flight. If you are sitting in the aisle seat, beware the danger from above.

Landed in Des Moines at 11:45 and my brother was right there to pick me up in front of the airport. When we got to their house, my oldest niece, S. (age 13), was still awake and helped me get arranged for bed. She also opened the door to the part of the basement where Roscoe the dog sleeps in his crate and informed him that I was there, which caused him to growl and bark at me.  I hit the hay, and as usual on the first night away from home, had a hard time getting to sleep (maybe partially due to the Diet Pepsi at dinner…) and didn’t sleep particularly well.

I woke up about 7:00 their time, and got up and grabbed a Diet Coke and puttered around downstairs for a bit until I heard my brother upstairs. It originally looked like only he and I would be heading to the fair early (grounds open at 8, buildings open at 9) but then he checked with the girls (S. & T. (11)) and they both quickly got ready, leaving nephew D. (7) at home with his mom to sleep in and join us later.  I think we left about 8:00 and got to the fair about 8:45, there was a bit of a wait to get turned into the parking lot, that is kind of a traffic bottleneck.

Our first stop was the booth for mini cinnamon rolls. These were OK, especially with the frosting for dipping, but I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic. My brother likes these pretty well.

I was more interested in getting to the mini-donut booth. The fair website said this particular booth had a small bag of mini-donuts for $2, well, that was not the case, they were $3, but the machine got jammed while he was working on my bag, so I got about twice as many as I was supposed to, which was OK.

We all participated in eating those, as we walked across the fairgrounds. We headed to the Elwell Family Food Center, I was interested in watching the judging of a contest that involved dishes made with Azteca tortillas. These tortillas contain 50% whole wheat, and some of that wheat is grown in Colorado, so I was familiar with them as a product since we had handed some of them out at some farmer meetings, and I had a chance to sample them, they were excellent. So I got in on the tail end of that judging. I thought they had the recipes online but they only name the winners. The fair does publish a cookbook every two years with the winning recipes, I guess I have to wait for a few years to get those.

I would love to go stay in Iowa for the entire length of the fair and enter a bunch of cooking contests. I have entered recipe contests before and going to the fair has me in the mood to do it again. Whenever I do that, my co-workers and Ken’s co-workers are the benficiaries of a lot of tasting samples.  The Iowa state fair has a WIDE variety of different contests.

The kids wanted to check out the Chuck E. Cheese “Ugly Cake” contest – things were being held up by the fact that Chuck E. Cheese himself, who was supposed to be a judge, was late. But he did get there by the time we left. I thought to myself, “What poor, hungover teenager is in that costume, looking at gross cakes?” At least they didn’t have to taste them.

We did wander around that building and look at the exhibits and decorated cakes, and the giant “Chocolate Moose” made of hundreds of pounds of real chocolate. The Iowa State Fair has the largest number of food competitions/entries of any State Fair!

Then we headed to the 4-H building.  One of S.’s entries from her county fair qualified for the State Fair (a short story she wrote) and so she found that, she got a red ribbon. We looked at many of the exhibits in the 4-H building, with S. and T. sometimes taking pictures of projects for ideas for their own 4-H competitions.

At this point I started getting messages from Sis-in-law Kristyn that they were here at the fair, and we were trying to figure out how to meet up.

At some point, brother Wade found a refillable soda mug that you could buy for $10, and refill for free at several different branches of the same vendor throughout the fair, so we both took advantage of that opportunity.

I knew I wanted some lamb sausage on a stick, and since the 4-H building was pretty close to the sheep barns (and that is where the lamb booth is, of course) we headed over there. I think Wade and T. went to find T. a slushy stand, and S. was looking at the sheep, and I went to the Lamb Producers booth and got a sausage on a stick. It was tasty.

Then, as we all tried to meet up, we discovered that S. had worked her way to the front of the crowd watching the sheep shearing competition, and she was watching that. She found that very entertaining. “They picked them up, and then they threw them down, and them they sheared them!” I would have found it entertaining too, but it was very crowded and you couldn’t see anything from a distance. They are serious about their sheep shearing there, and the crowd was abundant and appreciative.

I appreciate the sheep barn because of my interest in knitting. I see sweaters on the hoof.

We were in the 4-H building for quite a while, and the wandering around the sheep barns took awhile, and it was getting to be about time for lunch (despite the fact that I had just had a sausage on a stick, but that was small….). One of the things on my list to try was the Hot Beef Sundae from the Cattlemen’s booth.  This looks like an ice cream sundae, but is actually mashed potatoes, gravy with beef, shredded cheese sprinkled over the top, and a cherry tomato acting as the cherry. S. and Wade also each had one. We gave these a big thumbs-up. Maybe the best thing I ate at the fair. Brother-in-law John also approved of these.

All of this time we were enjoying the great weather. Before we left the house, my brother had vetoed the outfit my oldest niece was wearing with orange short shorts and an orange tank top, telling her it was only 57 degrees outside (he may have vetoed the orange short shorts anyway). She changed and was glad, because it was only about 80 for a high all day, which was extremely pleasant.

We took our sundaes and went to the Anne and Bill Riley stage to sit down and eat. Of course, the daily talent show was going on. The preliminaries to the Riley talent competition take place earlier in the year, all around the state, and the young people who make it out of the local competitions come to compete at the state fair. This competition is a really big deal here, dating back to 1959. Very neat to see something with such a history and it is obviously a big traditional part of the Fair. There are two divisions, sprouts (ages 2-12) and Seniors (ages 3-21).  We got to watch a little of the sprouts level competition – lots of dancers in singles and groups. There was a young piano player named Andrew Lee who was amazing. We are talking future-concert-pianist amazing. His playing ability is way above his age. I could go every day and watch all of these talent competitions.  I already checked their Facebook page to see who were the semifinalists out of the show we watched, and will be checking back to see who won.

Quote of the day, from a guy sitting behind us at the talent show: “Do I smell like barn? Be honest.”

We did hook up with Kristyn and John and family at the talent stage. It was my niece L’s 7th birthday, so it was extra special to see her on that day. Our current youngest niece, A., is 13 months old and is walking (running) very well. She has absolutely no fear and will take off without a backward glance to see if her parents or anybody is paying attention to where she is going.  The oldest niece in that family, E (9) was showing her good taste by eating a footlong corn dog for lunch.

We were also sending texts to Deanne, Ken’s cousin from Omaha, who was also going to be at the Fair. Of course, my phone was roaming, and doesn’t have the best battery life to begin with, so it had passed away, and I gave Deanne Wade’s phone number, and then also got Kristyn to message Deanne, so we all finally manage to hook up at the Knapp Animal Learning Center.

This is a really neat building where they have baby chicks hatching all week long, in addition to cows, sheep, goats, pigs, etc. which also give birth periodically. The kids were all over the place in there, while the adults were trying to get some visiting done. My brother-in-law John had wandered off to get a chocolate dipped canolli (I believe) – he has some of the same interests in the fair food as I do.

Look, I am a turkey farmer.

My sister-in-law Laurie, Wade’s wife, and nephew D.  arrived around this time. We spent a little more time in the Animal Learning Center before heading to the Ag Building to see the butter cow.  I think about this time someone had to leave to take T. to a birthday party sleep over, so my brother took off with her, leaving Laurie and the kids. We wandered around the Ag Building a bit, S. acting as ringleader for the stair-step assortment of kids. Sis-in-law Kristyn said she would like to hire S. to come with them to the fair the next year.

In the ag building, I looked at some of the crops and vegetable exhibits, and had an egg on a stick (free!) and an apple slush (excellent and refreshing).

At some point, John went and stood in a long long to get a double-bacon corn dog. This is a hot dog that is wrapped in bacon and deep fried until the bacon is crisp, and then dipped in corn dog batter with bacon bits in it and deep fried again. I think he liked it but said it got a bit greasy toward the end. And not worth waiting in line for 25 minutes.

Kristyn shared their Honey Sticks with me. Mmmmm.

Giant tomato contest. The winner was over 2 pounds.

The kids looked at the butter cow and everything they wanted to cover in the Ag building, and then we headed out to the playground behind the Ag Building for the kids to run around. Shortly after we got there, a performance of a speed artist took place on the stage near there, and the kids watched that. I decided I was ready to try some more fried food (working my way through my list) and headed down the hill to the “Triangle’ where quite a few of the food booths were located, and headed for the “Pickle Dawg” booth. This is a pickle spear, rolled in cream cheese, with some jalapenos (optional) wrapped in in ham or pastrami, and then battered and fried. I, of course, chose the spicy option with jalapenos, and I chose the pastrami.

This was excellent, I wished it was a little more fresh, I think it had been under the heat lamp for a few minutes.  It was still quite tasty, a good combination of tastes. There were just a few jalapenos, so it wasn’t too spicy.  After eating this, though, I decided I didn’t need to eat anything fried for a little while. It was at this point that I realized my quest to try as many foods as possible could be somewhat self-limiting, especially in the fried department.

We re-grouped on the hill and headed out together to go see the big bull (data) and the big boar. They were both quite impressive. The boar broke the previous weight record. We got stuck in the barn with the big bull because there was a class of show steers coming through that we had to wait for.

Reggie the boar weighed 1335 pounds. You don’t get to weigh that much by exercising, as he is demonstrating. He probably would like some corn dogs too.

Then there was a BMX bike show that we knew D. would enjoy, so the adults sat on the perimeter and the kids pushed their way up into the crowd to watch closer. A. stayed with us and ran around as much as her parents would allow. I was just tickled to sit down, my feet were starting to talk to me about how much I had been walking/standing, especially on cement or asphalt surfaces.

We headed back to the food area because D. hadn’t really had lunch yet, and he wanted pizza (not a real adventurous eater yet). So we got him some pizza and managed to get separated from Kristyn and her family, but that was Ok, we each had some different things we wanted to do. My brother got back to the fair at some point and he and I each tried a different Italian grinder – I tried the Jennie and he tried the Gizmo. I think we both liked them fine, it was just a lot of ground sausage. I would have gone for some veggies on them under the cheese.

This is the Jennie Grinder.

S. wanted to show you how happy I was to have it.

This is my brother’s Gizmo Grinder.

Dawson’s pizza.

At some point, Wade got the German Chocolate funnel cakes – unfortunately it had also been sitting under the heat lamp for a while, and would have benefited from being more freshly fried.  The funnel cakes themselves are chocolate, with coconut flavored cream cheese (?) icing and sprinkled with nuts.

There was a concert that night that Laurie wanted to attend, Will Hoge,for free! Plus, there were lovely benches to sit on, so I w as for that. But then I got a text from Kristyn (well, Wade did) saying E. wanted to ride the Sky Glider if  someone would ride with her. Well, of course I had never been on it, so I headed over there. Of course, I didn’t realize there were two of them, but they figured out which one I would go to (since I didn’t have a phone that worked anymore, of course) and we went on the tram over the fair. John and L. came along in the car behind us. This tramway is pretty cool, gives you a good view of the fairgrounds.

Brother-in-law John taking a picture, cute niece L. Did I manage to get pics of the other nieces? No…..

Grand concourse at the fair.

Or Promenade. I don’t recall the official name.

I got back for most of the Will Hoge concert – he is quite a good artist, I really enjoyed his songwriting. If you are looking for a new country singer to listen to, I recommend checking him out. If you have a daughter, you should listen to: Baby Girl  If you are married, you should listen to: When I get my wings.  If you are an aging musician (even the loosest definition), you should listen to: Too Old to Die Young.

We finished up watching the concert and headed home, getting home after 10, and being grateful for our beds and rest. I did take the time to post some pictures to Facebook, Instagram having thwarted me, and then my phone having given out. I should have written up this trip report, but that wasn’t going to happen, as tired as I was……The Iowa State Fairgrounds are really laid out well and are quite compact, but you can still spend a lot of time and cover a lot of distance walking.

More Class Reunion and Fire Report Day One

Well, as you could tell from the guest-written entry, we made it safely to SD and spent one night at my parents’ house with my brother and his three kids there. It was fun and noisy to get to see them and I am looking forward to seeing them again when I go to Iowa for the State Fair in a week and a half. (Did I mention that yet? Probably not, since I haven’t been blogging much – I found a cheap plane ticket that only required me to miss one day of work and I am FINALLY going to go to the Iowa State Fair, home to much food on a stick? More on THOSE plans later.)

We saw them off the next morning and then went into Rapid City to meet Ken’s sister and her husband and their two kids for lunch and then go to Storybook Island. The kids had never been to Storybook Island so they thought that was pretty fun. Unfortunately it was unbelieveably hot (well, typical for this summer), and so most of the slides were too hot for them to go down, but they enjoyed everything else. Then we met my high school friend, B. for dinner, it was really great to see him after 25 years! We had found each other through email and Facebook but it isn’t the same. The first get-together for my class was at Murphy’s bar downtown – it was great to see a few more people from the class, many of whom I did not know because we did have 367 people in my class. We always complained about cliques back then but I guess with that many people it is a structure that naturally forms.

We could see some storms rolling through town, there was a little rain (not enough to drive us in from the patio of the bar) and we could see lightning out east, so I hoped my parents were getting rain, not lightning, because it has been so dry this summer.

We didn’t stay too late at the bar, knowing that we had an hour drive home. We went home using the “Farmingdale” route (there are basically two ways home to the ranch from Rapid City, and they are pretty much the same mileage.) Once we got to the spot where our land meets the road on the Farmingdale gravel, (and Ken is trained to recognize this spot, because I quiz him about it every time), we saw fire trucks. We passed one truck which was extinguishing fence posts. Ken said, “Isn’t this your place?” but I didn’t think so, because we had come a little way south. Turns out, it was our place.

Further south, we came across another fire crew, and I could see these were people I knew from the community, so we got out and talked (and I checked to see if my Dad was among them). They said there were probably a dozen fires in the neighborhood that night, and that it was very fortunate it rained about .06 of an inch just as the fires were really getting going, since it was so hot, dry and windy. The rain really helped put things out, and probably prevented thousands of acres from burning. They thought my Dad was probably still out north on our land, checking burning fence posts.

So we continued on our way home, but then we stopped at the fire hall, because it appeared that the whole community was there. Dad was not back yet, but as we stood and visited with people and heard fire stories, he did eventually arrive. We headed on home to see how Mom was doing and then waited up until Dad got home to hear more fire stories, so it was a late night. Mom told us about how she had been on the phone with a neighbor who was reporting a fire at his place, and she was looking out our north window and could see a fire starting from a lightning strike. My Dad said he originally thought he could go out there and put that one out with the water sprayer on the ATV, but then he decided he would have had to have been right on the spot when the lightning struck, because the fire took off so fast.

Here is a picture of that one, more stories of Dad and I going out and surveying the fire tomorrow and many more pictures.

This is about ½ to ¾ of a mile from our house, fortunately the wind was blowing it AWAY from the house and ranch buildings.

Post With Niece Sydney’s Help

This was written by my niece Sydney because she is tired of waiting for a blog entry.  (She is even more annoyed now that I have had this for more than a week and haven’t posted it yet!) (Notes in ital. are by Glenderella)

The Drive and Evening of South Dakota

We started off the day by waking up and finishing packing because I had to stay up last night making a tie for Ken for a commercial. I had to make it because another person is going to slash it off with a sword. Which my niece, Sydney thought was extremely cool and entertaining.

(This is Ken doing the equivalent of saying he needs a turkey costume for school tomorrow. He needs a tie for a commercial he is making that will look as if someone has cut it in half with a sword. He, of course, assumes this will be a piece of cake and “won’t take long…” Uh huh. So wrapped up the day doing that. I ended up using double stick tape, because the tie trick isn’t going to have to be done over and over for many nights, just a couple of times for the commercial shoot. I did have to reinforce the tie and make sure the inner lining didn’t show where it had been cut.)

When we finished packing and I called my Mom to ask her if there was anything I needed to bring, as I am very forgetful. She just said the socks I knitted for her and cross-stitching stuff for my niece, Sydney. Then we got on the road, as myself and Ken took turns driving. We stopped for lunch at the truck stop in Lusk. I had a hot beef sandwich. Ken had a bacon cheeseburger. We liked it, very good. (Ken liked his, mine was not very good. There was no taste to the gravy, it was just brown. It tasted like brown. That is all. Next time I will remember to have the soup and a piece of pie.)
Pictures of food:

We got back on the road and kept driving on the way we listened to the iPod and the person in the passenger seat was entertained by the flower that dances by solar power. (I have a solar powered flower on my dashboard that bobs. What of it?) (When Ken was driving, I was crocheting on my #2 Camp Loopy project.)
We were driving for a while and then we stop at a truck stop to get out of the car. Ken found some jackalope nuts that we have to get on the way home for his co-workers that asked him to bring home an interesting food from South Dakota.

(We actually saw the jackalope nuts at the truck stop where we ate lunch. I didn’t get a look at them but it sounds like they might be chocolate covered corn nuts. We were going to stop and buy some on the way home for Ken’s co-workers but we forgot.)

Once we got back on the road and driving we were almost to Hot Springs I guess we drove through a fire that is quickly spreading and is still not contained. (We didn’t drive THROUGH the fire, we could see it as we were driving, it must have been pretty early in the fire activity because the guy at the gas station didn’t even know there was a fire. This fire is called the Myrtle fire and is still burning.)

Once we got on the gravel road which means we are almost to my parents’ house well then we got stuck behind a cattle truck going maximum 25 mph. (Only for a couple of miles, though.)

When we got to my parents house the first thing I heard when I walked in the door was my niece, Sydney yelling “hooray!!! Glenda’s here!!!”. Then my mom saying ” Sydney not in my ear” as I walked through the door seeing her ironing, which she says wrong, in the 102 degree weather.(Sydney pronounces iron as eye-ron, apparently there was not enough ironing going on at her house at a formative age.)

Then Ken and I got hugs by all of them. Then we sat down and were talking as my two nieces Sydney and Taylor and my nephew Dawson were bringing in kittens showing us. Ken and I didn’t think the kittens enjoyed being SCOOPED up and tossed over there back to be carried in and out of the house. We had lots more fun and talking when we watched the news, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

Then we had the kids look up words in the encyclopedia and they struggled with that because usually they just use there phones.(I don’t remember what set us off to look up something in the encyclopedia but the kids were kind of entertained by how “vintage” they were

We had dinner which was leftovers and talked about Ken’s movie he is filming about deaf kids learning to play basketball and at that point my niece, Taylor said they should include a cracken( check my spelling) (kraken) (kraken was ONE of the things we looked up in the encyclopedia, this particular encyclopedia did not include kraken as an entry.) and Ken said he would try to work it in.

The kids said they were going fishing with Grandpa so we stayed at the house and watched golf when they weren’t around because the kids think its boring. Sydney came in to get herself an ice pack and said its because she tried lifting the 80 pound bags of cement for the tank they built.  I heard they got around 13 fish and 3 made it back for the kitties.

We went out and looked at the tank also. Then the kids showed us how they stick there heads in the natural spring which they said Glenda! You try it too! And I said no it’s enough for me to feel with my hand. (My Dad and brother had torn out an old rusty metal stock tank. It is a spring-fed tank and had water all through the last drought. They replaced it with a tank made from an old, huge scraper tire. This tank is in the Buck pasture, for those of you who know where THAT is.)

My brother said to the kids they needed to go to bed if they wanted to show us the zip line in the morning so they went off to brush their teeth. Then Ken asked my brother how do they stop on the zip line? He responded they hit a tree. That was enough for one night.

Right as everyone was going to bed, Sydney came out and said my contact cleaned amuses and entertains her because the bubbles float up from the bottom then lights went out and we crashed.

-Sydney!!! 🙂

They showed us how they use the zip line in the morning. Their dad mostly stopped them before they hit the tree. It was much quieter after they left but far less entertaining.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 5 (Sunday)

Ken was golfing at Paa-Ko Ridge at 10:00 and wanted to get up there in time to warm up a bit, so we were up and headed for breakfast at about 7:45. We kept in mind the difficulties we had getting to the golf course in Santa Fe. This one looked easier, but you never know.

The Parq Central has a continental breakfast which was pretty good. You better like quiche if you want some protein. (They have hard boiled eggs too, but I don’t like hard boiled eggs for breakfast.) I talked Ken into the Canadian Bacon quiche, which also turned out to have a few green chiles, which they didn’t mention, so he didn’t think that was a good surprise. I didn’t find any in my piece, but then again I may just not notice them because they are so mild on my chili scale. And we had fruit and rolls, there were cereal and a toaster available, and juice and coffee.

Then we headed up to the golf course, with me driving. I staked out a flea market and a thrift store on the way that I might have to investigate when I came to pick him up. I let him out and listened to the crackling pinon trees. He had noticed the crackling/popping trees at the golf course in Santa Fe, too. He reported back to me that apparently the crackling noise comes from insects – I haven’t been able to find anything on the web about it. But the trees were very noisy.

I headed back to Albuquerque and decided to go to their Natural History Museum. I always like a good dinosaur display, and there have been plenty of dinosaurs found in NM. It is really quite a nice museum, lots of dinosaurs, including the huge Seismosaurus that was found in NM. But as I was walking around I was really noticing my breathing was kind of labored, I think I overdid on the smoke in the air yesterday. So after about an hour at the museum, I headed back to the hotel and my asthma inhalers, and caught up on some embroidery and knitting and listening to the radio.

I got the stitches picked up on the “Can this sock be saved?” sock but discovered I only had the directions along for a top-down sock, not a toe-up sock, so that project didn’t go very far. I started on my Camp Loopy shawl, and then decided I better do a swatch, which was a good thing, because that made me realize I had gone down 4 needle sizes instead of 2 needle sizes, and that was a little extreme. (I knit very loosely, so I usually drop down two needle sizes to get the correct gauge of fabric.)

I headed up the Paa-Ko golf course when it was time to get Ken, not really having had anything for lunch. I had finished the baked snow peas from Trader Joe’s (like crispy green Chee-tos) and started on the baked green beans (even BETTER than the snow peas, which had been pretty amazing). I thought maybe the flea market I saw getting set up would have a food stand or two. Well, the flea market was tearing down (wind, again) by the time I got there, and didn’t look like it had ever been very big to begin with. So then I went to the Thrift Store – it wasn’t bad, but I didn’t find anything I absolutely had to have. There was an Oranga-coo clock, like a cuckoo clock but with an orangutang instead, but I was pretty sure none of my relatives would appreciate me getting that for any of my nieces/nephews.

When I got to the golf course, Ken hadn’t eaten yet either, and he had a meal pass for the clubhouse that had been included with his golf pass, so we ate at their little cafe. He had a grilled ham and swiss and I had taco soup, neither of which I took pictures of. He said the golf course was really nice but the greens were really, really fast. Despite the fact that it was supposed to be less windy, it was still windy enough to affect their golf games. He played with a couple of guys from Dallas, which was kind of funny, because he played with a couple from Dallas in Santa Fe, also.

We headed back to the hotel and just had some relaxation time. It was good to have a kind of quiet day. SOMEONE may have had a nap. We went to dinner pretty late. I wanted just a little more New Mexican cuisine, and someone had suggested Sadie’s as a good spot for margaritas, and from my reading on Yelp, people either love it or hate it, and it seems to be an Albuquerque institution. They told us we would have a 30 minute wait and then it was only about 5 minutes. It is a pretty huge place.

They had the spiciest salsa I have ever tasted at a restaurant. Ken proceeded with extreme caution, just dipping his chip in the juice, and mostly eating them plain. I had the tamale, smothered in both green and red chile.

They smother it so much that you can hardly see the plate. The tamale was fine, a little tough for my taste.

Ken had the brisket, with some green chile on the side which was for ME of course. I really liked the green chile. It was kind of different, as it seemed to have some sort of ground meat in it. It was very tasty. They bring you sopapillas right away with your entrees, so you can balance dessert along with your meal.

And then we went back to the hotel, and I took another bath in the deep bath tub, and we were off to bed. A much less smoky day, thank goodness.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 3 (Friday)

We got up pretty early since Ken wanted to get out golfing. Ate at the “hot breakfast” at the Hampton,  which consisted of eggs with cheese on top (they needed the help), bacon, and potatoes. We didn’t take the time to fire up the waffle machine. Ken called the golf course just to make sure he could get out this morning. The other one had told him not to bother with a tee time, just to show up. But this one said they could put him with a twosome at 8:56, so we dilly dallied around the room for a while. (He was playing at Marty Sanchez Links De Santa Fe)

Unfortunately, that was a mistake, because there was road construction on the route, and our GPS tried to lead us astray.

I got this GPS free with the purchase of four new tires, and it shows. We didn’t have a name for her for the first day, because I said I needed to experience her personality before I named her. Well, she is now named General Custer. She is pretty bossy and and doesn’t always know what she is doing, and she may just get us all killed.

The first route she told us to take to the golf course led into a gravel pit. Eventually, we got back on the highway, had to go past the golf course and come back the opposite direction because of road construction. Now, I can understand her not knowing about the road construction, but the gravel pit adventure was a little excessive. So you just have to remember to take everything she says with a big grain of salt. She did get me to the places I wanted to go pretty successfully the rest of the day, although I was on my own once I got within a mile of the golf course again.

She also thinks our hotel is about 1/4 mile from where it really is.

After dropping Ken off, I headed out for the Santa Fe Baking Company. My friend K. from college STRONGLY RECOMMENDED visiting there and I am glad to go anywhere that has baking in the title. It is really a fun little place, lots of character. I would gladly go back. The breakfast burrito with turkey sausage and green chile was good and so was the poppyseed muffin, but they had a whole case of amazing looking baked goods I would like to try.

And it was a great location, because just down the parking lot was a Trader Joe’s, and about 1/4 mile away was Looking Glass Yarn.

I had been perusing the blog What’s Good At Trader Joe’s and making a list. Unfortunately, I could only make a list of non-perishable things, because we were still going to be gone three days after I went there. We are getting a Trader Joe’s in Colorado soon, and I can’t wait!  So I loaded up my cart with:

Jalapeno cheese crunchers, pasta, snap pea crisps (have already tried these, excellent), chocolate macarons (also excellent), taco seasoning, crispy wasabi seaweed snacks (not as good as the peas or beans, which are below).

Chocolate chip cookies for Ken, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, biscoff-type cookies, more hot sauce, more BBQ sauce, Earl Grey tea, crispy green beans (OH SWEET MOSES ON A CRACKER, THESE ARE GOOD) and jerky for Ken. I did not get any two-buck Chuck wine, I still have some left from Christmas and I only have so much space in my wine cupboard.

I walked back to the car, noticing that it was still very smoky, and you could smell it as well as see it, from the fires in western NM. I deposited the Trader Joe’s stuff, and headed to Looking Glass Yarns. My friend K. from Knit Knight said they were the place to go, especially since they carry her Yarn Lover’s Lotion.

Well, I went a little nuts in there. I needed some needles for my Yarn Camp project, and I got those, but she also had a really cool sample sweater from the book “”, so I had to buy the book (I did not buy yarn and needles so I could cast on a sweater, so I did show some restraint.) I bought something that I will put in with my exchange gift at our Knit Knight Christmas party. I had been looking at all the cool novelty yarn scarves that are out right now, and I decided to go ahead and buy some of that yarn. All in all, a very good time was had. The lady operating the store was very nice and friendly, fun to visit with, and very helpful with picking out yarn.

By this time, it was 11:00 and I thought I better head for the Georgia O’Keeffe museum before I ran out of time to see it properly. General Custer GPS and I made it there OK, but General Custer can’t suggest parking spots. There was a Porshe festival going on in the Plaza, and so there were streets blocked off and I had to drive around quite a bit before I ran into the municipal parking lot, which was about five blocks away from the O’Keeffe museum, not a bad walk at all.

The museum isn’t huge, and it rotates the art on display from its collection, so you are only seeing part of the collection. I don’t think I had ever seen any of her art in person before. She was versatile. There were rough pencil sketches as well as pastels and oils on display, as well as some of the items she had used in life. They had a display of camping equipment she used to go out and camp, close to the paintings she had created from that experience.  The two short films about her life made me want to get one of her biographies from the library, as well as more information on her painting.

Of course I went to the gift shop, going home with a 2013 calendar with her paintings, a book on 30-minute art with acrylic painting (haven’t ventured into that yet but I plan to, and art books are also helpful in my quilting class), and a print of one of her poppy paintings.

I still had some time before I thought Ken would call from the golf course so I stopped at The Chile Shop. We had looked in the night before but it was closed already. I was curious about getting a ristra (the long string of dried red chiles) to cook with, and I know that some of them sold in some of the shops are just for decoration, and are coated with shellac or insect repellant to make them last longer.  So I really wanted to stop in a store that was more oriented toward cooking with them. Well, this was the place. However, when I reviewed the size considerations, I decided a ristra might not be for me or my kitchen – the proprietor said they are usually 24 inches long but the farmer has been making them longer and they are about 30 inches long (must have been a good year for chiles) and he would pack it in a big box for me, but then I thought, “Where would I put this in my kitchen?” He did not have any small packages of those particular New Mexico chiles. But I bought a couple of packages of other kinds of dried chiles, and some chile powder (mild, so I can use it in the chili both Ken and I eat), and some locally made salsa and hot sauce.

I had just gone back to the car to drop off my parcels, and Ken called to say he was done golfing, so General Custer and I made our way back to the golf course. At least she doesn’t get too annoyed when you don’t follow her directions.

We went back to the hotel and cleaned up before going to lunch. My knitting friend K had also recommended we go to the Plaza Cafe to eat, but it was closed for renovations after a fire. However, there is also a Plaza Cafe Southside, which was just blocks from our hotel. Off we went for lunch. Ken had the club sandwich, and with my usual lack of decision and indifference to eating in one ethnicity or style at a time, I had 3 appetizer-style things: tomato-orzo soup, Greek fries (french fries with olive oil, mizratha cheese, capers, other greek seasonings), and salmon ceviche two ways – with citrus and with coconut milk. They were all excellent but I should have chosen two rather than three.


Tomato orzo soup.

Greek Fries.

By this time it was 3:00, and we wanted to get downtown and tour the Loretto chapel before it closed.

The chapel used to be connected to a Catholic girls’ school, but the school had closed and the Diocese did not want to buy the property, so it was purchased by a private owner and opened as a historical museum. This is a cool tree outside where people hang rosaries.

Beautiful stained glass and altar. It is no longer a consecrated Catholic church, but weddings and “other appropriate events” are held here for a fee.

The interesting thing about the chapel is the spiral staircase that goes to the choir loft. It is made entirely of wood, with no nails or screws, and no supports. It makes two complete 360-degree turns, and didn’t have a banister until one was built later because going up the staircase was freaking out the nuns and students.

The carpenter who built it appeared and made the staircase and left again without payment or leaving his name. It is a beautiful chapel, and the staircase is amazing. You do not get to walk on the staircase unless you have paid to have your wedding there, however. I forgot the good camera, so these pictures were with my phone.

Then we took off to do some souvenir shopping. We ended up buying the most in the first store we had been to, it always seems to work out that way. We stopped at one western-themed store (YIPPEE YI YO) and got Ken got a T-shirt, and I got a small package of dried New Mexico chiles (victory! He didn’t have this type at The Chile Shop), and a skull necklace to hang from my car mirror (I have an interesting collection of items on there.) They also had a lovely child’s play set called “Thirsty Cowboy” which featured a pistol in a holster and a flask, totally non-PC, which we did NOT purchase.

We then asked him if there were any stores in the area that would have glow-in-the dark Virgin Marys. (Various objects with saints on them are quite common in Santa Fe gift stores, but not luminescent ones) He sent us to Doodlets. This store kept us busy for quite a while. It was full of fun stuff for Day of the Dead, party stuff, rubber chickens, inflatable fruitcakes and turkeys, etc. I got a small coin purse that looks like a peanut butter sandwich – the two pieces of bread click together with a magnet, and the zip open at the top. They had small glow in the dark saints, so I got 4 versions of Mary, plus two miniature rubber chickens and two plastic babies. I have no idea what I am going to do with those but it will be something creative.

Back at the 1st store (Dressman’s Gifts, on the Plaza), we got some fun key chains for Ken’s co-workers, a t-shirt for me, and folk art sheep to join the folk art cats from Haiti on the shelf,  and a Dios las Muertos (Day of the Dead) magnet. The magnet is ON the shirt in the picture below.

Then we headed back to the hotel to debate where to go for dinner. We needed a break from Mexican food, so I was thinking noodles. There was a really good noodle house not far away, but there was nothing on the menu Ken would have eaten. He suggested Italian noodles, so I found a place close to the hotel via Yelp that people either seemed to love or hate. It was called Piccolino’s, and it was a total local joint – people were coming over to each other tables and visiting with each other, and there seemed to be a large number of locals.

Appetizer of bread and marinara.

I had a bowl of the pasta fagioli soup, and the stuffed eggplant parmesan and Ken had the Chicken Florentine, which shocked me, because it had spinach on it.

My soup was good but the eggplant parmesan mostly tasted of the breading.

It had a lot of cheese (rolled up in the slices) and was then covered with red sauce and baked. The red sauce was very good, it was just that the eggplant taste didn’t come through at all. Ken was happy with his.

This is the kind of place I would gladly keep coming back to until I found something I liked, just because of the atmosphere.

And then we went back to the hotel and I worked on my blog and Ken watched the news and we crashed!

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report – Day 2

I was awake early, 6:20 or so, and let Ken sleep until 7:00, and then we got packed and rounded up and headed back to the Great Sand Dunes. The Great Sand Dunes are kind of a freak of nature, the weather and geological conditions were just right in this little corner of the valley for sand to be washed down by mountain streams and collect, and be shaped into dunes by the wind. They are the highest sand dunes on the North American continent. They are 700 feet tall, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, despite USA Today calling them 7,000 feet tall in a story about “Best Beaches In Every State.” (Story does not appear to be online.)

It was a bit of a drive from Monte Vista, but like I said, you have to stay at the Movie Manor at least once in your life. It was much less windy compared to the day before, but there was still a little breeze.

We were also a little more prepared today, and had debated on which shoes were best for the dunes, especially since you start out hiking across the very wide Medano Creek.

We thought about wearing jeans, but decided that since we would be hiking, we would warm up and want our shorts. Ken wore his hiking tennis shoes, and I wore my generic Crocs. I am not sure it matters what kind of shoe you wear, you are going to get them full of sand. Neither one of us wore socks.

And off we went, up the dunes. The highest one is 700 feet, high, which doesn’t sound like much, but look at those people up there who look like ants. Plus you are at altitude already, about 8,000 feet, plus you are walking in SAND, and the surface is up and down and up and down and up and down. Little kids, dogs, and people who are really in shape seemed to do really well on them.

I was lucky in that Ken had brought a golf ball and pitching wedge along to get some pictures of him getting out of “Colorado’s Biggest Sand Trap.”

So that would cause him to pause and pose for a picture, which I exacerbated even more by having difficulties with the display on my camera and fiddling with that endlessly. I finally got that figured out on top of one of the dunes.

When we felt that we had climbed to a reasonable height, and had taken enough pictures, we hiked along one of the long ridges to head back a slightly different way than we had come up. And I discovered another phobia spot – back when were were in San Francisco on the cliffs above the ocean, I wasn’t really wild about getting too close to the edge of the cliff.

Well, I wasn’t really wild about walking along this really narrow ridge at the top of this tall, steep dune, either. Being in tall buildings doesn’t bother me, it must just be certain heights in nature. So I didn’t want to dilly dally around there. See that dune the people are walking on, high in the picture? Really narrow and steep at the top.

Looking back toward Medano Creek and the visitor’s center and parking area.

We had both slapped on sunscreen but I still managed to get more color than I wanted on my nose and cheeks.

We headed out from the Sand Dunes, stopping to take a few more pictures in the distance, and debated what to do for lunch. It was about 3 hours to Santa Fe, and it was about 11 when we left. Neither of us was hungry yet, so we by-passed Alamosa and headed south toward New Mexico. It doesn’t take long once you are past Alamosa to be in New Mexico. I had taken over driving because Ken needed a nap, but of course he was foolish enough to point out a roadside sign for “Oldest Church in Colorado” and I had to slam on the brakes (well, not quite, but decelerate quickly) and drive the 1/4 mile to take pictures.

And then we were in a lunch desert. Ken napped, and I drove and searched for radio stations as we moved through northern New Mexico. The scenery turned from dry, desert flatlands to hilly National Forest with trees and interesting rocks. We were just about starving when we came upon the town of Ojo Caliente, (which means hot eye in Spanish, I am sure there is an interesting story there) (Ken says someone was cutting up chile peppers and then touched their eye).

There were not one, but two cafes, and I, of course, chose the one that looked like it had the most character. Of course, it also had A CHARACTER in it. Apparently the gentleman who owns the store next door feels free to sit in the cafe (maybe only while he is having lunch) and chat up the patrons. Ken whispers to me: “We are not going in his store, he will talk our ear off.” I can’t remember what the name of the cafe was, and we paid with cash, so no receipt.

I had the Tewa taco, which is what we would call an Indian Taco in SD. It was fry bread or sopapilla with taco meat, pinto peans, lettuce, cheese, tomato and green chile on it.

Ken had the hardshell tacos, he said they were good.

Ken also pointed out to me they had an old-fashioned Sno Cone machine, so you know I was going to have one of those (Sno Cones are few and far between, especially ones made with the old school machine.) And with that, we were back on the road again, trying to find a radio station that would stay with us for a few miles.

We drove by Espanole, which is where Ken was planning on golfing on Friday. That was something we started to recondsider when we got to our hotel and discovered it was a good hour from the hotel to that golf course, because I wanted to do things while he was golfing, and I didn’t want to drive to Espanola, drive an hour back to Santa Fe, then drive an hour back to Espanole, etc. And he didn’t really want to go to the yarn store and the Georgia O’Keefe museum with me, but he did want to see the Loretto Chapel and the Basilica and have some time for shopping in the Plaza area. So we compromised and decided he would try to find a decent golf course closer to Santa Fe.

We are staying at the Hampton Inn in Santa Fe, I had some points that I could use for one of the nights.

It is fine, the bed is firmer than the one in Monte Vista. It is just quite a distance from downtown, but nothing too bad. We got checked into the hotel and went down to the Plaza area of old downtown to wander around. We checked in at The Shed, the restaurant I had investigated, and they had a 45-minute wait, so we put our names on the list and went to look around for 1/2 hour.

We checked out a few gift shops, made mental notes for what we would get tomorrow if we didn’t find anything we liked better, and walked by the Santa Fe Basilica. A huge line of people was waiting to get in, apparently there was a symphony concert that evening.

We returned to the restaurant and got our buzzer, which went off in about 10 minutes.

The Shed is in an old downtown adobe building, and it is like a maze with extremely low doorways. The hostess said the doorways were short partly because people were shorter then, but also because it helped with insulation (??) (I would think it would make the walls more stable too), and it prevented people on horseback from riding into the building, when they were attacking during the early, unsettled days.

We had New Mexican for lunch, so I was looking for something slightly different, and I had seen the soups on the menu, and that was what I had in mind. Ken decided the adobo-marinated chicken would be too spicy for him, so he had the chicken ceasar salad, which he said was quite lemony but good.

We also had an order of the chips and salsa, the chips were much fresher than the ones the previous evening, and the salsa was excellent.

I asked for a small cup of their red chile sauce, just to try. I think I like red chile better as an ingredient than as a straight sauce. I had the St. – something margarita, which had elderberry liqueur in it and should have come with a warning label – wow! Strong! And then I had three different soups – the mushroom, which had blended mushrooms in the broth, the posole, and the corn chowder which had roast chicken, green chile, corn, carrots topped with blue corn tortilla strips.

They were all good, but the mushroom was the best. I am going to have to try making something like that. And then since I only had soup for dinner, I had dessert (Ken didn’t see anything he was interested in). I had the lemon souffle, which also was excellent, very light and refreshing.

And then we came back to the hotel, and I worked on my blog from the day before, and we crashed. We watched the local news, and found out that it is a good thing Ken is golfing on Sunday in Albuquerque, because they are going to have 50 mph wind on Saturday, so that should be fun. The news also said there would be more smoke the next day from fires burning to the west.

Sand Dunes/Santa Fe/Albuquerque Trip Report Day 1

Highlights of the Day: Eating at Broadway Hot Dog in Bailey, seeing the South Park  valley for the 1st time, seeing the Great Sand Dunes for the 1st time

Warning: Long entry and picture-heavy.

Despite having arrived home from a work trip at 12:20 the night before, I was awake at 4:30 a.m., managed to go back to sleep until 6:00, and finally gave up and got up at 6:30. I caught up on Facebook, going through the feed from the day before because there were several articles/links I wanted to bookmark, and I had them all open on my phone, but then I had to turn my phone off because it wasn’t receiving emails in the middle of Eastern Colorado, and it lost them all. So I think I found most of them again.

I tried to pack quietly and let Ken sleep. MaryAnne was not helpful, she had come to bed at about 5:30 to snuggle in crook of my arm and then gave me a chirp meow in rebuke every time I moved. She was very chatty all morning, I think she knew something was up. They know when they see the big black boxes on the bed, they are going to get cat-sat for a few days.

After Ken got up and ready, we had a debate on which way we were going to go to the Great Sand Dunes. He had been intending on going down I-25, which would probably have been faster, not because of the road necessarily, but because there were less distractions to cause me to want to stop. But I thought we should go down 285 through the mountains so I could see some scenery I had never seen before. I always believe in traveling the road I haven’t traveled before.

So off we went, after a stop at the library to get fresh library books for me and Walgreens to get Sudafed since my allergies have been going nuts. I had originally hoped to get out of town by 8:00, but that was before I knew I would be getting home at midnight the night before.  So my new plan was 10:00, and we were pretty close to that.

Off we went into the mountains, with Ken providing narration about all the reasons he had been to these small towns in the mountains for news stories when he still worked for the news station, pointing out the gas stations they had eaten at and the restaurants they would have eaten at if they would have had more time.

I knew that Colorado had a hot-dog shaped restaurant at one time. It was once on Colfax Avenue in Denver, and then it got moved to Aspen Park, and I had heard on a news story that they had lost their location there and were moving again, but I thought the last thing I heard was that it was no longer open. Well, imagine my surprise when we drove by it! I made Ken turn around. If I have a chance to eat in a giant hot dog-shaped restaurant, I am going to take it.

We both had brats but I had onions and peppers and mustard on mine. They were good but I wish they would have cooked them a little longer, we like a little snap to the skin. We got there just in time at 11:30 because then people started streaming in.

They also had a hummingbird feeder outside, and two hummingbirds cheeping angrily at each other as they fought for position. They apparently don’t know how to share. I did not get a picture of the flashy blue one, which was probably the male. They get really upset and territorial – Hummingbirds: The Original Angry Birds.

There was still snow on some of the mountain peaks. It was a pretty cool and cloudy day, although it got sunnier as we got away from Denver. The drive into the South Park Valley was pretty incredible, just like the NY times writer says in this article, it is mind blowing to come out of the mountains over Kenosha pass, and see this huge valley as far as the eye can see,  surrounded by mountains.

Saw a coyote run across the road while were were in the valley, also goats and alpacas (not wild) and many hawks.

As we got further south in the valley, there were lots of farms under circle irrigation, and the wind kept blowing harder and harder. Saw at least four giant dust devils form and some of them stayed intact for quite a while. Saw Colorado Gators attraction but decided to save that for another trip.

We got to the Great Sand Dunes around 3:30 in the afternoon, and  the wind was blowing like crazy. I think the lady said they had a 42 mile an hour gust. That is something when you are surrounded by sand. We looked around the visitor center, and then did venture out onto the flats before the dunes, but we were just getting sand blasted, and discussed that it might be a good option to come back in the morning when it was still. There were some people up hiking on the dunes, but I am pretty sure they weren’t having a fabulous time.

And no one is up on the very tops.

Ken had sand in his ears, hair and shoes. I had it mostly in my shoes, but still some in my hair and ears. We were really hoping that it would be nicer in the morning. The weather was really strange, cloudy but not rain clouds, and hazy, which we found out was probably caused by fires in NM and/or AZ. We didn’t even get to see the sunset, it was too cloudy.
We got to the Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista at around 5:30 or so and checked in. This hotel was a little bit out of our way but when you have a chance to stay at the Movie Manor, you better take it. We were in the Jodie Foster room. This is an older hotel but has been updated throughout the years.

Except for the fan/light switches in the bathroom which they have kept intact, which I find quite charming.

The rooms and the whole place are decorated in a movie theme (pictures, wallpaper border), because the rooms look out on the drive-in movie theatre next door. We emptied most of the sand out of our shoes and went to the Mountain View Restaurant for dinner – we asked the front desk clerk for a steak recommendation and that was her recommendation – OR the restaurant next door owned by the same family that owns the hotel. We thought we would spread our tourism dollars around and went to the one across town.

Kenny ordered the 8 oz sirloin and I got the sirloin steak sandwich, because I knew I would get the smallest piece of meat with that and I didn’t want a huge steak. We also ordered the chips and salsa. The chips were not real fresh but the salsa was good.

We both liked our steaks. I went with the add-on onions and mushrooms, of course. They came with a dollop of seasoned butter on top and Ken frowned and scooped his off.

We both had dinner salads, not bad, mostly iceberg. Ken also got vegetables with his, of course he didn’t eat the zucchini and I got that. Was thinking about pie for dessert but when the waitress said it wasn’t homemade I decided to pass.

Of course, being the Nosy Parker that I am, I overheard our waitress describing Shock Top beer to the table next to us, and she didn’t mention that it was a wheat beer, so I had to throw my two cents worth in on that. We then visited with the two guys at the table on our way out, one of the was wearing a CSU hat so I asked if he had gone to school there. Nice guys. They did ask if we had gone to Gatorland and said it was worthwhile, so I will have to check that out for next time.

Got back to the hotel in plenty of time to watch “The Lorax” on the drive-in screen, but neither one of us had any desire to actually watch it, so we did for long enough to say we did it, and closed the curtains and turned on the TV.

Their beds are very, very soft.  Some people might like that, but I was glad we only had sleep on that bed for one night.

Did not get any embroidery or knitting done as we drove today. Way too much to look at, almost all areas I have never been to before. Great day.

One of the Best Part of Travel is the Planning – New Mexico Pre-Trip Report, Part I

We are planning a short vacation soon to the Great Sand Dunes, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We thought of this because of the SDSU Jackrabbits playing in the NCAA tournament in Albuquerque – “Hey, that is only about 6 hours away, we could drive down there if they make it to the 2nd round!” Well, they didn’t make it to the second round, but I kept the fact that Albuquerque is only 6 hours away in the back of my mind. I knew I really wanted to go somewhere for a vacation before summer starts and my job gets really hectic.  Airline tickets are kind of pricey right now, so I thought, hmmmm, where can we drive to?

So Albuquerque and Santa Fe, here we come! And I am enjoying planning the trip, investigating hotels, checking out places to eat, perusing websites, and asking my friends who have been there or even lived there for recommendations. This part is almost as fun as the trip will be.

We are planning on driving down to the Great Sand Dunes on a Wednesday morning, and taking that in. Ken hasn’t been there before so that will be a bit different, sometimes, because of his former media job, he has been to many places that I haven’t. We are planning on staying at the Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista, where you can watch the drive-in movie from the comfort of your room. I haven’t investigate all the dining options in the area yet, I will get to that later.

I am thinking I am going to use some hotel points in Santa Fe. The hotels there are more expensive than the ones in Albuquerque, so it won’t be a hotel with “character” but I am sure it will be fine. Ken will go golfing somewhere, and I will go shopping. I am certainly going to the Georgia O’Keefe museum, and art galleries. Hopefully I can find something affordable to bring home (hmmm, is there an Art-O-Mat there?) I have been instructed we need to eat at the Plaza Cafe, and go to the Santa Fe Baking Company for a breakfast burrito and a lemon poppyseed muffin. OK, sounds like a plan! (As a matter of fact, that friend said, “If you don’t go there I don’t know if we can still be friends,” so I take that as a very strong recommendation.)

Also: Shopping at Pueblo of Tesque Flea Market, and a knitting friend is working on a list of yarn stores for me, as well as other suggestions.

More on additional activities in Santa Fe and Albuquerque yet to come…..

Any other suggestions?

Eating at Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

I do believe this is ON the Spash Mountain ride, however, I do not look soaked at all, so perhaps it is before we went on the ride.

Wrapping up the trip with a 3 day cruise on the Disney Wonder. We wanted to see if we liked cruising. Oh yes, we do.

Friday in Chicagoland

Go vote in yesterday’s poll! Don’t you want to be part of me cooking up some frightening concoction????

Well, here I am in a city I love, hanging out at an airport hotel. You can’t win them all. Meetings are going well at least.

Made it to the airport this morning with no major issues, on time and everything. Knew I needed to eat something before we got on the plane, so tried “Denver” breakfast tacos from Schlotzsky’s. They were interesting. For $4.95 you got two soft shells stuffed with essentially a Denver omelet EACH. They were heavy. I ate one and thought that was more than enough. Plus they had really sad tater tot type potatoes with them. I don’t think Schlotzsky’s has a fryer. These were pretty sad. But a relatively good deal, pound for pound, if you want a bunch of food.

Flight was quiet, in a pretty small jet, only 4 seats across, was almost full as usual. I alternated between knitting (my mom’s socks are finished except to Kitchener stitch the toes – which requires a quiet well-lit room and possibly some chanting) and reading a new book. “How to Moon A Cat” which is part of a series my friend Cathy started me on. They are fine airplane reading.

Arrived in Chicago and our hotel is close to Harry Carey’s so we went there for lunch rather than eat at our own hotel. I had read that the spinach pappardelle was good (online research prior to trip) so I tried that.

It was pretty good, although I could have done with more noodles and less sausage. The noodles are green, those are not green peppers. I like the large wide pappardelle noodles.

I went to take a picture of my board member’s meal, and my camera, which had said “battery full” last night, said “battery empty” and shut off, so that was the end of that. I though I had my battery charger along, but I have my WORK camera battery charger along….so no more pics from this trip, I guess.

I was the only female at a table full of farmers tonight. You always get served first when that is the case. Not that I sat at that table on purpose, but women are usually in the minority at farm meetings, you usually don’t have to wait in line for the restroom. We discussed many entertaining subjects: combine fires and then wild fires (if you think a kitchen fire is expensive, try a combine fire), 9-foot catfish (you need to use a foot long perch for bait), skeet shooting for real men (search YouTube if you are interested), how to convert a farm truck to an electric engine, the price of fuel, World War II transportation logistics, and probably several that can’t remember. Very entertaining. This hotel is open-centered, around an atrium, and I can still hear laughing from the 1st floor, and I am on the 6th, so they are probably still telling stories down there.

The meal was fine, minestrone, a salad, and then a small steak, two shrimp, carrots, asparagus (which was particularly good I thought) and a mound of mashed potatoes. What was striking was the plate of butter. There were two types of butter, plain whitish, and then a darker colored one that we finally asked and found out was herb/garlic. They were in huge mounds piped onto a plate – I kid you not, EACH of those butter mounds was bigger than the serving of mashed potatoes we got. They are going to go broke on the butter in this place. Of course, from the consistency, I am not convinced it was REAL butter, so maybe that explains it.

Anyway, a good travel day, uneventful. That makes me concerned about the trip home, hopefully it will be uneventful as well.

Last Day in Nashville

It was our last day in Nashville and we had meetings scheduled for most of the day, but we did take time to drive to Cracker Barrel for breakfast rather than eat at the expensive hotel breakfast again, no pictures of that but it was delicious. Then, as long as we were so close, we HAD to visit Cooter’s Place, the Dukes of Hazzard Museum. This museum has memorabilia from the show, and most of the cars from the show, but mostly it has ALL of the merchandise the show generated. From Dukes of Hazzard Underoos to sleeping bags, video games, puzzles, and beach towels, they had it. It was fun to look at. We did not pay for the privilege of having our pictures taken sitting IN all the cars, but taking your picture in front of the cars was free.

Most favorite picture of myself in a while. No, we did not slide across the hood of the General Lee.

We went to meetings all afternoon and then decided to eat at the Italian restaurant, Ravello, at the Gaylord that night (I, of course, had scoped out the menu on the internet well beforehand.)

This is the bread with an amazing marinara dipping sauce. I think the sauce used crushed tomatoes, had a very nice texture. Mmmmmmm.

We ordered the antipasti selection for our appetizer – 3 different kinds of Italian cured meats, and 2 cheeses. They don’t specify which kinds on the menu, and I wasn’t taking notes, but one of the cheeses was a soft cheese with cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, and it was amazing. The hard cheese was also good, and the three cured meats were delicious. The side plate contains pickled vegetables, raspberry compote, and preserved figs, all of which combined well with the meat and cheese. The little triangles are pita bread.

I love soup, so of course I had to have the soup. This was carrot bisque with a citrus ricotta garnish. Again, amazing.

Going around the table, our entrees. Above: Aqua Pazza, classic spicy southern Italian seafood stew with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and mussels over pasta, lemon, and grilled ciabatta.

Angel hair shrimp scampi – tossed with San Marzano tomatoes, roasted eggplant, basil, and ricotta salata.

Gnocci in a Marsala mushroom ragu, with beef tenderloin tips and dulce gorgonzola.

I, of course, want to sample as many things as possible, so I ordered the appetizer sampler as my entree.

Hearth fired meatballs, in a house made tomato sauce with Bonnie Blue Chevre, fresh basil, and sambuca.

Charred beef carpaccio, seared tenderloin with crispy capers, shaved Grana Padano, red onion, and arugula, drizzled with Coloratura aioli. This was amazing, is essential Very Very Rare or raw beef, but it is cut so thin, and then seasoned so perfectly, it was the best thing I had all week. I know some of you are shuddering over the raw beef, but you know I will try anything once. I will definitely try this again.

Caprese – mozzarella burrata, slow roasted jewel box tomatoes, and fried basil leaves are drizzled with pesto and a balsamic reduction. I prefer my caprese with all fresh tomatoes, not roasted, but this was still good.

Polenta and asiago fonduta – creamy polenta dip with jumbo lump crab meat and grilled ciabatta. This was the blandest item of the sampler, all of the others were very tasty but this one just didn’t stand out. It was fine, just not my favorite.

The convention concluded with a trip to the Grand Old Opry with a concert set up just for our attendees. The featured entertainers were: Mike Snider (awesome mountain music/bluegrass and very funny), Sarah Darling, John Conlee (Rose Colored Glasses), Joey + Rory, and Darryl Worley. And, it pays to go over to thank the sponsors of the concert because then you might get invited backstage to meet Darryl Worley.

So all in all, a pretty good trip. I guess I can’t say my job is not interesting. And look, the biggest miracle is that I wore that white shirt all day and DIDN’T GET ANYTHING ON IT!