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I am a sucker for a good gimmick. Seriously. I am the reason those “As Seen On TV” products exist. My husband and I recently attended the Iowa State Fair. Did you know that the area under the grandstand is a haven for binge shopping…especially if one has been relaxing in the Craft Beer & Wine tent for a good portion of the afternoon. So while Hootie & the Blowfish were entertaining thousands of people enjoying their favorite food on a stick, I was purchasing a miracle drug whose primary ingredient is tumeric (I know, right?) and a vegetable peeler that proved way too complex once I got it home. But rather than learn my lesson, I continue to seek out what is unique and interesting. (You’ve yet to read an Iowa Roadie adventure about a visit to Applebees.) Which is why on a recent trip to The Flea in…

(This is the second in a two-part series about an Iowa Roadie adventure in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.) I am not a fan of cliffhangers. Remember the whole “Who shot JR” mystery? We had to wait an entire tv hiatus to discover it was Kristin, JR’s scheming sister-in-law and mistress, who pulled the trigger. It took seven books–I repeat SEVEN books–for Harry Potter to defeat Voldemort. And Star Wars fans were in limbo for three years as they awaited Return of the Jedi following the whole “I am your father” Darth Vader revelation. So while a cliffhanger may be a clever means of enticing the audience into returning, I personally believe people prefer not to wait. If patience were truly a virtue, there would be no such thing as Netflix binging. Rather than taking nine seasons to learn the fate of the Dundler Mifflin Paper Company, Office fans can instead watch…

(Note: This is the first in a two-part series about an Iowa Roadie adventure in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.) I recently celebrated my birthday. I must admit that once you hit a certain age, one really does not “celebrate” a birthday as much as “commiserate” it. After all, I already have my driver’s license, voter registration card and a legal ID. The allure of pinatas and ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ have diminished in direct proportion to my memory. And I’m afraid if I tried to muster the energy to blow out my candles, I’d pass out for lack of oxygen. (My husband would disagree and tell you I have enough hot air to assist a centenarian.) The only bright spot is the cake and ice cream…which is also a no-no, according to my doctor who recently classifed me as “mildly obese” following my annual physical. So all things considered,…

These days my life reads like a country song. I am currently unemployed.My dog recently woke up a paraplegic.And I am living in a house with no walls. These are all Very Traumatic Events, and I’m sure if set to music with Johnny Cash or Blake Shelton crooning the lyrics, it would be at the top of the country billboard charts. Unfortunately an imaginary #1 is pretty much useless in real life. (One has to wonder if this fantasy could transition into reality if Thomas Rhett were involved…) Regardless, these are the sad facts of my life. And while I am confident that I will find a new job and (semi-confident) that one day I will no longer live in Remodeling Hell, I am not as optimistic that our dog will regain the ability to walk. In case you are wondering, we do not know why our dog suddenly became…

She truly enjoyed people. That was how the obituary read for our good friend Jody, who passed away unexpectedly last week at age 65. We met Jody about a year ago on an Iowa Roadie adventure in the little town of Dows. Although Jody typically tended bar at The River Bar, that night she was seated at the counter, drinking her trademark vodka and cranberry juice, and sharing her famous zucchini salsa and pickled asparagus with fellow bar patrons. Yet to Jody, these were not just customers. They were friends…which meant they were family. On that first night at The River Bar, Jody welcomed us–total strangers–into her world. Admittedly her world wasn’t flashy. She liked gardening and accompanied her friend Wayne to the National Hamm’s Beer Convention each year. Jody was spunky and sassy, with a spirit rivaled by few. Her bank account may not have been full, but her…

My husband and I still enjoy “date night.” Admittedly date night has evolved a bit after 25 years of wedded bliss. Now instead of dinner and a movie, a night out typically involves a trip to Menards. Seriously… what part of a large home improvement center does not scream “I love you?” Romance surely lives on in the aisles of paint supplies and power tools. In fact, I am convinced that without Menards, there would be no “date night.” We would instead be relegated to evenings at home eating frozen pizza and watching “Impractical Jokers” with the dogs. (I realize that some of you may PREFER an evening watching four lifelong friends embarrass one another at the expense of innocent onlookers. Or you believe that cardboard carbs deserve the distinction of its own food group. I, however, enjoy the experience of shopping somewhere I can purchase both drywall AND bacon…

I believe chestnuts are underrated. For example, if you were on Family Feud and asked to name a popular nut, what would you say? Peanut? Almonds? Maybe even a cashew? When the top answers are on the board, I doubt that Steve Harvey will award anyone money for answering “chestnut.” Somehow, the chestnut lacks the popularity of a nut wearing a monocle, and has yet to cross over to the candy bar market. Until now, the chestnut has been relegated to a solo line in an old Nat King Cole Christmas carol. However my husband believes that chestnuts are the new cash crop of Iowa. (I suggested hemp will be an even greater money maker.) Still we recently found ourselves at the Iowa Arborteum attending an eight-hour chestnut growers workshop. (The question is not so much WHY we were here. Remember CASH CROP? But rather HOW could such a workshop…

Remember the song “Grandma got run over by a reindeer?” It’s a holiday anthem dedicated to the violent demise of a beloved relative by the crushing of caribou hooves. Despite the song’s catchy beat (and homicidal message)…I have to confess that I’ve never been clear as to the moral of the story. It could be any one of the following: • Don’t let grandma drink eggnog and walk home unsupervised. • Beware of Santa. He is a vicious bloodthirsty criminal, and not to be trusted under any circumstances. • If someone passes away during the holidays, it is best to prethink the ethics of the gift policy as the dilemma to keep or return unwanted trinkets can be overwhelming. OR… • It’s time to get new relatives when one’s grievance period includes football and drinking beer with Cousin Mel rather than planning a lovely memorial service. It was GRANDMA, for…

I am a Child of the 80s. Unlike the 60’s Child, my youth was devoid of LSD and “special brownies.” (Unless you count Grandma’s…and I’m pretty sure all of her ingredients were legal.) I also missed out on the disco craze and mood rings of the 70s. Although I view this as a positive, believing polyester leisure suits violate any sense of propriety and dignity one might possess. Instead I was raised in the era of the Rubik’s Cube (I had to peel the stickers off in order to solve it!), Michael Jackson (pre-skin bleaching and nose job), and Atari, which I maintain is one of the greatest gaming systems ever created. Before Fortnight, there was Pong…and Pac Man and Donkey Kong…and my personal favorite Burger Time. I challenge you to name anything more rewarding than building a perfect digital hamburger without being crushed by a giant bun. However the…

I was raised on a rural Iowa farm. This meant that my childhood revolved around food. (It also revolved around walking beans, Atari, and the local Pizza Hut jukebox.) Growing up, we didn’t have this wimpy “breakfast, lunch, dinner” stuff we see nowadays. Instead we ate FIVE meals a day plus a nighttime snack. This equated to breakfast, lunch, dinner, lunch, supper, and a big bowl of ice cream before bed. For you city slickers (or Weight Watcher members), this concept may exceed your comprehension and alloted caloric points . But to break it down… Breakfast was a hot meal consisting of eggs and some sort of fatty meat. Then came a mid-morning lunch of cold meat sandwiches, homemade cookies and coffee. At noon, dinner was a hot meal with meat, potatoes, and bread & butter sandwiches. Repeat with another mid-afternoon lunch of cold meat sandwiches, homemade cookies and coffee.…

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