Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Laughing at the Public Restroom "experience"

I'm a bit brain numb today. I've spent the whole day trying to come up with a subject for today's post. (That's not ALL I did, but it was on my mind while I did all that other stuff.)

Then, tonight, I stopped by Christine's Posh Wash Soap blog. She hasn't posted in a while (since June) but I took time to read through several pages of her varied posts. She made me laugh - a lot.

I laughed hysterically at this one. It made me think of a plaque I've seen that says "I laughed so hard, it ran down my legs." I hope Christine doesn't mind me reprinting it here. (I think she got it from a chain e-mail.)****Let me preface this with the fact that we visited our local casino on Friday night. It was the most crowded we've ever seen it as there were numerous promotions going on that night. Late that evening, I went to the bathroom then proceeded to walk across the casino to the doors leading outside where there is a generous amount of seating available. After chatting with some folks out there for about 45 minutes, The Big Guy came to get me as he was finally finished for the evening. I called goodbye to my new friends and strolled out on his arm (back into the main casino, that is.) A good ways across the casino, a woman ran up behind me and whispered in my ear, "You have toilet paper hanging out of your waistband." Yep, I had a trailing tail of TP about 15 inches long dangling down over the seat of my black slacks. Do you think anybody else noticed? (That was sarcasm, you know.)

**********Here is the post that cracked me up tonight:

"A good friend of mine sent this to me... every woman will understand this one. This explains that unanswered question men have of why women go to the bathroom in pairs or groups.

When you have to visit a public bathroom, you usually find a line of women, so you smile politely and take your place. Once it's your turn, you check for feet under the stall doors. Every stall is occupied.Finally, a door opens and you dash in, nearly knocking down the woman leaving the stall. You get in to find the door won't latch. It doesn't matter, the wait has been so long you are about to wet your pants! The dispenser for the modern "seat covers" (invented by someone's Mom, no doubt) is handy, but empty. You would hang your purse on the door hook, if there was one, but there isn't - so you carefully, but quickly drape it around your neck, (Mom would turn over in her grave if you put it on the FLOOR!), yank down your pants, and assume " The Stance."

In this position your aging, toneless thigh muscles begin to shake. You'd love to sit down, but you certainly hadn't taken time to wipe the seat or lay toilet paper on it, so you hold "The Stance." To take your mind off your trembling thighs, you reach for what you discover to be the empty toilet paper dispenser. In your mind, you can hear your mother's voice saying, "Honey, if you had tried to clean the seat, you would have KNOWN there was no toilet paper!" Your thighs shake more. You remember the tiny tissue that you blew your nose on yesterday - the one that's still in your purse. (Oh yeah, the purse around your neck, that now, you have to hold up trying not to strangle yourself at the same time). That would have to do. You crumple it in the puffiest way possible. It's still smaller than your thumbnail.

Someone pushes your door open because the latch doesn't work. The door hits your purse, which is hanging around your neck in front of your chest, and you and your purse topple backward against the tank of the toilet. "Occupied!" you scream, as you reach for the door, dropping your precious, tiny, crumpled tissue in a puddle on the floor, lose your footing altogether, and slide down directly onto the TOILET SEAT. It is wet of course. You bolt up, knowing all too well that it's too late. Your bare bottom has made contact with every imaginable germ and life form on the uncovered seat because YOU never laid down toilet paper - not that there was any, even if you had taken time to try. You know that your mother would be utterly appalled if she knew, because, you're certain her bare bottom never touched a public toilet seat because, frankly, dear, "You just don't KNOW what kind of diseases you could get."

By this time, the automatic sensor on the back of the toilet is so confused that it flushes, propelling a stream of water like a fire hose against the inside of the bowl that sprays a fine mist of water that covers your butt and runs down your legs and into your shoes. The flush somehow sucks everything down with such force that you grab onto the empty toilet paper dispenser for fear of being dragged in too. At this point, you give up. You're soaked by the spewing water and the wet toilet seat. You're exhausted. You try to wipe with a gum wrapper you found in your pocket and then slink out inconspicuously to the sinks.

You can't figure out how to operate the faucets with the automatic sensors, so you wipe your hands with spit and a dry paper towel and walk past the line of women still waiting. You are no longer able to smile politely to them. A kind soul at the very end of the line points out a piece of toilet paper trailing from your shoe. (Where was that when you NEEDED it?) You yank the paper from your shoe, plunk it in the woman's hand and tell her warmly, "Here, you just might need this."As you exit, you spot your hubby, who has long since entered, used, and left the men's restroom. Annoyed, he asks, "What took you so long, and why is your purse hanging around your neck?" This is dedicated to women everywhere who deal with a public restrooms (rest? you've GOT to be kidding!).

It finally explains to the men what really does take us so long. It also answers their other commonly asked questions about why women go to the restroom in pairs. It's so the other gal can hold the door, hang onto your purse and hand you Kleenex under the door."

Thanks for the smiles, Christine!

*****I hope she comes back to the blog world soon. I want more of this - lots and lots more!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

"Signs, signs - everywhere a sign"

We had some business about 50 miles up the road today and, for a change, The Big Guy did the driving. That meant I got a chance to simply admire the scenery - the gray, damp, sloppy scenery. Yep, it finally rained here. It's been a while and we really need the rain.

I love to look for unusual signs and such when we're out driving and today I found a few of interest. --

The Cecil County Health Dept. has a program known as the Healthy Marriage Initiative to encourage solid family lifestyles. As part of the campaign, they post billboards along the highway with cutesy little sayings about marriage. They change these every few months and I've mentioned some here before.
Today, I noticed these:

"Like a good wine, marriage improves with age,
once you learn to put a cork in it."

"The best way to get the last word is to apologize."

"It's never too late to live happily ever after."

And, this one accompanied a cartoon-like picture of Mr. and Mrs. Penguin guarding their egg:
"If penguins can do it, why can't we?"

Then, while stopped at a traffic light tonight on the trip home, I noticed this one for a cleaners/tailoring shop:
"Diets don't work, alterations do."

I hope these made you smile like they did me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

O.K.,, I can't always pick 'em!!

Another busy weekend! (So, what else is new?)

Lately, we've been making a big night of it on Fridays. This is unusual for us. Normally, we're settled in the house by about 8 p.m. on Friday evenings. I think I like this new wild lifestyle!!

So, after that late night on Friday, Saturday dawned a gorgeous day. The temps had moderated back into the mid 80s (We came close to 100 degrees on Friday!) and the humidity was low (a rarity around here). The sun was shining and there was just the slightest breeze blowing. It was just too beautiful to stay home all day. Of course, we both had a bit of trouble waking up and getting moving in the morning!! (That'll teach us to "trip the light fantastic" on Friday night!)

After a bit of discussion, we decided to head to Spring Grove, PA for a day of music at the first annual Roosterpalooza. The event was a fund raiser for breast cancer awareness and was headlined by two bands we were familiar with - Tom Larsen, known for his hard rocking blues, and Kashmir, a Led Zepplin tribute band. We were not familiar with any of the other groups listed on the flier. Altogether there were 18 or 19 bands involved.

The band that was playing when we arrived was Headshot and did some great covers of some good solid rock. They sounded good and we were quite pleased.

The park was a fantastic venue with a nice pavilion with a solid concrete stage and wiring which made set-up easy for the bands. There were plenty of picnic tables, both in the pavilion and spread around the lawns which were well shaded by some humongous oak trees.

The bands changed every hour. We had missed the first two completely as we did get a slow start. The next band came on and was the epitome of an 80's hair band. They call themselves Grind (not THE Grind, but they did pattern themselves after them.) While not our choice in music, they performed it well with lots of loud screaming and a truly choreographed stage performance. They were extremely high energy and made quite a few leaps from the stage. They then proceeded to traipse around the table tops between our food and drinks.

The lead singer liked pouring a bottle of water over his head and then flopping his hair at folks as he trotted among the crowd. (This I could have done without. We had several things on our table we'd have preferred to keep dry.)

Well, my tolerance for this sort of performance runs to an hour or two (at most). The Big Guy can appreciate it for about four songs or so. We were glad to see their time run out.

Or so we thought.

Turns out the next four bands were all trying to be wild hair bands from the 80s. Most did their thing fairly well but screamed lyrics quickly became screeched lyrics. We moved a little further from the stage area. We eventually discovered the acoustic stage and did enjoy some of the music there for a while.

Turns out the bands we actually knew and wanted to see, were the last two to play. We had a long trip home and ended up leaving before Tom took the stage at all.

On the up side, it was a beautiful day with fantastic scenery. We met and chatted with quite a few really nice folks. The food vendors were excellent and very reasonably priced. While we found out coolers were allowed into the event, we never bothered walking back to the car to get ours. Beverages were cheap enough. There were REAL bathrooms, well stocked with paper goods and soap and with running water (always a plus in my book!)

There were a few crafters present but I don't think any sold very much. I know one sold absolutely nothing. She had a variety of items for sale, ranging from fabric dolls and animals with colorful yarn hair, potholders, aprons and fabric purses as well as quite a bit of crocheted merchandise.I felt bad for her as her work was great and reasonably priced but it just wasn't that kind of crowd. She did close early and packed it in.

I did see a jeweler sell a number of inexpensive earrings and pendants. I was not close enough to the others to see how their sales were going but I did not see folks carrying any of the merchandise around. The tattoo artist (real tats, not airbrushed) and body piercing stand did do fairly well.

Oh well, I can't pick a winning experience EVERY time out!! (No offense to you readers who do enjoy this style of music, please. It just wasn't our style. My age must be showing.)

I figured I'd have trouble selling The Big Guy on another "new event" today, so we simply went to breakfast and then came home to watch the football game. At least the Ravens won!

Hope y'all had a good one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Busy, busy, busy - and a word (or several) about Licensed Characters

It's been a busy last few days. I had some orders to complete and some designing and creating of new items on the agenda, too. Oh yeah, there were mundane things like grocery shopping, laundry and housecleaning to be done. (I think those good fairies that are supposed to come in and do those things while you sleep must've gotten lost.)

The Big Guy is off from work for the next two weeks and that so throws my routine off. I feel like I need to prepare for these weeks much like prepping for vacation because things just don't seem to get done while he's underfoot. He does cramp my production style!!

These are a few of this week's productions:

These Halloween baby booties are probably the only thing from this week's work that will make it into my Etsy shop. I hope to get them photographed and listed over the weekend.

It IS obvious I just took quick shots of these for this blog post. No time to edit and clean-up the pics tonight.

This little denim jumper was created especially for a special family baby coming into the world within the next few weeks. I'm busy putting together my "gift box." I feel bad because the new mama is far from friends and family and has just recently started a new job. There's nobody there to throw or attend a baby shower. A number of us back home are making an effort to get our packages there within a few days of each other to simulate the spoils of a good shower!

I really like the way this design turned out but I don't have a good, affordable and reliable source for the jumpers so I can't add it to my shop stock.

Finally, the new mama LOVES Winnie the Pooh, so I had to do something with Pooh bear. I like painting Pooh as he gets so much personality from a very simple facial design.

Pooh can't go into the shop because he is a LICENSED character. Unless you are a licensed vendor, you CANNOT make a profit from the character. You can paint a version of it for your own use but you cannot charge for any reproductions. Disney (the owner of Winnie-the-Pooh), Nickelodeon, BBC and the NFL are all entities (among others) that actively pursue their licensing rights. They DO go after the "little guy" who may just be doing local craft shows at churches, schools, etc.

I have addressed this issue a number of times in my blog. (See this post) If it something new to you and you are attempting to sell anything featuring such characters, perhaps you should research licensing and copyright laws before you find yourself facing a Cease and Desist Order that can be enforced immediately at a craft show that you may have paid quite a bit to participate in. Most show promoters, if made aware of such an order being served at their show will not only have you remove the offending products but will ask you to leave the show immediately. These companies usually also follow such an order with a law suit requesting payment for products already sold featuring their characters. Just for the record, ignorance of the law is NOT a defense acceptable by most Courts.

I have noticed quite a few items at "little" craft shows featuring Dora, Cars characters and, most recently, Marmaduke. Yes, people are sure to be interested in these items for the holidays but is it worth risking ALL of your sales?

On that note, I need to say "Good Night" and get some sleep!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another trip around the world of my blog followers...

I sat down last night with intentions of posting here and then I got way-laid. SORRY!!

Once again, I'm beginning a trek through my list of Followers.

Every so often, I do take time to go through and check out who is following my blog and where each of you are coming from and what you that have blogs or websites are up to. I must say, I am always pleasantly surprised at what I come across in these adventures.

This time, I am beginning my journey with the newest of my Followers. I hope to come across quite a few items of interest to share with the rest of you. At least once a week, I plan to take a day and tell you about the great folks I've discovered among my Followers. There are a lot of you and when I venture into your blog world, I sometimes get really into it and read through several months worth of postings so this'll take a while but I'll get to you eventually. Please just leave a little light on for me 'cuz I tend to bump into things and make lots of noise when I fumble around in the dark!.

First up is "Jen". Jen has two blogs. At Haute Whimsy she shares a little of this and a bit of that, describing it as "whimsy, fashion, capricious adventures, prose and love." Today, she shared a dress she hopes to wear in celebrating her upcoming birthday.

On the other blog, Beachy Keen, Jen joins her close friend, Crystal, to tag team it with "the rambling prose and banter of two silly, hardcore Californians who have been best friends since high school... [a] world of periodic glitz and glamour, misadventures and ponderings."

This blog is done in a little different style than what most of us are used to. They share the writing. Some postings are commentary on current events and are done in a sort of point-counter point style with each of them weighing in on the subject. I found this a really refreshing approach. They also alternate in doing some very enthusiastic features on various Etsy shops they've found and like. Other posts include humorous stories and annecdotes and even a book review that they've also both related back to their own lives. Be sure to stop in and check both blogs out.

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Swimming on, I met "Vicky!" All I can say is "Wow!! You go, girl!"

Vicky is new to blogging, a wife, mother and recent empty nester who just recently turned 50. Having reached such a milestone, Vicky promised herself she'd "create and maintain a blog through her 50th year." Also, she set goals of doing 50 things this year - "things which were either interesting or fun, creative or hard, challenging or odd, outside of [her] comfort zone or simply something [she] hadn't done before." She's already tried kayaking on the Delaware and has gotten her act together to run a 5K this weekend! You can check out her blog here. I'm hooked and have become a Follower.

Vicky has opened a brick and mortar retail paint store and an Etsy shop, Fresh Urban Vintage, where she sells "upcycled, recycled, vintage and handmade originals." The b&m store sells paint as in wall and house paint but she has cultivated her craft whims through it by setting up Craft Wednesdays where she has a group of crafters come into the shop in the evening to work on a craft together - maybe learning new techniques or a whole new craft and sharing their friendships.

Some of you haven't given me a lot to go on in your profiles. Maybe you just want to watch from afar. That's okay. I appreciate you stopping by anyway. I'm just trying to get to know those who want to be known.

Like I said, leave a light on, you never know when I'll come by.

Monday, September 20, 2010

New stuff for Fall and Halloween!!

It's Fall!!

That means it's time for pumpkins, candy corn, ghosts, witches, black cats, bats and trick or treat!!!

I've been busy adding Halloween items to my etsy shop, Splashin. (That's why I haven't been able to stop by and post much this week. I'm also in the throes of Fall housecleaning. Now, there's a drag on one's time!!)

I just wanted to show you what I've been up to:

This baby hat is straight out of my personal pumpkin patch.

And don't you just love candy corn? Who can resist it?

Little ones don't need hats? Then how about a completely safe, squeezable (and machine washable) Halloween toy. There's absolutely nothing here to break or pull off, making them safe for even the tiniest baby.
Of course, there are Halloween onesies there for the little ones, too.

Maybe you just want something to show off the pretty Autumn colors. This angel both hangs or sits, so she is equally at home hanging on your door or wall as she is just sitting on a bookshelf.

I've got so much more to add this week, so please stop by the shop and see what's new.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oh, No!!!

Seems I've lost the rest of the week, too!!!!

I think someone stole it. Have any of you noticed it missing? I mean, what happened? I must have turned my back or gotten distracted because it's already Friday night!! Late Friday night to be exact.

Day-to-day life has just gotten in the way this week. (Good things, though, for the most part.)

I promise (REALLY) I'll get back to posting tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lost Monday

Okay, I'll admit it. I seemed to have lost most of Monday.

We had a last-minute house guest arrive for few days. Though we had minimal prep time, we always enjoy visits with her so it was well worth the quick spit'n'polish to the house and a dinner prep. We even convinced her to watch the Ravens' game with us. We promised not to tell her friends and family back in Steelers country. (If you don't know, the Ravens and the Steelers are mortal enemies!)

While our guest took care of some business today, I finally took some time to get back to my painting. I started the detail work on a lamp base today. This is the first lamp I've done and I think I'm liking it. Here's a sneak peek:Or, two:

There was a lady on TV today talking about decorating trends at the moment and she was really pushing decorated lampshades. So, I took some time to add the lampshade I painted last week to my Etsy shop. Woo Hoo!! I'm actually in on a trend!!
The lamp and the shade are separate projects and not meant to be compatible. I think I like doing shades, too. I can only hope folks like buying them.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A fairly quiet and laid back weekend -

So, like so many weekends, it didn't go exactly as planned.

Friday fizzled a bit when we went to a local annual festival where we've always enjoyed the food and music. The food wasn't quite as good as in past years and the first of two bands definitely fell into the "not ready for prime time" category. For the first time in 12 to 15 years, we actually left because we weren't happy with the music. We were not familiar with the second band for the night but we just couldn't sit through another hour or so of that first one to find out about them. We came home, ordered up a movie On Demand and settled in for the evening.

By the way, I highly recommend "Inglorious Bastards" to all who may not have seen it yet. I can fully understand why it got nominated for so many awards.

We had a full day planned for Saturday but I got up and turned on the memorial service for Flight 93 up in Somerset County. Just as we could not peel ourselves away from the news coverage for days back in 2001, I could not bring myself to turn this one off either. I was impressed and moved by the comments of Pennsylvania's Governor Rendell, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. All spoke from the heart and I was, in fact, moved to tears once again. I then watched the replay of President Obama's speech at the Pentagon. To be honest, it did not compare. I chose not to watch any of the New York coverage.
Quite a few hours later than our original plan, we returned to the park for more of the festival. (We knew the bands scheduled for Saturday.) We made it in time for another 9-11 ceremony by the local American Legion and a touching dedication of a new American flag for the park. A local family chose to donate the flag from their father's military funeral to the cause. It was raised with much pomp and circumstance and then lowered to half mast to honor those lost on 9-11.We stayed for a bit of music following these events and then moved on to a friend's home nearby for a short visit, refreshments and some great conversation. We then moved on to another rendezvous with yet some other friends for the evening and didn't make it home till the wee hours.

Sunday dawned rainy and gray. The light rains continued throughout the day. Again, we made adjustments to our plans. Instead of outside activities, we went to breakfast and then spent the day watching football. It was just prep for our team's game on Monday night football this week.

Hope y'all had a more exciting weekend than I did.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

9 - 11


It's been nine years since we lost our
sense of safety and security in our homeland

Life as we knew it, will never be the same.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm afraid books may be an endangered species.

One of my dear friends, Dale Graumann, is a published author and has been sharing her latest novel in serial form on her blog. Today's post began the last chapter of Winter Wheat. I'm devastated. (Although she has promised a sequel, it isn't written yet so there will be a bit of a wait to see what comes of the characters I've come to love.) If you'd like to read Winter Wheat, you can find it on her blog at Erndales N More. You can purchase Dale's first novel, A Stroke of Love, on Amazon.
I love to read and when I find an author that does multiple stories featuring the same characters, I become obsessed in my efforts to read all of the tales. Actually, I read anything and everything. When nothing else is around, I'll read the label on the mustard jar or whatever else may be sitting on the table in front of me.

When we travel, I can't wait to pick up a local paper in some strange town, no matter how big or small, and I then peruse it from cover-to-cover. My husband, on the other hand, reads when necessary to glean information he needs. I think in our 25 years together, he's read less than 10 fictional books. He has probably read more news stories online than in the newspapers in the last decade although I wouldn't say he does so regularly.

I'm as happy in a book store (especially a used bookstore with low, low prices) as a child at a Disney amusement park. (Okay, maybe not quite that ecstatic - more like a kid at a carnival.) I LOVE Half Price Books and a visit there is often a high priority when we visit our family in the Midwest. (We don't have one of their stores nearby.)

So, I was shocked and dismayed when I heard that Western Iowa Community College is proudly presenting their new digital library this year. Everything in the library is digital. There are NO actual books or papers on the shelves. I just can't imagine a library without books!!

I understand the college is very proud of the fact that all materials are now accessible to all students online, from anywhere, and that nothing will ever be unavailable as someone else has "checked it out". The physical building actually features a number of computer stations as well as tables where students may simply plug in their laptops and work. Shouldn't there be a better name for this than a "library"?

While I was still digesting this bit of news, I saw anew book featured on Live with Regis and Kelly. Lane Smith has written a children's book called "It's A Book" (available on Amazon). The gist of the story is one character is reading an actual book to the amazement of his little friends who just simply cannot fathom what a book is. They ask questions like: "Do you need a password?" "Does it beep?" "Can you Tweet on it?" and so forth. The answer from the reader continues to be, "No. It's a book." They are fascinated by this oddity.

I love the concept and may buy a copy on general principles. Besides, I may need to read it to the younger generation in a few years when I tell tales of reading back in the day. (By the way, there's a shocking last line guaranteed to make you grin!)

I feel the need for a fix. I've got to go and read now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day, y'all !!!

Okay, hope y'all are having a great weekend ! The weather has turned to simply fantastic here - upper 70s - low 80s, a slight breeze and lots of sunshine ! We're enjoying it while we can. Yard and garden work called to us on Saturday and then a big evening out. We're rarely out late but we didn't get in till 3 a.m.!!!
The first party of this holiday weekend was Sunday. Luckily we didn't have far to go as the get-together was right next door. In fact, we had dueling smoking grills in both yards. The Big Guy did two turkey breasts on our smoker while the neighbor had the sausage, burgers, hotdogs and chicken on his. Wow, the air around here smelled great!!

There was tons of food, good music, a dose or two of spirits, dancing and fantastic fellowship among friends. (Who, incidentally, also happen to be our terrific neighbors.) Seriously, no one had to worry about driving home or traffic. The farthest anyone traveled was about 700 feet!!

As time went on and we all became more mellow, there were even dance lessons!!!

We are so lucky to live on a block with such great, caring people. Most of us have been here together for several decades now. We only regret that a few of our neighbors were not in town for this social event. We missed them. Maybe next time.

Today is another annual get-together that we always look forward to. This one is a semi-annual event that includes folks I've hung out with for over 4 decades!!! There are some we see weekly and a few we only see at this party. Always good food and lots of hugs, chatter and memories. (Oh yeah, there's ALWAYS some great roasted corn done on the grill at this one, too!)

Whatever you're doing today, I hope you're with friends, enjoying good food and lots of laugh. Be safe and happy on this holiday weekend!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Summerfest and BBQ Judging

Well, it took me a week but I finally downloaded pics from Saturday's BBQ competition.

After 3 weeks away from home we relaxed for a day and a half and then were up early Saturday morning to travel to the heart of Amish country for one of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in the East - the New Holland Summerfest in New Holland, PA.

It was an absolutely beautiful day for such an event. (Last year, we had a monsoon!) You could see and smell the smoke a block away and as we approached the park, every tent appeared to be busy getting ready for the first turn in of the day.

A KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society - the largest BBQ sanctioning group) sanctioned event, this contest features the four required categories of chicken, ribs, pork shoulder/butt and brisket as well as two ancillary categories - chef's choice and, new this year, chili. Quite a few teams also participate in the whole hog competition. Those last three categories are optional.

This shot, to the left, shows a team (Pork & Dean's from Phoenix, MD) preparing their whole hog entry.

**It should be noted that BBQ is the only truly American food legacy. People come here from other countries hoping to try real American BBQ!!

Due to space limitations, this event is limited to 72 competition teams. There is a long waiting list to get in and teams know time is of the essence when their application for this one arrives. The field is pretty much full within a week or so of the applications going out. This year, teams came from as far away as Ontario and North Carolina, with the majority hailing from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware. These tend to be 72 of the very best in the region.

Likewise, it is quite popular with the judges. A contest this size needs 72 Certified Barbecue Judges (CBJs) as well as 12 Table Captains (usually also Certified Judges). This year, there was a judges waiting list of about 125 names. We also get our forms returned within a day or two of receipt. For years this competition has been able to boast that ALL judges are "certified."

Certified Judges actually attend a class to learn how to rate truly good BBQ. There is more involved than simply saying it "tastes good." (Although, taste IS important to the scoring!) Judges are taught to recognize the correct texture for properly cooked meats, appropriate uses of seasonings and marinades so that they lend flavor but still allow a meat's personality to shine through, and how a serving should look to appeal to our visual senses. Tenderness is also scored separately.

Cook teams have a lot invested in this venture. They provide their own meats and supplies, have thousands of dollars invested in smokers and other cooking equipment, travel long distances and spend at least 36 hours on site preparing their entries (ALL cooking MUST be done on site.) While you see star competitors on TV who have won thousands of dollars in competition, most cooks are extremely happy to receive even the smallest monetary reward for their efforts. They MUST enjoy the activity as they sure aren't in it to make a profit!!

Judges are also in it for the love of BBQ. We are not paid. Most of us travel long distances at our own expense - some stay in hotels. We spend 4-6 hours on site in the process of judging. We have judged contests in 100 degree heat on more than one occasion and also have practically frozen to death at cold windy sites. Most judging is done in tents not buildings so weather does factor into our comfort. (If you watched BBQ Pitmasters last season and saw the Dover competition, you saw the coldest and rainiest event we've ever personally judges!)

In return, we get to taste some of the best smoked food in the country!! We've made great friends with other judges and cooks and their teams. (Just for the record - All judging for KCBS is blind judging so friendship with the cooks is not a hand up to any of them.) We've attended some events with fantastic entertainment where we stayed all evening just to enjoy the music. We've gotten to know some fantastic folks working hard to put on quality events in their communities. The Big Guy and I have been happy to sit and talk with new organizers and give some advice as to what they need to do to pull off a great event. We've taken new judges under our wings and guided them a bit through their first experiences. Since we are quickly identified by our judging shirts and name tags as we stroll through an event we are always approached by spectators who ask questions about the judging process and BBQ in general. In effect, we are ambassadors for BBQ. ALL of the judges we know have done these same things. We want folks to enjoy and promote BBQ. It's as American as apple pie and Chevrolet!
A very full and happy judge!!

Each judge tastes and scores only six samples in any category but even at that rate, we are served approximately 2 lbs of meat at any one competition (This does not include whole hog categories. It takes a special appetite to judge Whole Hog. I have never done so.) Obviously, we cannot eat all of that in one sitting. Most of us take 2 or 3 bites of a sample and move on to the next. That is usually enough to reach a score. This means we each have lots of leftovers.

I've become a pro at using the leftovers in creative ways. Tonight for instance, we had enchiladas made with leftover pork and brisket. Enchiladas can really stretch a little meat a long way. I actually made 19 enchiladas from the leftovers we had. At least there's a few meals now stockpiled in the freezer!

We are not scheduled to judge again for a few weeks but, who knows, something unexpected often comes up!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The trip home (and sunrises)

I document most of the sunrises we see when traveling. Unfortunately, both of our travel days coming home dawned a bit cloudy and overcast so the sunrises weren't very spectacular.

We described this one as the "Sun Break-Through" which occurred "somewhere over Iowa" about 8:30 a.m. when the clouds finally started breaking up. It really was pretty - just not as bright and colorful as a normal sunrise.

Again, the second day, the sky was quite overcast which makes for easy driving when you're heading East. By the time the clouds broke and we really had glare from the sun, it was high enough in the sky to not be so blinding to the driver.

This shot was taken somewhere near Toledo.

Believe it or not, we found yet another casino on the way home!! Actually, we really didn't know about this one. As we approached the Ohio/Pennsylvania line we discussed possible side trips. We consulted Samantha, our GPS traveling companion. (Yes, our GPS has a name and personality! Doesn't yours?) She suggested the Mountaineer Casino in Newell, WV.

She then guided us through this winding route that took us from the Pennsylvania Turnpike onto some tiny little country roads that carried us through the towns of Industry and Shippingport in PA and eased us back through a tiny corner of Ohio right to the Old Newell Bridge. (It looks a lot bigger, and newer, in this pic!) At the end of the bridge you make a sharp right and drive through some of the most beautiful countryside around, then through the tiny town of Newell and brings you, suddenly, to a large, beautiful modern casino, resort and conference center.

(Yes, I DID paint that shirt The Big Guy is wearing.)

We spent a few hours here and enjoyed a tasty dinner before heading out on the road again. This would make a great weekend destination for us sometime. The area is absolutely beautiful and the surrounding town had oodles of interesting looking shops featuring antiques, collectibles and gift items in their windows. In addition to many enticing looking restaurants in town, the casino features something like 5 restaurants on the premises, a salon and spa and an indoor pool, as well as a showroom. Oh, and there is a factory outlet for Fiestaware in this town, too!

We made a point of leaving before dark as we knew those country roads might be challenging after the sun went down. We really wanted to be back on a highway by then.

Along the way we came across a few new sights for us. We had never seen portable traffic lights but they had them on this little country road where they wanted traffic to form alternating single lanes around construction. This one was in the area of Raccoon Creek State Park (I just loved that name! I also loved the names of some of the roads in the area, like "Potato Garden Run".) Of course, we live in an area where they'd probably try to steal the portable lights so maybe that's why we've never come across them before!

My camera was still processing that shot when The Big Guy burst into laughter over a sign by the side of the road. Handpainted on a piece of plywood and tied against a pole, it advertised "Far Wood For Sale" and gave a phone number. I guess this guy really does "write like he talks." He refused to go back to let me take a picture of it!

That wasn't the last weird sign we saw! On our way toward Pittsburgh and the Turnpike, we saw this sign directing us to the correct exit to get to the Moon !

Speaking of signs, two of the cuter ones I saw on the way out were one on a collision repair center in Western PA that claimed "We're always happy to meet you by accident!" and featured a little cartoony car that was quite smashed up. A big sign on a restaurant (I think in Indiana) advertised "Breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything else we can cater!"

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the sign on a donut shop in Davenport, Iowa that claims "Diets are overrated!"

Don't you just agree with that last one?!?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More of Our Midwest Tour ...

After leaving Johnstown, PA at 6 a.m., we made it to the Iowa border in about 13 hours. We checked into the Days Inn for the night and then trucked across the street to the Thunder Bay Grille, one of our favorite places to eat in Davenport, Iowa. (There are two other locations, too. One in Pewaukee and another in Rockford, Illinois.)I am partial to anything with antlers, so I can't resist a place that has a welcoming moose in the front yard!!

They have an upscale hunting lodge decor and fantastic food. We both always get the same thing here but decided to try different things this time. While we liked our food, we missed the old standby dishes which we both highly recommend. I usually get the "Signature Chicken Tchoupitoulas" - chicken breast served over Cajun potatoes with a creamy Cajun sauce with chopped ham and green onions. The Big Guy is partial to the "Killer Bouillabaisse" - a fisherman's stew that contains shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and fish in a New Orleans style sauce. It IS spicy and brings tears to your eyes but it is also FANTASTIC!!

With our bellies full, we wandered on down to the Isle of Capri's Rythym City Casino right on the Mississippi in downtown Davenport where we relaxed for an hour or so before hitting the sack for the night. I highly suggest one use the valet parking at the casino if you visit at night. It's in the downtown business district with plenty of free parking directly across the street from the casino but, at night, it is rather deserted and there is a small park area you must walk through that seems to be a popular hangout for some homeless types. We've been there before but this is the first time The Big Guy suggested I wait for him by the door and gave me his wallet to hold while he went to get the car. (Not feeling real secure out there in the dark and we both grew up in a big crime-ridden city!)

We only have about a 5 or 6 hour drive on our final driving day so we usually take a little time to sight see or do something fun on our way into Omaha. It was a bit drizzly when we got up so we decided to take our time getting going and went to breakfast at the famous Iowa Machine Shed - "As Seen On TV" !!

One of our nephews has urged us to stop there for years but it's received a lot of TV coverage on The Food Network, The Travel Channel and even the History Channel's food series this past year. It was at the next I-80 exit just past our hotel so it was very convenient. Known for their down-home farm style meals, it seemed a cozy choice on a rainy day.

The place is decorated, inside and out, with old farm equipment and other farm house and country items. There is plenty to look at while you wait for your meals which come out very quickly. There's also a sizable gift shop with some great kitchen accessories, colorful and fun dishes, jellies, jams, candy and such and they carry quite a nice gift line, too. All of the employees were super friendly.

The signature item on the menu is the giant cinnamon and sticky buns. They are HUGE !!!! Shown on every TV feature, I was prepared for their size but I expected them to be quite pricey. I was surprised to find they are only $3.49. This picture shows a little less than half of our single bun that we shared!!! We took the leftovers with us and the family finished it off when we got there.

We arrived at my in-laws' home on Monday afternoon but pretty much spent the next few days simply hanging out at the house with the family. We were there to care for my mother-in-law who lives with The Big Guy's sister and brother-in-law. She needs 24/7 care and supervision and our b-i-l was having major surgery that week. The Big Guy would need to get his mom to and from her doctor's appointments (most weeks have several such appointments) and we'd generally be there to get her meals and assist her with her various needs. We generally do this 2 or 3 times a year but usually to give my s-i-l and hubby a chance to get away for a mini-vacation.

By Thursday, we ventured out. Mom loves the buffet at the nearest casino and wanted to go there for dinner. We took her over and let her feed a slot machine for a little bit and then went to dinner. She had us on a roll, and we took her to dinner again on Friday at a microbrew that we've been to before. It's located in a shopping center that hosts a large concert every Friday so we loaded her into the wheelchair and enjoyed some good music for a few hours, topping the evening off with an ice cream! On Saturday, we loaded up her chair and headed for a blues festival along the waterfront in downtown Omaha. We all had a good time but she tired fairly quickly and we ended up leaving before the last band took the stage. All in all, it was a good event and she thoroughly enjoyed herself.

On Sunday, with my b-i-l home from the hospital but housebound, my s-i-l suggested The Big Guy and I go do something on our own. After all, she said, this was our vacation time. (Besides, I think we'd worn Mama out and she wanted to stay home and rest.) They both suggested an afternoon at a nearby winery that features acoustic music in a peaceful setting with some excellent wine available. So off we went.

They didn't steer us wrong. The music was relaxing and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. The day was a super bright and clear day and it seemed you could see forever. (We're not used to such a flat expanse here in the East.)

There was a fairly small covered porch with tables and chairs that overlooked the bandstand. Since the porch can only accomodate about 50 people we were glad to get there in time to get a spot. Latecomers ended up using their own chairs out on the lawn in the hot sun. There was absolutely NO shade out there! We always travel with chairs but I'm not sure how much of that sun we could have handled. We were still dealing with temps approaching triple digits even 1200 miles from home!

The winery features about a dozen different wines and sells cheeses, breads and crackers. We purchased a block of cheese and a loaf of bread which they placed in a cute little basket with a cutting board and knife. Two wine glasses were provided with our bottle of wine. They simply ask that you return the cutting board, knife and glasses at the end of the day.

Admission was free here. At our local wineries here in the East, they charge exhorbitant fees just to walk through the gate and while they may sell bread or cheese, you're lucky to get a plastic knife if available at all. You are expected to bring your own glasses or you can get small plastic sampler cups from them that hold only and ounce or two. (We do go to these places regularly anyway!) We were impressed.

I also really loved the beautiful blue and green bottles that contained the white wines! What a lovely appearance they made in the sun. There were also some gorgeous ruby colored bottles for some of the red wines. We did enjoy getting away to have some private time for just the two of us. We're not used to such a full and busy household.

We spent a few more days holed up at home with the family other than a few dr. appointments and a run to the store here and there and then we had another "date". This time they suggested a club that featured a live band playing classic rock and oldies on Wednesday evenings. We made a full evening of it by visiting the casino for an hour or so and then going out to dinner at a very nice restaurant next to the club, finishing dinner just as the band began playing. We were surprised at the large crowd it drew early on a weeknight. The dance floor was full for hours! There's another area on the opposite end of the restaurant that featured another club with an outdoor deck. There was a band playing out there, too, and seemed to draw yet another large crowd.

On Saturday, we spent the day with our 16-year-old great-nephew. He and his grandfather (our b-i-l) usually go to a large sports bar to watch the games when the Baltimore teams play. If it's televised anywhere in the country, this place can usually get it up one of their many, many TVs! That day was the first of the Baltimore Ravens pre-season games and they were playing the Washington Redskins. We all wanted to see this one! Since the b-i-l was still housebound, we filled in for him. We enjoyed our one-on-one time with our nephew AND the Ravens even WON!!! Yea!!!!

We spent the rest of our visit at home with the family. We even spent a nice afternoon playing with Play Doh!!!
We've been home a week and I already miss this gang!!!