Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lilly and Grandma HIKING

Okay, there's always MORE to a story, right? I sometimes call this the "Paul Harvey Version"...where I open up and tell the REST of the story.

When I wrote about our Blue Heron boat ride,  it sounded charming and perfect. AND every word I wrote was true...

But I did leave something out...

It was a beautiful night, cool and breezy...there weren't even any mosquitoes.
There were 22 people on the boat.  After about 30 minutes, the Captain drove us into a cul-de-sac, which is a working sand mine...(who knew, eh?)
Our Captain had a wacky sense of humor...as he was speeding towards the shoreline, I looked back to see if he KNEW he was headed right into the land.  He pretended to be distracted, but before I worked up the nerve to shout a warning, the boat drove into the sandy shore and stopped with a big THUD.  Of course, he knew what he was doing every minute -- it was just his way of providing a little entertainment.  (Turns out, he had a boat load of sheep...nobody said a word about what could have been our pending doom.)

After he got a little chuckle from the spirited landing, he told us this cul-de-sac was a working sand mine. We were on a beach, looking up at a sandy hill with some grass on the top.  To get there would involve a 12 foot climb up that hill.  The Captain promised interesting souvenirs, maybe shells or driftwood...or even a lizard...

Most of the passengers continued to sit quietly. Nobody seemed to expect a hike that night...

However, three young men from the local group home were thrilled to get off the boat.  Lillian jumped up and was right behind them.  I said, "You're going to hike up there?"   She turned and made a circular motion with her hand..."Yes...and I need a PARENT..."

Bert laughed and said, "that seems like your job, Grandma."
I tried to take a picture from half-way up the hill... there are 15 people left on that boat...

Of course, I followed Lilly off the boat....or, I tried to.  Because of the sand, I decided to go barefoot.  But it was quite a steep incline, and my feet kept slipping down in the sand.  Jesus...I'm too fat for this...It was a very slow go...two steps up and three steps down...

Lilly was maybe five feet ahead of me -- and her flip-flops were causing her problems.  Her feet kept slipping off her shoes...

The ground was full of sand burs, and me going bare foot was a terrible decision....

Lilly was trying to crab her way up the sandy hill on all fours...holding on to some spindly weeds...but she was stuck.  At first, she calmly said,  "help me.  somebody please help me."  Then, with some urgency -- GRANDMA -- HELP ME..."

I could hear the people in the boat laughing at us...we must have been a sight.  It was embarrassing.

Clearly, neither one of us was in any danger...it was a pitiful little hill. But the problem was that I WAS FROZEN IN POSITION...slipping down the hill...in a crabbing position -- with my ass stuck up in the air...right below Lilly.

When I got off the boat, I picked up a walking stick, but my feet kept slipping in the sand, and I couldn't make any forward progress...

In an effort to help her -- I said, "Here, Lilly" -- and valiantly tossed my walking stick up to her side.

She turned her head and looked down at me.  With a glaring look and a haughty tone she asked "what am I supposed to do with that?"

You should have heard the people on the boat. They were SO ENTERTAINED...ugh...

FINALLY -- after a colossal struggle -- we both managed to get to the top of the little hill.  (we BOTH used the walking stick).  SUCCESS.   EUREKA.  YIPPEE KAYEE...
When we arrived at our destination -- the top of the hill -- it was quite a disappointment. Nothing but weeds and sand burrs.

I wonder if this is what it feels like when those climbers get to the top of Mt. Everest.

We did not find even one interesting shell or rock, much less a lizard (which I believe Captain Jack totally made up anyway)

Maybe the lesson is that the journey is always the interesting part. Actually arriving at your destination is generally quite a let-down...

Think day-after-Christmas...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pat's Cooking School

More about Pat's visit. First of all -- Pat is a wonderful cook. She is WAY MORE than a cook -- she is an actual "Foodie". I like to tell people that she attended Julia Child's birthday parties -- she even went to a cooking school in France at Julia's HOUSE.

She taught cooking classes, and enjoys cooking for a crowd. So -- we might as well take advantage of her skills, right?? On her second day -- I asked her to show us how to make gnocchi. She made two versions -- Ricotta and mashed potato...
Lillian takes her cooking classes very seriously...
Sadly, we were so busy EATING the food, I forgot to take any pictures of it...

Several days later, I invited my cousin Linda and her family to come for a pasta-making-class.
Pat started the day by cooking and grinding some colorful veggies. Carrots, spinach, beets..for the colored pasta.(this is when I realized my brand-new-out-of-the-box little food chopper was a piece of shit.  Don't buy Rival.)
Karl and his son Dan were enthusiastic students. Pat started them off, making the pasta by hand...
They caught on really fast...
And soon, they were ready for the fun part. THE PASTA MACHINE...
Good job, boys!!
Really -- men sooo love any kind of tools and gadgets!!
They moved on to the ravioli lesson...

THANKS, Pat, for the lessons!! I still have the pasta maker out on the counter -- hoping one day Lilly and I will have time to make some homemade spaghetti!! You are an inspiration...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Candlelight Girls Night

I had such a great day with Sandy's crew -- and if you ever get to Clinton, Iowa -- I would highly recommend the Candlelight Restaurant. It's one of the few restaurants sitting right on the Mississippi River. They have a huge deck, with lots of tables...
It's an easy walk from the Showboat to the restaurant.
Carol, Sandy and Sue (it was Sue's birthday)
Kay's broiled catfish looked great.
I ordered the specialty -- Chicken George -- WHICH WAS WONDERFUL.  Two sides, only $12.  Really.  What's not to love?  
So -- we're sitting out on this beautiful deck, laughing and drinking, and enjoying our wonderful food. Then, an odd thing happened. A woman came over to our table and said, "I'm sorry -- I hate to interrupt...but would you mind telling me where you bought your bag?"

I said, "No problem.  The Goodwill Store.  It was $2.38."

The woman acted amazed...and I tried to explain how I added the black designs. I just used a black permanent marker.  She still didn't seem to get it...so I spelled it out...go to any  W-A-L-M-A-R-T and buy a S-H-A-R-P-I-E....
The funniest thing about that woman admiring my bag? She said her husband wondered, "who is Rita Farro?"
So -- see -- it's that simple. If you just brazenly write your name on your purse, or the pocket on the back of your ass -- people will think you are somebody famous like Michael Kors...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Pat's First Two Meals

When my friend Pat came from Olympia, Washington for a visit, I wanted her to experience my Iowa from the FOOD point of view...

Since she arrived late at night -- we had no choice but the iconic Ross's 24 hour Restaurant...
Pat arrived at 10 PM, so I didn't get a picture...but this is Lilly and Memphis (on another day). We're kind of fond of the place...

Here's President Obama -- at Ross's Restaurant, holding one of their giant homemade cinnamon rolls...
Alton Brown came to eat the Magic Mountain. Which, of course, was famous long before he got here.  And that IS WHAT WE ORDERED on Pat's first night...
The Magic Mountain is a piece of Texas Toast, covered with loose meat hamburger, then topped with a mountain of french fries, and smothered with cheese sauce. (onions optional) OMG...

We're off to a good start, eh??

On Pat's first full day -- we attended Lilly's dance recital.  (no end to the excitement we have to offer..).
There was a long line, waiting to get in...good thing Pat had her purse, because it was a $7 ADMISSION...(are you kidding me?) Thanks again, Pat, for paying the cover charge!! 
Pat met Elliott..the entire audience looks mesmerized, don't you think?
I was able to tolerate the two hour recital because I knew where we were going to have lunch...at TC's bar in nearby DeWitt.
YES, PEOPLE -- THERE IT IS.  THE FAMOUS IOWA FRIED PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICH.  Reason enough to travel 2,000 miles, my friends...
Really. It's amazing. I like it with ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion.
I seriously considered using Pat's Iowa visit as an excuse to invent a "Pork Tenderloin Tour"...but, then, I was afraid it was just too self-serving...and what if Pat doesn't like 'em.

Nah....that could never happen...

***********
Thanks, Sue, for the email yesterday regarding the CATS lessons.  I enjoyed your perspective and thought I should share it...

Maybe the lesson is that the older we get, the less discerning we are about any form of entertainment...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Clinton Showboat

My friend Sandy has been cutting my hair for over 20 years. She has a crew of girlfriends/sisters she hooks up with every Wednesday -- and when they invite me to join them -- I know I'm going to have a good time!!

Recently, she invited me to join them for a Wednesday matinee at a local musical theater, and then an early supper.
Sandy, in the middle, with her sisters Carol and Kay.
The theater is the City of Clinton's Showboat! It's an actual PADDLEWHEELER...which really is floating on the Mississippi River
The theater is small -- my guess is that it seats 200 people...
This performance was completely sold out!
Here's the thing. When Sandy invited me. I said yes before I realized it was CATS.

I hate the musical CATS. Many years ago, I walked out of the actual Broadway production of CATS. I just didn't get it. I thought it was a terrible waste of time. For years, I've been saying CATS is musical theater's answer to the Emperor's New Clothes.

Once, when I was telling my funny story about how I walked out of CATS, a friend of mine said (in a patronizing tone) -- "Well, Rita, you know, it's an allegory."

I looked at her and said, "If you think you're helping me -- you're not."

So, the truth is, I was not looking forward to another production of CATS. But, I was happy about spending time with Sandy's crew...and I wouldn't dream of saying anything negative. The day isn't all about the musical.

However -- a funny thing happened during this performance. I loved it.

After the show -- we walked next door to the beautiful Candlelight Restaurant. RIGHT ON THE RIVER...
I didn't let my previous disappointing experience affect THIS DAY. I had a wonderful time...the dancing was incredible, the singing was amazing.

Maybe the lesson is that everything and everybody deserves a second chance.

Or that you should always go into something with an open heart.

Or -- the true secret to happiness is lowered expectations.  

At any rate -- I wished I could take Lilly...it was THAT good.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Zentangle Purse

After years of hit and miss...purses I loved, purses I hated...I have developed an actual PURSE CRITERIA:

Any new purse must have these four essential elements:
  1. Lightweight: (Made of fabric, leather is too heavy)
  2. Cross-body strap
  3. Lining cannot be black
  4. Two outside pockets (one for cellphone, one for keys)

I can't stand this kind of shoulder carry...and this purse would be heavy to begin with, and I'll bet it has a black lining.
Here's another example of a purse that "Will Not Work For Rita"...with this kind of carry --my left hand is not free...
My current purse is perfect. It's made out of canvas, weighs almost nothing, and has outside pockets.
Of course, it didn't look this way when I bought it.  I cut the short handle, then added the black cross-body strap...
To coordinate with the flashy new strap -- I decided to use a Sharpie to do a little zentangle-ing...
THREE pockets?  Such luxury...
Inside the main key pocket flap...
I zentangled the bottom, too...
Perfect, really.  Lightweight, crossbody, not too deep...I can find everything.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blue Heron: Eco Tourism

At the Rock Creek Marina, they offer boat rides on the Mississippi River every Thursday night. Although you must sign up in advance, the one-hour guided river tour is completely free.

I learned about the boat tours in April -- you can see the pontoon boat in the right corner of this picture.
The boat seats 32 people, and it's called the Blue Heron.  On the day Ronda and I took Memphis and Lilly to the Marina for lunch. (Good Friday).
I wanted to take Pat on the ride when she was here -- but it was already booked until June 18. So, I signed up for two adults and two kids. (not really knowing who would go with me)
On June  18, Warren decided he was NOT ready to be a boater...so he went home with Emily.
But Lily and I were excited about the boat ride -- and my friend Bert came along.
This is what the new building looks like -- from the middle of Hanson's Slew -- we were headed out...
Once we got out into the main channel -- we got very close to the Cordova Nuclear plant.
Our Captain took us past this tower -- where the turkey vultures perch every night. There are three other towers visible, but with NO birds. Funny, eh?
When appropriate, the Captain gave us a little thrill...and went really fast -- spraying us with cool water.  AWESOME
But, in the main channel, when passing the big barges -- he drove slow...(do they call it driving?)
The three of us had SUCH A GREAT TIME. I still can't believe the Rock Creek Marina (ten minutes from my house) has always been there and I never knew a thing about it.

You may not have a free boat ride on the Mississippi River out your back door -- but I'll bet there's lots of fun summer stuff going on where YOU LIVE.

Be sure to check out your county parks websites...