Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Not-So-Lost Art of Butter Sculpting

Putting together a post about cows at the Iowa State Fair last week was so inspiring that I'm doing one more. This one, however, is about a different breed of bovine...a cow made entirely out of butter.

What State Fair would be complete without butter sculptures? According to a recent Wall Street Journal front-page(!!) article about the art of butter sculpting, "Butter carvings--a staple at state fairs--have been used since the 1890s...Butter sculptures--often of cows, farm boys and milk maids--advertised purity and nostalgia."

How do they make these? According to the article, "Most large butter sculptures are molded over a frame of wire or wood...[or] carved out of a solid block of butter the same way Michelangelo chipped away at a slab of stone." Maybe it really is art!

And in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Suess' iconic children's book Green Eggs and Ham, there were also these cool (literally) butter sculptures (you can see the Cat in the Hat in the photo above...he must have snuck in!):

 "I do so love green eggs and ham...and butter!"

The photo quality isn't the best; sorry about that. I should have turned off my flash, but it was really crowded. These butter sculptures sure were a popular draw! I'm looking forward to seeing what the sculptures are at next summer's fair. More on summer!

(If you'd like to read the WSJ article (it's a fun read!), click here.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Unusual Playmate

Sam is a lucky baby. He gets to play with a superhero!

(I bought Halloween costumes in August this year. John was happy about that!)

Feeling the love of Batman.

Even superheroes get thirsty.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall Friday Fragments!

Mommy's Idea

*It's fall now! Happy fall! Who doesn't love fall? I'm looking forward to seeing what fall is like here in a new part of the country. I know it won't equal the beauty of autumn in my native New England, but my hopes are still high.  

*In honor of fall we're planning on going apple-picking at a nearby orchard tomorrow, but only if the weather cooperates. If it doesn't, we're going to go join our new library. That's a fall-ish thing to do too, even though you can't make apple crisp out of books. :-(

*The wind in Iowa is amazingly strong. I've never seen anything like it except in the movies. It can be so strong that if your windows are open it will knock over picture frames and floor lamps. It's probably because there aren't as many trees to block the wind, although we do live in a heavily wooded area, but I guess it's not enough to block the strength of the wind whipping across the fields and farmlands. Thunderstorms also are very dramatic and powerful here. I love that!

*The new season of TV shows premiered this week...what shows do you watch? These are my shows: Dancing With the Stars, The Office, CSI:NY, Ghost Hunters, 48 Hours Mystery, 20/20, Saturday Night Live, Oprah, sometimes What Not to Wear, and History Detectives on PBS. That's more than enough TV for me. No more shows!

*My baby boy Sam turned 1 on Monday. I'll be posting more about that later. For now I will just say that I love that kid to the moon and back and I'm so thankful to have him!

*An important rite of passage in my life as a mom happened this week: I watched Scooby-Doo, a childhood favorite of mine, with my 5-year-old son John. Kids apparently still like Scooby-Doo. That's awesome!

*Back in August we bought a couch for the basement rec room, and it was finally delivered this week. I love this couch. I got to choose the style, the fabric, and the fabric for the toss pillows. It fits just right in the room and is soft, comfy, and attractive. It has a chaise lounge that comes out on one of the ends. I always wanted a couch like that. I love it!

*Yesterday I babysat for a friend's two young daughters so that she could go out to lunch with her husband for their anniversary. These girls were adorable and fun. When it was time for them to go, the older one cried and didn't want to go home. I've got mad babysitting skills! I've always just loved kids.

*And, perhaps most importantly, I found a really good new hairstylist. She's young and talented and can work well with my special-needs super-fine hair. I'm happy (and freshly highlighted)!

To see more Friday Fragments from others go to Half Past Kissin' Time. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book-Buying Ban

What you see here is my shelf of books that I haven't yet read. This is just the fiction and doesn't even include all of them or my unread classics and non-fictions. What can I say? I love books and buying books and owning books. Barnes & Noble,, used-book sales, and the books on display at Target call to me. I've heard of a little thing called the library and I do use it, but if I see or hear about a book that sounds like a particularly good one, I usually end up buying it so that I have it available to read whenever I want and can enjoy it again in the years to come (unless it turns out to be a dud, which happens sometimes. Book-buying can be a gamble!).

But no more. At least not until I read a lot of these books of mine that are waiting for their turn to be cracked open and devoured. Therefore I'm instituting a ban on buying new books for myself for the next year. I'm going to concentrate on reading mainly the books that I already have. Sadly, I'm officially on a book-buying ban. (It's official because I posted it on my blog. And the ban can be temporarily lifted for notable exceptions, i.e. a book that is really just too good to pass up!)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Udderly A-MOO-zing Cows!

I'm pretty proud of that title, if I do say so myself. The "a-moo-zing" can be either "amusing" or "amazing" or both; take your pick after reading this post! Come on, you know you wanted to read about cows today.

One of my favorite things about the Iowa State Fair was a cow competition that we came across. I got such a kick out of this! I think cows are cool and it was funny to see them and their handlers in competition mode, which I'd never seen before.
First all of the cows parade around and get evaluated by the judges...

Then after being narrowed down, those that remain line up. Maybe this is to test their obedience? Some of the cows mooed in annoyance and didn't want to line up.
Their brown spots were perfectly outlined in gray, which I'd never noticed before on cows. It was like natural eyeliner, only for cow spots. The handlers all had to wear white jeans...why white, of all colors?
They had to compete with full udders. The announcer talked about the particularly good udders of some of the cows. Poor cows probably just wanted to get milked!

Pageant queens wait in their flip-flops (good footwear choice!) to award the winners...

The winning cows and their handlers getting photographed and awarded trophies.

Hopefully right after this they were walked back to their barns and milked as they basked in the glory of their victory. Like I said before it was fun to see this cow competition...I guess you could say it was rather moo-ving! Ha. Ha ha.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't like this book very much at first because I found the jumbled-up sequencing of events to be confusing and it wasn't easy to really understand what was going on. The plot became more clear and intriguing as the narrative went on and I liked it more then, although I'm not a big fan of these types of theoretical futuristic Orwellian types of stories--I find them hard to relate to and I always wonder at the author's motivations (cynicism/mockery of religion, government, traditional values, etc.?). Having said that, I think works like these have value in pointing out the dangers of extremism in just about anything. I related to the book better once it became clear that the handmaid, Offred, was living in the city of Boston (my hometown city) right near what used to be Harvard University. It was a worthwhile read, definitely not a favorite, but I'm glad I read it. It was good food for thought.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Fragments!

Mommy's Idea

*The season premiere of Oprah was this week, and as you may have heard it's the final season. I'm not a rabid fan but I do enjoy the show and I DVR it and watch the episodes that interest me (which is usually the majority of them). I'm determined to go to a taping of the show before she signs off in the spring. I'm too close to Chicago now not to do it. This is my chance and that is my goal--I WILL go to an Oprah show this season!

*Speaking of shows, I bought tickets to the Broadway musical Mary Poppins for the day after Thanksgiving. Because these shows have the good business sense to go on tour, we don't have to go all the way to New York City to see it (although I'd have no problem doing that. I love New York!). Mary Poppins is an enduring childhood favorite of mine and I can't wait to see how Broadway does it!

*After a year off and after weeks of good intentions, I started exercising again this week. This is quite the accomplishment and I'm pretty proud of myself. Despite the soreness, it really does feel great to work out again. I'm not a gym person so I use a Pilates video that has worked well for me in the past. Five days a week for 30 minutes a day will lead to a fitter, healthier, happier me!

*I met a lot of our new neighbors this week at a big neighborhood dinner. They're really nice people, and there are a number of other young moms, which is great. The husband of one of these women is a professional baseball player, and the father of another one is an Olympic gold-medalist. That's cool!

*I enjoy clothes, fashion, and shopping, but I think all of the fuss and press coverage of New York's Fashion Week is silly. In the end, they're just clothes, and many of them aren't even wearable or affordable to the general public.

*This is going to be a weekend full of baking delicious, unhealthy treats: 2-3 dozen chocolate-chip cookies for tomorrow's Stake Handcart Festival; Peter is going to bake one of his (in)famous trifles for dessert on Sunday at our new friends' house; and we're going to bake Sam's birthday cake. He turns 1 on Monday!

*I'm excited to decorate for fall and Halloween after reading this blog post yesterday (written by my friend-in-real-life Alyson). Now if only I could easily find the decorations, which are somewhere in the basement storage room amidst all the moving boxes and other basement junk that hasn't yet been unpacked.

So that's been my week. How has yours been? If you want to share or read other Fragments go to Half Past Kissin' Time. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Veggies and Flowers at the Iowa State Fair

(I wish I could have thought of a more exciting title for this post than "Veggies and Flowers at the Iowa State Fair," but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't think of anything good. Sorry about that!)

Last month we went to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, which is about an hour and 45 minutes away from where we live. It was worth the trip: Iowa really knows how to put on a state fair! It was a lot of fun and I plan on doing a few posts in the coming weeks about various things we saw and did there.

Did you know that there are contests at state fairs for things like the best vegetables and best flowers? I didn't. I'm rooting for them now though.

Prize-winning desiccated corn. Who knew?

John checking out some of the gourd winners.
My dad, the produce guru. He eats lots of fruits and vegetables and may have been thinking about taking one of these for a little snack.

The flowers were my favorite...and most of them pretty much looked the same in quality to me. How on earth are these judged? Probably by very skilled florists and horticulturists.


And finally, one really big pumpkin...

This would make a lot of pumpkin pies.

The competitive world of vegetable and flower-growing is a pretty exciting one, isn't it?
It was fun to see!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Walk Already!

John is eager for Sam to take it to the next level and start walking...

Unfortunately John is going to have to wait awhile. Sam is a speed crawler and it's by far his preferred method of getting around. He hasn't shown much interest in walking yet, which is probably a good thing. Once he does start walking, it will only be a short time until he starts exacting his revenge on John for all the abuse he's given him (cheek-pinching, tackling, taking toys away...look out John! Though he is a sweetheart, Sam is one tough, solid baby!).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review: Healthy Child, Healthy World

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a very helpful and informative book about how to keep toxins and chemicals out of your home, your kids, and yourself. While I thought some of it was a little much (I'm not going to rip out my carpets, replace the furniture, and make homemade pet food), a lot of the advice and the research backing it up is very good and easy to do, such as: eat organic food as much as you can, use non-toxic cleaning products, don't wear shoes into the house, and open your windows frequently. I did a lot of highlighting and took notes; this book will be a very good reference guide for the future.

I was already jumping on the green-living bandwagon...I'm now fully on it! This book helped convince me of how important "green-living" really is.

Friday, September 10, 2010

More Little Bits of Randomness

Mommy's Idea

I started doing Friday Fragments last week, and I like it! (The idea is courtesy of Half Past Kissin' Time, where you can go to read more of other people's "fragments" or to do your own.) It's fun to compile, and last week I made two new blog-friends from it. I'm going to try to do it weekly. I find myself going on Facebook less frequently for status updates because I think, I'll just put it in Friday Fragments! And less time on Facebook = more time for other things. Anyway, onto some of the random bits from my week...

*We officially sold our house in Connecticut this week. I didn't even know this until a few days after it happened because Peter's company bought it from us so that they can handle the closing with the buyers. It's good to have it sold and no longer something we need to worry about, but it makes me a little sad to lose that connection to a great place that we enjoyed living in for four years.

*I started hanging up pictures in my house this week. Pictures make such a nice difference. No more bare walls! Actually there are still plenty of those, but I'm getting there. I try to hang up a few each day.

*This week we had both the playroom and Sam's room painted different shades of yellow, which brightened things up really nicely. Paint makes an even more significant difference in a room than pictures. Hooray for paint!

*About the paint...we got the no-VOC type because it's supposed to be much healthier to breathe in then conventional paint. It was more expensive but I think that's something worth spending on. There was much less of the paint smell, that's for sure!

*My 11-month-old son Sam has been sick with a cold this week. There should be a law of nature that babies under 2 can't get sick. Fortunately, he's getting better. But now my husband Peter has a sore throat. Wonderful! I hope that John and I won't fall victim too. Allergies are enough for me, thanks!

*Peter injured his foot somehow and has been walking with a funny limp all week. I feel bad for him but it cracks me up to watch him walk around like that.

*I watched the movie Monsters vs. Aliens with my 5-year-old son John. I was not impressed. That's got to be one of the worst children's movies I've ever seen.

*Iowa City (our new home) was ranked the #3 college town in America to live in for college students in the category for metro populations below 250,000. I'm not a college student but it's definitely a nice place to live and I enjoy living by a university again.

That's it for this week. I hope you had a good week. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sunset in the Midwest

A few weeks after we moved to Iowa, I looked outside one evening and couldn't believe how lit up and glowing the sky was. I ran outside with my camera and started snapping away!

Pretty nice, huh? New England gave me an enduring love of trees, woods, greenery, and foliage; in Iowa I will come to love the beauty of the sky. So far, this is one of my favorite things about the Midwest!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to School...For the First Time!

My oldest son John started kindergarten a few weeks ago on August 19th, but I haven't written about it until now because for me the week of Labor Day was always back-to-school time. That's when the first day of school was in Massachusetts when I was growing up, that's when classes started in college, and it's the unofficial beginning of fall. So in honor of all that I'm writing about back to school this week....

Here he is on the big morning! He wasn't very nervous. Fitting that the globe was behind him...I didn't even plan that. Off to learn about the world!

John did great on his first day, even without any orientation programs (he missed them all because of our move). I'm so proud of him! He really likes school and the things he does there and the friends he's making. Our school district here in Iowa does full-day kindergarten so it's a long day for a five-year-old (8:30-3:00), but he seems to be doing fine with it. He was actually disappointed yesterday on Labor Day that he didn't get to go to school. (Should I feel insulted by the fact that he'd rather go to school than stay home? Nah, I'll enjoy it while it lasts!)

Getting on the bus for the first time! He was fearless.

I can't believe I have a child in actual, official school now. It's a bigger milestone for the child but it's also a milestone for the parents. They say that the years fly by from here, but I hope they don't fly by too fast!

Back home at the end of the day. Now officially a kindergartener!

 He couldn't wait to squeeze his brother's cheeks when he got home! Needless to say, Sam's okay with John being away during the day.