Friday, September 30, 2011

A Girls Day Out: Which Way Is North?

Last week, in the interest of enjoying what remains of the pretty weather for this season, I decided The Girls and I would spend the weekend doing something other than sitting at home.  L already had commitments to the SD and would not be home until late in the evening.  Now the question was... what to do? what to do??

I got on the computer and began looking for an acceptable source of entertainment, and by acceptable I mean inexpensive.  I found that Eureka Springs was having a Eurekapalooza Music Festival and it was jazz weekend so that went on the list. Next I discovered that the Prairie Grove Battlefield Park was having their fall beautification and cleanup event and that was added to the list.  (Have I mentioned how much I love a good list making session?)  I checked out the hours of operation for the Precious Moments Park and Chapel.  It's a bit of a drive but the tours are free and I figured we could do a little flea market and antique shopping on our way up there and back so onto the list it went.  OK, so that outing would be more for me than The Girls, but hey I planned to throw in lunch....and a snack!  And then I found it!  Geocaching, listed as number 102 on Arkansas' list of 101 Fun Things to Do for Free.  (If you're not familiar with that website click here to check it out, it's fantastic!)   

Geocaching, the high tech modern day game of treasure hunting.  And here's the best part!  I didn't need to buy a GPS device, there's an app for that!!  That's right!! I just logged on to the applications store selected the official "Geocaching Application", paid the $9.99 fee, and began the download to my iPhone.

I discovered from the list that there are 53 "Arkansas State Park" caches hidden in various parks throughout the state.  I selected the park closest to us and saved the information to my new application.  Tomorrow The Girls and I would be joining the game!

Basically the rules to the game are this:
  1. If you take something from the geocache (or "cache"), leave something of equal or greater value.
  2. Write about your find in the cache logbook.
  3. Log your experience at http://www.geocaching.com/.
We decided the item we'd leave behind would be dice.  So we threw those in our bag along with some granola bars, an ink pen, the camera, and an extra roll of film.  Yes, that's right.  I'm talking about that brown sticky stuff that comes in a metal roll that absolutely under NO circumstances can be exposed to light. Can I just say that I love my digital camera, but remembering to charge the battery more often than not is an epic fail for me.  But thankfully I had a plan B!  I love my plan B's almost as much as I love my lists.

The things we didn't remember to throw in the bag?  Lip gloss, tick repellent (more on that in a moment), and directions on how to use a GPS locator and compass.

I called L before we left to let him know our plans and general location, just in case.  I considered it a good thing that MC S&R was already assembled for a training exercise.  I figured that should we go missing their response time would rock.

When we arrived at the park we entered the Forest Trail from the backside and were approximately .5 miles from the cache according to the app.  The way the app works is you are the blue dot and the cache is the green balloon.  The closer you get to the cache the closer the blue dot gets to the green balloon.  Simple! Right?!  We followed the trail until the blue dot appeared to be even with the green balloon and then we began our journey through the woods to find our cache.

The Girls told me they had done something similar to this in summer camp so I felt that collectively we had a little experience.  After about 15 minutes of wondering around trying to make the blue dot and the green balloon connect GG asked me if I had a compass.  Why yes I do!! After all there's an app for that!!  So I flipped the screen over to the compass and handed her my iPhone.  She looked at it, looked at me, and said, "How do you read a compass?"

Now at this point it occured to me that I don't actually know how to read a compass.  I've never rarely had an occasion to need to read a compass.  My truck has a compass in it, and if you need to know which way is north I can turn my truck around until it says north. (yea, I've actually done that)  But the truth is I don't speak the n/s/e/w language at all really.  I don't even speak the hwy/ road/ street name language real well.  I am, however, fluent in store names.  If you tell me what building, store, or business you're next to or across from I can find you in a flash.

The rest of our conversation went something like this:
Me: I don't know, didn't they teach you that in camp?
GG: No.
Me: Then why did you ask if I had a compass?
GG: I just thought a compass might be helpfull right now.
Me: Not if we don't know how to read it. 
GG: So I guess we'll just go back to wondering around.
Me & NG: OK.

About 10 minutes later we wondered within 4 feet of the green balloon according to the app and NG spotted the cache.

After signing the log, choosing a trinket (The Girls wanted a fishing lure), and depositing our own trinket in return, we replaced the cache in it's hiding spot and headed out of the woods. 


We were pleased that we were able to locate the cache without to much trouble, we were even more pleased that we were able to locate the truck.  We went on to locate two more caches at the park before calling it a day.  The second cache we found held a geocoin, which we took and later deposited in a cache at Hobbs State Park (more on that here).


On our way home we stopped to grab a late lunch.  About halfway through the meal we realized we had collected more than trinkets from our trek through the woods.  We also had quite the collection of seed ticks!  

Our driveway is a little over 1/10 of a mile long, our house can't be seen from the road, and we only have one close neighbor that can see into our yard.  So The Girls and I stripped on the back porch before continuing inside for much needed showers.  After all, I'm certain, well almost certain, pretty certain.....
Who am I kidding I was covered in seed ticks I didn't check to see if anyone was looking, we just stripped! 

So I'd like to take the oppurtunity to apologize to my neighbors.......
 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In S"Other"n Words

Let me start by saying one of my very best friends, C, is from New Jersey.  And yes, I am aware that makes her a "Yankee", but I love her anyway.  After all, no one's perfect, right?  One of our most entertaining, and long running, subjects of conversation is southern colloquial English. Ya'll know what I mean... that's when you comment on something entirely different from what you're talking about so you can say exactly what it is you mean.  For those of you who are fluent in southern colloquial English I'm sure that is "clear as a bell", and for those of you who aren't quite so fluent it might only be "clear as mud."

Now C lived in Arkansas years before so she was familiar with the language, but having spent the last 30 years in New Jersey, she had lost her ability to be fluent.  This meant we spent a lot of time laughing at one another, she at me because I spoke in these silly little phrases that made no sense to her and me at her because she didn't understand these silly little phrases that she should have taken to using like a duck took to water.  I should probably mention that neither of us tends to take ourselves very seriously and therefore laughing at each other was, and still is, perfectly acceptable.  After all, it's always done in good fun and there's no reason for us to get our tails in a twist, our panties in a knot, a bee in our bonnet, a thorn in our paw..... you get the point.

So over the years we have discussed, dissected, and defined phrases such as:
"drinks like a fish"
(Those fish that drink actually do drink constantly, I googled it!)
"brown as a biscuit"
(It's recommended you use the correct SPF or you'll find yourself "red as a lobster" instead.)
"rare as hen's teeth"
(I've never actually seen hen's teeth, so if you find some call me! I'd like to come and look at them.)
"cute as a bug's ear"
(I've never actually seen a bug's ear either, but I understand they can be quite attractive!)
"happy as a pig in slop"
(I have seen this, and I'm here to tell you that pigs are extremely happy in slop!)
"hoppin' mad"
I have also seen this! And for the record it was a woman from Pennsylvania, AKA: another "Yankee", and she actually hopped, from one foot to the other while shouting!  She was mad that someone had the audacity to hold a gun raffle, and planned to raffle off a real gun... in the south.  Really?!?! 
"dumb as dirt"
(I think we can all agree that dirt is pretty dumb.  I mean have you ever seen it do anything but just lay there and let people walk all over it?)
"she's anyone's dog that wants to hunt"
(For those of you who know what this means, enough said.  For those of you that don't, trust me when I say you don't want it applied to you!)
"sweet as pie'
(This one should be easy, but if you're having trouble, I recommend eating some pie while you think on it.)
"chap's my hide"
(Don't do this to me!  I don't like it and I tend to be very vocal about it.)
"running around like a chicken with its head chopped off"
(For a less graphic image, picture Kevin Bacon in "She's Having A Baby" when she starts having the baby)
"as much good as spit in a puddle"
(This is why we have review websites, to avoid this problem.)
"scat Tom, get cha' tail outta the gravy!"
(This was a favorite of my great grandmother's.  She used it when someone sneezed and a simple "God Bless You" wouldn't suffice.  For anyone who's wondering Tom isn't a person, he's a cat.)
"a month of Sunday's"
(It's going to be a while.)
"he's lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut"
(This is pretty low, and he might even be seen keeping company with the above mentioned "hunting dog".)
"couldn't say sense with a mouth full of pennies"
(Give it a minute, it'll come to you.)
"it'll take quick thunder to make it turn loose"
(This one was said to me by my grandfather one day when I was attempting to make a pet out of an undomesticated and somewhat unpredicatable animal (with teeth).  Don't Do That!!  I don't know how quick "quick thunder" is, but we had a drought this summer.  I wouldn't take the chance.)

These are just a few examples of what has been, and still remains to be, a great source of entertainment over the years. 

However, I should mention that southern colloquial English dialect differs from southern state to southern state as well.  A few years ago we had family drive up from Alabama for a funeral.  When they arrived we immediately rushed out and greeted them, hugged them, and began trying to feed them.  (It's the south, that's what you do when someone's tuckered out.)  My grandmother then said to my cousin H, "How did you leave everyone?" With a somewhat puzzled look on her face, H replied, "We just got in the van and drove away."

I couldn't help it.  (not that I tried very hard)  I laughed!!!  It was funny!!  My grandmother wanted to know if everyone that stayed at home was in good health.  I could tell by the look on H's face she wasn't sure what she had gotten herself into, as this woman was obviously crazy as a loon.  We also introduced them to "brown beans", otherwise known as "pintos" in their neck of the woods.

A few months later we drove down to Alabama for a family reunion where they returned the hospitality when they cranked the truck and carried us to town.  When it was time to leave we just got in the vehicle and drove away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

And A Good Time Was Had By All!

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to a Fall Festival, it promised friends, food, and fun!!  Who can say no to that?!?!

L had already made prior commitments to the SD (and would spend his evening doing what has come to be known in our house as coppin'.)  To the outside world this appears to be time L spends doing community service in our county.  Those on the inside know it's also L's only escape from the estrogen overload that holds his home hostage.  

So the Girls and I headed off to enjoy the festivities minus L.  For those of you who know me you know I don't like to be late!!  Ever!!  But due to fact that the gathering started at 2:00pm, and I didn't actually read the entire invitation until 2:38pm, it appeared we were in fact going to be unfashionably late. 

And then we got lost.  Yes, I have lived on that mountain all of my life, and yes I had been to the location listed on the invitation more than once.  But in my defense...it had been a while, and the roads really do all look the same!!  But after driving in a large circle (twice), and then taking the road less traveled, we made it.

And we had a fabulous time!!  We went on a hayride.....


There were games for the kids....


and for the adults!


Great food....


and wonderful entertainment!



I got the opportunity to catch up with friends I'd been missing and the Girls got the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with friends they forgot they knew. 

We all had such a great time that I didn't even let myself be bothered by the fact that all the children around me, that I remember as being preschoolers, seem to be half grown.  After all it's really not so bad, in a few years we can all enjoy our 20's together.  Won't that be nice?!?! 



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is It Starve A Cold, Feed A Fever? Or Feed A Cold.....Nevermind, Just Feed Them Both: Cheesy Potato Soup

Shortly after L and I got married he caught an awful cold.  I decided this called for potato soup, which in my mind is a cure for what ails ya'.  In my house regardless of what autumn/ winter ailment you're suffering from the treatment is potato soup.

After a lengthy discussion about how to make potato soup I agreed to call his mother and compare recipes.  Yep, just as I suspected her recipe starts by boiling potatoes in water. We had previously had a lengthy discussion about how to make sweet tea, and after calling his cousin to compare recipes, it turns out she also starts by placing tea bags in boiling water.  Lucky for him I was already a master at boiling water, and sixteen years later he no longer questions my mad scientist cooking skills.

So last night I felt we were all in need of a little cure and comfort.  L had been suffering from a cold most of the week, GG and NG had been struggling with allergies, and I was tired and had the temperament of a nap deprived toddler.  Plus the weather had just turned colder making it the perfect temperature outside for eating soup inside.


Notice the potato peeler?  I can't function without it!  I grew up watching my grandmother, my mother, my aunts, and basically every other woman in my family produce perfectly peeled potatoes using a simple paring knife.  I never did inherit learn this particular skill.  You give me a large baking potato and a paring knife, I'll give you back a bite size potato nugget and the weapon used to commit the crime. 

After peeling and cubing my potatoes, I place them on the stove top in a large pot of hot water and throw in my seasonings: salt, pepper, parsley, garlic powder, minced onion, minced garlic, and a little bacon grease (if I have it).  Put a lid on it and let it cook until the potatoes are tender.  The second best thing about potato soup is how it makes the house smell.  Yummy!!

After the potatoes have cooked I thicken the broth with a flour/ milk mixture and add the meat.  I also add more water if the soup seems to thickening up too much or too fast.  Most of the time I use cubed ham but when I have the time I will fry and crumble bacon.  A few years ago I decided to try adding cheese and found that we really liked the extra flavor, it's best to add the cheese at the very end and continue stirring just until it's melted.  I use Velveeta most of the time but have on occasion used shredded sharp Cheddar. Add some crusty garlic bread to the table and it's done.



Since my soup pot always seems to runneth over, there's usually enough for leftovers the next day. That's another comfort in my house.  L and the Girls love being able to open the refrigerator and pull out a homemade meal at a moments notice.  I love being able to claim the credit for cooking that homemade meal, again.         

Cheesy Potato Soup

6-8 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tbs bacon grease *optional*
3/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
2 tsp parsley flakes, crushed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbs minced onion
1 tbs minced garlic (I usually round this over so it's a little more than the actual tablespoon)
5 tbs flour
1 cup milk
1 lb. ham, cubed or 1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 cups Velveeta, cubed or 2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

Place potatoes in a large pot and add enough water to fill the pot 3/4 full.  Add bacon grease, black pepper, salt, parsley flakes, garlic powder, minced onion, and minced garlic to water and place over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender.  Whisk flour and milk together until smooth, add to potato broth slowly while stirring constantly to prevent lumps.  Add in meat and continue cooking over medium/ low heat for an additional 15 minutes.  Add cheese and continue stirring until cheese has melted.   



Thursday, September 8, 2011

It Takes A Village

This weekend L and I decided to take GG and NG to Har-Ber Village for the day. 

Har-Ber Village was created by Harvey and Bernice Jones, and is an incredible collection of antiques and artifacts from days gone by.   It's relatively inexpensive and extremely enlightening.

So after getting up as early that morning as we would on any regular work/ school day (we were all really excited about that), we hit the road to travel back in time.  I entered the necessary information into Big Momma aka The Garmin and we were off, like a herd of turtles.  Thanks to Big Momma we arrived at our destination just as the village was opening.  Although unless you're looking for a cheap thrill ride, or just want to try out your new prescription for motion sickness pills, I recommend overriding the original route through Missouri and going via Siloam Springs, AR.  It'll cost you a quarter on the turnpike but your stomach will thank you.

We were given a brochure at the entrance to explain the village exhibits along the self guided tour.  There are even arrows on the ground to show the direction of travel, and yet I will admit there were a couple of times we still managed to get confused.  I'm blaming that on the sudden shift in weather!

The great thing about this village is you can move at your own pace, which as I mentioned before, wasn't real quick.  So we sauntered along happily looking at the exhibits, answering the Girls questions, snapping pictures, and in general having a jolly good time. 



A particularly entertaining moment for L and I was when the Girls began coming to the realization that the tools found in the doctor's and dentist's office weren't really all that much more advanced than those found in the barber shop.  

During our tour we came upon a sign telling us one of the squirrels has actually taken up residency in one of the exhibits.  And based on the fact that he chose to live in the "Ozark Mountain Still" I would have to say he's a lush!

The entire village is made up of 115 exhibits.  Some of them only dating back to the Vietnam War, while others date back almost 200 years.  There were items we hadn't seen in years, and others that we will never see anywhere but there.  


After finishing up the tour we all climbed back in the truck to head home.  I hit the home button on Big Momma and promptly joined the Girls for a little afternoon nap.  I figured one female voice telling L how to drive was enough.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

And So It Begins

After giving this whole "blog thing" much consideration I have decided to give it a chance. 

I considered the fact that most blogs that are found to be interesting are written by people who have exciting and interesting lives, which I do not. 

I considered the fact that most blogs that are found to be interesting are written by people who have great story telling ablilities, which I do not.

I also considered the fact that most blogs are based on the writers personal experience and their opinion of that experience.  And there lies my qualification. For those of you who know me you also know I am never without an opinion, and I am rarely speechless.  Which basically means that I might have the right to remain silent, but I never seem to exercise the ability.

So for as long as it continues to strike my fancy I will amuse myself with this new endeavor.