Thursday, October 29, 2009

100th Post! Pumpkins Galore!

This is my 100th blog posting, hurray!

Now on to business. Midge and I went to the old pumpkin patch last week out on Sauvie Island and picked up 3 prime pumpkins. We went late, as one of us has a job and everything. But we caught the last hay ride out to the patch, so we got to choose our own out in the field. We selected two with gnarly vines on top, and as we were leaving, we spotted one that was shaped exactly like a skull, so we figured it was a sign that we needed to carve a skull pumpkin, as well.

Ooh... spooky...

2 of the Pumpkins...

Picking out Pumpkins...

The last hayride to pumpkin town.

Then, on Saturday, we had our annual pumpkin carving party. It was much smaller than in years past, mostly because we waited too long to put it together. Still, we had 8 or so people come over to mutilate some pumpkins and eat my homemade chili. It was a lot of fun, and we made some good ones.

These are our jack-o-lanterns in the dark...

And these are with the flash on, so you can see the shape of the pumpkins. Take note of the skull pumpkin on the bottom-right-hand corner.

Overall, I give this pumpkin-carving experience ten flaming pumpkins!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Differences Between the West Coast and the Midwest

I visited family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota last week. We did the drive from Tri-Cities, Washington (where my parents live) in 2 difficult days. I wanted to maximize the time spent in Sioux Falls, and minimize the time spent in the car. It was a good trip overall, except at the end, when we hit a deer in Gillette, Wyoming as we drove home. We had to stay there for 2 nights while my windshield was replaced. That is not a fun town. People were nice, but wow, I'm glad I don't live there. But being in Gillette made me realize some differences between the west coast and the midwest, some small, some big.

I realized that the entire time I was away from home, I didn't eat at a single non-chain restaurant. Why? Because we didn't see any. I ate at Applebee's three times, and I hate Applebee's. I resent the whole "eatin' good in the neighborhood" tagline, which is ridiculously disingenuous. They're pretending to be a local restaurant, while simultaneously choking out ACTUAL local restaurants. Yay! You put up clippings from the local high school team in the lobby! You really get us!

We also at at Old Chicago, but in my defense, my uncle won 48 free beers there, so we didn't spend much money there. In Billings, Montana, we ate at the Olive Garden, which confirmed how much I dislike it. The food was fine, but it struck me as sad as I looked around the place, that this was possibly the nicest restaurant in town. I've read that the sauce at Olive Garden comes frozen in bags, which the "cooks" then reheat.

Where I live, we have 7-11s, Plaid Pantries, and mom and pop convenience stores. In the midwest, I found it amusing that the name of every quickie mart included the phrase "'n.'"
-Git'n'Go (yes, I actually saw this)
-Drink'n'Puke (okay, I made this one up)

I noticed on the back of almost every car was a decal of some sort from the dealership at which it was purchased. Almost never on the west coast have I seen decals, and when I have, they're invariably from some other part of the country. If I bought a car with a decal on it, I'd demand a rebate from the dealer for the free ad, or I'd demand they remove it.

I had completely forgotten this, but in the midwest, dinner and supper are not the same thing. First off, nobody on the coasts uses the word "supper" as far as I can tell, and when it is used, it always means the evening meal. So too, does the word "dinner." However, in the midwest, "dinner" means lunch most of the time, as in, Sunday dinner, a meal you eat in the afternoon. The whole trip, I kept asking what people wanted to do for dinner, and they all said, "what do you mean? We already ate dinner." Ugh, I meant supper. Which chain restaurant do you want to eat at for supper?

This was not a surprise, but the midwest continues to lag behind when it comes to quality beer and coffee. I'll begin with beer. As I mentioned, I drank free beer at Old Chicago, courtesy of my uncle. Old Chicago, as you may know, has a bunch of beers on tap, which I wholeheartedly applaud. However, in Sioux Falls, they're all pretty much the same. I'm always somewhat perplexed by the fact nobody outside the northwest seems to value the deliciousness of hops. I want my beer to be brownish, not a pale yellow. At the Pump'n'Pak, things were no better; the most exotic beer available was a hefeweizen.

As for coffee, they do have Starbucks scattered about, and it's really the only choice for espresso. The regular drip coffee I had there was sooooo weak, I really wanted some espresso. On the way home, we stopped at a drive-through coffee stand in Bozeman, Montana, the only place we saw that had espresso, and the lady inside bragged to us about how good her coffee was. She was mistaken, but she gets credit for trying.

I realize this blog may come off as a slam against the midwest, but I assure you, that was not my intention. I was surprised to find I actually like Sioux Falls. I lived in South Dakota until I was 11 or so, and my memories of the town from subsequent trips home haven't always been glowing, but I was glad to realize I kind of like the place. The town is pretty, and the people are nice. The food/beer/coffee situation needs improvement, but overall, I give the place a thumbs up.