Thursday, December 6, 2012

Grilled cheeses!


I've lost track of what I've talked about and what I haven't, but I'm pretty sure I haven't devoted an entire post to what is one of the shining gems of Walmart Country: the grilled cheese restaurant known as Hammontrees

Hammontrees is in the heart of Fayetteville, in the "entertainment district" right of of Dickson street.  I've been there a couple of times for lunch, but Doug had never been before.  He has, however, been to the food truck owned and operated by Hammontrees, called the Grillenium Falcon.



I believe it was around the time that I found the Grillenium Falcon photo on the website and showed it to Doug when he said "Hmmm, maybe I could move to Fayetteville."  Perhaps a coincidence?

Anyway, both the restaurant and the food truck serve delicious fancy grilled cheeses with fun names.  My normal order is "Brie's Company," which has apple, brie, gouda, onions and fig jam--it is so so tasty.  This time I branched out and ordered the "Cheebacca" which is a bunch of cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and grilled onions.  Also mighty fine. Doug ordered a buffalo chicken grilled cheese sandwich (the "White Buffalo").

The sandwiches are tasty, we were able to sit on the porch outside on a fine Saturday afternoon (in December!), which felt like a novelty in and of itself, and the real kicker came from the side order of sweet potato fries.

I must wax poetic here for a minute.  Maybe sweet potato fries weren't really a thing when I was younger, or maybe I just never happened to encounter them, but sweet potato fries add a measurable level of quality to my life.  I'm only so-so on actual sweet potatos, but the fries? YUM!  And these SPF provide me with some serious protection from hunger and gloom, let me tell you.  I will say that Hammontrees' sweet potato fries are among the best I've ever had, and they might be the ACTUAL best I've ever had, but I'll need to visit again to be sure. Maybe a few more times, just to be really sure.  Nothin' like a Saturday afternoon walking around town, the sun shining, and sweet potato fries in my belly. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Woo Pop Sooie!

I made an interesting discovery at the supermarket one day. The entire shelf display at the end of an aisle was taken up by this:

Limited edition Arkansas Razorbacks Pop Tarts. If I remember correctly, I didn't even put any thought into whether or not I should buy a box. Honestly, I don't even remember doing it. I must have put a box in my cart directly after snapping this photo. It wasn't until later, when I was checking out, when I saw them again and thought, "Oh yeah, I guess I'm buying these."

I get the feeling that by buying these Pop Tarts, I've already shown more school spirit than for Arkansas than for any school I've ever attended. Sadly, I don't think the technology for custom printed Pop Tarts was available 15 years ago during my days at the University of Delaware, nor do I think they'd waste the technology on some Division II school.

After doing some light Internet research, I've discovered that The Razorbacks are one of five schools that earned the Pop Tart honor. The other schools are UNC, Florida, Michigan and Georgia. I'm not sure why those five schools were picked. It would make sense if they were going to do a few schools a year, they'd go with colors that match the flavor that year. So since this was a strawberry year, they'd do a bunch of schools with red logos.

Nope. That theory goes out the window with the inclusion of Michigan.


I don't know. I would think "Go Blue berry" would make more sense to me than "Go Blue Strawberry," but no one asked my opinion.

As an added bonus, the football schedule was printed on the back of the box.


However, I'm thinking that if you're buying the Arkansas Razorbacks Pop Tarts, you're either a big enough fan that you're able to recite the schedule from memory -- or at least have it plastered on a half-dozen surfaces around your home -- or you're someone like me who bought it specifically so that I would be able to say, "Holy crap, you're not going to believe what I bought today."


Weeks later, as the special Pop Tart inventory decreases, the supermarket has been using the space for another Razorback-themed item.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Toys, Tusks & Trotters

We've been spending more time up in Bentonville lately, which is the apex of Walmart Country, mostly because.....well, that's where Walmart Home Office is.  Some friends of ours bought a house up there, a few blocks off the Bentonville Square, so we've found ourselves making the half hour drive up to B'ville fairly often in the last several months.

One of those recent adventures was to revel in the glory of First Fridays, a similar town-square event to Fayetteville's own First Thursdays.  No idea what the Bentonville event normally looks like, but I can tell you that the first Friday of November, First Fridays is a toy fair extravaganza.

Toy booths were everywhere along with delicious fair foods (cotton candy, corn dogs, fried pickles, etc.).  Folks were demonstrating remote control planes, some poor schmuck was dressed up as Barbie taking pictures with kids, they had a Mystery Machine bus you could wait in line to walk through (we didn't), and Batman was there taking pictures near his camouflage Batmobile and Batmotorcycle.  There was a stage with perky teens singing Radio Disney songs, a lego tent, a Play-doh tent, and all kinds of other tents with toys to look at and play with.  It was a kid's paradise.

Of course, we went with a group of childless-adults (OK, to be fair, one of our party was 8 months pregnant, so there were some impending parents in our midst) and meandered through the throngs of visitors.  And it did feel more "throng-like" than any other event I've been to in Walmart Country save the Wild Hog Convention.  It was pointed out to me that the Toy Fair makes for excellent people-watching, between the Walmart execs and the "local hillbillys."

Others might have also enjoyed watching us, as we took pictures with the cardboard Disney princesses, the cardboard Bratz dolls, the Scooby Doo gang cutouts, and one very special picture of Doug looking at the One Direction (excuse me, 1D) dolls.

After wandering through the fair, we headed over to Tusk & Trotter, the only restaurant Doug and I have been to on the Bentonville Square (we tried another place but the wait was an hour and we were too hungry for that).  It's a great place, good atmosphere if you can ignore the HUGE hog paintings everywhere, and delicious food.  As our little Canadaphile, Doug had the Poutine, and I had one of the best burger's I've ever had called the "Charcuterie burger."  Description: Housemade sausage patty, duck pate, housemade bacon, pickled vegetables, housemade roasted garlic-red grape cheese, brioche bun.  YUM!  Oh, and their pub food comes with your choice of salad, veggies, or three kinds of fries.  Salt and pepper, truffle or glazed.  The glazed fries are delish--slightly sweet but not overpowering.

The Sunday brunch menu looks phenomenal.  Perhaps some day we will have a reason to go up to B'ville for brunchy-goodness and have a carrot cake waffle or lemon souffle pancakes or duck pastrami eggs benedict.

Just goes to show that we have some good food and some entertaining culture here in Walmart Country. Time to visit, ya'll, time to visit and give us a reason to go out to brunch. :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Award-winning runner!

I'm not sure at what point in the last year I stopped hating running. I think it's been since August.  Last year, I ran because it's free exercise, emphasis on "free."  It's not my preferred way of getting physical activity, but there appear to be NO modern/jazz dance classes for adults in this town and I'm thusfar unwilling to join the gym at the University.  Mostly because the gym is a hike from my office--and I mean hike.  Uphill.  A big hill.  So I don't want to walk to the gym in the morning, work out, shower, and then have to sweat my way up the hill to my office.  No way.  And I prefer to work out in the mornings, so...yeah.  I've just avoided joining the gym.

Sometime over the last few months, I've stopped hating it.  I don't look forward to it, exactly, but I don't hate it.  Podcasts are much to do with this.  Running to music isn't fun for me, it makes me think about how I'm running, and that just makes me want to stop. But listening to podcasts makes the time go by quickly, because I'm listening to a story, and I want to find out what happens, so I just keep running.

As Doug noted a ways back, I ran a 10K this fall, only the second in my life.  I did better on the first one (two years ago), but was close to my target time in less-than-ideal conditions (not used to running on gravel, ground was muddy from rain, temperature was in Indian-Summer-ville).  While "training" for the 10K, slowly increasing my milage up from 3 miles to 4, then 5, I stopped hating running.

So, when the opportunity to run another short race came around, the "Down and Dirty" 5K, I decided to do it.  This time I left Doug home, and woke up early on a Saturday morning to sub-freezing weather.  I drove over to the race area (the same place I'd run the 10K!) with a hat and gloves and commenced to run the fastest 5K I've ever run.  I think I clocked in at 26:45 or so (the above link should have the race results posted on the website along with pictures....but they aren't there yet).  Considering my best 5K before this one was 27:50, this means I shaved over a minute off my best time....go me!  And even better...I placed 3rd in my age group!  Apparently of the 100 or so people who ran the race, this was by far the biggest age group, so obviously it's very very meaningful.  Here's my medal:


After the 5K they held a one mile "fun run," populated mostly by families with small children. After Doug's experience and this one, I now understand that "fun run" means "mostly for kids."  But having looked at the race results from previous years, the placers were all adults and I thought I might be able to "medal" in this event too.  As it turns out, I came in second.  Not second in my age group or second for women (though both of these were true too), but second overall.  The top finisher was a marathon-running woman who ran the mile in just under 7 minutes, and I came in at 7:40 or so.  I probably could have pushed myself to run faster, but it seemed plenty fast enough.  The ridiculous plaque I received:


So where does this leave me?  With some silly awards and the possibility of training for a half-marathon.  I have zero interest in a full marathon, but I think I might train for a half.  Maybe.

Also with the knowledge that I like running in the cold.  I woke up on November 4th with an extra hour on my hands due to the time change, and I decided to use that hour for a run.  Of my own free will, I ran 6.5 miles in just over an hour and came back invigorated.

I think Doug is worried I've been taken over by an alien.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Haunted Corn Maze

A few weeks ago, some friends of ours invited us to go to a haunted corn maze.  Considering how awesome my first corn maze two years ago outside of Albuquerque was, I was totally in.

Except, things are done Walmart Country style.

The link to the corn maze website (It's a MAZE-ing!) is here, but as I doubt anyone actually clicks on my links, I will instead steal their picture and post it here so you can see how hog-wild these people are for their hogs:


People, the corn maze HAS A PICTURE OF A PIG IN IT.  Within an outline of the state of Arkansas!  I mean.....wow.

Anyway, we went at night to the "haunted" corn maze.  When we got there, we found all kinds of goofy small-town stuff, namely $20 helicopter rides over the maze and some kind of "corn shooter" where you shoot cobs of corn out of a cannon-y type thing toward a target.  Unfortunately, I cannot be more specific about this because no one in our party wanted to do it, and I just wanted to watch someone else do it.

We waited in line about 10 minutes before getting into the maze, and once we did, it was....well...walking around in a field of corn expecting some creepy creature to jump out at you.  Which is fun, if you like the ambiguity of fear.  The first fella who jumped out at us was very friendly after we screaming, as he said something like "You have a nice night now!" as he backed into the corn.  My personal favorite was when we reached what looked like a dead end, but someone holding a row of corn then jumped out at is.  Sort of the corn-maze version of a false door.

I probably made the mistake of wearing clothing too light in color, because the creepers seemed to like jumping at me in particular, which was mostly fun, but a little scary when a chainsaw was involved.

All in all, though, it was a fun small town adventure, a night that ended up in our sitting in a friend's backyard roasting giant marshmallows over a fire pit and chatting...just what a fall weekend night should be like in a small town.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fossil Cove

Recently, Doug and I "discovered" a new Fayetteville tap room called Fossil Cove Brewery.  And by "discovered," I mean that one of my new faculty friends (from teaching camp!) invited me to go there for a trivia night with her and one of her colleagues.  Of course I invited Doug, but they wanted more of a "ladies night" thing, so I met them halfway. I went first and told Doug to come by later, to help us at trivia and to drive me home.

I walked there from the office, about 1.5 miles achieved in half an hour.  It was a lovely fall day, and I just put on a podcast and strolled up the trail.  The actual location for the tap room is in an industrial-feeling part of town, though right near to residential neighborhoods.  In terms of location, it felt similar to our favorite Albuquerque brew house/tap room owned by some friends of Dougs, La Cumbre.  Seriously, if you're in Albuquerque with a car, check it out, especially if you like IPAs.

Anyway, Fossil Cove was really cute!  Very small, with a bar counter and maybe 5-6 tables, it's a one room venture adjacent to the actual brewing room with big ole beer barrels.  The tap room has local art on the walls, is painted a cheery color, and just seems like a happy place.  They have outdoor seating as well which I'm sure we'll take advantage of next summer.

And the beer.  The beer is good!  I particularly like a Belgian brown they make.  There are a bunch of IPA-types as well, which I didn't try because I'm less of an IPA fan, but others said they were good.  The trivia was difficult and we didn't get a question correct until Doug came--though I knew the question they asked immediately before he walked in (Which president had the shortest term?). Mostly because of The Simpsons.

We've been back to Fossil Cove since, after my winning race (more on that in another post!), and enjoyed it just as much the second time.  Yay for local brews!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Halloween in Walmart Country

As anyone who knows us knows, Doug and I love Halloween.  We both had Halloween pictures posted on our internet dating profiles, and recognized early that Halloween (and other associated events that allow for ridiculous dress-up opportunities) was an area of common interest.  The first year were were dating, our costumes were equally ridiculous in different ways--Doug went as Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons and spiked his then-long hair out in mohawks all over his head, and I went as "Baby got Back" (Yes, the Sir-Mix-a-Lot song!) by dressing up as a baby and padding my ass out as far as I could.

Naturally, we both feel we have a lot to live up to for Halloween, and last year we did.....nothing.  We had nowhere to go, no reason to dress up, other than possibly dressing up as a farm animal to get a free burrito from Chipotle, which ultimately felt too sad to actually do.  Since then, we've talked repeatedly about what we should be this year, but conversations stalled when we realized that yet again, we really had no where to go and no Halloween parties to attend.

That is, until the week before Halloween, when some friends of ours said they would be holding a chili-party the night of Halloween.  The cook of the house makes a damn fine chili, so we decided to go, and heavens forbid if we are going to go out on Halloween night and not dress up.

So, we scrambled a bit to come up with some last minute costume ideas.  We ended up going as George Bluth and Kitty Sanchez from the TV Show Arrested Development.

Or, to be more specific, Doug put on an orange jumpsuit and a black do-rag type thing to emulate this:


And I sewed foam false boobs to a white T-shirt so that I could have weirdly mismatched nipples like this:


Also, importantly, the character of Kitty is known for saying some kind of line akin to "Say goodbye to THESE!" and then flashes one of the other characters. She does this a lot.  So, I thought it would be funny if I could do the same, which is the other reason for the foam false boobs on the white t-shirt....I could "flash" people during the party.

As it turns out, the majority of the party-goers were Walmart and Sams-Club folks who are lovely people, but I don't think they watch much Arrested Development and they looked highly uncomfortable with the flashing.  Eh, this is what they get from a creative academic type.

In other news, trick-or-treating in Walmart Country is a weird event.  According to Doug, who manned our door until he left to come pick me up for work, we got no trick-or-treaters at all.  There was a trick-or-treating event downtown, a few blocks away, so perhaps all the kids went there.  Or they got smart and went to the fancy neighborhoods.  My colleague, who lives in the historic district, said that he spent $35 on candy and it was all gone by 7:30pm.

The same thing apparently happened near downtown Bentonville.  Friends of ours, who live 4 blocks from the square, said they got almost no trick-or-treaters, but people they know who live right off the square had over a thousand trick-or-treaters.  There may be a bit of hyperbole going on here, but not as much as you might think.  I guess there are some zones for candy-getting and some zones of safety.  As usual, Walmart Country does things its own way.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Petra Cafe

As is our more-often-than-not tradition here in Walmart Country, we like to go to the movies on Saturday mornings for $4 each.  Our local crappy movie theatre shows new releases and movies that have been out long enough that they would certainly be at the dollar theatre in a larger town.  For example, last year The Help played at this crappy movie theatre until it was out on DVD.

On a recent Saturday, we went to see the new Ben Affleck movie "Argo."  It was an excellent flick, with good acting and great production value.  I even learned something!  And we were exactly one half of the viewing audience at that showing.  When we left the theatre at 12:30 we were hungry, and keeping (sort of) with the movie's Middle Eastern setting, I had the bright idea of going to a local Mediterranean place we've heard about since before we moved here but had not yet frequented.

Petra Cafe is a lunch-only joint right off the Fayetteville Square.  This is the main reason we have never been there--it's not open on Sundays, and I rarely leave my office for lunch during the week, let alone campus, so we've just never made it up to downtown during their business hours.

I should probably add that I do occasionally go to lunch with a colleague or two, and on those trips I've eaten at the Thai restaurant right next to Petra, but never been into Petra itself.  Part of the reason for this is that Petra is just not feasible for groups larger than 2.  The entire place has a counter with 6-7 stools, 3 tables (maybe 3 people could sit at one of these tables....maybe) and another two stools next to the window.  I mean, it's a tiny tiny place.

It barely seems to count as a restaurant in other ways, too.  They have a normal-person fridge and stove, nothing commercial-grade you would see in a normal restaurant.  Clearly the guy who runs the place just makes batches of hummus and stuff, simmers meat and soup on the stove each day, puts it all together with pita bread, and serves it with love.

We both ordered a platter that came with gyro meat and taziki sauce and two sides.  I had hummus and baba ganouge (plus a few Falafil), Doug had hummus and foule, and afterward we shared a piece of baklava.  MMMMMMM!

I have a sneaking suspicion that Doug is going to start walking up there for lunches now that he knows and loves the Petra Cafe, and although I can't blame him, I might get a wee bit jealous.  Or I might be enticed to leave my office at lunch slightly more often.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I'm Number 1!

Two years ago, soon after Jenn and I met, we ran a road race. It was my first 5K race and her first 10K race. Since then, our interest in running had ebbed and flowed over time, and we've done a few 5Ks together. It has gotten to the point that I've lost all interest in running (not that I had ever been that much of an enthusiast), whereas Jenn has picked it up again recently. She decided that she was ready for her next 10K, so she signed up for the Chili Pepper Run.

She said that she would sign me up for a 5K. I didn't know if I was in enough shape to do one, but I figured I'd be able to walk some of it if I got tired. They didn't have a 5K, but they did have a 1-mile fun run. I, for the record, see nothing fun about running a mile; but since all participants got a meal after the race and Jenn was doing her race, I figured I could do the mile run and wait for Jenn to finish her race.

The really exciting news was that since I was doing a different race then Jenn, there was a different numbering system. My tag number was 1. Pretty exciting right?

I felt less important when I found out that everyone doing the fun run had the same number.

I can say with great certainty that I finished first in my gender and age group. As an added bonus, I was able to boast that I was the tallest participant in the race.

I know all of this because I was one of about twenty or so runners. A vast majority of them were kids. There were two other adults, and they appeared to be mothers of children in the race. One of the moms looked like she wasn't taking part in the 10K because she had just taken part in the Ironman the previous week, plus someone had to watch her kids while her husband ran the 10K.

It turns out that children who enter one-mile fun runs fall into one category. They're athletic children who enjoy running and/or live in an athletic family, so running a mile isn't that big of a deal to them. While this adult signed up to pass time while his wife did the 10K, kids sign up because they like to run and they're good at it.

On the plus side, these athletic kids have a sense of sportsmanship, so not a single one laughed at the sad man who finished dead last in a race among children.

At least, not to his face.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Professionally Unprompt

Twice in the past few weeks, we've needed a professional to come to the house for one reason or another. I get the impression that companies around here aren't really interested in wooing new customers. It's either that, or I've been spoiled with the notion of someone saying they would be by on a certain day to fix something, and they actually show up on that day.

Last month, I tried to get landscapers over to tend to our neglected and overgrown lawn. We didn't need anything special, just people to come over and cut the grass in our yard. I had contacted a few local landscaping companies. Four, actually. One got back to me rather quickly, but only to tell me that I lived outside of their service area. After a day or so, I only heard from one other company. I'm left to assume that either those other two aren't really interested in getting any customers, or they didn't think our we presented enough of a challenge.

The company I did hear from told me he'd stop by to get a look at my yard and to give me an estimate. He gave me a one-hour window of when he would come over. Almost two hours after that window passed, I called him and left a message. He called back 45 minutes later to tell me that he was running late. Looking back, I know that his "I'll be there by 2:30" actually meant "I'll be there by 6." I'm not blaming him for being late. It would just be nice to get a heads up.

He eventually emailed me an estimate, I agreed, and we were all set. He told me his people would be there Friday at 2 pm. Great!

Friday came, and it rained most of the day. I didn't want to bug him to ask if he was coming, because I didn't want to be that high-strung customer, high maintenance customer that annoys him to the point that he resented me. I had just assumed that his people wouldn't be working on that day and that they'll be by either Saturday (if they work weekends) or Monday.

Saturday came and went with nothing. I didn't hear anything Monday. I emailed him late Monday asking what was up. The following day, he emailed me saying that they would be there on that day.

They came by on Wednesday.

Luckily, the issue was overgrown grass, not something malfunctioning in the house.

Weeks later, we decided to take care of our leaky bathroom faucet. I looked online to see if this was something even someone like me could fix. According to videos found on YouTube, yes, it was. When I actually attempted to fix it, I figured out that either all of those videos were lying or our faucet was completely different than the ones featured in the videos. Either scenario wouldn't have surprised me.

I called a plumber, who told me he would be by tomorrow. He didn't give me a time... just "tomorrow." Even the cable guy gives me a four-hour window. I shouldn't have to use the cable company as an example of fine customer service. Luckily, I'm home most of the day, so I can stay in all day and wait for a plumber if I had to. He never showed up. I called him to find out what was going on, and he never called me back.

I called plumber #2, and they also told me they would be by the next day. When asked for a general estimate, they said sometime after 12. When 5 rolled around, I called to find out if they were still coming. I had figured that they were running behind, their day would be ending soon and they'd get to me the next day. The guy, almost impatiently, told me that he was running behind. Basically, he was coming over when he was coming over.

He came at 7:30. Technically, it was after 12. But again, I'm glad I was able to stay home so that I could wait for these people who would be coming by late enough to disturb dinner. My problem was more complicated than I had thought, and he would have to return. He couldn't tell me when, but judging from the tone of his voice, the following day (Tuesday) wasn't likely.

I didn't hear anything until Wednesday at 7pm, when he called to ask if it was a good time for him to come by for him to do the thing he said could take an hour or two. We didn't want to have the plumber over until 9pm, so I asked if it was okay if he put us off until the next day.

My assumption was that since I had been waiting since Tuesday, and they couldn't get to me Wednesday night, I would be first in line to get a visit on Thursday. They came Friday afternoon.

I'd have to say that both the landscapers and the plumber did a good job. When they eventually got here. I don't know what message I should get out of all of this. Are they telling me I should become a master of DIY home projects? Is time not really an issue here? Or are all of the professionals have a pact to be bad at this promptness thing?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Variations in Culture: Part II

As previously stated, recently Doug and I had a weekend full of culture. We dined out for peace and the next night went to a classy play at the University.  The night after THAT we went the opposite direction in terms of culture: we went to the Demolition Derby.

I forget how the idea even arose.  I think we had just sat down to dinner one night (at our classy dining table) when Doug said off-handedly, "I saw an ad for the demolition derby on TV."  I was immediately intrigued, as I've never been to a demolition derby, and it seemed an excellent opportunity for people watching and exploring local culture.  I was 100% sold when I found out it was held at the Rodeo of the Ozarks and called "The Big Smash in Springdale."

I readily admit that we fully intended on going to the Demolition Derby from a snobbery perspective.  I figured it would be stupid, perhaps attended by overall-clad, long-bearded individuals with missing teeth (note: although a stereotype, we have seen many a folk fitting this description since moving to town), and my overall intent was to make fun of it.  But if I might skip right to the end for a second, Doug and I both had a blast and we are already planning to go again in May, next time without the pretentious snobbery attitudes born from elitism and enjoyment of judgment.  Never you fear, those attitudes will still come out in other situations, but no longer at the Derby!

The night of the Derby, a cold front was passing through Walmart Country, such that it was about 40 degrees out.  Perhaps cooler.  Now, we were born and bred in the northlands and are no stranger to cold weather, but it was a stark contrast to the 75 degree weather we'd had two days prior.  So, we did what our growing Arkansonian roots prompted us to do: we put on our JCPenny-bought Arkansas sweatshirts, jeans, and the red knit Hog hats my mom made us last year (mine makes me look like Pippi Longstocking, with long side "braids" and Doug's says "Go Hogs!" around the brim), grabbed one of our slankets (the superior-to-a-Snuggie blanket-with-arms) and headed off to the Rodeo grounds.


It started off a little shaky for us, with a full on star-spangled banner and some kind of prayer that I've already blocked out of my mind.  But once the cars started to roll out, the fun began.  Now, I should also note that I couldn't understand half of what the announcer was saying, so I'm not sure I really understand the rules or the purpose of the derby.  All I gleaned was that 8-9 old crappy cars, decorated and painted in any-which-way (pink, jack-o-lantern!, names painted across the back) come out at once, facing the outside, like this:



Then, when the horn sounds, they back up as fast as they can, possibly hitting another car, and turn around so that they can hit other cars full on.  It's like real car bumper cars!  They drive around smashing into one another!  A car is "out" when (a) it gets dug into the dirt such that the wheels spin and it can't move, (b) it gets somehow pinned and it can't move, or (c) someone smashes it enough that it actually stops running.  So basically a car is out when it can't move anymore, at which point the driver takes the orange flag off the car and resigns himself to a life of failure.  The round continues until there are three cars left.  Then those cars that can still move drive off, and the others are towed off by tractors.  So awesome. Check this out:


SMASH!!!

We did not stay for the final rounds when the cars came back out to battle for the final $3000 prize. It was far too cold for that.  We did, however, catch the awesome "mini" round which was compact cars like corollas and civics and such.  Those guys only had one round and they just went for it, smashing into each other with far more zest and gusto than the larger cars (who I assume were conserving some power/energy for the finals).  It was so much fun!!

In between rounds we walked around the grounds and bought hot chocolate, people watching and observing the small little carnival set up just to the north of the fairgrounds.  Most importantly, we bought Doug a kickin' derby T-shirt, which is an excellent keepsake of our new favorite Walmart Country past-time:


Monday, October 15, 2012

Variations in Culture: Part 1

Recently, Doug and I had a weekend full of culture of all types.  The title of this post was intentionally chosen, as our first cultural excursion was to the University of Arkansas Theatre for their production of 33 Variations.  According to Wikipedia, the U of A is the first college production of this play, a Tony nominee for best play in 2009.

Although I love theatre and want to support the drama department, on this particular day I really didn't want to go.  It was a long day at work, the temperature dropped 30 degrees in a day, and I really didn't want to walk all the way (read: a little over a mile) back to campus an hour after I walked home.  Not to mention that we saw three of the four shows the theatre department put on last year, and one of them was awful (neither of us liked the play, although the production seemed OK), one of them was decent and the third I was insanely critical of because I know the show really well (they did Cabaret for the spring musical, and the casting was bad--seemed like they were casting MFA students in lead roles so that they could have leads rather than casting the best singers/actors for the parts).

Despite my reticence, we trudged back up to campus anyway, figuring it was the last weekend to see the show and it would be something different from watching TV on the couch.  As it turns out, I'm really glad we went, because the play was fabulous, and the acting was stellar.

33 Variations is a play about a musicologist and her obsession with understanding why Beethoven wrote what is now known as Diabelli's Variations.  Diabelli, a publisher and composer, wrote a short waltz and sent it to all the prominent composers of the day, asking them to write a variation on it, where he intended to publish them together as a set.  Beethoven ended up writing 33 variations of Diabelli's waltz, and the reasons for him doing so are unclear.

The musicologist, Katherine, goes to Germany to immerse herself in Beethoven's sketches, a trip that is not encouraged by her daughter, Clara, in large part because Katherine has been diagnosed with ALS (otherwise known has Lou Gehrig's disease).  The play, then, is about Katherine's tenuous relationship with her daughter and her quest to understand Beethoven's 33 Variations.  We, the audience, see the modern day Katherine and we see scenes of Beethoven, Diabelli, and Beethoven's right hand man-servant/friend, as Beethoven writes the variations and slowly loses his hearing.  Of course, we also see Katherine succumb to her disease.  The two stories are woven together masterfully, and the play is both funny and dramatic.

The University of Arkansas production was beautiful.  The set was simple but flexible, the lighting was dramatic when it needed to be, and none of it was overdone.  The acting was also really great, particularly the MFA student who played Katherine, but really the whole cast did an excellent job.  I walked out of the play with virtually no criticism, which for me is really saying something.  Doug enjoyed it as well; I think he said that this was the best non-comedy play he's ever seen.

After the show we walked home in the cold and made ourselves even more cold by getting frozen yogurt at our favorite choose-your-topping frozen yogurt shop on the way home.  I'm so glad I fought my "ehhh, lets just watch TV" impulse, because there is something magical about seeing a really good piece of theatre, when the writing and the play come together with a good production. It doesn't happen all that often for me, but when it does, I know I'll remember the experience for many years to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dining for Peace!

The other day, Doug and I were planning our normal routine, which is that I get home around 7pm, and he has dinner made or in progress.  We eat at our kitchen table (very adult of us--no more eating in front of the TV) and then retire to the couch for an evening of TV and movies.

But on this particular day, I was reminded that a local domestic violence shelter, Peace at Home, was holding a "Dine Out for Peace" event.  The shelter is not only a great source for people who are victims of domestic violence, but it is also a training site for students in the program.  One of our faculty members supervises the cases, and the students spent about 20 hours a week working with the (primarily) women and children who go to the shelter.

The event involved  a collaboration with area restaurants, where a percentage of all proceeds on the Dine Out for Peace night would go to the shelter.  So, Doug and I scrapped our normal plan and headed out to eat...for Peace!

We ended up at Ellas Restaurant, the closest sit-down restaurant to my office.  In fact, Ellas was the first place I ever ate in Fayetteville, because it is the restaurant in the Inn at Carnall Hall.  When I first came to interview, I stayed at Carnall Hall, and it was my favorite hotel of my interview circuit.  It was originally built as a residence hall for women, and was repurposed into an academic building for a couple of decades.  In the late 90s it was slated for demolition, but someone decided to renovate it into a historic hotel and restaurant.  It's a fabulous place to stay; the rooms are nice and comfortable, and the bar on the first floor is the regular "happy hour" location for the Psychology Department.  It's right on campus, a less than five minute walk from our building, so it's incredibly convenient for job candidates, other visitors, and impromptu get-togethers.

Doug and I have been to Ellas for brunch a few times, and I've been there for lunch several times for department functions.  I hear they have an Indian buffet on Tuesdays for lunch, but I haven't made it over there for that one yet.  Neither of us had ever been there for dinner, so we thought this might be the night to try it.

Ellas gives me the same kind of vibe as The Walnut Room in downtown Chicago's State Street Macys.  Not in look, as the Walnut Room is grand, with tall ceilings, dark wood paneling, and huge windows that look out over the Loop, whereas Ellas is one room, cozily decorated in shades of gold, with big overstuffed chairs.  The Walnut Room is always full of tourists, and Ellas is typically full of academics and academic administrators in suits.  But both of them have nice tablecloths, classical music playing softly in the background, and impeccable service, and I feel like I'm in an oasis away from the bustle of the modern world.  Both are places to relax, to linger, to savor, and I do feel pretty peaceful in both of them.  [Side note:  I'm not starting a competition here, because both restaurants are superior in different ways, but the Walnut Room has one of the most amazing desserts I've ever had--a Frango Mint cheesecake, made from the famous Marshall Field's frango mints.  Seriously amazing.]

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner and some crisp white wine.  Doug had pork tenderloin served with whipped mashed potatos and asparagus, and I had a soy and ginger glazed salmon served over rice and "asian slaw" with broccolini on the side.  I also got to eat Doug's asparagus, because he finds it disgusting and I find it delicious, so win-win on that one.

A former colleague, who retired last spring, was at the next table, so I was able to catch up with him briefly and feel as though I actually know people in this town.  He recommended the bread pudding for dessert, so we tried the dried cherry and white chocolate bread pudding served with a berry frozen custard, and it was divine.

A nice break from the usual routine, for a nice cause.  And I officially recommend the Inn at Carnall Hall to anyone coming to Fayetteville for lodging, spirits, and food.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Woo Pig Dew

One of these days I'm going to take some pictures of all the Razorback shops or sections of stores around town.  You wouldn't believe the amount of space Razorback gear takes up at the local Walmart.

But this really cracks me up:


Who forged the deal between Mountain Dew and the University of Arkansas such that an entire soda machine can be lit up with the ever-familiar running crazed pig and one of the the dumbest crowd calls in college football?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Another Wild Hog Convention Gone

I believe I told this story last year, but I'll tell an abridged version for the two new readers we might have.  Doug and I have a fondness for a charming little town called Madrid in the mountains between Albuquerque and Sante Fe in New Mexico.  It's a one-street town, less than a mile long, with a bunch of cute restaurants and artsy little shops, known for it's long-ago history as a coal mining town and it's recent history as the setting for the silly John Travolta/Tim Allen/William H. Macy/Martin Lawrence movie Wild Hogs.

The plot of the movie is really not necessary to understand here--grab some beers and rent the flick sometime--other than to say that these four suburban dudes ride around on motorcycles calling themselves the Wild Hogs.

Doug and I have seen this movie, visited the tourist trap store devoted to the film in Madrid, and now call out "Hey, a wild hog!" whenever we see a dude on a motorcycle.  Of note, Doug recently coined "Hey, a wild sow!" for a female biker.

Of course, then, I dubbed the yearly motorcycle rally that happens in Fayetteville The Wild Hog Convention.  The real name is Bikes, Blues, and BBQ but this name has issues. First, all the words start with the letter "B."  This makes it difficult me to remember which word comes first.  Second, there are just too many syllables.  I truly needed a nickname so that I could refer to the mass of leather chaps, loud roars, bandanas and long beards that descended into my town, so Wild Hog convention it is.

Plenty of people leave town during the Wild Hog Convention, because (a) it's hard to drive anywhere due to the number of cars/bikes on the road, and (b) it's just friggin' LOUD everywhere.  Especially when you live two blocks from the main stretch of the rally.

But really, it just didn't affect me much.  Yes, it was hard to teach with the windows open.  Yes, it was hard to talk on the phone while walking home.  Ultimately, though, I like all the Wild Hogs.  I think the bikes are pretty to look at, and the people are just fascinating.  Doug and I spent about 20 minutes actually walking around the rally, and he grumbled the whole time, but I could have put in some ear plugs and plunked down to people-watch for hours.  Wild Hog Convention, you are welcome in my town anytime.

OK, maybe just the one time per year.  That is probably enough.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Big Cats!

OK, OK, I know I promised I would post at least once a week, and I haven't posted in about 10 days.  I have failed my own mission.  The good news is that I was posting more than once a week before that, so I'm ahead of things in sheer numbers of posts.  I also have no idea why I'm apologizing to the four people who read this thing, but I think I'm actually apologizing to myself for failing in my promise.

I'm over it, lets move on.  Recently, Doug and I visited the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge. Or, as we like to call it, "Big CATS!"  It's really impossible to describe the way that we say it in a written blog.  It's kind of a blurry, snarly way.

We got a Groupon-like coupon for the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a two-for-one kind of gig.  Considering we were planning to go eventually, it seemed like a good deal.  Then....we got married, got busy with other things and simply forgot about driving the 45 minutes to see a bunch of tigers.  Well, also we didn't want to walk around a wildlife refuge in the crazy Arkansas heat.  So, thankfully the day before the coupon expired, the weather cooled down and we decided to make those big cats our bitches.

When we arrived, we visited the restroom outside of the refuge area.  Normally I wouldn't blog about a restroom visit, but this one was notable because as I headed into the womens room and Doug into the mens room, I heard loud singing coming from the mens room.  Turns out the mens room had showers, and there were a couple of dudes showering in the random bathroom near the Tiger Camp (which is what I will refer to this place as from now on).

Inside Tiger Camp, there were two main areas.  First was what they called "the compound" which was a fairly small concrete area with a bunch of separate cages.  Sort of like a zoo.  There were about a dozen tigers, some other big cats (lions, jaguars, bobcats), a monkey, and a super cute bear.  I really liked the bear.  It was a big ole brown bear, cute as could be.  It was in pacing mode, just walking back and forth around its cage.

The second main area of Tiger Camp was the "habitat" areas, where the big kitties have access to grassy roaming areas.  Typically each habitat was shared with another cat, where each has an "on day" and an "off day."  During the "on day" the cat gets to roam around the habitat, and on the off day the cat goes into an adjacent cage and the habitat is habitated by a buddy.  A buddy that is too dangerous and/or bitchy to share on the same day.  Me thinks tigers didn't do so well in kindergarten.

One major thing that I learned when going to Tiger Camp is something I should have recalled from many past zoo visits: big cats are really boring most of the time.  Tigers and lions just sit around most of the time in zoos, because they have no need to hunt, and they are often sequestered from other creatures.  They just sit around in the shade, sometimes licking themselves.  It's not super interesting.  I mean, it's cute:


But not so interesting.

Yet.  We deliberately arrived at Tiger Camp late in the afternoon, as we heard that feeding time was around 5pm. As it turned out, this was a wise plan, because the lions and tigers and bears (Oh my! [you must have been just waiting for me to say that]) all knew that feeding time was coming.  They were roaming around, salivating while waiting for the meat truck.  Or in this bear's case, the orange truck:


We also got to watch some interns throw fistfuls of frozen chicken (donated by Tyson) at some caged tigers, who then just went to town on those chicken tenders.  There were two rows of cages between me and the big cats, but I was still only three feet from a tiger at dinner time!


Mostly, we heard the stories about all the big cats who ended up at the refuge.  I had no idea how big the exotic pet trade is in this country, and how some states just don't have laws saying "It's not a good idea to buy a pet lion."  So when people try to raise big cats and it turns out badly (whether for the furniture of the owners or the health of the cats--apparently declawing tigers results in arthritis for them), Tiger Camp takes them in.  They bring in the cats, keep them in the "compound" until habitats can be built for them, and then transfer them to the shared habitats where they spend the rest of their days.  They try to keep the cats comfortable, healthy, and safe.  We saw a tiger with a missing ear middle ear bone, lots of tigers with arthritis, and even a three-legged tiger!  Was it the most scintillating few hours of my life?  Nope, but it certainly was worth the beautiful fall drive.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Archibald

I recently (the last post) blogged about our little trek up to the Land of the Chocolate Mousse Muffin.  I know, I know, it was almost too exciting to bear, but I'm about to tell you that after that muffin, the morning just got better.

As is usual when I am within a half-mile radius of a TJ Maxx, I become pulled in to it's orbit.  I hate those commercials, but I probably am (as I shamefully admit) a "Maxxinista."  I have found many a good deal in the clearance racks of the TJ Maxx, and the opportunity for a good deal is hard for me to pass up.

The main problem with my love of the TJ Maxx is that Doug hates it there.  Ultimately it's probably a good thing, because I spend far less time in there than I would on my own, but I feel guilty whenever I want to go Maxx it up, because it's always when Doug and I are together and he considers that place one layer of his living hell.  He's a good sport about it and always says "take your time!" but we both know he doesn't really mean it.

On this particular visit, I did a whirlwind trip through the clearance section, tried on some stuff and then abandoned it.  I then decided I should try to include Doug in my shopping so that he might have a positive trip at The Maxx, so I found him and dragged him back to the lamp section with the intention of looking for a lamp to put on the end table on my "side" of the couch.

The lamps were awful, but we were drawn into a random aisle and I began looking at bookends, which is a new obsession of mine, as I have an excess of bookshelf space (for the first time in my life!) at both home and work.

In the bookend aisle, we found the most amazing thing:


It's a bust of a random old creepy dude, over a foot and a half tall.  We are pretty sure that it was supposed to go in the Halloween aisle (evidenced by the bat that is keeping his jacket closed) but our luck had it that he was just hanging out next to a sailboat and a big plastic horse.

I should probably mention that both Doug and I have a love of really weird tacky stuff.  This isn't something we found out about each other early on, but became clear over time, to the point that we have said that if we ever get rich and have a big house, we will make a room into the Worst Stuff Ever Home Museum.  To avoid this actually happening, we don't usually buy the great awful stuff we find, but this one was too hard to resist.  So he came home with us.

Then we decided we had to name him. After a few short hours, the perfect name came to me: Archibald.

Why is this perfect? Well, (a) he's bald.  Secondly (b), it's an old fashioned name, for clearly an old fashioned dude.  Third, and most importantly (c), the name has an Arkansas attachment.

I believe I've blogged about the weirdness of streets changing names around town.  One block a street has one name, and another block it's a different name.  We've got one (major) street that is called College Ave (though it becomes 'Thompson' once you cross the town border into neighboring Springdale) in the northern/central part of town, and School Ave in the southern part of town.  In between those, the street curves twice, and the curvy part is called Archibald Yell:



It's kind of like the street grows up; starts out going to grade School, then it gets Yelled at a bunch, it goes to College, and eventually becomes the adult Mr. or Ms. Thompson.

In any case, Archibald Yell is a small but important part of Fayetteville geography.  I like to call it "Taking the Yell" and almost every time we are on that stretch of road, I either just yell "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" around the curves, or Doug, adopting a deep paternal voice, yells (as if he's chastising a child or employee) "Archibaaaaaaaaald!"  It sounds stupid, but we have to find our amusement somewhere.

So our new housemate has been named after Archibald Yell.  We love him.  When it becomes winter, I might put hats on him to keep his head warm.  Even Margot loves him; she confides all her secret hopes and dreams to him:


We will find a rightful place in our home for him, and he will be visible year round.  To us, he's not a mere Halloween decoration.  He's our Archie.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mimi's Cafe

As most of you know, Doug and I were married a little over three months ago.  Of course, due to the commercialization of the wedding industry, we have received frequent reminders that we should purchase the remaining items on our registry.  Bed, Bath, & Beyond sent us a 10% off coupon awhile back, but a few weeks ago I got a notification that we could go into the store very early on a Saturday morning (8am; OK, so not *that* early) and buy the rest of the items on our registry for 20% off.

Most of the remaining stuff on the registry we don't really need, like a lazy susan serving tray or wall-mounted shampoo pumps for the shower.  But some of the things we really wanted, such as the rest of the dishes we picked out, a spice rack, and some little cool stuff like a corn stripper (it takes corn from corn on the cob and puts it into a little cup!  Awesome!).

So on a rainy Saturday morning, we headed up to Rogers to visit Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  I suppose this deserves a brief explanation as well.  Rogers is about 15 miles north of Fayetteville, but Fayetteville has it's own Bed, Bath & Beyond.  Why go to Rogers?  Well, Rogers was the place we originally registered when we happened to be up there, and now we had to go back there to complete our package.

With a fair amount of grouching from the male side of this couple (due to the earliness), we drove up to Rogers and visited BB&B.  Afterward, we figured we'd make the most of our trek up to Rogers and visit the new Fake Whole Foods that just opened, go to Pottery Barn, and perhaps visit the glory of TJ Maxx.  Before doing these things, however, we needed some breakfast.

Although Bob Evans was on the possibility list, we ended up at Mimi's Cafe, a chain restaurant that is in the Pinnacle Hills Shopping Center (which Doug calls the Arkansas "uptown" for those of you from Albuquerque).  We've been there once before but never for brunch, and let me tell you....we'll be back.

Mostly because of this:


What you see on the right is coffee.  I cannot speak to that, as I didn't have any, and as a chain restaurant, I'm guessing the coffee was nothing special.  On the left you see a chocolate  mousse muffin.

All of the main entrees come with a muffin, so this was something that just came with Doug's meal, just like you can get a cinnamon roll with your meal at Ann Sather in Chicago.  Before I get into the details of the muffin, I should note that it was served with two little wheels of butter.  Who on earth puts butter on a chocolate muffin?  Or do they just serve butter with every muffin?  Why not ask before doing it? Or maybe it's because this is a New Orleans themed restaurant....do people from Louisiana put butter on their chocolate?  We spent much of the meal remarking about this oddity.

Let me not detract from the muffin itself.  Light but flavorful, where the top had a nice crustiness to it and the middle was slightly warm and quite moist, this might be the Muffin of Champions.  Ya'll, it has MOUSSE in the middle, mixed into the muffin, with frosting and chocolate chips on top.  We gobbled it up, sans butter, in a heartbeat.

The rest of the meal was good too, I had apple crepes (yes, two desserts for breakfast, don't judge me) and Doug had some kind of omelette with delicious crusty potatos on the side.  But it all kind of paled in comparison to the muffin.  Next time we're up there I sense us going into Mimis, sitting at the bar, and ordering a beer and a chocolate mousse muffin.  Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tulsa: Part II

I left off, blog-o-sphere, with us heading back to the hotel in downtown Tulsa after the beer hall.

The next day, Sunday, was my actual birthday, and I got some lovely presents from Doug after we woke up (DVDs of The Hunger Games and Mystery Team, and the game Settlers of Cattan). 

We found brunch at a place called Queenie's in a fancy shopping area called Utica Square.  Brunch itself was a nice taste of New Mexico--we both had breakfast burritos with green chile and black beans--and afterward it just happened to be when the stores opened, so I got to visit Anthropologie, one of my favorite stores of all time (which we don't have in Walmart Country). 

Our afternoon was spent at the Tulsa Zoo. Awhile back we purchased a Living Social (the Groupon knockoff around these parts) deal for the Tulsa Zoo which included a "zooper pass."  Neither of us remembered what that was, but it turns out it was an all-day pass for the little train that ran around the zoo, a souvenir cup and admission onto the carousel.  Here's the train:






Yes, the train has some tiger-print.  We rode the train around the zoo to the Sea Lion area and watched a short presentation about Sea Lions. I can now tell you how Sea Lions are different than seals, and I can also tell you that I like otters more than I like sea lions.

The short version is that we went to a zoo, so we walked around and looked at animals.  I think I've been spoiled in the zoo-world, growing up going to Minnesota Zoo and Brookfield Zoo, because I was not super impressed with the Tulsa zoo.  It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, but the animals were kind of old and pretty lethargic, and I didn't get to see any sea otters or penguins. 

For some reason it was an Elebration, so we made sure to go to the elephant show.  I can say that I haven't thought much about elephants before, but I noted (a) they looked really happy (elephant smiles are cute!) and (b) trunks are really awesome but kind of creepy. 

At the end of the day, we decided to ride the carousel before leaving the zoo, even though there were really no other adults riding on the animals.  I chose an Ostrich and Doug nabbed the zebra next to me.  It must have been fated, because the song we heard on our round-and-round trip was the classic Rockapella song Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, which we both knew most of the lyrics for.  So there were two early/mid-thirties people riding on ridiculous animals singing Rockapella at the top of our lungs.  The elderly fellow who ran the carousel was laughing at us, and I like to think we made his day.

We filled our souvenir cups and drove back to town, picking up Village Inn pie and KFC for dinner on the way home, where the cat had not actually ruined anything!  We spent the evening watching The Hunger Games on DVD, which I liked even more the second time around.

All in all, it was a fabulous birthday adventure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tulsa Part I

For many weeks, Doug and I talked about what to do for my birthday.  Not because my birthday is particularly special, but it happened to fall on a Sunday this year (and curses! Due to this year as a leap year, no Saturday birthday for me until 2017) and we wanted an excuse to get out of town.  We talked about Memphis for awhile, a five-hour-away destination that could involve Graceland, blues, and barbeque, but I couldn't find any good hotel deals for Memphis and we kept hemming and hawing on plans.  Suddenly it was Friday night of my birthday weekend and we had no plans to leave town.

On a whim, I looked at what was playing at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and saw they had their last weekend of Neil Simon's classic comedy, The Odd Couple.  I then checked Hotwire.com for a possible hotel deal in Tulsa and they had a 3.5 star hotel for $55 (Hotwire doesn't tell you the name of the hotel until after you book), so after a brief chat, we booked both.  Turns out the hotel was right next door to the performing arts center and right down the block from a fabulous beer hall we've been to a few times, so plans quickly fell into place.

We left around 1pm on Saturday after leaving enough food and water for the cat to survive for 24 hours.  This is a topic for another post, but our cat is kind of a nightmare; she's into everything, very whiny and wants to play all the time, so we were afraid of leaving her alone for a full day.  It was our first overnight trip without her since the wedding.

The drive to Tulsa is about two hours long, and a good chunk of it is a tollway in Oklahoma which I now love because we have the Pike-Pass, which is the same as an IPass or a SunPass or an E-ZPass or whatever your state calls the transponder that allows you to use open road tolling.  It makes me so happy to go through the open road side of the toll plaza, and Doug laughs at my glee.

We got a little lost in downtown Tulsa due to construction, but we eventually found our way to the hotel and snagged some free street parking.  Less than half an hour later, we'd checked into the hotel and made our way down to the pool for some afternoon sunning.  I neglected to take a picture of this, but the pool had a weird feature I've never seen before: half of the pool was inside, and half outside, with just a plastic flap over the top of the water.  So you could swim under water between the inside and outside segments. 

After pool time we headed out to an Italian restaurant called Villa Ravenna.  It had all five-star reviews on Yelp, so we thought we'd give it a try, and we figured it would be easy to get a table at 5:30pm.  Nope.  We walked in and the owner, an adorable middle aged man with an Italian accent, told us that they were completely booked with reservations (despite the fact that there were 4 open tables).  However, he offered to let us sit at one of the outside tables, and as it was 80 degrees and sunny, we happily agreed.

Dinner was delicious; I had a lobster ravioli and Doug had some kind of veal cordon bleu. We followed that with cheesecake for me and tiramisu for him...yum.

Now, dinner went faster than expected, so I figured we had about half an hour of free time to play with.  Of course my first thought was...shopping!  I used my dangerous smart phone and found a TJ Maxx a few miles away.  We went there, I made a mad dash through the store and found a few things to buy, and we made it back downtown with plenty of time before the curtain raised.

I have always loved Neil Simon.  I went through a Neil Simon phase in high school where I bought some anthologies, read everything, and then tried to write in the style of Neil Simon (it didn't go well).  So when given the chance to see The Odd Couple, a play I've read but never seen performed, I jumped at the chance.  Too bad that one of the two leads was just terrible.  TERRIBLE!  The fellow who played Oscar (the sloppy one) was great; but the fellow who played Felix (the organized, up-tight one) was awful.  He did the blocking and said the lines, but there was no sense of character, no sense of urgency, no empathy.  He brought the whole production down.  On the up side, he vaguely reminded me of a blond (bad) David Schwimmer and I decided that David Schwimmer could make an excellent Felix Unger.

After the play we walked the three blocks to our favorite (read: the only one we've been to) Tulsa bar, Fassler Hall. I believe I have blogged about it before, but as a reminder it's a German beer hall type place with big long wooden tables and lots of German beer on tap.  Oh, and they make some of the best bratwurst/sausage I've ever had.  Also delicious duck-fat fries.  In any case, we had some beers, bitched about the play, shared a delicious cheese-filled brat, and generally had a merry time.

Part 2 coming next time!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Beer and Bacon

We are occasional frequenters of a nearby pub called Tanglewood.  I'm fairly sure I've blogged about it before, as it's one of the only brew pub type places in Fayetteville.  It's walking distance from us (about a mile) and they often have live music of the folk/jazz variety.  That means either folk or jazz, not a rotating folk-jazz combo (though...that'd be cool!).

I became Facebook friends with this place after it opened, as they used to have a policy that you got a free beer if you could prove that you walked or biked there, and I also just wanted to support a local place.  I quickly had to hide them from my newsfeed, though, because they are among the Annoying in Facebookland.  Namely they post multiple times a day about stupid stuff that I don't care about, and simply seeing their posts started to annoy me.

Because I hid them, I forgot about one of the weekly specials: Monday night Beer and Bacon.  It's exactly like it sounds.  You go there on a Monday night, order beer, and there is a fishbowl full of bacon you can take handfuls from.  Now, the policy is that you can only take the free bacon if you're drinking beer; soda or water drinkers are not allowed the dip into the bacon pot.  

We recently had our first beer and bacon experience, and I can tell you it was as magical as it sounds.  First of all, the bacon itself was excellent.  It was on the crispy side, as I like it, in both small and medium-sized strips, all curly and salty and delicious.  I mean, it's kind of hard to screw up bacon (because it's BACON) but clearly these people have done the beer and bacon nights enough that they've got the art of bacon down.

Also new news to me, though unsurprising: beer goes well with bacon.  I shouldn't be surprised because bacon is salty, and the salty-plus-beer combo is a time-honored classic (think lederhosen, steins of beer and big salty German pretzels).  I had a "classic," the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and Doug had a Stout of some variety.  We sipped our beer, munched on bacon, and listened to the jazz trio, all on a leisurely Labor Day Monday early evening.  Doug also tried Tanglewood's own craft brew, their porter (on the left below), and it was delicious, particularly alongside bacon.  But really, what doesn't go with bacon?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vegetable Bake

Broccoli is one of my least favorite vegetables. I can't stand the way cooking it stinks up the house, and the combination of its taste and texture literally makes me gag when I try to eat it. Way to go, broccoli, you upset three out of five of my senses. I'm willing to bet that if broccoli made a noise, it would sing my most hated songs incessantly.

I've made the attempt at trying to coax myself into liking broccoli. I used to dislike bananas and onions, and now I'm fine eating them (not together, obviously). I've even turned a corner with tomatoes. Maybe it was a matter of time before I accepted broccoli. I started making it for dinner, much to Jenn's delight, but I just couldn't do it. I would chew as little as possible and wash it down with whatever I was drinking. I decided to give up.

She and I recently had people over. In preparation, she sent me a few recipes to try out on our guests. The one that caught my eye was the Easy Vegetable Bake. The person who posted it online boasted that she "had a recipe that might just get everyone to eat their veggies." I'm guessing that's what caught Jenn's eye. One of the main players in the dish is broccoli, and I'm led to assume that she's looking for me and broccoli to finally get along.

The recipe calls for broccoli, cauliflower (broccoli's less offensive, but still undesirable cousin) and carrots. You take the vegetables and mix in cream cheese, cheddar and some spices. Put it in a dish and cover it with crushed crackers. No, not just any crackers; buttered crackers, like Ritz. Only, for this recipe, there isn't enough butter on those crackers, so you're supposed to melt some butter and mix it into your bowl of crushed pre-buttered crackers and then sprinkle the double-buttered crackers onto the top. Throw it in the oven and there you have it.

I figured that if ever there were a set of circumstances in which I would be able to handle broccoli,  it would be covered in cream cheese, cheddar and buttered butter crackers. I was willing to give it a try.

I have to admit, the cooked broccoli smell just wasn't there. Though the taste was dulled a bit, broccoli will always feel like broccoli in my mouth. So, I think we're just going to have to accept the fact that broccoli and I just aren't meant to be.

Just a side note about the person who posted this recipe and said that it was a good way of getting children to eat their vegetables. I have to wonder if all of the other fattening (but delicious) garbage in this dish cancels out the nutritional benefits that comes with the veggies.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No Shirt*, No Shoes, No Service

Greenhouse Grille is one of our favorite restaurants in the area. This place doesn't seem to have a dress code, but there seems to be an unspoken understanding; don't show up looking like a schlub.

A couple of months ago, Jenn and I were eating there at the table where we have coincidentally been seated multiple times. We like this table because it's in a section a few steps up from the rest of the place. It's a good people-watching spot.

On this evening, there was a large party eating at a long row of tables. One of the men in the party was wearing overalls. No shirt, just overalls. I wondered why this place, of all places, not only let this guy in, but also seated and served him.

As the summer progressed, and triple-digit temperatures became commonplace, I saw a few other men sporting the same look in public. They were in stores or businesses wearing overalls without a shirt. How are these guys able to skirt the universal "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" policy? It's almost as if there's an asterisk on all of those signs that lets people know that overalls would do fine in lieu of a shirt. That just doesn't seem right.

Although, now that I'm thinking about it, overalls offer the same amount of cover as tank tops of sleeveless shirts that I see guys wearing. While I wouldn't go out in public wearing anything like this, I wouldn't think twice about seeing someone wearing one of those in a supermarket or a Jimmy Johns. I wouldn't expect to see it in Greenhouse Grille, but whatever.

So, I guess one could argue that overalls fill the shirt requirement, as it does cover most of the torso. I guess my real problem is that these guys don't seem to mind being a walking cliche. I honestly want to walk up to the next person I see in just overalls and say, "You're what people think of when they think of Arkansas. You know that, right?"

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New home...Part II

I gave a static tour of the downstairs of our new home on my last post, and now it's time for the upstairs.

If you feel you need to understand the geography of the space, the stairway is essentially behind the couch (see the first picture on the previous post).  There is a landing at the top of the stairs with three doorways.  Straight ahead is the bathroom, to the right is our room, and to the left is our "office."

Here's our room:


Turning back to face the door, you see all the built in bookshelves that we have filled with boxes and pull-drawers to keep random stuff in.  Also notable here is the skylight--both upstairs bedrooms have one, and after a year in what was essentially a basement apartment, all the light in this house is fabulous.  To the right of the TV there is a small door--this leads to a storage area that runs the length of the room.  This one is called "tub row" because it holds plastic tubs of sweaters and purses and shoes.



This bathroom is decorated in blue, grey, black and white.  



Here is the office (and Margot, who tried to get in as many pictures as possible). 


Standing in the corner facing back to the door you can see our loveseat/reading area.

The house suits us very well, and so far (fingers crossed!) we are doing a pretty good job of keeping it neat and tidy, without our normal clutter.  Having space to put things really helps.

And last, but not least, here is our back deck.  Or porch. Or patio.  Or veranda.  I am not clear on which is the most appropriate terminology. 



Mistress O'Hara left us her grill and patio furniture for our use, and our two patio chairs go with the other two quite well.  We've already had a few cookouts and lounged around the patio, and Doug is becoming a master griller.

There is a seating area on the front porch, too, but I neglected to capture that one on film.

We love living here and we hope that you have enjoyed the "tour."  Now....come visit, why don't ya?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New home....Part I

I've been promising pictures of our new home, O'Hara Manor, named after our lovely friend who actually owns the house and is renting it to us while she lives on the other side of the world for a few years.

My understanding is the house was built around ten years ago, but as our recent guests aptly pointed out, it doesn't have the feel of a "new cookie-cutter McMansion."  Nor is it the size of a mansion, Mc or otherwise.

I thought it might be nice for people to see what we've done with the place.

Here is the view when you walk in the front door:


The couch is new and is called "The Cloud."  We didn't name it, but we sure agree that sitting on it feels like sitting on a cloud.  It's a reclining couch in microfiber and it's heavenly.

You may notice there are a lot of doors at the back.  The double doors lead out to the patio, and the door at the far right corner of the picture ALSO leads out to the back patio.  Why two doors, separated by two and a half feet?  Well, the rationale is that the stairway to the upstairs is essentially behind the couch, directly facing that far door.  The double doors allow a moving crew to take a large item into the back and then bring it back in the far door and up the stairs rather than attempting to make a tight turn into the stairwell.  Ingenious, eh?



The house is notable for several things.   First, apparently the people who built the house felt that many places don't have enough electrical outlets, so they put outlets absolutely everywhere.  Second, there are built-in shelves in just about every room.  We are using the shelves around the TV for decoration mostly.  Highlights are our old New Mexico license plates, the (real) Australian emu egg given to us by Doug's aunt and uncle as a wedding gift, a fabulous silver bowl also given as a wedding gift, our "wine box" used in the wedding ceremony, and an old beer stein that used to be my grandmothers.


Above is the view facing the front door.  We have a real kitchen table now and no longer have to eat meals on the couch, hunched over the coffee table.  Other notable pieces are the New Mexico themed wall art, a fabulous tin mirror with our names etched on it, given to us by one of my internship supervisors, and a New Mexico cutting board with a heart carved in it at Albuquerque and our wedding date etched in it (given to us by my lovely bridesmaid).  Doug liked it so much he didn't want to "ruin" it by using it as a cutting board, so we hung it up instead.


This is the view facing right from standing in front of the table.  Obviously it's a kitchen.  There isn't really enough cupboard space for all of our things, but we'll manage.

At the end of the kitchen, where you see the mask on the wall, there is a bathroom on the right and a bedroom on the left.


The bathroom is yellow and green in theme.  


The bedroom is called "the brown room" because it's the only room in the house with painted walls, and they are (duh) brown.  This is our guest room and where we keep our games.  There's a little reading area by the window, though the cat has clawed up the red chair something awful.


I found some framed art for really cheap at a furniture store trying to clear out their summer stock, and the big wall painting here was one of my finds.  Of course we must have a bit of Arkansas strewn around, so the Razorback pillow my mother made me is prominently featured in the center of the bed.


Next time I will give the tour of upstairs and the back porch!!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Event weather

If I haven't mentioned this before, one of my favorite things about living in Walmart Country is the local news.  Small town local news just cracks us up.  We don't watch it every day, but we do catch it sometimes and the weather in particular is entertaining.

Doug is better at recalling these kinds of details than I am, but one of the local channels regularly shows us the weather in British Columbia.  Not on accident, either, but it's like there is a "sister town" or something in that region of Canada, because they show a map and describe the forecast up there. 

The 7-day forecast is one of my favorites.  The below picture doesn't do it justice, because it usually has movement--the clouds roll quickly on the overcast days, the rain blows around in the little box for rainy forecasted days






I was enamored with this particular forecast because on Saturday August 25th the forecast included the Northwest Arkansas Emergency Preparedness fair.  It's exactly like it sounds--a fair to give people information about what to do in an emergency.  We seriously thought about going just as a people-watching opportunity, and I love that it's part of the weather.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Second City invades Walmart Country!

Last weekend, a little taste of Chicago made its way to Northwest Arkansas by way of the Second City touring troupe.  They have been advertising for weeks, and Doug and I finally got around to ordering tickets to their show Second City for President.

After a lazy Saturday morning and a fairly active Saturday afternoon (we took advantage of the nice weather and did a 6 mile walk-- 3 miles up the trail and then back), we set out for the theatre, conveniently located a 10-minute walk away.  We also stopped at Orange Leaf first, a delightful frozen yogurt shoppe (yes, I'm just going to spell it like that, get over it) on Dickson Street.  You dump frozen yogurt into large cups then add on whatever toppings you like--fruit, candy, caramel, cookies, cereal....and then you eat your concoction.  It's always delicious and made for a nice pre-theatre treat.

At the theatre itself, we had excellent seats in the 5th row center, and the show was a solid two hours (with a ten minute intermission).  The five-person troupe did a mix of scripted comedy and improv, with more on the scripted comedy scenes and comedy songs side.  The majority of the sketches were politically themed, or at least "current" themed (e.g. financial crisis) and they did a pretty good job of staying balanced, at least on the surface level. 

The only real downside to the show was seeing it in Walmart Country amongst a bunch of douche-bags.  To be clear, I am not saying that the entire population of Northwest Arkansas is douchey--far from it.  Nor am I saying that the entire audience was d-baggin'.  I think we just happened to be sitting in a douchy section, and I say this with complete liberal bias.  Some examples:  they did a polling skit and asked a few audience members for their political views (then made fun of them).  The first person was asked "Are you a democrat or republican?" and replied "Republican."  The pollster then asked "At what age did you realize you hated poor people?" and the male partner of the couple sitting next to me slapped his leg and exclaimed "It's me! That's me!"  That dude and his wife also had their cell phones out for most of the show, which was distracting and made me want to get all teacher-y on them.

Perhaps more obviously, though, was at the end of another sketch when a troupe member implied she would be voting for Obama.  As the lights went out, the charming fellow in front of me yelled "Communist!"  This was the same charming fellow who, when the audience was asked to provide an example of something said earlier in the day, screamed out "Tittie sprinkles!"  Classy all around.