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Tag Archives: Iowa

Caramel Apples, Corn Mazes, and The Texas Tenors: 10 Things I love About Fall

As all of you know, today is Labor Day. Most people see it as a holiday to celebrate the workers in America that have given so much to our country. It’s a day for families to get together, to have picnics, and celebrate one last outing before school gets back into full swing. However, for me, it means one more thing: fall is coming.

When I was still attending school at Wartburg College, Labor Day meant school was about to start for me. Quite often, I found myself moving in on Labor Day. The Fall Term started just a few days later. With school commencing, I always knew that all of my favorite fall activities were about to begin. Following is a list of the reasons fall is my favorite season.

1. Weather. There’s something about the cool, crisp air and gentle breezes of fall that is so calming. It’s the perfect time of year to be going on long, refreshing walks. Not to mention the fact that I love when I can wear sweatshirts again!

My college roommate and me sporting our Wartburg sweatshirts

2. Leaves. The bright reds, oranges, and yellows adorning all of the trees throughout the month of October are simply beautiful. When I was growing up, my mom, dad, grandpa, grandma and I would take a weekend vacation during October where we would drive along the Mississippi River on the Great River Road to look at the leaves. We normally drove all the way up to Minnesota and Wisconsin, through Illinois, and finally back into Iowa. For anyone that has never had the opportunity to take a trip like that, I would highly recommend it. Now, we get the full benefit of seeing the leaves throughout Missouri on our way to Branson to see The Texas Tenors. There’s an area on Highway 65 between Springfield and Branson where you can see nothing but trees for miles on both sides of the road. It truly is breathtaking!

3. Corn mazes. One of the great things about living in Iowa is having the option of going to a corn maze every fall. There’s something about getting lost in a seemingly impossible maze for several hours with some of your friends that is so much fun. That is, until you’ve been going around in circles for hours, and the maze is ready to close. There was one year that my boyfriend at the time and I were in a maze and happened to be in that situation. We couldn’t for the life of us figure out how to get out of there! We knew what time the maze closed, and once it got to be that time, we decided we’d better start cutting through the corn to get out. When we finally reached the exit, everything was dark–including the building we paid in. The worst part? There was a fence around everything to keep people from sneaking in without paying, and apparently to keep people who were trapped in after hours from getting out. Fortunately, the owners were just leaving, so we yelled until they heard us. They felt so badly about it! My favorite corn maze to go to (not the one we were trapped in) is Dan-D Farms. That one always has a haunted maze around Halloween time, so you end up with people jumping out at you from the corn throughout the maze. It definitely adds to the atmosphere! This year, their maze is in the shape of the United States, presumably because of the election this year. I can’t wait to try it out!

4. Apples. Apples are one of my favorite fruits, and fortunately, they are in abundance during the fall. We always loved to stop at Kelly’s Apple Orchard in Galena, IL on our leaf trip. They have some of the best apples I’ve ever tasted, not to mention some amazing apple cider. Then, there’s the caramel apples! I am absolutely in love with those, but they have to be the ones without the nuts!

5. Pumpkins. I’ve never been a huge fan of pumpkin patches like some people. They just don’t interest me all that much. However, I love anything and everything pumpkin. My favorite: pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream! Yum!

6. Hayrack rides. Sadly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a hayrack ride. That doesn’t make me love them any less though! My church always used to have a hayrack ride on a parishioner’s farm each year while we were also having a weenie and marshmallow roast. I will never forget the last time we had an outing like that. I was sitting on top of a huge hay bale with a bunch of other kids from the church. For some reason, we got to singing “Who Stole the Cookie From the Cookie Jar” for the entire ride. What a strange memory to have!

7. Marching band competitions. When I was in high school, fall always meant it was marching band season. Football games, early morning and Saturday practices, and competitions. We always had four competitions: Davis County, the State competition, Valley Fest, and the Mid-Iowa Band Championship. Just about every Saturday in October was taken up with these competitions or with rehearsals. I loved the crowding on the bus, comraderie between band members as they were waiting for results, section chats, and huddling under blankets in the stands while clutching hot chocolates after marching. Also, Pella was (and is) extremely competitive. We were extremely disappointed if we didn’t win. I’d venture a guess that we are one of the best marching bands in the Midwest, but I am a bit biased. Even while I was going to school at Wartburg, I still made sure to come home for at least one of the competitions. Last year was the first year I was unable to make it. I really missed it, so hopefully this year, I can find a weekend to go. What can I say? I’m still extremely proud of the Marching Dutch!

The Pella High Marching Dutch

8. Halloween. This is quite possibly my favorite holiday of the year. It’s so much fun! I love to decorate and dress up for this holiday. My freshman year at Wartburg, my roommate and I even bought a ghost that flew across our room while screaming anytime someone walked in the door. We named the ghost James Raoul Phantom, and we definitely had a blast with that. Oh, and let’s not forget my experience of Halloween in Las Vegas that I mentioned in my recent entry Memories! I went trick-or-treating through my senior year of high school. I probably would still be going if it weren’t so frowned upon. After all, who doesn’t like free candy?

James Raoul Phantom

9. Haunted houses. I had to make this a separate category because I love them so much! I’ve been to haunted houses all over the state. Some were really good, some were…not so good. Two years ago, my boyfriend and I even went haunted house hopping all over Omaha on All Hallow’s Eve. Talk about amazing! The last haunted house I went to was in Waterloo. I went with a group of frends from Wartburg, and it was actually decent. The best part was that several of my friends were chickens. There was a room in the house that was filled with clowns, and one of my friends happened to be scared to death of clowns. He screamed. Very loudly. I thought it was hilarious! I have yet to find a haunted house that actually scares me, but I’m not going to stop trying!

The group that went to the haunted house in Waterloo

10. The Texas Tenors return to Branson! This is quite possibly one of the best reasons to love fall. This year, The Texas Tenors are in Branson consistently throughout the months of September, October, and November. Of course, I am planning on being there multiple weekends each month. Surprisingly, I’m not the only one. In fact, every weekend I’m planning on going, there’s a whole bunch of other fans going as well. This year, the huge fan event will be held October 12-14, and I can’t wait! There have been so many people working very hard to make this event a success. Besides having three concerts of The Texas Tenors that weekend, we also will be having a Meet & Greet for several hours with them, a decorated car caravan, a barbecue, a visit to the Tiger Sanctuary, and a mini golf tournament. It is going to be so much fun!

It’s almost to the point that Branson is a second home to me. I get to see my best friends when I’m there. I finally know my way around town (still working on the shortcuts). The staff at the Seven Gables Inn knows me, as do the staff at Starlite Theatre. Plus, I feel more comfortable and at home there than I do anywhere else. I absolutely love when The Texas Tenors are there and can’t wait to get back!

Courtesy of Cheryl Stauffer

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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Music, Travel

 

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Original versions of songs are always the best, right?

Today marked the last day of the Iowa State Fair. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the fair at all this year. In fact, this is about the first time in several years that I wasn’t able to go. It’s not as though the fair really interests me. I don’t particularly care for all of the greasy, fried food that everyone else likes.

The horse stables and tractors hold no interest for me.

Neither do the exhibits and butter cow.

The only part of the fair I would actually like to go to is Midway (with all of its rides), but it is also really expensive as far as I’m concerned.

However, this year, there was another aspect to the fair that I was extremely interested in going to: the Rascal Flatts concert at the Grandstand that was scheduled for tonight.

Rascal Flatts, courtesy of http://www.iowastatefair.org/

Rascal Flatts is easily one of my favorite bands. They have decent voices, their music is good, and their song lyrics really hit me. I’ve listened to their CDs so often that I know all of their songs by memory.

Fortunately, one of my best friends, who also happens to be named Sarah, loves Rascal Flatts as well. That is how we ended up driving to Bettendorf, IA last year to see a Rascal Flatts concert.

My friend Sarah and me

The concert was wonderful, despite the fact that it was extremely loud, we had awful seats, and we were surrounded by dancing drunks. I would have loved to have had the opportunity to see them perform again at the fair. It just didn’t happen.

At the Rascal Flatts concert

Instead, I get the pleasure of hearing my favorite Rascal Flatts song (“Bless the Broken Road”) performed quite often by one of my favorite singers: Marcus Collins of The Texas Tenors. Even though I absolutely love the Rascal Flatts version of the song, I love the Marcus Collins version ten times more. Is that normal? Typically, the original version is always the best. Not in this case though! Now, whenever I hear another version of “Bless the Broken Road”, my mind automatically changes the voice so it is hearing Marcus singing. Don’t ask me how that works. It just does!

I’m not going to say that Marcus Collins is better than Rascal Flatts, especially when Rascal Flatts is such a well-known and loved group. Instead, I’m going to let YOU decide. Listen to the following videos of Marcus and Rascal Flatts singing “Bless the Broken Road”, and let me know what you think!

My vote is for Marcus. Who do you think sings it better?

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2012 in Music

 

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The Bumps in the Road

I mentioned in my last post that I was thankful for all of the friendships that I have made thanks to The Texas Tenors. It is true that we have become one big family. I always have fun when I am with other Tenor fans, even when there is no Tenor concert for us to attend.

This is how I came to be in Keokuk, IA this past weekend with Judy, Dave, Jeanette, Sabra, and my mom–other fans. You see, there are absolutely no Tenor concerts nearby (unless we want to drive to New York) during the whole month of August. As a result, we are all suffering from major withdrawal. The group of us had so much fun together a few weeks ago when we drove to North Carolina that we decided to get together in August to have some fun without a Tenor concert. I suppose you could consider it our therapy session too.

Originally, we were planning on meeting in Keokuk next Saturday, August 18. Judy and Dave are from St. Louis, MO, Jeanette from Bettendorf, IA, Sabra from Cedar Rapids, IA, and my mom and I from Newton, IA. Keokuk is basically in the middle for all of us. However, Friday morning, I stopped at the Newton clinic on my way to the Bondurant clinic to see if I could take off next Friday. Instead, I discovered that I would without a doubt be working on the 18th. Saddened and crushed, I called my mom with the news that we wouldn’t be able to go to Keokuk with our friends. At that point, I came up with a brilliant idea and immediately called Judy and Jeanette. By the time I got to work 20 minutes later, we had set up a plan to meet in Keokuk that day instead.

After getting off work an hour early, I rushed home, packed in about 10 minutes, and then we took off. What does it say for us when 5 different people can spontaneously decide to go on a trip for the weekend like that? We must need more exciting lives!!!

All of us got to Keokuk at about the same time and decided to have dinner at Pizza Hut. Not exactly unique, but it worked. The worst part was trying to cram everyone in my car to drive to the restaurant. I drive a Chevy Impala which, even though it is considered a sedan, does not have the roomiest backseat. Thank goodness I was driving and didn’t have to squeeze back there. Instead, I had to move my seat forward until I was practically driving with my elbows! I’m not sure which option was really the best. After leaving my pizza box on the dashboard of my car to bake for the next day, we went back to the hotel and talked until we fell asleep.

The fun part of the weekend came on Saturday after we all met in the breakfast area of the hotel in the morning.

We got a surprise phone call from Sabra saying that she was on her way home to Cedar Rapids from Branson, and she wanted to stop in to see us. It was so good to see her! After chatting some more (we Tenor fans really know how to chat!), we finally decided to find something to eat. Sabra wanted to continue driving home, so we said goodbye and headed to the Hawkeye Restaurant. We couldn’t figure out if we were eating linner or lupper. What do you think sounds better? My vote is lupper, but Jeanette seems to think that sounds like leper. Hmm…

We were apparently too wild for that restaurant. It was so quiet in there, and all we wanted to do was laugh. It didn’t help that one of the first items we saw on the menu was a propane tank! I’m still not sure what that really was.

After that, we once again crammed into my car to go for a drive. There really isn’t all that much to see in Keokuk, so we ended up crossing the river into Illinois and heading to the town of Nauvoo. To me, that sounds more like a planet from Star Wars than a town in Illinois, but it certainly proved to be an interesting place to stop. It turns out that Nauvoo is a historic community that offers a temple for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons). Visit http://www.historicnauvoo.net/ to find out more about this community!

We drove around the town for awhile until Judy decided she wanted to stop at the bakery. Just as we pulled up, parked, and piled out, we noticed that there was a group of people coming out of the tiny building munching on cookies (or half-cookies, according to Judy). Then we realized it was a tour of what used to be a bakery, not an operational bakery. While contemplating cramming back into the car, a lady in a long dress with beads around her neck came up to us and asked what we were doing. Awkwardly, we said we were trying to decide that and walked down the sidewalk a bit.

The bakery, courtesy of http://www.historicnauvoo.net/

Then Dave realized that he left his window all the way down in the locked car, so he and my mom went back to guard the car. Jeanette, Judy, and I continued on past the little outhouses to the Family Living Center. We peered in the window and were scared by another lady in a dress standing right there. Laughing hysterically, we started back up the path to the car. Of course, we had to stop and pet the fuzzy plants right next to the path first! I’m not kidding, they really were fuzzy. Imagine seeing three adult women standing on the sidewalk, leaning over, and petting the plants. How odd! I hope they weren’t poisonous…

The adventure picked up with us driving back to Keokuk without any bakery goods. I realized that the bumpy streets of Nauvoo and the curves between Nauvoo and Keokuk made the ride very uncomfortable for those in the backseat. The evil Sarah came out then as I started speeding up around the curves and searching for the roads with the most potholes.

This got even better when we opted to tour the National Cemetery–one of the few things to do in Keokuk. My mom is a huge Civil War buff, and the cemetery is a Union cemetery. However, what she really wanted to see was the Confederate statue that she learned was there. The cemetery has quite an interesting history behind it. Go to http://www.keokukiowatourism.org/cemetery.htm to learn more.

Judy, Jeanette, and Dave can attest to the fact that the roads in that cemetery were the bumpiest yet, and they got the pleasure of experiencing them over and over and over again. After about the fourth time around, we found a different direction to go where I wasn’t slamming the brakes on for squirrels crossing my path. We finally found our statue.

Courtesy of Jeanette Allison-Glaser

Finally satisfied, we went back to the hotel. At this point, we prepared for our 8:00 concert of The Texas Tenors. Actually, we were just watching their concert DVD on Jeanette’s laptop, but it’s close enough. Just don’t tell Marcus–I’m pretty sure we had him worried for a minute when we said we were excited for the concert. He said it must be The Texas Tenors tribute band that’s now touring. Can you believe they were just as good as the real Texas Tenors?

The rest of the night was spent playing the hilarious board game Imaginiff. If you’ve never played it, definitely check it out sometime (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2750/imaginiff). We were all laughing so hard we were in tears at times. I think this game is going to become a must anytime we get together in the future. Here are some of the things we discovered while playing this game:

  • If Jeanette were an insect, she would be a louse (actually a firefly, but I really wanted to pick that one)
  • If Judy were a wheel, she would be a hamster wheel because she kept going around in circles in Nashville on her trip to North Carolina to see The Texas Tenors a few weeks ago.
  • When Helen has an impatient driver behind her, she likes to wink and lick the window (we had to call and tell her that one).
  • If Mom were a parcel, she would say “This Side Up”.
  • Mom is also the item in the vending machine that is still stuck.
  • I am a shrub.
  • And much more!

To make a long story short (even though I literally just wrote a novel), we had a blast this last weekend. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a long time (or at least since we went to North Carolina). We’ve decided that whenever we have a month in the future with no concerts, we will have to add Keokuk to our schedule. It definitely broke up the monotony of Tenorless weeks. Plus, it was so good to see some of my newest (and best) friends. Only 4 more weeks until the concert in Godfrey, IL!!!

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Music, Travel

 

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