If I could bottle that fragrance….

The fragrance that wafts through the grounds and parking lot of the eye catching  Edwards Apple Orchard in the farmlands in northeast Illinois is indescribable. It is the delicious filling of the air with the combination of apples, spices and hot oil that can only be that of fresh donuts.

Almost 9:00 a.m. and the line has formed.

Folks come from miles around to grab one of these beauties fresh from the vats.

We had heard that visiting the Edwards Orchard was a must before we left Illinois. We took the advice of the locals and weren’t a bit sorry. The hype of the place was not overdone. We waited in line for them to open at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. We then made our way into the barn structure that is part store, part museum and Big part delectable zone! We followed the crowd to…..yep you guessed it. The line was for the warm donuts. “Just get one honey, not the half dozen.” Our attempt to savor and enjoy just one donut was futile. We looked at each other after finishing the last crumb of the first one and headed back to the counter for another.

We then browsed through the gift store, sampled the homemade jams and dips and encouraged each other to NOT buy one of everything. We purchased some apple butter and of course some fresh apples found in the many barrels in the barn. 

The picturesque scenes of those barns and silos, fall flowers, horse drawn wagon and apple trees are the stuff of post cards and calendars. I wanted to drink it all in and keep it close in my memory as I know my time in the Midwest is drawing to a close. The melt in your mouth warm apple cider donuts, crisp cool weather and quality time with my husband made for a perfect Saturday morning.

The heart of dairy farm country has indeed captured MINE.

“Lady I just drive the truck”

Do you ever get excited about something and direct your anger, enthusiasm, angst, discouragement or frustration to the wrong recipient?

It’s like driving down the road and pulling up to a semi with a company name on the side (I saw this on a commercial) and you vent to the truck driver about the product inside…..he says “Lady, I just drive the truck.” He doesn’t care about your issues. All he is concerned about is getting his product to the finish line and picking up his paycheck.

I would say that most of us are feeling that way a bit about Washington and the quagmire of indecision and nonproductivity that seems to surround the site of our Federal business. We are all frustrated and yet it seems that no one that we talk to personally can change any of it. We’re all “just driving the truck” and yet we are all affected by the lower wages and higher gas totals at the pump.

I can hardly wait for November 7th to get here. The day AFTER the Presidential election, when we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the tumultuous season is finally behind us.  Hopefully whoever the “trucking company” will be next January, they will give us a better product than we have been having the last few years.

A One Armed Juggler and Other Cool Stuff

I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. It was the Christmas tree capital of the world. Our county fair had an Evergreen Queen pageant and lots of other fun events. I took my dog, Tippy Toes to the animal walk and entered my pansies in the 4-H judging. But I left all that behind when I moved to Florida at the age of 12 and county fairs of that standard were left behind in my childhood.

Then, 40 plus years later I found myself in the Midwest in August where county fairs meet the best of 4-H exhibits and farmers meet up with the best John Deeres in the heartland and boy o boy, you’ve got yourself a real county fair.

We got to the fairgrounds just in time to see a mob of people gathered around an arena of sorts. “What is going on here”? I asked someone near me. “It’s the monkey races.” they said. We were in for a treat as we watched two small monkeys racing on the backs of dogs!

I’m sorry that we missed the yodling contest and Dale Jones, the one armed juggler. But we certainly enjoyed the sights, sounds and…… well okay, not the smells but we enjoyed MOST of the Boone County fair in Belvidere, Illinois.  It is the only Grange Fair in Illinois.

I suppose every county fair has some legendary Bluegrass singers, kid fiddlers and a Tractor and Truck pull and wood carving exhibits. The Boone County fair however, had some other events that were new to us. We were sorry that we missed the Watermelon eating-Seed spitting contest, the Bubble Gum blowing contest and the Twinkie Eating-Pepsi drinking contest. Rest assured that we are marking our calendars though for NEXT summer. If we come back to the Midwest, we won’t miss this wholesome fun!

Bizspouse Politics

I have found it so interesting to watch the political process unfold in another state. Since I am traveling, I view local activities from a different vantage point than the natives. In this highly charged political atmosphere that we are in, just 55 days before the 2012 Presidential election emotions are running on all cylinders everywhere. It’s easy to get a little extra boisterous and defensive with opinions. Friends, family, neighbors and coworkers can sometimes become your temporary enemy (hopefully it is temporary). Adversaries appear out of nowhere or out of a side street, pulling out in front of you with the OTHER candidate’s bumper sticker. You have that moment of bad thoughts, forgetting that YOU are the bad guy to them.

I think it is encouraging to remember however that it is that very passion that makes America great. Nothing would get done if we all just languished around watching Swamp People and were all members of the same political party. Just like the proverbial butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon, it is that very struggle that makes us strong. It’s a wonderful opportunity for all Americans to know, understand and be able to defend what it is that they believe.

God said in Revelation that He would rather that we were hot or cold but not lukewarm. I like passion in people. I get concerned that the younger generation really doesn’t care about the future, the huge national debt, nuclear arms and other “boring” stuff like that. I am happy to see that they DO care. After all, I do believe that most of us love our country and want the very best for everyone. We just disagree on how that can be accomplished.

So whether you are a liberal, conservative, a Taxed Enough Already or Libertarian. Be firm in your beliefs and be ready to defend them. Don’t just rely on a soundbite from your favorite night time talk show. Do a little research on your own. If you haven’t done your homework for THIS election, get started now for 2016. It will be here before you know it and your children will thank you for it.

God Bless America!

Parasailing is not for wimps

As I travel around the country and make lots of friends, I hear lots of stories. This para- sailing story could be mine except that I’m not foolish enough to get up that high in the first place. Let’s call this gal Jen. She is not the super adventurous type but off for the weekend with her sweetheart near the end of summer, it seemed that something a bit out of the ordinary was in order. So off they go into the boat with several older and more nervous folks, feeling confident and carefree, happy to face the challenge. Their boat mates saw their enthusiasm and insisted that they go first. So Jen and Mike were soon foisted off into the quiet blue skies above the gulf.

It was very quiet up so high above the water and peaceful and tranquil. But the lack of noise and activity provided opportunity for uh thinking….pondering…..pondering things like looking at your mate and realizing that there is very little holding him onto those straps. Jen realized that her straps looked just the same, just a paper clip looking device held them together. “But hey Mike, if the strap came unhooked or something we wouldn’t  fall right….. because the parachute would still be on us right?”  Mike reminds her that the parachute would fly off without the straps and that a fast track down to the water would be deadly and “oh look Jen, there are stingrays!”  “AAccckkkkk!”

So what began as a fun and scenic adventure soon became the “I’m not going to panic challenge”. Now Mike didn’t mean to scare his bride. He wasn’t trying to be dramatic. He was just being honest, thrilled to be out with nature and away from the office and meanwhile enjoying the scene and ambiance of viewing the lovely blue water, the breeze in his face and glimpses of sea life.

So Jen had to conclude that her next water adventure needed to be closer to the surface of that water on perhaps a jet ski. After all, the best part of the para sailing was when the parachute brought them down within spitting distance of the water.  A loud and fast motor craft that stirred up enough spray to prevent seeing what lay beneath, sounded like a better way to spend an afternoon with her husband.

What was a few moments of terror for Jen became a hysterically funny story as she related it to me. Ah sometimes the best adventure is the telling of it.

Barley & Hops, this place was tops!

One of the cities that is within a 90 minute drive from our hotel is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had flown into Milwaukee once and driven quickly out of it. That was the sum total of my adventures in the fair city. To visit Milwaukee on one of the best July days was a one day highlight of my summer.

We started out at the Miller Brewery. I didn’t have any idea what I was in for. It was a great mix of history, manufacturing and olfactory experiences. To add to the significance for me was the fact that Mr. Miller began his brewery exactly 100 years before my birth. They were probably whooping it up pretty big celebrating that year on my birthday and their 100th anniversary.

Our day involved lots of walking and smelling of mash and wort and other funny words that produced an odor that permeated the east side of Milwaukee. The folks around don’t mind I’m sure since the Miller Brewing Company employs 700 people and covers 82 acres of real estate in downtown Milwaukee. The one fact that impressed me the most was that a machine can fill 2000 cans in one minute! Now THAT my friends is automation!

After our tour and trip into the Caves of the place where Fred Miller kept his beer cold with ice harvested from nearby Lake Michigan. The dark, dank odor of oldness was pretty strong there but the visual delight of Miller himself explaining it all thanks to laser lights and high tech sound made me forget my nose for the moment. “If those walls could talk” came to mind as I pictured the 1000s of barrels of beer that would have been stacked up over the years and the many hands that placed them there.

If the political scene is getting to you, a trip to Wisconsin that DOESN’T involve politics may be just the treat you are looking for.