Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Off to the FAIR!

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We decided to go the state fair this weekend. The Child has gone with friends, but it's been years since the three of us have gone as a family. Our favorite things are the animals, the exhibition halls and the FOOD.

We came early:

And stayed late:

We saw the sights:

We saw the animals. This curious alpaca:

Some amazing fowl:

I’ve never seen a curly feathered bird before:

Look at this guy’s feet:

What is this fellow thinking:

Have you ever seen such beautiful eyes:

And this was bizarre – see the rings around the black spots on this lady:

Close up they were almost blue:

Some of them even had polka dots:

Could anyone look at this picture and not smile:

Some PIG!

Obligatory stunt shots:

We met up with Mr. Kim's mother, sister, brother in law, niece and brother a few times. They were there, too and we got to spend a little time with them. My MIL has won countless ribbons over the years for her kitchen prowess - including her incomperable yeast rolls (which I now have the recipe for). She didn't submit anything this year, though - so no home team to root for. Mr. Kim's brother lives in Arizona and was in town for the wedding of another niece - he's getting ready to become a world traveler for an undetermined amount of time, so any time that we could squeeze in with him was welcome.

In the exhibition halls there were the usual baked goods, preserves, flower arrangements. I love looking at these and imagining the (mostly) women taking such great care and trying over and over again to perfect a recipe, to correct an awkwardly drooping flower, to arrange the glistening peaches in a jar JUST SO. There were some amazing quilts:

We noticed a couple of odd (to us, at least) categories. One was charming - literary themed table settings (influenced by Sandra Lee's tablescapes, perhaps?). There were a number of these, but my favorite, of course was the Wizard of Oz one:

A poppy centerpiece decorated with Denslow illustrations, straw, a little tin funnel and emerald green trim on the napkins. My favorite part of it was that it was obviously done by a true reader since the slippers were silver and not ruby.

The other odd category was antiques. There were exhibits of different old items - vases, tin toys, ephemera - with ribbons on them for 1st prize, 2nd prize, etc. We were perplexed. We don't attend fairs and such all that often, but it seems peculiar to get a ribbon for something that you bought in a store. The three of us had wandered off and converged in the middle of the exhibition hall saying, in almost the same breath, "Did you see the antique exhibition?". All of the other competitions were creative in some way - handmade furniture and quilts, flower arrangements, preserves, baked goods - even the gourds and giant pumpkins took some effort on the part of the entrant besides writing a check. Are we missing something?

One of the exhibition halls had a wonderful selection of what used to be called 'penny candy'. Walking through a maze similar to theme park ride queues, we were presented on both sides with crates of just about every bite-sized candy that exists. Tiny pieces of your past are very hard to resist and, honestly I didn't try very hard:

We ended up with almost $25 worth of 'penny candy' that will probably end up at one office or another!

We put off the midway until it was almost dark:

When I was a kid, carnival/fair food consisted of corn dogs, cotton candy and candy/caramel apples. Now, the offerings are staggering. Every kind of smoked meat, ice cream and deep fried EVERYTHING! We held off pretty well – a few freebie nibbles in the exhibition halls, a corn dog here, some fried cheese there and LOTS of drinks – until late. Finally the aroma got to us and we went crazy. I purchased something called a Pork Parfait:

Pulled pork, mashed potatoes and BBQ sauce. It was actually pretty good, but would have been better with REAL mashed potatoes, instead of instant.

We really went to town on the fried desserts, though. It WAS the fair, after all. When are we going to have to have another chance to eat that stuff?

We sampled deep fried HoHo’s:


Reese’s Cups:

And PB&J’s:

Yep, that would be a deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was incredible. I am so glad that the fair only comes once a year. I could eat one of these every other day.

So there we were – stuffed full of fat and sugar, toting a $25 dollar bag of ‘penny candy’, footsore and exhausted. What was left to do but limp to the car and wander home to our well-earned easy chairs? We just needed to stop and pick up cotton candy, a candy apple and a caramel apple to take home. And reader…we DID!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


We had a lovely weekend. Three reunions, one nice little surprise and one BIG wonderful surprise.

The plan was for Mr. Kim, The Child and me to go up to Northern VA for the weekend. Leave Richmond Saturday morning, lunch with my half-sister, Ashley, her mom – the ageless Sally, and my Aunt Delores and Uncle Charley. Then check into our hotel (just a Holiday Inn, but a HOTEL!! Have I mentioned my love of hotels and wanting to be Eloise when I was a little girl?) and meet my high school friend, Craig for dinner. Sunday morning we were going to my stepsister, Wendy's house for a visit. Funny - the bare bones sounds like just a lot of running around. But it was more than that.

Lunch on Saturday was especially anticipated because, for one reason or another we hadn't seen any of them for ages. We've all been promising to meet in Fredericksburg for lunch for months and let life get in the way. When we got there Ashley and I were saying how funny Daddy had been when we'd talked to him in Florida the last few weeks. It was just driving him crazy that he couldn't be there. Family gatherings are Daddy's idea of heaven and the fact that we're spread all over the place just kills him. So we were feeling sorry for him, but laughing about it at the same time. As we were getting ready to go to lunch, the doorbell rings. Ashley opens it and there stand Katie and Daddy. Daddy just GRINNING and loving that he's surprised everyone. We proceeded to have a typical Younger meal - the kind of foolishness and stories and volume that makes folks ask to sit next to the crying babies to avoid us. Daddy and Uncle Charley are twins and were presumably perfecting the one-two punch of their repartee in the womb. So laughing is definitely a big part of our noise.
The crew:

Notice the position of the feet on The Child and me? My momma taught me that. Left to right are: The Child, Katie, Daddy, me, Uncle Charley, Aunt Delores, Sally, Mr. Kim and Ashley.

An example of the lunacy that is my family:

This is the license plate on Uncle Charley and Aunt Delores’ car. He and Daddy call each other ‘Bro’ or ‘Bruv’. Guess who ‘Ho’ would be. My Uncle Charley is 71 years old and as elegant a gentleman as you would hope to meet.

The visit with Craig was especially important because he's going to work in London for two years starting in October or November. We SHOULD see him in England when we go next May, but YOU NEVER KNOW. The old lady who lives in my head tells me that. Craig is one of my dearest friends from high school and while we don't see one another very often, we are in touch a lot. Craig and I were the two premature curmudgeons in our group. We spent four years rolling our eyes and raising our eyebrows to our hairlines. Miss Manners was our idol and Amy Vanderbilt our goddess. We knew the proper way to do everything and those who didn't earned our
never ending scorn. We never showed excessive enthusiasm or excitement and stared witheringly at those who were just way TOO enthusiastic. With me it was just an act - I was so cripplingly self-conscious that pretending icy coolness was better than slowly dying of embarrassment over 4 years of high school. Craig was just born cool and blasé. And while he's looking forward to his time in London, he's not all speechless with excitement. Like I would be...I would be the ultimate fool - alternately dancing around my house singing "I'm moving to London" and mute with stark terror of making such a huge change in my life. He was very kind about dining with an Oompa Loompa - I was GREEN! [Edited to say that I did not actually look like an Oompa Loompa, since, as Mr. Kim reminds me, they have ORANGE faces -like Hollywood starlets - NOT green ones. They have green hair.]

We had a wonderful, wonderful visit - the kind that you have with an old friend who is still a real friend. Equal "parts remember that?" and current conversations. We've all met up with a friend from long ago and had 'that conversation' - the one that once you run out of reminiscences, you have nothing left to say. That is exactly why I don't bother with official reunions anymore. The truth of the matter is that if those people were really important to me, I'd still be in touch with them. Like I am with 'La Group' - my group of high school friends (another phenomenon that is worth its own post – the fact that my closest friends are still the same ones that were my best friends 30+ years ago).

The one nice little surprise that I mentioned above (about 2 hours ago, if you are reading straight through) was the restaurant that Craig picked. Called Chez Andre, it’s been open since 1964. It’s on Glebe Road in Alexandria and given our family’s predilection for all foods French, I can’t believe that I’ve never been there, but I can’t remember it. It is absolutely charming and the food was delicious. It was really classic American French restaurant cuisine – the kind that ALL French restaurants used to serve. We had pate, escargots, oysters Rockefeller, mussels Provençale, veal w/ mushrooms, cream and sherry, trout amandine, fruits de mer – just the quintessential French meal. Mr. Kim had a cream garlic salad dressing that was so good that we wouldn’t let them take it away and smeared it over chunk after chunk of bread. And I had a chocolate gateau that made me swoon. What we wouldn’t give to have a restaurant like that here in Richmond. Everything delicious and really reasonable prices. The owners knew Craig and called him by name. It is the kind of place to which you could take anyone from your toddler to your grandmother – and for any occasion from a casual evening out to a special celebration. We would definitely become regulars if it were here. We’ll be back. And it felt wonderfully sophisticated to part from Craig saying, “See you in London!”

Bye, Craig – see you SOON!!!

Woke up late Sunday morning, due, I’m sure, to the fumes of garlic breath emanating from Mr. Kim and I. I was surprised that the wallpaper wasn’t falling down in strips. We were due at Wendy’s by 9:30. We dashed out and ran by Pastries by Randolph on Lee Highway in Arlington. I wanted to hang out for hours. Gorgeous, ambrosial looking tarts, cakes, pastries, etc. We grabbed a cheese and berry coffee cake and scored a couple of pastries for later. I blew a garlic-y kiss towards Ditto, who I just didn't have time to visit with this time (he lives just down the street - it was on a trip to see him that we discovered Randolph's) and raced to Wendy's. We had a nice, quiet gossip. We really only got to see Wendy and Ben and a quick hug for Zack who came in just as we were leaving. Unfortunately Tom and Talitha couldn't be there. But I haven't seen Wendy for a long time and it's been even longer since we've had time to just sit down for a quiet conversation. We caught up on everyone's news and had a communal worry about Momma and Ted. We zipped back to pick up The Child from the hotel - she was supposed to meet a friend for brunch, but it got cancelled.

All three of us gave a big sigh and decided that the rest of the day was to be at our own pace and much lazier (which is our exact pace). We had lunch at the legendary Mario's on Wilson Blvd in Arlington:

Ham, steak and cheese subs, fries and Mario's pizza:

The gentleman at the counter has been there for as long as I can remember. Momma ate here while pregnant with me, so I can claim being born with Mario's in my DNA. Happy Kim:

Happy Mr. Kim:

They are open 24 hours, which tempts me on sleepless nights ("hey, it's only 2am - I could get to Mario's and back before I have to be at work at 7:30!"). The subs are sublime (even Philly folks think so), but you might have to had the pizza in utero in order to truly appreciate it. For example:

I, having done so, CRAVE it. One off note - there was a Cowboys fan working at the grill. How does this happen??? So very, very wrong.

Sated and sleepy, we headed back to Richmond. One detour for Ikea, where I drooled over the model kitchens and grabbed a sample book to add to my ain't never gonna happen pile of renovation magazines. I can dream, right?

I've mentioned half and step sisters in this post. Those are words that I don't use a lot - our family just doesn't, but I was trying to be specific to let folks know who exactly I was talking about and help Rachel (who loves all the permutations of 'family' and figuring it all out). Divorce is practically a Family Tradition with my family of origin. My Uncle Charley tells a hilarious story about running into a former neighbor of my grandmother's (Bebo) that he hadn't seen in years. As the neighbor asked about each couple (Bebo and Bill, Uncle Tom and Margaret, Uncle Charley and Gail, Daddy and Momma), Charley had to tell her, with increasing embarrassment that each couple had, unfortunately broken up, but were happy and doing just fine. He said that she ended up abruptly ending the conversation and after giving him a suspicious glance, precipitously departed. He says that he was glad that she didn't know any of the next generation, almost all of whom have also been married at least twice.

I have had 2 stepmoms, 1 stepdad, 1 step grandfather, 1 step grandmother (that I ever met), a half-sister, 3 stepsisters, 4 step nieces, 2 step nephews, 2 step GREAT nieces, 2 step GREAT nephews and a host of step cousins, great aunts and uncles and what-have-you. We are a deeply peculiar family - we've never treated each other like steps - we don't even use the words 'step' and 'half'. All four of my parents (2 regulars and 2 steps) are good friends. I call Daddy and Ted the 'husbands in law'. When all four of my mother's parents were alive the Florida set would sometimes stop off in NC to say hello to the NC set on their way to VA. We even have these weird, convoluted relationships with folks that are not even related to us by marriage: for instance, The Child grew up with my step niece's grandmother and so, calls her Nanny just like Jennifer does. This lady joins us for our Christmas Eve gatherings whenever she can. Sally hasn't officially been The Child's step-grandma in her conscious memory - but she still calls Sally 'Grandma Sally'. This is just how we are and what we do. It never seemed particularly odd to me until I started to meet other kids of divorced parents who were stunned and envious of how my family operated. I can remember at my 13th birthday party a friend looking at the four of my parents standing together, chatting and laughing. She said "That's amazing, my mom won't even let my stepmother into our house". She sounded envious and sad. No one had ever been envious of this little fatty before, but I wasn't happy, just sad for her and grateful to my bizarre family.

This crazy VitaMix of a family just exactly suits me. I am a bit of a loner, but sometimes need a crowd. When that happens, I can find one very easily. I like that we are bound less by obligation than by love.

It was lovely to see everyone, to reconnect and confirm those ties. And all the laughing wasn't bad, either.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Coming Soon!!!

I'm working on a post about our weekend in Northern VA. It is going to be really long, I fear. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever gotten an email, letter or phone call from me.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Some Self-Assessment

Ree, over at The Pioneer Woman (see link on right) blogged recently about "Ten Important Things I've Learned About Blogging". Since she is one of my favorite bloggers and since Rachel and Maggie (my top two favorite bloggers) haven't offered any blog advice lately, I thought that I'd use Ree's post as a jumping off point for a post. I've been at a loss lately on what to write about. Feeling tired and uninteresting and generally blah. I'm hoping that addressing some of her pointers will jump start me. So, here's hoping that this doesn't count as plagiarism.

Her first one is "Be Yourself" - to "Write in your own voice". Well, that's all fine and good if you are a hilariously funny and talented writer with the energy of that famous pink bunny. So, while I do use a casual tone, I try to be a tad more sparkling than my normal, sleepy self.

Number two is "Blog Often". I am very bad at this. I wait for some wonderful idea to inspire me. You may have noticed that sometimes the wait is interminable. She recommends "daily nurturing". I KNOW she is right. All of my favorite bloggers blog often - sometimes at length, sometimes just a pithy or funny sentence or two. I know what busy lives these (mostly) women live. So me whining about being 'tired' or 'busy' really doesn't cut it. If I have time to play 500 Solitaire games a day (which I wouldn't EVER do), I can write a sentence. It's good practice. So I'm going to persevere. Prepare to be bored.

Number three is "Be varied". Well, I don't think I've got any problem with that. This blog is basically an unfocused, schizoid, stream-of-conscious pile o' verbal regurgitation (ick - wish I had my old powers of wordsmithing - that would have been a much nicer sentence).

Number four is "Exercise More". Hmmmm. I mean, I get her point. Sitting in front of a computer gossiping with your imaginary friends, noshing on chips and dip is likely to result in Wide Bottom Syndrome. All that. But there are only so many hours in the day, REE!!! How am I supposed to fit in blogging AND exercise? I mean, be REAL!

Number five is "Allow your boundaries to set themselves naturally" - i.e. blog about what you are comfortable talking about. The corollary here is to blog about only what you are comfortable with the entire WORLD reading about. Now, I know that only an infinitesimal part (but an extremely smart and attractive part) of the world comes here and reads this blog. But anything could happen - when I look at my stats there are folks who hit this blog from all over the world (of course, to be honest, most stay an average of 0.5 seconds - the time it takes to hit 'BACK', I guess). Do I really want them to know all of the intimate details of my life and the depths of my grumpy-ness? Not really. So, while I might discuss all that stuff with each of you over tea and cookies, it won't happen here at Fresh Hell.

Number seven is "Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself". I've regularly exposed my ignorance, foolishness, general laziness, cluelessness, bad eating habits, slovenliness, insecurities, etc., etc. to all and sundry. I think I'm doing exceptionally well on this one.

Eight - "Try your best to spell words correctly and use proper grammar". All I can say is thank heavens for 'spell check'. And I sometimes use bad spelling or grammar to make a point. You noticed, right?

Nine says: " If you have writer’s block, push through and blog anyway." This is a corollary to #2 above. Ok, ok, Ree...I'll try. I will. I'll...try to try. Seriously.

Number 10 says: "Value every person who takes time out of their day to stop by your blog." This is not a hard one for me. I may not be a timely, eloquent (or even coherent), well-toned blogger, but I'm a grateful one. As in my everyday life, in blogging, I forget to tell you all how much I love you and how much I value you. My excitement when I get an email saying that I have a comment is HUGE. And I’m more touched by your attention and support than I can express. I even go back and re-read comments. I like the little love pats that they resemble. Yes, I am pathetic, I admit it.

So here goes. I am going to try to blog more often, even if I don’t feel like I have much to say. I may be awhile getting started on the big blogging projects that I have in mind (family history and stories, my Oz obsession, etc.), but I’ll try to be content to do what I have time for and what I’m capable of right now. Being content is one of my bugaboos. It is something that I’ve worked hard at (often without discernable results, I admit) for much of my life. Momma and I have talked a lot in the past of how contentment doesn’t seem to be a family trait in our ancestors and, really, without much cause. Huge tragedies just aren’t in our past. Most everyone was financially ok, at the least. No one was widowed young with 12 hungry children. But they all seemed incapable of being content with their lot. Dissatisfaction seems to be our legacy. We tend to be pessimists who look at others with the sense that they have things easier, somehow. When I’m thinking clearly, I can see that and fight it. It’s just easier to fight it when things are going well, that’s all! So my late in the year resolution is to blog more, be grateful and not whine nearly as much.

So thanks, Ree, even if you never see this!

Edited to add that I won't be showing much improvement THIS weekend as I will be away. But I'll be thinking about it!