Friday, August 29, 2008

Never be Vanilla

There are several mottos I live by.

One is this: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body—but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "Wow, what a ride!" - Unknown

This being said, people who know me have heard me say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” This exhausting perspective on life has allowed me to experience more wonderful moments than I ever would have had if I lived life more conservatively. I have placed myself in the paths of celebrities (yes, Brian Williams and John Lithgow, that was me who stalked you at the “South Pacific” performance at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York City!), I have shut down the Grand Ballroom at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island (dancing to every song), I have watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. I stop and smell the flowers and never pass a corner lemonade stand run by the entrepreneurial youth of my neighborhood.

This brings me to my other motto: Never be vanilla. Never be boring. You could be boring, but when you have the option to stand out amidst a sea of beige? Be Neapolitan. Be Peanut Butter Fudge. Be Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate. Just don’t be Vanilla.

Be flavors and colors and textures. Be unexpected. Be interesting. While I know that Vanilla is good flavor (and, far and away, THE most popular ice cream flavor) it is also very predictable. No risks. No regrets. I always know what I am gonna get.

Which brings us to my front porch. My house is a very traditional tan, brown, and burgundy. A “vanilla” house. However, the need for personal self expression (and a wonderfully creative artist-friend) has led me to paint my front porch the brightest color of turquoise imaginable. It looks completely out of context with the rest of my house…and my neighborhood. My kids are still trying to wrap their brains around it but they know their mother and understand. My neighbors take delight in, when giving visitors directions to their own homes, saying to them, “Okay, now when you turn the corner, you will see a house with an obnoxious turquoise front porch….that’s not my house.” My parents and grandmother are mortified by my color selection….although Grandma (who has a little bit of “sassy” in ‘er!) is beginning to come around to liking it.

But it makes a statement. And so do I. And so should you. Never be Vanilla. What flavor are you?

Until then, I remain…..1SweetMama

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stupid Ice Cream Gifts and Other Things That Irritate Me

Tell me….in what kind of society do we live in that we have become too lazy to lick our ice cream cones? I came across the most ridiculous item at Urban Outfitters.

So we, as a species, have evolved to the point where it is too inconvenient for us to rotate our wrists around to lick an ice cream cone? Puh-leeze! Don’t our hip and fashionable buddies at Urban Outfitters know this action is, for many people, one of just a few remaining forms of exercise? There are many wellness programs out there that include ice cream cone wrist rotations, remote control finger lunges and 12 ounce mug/can curls. How can UO take this away from us? I guess if you count yourself among “the beautiful people”, you can afford to invest in an item that rotates a cone for you while you simply stick your tongue out and enjoy effortless ice cream eating.

How lazy have we become?? Talk about your stupid gift items – there are 5 in this hilarious video I found!

And another thing…or should I say: And another thong. Not a typo…it is an actual undergarment with an ice cream image on it. I have seen several versions of this item all over cyberspace. Apparently anyone who has access to a screen printer feels a primal urge to imprint sexy lingerie with images of ice cream cones and Bomb Pops®. Well, if that does it for you…. For me, I have one word: ick.

All I have to say is this, “Why on Earth didn’t I think of that first?”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Buying Ice Cream With Your Eyes

When you go to an ice cream dip shop…..tell me this: How do you buy your ice cream?

I asked a friend this question and she looked at me a little puzzled. “With cash?”

Now, generally, the whole ice cream parlor experience should be a total sensory one. I have visited several parlors that do this very well. When I walk in, I feel wrapped in indulgence. It is a visual plethora of colors and textures of which I can feast my eyeballs upon – rich, dark chocolates, brightly hued sherbets, creamy peanut butter pieces, chocolate chips, raspberry revels, fluffy whipped cream, bright, sparkly, red cherries. I don’t even care how many calories I am about to stick in my body! I don’t care how much it is going to cost me to buy ice cream for myself and my two “bottomless pit” boys. All I do care about is that the fresh-faced soda jerk isn’t a stingy one. Load me up, ice cream kid!!

Even in the frozen food isle at the grocery store, I don’t buy a single package of ice cream unless I feel I have a VERY descriptive picture of the ice cream plastered all over the packaging. I want an indulgent name and I want to see how good it could look in my bowl. I guess I am just a visual kind of gal.

I think most of us can say that we buy ice cream with our eyes.

Because I have friends in one particular geographic location, I have frequented a couple of store locations of a popular regional ice cream dip-shop franchise in that part of the country. After visiting a couple of store locations of this franchise, it occurred to me that none of their stores show you what the ice cream looks like!! The nerve!!

The only view of their ice cream product is what is featured on lively, full color posters adorning the shop walls. The posters show one or two featured sundae choices but you NEVER get to see the actual ice cream selection in the dipping cabinet! In fact, it took me a couple of minutes to even find the menu board!

I decided I wanted to try one of the sundaes on the poster, since it was the only flavor of ice cream I could actually identify the flavor appearance with the name. The poster showed the sundae served on a frog’s head. I am pretty sure it was not the image of a real frog but that of a cute, colorful plastic frog. I know – weird but that was why I wanted to try it! They served it to me, instead, in a pastel-colored cardboard dish. What?? No cutie little frog head?!

My “man-friend” was confused because he, too, thought the sundae was served in a dish on a fake frog’s head. Imagine our disappointment when our server informed us that the poster was not depicting a sundae that was actually served on a frog’s head but, rather, a doctored-up photo representation of what (I am thinking) their ice cream sundae would look like if it was actually served atop the noggin of an amphibian. Don’t offer me a serving suggestion of placing ice cream on a frog and not mean it. That’s just being a tease.

So, let this be a lesson to you, “Mr. Popular-Ice Cream-Parlor-Franchise-Somewhere-In-The-Mid-Section-Of-This-Country”: Ice cream parlors that don’t show us your ice cream?? To use the words of the great ice cream lover, himself, 40th U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, I cry out: “Tear down this wall!” Let us see the glorious flavors and colors and inclusions in your wildly creative and unique flavors. Don’t sell me “Mississippi Chew” and expect me to know what is in it or what it looks like without being able to see it! Pull back that fancy oak paneling and let us see that ice cream. Unless there is something you are trying to hide….

Oh…and if you are gonna tell me that the ice cream is served on a frog’s head? Well, I think you know where I stand.

Until then, I remain…..1SweetMama

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pork Chop In A Glove

Last time we chatted, I told you about both the Plymouth County and Iowa State Fairs. Please don’t let me misrepresent my state. These are not the only 2 fairs that take place in the state of Iowa. There are nearly 100 county fairs held as the precursor to the piece de resistance of all Iowa fairs….the Iowa State Fair, a 11-day “festivus” held in August featuring foods-on-a-stick, midway rides and games, fair queens and kings, and freakishly large veggies and livestock. (I have included photos of the Superbull and Superboar who, respectively, weighed in at 3,012 lbs and 1,259 lbs!!)

While the Iowa State Fair is the climax of summer, I need to share with you one of my favorite things at my own county fair, The Plymouth County Fair, held just two weeks before the State Fair in Des Moines.

Each year, I brave the heat and the dust to plunk down a small fortune at the midway for me to anxiously watch my two precious and beautiful children as they climb aboard rusted-out, ill-maintained carnival rides assembled by 18-25 year olds who, I am almost certain, have never attended a single mechanical engineering class. I also sit for hours in the late-afternoon sun on hard wooden bleachers to hold my family’s spot for the Demolition Derby. I have stepped in cow-poo, been sneezed on by a sheep, and had the hem of my shorts dined upon by an enthusiastic goat. But, it is all worth it for me when I am able to enjoy the singularly most enjoyable highlight for me: the “Pork Chop in a Glove”.

There is no mistake as to what this menu item offers. You are handed a heat-resistant orange and white glove in which a big, fat, juicy, just-off-the-grill pork chop is placed. OMG! Nothing on the planet beats this experience.

However, this year, due to the sheer popularity of this novelty entrĂ©e, I was forced to eat my pork chop from a bag, as all the gloves had been sold out prior to my arrival at the Plymouth County Pork Producers’ concession stand. A sad reminder to me that I need to remember to get my ‘Pork Chop In a Glove” on the first day of the Plymouth County Fair

….or maybe next year, I will bring my own glove.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fair Deal

Have you seen the musical, “State Fair”?? It was originally written by Phil Stong and performed in 1935. Rogers and Hammerstein rewrote it as a musical which was first performed in 1945. It allows you to get a glimpse of life for the Frake family as they visit the Iowa State Fair. Mom and Dad want to win ribbons (Dad for his pig and Mom for her mincemeat) but their children are looking for something a little more exciting……love on the midway. Love on the midway? Blue Ribbons? Mere child’s play. Me? I go to find food on a stick.

You may know that the Iowa State Far was listed as one of “1,000 Things To See Before You Die” as chronicled in a book of the same name (Schultz, Patricia. 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List. New York: Workman Publishing, 2003. p. 630. ). In my opinion, it is because you can find anything from pork chops (see photo) to corndogs, fried Snickers® candy bars and frozen bananas on a stick. You can eat turkey drumsticks and roasted ears of corn (served in the husk) and even catch a glimpse of the annual life-sized butter cow (a cow carved out of 600 lbs. of butter) along with that year’s chosen caricature likeness of some local or national celebrity (see photo, this year's likeness is of Iowa Olympian Gymnast, Shawn Johnson). Sounds crazy but last year, over one-million fair-goers enjoyed the sights, sounds, smells, and foods-on-a-stick at the Iowa State Fair. This year, I am told, may even break an attendance record.

A side note: By the way….for anyone who reads this who happens to be connected to the Iowa State Fair, I came across a brilliant idea that I will have to give credit to my boss for….I realize that all that butter from the cow is recycled and re-used for several years (refer to my “Butter Cow Link” to the right of this blog or visit ) Have you ever thought of breaking her down and selling bricks of Butter Cow butter? They could be sold as souvenirs of the Iowa State Fair. You can call it “Udder Butter”! Brilliant!! Ideas?? Don’t worry…I got a million of ‘em and I won’t even charge you for this one!

I also love my county fair. It takes place during the last week of July, which, climatologically documented, is one of the hottest and driest weeks of the year for our state. This year’s weather did not meet that criteria inasmuch as the “dry” was replaced by intense, sweltering, humidity. Did you know that it can be 100% humidity and not be raining? This fact is true and this years’ event, held on the Plymouth County Fair grounds in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World”, was about as hot and humid as one can ever imagine. While this weather is advantageous to area organizations selling hand-made lemonade and ice cream Nutty Bars, it is oppressive for the livestock who live there for the five days of the Plymouth County Fair. As a small caveat to that last statement (so PETA won’t get all up in our faces…those animals are very well cared for and I would think the Plymouth County Fair is the animal equivalent to summer camp but with ribbons and kids feeding you cotton candy on the sly).

Next time we chat, I will tell you about my favorite thing at the Plymouth County Fair.

I snapped a few pictures to give you a good idea of the slice of Americana these two events represent.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fair Game – Entry #3

Last time we spoke, we talked about the birthplace of the ice cream cone being at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

According to legend, at the St. Louis Exposition (or the St. Louis World's Fair) an ice cream seller, Arnold Fornachou, had run out of the cardboard dishes used to put ice cream scoops in, so he could not sell any more product. (Just as an FYI – there is another account that claims the ice cream vendor was Charles Menches). Next door to the ice cream booth was a waffle booth run by Syrian immigrant, Ernest A. Hamwi, who, due to excessive heat that day, was unsuccessful selling his warm pastries; the waffle maker offered to make cones for the ice cream vendor by rolling up his waffles and providing a “cup” of sorts to place the ice cream in. The new combo sold well, and was widely copied by other vendors on the grounds.

There are many versions of how the ice cream cone was invented but the most popular account gives credit to Hamwi. So, whether Hamwi would have struck up the “partner” deal with Fornachou or Menches….that is the subject of some very serious ice cream debate. All I know is that Hamwi must have been workin’ it at the Fair! Go Ernie!

And speaking of Fairs, next time we speak, I will tell you about my state’s (which, in case you missed my first blog – it is Iowa) obsession with Fairs!

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Birthright – Entry #2

I don’t just love ice cream. I live it. My exposure to ice cream in so many aspects of my life makes me feel like I become more and more of an authority on it every day. I have been involved in the making and promoting of ice cream since 1998 and, of course, my ice cream enjoying experience logs in at close to 40 years – almost my entire life….and, as I previously told you….I live in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World”. And it doesn’t end there….

In fact, the ice cream cone and I share the same hometown. I could almost say that we share the same birthplace, were it not for the fact that I was brought into this world as a military brat and, therefore, born on (a-hem!!) foreign soil. So, of course, it is my parents’ fault. Isn’t it always??

So, if you overlook the small technicality of the whole “my-dad-is-an-air-force-veteran” thing, the ice cream cone and I share the same origins. The same birthright. At 8 months old, I moved “home” to St. Louis with my mom. Dad stayed back in the Mideast for a short time and thus began my upbringing in the same town that evolved the ice cream cone.

As a youth, I was strictly a chocolate ice cream girl…..but with the advance of years….and boys…I began to broaden my palette, along with my personality. No more was I the simple girl with simple tastes but soon became a young woman with more sophisticated preferences. Through college and dating, marriage and children, mid-life crisis and personal reinvention (or at least that is what my therapist calls it!) I have been travelling an ice cream journey that has me charting courses across menu boards of some of the world’s best and most interesting ice cream parlors…Prague, Vienna, New York City, Savannah, GA, and little seaside communities which dot the Florida coastlines. But my latest mission?

To find the world’s best cake flavored ice cream.

Maybe it is my long-lost youth, upon realizing that I just celebrated my 40th birthday, crying out…”Don’t forget about me!!” My kids love my new obsession because I, of course, drag them along with me on this journey.

Warning: To avoid my shameless plug for how unbelievable Blue Bunny’s Birthday Party ice cream is, please skip this paragraph. Oops – I guess it’s too late. Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Until next time, I remain…..1SweetMama

Meet “1SweetMama” – Entry #1

Want to know what it’s like to live in the “Ice Cream Capital of the World®”? For me, living here is exactly as our town slogan boasts: “Life is sweet!”

Nestled into the rural, northwest corner of the state of Iowa, Le Mars is a town made up of nearly 9,500 people – good, decent Midwest folks who possess a love of family, a love of country and a love for something else……ice cream!

I guess you will get to know me a little better as you stick with this blog but I hope to dish out some interesting “spoon-sized” perspectives on life from a fellow ice cream enthusiast, mom, and career-gal who just so happens to live in a place which is officially recognized as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World”.

As crazy and scary and wondrous and meticulous and silly as life is, I want you to see it as I see it….“The Sweet Life” as viewed by someone like me who is, like you, slogging through it. I however, slog through it wearing ice cream-colored glasses.

Maybe by reading this blog, you might don your “ice cream colored glasses”, too and see things a little differently. More sweetly. If you are a nasty person with a negative attitude and refuse to ever change your perspective on life, then you can go read someone else’s blog. I will just tick you off.

Don’t be fooled. This blog is not all “sweetness and light”. If you are expecting that, you can stop reading, too. I may be too edgy for you.

Stick with me and I think we can all learn to get along.

That being said, I, perhaps, have the sweetest of life situations (yes, the pun is intended) in Le Mars, Iowa. I am able to satisfy my obsession for ice cream every day as I work for a company that makes it. Okay, so I’m not gonna lie to you….my blog will be peppered with references to my very favorite ice cream of all, Blue Bunny, but I promise not to ever make you feel like I am the travelling salesman for Blue Bunny. I do not work on a commission….I only work for my passion….and an actual boss who gives me an occasional deadline or two, but he likes ice cream, too, which makes coming to work pretty cool (another pun!). And did you know that where I work…Wells’ Dairy, Inc., makers of Blue Bunny ice cream and novelties…. get FREE ice cream all day, every day in the office? We all do! Every last employee. As you can imagine…..we have a very happy workforce!

Stay tuned as I write about looking at life through the eyes of an ice cream fanatic living in a place where more ice cream is made than in any other singular location on the planet and where, on the days that the plant is making certain flavors of ice cream, you can drive by and actually smell the vanilla, chocolate, or butter pecan floating on the breeze.

Until next time, I remain: 1SweetMama