Friday, October 31, 2008

Does Jimmy Buffet Eat Blue Bunny Ice Cream?

It pains me to say this but today, my blog comes to you while I am in Green Turtle Cay in Abacos, Bahamas. Please don’t miss me too much while I am gone. But this little “vacay” got me to thinking… you suppose Jimmy Buffet eats ice cream?

I would have to think that a man who commits himself to having fun and enjoying life would be first in line at the ice cream counter. In addition, he is also a man who appreciates things that are frozen (i.e.: Margaritas – the man lives in Margaritaville, for goodness sake!!), so I figure that he must have had a little ice cream along the way. Whether its fins to the left or fins to the right, you know he had a couple of scoops of cool and creamy ice cream after he woofed down his cheeseburger! I can’t think of anything more “paradise-like” than that!

If you visit his Margaritaville website, there is an FAQ page that devotes itself to some of the basic platforms of the Parrothead King…..the “perfect” Margarita recipe, who invented the Margarita….and who invented the blender (a really interesting story…go check it out!).

Again…..gets me thinking…..okay, so maybe this self proclaimed “old hippie” might prefer his ice cream blended, as well?? In fact, I would think that Jimmy not only eats ice cream, but I will bet he puts it in a blender, adds a little bananas, coconut, mangos, and peanut butter (c’mon…you gotta have a little protein!!) and makes himself one tasty breakfast smoothie! What the heck – toss in a little rum, too. You’ll be napping in your hammock by noon! Talk about paradise!!

As a celebratory send-off for my little vacation, I tried my new recipe (both with and without rum) and I am here to tell ya….it is “Buffet-acular!” Here is my recipe:

1Sweet Mama’s Guilt-Free Buffet-acular Breakfast/Anytime Smoothie
2 large scoops of Blue Bunny(R) No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Banana Split Ice Cream
½ banana, chopped into pieces
¼ cup mango
½ cup kiwi fruit
3 Tbsp coconut
3 Tbsp orange or grapefruit juice (I even think pomegranate juice would be good!)
2 Tbp peanut butter
1 shot of rum (optional – but it actually tastes better this way!)

In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend together on medium setting for 10 seconds. It may also work better if you “pulse” the blender.

Enjoy your guilt free – protein packed smoothie! See you stateside next week….until then…..pass that jigger of salt!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Meet Moolinda

Since we are on the subject of my town: Le Mars, Iowa (read my last blog entry), I really cannot overlook one of my other (and less offensive!) favorite attractions in this community. Le Mars, being “The Ice Cream Capital of the World(R)” would, OF COURSE, be the location of a museum and Visitor Center devoted to the history of ice cream and the history of Wells’ Dairy, Inc., who make Blue Bunny(R) ice cream and novelties. You may not know this, but Wells’ Dairy was founded in Le Mars in 1913 by a man named Fred H. Wells, Jr. when he purchased a horse, a wagon, some cans and jars, and a small milk route from a local dairy farmer in the area – all for the grand total sum of $250.

95 years later, Blue Bunny products can be found in all 50 states…which certainly makes it nice when this Ice Cream Princess travels! Today, more ice cream is made here in Le Mars, Iowa, by Wells’ Dairy in one location (Le Mars, Iowa) than any other company does in any other single location on the planet….over 100,000,000 gallons of ice cream each year!

The road a small town dairy travels in order to become one of the largest family-owned dairy processors in the U.S. is dotted with unique milestones, roadblocks, hills, valleys, superhighways and, in one literal case, a memorable billboard that graced a thoroughfare of Le Mars in the 1950’s.

This billboard drew considerable interest from community residents and passers-by as it promoted Wells’ Dairy in a 3-dimensional way. The focus? A larger-than-life fiberglass Jersey cow head promoting the goodness of Wells’ Dairy. The billboard drew even more attention when it fell victim to a college prank…..several students from the town university kidnapped the beloved Jersey cow head and held her captive for several days. She was later release, unharmed. In time, the billboard was removed, never to be seen again.

Until the late Fall of 2004. In an attempt to clean out some of Wells’ Dairy’s old storage buildings, a crew of employees uncovered the old and battered cow head, marred by years of neglect. It was offered to the Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center Museum to display among its collection of Wells’ Dairy memorabilia. The museum enthusiastically accepted and the Jersey cow underwent an “Extreme Moooo-keover”.

Months later, the cow head, restored beyond her original beauty was erected within the halls of the “Ice Cream Capital of the World Visitor Center” Museum and a contest was held in order to find her a suitable name. Thousands of entries from all over the country were considered but the name “Moolinda” was the one chosen from an ice cream fan in Texas.

If you pass anywhere near Le Mars, Iowa, you really must stop in and say hello. You really might find her “udderly” delightful.

By the is a picture of the famous billboard (and Moolinda in her prime!) in its "hey-day" - circa 1960's):

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesday Night Lights

Recently, a feature film, followed by an acclaimed TV show, entitled “Friday Night Lights”, has enjoyed a high level of success as it explores the drama and the excitement of a Texas high school and its nationally celebrated football program. In my little family, we celebrate "Tuesday Night Lights"…..not as much drama, not near as much national attention but the all the excitement of 8th grade football.

Bud, my oldest son, plays defensive end on the “B” team. He is not first string but has the heart of the starting quarterback. He loves the game and enjoys the team spirit. He endures practices every night after school and stands patiently on the sidelines as he waits for the coach to give him the nod to go in and play. He is no quitter and for that, I am more proud of him than if he was the starting quarterback on the “A” team.

Last Tuesday night was the final game. Here is a photo to capture the flavor of the game. Note that it was about 45 degrees and drizzling rain. My family and I, bundled up and huddled together, cheered Bud on as his “B” team wrapped up an undefeated season of “Tuesday Night Lights” in The Ice Cream Capital of the World.

Afterwards, I offered up ice cream sundaes for the boys….but they opted for hot chocolate, instead. A sweet end to one sweet season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

On The Street Where I Live

I love life in Le Mars, Iowa. I love its small town attitude and quirkiness and the people who live here. I have learned to perfect the Iowa "farmer's wave," which is, simply, the slight finger-raise off the top of the steering wheel accompanied by a slight tilt of the head meant for oncoming motorists. It always amazes me that, even though I may be driving in some remote location miles away from anyone or anywhere I know, I am still met with a "farmer's wave" from a perfect stranger. That is Iowa and that is why I enjoy living in this state.

A little closer to home is Central Avenue. Central Avenue dissects The Ice Cream Capital of the World, from east to west, right down the middle. Fall is the best time take in the beauty of Central Avenue, with its grand Victorian homes set between oak and maple trees strategically placed a hundred years ago by our city fathers. I would believe that they were thinking of us when they planted those trees. In the summer, the trees provide ample shade for spectators along what is, now, the town's parade route. In the falls, they provide explosions of color - oranges, reds and yellows. On a clear sunny day in the fall, when the leaves are raining down upon the sidewalks of Central Avenue, I find myself celebrating that my boys and I live in such a quaint Midwestern community - a real slice of Americana.

Our downtown is full of sweet little shops – clothing, home décor, a pet shop, shoe stores a couple of banks and miscellaneous offices, and some restaurants. For a town of 9,500 people, our little downtown represents a vibrant and resilient business district. Nowhere else in the world can you get a sense of the economy’s effect on “Wall Street to Main Street” (a term often thrown out by our Presidential candidates) than in a small town shopping district. These persistent shop owners refuse to give in to the economy and find that the only way to compete with the “box stores” is to provide personal customer service. They not only know your name and all of your children’s names when you walk in the door but they also know what the last item was that you bought in their store and whether or not you attended church on Sunday.

Most of these stores have stood the test of time, but there is one little café that started out as “The Pantry Café” sometime in the 40s and the décor has remained virtually the same since then. When I first came to town and worked in one of the banks across the street from The Pantry Café, I would eat there for lunch. They had the best BLT sandwiches. Every time I ate there, I felt like I had stepped back in time about forty years. Over the past 18 years, since I came to town, that little café has changed hands a number of times. It is tough for a Main Street diner to remain competitive with the Subways, McDonalds, and finer dining establishments that line the highway in Le Mars.

The Pantry Café became Wiener’s Café, then La Potranca (a Mexican diner). In between, long vacancies took its toll on this wonderful little establishment. It is beginning to feel a little run down and, while La Potranca serves some amazing authentic chicken quesadillas, my little corner eatery just isn’t the same.

But there remains one piece of this little building that has stood the test of time. The sign attached to the building was altered from the uniquely vintage neon lettering (The Pantry Café) against a turquoise background to an embarrassing refurbishment that has never changed since it once advertised the location of Wiener’s Café. To illustrate the virtuousness of small town America, this sign was purposefully revamped with care by the then-owners of Wiener’s Café. As if the name of the eatery wasn’t funny enough (and in their defense, it was their last name and they did serve GREAT German fare), here is a picture of this curious representation that, in my opinion, defaces the quaintness of our downtown. Few people ever even notice…but the ones that do certainly appreciate its quirkiness. Maybe it is my twisted interpretation of life. Maybe it is my sick sense of humor.

BUT it does capture the innocence of life in a small town. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ahhh.....the Sweet Smell of The Sweet Life!

The human species possesses 5 senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Today I would like to talk with you about the latter sense – the one of ‘smell’.

Now, I live with two boys and smell is something I wish I did not have when it comes to the time of day when they take their shoes off, leaving them scattered around the living room floor. This potpourri of sweaty gym socks and decaying sneakers is not something I most enjoy as a part of my home environment. I am a big fan of candles, Febreeze, and open windows….oh, and showers with soap. However, this smell reminds me that I do run a household of healthy, active boys and this, ultimately, makes me very happy.

I also have a dog, Max. If you follow my blog, you have met him already. He is the most loving and loyal dog a family could ask for…..yet there is an aroma about him that reminds me, daily, that my home is that of a pet owner. In addition (and I will not go into graphic detail), there are a myriad of smells that are emitted from our best friend – depending upon what my boys have fed him within the past 24 hours. But, again, this smell reminds me that our ever-vigilant and loving companion loves and protects my little family and helps me to keep my feet warm at night when he sleeps at the foot of my mattress and this, too, makes me very happy.

Having said all of that, I also must comment on the fact that it is Fall and, with it, brings many wonderful smells… Grandma Schaefer’s yummy applesauce, soup and muffins on a cool autumn night, the smell of the fallen leaves , pumpkin pie, and wood fires burning off in the distance.

And, yet, another advantage to living in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World” is that there are other smells that waft through the breezes of our little Iowa town. On a good day, you can smell the vanilla being mixed in to the ice cream as it is being produced at the South Ice Cream Plant. On other good days, you can smell the chocolate wafers being baked at BoDean’s Bakery just down the road (they make many of the cones and wafers you buy at the grocery store, eat in dip shops and find in many Blue Bunny novelties). What joy to walk in to work (our office is on top of a hill and just downwind from both of these manufacturing facilities) and breathe deep, smelling all these wonderful smells. It is much like the smell of mom baking cookies greeting you at the door when you come home from school – only outside. Wow.

Life touches us in many different ways…and sometimes in ways in which we may not even notice. How nice to know that life IS sweet…all you have to do is breathe.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mayor Of The Ice Cream Capital Of The World

It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it!! He is ruff and tuff and has a “cowboy-ness” about him that could charm the socks off you and, at the same time, convince you that you would consider yourself lucky just for the privilege of being able to live in a place where life is sweet!

Meet Mayor Dick Kirchoff. He is the Captain of Cold, the Master of Mmmmm, the Sovereign of Scoopdom, the Dictator of Dips. He makes sure that things run smoothly in the town where I live, Le Mars, Iowa, the Ice Cream Capital of the World®.

Mayor Kirchoff is like John Wayne. It would seem that he could simply sit around on his duff and enjoy the accolades that any Mayor of a place where more ice cream is made than anywhere else on the planet should receive. But he doesn’t.

Several weeks ago, my kids met him (coincidentally, at the Iowa state Fair where he was managing the turkey-leg booth – don’t ask – even the mayor of the Ice Cream Capital of the World needs a little protein every now and then). After our visit, my youngest asked, “Is he really the mayor? I can’t believe I am friends with the mayor!!”

A few weeks ago, Mayor Kirchoff and I enjoyed sundaes at the Blue Bunny® Ice Cream Parlor and we chatted about his mayoral experience so far…..

Our nation was recently informed by a certain Alaskan Governor that the mayor of a small town is “sort of like a community organizer except that you have actual responsibilities.”

For Dick, this is true. While one of the highlights of his job is that he can help perpetuate so many community projects, his biggest frustration is government (be it City, County, or State) red-tape. He will be the first to tell you that he is no politician. He is a man who can move mountains but “cannot move a pipewrench from the middle of the road without making forty phone calls and filling out a work order”. Dick refers to this as “The Pipewrench Theory” Dick is a do-business-with-a-handshake kind of leader so I can see why this may be a frustrating process for him.

But in a small town in Northwest Iowa where the sweet smells of vanilla ice cream and chocolate wafers will, occasionally, float on the breeze….Dick Kirchoff manages the official responsibilities that come along with being the Mayor of the Ice Cream Capital of the World….and he is doing one heck of a job!

One thing….in case you were wondering, his favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dirty Ditches and Sweet Finales

Last Sunday was a big day for us at the 1SweetMama household. Following our usual Sunday morning routine of church, brunch, a few chores, piano practice, etc., we loaded up, along with other fellow members of Bud’s, my oldest son, catechism class and set off to clean ditches.

Our church adopts two miles of highway close to Le Mars and it is our duty to clean it up on a regular basis. It is a rewarding experience to contribute to this effort but I can just tell you…..some people just have no respect for nature. What slobs!

Remember that “Please Don’t Litter” public service commercial from the 1970’s? In case you forgot it…I found it (gosh, I love the internet!). I now know how that crying Indian felt. Yikes.

As a mother trying to raise two young men up to be adults in a world impacted by how we treat our natural resources, I implore our nation’s motorists to PLEASE hang on to your fast-food wrappers, cups, and straws, your cassette and video tapes (honestly, who has these anymore??), your dirty shoes, and dirty diapers (what?…are people thinking as they are driving down the road, “Gosh, junior smells….I think I will change his diaper on the road and simply toss the dirty one out the window!” – Puh-leeze!).

Please wait until you stop at a gas station or roadside rest area and throw it all away there. Nice, convenient trash cans are available for your convenience.

But the two miles along Highway 60 are now clean as a whistle, thanks to the dedicated volunteers of my church and Bud’s catechism classes.

And the best part? Following our ditch-cleaning activities, we celebrated Bud’s 14th birthday. His actual birthday was a few days away, yet, but the timing for the family seemed to work the best on Sunday night.

We topped off our day of work with frozen pizza and two scoops of Blue Bunny® Mint Chocolate Chip with that hard shell topping that you pour on the top. And the finale? Birthday presents to boot.

Just another day in the Ice Cream Capital of the World…..ain’t life sweet?

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Death & Life of Ice Cream

A co-worker recently passed away and I am always struck by the emotions I experience when someone I once knew as a vibrant and fun person is no longer going to be around. I think about the day when it comes to be “my time” to not be around…. will anyone feel this way about my absence, too?

I know that life will continue with or without me. The sun will rise and set. TGIFs will be welcomed, holidays will pass, and days of rain, sun, snow, and wind will occur…..whether or not I am here to experience them. People’s lives will move on. They will laugh and cry, celebrate life’s triumphs and mourn in its tragedies. Life continues…even though I will no longer be around to be a part of it.

Babies will be born. Children will play. Lovers will swoon. Life will continue. This is how it works. I am just sorry that I will miss it.

Which is why I found the video, “The Death & Life of Ice Cream” to be a fitting tribute to life. It is created by “Mind Pie” and the music is from Kevin MacLeod. I don’t know anything about either of these creators but I do know the message of this particular video, perfectly self-described as a “meditation of life, death, and ice cream”, seems to capture my disposition today.

This video elicits a very “zen-like” mood and I believe it effectively illustrates the sexiness of the measures of hope and despair, anticipation and disappointment, and the give and take of life itself.

It is beautiful….just like life. Make sure to celebrate its wonder and make sure to enjoy some ice cream along the way.