Warrior Princess …

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I am a runner. I have been for most of my life. This past weekend I decided to spice up my running a bit by participating in something called the Warrior Dash. It’s like a 3 mile trail run, but with obstacles. Lots of obstacles. And mud. And fire. And really cold water.

I first heard about the race several months ago and thought it sounded like a really bad idea. I mean, you have to jump over fire. That’s crazy. But then I heard some more people talking about it and they said “the fire is really low”, so I let curiosity get the best of me and I looked it up online. And I must say, in pictures the fire doesn’t look very high. So I thought I might like to give it a try. You get a cool viking helmet just for signing up, plus I got a Groupon, so I got in for half price.

Fast forward about a month … The race is just a couple of days away, so I once again pull up the website to see how I go about picking up my packet and actually participating. This is when I discover the release form. As a runner, I have signed many a release form. This one, however, convinced me that I might not live through this particular race. At best I would be severely wounded or catch some bizarre disease from tainted water/ mud. To make matters worse, I got a better look at the obstacles. All 12 of them. Somehow I missed the shear number of obstacles the first time I researched this race. I guess I was so relieved that the fire was not bad that I failed to notice the other, far worse, terrors that awaited me. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous about finishing the race. I’ve run two marathons and a dozen half marathons, but this little 3 1/4 mile race had me quakin’ in my boots.
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(Me, not really quakin’ in my boots here, but that’s what I imagine it would look like if I were)

Turns out all that worrying was for nothing (mostly). I did really well and had a great time running the race. I finished 89th out of 552 women in my age group with a time of 44:56:50 (the fastest in my age group finished in 30 minutes). The run was tough. Trail running in general is tougher than road racing, but I usually do pretty well at it. I think I am less afraid of falling than other people. I think my love of running also helped me to do well. I actually enjoyed the running portions and could use them to rest and recuperate between obstacles.

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This is me slithering through the second to last obstacle, the mud pit, then running on to face the WALL OF FIRE! And let me tell you. The pictures lie. That fire is not at all short. It was about mid-thigh on me. At least I was completely soaked at that point, so I wouldn’t ignite if I misjudged my jump.

For anyone interested in running a Warrior Dash, I’ll give you a quick break down of the obstacles. They are spread out in groups of three throughout the course so you get to run for a while between the sets. The first set was about 3/4 of a mile in (I’m totally guessing on that one). The rusty cars was the most physically taxing obstacle of the entire event for me. You not only run over cars, but through car tires (think football drills) and you do this three times. This was our third obstacle, which made me very glad that I can actually rest and recuperate while running. Prior to that one we had to jump over walls, then crawl under walls (repeated three times) and run through a gauntlet of old tires. Several of the obstacles involved climbing up very tall walls, then somehow getting back down to the ground on the other side (in one instance by dropping about 10 feet). The obstacle requiring the most physical prowess was the horizontal rope net. The holes were about 12″ wide, so you had to be careful. The most deceptively photographed obstacle was the in-water log climb. This one is described as trudging through waist deep water and over logs. Our water was up to my face (possibly higher, I gave up on walking pretty early into that one). And really, really, really cold.

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Speaking of really cold water … they provided “warrior washing”. You could go get hosed down with fire hoses when you were done.

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These images best capture the amount of mud I had on me. In case you were wondering, yes my clothes did come clean. After three long soaks and four washings.

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My little future warrior and his dad came along to take pictures (thanks Toby!).

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Steele also came along to take a poop and consequently experience his first ever port-o-potty.

If they are in your area, I would highly recommend the warrior dash. It’s a great event that is not only fun to run, but has a lot to offer spectators as well. Plus you get a furry viking helmet just for registering.

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On a side note, that mountain of muddy shoes in the background will get washed and donated to charity.

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Staycation

Yesterday the baby and I joined my mom and stepdad for a staycation. It was like a roadtrip, except we never left town.
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We started our day off at the zoo. The baby and I are members at the local zoo, so we’ve been there several times, but yesterday they were having an “elebration”. The oldest zoo resident, an Asian elephant named Gunda, is celebrating her 61st birthday this month.
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Gunda is the elephant on the right. We just missed getting to see the elephant bubble baths in the morning, but we did get to partake in several keeper chats and actually enjoy the outdoors thanks to the cold front that blew in yesterday.
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Steele enjoying his favorite zoo exhibit (the playground train) and watching the elephants perform their enrichment activities.

We finally wrapped up our zoo visit around 1pm and were ready to head for the mall (Baba wanted to take the baby to the Build-a-Bear Workshop to buy a friend for “Monkey”). Since it was nap time, we tried to take the long way to the mall so the baby could get some rest in that day. Unfortunately the long way still got us there in about 25 minutes. In order to waste some time we decided to drive through Steak and Shake and get ourselves a picnic lunch. The plan didn’t work so well because the drive-thru speaker woke the baby up.

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So we got our food and headed off for destination number two: a picnic at the local cemetery. I realize many people may think this is an odd choice for a picnic, but I am personally a big fan of cemeteries. They are pretty and quiet and the older ones offer some great history as well as a bit of mystery. Also, it seems a waste to have all that pretty park space go unvisited. And I’m sure the residents appreciate the company. This particular cemetery is not very old, but what it lacks in history it makes up in pretty scenery.
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We had a nice picnic in the back of my mom’s SUV and then took a walk around the pond, making a quick stop for one of Steele’s favorite activities: throwing rocks.

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Following our picnic lunch we jumped back into the car and up the road to the “big mall”. Our only purpose to build a friend for monkey at the Build-a-Bear Workshop. Monkey is the animal we built for Steele at a Build-a-Bear in Oklahoma City. He’s also one of Steele’s favorite toys. This building experience was a bit more fun than the last one. Steele participated a lot more in the building phase. We even filled out a birth certificate this time. Monkey’s new friend is an overly fat dachshund, aptly named “Dog”. My son is very imaginative with his naming.
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A slightly blurry picture of Steele showing dog how to work the computer.
After leaving the Build-a-Bear we head straight across the mall to the Disney Store for a little browsing then on to the playground (conveniently located next to a Starbucks).
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Steele and I posed for a couple of self portraits in the mall. One of us riding the carousel and one of us at the mall playground. We had had a very full day by the time we dragged Steele off the playground. We got back in the car and headed home for a quick rest before the final stop on our Staycation itinerary: the baseball stadium downtown for some baseball and the final fireworks show of the season.

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Steele playing with the helmets from our ice cream sundaes. Our team lost the game, but we had a great time anyway. And the fireworks were really good that night.

We had a great time and packed a ton of activities into just one day. As with a vacation, I was pretty worn out when we got home, but it was well worth it. I would highly recommend the staycation to anyone in need of a getaway or looking for a break from the ordinary.

Thanks Baba and Cappy!

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Moneyball: the art of reading (and absolutely loving) a book that’s been lingering in my “to read” pile for way too many years


I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down in fact. If you are not familiar with the book it is, essentially, a book about baseball statistics. Gripping, I know. But trust me. It is actually a very gripping read. While there is a lot of discussion of baseball statistics, at it’s heart and soul, the book is a great story about the general manager for the Oakland Athletics (Billy Beane) and his new approach to fielding a winning major league baseball team.

My journey toward finally reading Moneyball is a lengthy one. I actually bought the book at least 5 years ago after hearing an interview with the author, Michael Lewis, on the Tulsa Drillers baseball radio pre-game show. At the time I was an avid Drillers fan, attending every game and listening to the local radio coverage as well. In writing the book, the author seeks to discover how the Oakland A’s, one of the poorest teams in baseball, continually fields such winning teams. I wanted to find out what he had learned in his research. I also thought it would be interesting to read about players I watched on a regular basis (the A’s have a minor league team in the same league as our Tulsa Drillers). So I bought the book, but for some reason never got around to reading it. So there Moneyball sat for years. On the top shelf of my bookcase with all the other unread books in my house. Waiting for me to remember that I once couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book Moneyball.

Fast forward to this summer when I heard that they were making the book into a movie. I thought to myself “I should get that down and read it”. But I didn’t. I quickly forgot about the movie as well. Then my younger sister, an avid A’s fan, asked if I’d heard they were making Moneyball into a movie. I said that yes I had and that I’ve been meaning to get around to reading it. But still, there the book sat. On the top shelf of the bookshelf, unread. I was in a bit of a reading slump and baseball statistics were not about to bring me out of it. Then something wonderful happened. My bookclub selected a short story as our read for this month. It took me all of an hour to read. Suddenly my natural tendencies toward bookworminess returned full force. I went straight from the bookclub short story onto a second book I had checked out from the library with it. I blazed through that book in record time as well and was eager for new material. It just so happened that on that day, as I was scanning HBO on demand for something to watch I discovered that The Blind Side was available. Michael Lewis also wrote The Blind Side.

I finally reached up and grabbed poor, neglected Moneyball off of the purgatory shelf and started reading it. And I’m very glad I did. I would highly recommend the book to you, even if you aren’t a baseball fan. It tells a great story and it tells it very well. I would never have guessed that a book based on statistics could be so eloquent and moving. I’ve never been all that interested in the A’s and before reading the book I’d never heard of Billy Beane. But after reading Moneyball, I’m a huge fan of both.

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Lately

Lately I haven’t found much time for writing … or reading. Sadly, I have found time for my new addiction to The Next Food Network Star.

Lately my baby looks less and less like a baby and more and more like a tiny adult. This past weekend he spent his first night away from me. We both got the best nights sleep we’d had in a long time.

Lately I’ve started working again. I’m working in the same field I’ve always worked in, just in a completely different area. It’s been a major learning experience. The job is growing on me, but I still miss my time with my baby.

Lately the heat here has been almost unbearable. It’s been so hot this summer that when I learned today that the state record temperature was 115 degrees, I actually thought that didn’t seem very high.

Lately I’ve gotten a bit lazy. But I’m trying to get over it. I blame the heat.

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And truth be told I miss you … And truth be told I’m lying

At my former place of employment we had Sirius satellite radio pumping through the office all day, every day. Because we were a place of business and because we occasionally had clients in the office, management dictated which stations were approved for listening. And by stations, I mean station. We listened to only one. It was called the Pulse. I would describe the station’s format as pop for post college aged, middle class, white people. Although I do fit the demographic, this is not a station I would choose to listen to. Although I don’t particularly dislike pop music, I prefer to hear it in very small doses. I find that most pop songs get very annoying, especially when you hear them a minimum of three times a day, five days a week. Some of the most memorably awful songs include “Hey, Soul Sister” by Train, “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat, “Gives You Hell” by The All American Rejects and anything by Taylor Swift.

The reason I say I don’t dislike pop music (although I mostly do dislike it) is that on occasion, when the timing is just right, one of these songs will hit my senses in a whole new way and suddenly a previously loathsome song is now a personal anthem that I will play on continuous repeat with complete abandon. One such song is “Gives You Hell” by the All American Rejects. For months I heard this song repeated numerous times every day and for months I thought the song was annoying and that the authors/ musicians soundly like obnoxious, douchy, frat boys. Then my unpleasant job suddenly turned unbearable (The short version of the story is this: we had a major bully in the office and sadly that bully was in a position of complete power). So I’m sitting at my desk one afternoon trying to figure out what I want to do about my current stress level and the douchy frat boys come streaming over the airwaves. The song is a break-up anthem professing the singers wish that his former flame is now miserable as a result of her choice to leave him. The hook is “when you see my face, I hope it gives you hell”. Admittedly immature and not particularly compelling, but as I heard it on the radio that day, that song suddenly became my new empowerment anthem. There is a particular part in the song where a choir of males joins the lead singer for the songs chorus and I suddenly pictured all my fallen coworkers standing with me singing our new anthem from the comfort of our much better jobs. Suddenly I no longer felt battered, but rather empowered. That’s when I decided that my job was not worth the sleepless nights and the inability to eat. I turned in my notice two days later. Although I did spend the next eight months unemployed, those eight months have been some of the best in my life. And every time the All American Rejects come blasting out of my personal Ipod I sing along with a big smile on my face …

Gives You Hell by the All American Rejects

I wake up every evening
With a big smile on my face
And it never feels out of place.
And you’re still probably working
At a 9 to 5 pace
I wonder how bad that tastes

When you see my face
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell

Now where’s your picket fence love
And where’s that shiny car
Did it ever get you far?
You never seem so tense, love
Never seen you fall so hard
Do you know where you are?

Truth be told I miss you
Truth be told I’m lying

When you see my face
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
If you find a man thats worth the damn and treats you well
Then he’s a fool you’re just as well hope it gives you hell
Hope it gives you hell
[Gives You Hell Lyrics On http://www.elyricsworld.com/ ]
Tomorrow you’ll be thinking to yourself
Where did it all go wrong?
But the list goes on and on

Truth be told I miss you
Truth be told I’m lying

When you see my face
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
If you find a man that’s worth the damn and treats you well
Then he’s a fool you’re just as well hope it gives you hell

Now you’ll never see
What you’ve done to me
You can take back your memories
They’re no good to me
And here’s all your lies
If you look me in the eyes
With the sad, sad look
That you wear so well

When you see my face
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
When you walk my way
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell
If you find a man that’s worth the damn and treats you well
Then he’s a fool you’re just as well hope it gives you hell

When you see my face
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell (hope it gives you hell)
When you walk my way
I hope it gives you hell, I hope it gives you hell (hope it gives you hell)
When you hear this song and you sing along well you’ll never tell
And you’re the fool I’ve just as well I hope it gives you hell
When you hear this song I hope that it will give you hell
You can sing along I hope that it puts you through hell

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I have magical hair that glows when I sing …

A few months back I rented Disney’s “Tangled” to watch with my son (he’s two, so I can still talk him into girl movies). It was actually very good. The movie’s heroine is a princess named Rapunzel, who is kidnapped and forced to live a solitary life in a very tall tower and never cut her hair. The woman she believes to be her mother is actually her captor who holds her hostage in order to maintain control of Rapunzel’s “magical” hair. According to the movie, her hair’s magical ability is that it can heal the sick and elderly (also, it glows when sung a special song). In my opinion, the true magical quality of her hair is its ability to maintain its glossy, smooth appearance under very extreme circumstances. Keep in mind that she has never cut her hair, so it’s the length of several football fields. She flings that mane of hair around with complete abandon, even using it as a weapon on several occasions. Still, it stays silky smooth and tangle free. Needless to say, I want that hair. Not the length or the healing properties (although the glowing might come in handy), but the ability to stay so sleek and tangle free.

Just over six months ago, I decided to not cut my hair for two years. This may not seem particularly noteworthy, but I haven’t gone over six months without cutting all my hair off in about two decades. I just don’t like the way my hair looks and feels when it’s long so I generally wear it up every day. It’s very fine and tends to look stringy, thin and just plain dull. Since I will be stuck with a lot more of my hair than I’m used to dealing with, I decided I needed to find a better hair care regime. My first experiment along these lines was going to be making my own shampoo blend using castile soap and a few essential oils of my choosing. And since it seemed silly to me to make my own customized shampoo and then use a mass market, non-customized conditioner, I went on a web search for homemade conditioner. This is when I stumbled upon the “no poo” movement. This has nothing to do with poop. Going no poo involves giving up shampooing your hair. You don’t actually stop washing your hair, you just stop using shampoo on it. Most people use a baking soda and water combo with an apple cider vinegar and water rinse. To be a true “no poo” practitioner you also wash your hair less often. This is all supposed to be better for your hair. So about three months ago I decided to give it a shot. I was unemployed at the time, so my appearance was not so important, and baking soda and vinegar are both things I already own, so there was no money required to give it a shot. The first couple of weeks weren’t too bad, but around week 4 my hair totally went to hell. It got very waxy. What the majority of the “no poo” sites failed to mention is that you have to really scrub the hell out of your hair if you aren’t going to use chemicals to strip it of all its natural oils. But once I got past that one little hump (long, ponytail length hair came in very handy for a couple of weeks), my hair looked like it always did. Yep, all that work and my hair still looked blah …

So last week I gave up on the baking soda, but I wasn’t willing to give up all the effort I put into balancing out my hair’s natural oil production (my usually greasy hair is no longer grease prone). So I bought some Dr. Bronners castile soap (peppermint flavor) and some eucalyptus essential oil and made myself some shampoo. I was very pleased with the results. I am now the proud owner of perfectly normal looking, straight, blah brown hair. Which is all I asked of my hair. So I don’t have magical hair, but at least I find it tolerable enough to actually wear it down most days. The next 15 months might not be so bad after all …

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Swim School Graduate

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My baby graduated from his first swim class last week. He did graduate mostly by default, but I’m not letting that stop me from forcing him to take putting him in the next level of swim lessons.

Torture
Some of the myriad forms of torture I inflicted on my son two days a week for the month of June. The picture on the left shows the dunking ritual. Before this was introduced into the lessons, he pretty much liked swim class. But once the dunking started, many aspects of swimming were ruined for him. The duck slide, which once brought such joy to his life, was now a huge, yellow source of unspeakable terror. Where he once reveled in jumping into the pool, he now flailed, kicked and screamed his way out of standing on that wall. The other source of terror for him involved floating on his back (pictured top center). I’m not sure why this is so scary, but it seems to be pretty universal. I was pretty pleased during week three to see a much older girl performing the forced back floating maneuver and screaming and kicking far louder than my kid ever did.

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I would like to note that he didn’t hate all of swim class. He actually mostly enjoyed it. He does like to play in the pool. He just doesn’t appreciate having his hair mussed … Or perhaps he just doesn’t like the mass quantities of water he inadvertently inhaled.

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As you will note from these pictures, I am in the pool with him the entire time. This is the one aspect of the swim lessons that I was not too thrilled about. For starters, I haven’t purchased a swimsuit in a decade (and that one was a bikini). Fortunately, my mom took pity on me and bought me a nice new one piece swimsuit. I was especially grateful on the first day of class when I entered the pool area only to discover that the pool is surrounded by glassed in viewing areas full of other parents who are completely clothed. And to make matters even more uncomfortable, all the instructors are in shorts and t-shirts (not swimsuits). At least there were two other moms in the class suffering with me. Aside from my discomfort with being on display my other reason to not be so enthused about the mommy and me aspect of our swim class is that I think Steele might do a bit better with mom not around. The first lesson actually proved my point for me quite nicely. He wouldn’t do anything for me, but if the instructor took him, he did just what she told him to do. But in the end I was glad I was there. I learned a lot about the process of getting comfortable in the water and learning how to swim. Plus I got a great new swimsuit out of the deal.

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Hoping dad will save him (dad came to the last class and took all the pictures in this post).

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Here he is refusing to climb out of the water for fear that jumping in will end in being dunked.

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Here we are singing “If you’re happy and you know it”. Most of the activities are taught hand in hand with a catchy tune. The one thing he learned best at swim class was the song “Row, row, row your boat”.

Verticals

If you live in the Tulsa area and don’t already go there, I would highly recommend Miller Swim School. They have a great program and great instructors. Our instructor was very good at working with the little kids, especially my overly clingy son.

Posted in Family, Parenthood, Post a week 2011, steele, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bakefest: Brownie Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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At long last, the full bakefest post. As I mentioned earlier, my friend Tara and I made some really yummy cookies at our last bakefest. For those of you unfamiliar with a bakefest (and it’s a made up event so I imagine not many people are familiar with the term), its when you get together with an awesome friend (or friends) and bake ’til your hearts content. This was not our first bakefest and hopefully won’t be our last.

Now for the main event: Chocolate chip cookies stuffed with equally yummy treats. We set out to stuff them with brownies (which Tara was nice enough to bake in advance), but I had some s’mores fixin’s lying around, so we stuffed some of the cookies with s’mores. The recipe comes from a site called Picky Palate, which I discovered on the Pioneer Woman’s cooking page. Picky Palate has some wonderful recipes, including many variations of the stuffed chocolate chip cookie.

Picky Palate’s original post has all you need to know to make the cookies, but I thought I would include in this post some tips we stumbled upon for making the stuffing process go a lot smoother. The recipe recommends placing scoops of cookie dough all around the brownie (or s’more), and then smooshing it around the treat to cover. We found this was a pain in the butt and resulted in a not so pretty cookie (see below).

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Both of these “cookies” were created using the recipe instructions. Only one of them actually resembles a cookie.

What follows is our solution to getting more uniform and easy to assemble cookies.
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Step one: Wet your hand (this helps keep the dough from sticking). Then place about three cookie scoops worth of cookie dough in your hand and spread flat to cover the palm of your hand. Finally, place the tasty treat of choice on top of the flattened dough (in this case it was a mini s’more).
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Step 2: Using both hands wrap the sides of the flattened dough up and around the tasty treat.
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Step 3: Smooth out the gigantic cookie dough ball and you are done!

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A tray full of stuffed cookies ready for the oven (the less attractive cookie in the back was made using the original technique, before Tara discovered our new and improved stuffing method).

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Brownie stuffed, chocolate chip cookies. Fresh from the oven!

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The s’mores all made up and ready to be stuffed in some cookies. That’s my fancy, Cosi s’mores roasting kit they are sitting on.

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S’mores stuffed chocolate cookies cooling off.

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Cracking open a s’more stuffed cookie. These were my favorite.

The bakefest was a huge success and the cookies were really wonderful. They are really big, so you probably wouldn’t want to make a full batch just for yourself (at least I didn’t). I found the cookie dough recipe to be very tasty and very soft and moist. The cookies were still soft a few days later. If you are feeling adventurous, give these a try.

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All you can eat ice cream!!

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Yesterday was the annual ice cream smorgasbord at our local Blue Bell ice cream factory. The event, officially dubbed the Taste of Summer, happens at the end of June every year and involves a lot of sun and heat, some really bad singing and all the Blue Bell ice cream and ice cream treats you can eat! I personally love it and have attended the event for the past 5 or 6 years.

I was amazed this year to see how much the event has grown since I first attended it. The first time I went, there was one area where ice cream was served and the ice cream treats were served from cooler bags carried around by Blue Bell personnel. This year there were at least 5 locations for ice cream as well as 4-5 carts full of various ice cream treats. There was also a crazy long line for the factory tour. In previous years its always been very easy to get in to tour the factory.

For those interested here are my stats for the day:

Treat #1: Pumpkin pecan spice ice cream (and a small scoop of chocolate for Steele). This was my favorite ice cream of the day. It was introduced last fall, but quickly sold out and never returned because of the pumpkin shortage.
Treat #2: The quest for the rainbow popsicle. My lifelong friend and her kiddos were with us this year and her older son wanted a rainbow bomb pop. Because of the aforementioned growth of the festival, locating a rainbow bomb pot took me a while. We did finally locate them at the last frozen treat stand we went to. I consumed 2/3 of a strawberry popsicle while we searched.
Treat #3: The old standbys; cookies and cream + triple carmel. Triple carmel used to be very hard (actually impossible) to find at the local grocery store, but finally became pretty readily available last summer. It’s always a Taste of Summer favorite. At this stop, Steele got a small scoop of banana pudding (which I may have had a few bites of).
Treat #4: A small scoop of pistachio almond, just to see if I liked it (it was okay, but I wouldn’t buy it at the store).
Treat #5: A scoop of dutch chocolate ice cream. The folks a Blue Bell sure do know how to do chocolate ice cream.
Intermission: Foam hat decorating (see image above for the fruits of our labor)
Treat #6: While waiting for my companions to use the port-o-potties, I finally discovered the hiding place of the fudge and banana bomb pop. It was awesome (as usual), but hard to eat. Popsicles + extreme heat + wind = very messy.
Treat #7: The grand finale for the day was 2/3 of a good, old fashioned ice cream sandwich.

If you have a Blue Bell Taste of Summer in your area, I would highly recommend attending. It’s very affordable ($5 for ages 7 and up), the ice cream is amazing and they have lots of other great family friendly activities (hat decorating, milking a fake cow, bouncy things, etc.).

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Happy Fathers Day

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Happy fathers day to all the wonderful fathers out there, mine included.

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