Tag Archives: Childhood

A Sixth-Grader’s Nightmare: Christmas Edition

6 Dec

709fd2be62450971e334b29ee4c7f54aMortified. Horrified. Petrified.

I used to flip through teen magazines to the back section, a place where girls would write in to share their most distressing personal tales of embarrassing mishaps. “It was mortifying!!!” said every girl ever.

How awful! That would never happen to me, I thought. And as I chuckled over their misfortunes, in the back of my mind, I prayed that similar events would never happen to me.

Wrong.

It was my sixth-grade year. Instead of a traditional Christmas chorus concert, the entire grade put on the play The Runaway Snowman. Four kids would lead the production while the rest of the grade chimed in as the choir. I was one of those lucky few selected to fill one of the acting/singing parts.

This is it, I thought. People will recognize me, my talent, what I can bring to the table. As a sixth grader, I was consumed with the ideas of popularity, fitting in and standing out (go figure). And without athletic talent, this was an arena that I could perhaps shine in somehow.

So after many practices, our class was ready to present the show to our parents. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the entire school day beaming. I was a star, I was brimming with absolute joy and excitement. My fellow cast mates and I were let out of class early to prepare for the production. A band director’s office was our costume slash prop room, and we had carefully laid out our clothes and makeup ahead of time.

After the lead character, the snowman, had put on his ensemble and headed out the door, I prepared to put on a dark blue jumper dress and a pair of my mother’s high heels. Not only was I playing the part of an adult woman, I would look the part. Absolutely stunning. There was a boy in the choir that I had been crushing on hard core. I kept thinking with the blush, lipstick and outfit (forget the thick glasses, buck teeth and braces), it would be hard to not take notice of me on stage.

And standing with just my Pocahontas underwear on (I was changing from my sports bra to a training bra), it happened. The door opened. And not one, or two, but four of my fellow male classmates happened to be standing right there. Wide mouthed.

I didn’t know what to do. How did they get in? Why were they here? What did they see?

I started to scream, “Get out! Get out!” I suddenly crossed my arms against my bare chest, realizing what they had just seen.

And the guys started screaming and running from the door, almost as horrified as I was.

I leaped under the teacher’s desk, crouched, breathing heavily. Was this a dream? It had to be. No way would something this horrible happen – it was too humiliating.

The frightened boys had come into the classroom to get the props for the stage, and I had forgotten to lock the door for privacy.

Something that people have nightmares about just happened to me. A 12-year-old girl just gave some of the cutest boys in school quite a show.

I couldn’t go back out there, even with just 15 minutes until the production would start. It took quite a bit of coaxing from the director to get me to show my face, and the confidence I had displayed earlier (after displaying my assets) was completely out the window.

For months, I couldn’t live it down with students teasing me about the incident. The boys were also unable to make eye contact with me or utter more than two words at a time in my presence.

Honestly, I hadn’t remembered the incident until a few days ago. Repression has most likely hidden many of my middle school slip-ups – especially terrible ones like this one.

After the event, it was difficult to visit that embarrassing moments page in the magazines. Part of the fun was knowing those events couldn’t happen to you. But I now knew for a fact that they could.

And although it was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time of my life, a few years later, I would understand that I could fill a couple pages with horrible moments similar to this one.

I Heart MST3K

21 Oct

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I bought a stockpile of “classic” Halloween movies a week ago. Unfortunately, I accidentally shipped them to my parents’ house in Iowa.

So I guess I won’t be seeing them until after the fact. Last year, I was too broke to consider purchasing “The Addams Family” movies, “Hocus Pocus”, “Beetlejuice”, or my sister’s favorite television show “The Munsters”. I couldn’t fathom spending a few bucks on a pre-owned copy of the ’80s magic that is “Teen Witch”, without thinking about my empty bank account.

So what’s a girl to do without these masterpiece videos? Netflix, of course. For a thrill, we’ve gone through Hitchcock’s classic “Psycho”, delved into “Paranormal Activity” for a sleepless night, and “Blair Witch Project”-ed myself.

But what about the humorous, the lighthearted that my trick-or-treating self enjoyed so much in earlier days? I looked no further than what is absolutely near-and-dear to my heart: MST3K. For those of you non-nerds that haven’t immersed yourself in a 24-hour extravaganza of Mystery Science Theater 3000, you are missing out.

Introduced by my dad, we never could get enough of this Minneapolis-based show when it first appeared on Comedy Central. The Thanksgiving holiday wasn’t devoted just to turkey, no, it was also about “Gamera”, “Zombie Nightmare” and other D-rate movies. Listening to robots and humans make fun of the horrors of cinema made us have such gut-wrenching belly laughs, there was nothing like it. We had quite a few of them dubbed on VHS tapes, and after school or on Saturday afternoons, my two siblings and I would spend hours rewinding the parts we found the funniest. It got to the point where we would find old movies on television and try our hand at sarcasm – sending us in a fit of hysterics over our own humor.

The best were the shorts – 15-minute films that were obviously shown to the youth of the ’60s in P.E. class. My personal favorite was a half-hour black and white promotional flick from Iowa State University. In an effort to recruit the female persuasion to their home ec studies program, the college created one of the most sexist and hilarious films of all time. Add in the snark of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, and you have got just the best thing around.

My fiancee has been subjected to my family’s humor time and time again, and he has been forced to watch a couple of our all-time favorite episodes. Instead of watching a traditional holiday movie last Christmas Eve, we chose “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” – it just seemed fitting.

We were able to find a few of the episodes on Netflix a couple nights ago. We chose “The Final Sacrifice” on Saturday evening. On Sunday, neither one of us could stop repeating some of the more memorable lines from the show. So imagine my surprise, when Nate and I sat down to watch an hour of TV and he suggested, “Um, could we watch another one of those?” I didn’t even suggest the beloved series, he did it all on his own. How ’bout that?

I knew I picked the right guy.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Would Have Loved Sephora

8 Aug

007725Just like me. I finished On The Banks Of Plum Creek and thought, “Man, we are so alike.” Really, truly, I thought me and Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been BFFs. For sure. I always wanted to live like a little hobbit in a mound of dirt house and she did. And when she survived The Long Winter, I was right with her. Man, I hate it when you can’t walk outside to the store and get your frozen pizza fix on because of the minor problem of a blizzard. Or when the electricity goes off because of high winds. You can’t watch Step By Step on TGIF, WTF!!! She just got me. Reading on my bed, eating my Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies, I tore through historical novels and always came up with the same conclusion: We would have gotten along. The Secret Garden, no prob. Mary was me, just back then. Heidi, yeah, samesies. Anne of Green Gables, wasn’t that my biography?

I got along well with my posse of literary girlfriends. And I was pretty sure they felt the same way. My plot line of middle class girl living in small town America was pretty unique. I had a diary filled with mystical thoughts and deep observations, and my top ten boys’ list was pure poetry.

So I imagined days with my friends shopping at the Dollar General for sugar sticks that you dip in flavored sugar. Riding bicycles to the pool in the summer and ending the afternoon with shaved ice at the Tropical Sno. Besties for ever, Laura and I.

It wasn’t until I watched Back To The Future III that I realized we weren’t exactly, uh, on the same page. I had romanticized the idea of living in more primitive times that I forgot their water was pretty gross. Lady Speed Stick wasn’t in high demand. And that whole leg shaving thing, what gives? There was a good year when I just imagined switching lives with these characters and being completely grossed out. Weekly baths. The whole women’s reproductive cycle problems thingy (I always just compiled that into one word: Yuck.) Teeth. That was a big part of my squeamishness. We had a pioneer day in fourth grade. It was fun eating out of a pail for one day. It was enjoyable trying a dandelion on a cracker for one day. Bonnets worked, again, for one day. (ONE DAY is the key here.) But then I wanted to go back into my house with no cracks or bugs crawling about and curl up with a game of Mario Paint on the Super NES. I sucked at cross-stitching, I’d be no good during that time period. I’d stick out sorely, watching people, judging them. It just wouldn’t work.

My dreams of meeting my different century friends were squashed. Thanks Michael J. Fox for jump starting that reality. Now, anytime I read Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, I get lost for a moment and then jolt back to shuddering thoughts of bloodletting and major B.O. Yeah, I don’t even seem to care about the lack of women’s rights at that time, much more concerned with the lack of clothes changing.

Still, I always try to bring a character to my realm, very Lost In Austen. Elizabeth Bennett would love a good bargain at Century 21. Laura Ingalls Wilder would just love the lipstick options at Sephora. Never mind vaccinations or central air or the right to vote, but I just know Little Women‘s Jo would have enjoyed Tampax tampons. She just would.

Boxes of Childhood

24 Jul

I’m planning on going home for a wedding in a month, and my parents asked me to do something specific: Go through my old toys and collectibles. By collectibles, I mean paperback Sweet Valley Twins books and Barbies with missing legs.

I have been curious about what is in all of those basement boxes. I mean, I went through my childhood bedroom before I moved out east and purged basically everything and anything besides one closet shelf and one box of books. On the shelf is a box of papers from college and high school that I deemed worthy of not being pitched. My trusty clarinet lies resplendently in its case, and a couple handmade quilts made by my grandmother sit next to it.

But the basement? Wow. I’m going to imagine that these are a few of the things that I will find:

I have slammers, pogs, containers - the whole enchilada.

I have slammers, pogs, containers – the whole enchilada.

Pogs. I have a shit ton of Pogs. Did I actually ever play the game? No. Never. But I had the best, THE BEST, collection out of anyone in the fifth grade – and I planned to keep it that way. There used to be a hologram store in the Mall of America. I spent all my saved allowance money one year on silver, shiny wood pieces with ever-changing scenes. Well, I also spent some money on some fake eyeballs and boogers to freak everyone else, but priorities, man. There used to be a baseball card shop in our small town. Many Saturday mornings, my dad and I spent time going through the huge trash can bin in the corner of the shop full of beautiful, beautiful Pogs. Due to this process, I have the entire collection of Simpsons Pogs – every character showcased. While I never played the game (because you would likely lose a few), I sure did trade some. I was quite the miser and knew if I was getting a good deal or getting screwed. One time, I wiped this girl’s collection of mint-condition first-edition Pogs. The ones that came from Hawaii. She got one of my cheap wildlife collections. She liked Pandas, I liked money. That’s that. So I know that each and every one of these Pogs will still be sitting organized in their baseball card-style binders.

This was my absolutely favorite folder of all time. I think I may have got it for my homework a few years in a row. Not ashamed.

This was my absolutely favorite folder of all time. I think I may have got it for my homework a few years in a row. Not ashamed.

Lisa Frank memorabilia. I have a box, I know I do, of all of my middle school and elementary school projects and papers. Yeah, not throwing that away. That’s inked gold, in my opinion, like all of my journals and diaries that I have kept over the years. Papers will be contained in glittery unicorn-covered folders. For sure. There is a likelihood that unused LF pencils, erasers and other desk supply items will be there too. Because I always got double – the regular yellow No. 2 pencils and pink erasers are what I actually used every day, just so I could stare at all the brand new shiny LF material all the time. There will also be a Garfield pencil from a guy that I had a huge crush on in 4th grade, and a disgusting box full of hair ties from my “sorority” in second grade. We pretended we had “secret sisters” like our own mother’s clubs and we gave each other gifts of things we found around the house. Like dirty hair bands. Yay.

This is not what it looked like. I can't find the image right now. It was clear, full of purple glitter liquid, and I thought the scent was so great. Now, I hate almost every B&B scent. Almost.

This is not what it looked like. I can’t find the image right now. It was clear, full of purple glitter liquid, and I thought the scent was so great. Now, I hate almost every B&B scent. Almost.

Bath and Body Works Freesia. I am expecting this. Yes, I am. In sixth or seventh grade, I don’t remember which, B&B products were all the rage. And for a group of my classmates, this slivery $12 hand liquid was amazing. We carried our bottles everywhere and set them on our desk, like it was a necessity. Just this giant bottle sitting there. We would only use dots of the liquid as an empty bottle would be totally not cool. Anyways, I barely ever used the stuff, , and I don’t ever remember throwing it away. I’m scared to find out what kind of congealed goo I’m going to find.

I had a few of these in my collection. The Genesis one for sure.

I had a few of these in my collection. The Genesis one for sure.

My tape collection. I was given my first tape player at a wee age. And my beloved tapes, in their red plastic box, were my go-to stress reliever as a 7-year-old. Well, that and Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies. So many stresses. Wilson Phillips, The Jets, Madonna, Atlantic Starr, and Janet Jackson. I fell in love with my mom’s Pretty Woman soundtrack and my dad’s The Best Of The Beach Boys. Those were quickly stolen and added to my ever-growing collection. I listened to Mariah Carey’s Fantasy on repeat for so long that I had to piece the tape together after it shredded in my broken player. It worked, with many, many pauses and slow-motion singing  included.

Whenever you saw this display in the front of the restaurant, it was go time. More than once, did a worker give my a boy toy and each time it was exchanged for a pretty-haired doll. Can't fool a child on a mission.

Whenever you saw this display in the front of the restaurant, it was go time. More than once, did a worker give my a boy toy and each time it was exchanged for a pretty-haired doll. Can’t fool a child on a mission.

McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys. We were never allowed to eat at the Golden Arches very often, but every once and awhile, it was okay. Especially in the summertime. Each year, the offerings of miniature Barbies sent my family flying for plain hamburger dinners. My dad has been quite the collector over the years, and helped nurture my love of Pogs, baseball cards, and miniature Barbies. I have this Barbie carrier filled heavy with these toys, and I played with them sometimes more often than their larger leggy friends.

I had most of the PP play-set, but the gazebo was my favorite. It turned in a circle, while the magnetized orange-haired girl danced. And it played a haunting music box sound.

I had most of the PP play-set, but the gazebo was my favorite. It turned in a circle, while the magnetized orange-haired girl danced. And it played a haunting music box sound.

Toys. Of course. The Barbies, O’Jennys, Precious Places, Little People (not exactly PC, I know), Ghostbusters, She-Ra and her castle, and Carebears. At one time, I had quite the collection of stuffed animals. But after my mom and doctors realized I had a non-stop sinus problem and allergies, those were thrown out. But my pillow Rainbow Brite was my best friend. She went with me everywhere, and was so thread-bare that she could no longer be thrown in the wash. I slept with that doll for longer than I’d care to admit, and once when she was left in an Omaha, Neb. hotel, I threw an absolute fit. Luckily, a hotel maid realized that it was a beloved item and mailed it back to me. She will never, ever be thrown out.

This is the exact Rainbow Brite pillow form that my Great-Aunt Luella used to make the doll for me. She doesn't exactly look like this anymore. There might be a slight resemblance in the boots.

This is the exact Rainbow Brite pillow form that my Great-Aunt Luella used to make the doll for me. She doesn’t exactly look like this anymore. There might be a slight resemblance in the boots.

I’m actually kind of excited to sort through all of that. A nostalgic trip back through the years. I’m sure many memories will come peeking out – with all the smells and sights those boxes contain.

Oh, and one last thing that will be in there that I just remembered. This is really weird, but here goes: Plastic baby fetuses. Yes, I just said that. At the county and state fair, the pro-life booth would have these container on the table chock full of them. My sister and I innocently asked for them all the time and stuffed them into our jean short pockets. We have bunches. Seriously. Why, you wonder? At that time, there was no baby Barbies. And when you wrapped each up in a little piece of cloth, there’s a baby for Barbie and her boy-toy Ken. We never thought anything of it. Well … until now. So, I will, uh, leave you with that. Don’t judge.

American Girl memories

25 Apr
Halloween-pic-Carrie-Emily

I’m on the left in my homemade American Girl Jelly Belly costume. My little sister is next to me. Obviously, we loved candy. It’s amazing that we still have all of our teeth.

Yesterday, I posted some of my favorite books from my childhood. And one thing that I have not touched on is the American Girl collection. I grew up completely immersed in the world it offered – and it definitely helped shaped my adolescence. For years, I ordered the magazine. It was so awesome, and I believe that most of those are in storage somewhere. Each issue was divided up into categories which I found to be of all-important interest to me. In the middle, was an everyday real girl paper doll with assorted outfits (I LOVE PAPER DOLLS), but I was unwilling to break any of these out of the package, in fear of ruining a perfect issue. Every year, there were homemade Halloween costume ideas. I eventually used one – becoming a giant Jelly Belly bag (as shown embarrassingly above).

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I always wanted to submit my story to the mag to become a paper doll. But I didn’t have the courage. And I didn’t want a cartoon version of myself in a swimsuit available to the public.

My love for American Girl didn’t stop there, oh no, I loved, loved, loved the dolls. Unfortunately, I never had one or any of their beautiful clothes. But, thinking back, I wasn’t a huge doll person, just a clothes person. I would rather have Barbie outfits than the actual doll itself. So shuffling through the catalog that came four times a year was an absolute pleasure. The glossy paged booklet would sit on my bed stand, and I would flip through it numerous times. The pictures of beautiful wood-carved wardrobes stocked full of outfits, next to their four-post beds … magnificent (but obscene prices!. I would pretend that I owned one of the historical dolls and would decide on which costume was best for certain occasions. I liked the catalog almost more than the magazine, and decided to send it to any and all my girlfriends (which consisted of four of my girl cousins.) Imagine their confusion, when they realized I sent them unending amounts of American Girl catalogs. Why wouldn’t you want 20 of these lying around your bedroom?

When this came in the mail, I raced up to my bedroom to compare to my previous issue. Just to admire the new products.

When this came in the mail, I raced up to my bedroom to compare to my previous issue. Just to admire the new products.

I did, however, own many of the books. I had every book for three characters: Felicity (Colonial), Addy (Civil War), and Molly (WWII). Kirsten (Swedith immigrant) was meh for me, and I loved Samantha (Victorian), but ended up just borrowing her books from the library. The other dolls were after my time, and the original ones are the ones I liked best. Not only were the stories well-thought out, but they weren’t happy-go-lucky tales for children. Each character had to deal with the issues of their time period, and not all had happy endings. There was a section in the front of each book that talked more in detail about each of the characters, and I mustn’t forget the back pages. Oh, the back pages! History at my fingertips. Pages and pages of black and white photos, information about the time period – I was in heaven.

This is my absolute favorite book of any of the series.

This is my absolute favorite book of any of the American Girl series.

I have recently found that Samantha, Felicity and Kirsten were archived, WTF???? And while the books will still be available, no longer will you be able to go to the store and see the beautiful furniture, wardrobes, and dolls in all their splendor and glory.

This is the doll I wanted and the outfit I wanted her to come in. And yes, under my family Christmas tree.

This is the doll I wanted and the outfit I wanted her to come in. And yes, under my family Christmas tree.

Seriously, I owe this company (and its parent company Mattel) a great deal of thanks, as I can’t say enough about their collection. Although I was never able to afford the doll and accessories, and I was never able to get Felicity’s hair did (she was the doll I wanted most) or dress her in her blue velvety ballgown – the collection of books, the magazine, and the catalog were enough for me.

Nickelodeon favorites of the ’90s

20 Feb

Warning: I was going to list my favorite television shows of Nickelodeon. Can’t do. Too much stuff to list off. Was going to list off favorite middle school programming. Uh, again, a lot to list. So this is just one segment of my favorite 30-minute to hour-long shows of childhood past.

I can hear the "splat" sound right now.

I can hear the “splat” sound right now.

I watched a lot of television growing up. A lot. Some of it was educational, but a lot of the time it was just crazy garbage. Jerry Springer accidentally getting hit in the face by a baby mama or a woman gladiator in a spandex suit swinging on a rope.

But the Nickelodeon programs that were geared toward middle-school children, now that was some good stuff.

During the summer, if it were too hot, I’d turn on some Nickelodeon and tune in to their programming.

I had a lot of babysitting gigs. So a lot of times I would turn on the TV and see this:

RIP Face

RIP Face

He would get things moving right along. Not only that, but he was quite entertaining to the two-year-old twins that were in my care.

Now, babysitting in the summer while all my friends were at the pool wasn’t a favorite thing of mine. So I compromised with the kids. We’d watch one of their boring shows as long as I could catch at least an hour of Steve and Blue.

Everybody love's Blue's Clues. EVERYBODY.

Everybody love’s Blue’s Clues. EVERYBODY.

If there were ever a job opening and the main requirement was to recite all the songs from Blue’s Clues, I’d be in like flint. I even carried a lunch box in the shape of Steve’s notebook (complete with large green crayon!) with me in high school. In homage.

Alright, early in the afternoon they would sometimes show re-runs of this favorite. I just wanted to go down the tongue slide so bad. I also wanted that green slime to run down my back. I imagined it smelled like a mixture of plastic and Play-Doh.

My brother and I would have creamed the other contestants. I am absolutely sure of it.

My brother and I would have creamed the other contestants. I am absolutely sure of it.

This enjoyable team competition show was quickly overshadowed by my favorite-ist of all time game shows. THE LEGENDS OF THE HIDDEN TEMPLE. GET IT, GET IT.

When this came on. I shut up and listened, and then started shouting obscenities at the screen.

When this came on I shut up and listened, and then started shouting obscenities at the screen.

Damn, I wanted to be on this show soooo bad. I was always rooting for the red or purple team at the beginning. But the entire time, I was just waiting in anticipation for the last team to run through the temple. BUT WHY IN GOD’S NAME COULD NO ONE EVER PUT THE FREAKIN’ SILVER MONKEY TOGETHER? WHY? And why did they always run into the temple guards when it was so obvious where they were stationed? Also, their mouth guards were obscenely huge. AMIRIGHT?

I could have entered the Shrine of the Silver Monkey and nailed that task. Nailed it.

I could have entered the Shrine of the Silver Monkey and nailed that task. Nailed it.

You may have been at the pool or T-balling it up. I was instead catching up on my favorite-ist show ever. SALUTE YOUR SHORTS. Budnick and Donkey Lips were seriously so cool. I was always ticked off that Budnick always got a bad rap and I secretly had a huge crush on the redhead. Also, I wanted to be Z.Z. and hang out with Telly and Dina in our cabin.

Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts ...

Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts …

Was anyone else super happy when they replaced Michael with pransker Ronnie? And did anyone know that the super hottie became lead guitarist of Rilo Kiley?

Usually, this show aired before Salute Your Shorts. And I loved it.

Hey Dude, and dude, and dude, and dude, and dude.

Hey Dude, and dude, and dude, and dude, and dude.

I wanted to visit the Bar None and hang out with Ben Stiller’s wife Melody and date Ted. He was hot, hot, hot. I just never want to wear shorts down to my ankles. The girls seemed to dig those.

While these shows were great afternoon exploits, what I most enjoyed was SNICK (Saturday Night Nickelodeon).

Snick_2610That was when the quality programming came out to play.

Over the years, the shows changed, but here are a few of my favorites.

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The Secret World of Alex Mack. Yes.

I love me some Pete & Pete. I still find this to be a brilliantly written show.

I love me some Pete & Pete. I still find this to be a brilliantly written show.

The irreverent characters of Ren & Stimpy. They made me cringe and laugh all at once. Does anyone remember the episode where they were scraping a tongue for a good minute?

The irreverent characters of Ren & Stimpy. They made me cringe and laugh all at once. Does anyone remember the episode where they were scraping a tongue for a good minute?

I needed Clarissa to explain it all. Someone had to.

I needed Clarissa to explain it all. Someone had to.

I have seen each and every episode, and I want to take home Chuckie Finster and be his surrogate mommy.

I have seen each and every episode, and I want to take home Chuckie Finster and be his surrogate mommy.

oug's theme song was the catchiest thing ever written. And I loved every character. Doug was like a middle-aged balding man stuck in a cartoon teenager's body.

Doug’s theme song was the catchiest thing ever written. And I loved every character. Doug was like a middle-aged balding man stuck in a cartoon teenager’s body.

And last, but definitely not least, is the best show ever made for teenagers (in my opinion). This show can still freak the ba-jeez-us out of me. I catch it every once and a while on YouTube. Are You Afraid of the Dark? was my go-to, and I looked forward to every weekend that a marathon was playing. I have two favorite episodes. The first was where a babysitter and the two kids she took care of get trapped in an old mansion in the middle of nowhere. The second was about a kid obsessed with video games, and he gets stuck in an arcade game in a mall where he has to save the princess. SOOOO GOOD!

I am deathly afraid of the dark, and still can't watch this show before bedtime.

I am deathly afraid of the dark, and still can’t watch this show before bedtime.

What were your favorite Nickelodeon shows of the ’90s? Was it Keenan and Kel? Or All That? I just named a few of my favorites. Next up will be Saturday morning cartoons. And then a look back at TGIF. Because we all need to ride that rollercoaster of life that was the beginning of every Step By Step episode.

Chili and cinnamon rolls: A match made in food heaven

19 Feb

Chili & Cinnamon Roll

When I think of Iowa food, the first items that come to mind are bacon and sweet corn. I would also pay homage to loose-meat sandwiches, pork chops and an assortment of garden vegetables.

Whenever I have ventured off to another area of the country, I always try regional food from Chicago hot dogs to the seafood in Boston. There are always questionable fare options which make visitors wonder – who signed off on that?

When I’m visiting with people from out-of-state, when it comes to food, they don’t ask me how good Iowa sweet corn is or how juicy a piece of bacon can be.

At least a dozen times I have been asked if the state’s residents really eat cinnamon rolls with their chili. The first couple of times, it caught me off-guard. One, why would they ask that question, and two, who doesn’t eat that combination?

I hadn’t thought that the chili/cinnamon roll combo was considered regional cuisine and had mistaken it for a common delight shared across the nation.

“What does it taste like?” and “Have you always eaten it that way?”

First off, I’m not sure how you eat chili another way. Sure there is always cornbread or crackers, but those are not as satisfying as a frosting-covered sweet roll that probably qualifies as half your daily calorie allotment.

Almost every other week at public school, I could expect a bowl full of red bean chili and a giant cinnamon pastry on the other side of the plastic tray as one of the meals. Probably not the healthiest – but definitely one of the lunches I looked forward to most as a child. When the lunch lady would scoop the roll off the tray, you hoped that it was the biggest, chewiest, and with the most frosting.

So imagine my surprise to find that the idea is contained to the Iowa/eastern Nebraska area of the U.S., according to the blogosphere.

People are really missing out.

It’s hard for me to even ponder why the pairing tastes so good. Maybe it’s because both the entree and dessert give off that made-from-scratch aroma. Two smells that say ‘I’m home’ and give comfort when its needed. I’m not usually into eating my feelings, but in this case I am.

The people I talked to found the combination a disgusting mix, and shuddered when I suggested that chili makes a great dipping sauce for the roll.

There are many Iowa foods that I do find unappealing and rather disgusting though.

It seems that any good potluck can be ruined with one too many casseroles with that cream of chicken flavor and a sprinkling of crunched-up potato chips. Without fail, every one of those casserole tastes the same.

And the joy women seem to get by putting vegetables and fruits in gelatin. I don’t know many kids that enjoy a good carrot Jello or its ugly cousin the gelatin/whipped cream concoction, but they continue to make it.

With all these soggy foods, I wonder if we Midwesterners are yearning for the times when we used to eat out of baby food jars, or whether we are too lazy to use our jaw bones and would rather swallow food whole.

Relatives in Dubuque have told me about the city’s staple turkey and dressing sandwiches. Now that’s one food item that I have a hard time swallowing.

But when it come’s to Iowa’s beloved cinnamon roll/chili combination – when people ask the question “why,” I now just reply “why not?”

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