Thursday, February 28, 2013

What I've been up to: Bacon Fest, baby showers & cupcakes

Back before Christmas, I hovered over my computer at work over the noon hour, waiting for tickets to go on sale for the annual Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines.  I kept refreshing the website until the tickets went on sale, bought two tickets and then found out that I was lucky, because the 8,000 tickets available sold out in 3 minutes!

I brought my pregnant sister along to the bacon festival this year.  This was my second year at the festival, and I couldn't believe the wide variety of bacon dishes this year!  I wish I could have tried more, but I actually couldn't eat as much bacon as I had hoped.  (Maybe because I had just gotten back from my trip to Arizona, where I ate huge meals three times a day!)

It was so crowded at the festival, we couldn't really walk around first to check out what all the restaurants were offering.  We just stood in whatever line we could find an end to.  One of the strangest things we tried was this bacon peanut butter banana panna cotta.  It was OK, but we really couldn't taste the bacon.  We also ate a gigantic bacon chocolate chip cookie and bacon caramel gelato (one of my favorite dishes I discovered at last year's festival).

Bacon peanut butter banana panna cotta.

My favorite discovery this year was the "man candy" -- sweet and spicy bacon chunks, with a side of bacon-flavored homemade potato chips.  I would love to find the recipe for the "man candy."  It really was addicting (just like a good man! LOL!)

Of course, there were lots of free bacon samples to try.  I think we ended up eating 20 strips of bacon!  No wonder I didn't have room for more bacon-wrapped sandwiches!  I bought my sister a bacon maternity shirt to wear at the festival.  She looked absolutely adorable!  My niece is going to be a bacon lover, for sure!

The last two weekends, we've been celebrating my sister's new arrival with back-to-back baby showers. How cute does my sister look!  We're all looking forward to meeting the little one in a month.

Diaper cake and owl decorations for the nursery.
 The Ames Hy-Vee bakery did an awesome job with the baby shower cake!

In between the baby showers, my hubby and I celebrated Valentine's Day by baking up his favorite banana split cupcakes. Since he requested them, he also agreed to frost and decorate them.  Don't forget the cherry on top.  It's the best part!

 As you can see, I've been busy the last couple weeks, but it's been a fun busy.  Now I'm looking forward to tackling some new projects at home!  And the days are already getting longer, so that should help my motivation!

Monday, February 25, 2013

What I've been up to: Arizona trip

And I'm back!  Thanks so much for your patience while I took a little break from blogging.  I finally had a whole weekend free to myself for the first time since mid-January!  And I totally indulged in my freedom this past weekend, giving myself a hot-pink pedicure, going to the gym and buying all the exotic fruits I could get my hands on at the local Hy-Vee store during the Tropical Days sale.

I spent the first week of February traveling with a group of Iowa farmers to Tuscon and Phoenix, Ariz.  My boss was too busy to go on the trip this year, so he asked me to fill in for him.  Our group spent a lot of time on a bus, touring different types of Arizona farms.  It was a really fun group to travel with.  And I ate the most amazing food!

Check out this view from my room at the Loews Resort in Tuscon.  Each room had an outdoor balcony patio.

The first night in Arizona, we were treated to an evening reception. I had to take a picture of the guacamole bar.  They were mixing up the guacamole right in front of us!

Nachos, guacamole and Coronas.
 Bright and early the next morning, we hopped the bus to visit an Arizona pecan farm.  The trees were dormant, so there wasn't much to look at. But we did get a chance to shop at the farm store.  I brought home a couple packages of the most beautiful pecan halves I've ever seen. I'm planning to turn them into a pie!

Later in the day, we toured a produce warehouse along the Mexican border in Nogales, Ariz. It was a state-of-the-art facility, with technology for tracking each tomato from the field to the grocery store. They were also very stringent with food safety there, thus my fancy head gear.

Cherry tomatoes packed and ready to ship.
 The next day, we had a little more free time to explore the resort.  We spent some time feeding the fish in the hotel pond.

Then we went on a nature walk to learn more about all the different types of cactus in the Tuscon area.

In the afternoon, we hopped another bus to the Sonoran Desert Museum near Tuscon.  It's actually more of a zoo than a museum, but most of the animals were taking their afternoon siestas.  I did have fun watching the prairie dogs.  One of them came right up to the glass to check out my camera.

On Super Bowl night, instead of watching the big game, we enjoyed another amazing dinner.  Check out the tiny macaroon cookies on the tres leches cake!  I've never had a macaroon before, so I was pretty excited to try one for the first time.  And of course, I had to take pictures!

We spent the last few days of the trip at the Wigwam Hotel near Phoenix.  The landscaping at the resort was beyond beautiful!  It was so nice to see blue skies and green grass after leaving Iowa in below zero temperatures!

On the last night, I finally got a chance to see my mom and stepdad, who are Arizona snowbirds.  My mom and I enjoyed a little girl time (otherwise known as shopping), and they took me to a nearby In-N-Out burger for supper. Wonder if we'll ever see an In-N-Out burger in Des Moines?

When we got back to the Wigwam Hotel, all the trees were decorated in lights, and we sat by the gas firepit to warm up before my mom and stepdad left for home. Such a beautiful hotel!

So awesome to chat with my mom and stepdad by the firepit.  It made it hard for me to leave Arizona!

Now as I'm writing this, I'm looking out my kitchen window at the 5 inches of snow we received a few days ago.  The snow is pretty, but I'll be happy when I can get outside and garden and bike again!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Yep, I'm still here

Hope you all don't mind, but I'm taking a mini-vacation from blogging while I do some traveling and catch up with family over the weekends.  I really appreciate all you readers, so please don't give up on my little blog while I'm catching up on some things at home.  I'll have lots to share with you soon  -- my recent trip to Arizona, a visit to the Iowa Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, etc.  And when my weekends are free, I'll go back to trying out new recipes from my stack of Iowa cookbooks.  I know you all love those Iowa recipes!  Until then, take care, my friends!
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