Home sweet home

One of the things you do with a newborn in the house is watch TV.

A lot of TV. After all, when you’re sitting in a chair with a baby in your arms, there aren’t exactly a ton of realistic entertainment options.

In our house, that usually means marathon viewings of series on Netflix.

Lately it seems we gravitate toward the home renovation shows on HGTV and the like. It’s enough to give us serious thoughts as to what we plan to do with our house in the future.

Background: We bought our “dream home” this past spring.

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While we are extremely lucky and grateful to be living and raising our kids in this house, I would be lying if I said everything was perfect. The house has tons of character, which is great, but something I’ve learned is that “character” also equals “issues.”

Nothing major, really. It’s just that the décor seems to date to the mid-70’s (not so bad) and early 90’s (a horrendous era for style, judging from my own teenage memories).

There’s a lot of wallpaper. The wallpaper in my office, for instance, has a plant pattern. It looks like reeds, the kind I might see alongside the road when I go back home to Louisiana.

In the meantime, I am concerned about ducks trying to fly in through the windows in an attempt to land on my wall.

The living room has a giant mirror spanning the width of the fireplace and going all the way up to the ceiling. I am no interior designer, but I cannot understand for the life of me why you would want an enormous mirror above your fireplace.

The fireplace is another issue, itself – even if we wanted to use it, the gas lines have been pulled. Plus, the currently-HGTV-playing television just happens to be parked in front of the fireplace area, seeing as how it was the only logical place in the room to put a TV.

There are other things – the finished basement would be great to use as living space, except it’s leaky; the downstairs bathroom has all the square footage of a postage stamp; and the upstairs is always about a thousand degrees.

But I don’t want to sound negative. It really is a great house. I am extremely proud to live here. I look forward to raising my two boys in this house and growing old here.

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In a funny way, I feel like we are carrying on a tradition, as the previous owners raised their kids here. On the back garage wall, there’s a series of marks charting the heights of all the kids.

I can’t fully explain it, but seeing those marks on the wall inspires me. This place has seen a few kids grow up to become adults – at least three generations’ worth since it was built in the late 1930’s.

No doubt there have been lots and lots of birthday parties, family fun, afternoons spent playing in the backyard, heartfelt moments and hugs shared in this old house. I look forward to adding a few hundred more.

(That doesn’t mean I won’t be writing a few of those home renovation shows, though. That projection theater room in the basement isn’t going to just build itself, you know.)

Allow myself to introduce … myself

Regular readers of this blog know that its usual author will be out of circulation for a few weeks. But fear not, the show will go on! As Abbey mentioned in her last entry, I will be taking over Aparently Obvious while she is on maternity leave.

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For clarity’s sake, my name is Michael. I am Abbey’s husband, a regular contributor to the Courier & Press (and a couple of other very fine daily publications throughout Louisiana and Texas) and a stay-at-home dad.

Unlike my globe-trotting, career-achieving wife, my life story resides on the boring side of average. I’m a cheeseburger-and-fries, t-shirt-and-jeans, can’t-dance-at-all kind of guy. But that’s okay, we can’t all be Justin Timberlake.

I am from south/central Louisiana, where I spent the first 31 years of my life. Met a girl, got married, you know the story – next thing I know I’m in the land of Mellencamp and high school basketball. After a few years living in the northern half of Indiana, we moved down to Evansville about a year and a half ago.

I’ll always be a Louisiana boy. Louisiana is like something that just gets in your bones. You can never leave it behind.

But, I like Evansville a lot and have already come to think of it as home. I’m excited about the prospects of living and raising a family here in the long term.

So I will try to carry this blog forward with that as the overall focus, for you, the loyal readers. And I know you’re out there, because several times when I’ve been out covering a story I get the whole “You’re married to Abbey?!? I love her blog!!!” thing.

Mostly, it’s going to simply be a slice-of-life kind of thing, as we all get adjusted to life with a new member of the family. I feel like we’re off to a great start already.

Stay tuned!

It’s just stuff, right?

When the phone call from my mom started with, “Everyone is OK. No one is hurt,” I knew the second part of her sentence was going to be bad.

My head raced. We are in Louisiana on vacation. Had our house been broken into? She was watching our dog, had something happened to Van Gogh?

“There was a fire at the storage unit.” Long, long pause.

“Everything is gone.”

It took a while to sink in. What is she talking about? What does this mean? What did we even have in there?

About 30 seconds later it sunk in – everything was in there.

When we moved from Anderson to Evansville we decided we wanted something small so we could save up money to buy a house. We knew it would be temporary. So all of our belongings that were once in a four bedroom house had to be wheedled down to the absolute essentials to fit into our tiny two bedroom duplex in Evansville.

So we got a storage unit at the same building my mom has used for years to store Christmas decorations and other miscellaneous items.

Lots of furniture went there – an entire bedroom set and mattress, a chaise lounge, a rocker, an easy chair, a couch, book shelves, my Papa’s desk that I admired my entire childhood and was able to take after he passed away, my great-grandmother’s vanity that I remember sitting at as a little girl to put on play make-up, several lamps and the most amazing blonde butcher block table that my parents had my entire childhood and had saved for me. There were even crayon drawings on the bottom of it courtesy of my sister and me.

And then there were boxes and boxes of books. Books from my childhood, coffee table books of photography and newspaper, novels Michael and I had collected over the years, special books given to me by my dad and mom with beautiful inscriptions.

And then the pictures, the keepsakes, the letters and cards, the mementos of life. I had saris from Bangladesh, tapestries from Thailand, dolls from Guatemala and sculptures from Haiti – all gone. All irreplaceable.

Michael, who admittedly is much less sentimental than I, even was crushed by some of the losses. Baseball gloves he’d used as a kid he was anxious to pass on to Miles; baseball cards he’d collected since childhood; a handful of childhood toys and clothes his mom had saved so we could pass down to our kids – all gone.

Our high school and college diplomas – gone.

We just bought a house and have spent the last month excitedly planning about how we would decorate and furnish it with all of our stuff we’d been missing for the past year tucked away in storage. Our current apartment in Evansville has empty walls, no decorations as we’d stored them all.

All of our plans about what would go where meant nothing.

As I was processing the enormity of it all while on the phone with my mom I couldn’t hold the tears back. She apologized profusely although she had no control or anything to do with it. But what do you say in a situation like this?

I’ve written dozens of stories about people who have lost everything in a fire. I’ve interviewed those families and was only able to offer a hopeful apology and sympathy, never empathy though. I had no idea what it feels like.

After hanging up the phone the tears turned to sobs. I cried so hard I nearly threw up. I was devastated. Yes, it is unbelievably frustrating that we are going to have to start all over furnishing this house with both furniture and decorations (minus the tiny bit of stuff we had in our apartment). But the part that makes my whole body ache, the part that still brings tears to my eyes days later, is that irreplaceable stuff.

There was so much of my life in there. The hardest things to think about being gone forever are the things from my dad. I had countless letters, cards, notes and poems that he wrote me saved. These are things I’ve saved for more than 20 years, things that meant so much to me. In a way, I felt the loss of my dad all over again. There was comfort in knowing I had those things that he’d written me, those connections to those times, in a physical form that I could physically hold on to.

Now they are gone.

I wipe away the tears though and keep telling myself, it’s just stuff. No one, not even the three men who have been arrested in connection to the arson that destroyed the storage unit, can take away the memories of my childhood, my travels and adventures or the amazing man and father my dad was.

It’s just stuff, right.

When it starts to feel like TOO MUCH

I feel like my life has been consumed by packing!

We are living among boxes and tiny trains, all of them bound and determined to stub my toe or trip me in the middle of the night. The boxes part is new; the trains feel like they will be a permanent fixture.

So we are trying to pack up as much as we are able to this far in advance because the two prime “packing weekends” (the two before we move) will be spent in Louisiana, 700 miles away from where we and all our crap live. When we return on April 6 we will have five days (all of them working days as that Sunday I’ll be working too) before we close on the house and start the move.

But as much as I’ve tried to focus on packing, I had to take a break from doing it. My break from packing boxes though was spent packing suitcases.

Our last trip to Louisiana Miles was just 9 months so it was a lot more complicated. I worried about packing food he could eat (I made all of his baby food and brought with me a cooler with enough food for him to eat the week we were away), frozen breast milk, bottles, formula, pacifiers, a pack and play, a mini high chair, ALL OF THE STUFF. This time it’s just clothes, a few trains and books and the requisite electronics to make the two-day car trip a little more tolerable.

But it’s still a lot of stuff! Three people for nine days. And I had to pack a smaller “go bag” for us to take into the hotel for our stop tonight. And then there’s goodies, items for family and friends in Louisiana.

In other words — TOO MUCH!

So while packing has been the theme of my life these days, TOO MUCH is running a close second.

Buying a house, struggling with what has been a much more challenging pregnancy than my first that has included one trip to the OB emergency room, planning a move and then planning and taking a road trip all while working, trying to be a not too cranky wife and mom has been a little TOO MUCH!

But I see an end to this era of TOO MUCH! The stress of packing/planning the trip is nearly behind me. And in two days we’ll be there and the hecticness of work will be behind me, and I’ll have a week with family and friends to enjoy. And in a mere 25 days me, my happy little family and all of our crap will be in our new house, and we can start making it a home.

And while this sounds like a long time away (it really isn’t) our newest bundle of joy will join us in our new home in around 190 days!

Eh, let’s get real, while these stressors have an end, I’m sure new ones will jump on. I guess that’s how life is for me and just about everyone else. I’m just so happy I have an amazing group of friends and family around me to help me tackle all of the challenges and embrace my TOO MUCH!

What’s your TOO MUCH? How do you deal with days where it feels like you just can’t take on anything more?

We bought a house!

So we did it; we bought a house. Actually we officially put in an offer on Sunday that was accepted that same afternoon. The closing date is April 11, so that may be the day that we “officially” buy the house.

Whatever the semantics, I’m calling us first-time homeowners. And I’m OFFICIALLY terrified as well as ecstatic. Terrified definitely gets a capital T. Homeownership is kind of a big thing. First of all, it’s pretty permanent. I’ve been pretty nomadic my entire adult life — 11 cities, six states, two countries all in the past decade or so. And I’ve lived in a couple different houses in a couple of those places so my number of moves is closer to 15!

It’s also pretty darn grown up. I know at 33 and with a husband, child and professional job I should already feel I’ve reached adulthood. But I don’t know if I’ll ever really feel totally grown up. But this certainly puts me several steps closer.

And as overwhelming as all of this is, Michael and I are thrilled. Just this week we’ve tripped over each other several times in our tiny duplex only to quickly say, one more month and we’ll have plenty of space! We are going from a cramped two-bedroom duplex that doesn’t even have enough room for a kitchen table to a three bedroom, two-story home with a full-finished basement and more than 2,300-square-feet.

Even just typing those words out I let out a sigh of relief. I can’t believe it is actually happening.

And the house, it’s just amazing. It has a ton of character — it’s brick with a bay window, a dramatic peaked front porch and a huge front and backyard. There’s a garage, a bonus room. all glass doorknobs, a claw-foot cast iron bathtub, some gorgeous arches and a dishwasher that my husband (our dishwasher up to this point) may love the best.

Miles’ room has a gorgeous bay window. The basement is huge and will make a great family room and playroom and has some groovy patchwork-style looking tile work.

I’m proud that this is our house. I can’t wait to have people over and show off our new home. Our first home. Our (if not forever) very long time home.

OK, I’m done gushing. I love it and can’t wait to get inside it.

Now I just have to get through the next four weeks and get everything packed! EEK.

On the hunt

I’m 33 and am embarking on a pretty huge journey with my family — homeownership.

And it’s a very exciting and terrifying thing. I usually feel at least moderately smart and with it holding my own in a variety of conversations and settings. But throw out terms like PMI, inspections, APR and escrow and my insides start to get all squiggly, my head hurts and my eyes water.

But we got “preapproved” for an amount that was above what we were shooting for, a pleasant surprise, and we have started the hunt!

We went from talking about really wanting to buy a house a few weeks ago to going to a few open houses on Sunday to now having a Realtor, mortgage company and giant loan today.

Tomorrow we are going to go on a house visiting blitz with our trusty Realtor after depositing the munchkin off with his grandma. I’ve decided it will make the whole process A LOT smoother. We’ll let him put in his two cents after we’ve narrowed the field down a bit.

I know at 33, most of my peers may already be on house number two or maybe even three; we are late to the party. But I’ve been so transient for the past decade or so — 11 cities, six states, two countries — that homeownership really didn’t make sense. We’ve decided that Evansville is going to be home and our family needs a place to really settle into.

I’m stoked but also may throw up in a closet from all this anxiety.

What do you wish you would have done differently when you bought your first home? What one thing do we need to watch out for? Give me your best home buying advice!

Mardi Gras memories

We spent this past gorgeous Saturday strolling up and down Franklin Street taking advantage of the first-ever Gumbo Cook-off hosted by the Franklin Street Events Association.

It was a lot of fun and some really great food. In addition to meeting some friends for the event and basking in the (unfortunately short-lived) sunshine and beautiful temps, it was also a great reminder of my former home and my hubby’s nearly lifetime home of Louisiana.

Traditional Mardi Gras parade in Mamou, La. from several years ago.

Traditional Mardi Gras parade in Mamou, La. from several years ago.

It’s the state where we met six years ago, the state we married in nearly four years ago and where most of his family and many of our friends still reside. It is also a state filled with AMAZING food, fun and cooky traditions and more culture than any other place I’ve been to in the U.S.

I’ve always said that Louisiana isn’t really like its own state, in many ways it is like its own country. The most basic thing of splitting up the state into counties is even done differently there with “parishes” instead of counties. And a whole portion of the state still fluently speaks French, Creole or an interesting mishmash of the two. It’s like a whole other world; and that is awesome.

So Saturday, as we walked around the Westside of Evansville, we were, for a time, transported back “home” to Louisiana hearing some familiar tunes, tasting the rich flavor of gumbo and smelling the spices drift out of the establishments.

There was crawfish, there was gator, there was File and there was even some horseradish (a non-traditional, yet tasty) gumbo adornment. My favorite was what was served at Thyme in the Kitchen and Michael’s was served up by volunteers from Another Chance for Animals at Tin Man. There were a few that were far from traditional but still tasty and none were inedible, although a few only deserved a taste and a “second-chance” bite.

Eating traditional gumbo after Mardi Gras festivities in Mamou, La.

Eating traditional gumbo after Mardi Gras festivities in Mamou, La., several years ago.

Crawfish and Louisiana beer at a jazz club on Frenchman.

Crawfish and Louisiana beer at a jazz club on Frenchman in New Orleans taken in 2010.

I can’t wait for the Mardi Gras parade this weekend!

Another year, another birthday

Thirty-three. Yep, that’s how old I am. It is also the number of birthdays I’ve shared with my twin sister.

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But this last Sunday was the first my twin sister and I were able to celebrate together in probably a decade or so. She’d probably have the exact figure, but I’m going with ball parks here.

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Our celebration wasn’t anything fancy or extraordinary but it was certainly special. We had cookie cake, my favorite dessert, and ice cream and watched our boys play together. I know, boring huh; nah, it was kind of amazing.

The special part though was getting to spend the time together. The past 33 years haven’t always been smooth sailing between the two of us. For a long time we had a love/hate relationship. We were constantly together — same classes, same friends, same job even. We shared toys and a room growing up and even a car. So there were times when all that sharing got to be a little oppressive for both of us. We needed our space, our own identity.

But just as strongly as that “hate” was as kids, was the love. My mom jokes that we would go from fighting to hugging in seconds. We were thick as theives.

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Our parents were wonderful about making sure we were independent. There were no matching clothes, rhyming names or forced joint activities. They did a great job supporting us in our individual endeavors helping us to find our unique strengths. Early on Sarah had the market on math and scienceas well as a passion for music. I, on the other hand, freely took over the writing side of things.

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So the hate part is kind of obvious — we did a lot of fighting and grating each others nerves. But the love part was certainly strong too. We were very close and very dependant on each other and each other’s approval. I had a built in friend and ally anywhere, anytime.

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After graduating, Sarah moved to Evansville to pursue an engineering degree at the University of Evansville, and I went to Western Kentucky University to study journalism. This was a perfect compromise for us. We were close enough we could see each other whenever we needed and yet we had our own space and were both somewhere that we were no longer referred to as “the Brown twins.” It was kind of freeing.

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Life has brought me all over the world since then, while Sarah has stayed here in Evansville. It took me a while to realize how important that relationship was. And eventually a strong desire to be near my family brought me to Evansville.

I’m sure there were several times over the past 33 years that I’ve taken our relationship for granted and not done the necessary maintenance required of all relationships. But thankfully I’ve got a sister who really loves me and is forgiving.

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There have been several difficult and wonderful things I’ve gone through in the last few years, and I know there will be many more to come. But I didn’t go through them alone. I had my sister there with me. We cried through the loss of our father together. We smiled together as we welcomed our sons into the world.

Miles and Charlie

Miles and Charlie

So, after living at least a state away (and at times lots of countries away) for 15 years, we are once again in the same town and raising our sons together. It has been so much fun to see her in this new light as a wife and a mother. And she does a phenomenal job at both.

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I can promise you this much, there will be a fight or two in the next 33 years, but the relationship now is certainly a love/love one.

And I’m so grateful I’ll continue to have her by my side.

Top 13 parenting moments of 2013

Lists are the thing to do for the New Year, so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and joining in. Here’s a list of my top parenting moments of 2013 in no particular order.

1. Dance parties in our living room. Blasting the “Chicken Dance,” “Bicycle Built for Two” and Frank Sinatra’s rendition of my son’s all-time favorite “Jingle Bells” on our stereo for one of our various living room dance parties is one of my favorite memories of the year. Although this activity is a recent one — we started it just a few months ago — hopefully it is one that will stick around.

I’m sure as Miles gets older watching his mom and dad’s TERRIBLE dance moves will become more embarrassing and less amusing, but until then, here’s to more twirling in circles, arm shaking, head bopping and stomping (those are our go-to moves!)

2. Meeting milestones like a boss. This kid is nothing but an overachiever. He was out of his crib before he was 2 and potty trained weeks after his second birthday. Both of these major milestones were done on his terms (who am I kidding, this kid calls most of the shots.) Just before we moved to Evansville, Miles was climbing his way out the crib with ease obviously necessitating the move to a “big boy” bed. And a few weeks before his second birthday he was insistent on tossing his diaper aside so we decided to start potty training. A few weeks later there diapers were packed away and the REAL underwear came out. Mr. Independent definitely has kept us on our toes this year.

Sleeping in his big boy bed (with his Christmas tree and many other things he's dragged in with him!)

Sleeping in his big boy bed (with his Christmas tree and many other things he’s dragged in with him!)

3. So many words! I know all parents think this (as they definitely should) but Miles really is a genius. He is talking so much, mostly in complete sentences these days. There’s been so many new (and hilarious) phrases and his ability to communicate has cut down on (yet unfortunately not eliminated) the frustrated outbursts.

4. We took two trips to a local pumpkin patch this fall and had a blast — Miles played for more than an hour in a barn converted to a giant play area, picked out pumpkins, played in a bin of wheat, visited the petting zoo and rode around in a wagon. The trips stuck with my son so much that to this day, months later, if we are getting ready to go somewhere he will occasionally say, “We are going to the pumpkin patch?” in a hopeful tone. Obviously this a was a top moment of 2013 at least for Miles.

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5. Making lemonade. We didn’t literally make lemonade, this one is a little more figurative. There were several times this past year where things didn’t always go as planned, as they will always do for the rest of my life and yours. And for the most part, my little, strong family of three did a great job making lemonade out of the lemons that got thrown in our path.

A tiny example of that was of day this summer. It was our third attempt at going to Burdette to swim. Something had come up — rain, work, scheduling conflict — every other time and both Miles and I were really looking forward to it. But the sky opened up and it started to POUR! So we made some lemonade, no scratch that, we made mudpies. I’d bought several vegetable plants the day before and hadn’t had the chance to put them in the ground yet so Miles and I played in the rain and mud and planted the plants and splashed in puddles. SO MUCH FUN!

Jumping in puddles and "gardening" -- our version of making lemonade out of lemons when our day of swimming was rained out.

mud Jumping in puddles and “gardening” — our version of making lemonade out of lemons when our day of swimming was rained out.

6. Miles made it to 2. Birthdays are always a top moment. Not only do you have an awesome time spending the day celebrating your kids birth, but it is a chance to reflect on the past year. This year’s birthday party was a fun one at my sister’s sister-in-law’s house. Did you follow that one? Anyway, we had family and a good friend over for a swim party with all things “choo-choo.”

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7. This past year afforded us a couple different opportunities playing in the snow, both in the beginning of the year when we were still in Anderson, Ind., and just this past few weeks when Evansville got several inches. It’s a lot of work to get Miles (and ourselves) all bundled up, but so much fun to see him in awe of the white fluffy stuff. He really didn’t get into sledding much but got a kick out of marching around in the snow and throwing it at Michael and me.

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8. A new cousin for Miles and new nephew for me. Cousins are pretty awesome. I have an amazing relationship with mine that I continue to foster and treasure today. Miles has three awesome cousins in Louisiana on my husband’s side of the family but at the beginning of the year we welcomed his first cousin on my side of the family when my twin sister had Charlie. It has been so much fun to watch the two little boys grow up together and become so close.

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Sweet moment with Miles and Charlie during our Christmas celebration.

Sweet moment with Miles and Charlie during our Christmas celebration.

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9. Countless loving moments. I could have a Top 1,300 list of loving moments from this past year. While the first year or so of parenting is rewarding in many ways, you don’t get a lot of “return.” That may make me sound like a jerk, but it’s tough in those first few months where there is little to no interaction.

This past year has been so different. I get the biggest hugs and kisses that Miles initiates without any prompting; he shouts, “Mommy I love you;” he will hold his hands on my cheek pulling me close into him; and so many more. I can’t get enough of my little guy’s sloppy kisses and bear hugs.

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Photo by Bluebird Photography www.bluebird-photography.com/

Photo by Bluebird Photography www.bluebird-photography.com/

A rare "rocked to sleep" nap moment a few months ago.

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11. Swimming. In moving to Evansville we left behind my wonderful in-laws in Louisiana but I’ve been blessed with a whole set of adopted in-laws through my sister. Her husband’s family, even before we lived in Evansville, have been great to me. And with the Spurgeon/Orr clan, we’ve gotten access to two pools. Miles couldn’t be happier. We had great times swimming in their pools this summer. It took a few minutes to get warmed up, but once Miles got in the water it was tough to get him out.

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12. Fourth of July. Holidays are always memorable but this one was especially fun. Since moving back to Indiana, I’ve made a habit of going home to Vincennes, Ind., for the Fourth of July festivities. It isn’t as if there is something extraordinary but it is a nice time with my mom and family friends. And Miles has been able to enjoy it the last two years too — barbecue with friends, parade and fireworks. It’s the “All-American” celebration.

Watching fireworks way past his bedtime.

Watching fireworks way past his bedtime.

While most of the kids were eating candy in they'd caught during the parade, Miles munched on a banana.

While most of the kids were eating candy they’d caught during the parade, Miles munched on a banana.

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13. Trains. No list about my son and parenting could be complete without mention of trains. They kind of go hand-in-hand in our world. And there have been lots of memorable train moments. His party was train-themed and tested my crafty/baking skills. I will treasure the image of Miles and my grandpa Charlie standing at the same huge picture window I stood at as a child to watch the trains go by. A trip to the Evansville Museum Transportation Center was a memorable one for all of us. And I’m hoping that when my son is sneaking in after curfew at 16 or yelling that I’m “ruining his life” at 14 that I will be able to picture all of our peaceful moments on the living room floor playing trains.

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It’s been a great year for us; here’s to an even better 2014. Happy New Year!

Fried food, family and not so fall-like weather

I’d been hearing about the Fall Festival for months. And it had been hyped WAY up.

And I’m going to say this right away, before I get stoned, we had a nice time. I enjoyed the late afternoon/early evening outing with my family.

With that being said, I also don’t really get it. Why are people obsessed with this annual event?

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There were rides, there was LOTS of food and there were lots of people.

I’m thinking a big part of it must be the tradition and seeing family and friends, something being a newbie to the community doesn’t necessarily lend itself.

I enjoyed the food and it was much easier shelling out WAY too much money because the booths were all non-profit organizations.

We picked up several items (we had orders for my sister and a friend) so we walked by each and every booth. I tried everything, at least a bite. Here’s our list and my thoughts:

–Pickle Juice Icee from Salvation Army, booth 7: As my son would say with a crinkled up nose, “don’t like it!” I did enjoy the giant pickle spear served with it. I just thought the pickle flavor wasn’t strong enough.

–Chicken and Dumplings from Emmanuel Luther Church, booth 18: Yummy. My hubby was incredulous that I would waste precious tummy space for such an item. I said it is apparently a Fall Festival classic. His response (and remember, he’s a Louisiana native), “You Midwesterners have the blandest tastes!”

–Deep Fried Cookie Dough a la mode from Young Life Evansville, booth 77: It was OK. I LOVE cookie dough, seriously love it. I think I may have just rather had balls of cookie dough than have it fried. Miles enjoyed a few bits of the ice cream and chocolate sauce, treats he rarely gets.

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–Muddy Pig and Pig Snorts from West Side Christian Church, booth 34: These were cheap little treats, one baggie $1 and the other $1.50. Michael liked the bacon, said it reminded him, both texture and taste, of a Heath Bar. My friend, who I also picked up a baggie for, enjoyed it. I guess I’m more critical, I thought the chocolate to bacon ratio was a little off (too much chocolate.) The Pig Snorts were nice little bite-sized treats (red velvet brownies dipped in pink-tinted white chocolate.)

–Beef Sundae from Howell Untied Methodist Church, booth 32: Michael was so excited about this one but it was sold out, a good thing for the booth, a disappointment for my hubby. I’d featured this item in a recent story and they said the coverage really helped, a reminder that people still do read the newspaper.

–Donut Bank cheeseburger, Grace Lutheran Church, booth 41: This was one of the most expensive items we got, and one Michael had picked out. He wasn’t too impressed, said it was too sweet. I had a couple bites and thought it was pretty good.

–Ribeye Sandwich, AMVETS Post 85, booth 94: Michael said, “Heavenly!” He said this sandwich was all he needed and he didn’t want to taste anything else because “it just won’t measure up.” I had a taste. It was pretty good.

–Nutty Monkey, Substance Abuse Council, booth 112D: This was a special request by my friend who had seen it on Facebook. So we decided to split it. It was a grilled panini with Nutella and bananas. It was pretty tasty. Although we both had ours after it had cooled and decided it would be much better hot and are going to try to recreate it at home!

–Corn Fritters, St. James West United Methodist Church, booth 22: These were for my sister. My husband, who hates corn so much it is a borderline phobia, was disgusted by the smell around the area. I tried them (about two hours after I’d purchased them when I’d dropped them at my sister’s house) and thought it tasted like fried sponge. My sister loved them though. I’ve never had a corn fritter before and even after seeing and tasting them, I’m still not sure what they are. So I’m probably not a good judge.

–Fried Green Tomatoes, Vanderburgh County Humane Society, booth 75: Like the fritters, this was a special request by my sis. They were a popular festival food item though as we waited the longest for them. Again, like the fritters, I didn’t taste these in their prime, but I thought they were delicious. There was a definite kick in the batter. Sarah said they were spicier than she remembers but still delicious.

–Sugar-free Apple Dumplings, Christ Gospel Church, booth 85: When I made a stop for the sugar-free dumplings Michael was aghast. “Only you can go to a food festival and order something sugar free!” But I thought if I had an option to be healthier than I certainly wanted to try. I had never had an apple dumpling and really wasn’t sure what it would be like. The apple part was super tasty, but I was a little disappointed in the dumpling. Michael joked that of course it would be because it didn’t contain sugar, something in the end I determined was needed. But the booth featured TONS of tasty and interesting looking baked treats.

To counteract the TONS of calories we consumed (although much of what we had was “sample-sized” or even just bites) we walked quite a bit. I was carrying Miles on my back in my Ergo and both of us did surprisingly well. It was a lot of walking (nearly two hours of solid walking, we only stopped for about 10 minutes to eat the ice cream and let Miles run around a bit) and it was pretty warm. The weather Thursday between 3 and 6 p.m. was far from Fall-like.

Miles LOVED to watch the rides and the planes that kept flying overhead advertising something that obviously didn’t stick with me. We meandered around the games playing one; you put a quarter on a number and the person lets a mouse, yes a real live mouse, out of a box who then runs to a hole that corresponds to the number. It is like roulette with a mouse instead of a ball! The jury is still out on my thoughts — is this cruel to the mouse? It was pretty entertaining though. We didn’t win.

At the end of the day it was a fun way to spend a night with my family but we spent a lot more than I would have liked and consumed more calories than I would have liked. But for one night a year that’s OK. Next year hopefully we can go to one of the events (like the Lighthouse or Pet Parade.) This year we had conflicts with both.

What’s your Fall Festival review so far?