A Journalism School Reunion

I know, I know. There I go again. Leaving you all alone. But I always have somewhat reasonable excuses for disappearing, don't I? This time I was prevented from posting for so long, dear reader, because I was off gallivanting around my old stomping ground, Des Moines, for a long weekend. (And then playing catchup afterward, of course.) Here's a rundown of my latest adventures.

Friday morning. Work in the Lexicon offices. (Yes, that's the custom publishing company I work for, in case you're wondering.)

Friday afternoon. Drake University School of Journalism National Advisory Council meeting. We (a group of young and not-quite-as-young professionals who graduated from the School of Journalism) meet a couple of times a year for updates on what's going on at the school, to provide feedback on curriculum decisions and such, and generally to serve as a sounding board. I'm currently president of the Jr. NAC.

Friday evening. I get to try a new downtown Des Moines restaurant! It's called Sbrocco, and it's a wine bar located right on Court Ave. We drink wine (of course) and dine on tasty fare. Then some of us head out to the first event of the first-ever SJMC reunion: a casual reception at the home of the current director of the journalism school. Then, of course, I meet up with some more friends for a night out in downtown Des Moines. But we have a big day Saturday so we behave ourselves. Really.

Saturday morning. This is really, really exciting. Maybe not for you, but for me. I go to yoga class. I try a new teacher at the new location for Firehouse Yoga, which is the studio I went to all through college. She's great, the space is great, and I am so excited to be back in a yoga class I can hardly contain my glee.

Early Saturday afternoon. I meet up with some friends for lunch at Noodle Zoo. We get to sample wedding cake because one of my friends is getting hitched next summer. It's delicious and I can't stop eating it. Especially the fillings. Raspberry and chocolate ganache? Can you say "heaven"?

Later Saturday afternoon. It's time for some time in Valley Junction, one of my favorite areas of Des Moines. Only rather than wandering aimlessly, we have a mission. We are helping a friend create a necklace at a gem shop there, courtesy of a gift certificate we purchased for her birthday. Sounds like fun, right? Only we hit a few snags along the way. But I'll save that rant for later.

Saturday evening. Time to get ready and head to the big SJMC reunion reception at the Cub Club. (It's at Prinicipal Park, the stadium where the Iowa Cubs play ... I hope it's OK to write "Cubs" on here now. That's still a sensitive subject with Conservative Boy.) Tasty appetizers, wine, and chats with alums and professors. Then, of course, we headed out again, to good ol' El Bait Shop, where they have a gazillion beers to choose from and I of course order a Fat Tire. Always.

I miss Des Moines. It's a terrific place. But man, it's exhausting to go back there. And the drive home on Sunday always stinks. Really stinks.


Understanding Fall Plantings in Chicago

There is something I meant to rant about a few weeks ago after a quick weekend trip to Chicago. And I forgot all about it until today when, while writing all sorts of tips for an eco-friendly 2009 calendar I'm working on, it popped in my head.

Can someone explain to me why city employees (I'm guessing) descend on downtown Chicago in the fall and rip out all of the plantings along Michigan Avenue and the surrounding streets and dump them into giant trucks to be hauled away? They're perfectly good plantings and most still look just fine, thank you. The plantings are replaced with big beautiful mums and other fall flowers, which I have nothing against. But they just tear out thousands of perennials and, I can only assume, throw them away! That is in no way fiscally (yes, I said it) or environmentally responsible.

Dear Chicago, why not plant a beautiful assortment of native perennials that you keep for more than a season? Perhaps you might plant a few annuals here and there to liven things up and add a splash of color, but you could keep the majority of the plantings year-round and still have pretty nice landscaping. Or, if you must tear everything out every season, at least make sure you're doing something reasonable with all that waste. Those plants better be destined for one heck of a compost pile or I am going to be very disappointed in one of my favorite cities.


A Message To Yoplait

Dear Yoplait:

If you are in the market for a new spokesperson (or something like that), I've found the perfect talent for you.

This is Butter. He is a big fan of your yogurt and is the epitomy of strength, health and ... well ... hairiness. Please contact me if you are interested in learning more. All he asks for is some belly rubbing and the chance to lick clean a few containers of yogurt.



A Birthday Extravaganza

Tomorrow is my birthday. But it is also one of those days when I have exactly zero free time. So Conservative Boy planned a birthday extravaganza for me this weekend.

He's actually quite good at planning birthday fun.

A couple of years ago, he (along with help from some lovely friends, of course) planned a surprise birthday party for me. And I mean it was a big surprise. I had no clue that anyone was there when walked into my apartment, flipped the lights on, and saw a kitchen full of people shouting happy birthday.

And last year my birthday gift involved a ride through forests bedecked in fall color on the Boone Scenic Railroad, complete with a picnic lunch. See for yourself:

This year's extravaganza began on Friday with lunch at the Blue Dog. Then, that evening, I took my first trip to the town of Clinton for a movie: "Burn After Reading."

Saturday I was allowed Julie Time (aka homework time) all morning and then was informed that we were going on a mystery adventure. Conservative Boy had me thoroughly confused by almost getting on the Interstate to go to Bloomington, then getting on the Interstate to go to Springfield, but then exiting to get on the Interstate to head to Peoria. Our ultimate destination: Mackinaw Valley Winery. (I told you he's good.)

We tasted all sorts of wonderful Illinois-made wines and spent quite a bit of time enjoying near-80-degree weather (with wine, of course) outside on the porch overlooking the vineyard.

They are in the midst of harvesting right now, so many of the rows of vines I traipsed through before we left were still heavy with grapes.

Only in Illinois (well, and maybe Iowa too) do you see vineyards butting up against corn fields.

But the extravaganza wasn't over yet. We attended the first-annual Lobster Boil at the Lincoln Elks. One and a half pounds of fresh lobster plus mussels and oysters? Yum.

And on Sunday, the celebrating continued. First, birthday cake to celebrate C.B.'s cousin Grayson's birthday (and mine too):

And then, shortly thereafter, a birthday BBQ at our house, complete with this delicious grasshopper pie made especially for me by Kid Sister. (Actually, there are two, so if anyone is interested in a piece today or tomorrow, you know where to find me!)

Not a bad birthday extravaganza, eh?


Letting Butter Talk (Part 6)

Hi guys. Have you missed me? Julie has been too busy to let me chat with you lately, but I finally convinced her that I really, really, really needed to say hello. So here I am.

You know, I have been pretty busy lately too if I do say so myself. For one thing, I have decided that the mail man is absolutely, positively, 100 percent a threat to my domain. So at about 8:30 a.m. every morning I wear myself out barking at him and trying to get through the big front window at him. He's lucky there's glass between us because man, I hate it when strangers come up on my front porch.

In addition, I have been very busy destroying this rope toy. Julie took it away from me this weekend, which I'm a little sad about. She said I had to stop playing with it because I destroyed it and it was too slobbery. Too slobbery? Ha. There's no such thing.

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

But back to my schedule. It is packed. I mean, I have to take two to three walks every day. And pee on as many things as I possibly can along the way.

I also have to check on Julie throughout the day to make sure she is actually working.

Then when Conservative Boy comes home at night I have to spend at least two hours sitting beside him on the couch in the basement so he can pet me. It's really tough work. But somebody has to do it.

And I have to eat, of course. That is very important because I am a growing boy.

Apparently, I am pretty big. I hear that I weigh about 100 pounds now. When Julie walks me everyone comments on how big I am. I don't really think I'm that big. I mean, I'm just a little puppy. In fact, it puzzles me when people are alarmed at how big I have gotten. What's the big deal?

I'm still small enough to sit on Julie's lap (or, at least I try) when she pets me. So I can't be that big!

Anyway. I have to go now. Conservative Boy is going to wake up in a minute and I have to be ready to follow him around all morning while he prepares for work. It's my job. Like I said, I'm busy.


A Trip to the Pumpkin Patch

In my world, no fall is complete without a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Almost every year I lived in Des Moines, at least a couple of my lovely Drake friends and I would venture to a variety of apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and berry farms in search a fall harvest.

Needless to say, I was little a sad that I couldn't continue the tradition this year. That is, until Conservative Mom and Kid Sister invited me to tag along with them to Gail's Pumpkin Patch on Saturday.

It was the perfect day for pumpkin pickin', and I came home with a veritable harvest of goodies: Mini gourds to display on the kitchen table, three cute little pumpkins for the front step, a bunch of apples from a nearby orchard for making PIE, and some apple cider.

(Conservative Boy is quite sad he missed the outing, of course. OK. Not at all. He's just glad he was around for the apple pie.)


Living with Bears Fans (Part II)

I am writing to inform you that the Bears jerseys are on notice. Conservative Boy was driving back from Des Moines today during the game so neither he nor Butter were wearing their jerseys. And, because the Bears dominated, Conservative Boy believes it is because the jerseys stayed in the closet.

So, at least until the Bears lose, Butter will be able to enjoy his lazy Sundays jersey-free.