A native Iowa Citian who returned to raise my family here, I find myself *far* more opinionated when it comes to everything from the restaurants to the city council. Here is my $.02.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Best Pasta Salad To Make Whenever You Need To Make A Pasta Salad

It's so good and everyone loves it.

1 box rainbow rotini pasta
1 small can sliced black olives
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 bottle Kraft sundried tomato Italian salad dressing

Boil pasta, rinse with cold water. Strain well. Put into bowl and pour all ingredients in. Stir well and voila!

Now that I am thinking about it, it might be good with crumbled feta, green peppers...Okay, I am officially starving.

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Animal...grrrrrrowl!


Dyson Animal vacuum
www.dyson.com
Check out these stats, you can even click to see movie demonstrations.

First word that comes to mind: Sucker.

Rating (Out of possible 5): 149

Holy good Lord is this thing better than I could have ever imagined. I have been pining for a Dyson ever since the commercials first launched years ago. I even stood outside a Dyson design shop in Washington D.C. late one night (slightly drunk) ohhing and awing it it's beauty. Being the owner of a Bassett hound who loses approximately two pounds a day in hair, I knew this tiger would be the next member of my family.

My vacuum sucks. Not literally, it is horrid. Your basic Dirt Devil or some such brand bought with 20 minutes to spare before a dinner party and dog hair littering the floors. There is no time like just before people come over to see your house for the first time for your vacuum to decide to die. This is the second such event for us.

So needless to say, it was not even one year ago we bought that hunk of junk. I have to selfishly admit that there silent hoorays when it started to go South. I had my eyes set on the Animal and was ready to pounce.

I packed the kid in the car, drove to Lowes...they were the cheapest retailer with the Animal in stock at $549.00...and bought it. Well worth every penny for those of you who gasp at the cost. It's actually a mid range when you shop around for quality over hunks of pretty red plastic.

Assembly was interesting to say the least. Apparently the directions were written by a woman because I could understand the pictures and my husband had a hard time over analyzing each one. "Just because the thumb isn't pictured doesn't mean that it isn't pressing on the release button." Uh huh.

Once this bad boy was running I wanted to massage my carpets for hours. Matt left me to do so while he smoked a victory cigar.

I was amazed first at how quiet it was. Was it sucking? Then I couldn't believe what I saw in the catch bin. I would have taken a picture but I don't want to ever think about my son running around on carpet that contained such nastiness. It was seriously insane. My carpets (cheap, ivory, kid worn) looked good. Better is probably the more appropriate word.

Then I used the animal attachment with the telescoping wand. I could do one entire flight of stairs without lugging the main unit behind me. Brilliant. Telescope wand back down, easy. Vacuum upstairs...Horrid things still filling the bin. Then the real test. A rocker that used to be cute, blue and used for rocking babes. Now it was covered in dog hair and an annoyancec in my book. Nope. The animal sucked all the hair and even some dust that I didn't realize had made it's home there. I filled the bin twice on my first sweep through the house. Full. In my defense for those of you with squished up faces...Anyone who knows me knows I keep a clean house. If you have a pet, you understand.

If you have an animal, you need another one. The dyson Animal. If you don't have a pet that sheds, get another style. They never lose suction! I am looking forward to years of being amazed.

Specs:
Dimensions 44.09"H x 13.66"W x 11.41"D
Weight 19.95 lbs
Motor wattage: 10 amps. The power of a vacuum cleaner is best measured in airwatts (suction power). Motor wattage simply tells you how much electricity a cleaner uses.
Bin capacity 0.71 gallons
Cable length 37 ft.
Maximum reach 51 ft.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Bloomsbury Farm

Bloomsbury Farm
3260 69th Street
Atkins, IA 52206
319-446-7667

First word that comes to mind: Fall fun

Rating (Out of possible 5): Multiple Ratings...
5 - Family fun.
5 - Concession stand food, but good food. Cheap.
5 - Scenery; who can resist a slimy little pig snout rooting for food in the palm of your hand?
5- Chances of catching something nasty if you don't wash your hands before eating, after petting pigs and other farm creatures.

We decided to visit Bloomsbury Farm to get pumpkins from the pumpkin patch for the season. We were in for a treat once we arrived. It took a while to get there, click here for directions...but it was easy to find.

Matt was surprised that it cost adults $8.50 each to get in, but we could easily see why. Kids under 3 are free. There was so much to do, even with a toddler we spent 2 fun filled hours playing and exploring. We skipped the corn maze due to the large number of Asian beetles making home in the field that day, but it seemed like fun for those who did do it. Here are some of the things to do while you visit:

*10-Acre Corn Maze - Looked like fun.
*Pumpkin Patch - A tractor drops you off, you pick your pumpkin, it picks you up.
*Haunted Path
*Barnyard Buddies & Goat Walk - So fun! Petting pigs, cows, ducks, peacocks, goats, donkeys and a turkey. I had no idea that goats would willingly climb up 30 feet on a narrow board.
*Corn Box - Like a big sand box filled with dried corn. So fun!
*Milking a "cow" - I tried this and I guarantee you it is much harder than it looks!
*Cow Train - For kids and tots. A tractor pulls kids in barrel around a pumpkin patch.
*Straw bale Maze - Fun and good for little kids. It's almost like a big straw sponge to jump on.
*Mini Maze
*Horse Shoes
*Corn Canon - Youcobbsnch corn cobs through a canon at targets in a Pumpkin
*The Punkin' Chuker
*Scarecrow Alley - There are photo ops everywhere, this being some of them.
*Grandma's Playground - A little white play house filled with tot toys for young kids.
*Tire Maze - A hoot to climb on, through and around. All ages.
*Hayrack Rides
*Haunted Corncrib
*Inflatable Caterpillar
*Antique Displays / Historic Barn
*Gift Shop - If you don't want to pick your own pumpkin, squash or corn, just go here!
*Pumpkin Patch 500 (Pedal Race) - Drag racing tractors with pedals around a course.

The food was good. Your average concession stand with walking tacos, burgers, brats and hot dogs. Nachos, caramel apples, beverages and popcorn. The prices were cheap and the food was good. Plenty of seating in a barn or outside. If you are vegetarian or don't eat heartattack inducing food, pack a lunch.

This was a great afternoon adventure. Everyone should go. During the fall, wear good shoes and layers (the sun gets hot.)

Perfect for families, kids, couples or lovers of the seasons.

For us, this is a new family tradition.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Applebees...Oh please!

Applebees (Carside to Go)
12th Ave Coralville, Iowa
(319) 358-1986

First word that comes to mind: EASY.

Rating (Out of possible 5): Multiple ratings here...
4- Food *Food was hot, packed well and our family had lots of substitutions which were all accounted for sans error.
3- Services *Normally a perfect 5, but this time the wait was a little long in the parking lot. 17 minutes to be exact start to finish. Normally it is under 5.
4- Price *Five of us for about $40. This included on app and one dessert. Pretty good deal if you ask me.

I must admit, I am not an Applebees fan. Not generally anyways. But this Carside to Go business is pretty darn spiffy.

You choose from the entire Applebees menu and call in your order. Drive there, park in the reserved spots, they come to your car with the food and you are off. Perfect for anyone who has ever had a screaming toddler, busy work schedule, not-so-great hair day or just loves to keep things easy.

My situation happened the other night as dinner plans with my parents were in place, with time ticking away with no dinner solutions. No meat thawed, no one hungry for anything delivery...is there a lack of good delivery in this city or is it just me? Another time.

We ordered everything from salads to wraps. Dessert was even good, although you might want to ask that they spare the ice cream...made a horrid mess on my leather seats as it was 87 and sunny on the drive home.

I recommend the "ORIENTAL CHICKEN ROLLUP A spin-off of our famous signature Oriental Chicken Salad, this rollup definitely upped the ante! Golden fried chicken, Asian greens, carrots and almonds tossed in our Oriental teriyaki sauce and rolled up in a flour tortilla." I substituted mashed potatoes but didn't get to eat any of them as my toddler gobbled them up. Ah well!

The menu is diverse enough to please any picky palate and they are very accommodating with substitutions. Example: Instead of steamed season veggies we wanted just broccoli and voila! There were only tiny trees with our Honey Chicken entree.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tony's Grill

Tony's Grill
320 East Burlington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

First word that comes to mind: Breakfast, mmmmm.

Rating (Out of possible 5): Five, a perfect score. Everything is delicious, fresh, hot and consistent with the food. As I mention below, service can be hit or miss. The other downfall is the bathrooms are not family friendly and this is quite the family joint on Sunday mornings. TIP: Go before 9:30 am to avoid the church crowd.

A breakfast lover's dream. This is the kind of place that Iowa City has always needed. Tony's is an all night (Thurs-Sunday) Grill that serves up Greek fare, including gyros and fattoush or your traditional favorites. Including burgers, soups, salads and sandwiches. Call or check for hours. They cater to the student crowd and vary.

Breakfast is by far the best section on the menu.

Where else can you get two eggs, toast, home fries and your choice of meat (even steak) for under $6?

They have an excellent choice of omeletes as well or you can make your own. The veggies are fresh and crisp and the choices make it a challenge to choose! Good thing you can have as many extras as your little heart desires.

The fruit and fiber pancake is my personal favorite. A little bit cinnamon, granola and pancake with fresh blueberries and strawberries. It's so hearty and tasty that it doesn't even need syrup. One is plenty and only $3.99, how can a girl go wrong?

The breakfast burrito and chorizo burrito are also so very good. Very filling!

Coffee is good and keeps coming or you can have your own custom espresso creation. Espresso seems to take a bit longer, so order when you are seated.

The atmosphere is funky and simple. Lots of artwork and bright colors make it a nice retreat from the stereotypical dark downtown restaurant. And it's clean.

The only negatory comment I have is the service can be sketchy. If you are in a hurry, you undoubtedly will have slow service. Good service, just slow. It's hit or miss but the food is ALWAYS good. We have never been disappointed.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thai Me A Not Ever Again

A Thai Spice
Gilbert Street

First word that comes to mind: Alpo

Rating (Out of possible 5): One (1...not a typo.)
This is a pity point and based solely on the tasty Iowa City tap water which overflowed three cold glasses. Very refreshing.

A major craving set in this afternoon for Thai food. Not sure why. Chicken pad Thai and fresh spring rolls dipped in peanut sauce. So off we go.

The scene of the crime. A Thai Spice. The menu: Fresh spring rolls? Nope. But fried ones that tasted a lot like...well...fried.

Chicken pad Thai. Number one on the menu. Excellent. As I waited for the main course I dreamed of the best Thai food in the Midwest. Sawatdee in Saint Paul, MN. We ate there weekly as a rule when we lived up North. Wonder if they UPS overnight pad Thai?

When the waitress placed my plate in front of me, I was overwhelmed with the stench of dog food. Yes. Dog food. Now, admittedly, I am pregnant and have the nose of a hound dog. I thought my over sensitive senses were fooling me and tried to disguise the smell with fresh squeezed lime. I took a bite. Attempted to swallow and had the reverse of effect of swallowing into my napkin. Followed by tears. I was so very disappointed.

I think the waitress saw the look of distaste in a pregnant woman's eyes and stayed far far away. I finally summoned her to the table to remove it. After ever-so-politely describing the horrid smell and flavor of the food to her, her response was "Would you like me to box it up for you?" Huh?

The bill came. Still listed on the bill. Strike three, you're outta here. I promptly asked it to be removed. No problem and 25 minutes later (toddler time 3 hours) we were out the door. Forever.