Humorous thoughts on adulthood – thank goodness for chocolate, drinks, friends, and duck tape!

Tips for Iowa State Fair Novices (on non-lifers, at least)

Balloon Sculpture is Amazing!

Don’t want to be left out?  Then head over to the Iowa State Fair!  It runs the 9th-19th and when they say “Nothing Compares,” they aren’t kidding!  That being said, navigating it is quite the undertaking, too!  As a loyal fair-goer, I have insider tips to the bestest show on the ground (fairgrounds, that is)!

Getting to the fair –

Yes, there are options before you even hit the fairgrounds!  You can take the Dart, you can park at the VFW to help them out and either walk or grab a shuttle, or you can drive in close and park in somebody’s yard.  Yes, true story.  If you get back off the main streets, you can find $5 parking.  There are gates on 3 sides of the fairgrounds, too. It’s much cheaper to park and it’s easier to get out at the end of the day!

Early risers –

I highly recommend getting there early in the day.  Less traffic to fight and less people to maneuver!  Yes, it will be packed. Yes, you will be annoyed, but it will be worth it!  The people watching doesn’t get any better than #ISF!  I have proof!

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Yes, she’s wearing a tail.

I also think the entertainment level is second to none.  I have never once been bored at the Iowa State Fair…and I’m old…and I’ve been there A LOT! 🙂  And no worries, they have breakfast if you’re early!  Grab a Breakfast Sausage in a Waffle on a Stick from the Waffle Chix outside the DNR building right inside the main gates.

Icons –

What do you HAVE to see?  Well, the iconic pieces are the butter cow,  the big slide, and the Ye Old Mill (You get to ride a canoe!!).  You’ll find the butter cow and the 100th Anniversary John Deere tractor in the Agricultural building along with flowers, vegetables, the FFA booth, and the Egg Council always gives away free eggs on a stick in there, too!  (Yes, there is free food to be had.)  Outside the Ag building, you will find enormous pumpkins and the coolest flower garden that includes a tunnel for the littles to go through.  And the Ye Olde Mill is right close to the Ag building, too.

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The FOOD –

I’m not gonna lie, I really love the fair!  Sometimes the hardest part is deciding which food you can’t live without while you’re there!  I can’t resist a state fair corn dog.  They. Are. The. Best.  Advice time:  don’t get the footlong because then you’ll be too full for all the other great stuff!  I also have to have a lemonade shake-up.  If you want the best of the best, go find Hoppy’s in front of the 4-H livestock building.  It’s legendary.  As for the new foods premiering, well, I’m headed for the Pork Producers Tent.  They have a Brown Sugar Pork Belly on a Stick that I plan to founder on!  Diamond Jack’s also has burnt ends I’d like to try, but if you really want to live large, you can try the pickle beer!  That ought to liven up your day!  But if you just need free, Culligan provides water in the Varied Industries building!


Gotta have a corn dog!









If free is your gig, go to the Varied Industries building and the Iowa Tourism building, pencils, fans, pen, magnets, chip clips, and more can be all yours for the price of admission!  I used to load up on pens and pencils for my students.  Plus, you can score cool Iowa State, Iowa, and UNI posters in the Varied Industries building, too.  Also, the free demonstrations and concerts are awesome.  I’ve watched the chicken-calling contest.  I’ve watched the chainsaw artist exhibit.   I especially love the balloon and sand sculptures!  Wow! And, baby, “I’ve got what you need…” because Biz Markie will be live on stage for free!  So will DMC of Run DMC, Blessed Union of Souls, and if you go old-skool country, then check out Country Gold –LeRoy Van Dyke, Mandy Barnett, and TG Sheppard.  But High Valley is my must-check-out-before-they-get-expensive country concert!  I love to get in on the future stars when they’re free!


When we hit the fair, we go to see the livestock (especially shorthorns!), eat the food, play in the kid areas, see the parades, etc, but if you are planning to ride the rides – GET THE WRISTBAND!  It will be well worth your money.

Weary Feet

Advisory Warning:  It may be hot.  You may get tired.  Lol.  I recommend taking the sky-jack.  You get a great view of the fair and get to cut “cross-country” to the other side of the fairgrounds.  They also have trams that run constantly for free!  Find a stop and take a ride!  Or hunt down friends in the livestock barns.  They’ll be happy to see you and you’ll be happy to see their stockpile of lounge chairs!


Okay, it’s a topic no one wants to talk about but they need.  Lucky for all of us, the Iowa State Fair is not short on restrooms.  They clearly got the memo about their importance.  Now, some are nicer than others.  There are always plenty available, but I highly recommend the horse barn ones and the Blue Ribbon Foundation Admin Building ones.  Definitely a little nicer than some!


We all have them and then whine if they aren’t happy.  Your kids will love the fair.  Be sure to stop by the Big Pig and the Largest Bull along with the avenue of breeds for cattle.  See horse shows.  And hit the hill behind the Ag building for the kids’ area complete with playground equipment, a misting station, magic shows, art attack, and sand piles.


Travel Light

FYI – do not bring a double or triple-wide stroller.  You will never move.  Bring the umbrella stroller(s) and extra help.  I promise you that you will be thankful you did it that way!

Also, bring a backpack or one of those drawstring bags to carry crap.  You want your hands empty and free to navigate or shovel food in. 🙂

But if you get desperate, they give away recyclable bags at the side entrance of the Varied Industries building.


Highlights –

I love the statue themes every year – this year: pigs!  I can’t stop taking pics of them!

Themes. Ferris wheels were last year!

I also love to take pics of us in front of the cool boards they have each year!  This year is Iowa State Fair Moments!  The most impressive show to me is the Governor’s Steer Show.  What they do is so phenomenal – famous Iowans, wicked good calves, and innovative ways of marketing all rolled into one.  LOVE it!  You can’t go wrong with the food, but I also have to give a shout-out to the dairy barn ice cream, made there!  It’s a regular stop!  Oh, and if you want the cheap t-shirts, hit the museum.  That’s where they stash them now.

See ya at the fair!


Other hints and loves?  Let’s hear them!  Questions you need answered?  Ask away.


Teachers, Audiences, and Dan Rather – Finding the Good…Found the Good!

It felt like a day that I needed to find the good and maybe you are needing that, too.  So here’s to the good I found this week:

Three days ago, I saw a post on Facebook where a teacher friend posted that she was stealing an idea from one of her friends to buy each kid in her class the dollar book in the book order each month.  Shona asked people to sponsor one of her 17 students for $9 for the year.  $9 and 9 books to go home with her kids. In less than an hour, every kid was sponsored.  In less than an hour, others were asking what they could do to help. In less than an hour, she showed what makes teachers special.  In less than an hour, she scored 153 books by simply asking her friends and family to help.  It was that simple.  And since then, I’ve seen at least 7 more friends do the same thing, and not one of them has had to beg for help.  All have filled up fast!  I can’t say it enough that the world is full of good people, you just have to look in the right places.

If that isn’t enough, I found this on my friend Eileen’s Facebook page.  It’s Dan Rather’s note to all of us.  You go, Dan.  You go.

“So allow me, please, to respectfully and gently offer a suggestion: make the time to take an old friend to lunch. The goal need not, and perhaps should not, be to talk politics. Musings and laughter and even some harmless gossip. I’ve become partial to the Yiddish word kibitz.

This is what I did recently with my oldest friend in New York. I’ve known him, been close to him, for now well over 50 years. We talked about our families, lots about our grandchildren; also about the World Cup, the Yankees, Mets, Astros and Knicks. Then some about how great the two of us used to be when we worked together as journalists. He had a burger, I had eggs rancheros. We spent about an hour and a half together and departed with pats on the back, a hug, and promises to do it again soon – which we meant.

I was refreshed, renewed, and more “up” and optimistic about the world. Now, still in the flow of quiet reflection, I find myself thinking of a favorite saying of my late father: “New friends are silver, old friends are gold.”

So if you’re feeling a little low, about politics, work, and/or life in general, take an old friend to lunch.” – Dan Rather

Amen.  Work, social media, and kids’ activities are necessities, but they do not replace friendship.  It’s just as healthy as exercise for your mind, body, and spirit.

Finally, I attended the Southwest Iowa Shoot-out for livestock showman last weekend at a nearby fair, Westfair.  You know what I saw?  A packed house.  Every seat was filled.  It was standing room only to watch 4-Hers and FFAers show animals.  I watched the future of agriculture.  I watched people supporting their family and friends.  I watched commitment and responsibility among our youth.  That, my friends, is the good right there.

See, it’s there.  There’s plenty of good.  At your fingertips.  Just make sure you look up from your phone to see it, or maybe try dialing it.

And remember – Do right.  Do good.  Do yours…


Done something awesome you’d like to tell us about?  Know some good you can add? Do it!

Things You Haven’t thought of Yet to Shop till you Drop Tax-Free, Baby!

Tax-free weekend is upon us.  As a devout shopper, I have to appreciate that they call this a holiday and won’t argue the fact.  That being said, let me help out all of you shopping Iowa this Friday and Saturday!

One – Know your rules.

Remember that the item has to be below $100 to count, not after a discount taken at the register.  It’s also good on clothes and shoes, but not specialty shoes like cleats.  Know your cans and cannots!

Two – Shop Local. 

I can’t say this enough.  Tax-free weekend in Iowa is a great time to get the stuff you were gonna buy anyway, but without the tax!  If you don’t like the busy mall areas, shop small town.  Need recommendations?

Mascot swag?  If you’re a Riverside Bulldog, head to the Oakland Pharmacy.  If you load up on new gear anyway, why not tax-free?  Or hit the school spirit shop in your town.  I also love that place in Mall of the Bluffs for all the other school pride gear!

Want some cute scarves because you’re dreaming of fall or needing some Iowa Pride tees?  Head to Blossom’s.  No need to even leave town to get your tax-free weekend on!

Needing to get your kids some things on the cheap?  Head to Iowa Kid Outfitters in Avoca, they buy and resell kids’ clothing.  A good deal even better with no tax!  I’ll also give a shout-out to Pink & Green in CB because it’s run by a Carson boy doing the same kind of thing.

I also happen to know you can score some trendy deals and shoes in Walnut at the B Restored Boutique.  Be trendy, cute, and a little more original while supporting local!

Shelby is also home to Guilty Pleasures.  New and new to you name brand clothes!  She’s even got a back-to-school sale just for you!  Check out this deal:


Three- Do your recon.

I like to check prices pre-tax-free-days.  As much as I hate to admit it, some places mark things UP for the weekend.  Grrr… So I check things out early.

I also like to check early for sizes and what I want so when the doors open on Friday morning, I’m ready to score the sizes and stuff I need before the crowd gets ahead of me or traps me!

Think Black Friday shopping minus the Santa hats and shivering.

Four – Double Dip.

Check for coupons!  Sometimes, you can get good deals and no tax.

Remember those coupon books you bought to support your team a million months ago?  Yep, break out the coupons to take with you!  Dick’s is a perfect example!


Five – Don’t forget you.

Yes, tax-free weekend was designed for back-to-school shopping for the kids, but don’t forget you, the adults!  Happen to be a teacher?  You need a first day of school outfit or picture day outfit for sure!  Work some place nice?  Everybody needs a fresh dress to add to the rotation.  Going to your kids’ games?  Pick up that school gear for you, too!  And yes, it even counts for underwear and socks at Walmart.  But let’s stop at that. 🙂


Best deals I know of?  If you need something dressy – go to the Dillard’s Clearance Center in CB.  I always find the perfect thing.

Good deals with the right name brands for your kids?  JCPenney and Gordman’s carry things like Nike and Silver and things sometimes even hit the sale rack. Yes, clearance is still tax-free!

Victoria’s Secret for the Pink deals – if your daughter has to have the right name, they are having a big sale on Friday that just happens to coincide with tax-free weekend.  Lucky you!

Need more help?  Let me know.  I’m on it!


Tip to share?  Add it here!

Buffets, Mud, Pools, Fairs, and Rodeos – Put ’em on your Weekend Planner!

It’s one of those weeks where I just need a nap…every day!  That being said, there’s lots of awesome stuff going on and according to my daughter, there’s no need for naps!  So get out there and play!

Wondering what to do?  I guess that depends on your likes and dislikes.  Like German food?  Better check out the Oakland Country Club this weekend!  Local, rockstar chef, Deb Keast will be whipping up a German all-you-can-eat Buffet as a fundraiser for clubhouse repairs – $25/head and served 5-8pm.  Pay at the door or get advance tickets at Blossom’s, JP, or Keast Motors.

Needing your exercise?  The 7th Annual Mud Run is Saturday along with a trot for kids and a mud volleyball tournament!  Pretty sure there will be some good photos from that one!  Go here for details.

Tonight is a big night in Avoca.  Check out a classic kids’ movie, “Cars,” by the pool.  Get all the details here.  And it’s free!

Also on the free plan, Westfair is free to get in for the first time ever!  I’m headed to the Shoot-out on Sunday there, but you might catch me at the Cass County Fair this weekend, too.  Lots of great stuff going on and some friends will be showing at both.  Support local!

The Carson Rodeo, as always, will pull into town next week!  Super excited to take my baby girl to some of the fun events including the parade!  Don’t think she’s quite up for mutton-busting at the moment though. Lol.  Maybe next year!  You can check out their Facebook page for updates.  I can’t say enough about how much effort they put into this every year and what a great event it is for Carson.  They know how to put on a show!  It’s a good chance to see old friends and support our communities.  I’d recommend buying advance tickets though if you get a chance – definitely saves you a few bucks!  Advanced tickets are $10/adult and $4/child with the costs rising to $15/adults and $5/child at the gate.  Advanced tickets can be purchased at The Buck Snort in Neola, KCSI in Red Oak, Silos in Treynor, AgriVision in Macedonia, Blimpie’s, Keast Chevy, and The Buck Snort in Oakland, Keast Ford in Harlan, Lakeside Country Store and Boot Barn in Council Bluffs, KSOM and HyVee in Atlantic, and The Country Store, Bar ‘N Grill, US Bank, and Rolling Hills Bank in Carson.

In the meantime, I hope you’re enjoying this awesome weather!  Hard to resist a cool summer night, a good drink, and seeing friends.  Take advantage of it.  We’ll be in parkas before you know it!

Happy plans!


Got something else going on that you’d like to add?  Please do so!

Fair Advice from a Fair Aunt – lol


The fair is upon us, and I hear rumor that parents are freaking out.  How can that possibly be? Lol.  I have been every year since birth and even though I only have nieces and nephews showing, I still have to plan accordingly.

My husband always asks why families show when all he hears is the bickering between us.  I have learned over the years that Every. Single. Family. Argues. During. Fair.  Every. One.  And yes, it may seem not worth it in that moment, but it is.  One of my favorite sayings is that you don’t see 4-Hers failing at life.  You just don’t.  So there’s that little nugget to hold onto when you go to the bathroom just to escape the family and avoid screaming in their faces that you need a drink and why can’t they scoop the crap just once!

Anyway, that being said, I hear that it’s sometimes a struggle to be prepared for fair week. Lol.  Nah…you don’t say!

So here are a few helpful Bolton Carley tips to Fair Week – take ‘em or leave ‘em, no worries here, I’ll be in the barn having a Mountain Dew:

*Have totes ready pre-fair.  Even if by pre-fair, you mean midnight the day before.  I would recommend totes for each day of the fair or by activity if that works better for you.  Pack everything in you will need for that day or event.  If you need to use some of those things prior to then, make a checklist for the top of the tote that reminds you to grab those items before you walk out the door.  Also, keep post-it notes next to your door at home and put them on the glass to remind you not to leave for the day without those small forgotten items.  And Ziploc bags are your friend – to put on the static projects, to put wet clothes in, and food that you want to keep!

*Have a tote for clothes to be worn at fair.  This is where you mooch all the 4-H t-shirts you can from cousins, siblings, etc. that are too old for 4-H or have outgrown them.  And if you don’t have family to steal from, ask on Facebook or Swap.  Load up!  And then, you may laugh at me in the moment, but seriously – put a laundry basket in your car for all dirty laundry so you know what is dirty and what’s clean and can be re-washed if necessary for another day.  Plus, your dirty stuff doesn’t get on the clean!  Those wet, dirty socks seem to attract clean t-shirts!

*Speaking of clothes, don’t forget the belt and safety pins to pin your number on.  Everyone forgets those.  Plus, extra shoes.  Ones to get wet when washing and then let dry while you wear the others. Socks, too.  You can never have enough clean socks with you!  And check your boots now.  If they are too small, you still have time to ask on Swap or if you have a smaller kid – hit Pink & Green in CB, they have lots of used boots and he’s a Carson boy!  Support local.  If you’re not from Pott Co., find a local resale shop or hit Orschleins for good deals.

*Also in your clean clothes tote, pack a few towels.  In an emergency, you might have to shower there or clean up after washing next to a Freddy that soaks you…accidentally…of course.  And don’t forget to pack extra clothes for you.  Yes, you worry so much about your kids, you forget about you!

*Pack food and drinks.  Now, I am a huge advocate for taking a check and setting up an account at the 4-H Food Stand so that you don’t have to go find cash every time you want something, you can just swing by and grab what you need or want when you are on the run between events.  That being said, I also like to have snacks in the barn for family bonding time.  We like to have a cooler of everyone’s fave drinks and not just one type – you should only drink so many Pepsis.  Gotta have those Gatorades, too.  Or if your family likes tea or kool-aid that you can’t buy in the store (like I love lime kool-aid, yes, feel free to laugh at me), fill those empty water bottles with everyone’s faves and be sure to have lots of water!  You can never have enough water bottles at fair.  Plus, you don’t want to have to make a million convenience store runs – they add up!  As for food, we usually try to have salty and sweet, but chocolate melts in the ungodly heat that always coincides with fair!  So I stick to cookies instead of candy bars. I also like to take chips like Pringles and Lays because they come in a canister you can put the lid back on and you don’t have to have a chip clip and they don’t get smashed.  But we do keep chip clips in our showbox.  They are always worth having close by!  Don’t forget the fly spray, marker, stapler, and hose for the showbox!  They always get left at home!

*Cards.  You should have cards to play when the day gets long.  Yes, I know everyone just sits on their phones and plays their electronic devices, but more friendships have been built out of boredom on a game of cards than you can possibly imagine!  Go old-school for your kids’ sake.  You won’t regret it. And don’t be afraid to ask all the other kids to come join you.  We always have multiple packs for war or BS.  If you think that’s too boring, have a selfie competition in your barn and a time limit, see who can come up with the best photo or bring your tailgating cornhole game from home.

*Gas up the car.  I know it sounds dumb, but it’s the little things that take time that can kick you off schedule.  Have that done ahead.

*Make sure you have chairs.  Sitting is necessary. Lol.

*Sleep.  The number one recommendation I can make to you going into, and during, fair is to get as much sleep as possible.  Your kid won’t, so that means you need to so one of you handles things properly and without disaster.

*Don’t forget this is your chance for family bonding.  Fair never goes as planned.  Tears happen, but 20 years from now, I hope they remember the water fight you had or the kid they met or just sitting in the barn with you.  Big picture goals –   4-Hers don’t fail at life.

I have plenty more, but I’ve already been too wordy – where was that when I had to write a record book? Lol.

Happy Fair Week!


Other tips you’d like to share?  Comments you’d like to make? Or questions you have for me to still answer?  Happy to hear them.

TP, Fainting Goats, and Parade Floats – Happy 4th of July!


I don’t know about you, but I love a parade!  Seriously.  What’s not to love?  Cool cars, fancy floats, free stuff flying through the air at you!  Oh yeah!  We need more parades in the world. Parades make people happy.  Why do you think Disney throws one every night? Lol.

There are a lot of plusses for everyone.  My kid loves seeing everything bright and moving, and, of course, running for candy.  Business owners should love them because people are front and center and I truly think there’s no better form of advertising!  And I love them because people are happy and celebrating and flying toilet paper or koozies come at me – I’m in!  Pretty much rockstar, in my opinion.

I really wanted to do a float or maybe a cow or a tractor or something to sway more readers to my blog this year at the 4th of July parade in Oakland.  I did that once for a 4-H project for my dad’s farm – we actually had one of my heifers on a parade float one year – needless to say, she was damn tame and a good sport.  Looking back, I can’t really believe we did it.  Still a proud moment!

So I really did want to do a float because I love when people participate and contribute. Not only does it sound fun, but I mean it when I say it’s the best advertising!  However, my husband convinced me that maybe this was the year to watch my kid run for candy and get paid to take pictures of the parade instead, but I’ll be ready for next year!  So since I’m not going to, I’m gonna encourage the rest of you to! Lol.  There’s still time – a golf cart, a hayrack, an inflatable dinosaur costume, or even a fainting goat would be fun.  There’s money to be made!  No entry fee and they’re paying 3 places in each category.  Come on!

Need inspiration?  I loved P’Nut’s Plumbing throwing toilet paper.  Hysterical!  I loved the big, round haybale painted into a pig last year at the Carson Rodeo parade.  I loved the giant eagle float Tammi Shellburg did one year for Oakland.  And, one year, the swimming pool used water guns and pool noodles for a float.  Yes, people remember this stuff!

But if that’s not your wheelhouse or if you have nothing to promote (Do those people exist?), please just show up!  I love 4th of July in Oakland because I see people I never get to see otherwise!  And I love community and people talking to each other and liking each other and making this a fabulous place to live.  Check out the list of stuff to do – there really is something for everyone!  Golf, pancakes, trivia, a parade, fireworks, and more – so worth showing up for!

I mean it. These are the days we moved home for.  I want our daughter to know this life.  I want her to see the good people balancing work and life and fun, and I want her to know there’s no place like home…because, there really isn’t…

Happy 4th of July week, everybody!

I’ll be looking for you over pancakes or on parade floats!  Don’t let me down.  🙂

There’s a Peterson Farm Bros. Party in Town! Woo-hoo!

Courtesy of the Peterson Farm Brothers

So I kinda think this is a pretty huge deal!  If you’ve been anywhere around ag, you know it’s a big deal.  Impact Hill is having the Peterson Farm Brothers here next Friday night!  If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I should know who that is, but I can’t place them” then head to YouTube.  They hit the scene when they did a parody of “I’m Sexy and I Know It” and have done 13 since!  I kinda think of them as the the Weird Al Yankovics of the farming world. Lol.

First of all, they crack me up.  Who doesn’t love farm boys (and their sister) attempting to rap a little and sing while wearing boots and driving tractors???  Are you kidding me?  That is rockstar!  Second of all, I love the way they manage to use social media to get the word out about farming, and agriculture, in general. That’s another important thing to me.  Third, they not only do the parodies, but they blog, do farm tours, and vlog.  And fourth, they are good Midwestern boys from Kansas with family values!  Woo-hoo to that!

So, beyond the fact that I adore the Peterson Farm Bros. and what they are trying to accomplish, I also am a huge advocate for Impact Hill.  They actually got a share grant from Farm Bureau to hold the event to raise money for their non-profit.  I would love to see all of us pack the house on the 29th to not only have a great time but to raise money for a good cause.  Tickets are $25/person and you even score a BBQ dinner out of it from Buck Snort (and talk about people that are so generous!!) at 6pm!  Plus, there’s happy hour starting at 5:30 with a cash bar so good times are definitely to be had!

Tickets can be purchased at the East Pott. Co Farm Bureau, The Buck Snort, or online at

If you can’t make it, buy tickets for your parents, friends, or family.  Let’s make this a great night not only for Impact Hill, but for our community, as well!  You won’t be sorry!


Concert takes place at 501 Oakland Ave. Oakland, Iowa