Monday, October 31, 2011

Beggars' Night is Jokers' Night in Des Moines, Iowa

What a great evening for Beggars' Night last night! The weather was perfect and the jokes were rotten!

This is why I love Halloween in Des Moines.

Look at the contact between the homeowner and the kids on the porch. Ernest is telling his joke as my niece watches on. I remember a few years ago, I had to coach her to tell her joke. This year, she wouldn't take candy until she told her joke. She'd say, "I have a joke!" and then let it rip. She even changed it up a couple times. Both kids had several jokes they rotated.


When I was a kid, I felt sort of dumb ringing the doorbell and just standing there waiting for candy to drop into my bag. I'm not saying I didn't like Halloween, but after the year I had to wear a coat over my nurse's uniform, I think it went downhill. The only two costumes I remember are that nurse's uniform and a witch costume my mother made. They were both wonderful costumes. I don't seem to recall any others. Maybe my mom can help.

But this post isn't about that.  

I'll just kick this into gear and let the Des Moines Register tell you the story since I'm feeling a little lazy this morning:

"A mushroom walks into a bar. "You'll have to leave," the bartender says. "We don't allow mushrooms in here." "Why not?" asked the mushroom. "I'm a fungi."

The credit for providing Des Moines children with the perfect outlet for their most groan-inducing jokes largely goes to one woman, Kathryn Krieg, director of recreation for the Des Moines Playground Commission (later the Parks and Recreation Department) for 43 years.

When Krieg assumed her post in 1931, kids on Beggars' Night were more likely to clamor "Soaps or Eats" than "Trick or Treat." Every year the newspaper ran a long list on Nov. 1 of youths arrested the previous evening for crimes ranging from soaping windows and sidelining streetcars to setting fires and throwing bricks through windows.

The flash point came on Halloween in 1938 when Des Moines police answered a record 550 calls concerning vandalism. Krieg, along with the Community Chest' group work council, began a campaign to encourage less violent forms of Halloween fun.

They set aside Oct. 30 as Beggars' Night and got the word out to the public that on that night - and only that night - children would be allowed to go from door to door and say the phrase "tricks for eats." The council urged that "eats should be given only if such a 'trick' as a song, a poem, a stunt or a musical number, either solo or in group participation, is presented."

The next year, the group work council again promoted the Beggars' Night concept, this time as a way to aid the war effort. An article published in The Des Moines Register on Oct. 29, 1942, carried the headline "Kids! -Don't Help the Axis on Halloween" and included this poem encouraging proper behavior:

"Soap and ticktacks are taboo,
Ringing doorbells? Not for you.
Thoughts of pranks, you must detour,
Lest you bet a saboteur."

The Beggars' Night program was so successful that by the mid-1940's, the number of Halloween police calls in Des Moines had been cut by more than half.

After the war, Krieg continued to issue annual bulletins in the Register laying still more Beggars' Night ground rules, including that children should stay in their own neighborhoods and that parents should turn on their porch lights for trick-or-treaters and accompany small children on their rounds.

Each year, she reiterated that children should not be given candy until they earned it "with a stunt, song, or riddle."

Now on Beggars' Night, a group of preteen girls will occasionally sing a song or a shy kindergartner opt for a cartwheel. For the most part, however, every trick-or-treater old enough to memorize one tells a joke.

Why did Dracula visit the blood bank?
He needed to make a withdrawal.

Krieg retired in 1974, a few years after the Register stopped running her yearly admonition to make children work for their candy. By then, the biggest Beggars' Night concern wasn't the danger trick-or-treaters might represent to the public but the danger some members of the public might represent to trick-or-treaters. Krieg died in March of 1999 at age 94."

Does your community have Beggars' Night or is the candy night always Halloween? Do you have fond memories? 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Two quotes and a girl

I heard two quotes today and I fell in love with both right away. Other than my search for a marathon motto, I'm not one to go in deep for quotes. I might like them, but I typically forget them or I forget who is being quoted. That's strange considering how much I like to remember grammar rules.

But I'm gonna put that down along with a man's ability to forget a child's birthday yet remember what a '57 Studebaker looks like compared to a '56. Or how a man can remember which team won the World Series 10 years before he was born, but forget his wife's favorite color. 

The first quote I heard today was something a columnist from the New York Times said, "I'm so productive, I don't get anything done." He was talking about social media and how, at 55 years old, it can be difficult to get his head to manage all the different things plugged into his brain. I totally get that feeling. I do a lot of stuff, I have four blogs and two Twitter accounts. I also have a Facebook account for me, one for my Irish study group and I'm the administrator for my church's Facebook page. 

I manage my workouts on Dailymile (friend me!) I have several email accounts and I pay my bills and manage my checkbook online. It's easy for someone like me to become distracted by all of that. Forget about the blogs I read, the news sources, the Irish online classes and television I want to watch, the television shows I intend to watch, but never get to...

I can't believe how young they are in this photo

I won't even begin to mention the people, pets and housecleaning, cooking and reading/running/relaxing and the visiting with friends/lunch/keeping up with people I care about including making new friends through the running club, holidays, expectations... Everyone is busy, but when I heard this quote, I thought about all the people who tell me I either do "too much" or I'm "so busy" and I know they're right. I enjoy being busy, but I get stubborn and refuse to slow down.

I need to rest more so I can get more done. 

The second quote was on a running magazine's Facebook status. It said, "I do today what others won't so I can do tomorrow what others can't. ~unknown" A part of me thinks some people may think this rude or smug. I don't want it to be that way. But at my age, I know plenty of people who can't and I know sometimes we get a crappy deal in life through genetics or stinking luck of the draw. I know I may get the Joker card some day and in the meantime I want to do things I enjoy and that includes moving and being outside or swimming and meditating or enjoying my own company in the pool. 

I talk to myself a lot, so naturally I'm not lonely at all!

Do you have quotes you love? Is there anything you use to inspire you? What do you do that's just for yourself? 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why did the chicken cross the road?

I'm at this point at which I still feel a strong pull to run every single day. I've spent the last four months with the nagging voice in my head telling me that I should be outside on my feet. It doesn't go away overnight. The feeling was strong this evening, but I stuck to my plan to come home and begin a little November project.

There's a television show I've been watching on JLTV called Feed Me Bubbe and I've decided to make some of her recipes. I read a really good blog that today asked if readers wanted to teach themselves something in the month of November.

So I got started early. Anyone here surprised by that?

I made Bubbe's Kasha Varnishkes because that's something I wanted to make right when I saw her make it. I can watch food shows on television and not be bothered one bit with the idea that I should make the recipe I see. But this was interesting because it called for Kasha, which is buckwheat groats. A new grain to try out - that was intriguing.

Not sure where to buy this little delicacy, I asked a friend of mine at work where I could buy Kasha. He said it was hard to find here, so they buy it down in Kansas City. He said next time they go, he would bring me a box. But do you know what happened the next day? He brought me a box.

That was more than two months ago, so with the new challenge and a short trip to the store for bowtie pasta, I whipped up Kasha Varnishkes and a roasted chicken.

The chicken is a whole 'nother story. If you know me, you know I have a thing against chicken. Corporate chicken is what I call it. Tortured animals with nasty carcasses...I'll stop. I don't go into it all because that's sort of rude and because if you really want to know, you can look it up yourself. So chicken is not a dish I will eat unless I know where the chicken came from or if I am a guest at someone's home, right? Another guy at work offered chickens for sale this year from his brother's farm. I decided to follow a second recipe from Bubbe called, if you can believe it, roast chicken.

I saw this show, too. She used a sharp knife to take off some pinfeathers. OK, gross. I do like for my food to come from a farm nearby if I can help it, but I am a typical 21st century North American girl and I do NOT want to get to know my food on such a personal level. I still want it to look like the grocery store invented it.

I was about to pour boiling water over the chicken (don't ask me, I was just following the recipe) when I sort of screamed and jumped away from the sink. The neck was still attached. I'll be darned if I didn't think some pretty awful thoughts of my co-worker and his brother just then. I got my kitchen shears and sort of hacked away at the darn thing all the while making girlie EWWW noises. Disgusting! Making it worse was the stuff hanging out of the neck - I swear to you the bird's head was ripped off rather than chopped.

Edited to add: I was using the dull kitchen shears to disconnect the neck from the blasted animal. I have a pair of sharp ones that are set aside for emergencies such as this, but did I use them? No. Instead I just sawed and hacked my way through. Stubborn much?

I could just spit. Stupid freaking chicken. I hate chicken. I'd like to say I'm over it. Sort of. Now I think I will just cross off everything on my bucket list. I've seen it all.

She's super tiny, isn't she? 

The chicken recipe called for allspice under the skin, which smelled good while it was cooking, but I didn't get any taste from it. This stupid chicken was the smallest thing I've ever seen. EVER. I think with the legs out like that, it looks like it's trying to escape from the slaughter.

Below is the dish with the groats and bowtie pasta. I have never made it before or eaten it before. Also, her recipe was a little more confusing than I thought it was going to be. I saw her make it and I had it printed out in front of me, but I think I was trying to make it take less time, so I didn't follow step by step. It's the sort of dish that calls for the cook doing 2-3 things at once. But the recipe was written to have you do one thing at a time, which would have taken longer. Also, I didn't saute the onion and I used canned mushrooms instead of fresh because I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money on fresh for something I've never done before.

This recipe needs a covered, oven-safe pan

This dish was really dry. It was so dry that I added some of the drippings from the chicken (more than I care to admit, but can you say "tasty" for me?). I have no idea if this dish is meant to be dry, but other than the oil for the onion & mushroom saute, I didn't change anything. In the end, it needed more chicken drippings than the amount of oil called for. I would make this again because I think it's yummy, but I wouldn't serve it to guests.

Next up I will make her kugel. I bought the noodles tonight, but I have until the end of November...

Lastly, for those of you who remember that my cell phone takes truly bad photos, this is my cell phone at work. My camera is under the weather (when I can find it), so I just used my phone. This is the result. Looks tasty, eh? I guess I won't win any foodie awards!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Or just read it below:

Last weekend, I ran the IMT Des Moines Marathon and I wanted to wait before I did a recap of the event. In the meantime, I read someone else’s recap of the event that evening and it occurred to me that he wrote it much as I once would have: stride, pace, pain, mileage, etc.

But this race!!!

This race was meant to be different. There was a lot of hand-wringing on my part as you all know [sheepish]. My goals were different than I had set for any other race.

I didn’t feel well the week before the race, but I suspect that sort of helped to make me happy with my
decision to have fun and not run the half marathon for my finish time. I’m not feeling inspired right now to be entertaining or witty (as clearly I usually am), so I’ll just run down some bullet points:
  • It was the best race I've ever run!
  • I had fun. My overall pace was 11:56, but I don’t know how fast I ran because my running partner, Tami, and I ran four minutes and walked one minute. Also, I was wearing someone else's Garmin and it was set to different measurements than I use on mine. This was probably a blessing in disguise because I couldn't continually check my pace. 
  • Got there early without a rush.
  • Ran back to my car to get my cell phone. Warm-up! 
  • Met up with friends from my running club.
  • Saw the Grim Reaper at the start, hugged him later near the finish line.
  • Mugged for the photographers a couple times rather than having all my photos look as though I'm trying to wreck myself.
  • Forgot my gloves at the start line, so I picked up a dark blue pair from the street right in front of the State Capitol and wore them almost the whole time.  [I have no shame] They’re Roosevelt Rough Riders blue, so I’ll wear them to the football game this Friday!
  • My Garmin watch wouldn't latch onto a satellite, so I wore my friend Cindy’s watch. She’s just the most amazing person to have around on race day. We hoped to match strides with the winners of the full marathon as they lapped us, but we’re pretty sure they took three or four steps to half of one of ours. It was a sort of blur.
  • Eight records were set on the day including a 5K in 15:05, which is a 3.1 miles in 15 minutes and 5 seconds. Amazing! That's 4 minutes and 51 seconds per mile. Can you imagine? 
  • Crossed the finish line after seeing Cindy and my friend Ann, who rode around the course route on her bicycle. I got hugs and a banana. Both very helpful for energy.
  • Enjoyed a band called The Snacks at the finish line. Wow! They were slightly insane and completely enjoyable.
  • ATE FOOD! I managed to eat BBQ and other snacks including beer. It never bothered my stomach because I didn't run myself to death in this race.
  • Laughed. I laughed quite a bit. Remarkable: I'd like to replicate that for every race. 
  • Stayed almost until the last participant crossed the finish line. I’d like to say I stayed for the entire thing, but I conked out. It was after 3pm and although the course was supposed to close after seven hours, they stood around and waited - and THAT is why the IMT Des Moines Marathon is such an amazing event in my humble but accurate opinion.
  • After the race, I didn't cry, I didn’t feel like crying and I had fun. Also, sore? I was not.
  • I don't have photos yet, but I will post a couple when I get them. 
This year’s race was easily the best race I've had even though my finish time was the least impressive of any run I've ever participated in. I may have to rethink the ‘run faster’ approach. While I didn't give it my all, I'm happy. I think giving it my all may be limited to 5k races in the future. I'll keep you posted. [smirk]

Now to begin winter running. Fun? no. Challenging? yes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another marathon motto 2011

Every year I've come up with a motto for my marathon events. But last month, when I did the Air Force Marathon, I didn't have a motto.

Bad move!

Apparently, I'm motivated by mysterious forces that include superstitions, logistical planning that would impress the U.S. Army and a strong, motivating motto.

OK, I'm not all that superstitious. I think. Don't put shoes on the bed. That's probably the one thing that sends shivers up my spine. I believe shoes on the bed brings death in the family. So just don't. My grandmother wouldn't approve.

Of course, she may have used that one because shoes are dirty and she was a very good housekeeper.

So I talked about my experience with the Air Force Marathon and how although my time wasn't bad at all, I sort of felt a bit like a failure, which is putting it too strongly. Let's say I was disappointed. I didn't know why I felt so disappointed.

Now I'm pinning it all on the lack of a motto. The motto is what I compare the run against. For the marathon last month, I didn't even have a time goal! I just figured I'd do as well or better than last year's 2:12:44 half in Des Moines. But that didn't happen and without a back up, what was I to do?

I stood at the finish line crying and feeling disoriented and I certainly know for absolutely certain certainteed for sure that I don't want that happening again, so I have decided that my motto for this weekend is:

Enjoy it all. 

This means slow down the pace, look at the volunteers (more on this below), drink water slowly, chat with running partner, laugh, listen to the music, read the signs, look at the autumn colors and drink in how really lovely the city of Des Moines is.

My hope for this event is to feel REALLY DARN GOOD at the finish line. Not just not crying, but wanting to stay and see other runners come in, encourage my friends who are in the event and running the full 26.2 miles and even staying and feeling good when my niece comes downtown to run the kid's race that afternoon. If I do cry, maybe it's just because running 13.1 miles isn't that easy. If that's the case, I guess I can handle that.

I'll let you know because I know you're all just dying to hear about the train wreck at the end. HA!


Last month after the Air Force marathon, I volunteered at a 10-mile race here in town. I was a course marshal, which sounds fancy, but it just means I had an orange safety vest and a flag to keep runners from going up the wrong street. As to that, what in the world was I thinking in elementary school when I wanted to be a crosswalk monitor?

So there I stood in the crosswalk looking at runners who were just in mile 2, so they were still happy and fresh. And they didn't look at me! I always wondered why someone would just stand there and not cheer the runners on or say something as we pass, but now I know. It's hard to stand there feeling a little dorky saying things to people you don't know. I like to say thanks to the volunteers anyway, but now I want to pay more attention to the folks who are out there.

OK, I'm out of here for now. I've stated the motto to the universe. I'll go to the expo tomorrow and have a blast.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Here's my latest post on the marathon, which is this weekend: