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Highlights from the Iowa State Fair

We were driving on the interstate yesterday evening and saw a funnel cake stand speed by. "There goes the last of the State Fair," my mom said. Yep, the Iowa State Fair closed out another successful year on Sunday, so I thought for today's Quick 10 I'd provide you with some of the highlights "“ in no particular order, mind you.

1. Butter Shawn Johnson. The tiny, 4'9" Olympic medal-winning gymnast is from West Des Moines, so she's a pretty big deal in these parts (we also have track and field Olympian Lolo Jones). Every year, the butter cow sculptor does something in addition to the butter cow, usually something that corresponds with current events. Last year when the last Harry Potter book came out, a whole magical scene was created out of butter. So, this year's tribute to our local Olympian was a no-brainer. Shawn comes complete with an American flag and a balance beam.

porkchop2. Pork Chop on a Stick. Oh, man. This is the juiciest, yummiest pork chop in the history of time. And I don't even like pork chops. It's $6, which might seem a little steep, but when you think about the price you would pay for a chop like this in an upscale restaurant, the $6 is so totally worth it.

3. Pioneer Hall.

My friend Bridget refuses to go in Pioneer Hall because she has an aversion to antiques. Yeah, if you have a problem with old stuff, Pioneer Hall is not for you. It's part flea market, part showcase, part dance hall, part demonstration. You can peruse old record albums, see if one of the vendors has that piece of Depression glass you've been looking for, flip through some postcards from the 1920s, and watch a blacksmith do his thing.

I was fascinated by the blacksmith, but if dancing is more up your alley, there's always this:

4. Ugly Cake Contest.
Yeah, this is in the same building your typical State Fair food competitions "“ best pie, best jam, best cookie, best everything-under-the-sun. But this is my favorite. It's geared specifically to kids who compete to see who can make the most revolting, unappealing cake ever. This one didn't win a blue ribbon, but personally, it took the cake for me. Yuck.

foot_cake1.jpg

5. Big Boar and the Big Bull. Big Bull. "Tiny" the bull weighs 3,012 pounds. You can tell exactly how big he is by comparing his head with the head of that little girl in the background. I'm pretty sure he was heavily sedated.

bull

"Freight Train" the big boar"¦ well, he's just a really massive pig. It appears to spend most of its time napping. I caught it snoring, actually, but by the time I thought to turn the video on, I think it had quieted down. See for yourself:

6. Fried Hostess Cupcake. Well, fried anything from this stand, really. You can get fried Twinkie, fried Ho Ho, fried Oreos, fried Snickers. I think the Twinkie is the best, but we felt like we should try something new this year. Paul had the Hostess Cupcake; I had a Bloody Mary. Mmm. Only at the State Fair is this normal. Well, State Fair and maybe tailgating.

bloody inset

7. Garrison Keillor. Unfortunately I missed this, but I would have liked to see the "A Prairie Home Companion" Rhubarb Tour when it made a stop at the State Fair this year.

8. Fried Pineapple. Every year, there's a lot of hype around the newest food item. Last year it was the Hot Beef Sundae "“ a mound of mashed potatoes with gravy to look like syrup, shredded cheese "sprinkles" and a cherry tomato on top. This year, it was the fried pineapple. Sounds kind of nasty, but it tasted a lot like pineapple upside down cake. This is my husband biting into the fried pineapple"¦ be warned, it's not the neatest thing to eat.

butterfly9. Butterfly Garden. I hear the butterfly garden at Iowa State University's Reiman Gardens makes this one pale in comparison, but I've never been there, so I enjoyed myself at this version of the butterfly garden. There were thousands of butterflies hanging out in here, snacking on rotten bananas, attaching themselves to unsuspecting people, scaring and/or delighting little kids.

saddle10. Miniature"¦ stuff. I realize this is crafty, kitschy and weird, but I always enjoy checking out the miniatures. I mean, you could just buy a dollhouse and decorate it with stuff you can buy at Hobby Lobby and enter that, but some people really go all out. This lady actually created a 1:32 scale saddle. I'm not sure why, but it's fascinating.

tattooOh, and 10.5: People Watching. I'm going to be... objective, here, but let's just say there's no shortage of mullets and muffin tops, often on the same person. This dude to the left is really proud of his heritage. It says "Corn Fed Bad Ass", in case you can't see it. So, those are my State Fair highlights. I didn't get to experience the cow chip throwing contest or the beard-growing contest or anything like that, and I missed the giant vegetables. I always like to see onions that are the size of my head (I have a really large noggin, so that's no small feat). There's always next year.

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Tips For Baking Perfect Cookies
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Perfect cookies are within your grasp. Just grab your measuring cups and get started. Special thanks to the Institute of Culinary Education.

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Netflix's Most-Binged Shows of 2017, Ranked
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Netflix might know your TV habits better than you do. Recently, the entertainment company's normally tight-lipped number-crunchers looked at user data collected between November 1, 2016 and November 1, 2017 to see which series people were powering through and which ones they were digesting more slowly. By analyzing members’ average daily viewing habits, they were able to determine which programs were more likely to be “binged” (or watched for more than two hours per day) and which were more often “savored” (or watched for less than two hours per day) by viewers.

They found that the highest number of Netflix bingers glutted themselves on the true crime parody American Vandal, followed by the Brazilian sci-fi series 3%, and the drama-mystery 13 Reasons Why. Other shows that had viewers glued to the couch in 2017 included Anne with an E, the Canadian series based on L. M. Montgomery's 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, and the live-action Archie comics-inspired Riverdale.

In contrast, TV shows that viewers enjoyed more slowly included the Emmy-winning drama The Crown, followed by Big Mouth, Neo Yokio, A Series of Unfortunate Events, GLOW, Friends from College, and Ozark.

There's a dark side to this data, though: While the company isn't around to judge your sweatpants and the chip crumbs stuck to your couch, Netflix is privy to even your most embarrassing viewing habits. The company recently used this info to publicly call out a small group of users who turned their binges into full-fledged benders:

Oh, and if you're the one person in Antarctica binging Shameless, the streaming giant just outed you, too.

Netflix broke down their full findings in the infographic below and, Big Brother vibes aside, the data is pretty fascinating. It even includes survey data on which shows prompted viewers to “Netflix cheat” on their significant others and which shows were enjoyed by the entire family.

Netflix infographic "The Year in Bingeing"
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