City Versus Rural: Some Differences

In case you missed the memo, we moved.

We moved from Los Angeles (which is a city) to rural Wisconsin (which isn’t).

Los Angeles County has a population of 10 million. The entire state of Wisconsin has less than 6 million.

However, we didn’t do the obvious thing and move to one of the adorable two towns (Madison, Milwaukee) that people call cities here. No, we moved to a rural area where the nearest “town” is miles away and has a population of less than 500 people.

What have we done? I eat 500 people for breakfast! (Not everyday. Some days I just have eggs.)

Some differences I’ll include are regional differences, not “city versus rural” differences. I know this. Don’t explode in angry defensiveness about how you live in a city but you understand blah, blah, blah. Nobody cares.

Like when we saw this ice cream sign the first week we moved here:

(No actual turtles harmed in the making of this ice cream. Turtle is chocolate and caramel and pecans mixed. Or something. I think.)


Or ordering at restaurants:

I forgot that people say “pop” for soda here. We’ve now changed to saying “soda pop” which makes us sound even more foreign and also from the 1950s.

And lollipops? They are called suckers here.

Speaking of food that nobody should eat anyway, I’ll just sum it up with this:

Even the sushi here (which I unequivocally do not recommend) has cheese on it.

(Feeling defensive yet, foodie Madison? You are landlocked. It’s okay. Nobody expects you to have decent sushi. Stick to that farm-to-table and “biggest farmer’s market in the country” thing you rock at. PS – You also suck at tacos. Work on this, okay?)

One last regional difference to get out of the way. It’s a big one.


There isn’t much diversity here. There is one main religion.

It’s called Sports.

There are other minority religions around, like Hunting, Beer, Cheese and Brats – but Sports is by far the most widely worshipped.

This is a huge contrast to Los Angeles, where the most popular religion is Money. (Minority religions there are of course Fame, Plastic Surgery, Yoga and Complaining About Traffic While Stuck in Traffic.)



Now for some more general city versus rural differences…

The very first thing we noticed when we moved here was the s-l-o-w-e-r pace of people.

In fact, I noticed it before we moved here when I was trying to set up a storage space for all of our stuff. (We lived with my grandmother for a month while we got to know different areas and house hunted. Thus, our stuff went into storage.)


What would have taken four minutes in the city takes 20 minutes in the country. However, I did learn the name of his dog. It was Butterscotch.

I still have to intentionally slow myself down. After decades in the city, being, um, nice doesn’t come naturally to me anymore.

However, there is one area where I have to go faster.


I come from Los Angeles where we have freeways that we regard with such great reverence that we put a “the” in front of them. (It’s not 101 freeway, it’s the 101 freeway. It’s not 405, it’s the 405.) So I know how to drive.

I just don’t know how to drive fast. Do you know how often I drove 70 mph in the city over the last two decades? Never. Not even once.

In the country it’s all wide open roads and you can go super fast. It’s scary as shit.

Especially because we have our own three unique forms of traffic issues here and none of them mix well with speedy driving.

The Three Rural Driving Hazards:

  1. Very slow things
  2. Things that make the road difficult to drive on
  3. Things that jump into the road unexpectedly

Amish buggies, tractors. You get it. Things that go slow but also have every right to use the road right in front of you. Slowly. Especially in hilly and curvy areas where you can’t pass them.


Roads with cows on them are difficult to drive on. Bumpy.

I have encountered every one of these at least once. Plus more. Like turtles. They are slow and in the road so you have to stop your car, get out and pick up the turtle and move him to the side he was heading to. Also, the ducks of a neighbor’s farm love to splash in potholes in the road in summer so I have to watch out for those guys after it rains. (Ah yes, add potholes big enough for ducks to splash in to this list.)


These are the scariest driving hazards. Especially at night. Every night something sprints across the road in front of my car. Also, opossum and skunks. And cranes! So many of those. I had to stop once for a mink and once for a woodchuck too. And an owl that swooped down! (Can you tell I’m not complaining? All the wildlife amazes me. Right before I almost hit it with my car.)

But I would be seriously lacking if I didn’t mention something that absolutely stunned us when we first moved here.


Darkness in the city happens only when you close your eyes or are indoors with blackout curtains. I had forgotten what real outside darkness was like.

Darkness in the country is enveloping. It is being wrapped in black velvet topped with abundant, sparkly diamonds. It’s breathtaking and humbling.

And also full of mosquitoes.

Either that or really fucking cold. (Those are the two seasons. Itchy or cold.)


Lastly, I’d like to share a little bit about the people.

As I mentioned, there are less people here. That means I am no longer city invisible.

I miss city invisible. City invisible is easy. City invisible means you can go to a store or a restaurant and you are unlikely to see any of those same people ever again in your life. You can wear pajamas. You can fart loudly. Your kids can have a fit. You can trip and knock over an entire shelf of picture frames. Nothing that happens matters because nobody will remember you the minute you walk out the door. It’s brilliant.

In the country you go to a store and you will see those same exact people over and over again all over town. What is worse, they might already know who you are the minute you walk in the door.

Like that time I walked into a garden shop and the owner said:

Not only did she know who I was, but she knew I was in the middle of building a chicken coop. (Now when I say “know who I was” I don’t mean writer of Crappy Pictures, thankfully. I think I’d faint and go into hiding if that happened. Just the “new family who bought the so and so’s property” level of know who I am.)

And the people out in the country are just so…different. Nice. Helpful. Friendly.

Do you know what happened when we moved into our new house out in the country?


Neighbors showed up and introduced themselves. There was a stretch of a couple weeks where I had to be wearing something other than pajamas every single day just to answer the door and accept trays of brownies. (I’m sure I did it all wrong too, I was probably supposed to invite them in and offer coffee and pie but I didn’t ever. In the city we’d generally just hide when the doorbell rang so the fact that I’m even answering the damn door is a big step for me, okay?)

Fast forward a tiny bit…

After living here for a few months and finally establishing a bit of a weekly routine with classes for the kids, library trips and such, we started to feel like we actually belonged.

There was one moment that sealed the deal…

We are at our cafe. I say “our cafe” because it is the cafe that we go to each Friday while Crappy Boy takes drum lessons down the street. Same time, same day for several weeks.

Our waitress knows us, knows our order (coffee for me and Crappy Papa, raspberry tea for Crappy Baby with a cup of ice to cool it down faster) and she gets it for us without asking, the minute we walk in the door and sit at our table. Table 3.

We are about to leave and Crappy Papa goes up to pay. The owner is behind the counter and says:

Now a normal person from the country would say “thank you!” And leave.

We are not normal people. We are city people. Nothing is free in the city.

We don’t trust anything.

So Crappy Papa says:

And he says it like a huge asshole. All suspicious and doubtful.

But I’m right there with him, watching from the booth thinking “Just take our money! Why won’t they take our money? Oh no, are they saying we can’t come here anymore?”

And finally the poor owner backtracks and has to explain his kindness:

And then he calls us a term that even city people know and yearn for.


We’re regulars!

We’ve made it. We’ve made it our home.



Have you moved? Any regional differences that surprised you? Or city versus rural differences? Tell me some stories.  



Thank you so much for all your Coloring Book orders! I really, really appreciate the support. There will be fun contests/giveaways related to the coloring book in January. I’m waiting since many of you are giving them as holiday gifts. Can’t wait to see some pages colored. (At any skill level, contests won’t be based on skill – details next month.)

PS – coloring books are fun if you live in a city OR out in the country. Coloring books don’t care where you live. 

PPS – I do miss the city, but I love the country too.

Posted in life, moving, rural living | 155 Comments

The Fondue Dinner

When you move, you unearth all sorts of things you forgot you had.

Like a fondue pot.

We have actually used this (before we had kids) and we have fond memories of fondue nights with friends.

Now wait. When I say “fondue” I don’t mean the classic cheese fondue. That’s amazingly good (as well as the melted chocolate one for dessert) and those were always included with these fondue night themed dinners of the past.

What I’m talking about today is called fondue bourguignonne. Hot oil fondue.

This is where you have an electric pot of hot oil in the middle of the table and skewers and cut up veggies and meats and everyone dips their selection in a batter and then fries it in the hot oil. Then you have lots of dips to choose from! Repeat.

We realized that the kids are now old enough to have a fondue night!

Let’s do this!

We have cut veggies. We have cut meats. The oil is ready. The batter is ready. The dips are ready.

We all sit down.

I explain that you skewer a veggie or a meat onto your long fork, dip it into the batter and then put it in the hot oil to cook for a couple minutes. Then you take it out, put it on your plate and try it with the different dips. Then you do it again with another piece.

You get to cook your own dinner!

Everyone is excited. This is going to be awesome!

First, I need to go over some safety warnings. Oil is hot, etc.

Just as I’m about to start my speech, Crappy Baby jumps out of his chair and walks around the table.

But he is headed straight to the CORD that hangs precariously from the table to the wall and attaches to the hot oil pot.

So I explain about the cord.

I tell them to not go near this side of the table at all. Crappy Papa and I explain all about the dangers of hot oil and burns. The phrase “scarred for life” keeps surfacing.

Everyone understands. They are old enough and mature enough now.

We were smart to wait this long to do this.

Then my focus is once again on the pot of hot oil and the “how-to” of cooking in it. Safely.

I’m pointing at the pot and telling them not to touch it when my finger accidentally brushes up against the handle.

Wow, it really IS hot. We all laugh. At least they know I’m serious!

So we begin.

Everyone selects something, dips it in the batter and gently lowers it into the hot oil.

The hot oil bubbles over our selections. We sit and chat and joke while the first batch cooks.

This is fun already!

A couple minutes later, we take them out and slide our veggies off onto our plates.

But they are hot.

So I explain how to use another fork to get them off.

I taste it.

I do that thing where I make the H sound with my mouth open and my hand in front of my mouth.

Just then, Crappy Baby is skewering an onion and a mushroom at the same time and he uses his hand to push them both on.

And the sharp skewer pokes through and jabs his thumb.

Okay, so the cord is dangerous. The pot is dangerous. The oil is dangerous. The hot food is dangerous. The fork is dangerous.

Crappy Boy sums this up:

And slow. All of this happened after TWO rounds of cooking. Which means we’ve all eaten two tiny pieces of food.

And then!

It gets worse.

For my third round, I select a piece of chicken. I dip it in the batter, put it in the oil pot.

When I take it out, I cut it open to see if it is cooked enough.

It isn’t.

So I put it back in. Big mistake.

The water in the inside of the cut chicken piece makes the oil pot VERY angry.

It starts sputtering and bubbling and making scary noises.

Searing oil droplets are shooting out of the pot like fireworks.

We jump up.

And get out of there.

This is the first dinner where I’ve had to yell “Run away!” from the food.

After just a few seconds, the oil pot calms down. We return.

We are now onto round four of cooking.

Three tiny pieces of food have been cooked and eaten.

We’re scared, but we’re still hungry.

The rest of the dinner is more of the same.

More pain. More laughter.

More warnings of “burned for life” and jokes about “run away!” and counting how many times everyone has said “ouch”. (We lost count.)

After a few more rounds, the kids just start eating the vegetables raw.

Eventually, a bunch of hours later, dinner is over.

Crappy Papa removes the pot of danger and pain.

Once it’s gone, we realize we’re exhausted.

And we promise. Never again.

(We are redeeming fondue for the next generation by having the classic, authentic, much less dangerous fondue later this week. The kids are terrified.)


I don’t always make the best decisions (see above) but asking for your ideas for the Totally Non-Crappy Coloring Book was a rare good one.

It’s available to buy now! It’s charming and wonderful and I’m very proud of it! (And it will arrive before Christmas/the end of Hanukkah/Solstice/Etc. as of right now. Check the item page.)

It could be a holiday gift and it isn’t even made out of plastic that will break in three days.

The details: There are 56 pages to color. The images are printed on one side (the right side) of the pages only. Some pages are more detailed. Some pages are more simple. This is intended for children, but not annoyingly so. This means that you will like coloring in it too.

The best part: I incorporated many of your ideas! Some ideas were rather specific, like “a monster eating a hotdog” or “a t-rex riding a skateboard” and others were more general, like mermaids, unicorns, robots, cars, dinosaurs and fairies. There are quite a few animals wearing clothes. A goat in pajamas. A peacock at a tea party. Even the skateboarding t-rex has a slouchy, striped beanie on. Obviously. And there is much, much more!

The even better best part: This is why coloring books are powerful parenting tools:

Coloring books create quiet, stillness and the ability to drink my coffee while it is still hot. (Even in public places, like a coffee shop or a cafe. It’s true!)

This is a gift to yourself that you deserve. (I mean your kids. It’s a gift for your kids. Wink.)  Combine it with some new markers or colored pencils and you have an excellent gift that won’t make annoying noises, require batteries or puncture your foot when you step on it in the dark. This is truly an unplugged, analog, old-school activity.

Don’t delay! Buy your copy today!

(Did you notice my sales rhyme? I worked super hard on it.)



Thank you for your support! The purchase of this coloring book directly supports me and this blog. (As I mentioned, I do not want to plaster this space with ads. This is how I hope to keep this site going instead.) 

We use and love these colored pencils. These gel pens. These makers.

Disclosure: those are affiliate links. This is yet another small way I fund the work that goes into this blog. Thank you!

Posted in book, food | 52 Comments