Friday morning we had another treat of waffles by Mark, pancakes by Dad and fruit salad by Laura. After a relaxing morning we packed up the van- still had to put one igloo on top of the van- and headed to Cabelas. What an amazing store. It is as large as a small mall. Inside are mini museums full of fabulous wildlife displays. First we saw a river Aquarium with fish longer than my arm. The catfish were so big that they just ideled around the bottom of the tank. The tanks themselves were impressive. They were at least 12 foot tall and about 8 foot wide. An entire wooden canoe was placed in one. And the length, it was as long as our apartment, on both sides- two aquariums. The blue gills were especially pretty as were the territorial bass.
Next we saw the African safari. Here we saw zebras and rhinos, crocs and whole pride of lions, there was even an elephant. We headed to the mountain- the centerpiece of the store. Each quadrant was a bit different. The first quad contained beavers and koi (these were actually real), next were the dessert dwellers with diamond backs, prairie dogs, cougars and deer. Then was the northern quad with ptarmigan, snow hairs, artic foxes, a polar bear and mountain goats.
Then we headed to the big game room, here there were stags mounted around the room and a description of how the points are counted. Most of the animals had irregular racks. We saw the difference between mule deer and white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, exotic game, and javelinas. After all that excitement we headed up to the lunch room where we got catfish, hushpuppies, cold slaw, pasta salad, puddin', mac 'n cheese and a salad. It was all great. Next we went to the shooting gallery- like a carnival, you shoot at targets and they cause a bear to pop up from behind the bushes, or a door to creak open, etc. Mark and I had fun with the other kido's making Halloween noises- I didn't realize I was such a good shot- last gun I shot was a be-be gun in middle school.
Heading back down stairs we wondered into the gun show room- an impressive classic collection. What an amazing store/museum. A short ride and we were home again, doing laundry. Mark and I headed out to the local half priced books- learning that they only take donations from in-state now. Mark didn't find any games this time, but we found a book on magical creatures for Mark's gaming reference, and Tigana. Heading over to Hastings we found "Walk the Line" and Brother's Grimm. For dinner, Mark and I made delicious nachos. With full tummies, we all sat down to watch "Walk the Line"- a sad but wonderful story about Johnny Cash with many of his great hits- we all loved it. Unfortuantely "Brother's Grimm" was not a hit, oh well.
After a breakfast of waffles and RR donuts, I permed Mom's hair to her curly delight. I also made a door stopper, based on the one that Mark and I have. Last time we visited, we found all the supplies, but ran out of time to put it together. Fortunately it worked wonderfully! Midmorning, we realized that we had the wrong time for our flight and ended up getting there just before they started boarding. Fortunately it was a direct flight to Chicago on Continental- they even gave us sandwiches and M&M's for a lunch snack (Mark and I had a schlotsky's earlier, but the snack was great) which doesn't seem to happen very frequently anymore with airlines.
Once we landed, I rewarded myself with an ice cream cone as we headed over to find the Van Galder. Since there were so many passengers returning from spring break to Madison, our bus went straight to Madison. Taking a taxi home, we fell happily into bed.
This morning we put together a feast for breakfast. Mark broke in the cast iron waffle maker to make waffles for everyone. We also had pancakes and to top it all off a delicious fruit salad with blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and blackberries. I have never been much of a pancake/waffle eater- but add equal parts fresh fruit salad to it with a bit of real maple syrup and I could eat all day. What a treat!
After we tried to identify some of the local birds, Mom took a brief nap while we were happily reading our novels, we headed out for a long hike. Dad had already been hiking the day before and took us up to see some great views of the surrounding countryside. We passed some amazing curly grass that grows in circles- we saw some bunny droppings in the center of one such circle. As we got up higher, there were beautiful yucca's and some coreopsis blooming. We saw the Blanco river winding below us and small horse farms in the distance. As we walked down the hill, through a flat area, we saw collections of snail shells clustered under trees, left by some hungry bird. We also saw a rubbing by a buck on one poor little sapling.
Returning to the campsite, we all had lunch and took a luxurious nap. Afterwards Mark and I played another game of Bocci as the sun was going down. That night we feasted on mouth-watering grilled steak, delicious mushrooms, garlic hash browns, and perfected cornbread. We were all groaning with delight after that amazing meal! I didn't remember, but my parents said that they always had a steak night when we went camping/hunting. I am glad to encourage the tradition!
That night we put on our water shoes and headed down toward the river. The frogs were especially loud. Mark and I waded in the water, and although we could hear the frogs, we couldn't see a one. Now my parents have good sized frogs in their back yard due to the pond, and they croak real loud. But I think that the frogs along the river must have been an inch or so long- we didn't see one. Every time we got close, they got quiet. We saw plenty of perch and small bass in the river, but not a frog. A mystery that we will have to solve, perhaps by camping there next year!!
This morning we woke to the sound of overly chirpy birds and turkeys in the distance. The warmth of our sleeping bags was hard to leave, but we quickly got dressed walked up to the restroom to take care of business.
This morning's breakfast was a treat, breakfast tacos with precooked red potatoes, egg whites, bacon, warmed salsa. Such a yummy treat wrapped in a skillet warmed flour tortilla- it reminded me of all the camping/hunting trips I have had with my family- and on such a chilly morning the warm breakfast with warm sweetened tea was the perfect wake-up.
After filling our tummies, we headed out on a short hike. Along the way we saw horsetail and bamboo along side the river, walnuts under the walnut tree, several rootings that looked like the result of armadillos and a small hole filled with owls. Fortunately I had Mark's binoculars, a present from my parents, and we could see small owls in a whole on the side of a sharp drop-off. We also saw some fascinating work from different varieties of ants. There were roads lined with juniper berries for some larger black ants while the smaller sugar ants had roads of juniper needles. It was an impressive sight which we walked carefully around. There was also an impressive bright orange lichen in some live oak trees.
For lunch we had sandwiches, and I indulged in more potato salad. Mark and I played a game of Frisbee- I can't remember the last time I played, but by the end I was getting most of the shots to Mark. With all the fresh air and exercise, everyone headed down for a nice nap.
Dinner that night was turkey burgers, a modified recipe from Mark's famous turkey meatballs. They were amazing and so moist with the bread crumbs. Followed by some more oven warmed bread and a scrumptious fruit salad. As we ended dinner, we got a slight drizzle, so games were taken inside the tent. We played Once upon A Time where we all came up with some fantastical stories, and Land Unter where we endeavored to save the sheep.
After the games, the rain let up so we cooked up some desert. Dad made some cornbread with his Dutch oven and we all enjoyed making smores with the remaining coals. Before we went to sleep, Mark and I put out apple slices for the deer. It didn't seem like they ate any of the corn, so maybe a sweet treat will tempt them.
After one more quick trip to the restrooms, we all went to sleep with the croaking of frogs in the background interrupted by the occasional coyote off in the distance.
In the morning we packed everything up in the van for our camping trip. I love organizing- it is a fun puzzle, and impressively I got everything to fit except for the suitcases which Dad tied to the top of the van. Leaving at noon we headed to Delaware Subs for lunch- I love pickles on sandwiches! As we were headed south we talked about camping games, and swung in for a quick trip to Academy where Mark picked up Bocci and I got an aroebe Frisbee.
After what felt like a very short time, we were in San Marcos. My Dad is attending Texas State and reserved a campsite # 6 for us at the schools camp. It is an impressive location with the campsites right next to the Blanco river and a large amount of acres to explore. The site they picked had 3 massive trees and we popped up our tents right in between them. Dad got a new tent that has three rooms inside it- it is almost like being at home :) and an open air tent for us to eat under. Adding the air mattresses and we all slept good at night!
After putting everything together, we relaxed with a game of Bocci. Only Mark was familiar with this one, where the goal is to get your heavy ball as close as possible to a little white ball. By the second game we were knocking out each other's balls and getting pretty creative. With the dying light we had to stop so Dad fired up the lanterns and we put dinner together. Dinner was fried chicken and bread (warmed in a nifty outdoor oven- just placed over the gas burner), potato salad (with amazing golden red potatoes) decaf sun tea sweetened with some of Dad’s honey. Makes you feel like royalty to eat so well in such beautiful setting with wonderful company. After dinner we played two quick games of For Sale- an interesting real estate game that Mom picked up on real quick with her real estate experience. Then we headed up to the restrooms for a quick bathroom break and saw a small herd of deer in the brush.
By the time we got back it was pitch black, so we took out the telescope to look at the stars. With a full moon, it was almost too bright to look at through the scope. We zoomed in on some of Orion's belt. It is always impressive to see more stars anywhere you look, even though you can't see them with your naked eye, the scope picks up on the beautiful details in the sky. Before heading off to sleep, Dad and I put out some corn for the deer to help encourage them to come a little closer- we will see if we see them tomorrow.
As we snuggled into our sleeping bags, we went to sleep to the sound of frogs croaking along the river.
Saturday being the first day of spring break, I sifted through all of my novels and started reading Sue Grafton's P is for Peril. We both had a wonderfully relaxing day. Sunday we packed and headed out on the bus to Memorial Union where we caught a ride on the Van Galder to Chicago in wait for our evening flight to Texas. Unfortunately we got there just as a massive storm system hit. At midnight with a shaking clap of thunder and a scary lightning bolt, we found out that our 8pm flight was canceled. Since I was rather ticked- no ticket agent was there when they finally canceled our flight, we were told over the loud speaker (and noticed that the pilots left), Mark called to reschedule our cancelled trip. The best we could do was San Antonio the next afternoon- so we took it.
Next Mark called the airlines hotel booking to get a discounted room for the night while I tried to get a rental car from San Antonio to Austin- the one-way costs are hideous. At 2am, after a short taxi ride, we ended up at the Regency and slept until 9am. Since I am more of a morning person than Mark, I got up to get us some breakfast. Unfortunately it was Dunkin’ Donuts (not even comparable to RR donuts) with milk and Kellogg’s corn flakes for Mark. Watching the news I found out that the storm system last night was responsible for tornados and deaths throughout the Midwest.
After a nice shuttle to the airport, we talked to a pleasant ticket agent who found a flight on an earlier trip to Austin!!! Yeah!!! At this point I had finished my book and bought Memoirs of a Geisha out of curiosity, and after two short delays, we left for Austin. I was so happy to be out of Chicago I could have kissed the ground when we arrived. We had a fabulous dinner of fajitas at Antonio’s and I even tried a Mexican Martini (which I will admit was one of the best drinks I have ever had). It was so nice to see home again! We sat down and watched or pre-recorded (my folks are so thoughtful) Gray's Anatomy (I love that soap) just as we do every Sunday (plus one day). After all of the hustle and bustle of the day, Mark and I both slept well on our waterbed that night!
This week is the week before spring break. All week I worked on tweaking my cs412 midterm. Thursday Irene and I went to Takara for a very nice lunch- their box lunches fill you up for the rest of the day! Thursday night I gave my cs412 midterm with the make-up on Friday in between grading it. Fortunately my TA's and I finished grading just before 8pm. Then Mark and I headed downtown to have dinner at Kabul's with Matt and and visiting friend from Kenyon, John. I had moist marinated beef kabobs while mark enjoyed lamb kabobs. It was a pleasant way to end a very long day.
This has been a very sad week. We found out that Melanie's Dad passed away. We attended the beautiful service with Irene on Friday. Unfortunately I never got to meet Melanie's Dad, but the stories told by his family and all the beautiful pictures told of his wonderful life dedicated to his family. This was the first military funeral that I had been to and the flag presentation and gun salute at the end was very moving.
Otherwise, I continue to take temperatures at 7am 3 times a week to help out at the barn. Another hoofer's horse was taken to the UW vet clinic but seems to be in stable condition. Fortunately none of the horses in the upper barn (that is where I am taking temperatures) show any symptoms. I also had a wonderful lunch with Irene at Ian's pizza on Thursday. This amazing restaurant makes the best pizzas with anything on top. I love the chicken cordon bleu and lasagna.
Unfortunately there was a equine herpes strain affecting some of the local barns and now it has spread to ours. One of the beautiful Hoofer horses and another stabled in the same barn had to be put down- the effect of the disease is neurological and the horses lose function to their hind quarters. There was a very informative meeting on Wednesday to tell us about appropriate procedures for the barn's self-quarantine.
To check and make sure that the horses are alright, everyone is volunteering to take temperatures. This week I have taken temperatures 3 times, at 7am. While I have never taken temps before, I have learned from some very nice people at the barn. I am glad for the experience of learning about how to care for horses since I look forward to owning one some day.
On Saturday, we hosted dinner for our apartment neighbors Adam and Priscilla. Mark has been wanting to make the Cuisine flank steak recipe again and this was we get to share with our fabulous neighbors. In addition we had a wild salad from Whole Foods with delicious 365 dressing, oven baked potato wedges- I swear they are better than French fries, and an amazing apple crumb cake with ice cream from Priscilla & Adam. We had a wonderful evening talking about gardening plans, a fun visit from Harold McGee and playing Diamant. What a great evening!