MONDAY, APRIL 26, 2004
Salads Galore

After Greek week we needed something more healthy, ergo salad week! At the store we picked up lettuce, squash, brocolli sprouts, sunflower seeds, fresh tomatoes, carrots, cheese and a new dressing with Italian and Red Peppers. The dressing is amazing; not nearly so biting as regular italian! For a twist we added some diced chicken patties and were very happy with the patties flexibility!

Posted by Laura @ 10:30 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

FRIDAY, APRIL 23, 2004
Natalie's Open Studio

Our friend Natalie opened up her new studio at their new apartment for friends and art enthusiasts. Her theme is Herds and Graves. Mark and I love to look at all of Natalie's beautiful work, this time we even got to see some of her earlier work. The school gives one of her older pieces called "emeritus" to faculty who become professors.

Natalie likes to work with large areas of white space which always give her art an open feeling, perfect for the herds and graves theme. This is the third show that we have gone to for Natalie, at the second one, Natalie's MFA show, we picked up a cute dog magnet (here theme was dogs and rats). But in moving to a new apartment this summer it unfortunately got misplaced. Natalie was nice enough to give us a rat magnet earlier this year to remember her show by. This time we picked up another magnet, this time a sheep (in the theme of Herds) and instantly named him Lucky.

Posted by Laura @ 10:29 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Storming the Citadel!

To celebrate Burr finishing a paper submission, Burr, Natalie, Matt and his brother Kyle came over to play Citadels by Bruno Fadutti, a card game none of us had played before. (Fadutti also designed the Queen's Necklace) Players compete to build 7 castle parts, where each part you build could also help you with building in the future. The interesting part was that each round we chose different roles each round, Merchant, Thief, King, Assassin, etc, which gave us differeing abilities. It was tough to choose the right role, and I was frequently killed by the Assassin; it definitely requires some second guessing of your opponents strategy. Matt build up an impressive castle as the Merchant most of the time, but Laura squeaked by, building her last castle piece just in time to win the game. There was a lot of downtime as each player chose their roles, enough to refill drinks, but the building phase was very active and involving.

For dessert, Matt brought a delicious cheesecake from Sara Lee; we don't eat cheesecake often so this was a real treat! We finished up the night by playing a round of Fluxx. It is generally a quick game and good for a laugh at the ridiculous rules you have to follow, but in our case, the game lasted about 45 minutes, and we got the feeling the game was playing us instead of the other way around.

Posted by Mark @ 10:29 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2004
Greek Week

Mark was eager to have another themed week, so the pick was Greek food. Somehow everything we cooked ended up being fried which played havoc with our stomachs all week. I think that when we have greek week again, we will pay close attention to the need for oil.

I cooked potato kephtedes from a The Book of Greek Cooking by Mackley. While they contain tomatoes, and I normally can't take cooked tomatoes, I only put in half of the amount and enjoyed the acid bite. These cured my craving for french fries! They also made a great hourdorve for our party of six (Burr, Natalie, Matt Anderson, Kyle (Matt's brother) and us) late wednesday night. I also made some pita bread. We have always been facinated with the pita pockets, and the recipe is very easy- we used Baking with Julia Child's book. Pita's are much easier to roll out than tortillas and a joy to watch puff up, I placed them on the rack in the oven and on our baking stone to an instant poof in just a few minutes.

Mark made a delicious Mousaka which consists of fried eggplants (which soaked up all of our oil- didn't know that but will keep the eggplant away from the oil from now on) topped with seasoned meat. To accompany, Mark made a spinach pie which consisted of braised spinach and feta contained in puff pastry. While we were both tired of filo dough, we loved the puff pastry- it is easy to cook and won't break into pieces with a look.

Our favorite dish that we would enjoy repeating was the lamb stirfry with bell peppers. Mark made this one and served it on bismatti rice. It was an instant success and let us enjoy the flavors of greek food without fearing our stomachs would retaliate.

Posted by Laura @ 10:28 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Tulips at Olbrich

The one thing I love about spring in the North are all of the tulips. It seems that every yard, be it the undergrad or family, has tulips coming up this time of the year. One of the best stops is the land around Bagels Forever. Who ever owns this business has a wonderful taste in tulips of all sorts and it makes coming into work a true joy since BF is right on the bus line.

To get a good flavor for all of Madison's beauty, we went to the Olbrich gardens, always a favorite spot for seeing the local flowers in bloom. There we saw wonderful arrays of tulips. My favorite field was just starting to bloom - it contains a long stretch of short grass with tall, and short tulips scattered throughout. It looks like a fantastical Easter Bunny lawn :)

Posted by Laura @ 10:26 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Introducing Chicken Patties

On April 15th of 2001, Mark and I watched our first movie together- the Mummy. It was our first date at Mark's apartment. In keeping with the tradition, we rented the action packed Matrix Revolutions (fortunately better than the second, but my favorite is still the first one- seems a theme with trillogies). It was a nice way to break up the work week :)

For dinner I went to our local Cubs... another reason to go was for the sale on plants- $1 each, which I couldn't pass up. After aimlessly wandering around for a bit, I ended up getting some pre-cooked chicken patties and spaghetti sauce. Dinner was two toasted chicken patties with angel hair pasta and parmesan on top. Needless to say, the patties were an instant success. The rest of the week we had chicken patties every night in one form or another (chicken sandwiches, plain chicken patties, patties with parmesan, patties on top of a salad, its starting to feel a bit like Forest Gump with chicken replacing shrimp :) ). So if you are in a bind and don't have time, just toast some patties!

Posted by Laura @ 10:26 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, APRIL 12, 2004
Gelling with candles

For Christmas, our friend Beth gifted us all the ingredients to make gel candles. After reading a bit more of the lovely book Mister Monday which Mel gave Mark and me for Valentines Day, we were in the mood to make candles. These were some of the easiest candles to make and Beth gave us everything that we needed including a pamphlet full of instructions and ideas. Mark got started with a seashell filled bottom and added some blue wax from his favorite smelly candle. We were mesmerized as the gel candle wax melted the blue parifin, creating ribbons of blue parifin floating to the surface of the container.

I used the tall skinny glass to create alternating layers of white sand-like wax and blue chips of Mark's candle. I put some silver stars in the gel, but most sifted to the bottom to give it a sparkly top. I also made a mini seashore with an old six oz glass - putting some white sand-like wax in the bottom and strewning colorful seashells all over the bottom. Both of us were mesmerized with the effects and the slowly emerging bubbles floating to the top. What a wonderful and enjoyable present!

Posted by Laura @ 9:57 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2004
Easter (aka Bunny Day)

Saturday morning we had a fun easter basket treat from my parents with sweet treats (and peeps to explode in the microwave- you knew we were going to). There was a cool bubble gum gun (we had a challenging time getting the gun to aim where we wanted- needless to say, I caught very few of the bubble gum trajectories). We saved the double bagged goodies for easter morning.

Since this is the first Easter Sunday away from our parents so we made sure to include family traditions. On Saturday we made a cute bunny cake (white cake made with two rounds), since our tastes are a bit different our white cake was accented with cream cheese frosting (Mark) and coconut ears (Laura) with chocolate mint chips (Everyone :) ). We melted some semi-sweet chocolate and a bunny left over from last year (the year I learned that Mark likes chocolate in moderation, and dark chocolate at that) and made a whole batch of chocolate covered strawberries- well actually Mark made the treats, I just got everything ready. Then we made strawberry-kiwi jello with some extra strawberry kick. After Mark's special secret shopping trip, we died some eggs and decorated them with sponges while watching The Whole Nine Yards on TV.

On easter day we got our surprises from each other first :) I got Mark the third edition of the "Winning Way" which he read as often as possible all day long ;), a pack of sour candy in an egg (it is Easter), and a card that folds in many ways, each with a different message knowing his love of origami. Mark got me the most amazing gift- he hid a dozen eggs around our apartment with my favorite- gummy bears and M&M's inside each. I had forgotten what fun it is to find eggs- and to have Mark help when I couldn't find the last two. Mark also bought me a new set of gardening tools, something we'll be putting to good use this summer. We also opened the double wrapped gifts from my parents and I got the most adorable rubber ducky with a bright green hat- it will be our new hand soap holder for the bathroom :), some little chocolate bunnies (perfect in my striving to eat less chocolate), egg full of skittles, and a friendly blue bunny ball to put by my computer. Mark got a western egg with the full ensemble of a cowboy hat, mustache and holsters, little chocolate bunnies, and a friendly yellow chick ball to comfort his computer :) It was such a nice treat to get the surprises!

Then we went to church at the First United Methodist Church by the capitol. It is always so lovely to see everyone dressed in their spring best and to sing along with a large group of people. Then we returned home to cook "the meal." I was surprised that everything went so smoothly. I remember holidays when we didn't eat until 2pm and Mom was up at dawn cooking. But perhaps because there were only two of us, and we cooked what we knew we would eat, but we had everything ready by noon.

For the meal we had pan fried smoked ham, steamed asparagus, deviled eggs (decorated like stained glass with dies from the previous day), fruit jello, steamed artichokes (with their side of butter), some ginger ale and fruit juice to drink and bunny cake for desert. (My mom said that we also usually have mashed potatoes, but those were done in time for dinner, not lunch :) )

For dinner, Mark had a craving for turkey burgers and a quick walk to Sentry satisfied the need. We had burgers to be proud of with tomatoes, pickles, kaiser rolls, ketchup, mustard, and the burgers themselves had Mark's special mix of bread crumbs, A1 sauce, garlic, chipotle, salt and pepper - with a side of mashed potatoes :) Over all an excellent meal, and our first family Easter.

Posted by Laura @ 9:56 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Garden Work Day

The day started out sunny and still and ended windy and chill. Today was our first visit to the garden for our annual garden work day. These days are to help keep the community gardens in good shape. This time there were more people than expected- at least 50 people showed up to stand patiently in line and receive assignments from the committee members. We were lucky to get the straight-forward job of pulling weeds and cleaning up the community composting pile. Strangely enough there were a large number of rocks tossed in the composting pile and by the end of our cleaning spree we had quite a good rock pile for future use. :)

Since there was such a wonderful turn out, our work time only lasted about two hours. So afterward we headed over to our lovely garden, just waking up from its long winter nap, and found that we had new neighbors. The univeristy (of Wisconsin-Madison in case you were curious) has decided to take over about 20 of the plots at the end of our row and make them into the university's organic garden. We helped Amy, head of the university's garden, move some rocks out of the adopted plots to allow the tiller to do its work on Monday. (If only we could use a tiller...) It sounds like a large and wonderful project that students in the AG department can come and learn about growing outdoors. I look forward to seeing the development of the large mass of land.

After some rest and relaxation from our activities, we happily went over to Burr and Natalie's for dinner and to play the Carcassonne expansion with the River, as well as Inns and Cathedrals. For dinner Mark and I were treated to one of Burr's favorite: Kentucky Kraut Sandwiches - a delicious treat. We brought over a potato bake made with food processor shredded red potatoes cooked in a bit of butter, salt and pepper with a topping of mild cheddar- a surprising success from a spur of the moment inspiration. I had an amazing time making the largest city I have ever seen- Mark helped with a key piece. Afterwards we played Mark's latest version of Ultra Violets. It is really cool to see how far a game can come from the intial idea. To top the night off, Natalie gave me a beautiful Rabbit's Foot Fern - a perfect prelude to Easter with its furry feet and an amazingly special gift.

Posted by Laura @ 9:33 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

First Garden Seedlings

We just had to get the plants started! When I talk with my parents on the phone, all I hear about are all of the beautiful flowers and how all of their seedlings are sprouting... so to satisfy the urge, I have planted two types of broccoli (raab is a small bunch broccoli and then the regular style broccoli), eggplant and carnival peppers (a rainbow of colors and flavors) from Burpee (at 40% off from Cubs). I also planted leeks from the local Seed Savers - they are quite amazing in that you can chip the ice and snow away from the young plants, thaw and eat! Let the growing begin!!

Posted by Laura @ 9:29 PM CDT [Permanent URL]