TUESDAY, JULY 27, 2004
Corn on the Cob

Due to all of the cold weather Wisconsin has had this year, the corn crop is coming in late but strong. The grocery stores have had bi-colored sweet corn from the south, but it lacks that fresh taste. Seeing corn at the farmer's market, we couldn't help but buy a weeks worth. Since corn is Mark's favorite veggie, and I can't resist corn on the cob, it should work out great! I remember eating Silver Queen at my grandma's house in South Texas- there is nothing like fresh corn and butter (as long as you don't have braces)!!

Posted by Laura @ 11:19 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2004
Tuesday Game Night

The medsci computers were down today, so we came home early and prepared for our game night. Tonight, we had 7 people total, as Matt A., Matt L., Burr, Irene and Kathleen joined us. We started with a light game of Apples to Apples, a game of making assosications between nouns and verbs, most of them nonsensical and hysterical. It helps to have an idea of who's judging, as a good card might not work when the judge is going for irony or laughs.

We then moved to a game of Citadels, a very interesting game involving character selection and building development. Everyone took to it quickly and while the selection process went a bit long sometimes, it was great fun to see the results and find out who chose what and who would be assasinated. Everyone enjoyed the snacks, beer and cake and coffee, with a few protests of "Don't put that out, I'll eat it!" Matt A. taught us tricks of putting lemons and limes in our beer and we failed to learn how to stop them from fizzing over. The games were full of laughter and intrigue, and the night belonged to the Matts, with Matt A. winning Apples, and Matt L. winning Citadels.

Posted by Mark @ 11:09 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Saturday on the Town

Every Sat morning in Madison there is a strong urge to head over to the Hilldale farmer's market. The best thing about our apartment- other than it is quiet, big but not too big, and on a bus line straight to school- is that we are about two blocks from the Hilldale Mall. So we got a great assortment of veggies, some basil bread and shared a delicious cherry-vanilla muffin, we headed to the Sidewalk Sale in the mall. These sales seem to happen in conjunction with State Street's Maxwell day sales. We ooed and aahed but didn't get much.

Then we headed out to Walmart, Sams and Sears looking for some inexpensive exercise equipment. Initially we had our hearts set on an exercise bike, but read many-a-review stating that the bikes are "boring" and people loose interest in them soon. Well with all of the rain we have been having lately, outdoor activites are greatly limited so we need something that we won't dread doing. The answer came to us at Sears. We found an Elliptical machine on sale. After heading back home and checking out the online reviews- we decided that this machine was for us and picked one up. That night we put it all together- it is great that we work well together :) and had a machine ready to be used for the next day (that was a lot of work to put it all together).

Today we cooked Pinwheel cookies from our "joy of cookies" book and learned that when the instructions specify thick jam- don't substitute jelly :) for one thing the jelly just cooks right out of the cookies, but also the roll with jelly won't freeze in the freezer due to the high sugar content- and you need the rolls to freeze or at least harden so you don't end up with mushed cookes. We made peach and strawberry ones that tasted great. After shopping at Sams, we made Spinach lasagna (good use of canned spinach) for the week with loads of reduced fat mozarella. Mark cooked the Turkey and I don't know what he put in it, but it was awsome- we definately have a dish for the week!

Posted by Laura @ 11:07 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Going south of the Border

We decided to try on oldy-goody: Greek Gyros. Being short on time we skipped the marination stage and cooked the chicken meat in a bit of the marinade. This actually turned out quite well (although I will cut the salt next time- but I always want to cut the salt) and we served our Gyros with fresh greens, grape tomatoes and a yogurt version of the cucumber sauce (which was great- excellent substitute for sour cream) on flour tortillas, like Greek Tacos.

Keeping with the Mexican food theme we traveled down the street from the CS building to Taco Johns and had lunch with Trey, Nick, John, Irene, Rich, and Tim. Taco Bravos for all but us, we enjoyed our lunchables (and I think our stomaches appreciated the deviation :) ) Irene had just passed her prelim the day before, so it was a happy mood all around.

Once we ran out of our Gyros, we made a pasta bake- don't know what it is but I don't prefer these bakes over regular spegetti or pasta dishes. It seems like the pasta gets a bit sawgier and everything tastes the same- it also takes about an hour to cook. While it is quick and easy to make, I don't think I will put it on my "got to have" list just yet.

Posted by Laura @ 11:05 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2004
First Game Night

Tonight was our first attempt at starting a gaming group. Matt showed up first, so to start things off, we played a quick three-player Carcassone, at which Matt easily creamed us with a large farmer delegation at the end. During the game Burr, Natalie and Keith showed up, and as Keith had never played before, we gave it another round with all six of us, adding in the Inns and Cathedrals expansion.

Putting off Puerto Rico for another day (I will try this game, I will...), Laura went to bed and Natalie headed out, so the four of us left played a few quick card games, Gother than Thou, Tri-virsity and Guillotine. We plan to do this every or every other tuesday, hopefully finding more friends to corrupt with our games.

Posted by Mark @ 11:01 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Art Fair on the Square

It's the Art Fair on the Square weekend! We've begun collecting small pieces of art, they make our apartment feel so lived in, and this is the place to go. We met up with Matt Lavine and started walking. Since this was our third time making the tour around the capitol, it was neat to know where people would be and what would be there.

We saw so much art, sculptures, glass bowls, paintings and wood carvings (but no wooden spoons this year). Laura really enjoyed the inlaid wood designs, all natural woods pieced together into images, virtually free of any joining marks. And we visited our favorite artist spot, the blockprints of Marvin and Wendy Hill. It was great to see Wendy again (although she's not really my Aunt, I call her Aunt Wendy, as her nephew Dave and I are old friends from college and were roommates for a few years). Before he passed, Marvin was working on his dream tarot deck, a facinating and well-integrated set of work that you should check out, and this year, we picked up the Four of Leaves, called "Leaf Pond" to add to our collection. We now look forward to the Winter Art Fair where we can see all these great artists again.

Posted by Mark @ 10:59 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

The Tale of Despereaux

On our long drives around the country, Mark and I love to read lively books. So, for the drive down and back from St. Louis, we found that The Tale of Despereaux fit perfectly for our purpose. It is a wonderful tale of a very small mouse in love with a princess. He fights against enormous odds and learns lessons of love, forgiveness, and individuality that are universal. We loved it and plan on reading it again and again... I hear they are also making it into an animated movie - can't wait!

Posted by Laura @ 10:22 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, JULY 5, 2004
First Year of a Lifetime

Today was our one year anniversary! To celebrate, we spent the day visiting old memories and having a fun time all day long. It started with a nice quiet breakfast together, followed by a walk in the University Arboretum. We went in the back way past Nakoma, and took a nice walk through the prarie section, circling around next to the forest and the beltline. There were so many familiar and unfamiliar plants to see, and the weather was perfect for a refreshing walk.

For lunch, we headed to our favorite sub shop Big
Mike's Super Subs
, and picked up our regular sandwiches of Ham and Cheese for Laura and Turkey for myself. We made it to go, so we could have lunch at the Centennial Gardens, where we were married one year ago. It was nice to be back and see the flowers and gardens, this time with much less stress and much more appreciation for how beautiful the gardens are in July. It's sometimes hard to believe it's been only a year, other times it seems like yesterday.

Then it was off to State Street for some shopping, where we found a rainbow maker and some rings for a gift Laura was making for me. There was a lot of construction, and we missed a number of our old favorite stores; I guess we should have visited State Street more often before they closed. A further shopping excursion took us to the West Town Mall, for a 3d laser beam crystal for Laura, of an african violet plant that will never die. And you can never pass up a trip to Barnes and Noble, where we found a good book on smoothies as well as our old friend Kris.

But we weren't done yet. That afternoon, we took in a movie, Spider-man 2, which we strongly recommend. Good characters, good plot, great action, heart rending decisions. We especially liked the musical montage in the middle, you'll know it when you see it. We finished the evening with a great meal at Sa-Bai Thong, Laura with her favorite dish, 57, and Mark venturing outside the normal selection and choosing the Crispy Duck. Our appetizers of satay and spring rolls made the meal and our evening complete and looking forward to the next year as much as we've enjoyed the last.

Posted by Mark @ 10:03 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

SUNDAY, JULY 4, 2004
Climbing the Arch

Sunday morning, time to head back to Madison. We made a detour on the way out of town and headed to St. Louis Fair for some final farewells and fun with Teena, Dave and Matt. We met everyone on the north side of the arch, and wow was it huge! Most of the park was blocked off and crowded with fair activities, but the sky was beautiful. Laura touched the arch for the first time, and then we headed to the river bank and watched some "incredible" dogs doing frisbee stunts like in Flight of the Navigator. The heat overwhelmed us, so we gravitated to underneath the dome and to the AC museum. We had fun reading about the history of Lewis and Clark, browsing books in the store, and discovering some old fashioned goods at the mercantile, namely hush puppy mix, shampoo soap, and taffy.

Then, our time came, and up the arch we went. We sqeezed into the space age pods with room for 5, which was exactly the size of our group, so not much room except to huddle. Only 4 minutes to to top, and then we were 630 feet up, with only tiny windows that could see for 35 miles, and kids rampaging around going from side to side... We saw a wonderful view of St. Louis and the surrounding area, the neatest part was finding the stadium filled with people wearing red shirts for the Cardinal's game.

Finally headed back down to safe ground and out to find some lunch. We reluctantly joined in the ticket scam, where you can only buy in groups of 9, while nothing costs exactly 9 tickets, so you're forced to use the rest or lose money. We luckily found a nice kabob of chicken and some custard for 18 tickets. Later on, we ate Dippin' Dots, the ice cream of the future from 20 years ago. Saw planes fly overhead for the Air show, doing loops and spins and death-defying falls. Headed out, passed matt Lavine on the road, ate dinner at taco bell, and were finally back in madison.

Posted by Mark @ 9:55 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Botanical Gardens and Wedding Ceremony

Saturday morning we caught up with Dave, Teena, Karen, and Joe and went to the famous Missouri Botanical Gardens. These gardens were one of the largest that I have ever seen. That day they were having three weddings at the same time. We visited the two rose gardens, the daylilies in full and glorious bloom along with an impressive hosta section. We saw the Climatron 2000 (r) with humid air and poisonous tree frogs (minus the poison since they don't get their native food). Inside the waterfalls were magnificent- you could even walk under one :) We also visited the Japanese garden and saw some of the largest and most colorful koi under our feet.

There was an arid rock garden and a grand boxwood garden. We all had fun getting lost and found in the hedge maze- they had pivoting doors to change the pattern at will- have to keep that in mind for our future hedge maze. I also found it interesting that they used Juniper for the maze which grows fast- implying more upkeep, but quicker results. Also all of the hedges were angled away from the paths, which reduced the closterphobic feeling "some" (namely me) get trapped in a maze. Lastly we saw the home garden center- there were wonderful displays on the types of plants that you should grow in different sides of your home- unfortuntaly they think only cactus can grow in the south window and growing up with a south window- I can understand. Surrounding the "home" were all types of grass and beautiful raised beds for their garden (no evil invading grass here).

Everywhere we went there was water. Being a big fan of ponds and other waterly creations, I thought that the water was encorporated beautifully into the surroundings. It also made for soothing transitions as well as great focal points. We were all impressed by the giant water lilly, with pads that curl up to look like tart pans.

The cafe was an awesome lunch spot, I had turkey burger with olives and pesto, and Mark had portabella quesadeea. The giantic gift shop with tons of flower themed items, books, games, actual flowers for sale.

Next we were off to the wedding at their temple. Elizabeth and David made a very helpful program, which explained many of the Jewish aspects that we were unfamiliar with. Elizabeth's mom made a beautiful chuppa under which the ceremony was performed. Their flower of choice was the shasta daisy. All of the decorations, corsages were very color coordinated with the daisies and everything looked beautiful. After the ceremony we went to the reception at the Radisson. The food was beautiful and delicious, Mark and I shared a quick swing dance and slipped into our wedding foxtrot for some fun. One of the coolest parts was to see Elizabeth and David lifted on the chairs to Hava Nageela- just like we were in a movie :)

Posted by Laura @ 9:49 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

FRIDAY, JULY 2, 2004
Carousel and Dance Dance Revolution

Today, we traveled to St Louis for our friend Eliz's wedding. By happenstance, we arrived at exactly the same time as Matt Lavine, returning from his east coast vacation, and Dave and Teena, driving up from Atlanta. On check-in we were greated with a great gift bag, luxurious hotel, and fabulous raised king size bed, it envelopes you as you lay down and it was at least a foot higher than our usual bed. After a small rest, we headed to the rehearsal dinner. On the way we discovered it takes exactly 1 tank of gas to reach St. Louis, as I ran out right next to a gas station. We had a wonderful time eating ham sandwiches and burgers, and hearing stories about Eliz and David. One memorable thing was the carousel housed in the same building, with free rides for all. We also learned how they make Shirley Temples, Laura's favorite drink, and will try to pick up some of the red cherry juice next time we're at a liquor store.

After a convoluted and detoured search for late-night custard, we headed back to hotel, where Dave and Teena pulled out Dance Dance Revolution, their new way to exercise. We had seen this machine from afar in Union South, but never tried it out. It turned out to be a lot of fun and very aerobic; with lots of rhythm and movement and timing, so much that it reminded me of pealing. Fun times, lots of stomping and jumping to techno hits and remixes; everyone had a go, even Matt, who I'm sure won't admit it.

Posted by Mark @ 9:44 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Ernie's Visit

My uncle Ernie has been staying in Milwaukee for a few days, and this evening made the trip over to see us. For our meal, we picked up a number of fresh food from Whole Foods: tasty french bread, Dubliner cheese, a salad with all the fixin's, Fat Bastard Wine, and veal chops with garlic. We made a variation on the Pork Chops and Porcini Mushrooms recipe he gave us a while ago, using both porcini and morel mushrooms, with equal parts sour cream and mushroom juice for the sauce. The mushrooms were not gritty this time, thanks to some good thinking by Laura of how to drain the sauce. We went all out, adding in some oven roasted potatoes, cooked with rosemary, garlic powder and olive oil, and finished it all off with some ice cream and vanilla milano cookies. Ernie is happily traveling around the country, heading to Michigan next to see the 1000 islands on lake Huron, where he and my grandfather used to go fishing. We had a great time talking and dining with him, as well as hearing about my old landscaping boss Ramon in Milwaukee, and wish him well on his journeys.

Posted by Mark @ 9:40 PM CDT [Permanent URL]