Television Preview and Cold Stone Creamery

We took a trip with the Settles tonight out to see Television Preview, a way to watch pilot shows and comercials and provide our feedback. As we have similar tastes in what programs are our favorites, it was fun to compare notes with them after the two viewings. The first one involved a TV Series based on the movie Dead Again, and was rather choppy and didn't hang well together, while the second involving the lead actress from Rhoda was a sitcom and had a number of good jokes, better than most sitcoms we see these days. The ads, well, they were ads, and not very convincing, the most amusing was trying to convince people to use wet toilet paper. And it seemed the ads were the only really important part to the survey people... I personally had more fun talking with Laura about our answers than the actual watching of the shows.

For desert and a treat, we headed across the street to the Cold Stone Creamery. It's a very busy spot where they mix your ice cream while you watch with your choice of ingredients. I chose the Cheesecake Fantasy, while Laura went with the Strawberry Shortcake, both of which made our mouths water and filled us up for a few days. We reminisced about college days and plans for future houses and pets with the Settles (both girls want chickens for some reason, and will most likely get them someday) until the cold night air overtook us, sending us home with a chill and good memories of an evening with friends.

Posted by Mark @ 12:00 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Bday Dinner with Anderson

Tuesday Mark and his parents picked produce from the garden while I taught my morning class. After I got home, we ate lunch and then took Mark's parents to the airport. Mark's mom finished Harry Potter on the plane ride home- we had just finished ours the prior Saturday night.

Wednesday we headed downtown to have a birthday dinner with Matt Anderson. The Japanese resturant on State Street was a bit difficult to get to with the evenings Concert on the Square traffic. But we found a spot in a nearby parking garage and gathered around the Hibacci table. Everyone but me ordered Hibacci (I got a nice tofu terriaki with no added onions) and we all enjoyed watching the chef cook right before our eyes.

First the chef cleaned the surface of the grill with leaping flames. The first dish was Mark's fried rice- with everything already pre-cut, the chef put down the rice, the diced veggies and joined it all together with an egg. Next came the main dishes. In the center, was a large pile of veggies to be stir fried surrounded with thinly cut pieces of salmon and steak. The hot spot for the grill must have been the center, next to the chef because he kept everything there moving quickly. The cooler spots must have been the outer edges where the fish cooked since they were left on their own for longer portions of time.

While these main dishes were cooked, we got our sushi dishes- I had the best californian rolls ever! I don't know what they did, but the results were wonderful! My meal came out just as everyone was getting their hibbaci dishes- perfect timing.

The table next to us started filling with young women- who sat down and ordered large amounts of beer and saki. Occationally they would place two chopsticks on top of their beer mugs with the little saki cups balenced above. Then in a big hoop they would all pound on the tables in hopes of displacing their saki cups to fall in the beer- every time scaring me crazy.

Fortunately the rest of the guys in our party finished their meals relatively quickly- and everyone picked an ice cream of their choice. Mark and I split vanilla, there were several green teas and some adventurous red bean (not on the menu but you could request it).

Posted by Laura @ 12:54 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Taking the Train to Germany

Saturday I had a make-up lesson with my first instructor, Andi. I got to ride Bentley who was a wonderful trail for our trail ride. This was my first trail ride at the stables, and my first trail ride in English. We got to see some beautiful pasture behind the stables and some massive apple trees- there are 4 horse farms within walking distance and a horse of every color in the pastures. Often we would trot up the hills and walk down the hills. There was a novice rider in our group, who had riden western years ago- reminds me of when I started- holding a rain in each hand was such a foriegn idea, but it feels so comfortable now. My english lessons have taught me much about the subtle art of riding and should come in handy when I ride bareback- my favorite and ultimate goal.

Today we purchased our train tickets to Germany- we have twin passes for 6 24 hour periods. That should be just right for our schedule. The twin passes are a really inexpensive way for two people to travel together on trains throughout Germany. I am really excited to get a ride on the German rail- the system seems so smooth- like the bus system here in Madison. We also each got van Guilder bus tickets to take us from Madison to Chicago (where our planes leave from). Now we just need some hotel reservations and we will be all set!

Posted by Laura @ 12:35 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

A Drive in the Country

Today Mark and I hit the road to see Richland Center in a closer light and to look for inexpensive housing in the area. Before we headed out, we picked up our copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince from our local Barnes and Nobles to read on our trip. By the end of the day, we made good progress in the book and were hooked to finish it.

The drive down to Richland Center is really very beautiful with rolling tree covered hills and valleys full of farmland. Mark liked the setting- being a fan of hills verses plains. We walked around the campus, it was all closed, but we could see into the windows and I showed Mark the classrooms I would be teaching in. The campus hosts 500 students- a nice small size that Mark and I both liked.

On the way back, Mark pulled off to the side of the road so I could get a shot of an amazing house- rather like a hobbit home, with the frount open to the world, imbedded into the side of a hill. I would love to talk with the owners- I bet the heating and cooling bills are really low year round.

Next we took a side trip to the Bruce Company to admire the plants and then visited to the Bavarian Family Restaurant for a bite to eat. Mark enjoyed a Gyro while I tackled a warm ham and cheese. Someday we are going to have to come just for desert!

We spent the rest of the day reading Harry Potter- we both think that it is her best book yet.

Posted by Laura @ 12:33 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Interview at Richland Center

Today I drove out to Richland City- one hour and forty-five minutes to the west of Madison. This wasn't a whim- it was a job interview. Actually it was my second one and this one went as well as the first. My first one was with MATC (Madison Area Technical College). Both are two year colleges that filter students into UW-Madison, all their classes transfering with them.

I looked forward to the interviews as interesting ways to meet new people and discuss the job that I enjoy greatly- teaching. It is the best way to see if a position is a good match for you. Comparing the two interviews, there were some interesting differences. At MATC I was interviewed by two gentleman asking more direct questions about qualifications- one the head of the department and one in charge of hiring staff. It was an hour long interview that went very well.

At Richland Center, I was interviewed by the Dean and Associate Dean first. They asked more general questions about teaching- and I was glad I reviewed my educational phsychology class notes before I came. I couldn't really bring up much information about the technical aspects of computer science because they did not have any direct experience. Half way through the interview, I talked with the head of the computer science/physics/astrology department and discussed the more technical aspects of the field. Everyone I met was very nice and thoughtful.

Overall it seems that interviewing is a game- a game of words and image. How you present yourself (black suit, hair up, ...) is very important. Looking people in the eyes is very important. Probly the most important was having good references and I am very fortuante to have three really wonderful references from my time at UW-Madison. The process was a bit stressful, but exciting as well. Perhaps all of my years of teaching have dulled my nerves because I didn't even get a fast heart beat.

Well, I was offered the job at Richland Center at the end of the interview. My first offer after college! They said I was their top pick- I was rather shocked, and while I think I was composed the entire interview, once I heard this I babbled for a bit trying to find words to say more than "Wow" and "thanks," finally getting to "when do I need to let you know my answer."

Right now I am not sure what to do. While the drive out there was beautiful, I am not sure it is possible in winter under two and a half hours (there an back). That is an awfully long time on the road and the classes they want me to teach are every day of the week.

Posted by Laura @ 12:31 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Art Fair on the Square

I am always impressed with how much there is to do in Madison. This weekend was Art Fair on the Square. Mark and I look forward to it every year! This year we hit the fair just as it opened at 9am. It was already looking to be a hot one, so it was good we got out early. I always tend to drift towards the weavings- reminding me of all the fun a loom can be! This year there were some beautiful rugs, scarves and even some dishtowels- I can't wait to try my hand at making some of my own some day!

Hitting the block prints we saw Ken Swanson, headed to Wendy Hill's booth and after a bit of discussion, picked up "My Backyard is a Rainforest" by Marvin Hill- a piece that reminds us of the wilds of nature- but it is a bit spooky with pairs of eyes peaking from under the foliage.

We also picked up a really cool salt shaker- we played with them so long that we just had to get one. The gentleman told us that the design was Chinese originally- and a fascinating design it is. I can't wait to use it. As the heat kept building, we headed to the Art Fair off the Square and made a circle Visiting all of our old favorites, and keeping in mind the new ones.

For a spot of lunch we stopped at the Queen Anne's Catering booth. After our sandwiches and a brief respite under the trees we picked up a cool smoothy and finished the last half of the square. Here we found mechanical creations transporting marbles, Zover's amazing mosaics (his wife works for Industrial Engineering department and helped me choose my classes to get my second masters- Lisa is wonderful), beautiful turned wooden bowls (one artist told me that the black lines- spalding- that I like so much in the light woods is actually where bacteria has gotten into the wood and started having lunch- their creations are truly impressive- I really want to learn the technique- just need a woodshed), and so many wonderful creations that my head was spinning by the end of it all.

At the end, we happily went home to our A/C apartment to enjoy the cool air and reminisced about the sites of the day.

Posted by Laura @ 12:30 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

New Gamer at Games

Tonight we were happy to have a new gamer at our weekly game night. Matt brought his friend Katie and we opened with the old favorite- Ticket to Ride. With Kathleen there were 5 of us, just perfect for the train game. I must admit that this game stresses me out- the tension is always there to make your routes- this time I did better than I have before, but it is really all in the tickets that you draw.

We wrapped up with a light game of "Why did the Chicken...?" This is a fun game for those with quick whit- I bet my Dad would be really good at this one- but tonight was not my night for comedy- Matt racked up several really good ones and I am always impressed with my husband's clever sense of humor.

A good night of games with good friends!

Posted by Laura @ 12:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, JULY 4, 2005
Fireworks on the Fourth

Now we were happy just to see Rhythm and Booms this year (last year we were coming back from a wedding and missed it), but this year we got to see another set of fireworks thanks to Burr and Natalie. This year B&N took us to their annual fireworks spot out past Woodmans on the west side of town. Tucked away behind some very nice houses was a roomy park with a winding paved path and a quaint pond.

Before the sun went down, we staked out our spot with a beautiful quilt they brought. Mark and Burr lined up a game of Guillotine while Natalie and I headed to the paved path. On the path, we grew a collection of black snakes from a collection of fireworks that Natalie got from her landscape company. The snakes are my personal favorite- I like the fire at the base and who couldn't like the light black snakes that stain your hands as you gently pick them up (or squash them happily)!

When Natalie and I returned, we jumped into the game until the sun went down. At dusk we lighted up some sparklers and drew our names in the air- all the while looking around at the fireworks being lit by our neighbors. The show that night was truly spectacular and made me a bit homesick. When I was growing up, I remember going to Georgetown park, arriving early to eat a meal of fried chicken, potato salad, and watermelon (although I don't eat the melon- personal dislike, I am more than happy to have a spitting contest with the seeds). Anyways, the fireworks at the park were just like the ones at Georgetown, nice and spaced out, not too overwhelming- just right. It gives you the chance to appreciate the beauty of the fireworks.

What a wonderful 4th of July!

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

SUNDAY, JULY 3, 2005
Pre-fourth activities

This weekend, we had a good time celebrating our 2 year aniversary early and spending all weekend together. Saturday we visited Goodwill where Mark found some good games and I got a cute butterfly ceramic pot. We decided to try a new sandwich shop in town called Jimmy Johns- shockingly it was identical to our Milio's (Big Mikes for those who came to Madison over a year ago). The menu was identical- almost word for word. It was really rather sad- needless to say, we won't be going there again- chain from Chicago and all.

Saturday night we headed out to Rhythm and Booms- we tried a new spot this year. Parking by the medical sciences above ground lot we made our way to observatory hill. Since we were nice and early, we made use of the daylight and got in a couple of rounds of Lost Cities. When it got too dark to play we listened to our radios (Rhythm and Booms gets its name from the timing of music and fireworks). Mark also got some great shots from our digital camera using the shutter speed delay. It was a captivating show this year!

Sunday morning we headed out for a round of Golf. We hit the same course we went to for Mark's birthday to try my new golf skills (I just finished a golf 1 class at the university last semester). Mark always impresses me with his long drives and great putting. This time I was able to shave some strokes from my score and was happy with my nice direct drives... still need to work on my putting. At one point I even got some congradulations from the pair behind us on a particularly nice chip- my play of the day :)

The rest of the day we spent relasing and reading some long awaited novels- I am making progress in my alphabet murder mystery series while Mark is working his way through all of the Harry Potter books before the new one comes out- I was skeptical at first, but I think he might make it through all of them- an impressive feat.

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

FRIDAY, JULY 1, 2005
Kiki's Delivery Service

Tonight we watched Kiki's Delivery service. It is an interesting theme with Miyazaki's films that the main character is almost always a woman (or girl). This particular animation came out several years ago- a great Mark pick. In one sentence it is about a young witch who goes out at 13 to a new city to grow up and learn about herself. Personally I loved the cat- very dry sense of humor- rather like Sabrina the Witches feline familiar. We will have to put this one on our wish list!

Posted by Laura @ 10:24 AM CDT [Permanent URL]