THURSDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2004
Wonders of Wireless

Tonight, we entered a new era, of wireless access at home. Now, there's two computers connected through one DSL connection. Wow. More updates to come, recipes in the kitchen, who knows what else!

Posted by Mark @ 9:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

Howdy folks!

Yesterday my parents arrived from Texas. To celebrate we headed over to Tortillas in Middleton for a taste of the southwest (after we picked up a bit of on sale Christmas wrapping supplies at Walgreens for next year- ran out this year). My favorite part of the resturant is the decorations and the unique fair. There are wooden shutters on the windows and pueblo architecture throughout. It was a true treat to have sopapillas for desert with all the trimmings!

Today we had Mark's famous meatballs for lunch- always a treat and a first for my folks. After relaxing with Princess Diaries 2 (and laughing hard) Mark and Dad tried to get an old router from Doug's to work but it appears to need a dummy terminal interface, so we headed over to CPUsolutions for a sound card (I am dying to play Exile on our PC with the new Motherboard) and a usb-wireless link station. Our goal is for our DSL to plug into Mark's computer and head out via a wireless USB port to be dispersed so my laptop can pick up on the signal (and no more juggling the DSL line)... we will see what happens!

After a quick trip to Sams for cooking supplies, we made shrimp scampi- Margarita style- for dinner and Mom is a bit under the weather- so she got some fancy chicken noodle soup. We finished the evening with the action packed I, Robot- definitely a good story line and great graphics, but I like the book better...

Posted by Laura @ 9:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2004
Best Biscuits Ever!

If you've ever driven through West Virginia, no doubt you've seen advertisements for Tudor's Biscuit World. Laura's been dying to stop and try it out, and suprizingly I've never been there either, so on the way back to Wisconsin, we decided this was the place for breakfast. Every type of combination of cheese, egg, sausage, and ham had it's own name on the order board. We went with two plain biscuits, plus I had the Dottie (egg, potato and cheese) and Laura ordered one with sausage gravy. They were so unhealthy, but tasted great, keeping us warm and full until well past noon on our travels. We'll be back.

Posted by Mark @ 9:01 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, DECEMBER 27, 2004
After Christmas Delights

It was the day after Christmas yesterday, and time to delve into our new gifts while we relax and enjoy time with family. Laura and I started with a game of San Juan, a gift to me from Laura. It's a bit of a challenge the first time you play, reading all the cards and seeing how they fit together, but the turn order is very quick straight-forward, and I'm sure we'll be playing this one for many years to come. In the afternoon, we headed out to the local Books-A-Million store. Dad found number of sailing books, and we picked up a new cooking magazine with some good southern recipes. Returning home, it was time for a rousing game of Ticket To Ride. Matt and Dad picked up the game pretty quickly, making their tickets and drawing for more, and the tension rose as the trains dwindled. Matt was victorious, smoking us all with two cross-country tickets. In the evening, Laura and I had signed up for dinner tonight, so we cooked up a meal of steak and chicken fajitas, with sides of mexican rice, beans and a salad, which we were very pleased with and plan to make again soon.

On today's schedule was a trip to the Biltmore Estate, a castle and acres upon acres of land in western North Carolina. The landscape was beautiful, and I enjoyed how you parked a bit away, taking a walk through the woods before you get to the castle. We took the holiday tour, seeing how it was decorated for Christmas each year. I enjoyed the large pipe organ and library the best, and Laura loved the tapestries and stairwells. We ate lunch in the Stables Restaurant, sampling the mushroom burger and the rotissiere chicken, both of which were excelleng. Everyone said their goodbyes in the parking lot, and we headed back to WV by a very scenic route through Tennessee (which we missed most of by sleeping as Mom and Dad drove home.

Posted by Mark @ 9:00 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2004
It's Christmas in Carolina

Christmas with my family is primarily centered around going to church on Christmas Eve at my brother's church in Lowell. Secondarily, it is focused on food, and finally there are the presents. On the drive down to the Carolinas, we read some books in the back of the car; I just started Quicksilver, a novel about the dawn of the age of reason, and Laura perused her Snowflake book as we heard it might snow for Christmas. We arrived to a luncheon feast of piggies-in-a-blanket, spinach and pumpernickel bread, meat balls, shrimp, and cheese and crackers. Everyone then bundled up for the evening service at Matt's church; my favorite part is always the lighting of candles for Silent Night, and I try to keep my candle lit as long as possible. I used to have fun letting wax melt on my hand, but those days have passed. Ernie arrived after the service, and we snacked again before heading off to bed, with sugarplums and all running through our heads.

Christmas morning, we were awoken bright and early by our nephew Will (at the encouragement of Matt) to see the delights under the tree. There were many, many presents exchanged and we enjoyed seeing all of them, both gifts and given. Our breakfast was make-ahead-eggs and a very tasty make-ahead french toast. We opened presents in traditional Rich fashion, one at a time, saying "ooh" and "ahh" and "Thank you" for each one, until just after noon, a rather quick one for the record books! Lunch was a tasty ham and turkey meal made by Mom with all the trimmings and fixings of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries and sweet yams. Ernie had an evening flight back to Florida, so we said our goodbyes and hope to see him longer this summer sometime, and we all went to bed early, with sounds of kids toys ringing in our ears. Sam's first christmas brought many new noisemakers to the house, and he and Will enjoyed the festivities immensely

Posted by Mark @ 8:57 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23, 2004
Gearing up for Christmas

And then there's the days Mom and Dad have off to spend with us on vacation. I enjoy these days the most. Laura worked with Mom in the kitchen, making brownies and cookies, while I worked in the wood shop with Dad on piecepack parts, cutting up 2" x 2" x 1/4" tiles, as well as creating a prototype lighthouse for my Uncle's new cabin in Canada. Making the angles work out is a puzzle to me and it's always fun when it works. For some reason, we had one piece cut correctly, and three incorrectly, which seems like an impossibility, and we still don't know how it happened. That evening they treated us to Applebee's, where we had quesadillas, steak, shrimp, chicken and pork, and as usual were too full for dessert. I cleaned up my Dad's computer of nasty viruses and spy-ware, and installed AdAware SE for him to keep up the defense once I leave. Only then did I feel safe enough to check my email.

Posted by Mark @ 8:54 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2004
Cooking for the Riches

Visiting my parents in West Virginia has become a time of cooking for Laura and I. They are usually still working right up to the holidays, so we spend the days exploring the house for old childhood toys and games, then plan out a menu for dinner. Our first night there, we cooked up some Shrimp Scampi with pasta, the cheese we picked up yesterday, and some slices of french bread. Mom and Dad were very appreciative, and eager to see what we'd come up with for tomorrow night.

For a follow-up, the next night was pizza. We surveyed for topping ideas, and decided on two kinds of pizza, one with alfredo sauce base for Mom, the other with a standard Ragu pizza sauce. The toppings were mushrooms, bell peppers and sausage and spinach, evenly divided so that everyone got at least two pieces of what they wanted. Once again, the biscuit dough pizzas were a hit, and we had some left over for later. Mmmm, cold pizza.

Posted by Mark @ 8:52 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2004
On the road again

Yesterday we took off to visit Matt and Carrie at Carrie's parents place next to Kenyon in southern Ohio. On the way there- what traffic could there be- it's Sunday- Well we made it through Chicago- which is always the worst!- and hit lake effect snow in Indiana- it was the worst I have ever seen- 1 to 2 inches per hour of thick white snow- our second snow (counting Red Wing, MN). Mark did a wonderful job driving through the storm for an hour- the longest hour I have ever had. Our fortune was a wonderful semi braving the way through the storm- Mark got right behind this truck and got us through the storm- right before it let up, the worst part of the storm, there were semis and cars in the ditch all around us. In the middle of it we called Matt J and told him we might be a little later than expected- amazingly he told us that we were almost our of the storm after he checked the internet. Love the internet! That was the encouragement that we needed to keep going- Thanks Matt!

After a bit of trouble going up a steep icy hill, we arrived, chatted and caught up- then we broke out a new game Once Upon a Time, Mark just got it for me (early Christmas present- his was a framable Harry Potter calender with artistic renderings of some key scenes). When we travel for long trips, somewhere along the way we start making up stories- my best was one about a traveling love-struck goat heading across England for his true love- rather Disney-like. Everyone had a great time with the creative aspect once we got into it. The last one was about a king sailing to find a cure for his afflicted populace...

Unfortunately our car would not start this morning so we all piled into Matt Lavine's little car and visited Kenyon. Lavine had good fortune and P.F. Kluge signed the Kenyon history Alma Mater. After eating at the earthy local Common Grounds, we toured around the campus and everyone shared their Kenyon stories. Once we got back to Carrie's parents place, we put heet in the fuel tank of our car- and it started very quickly! On the way to WV we stopped at Rosco Village. Mark and I drove through this village when we went to his Kenyon reunion last year- but didn't have enough time to visit. This time we got a quick visit of a soap, pottery and cheesery shop. We picked up some wonderful spreadable garlic and cracked pepper spreadable cheese- a nice treat to share with Cookie and Doug!

Posted by Laura @ 8:46 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2004
Prelim is over!

What can you say- thank goodness it is over! Mark passed with flying colors!! All of the questions during the talk to really good- he truly picked a great committee. We were all getting a bit worried when Jude and Mark stayed in the room alone for a good half hour after the presentation- but all for not when we learned Jude was happily reviewing the presentation with Mark.

For my part, I gathered and organized the refreshments. I had been planning what to bring for a good while- coffee and all the coffee supplies from Muddy Waters at Regent and Randal. Gourmet cheese tray from Copps- very nice presentation and delicious with fancy crackers. Got a creamer and sugar bowl from Bed Bath and Beyond- black plates and cocktail napkins from Party City. I will have to keep these in mind for the Dissertation :)

To celebrate, Mark and I went to see The Incredibles at Point cinema- truly incredible to watch- we canít wait to see it again! We topped the evening off with dinner at The Olive Garden- a nice sampler of calamari and fried ravioli to start with. We ordered amazing skewers of beef and veggies for Mark and I got eggplant parmesan with a sweet ice cream drink. A great finish to a ceremonious day.

Posted by Laura @ 8:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2004
Time with Friends

This past weekend we had a wonderful time at Adam and Priscilla's cookie decorating party! We brought some of our fun cookie cutters- a tropical fish, fluffy lamb, and a dove- 'tis the season :) we got them on our visit to Mike's wedding in Washington state last January and this is our first time to use them! Adam and Pricilla had some really creative cutters too- the dragonfly and dino was especially neat- one of Adam's work-mates brought jewish cookie cutters too. Needless to say we had a fun time adding Pricilla's sprinkles and making every color of frosting under the sun.

This last game night we had a great break with Zendo- really takes a logical mind- and Bohnanza- a little fun with beans. We had our regular group of Kathleen, Matt and us for a quiet evening of bean trading, although the trading can always get a little tense ;) It will be a while before we can play with them again, hopefully they can game with their families over break, we'll miss them.

Posted by Laura @ 8:09 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2004
Work'n on the chain gang

Recently Mark and I have devoted ourselves to our work- never ending at times but rather exciting at others. I am currently learning all the exciting possibilities of using style sheets. Looking at this web page, it was created using a style sheet (by Mark, not me) and the clean, beauty has really captured my attention. A fun place to see all the possibilities is found at the Zen Garden cascading style sheet page. Go and explore- it is amazing and a bit weird in some cases. Meanwhile Mark is currently fast at work on his prelim. Now scheduled for the 17th- good and bad but it will be nice to get it over with sooner rather than later. The paper is coming together really well!

Today we took a break from the daily grind and headed to the east side for some treats for Matt and Carrie- our world traveling friends are visiting in the states- and to Natalie's open studio where we purchased "Rush", a postcard sized etching from her Field series, which we can't wait to add to our collection! When we have gone before, we usually buy a cute magnet to add to our fridge- we have Lucky the lamb, Patches the puppy, and Corbit (for Natalie and Burr's pet rat) the rat- but we are expanding now. I have always loved to watch the grass wave in the wind on a sunny day- in a field or on the side of the road; there is something wonderfully hypnotic and relaxing about the movement- so we have "Rush" and I can't wait to put it up!

Posted by Laura @ 3:48 PM CDT [Permanent URL]

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2004
Assault on Attika

It was another journey back to ancient Greece, with Matt, Adam and Priscilla coming over for a game of Attika. Everyone was blocking, building, sacrificing, groaning, and while each of us had good opportunities to win at one time or another, it was the team of Adam and Priscilla who ended up with a connection win. Attika definitely has a different feel for 3 and 4 player games than it does for 2; it's a battle between cooperation and competition with more players, but it's forced competition, since if everyone doesn't pitch in to block, then one person will win. I'm interested in playing Terra or Lord of the Rings, both cooperative games where it's possible for all the players to lose; they might make for some interesting discussions in our group.

Posted by Mark @ 10:21 PM CDT [Permanent URL]