Saturday, December 25, 2010

merry christmas from the badger state

This birthday being his 30th, Ian and I decided to make a weekend of it. We drove to Madison on Friday the 3rd, right before the day-long snow started, and checked into the Best Western on Capitol Square (our room overlooked it -- see the photo below). The weekend was lovely and included fantastic food, some craft beer, and a bit of sightseeing. I hadn't been inside the Capitol for about 20 years, so we popped in to look around and found that it was already decorated for Christmas. While we were there, a choir was taking advantage of the fantastic acoustics. Not that we minded. If you're ever in town during December, stop by. It's beautiful.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

baby, it's cold outside

All is well here in our little corner of the world. I'm about ready for bed (my new job -- which I love! -- requires me to wake up hours earlier than I had when I was freelancing full time), but wanted to share this photo with you. It's our "winter garden," complete with two bird feeders -- their patrons spend as much time playing and fighting among the branches as they do eating. You may say it's a clever way to distract people from them (the apartment rules on them are quite ambiguous).

I'm pretty proud of the planter, which contains an armful of broken boughs donated to my cause by a woman at a tree lot, plus some red dogwood and variegated boxwood branches. Can you think of anything else I can add to it? I'm considering it a work in progress.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

first, the good news

In honor of my friend and mentor Nelia Beth's visit yesterday, I made a treat I'd been craving for quite some time: Butterscotch Blondies. These bars are quite easy, and you probably have everything you need already. Plus, my brother-in-law, Andy, has proven that they're a great base for additions like chocolate chips and M & M's. Hungry? Click here for the (light!) recipe.

And now for the bad news: The day after we bought my car, I got rear-ended by a woman who I highly suspect was talking on her cell phone when she drove into me at a stop sign. Her pickup doesn't have a scratch on it, but my poor car is sporting a pretty big dent (and until this morning, a dangling license plate light, visible at right). I don't doubt the car's great safety rating: I definitely heard the impact but hardly felt it.
Now I just have to wait for her insurance company to approve the ($1,800!) bill. The man who did the estimate told me he thinks it will take two weeks before my car's fixed. Thank goodness I'll have a loaner. Have you ever been in an accident? How long did it take the shop to do the repairs?

Monday, November 1, 2010

zoom zoom

In honor of my shiny, new job (associate editor of home and garden books at Readers Digest Milwaukee -- woot!), we got a new car. And we thought our experience buying the Civic made us feel grown up... It has nothin' on the Mazda3. The Mazda3 is new -- brand spankin' new. As in, its 16" alloy wheels have only traversed over 88 miles of God's green earth. It is, in fact, so awesome that the camera decided to focus on the car instead of us. But as you can see, we're pretty happy. Full disclosure: I'm crushing a little bit, but I don't feel one ounce of guilt because Ian is, too.

So...what should we name it?

PS: In case you're wondering, we picked up the Silver Bullet (hmm...just trying that out) from the wonderful folks -- especially Jim -- at Concours Motors in the lovely city of Milwaukee.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

happy halloween!

Guess who made which!

Friday, October 22, 2010

over the river and through the woods

After spending a couple of days in Wisconsin's Northwoods, Ian and I are refreshed and renewed -- and have a couple new favorite beers. We started hatching a plan a few months back when we got this book about Wisconsin craft breweries for our anniversary. Wouldn't it be nice, we thought, to sip and sample our way up to Rhinelander (where my grandparents live)? Well, we finally found a weekend that worked, Granny and Granddad gave it the okay, and we were off. 

First stop: Fox River Brewing Co., Oshkosh
This little brewery is attached to a huge restaurant. My family used to take our boat across Lake Winnebago and tether it to the piers on the river outside the brewery, so it was fun to be back. I love the paper-covered tables.

Second stop: Central Waters Brewing Co., Amherst
This gem is truly a diamond in the rough. Our Google map led us to an industrial park, and we were a bit surprised to find that this tasting room is located inside a pole building and surrounded by the brewing equipment. We met two great guys, Dave and John. I hope they're there when we go back.

Third stop: Cozy Kitchen, Stevens Point
According to the friendly associate at La Quinta's front desk, the only place to eat breakfast in Stevens Point is Golden Corral. Fail. We finally discovered this can't-miss spot in the heart of the downtown. The food was delicious and this place oozed down-home charm. The crowning glory was the mismatched mugs: Mine said "World's Greatest Friend" and Ian's commemorated the 1996 county fair.

Fourth stop: Granny and Granddad's, Rhinelander
After driving through an hour and a half of gorgeous landscapes, we arrived at my grandparents' home on the banks of the Wisconsin River. I hadn't been there for about four years and had forgotten how picturesque their property is, complete with Katie the Gordon setter, sheep, spring-fed ponds, and trails cut through the wooded areas. 

Last stop: Red Eye Brewing Company, Wausau
Wausau is about an hour from Rhinelander, so we said goodbye to my grandfolks and drove down to meet our friends April and Scott (and their cute little guy, Tucker) for one last beer. Sadly, the camera was being finicky, so our group looks more like an orangish blob. Despite that, it was a great time. We even got ourselves invited to their house the next morning, where Scott and Ian planned a country-roads route home. Yee haw.

Well, I've gotta wrap this up. I'm off to spy on the chickadees that have (finally!) discovered our top-secret bird feeder. But that story's for another day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

last hurrah

I enjoy shopping at farmers' markets all year 'round, but there's something special about visits in the fall. The air is as crisp as the Macintoshes and Macouns making their annual debuts at the orchard stands -- we grip our cups of steaming cider to ward off the prickling chill. Somehow the mums glow against the backdrop of both azure and gray skies, and the bluegrass trio's songs are softer, slower, more pensive. It's somber in a way, but it also feels like a celebration: Mother Earth's last hurrah before she sleeps.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

something of a victory

For the past seven months, we've felt like we were living in a sort of alternate universe...we love the people that we're spending time with, our careers, and all the Wisconsin-y things to do. Our apartment is really starting to feel like home (despite its lack of crooked hardwood floors, a clanking radiator, and drafty windows). But, boy, do we miss New York.

Recently, we finally admitted that we've been in a grieving process -- something I think a lot of people go through when they leave a place, and a bit of their heart, behind. We've realized that we were making real life here impossible, trying to fashion our lives as closely as possible to the way they had been. Bad idea. So we're starting over with a new outlook, getting fresh ideas and remembering that together, somehow, this to-do-list girl and this shy boy thrive on spontaneity. And it's working.

Photo by Kristin Johanneck of KJL Photography, Milwaukee, Wis.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

nose to the grindstone

I've been working a lot lately. In general, I'm really grateful that my clients are lining up with projects, but as my friend, Kendra, reminded me yesterday, I haven't done any blogging. So, in honor of me finally taking five minutes to put up my postcard collection, I thought I'd give you a peek of the place I spend most of my waking hours.

And in case you were wondering, my postcard collection is on the door to the HVAC unit. I can always use more :) Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far: Mom-Jenny and Dad-Jim, the A-Team, Elizabeth, Ryan, Dad-John, the Feldner family, Liz and Keith, Meredith, and Becky and Mike.

Does anyone else out there collect anything?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

back at it

Yikes! It's been a while since I last posted! Take that as a good is booming, and I've been able to write and edit to my heart's content. Check out this piece from Birds & Blooms magazine, on newsstands now.

Today I want to show you some photos I shot recently while visiting my folks. They've put a huge amount of work into the gardens at their house, and I like to brag about it to whomever will listen (or read, as it were). We've even spotted neighbors coming over to take pictures.

A few items of note: The next photo features a large wooden structure called a pergola, which we built earlier this summer. More accurately, Dad and Andrew did most of the work while Mom took care of her stomach-flu-stricken daughter (me). Also, they have six finned pets in the pond out back: Carrot Top, Calypso, and the Fab Four -- John, Paul, George, and Ringo. They'll spend winters at their very own basement resort. And with that...

Lastly, since I promised I'd include garden updates, here's one of our hanging baskets. I planted the nasturtium seeds in June (they're the orange-flowered, round-leaved plants), and they've just started to bloom. The other plants are Flambe yellow strawflowers and purple sweet potato vine. In a few weeks, I'll add a color-to-be-determined chrysanthemum to the center of the basket.

Friday, July 23, 2010

something else

One of the places in New York we miss dearly is Recipe, a restaurant a few blocks from our apartment. The place is adorable, with rustic and vintage decor, and has incredible locally sourced food (and, oh, the Manhattans...). I didn't think I'd care for them, but the pickled veggies served as a sandwich side became something I always looked forward to. When we found cucumbers, carrots, and baby turnips in our CSA box, I knew I had to try to make some for myself. So last night, while most Milwaukeeans were bailing out their basements, I was tinkering with a recipe from Cooking Light and coming up with my best (okay, only) pickled veggies ever. And they're a lot like Recipe's!

pickled veggies
fills a 1-liter jar

1 tsp. dill
1 tsp. tarragon
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 Tbl. Dijon mustard with whole mustard seeds
1 c. white vinegar
1 c. white wine vinegar
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 medium cucumbers, sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into sticks
2 baby turnips, peeled and quartered
1/2 small onion, sliced lengthwise
1 large chili pepper (seriously, that's what they were called at Stein's, where I bought the plant), seeded and sliced lengthwise
6 cloves garlic, peeled and pierced

1. Pop dill, tarragon, and crushed red pepper in a tea ball. Smear Dijon in another tea ball.
2. Place the tea balls in a small saucepan, and add the vinegars, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
3. Meanwhile, arrange veggies in a jar that seals tightly.
4. Once the liquid comes to a boil, pour the mixture (including the tea balls) over the veggies and seal the jar. Allow to cool somewhat before refrigerating. Remove the tea balls after the pickling action has gone on overnight. Enjoy!

Try other veggies here, too, like squashes (summer squash and zucchini slices, baby pattypan, etc.) and radishes.

What else would be good?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

expectedly delicious

We made pizza -- or, dare I say, we invented something a lot like it. Honestly, it will take a crazy-good margherita to bring me back to the fold of classic pizza aficionados. The whole thing was brought about by last week's CSA box, which contained large amounts of produce we don't eat on a regular basis: mustard greens, baby beets, and zucchini. We supplemented these goodies with onions (caramelized in honey and lemon juice), bacon (a great friend of mustard greens), mozzarella, goat cheese, and healthy shots of salt and pepper; then, sprinkled everything on top of this dough and baked it 'til it smelled good. Wowie wow wow.

Now it's your turn. Next time you're at the farmers' market, get a bunch of stuff, prep it with complementary seasonings, throw it together over some pizza dough, and see what you get. I can (almost) guarantee you'll love it.

Have you done this? Do tell!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

weekend at bernie's

Every year for my dad's birthday, the six of us go to a baseball game. Normally, we drive to Chicago to watch his favorite team, the Sox, but this year we bought Brewers tickets instead. The team isn't stellar this season (though we do have a few All-Stars), so we considered ourselves lucky to witness a win over the Pirates (whose record is even worse). It was a pretty interesting game, if I do say so myself. The clincher? Corey Hart hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. I love this tradition.

Thanks to Dad for sharing his photos!