Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sprecher

Yesterday we toured the Sprcher Brewery in Milwaukee. We were amazed at how small it is - they produce less than 10,000 barrels of beer each year. The tour was fun, and we got more drink tickets than we could use, and between us, easilty tasted all 10 beers on tap.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Voluntary Insanity

Ha ha. I tricked my family into participating in the maddness that is after-Thanksgiving shopping today. They would say that they tricked me, but it's all a matter of perspective. Last night I tried to get them to agree to leave the house at 4:40 am. They balked at the idea (rightly so - what lunatic goes out of their way to leave the comfort of their warm bed after a day of eating too much, just to fight other people to give away their money?). My intelligent family prefered to avoid the malls altogether. I countered with an exuberantly enthusiasic proposition of leaving the house at 6am. They relucantly agreed, although I could tell Meredith (quite possibly the world's most non-morning person) was going to back out on me. In stepped Kyle, who used some reverse psychology behind my back to get them wanting to go at five. I don't know how he did it. He's a genius. But they didn't tell me this of course, so I set my alarm for 6 and woke much earlier to a giggling Mom, Meredith, and Ewan, dressed and eager to hit the stores, laughing at me for being the one to hold up the show. Wonders never cease. We hit a couple of stores and spent the $10 gift cards we got for running the gauntlet. Sears made it so hard to find the one and only entrance where they handed these out, that I started to get the feeling they might next year escalate the exersize to a scavenger hunt that needs to be completed. In the end, I got a picture of Mer, smiling before 6am. Save this picture. We may never see another!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ornaments and Adornments

I went to Milwaukee because Meredith is in town this weekend, and we all stopped at the Milwaukee Art Museum (the one with the non-flapping wings - I really think they should FLAP!) to see an exibition of mostly wearable art. I was thinking about Lauren, since the show was in the space Lauren and Eric were married, and it was a wonderful surprise to see Mr. and Mrs. Newton there with a booth of her jewelry. I'm not biased when I say that her work was by far the most beautiful jewelry there. It was fun to see them. It seemed like their booth was busy, so hopefully they sold a lot!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Thanksgiving Armageddon

Despite enormous challenges, I served 10 people a Thanks- giving meal yesterday. What started out as mere (and I say mere now, but yesterday it was dire, indeed) piecrust rolling problems escalated in all-out disaster of epic proportions when at 9:30am, the oven failed to turn on. I had a turkey, stuffing, beans, and 2 pies all waiting in the wings to take their cue in a strictly-timed choreography of baking times and temperatures. Not a second of oven time was unscripted from 10 until 2. Of course that would be the ideal time for our oven to die. I sank to the floor with my mouth as open as the stone-cold oven. Thank goodness I had Kyle there to keep his wits about him and diagnose the problem as an ailing ignitor. While I rushed to get a replacement, Kyle tore the oven apart. I sprinted to deliver the new ignitor like a heart for a waiting transplant recipient. Kyle swore some, threw a screwdriver, prodded the wires, and eventually, stepped aside as the oven roared to life with an orange glow more beautiful than any sunset. I am truly in love with this amazing man! Now we were cooking with GAS, baby! After the morning drama, things ran relatively smoothly, albiet 2 hours behind schedule. Our guests were quite understanding, or maybe I just ignored their growly stomachs by consuming extra Stella (my favorite!), which Charlene and Ford so graciously provided. I've never cooked a turkey before, so Brienne helped me out in the kitchen with making the "au jus" sort of according to the recipe, but with way more giggling. All in all, I thought dinner was good, and my pies, while not as good as mom's, were not shabby. I could maybe do this again. Provided I have a year to recover first.

Elastic perspective

To celebrate Kyle's thesis defense, we saw the Ruberband dance group in Madison on Friday night. They were really incredible. Their dances were a mix of breakdance, ballet, hiphop and modern dance. I recognized some martial arts forms thrown in as well. The coolest thing was that some of the most hiphop/breakdance pieces were performed to classical music. Not at all what I expected, and most were very interesting. Kyle wouldn't be first in line to buy tickets to a second show, but he was a good sport and I think he may have even liked a couple of the pieces. He thought, despite their fast-paced, complex moves, they were so good they made everything look too easy. I didn't think it looked easy at all. Possibly because I can't even touch my toes. There was a talk-back session after the show which made me feel a lot better about my lack of dance knowledge. I had the feeling I wasn't fully understanding the full story behind some of the dances, but the dancers themselves admitted they were depicting relationships between people more than full story lines. Pretty cool. And Kyle actually said he'd like to continue to expand his horizons, perhaps with classical ballet next time. I'm pretty lucky to have a willing victim-oops- date.

Success!!

Congratulations to Kyle on successfully completing his thesis defense this Friday. He's still got one class to finish up this semester, but the bulk of the work is behind him now. (As is the bulk of the proof-reading I have to do - Thank God!) Here's a before and after picture from Friday. I am sure you can tell which is which.

PEO on my birthday

My birthday was busy on Tuesday evening, when mom and grandma drove out to visit and attend my PEO meeting. Silly me, I had volunteered to co-hostess and do the program that night (about my trip to Turkey), which was a lot of work in an already crazy-hectic week. I managed to find a good excuse to not have to bake anything by ordering an assortment of Turkish food on-line. (I think some of my PEO sisters were shy about the unfamiliar cookies, halva, and Turkish delight, but my co-workers were thrilled and devoured the leftovers!) Our president Carol found a chapter guest book that hadn't been used in decades for the 3 visitors that night to sign. Amazingly, grandma had already signed the book in 1982, when she visited Chapter AY as State Organizer! It was a lot of fun, and maybe the only time our chapter will have 4 sisters who serve(d) on the state board attend on the same night!

Bluegrass

Kyle and I had a date Monday evening to see Old School Freight Train (bluegrass/jazz/latin/pop mix) and David Grisman (mandolin). OSFT really rocked, and their enthusiasm was incredible. We had great seats in the 3rd row, so we enjoyed watching them interact with each other. Although I like Grisman's music and he was the name that led me to buy the tickets, his ego was quite off-putting. The younger band was much more humble, clearly having a grand time, and just as talented. We'd definitely go see OSFT again.

Geissler Thanksgiving

The holdays began early this year. Geissler Thanksgiving was last weekend in Madison. I definitely found a friend in Clint's girlfriend Brienne. We talked the boys into stopping at a bar for drinks before the day-long event, and then ducked out for a few hours to meet Bocko and Michelle after the Badger game. Luckily, however, we did not miss the ever-important visit from the demon-St. Nick the Geisslers call Nicholaus. This year, there were actually two devils who came to make the children cry. What a heart-warming family tradition. As you can see from the picture, Brienne was not intimidated by their scariness, and held her own when asked to name 5 things she liked about Clint. Cliff had fun decorating a gingerbread house with the little ones. Matthew had requested especially that Cliff get to participate because "he's my cousin, too!".

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Neighbor Kid Joke

Why are deer balls not worth very much?












Because they're under a buck!

WWII


Today, the Allied Forces fought hard to retain control of our yard. The neighbor's yard had fallen to the "Chinese" (perhaps we should be concerned about the local school system) and a bloody battle was underway for much of the morning. Thankfully, there were no civilian casualties as Kyle, Punkin, and I worked outside to prepare the yard for winter. After the battle was over, the neighbor kids informed us that the Americans won the war, so we breathed a sign of relief as we put wood chips from a recently felled tree on our perennial beds.

Old Friends


While not actually "old", Anne and Lauren are the oldest friend's I've got. I've known Anne for 16 years, and Lauren for 14. As terrible as I am at keeping in touch with people, that's impressive for me. Lauren and Eric moved back to the US from Germany this month, which I'm super-excited about. (OK, so they live in Michigan, but it still feels closer.) We met up with them in Milwaukee this weekend and drove up to visit Anne and Jay. Anne is due in 2 weeks and I still haven't knit anything for her critter. Yikes. Procrastinating again. It was awesome to see them, and it made me wish we all lived a lot closer together. I miss you guys!

Elizabeth

While road- tripping up to see Anne with Lauren and Eric, we stopped for gas in Oshkosh. Kyle and I started chuckling at the "Elizabeth" and detailing of a rose on the rear windshield of the car ahead of us. While speculating about what type of person has their name detailed across the back of their vehicle, this gentleman exited the car. It goes without saying that laughter ensued.

Redoing the damage

Kyle and I visited the dentist Saturday morning. Although we love our dentist and drive all the way to Milwaukee for ap- pointments, we may have to reconsider. Our dentist has acquired a new torture device that felt like our teeth were being sandblasted out of our mouths. In any event, we went straight from the dentist to That Coffee Place to re-stain our bright and shiny choppers.

Knitting Night

Tuesday night, Becky and Sarah came over to knit. But shoot, I forgot to take a picture. Imagine them sitting on these couches. (Becky was on the left, Sarah on the right.) Becky is working on a very nifty hat for her mom with black yarn and colored fluff-splotches, and Sarah casted on a LOT of stitches her first-ever sweater. I finished the baby sweater for Elke's critter, so I was weaving in ends - my least favorite part. Kyle made dinner and brownies. It was a very nice evening, and I wish they lived closer so they could drop in a knit more often. It's been awhile since they've been over to visit, so I had told them to look for the "white house with three pumpkins on the front steps". I didn't realize how many white houses our street has, and 3 is apparently the preferred number of pumpkins to display. But they found us eventually, so all was well.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

White River Bike Trail


Erika is seen here showing off her new grass stain, aquired on the lovely White River bike trail that runs between Elkhorn and Burlington. She and Patrick joined us on the (thankfully) flat 11 mile trail to see the fall colors. We stopped half-way at a converted train depot for PB&J fortification. It was a perfect fall day, and a very nice trail.

Not on PETA's hit list anymore


Under justifiable threat of removal from a very frustrated Kyle, I finally cleaned out the fish tank. I discovered several interesting things. One: there was still one fish alive. Two: I like having a clean fish tank. I filled the now-clean tank with some danios and (male only!) guppeys, which are now happily swimming around. This picture is from Rotary Gardens last weekend, not our tank.

Fun with my camera







Kyle and I enjoyed the beautiful weather last weekend at Rotary Gardens. He was very patient while I pretended I was a photographer (my childhood aspiration). Here are some of my shots. My favorite is the afternoon sunlight through a giant leaf of swiss chard.Why does my garden look anything like this? Oh, right - I never take care of it past June!

Late again


While at the Janesville library last week, I craftily talked Kyle into lending me his library card, trying to avoid the fines I knew I had on mine. I was checking out the Jump Up and Kiss Me spicy cookbook that has the recipe for my favorite "Hot" Chocolate Biscotti. Much to my dismay, I discovered the fines I had generated were on his card. Busted!

Those are now paid for, but I know that 2 books I checked out from the Milton library were due back yesterday. I'm going to turn into a library junkie, scouring southern Wisconsin for my book fix, and I won't be able to return to the same library twice because I'll have fines at them all. Kyle just shakes his head.

The biscotti, by the way, was most excellent. A co-worker I offered one to is now wary of my cooking, however. A biscotti-virgin, he was expecting a regular cookie. He seemed to feel a little embarrassment when he asked if I realized they were very hard, and then when the spice kicked in, he looked at me like I'd tricked him into eating something not edible at all. That's OK. More for me.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Monarch

Several monarchs visited our garden today.

Grape harvest

We harvested nine gallons of concord grapes today. They're delicious. We can't wait to taste the wine that they'll become. This year we're going to give them to Kyle's coworker Jim Thomas to make the wine for us, and we'll just score a couple of bottles. But after harvesting them and seeeing just how many we get from one vine, we're inspired to possibly try making our own next year. We have a second grape vine that didn't produce any grapes this year, but should do well next year.

Redemption

Several weeks ago, I stepped on a frog that was taking refuge from a rainstorm on our back steps. I squashed it flat, feeling every bone crunch, every organ squish. It was gross, it was miserable, it was sad. I felt terrible and have been haunted by that little green frog's ghost ever since. Then last night, while walking the dog after sundown, I came within a quarter inch of squishing another one. He and I both lept away from each other at the last possible moment. I have started feeling I am a curse to the world of frogs. Then this morning, there was a turning point. Kyle opened the trunk of my car in the grocery store parking lot and discovered a stowaway. This little green frog came from God only knows where, but he was in a very precarious spot - certain to be squashed if we lowered the trunk lid, certain to starve to death if we locked him back in the trunk. Kyle backed away, wanting nothing to do with our hitchhiker, but I knew this was my shot at redemption for my previous frog-slaughter. I gently coaxed him onto a road atlas and carried him across the parking lot to free him in a smallish patch of grass and trees. I hope that frogs leave me alone for the rest of the summer.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reluctant model


Demon-eyes from the flash notwithstanding, I don't think Punkin enjoyed modeling the current state of my Blackberry mittens. I think they look great, but the color chart is far more complicated than my only other color-attempt, so Punkin really hates this project. She snuggles up next to me on the couch and gets minimal attention as I try to find and re-find my place on the graph. If only I could quit my job to work on these. I spent half of this afternoon looking forward to break to have time to knit just a couple of rounds.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fresh yarn

I need needles I don't have to finish the baby sweater I'm knitting, so I am taking a break to dive into my new mitten project. New balls of yarn are as fun as blank notebooks. Full of possibility, and not all messed up yet. The mittens are proving to be a fun challenge. There's a lot of colorwork in them, and the cuff is a neat braid that involves carrying the colors in front of the work. I've never done that before, and it looks pretty cool.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sheep and Wool

Erika and I puttered around the Madison Farmer's Market this morning, and then attended the WI Sheep and Wool Festival in Jefferson. While I was prepared to spend big bucks, my largest purchase was a funnel cake and a mitten kit from Blackberry Ridge. The sheep, goats, and llamas were very cool. My favorite were the brown sheep with the curly hair.
I stopped at the Milton Public Library on the way home to borrow a movie and several books in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. I absolutely no free time for reading, let alone the new knitting project I brought home today, but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lock your doors!


"EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (AP) - U-S flags marking veterans' graves at an Eau Claire cemetery have been disappearing by the dozens.
The flags have been ripped from the poles in one whole section of Forest Hill Cemetery.
Groundskeepers suspected vandals. Maybe kids were stealing the flags at night.
Then groundskeeper Dave Ender made a surprising discovery. The thieves have fur -- squirrel fur.
Ender was mowing the cemetery grass when something high in a tree caught his eye -- something red, white and blue. Ripped and tattered flags formed the foundation of a giant squirrel nest.
No one spotted the furry thieves when they scampered across the cemetery with the goods in their mouths. Enders figures the squirrels conducted their clandestine operation at night or very early in the morning when no one was around."

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

APNP 09-06-06 1338CDT

Monday, September 04, 2006

Meat Raffle, or How to Know You're In the Midwest

I have to say, I thought I was a true Wisconsin -ite, but I learned Friday after work that there are still a lot of things to I don't know about my corner of the world. A friend at work is leaving us for brighter opportunities in Milwaukee, so we all met at a local dive to celebrate with canned beer (I was warned to avoid everything on tap - and probably rightly so - we didn't see anyone drinking out of a glass). I arrived at the bar in the middle of the, presumably, weekly? meat raffle. Patrons buy a numbered paint stirrer ("paddle") for $1, someone is asked to draw a playing card from a deck, and the person holding the chosen number wins their choice of meat products lined up along the bar. Chops, steaks, stuffed quail, and shrimp were all still available when I arrived. Very funny. Although I don't entirely understand how this event helps the fine establish- ment, as winners need to leave the bar to get their meat into freezers. The place kind of cleared out once all the meat was given away. It was fun to be out after such a long work week. (It was especially long due to an acid spill in the warehouse late Friday afternoon...thanks a lot, Brent!) The beer (in a can) tasted divine. I even for to meet my predecessor in the lab, which reminds and encourages me that there is life after CH. Later in the evening, friends JB and Mary stopped by and crashed the party. We ducked out to grab a bite to eat with them and activate the DLM (dog liberation movement).

Mystery bulb

Charlene put a bag of bulbs in my Easter basket this year, and they've just started to bloom. I can't for the life of me remember what they're called, but they look awesome.

Grapes and hops

Our grapes are almost ready for picking. Kyle's co-worker Jim is going to take them for wine- making. Maybe we'll even score a bottle. Mmmm... On the beer front, the hops vine I planted this spring is still going strong, but I think it may not produce any actual hops until next year. That's good, because it'll give us more time to figure out how to actually use them in Kyle's beer making. His kits come with these dried hops pellets that look like rabbit food, so we're not sure if we can just drop fresh hops into his wort or not.

Pirate Bees


This is the best time of year for my Bluebeard Bush. It's blooming like crazy and the bumblebees come by the hundreds to crawl around on the beautiful purple flowers. It'd look even better if I weeded around it. Hence the close-up picture.

Jungle

Every year, I get really excited about my garden in the spring. I weed religiously. I research new plants to add. I water. I walk outside 8 times a day to admire the plants. By late July, however, I give up and let the garden do what it will. Usually, that means the weeds take over and the perennials turn brown. Knowing this about myself, I generally don't plant vegetables, because by the time they're spitting out food, I've retreated into the house, away from the wasps and hot sun. This is my "tough love" gardening philosophy. I toughen up my plants via neglect, allowing the strong to survive. (Yeah, this is justifiable in my head, really.) This year I only put one tomato plant into the ground - an heirloom "hollow" tomato, supposedly good for stuffing, that Erika and I found at the plant show at Concordia. I abandoned it months ago, and it's taking over the perennial bed it's in, having overgrown the small cage I provided long ago. Too bad the tomatoes it produces aren't overly sweet and juicy. They'd be terrific for stuffing, I'm sure, but I don't really have any recipes for that sort of thing. I tried stuffing one with feta and olives, which was good. But I'd use regular tomatoes far more often. I've learned my lesson. Next year I'll try something less quirky.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Meredith Rocks

I take back everything bad I've ever said about my sister (hee hee). She sent a package from her trip to New Zealand that included 3 balls of amazingly soft, amazingly pretty Hummingbird Calliope 8-ply mulit-color wool. Of course I started dreaming up everything I'd like to knit with this gorgrous yarn. Add this to my list of projects to look forward to...I might give in and order more. I think it'd make a lovely raglan v-neck sweater. Thanks, Little Pickle!

Oh baby



I have a new love - knitting baby things is fast and fun. My Belgian sister Elke is due in January, and, knowing my propensity for procrastination, I thought I should get going on a sweater right away. My mom found this yarn at her LYS and it's awesome. It's Artful Yarns' Candy. (Cotton, acrylic, nylon and elastic) It's the perfect colors for a critter of unknown sex (and for a tank for ME next summer, I think!). The pattern is fun and easy - Baby Tunic from Knitting Pure and Simple. I'm definately getting my confidence up.

I need to start knitting faster, however, because my wish list of projects is growing faster than my list of FOs. Most immediately, I have a sweater picked out from this Falls' Interweave Knits, a hat I've promised to knit for Kyle, and a stash of brown wool I'd like to use.

Punkin likes hats

I finished the "Almost Famous Luggy Bonnet" from Weekend Knitting. I love it, although it's a little big. Becky taught me how to crochet so I could finish the edge. I used cheap-o yarn from Michales since there were so many colors, and modified the pattern to have 4-row stripes instead of 2-row. (I hate weaving in ends - this was bad enough!) The stars I reknit got a little better the second time around. Still not perfect, but close enough for a hat I'll probably wear to shovel the driveway or go sledding. A male friend at work offered to buy the hat from me, so it's a hit already. (His fiance vetoed the idea, thinking the stars were a bit girly.) Now I'm ready for fall. Bring on the wind!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Confession

OK, so I actually had two reasons to frog half of my hat. I also wasn't paying attention on my decreases and somehow had an extra 17 or so stitches when I got around to checking (roughly 9 rows after the error, of course). But the stars are back in existence, so it won't take me long now, and I'll pay attention this time, I promise. I gave up on bobbins the second time around and just stranded the whole thing. I don't know which I liked worse. It puckers less, but I was so worried about pulling too hard, I instead left everything too lose. I think it's better than the alternative, and I'm not knitting it thrice, so it'll have to do. I hope to have a finished pic up by the end of the week, but I also promised Kyle I'd put a second coat of paint on the bathroom walls by Friday. Something to work on: stop making promises.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Intarsia Insanity


Here's how far I got on the "Almost Famous Luggy Bonnet" before I decided to frog it down past the intarsia stars. This was my first attempt at color-work, and I definietly had too much tension because the stars are puckering something fierce. I am toying with just leaving it, but I know I'd kick myself when the snow flies and I actually get to wear the thing. At least it knits pretty quick, but boy are there a heck of a lot of tanlges in back. God forbid someone put this on with barrets in their hair. How does anyone keep intarsia neat and tidy?