Saturday, September 20, 2014

Eat your veggies: early Fall at the Dane County Farmers' Market.

Hey Madison, it's been a while. I left the country for 2 weeks on an amazing multi-continental adventure (a week in Barcelona, then a week in Israel). The jet lag was rough, and getting back to reality has been harder than I expected. But what better way for me to get back in my groove than to eat some veggies? In Wisconsin, this time of year is all about veggies, veggies, veggies. For me, that means Dane Country Farmers' Market trips and some pretty awesome boxes from my Harmony Valley Farm CSA.

My haul from the market was pretty typical: green onions, napa cabbage, and some gouda from Farmer John's Cheese (Yup, that's the guy whose cow I milked. He told me that she's pregnant. Mazel tov, Faith!). After my shopping, what I discovered downtown that was a fun surprise: a local food fest, including an enormous, stilt-walking corn:

Just hanging at the Wisconsin State Capitol with my new corn friend (and HER corn friend… look at the tiny one in her hand).
I also checked in with the Willy Street Co-Op booth, where I found myself in a bit of a pickle.

I never thought I'd get to say THIS phrase on by blog twice in one year, but…
#pickleselfie.
Once I had my mandatory ridiculous photos taken care of, it was time to head home and pick up the CSA. The most surprising thing in the box was this hairy, curly, finger-like root vegetable:

And the award for ugliest vegetable goes to… celeriac!
My to-do list for the week: figure out how the hell to cook it. I'm thinking soup.

Eat your veggies, folks!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I can pickle that.



As I mentioned earlier on the blog, I have a CSA this summer with Harmony Valley Farm. Every week, the season's best veggies are mine to enjoy (straight from the Viroqua, WI farm to my Near East Side of Madison neighborhood).

Occasionally my CSA box leaves me in a "WTF" moment. Items like collard greens, kale, broccoli rabe, and rainbow chard are things that would never make it into my grocery store cart. But when they arrive with my CSA share, it means I have to get creative. Another peculiar item for me this year was dill. My friend Caitlin recommended refrigerator pickles, so I opted to try my luck.

Success! #pickleselfie
If you would have asked me 4 years ago if I ever thought I'd be living in Wisconsin and pickling things for fun, my answer would have been no. But you know what? My life here is pretty great, and now my life is a little better because I know how to make pickles. And now you can too:

Disclaimer: I don't really cook. I was pretty much winging it. That's why there are no quantities or measurements.

Aviva In Dairyland's Refrigerator Pickles: A Non Recipe
Use a large tupperware container and fill it up with a 2:1 ratio of water and white vinegar. Then, add in sliced cucumbers, a whole bunch of dill, sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Let them sit in the fridge for a few days.

THAT'S IT. See, I told you I don't cook. Happy pickling!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Resolution complete: I milked a cow.

A lot of people get really into New Year's resolutions. I don't. Yet for 2014, I made one that I 100% intended to follow through on: I wanted to milk a cow. Many people have asked me why I wanted to do this so badly. Here is my reasoning:

1. I LOVE BARNYARD ANIMALS.
2. It's good to try new things.
3. It would be an awesome experience to blog about.

I'm an urban girl. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the busy, typical, cookie-cutter suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. You know the opening sequence to the show, Weeds? Yeah, that's my hometown: the traffic, the strip malls, the Land Rovers, the soccer moms… all are very familiar things to me. I'm a city dweller to my very core, and I think that's why farm life fascinates me: because it's different.

Cue the Green Acres theme song.

I met Farmer John Dougherty of Farmer Johns' Cheese at the East Side Farmers' Market in May. I gathered that by his large variety of delicious cheese for sale, he likely had access to a great deal of cows. So I asked if I could milk one. He said yes! Two months later, I was off to the outskirts of Spring Green, Wisconsin to visit the official Farmer Johns' milking barn.

Let's get one thing straight: there's more than one Farmer John (hence the apostrophe). It's currently operated by a father and son (both named John), and before that, it was operated by the generations that came first (yup, you got it, also named John). This is a true family farm business, right down to the name.

My friends Cherie and Caitlin came along for the ride, which took us through some winding country roads to this really awesome waterfall:

Beautiful!

Then, we arrived at John's milking barn. He walked us through the cow-filled building and told us all about his family farm, the milking process, and all things cows!

The lineup: Farmer John gets the cows into the barn by leading them in with corn (they love it).
See the pipes above the cows? That's where the milk goes.
After it goes through the pipes, it ends up in a huge tank.
We all climbed up the ladder to peek in.

It holds an insane amount of milk.

After our barn tour, we got to meet two baby calves, Jenny and Ryan:

Beyond adorable.
Then, it was milking time. The cows are milked by machine, but of course we had to start off old school. Farmer John chose Faith as the best cow for us to milk. He knew that her mellow temperament would work in our favor and that she was less likely to try and kick us (he has a lot of cows in this place, and many can get sassy at milking time). He noted that you always have to let the cow know when you're at her side and going to milk her. This way, she's less startled. Of course, I had to get the experience on tape:

video

Then Caitlin milked Faith!
And Cherie, too! 

Old school milking: check. Then, Farmer John let me put the milking machine on Faith. It's made of 4 little suction tubes that go from the udders to the pipes in the barn.

Just making sure I had everything right.
Voila! I attached the milking machine and Faith was ready to go.

A lot of cows had to be milked, so we went to the front of the barn to check in on the tank. It was very loud in there, but I fit in a quick video of "THIS IS WHERE THE MILK IS GOING! HERE'S THE MILK!"

video

The entire milking process takes about 30 minutes from the first cow to the last. The cows get milked twice a day (6am and 6pm), and Farmer John noted that he tries to keep the cows in the same order each time so that their schedules are consistent. I could really tell that he loves what he does and cares about the well-being of his cows, which of course makes me want to keep buying more and more of his cheese.

Speaking of the cheese, to purchase some amazing dairy goodness from Farmer John, he can be found at the Dane County Farmers' Market (near West Washington Ave), as well as many other local markets.

I'd like to send a huge thanks to Farmer John for letting us visit, Cherie and Caitlin for putting up with their quirky friend, and of course, this lovely lady:

Many thanks, Faith!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Playing catch up: three Madison things I meant to blog about, but didn't.

Alright, I'm trying something new.
I always take pictures of the awesome things I do in Madison, but sometimes they don't make it to the blog. Here's my way of catching up: a collection of mini blog posts that cover brunch at Manna Cafe, Lake Monona rollerblading, and my Harmony Valley CSA. Here goes:

Brunch at Manna Cafe
I had heard many people rave about the brunch at Manna Cafe, and I finally made it there with the Jones crew (Scott, Elysha, Abby, and Clementine). It's located in an old school strip mall in Maple Bluff, and though it's only a 5 minute drive from my place, I feel like I never would have noticed it if it hadn't been so highly talked up.

Manna Cafe lived up to the hype, and our brunch was fabulous: 

Awesome eggs!
Abby modeled her scarf while she enjoyed "The Weekend Nosher" from the kids' menu.
She also made it very clear that she was wearing a tunic, not a dress.
Lake Monona Rollerblading
As I have mentioned before, Madison is an isthmus surrounded by two lakes: Mendota and Monona. When the weather got nice, Cherie and I took her dog Obie on a nice rollerblading trip by Monona Terrace. We took to the bike path and rolled past bikers, fishers, and walkers. It was windy that day, but totally worth it for the awesome lake view (bonus: I didn't fall!).

Meet Obie, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever (roughly 95 pounds). This is his Aviva in Dairyland debut.

Obie pulled his mama along the bike path.
Loving the view!
Harmony Valley CSA
For the first time, I got a CSA. It stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it means that I'm part of a direct relationship between the farm and the community. My friends Caitlin, Cherie, and I are sharing a CSA through Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI. We just had our first week, and it was pretty awesome. They drop off boxes at pickup sites around the city, and we choose where we'd like to pick ours up. Then, we divvy up the veggies and go nuts. It's good encouragement for me to try more veggies and cook more in general (I don't really cook… I'm more of a stir-things-around kinda girl). Here are my CSA creations thus far:

Stir fry!
CSA ingredients: radishes, turnips, zucchini, asparagus, purple scallions
Trader Joe's additions: tofu and peanut sauce
I made pesto for the first time! But instead of basil, I used pea vines from the CSA.
Wrap it up
There, we're all caught up. So, how have you been?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beer tidbits from the girl who doesn't drink it

I drink like a pretty little girl. The fruitier, the better. Wine? Sounds good. Cocktails? Really good. Blended? Sure. Umbrella? Epic.

Yup, I'll say it: I live in Wisconsin and I don't like beer. I've sampled many, and the only beer I really care for is Yuengling, which unfortunately isn't sold west of Ohio. Sigh. I'll have a hard cider, please.

But as I've mentioned before, Wisconsinites take beer very seriously. Here's what I learned while walking down Atwood Ave. today:

Words of wisdom outside One Barrel Brewing Company.
According to a seemingly legit article that was written last year, Wisconsin ranks 5th in the USA for beer consumption, and Wisconsin has the highest percentage of binge drinkers in the country. I'm not surprised.

There. That might the the most I've ever talked about beer.

To read about one of my visits to One Barrel Brewing Company, click here.
To read about that time I drank beer out of a boot, click here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What is Wisconsin pride? An interview with someone who knows.

She wasn't born and raised here, but Carrie Ouradnik oozes Wisconsin pride. And if she ever has any doubts, a glance at her right arm is a good reminder.
Carrie's tattoo, by Danielle at Blue Lotus Tattoo.
I met Carrie through a fellow knitter, and in addition to our shared hobby, we share a love of animals, and of course, Wisconsin. Tattoos usually come with a story, so I chatted with Carrie to get the juicy details.

Aviva in Dairyland: Where are you from?
Carrie Ouradnik: I was born in Minnesota but raised in North Dakota.

AID: What brought you to Wisconsin?
CO: My boyfriend at the time was getting his Master's at UW-Madison, so when I graduated from college, I moved here to be with him. That was back in January of 2006.

AID: When and why did you get your tattoo? What does it mean to you?
CO: I got my tattoo on March 30, 2013. Madison, and Wisconsin, mean a lot to me. It's my adult home, and even though I have moved away a few times (Seattle, Fargo, Indiana) I always end up longing for Madison and moving back here. It's a great size, low-crime, affordable city with beautiful, educated, inquisitive, fantastic, and kind people from all over the world. I have lost myself and found my true self here. Being a part of the Walker protests in 2011 really solidified my love for the people of Wisconsin, and I had been meaning to get some sort of tattoo to commemorate not only the great experience I have had in Wisconsin in general, but the overall solidarity and beauty of those few months. Also, it was my "happy divorce to me" tattoo!

AID: How would you describe Wisconsin pride?
CO: I'm not oblivious to the downfalls (ahem, 7 months of winter), but there's something here about family and community and generosity and celebration that just can't be ignored. A lot of people have pride in where they're from but I don't think people wear it as proud as us Sconnies.

AID: What's your favorite place/Madison landmark?
CO: To be perfectly cliche, the capitol building. I love that the people who made this city possible also wrote into the rules that you can't cover up that view, no matter where in the city you are. It still leaves me breathless and full of immense pride, whether I'm inside or seeing it from Verona.
Runner ups: Dane County Farmers' Market, Olin Park, Ha Long Bay (yes, the Thai restaurant).

AID: Do you have a favorite cheese?
CO: This is a trick question! I've got a soft spot for fresh squeaky curds, aged sharp cheddar, and smoked provolone. But I'm not going to turn ANY Wisconsin cheese down.

Carrie with her dog Riley, enjoying the view of downtown Madison
Photo by Amanda Red
Huge thanks to Carrie for taking the time to be a part of Aviva in Dairyland!

Want to keep up with Carrie and her life? Follow her on Instagram or friend her on Ravelry.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Let's make 30 into 31: Wisconsin & Iowa yarn crawl.

One of my goals in life is to go to all 50 states. As of last week, I had been to 30, which isn't too bad for a 26-year-old who has only been a resident of 4 (I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in North Carolina, went to college in Ohio, and got a grown-up job in Wisconsin). Looking at a map, the only Wisconsin neighbor that I was missing was Iowa, so I made it a goal to get to Iowa at some point this year. Why not turn this into a yarn crawl?

As I've mentioned before, I'm a knitter. Drinkers do pub crawls, and knitters do yarn crawls. Last weekend, my knitter friend Kat and I did our own two-state yarn crawl so that we could get me to Iowa and of course, shop!

First stop: The Sow's Ear in Verona, just outside of Madison. This is my favorite Madison-area yarn shop. Not only do they have a broad selection of yarn, but they have a full coffee shop and cafe as well. It was the perfect caffeine jolt that we needed for the Iowa trek.

The Sow's Ear was once a house, but now it's the best yarn shop in town. I love its warm, welcoming look.
Then, the main event: a 1.5 hour drive to Dubuque, Iowa, which upped my state count from 30 to 31. We headed to the little downtown area to shop at Yarn Soup: a great small-town yarn shop.

I really liked their yarn selection, and their salesperson Sarah was very friendly and helpful. 
We were greeted by a full-stocked wall of rainbow yarn. Win!

They had a great selection of ultra-bulky yarn, complete with mega needles. Bulky yarn can get a bad reputation, but it's one of my personal favorites (the bulkier, the better!).

And like any good yarn shop, there were sheep-shaped knickknacks.
We browsed for a while and picked our prized new yarn. I was quite happy to find these wise words pasted on the cash register:

So true.

My yarn purchase: marled Cascade yarn. I'm a sucker for anything black and white.
We made it to Iowa and found the yarn, but then it was time for a bite. We wandered around downtown Dubuque, which is centered around the historic Town Clock:

Wikipedia says that this monument has been around for over 130 years. This is the second-generation Town Clock, as the first collapsed in the 1870s and killed three people. Eep!
Dubuque is a typical, tiny Midwestern town: little shops, antique-y places, and small local restaurants. We decided to grab some Italian food at Crust, located right on Main Street.

My soup & salad lunch: yum!
Iowa experience: check. It was time to head back to Wisconsin, and we decided to make a quick stop to check out de la Pear.

de la Pear is a quaint yarn and gift shop in Mineral Point.
Rainbow wall of yarn: check!
Olive oil soaps from around the world? Yup, they've got 'em.
My favorite part of de la Pear was seeing their enormous loom. I don't know much about loom crafting, but I know this was by far the biggest one I'd ever seen.

Gorgeous, vivid reds.
After three shop visits in two states, our yarn crawl was complete. A Weird Al marathon on the way back, including all 11 minutes of "Trapped in the Drive Thru," was an excellent end to the trip:


Then, I got home and updated my map of states I've visited. Cheers to 31! And seriously, how did I manage to skip over Vermont?