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?

Friday, March 7, 2014

It snows in March. This is how I deal with it.

In the other places where I've lived, snow in March was out of the question. But Dorothy, we're not in North Carolina anymore. This is Wisconsin, where March is fair game for frost and flurries.

Thankfully, I'm equipped for these circumstances. My full-length parka (aka "mega coat") keeps me warm when I'm out and about, but at home, it's all about the fireplace. 

Rocco likes staying nice and warm, too.
No spring weather yet? No problem. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

And the gold medal in blogging goes to… Aviva In Dairyland!

As I've mentioned before, I'm a competitive figure skater. So as you can imagine, the Winter Olympics are extremely important to me. Close to a week after the event's conclusion, I feel that I'm still recovering from the excitement. And, well, here comes another gold medal…

Aviva In Dairyland has officially been named Madison Magazine's 2014 Gold Winner for Best Local Blog!
Close to three years ago, I moved 900 miles to a state where I didn't know anyone, and this has been a great way of chronicling my ongoing adventures. I'll continue to do my best to try new things, take a lot of photos, and get the full Wisconsin experience.

What's next for Aviva In Dairyland? Well, I really want to milk a cow. If anyone has any connections, please hit me up in the comments section.

Thanks so much for voting!

For a full list of winners, click here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

"And it was all yellow": my visit to the National Mustard Museum.

Here are three words I never thought I'd say together: National Mustard Museum.

Jared is my best friend from summer camp, and when he made his first ever trip to the state of Wisconsin, I knew I had to show him a variety of my favorite Madison activities. And let's face it: the city is multifaceted. Delicious falafel from Banzo, skating on a frozen lake at Tenney Park, and dancing the night away at Plan B to Madonna's "Girl Gone Wild" were some of my favorite parts of his visit, but the weirdest part of his visit would certainly be the mustard.

In 2012, my parents visited Madison to help me move into my condo. During their time here, they went to the National Mustard Museum: a quirky, kitschy, lovable, free museum in Middleton (on the west side of Madison). Mom insisted that Jared and I experience the place together, and who wants to say no to mom? Not Jared and me. So the mustard excursion began.

Boasting a "Learn, Taste, Shop, Laugh," mantra, this place is exactly what it sounds like (and it doesn't take itself too seriously, either). Home of the world's largest collection of mustards and mustard memorabilia, the National Mustard Museum pays homage to America's yellowest condiment. 

Why is there a National Mustard Museum? The answer to this question, I still do not know, but what I can say is that the place was certainly unique, and I'd recommend that anyone who passes through Madison needs to see it for themselves at least once. But just in case you aren't passing through any time soon, here are some highlights:

Decked-out walls with mustard-themed art and comics:

Books of vintage mustard advertisements:

Mustards from around the world:

These shelves are alphabetized and labeled with mustard from all 50 states. 
Close-up on my home state of North Carolina.
A display devoted to the mustards of Canada. 
A vending machine for instant mustard gratification:

Oh, and an empty mustard mascot costume.

We made a new friend.
It was everything I'd expect a mustard museum to be, really. And after a plethora of free samples, I settled on a souvenir:

Maille (pronounced "my") dijon mustard, now at home in my kitchen. According to a museum employee, this is a highly celebrated mustard that won the Worldwide Mustard Competition. Yeah, not only is there a mustard museum, but there's competitive mustard making. For real.
Jared is one of my best friends, and he traveled over 1600 miles to visit me. That's what good friends do anywhere. Spending an afternoon learning about the history of mustard? Well, in Wisconsin, I guess that's what good friends do, too.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Jews on Christmas: nighttime skating on a frozen lake

Jared and I met at summer camp when we were 10 years old, and we've been friends ever since. A good friend comes to visit you even when it's freezing outside, and that's the kind of friend Jared is. As Jewish folks who obviously had no Christmas plans, we figured it was the perfect time for him to fly in from NYC for a visit.

I picked Jared up at the airport with a custom sign that I made in honor of our joint Madonna obsession.

I found him!
Then we had a delicious dinner at Lao Laan-Xang, which was quite crowded for Christmas Eve. The next day, after a matinee (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), it was time for Jared's true Madison experience: skating on a frozen lake at Tenney Park.

I'm a competitive figure skater, but I rarely skate on lakes. I saved an old pair of skates for such occasions. The temperature was 30 degrees that night, which was downright humid for Wisconsin in December. There was a dusting of snow on the lake, and a few flakes were still falling.

The surface was different for me, but I got around just fine.
Jared liked the traction from the snow.
My skating abilities were limited since I was wearing a coat and on a lake. But of course, I had to work in a few tricks:

Scratch spin.


Jared had great balance and a knack for speed:

Taking in the Wisconsin winter!

Moving around kept us warm, and the night was picture perfect.

Posing on the lake.
An awesome night, an great visit, and an out-of-the-ordinary way to enjoy my favorite sport.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgivukkah: Bringing Bucky to the Carolinas

Greetings from my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina! Don't worry Wisconsin, I'll be back Sunday.

As I mentioned in my first ever post, Aimee is my BFF. I've known her since the 4th grade, and now we have another cool 4th grader around: her daughter, Isis. I come home for Thanksgiving every year, and my "niece" and I have a tradition of going to a matinee in a nearly empty theater, watching the latest Disney epic, and putting our feet up on the seats. This year, it was Frozen, and I recommend it! The music was great, and the Snow Queen is voiced by the fabulous Idina Menzel.

This year, I'm fortunate enough to be home for Thanksgivukkah:
My family collects menorahs and dreidels.
Oh, and my parents got a new dog:
Hi, I'm Max the Miniature Poodle!
And, for the first time in years, Aimee and I actually got to exchange presents on the first day of Hanukkah. In true Wisconsin fashion, I decided to get all Bucky-d out with gift giving.
This pair is making their Aviva in Dairyland debut. Meet Aimee & Isis!
Aimee got a Wisconsin tank to wear for running, while Isis (a tie-dye enthusiast) got a "Grateful Red" UW volleyball shirt + cow socks. If you're a kid with a Wisconsin auntie, cow socks are a MUST.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bucky Badger owns this town, part 2: a sea of red.

As I've said before, Bucky Badger owns this town. He's everywhere: in stores, on cars, and gracing the packaging of locally made foods.

When my mom and our friend Pat came to visit, they had the privilege of meeting cardboard Bucky at Hilldale Shopping Center:

Wisconsinites love their Bucky, and the Hilldale skeleton greeter shares in the spirit:

Even this ghoulish bag of bones is supporting Bucky with a UW hat.
I live in the land of Bucky and I have gotten used to his constant presence (and hey, red is my favorite color). With that said, after 2.5 years of Madison residency, I should have known better than to drive to the West Side of Madison on the day of UW's homecoming.

I just wanted to go to Trader Joe's. My intentions were honorable.

But instead of a breezy 10-minute ride on a Saturday, I wound up in a 40-minute ride through a sea of red-clad Badger fans.

Badger fans crossing the street and heading for the stadium.
Badger fans tailgating in the parking lot of my doctor's office
(I later found more in the parking lot of my veterinarian's office).
Some may wonder why I didn't just turn around and go home, but here's how I saw it: I'm a busy gal. My weekdays are packed with working full time, skating practice, and still managing to socialize with friends. Saturday afternoon is always errand time for me, and with the sunny 70-degree weather, I was perfectly happy sitting in traffic with the windows down and enjoying some Alt Nation. It was a nice breather, and I found the extreme fandom fascinating. Thankfully I drive a red car, otherwise I would have been very out of place in my black Madonna T-shirt.

Just as I had planned, I made it to Trader Joe's and got my groceries. It just happened to be by way of a leisurely, interesting drive.

My friend Michal is a huge Bucky fan and she snapped a great shot from Camp Randall Stadium:

100 yards surrounded by red, red, red. 
Although I don't follow football, I try to stay in the know on whether Bucky won or lost. Living a block away from One Barrel Brewing Company helps, as the style of screaming from the bar clearly indicates glory or despair. This week? Glory screams in celebration of a UW triumph.

It's Bucky's territory (I just live in it).