Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Moo-worthy cuteness.

As I may have previously mentioned, I spend every Wednesday at Mickey's Tavern surrounded by a lovely group of intelligent, hilarious, and outspoken knitters. Last week, Elysha arrived with an adorable finished project: a sheep and a cow for her niece (what a perfect Wisconsin-esque gift!). While Elysha worked on knitting a little barn to put them in, I snapped a photo of these precious dairy-licious fellows:

Cute, huh?
While Helena suggested using a Mickey's menu as the backdrop for this photo, I wound up using Jane's bag from Mr. Yarn. "Knitters gonna knit" seemed a bit more suitable than "Good food", though I suppose either would have worked. Regardless of the backdrop, I'd say these little creatures possess a moo-worthy cuteness.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cheese, fireworks, and gifts!

On my way to Chicago for the weekend, I made a pit stop in Beloit, Wisconsin. I was amused to see this roadside store:

Cheese, fireworks, and gifts! What more could a person need?
If I ever need to buy cheese, fireworks, and gifts at the same time, I will know exactly where to go. Fabulous.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Friday night lights: Olin Park!

On our way back from late night knitting at The Sow's Ear in Verona, my friends and I decided to go for a drive through Olin Park to see the Holiday Fantasy in Lights. I'm a nice Jewish girl, but who doesn't love pretty lights? Each display is sponsored by a business and it's free to drive through and enjoy.

My favorite light display was the ice skaters, for obvious reasons.
While this doesn't compare to McAdenville, North Carolina (officially known as "Christmastown USA"), this was a lovely start to my weekend.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

November poll results are in...

Poll results proved to be nearly unanimous:

The ongoing question: butter or margarine?
Butter! 13 votes
Both are delicious! 2 votes
Margarine! 1 vote
I couldn't care less. 1 vote

Looks like almost everyone loves their butter! For the love of beer, check out the December poll on the left!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wine night on the square.

I'm not much of a drinker, but I don't pass up an opportunity for a nice glass of wine and some girl talk. It had been too long since our last hangout, so I proposed that Rebecca and I go out for some wine. She suggested Barriques on the square, which turned out to be the perfect place for wine and treats.

I walked across the square in the 30 degree weather, which really isn't that bad when moving quickly (when standing still, it's dreadful). Rebecca and I ordered wine and treats and hung out upstairs.

The place was quite crowded and they ran out of wine glasses, so Rebecca was given a Stella glass instead. Classy.
I enjoyed a fruity white wine and some lemon poppyseed cake, while Rebecca opted for an adventurous red wine and a pumpkin chocolate truffle. For those who haven't caught on yet: I drink like a prissy girl and Rebecca drinks like a film noir starlet. What else is new?

This was an ideal place to chill out: open late, affordable food and beverages, and judging by the abundance of laptop users, they seem to offer free Internet. Cheers!

A moo-worthy birthday for my dad.

I went home to North Carolina for 5 days over Thanksgiving, which coincides with my dad's birthday. Inspired by my new Wisconsin residence, I decided it was only appropriate to give my dad a cow card for his birthday. It was quite a hit at Thanksgiving dinner.

I know, I know, we look quite alike.
The card says "Holy cow! It's your birthday!" inside. Too perfect.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Team trivia: Madison style.

Anxious to test our random knowledge of seemingly useless information, my knitting friends and I went to The Brass Ring for team trivia today. Our team name: Purls of Wisdom (get it?).

My friend Kat ordered an Ale Asylum Contorter Porter (a beer made right here in Madison):

Would you care for a side of yarn with that beer?
I have noticed that people in Madison place a high value on the local production of food and beverages. It's unusual for me to live in a city with so many locally made products, and I must say that I applaud this effort.

As luck would have it, a Madonna question came up at team trivia. To say the least, I am a diehard Madonna fan. I have seen her three times in concert, I have every song she's ever released in my iTunes library, my brain is filled with useless Madonna facts, and in 20 years of competitive figure skating, I have performed to her songs more than any other artist. The question was: What number one song by Madonna was written by Babyface? The correct answer: "Take A Bow".

Needless to say, I was thrilled that my Madonna knowledge got us 6 points!
PS: Look at me successfully knitting cables for the first time!
When everyone in the bar correctly answered a question, free "flapjack" shots were distributed (orange juice, whiskey, and butterscotch schnapps):

Because I had to drive to the rink after trivia, I opted out on drinking.
Kat and Bronwen look oh so happy about their shots!
Kat's response to the shot: "That really does taste like Sunday breakfast."

Purls of Wisdom placed in the middle of the pack out of 15 teams. Not bad for a trio playing against large groups! 

Good friends, knitting, trivia, & locally made products: a lovely weekend in Madison, indeed!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Saturday at the farmers' market: how 'bout them apples?

With the winter weather approaching, the Dane County Farmers' Market has relocated indoors to Monona Terrace. Designed by Madison native, Frank Lloyd Wright, Monona Terrace is the perfect alternative to the outdoor market, offering a great view of (you guessed it) Lake Monona.

I wandered around the indoor market, where I discovered Romanesco broccoli:

Picture perfect, isn't it?
I continued browsing and decided to pick up a few goodies:

My loot from the market: cherry jalapeƱo jelly and two large empire apples.
My friend Kat and I met up at the market and decided to go to Marigold Kitchen for brunch. I was craving an omelette, so this was the perfect place to go. Luckily, we beat the crowd and found a table.

My veggie & cheese omelette with toast, salad, and sweet potatoes.
The pumpkin cake was calling Kat's name:

Cream cheese frosting!
Farmers' market + brunch = perfect Saturday.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October poll results are in...

After 15 votes, the results are in...

Are you rooting for the Green Bay Packers?
Yes! - 6 votes
No! - 5 votes
I couldn't care less. - 4 votes

Perhaps this little guy was in charge of tallying the votes.
Show some love for buttery goodness and check out the November poll on the right!

Are all Wisconsinites warm-blooded?

Fall is in full effect in Madison. The trees on Mifflin street are donning gorgeous hues of orange while I'm on the prowl in my vegan leather western boots and my favorite vintage coat.

While I believe that I am properly dressed to brave the windy climate, I have observed that many Madisonians tend to disagree with my idea of proper fall clothing. Last week, I saw a mother and daughter perfectly comfortable in flip flops. Today, I saw multiple people wearing short sleeve tees in the parking lot at Target. Isn't it November? Didn't I just put all my summer clothes in a drawer to make room for sweaters in my closet?

This leads me to my question: are all Wisconsinites warm-blooded? Have the sub-zero temperatures and heaps of snowfall made them unaffected by climate change? If yes, I can only hope that I will some day partake in this Wisconsin climate immunization. Until then, I will cozy up in my turtleneck and marvel at the tank tops on passers-by.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Unusual things I've seen in Madison: part 1 of many to come.

As I have clearly expressed on this blog, Madison is (to say the least) an interesting place to live. Erika says it best: "My city is too vibrant!" And she's right! Where else in the world is one going to find a motel attached to a laundromat attached to a Chinese buffet attached to a bowling alley. Yes, this really exists on East Washington Avenue in Madison (why separate these four useful things when they can just be connected, right?).

Here are a couple of interesting sightings that I have experienced in Madison:

Sighting #1: The drugs building (I don't know what else to call it):

At the corner of Baldwin Street and E. Johnson Street, this looks like a nice place to buy some drugs, right?
After driving by the other side at a later date, I discovered that it was in fact a pharmacy. Still, I applaud their tile art.

Sighting #2: 866-Get-A-Cow:

Outside a laundromat on East Washington Avenue, this advertisement really speaks for itself.
Every time I drive past this, I laugh. I applaud 866-Get-A-Cow for their advertising. This is in fact a promotion to rent a "container on wheels" (acronym: C.O.W.), but the container itself appears to be advertising the rental of an actual cow. And hey, it got me to their website, which I never would have visited if it weren't for this lovely cow (yup, she is wearing lipstick in the cartoon).

What can I say? Never a dull moment.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

September poll results are in...

Here are the results for the September poll: "What is your favorite cheesy food?"

And the winner is, by no surprise:

Macaroni & cheese (8 votes)!

Remaining results:
Fried cheese curds (5 votes)
Pizza (4 votes)
Cheeseburger (2 votes)
Other (1 vote) - my friend Natalie chose this option because she couldn't bare to decide.

No love / zero votes for:
Grilled cheese

Really? No love for grilled cheese? Perhaps I should have offered tomato soup for a side dish.

Check out the October poll on the right!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The nitty "grit"-y solution to culture shock.

As many readers may know, I was born in Boston and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. Though I am the product of a Yankee family, spending most of my life in the Upper South rubbed off on me a bit. For example, if I mishear someone, I will often respond with "Huh?" as opposed to "Pardon?". Nobody in Massachusetts says "Huh?". Trust me.

Upon moving to Madison, Wisconsin, I knew I would have to give up a few Southern Comforts. Wisconsin doesn't have an IKEA or an Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse. Also, while there are 38 Cracker Barrels in the state of North Carolina, there are only 5 in the state of Wisconsin. They're trying to limit my access to corn muffins and kitschy seasonal decor, aren't they?

Another comfort that I thought I would have to give up is grits. I am not exactly sure how I developed my love for grits, but I've eaten them regularly for many years, despite the fact that my mother calls them "wallpaper paste." I have lived in Wisconsin for almost 4 months, and despite conscious efforts, I had yet to find grits. Tonight, I struck gold at Woodman's Foods, where I discovered a wide selection of grits. Jackpot!

Phoebe, also a Southern girl, was quite excited about the grits.
For last month's in-depth post on Woodman's Foods, click here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Got Yarn? Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival!

My Wednesday night knitting group keeps me updated on Wisconsin happenings, and they had me quite excited for the 2011 Wisconsin Sheep & Wool Festival in Jefferson, WI. After weeks of anticipation, it finally arrived. Anxious to meet sheep and buy some awesome yarn, I drove a car full of knitters to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds for the event.

I met some very friendly animals, bought beautiful yarn, walked through a farm equipment auction, watched some blue ribbon sheep win prizes, and I ended the day by watching a sheep shearing demonstration.

To start things off, let's take a look at some first-class fairgrounds Americana:

The festival had two enormous barns set up as "country stores," where merchants were selling yarn, wool, and other craft supplies.

A tree full of beautifully dyed wool: I was home!
On the car ride to the festival, I mentioned that I was hoping to see angora rabbits today. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. I arrived at Jane Killpack's booth, where she was selling some gorgeous angora rabbits. I asked if I could photograph them for the blog, and before I knew it, I was snuggling with a new bunny friend:

Meet Ziggy, the angora rabbit!
Somewhere underneath the fur, he indeed has a face.
My friends and I then proceeded to the barns where there were many sheep enjoying the festival:

The knitters and I made many furry friends:

Bronwen befriending the baby sheep. 
Kat petting a super-fuzzy sheep.
Then, I met what is possibly the world's friendliest sheep. I reached over to pet her (I honestly don't know the sheep's gender, but let's call it a she!), and she did everything in her power to try and come home with me. She really wanted a human friend:

She loved being petted and embraced every opportunity to nibble on my purse.

She didn't mind posing for the camera, and I think she is quite photogenic.
I was quite impressed by the frocks these sheep were sporting. Here are some sheep who really knew how to rock their 'dos:

Does this sheep remind you of Whoopi Goldberg?
Rocking the "just got outta bed" look.
That's quite a set of curls!
The barnyard animals were everywhere!

Little lambs with their mommy!
I met a nice sheep getting groomed before the show, so I decided to wish her luck:

Looks like a blue ribbon winner to me!
With so much yarn to chose from, it was tough to make a decision. I finally settled on two skeins from Interlacements Yarns in Abrams, Wisconsin and one skein from Creatively Dyed Yarns in Greer, South Carolina (yup, I found another Carolinian at the festival!):

The two large skeins will one day by a vest.
The one small skein will one day be gloves.
I will definitely become a yearly festival visitor!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chocolate chip cookie dough egg roll? Yes, at Taste of Madison!

This Labor Day weekend, I've been enjoying a 3-day stay-cation. After a hectic week, I needed the relaxation. I have been thoroughly enjoying a weekend of chilling in my apartment while knitting, watching Desperate Housewives, and spending time with my cats. As much as I have been loving my stay-cation, I decided it was worth leaving my apartment to check out Taste of Madison and try some of Madison's best food offerings. It sounded too delicious too resist, and a girl's gotta eat.

My friend Kat and I ventured over to Capitol Square on Sunday and browsed the booths, which offered a wide variety of foods at reasonable prices.

Our first stop was Bandung Indonesian Cuisine, where I had "perkedel jagung" (corn fritter with yellow rice):

Quite tasty!
Next stop was Sa Bai Thong for tofu curry:

And then it was time for dessert. My coworkers told me about a local restaurant called Bluephies, known for their chocolate chip cookie dough egg rolls. My first reaction to this concept was, "Huh?" However, after looking at this unusual dessert, I decided it was worth a try. I definitely made the right decision:

It's amazing how unusual combinations of food can really click, and this one just worked. It was scrumptious.

Before we left the square, Kat bought a yummy root beer float from Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, and I thought it was quite worthy of a photograph:

The perfect treat to end the day!
If anyone asks me how I spent the holiday weekend, I will tell them all about my wonderful stay-cation, topped off with some tasty treats.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

August poll results: how do you like your milk?

August poll results are in... how do you like your milk?

Skim - 14 votes
1% - 3 votes
Whole - 1 vote
Chocolate - 1 vote

2% milk and strawberry milk did not receive any votes. No Nesquik lovers on this blog, I suppose.

Apologies to my friend Lauren, who wanted to vote for soy milk and I forgot to include it as an option.

Check out the September poll on the right. Happy voting!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Swinging from trees on a Thursday night: Cycropia!

Summer is the season of festivals in Madison, Wisconsin. The Orton Park Festival started on Thursday, and my friend Mackenzie invited me to watch the Cycropia aerial dance performance. What is aerial dance? Think Cirque du Soleil meets modern dance, adorned with costumes that would earn Lady GaGa's seal of approval. Win.

The Cycropia show included aerial performances on silks, chains, trapeze bars, steel hoops, and ladders (all of which were hanging from a very large tree in Orton Park). Because of the constant movement, it was nearly impossible to photograph the event, so I took some videos and made a YouTube playlist. Enjoy, but please don't try this at home:

A taste of Cycropia:

For my playlist of 6 Cycropia videos, click here!

By the way: this event, like many other fabulous things in Madison, was totally free. Also, now I've been living here long enough that I actually had friends to sit with at this awesome event:

Mackenzie, Rebecca, Kat, & me enjoying the Cycropia show.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Holy cow: escape to Green Lake, Wisconsin.

Yesterday, I took a mini road trip to Green Lake, Wisconsin to have brunch with my good friend Francie, who was spending the weekend at the Heidel House for a wedding. Green Lake is a little town about an hour and a half away from Madison. As far as I could tell, they have one gas station, one doctor's office, and an abundance of cows: country living at its finest.

On the drive back to Madison, I decided to document the highlights from my trip:

The town is called Green Lake for a reason: the huge, beautiful lake. A few people were boating and fishing, enjoying the nice weather.
I found some happy cows hanging out in a corral, grazing and enjoying a lazy weekend. They were happy to smile for a photo.
Cows enjoy sunbathing. Who would have thought?
I ate M&M pancakes with a good friend, plus I got my daily dose of cow. Perfect Saturday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Together at last: Woodman's Foods.

I like my grocery stores like I like my manicures: cheap, sanitary, and thorough. With that said, I have been less than thrilled with the selection of affordable supermarkets in Madison. Yesterday, I was sad to discover that Target doesn't carry fat free Philadelphia cream cheese. In search of said cream cheese, I ventured over to Woodman's Foods on Milwaukee Street after work today, remembering that my coworkers had recommended this store based on selection and prices.

I was pleased to discover that Woodman's offers a wide variety of groceries at affordable prices: exactly what I need. Alas, I have found my grocery store. My cart had a cup holder for my water and a nice little caddy for my new iPhone, which was equipped a shopping list app (because I'm just THAT cool). I proceeded into the store, where I was happy to discover that the Woodman's playlist consisted of a lovely mix of En Vogue and Madonna (did they steal my iPod?). While I had been jamming to Madonna at work today in honor of her 53rd birthday, I was happy to continue the celebration while grocery shopping.

Woodman's has everything. Fat free Philadephia cream cheese: check. Multigrain tortilla chips: check. Trash bags: check. Picture frames: check. Not only does Woodman's have everything, but they have an abundance of everything. I was particularly impressed by the cheese selection, which is comparable to that of Jungle Jim's International Market in Fairfield, OH (that's saying a lot, because Jungle Jim's is a 1.5 acre store). And the prices were fantastic. 

Excited by how much I saved on groceries, I picked up some rainbow feather mice for the kids for 99 cents!
On my way to the checkout line, I ran into Cesca (my skating coach), who told me that this is the best Woodman's in town. Trust me, I will be returning.

Special thanks to Erika and Tonya for the recommendation!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Results from the July poll!

18 votes are in... here are the results from the July poll:

What is your favorite barnyard animal?

Goat - 5 votes
Pig - 5 votes
Horse - 3 votes
Duck - 2 votes
Sheep - 2 votes
Cow - 1 vote

Chickens and turkeys both received zero votes. I gather that my readers aren't poultry fans.

Check out the August poll on the right!

Wisconsin pride.

After living in Wisconsin for two and a half months, I have made this observation: Wisconsinites have a lot of pride in their state. Wisconsin pride is everywhere.

I find this quite fascinating in comparison to growing up in North Carolina, where every notion of local pride is focused on at least one of the following:
1. General Southern pride
2. Confederate pride
3. Wolfpack (NC State) pride
4. Tar Heel (Chapel Hill) pride*
5. Blue Devil (Duke) pride*

*It is noteworthy that while numbers 4 and 5 are quite proud of their teams, they truly despise each other.

North Carolinians have plenty of pride, but it's not focused on the state itself. As far as I can tell, Wisconsinites love their state. They hate their governor, but they love their state. If any non-Wisconsinites don't know what I'm talking about, Google "Scott Walker recall."

I find it amusing that national chains have made some products in Wisconsin and marketed them accordingly for the proud Wisconsinites:

Even California-based Trader Joe's has Wisconsin pride (note the seal at the bottom right).
I believe my official Wisconsinite initiation happened when my three future coworkers (all native Wisconsinites) fed me my first ever serving of fried cheese curds. At the time I didn't know that I had been hired, but I did know that I enjoyed what I was eating and could definitely see myself living in Madison.

Now that I live here, I suppose I'll know when I've truly become a Wisconsinite: when I start feeling the pride.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The closest I'll ever get to biking in Madison.

As I have mentioned previously, Madison is extremely biker-friendly. This can be quite terrifying when I'm driving at night and a darkly clothed biker with no lights or reflectors skims by the side of my car. I suppose I will get used to this some day.

After work today, I went to Capital Fitness to do some cardio. While reading Tina Fey's Bossypants and pedaling on a standard recumbent bike, I was distracted by the bike next to me. It was an Expresso interactive bike, which combines exercise, video games, and, oh yeah, dragon slaying.

After doing 20 minutes of cardio, I decided that I wanted to learn more about the mysterious Expresso, so I asked an employee at the front desk to give me a brief tutorial. She explained that while riding the bike, I could participate in a video game by shifting gears and steering with the hand controls. I figured I should try it out, so I hopped onto the bike.

This is the bike I rode. Expresso also makes upright bikes with similar functions.
Then, I learned that not only does the Expresso bike simulate outdoor biking scenarios and races, it also has a video game where I could collect coins and chase dragons in a sandy mythical pagoda land while biking. Burning calories while chasing dragons in an air conditioned environment on a Tuesday evening? Yes please.

All the dragons are creepy and eel-like, so catching them is quite fulfilling.
An interesting feature on this exercise bike is that it provides random background music. I was so glad I plugged by headphones in, because "Angel of the Morning" was the perfect soundtrack for dragon chasing. Really.

After chasing some dragons, I opted to try out one of the bike's more traditional features and try pedaling around a track. I played around with the steering and gear shifting functions and I found myself pedaling much faster than usual so that I could get a good time. I discovered that gears 9, 10, and 11 were the most useful for my trek.

Here is a sample of what the user sees while biking on the Expresso.
I slayed a few dragons and then biked a mile with back support in a faux outdoor setting while surrounded by air conditioning. And I didn't even get helmet hair. That's my kind of biking!