Monday, June 27, 2011

MadCat Pet Supplies: a cat lover's dream.

Anticipating the arrival of my two cats this Thursday, I decided to go buy them a nice surprise yesterday. I went to MadCat Pet Supplies' largest location on Mineral Point Road (right near the West Towne Mall) in search of the perfect cat tree. There were plenty of reasonably priced choices. The trees at MadCat look nothing like the ugly ones at most pet stores. MadCat trees are functional, yet quite aesthetically pleasing: the perfect addition to my new apartment.

One of the many awesome reasons to buy a cat tree from MadCat: they deliver for free. This is a great perk for a girl like me with a compact car and no upper body strength.

I chose a wooden tree with three carpeted tiers.

My tree was delivered right to my door 24 hours after it had been purchased: very efficient! I plan to sprinkle catnip all over it in order to get the cats interested. I think it looks like a very nice place for them to lounge and scratch.

My cats are not related-- they just happen to look very similar.
Jupiter (left) and Phoebe (right) will relocate to Madison this Thursday!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Got Feathers? Tour des Coops!

While chilling at a post-work gathering last week, Amie mentioned that there was a chicken coop tour happening in her neighborhood. That's right, Tour des Coops: a free walking tour of the local chicken coops, sponsored by the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association. As someone who has never properly toured a chicken coop before, this sounded like a blog-worthy Saturday adventure.

I began my day in true chicken coop fashion: I got feather hair extensions. I had been wanting them for awhile, and I was sold when my friend Nicole told me that Fine Featherheads were cruelty-free. Thanks to Jece for putting them in:

6 feathers: 2 red, 2 purple, and 2 black & white.
Because I have very thick hair, they should stay in for 8 weeks. Sweet!
I had feathers in my hair and I was truly in the mood to bond with some chickens. I walked to the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood, which is about a mile from my apartment. On my way there, I passed this lovely window decoration on East Johnson Street:

A house is not complete without a cow in the front window.
Daily dose of cow: complete! Now, onto the chickens. I arrived at the first stop on the tour: Richard Freihoefer's chicken coop:

Two chickens hanging out in their coop.
Richard owns two types of chickens: Buff Orpington (tan) and Plymouth Rock (black & white).
The coop is in Richard's backyard. We chatted and I told him that I'm new in town and recently started this blog. Then, he said words that were music to my ears: "Would you like to hold a chicken?" I obviously said yes. As it may have already been implied, I'm a total animal lover. I never refuse an opportunity to snuggle an animal:

Complete with my feathered hair, I totally bonded with this bird (Richard doesn't name his chickens).
She let me hold her for quite awhile and enjoyed being petted.
Little did I know that it was about to get even better. Obviously getting the impression that I love holding animals, Richard asked me: "Would you like to hold a baby turkey?" Again, obviously, my answer was yes:

Meet Tom: he's a 4-week-old baby turkey.
He didn't mind being held and petted, but his real joy came from pecking at my rings. 
After bonding with Richard's birds, I decided to continue exploring the local coops. Before I left, Richard gave me three eggs fresh from the coop:

Thanks for the eggs, Richard!
I proceeded to explore other local coops (all of which are in the backyards of homes in a residential neighborhood). I saw some chickens with beautiful feathers (much fancier than the ones in my hair):

Click to enlarge the photos and see the feathers up close: they're gorgeous! 

After touring a few coops, I thought that I should go check out Lake Mendota (Madison is an isthmus surrounded by lakes). On my way to the lake, I ran into Amie, who had told me about the tour. She had also just finished touring the coops, and I wound up making a pit stop at her house instead of seeing the lake (it's not going anywhere and I'm sure I'll see it eventually). I got to meet Mr. Otterpants (a very sweet cat) and grab a snack. Thanks for the rhubarb turnover, Amie!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My not-so-average morning drive.

Around 9:00am this morning, and I was driving to work while listening to the new Lady GaGa album (excellent wake-up music for me since I am NOT a morning person). It was a typical morning until I noticed that I was behind a large white trailer. As I looked closer, I noticed big black and white noses poking out of the trailer, along with a cow staring at me. There was a trailer full of cows driving downtown on a Wednesday morning. I managed to snap a picture while sitting at a red light:

Look closely: a cow is poking her nose out to get a whiff of the summer air.
I counted four cows in the trailer and they seemed quite content with driving around downtown. I'm hoping that they were on their way to a nice milking, rather than a slaughterhouse. This was quite an interesting start to my morning. I hope the cows enjoyed the ride.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Anthology on State Street: a crafty girl's dream.

I have a personal rule of thumb that tends to be quite accurate: any street with an American Apparel store is in a cool neighborhood. Yes, I know, this sounds quite generalized. Here is my reasoning: I really like American Apparel (despite the fact that they've been investigated for multiple scandals, but that's a whole other can of worms). American Apparel puts their stores in cool neighborhoods where the legging-clad hipsters can go find them. Simple as that.

When I went apartment hunting in Madison, I observed that the only local American Apparel store was on State Street. In accordance with my rule of thumb, I decided that State Street must be a cool place. I was right.

State Street is youthful and artsy, equally populated by chains and local businesses who seem to get along quite nicely with each other. My favorite discovery on State Street thus far has been a store called Anthology. I can't get enough of this place. If Etsy had a storefront, it would look like Anthology. They sell handmade gifts and goodies on consignment from local crafty folks, and there's even a craft table right in the store where anyone can sit down and get creative. I want to buy everything in this store.

In an attempt to show some restraint and not go broke in my first month of adulthood, I only spent $8 on my first trip to Anthology. I bought 8 yards of beautiful hand-dyed ribbon for $1/yard (score!). I brought it home and crocheted a wrap bracelet in a mere 10 minutes. As a craft enthusiast, it was quite an exciting day for me. Here is the result:

Beautiful, vibrant colors. Also, it's rainbow-colored yet it doesn't remind me of a bag of Skittles. Win.
Obviously, I knew that my love affair with this store would continue. After browsing the farmers' market yesterday, I returned to Anthology and spent time searching through a glass vase filled with cards of scrap yarn, ribbon, and string for $6 each. I chose a card with a blend of brown, purple, and green tones-- the colors just looked so rich, and I've been trying to integrate more green and purple into my wardrobe:

Gorgeous yarn, ribbon, and string for $6: I'm a very happy girl.
In another 10 minute crochet experiment, I tied the scraps from the card together and crocheted them into a bracelet. I'm loving how the textures nicely mixed together:

I suppose I have given in to the wrap bracelet trend, huh?
I'm usually a knitter (not a crocheter), so this new interest has surprised me a bit. I predict that I will continue making these, and I think they could make great gifts for friends.

Goal: sell my hand-knit cupcake hats at Anthology. I believe they'd fit right in, and I'd love to be a part of this wonderful store.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I love Willy Street.

In my three weeks of residency in downtown Madison, I have already come to love the Williamson Street ("Willy Street") neighborhood. It's free-thinking and artsy with a crunchy granola after-taste: totally my scene.

Willy Street is full of some lovely kitschy wonders:

Mannequin legs on a balcony (look closely).
I'd say I've been to the neighborhood 4 or 5 times already and I always find something smile-worthy to see. I joined a local stitch-n-bitch (knitting group) last week and they meet at Mickey's Tavern on Willy Street. It's a welcoming bar with an efficient waitress and cheap, delicious food:

Tonight's dinner at Mickey's Tavern: veggie burger wrap with chips and dip. Delicious!
I have gathered that Madison in general is a very vegetarian-friendly city. This is a new concept for me after going to college in Cincinnati where they worship meaty chili and growing up in Charlotte where pork barbeque steals the show. It's nice to see a veggie burger wrap on the menu. Also, I love Madison's abundance of local restaurants instead of boring chains. I really like to support local businesses, and I get the impression that Madisonians agree.

I like you already, Willy Street. I expect you to produce some fond memories.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My first weekend away from the farmers' market.

As I have already mentioned, the Dane County Farmers' Market has become one of my favorite places. I have spent the past two Saturdays having a blast exploring the products offered from a variety of local vendors.

This weekend, I'm going to Columbus, Ohio for my friend's wedding, so I'll be MIA at the market. I figured this would be a good opportunity to showcase some interesting market-related photos that I have taken thus far.

One of the many cheese smorgasbords available at the market.
One of the most fascinating and moo-worthy people that I have met in Wisconsin is Larry the Gourd Guy. The name pretty much says it all. The man loves his gourds, and he's a really nice guy.

Larry was very happy to show off his many gourds!
I find it quite fun to come home from the market with great loot from local vendors.

Sugar-free apple butter, raspberry jalapeno pepper jelly, bread n' butter pickles, & pumpkin tortelloni
I have been hoping to score some homespun yarn at the market, which I haven't found yet but I did find some at Anthology on State Street.

I expect to have some major catching-up to do at the market when I'm back next weekend!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I refuse to buy a bike.

For those who are reading this who may be uninformed on this topic, Madison, Wisconsin LOVES bikes. They just love the bikes. They're freakin' everywhere. The city is FULL of bike shops. I swear there are more bike shops than grocery stores-- what's up with that?

People in Madison ride their bikes pretty much everywhere, and the bikers and pedestrians totally rule the downtown area. They pedal and walk whenever they want. They don't seem to give a shit about what a traffic sign may say. Anyone using any form of transportation other than a car seems to have the ultimate say in what's going on with the traffic. Car drivers like me are totally in the backseat when it comes to the downtown roads. We have no say. It's not our turf.

But here's the problem: I refuse to buy a bike. I have not ridden a bike since elementary school and I just have no interest in ever doing so again. I enjoy being comfortable in my Volvo. I really do. Also, I have a bad back and hunching over on a bike is no good. I have been a competitive figure skater for 20 years and I have truly sacrificed my body to the sport (yup, you got it, doing unnatural things to your body with the constant risk of falling on ice is in fact detrimental later in life). I truly love skating and I am willing to deal with the pain. It's a blood sport, but it's worth it. BUT... the last thing I need in my life is a bike. I'd wreck my back even more than it's already been wrecked, plus I'd be risking falling over on the pavement (trust me, I fall quite often, and it would definitely happen). I am particularly good at tripping over absolutely nothing. Imagine me on a bike... it's doomed to be dangerous.

I truly wish I had a dollar for every person who has suggested that I buy a bike. I'd be quite wealthy. And for the record, I would definitely invest that money in figure skating, not biking.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm already developing a reputation.

After a mere five days as a Wisconsin blogger, I'm already getting an interesting response from my friends (none of whom are native Wisconsinites). I was particularly entertained by a text conversation that I just had with my college classmate and all-around fascinating friend, Milan:

Milan: Get feta cheese up so I can vote with loyalty for the goats!
Me: Hold on, let me add feta. Can't edit it. Sorry. Just vote "other."
Milan: Son of a cow.
Me: Time for bed. I'm elderly now. Goodnight: I love and adore you.
Milan: Haha, me too. See you in dreamland, dairyfairy!

Not only have I already passed on the art of dairy puns to my friend, but she has now coined me as "dairyfairy." I suppose I should have expected this would happen. I also suppose that there are a lot of nicknames out there that are significantly worse than dairyfairy, so maybe I'm a lucky girl.

Monday, June 6, 2011

An open letter to Madison (WI) about the status of our new relationship.

Dear Madison (WI),

Let me preface this by saying that I am an optimist. I'm a nice person and I'm very easy to get along with... I really am. I'm friendly as hell, just ask any of my friends. My friend Suzy would particularly have an encyclopedia's worth of stories about how insanely friendly I can be sometimes. Seriously, I drive her crazy.

Anyways, I know that we just started our relationship, but I'm already sensing a lot of love/hate from you. You're really not treating me well, which is so sad to me because I've already started to bond with you.

But Madison, where are your gas stations? In my previous relationship with Charlotte (NC), I always appreciated the abundance of gas stations she offered. Madison, what's with the lack of fuel? I know that you're an extremely biker-friendly city, but I have absolutely no interest in riding a bike. I like my car. She's been good to me for quite a few years now. As I said before, I'm a nice person, so I take care of my car and I like to give her plenty of gas to drink. How am I supposed to do this with your ridiculous lack of gas stations?

Oh Madison, where are your supermarkets? Charlotte provided me with many supermarkets, yet you seem to have so few. Yes Madison, I know you have a farmers' market, but they don't sell Chewy granola bars so I truly need a supermarket. While I love that all the Wal Marts and Targets here have a lot of food options (Charlotte needs to work on that), I sometimes like to go to a good old fashioned supermarket. I really don't think this is an unreasonable request. A girl's gotta eat.

I really feel that I could fall in love with you and stay with you forever, but I need you to start compromising with me a bit. I'm 500-900 miles away from all of my friends, I firmly believe that the elevator in my building is haunted, and my car just died (I'm pretty sure she's retaliating at you for not providing her with ample gas station options). Madison, a good relationship requires compromise and you need to help me out here. This is new for both of us. You're probably not used to East Coast girls stomping on your territory, but I'm here now and we're both going to have to live with it. Please get your shit together so that we can continue to grow as a couple.

Your new resident (aka Aviva)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Got Milk? My visit to the 32nd annual "Cows on the Concourse."

I have lived in Wisconsin for eight days and I have already developed a love for the Dane County Farmers' Market. Through their website, I learned about the 32nd annual Cows on the Concourse. I should preface this post by saying that I love barnyard animals. When I was 16, I spent two months of summer camp in New Hampshire taking care of three goats whom I grew quite fond of, which fostered a love of any living thing with hoofs and horns.

Back to the cows. As a new resident in downtown Madison, I have already become quite fond of walking around Capitol Square and exploring the weekly farmers' market and local shops. I was quite shocked to discover that every June, local cows and dairy farmers come hang out downtown to meet and greet people. The cows hang out downtown. How fabulous is that concept?

I picked up my map of downtown and made my way over to Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. I knew I was in the right place when I was greeted by this:

I followed the sign and made my way over to the Purple Cow Gift Shop, the official shop of the World Dairy Expo. I then found myself bombarded by an abundance of adorable stuffed cows:

This is my kind of street festival. Who doesn't love a good smiling milk carton and the opportunity to mimic milking a cow every once and awhile?

I then arrived at my final destination: THE COWS! I arrived at a tent filled with cows and very friendly local farmers, where I got to meet and greet local cattle.

Holstein cow
Jersey cow
After telling one of the farmers about my blog, I was invited into the makeshift barn area to get my picture taken with Bucky. She's a 1400-pound Holstein cow who enjoys being petted and didn't mind socializing with me:

The dairy farmers were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. They taught me all sorts of fun facts about cows, my favorite being that the average cow drinks a bathtub full of water a day!

Special thanks to today's friendly farmers who were so welcoming to me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome to Wisconsin. There's a cow on the balcony.

When my mom and I went apartment hunting in downtown Madison, I was quite amused to find this life-sized painted cow on a downtown balcony for no apparent reason other than kitsch:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How I met Bucky the Badger.

It would be an understatement to say that my good friend Lauren has a good sense of humor. She's beyond hilarious and can make me laugh until I am truly nauseated, but it's totally worth it.

When Lauren (a fellow North Carolinian) heard that I was traveling to Wisconsin for the first time (for my job interview), she insisted that I take a picture of myself in a cheese hat. When I arrived at the Madison airport, I almost immediately saw a gift shop full of cheese hats. Jackpot.

My conversation with the gift shop cashier went as follows:

Me: "Hi. It's my first time in the state of Wisconsin and my friend asked for a photo of me wearing a cheese hat. Would you mind taking my picture?"

Cashier: "Sure, no problem. Why don't you stand next to Bucky the Badger."

Me: "Who is Bucky the Badger?"

Despite my love of anthropomorphism and alliteration, I had never heard of Bucky the Badger. It turns out that Bucky is the official mascot of the University of Wisconsin- Madison. I put on a cheese hat, picked up a cheese football, stood next to a shiny statue of Bucky, and smiled for my first ever photo op in Wisconsin. Here's to you, Lauren:

I later learned that Wisconsin is known as "The Badger State" because its coal miners in the 1800s found shelter in the holes that they dug in the ground, giving them the nickname "badgers." I have observed that Wisconsin nomenclature is often accompanied by the word "badger."

Greetings. Hello. Moo.

My name is Aviva (ah-vee-vah).

I'm the daughter of an introverted mathematician father and an extroverted gun-carrying mother, also known as Dave and Janice. I'm the sister of a very special miracle guy, also known as Jeremy. I'm the best friend of a kind-hearted rebel, also known as Aimee, and the auntie of her tie-dye enthusiast daughter, also known as Isis. I'm the owner of two mischievous furry felines, also known as Phoebe and Jupiter. There are many other important people in my life and I will of course discuss them at a later time.

I was born in Boston to Yankee parents who migrated south and raised me in Charlotte, North Carolina. After spending the majority of my life in the south, I opted to go to college in Cincinnati, Ohio after finding out about an amazing fashion design program at the University of Cincinnati. In 2010, I graduated with a degree in fashion design and product development along with a certificate in journalism.

Through my college's five year co-op program, I lived a nomadic college lifestyle that required me to move every three months. I completed eight internships in four states, yet none of the jobs ever truly felt right for me. After five years of college, I was exhausted.

After countless job applications and an unfortunately large amount of rejection letters, I finally found a job in Madison, Wisconsin as an assistant editor for a fashion website (a job that combines my loves of fashion and writing). I packed up my life into boxes, said goodbye to my family and friends, and moved to a city and state that I had never been to before. It was a major lifestyle change and very overwhelming, but also a thrilling and exciting start to my adult life.

I'm a 24-year-old college graduate, but now what?

I have dabbled with online journals, but despite numerous nudges and suggestions from friends, I never blogged. I suppose I never felt motivated to start one because I never believed that I had a worthy subject matter.

I don't want to write about fashion.
As much as I adore it, it's my career and I feel that I need a little break.

I don't want to write about figure skating.
I'm a competitor, performer, coach, judge, and die-hard fan. Do I need to add sports blogger to that list?

I don't want to write about the intimate aspects of my personal life.
Though I respect Carrie Bradshaw, I don't feel like sharing my romantic encounters with the world.

But alas, I finally feel that I have a reason to blog. I have a reason to share my thoughts and experiences regarding a particular subject matter with my friends, family, and anyone else who chooses to read. I have a reason to document my life through words and photographs and compile them into one place in cyber land. My reason is:

Welcome to Aviva In Dairyland, where the Mad Hatter drinks beer, the Cheshire Cat lives in a barn, and the White Rabbit has his watch set to Central Time. It may not be the East Coast, but it's my new stomping ground. This is my adventure.