Everything in Sight is Blooming

It's a happy sight to walk out the door and see so many flowers blooming. The other day, when I stepped out in the yard, I was greeted by a rainbow of color. So, I thought I'd share.

First, the double petunias.
Then, the black velvet nasturtium.
The grape colored day lilies are in full swing...
And you can almost see the dwarf coneflower blossoms multiplying as you watch.
A bit of flaming fuschia bergamot is peeking out from behind the Italian parsley in the herb garden.
And a pink "wave" petunia has found its way in between the leaves of the sage.
These are "tiny tunias" that we have planted in one of our hanging baskets. They're about 1/3 of the size of a regular petunia, and a flood of blooms cascades over the side of the pot.
Not far off, there are more daylilies.
And one of my favorites -- the pompom shaped poppies that reseed themselves in my back flower bed every year, wild as can be.

It might be time to create a bouquet. What do you think??


Concrete Park

Should you ever wander north of Wausau, WI, you've got to visit Concrete Park.

Fred Smith, a retired Wisconsin lumberjack who could neither read nor write, turned out to be a handsome sculptor of concrete.Embellishing his creations with glass and metal, he created over 200 sculptures, which are now at home in Concrete Park.

I took plenty of pictures, so you can see some of it for yourself.

There are lots of cement people in the park. Many of them are pointing... they're not usually laughing, though. The figures are generally fairly emotionless -- though their body language is sometimes telling.
There are also plenty of sculptures that capture nature -- totally understandable up in the north woods!
Fred's wife, who knew how to type, took Fred's dictation about each sculpture -- and his words are smattered on postings between the sculptures. Click on this, and it should be readable.

Here's Mable (the aforementioned cow), being milked.
And here are Fred's comments about his sculpture of Sacajawea.
One of the most impressive displays is Fred's depiction of the Budweizer wagon.
It's displayed complete with all the Clydesdales...
The level of detail for each horse is really impressive. This was actually Fred's last piece. Shortly after completing it, he suffered a stroke and could no longer sculpt.
I wasn't sure what to expect when we entered the park. But, overall, it was pretty cool. For one, Fred was impressively productive! He also made use of quite a bit of cement and glass (conveniently, he owned a nearby tavern, so he had access to quite a few beer bottles)! This is folk art at its finest -- a great snapshot of history through the eyes of a common man.

More on Concrete Park


Back from the Wild White North

I have returned from my wild and wonderful trip up north... and am prepared to share some pictures of my adventure.

First -- a bit about where I spent the past four days.
Ever heard of Fifield, Wisconsin? Well, that's the spot. A friend's aunt owns a cottage near there, and we went up to spend a few effortless days lounging about.

It was a welcoming little spot, and we were settled in in NO time at all!
Isn't it cute??
OK, that isn't actually the cabin. It's the storage shed. Here's the real deal:
And what did we do, besides lounging? Well, the well-shaded porch was equipped with two comfy rocking chairs and a lovely swinging chair -- so we spent much of the daylight hours out there, sipping coffee and reading. First on the list was the Princeton Review GRE study guide (titillating stuff). And then, there was The Hummingbird's Daughter (Urrea) -- which is really pretty astounding. Lovely prose, plenty of magical realism, nearly 500 pages long ... the perfect novel for a nice, relaxing vacation.

Steph read an amusing tome entitled To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife...
We communed with nature... right in the backyard. (We tried taking a walk down the road and through the woods, but gave up once we started being attacked by ginormous horseflies!!)
And the wildflowers were in bloom!
We also built some really great campfires, around which there was much chitchatting and many late-night libations. Read all about the things we cooked around the fire at BURP!
We did take a few daytime outings -- one to St. Germaine, WI where we found some lovely pottery... and furniture made from twigs! And another to Concrete Park -- a grotto-esque place featuring cement and glass folk art. More on that.

For now, let's suffice to say that a good time was had... but it's always nice to be back home. Where there are less mosquitoes :)

We've been tagged

We were tagged by Rachel over at The Essential Rhubarb Pie.

Last Movie I Saw In A Movie Theater?
We don't go to many movies. But, we did manage to see Juno in the theatre... two, three months ago?

2. What Book Are You Reading?
The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

3. Favorite Board Game?
Trivial Pursuit wins by a long shot. But, I also like Scrabble.

4. Favorite Magazine?
Food and Wine, Bon Appetit. Body and Soul

5. Favorite Smells?
Lilacs, garlic and onions sauteeing, impending rain, freshly mown grass, chai tea...

6. Favorite Sounds?
Rushing water, silence, birds chirping first thing in the morning, a bit of thunder in the distance

7. Worst Feeling In The World?
Forgetting something important, being late, putting on a pair of pants and finding that it doesn't fit!

8. First Thing You Think of When You Wake?
Morning... already??!!!

9. Favorite Fast Food Place?
OK, this is a tough one. First -- we don't eat much fast food. Secondly -- I'm not sure I'd consider it my favorite. OK, I do like MD's french fries...

10. Future Child's Name?
We like two names -- Emma and Phineas. Of course, now that they're public, I'm not sure we can actually go through with using them.

11. Finish This Statement—“If I Had a Lot of Money, I'd...
... purchase loads of pottery and take more trips abroad. Ireland and Greece come to mind.

12. Do You Drive Fast?
Yes, but not crazy fast.

13. Do You Sleep With a Stuffed Animal?
No, but I occasionally wake up with a cat on my head!

No.14. Storms—Cool or Scary?
Very cool -- that's what I've always though. Although the amount of rain we've had this season has really made me think twice about that answer.

15. What Was Your First Car?
1983 Monte Carlo

16. Favorite Drink?
On the mild side, I'll always vote for water or iced tea. Coffee if it's cold out. On the other hand, if you're talking alcoholic, I like a good red wine, a gin & tonic, a margarita, or a cuban sidecar. I'm also fond of beer.

17. Finish This Statement—“If I Had the Time, I Would…
... go back to school to get a culinary degree (in addition to my more practical English master's degree)... take up crocheting... bake more bread.

18. Do You Eat the Stems on Broccoli?
Absolutely. As long as they're tender.

19. If You could Dye your Hair Any Other Color, What Would It Be?
Have dyed my hair "any other color" -- usually that means red. But, I'm back to blonde these days... and liking it.

20. Name All the Different Cities In Which You Have Lived
Milwaukee, WI
Kewaskum, WI
Germantown, WI
Green Bay, WI
Iowa City, IA

21. Favorite Sport to Watch?
I don't really enjoy watching other people play sports. But, I'll make exception for the Olympics, which somehow seem more appealing.

22. One Nice Thing About The Person Who Sent This To You
Rachel is a great storyteller, and I really enjoy her blog.

23. What’s Under Your Bed?
A bin filled with my pj's. And probably a good deal of cat hair.

24. Would You Like to Be Born As Yourself Again?
Sure. I'll try anything twice.

25. Morning Person or Night Owl?
Night person. But, I REALLY love the early morning -- if someone pries me out of bed.

26. Over Easy or Sunny Side Up?
I think I just learned the difference this morning. I'm fine with either -- as long as the white of the egg gets cooked, and the egg is still runny.

27. Favorite Place to Relax?
In the kitchen. Up north.

28. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
I am a huge fan of Haagen Daz coffee icecream. But, I'll also flip for anything from Kopp's custard (OK, that's custard... but close enough??)

29. Of All the People You Have Tagged, Who Is the Most Likely to Respond First?
No clue. But, I'm thinking that Jess is pretty good at "meming" ;)

I'm going to tag:
Jess at Floor 22
Amanda from Daily Diner
Cindy from Hungry Girl por Vida
Lisa at What We Eat


Peef likes pop

Pop music gets a bad rap thanks to the top 40 radio stations where all they play are those 40 hits over and over again until you go through not liking the song, to thinking that it isn't so bad, to sorta liking it, to liking it, to absolute dread of ever hearing that damn song ever again. This happens in about the first 2-3 times you hear the song that same day.

All this aside I like pop music. I like having a bad song stuck in my head every once in awhile. (Now mind you, I HATE having a really bad song in my head for more than it is welcome.) I'm amazed at the wonder of a well crafted pop song. How the melody and lyrics work side by side and hand in hand to drill itself into your cranium. It's amazing really.

Well, let's talk about what I've been listening to lately...I have had Shout Out Louds (from Sweden) on the iPod for a couple of months now and it wasn't until I needed some tunes whilst mowing the lawn that I actually gave them a decent listen. To me, they sound a little bit like the Cure or maybe even a similarity to Belle & Sebastian. I think if you like either of those you should check out Shout Out Louds.

There's this quirky little sound that seems to be coming from the Sweden region that I am hooked on apparently (I told you about Jens Lekman awhile ago). The latest one that I am hearing quite a bit about is Lyyke Li. She's cute. She's Swedish. Apparently I am not the only one that is into Swedish Pop. There is a blog dedicated to the subject. Check out for all things Swede. I think I need to stop. So...

Finally, not from Sweden but from L.A., is Willoughby. I think would classify this as Hipster pop. 1 part Beck, 1 part '60s pop, 1 part quirky. Check him out and let me know what you think.


Being Brave in Rural Wisconsin

After a jam-packed weekend with Peef's family (a bridal shower, a birthday party, and a visit from his brother in Antigua... *WHEW*), I'm heading off to northern Wisconsin. Yessiree, my friend Steph and I are getting away for a few days of good old fashioned rest and relaxation.

Of course, I'm hauling those GRE study guides along with me... because, although I'd like my brain to be clean and refreshed when I get back, I can't go forgetting everything I know. After all, the exam is coming up fast (Aug 11).

Anyhow -- since I don't anticipate having anything CLOSE to an internet connection up north, you won't be hearing much out of me. But, I'll be back...


Being Brave.

I signed up to take the GRE today.
It's the second time I'll be taking the exam. The first go-round happened 11 years ago (eleven years??!!).

Needless to say, I'm a little bit scared. I always vowed that if someone told me I had to take the GRE again, I'd simply change my plans. But, now I'm pretty convinced that I'm not going to let some big old nasty exam scare me away from the possibility of possibility.

So -- wish me luck. And say a prayer for me.
I see a great deal of studying in my near future.


Grilling on the cheap

How many grills do you own?

If you're like us, you have at least two. We have a large Weber that we use for backyard grilling, and a smaller Smoky Joe that we take with us for picnicking.

The Smoky Joe is an effective, compact grill. But, it's still pretty nice (and it's a modest investment at $50). So, for some excursions, a cheaper model is preferable. Take, for instance, tail-gaiting.

The people who hang out in the parking lot at the ball park look pretty friendly. Everyone is happily munching away on their food, drinking beer, and being just lovely. But, it's not unheard of for grills to disappear while they're cooling down out on the concrete during the game. That's why our friends invested in a $15 grill for our most recent tail-gaiting adventure.

Purchasing a cheap grill (or a disposable model) is one option. But, creative types might want to build their own. SO, for those of you who would like to try your hand at building a pretty great small grill "on the cheap," Serious Eats has a pretty nice solution. You can build the grill they feature for under $10. Which is pretty cool.


I Never Harmed an Onion

Lo and I recently received the first disc from The Muppet Show Season 1 through Netflix. This forgotten gem comes from the 5th episode. Enjoy!

Favorite line:
Once I saw a salad dressing.
My face got radish, my oh my.


Independence Day Weekend

You would not believe what an "All American" weekend we had!

Essentially, we accomplished three things:
  1. We grilled out for the 4th of July (and ate fantastic cupcakes).
  2. We sanded and primed our garage.
  3. We went to a baseball game (Brewers vs. Pirates)
First, you've got to witness the amazing garage transformation.
Remember this?
Well, after 12 more hours of hard labor (lots of sanding and then a nice coat of primer), it now it looks more like this:
There's still more work ahead (we don't have it painted yet). But, I'm sure you'll agree that it has undergone a pretty dramatic transformation. And that's fortunate... because we're starting to wonder why we didn't just rip it down!!

Fortunately, our time at the ballpark on Sunday was a LOT more fun. First, we tailgated (such a good time, and really a prerequisite to baseball gamedom here in Milwaukee). Here you see our set-up. And M. washing her hands after unwrapping the burgers we brought.
Our feast included buffalo burgers, buffalo hotdogs (affectionately referred to as "wennies") and mom's homemade baked/grilled beans. Oh, yes -- and beer, of course.
After eating and drinking our fill, we headed on into the stadium.It turned out to be a great game, with plenty of action and quite the crowd (over 42,000 turned out for this game).
And you can't beat the Weiner Races! (Incidentally, the Italian Sausage won)

What a great weekend.
We both need a nap!!


At the Market

We were completely stoked this weekend when we ventured out. Seems that FOOD products have finally arrived at the farmer's market! Hurrah!

This weeks venture brought us a myriad of lovely things -- like shelling peas, sugar snaps, zucchini, and strawberries.
There were some lovely flowers, but we managed to resist.
But, we couldn't resist the sweet peas... and neither could the crowds around us. I had plans for a grande pea & asparagus risotto, so we took home about a pound of shelling peas as well as some sugar snap peas for eating out of hand.
The peas were awesome, but our very best find was local strawberries. They were really at their prime -- deeply colored, sweet, and uber flavorful. The smell was positively irresistable.

And we weren't the only ones who thought so!