Thursday, April 28, 2011

Farmer's Market

I mentioned something a few weeks ago about the first Dane County Outdoor Farmer's Market of the year. I also vaguely promised a post about it. Unfortunately, that was last weekend and the weather was horrible. We did brave the freezing rain to check out the market, but I didn't take any pictures and we didn't buy much.

This Saturday was much better. The sun was out, it was supposed to be 50 degrees, and more vendors showed up with more stuff. Yay!

A bummer for us is that right now, while its still pretty cold and early spring, the majority of vendors are meat, cheese, and bread products. Which are NOT allowed on this diet. Its hard to walk by the rows of cheese curd samples and case upon case of cinnamon rolls without cracking. But on the bright side, it gives us something to look forward to when my diet ends and I anticipate gaining 5 pounds.

This week we got up early and headed to the gym. Here is Aaron after his workout.

Then we walked around the square and bought spinach, arugula, cucumbers, maple syrup and 2 herb plants (mint and basil).

This little lady bug wanted to come home with us. It did. We forgot about it. Its probably lying dead somewhere around here...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wedding Planning: Transportation

Wedding day logistics. Somewhat of a nightmare. The closer we get, the more real our wedding becomes. I have to say, seeing our names on our invitations was quite a shock to us both. Also a little wake up call that this wedding is happening and we need to organize the details of the day!

Once the food, flowers, and dress are taken care of, its easy to assume all is well. But of course, there is so much more and it sometimes hits me like a little bit of a panic attack. One of those things is transportation.

As I said in my liquor post, a limousine is one of the things that doesn't fit into our post-moving wedding budget. It would make our lives much easier, so we are trying to pinch pennies and see if we can make it happen, but in the likely case it doesn't, I need some advice on how to handle this situation:

1. Me, my parents, and 5 bridesmaids going from the hotel to the ceremony.
2. Aaron and I, 10 wedding party members, and 1 photographer driving around Kalamazoo taking photos for 3-4 hours.
4. Somewhere to toast our marriage vows with delicious champagne!
3. Making it to the reception with all of those people and having parking.

This means we need transportation for 8 people in the morning and 13 people the rest of the day. Also, keep in mind that whatever we ride in to the ceremony is what I will be stepping out of in my wedding dress and walking straight down the aisle!

Aaron's dad does have this lovely Mustang that we could drive around, but if it rains then its out and it will only hold four people. We would need two cars in the morning, which is doable. But after the ceremony we would need 2 reg. cars and a van/suv.

There are a lot of great places to take pictures in Kalamazoo, but I don't want to be trekking around too much in my wedding dress, especially if its hot or raining. So ideally our cars would be able to stay with us, but parking is also somewhat of a challenge downtown.

So people who have been married recently, how did you decide how to get where you were going? Intelligent people who weren't married recently, what would you suggest? We are at a standstill on this so any suggestions are helpful!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Picnic

Easter candy, eggs, and general celebrating foods aren't part of my elimination diet right now. Still, I wanted to do something special for the holiday, so we went on a picnic.

After a light breakfast, we packed up some food and went to the appropriately named Picnic Point to explore and hopefully find a nice place to eat. Picnic Point is a little peninsula on Lake Mendota with trails and beaches. Its about a mile walk from the parking lot to the tip of the peninsula, so we got some exercise in too (the gym was closed for Easter).

Apparently the lake is dirty and not great for swimming, but its nice to look at.

After checking out the point, we walked back to a bench overlooking the water to eat lunch. This was our view:

The tallest building is the Capitol.

There were a lot of cardinals flying around.

It was so nice to get some sun and look out at the water. A lot of ducks were going by and Aaron tried to entice them with some sour grapes, but they weren't interested. Another cool thing about Picnic Point is they have a lot of fire pits and it looks like wood is provided, which would be really fun in the summer.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Maple-Cumin Roasted Cashews

This week on the elimination diet was a success. Adding beans and nuts went over well and I'm happy I can keep eating them now!

I was pretty hungry this week, so it was hard to ignore the almonds, walnuts and cashews sitting in our cupboard, which weren't allowed until Thursday. I love having some nuts to go with a piece of fruit for a morning or afternoon snack (I eat 5-6 times a day).

I was also really excited to try almond butter for the first time. It is delicious and is 100% better than the sunflower seed butter we have been eating. Almond butter is a little rich and pricey though, so until we have a food processor and can make it ourselves, we will probably stick to peanut butter.

One of the best things that came out of this week was maple roasted cashews. Yum.

Cooling off after being separated.

I bought raw cashews from Whole Foods, knowing I wanted to roast them myself, but I had no idea what I was going to do with them. You would think raw nuts would be cheaper than already roasted ones, but the raw cashews were significantly more expensive with a price tag of $15.99 per pound. For some reason I went for them (I guess believing I would only get a "small" amount and it would be "cheap enough). Ten dollars later..... and we have a really expensive snack.

Luckily, I bought exactly the right amount (2 cups) for this recipe and we had exactly 1/4 cup of maple syrup left. The ancho chili powder was not included in our cashews because of my nightshade veggie allergy. Sad, but I'm sure it would be delicious with that added too!

I highly recommend these, especially if you like cumin. They were relatively easy and amazingly delicious. I plan to try the topping with other (cheaper) nuts soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Smoothie

The first time I saw "green" smoothies on the inter-webs, I was a little disgusted.

Then I kept reading and reading about them. Everyone claimed you can't taste the spinach, but I was still skeptical. After about six months of seeing photos and looking at recipes, I was finally brave enough to give them a try.

And... everyone was right.

Most of the green smoothies I make don't actually turn out green. Usually, they look some suspicious color and if people see them, they are grossed out. But this one stays true to its name and holds a green color. It's really easy, filling, and delicious.

Throw two mangos, one ripe avocado, a couple handfuls of spinach, and about 2 cups of water into your blender. Put it on high for a little bit and voila. If the mangos aren't super sweet, adding a pear, apple or grapes can make it better.

Here is a list of why I like green smoothies:

1. It makes a fruit smoothie more substantial.
2. They gave me a good excuse to buy colorful straws.
3. You can have salad before lunch without actually having to eat a salad.

Try one! You don't want to be the last loser to get on this bandwagon. This is the first post that inspired me to go for it, so check it out.

The Living Room

I finally took a minute to snap some pictures of our living area. It's a pretty big room and we are sorely lacking furniture, so we split it into two areas. (We need a couch.)

The "living room" area is at the front of the room, with the windows looking out on Wilson St. On the right, where you can see some shoes, is our front door. The wall on that side is also painted the same color as the radiator.

This is the "office" area. I use the term office lightly.

I think these pictures give you a good idea of the vintage-ness of our apartment. We even have the wood paneled TV to go with it!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wedding Planning: Where's the liquor?

My life sure has been unexpected this year. A few months ago, I was in AmeriCorps, hoping to get accepted to U of M, and saving all of my pennies for our wedding. Now here I am in Wisconsin, working at a huge company and looking forward to starting graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. Definitely unexpected.

Oh, and the wedding pennies... most of those were spent on breaking our lease, moving to a new state and all the miscellaneous expenses while we waited for Aaron's first paycheck. Sweet. After some major $$ panics, selling my car and a generous offering from Uncle Sam's tax coffers, we are back on track with our savings.

Unfortunately, its not where it would have been without the interruptions and some things need to go. All of this is a long way of saying that we are seriously considering the idea of cutting liquor from our wedding budget.

I know, I wanted to break the news to you slowly. Here's the deal. We are going to have two kegs of expensive (Bell's) beer. We will have champagne and four different types of quality wine (the stuff I actually drink!). Plus mojitos, one of Aaron and mine's favorite drinks to make in the summer. So technically, there's some liquor involved.

  1. First of all, we are not going to serve cheap liquor that we could afford, because we have some standards for what we give our family and friends.
  2. Secondly, we are looking at our budget and thinking... "hey, if only 100 people come, is the expensive beer going to get drunk?" (probably not).
  3. Third, there are only so many places you can save money on a wedding that was planned with one budget in mind, and then major life changes get thrown at you. We are already not going on a "real" honeymoon and are probably not going to get a limo. You'll probably see me walk to the ceremony for all I know. Liquor seems to be one of those things where we can save a lot and people will still get drunk!

So anyway, let me know what you think about this. Will you be angry if the bar is just beer, wine, and rum? Will the party people not start a party without some vodka? Or would the party people be perfectly happy drinking Oberon?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Goodbye Peppers!

The pepper phase of the elimination diet has come and gone, and the tomato phase never got a chance. After 3 days of intense stomach aches, one where I almost threw up my dinner, I decided to discontinue with testing nightshade vegetables. The day after this decision, I felt 50% better. The day after that day, I felt 100% better.

Now I'm grappling with the idea of not having any spicy food for a while. I can certainly live without bell peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, but its the cayenne, paprika, chili powder, jalepenos... etc that are causing some heartache. I just love spicy food! Indian, Thai, Chinese, and Mexican will all be a challenge to eat now.

This is not what I was expecting at all when I started this diet. Because of the range of symptoms I had this week, I'm hopeful that nightshades were the biggest problem (which makes sense because I'm sure in my normal diet I had some form of pepper every day). I'm hopeful that dairy, gluten, and yeast won't be an issue. And Phase 3 continues.

After taking a few days off, we will start Monday by testing beans and then tree nuts (excluding peanuts) later in the week. I'm looking forward to some different sources of protein and some almond butter (sunflower seed butter is not all its cracked up to be.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aaron in front of the Capitol

This past weekend was so beautiful. Aaron and I took long walks on both Saturday and Sunday to enjoy the weather. Here is Aaron, standing in the middle of State St. in front of the capitol.

Stay tuned for this weekend when the farmer's market starts right behind him! I plan to go every Saturday morning, rain or shine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wedding Planning: Invitations

Aaron and I finally got around to picking out our wedding invitations. We purchased a design from this website: A Printable Press. I'm not going to tell you which one, but if you feel like guessing and you guess right, you will win a prize. The prize will be an invitation to our wedding.

Now we are waiting for our design to be sent with our wording, then we have to decide where to print them. Right now its between online printing and a local printing shop that was recommended to me by a coworker. I would much rather go through the printing shop since I know little to nothing about paper products and don't really feel like learning, but we'll see what the price difference is.

We also need to design an info card. We didn't purchase a graphic for it yet because we are hoping to just get it onto the back of the main invitation card (saving the trees!). Also, our response card is a postcard, so no extra envelopes will be harmed in the process of RSVPing.

Each invitation will also be hand addressed by Aaron or myself. Since we moved to Wisconsin, we are without the troupe of mothers, aunts, grandmas, and friends who might have helped us address our invites. At least this way you'll know exactly who addressed your invitation.

If all goes well, the invitations will be sent out the first of June and every guest will kindly reply within a week. (That way we can have adequate time to agonize over seating charts.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Goodbye Potatoes

We have now entered Phase 3 of the Elimination Diet. At this time you can add a lot of great food, like nightshade veggies, soy products, and my beloved pineapple.

Unfortunately, I'm not quite there yet because for people with health issues, it is recommended to add the nightshade vegetables one at a time. Adding each vegetable individually will be a more accurate representation of what upsets your body.

That means this week is 3 days of potatoes, 3 of peppers, and then tomatoes. I'm not worrying about eggplant because I rarely eat it.

At first I was really excited to add these foods back, but the potato seems less than appealing. Maybe its because sweet potatoes have so much more flavor? Or because I enjoy potatoes the most with eggs, which aren't allowed yet.

Day 1 we tested the potato with some oven baked french fries. I had to eat mine plain, but since Aaron doesn't have any health issues, he got to have ketchup with his. Bleh.

Day 2 was this baked potato stuffed with broccoli, onions, and adzuki beans.
It was pretty tasty. As good as a potato without cheese, sour cream and butter can be. I also took half of this potato with me for lunch today. Unfortunately, about a half hour/hour after I ate my lunch, I started to get a stomach ache and felt warm. By the time I was ready to workout, my stomach was twisting in knots. I walked a couple blocks and decided to turn around and do pushups in my apartment instead. Sad.

Of course, being the stubborn person that I am, I wanted to make sure to give the potato its due and I went through with putting potatoes in my dinner. After all, we drove all over Madison to get those leeks.

Day 3 (today) was a chunky leek and potato soup, with fresh thyme and coconut milk in place of regular milk.

While trying to figure out where the name "nightshade" vegetable comes from, I did some research. I learned that nightshade veggies contain alkaloids, which some people are more sensitive too. I hope I'm not, but honestly it would be better than being allergic to gluten or yeast. Apparently, many people who suffer from fibromyalgia or other chronic pain can lessen their problems by cutting out all nightshade vegetables, because alkaloids effect joints and the nervous system. You can read more about it here.

Crazy, who knew so much was lurking in that pretty little tomato?

Anyway, if I react to the other nightshade vegetables as well, this will be an unpleasant week for me. For now it looks like potatoes are out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Opus Lounge

Justin's Yellow Jacket and Water for Chocolate

We have found a few bars/restaurants around here that we enjoy and have gone to pretty frequently. But there are so many great places to hang out in Madison, so last night we decided to try somewhere new.

We were looking for cocktails, since beer has wheat and yeast in it and we haven't added that back into the diet yet. Ok well technically alcohol isn't allowed yet either, but we have cut out all alcohol in cooking and the glass of wine or beer that we often have for dinner, so one night a week I figured it would be ok. Also, I stuck to the drinks with mixtures that are allowed on the diet (no chocolate for me... that one is Aaron's).

Opus Lounge is a few blocks from the Capitol and a nice walk from our apartment, plus their drink menu looked pretty amazing. Check it out. All of the drinks were created by staff and our bartender was helpful in recommendations.

Justin's Yellow Jacket was my favorite, with Hendricks gin, pear and alpine herbs, topped with champagne. Aaron also really liked it, but his Water for Chocolate with orange was a delicious take on a chocolate martini (none of the creamy frothy stuff).

This is definitely a place I want to go back to, to try pretty much every martini on the menu. But if you did look at the drink list, you noticed the prices are a little steep, so we'll have to limit our visits. Maybe we'll save it for when special people are visiting? hint hint.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We Voted!

Thanks to the amazingly easy way you can register to vote in Wisconsin (right at the polls with a myriad of identification or proof of residence (even bring a friend who will vouch for you!)), we were able to vote in the spring elections yesterday.

If we weren't able to register at the polls, I'm sure we wouldn't have voted. With all of the crazyness around moving and settling in, the last thing on our minds was registering to vote for a would-be somewhat insignificant election day. After the anti-union and budget events, the election became a much larger deal and I'm happy we were able to vote!

Unfortunately, the Governor wants to change how registration works in WI... like mandate a state issued photo id with current address, etc. This would stop students from voting who aren't going to spend 28 bucks on a new i.d. every year (most students move every year you know). That would be a shame.

I was most interested in the Supreme Court Justice race and it looks like my choice won, although it is very close. Also, the new Mayor used to work where I do now.

And now proof that food can be delicious, even on a strict diet. Here is my lunch for tomorrow:
Lentils, salmon, roasted brussels sprouts and spaghetti squash over mixed greens.

And here is Aaron's lunch.....
Frozen soup! haha. Well, hopefully it won't be frozen by the time he eats it tomorrow. Its this sweet potato with collard greens soup, sans the sausage and plus adzuki beans.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wedding Planning: Gift Registry

About a week ago, Aaron and I completed another wedding task: registering for gifts.

We love to cook, so registering at Williams-Sonoma about two months ago was fun and pretty effortless. Unfortunately, their plates, silverware and other little things run towards $400 a set, so we needed another store to round out our registry.

After discussing it with our newly married relatives, we chose Bed, Bath & Beyond. The registry consultants were very helpful... although their insisting we need 3 sets of towels per person and 3 sets of sheets was a little much. Yes, eventually we will want more towels and sheets, but for now we will live in a 1 bedroom apartment with 1 linen closet.

I have no problem with gift registries because I love buying people something they actually want (and I'm not super great at figuring it out on my own). Still, it felt weird to have all of our choices out there, as if we are demanding gifts. Especially the expensive things (pots/pans, knives set). I know we will likely end up purchasing those things on our own after the wedding, but adding items over $100 felt somewhat outrageous.

The weirdest part about registering? Walking out and feeling like you have spent all your savings, even though you didn't spend a penny. Also feeling like you just got a ton of cool new stuff! Then realizing you didn't get anything.

Next up: ordering invitations and figuring out some important wedding day logistics (how will we get around and what will our guests be sitting on?)

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Hail

Last night we had quite a storm in Madison. There was thunder and lightening for a while, so we checked the weather forecast and found out we had a "Severe Thunderstorm Warning." By the looks of the radar map, the storm had almost passed and we both said "that wasn't very severe."

Ten minutes later, I was brushing my teeth and the water was on. I heard some bangs and thought maybe a tree was hitting the window? Or our strange down-stairs neighbor was banging around?

When I turned the water off, it sounded like God was dropping God-sized marbles onto our roof.

Hail! I enjoyed the view from the window, hoping our cars weren't damaged. Ice chunks this size or larger were all over the street.

Aaron went down to get a piece.

His hand is abnormally large, so he held up his phone so you can get a better idea of the size.

Luckily the cars weren't damaged and it ended in 15 minutes or so. But the storm lasted alllll night.