Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Green Bug

Here's another advantage to our deck: Aaron can catch weird bugs. After he harassed it for a little bit the bug decided to return the favor and hit Aaron in the back of the neck. Lesson learned: Don't fight with big green bugs.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Orton Park Festival

Our new neighborhood is proving to have a lot of advantages and this weekend it was living 2 blocks away from this: Orton Park Festival. Orton Park is full of trees, a playground, a gazebo, and a basketball court. Its a nice park that we've walked through before, making sure to steal the swing set from little children. We checked the festival out each night.

Thursday night we watched the aerial dance performance by Cycropia. It was pretty astounding. They had ropes hanging from the limb of a huge old tree, which they attached different contraptions to for the show. It was family night, so the place was teeming with kids and smelled like bug spray. We watched for a little bit and Aaron kept wondering what would happen if the tree branch cracked. Luckily, it didn't!

Friday night we caught the tail end of the music performance and got there in time for another Cycropia show. We didn't feel like fighting for a spot and had seen most of it the night before, so we grabbed beer and sat at a table to enjoy people watching. We were tired after long days at work though, so we went home early, knowing we would come back for more the next day.

After a busy morning of the farmer's market and shopping, we spent the afternoon looking at the art vendors and playing frisbee. While an auction was going on, we sat down to play cards. This is Aaron hiding his face from the camera. He is hiding his tears because he just lost 4 times:

Sometimes I have to let him win so he'll keep playing.

Saturday night they had two pretty great bands. The Great Lake Swimmers were awesome just for the fact that they have a banjo player (and bass and violin). A little known fact about Aaron and I is that we have both been mildly obsessed/in love with banjos since we were little kids. Our plan is to buy one and learn how to play it.

Next up was Lyrics Born from San Francisco. Although the music was less of the style I normally like, my goal was to dance and they definitely made that happen. We danced A LOT and then we snuck backstage to tell them how much fun we had.

We topped the night off with a stop at the Weary Traveler to play Yahtzee. Aaron won twice, but that was just me making up for the card game earlier.

It was the perfect way to celebrate the end of summer. Although classes don't start until after Labor Day, last week was the end of full time work for me. Today orientation activities start and I need to gather all of my school supplies (books, i.d., bus pass etc). I feel like a freshman, but cooler!

Drink of the week: Vodka Tonics

While Aaron and I like making mojitos and margaritas, sometimes its nice to go the easier route with a classic drink like a vodka or gin and tonic. Besides, Aaron is the resident drink maker and he isn't always interested in muddling a watermelon mojito after a ten hour day at work. And you only need three ingredients: vodka, tonic water, and a lime wedge! Mix together in your preferred proportions and that's it.

We have this bottle of Lithuanian vodka that I got as a wedding shower gift from Aaron's sister and her husband, who went to Lithuania recently for work. It's perfect for a vodka tonic.

We also have a definite brand loyalty to Whole Foods 365 tonic water. Reasons:
  1. It comes in cans, so you don't have to open a huge bottle and have it be flat in a few days;
  2. It is made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup;
  3. It tastes a lot better!
I rarely drink pop or sweetened drinks, so when I do I prefer it to be real sugar that I'm chugging. Also, I'm one of those annoying people who avoid high fructose corn syrup. I don't care what they say about it just being sugar, it does have a higher fructose content and that is bad. When you are already giving your liver a dose of vodka, its just nice to not add in some extra fructose for it to deal with.

If you've never tried Whole Foods 365 tonic water, I highly recommend it. We've converted a few friends who wondered why the vodka tonics we made for them were so delicious. But be warned: vodka or gin and tonics used to be my go to drink at a bar if they don't have a good beer selection, but after having tonic water with real sugar, I find normal tonic to be kinda gross and I never order them anymore.

So the moral of the story is: This is a great drink, easy to make, and really light. And please please try it with this amazing tonic water if you have a Whole Foods nearby. It will change your perception of vodka tonics forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The View

When we toured the apartment we now live in, we were told there was a great view of the courtyard. We got excited because we really wanted a deck. When we got to the door and looked outside, we saw this:

Looks nice huh? But if you point your eyes (and camera) up a little further, you actually see this:

Uh huh, very nice courtyard. We found the view humorous and still took the apartment.

When we moved in, we discovered that the deck is much bigger than we remembered. There is room for our grill and for our basil and mint plants which were barely hanging on after almost two weeks of baking indoors while we were gone for our wedding/honeymoon:

Now they can stretch out and enjoy the sun and rain. The spiders keep them company.

And the cicadas, which also keep us company with their lovely humming sound.

Next up is to purchase some cheap chairs to put out here. We dragged our dining table chairs out here once, but it'd be nice to have permanent residents so we can enjoy that lime green house every evening.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One month ago.

Exactly one month ago this is what we were doing for evening entertainment.

It seems like the days have flown by, with the chaos of moving into a new apartment with all of our old AND new things, trying to make everything fit (and giving away a lot of things that don't). We aren't finished unpacking or writing thank you notes, but we've carved away enough space to live in. Tonight we'll take a break from all of that and enjoy some of the fresh wedding memories.

I'm also bound and determined to start a tradition that involves drinking out of our wedding champagne flutes every 23rd of the month. I'll let you know if and how that progresses as the months go by.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Saturday started off miserable. We got up at 7:00 to head to the farmer's market. It was raining but we were determined. In reality, our internet wasn't working so we couldn't check the radar. If we had been able to, we would have realized that the storm was going to blow over in approximately a half hour and we wouldn't have gotten totally soaked trying to grab some $1 green beans.

We came home, changed, recovered, and watched the sun come out. Since it was now a beautiful day, we decided to head back downtown to work out and walk around.

Aaron at Monona Terrace.

We stopped at Marigold Kitchen to get some of their house made Chai and drank it while enjoying this view.

After wards, we walked to a park about 2 miles from our apartment (long walk) to play frisbee and drink PBR on the lake.

The best view was of this guy who I think was doing some form of Tai Chi, but I'm not an expert. Just a typical Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cold Lentil Yogurt Soup

This is one of the first dishes we made in our new apartment, back when it was still in the 90's every day. I was skeptical about it and when Aaron found out what we were having for dinner he sorta looked at me like I was crazy.

I found the inspiration for this recipe here: Journey Kitchen. I wanted to make it a little more substantial and just didn't have a few of the ingredients, so I changed the seasonings and added all of the lentils and cucumber as part of the soup. The result was wonderful, so good that I made it again a week later. Since I rarely make a recipe more than once ever, that says something!

This recipe made two Aaron and Miriam sized dinner portions, so you could have it as an appetizer for 4 or dinner for 2, or double the recipe!


1/2 cup brown lentils boiled in 1 1/2 cups water
Diced cucumber (1/2 cup to 1 cup depending on how much you like cucumber!)
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp each of dry dill, coriander and thyme
6 oz container of plain yogurt
About a tsp of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils and add them to the water. Bring it to a boil, then add a dash of salt, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool for a bit.

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend Scenes

Some things we did this weekend:

Went to the farmer's market early on Saturday and picked up this zucchini bat, among other great things.

Played with our new grill and ate some of the best sweet corn ever (from the farmer's market).


We also went to see Harry Potter, used our food processor for the first time, and unpacked A LOT more. In between that stuff, we checked out various neighborhood places including a bakery, a breakfast place, a kitchen store and a bar.

Oh and we made margaritas for the first time ever with some tequila we brought back from our honeymoon.

And Aaron broke out the waffle iron and made these for breakfast on Sunday:

Yum again. Please note when Aaron started making waffles I fully believed I could eat four waffles (what the waffle iron makes in one shot). What actually happened is I only ate the waffle on the right. I ate the waffle on the left for lunch. Ditto for Aaron. They were filling (whole wheat flour) and my waffle eating aspirations were crushed.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Kitchen Stuff- Part 1: Pots and Pans

This past weekend Aaron and I celebrated our own little Christmas. After paying some outstanding wedding bills, we were able to evaluate the gifts we got and decide what to purchase on our own. When we first registered at William-Sonoma, we new we would be buying most of the things ourselves, but that would be ok because you get 10% off everything after your wedding.

When we registered, we spent a lot of time debating what brand, what model, and how much of each thing we wanted. On Saturday, we tried to remember that and not dwell too much on this or that, and just pick up the things on the list! We knew we wanted to get our food processor, but as we were walking around we started to look at the pot/pan set we had picked out. They were so pretty... and so sturdy.

We stood in front of them and debated for a little bit. The next stop was going to be Bed, Bath and Beyond to get our Global knife set with the help of some gift cards. It was hard to swallow so many large purchases in one day. Fortunately, paying for our wedding has taken away the fear of 4 digit payments and we decided to buy the pots and pans.

We've got a lot of boxes...

It was exciting and all in all, we got the food processor, 10 piece set of All-Clad D5 cookware, and a myriad of smaller items (graters, scrubbers, spoon rest etc) for much less than expected.

It even came with a free gift! Don't need the roasting pan anymore when we have this guy. I know its for lasagna, but its just begging to have some sweet potatoes or beets roasted in it.

We also were very lucky. We were looking for a sautese pan that had gone on major sale between the time of us registering for it and the time of our wedding. They were out of stock. Luckily, later in the day we got a phone call saying another couple had recieved TWO of these pans and was returning one, which we would get for the sale price! (It was originally $245 and was on sale for $80.)

While I was excited for the sturdier, high-quality pots, I was most looking forward to acquiring this:

So many recipes need a large surface and deep pan. We have been getting by with one IKEA non-stick skillet pan. It's small and limits what we can make! Now its taking a trip to St. Vincent for someone else to use.

Thank you to everyone for your gifts of cash that have allowed us to upgrade from IKEA to All-Clad! We plan to have them for many years to come.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why I'm happy our wedding is in the past

Since our wedding has come and gone, I still can't believe its August (and mid-August at that). The past year has been consumed by wedding plans and marriage prep. I always felt like I should be doing something wedding related and if I wasn't, it was in the back of my mind.

Some people worry that the wedding plans are consuming their relationship. What will we talk about after our wedding? What will we do on weekends? Then they joke that they'll have kids to talk about.

WELL NOT SO FOR ME. The thoughts and plans came flooding in immediately as we eased into our honeymoon and then back into regular life. I'm amazed at all of the free space in my brain and all of the things Aaron and I can now focus our time on. We did spend some time this year preparing for our marriage/life together, but now we can think in more immediate terms of what we want. And we can make an effort to get those things.

First up: enjoying the end of summer, and buying a couch, a new car, and going on another vacation.

While I'm happy we can put our finances towards other goals, I'm also happy that all of my energy can go towards things in my life I largely ignored this year. I can think about things like graduate school and all of the policy news I have been missing for the better part of the year. I can read news in depth like I used to.

Aaron and I both bought books and read them on our honeymoon. We definitely haven't done that this year, not even when we were unemployed (we were still wedding planning). Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased with how everything turned out and I did really enjoy our year of engagement, but I'm happy to never have to do it again. I'm happy to be newlyweds where all we have to do is enjoy each other without planning much beyond dinner. Cheers to that!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Brownies with zucchini

I saw this recipe at Baltic Maid and I knew I had to try it once I had a grater and a brownie pan. I don't normally make sweet things because there is a lot to eat between two people and dessert isn't really big on my priority list. However, I've always loved warm brownies with ice-cream on top, I just don't love the way my stomach feels after eating them.

This recipe makes brownies that I don't feel too bad about eating and that do not upset my stomach with an overload of refined flour and fat. I would even venture to say you can eat them for breakfast... I haven't yet, but it is tempting!

The only thing that's questionable here is the full cup of sugar. I didn't use all of it because we were running low, so I probably added 2/3 of a cup. I haven't tried stevia yet, but it might be a good replacement, or possibly some mashed ripe banana in place of some of the zucchini to add sweetness. I might just have to experiment, because these are so good they will definitely be gone in a few days.

Here is my slightly altered version of the recipe:

Combine in a bowl:
2 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
2/3 cup of sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

Mix/sift together in another bowl:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

Add the egg mix to the flour mix, or be like me and add the flour to the egg mix because you put the wet ingredients into the bigger bowl on accident and you are still unpacking so you only have two bowls. Mix well.

Add two cups grated zucchini (about one big fat one) and 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips.

Mix again and pour into an 8x8 pan that you got as a wedding gift from your wonderful friend Kristen.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes (or longer, until your toothpick or fork comes out clean!). Mine were totally done after 30 minutes.

Let it cool (mostly) then slice and top with non-fat frozen yogurt. Or put real ice-cream on it because you can (frozen yogurt was on sale). Feed unsuspecting people and don't tell them that there's fruits and vegetables in their brownie.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vacations and Exercise

I love travelling and vacations. One thing that fuels my fire to work and live (besides helping people and making the world a better place and all of that jazz) is the opportunity to travel. The only problem is eating out for every meal and not being able to get the same/as much exercise.

Maybe this isn't a problem for a lot of people, but all of those meals that are light on the vegetables and heavy on the butter, cream, cheese and carbs start to take their toll on me after only one day.

Add in a wedding and moving into a new apartment and we have two full weeks without going to a gym! Just enough time to lose all of that muscle we've worked so hard on the last few months. Of course, our resort in Mexico did have a nice looking gym, but Aaron didn't allow me to go. He even got mad when he caught me doing push-ups in our hotel room. You can see who is more committed to fitness in our relationship.

Even if we had been going together, I would have found it difficult to skip this wonderful beach for an hour working out. A relaxing breakfast and sipping mojitos by lunch leaves little time for the weights.

Yesterday was our first day back at the gym since the Monday before our wedding and it was glorious. It cleared my mind and although I was a little depressed about back tracking in weight lifting, I felt better knowing I will at least be making progress soon.

My goal for vacations in the future (even long weekends) is to find ways to exercise every day. It is hard because I can't run (I use an elyptical or bike for cardio) and walking a lot doesn't feel like exercise to me. I'd be interested in hearing other people's ways of staying on track while their schedule changes!

There isn't much I can do about the food. I tried to pick the healthiest options, but a restaurants a restaurants a restaurant. Maybe opting for vacations at places with kitchens would be a good idea, then at least one or two meals a day can be what I'm used to eating.

After the whole move, I made an effort to unpack the kitchen first (and I'm still unpacking it). This way, with the exception of pizza on monday night, we have been able to cook our meals and start getting back into our regular diet. I'm finally starting to feel somewhat normal and soon you'll be seeing some of the delicious food we've been eating!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Name Changes

This blog officially needs a new name. The apartment on Wilson Street is no more. We said goodbye to it without much sadness, as the heat had been unbearable and we were looking forward to air conditioning, a dish washer, and an in unit washer/dryer. Luckily, the street names are pretty similar and we now live on Williamson St. (Willy St. for short).

Mountains, palm trees, and the Pacific Ocean.

This is the fourth time I have moved since we got engaged and the third time for Aaron. It has been a long year full of unexpected changes and challenges, but by far one of the most difficult parts of wedding/marriage planning was not all the moving or budgeting or the guest list, it was deciding wether or not to change my name. I tried all year to make it a mutual decision that would involve both Aaron and me equally.

Unfortunately, name changing is by no means an equal decision. Either way I knew I would be criticized. If I did change my name, I was afraid people would feel the same way about me as how I feel when I see that someone has just gotten married and changed their last name. It's not positive feelings, trust me. If I didn't change my name, I knew people would tell me I was silly or too feminist or the worst: that I don't love Aaron enough.

We spent a lot of time discussing every option. None of them seemed great or fair and neither of us were really into the trouble of creating a new last name or hyphenating. I thought it would be nice to have the same last name, but not essential and definitely not worth regretting in the future. Aaron thought having one name was a lot more important, but of course it had to be his last name. You can see how the talks progressed. A lot of times they turned into fights, arguments, and hurt feelings, but we both agreed it was very important that we got everything out there.

About a month ago, we still hadn't come up with a decision we were both ok with. Aaron realized that us being "the Palmers" was more important to him than he had previously thought. I didn't believe a sexist tradition was a good way to start out our marriage and was worried I would resent it later.


Finally, we came up with a compromise that was less than ideal, but do-able and acceptable to both of us: I would change my last name to Palmer and Aaron would become a vegetarian, except for one meal a month (not in front of me) and his birthday. It's a way for us both to sacrifice something we normally wouldn't for the other and make our lives a little easier. No one will questoin how we are related and we won't have any more arguments about buying meat and who is going to cook it. Also, we will be able to share more at restaurants!

Its not an ideal arrangment, but its the best we could come up with in a situation where the ideal doesn't exist.

We appreciate all of the advice from family and friends as we waded through this process and hope everyone will support our decision to be the mostly vegetarian Palmers living on Willy St.

Drinking tequila.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

....and we're back!

The last two weeks have been exciting and exhausting. A lot has happened....

We got married!

And went to Mexico!

And moved into a new apartment!

We are ready to get settled in, get back to the gym, and use all of our sweet wedding gifts. Thanks to everyone who helped make the past two weeks so wonderful.