Thursday, May 31, 2012

Long Distance

As my bags and piles of clothes and supplies begin to take over our apartment, it has finally settled in for Aaron and I that we really won't be spending the next ten weeks together. We started out as a long distance relationship, but we never went more than two weeks without seeing each other. I wish Aaron could come with me and we could explore together, but unfortunately one of us has to get paid.

Spending the summer in Mexico without Aaron will be challenging, but we have some advantages on our side. First of all, Mexico City and Wisconsin are in the same time zone, which will make it easier to Skype with each other at convenient hours.

Secondly, flights to Mexico are cheaper than flights to places like Europe or Africa, so Aaron will be able to come visit me. The advantageous exchange rate also means I'll save money on living expenses over the summer, so more money can be set aside for Aaron to visit.

We are lucky to live in the era of the internet and video chatting. We can email, send photos, and call each others cell phones. We can even send text messages through Skype to keep each other up to date when a call isn't practical.

Aaron will be working a lot of overtime and I'll be focusing on learning as much Spanish as possible. We will both miss each other a ton, but we agree that its important for us to become the best people we can be and an opportunity to work abroad is part of that for me. Plus, just think how happy we'll be in August when I'm back.

Always look on the bright side of life!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Internship

As most of you know, I will be spending the majority of my summer break doing an internship in Mexico City. I leave Saturday morning for an early flight to Chicago, then straight on to Mexico City.

My graduate school, the La Follette School of Public Affairs, does not require summer internships, but they do offer some financial aid for students doing internships outside of Madison.  This was the perfect combination for me.  I liked not feeling too much pressure to get an internship or risk not graduating. All of the pressure came from myself.  Although I could have worked full time all summer at my current part time job, I think an internship is an important resume builder and good experience. For a while now I have felt that not doing an internship during undergrad was a mistake and I didn't want to make the same mistake twice!

Aaron and I made an effort to save money throughout the year to make an unpaid internship financially possible, but knowing some funding would come from my program was essential to me seeking internships that were further away or had potentially high costs. 

I applied for a few early deadline internships, but wasn't excited about any of them until my internship with Fundacion Ethos came up. A recent (as of last weekend!) graduate of my program did this internship last summer and she had a wonderful time. All of the aspects of the internship appealed to me: small staff, hands on, Mexico City, poverty and social policy research, and using Spanish. It was also helpful to know someone who had already been there and had nothing but good things to say. Ethos was specifically looking for a La Follette student because they had a great experience with the student from last summer, so I have some big shoes to fill.

My internship will be with the International Poverty Observatory area of Ethos. You can read more about the organization and internship here: Ethos Internship Program.

I'm very excited to spend time in Mexico City, a place I have always wanted to visit.  Of course I have worries that come with traveling to any foreign country. Will I understand anyone? Will they understand my badly accented Spanish? Will I get lost (without my iPhone!)? But these worries are part of the things that make traveling exciting and leave you feeling accomplished. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Here are a couple photos from our Memorial Day weekend. A lot of it was spent in the car, which I didn't take pictures of. My phone wore itself out searching for service in northern Michigan, so I didn't get many pictures of our family gathering. Only these few of Aaron and I in the woods:


On Monday we got home just in time for a huge evening thunderstorm. Luckily it was over in around an hour and we went to a park a few blocks away to sit on the dock and enjoy the calm lake that everyone had deserted. We saw multiple muskrats, ducks, and huge fish jumping out of the water.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Henderson Castle: Dutch Room

Our room at the Henderson Castle was the Dutch Room. It was the original Mrs. Henderson's room.  It is one of the larger rooms in the house and was decorated with beautiful light wood and blue colors. The uniqueness of the bathroom, the walk in closet, and the large windows all made it even better. The light up floor was entertaining and made a nice night light. 

Good morning.

Theres the center of the light up floor. The other lights went all the way around the perimeter of the room.  We did have a run in with a little yippy dog barking while its owners were out eating dinner or something, it was very annoying but luckily it was quiet all night and they left before we could find out who they were.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Henderson Castle Bed and Breakfast

Over the weekend, Aaron and I stayed at the Henderson Castle Bed and Breakfast in Kalamazoo. We decided to stay there by accident: the Raddisson was booked for the weekend and our credit card allowed us to use points to lower the cost of the rooms at the castle. 

It was our first time staying at a B&B and we really enjoyed the smaller building and less corporate feeling. Having a hot breakfast included was amazing as well. It helped that it was served on china in a fancy room. We also took advantage of the accessible rooftop, stargazing Friday night and hanging out in the hot tub Saturday night. There is a great view of Kalamazoo.

Below are some photos of the castle and grounds. I'll post some pictures of our room tomorrow.

Main stair case

Many of the ceilings are decorated with wood panels.

Above the breakfast table.

Breakfast appetizers.

Rooftop view.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Susan G. Komen Race

Yesterday Aaron and I participated in the Susan G. Komen Race in Kalamazoo, MI. We walked the 5K with my step-mom, who is almost finished with her treatment for breast cancer.  Even though I don't appreciate some of the things the Komen Foundation has done this year (I know I'm not alone here), it was great to be there with our family. It was hot, so we walked as fast as we could! 

Hanging out on the Kalamazoo mall Sunday morning.

Re-enacting a wedding photo.

Pre-Race Bell's lunch.

I don't know why my parents can't look normal, but I think Ruth, Aaron, and I all look cute!

Starting off, happy to be walking!

Very happy to be finishing!

If those aren't faces of happiness, I don't know what is. Remember when we used to run those Ruth?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Quick Meal Idea: Mexican Salad Boats

Its vegan and its delicious! Aaron and I had this meal last week.Anything that involves sweet potato, black beans, cumin, and avocado grabs my attention. Serving it on crispy lettuce leaves was icing on the cake. We also had the leftovers on top of chopped romaine for lunches.

Get the recpie here: Mexican Salad Boats.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Today I turned in my last paper for the semester, which means I'm officially halfway through my graduate program. It feels great! Now I just wait for my grades and look forward to what is hopefully a relaxing and exciting summer in Mexico City.

*The picture is from the Assembly Chambers at the Wisconsin State Capitol, where my graduation will be one year from this Sunday. I was there today to help with graduation rehearsal, because planning graduation next year is my job!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mango Mint Margarita

When you have mint but don't want to make a mojito...

Muddle 8-10 mint leaves and tequila blanco in a glass.
Puree a fresh or frozen mango with some lime juice.
Stir mango puree and St. Germain into tequila.
Fill glass with ice and drink up!

We typically use a whole lime per drink, 1.5 shots of tequila, and 1 shot of St. Germain. You may need less St. Germain though, just depends how sweet the mango is.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Yahara River Trail

On Sunday the weather in Madison was perfect and demanded that we spend some time outside. Instead of biking, we opted for a trail hike along the Yahara River.

About half of the trail we walked on was heavily wooded and the other half has been paved as part of a trail project. While it was easier to walk on the paved path, it wasn't nearly as pretty. Although it will be nice to bike on, we preferred the hiking feel of the unpaved trail. Luckily we got to enjoy it before they pave it all over!

We saw some wildlife and lots of monarch butterflies (but they're too fast for pictures).

Monday, May 14, 2012

Juicing Grocery List

Here is our grocery list for this week. We got some of it at the Farmer's Market and a lot at Whole Foods. Our fridge is stuffed to the brim! It was only about $50 over how much we normally spend on groceries.

4 cups green grapes
4 pears
6 limes
5 lemons
9 green apples
4 apples
2 mango
8 oranges

spinach/greens for lunches
36 carrots
12 small cucumbers
4 beets
7 cups swiss chard
ginger root
1/2 yellow pepper
bag of spinach
2 bulbs fennel
4 cups bean sprouts 
2 small sweet potato
19 sticks celery
4 green onions
2 large parsley
4 medium zucchini
10 medium tomato
1 red onion
2 broccoli trees
4 large bunches kale

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Union Terrace Chair

In the midst of all of the badness of final papers, exams, and presentations, I got some good news. I won a chair from the Union Terrace! This is the best place to get a pitcher of beer and relax on campus.

I filled out a student survey about the Union awhile ago that was promising a chair to a lucky winner, but I forgot about it until I got an email saying I won. Just goes to show that they actually mean it when they send out mass surveys and say you could win something.

The chair is white, which ensures that no one thinks I stole it from the actual terrace. The design is copyrighted and I had to sign a contract promising not to advertise or raise money with my chair. I was just planning to put it on our balcony and enjoy sitting on it. Now we just need to find a second chair for Aaron.

Here is a picture of the Terrace with the well known chairs:

Friday, May 11, 2012


A carrot, cabbage, apple, spinach, ginger concoction.

A couple weeks ago, maybe a month, we watched the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I was curious about the movie because I saw it mentioned by a few Facebook friends and on a few food blogs. I didn't believe someone could drink only juice for 60 days and I wanted to see what happened. 

When the movie was just beginning, I jokingly told Aaron how fun it would be to go on a juice fast. He was not amused, but we both enjoyed the movie a lot. It is unbelievable what happens to the filmmaker, but especially what happens to a guy he meets in Iowa who ends up losing 200 pounds in 10 months. Pretty crazy! 

After the movie we talked about getting a juicer (we have room on our counter, after all), but they are expensive. Aaron seemed pretty into it, which I mostly attributed to him wanting a new kitchen toy. I guess he is bored with the expensive knives and food processor we got for our wedding. He kept joking that I was going to come home and find a juicer in front of our door, ha ha. 

He dropped the issue for about a week, until this past Sunday morning. Out of the blue he said "I'm going to buy the juicer today," then mentioned something about wanting to be healthier. I can't argue with that. Two days later it was waiting outside our door. We got the Breville Dual Disc Juice Extractor because we like that brand and it can make smoothies as well as juice very quickly.

I would just like to put on record that I was not the instigator here and I am not forcing Aaron to do a juice fast. I'm the one getting my arm pulled (I love carrot juice and I'm excited to be able to make it at home, but I also love to eat). We decided to start with a five day juice fast that involves eating one meal a day (lunch), which will be mainly vegetables and fruits with some nuts or beans. We will aim for three to four big glasses juice around that meal.

I already started the grocery list and its getting out of control... 28 carrots, 10 tomatoes, 10 cucumbers plus numerous other vegetables and fruit... and I haven't added the snack juices yet. I'll let you know how it goes!

Our first juice.
Will it be a phase? Will Aaron keep using it all summer while I'm in Mexico? Who knows. We are just lucky that we have room to keep it on our counter and in site, which will remind us to use it a lot.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Arugula Salad

Here is a salad recipe that you need in your life right now. I should be working on a paper, but we all need a break sometime.  Hence this post and this delicious salad.

For me and most of the people I knew growing up, a salad at home meant some lettuce and chopped up veggies topped with your choice of the various bottled salad dressings sitting in the fridge. The convenience of bottled salad dressing is great, but I have been trying to get away from it for the past year.

Why no love for the bottled dressing? First of all, its expensive compared to making your own. Second of all, the ingredient list can be long and include things I'm not fond of eating, like "natural flavor." Organic dressing with only whole ingredients are available, but it just adds to the price. Plus, ever notice how expensive ingredients like olive oil and balsamic vinegar are watered down with either actual water, canola oil, or regular vinegar? Check the labels and you'll see what I mean.

The point is, its cheaper and probably healthier to make your own salad dressings. 

Of course, making your own dressing means not everyone gets to choose their favorite. But, I much prefer a salad lightly tossed with the dressing before it hits my plate. Stirring around your salad in a little bowl after pouring the dressing on top always leads to uneven coating or over dressing. Over dressing is a horrible sin.

I make a variety of dressings, but this salad and the dressing that goes with it is just unbelievably good.

The main ingredients you'll need are:
Parmesan Cheese
Pine nuts 
White Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil

Please click on over here for the full lowdown and instructions Arugula Salad.

However, I have some notes to make/suggestions. In the recipe the author states that the best ingredients are absolutely necessary. While of course it will taste better with better cheese and pine nuts are delicious, they are expensive. We have made this recipe with slivered almonds in place of the pine nuts and used a white salty cheese we had lying around instead of parmesan.  I think its the dressing that makes this recipe special, so feel free to use what you have.

But, on that note, please freshly grate your cheese! Do not use the parmesan shaker for this one. Pre-grated cheese and shaker cheese have weird ingredients like cardboard in them to make sure the cheese doesn't stick together. Just trust me and get out the cheese grater.

As far as white balsamic vinegar goes, I didn't know it existed until this recipe. We bought a bottle and have used it in other salad dressings as well. My sister said she made this recipe with dark balsamic vinegar and enjoyed it a lot, so you could give that a try.

I promise you will not regret it. Even arugula haters have enjoyed this salad. Oh and whatever you do be sure not to overdress it!