Birthday Part 1

For the past five years I've gone camping over my birthday weekend.  My mid-May birthday often falls on Mother's Day, but sometimes it'll be a Tuesday and I'll celebrate from Friday through Tuesday and I have no shame about it.

My first Birthday Camping trip, I camped alone.  I drove up to Kohler-Andrea outside Sheboygan.  I had with me the tent I received for my birthday in 4th grade.  

Side: my fourth grade birthday was fine.  I think I got a bookshelf or something and that was all well and good, but what I really wanted was a tent.  The night of my birthday, with a big sigh with a hint of disappointment for not receiving my tent, I removed myself from my typical spot on the couch and went to brush my teeth.  I came back down to join my family for our nighttime prayer and to say goodnight, and my mom asked me to fold my blanket or something.  I picked up the blanket.... and underneath was my Tent!! Joy!  We all went downstairs and set it up immediately.  I used that tent for many camping trips, often with my best friend Adrienne, whom I am fortunate enough to still be celebrating my birthday with!

I packed the sleeping bag that I had been using since memory begins.  I also packed a chair, a book, my journal, some food (about three heaping servings of campers stew/hobo dinner, whatever you call it), and two 40s of high life.  

The wood was wet.  It was cold.  I think it rained.  I slept on the ground and -surprise!- it was not comfortable!  I got drunk.  I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife and so I cried a lot.  I got really drunk.  I was so drunk that I called my mom while drunk.  (Who does that?)

Does this all sound pretty miserable?  Because this trip was truly miserable.  I was miserable.  I needed to say goodbye to part of my life that needed to be deleted and "empty trash," so when I say I was miserable, I mean actually miserable.  So I went camping.  Alone.  For my birthday.  And through all the misery, I was able to reconnect with myself.

I made a hot albeit smoky fire (granted with help over the phone from my dad and uncle who were at a different campground on my brother's bachelor camping trip).  I successfully cooked my three heaping servings of campers stew, and I ate it all.  I washed away all the bad with my tears.  A cardinal quietly visited me.  I was alone and happy.

The next year I had a new sleeping bag.

The year after that I had a new tent.

The year after that I had hiking shoes and wool socks.

The year after that I had a rain jacket.

And I'm not camping alone anymore on my birthday.  I surround myself with the best people in my life.  We hike.  We eat.  We drink.  We laugh together, and we get a little deep.

My dad isn't in this pic- he was taking a little nap!  And Adrienne and her bf Mike had already left, boo.

Every year I am grateful to have amazing people to share my time with, many of whom are not in this darling picture.

The Last of Color

NOTE:  I started drafting this post in mid-December 2014, and I finally finished it today, June 14, 2015.  It's not an important post, but because I started it, I definitely wanted to finish it. 

It was two months ago, before I started my new job, when I came down with an awful cold that knocked me off my feet for a little under a week.  The boredom of illness was kicking in, and even climbing the stairs in my house was exhausting.  That is the time I find I need some fresh air, something to revive me and tire me out thoroughly.  

Ben dragged me down to my favorite Milwaukee County park, Grant Park.  And we wandered.  It was crisp and chilly, clouds rolled in and we hustled out when it started to rain.  And not in a misty way, and not in a downpour, just in a polite way: infrequent big drops rustling the leaves and making splotches on the pavement.  A rain for which I could have no complaints except for the exhaustion which was taking over my body.

Anyway.  Let's go for a walk!

To me, there is nothing like stepping outside for a literal breath of fresh air.  After this outing, I had an excellent nights sleep, and felt better in time for my first day at my brand new job.  

Have you been to Grant Park?  Within it is the most amazing Seven Bridges Trail, which does cover a bunch of bridges and goes past several former bridges (RIP).  At the trail head is a covered bridge with a head trimmer upon which these words greet your experience: Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.  I looked it up and discovered this is a quote from a poem entitled Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood by William Cullen Bryant.  I really don't know much about poets, and you guys know I'm more of a fiction reader than literally any other type of reading, so....this is all I have to say about that.  :)

There was some relandscaping project happening at the park when we were there, and I really loved the dark clouds contrasted with the equipment.  The unexpected can be so cool.

I hope you can make it out sometime this summer!

Slipping and Sliding

When I was a little girl, I got to enroll in any activity I wanted to. I took gymnastics, soccer, ballet, swimming, ice skating...  I wanted to see what I liked doing, but unfortunately I wasn't good at much.  

I couldn't do a backwards somersault in gymnastics; I made a goal against my own team in soccer; I didn't have the dedication for ballet; I retook Basic 3 in ice skating three times before I lost interest. Three times! It was only recently that I even realized that I had been FAILING it.  My ever-loving mother had told me that she kept signing me up for the wrong class-- isn't that the nicest thing?  I only realized this when I went skating and had not a clue how to stop on the ice.  I never learned how to stop? It's so puzzling.

Surprisingly, I still love ice skating.  I own my own fancy bright white skates and love getting out there for a few laps whenever I can. Just guard yourself and your small children when I'm getting off the ice: it's dangerous for everyone around!

image.jpg

A couple weeks- nay, a entire month!- ago, Ben and I went skating with our good friends Kevin and Erin. We went to Maxie's Southern Comfort for dinner (I tried an oyster for the first time) and stuffed ourselves silly. Have you been? You must go. Don't forget your leftovers and make sure you get to take some cornbread (with the special spread!) home.  One last word of advice: eat AFTER skating.

  It's impossible to take a decent photo while sliding over solid ice on two narrow slices of metal. 

It's impossible to take a decent photo while sliding over solid ice on two narrow slices of metal. 

Going skating at the Pettit National Ice Center is an excellent date night activity.  It's about the same price as going to see a movie in a theater, but you get to spend actual time interacting together.  She can cling to you while finding her footing...she can laugh at you when you fall down.  You can wrap your arms around her when she looses her balance...You can keep an eye on her figure while she's on figure skates.  I think there's great fun to be had in experiencing people as human, and you're human for better and worse when inexperienced on ice skates!

It's adorable to see the tiny kids on tiny skates, and fun to get passed by more experienced skaters.  I love to see people spinning, skating backwards, and in general having fun.  

The Pettit costs $7.50 for open skating for which they are open various times throughout the season.  It costs $3.50 to rent skates.  I do suggest trying to find the best pair of skates for your feet, because if you are uncomfortable in the skates, you'll be even more uncomfortable on the ice.  Miserable, even!  Don't be miserable while ice skating!  I also get really warm, so I wear a light jacket, sweater, and pants.  I wear warm and tall socks, and a hat, scarf, and gloves.  I usually have to take off my hat and gloves a few laps in, though.

  Much better. 

Much better. 

If any of you work downtown and want to meet over lunch to skate the slice of ice at Red Arrow, let me know! 

MOO!

I have a silly thing for business cards and, well, paper in general, so I was really excited to order a set of business cards from MOO.  

I ordered them in early September and received them eight days later, which was about a week before they predicted the delivery.  I was really impressed with the current and accessible approach of the company, and thrilled to receive my little package in the mail.  The square card is interesting, in my opinion, and people have looked at it differently than other cards I've had the opportunity to distribute (hopefully they are looking at it with interest, as well!).  

Overall I like the cards- the paper is lovely and smooth and the graphics are printed really clearly.  The back side of some of the cards, however, have a tiny white edge from printing or cutting maybe, and it's actually visible in these pictures.  I didn't let it bother me too much, but I could if I dwelled on it longer.  I'm choosing not to.  

MOO connected with my Instragram to download this train picture I took in Washington last Fall headed to Whidby Island.  The line for the ferry backs up for miles, and eventually all the cars pull into big lines to drive onto the ferry in an orderly fashion.  There's a great little restaurant right there where I got an amazing ice cream cone... I digress.  Anyway, putting these cards together was really easy and I loved that I could so easily add in pictures from my favorite times.

I should note, reader, that I did not get paid for posting about my MOO cards, and I paid top-dollar for these lovely little things...as will you, if you order from them as well, because I don't even have an offer code to share with you!  Sorry for the let down ;)  I'll send you a card though, if you'd only send me your address.

Door #5

When the right lady comes along, you do whatever you can to get her, amirite? 

I  impulsively sold my car earlier this year, and we've successfully survived as a one-car family since then.  Of course it helps that Ben has no need for a car most weeks, but we were in the market for another car in case the right one came along...  Boy, did it ever!  Isn't she beautiful?  The  six-speed turbo, leather interior, and dual moon roofs are my favorite aspects.  But I also just like looking at this pretty car and knowing that it's mine. Maybe that sounds dumb and materialistic, and it is, but when you're going to own something for a long time, what's bad about just plain LIKING it?

It's the Time of the Season

It's been said that "apple" was my first word, and I have loooooved apples for as long as I can remember.  Fortunately, this life has provided me with bushels of apples, and a few years ago I started picking some of my own bushels.

Here I am in 2011, 2013, and this year picking apples at my favorite place, Barthel's.

I know there are many places to pick apples in south-eastern Wisconsin, but this place is inexpensive, non-commercial, and pretty straightforward.  We were let inside to pick by a straight-shootin' kid who advised us to read the rules for picking, the first being "don't climb trees!"  

Barthel's has strawberries to pick in season, pumpkins and gourds, juicy pears, and a beautiful garden.  We've picked our pumpkins there before, and we'll be going back next weekend to pick them for this year!

We've been munching on apples in their glory for weeks now and haven't been too concerned about recipe making or exciting new ways to enjoy a classic fave.  What are your favorite apple recipes?  

Central Library

Since I was one of the sad saps who had to miss Doors Open Milwaukee, I had to visit Central Library allllll on my own.  It was probably less exciting being there without the crowds, but that's just how it goes sometimes.  

As a child, my mom and I regularly visited our public library, McMillian Memorial Library, where I knew the librarians by name and they even knew my doll's names.  It was a blissful existence; I read thousands of books and brought stacks with me where ever I went.  While not much has changed with my reading and book lugging, the origin of the books has changed from my public library to my local bookstore.  That's right, I'm a buyer, not a borrower, much to Ben's chagrin.  

I have lived in Milwaukee for nine years this passed September, and I had visited the library twice: once to get a library card and check out a book, and a second time (about two months later) when I guiltily returned the book I had checked out and still hadn't read.  Since then, I've guiltily been avoiding my late fine without a clue as to its amount.  

Everyone told me I needed to see Milwaukee's Central Library, but I knew I would have to pay that stupid fine.  So, "Pay up!" I did a few weeks ago when I went to go see this beautiful structure downtown.

I paid my fine which was a whopping $0.95, renewed my library card, and perused the stacks.  What a beautiful place, right?  I especially loved walking around outside.

I still don't plan on checking out lots of books, but I'm so glad I took the time to see this beautiful building downtown!  Have you been?

Momentum

I have been MIA for a multitude of reasons, one of which is a major career change.  On the 13th, I begin a new chapter in my life and career as a Communications Editor!  I said, "Farewell!" to J.Crew on Monday and have spent the rest of the week sick and in bed :(  I only wish I were joking.  

So it all happened really quickly, and even before that I had been consumed in a writing project for a friend's MBA applications, it's been a busy few weeks, and I'm really looking forward to new habits forming and the calm of routine again.  

Most importantly, I have a lot of catching up to do on here at LauraSays!  I've been to the Central library, I've read a couple great books, saw miles of autumn color from Holy Hill, and picked fresh apples at Barthel's, and you'll be able to read about it all, here, in the next week!  

So, thank you all for continuing to visit while I've been away, and please continue to visit to read about my adventures downtown!

TACO TUESDAY @ BELAIR CANTINA on Water

Instead of doing (or attempting to do) one year-long New Year's Resolution, I break the idea up into four three-month long resolutions, and I REALLY stick to them.  Last year I spent three-months: refraining from processed sugars, then fried foods (this was surprisingly easy), then for three months I didn't watch any television and limited my movies so I could focus on reading, and the last quarter of the year I spent VEGAN which was awesome.  

This year I didn't consume any alcohol for the first three months of the year, then I began a writing regime (which this blog was a result of), and this quarter I have spent gluten free (GF).  

I have about two weeks left for my resolution, and I have learned a lot from it.  Wheat is buried in many products like soy sauce, and those are easy and relatively equal in price to get the GF version.  However, attempting to simply replace all the gluten-filled products you regularly eat with their gluten-free counterpart is an expensive endeavor.  I've eaten fresh fruits and veggies for days without touching any replacement products, and both my body and pocketbook have been happier for it.  

Since spending three months vegan, I began the year continuing to enjoy a guilt-free diet in regards to animals, but continuing my mostly-vegan diet and being GF was very difficult.  If this is something you have been able to master, I bow to you.  I definitely increased my poultry and fish consumption since adopting my GF diet but still found myself easily not having dairy (except the milk mixed in my omelets!).  

What I've REALLY indulged in is our city's wide variety of Mexican restaurants, most recently celebrating TACO TUESDAY at BelAir Cantina!

I jumped out of the car at Humboldt and Water so Ben could look for parking while I got on the waiting list, which was a 25-30 minute wait.  ***BelAir uses the NoWait App, which is free in the Apple App Store, so you can get on the list early and check in when you get there!  I've used this for Pizzaman before and it worked really well!.***  We walked to the bridge to enjoy the bright sunset and just talk through our work days.  A couple MIlwaukee rowing teams when by and that was really cool to see.

After a 45-minute wait we finally got sat.  We had the most enthusiastic server whom I was 100% thrilled by.  She made my night... and I totally failed to get her name.  It happens.

Last time we went to BelAir we had a substantial wait, so we trouped across the street to Finks, which used to be Red Room, do you remember that?  Oh, the memories...  Anyway.  Got a seat at the bar.  Waited. Waited. Waited maybe five minutes? More? Felt like more. The bartender couldn't even bother to acknowledge that we were there, so we left.  So, that happened, and I won't be making the mistake of going there again, and I hope you have a better experience at Finks..  Back to the tacos.

BelAir has a pretty great selection of tacos to choose from (about 30 of 'em), and when you order three they throw in the beans and rice.  For Taco Tuesday and Thursday, they offer 9 tacos and tamales at a $2 special price, and they have discounts on selected alcohol.  

It is said that one goes somewhere first for the food, and later goes back because of the service.    When I went back for my second trip, it certainly wasn't because I received great service (though that first time was the only time I got poor service) it was because of the atmosphere. I mean, look at this place...

...and then I go back for the food.  

My stomach is grumbling to know what your favorite taco place is in Milwaukee! Tell me now!

Iowa

What images come to mind when I say the word, IOWA?  Cows, farmland as far as the eye can see, roads that go on forever, the caucus?  Maybe, The Bridges of Madison County?  Oh, I don't know, I guess I thought it was just a boring field to drive through like Nebraska or Oklahoma or South Dakota.  Sure, the drive between the towns are boring fields, but I have to tell you, I had an excellent time there.  

*I should note that Ben travels to Mount Pleasant, IA pretty much every week for work.  There is a Thai restaurant there where a waitress explained that tofu was a type of fish.  True story.*

Moving along. J&V live in Ames, which is a reasonably-sized college town that I can only compare to Steven's Point (but could probably be compared to more Wisconsin cities with a UW campus).  The grocery store, Hy-vee, was filled with very friendly people who allowed a crazed woman into the security office to review security footage only to be told her sister-in-law's wallet she though she lost was still out in the car.  (Yes, the crazed woman was me...).  There are many cute cafes and restaurants in town, an active campus area, and a lovely downtown strip with local shops.  But let's be real here, I was only there to see this guy, my youngest nephew, Paxton Daniel.  

I had to!  I'm sorry, Paxton!

LOOK AT THOSE CHEEKS. LOOK AT 'EM!

He's a month old, weighs over twelve pounds, and has the most adorable grunts and hiccups and sneezes and yawns...  I can't even take it.  He's so adorable.

This is what my brother looks like as a DAD.

SO CUTE! Err- handsome?  Either way. :)

On Thursday I ran out of days off of work, so JV&P and I drove to Iowa City to meet Ben and head home.  We met up at Atlas Restaurant & Bar where the standouts were V's falafel burger, my crisp caesar salad, and a black bean hummus.  

This place is where Ben met his nephew for the first time!  Look at them!

Iowa City is similar to Madison except I actually liked it in Iowa City.  (YUP, I said it.)  The benches downtown are all uniquely painted, and there are large art installations through the area.  There is something to see around every corner, on every street.  

We all had a great time enjoying the city and spending time together.  It's cool to be friends with a sibling, and to enjoy their spouse just as much.  The afternoon was a great cap to the week with a newborn, and I actually can't wait to go back to Iowa City!