Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Up North

After four years, we were able to drive home for Xmas again. Our first stop was at my family's, with sweet little Maddy greeting us sleepily.

I found Maddy in a shed as a tiny kitten, all alone and with a bad cold and then my dog-loving family adopted our first cat ever. This was back when I was in high school and she's been with us for about 19 years. She looks a lot like Stinky but she's much daintier and smaller than he. Maddy stayed in front of the fireplace even when we had a rousing gift opening session.

It was such funny to see our niece enjoying the gift opening and to see her helping her little brother. The next day, there were more festivities with the extended side of my family coming to brunch. My grandma looked great for being days shy of 96 years old and, with several little ones in attendance, there were four generations represented. After dinner on Xmas Eve, we were off to Minneapolis to visit with Austin's family.

The stocking my grandma knit for me way back when now lives at my inlaws' and came out on Xmas morning. We opened stockings and gifts, went to a family event, and relaxed at home that evening. Austin and I were off late the next morning, bringing lunch to my aunt and uncle and then running a few errands which involved getting to see a friend. Then we hit the road and went back to IL, happy and sated.

Friday, December 21, 2012

All wrapped up

Lots of stuff.

End of the Semester Dinner Party

My very first semester as a "real" professor is over. Clearly it kept me from blogging more regularly but some of my busy-ness was spent teaching one of my best classes ever--teaching methods for grad students. I had them over at the end of the semester to cook dinner with me. As if we'd be wanting for food, Austin and I set out some appetizers including boursin-roasted pepper crostinis, smoked salmon with cream cheese and bagel chips, and artichoke spread and baguettes.

Then the cooking began.

We enjoyed fried spring rolls, Malaysian noodles, Italian flatbread pizza, a halal chicken dish, and more.

For dessert, there were crêpes and nutella and 18 year aged balsamic on vanilla ice cream. What a fantastic class and group of students.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Asian Fusion

Last weekend, we were out shopping for a small piece of furniture and found a random Asian fusion place for lunch. It turned out to be great! The ginger dressing on the salad and the miso soup were fantastic.

Austin got his baseline, Pad Thai with tofu. It was tangy and flavorful.

I got a bento box--the teriyaki shrimp were amazing as were all the other components. We want to go back and try more dishes when we have time (!).

Friday, November 2, 2012

More Autumn

It's been too long. Work has been keeping me busy and the fun, bright points along the way just haven't made it to the blog. There was a haunted corn maze by night, a batch of fantastic beer-cheese soup, walks along the trail near our house, and more. Maybe I need to get better at using my phone to snap a quick picture and do some mini blog posts. At any rate, one weekend certainly warrants a full-on post.

A nice thing about being back in the Midwest is that we're much closer to family and friends again. In mid-October, I was able to make the quick, two hour jaunt to IA to see a dear friend. You know you have a dear friend when she keeps a section in her recipe collection with your name on it. Wow!

It was fantastic to see Sharon's home, meet her adorable 10 month old, meet the dogs, and get to talk to her husband more. We went out for dinner with Sharon's friend who I had been looking forward to meeting and Courtney was an absolute delight. Later, there were walks around campus and parks, both receiving gifts from and preparing goodies for our friends from this summer's LadyMoon, lunch in a cute part of town, and more. On the second night, Sharon prepared her amazing pesto-pear flatbread. It was fall on a thin crust.

We also enjoyed some cauliflower-broccoli cheese soup and a rustic pear galette for dessert. There was mulled wine and a fire just to add even more coziness to the evening. It was a perfect weekend.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Yesterday evening, Austin and I took a walk on a trail that is right by our house. We saw two deer up close, tons of gorgeous leaves, and friendly people enjoying the local trail system. It was fantastic and I happily kicked through piles of leaves. I wish fall could last much longer.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Feeling Autumnal

When we were in Texas, I justified the lack of a true fall season with the notion that winters were incredibly mild and we could start gardening in February. Now that we're back to the Midwest, I need to savor every leaf-crunching second of fall and steel myself for the long, cold winter. The trees are really peaking here and this one is right in front of my campus building; I love seeing it when I'm walking in.

Today we purchased a few pumpkins and a few mums. It was chilly enough that I didn't spend a good deal of time contemplating the purchase. We can always get more!

Later we decorated a little outside. A wreath of leaves and the pumpkins decorate the front of our house (most visible to the street) while our front door has the mums and a wreath of black roses, silver skulls, and red LED lights. The front door is not very visible from the street but it is where trick-or-treaters will arrive. We still have some lights to put up.

With the cooler temps, some comfort food was in order. We decided on green chili mac and cheese. We've never found a great mac and cheese recipe but this one we sort of invented seemed very close to what we both wanted.

Lunderoy Green Chili Mac and Cheese (serves about four)

8 oz whole wheat elbow pasta 2 c. 2% milk 4 T butter 4 T flour 2 c. taco cheese (Mexican queso quesadilla if you can find it) salt pepper cayenne 1 small can chopped green chilies 1 c. panko breadcrumbs 1/2 c. parmesan cheese 2 T butter, melted

1. Boil the pasta until al dente.

2. Melt butter in saucepan; add flour, salt and pepper and whisk together until well blended.

3. Pour in milk gradually, stirring constantly until thickened.

4. Gradually add the cheese, stirring until incorporated.

5. Add dash of cayenne to taste.

6. Combine pasta, green chilies, and cheese mixture; pour into greased casserole dish.

7. Combine panko, parmesan, and melted butter. Top macaroni mixture with the crumbs.

8. Bake at 375º about 25 minutes until bubbling and top is golden brown.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lady Moon 2012: The Deets

I can't believe it's taken me so long to update on the Lady Moon, but the start of the semester has demanded most of my attention. The cool thing is, we Lady Mooners created our own little (private) Facebook community where we are still interacting regularly, swapping everything from sage advice to fantastic recipes to wry humor. This group has been a wonderful support as I begin a new semester at a new job in a new city.

Without further ado, here is a rundown of our trip (though like Las Vegas, some things that happen at LM stay at LM!). 2/5 of our party got in to town first and, given that it's WI, they were instructed to meet the cabin in owner at his bar (dubbed "Cheese Daddy's") to follow him out the cabin. The less said about the cabin owner the better, but I don't think we'll soon forget him. I met my friend, Sharon, where our travel paths crossed so we could arrive at the cabin together and use my GPS and our two brains to navigate some detours and closed roads. Sharon and I made an easy dinner of taco salads at the cabin while the other three went to a cute, nearby town to dine at a Japanese restaurant.

Catherine, Tiffeny, and Amanda (aka Moroccan food blogger extrodinaire, MarocMama) met us at the cabin later that evening and we sipped some tea or wine while having a lovely catch-up session. We hoped the eerie, numerous stuffed critters hanging from the walls were not paying attention to us. Though many of us were tired, we talked later than we probably thought we would have, enjoying that easy kind of conversation that can delightful blossom among a group of new and old friends. We tucked away into the various beds around the cabin and Tiffeny and I happily shared her white noise app between our two beds.

The next morning, Cath was on breakfast duty and made a delicious egg, sweet potato, and blue corn chip dish. It was initially meant to be a frittata but we were not terribly surprised to discover the oven didn't work and the idea had to be reworked. Fortunately, Cath is an amazingly resourceful woman and the stovetop version turned out to be really, really tasty. Cath even brought photocopies of her recipe, hand-decorated to boot! I can't wait to make this dish at home.

We ventured out to the cute town nearby with the mission of obtaining a few random items and checking out the numerous shops, galleries, and cafes. Cath found special, yellow yarn for her daughter and Amanda found traditional pasties for her mom. I think we all would have enjoyed strolling and browsing more but we also wanted to enjoy the cabin (in spite of the taxidermy that none of us found to be terribly exciting).

Back at "home," there was a bit of nap time and exploring time. The grounds were fairly large and we discovered another cabin (allegedly powered only by solar panels), an old bridge, a creepy cave with a very tiny waterfall sprinkling over it (and weird, random items inside), and a treehouse containing--what else--some sort of old fashioned adding machine.

After exploring, Amanda began to prepare her triple-fluffed couscous. Yes, folks, no measly double fluffs for us! She even used her Moroccan couscousiere for the preparation, cooking the vegetables and making a broth in the lower part while steaming the couscous above. With no large serving platter in the cabin, the paellera I had brought along became a transcultural vessel in which to serve the dish. We enjoyed it Moroccan style--communally from the pan and Amanda assured us any spills on the table were just part of the tradition. It was really tasty fare and the couscous was indeed quite fluffy.

We enjoyed more conversation and tea after lunch. Given our full menu schedule and the nightly crop of bugs, Sharon wisely suggested a dessert of s'mores over the fire pit. We made do with some skewers found in the kitchen and made a small fire on the grill surface of the bbq pit for our marshmallows. I can't remember when I had my last s'more, but this was a lovely idea. More tea and wine followed, along with good conversation.

We also brought any items that we felt needed to find loving, new homes and had a swap. There were books, spices, tea, kitchen implements, decorative items, and more. It was interesting to hear the stories behind the items and what the new owner planned to do with her find. Personally, I scored bamboo steamers, BBQ sauce for Austin, a cookbook, and a novel. Now to find the time to enjoy them!

Much later in the day, Tiffeny and I prepared our dinner of veggie paella. We enjoyed it with some Spanish cava and toasted Lady Moon 2012 as a success. To top it off, Sharon prepared gorgeous crêpes and offered us a variety of sweet fillings. Magnifique! Once again, we talked until a bit later than we thought and tucked ourselves in.

The next morning, Tiffeny prepared a fantastic breakfast porridge made with red quinoa. We topped it with dried berries and nuts and poured on a bit of almond milk. It was hearty and tasty, especially on a gray and drizzly day. We wished we could spend the day lounging and relaxing but we had plans to move on. We loaded our cars with our things; new treasures and newly-minted memories and I don't think I was alone in pondering what Lady Moon 2013 might bring.

P.S. Read MarocMama's account here!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lady Moon 2012

What's better than a bachelorette party? A post-wedding Lady Moon with the bride and some of her dearest friends. I just returned from a fantastic weekend with four girlfriends in southwestern WI. I can't wait to share more about the adventures we had but classes start tomorrow and I'm scrambling to get ready for the week.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

In Pursuit of Pie

Last week, our first pizzeria was Giordano's which had some good reviews. They were carry-out only so we placed our order and hit up a wine tasting since we were not aware of this until arriving. I mean, the place does have a sign that says "restaurant" which would lead one to believe there was seating but it was not to be. We ordered a thin crust and a deep dish.

Well. The thin crust was tasty and I am of the belief that the crust is merely a delivery system for the toppings and not a big part of the show. The deep dish, then, was just too much with all the crust and what had to be pounds of cheese inside. The sauce was very tasty which is important to me, the cheese was good but... there as an issue. Austin pointed out a strange taste on the crust of both pies, like some sort of cleaning solution. As soon as the Super Taster said that, I noticed it too. It seemed as though the dough had been prepared on a freshly sterilized surface. As much as we were grateful for the efforts to combat contamination, well, it sort of ruined the experience. We may try it again later but for now, we'll try someplace else.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The First Work Week

We're getting a bit more settled in and are at the end of the first full work week in our new digs. It's been really warm and Austin's office is upstairs. We have applied film to the windows that supposedly blocks up to 70% of the sun/heat and we put up thermal curtains in an effort to block even more. It's still very warm upstairs but yesterday, we had a delightfully cool day as evidenced by one of the weather apps on my phone:

The beverage on the window sill changes depending on the weather and it was pretty much lemonade the whole time in Texas. I was delighted to see the rain and the little tea cup yesterday (and don't you dare tell me it's coffee!). We had the windows thrown open and it got rather cool in the house. Austin actually switched to jeans and sought out his moose shoes which were, alas, still packed away somewhere. I had a bit of a headache so it was a good excuse to curl up on the couch with Stinky, watch the Packers' preseason game, and play word games on my phone. It was a perfect evening.

Today, it's still cooler but not rainy. I'm on campus working on several projects that I need to get through. I'll be conducting training for the teaching assistants of all languages as well as another training session for the instructors of lower division Spanish so I have a lot of prep work to do, particularly as a new faculty member. Throughout the semester, I'll have coordinator duties related to the TAs and instructors along with teaching.

My work today will be rewarded, however, as Austin has announced a quest to research the pizza situation in town. We are in a college town in the Chicagoland area so there are numerous options and even more opinions on the pizza. Tonight we plan to go out to sample the first option, a nice end to our first work week.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Cardboard Colored

This is our world for the moment. Boxes, boxes everywhere. It seems that our books and kitchen items took up about 99% of our space.

First the bad news. The movers we hired to load our truck made quite the mess of it. We found most of the boxes marked "fragile" were crushed under heavy boxes of books. Numerous large items were not well-wrapped in spite of the fact that we actually provided a dozen of our own moving blankets and asked that they be used. It was very frustrating to see just how many items were either destroyed or badly scuffed and scraped. We have moved many, many times but this experience has us rethinking how we'll do it the next time.

In better news, my parents generously offered to help us unload the truck. Austin and my dad did a lot of the heavy lifting and my mom helped me with some of the unpacking. It was nice that they were able to see our new home and community.

We are still surrounded by boxes but the piles are slowly shrinking. It's been a challenge to go from owning a home to renting a townhouse. First, it's a bit smaller so some of our things (e.g. Christmas tree and decorations) will have to go to a storage unit for now. Our kitchen is one of the smaller areas so that's been interesting to get set up. It's also really hard not to make changes to the place like we would if we owned. For example, there are numerous brass fixtures I'd love to swap out with something more modern and updated. There are other issues like very low water pressure, bubbling in the air conditioning pipelines, and a washing machine that sounds like it's trying to break free of the utility closet and march across the house. All of these things would be something we'd address if we owned the place or planned on being here for over a year but at the moment, we're just chalking them up to the renting experience. Over all, though, the townhouse is nice and will definitely suit us while we settle in and get accustomed to our new community.

Austin will be back to work full-time on Monday and his office is set up enough for that to happen. I will be going to my office on campus fairly regularly to get caught up with syllabus writing and preparation for the semester along with my ongoing publication and conferencing work. We're looking forward to getting back into a more regular routine and continuing to get to know the area.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Flip Side

The truck made it and we're unloading today. We are definitely ready to reassemble our living arrangements.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

We Made It

And this is basically how we all feel:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A night on the road

Looks like bringing Stinky's blanket to the hotel was a good idea.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012