Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I am sitting in front of a wonderful fire right now in the living room. Paul just left to head to the office on campus to work on his research proposal and a paper....he is having a very busy week.

This weekend was wonderful. Ethan, Nicole and their extremely fun 10 month old baby Cohen came to visit. Gosh, I miss him so much. Cohen is the happiest friendliest baby I've ever seen. He is truly so fun to hang out with. And great to cuddle. :o) I wish we lived closer so that I could babysit.

We spent a lot of time just hanging out at the house, having a fire, playing lots of Settlers of Catan and Rummicube, along with Phase 10. We were in full game mode and at some points it got a little heated, but it was fun. One day we took a long walk to Picnic Point and back (around 7 miles?) was 3.5 hours of nonstop walking. We were all pretty tired but it was a gorgeous day and the lake and the trees were so pretty to see. Plus, we walked past the Frank Lloyd Wright Unitarian Meeting House that's a few blocks from our house so Ethan could view it.

This morning I went outside before work and found another egg in the nest box. This time I picked it up and it was super warm; I think Penny had just laid it a few moments before. The egg was a little bigger than the others, bit by bit they are starting to get larger. Ethan, Paul and I ate our first fresh eggs together. We fried some up for breakfast on Monday and they tasted good. I kept hearing people say that homegrown fresh eggs are unbelievable and 100 times better than store bought, but at this point I can't tell much of a difference. I did break open a store bought egg and saw that the yolks were slightly different colors, and of course my pullet eggs are slightly smaller, but other than that they seemed and tasted about the same. Maybe the fresh eggs will taste differently once I go to Farm & Fleet to buy some Layer Feed which has higher protein. I should do that soon.

Yesterday morning we drove to Chicago, reaching downtown around 11:30. We parked underground at Millenium Park and then took an Architecture Cruise along the Chicago River. We did a little shopping at Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack (two stores that Wisconsin is sorely lacking), where I bought myself the most adorable watch on earth. It took me a while before I decided to purchase it because it was a little pricey, but I'm in love with it. LOVE it. so much. The best birthday present to myself ever. Here's a bad photo I found online. It's L.A.M.B and white and shiny mother-of-pearl and silver.

We visited the bean, aka Cloud Gate at Millenium Park. Years ago when I heard that a giant metal jellybean was going to be erected in the new park I was very skeptical, but now it's become one of my favorite destinations. Not only is it fun to walk around to see the reflected skyline as well as distorted mirror images of yourself, it's also such a great people-watching spot. While we were there yesterday we saw a young couple in love kissing and taking a photo of their reflection, some international symphony group with about 100 students all dressed up, babies, old folks, everyone was admiring the bean and having a good time. This was the least-crowded I've seen it, and even so it definitely grabbed everyone's attention. Frank Gehry's pavilion was also neat to see again.

At the airport I almost cried saying goodbye to Cohen. I didn't want them to leave, and I know that next time I see him he'll be so big! He's already on the cusp of walking and talking. I miss that little guy (and of course his parents too!) so much.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Egg #3 arrived today....they are on a roll!

Nicole, Ethan and baby Cohen arrive tomorrow. They're staying until Tuesday night and I am taking Mon/Tues off of work. This is gonna be a sweet four day weekend.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

We have an egg! Yesterday after a particularly tiring day at work I came home, parked my bike in the garage and walked into the backyard to say hi to the chickens as I normally do. It was about 20 minute before dark. Since I wasn't sure what time I would be arriving home, I had left them in their coop/small run for the day...that way if I came home after dark they would be in a predator-proof space. The clucked happily when they saw me. I opened our egg door on the coop and noticed right away that the bedding in the nest box had been moved all around. This had never happened before. I had added the nest box a few weeks ago just in case the girls might start laying early, but I wasn't really sure if they would use it or not. Supposedly you can place fake eggs (plastic, or just golf balls) in the nest box to teach the gals where to lay.....but I didn't have a fake egg.

Well, I looked closer and there it was: a beautiful light brown egg, right in the nest box! I did a double take, because even though I knew it could happen any day I wasn't really expecting it. I'm pretty sure it was laid by Penny, our Rhode Island Red, because she has the reddist combs (which I've read is a sign that they are about the lay), is the largest, and seems the most mature. I am so proud of her! Not only do I have a wonderful first egg, but she laid it in the perfect spot.

Now I just need to figure out how to eat it. I've been informed that soft-boiled eggs are really good...I've never had one. I think I'll wait a few days and see if we get another egg or two, that way Paul and I can share this new experience together. Neither of us has ever had a fresh egg! And this is even more special because it was produced by our very own birds in our backyard. I love those chickens (but yes people, I am still planning on eating them someday).

I've been treating them by letting them out to roam even more (I guess you could say that they're semi-freerange), and feeding them their new favorite treat: stale cheerios.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm playing soccer tomorrow. It's Sociology vs. Statistics grad students at a park near our house. I am going to suck.

Still no egg-citement, but the chickens did have a morning visit from Atinkut, and boy was he happy to see them!

As of this morning, we are official Wisconsin residents. After a year we finally got our new licenses and registered our car. No more lovely mountains and trees, just "America's Dairyland" on our white license boring.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I started a new position on Monday, but my responsibilities haven't really changed much at work. I do have guaranteed funding for 3.5 years and I feel blessed to finally have benefits including sick days and vacation. I'm finally out of the "Limited Term Employee" rut.

I have been begging the chickens to lay me an egg, but no miniature eggs have popped out of them yet. This may be over the top, but I am planning on sending out an "Egg Announcement" once it happens. I need to start thinking about winterizing the coop soon to keep it free from drafts and also getting some kind of heating element so their water won't turn into ice in below-freezing weather. I also need to bribe them more with treats and promises of free-ranging in the yard. Or maybe threats would work best? They are of tasty deluxe chicken meat age at this point. Or something like that.

Be proud of me. I have been biking consistently to and from work since last May. Even this week with 70% threats of rain I have thwarted the storms and made it to work dry. My only problem has been stupid stupid pedestrians who walk in the middle of the bike lane when the sidewalk is only a few feet away. I actually hit someone (well, technically only their backpack) the other morning. I do not feel bad about this. I chimed my bell multiple times, I said excuse me, and still this girl does not move. I feel like I should have one of those air horns to wake up all these mindless UW undergrads. Or maybe I should just bike the long way to work.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

This is the calm weekend. No plans. But we're also sick, which is no fun. Mostly we've been addicted to watching The Sopranos, now my favorite television show. The good thing is that since we're almost a decade behind the times we have many seasons to watch. The show is amazing. Great acting, great story, great filming, and fascinating character development.

Friday night we had Paul's classmate over, who is also our neighbor, and her 8th grade daughter. We carved pumpkins, drank cider, and had a wonderful dinner. Then we played Rummikub, our new favorite game. I think I'm going to plan a Game Night for sometime soon....I am in a board game mood.

The past three weekends have been really fun. First, Aly & I went to Chicago and spent time in Hyde Park with Ruthie. It was sunny and wonderful. We spent some time in Millenium Park, went shopping on State Street, and hung out in Ruthie's awesome new apartment.

Then, the next weekend Ruthie came up to Madison for the weekend with K&E. We went apple picking at the Eplegaarden (my new favorite place) and on a bike ride around the Capitol City Trail.

Last weekend Paul & I hosted an autumn dinner party and pumpkin-carving for 10 people or so. We went to the Hilldale Farmer's Market and picked up some produce, and then went back to the Eplegaarden to buy 15 lbs of apples and some cider. We also went to the Eplegaarden pumpkin patch to pick our own pumpkins. That was quite an experience. First, it was about 90 degrees out and we were super sweaty. And 2nd, most of the pumpkins in the field were rotting...gross! A combination of rain in August and then high temps in Sept/October made for bad pumpkin growing. We only ended up buying three hand-picked and then went to the store to buy the rest.

Dinner was so yummy. The menu was:
*Roasted Autumn Vegetables with fresh thyme (turnips, parsnips, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, and beets)
*Chicken with apples (a combination of a few recipes we found online)
*Fresh bread, from our favorite and easiest recipe, with apple butter from the Eplegaarden
*Beet Salad with Plums and Goat Cheese -- via Ruthie
*Apple Crisp (Mom's recipe)
The dinner party went well, and somehow we ended up with 9 pumpkins because all but 1 didn't want to take their pumpkins with them due to living in apartments or east side pranksters. So now we have a very festive house! And, unfortunately, the squirrels have already gnawed their way into some of the pumpkins. The best pumpkin was a chicken pumpkin (yes, I was the judge, but others also agreed that it was impressive). I'll have to post photos at some point, it's great.

The highlight of last weekend was seeing Clap Your Hands Say Yeah perform Saturday night. I might be slightly biased since I know one of the band members, but their show was amazing! Elvis Perkins in Dearland opened, and they are fantastic. Then CYHSY came out and had a wonderful energetic set. I have to be honest and admit that when I first hear CYHSY a year or two ago I wasn't impressed....but as I listened more and more I grew to love their music. At the concert they would play a song and I'd think to myself "this is my favorite song", and then they'd play another and, oh wait, THAT would be my favorite song....I just think so many of their songs are incredible. Many of the live concerts I've been to in my life have not impressed me, but three stand out as fun amazing exciting live shows: 1.) Sufjan Stevens at Shuba's during my college days 2.) CYHSY last weekend and 3.) The National, a few months ago. All three of these bands had such great stage presence (even if shyness was part of that for Sufjan at the time), and had amazing quality-sounding songs. They sounded even better live than their taped music.

Last Thursday marked my most domestic evening ever. First I went to knit at Barriques, but no one else showed up so I left. Then I came home and cleaned the kitchen, which inspired me to bake. I had a huge ziplock bag of pumpkin seeds from the Sunday Pumpkin Fest, and spent about 2 hours roasting those in the oven using various techniques, I skinned and sliced 10 lbs of apple, half of which went into the crock pot with some spices to create chunky apple sauce, and half of which went into a homemade apple pie! I made the crust of the apple pie and left the rest to do the next evening so it would be nice and warm for dessert. Mmmmmm.

I love autumn.

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