Monday, July 25, 2005

Oh no I'm soooo far behind...

I'll try to remember things in a semi-chronological order...

About a week and a half ago, Andrew & I headed off toward Chicago. Well first of all we had to go to IKEA, because Andrew had been freaking out about what sort of coffee table he was going to "complete the apartment" with. Since most of the apt. is oak, beige, red, and navy blue, we had to exhaust all oak-en possiblities within the Madison area. This meant veering off highways suddenly to visit pricey furniture stores with "OAK" in the title, and measuring and re-measuring the living room space and comparing it with dimensions of various coffee tables as described online. Thank God, Andrew did, indeed, find a nice coffee table equivalent.

Afterwards, we were free to visit Karuna and Craig! We talked for a bit over tea, I met the puppy (who was inordinately fond of Andrew's shoes), and then we headed into the city. So many tall buildings! And lots of great park spaces and fountains. We saw huge panels that we thought were merely fountains at first, and then we realized that they also functioned as tv screens. HUGE tv screens. And Craig showed us the silver bean which was being polished up. Very impressed by the city, and it explains so much about why South Hadley wasn't exactly Karuna's favorite place to be. Plus, the city just seemed so much, well, cleaner than NYC. For dinner we went to Pizzaria Due -- yum -- and then we walked a bit more before heading back. Somehow, we timed our quick visit to B&N at exactly the right time to witness the Harry Potter-mania. Lots of kids. Lots of kids dressed up as book characters. And lots of kids drinking espresso. I was worried. I guess I'm glad that kids are reading, but God I wish kids got excited over really amazing time-tested, human truth-filled, mind-expanding novels and poetry. But alas, all the kids want are their Goosebumps and Harry Potter... Andrew, Anna & I were discussing this, and it finally helped me realize why I don't like H.P. that much -- as Anna says, it's simply too popularized and mainstream. I'd just look at it as a cultural artifact, instead of as a piece of art or a great work of literature. So I guess I'll stick to my own reading list this summer (which is being crafted after the scary oral quals list).

Anyway, I guess I got a bit ahead of myself up there, but the above mentioned conversation with Anna took place last Monday. We went to the Union terrace to watch Psycho on the screen outdoors (which was fabulous, I only wish I'd never heard or seen anything of it before so I could have been thoroughly and completely shocked). Afterwards, we showed Anna the apt. and talked for awhile.

Hmm... what else. Not even sure if I mentioned a prior trip to Lake Kegonsa -- we took a short nature walk and waded a bit (very nervous about the blue green algea). To get back to being in chronological order, that Tuesday was a big grocery shopping day... then we had a couple of stay at home sorta days since it was rainy. Andrew got the bikes fixed up, and we took a short ride to the lake & park right next to us. It was kind of pathetic, because I'm not so good with the coordination and balance stuff, and I'm rather nervous about sharing the road with automobiles.

Friday we did the whole county fair thing. This involved wandering through 4-H displays for nearly two hours (Andrew was kind of shocked, and especially confused by the cake decorating and baked goods contests). Somehow, I kept my interest level up while examining self-portrait photos of a moody looking preteen taken with her camera phone, and evaluating the size of those home grown onions and beets. We also, of course, had to walk through the commercial vendors. Andrew did not believe me when I said that we really don't want to do that. This area included a Pro-Life woman with little plastic fetuses in a wicker basket. At one point we saw a little girl approach the stand and treat the plastic fetuses like dolls. It was difficult to know whether to laugh or just feel rather disconcerted. I went with the latter.

Tucked behind the commercial vendors, we found the petting zoo section. There were chicks hatching in real time, and ducklings being handed over to sticky-fingered toddlers. Unfortunately, I missed a priceless scene, but Andrew related it to me afterwards:

At the bird petting station, two little girls were playing with a duckling. The older girl tried to hand the duckling to her younger sister, while their mother supervised, advising the younger girl to "not hold it so tightly." Then the father arrived on the scene, and directed to mom: "You're letting so-and-so hold it? Don't you remember what happened with..." And the mom said something to the effect of: "Oh, yeah, so-and-so, maybe we should just let your big sister hold it, and you can look." And the little girl relinquished the duckling and walked away crying. Ah the fair!

Andrew was also new to the whole idea of putting livestock and chickens on display. So we got a full tour of the beef and dairy cows, and saw a huge assortment of variously feathered chickens, turkeys, and ducks. Not to mention the rabbits, including one French lop that was seriously bigger than your average toddler.

Finally, we got to the entertainment and carnival section... cotton candy, Hawaiian ice, carnies yelling to Andrew "if your gf is worth $3, you'll play this game and win a stuffed monstrosity!" (OK, they didn't use the word "monstrosity," they didn't really have the imagination for that)... Saw a truly disturbing family act with singing pigs ("My dad began this show back in 1957..." saddest thing I've ever heard in my life), and then saw some acrobatics (in neon lime outfits, no less) and a hip hop group perform. Then finally a ride on the ferris wheel, which perfectly coincided with the red sun setting behind the horizon.

Saturday evening we followed up with a trip to a Madison Mallards minor baseball league game. Way overboard on the between-innings entertainment... baseball bat spinning (both men fell over, promptly, for the record), free sandwich and chicken skewer throwing (being literal here, not exaggerating), and water ballon slingshot tossing. We lost the game, but there was still a fireworks display afterwards. Nothing like being right under the booming...

Yesterday was scorching hot... so we went to a nicer side of Lake Mendota (don't tell Anna, she'd be worried for our health). But Andrew did call prior, and checked up on their testing. The attendant told him that their beach had tested negative to everything thus far in the season, so we went for it (but washed off in the showers REALLY well afterwards, and showered as soon as we got home). Kinda greenish water, with lots of weeds, but it was so hot and I still think it's better than chlorine and toddler-pee (i.e., public swimming pools). We also had to run some errands... in other words, return stuff that I'd bought. This will require some explaining...

WARNING: here begins rant about organic foods and parabens -- it might be really boring for you

So I've been wanting to go organic and more natural all around since, well, I became aware of my own mortality and the fact that our modern lifestyle seems to create a lot of cancer victims. Andrew & I have been pretty good about incorporating more organic foods... my cereal, milk, yogurt, and much of the produce is organic. Andrew often scoffs or jokes about it, but he finally checked up on some not-for-profit reports on pesticide residues in foods, and realized that underneath my rather preachy mode of talking about it, there are some actual facts and figures. Anyway, we're definitely aware, and following the little guidebook for 12 most/ least contaminated produce items... And luckily, Woodman's makes organic seem cheap enough on some things at least to be reasonable (blueberries for $2, avocadoes at about 1.30 each, and 3 pounds of apples for $2.50, for example). I've also been worried about animal products, ever since writing animal rights articles for WARM2Kids. So we've got to get the cage-free eggs, and the "smart chicken" sans antibiotics and hormones. We saw a clip on tv about the treatment of chickens at many farms, and after seeing the horribly diseased and mutilated birds for a few minutes, I think Andrew came around.

Anyway, with all this worrying, I also started thinking about what makeup and body products I use, and what businesses I'm thereby supporting. This spurred a visit to Whole Foods to get new moisturizers, sunblocks, and foundations. But then I realized that EVERY SINGLE THING had parabens in it. To catch you up on this in case you're not entirely paranoid like me: Parabens are chemicals that sometimes occur in nature, and which most cosmetics and personal care product manufacturers have taken up due to their low cost and efficiency at preserving everything from shampoo to blush. While they haven't been DEFINITIVELY linked with breast cancer, there was a big scare in the UK a while back, from what I can gather, when breast cancer tumor samples were found to contain un-broken-down parabens. They thought that this paraben-dosage might be due to deoderants, as it would explain why many tumors occur near the portion of the breast closest to the underarm, and why the left breast seems more susceptible to cancer (some investigator hypothesized that since most people are right handed, they'd apply deoderant more heavily on the left underarm). So scary, right? And when I saw that Breast Cancer Action ( has addressed the parabens link, I figured, why risk it? Why not find stuff that DOESN'T contain a chemical that might not be safe? (After all, the cosmetics industry really isn't very tightly regulated... many products mysteriously don't have ingredient labels (my mascara doesn't, for example, and check out the Clinique website.. a search for "ingredients" didn't turn up a single hit for me.) ... and the tests done on rats to check the safety of parabens aren't that convincing. A one time huge dose does NOT simulate the effects of slathering on paraben-laden-products every day for like 50 years.)

So, after feeling totally betrayed by Whole Foods, I returned every single thing and bought my new products online from Avalon Organics & Burt's Bees (paraben free!) I also exchanged my unused sunless tanner (by Neutrogena, featuring a whopping five different forms of parabens) for the Coppertone variety (paraben-free, as I'd learned online from a fellow-shopper). Thank God Wal-Mart employees don't really care that you don't have a receipt! But after all, I'd never even cracked open the bottle (as must have been evident by my still-way-too-white skin).

I guess I'm slowly becoming a good fit for the Bay area, right?

WARNING: end of rant

Hmmm... not too much else to report, except for the movies & scrabble games...

I've been beating Andrew, badly, at Scrabble. Admittedly, this came after a few heavy losses on my side, and even one game that started and was then called off by me when Andrew used all his letters over TWO double word tiles. But now that I've scored around 380 for a couple of games, and used all my letters a few times, I feel like we're finally a pretty even match.

We've been watching a lot of the OC... probably about half way through season one now. Such fun.

Also, I've been watching the Star Wars movies (in order) so that we can see the third in theaters. We also got around to watching Resident Evil, which we totally enjoyed. Difficult to figure out what was going on at first (neither of us had played the video game), but a good fun time afterwards. Hard to fit in mutants AND zombies, but they did it! (being sarcastic here, just wanted to verify that.) It was also kinda creepy when the fire alarm went off midway through. Someone apparently burnt pizza.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

On a Discovery channel special on lions, we watched about five female lions take down some sort of buffalo. They started tearing at the skin (rather unsuccessfully), and Andrew cleverly said: "Wow, it's like leather." Pause. "Wait, it IS leather!"

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So now that I've been in Madison for over a week, I thought it might be a good idea to update so I don't fall too far behind... We've had some adventures...including, last Friday, wandering around Madison, visiting the Gap (yay for cheap capris) & getting Andrew set up with a new bank. The weather has been mostly great -- quite hot!

Last weekend, we were in search of Farmer's Markets... we visited one kind of sketchy one in the Wal-Mart parking lot (which was fairly successful since we got tomato plants & lettuce plants), as well as the more established one that is usually "on the square" but this Sat. was down a few blocks since the Art on the Square had taken over. It was a very, very hot and sunny day, and getting in line with all the other slowly staggering about lookers was excruciating. So we got our tomatoes & broccoli & onions & basil & lettuce and got out of there! In the afternoon we took a walk to the park that's like 5 minutes from Andrew's place... the water was looking kinda yucky, but nice views of the lake.

Sunday we took a trip to Sun Prairie, thinking that perhaps the last of the strawberries would be waiting for us at this family farm we looked up online. No such luck. So we got a good look at real farm country -- lots of long roads and cornfields. Much of the dairy products we've been buying are actually from Sun Prairie. We went down their quaint downtown, which was quite dead on Sunday (as a sign proclaimed on one shop, Sunday is "for church & fishin' "). We realized that the Georgia O'Keeffe Memorial Ave did indeed have something to do with the town... a sign alerted us that O'Keeffe was born in Sun Prairie! On the way home, we stopped by a liquidator's, and I found Luna bars for 59 cents (which I'd been looking up online that morning) & horehound candy (which I never can find anywhere). So that was fun... in the evening we took our mango fried rice leftovers to a park, and ate as twilight came on.

Monday was a huge shopping day -- Andrew was off to the University in the morning to talk to a prof, and I stayed home to work on stuff after sleeping in. In the late afternoon we went to Woodman's to buy supplies for dinners for the rest of the week... took forever... Woodman's is the biggeset supermarket... but doesn't have very good organic produce (ie they haven't got much, not even organic apples). So we still had to supplement with Jenifer's market. But oh well. We were starving by the time we got home, so I did the appetizers/ I'm-going-to-faint-while-making-dinner-if-I-don't-eat-somethings (brie & pesto roll & cheddar & granny smiths). As an aside: Jenifer St. Market had THE BEST granny smiths I've ever tasted (and organic, too!!) Anyways, Andrew made his famous pesto, and all was well again.

Yesterday we were on a pretty good schedule, we were quite proud of ourselves. We headed off to the zoo in the afternoon -- saw a gi-normous Galapagos Tortoise (apparently they grow up to 4 feet in diameter, and can weigh hundreds of pounds), bears (black, grizzly, and polar -- all actually awake!), flamingos (I bet they're confused, what the f*&# are they doing in Wisconsin??!!), giraffes, an ostrich guarding her egg, and, best of all, five young lions! The lion cubs were born in Oct., were available to be seen in late April, and are now frolicking about in their own large playing area. The entire time we watched them, one or another was stalking an oblivious brother or sister, chasing one another along the rocks, or pouncing in a not-so-stealthy manner. Adorable! We realized how much smaller they were than adult lions, when we saw the female/ male pair. Huge! The seals & river otters were also active & funny -- the seals kept gurgling as if trying to get something out of their throats. It was good weather -- slightly drizzly but cooled down (thankfully).

For dinner, we had sushi night -- w/ mango, avocado, cucumber, and smoked salmon. Stuffed ourselves, as usual. And we were actually ready to settle in for a movie before it was dark out!

Movie watching lately... I'm catching up on zombie-genre movies, so I finally saw Shaun of the Dead. I LOVED the part where they're all pretending to be zombies to "fit in" and get through the crowd of dead. Hilarious. And all the fake outs, and the proper British manners that get in the way of surviving zombie attacks. And that the main character took so long to realize what was going on. Great! And for Merrie: Coldplay definitely was involved -- if you watch the TV clips they show after the attacks at the end of the movie, one includes a shot of Coldplay, and the name is even mentioned! (I guess the lead was a zombie-extra.)

Then last night we saw 28 Days Later, which we decided was just a rehashing of other zombie movies, namely Day of the Dead. The filming was so dark you could hardly tell what was going on... in a way that wasn't necessarily beneficial to the film (the whole oh-we-don't-know-what's-going-on-any-better-than-the-lead feeling can only work for so long). Calling it an infection instead of reanimation didn't really hold me... even one of the directors slipped by calling them "zombies or the infected" in a commentary clip of a deleted scene. And you never really get WHY the infected are so intent on going after other humans. Unlike zombies, they don't need human flesh to survive... and you'd think that "rage" could be directed against other targets as well. And how exactly do they survive at all, if we never see them eating or drinking? It just doesn't make much sense. And some of the infected, which supposedly have been running about for weeks, looked pretty damn healthy, not scrawny. Lots of similar stuff from the genre... like fortresses or protected areas run by soldiers & what do you do when a loved one turns into an infected & the issue of infecteds that look like children. And the ideas were old -- they struck me as pretty similar to Romero's Day of the Dead (the uninfected turning on one another, the threat of the women being subjected/ harassed under might-is-right, the question of who's more "human" (using infecteds to kill off unsavory uninfecteds, and filming the main character, Jim, in a similar manner to the infecteds when he's on a rampage in the final scenes in the house.)) We weren't terribly impressed... but it was entertaining while it lasted.

Also, we've been playing Scrabble -- I won the first night, and Andrew won the second. But I still maintain that his win was reliant upon my crappy letter selection (who gets four i's at once?? and w/ two u's?!) Yes... I take it too seriously.

Today there was a great op-ed piece by Sarah Vowell in the NYT -- here's a link. She's hilarious, and it doesn't hurt that I agree with her!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I'm now in Madison!!

But I'm gonna need to backtrack a bit with my bad updating record...

Before leaving Oregon, there were a few things that needed to be taken care of -- namely, taking care of alpacas & doing some last minute stuff with the family. Weds was my last big scrapbooking expedition. It was sad to pack everything up -- I hope Mer starts going down to Grammy's soon to take my place!

Thurs I helped Mum clean, and then we had an adventure up at Kingsley Lake. It was hot and sunny, but windy up at the lake, so we mainly just sat & snacked (I'd also brought a Chai Luna bar, I love that company). The lake was perfectly blue though, and I think Mom got a wild hair... because after we realized it would be an awfully goosebumpy experience to swim, we hit the old road up to Kingsley. This road really deserves some description: potholes and rocks everywhere, deep ruts from all the four-wheelers that are dug in so deep that a regular sized car could have the underside torn up. We bumped down this road for a few minutes, and luckily came upon the lower reservoir. I think it'd be cool to hike across the dike there, as it's now all blocked off from car use. We kept going, hoping to find Warren Lake. We went up gravel and dirt roads, taking every offshoot in the hope that it would be the old road to get to the lake. We found many logging areas & burn piles, a few impassable old roads, and a hiking trail (with candy stripe plants, very unusual looking, like candy canes with vertical stripes and little flowering parts along the curve). It was strange to find beer cans littering everywhere, even after driving on so many bad roads and finding such a supposedly remote area...

We never did find Warren Lake, and luckily Mom picked the right branches of the downhill trek, so we ended up getting home so Mer and I could go out for our beloved taco pizza at Pietro's. I think I've cracked how to make it, so that will have to be a cooking project this summer. We had orange soda, which you only need once a year, and lamented the changes made in the new "gaming area" or whatever since we were kids. The loss of the mechanical horse is really unacceptable.

Friday I job shadowed at the Whitman's, and in the evening we took a bbq -- complete with hormone & antibiotic & animal by-product free steak and corn on the cob. Mer and I wandered around Nottingham (not a Robin Hood delusion, we really have areas named Nottingham and Sherwood -- not to mention Little John) & tried to get as far across the river on rocks and sandbars as possible. It did look greener over there. On the way home we visited Linda, which was fun since I hadn't gotten to see her yet.

Sat. I took over alpaca duties, manning the store at the Whitman's & taking care of the creatures. A number of nice people came by & sedately fed the alpacas. Then, right over the time when Mer and I should have been eating lunch, this family from the Dalles pulled up. As you'll see, the fact that they came from the Dalles is rather important -- it explains a lot, as Mer and I thought. The family consisted of a grandmother with a smoker's cough, a teenage son with bushy hair, and two very active blond kids. They wanted to feed the alpacas, so we sat out there with them for about 40 minutes as the kids were indefatigable. They wanted to feed and pet every alpaca, it seemed, and then when they ran out, wanted more pellets. I didn't want to stand out there any longer, so I directed them toward the hay. I finally had to go back to homebase to help out another couple of visitors, so Mer had the arduous task of standing out there watching. Finally, the grandmother at least finished up, and returned to the store to cough on me and ask me to read price tags on things, since she didn't have her glasses on her. Eventually she walked out, hollering "thanks" and waiting for the kids in the car. Well the kids FINALLY came into the store, and wanted to know if the candy by the guestbook was free. So they had candy (dropping parts of wrappers on the floor in the process), and then like the mouse that's had a cookie, needed something to drink. So they asked for water, which I directed them toward, and then they wanted cups, and then of course they needed me to throw the cups away for them, and then they had to leave. It was rather, well, rude -- at least buy a magnet or something small after taking up that much of our time!! Geez.

That night we had an unhealthy dinner by my request -- fried chicken. And Mer and I went off for a drive on our own after feeding the alpacas -- we saw two sets of two deer (although I missed one of them, I'm taking Mer's word for it) while driving around eating laffy taffy and a york, the combination of which was nasty, in retrospect. Anyway, on the way back I saw something shiny moving in the dark -- definitely not the reflectors on the side of the road, but eyeshine from some animal. At first I thought perhaps a racoon or something, but as we got closer we realized it was a young dog -- and a German Shepherd at that! So we stopped the car, and Mer went after the dog, which actually ran by us again. Then I turned the jeep around to shine the headlights (because it was entirely dark by this time), but we never found the dog again. Mer and Tim even went to Tollbridge to warn the park supervisor that someone's dog might have gotten spooked by the fireworks & ran off. The supervisor was quite rude... who says "then don't" when someone starts off with "I hate to bother you, but" ??

Sunday morning me and Mer had alpaca duty, and then I had to finish getting ready to leave for the airport. We stopped by Arlene's on the way out of town, which was nice since I hadn't seen her yet. My flights were uneventful, but I've concluded that Phoenix is a horrible place to fly through. It was 112 degrees there, although a very nice dry heat, and they had very very limited food options that were both semi healthy and affordable. Sometimes I miss McDonald's -- at least if they had one there'd have been affordable salads! The salad I got cost over $4, and consisted of iceberg lettuce, shavings of red lettuce, bits of carrot, and two measly cucumber slices -- the romaine lettuce it claimed to contain was sparse at best, and the cherry tomatoes entirely nonexistent. Screw you, Pizza Hut! Who can't even manage to make a decent salad??!!

My only other complaint was on the second leg of the journey... The seatbelt sign was on nearly the entire flight, after the pilot initially estimated only 4-5 minutes of turbulence. The turbulence was barely noticeable, and an hour later when it went off, about half the plane started staggering toward the bathroom. Of course there are only two bathrooms on the plane for coach, so there was a line backed up about ten seats' length. A man sitting near the lavatory area urged me and another girl to go up to first class, and "start a revolution." I was tempted, but then you know they'll think you're a terrorist and detain your ass for God only knows how long. So I sat there in line, and after about five people had relieved their bladders, the f#*@ing sign went back on. Well we didn't sit down, probably because 1) we were already in line and needed, obviously, to use the facilities, and 2) because the pilot was an ass and probably wouldn't turn the sign off again until the engines were off. Needless to say, I noticed little to no turbulence while I was in the box they claim is a restroom -- and somehow I even irrigated my wisdom tooth hole (with water I brought in, of course, you don't want to drink the water they have on board in the lavatories).

Of course my luggage was about the last thing off the plane, so Andrew actually came in and found me at the baggage carousel long before I saw my distinctive purple bags come sliding by. We had a late night drive from Milwaukee to Madison, and then I got the grand tour of Andrew's spacious studio, which doesn't feel like a studio. The bathroom's all done up in turquoise, lime, and navy, and the living area/ kitchen area/ bedroom section is more oak/ beige/ red/ blue. Andrew wonders whether he'd be living in black and orange if he'd moved in around Halloween. He also says he'll need me to be here if he ever has friends over, or they'll think he's gay (yes, things really match around here that well. Plus Andrew is just tidy, which doesn't seem to be the norm for the male persuasion). After seeing the place, taking a bath, and having a snack, we didn't get to bed till around 4 am...

Naturally, we then slept in till at least noon, but there was nothing in the house to eat yet since Andrew had been too busy getting the place unpacked for me to do much shopping. Luckily he did get bread & my yogurt, so we had something before heading off for supplies. Our first stop was Walmart, where we loaded up on basics (can't really beat spices for 50 cents each). Then it was Cub's Foods, which we weren't impressed with, and after I found that they had no free range chicken or healthier meat options, I insisted that we leave. Finally found Jenifer Street Market, where I happily ordered organic ground beef, loaded up on brie, and hurried on out. We didn't have time to fix dinner before fireworks, but I did make up a snack plate of bread & crackers & blueberries & strawberries & brie (very red white and blue). So we had a little wine and cheese party while watching fireworks from the roof. So nice! Dinner was late -- spaghetti like how we made it at home (and the sauce from Walmart definitely needed some doctoring up).

Tuesday was more supply shopping... Andrew needed barstools for his breakfast bar, so we visited "The Stool Store." Yes, it's really called that. We settled on some wooden swivel chairs, and right across the road we located Woodman's, the large and elusive supermarket that my hosts at UW had brought me to way back in March. I couldn't remember the name, or find it listed in Google's yellow pages, so I was quite happy with the lucky find... the place is massive -- with the equivalent of about 5 aisles in a normal supermarket dedicated to ice cream. The equivalent of about 4 aisles goes to cheese, and the produce area is mind boggling. I allowed Andrew to get steak there, although I couldn't find organic, and we got some yummy ice cream that is apparently marketed to the Latino population (Fiesta chocolate taco). And of course we had to get cheesecurds!

We didn't get home till a little later than we anticipated... and didn't start dinner till about 8:30 pm. Since we were making enchiladas with homemade salsa and homemade tortilla chips, let's just say we didn't eat till around 11:30!! But it was yummy!

Yesterday Andrew was checking out car insurance, so I wandered over to a Salvation Army store -- found some random clothes (Gap like-new khaki beach pants for $1.50, a shirt for $2, and another shirt for $1), and some books. Andrew found a nice picture frame for the bathroom, and we were tempted to buy this Christian handbook for teens -- that claimed homosexuals will burn in hell, and that everyone should "stay clear" of the flames -- if only to burn the damn thing itself.

Afterwards we had to scout out kitchen utensils, as Andrew returned some to Bed Bath and Beyond and picked out more at Target. I was so tired of wandering around! Luckily I'd gotten some applesauce and bottled water to make me feel a little better while debating over what sort of grips Andrew really needs on a spatula (slotted or solid?), and what type of grilling device he might want (grill, electronic gadgetry, or skillet with ridged bottom?). ACK!

On the way home we stopped by Pier1 for little festive lights to put out on the patio, and I saw the canopies I need to decide on... they have them for about $20, in yellow, red, and green... trying to decide if I want red or green above my bed (which has green accents as well as pink/red flowers... hard choice).

Finally last night we cooked dinner at a decent hour. Andrew was in charge of the steaks, and I was all over the salad (I decided to add blueberries) and the corn on the cob. We felt uber grown up eating at the breakfast bar with the seat cushioned-stools and our wine glasses. So we finally settled down -- Andrew is always working on the task of unpacking and hanging things up on the walls -- and actually sat on the couch together for the first extended period to watch In Good Company! And decided that the couch is, indeed, comfortable.

This morning we heard the sound of children yelling and making odd noises -- we think there's some company next door perhaps specializing in treating mentally retarded children, as we've seen glimpses inside and Andrew has yet to investigate further. Maintenance got Andrew out of bed (I was already washing my face and brushing) to check on a few things. The explosive faucet that splashes water all over the counter was indeed missing a device, and now it apparently works like a normal faucet (thank God -- I have yet to use it this morning since Andrew's on pancake duty, and am actually looking forward to testing it out). The stove burner is supposedly fixed... we'll see.

So that's the whirlwind story of helping Andrew to set up his apartment!! Crazy times... we're finally getting settled enough to start enjoying local stuff, I think! Must find lakes & hiking trails, hopefully get into Chicago, etc.!