Saturday, September 24, 2005

I'm at Stanford now!!

The last few days in Oregon were a whirlwind...

The last Thurs. I was home (as in like 9 days ago), Mom and Mer & I first went to the Jacobson's farm for some organic produce, and then got our start on the Surveyor's Ridge trail. We took the half that we didn't take last time. On the way up, Mer found a "gut pile," probably from a bear. It was pretty disgusting. Merrie wanted to cut it open and see what the bear's last meal was. Luckily, she did not do so. The trail was beautiful -- we saw a little hill of rock that we thought was Shell Mt., but ended up not being it. At the top we saw a cross, and found a gravesite. Mer spotted lots of animal tracks -- from deer and elk to bear and cougar. It seemed like it was taking forever to find the end of the trail... we hiked on what looked like an old road, back on a trail (luckily the trail split right where the road started going uphill!), through clearings and through forest. Mom spotted some wild elderberry patches, and shrubs that we used to have back by the trail that led to the clothes lines. At long last, when we were starving and tired of walking, we spotted the trailhead that we started on last time. So we've done the whole trail now, piecemeal.

At home, we wanted something fast... so I tried making basically chicken scampi w/ kale and zucchini, since we had some white wine. Mom was in charge of getting the chicken in chunks, and I took care of the rest.

Friday Mer & I went to visit our dad. We got a fairly early start, got gas in Troutdale because it was like $2.60 something, and then drove for a long, long time. The hwy was beautiful -- lots of big trees and leafy ground cover. It was raining though along the hwy, and multiple construction sites meant getting stopped 3 times. Luckily, it was sunny in town. Anyway, it was great seeing Dad again, and seeing that he was doing well. Cute apartment, Margy seemed in good spirits, and the place where Dad works is right across the street. We chatted for a while, and then drove out to the coast. Kind of like what we used to do when we were little -- walking on the sand, exploring tidepools, and looking for agates and shells. Mer found an agate, but only partial sand dollars. The whole sand dollar is an elusive creature, apparently. We saw many a starfish and sea anemone... Mer was poking an anemone, and I said "I want that" (since we were going to watch Napoleon Dynamite that night, it was on our minds -- if you haven't seen it, that's what this woman says in a funny voice after seeing a tupperware collection with a free model ship thrown in. Hilarious). Anyway, Mer laughed and said she'd put that in her blog. But as you can see from her blog, she hasn't updated in weeks! So I had to pick up the slack. Sorry, Mer =)

We kept seeing these little tiny squid looking creatures on the sand... washed up. Dad thought they were little cuttlefish. Maybe a batch of eggs went awry... hard telling. The entire beach was practically deserted... and I loved that there were caves and a tunnel to another beach that you could only get to during low tide... and at which you could get stuck during high tide. Beautiful area, and a nice sunny day, with just a few clouds. Dad spotted a bunch of pelicans, which we watched diving into the waves. Afterward, driving, we saw a large deer cross our path. A black tail, I think Mer said.

For dinner we had pizza... and then we watched Napoleon Dynamite. I got sad about leaving everything all over again, and Dad and Margy were like "Stay with us!" Something about leaving MHC, leaving home, then leaving Madison & Andrew, and now leaving home again.... eek. But we eventually started the movie, which made me laugh. We were able to get me a toothbrush, and Mer & I popsicles, since the store across the street is open 24 hours. I hadn't really packed thinking that we'd stay overnight, but it ended up working out.

Sat. morning we got up early -- at 6:45 am -- and quickly got our stuff together. All I had clean was a sweater, so, I wore a sweater, which was fine in the morning, but gradually became too warm. Hugged and said our goodbyes, and then we were off... We JUST beat the construction, we saw them setting up as we cruised by. Yes!!

On the way home we stopped at Troutdale again for gas, and one of the attendants recognized us, so I explained that we'd been driving a lot! In Hood River we decided to visit Grammy, despite our being kind of unkempt. But it's always fun visiting Grammy, so she got us both feeling better. She was telling us about her days at boarding school when she was younger... and taking night classes while helping to keep the boarding house going... and leaving business school for a job in Hood River. She wants pictures of our "digs" so she can see where we're living -- so I must do that today, now that the apt. is basically together.

Anyway, back home we had lots of packing to do -- Mer more than me, since Mom had done lots of mine for me (thank God!) I made a quick dinner of pasta & "roasted pepper sauce," which was a rendition of a recipe I found on a pasta box. Turned out well, and then I rushed off to pick blackberries along the ditch before the last light faded. I picked as many as I could easily get to, called Dad since he wanted to know how I was doing, and then hurried back in the dusk to meet up with Mer & Bosun.

We left for Corvalis early Sunday morning... not as early as we'd hoped to, but still a decent hour. We unloaded Mer's stuff, toured the co-op, which is SO MUCH NICER than Reed was! and went on some shopping expeditions (during which I found a few things too, including hangers, Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap, and a wicker hamper). We took another trip to Subway (funny since Mer & I had just eaten at a Subway on our way to Dad's on Friday), said our goodbyes, and rushed off to Jerry's in Myrtle Creek. The whole way I was going to be in the back of the truck now -- on the way to Corvallis I'd just driven w/ Mer in the Jeep. Anyway, we pulled into Jerry's around 7:30 or 8, talked, and then his daughter, Cassie, drove us to the nearest grocery store to pick up something fast for dinner... which for me meant a veggie burrito. And after dinner, we girls shared a pint of Ben & Jerry's... Just as an aside, Ben and Jerry's frozen yogurt is just as good as the ice cream, I don't know how they manage it. And Andrew and I had this chocolate frozen yogurt with brownie bites in it over the summer, and that was impressive, too. Makes you wonder why they don't make lower fat versions of more ice creams... Didn't one of the founders of Ben and Jerry's recently have like a heart attack or something? I remember two ice cream gurus had heart problems, as explained in Supersize Me, a found of Ben and Jerry's and a founder of Baskin-Robbins. Anyway, back to the narrative...

That night I slept quite peacefully on the couch, got up early, and we all headed out at what was a decent hour but not as early as I'd hoped to leave. We drove A LOT on Monday... took pitstops at a Pacific Crest Trail trailhead, at a market for ice cream, later for gas before hitting SF. Andrew gave us directions that worked well till I got us going like north instead of south on 101... but we made it into Palo Alto. Unfortunately, we didn't realize we'd need directions to the motel, too... who knew that El Camino Real passes through like 5 different towns? And that we'd see like 3 different Super 8's? Argh. We finally made it, with another grocery store dinner in arms...

Tues. morning we went to pick up my keys, and then wandered all over looking for Studio 1. Let me tell you this now: Studio 1 is impossible to find. The sign that says "Studios 1 & 2" really only points to #2. And Studio 1 is not marked. At all. No signs, nothing. So we finally found it, on foot, and as Mom and Tim went to get the truck and repark, I headed up to see my home for the year... I was very happy! More storage than I had anticipated, everything looked new and clean, and more spacious than I had imagined. Ahh.

So after getting my previously owned crap into the apt., it was time to buy more. Mom and I had lunch at Ikea and then shopped till we dropped... got lost in the rain on the way to Wal-Mart, got new directions from Andrew, made it to Wal-Mart, Trader Joe's, and Target... and then promptly got lost. I think this was another Becky thing, where I was like, I think we're going the wrong way, let's turn around, and then got us lost. Basically, we went the OPPOSITE way from campus, toward Mountain View... got quite lost, and to top things off, the traffic lights seemed out from the storm, all just flashing red, so everything was backed up and gridlocked. Eek! We FINALLY made it home around 8 pm... We decided on a nice dinner at the Olive Garden, which we all enjoyed.

The next day Mom and I made a similar route for last minute stuff and grocery shopping, only this time without getting lost. Another Ikea trip for lunch and a throw blanket and trash cans, Target and Wal-Mart for a TV & sheets & mattress pad, Trader Joe's for tons of food... then we got to the motel in time for a swim. Bit cold, but once you're in, if you keep moving and swimming, you're fine. Ahh I love swimming. Tim sat poolside while Mom and I did some leisurely laps. Anyway, for dinner we went to the Boston Market that was also really close to the motel (we walked, and could have walked the night before to the Olive Garden but no one believed me that it was really close & easier than getting the truck turned around w/ U-turns). Afterwards, Mom and I did laundry at my place, and took a trip to Safeway for last minute stuff. Then she left to sleep at the motel, and I stayed to do a few more things and spend my first night in my studio.

Thurs. Mom and Tim helped me with things I can't do (i.e. things involving a tool box), and then we got an antenna for my tv at Target. By that time they needed to leave... very sad to say goodbye! I loved having them here to explore & set up with me. Luckily I got together with Jessika later, as we crashed a new faculty meet-and-greet & took some cookies, and eventually found the grad school mixer. We met one chemistry student, Ngon, and talked about bugs & learning tips, etc. After, I accompanied Jess in her pursuit to reclaim her bedding, which was stored at her advisor's house. Later, we watched the OC (which was horribly fuzzy on my TV, next time I've got to see if anyone's watching in the lounge!!), ate popcorn, and watched A Midsummer's Night Dream, despite getting quite sleepy! Jess slept over, as it was late and we were both exhausted. And the bed, let's face it, is huge. It takes up like half my studio space!

Anyway, so yesterday was my first like English specific thing... an orientation, where we met the grad studies director, chair of the dept, and the director of the dual Phd in Humanities program. It was great chatting, catching up, planning OC and Desperate Housewives nights, and asking the third years all manner of questions... One of the co-chairs of the Review Club, Claire, was excited that I knew Madison and was used to the farmer's markets, and advised me to visit the Menlo Park farmer's market here on Sunday mornings. So I think I'm going to take a very long walk tomorrow to do just that, and get my bearings around this place!

I was actually surprised I didn't get lost yesterday, going from the EV Community Ctr, to Old Union for my ID, to building 460. I got to the orientation waaay early... and read my newspaper. Anyway, it only took me 13 minutes to walk to my studio, so I don't know if I'll really need a bike or not. Guess we'll see after this farmer's market tomorrow. I'm just used to walking and hiking, but who knows... maybe I'll become a bike convert.

After getting home, Jess and I got together, as I made pesto and we just hung out and watched some Super Nanny (which was what the one station that I get really well was playing).

Kinda strange to wake up here with nothing much to do -- but I know that won't be the norm! Time to do laundry, now...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I’m overdue for an update…

I flew into Oregon last Sunday (the fourth), and was both happy to see Mom and Mer at the airport (I sneaked up on them and surprised them at security) and sad to be sooo far away from WI. Definitely was having second thoughts about the whole going to school in separate parts of the country thing…

Well, luckily there has been plenty to keep me busy—

Monday Mer & I went blackberry picking up at the ditch, and took some cool pictures. Well, I thought they were cool. Upon arriving home, we found that we had actually picked plenty for a pie. After dinner, we headed back for an extended picking session (as in, each picking nearly a coffee can’s worth of berries… Mer was ready to go home before we had quite gotten to the top of the containers, but she might have been right… it was getting more and more dangerous to trample into the pricklies looking for ripe berries), so that the next day Mom and I could make jam. So that was my big activity on Tues. – finally learning to make jam! Basically, it involves standing over some very hot water at the stove (with the jars in it), stirring the very hot jam mixture, and then trying to pour this mixture into the hot jars without spilling too much of what’s essentially magenta dye with seeds in it. In the evening we watched Supersize Me, which everyone enjoyed, and talked about food.

Weds., after Mer got home from work, we finally went floating! This was an event, as it wasn’t warm enough in June to do this, and way back last summer, I was only here for chilly weather. So it was my first float for two years – not much has changed, of course, the water is still freeeeezing… but we did kind of “pick up” a black lab, who followed us all the way down to our house, swimming most of the way. This dog was still energetic though, and we threw sticks for her for about half an hour before deciding we were tired out before her. She was still belly flopping into the ditch, sending up sprays of water, and jumping about waiting for us to throw the stick yet again… Some creatures would find retrieving sticks tedious… not labs. Unfortunately, she had a collar, so we had to take her back up the ditch to return to her home… So tempting to keep wandering dogs!

Thurs. was the famous Rosauer’s cereal sale – so Mom and I went food shopping early in the day, beating the rush. Because I find it very important to beat the rush when it comes to supermarket sales – I’ve seen what happens when Ben & Jerry’s goes on sale for 2.50$ a pint. They had my favorite organic Optimum cereals for like $1.69 a box; I stocked up! When Mer got home, we went for another round of blackberrying (not to be mistaken for Bunburying). This wasn’t the forced march of picking for jam, though – we just wanted some more berries on hand for fresh eating (I like them on my cereal because even cereals that include dried fruit never give you enough of it, in my opinion. And sometimes the dried blueberries in my Optimum Power cereal sink to the bottom).

Friday was busy – Bosun had an appointment at the vet (he’s like totally deaf now, P.S.), and I had an appointment with my oral surgeon in the Dalles. Unfortunately, my oral surgeon didn’t bother telling me that they had moved into a new office since I saw them in June. Mom and I felt like we were in the Twilight Zone… I realized that I was pretty doped up last time I was there, but I knew I had had surgery in that room that looked completely different! So we finally found their number in a handy phonebook on our way out of the building, and arrived late. They apologized, and I forgave them, because they were so friendly & I liked their new office oodles more than the past one. Anyway, it seems my slow-to-heal lower left jaw is OK for now, but they can do “plastic surgery for the gums” if my dentist ever thinks the roots aren’t sufficiently covered.

After that, Mom and I were free to shop – at Fred Meyer’s, Staples, and then back home at Wal-Mart, I think… And I still can’t find enough notebook options in recycled paper. It annoys me greatly that notebook makers are either marketing to people who want style, OR people who want recycled products. What about someone who wants a better-than-generic notebook, but also wants to be a little friendly to the environment? There’s a niche market here waiting to be filled! Come on, FiveStar, Mead, someone!

Anyway, Mer ended up picking up Boson from the vet, as Mom and I were running late after a stop at Rosauer’s. In the evening, I helped Mom make a rhubarb pie… because I love those, and when’s the last time you saw rhubarb at a supermarket? Ahh sometimes I wish I were an organic farmer – there are so many specialty crops that it would be cool to bring back…

Saturday the apartment supplying continued – visited the Senior Center rummage sale, yard sales, etc… I found a cool retro wooden dish drying rack, a sea-glass plate (I just had to have it, even though it might not be the MOST useful thing…), a new cutting board, a silverware separator, and some blue cords for Mer (that fit her perfectly – I always know if they’re a tad too small for me, they’ll fit her perfectly).

In the afternoon I was in charge of making another batch of skillet cornbread for the potluck picnic Mer was bringing me to… After a brief stop at Freddy’s, we got to Mer’s co-worker’s/boss’s house in the Dalles. Unfortunately… it was too cold to swim in the pool. But it was tons of fun anyway – Allison had cooked her own homemade fried chicken, & corn & coleslaw. Someone brought a salad & fruit salad, and it was a ton of food. And dessert… Allison had made this banana pudding with bananas & vanilla wafers… Mer’s coworker Jane had made a fruit tart w/ peaches and blueberries. I wish I had the recipes. I finally understood why Mer enjoyed work – her coworkers are awesome. Allison was constantly making us laugh, and everyone was just fun to be around. A very successful picnic, even though it was indoors!

Sunday Mer left for Matt’s, and Mom and I were planning on hiking on the mountain… until Mom discovered a flat tire on the jeep. So after watching Tim change the tire to something that would at least get her to the tire place in the morning (and helping a token amount – I’d have a slightly better idea now of what would need to be done in that situation), we resorted to plan B: hiking the logging trail along the ditch. On the way, we saw the flock of like 7 or 8 wild turkeys coming up from the orchard and flying across the ditch. I’d wondered what it would be like to see them in a flock, after Mer and I have repeatedly come upon their tracks. We got up to where Mer & I have stopped before – at a sweeping circle on the dusty road, that starts going more steeply uphill. I wanted to sit on this log on the bluff above the trail while we ate our snack, but after trying to scale the steep & crumbling-beneath-our-feet slope, I resorted for a rock along the trail.

I made fried rice for dinner – which turned out well. Not too mushy… perhaps because we left the rice to cool in the fridge uncovered.

Monday morning we got up early to take Mom’s jeep to the tire place, which is conveniently located next to Wal-Mart. I got some basic kitchen stuff… like a salt and pepper shaker, whisk, & food chopper… I know that Wal-Mart isn’t the BEST company… but, well, they do have incredibly low prices for basics when you’re trying to stock up an apartment. There are some things I’m waiting on Ikea for, but other stuff I’d rather get here and avoid the like 8% sales tax in CA!

Anyway, the tires were soon on, and we ate a quick lunch at Jackson Park, swung by the health center, and then I sat in another park listening to a podcast (Living on Earth, my favorite) and talking to Andrew and sitting in the sun.

I was in charge of dinner – enchiladas w/ leftover rice, black beans, and leftover chicken that I shredded. Getting used to putting a meal together, so hopefully I’ll have time to cook at grad school!!

Yesterday was fun – Mom and I finally got up to the mountain for a hike. We drove up to Cloud Cap, and had to take a detour along the Timberline Trail since the old bridge toward Elk Cove was washed out. The new bridge is way scary… just some planks of wood with a cable railing on one side, over rushing water and huge boulders. Eek. We only ran into one other person hiking (but he was going on the round the mountain loop). Lots of steep hills to traverse… we made our destination two little waterfalls, as it was getting late. The sky kept clearing up as the day wore on, and the clouds moved off the mountain… so we did get some beautiful views of the peak of Mt. Hood, along with the panorama of the other mountains (St. Helen, Adams, and Rainier way off in the distance so that it blended in with the clouds), bluffs, and the eastern desert. Unfortunately, my brand new batteries burned out, so I didn’t get pictures of everything… I resorted to my camera phone at some point. Anyway, on the way in, while we were eating on the rocks, Mom spotted two deer. I was too slow, and just saw the one, which looked young, switching its tail and heading into the forest.

The real animal watching was on the way home, though, as we rattled down the 9 mile dirt road in the jeep. We saw three deer on the roadway, then another by itself, so we were looking out for wildlife. At one straightway, a young looking black bear ran across the road! It was the first time I’d seen a bear in the wild, and Mom and I were super excited. I would guess it was around 200, 250 pounds, and it must have crossed within like 10 or 15 feet of the jeep. Amazing. We got out and looked around for him, but couldn’t find a trace, except a little deer path up the hill. So cool! I wish I had had a camera at the ready!

Anyway – that was my excitement for the day! I decided to do the cooking, so we had spaghetti (w/ Mom’s fresh Greek oregano and tomatoes – I love gardens) and salad. I used the whole wheat pasta I’d found at Wal-Mart, and I think I’ve converted Mum – it’s so much better than the usual bleached and then enriched variety. And just an 8th of the box has 10% of your daily iron, which I think is incredible…

That’s all for now – waiting for Mer to arrive home with our salt water taffy!!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

In light of the fact that I'm flying back to Oregon tomorrow, I thought perhaps I should update one more time...

Friday -- After I last blogged, Andrew arrived home, & in good spirits about classes. As predicted, it seems that we need to just start classes to get back in the swing of things and feel less worried. So we talked -- and ate leftovers on the patio -- and took care of stuff around the place, before starting on our afternoon plans. We wanted to go on a bike ride, since Andrew bought two bikes way back when through Craig's list, which we'd only used like once before together. Perfect day for it -- sunny but not sweltering, hardly a cloud in the sky. After a bit of hectic riding through the busy streets, we reached the bike path around the lake. I don't know how long a ride Andrew was planning on -- but he was surprised that we got as far as we did! We stopped along the lake at a bench to catch the views -- and sat down on a dock in the shade. Idyllic -- if only it wasn't always at the back of my mind that I have to leave soon! From there, we ended up veering off the lake path to follow a little stream for a while through a quaint looking neighborhood & dog running field. Reminded Andrew of Amsterdam. Reminded me of some vague childhood impressions of a different time's town. Lots of lilypads in the stream, ducks, fields... you get the idea. On the way back, we stopped off at a park area along the lake -- got more views & pictures -- and then headed home. Luckily at this point the sun wasn't in my eyes. On the way out of town, the sun had been shining at just such an angle to slip in above my sunglasses... ergh.

After cleaning up, it was about time to fix dinner... We'd decided to make fried rice -- w/ Thai basil & cashews -- and Andrew made a perfect batch. I like eating in the park, and the night previous had been fun picnicking, so we took dinner down to the park again and ate off the little plastic plates that came w/ Andrew's picnic backpack. This time, again, a kite flier was practicing in all the wind (but he wasn't as good as the guy we'd seen the night before). Sad though... watched the sun set & cuddled.

Back home, we put our plan into action to avoid moping around the apartment. So, since we'd never tried frozen custard, we headed to our neighborhood Culver's & ordered the day's special flavor: Payday. Of course, we added fudge (which, as Andrew said, has nothing on Herrell's (which, by the way, we saw the Food Network covering on Unwrapped (something about their smoosh-ins & banana splits))). Frozen custard is sooo much better than frozen yogurt! At first we thought it was just glorified frozen yogurt, but we were oh so wrong. Much creamier, and richer.

Then, in the tradition of lazy evenings, we mini golfed! This course was far superior to the one in the Dells -- Wizard of Oz themed, w/ lots of big statues of animals, a slide, water everywhere (that I got caught in on multiple occasions), and all sorts of tricky shots that I DEFINITELY didn't make. It seems that I can't exactly aim, and hit the ball straight ahead... no, it always ends up veering off course. Andrew seems to think this has something to do with the fact that I can't tell when I'm hitting backwards (wrong side or something). It was pretty crowded, which was fun, except the loudest portion of this crowd consisted of very loud 13-year-olds singing The Little Mermaid songs. Ick.

After all the excitement -- Andrew won the first round, I the second, and he definitely won overall by over ten points -- we headed home. Watched some OC and some trashy tv to take our mind off the imminent departure...

Today we slept in -- went to the farmer's market & checked out the preparation for Taste of Madison -- had lunch (something w/ chickpeas & red peppers & tomatoes & zucchini) -- did laundry (someone who deserves to do laundry forever in Hades, while pushing a stone up a hill, opened all three doors to our dryers in the start of the cycle, which delayed and irritated us) -- went grocery shopping at Woodman's (sadness! I love Woodman's) -- went to the Square for Taste of Madison (first stop: Andrew: pad thai; Becky: squash curry (the best!!) second stop: Andrew: more pad thai, but warmer this time, and better, I think; Becky: more curry, but this one more coconutty, which reminded me of that disgusting Blanchard salad I had at MHC that made my stomach react VERY badly, but I'm trying to retrain my tastebuds to not freak out, since not every dish w/ coconut milk is as disastrous as those made back at MHC) -- moved our blanket from the Square to the park, and sat watching the remnants of a sunset, and two guys who jumped into the lake, and some woman in a little dress and ridiculously high heels made in the style of sneakers (bizarre) -- dropped everything off at home, and then took one last walk around the Capitol to see the dismantling of the T.O.M. vendors -- I started packing -- watched some more trashy TV (nothing like Elimidate to make you forget your problems) -- and now it's time for the last OC episode on disc three (I think I'll just read a review of the last half of the second season, it's still all fresh in my mind, but I want to be ready for Thurs - the season is starting!!!)

I've loved Madison -- and staying with Andrew -- and doing fun summery stuff -- we looked at pictures today that we've taken throughout the summer, and made recipe lists of the dinners we've made. As sad as it is to go... I know I'll love coming back for my next visit!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Eek the summer is winding down... here's what I've been up to lately.

Last Tuesday: We took another trip into the Wisconsin Dells -- not to a waterpark, though, in light of both the cooler weather & the recent outbreak of infection at a NY waterpark. So instead, I thought it was time for a visit to the deer park.

I'm pretty sure that I saw the National Geographic article on the deer park... We bought little packets of crackers to feed the deer, which are specially made since deer can't have iodine, apparently. The park was ridiculous -- like some alternate world where natural laws don't apply. It had a petting zoo and two separate enclosures of free ranging deer. Off to the sides of the paths, they had smaller fenced in areas for various rarer species. The deer in the two main areas, though, were either in an enclosure that they could go in and out of freely (to either assault people for food or take a nap, depending) or walking along the paths with the visitors. I was rather excited about trying to pet the deer... my favorite was a buck with huge velvety antlers (which he kept hitting me in the head with as he went after the crackers). Andrew took TONS of pictures.

Afterwards, since we had some time to kill, we checked out mini golf. We settled at a smaller place with 9 holes, since I just wanted to see if I was bored out of my mind or not. Turns out, mini golf is pretty fun -- although I lost, miserably!

Soon it was time to head over to the Big Sky drive in theater -- we sat in the entrance line and watched the sun set -- which was beautiful... it lit up the field next to us, golden & highlighting all the buzzing insects. We'd decided to eat dinner there, so we had not-the-healthiest selection of grilled cheese & chicken strips & onion rings & fries... luckily I had brought some pears along to at least give us some token healthiness. This time we were at the first screen... we watched Wedding Crashers (fun, but predictable), and European Gigilo (gross in parts, but it took place in Amsterdam, which got Andrew excited). Like last time, we got to watch the moon, too (although on the way home, the planets weren't aligned in such a way as to overlap the moon & capitol building... which happened on our first trip back late at night from the theater).

Weds: We waited all day for cable (which was eventually installed, but improperly, which you'll hear about if you keep reading). In the evening, we brought a pesto pasta & fruit salad picnic over to a "park" for an orchestra performance. We sat on the outskirts, since we had a blanket & needed grass, and it was all parking lot in front or already-claimed-green-space. Odd place for it -- although it was called a park, it was really more of an industrial park, basically the parking lot of some businesses. Anyway, the music was lovely, and during the 1812 Overture, they started the fireworks. We packed up and started heading out, but had to stand and watch the last of the fireworks before getting too far away.

Afterwards, we took a random trip to Target (as in, I wanted some new pens & this scarf I'd seen earlier, and Andrew needed to find a birthday card), and then headed home.

Thurs: As the cable wasn't working properly, Andrew called up & asked for help, which was supposed to arrive by 5 pm. That time came and went... So we took an emergency trip to Willy St. Co-op for some sushi making supplies, assembled some rolls, and then had to put them away as the emergency crew arrived. These two guys knew what they were doing, and had everything working before they left. But, we still had OC to watch, so, we didn't really use the cable too much yet!

Friday: Friday kind of got loss in the shuffle. I was in my one week of limbo between insurance plans, & we were playing with the cable... I asked Andrew too, and neither of us can remember what we did...

Sat: Farmer's Market! And then in the afternoon we wandered around State St., looking at retro clothing places, and exploring the shops. I enjoyed the free trade place, & the community pharmacy (where I found a stainless steel water bottle!!)

Sun: There were about 3 festivals going on this weekend, so Sun. early we made it to the Middleton Festival (in celebration of Money magazine or some such publication rating them the #1 town to live in). We participated in the pie & ice cream eating social -- I found raspberry rhubarb, and Andrew went for the safe apple. We looked at the craft booths, weaving around doll's clothes, the beer tent, and families wearing matching "I believe in Jesus" t-shirts.

After, we checked out the Atwood Festival, which was more our speed... Hippie music, lots of environmentally aware people who rode their bikes, political buttons & bumper stickers... People just seemed healthier & friendlier than in Middleton (not to mention that finally we weren't in an ENTIRELY white suburb).

Anyway, the festival hopping was cut short to visit Woodman's for some enchilada supplies & other food stuffs...

Monday: We headed to the Botanical Gardens, which were GORGEOUS. A rose garden, sunken garden, herb garden, Thai pavilion, & green expanses... Around certain flower beds, we were counting over ten monarch butterflies fluttering about at once. Lovely place.

After being in the sun all afternoon, we returned home to clean up before heading over to Ariel's to join her family & Molly for dinner. Amazing vegetarian dish w/ pasta & feta... I'm definitely stealing the recipe =) Talked about eating vegetarian, Apple computers, MHC, ESB advisors, Robin McKinley (and her 23 pairs of Reeboks!), etc... Sad to leave, and know that they're heading back to MHC and I'm not there!!

Back home, Andrew ended up baking chocolate chip cookies (we substituted Kahlua for vanilla, and Andrew did something crazy with peanut butter and crushed peanuts, but it turned out well). And, of course, we watched more OC Season 2.

Tues: We took one last trip out of town... On our way to Devil's Lake, we decided to stop off at Mirror Lake instead. Pretty cool but partly sunny out... so we took out au paddleboat, and explored the lake a bit. Beautiful...on one side we looked at the rock layers, and in general just enjoyed the scenery. We had a snack (yum, plums), and then headed back to shore. The rest of Mirror Lake didn't seem like the place to sit and read, so we headed down to Devil's Lake to sit & enjoy the view & read a bit. So pretty... said my goodbye's to Devil's Lake, till next summer, and we headed home.

Weds: We tried to get up early, and went to Pedro's for lunch. I enjoyed eating outside, but the service was pretty bad. Strange... it was much better in the Dells when it was crazy busy, than in Madison on a very quiet day after the lunch rush. We still hadn't gotten our food, when others who had ordered right before us were LEAVING. And when the food did come, my vegetarian tamales were missing two key ingredients in the filling, and was basically burned onto the plate. Kind of strange. We weren't very sold on the place after that.

Anyway, afterwards we had fun -- we headed to the arboretum, took a footpath that was kind of a dead end, and then drove more into the thick of the area. We walked down a hill and through a park-like atmosphere of various trees spaced along the grass. Eventually we came upon the visitor's center, and then went through the prairie/ savannah spaces on our way to the ponds. At one mucky wetland area, we saw some frogs (one type identified as leopard frogs by some official looking sorts who stopped by and looked at the water level). Lots of green algea on the water, which made the whole scene seem, well, like various shades of green. At the other larger pond, Andrew was saying "I think the other one was better --- TURTLES!" So we saw some sort of water turtle, and then stood together waiting to perhaps see more. No luck, though. Pretty though, blue skies, trees, limbs...

This was also the day of the hurricane suddenly affecting gas prices -- wow, suddenly a 40 to 50 cent jump overnight... Andrew filled up at $2.99, and I regretted that I didn't have him do it the day before when it was at like $2.74. Listening to NPR today, I can't believe New Orleans is, well, gone, even though I never visited so I don't exactly have an image in my mind. I enjoyed one commentator asking, why bother to rebuild, when we usually don't even build a housing complex on a flood plain, let alone an entire city? I'm all in favor of that, because, as was also pointed out, by the time the city is repaired, all the residents will have integrated into other communities. Maybe it's best not to defy nature, and just realize that unless they're really commited to building up the levees properly, that the site should be abandoned in favor of something better... And in further NPR induced rants, why are we driving suv's (and why is the government supporting it through tax break incentives) that get MAYBE 20 miles per gallon, when we have the technology to drive vehicles that get more like 200, 300 miles to the gallon? (At least according to the commentator I heard). But I don't doubt that we could become much less reliant on oil, which would put us in a position of much more control over our economy & environment, if we had the public & government support to make that a priority. I'd rather we had spent the 200 billion from Iraq so far, on making ourselves less reliant on oil... argh.

Anyway, after a quick trip home to clean up, we went to the Comp. Sci. department picnic. It was kinda unorganized, but fun -- and they had Spotted Cow beer! Soon after we arrived, I recognized a woman who I'd met as my tour guide during my visit back in March. Megan was there with her gf, so we talked a bit, and then another woman I remembered, Andrea, was there with her husband. It was great to see them, and talk shop a little. So Andrew & I both knew people to socialize with, and met others. All sorts of interesting characters... And luckily they had veggie burgers!

Back home, it was time for a salad (since there was no vegetation served at dinner), some OC, and dessert.

Thurs: Andrew had some fellowship meeting to go to, so we walked down State St. to the university, and I sat on the lawn and read for a while. After the music playing got a little too religious for me, I decided it was time to migrate to the terrace. I was just reading the paper, when Andrew got out of his meeting. We soon headed back home, running a few errands along the way.

Back home, it was sad because it was like, school really is starting, and I really do have to leave soon... But we decided to have a nice picnic at the park down the street, so we packed up our pesto dinner & set up on the little hill. A couple people were doing some extreme kite flying, so we watched them, and then watched the sun go down. After lounging for a bit, we returned home, and did some shopping at Willy St... their organic produce is amazing... it made a pretty good fruit salad =)

We'd gotten Return of the Living Dead III in the mail, which wasn't as good because it was more serious, but didn't have the storyline or acting to be serious... I preferred the comedies. Anyway, the redeeming point was the fact that the same artist who plays Julie Cooper in the OC, played Julie in RLD3! Soooo strange... and disturbing.

Also started a scrabble game... we'll have to play that online together even when we're at school apart.

Then, to unwind, we had dessert & some more OC =)

Well I guess that's it... this morning Andrew headed off to his first classes... and I can't believe I'm leaving so soon. It's really sad, because, well, I could have decided to stay here... and live together, and go to school together... I guess, I just hope I love being at Stanford enough that I can cope with not getting to see Andrew as much.

Anyway -- more later...