Sunday, June 28, 2009

Utilizing the City and the Sorrounding Areas

This weekend, I camped out at Nelson Dewey State Park and now I know why few people around here seem familiar with it. As I mentioned before, for $25, I can use any of the state parks for a year. You do still have to rent the camp site. I am happy that I have now surpassed breaking even and the $25 is so worth it.

Why don't more people know about Nelson Dewey in Cassville? My guess is because it is the tiniest state park I have ever been in. The longest trail is only .6 miles! But do I recommend it? Yes. Mainly because our campsite was gorgeous. Overlooking the Mississippi and bluff tops, birds migrate here, allowing you to see various kinds flying over the tree tops. I wish I had taken a photo to show you. Too bad.

Because I thought we would be doing some two-three hour hike, I dressed appropriately, and thank God I did because it was very hot and humid upon our arrival. After setting up the site, it was dinner time and the evening consisted of beers and veggie dogs. It was pretty quiet minus the trains passing by, which you can certainly hear but you can't see them. I wonder if you can see it in the fall/winter? I slept really well for camping and only suffered from a few bug bites. I wore deet and made sure the tent was sealed tightly.

My dog was on the loose most of the time, but naturally, stayed very close. She is soooo sleepy now. Upon arriving back at home, she went to sleep immediately.

The ride out there was pleasant (besides the arguing to slow down because my car doesn't handle well on the 90 degree turns). You take windy, country roads and we drove through this town called Potosi, where we stopped for lunch on the way back to Madison. Potosi Brewing Company is a restaurant and brewery with a pretty patio overlooking the country road. I was able to bring my tired dog to the patio while we ate. I can't say the food was anything spectacular, but I did order a Belgian lager that was pretty good. And, the view was worth it. It was a very relaxing afternoon. You are pretty much in the middle of nowhere (the sign says "Population 711").

I also had the pleasure of experiencing my first concert on the square and I loved it. I have been forewarned that attendees start saving their spots on the lawn around lunch time. Because there were rumors of it being cancelled due to thunderstorms, the call was not made until 3 PM, allowing me to reserve a spot after work. It was so simple! I got home, walked my dog the two blocks to the square, put our blanket down, went to get some groceries, made a spread, and got there with some time to veg and relax. The opening song was the William Tell Overture by Rossini. (You all know it -the horse racing song). They also played some other pieces I knew including Rodgers & Hammerstein. Alcohol is allowed at these concerts (after all, it is Wisconsin), and you better believe every person there had wine or beer.

There is something so fabulous about being able to walk two blocks after work, lying on a blanket, having dinner & drinks, while listening to the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. I am definitely plan on going again this Wednesday for the "Celebrate America" venue.

So let's see - now there's farmer's market Saturdays and concert Wednesdays. And as for the camping, perhaps again in July. But this time, a new place.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I was the Victim of a Crime; Funky Week

In Boston, my tires were slashed twice in about two weeks. I was devastated. And pissed. And very, very hurt. And completely pissed at the person (whoever they were) who did it. I am pretty sure I wished them some horrible things.

And this week, I stopped home after I had been in my office for a few hours to run my dog out because I was leaving for Eau Claire for a work trip. I had just picked up the rental car. For whatever reason, I decided to walk through my garage back into the condo, instead of walking through the lobby. And that is when I discovered shattered glass next to the front passenger window. And I knew. My valuables were gone. I couldn't look.

And the more I thought about everything that the thief took, the more I didn't want to think about it. By the way, I saw the thief. And I live in a secure garage which requires a key card and is equipped with cameras. Gone - my purse, my work laptop, an expense report, a Tiffany ring, wallet, cash, GPS, and more.

Am I pissed? Not really. I cried. It was a very unfortunate situation. I feel horrible about the work items, specifically the laptop. I am not happy that someone has my identity. Yes, I have to buy a new GPS. I have to buy a new cell phone charger. I can't replace the cash. I have to go to the DMV. My key to my car is gone. And it is chipped. So I have to have it towed. My day consisted from that moment on of calling the banks, walking to my branch, getting my stolen pills from the doctor, calling my insurance agent, talking to my boss, calling a tow place, calling a volunteer from work whose credit card number was written in a notebook that is gone, talking to the car rental place, talking to my national office, canceling cards, changing passwords. But I'm not mad. I am not even mad at the thief, who I looked at in the eye as he was looking over a convertible in our secure garage. Maybe he's the victim of this recession.

And the police reassured me that these people typically take the items and pawn them. He said that my identity is not something to worry about. Even the GPS, which has all of the places I have driven to - he said not to worry. The bank seemed to agree.

This week has been so bizarre. I try not to think about the impact this guy has had on me. Like how I had to leave in the middle of work to do a car swap since I am unable to drive my car. Since he took my car key. And I was in the middle of a timely project. Or how I spent about six hours on the phone with the computer helpdesk, trying to get the programs working. Because I have to use an old desk top. And I have to go to my least favorite place - the DMV. Again. And there's more. But I'm not going to complain.

Although this happened - there are too many positives. Specifically the fact that it was just valuables that were taken and that nobody was hurt. The barista gave me a free drink. My bank assisted me immediately. So did my property manager. And the doctor's office. No lines. No waiting. That is what you get in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Visiting the Wisconsin State Parks

Why didn't I move here sooner? I keep asking myself this question since the weather broke. We are now outside 95% of the time.

Explaining the lifestyle to a co-worker before I moved here, I said, "People eat breakfast outside. They just do everything outdoors." I figured that was a good way to describe it - it sort of sums up the whole package. She couldn't believe it. And yesterday, when I was hiking in one of the typically busy state parks, I said to my hiking partner, "This reminds me of this one place I took my dog to in Ohio. And I never saw another person." "Yeah, right!", my partner said to me in disbelief.

So I bought the state pass for the parks and recreation areas in April. For $25, you attach it to your windshield and you can go to any of the parks throughout the state for free. Otherwise, I think it's about $7.00 a day for an in-state license. You figure if you go more than four times, it is worth it. Well, I have already gone three times and I am camping next weekend, so I will break even.

Don't forget in Wisconsin, you do use these year round. I like to cross country ski. And I spent money at the parks this winter to do that. I think there are around 60 park and recreation areas you can frequent around the state.

In one of my first postings, I mentioned Devils Lake - a very popular hiking and camping destination in Wisconsin. Since I wrote that post last September, I can't tell you how many times I have been there. A lot. Yesterday, I went to Governor Dodge in Dodgeville. That was my first time there. I would say the main difference between Devils Lake and Governor Dodge is that GD has rolling hills and looks much more rural when you drive in. Devils Lake feels like it will swallow you. Maybe this is my personal opinion. I think Devil's Door has something to do with that feeling. The hike in Governor Dodge consisted of waterfalls, a spring, a marshy area, a very steep muddy path, and tons and tons of nature. We saw a snake, turtles, frogs and more. The best part of all of my hikes is when I see that I have exhausted my dog.

I have always loved reading a lot in the summer, specifically outside, ever since I learned how to read. In Madison, there is so much more to do than just read outside. You just do everything out here. In fact, I am currently sitting outside of my favorite coffee shop with my canine. And next week, I will be sleeping outside.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Madison Is a Little Too Friendly

I'm coming up on my one year anniversary, Madison. It's bittersweet. And it happened so fast.

Now, obviously I enjoy the company of people. But, I have always valued a little bit of alone time. Perhaps that is why I like living alone so much. And I have mentioned that you are not alone much in Madison. Especially if you are outgoing and will talk to anyone.

And so, I am actually starting to get slightly irritated by the amount of friendliness that is going on. You know, some days, I just want to have an hour to myself. Owning a dog, this seems to be difficult. If I have an hour at home, it gets interrupted a lot. Which is totally fine. Except like this past weekend, when I spent all weekend with people and decided I just really wanted to have the night to myself on Sunday. I was left alone around 5:00. (Hence, the last blog post). My dog hadn't been out since the morning. My friend texted me to come to the terrace. As much as I wanted to be there and see my friends, I turned the invitation down. I took the dog out. I made it about three blocks when I was approached by someone who recognized me and we walked and talked for about 20 minutes. I am sort of at a point where I feel that if I need some "me" time, I have to hibernate in my apartment.

The next day, I take a walk after work. I tell myself, "Just look down!" The first group of homeless hippies look at me and one shouts, "Hey there's my ex wife. Nice leash!" As I take my own advice and look down, a woman comes by and says "beautiful dog!" I didn't even make eye contact with her. It's like everyone has to talk to each other around here. Which is fine and dandy, except when you aren't in the mood.

Then there was the woman by the library last week who asked me, all of the people walking by, to help her put her DVDs in the book drop. And she was scared of my dog. Who wanted to sniff her out. Why me?

If you are looking for a friendly town, this is it. There is no way out of friendly conversation with strangers. Out with friends, we often befriend neighboring tables. We have invited people who we don't know to sit with us. By the end of a night out, you may have a whole new group of friends. I am not trying to criticize. I just think it's sort of funny that even I feel a little annoyed with the niceness.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eating & Grocery Shopping For One

I know it's hard to grocery shop for one. When I was in college, we used to fill two grocery carts. One time the cashier ran out of tape while our receipt was printing. And the food would last us only five or six days. Then we were scraping by. Now my life is a different story.

I try to keep my refrigerator as full as I can, but it never seems very full. Today, it is as full as I can get it. So I decided to take a photo for you to get a peek of what a bachelorette's refrigerator looks like. This is one day after the farmer's market and a day after doing some cooking (which isn't that common).

I think it's very hard to grocery shop as a single person. If I buy too much, the food goes bad. If I buy too little, I end up going out to eat a lot and spending money. On the other hand, if I do have a lot of food in the house, being single, I still end up going out to eat a lot. So it's a no win.

My other issue is that I do prefer fresh foods. So I finally decided to just buy things as I need them and this has worked the best. Although I like eggplant, I won't buy it unless I plan on making something with it right away. Otherwise, I buy it and it rots. My other thing is that I have to have company to eat it. I don't see any point in making a whole dish unless someone is going to help me out a bit.

The best places to grocery shop here are the Farmer's Market , Willy Street Coop, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. I also like the Jennifer Street Market. Just keep in mind that they are cash only. If you appreciate food, these are all super fun places to go to.

Now because there are so many things I can be sharing with you that I am not - (People, I know which posts you like the most - and they aren't about my boring grocery tales....) I will share a funny story. The Willy Street Coop requires a membership. Being a coop, you obviously are a part owner. Well, when I moved closer to the coop, I always intended on joining. My first time there, I decided to just use my sister's member number. I didn't feel like joining. I was probably feeling cheap that day. Unfortunately, seven months later and I am still using it. And I go there more than her and her family. And she is now fearful that if she goes to use it, they will call her an imposture.

The other funny Willy Street Coop story is the day after I met my boyfriend. I was always hesitant to hold, push, carry, or be near my nephew, in the event that someone (specifically a man), might think that he was my child. The day after I met my now boyfriend, I was at the checkout, holding my nephew. I was tired and hungover. My now boyfriend, a group of all now- very-good friends, and I, had been out until about 3 AM. Upon seeing him at checkout, he claims that after saying "Hello," I said to him:

"This is NOT my son. This is my nephew, Sebastian. I am completely single!" (Now, I have a totally different version of this story.) And here is mine:

"Do I know you from somewhere? Oh, we hung out last night, right? What's your name again? This is my nephew, Sebastian."

And he followed up with:

"Sebastian. That's a cute name. His cheeks are adorable."

Back to my cooking and baking tales. As far as my baking goes, I go through phases where I like to bake a lot. (I consider myself a pretty lousy cook.) This weekend, I made a rhubarb crisp (courtesy of my aunt and uncle's rhubarb from the back yard). I also made a key lime pie. My favorite time to bake is when people are over, making themselves comfortable on my couch or at my peninsula and we can chat a little bit while I am baking. I prefer not to cook for people who have certain expectations - such as needing my full attention or trying to tell me a long, personal story. I have to focus a bit.

As I am deciding what to do about my living situation, my friend and I were looking on craigslist at places the other night. When I pointed out that I didn't like the photos of a kitchen in one of the places, my friend said to me, "How much time do you spend in your kitchen?" I need a nice kitchen, though. It makes me look forward to baking. I also like it to look nice and clean, as if nothing happened when I am done. Enough people don't appreciate those kitchens that are spotless when someone has been cooking all day. And I am one of those people who likes to have a spotless kitchen after baking and cooking.

I will share one last tip with you. I find that my cooking, although not great, has improved tremendously. A lot of it has to do with buying the right things. I think it's important to buy the freshest and more expensive ingredients. Don't buy the cheap stuff if you want it to taste good. I will spend a little more to have a good tomato. Remember, folks, I got rid of my cable and unplugged everything. By the way, I got my electric bill down to $29.00!

Best to all of you on your grocery shopping excursions in Madison, Wisconsin. Or wherever you may be.