Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Digital Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (#NaNoWriMo), where on November 1 people begin to write a novel.  They continue to write every day of the month until they reach 50,000+ words.  Thus writing a novel in a month.

Although I'm not opposed to the idea of writing a book some day, I don't currently have any ideas for a novel.

Which is why I got excited yesterday when I saw a tweet about Digital Writing Month (#DigiWriMo).  Inspired by NaNoWriMo, Digital Writing Month will challenge people to write a total of 50,000 words during the month of November by any digital means: blogs, tweets, texts, wiki novels, code poems, etc.  The website says that they will provide writing prompts and exercises -- which I'll gladly welcome.

I have no idea what I'll have 1,666 words to say about each day for the next month, but I'll give it a shot.  Maybe I'll end up with a ridiculous number of haikus.  We'll see what happens.

To give myself an idea of how difficult this will actually be, I’ve used Word to count the number of words in this post: Only 189!
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Full of Bull

On Wednesday night after work, brother Teej came to bring me some bagels he'd picked up for me when he went grocery shopping on his day off (while I was at work).  [Side note:  Now that they're available to me in this country, I've been eating bagels like it's my job.]

He ended up driving me home from work, so then we hung out.  We both hadn't eaten dinner yet, but I didn't have much food to offer him at home.  So we went out.

We walked down State Street, taking turns saying "I just ate there recently" until we came across a place neither of us had ever been to: Full of Bull.

Located where the old KFC/Taco Bell was, Full of Bull must be somewhat new to State Street - at least 2012-new.

Since Full of Bull is in the exact same location as two fast food chains used to be, I was expecting something similar to an Arby's roast beef.  Under that impression, the prices took me by surprise.  I ordered an "FOB" without cheese (still not sure if it's pronounced "fob" or "f.o.b."),  and it's described in the menu as: "The Original and in our opinion still the best. Roast beef shaved thin on a toasted onion Kaiser Roll, American Cheese and our famous sauce. $7.29".

It was definitely a step up from an Arby's roast beef  - better bun, and the sauce had a little kick to it - but it should not have cost more than a Chipotle burrito.  (And I secretly thought I would have enjoyed a roast beef from Arby's more... just because that taste is engraved in your tastebuds from childhood in this country).  Maybe I'm just not used to U.S. dollar prices after spending the last year in Spain, but I'd think $5 would be more appropriate for this sandwich.  

I categorize this place as fast food (you order at the counter, they call your number and you pick it up), so why would you pay sit-down restaurant burger prices?

This is what brother Teej ordered, the Southwest Cheesesteak: "Pepper jack cheese, grilled onions, jalape├▒os and red peppers $7.99".

Southwest Cheesesteak

The walls were decorated to go along with the "bull" theme, bringing in some Wisconsin pride: 

If I ever find myself eating there again, I'll definitely order a bowl of their "award-winning roast beef chili" ($3.99).  But I would opt for trying someplace new before returning to Full of Bull.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Delicious, healthy, quick Kefir snack

Now that I've got the variety of an American grocery store again, I've been trying out some new foods.  I've got a new favorite breakfast/anytime snack.  It takes about 5 seconds to prepare assemble, and it's delicious and healthy.

1. Start with any kind of granola.  I've got "Bear Naked" (Vanilla almond crunch).

2. Get some Kefir.  It's gluten free, 99% lactose free, and has probiotics (that's good for digestion).  I like pomegranate flavor.

3. Combine the two!  Kefir is thicker than milk but not as thick as yogurt, so it's similar to eating cereal.

4. Grab a spoon and enjoy!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday afternoon in the country

When I went to lunch yesterday with the sister and mother, they brought me my new digital camera that I had bought online and had shipped to my parents' house.  Blogging will likely increase frequency now that I'm equipped to take photos once again.

I charged up the battery yesterday, then snapped a few pictures while I was out at CC's this afternoon:

CC's beautiful flower garden

What's remaining of CC's vegetable garden

The back deck

The barn

The moon came out early

The civil engineer practiced with his new bow today

The (big) dog

Fall, fall, fall


Cows and new calves
It's always relaxing to be out at CC's farm: Lots of land, trees and grass and fields, good conversation, no internet, no cell phone service, fresh air, and a dog.  It was a great day weather-wise, so I'm pleased we were able to get out there today to enjoy it.
• • •

Running with horses

After running the Madrid Corre Por Madrid 10K on my last day in the country, I threw out my running shoes.  I had bought those shoes my senior year of high school, so they had lasted me six years and were in dire need of replacement.  There was also not space in my two suitcases.

I've almost been back in the states for a full month, and have not yet done any physical activity (other than biking to work a few days, but that doesn't really count).  No running. No ultimate.

That needed to change, especially with such little time left before the temperatures drop for good.  I planned to bus out somewhere and buy new running shoes this Saturday.  In the end, the sister ended up being home this weekend, so she and mother came downtown.  We had lunch, and then they took me shoe and grocery shopping.

When I finally settled on a pair at Berkeley Running Company, the shoe guy asked me how often I run.  I told him that I hadn't run at all in the past month, due to leaving my old shoes in Madrid.  Upon hearing this, he said "There's a guy that works here who's from Spain.  Hold on a second." and he went in a back room.  I became giddy with anticipation, excited to see a Spaniard in Madison.  We met and spoke (in Spanish) for just a few minutes.  I walked out of there happy and with these in a box:

My new running shoes, chosen by the feel not the look
Today I'll put the new running shoes to the test when I go to CC's place in Blue Mounds with the civil engineer this afternoon.  While talking with CC on the phone just now before heading out to her place, I mentioned that I was planning run out on her land.  This somehow turned into a conversation about humans' ability to run in comparison with other animals.  CC said she thought she'd heard once that humans can outrun horses (over longer distances) because our endurance is greater.

After our phone call I did some googling to see if this was true.  My search stopped when I found out that there exists an annual "Man vs. Horse" marathon.  Really?!

I'm just going to summarize from wikipedia now:  This marathon (which is just slightly shorter than an official marathon) takes place every June in the town of Llanwrtyd Wells (Wales).  Riders on horseback have been competing against runners in this marathon since 1980.  In the past 33 races, a human has won the race only twice: in 2004 and in 2007.  A horse has been the victor all of the other years.

I had no idea such a race existed, and my mind had never before wandered to the possibility of fast animals having less endurance than we do.  So I'm sharing my new knowledge here and hope someone else enjoys learning of this marathon too.
• • •

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Employed and living downtown

During my first week back in America at the end of September, I applied for a job at my previous place of work and was checking craigslist a million times a day, looking for a place to live downtown.

I had been considering living with my parents until spring semester, when there were likely to be many more sublets available, but due to the death of Holly (my car), I needed to find a place downtown asap.  But before I got a job, otherwise I would have no way to get to said job.  But I had to be sure I'd have a job before signing any lease.  Yeah.

On Tuesday the 2nd I looked at three apartments.  One was taken 20 minutes before I got there to look at it, the next was a definite possibility, and the last was farther east, away from where I would potentially be working.  And the roommate at that third place gave me a weird vibe.  So I asked the second apartment when we could set up a time for me to meet the other roommates (because only the girl who's subletting was there when I saw the apartment).  Wednesday at 7pm, hokay.

I had an interview for my job on Wednesday the 3rd, then I hung around downtown until I met the roommates of the second apartment I had seen the day before.  I was pleased with my first impressions of the roommates, and hoped they thought the same of me.  Must have been the case, because by Thursday we were talking about rent and sublet forms.  On Friday night I received an offer letter for my job via email, and on Sunday night (after getting back from New Berlin) I started moving things into my new apartment, as I began work the next day.

So here I am, lying in a full-size bed, grateful for being employed and with a place to live downtown.  The girl who I'm subletting from left her full bed in the room, and after having slept in a twin my whole life, I'm thoroughly enjoying my time in this full.
• • •

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

New Berlin Weekend

I spent this past weekend visiting the sister in New Berlin, where she moved to a little over a month ago.  Since my camera broke on the France trip, and since I could no longer borrow Gregorio's point-and-shoot as I did during August (because I live in a different country now), this weekend's pictures were all taken from my cell phone.  My apologies.


On Saturday I got to see one of the schools where the sister teaches orchestra.  We made some copies on color-coded paper.

Then the sister got a library card at the New Berlin Public Library.  We used said card to check out two movies for that night, and the sister got some Anne of Green Gables books as well.

Then I made a quick stop at Michaels for some ink and some thin yarn.  Both of those craft projects will later appear on the blog.  Next we stopped at Panera for lunch, as the sister had gift cards!  And I hadn't seen a Panera in a year.

That afternoon we took a trip to Goodwill, and both of us bought numerous clothing items.  The sister got some Halloween decorations as well.  Then back to the furniture-filled apartment.

Here's a picture I took to show how huge the sister's microwave is.  I used the cat "Alfie" for size comparison.  I don't think the picture does it justice though; it's a GIGANTIC microwave.

That night we only watched one of the movies, "Life As We Know It," as recommended by the grandma (well, I think she liked it?).  We laughed a lot, though I struggled to get past the improbable plot.


Sunday morning began with a brunch buffet just a block away from the sister's apartment.  This was my first full American breakfast in a year.  We both stuffed ourselves silly.

This is my first plate, after eating over half of my omelette and most of my hash browns and a sausage.  I got way too many sausages.

When I'd finished everything except the ham, roll, and sausages; the sister mentioned that she had seen waffles in the buffet.  What?! So I got up for a clean plate, just for a waffle.  Found the waffle. And the syrup.  And the french toast...

I ate that entire plate, then tried to do some more work on the sausages.  Couldn't finish.  

Later on our way out, we realized that we had completely missed the table with muffins/donuts/bagels.  Probably for the best!

After packing up at the apartment, we headed to New Berlin's Applefest!


I don't remember how we initially found out about this event.  I think I was googling "things to do in New Berlin" when we were all home for the sister's birthday celebration the previous weekend.  Anyway, that's basically why I ended up visiting the sister this past weekend, to attend Applefest together.

For someone who is so interested in genealogy and that sort of thing (the sister), this was a good event to go to.  Here's why: Along with your typical pumpkins/apples/apple cider/apple pie fall event, Applefest took place at the New Berlin Historical Park.  Therefore we could walk through old houses, a one-room school house, a church, post office, etc.; and the sister could join the New Berlin Historical Society!

In one of the houses there was a piano whose keys play on its own, all you have to do is pump the foot pedals.  There is probably a certain name for this type of piano, but I'm not sure what that is.  The sister "played" it first, then after listening to the same five songs over and over, the man made me do it too.  First he asked if I wanted to try and I said no, because I'd just watched and documented the sister doing it.  But this man wouldn't take no for an answer, so then I was sitting on the bench, pushing down on the pedals with my feet, listening to the exact same loud songs all over again.  But now I can say I've played that type of piano (again, a name would be handy here).

Although after breakfast I thought more food that day would be impossible, I did get a bit hungry later that afternoon so I bought a hotdog ($1.00) and a slice of apple pie ($1.50), while the sister got a hotdog and a root beer float.  On our way back to the car, the sister bought a little pumpkin (5 x $1.00, but the sister paid $1.00 for one pumpkin and the woman tried three times to give her some change), and I picked up a postcard from the Historical Society gift shop.

It was a successful weekend "exploring" New Berlin, and the sister's cat only bit my hand once!
• • •

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Surprising the piano brother, sister, and grandparents

If anyone missed it, I'm now an ex-Madrid expat.  I've moved back in the states!  I surprised my older brother (brother Teej) and parents the first day I was back, a Tuesday.

Before brother Teejeven knew I was back, he was thinking about surprising my younger brother (piano brother) at his piano gig that Friday night.  It was the first Friday in a long time that brother Teej didn't have to work, so he would be able to drive the 2.5 hours north to hear piano brother play.

Since I was now home too, I went with.  It couldn't have worked out better.

Surprising piano brother

The place piano brother was playing at that Friday was JavaVino from 6 to 8:30pm.  He was not expecting to see us when he walked in, but after a brief hellowhatareyoudoinghere and hugs, his gig was about to begin and he needed to set up the piano.

This is what I ate there:

Southwest panini with onion soup
These are my brothers at JavaVino during piano brother's bagel break:

Piano brother and brother Teej
The original "plan" was to drive up Friday night, and depending on piano brother's plans, either crash at his house and drive back Saturday morning (in time for the sister's birthday lunch), or turn around and drive back on Friday night.

I was exhausted and would have opted for sleeping at piano brother's house, but brother Teej wanted to sleep at home that night.  And then piano brother realized he didn't have any engagements that weekend until private lessons on Sunday afternoon.  So he came back home with us.

Surprising the sister

The sister didn't know that I was back from Spain, so when the three of us got home between one and two that morning, we snuck into the house and all slept in my brothers' bedroom.

The next morning when Teej heard someone downstairs, he left the bedroom to find sister out in the family room.  She didn't know that Teej was home, so that was a surprise to her.  They chat.  Meanwhile piano brother and I are awake and trying to be silent in the adjacent bedroom.  Piano brother had to sneeze.  I had to pee.  We held back giggles as best as we could, trying to remain silent.  And brother Teej and sister kept on talking and talking (Teej thought we were still sleeping).

Ten to fifteen minutes later, brother Teej finally returned to our hideout room.  Whispering, we told him we wanted to do the reveal right now, as my bladder could not wait any longer cooped up in that room.

Sister was now down the hall in the "music room".  Yes, we've got a music room.  It's filled with instruments and sheet music.  And mother's desk.  We should really start calling it music room/mother's office.  

Anyways, so sister's in music room/mother's office.  We send piano brother in first.  "Piano brother!  What are you doing home?! You and Teej are here?"

I wait about five seconds, then I go strolling in next.  At this point, I've been in the country a whole four days, and I've seen my parents and two brothers... so the idea had sunk in with me that I was back home.  But it was a complete shock to sister.

We did the same thing when each of my grandparents arrived for lunch: piano brother went out first, and then I followed a moment later.  My grandma nearly jumped back a foot when I came out of the hallway after piano brother!

Sister's birthday cake after Saturday lunch

She is going to love me for that photo.

So the surprises all went well that weekend.  And the siblings were unexpectedly reunited:

brother Teej, moi, sister, piano brother

I don't have any other surprises up my sleeves, and I've already publicly announced my return anyway (read: posted a facebook status).   Although the return may have been easier had I notified the family, it was fun to surprise so many people with my presence.  And that could very well be the only time in my life that I was able to do this type of surprise, so I'm glad I did it. 
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