Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Domain!

We have moved our blog to an official domain to have more control over the post formatting, content and other aspects of our site. You can now find us at Please follow us to our new site and be patient as we make this huge switch!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Spring Weekend

This weekend was super exciting and I think me, my mom and Brad all had a great time. This past weekend had been planned for a long time. It started last year when the Balloon Glow was canceled due to wind. The Balloon Glow is an event put on by the Student Activities Board at the University of Kentucky. It is part of the Little Kentucky Derby week long series of events that are part of the celebration for the Kentucky Derby held the first weekend of May. The Balloon Glow is one evening where there are games, food, music, and a hot air balloon race, which happens right across from my apartment! Brad said he would come down the next year to go to it with me, however, it was canceled again! I have wanted to go to it for 7 years, but every year I've had to play in a concert, didn't have anyone to go with, and now the past two years, the weather. Hopefully someday...

But besides the balloon glow, there were a lot of others things that popped up that made the weekend still exciting and took my mind off missing the balloon glow. I am glad Brad could make it down during this busy time at the end of the school year and enjoy some warmer weather even though it has rained tons lately!

KYASLA (Kentucky Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects) Banquet in Louisville
St Vincent's Thrift Store
Masala Indian Fine Dining
Cosmic bowling with friends at Southland Bowling Lanes
Darts at Marikkas

Today began with a drive to Louisville to attend a banquet for the KYASLA. Several of us in my studio entered a design competition with projects we have done in our previous studios. The awards were also open to professional firms, so we got to meet some professionals. We also saw many people that had been our adjunct professors and employers. After the banquet, Brad, my mom, and me went by the St. Vincent thrift store. We love that place! I found some neat cowgirl shoes. The board I put together for the show is on the left. It will be touring to the Lexington, Louisville gallery hops this summer, and a convention in Covington, KY.

Once we made it back to Lexington, Brad and I went to a nice Indian restaurant and had some paneer. It was really good and we decided we want to try to cook some Indian cuisine. Afterwards, we meet his two friends Jenna and Stoss for bowling and then a game of darts. We all had a lot of fun and hadn't seen everyone in a long time!

UKLA (University of Kentucky Landscape Architecture) Banquet
Record Store Day at CD Central
Mandarin sushi

Saturday morning began with another banquet, except this time it was the end of the year banquet put on by my landscape architecture program. Afterward, my mom, Brad and I went to Record Store Day at CD Central. They have the event every year at this time around the nation. CD Central always has discounts and a grill out. This year was more exciting because they had bands play all day, they had many limited record store day releases, and My Morning Jacket was going to be there to sign our media! It was pretty incredible to have the opportunity and we were thrilled that we had the chance. My mom and I bought their record store day single of their new album, Circuital, which releases on May 31st. While we were waiting we had a chance to hear a local musician, Matt Duncan. Listen here as long as it's available on youtube. He's pretty good too! Afterwards, Brad and I headed to probably our favorite restaurant in Lexington, Mandarin, and got some sushi!

Keeneland Horse Race Track
El Toro for fish tacos
My Morning Jacket at Memorial Coliseum

Today seemed like it was going to be a bit more relaxed, but was still super busy! Brad and I headed out to Keeneland for the horse races, which last only a couple of weeks once in the spring and fall. It was a nice day, still a bit cold, but better than Friday, since it rained all day, and Saturday was still pretty chilly. Later on, his friends Jenna and Stoss met us for a couple of races. We didn't have very good luck today. I won one race and that was all of our winnings. After Keeneland Brad and I went to El Toro for some fish tacos. We then met my mom and headed down to Memorial Coliseum for the My Morning Jacket concert! This was another event hosted by the University of Kentucky Student Activities Board. This was a huge gig to bring to UK students, who were allowed to buy them before the public. I was able to snatch up general floor tickets. We were literally 5' from the stage! It was a really awesome time and it rocked out.

Ben Sollee opened for the show. He's worked a lot with Jim James on their I Love Mountains tour that showcased the Dear Companion CD. I went to high school with him!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Carrot Cake

I haven't been really cooking that much lately because of being busy. Wednesday was our last community meeting with Scott County. Our project is finally wrapping up and our final book and products are being put together. They will soon be on the web!

A few photos from the meeting in Scott County:

Paul developed a comprehensive greenway

James studied the Horsey Hundred bicycle trail

Mike looked at a county wide land-use vision

This weekend is going to be pretty eventful. It looks like the weather isn't going to cooperate though, so some of the things we planned may not happen. Brad is coming down for the weekend because of all the things that are going on. I'm sure we'll have a blog post about the weekend! For the occasion, I'm fixing a two layer round cake, which I haven't done before. Since Easter is coming up soon, I decided that it should be a carrot cake. Here is my adapted recipe from Alton Brown's.

If you didn't want to use the round cake pans, I think a 9X13 pan would work well. If you do, you may want to cut the frosting recipe in a third since you will only be frosting the top! It was a little too much frosting as it was!

Mixing the white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and yogurt

Buttering the pans

Let's hope everyone likes it! 

Final cake!

I have a sugar rush just by making it!

  • Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
  •  2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan
  • 3/4 cup grated carrots, medium grate, 4-6 medium carrots
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 ounces honey Greek yogurt
  • 6 ounces Canola oil
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows


8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix together until smooth.  
Place the frosting in the refrigerator for 5 to 10 minutes before using.
Makes about 2 cups


Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
Grate the carrots and set aside.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. 
Add the grated carrots and toss until they are well-coated with the flour.
In another bowl, combine the sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and yogurt.
While mixing, drizzle in the oil. 
Add a third of the flour mix at a time to the wet mixture and fold in until just combined. 
Pour half into each of the cake pans and bake for 16-20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow cake to cool 15 minutes in the pan. 
After 15 minutes, turn the cake out onto a rack and allow cake to cool completely. 
To Frost:
Frost with cream cheese frosting after cake has cooled completely.
Frost only the top of one cake layer
Top with finely crushed toasted walnuts
Add second layer, then continue top and sides

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reflooring my Apartment

Old Floor

The floor in my apartment was starting to show lots of wear. It had lots of scratches and holes in it that showed through to the older 1960s linoleum. After much complaining, the landlord finally decided to give in and replace the floor. I wish he would have done it much sooner because the new floor looks amazing. It is a bit unfortunate that I will probably only spend another four or five months here.

Out with the Old

Here we remove the old vinyl flooring. It was a breeze really. It just took a bit of a tug here and there and it came up mostly in one piece. Although, we had to tear it up to get it out the door.

Some Underlying Retro Linoleum

Here you can see the old 1960s style linoleum with a retro pattern. I must say that I am huge fan of linoleum flooring especially the retro type. I was amazed to find out that linoleum is much more sustainable than the vinyl stuff and even compostable to a certain degree! If I was reflooring my own house, I would have chosen that instead... maybe someday.

Putting Down the First of the New Vinyl Flooring

Here we place the first few runs of the new flooring. It is a modular tile type that is easily replaceable in sections. It goes down quickly and required little effort until we had to move the stove and refrigerator to do those sections. What took the most time was trimming individual pieces to fit along the edges.

Working Outward

Here I try my hand at laying down the new floor. It was really easy and sort of fun... I only wish we would have had some music, but my landlord and I discussed politics instead.

Almost Done!

Here you can see that we saved the rough part for last... cutting the individual panels to fill in the awkward gaps at the perimeter. It took some time to cut these custom pieces because each tile had to be a different size. Since this is an older house everything wasn't very even which added to the complications.

Just Finishing Up the Floor

We just finished up everything aside from moving all of the furniture back into place and putting the baseboards down. I think the landlord will be doing that next weekend.

After Moving in the Furniture

This morning I moved all of the furniture back in the room and took the extra time to declutter my apartment. (I like using tips from a certain blog, to help get ideas on how to simplify and declutter my life. I must say it is always going to be a work in progress.) I carefully selected some things to put in a summer yard sale later this year and started organizing some of the kitchen differently. The new tile makes the room brighter and am enjoying it thus far.

Tuna, Asparagus, and Waffle Fries

Tuna with Asparagus and French Fries

Tonight's cuisine was a specialty of the the Library Bar & Grill, a local restaurant here in Madison. I frequent this bar a few times a semester to grab some happy hour drinks and food. Since my transition to pescitarian in the middle of last year, I have been a sucker for this Tuna Sandwich which is covered with a spicy sauce and fresh veggies the dish can also be served with a variety of side dishes and I almost always choose the cajun fries, french fries dusted with a spicier seasoning salt mixture. It is fairly simple to cook and only takes about 45 minutes total which includes marinating the tuna. I like to combine this with some seasoned fries and baked garlic asparagus.

Tuna Sandwich:
2 - 6oz Tuna Steaks
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 Cloves Garlic (pressed)
Slice of Tomato, cucumber and lettuce or spinach

1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder

Mix the Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Garlic, Salt and Pepper together. Pour over Tuna Steaks in a shallow dish, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Combine Mayonnaise and Chili Powder and refrigerate. Grill Tuna for about 4 - 5 minutes on medium high heat, turning once. The inside should be a pale pink, fading to white toward the surface. Place on your favorite hamburger bun and top with sauce and vegetables.

Baked Asparagus with Garlic:
1 lb of fresh Asparagus
1 -2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
3 -4 Cloves of Garlic Coarsely Chopped

Wash Asparagus. Cut off rough ends. Place in 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover in Olive Oil and Salt. Toss to coat evenly. Mix in chopped Garlic. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes or until lightly tender. I prefer my asparagus with a bit of crunch left in it. You may cook longer if you prefer it that way more tender. However, I would probably cover it if leaving in the oven for more than 15 minutes to prevent burning.

French Fries:
The french fries were my favorite frozen type and prepared per the package instructions then dusted with seasoning salt. I hope to try some homemade french fries or sweet potato fries with this dish the next time I prepare it.

EH Garden: Lettuce & Carrots

A New Section of Lettuce and Carrots

Another day in the garden planting lettuce (romaine and green salad varieties) and carrots. I tilled up another area like last week. I threw down some compost, turned over the soil with a shovel to mix, took a hoe to the larger clumps, raked the soil to make it even more fine and, finally, planted a row of carrots and a square area of lettuce. We have been planting the seeds closer than usual to maximize production and leave little room for weeds. Hopefully that plan will work out.

Some Volunteer Plants from Last Year

A bit of a surprise lingered this morning when I showed up. A few stalks of rhubarb were greeting me. It appears that last year's owners of this plot had quite the selection of plants. We have some raspberries, strawberries, volunteer onions, and now, rhubarb all coming in on their own. Albeit, these plants aren't in the right spot, but we'll just have to plant around them.

The Plot Continues to Grow

Tomorrow, some more of the LA grads will continue our plantings by placing some potatoes in our little structure to the rear of our plot. It seems that this box has some sand in it and would make for some good soil to grow potatoes in. I am also considering attaching a wire trellis to it so that I can grow some pickling cucumbers on. We'll just have to see how everything continues to fall together over the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cleaning up the Garden and Planting the First Seeds

Our Plot Now

If you remember last week's post, this plot looked nothing like this. Old plant stalks were littered all over the garden and there was black plastic everywhere. Our plot now looks much better now. On Saturday morning, we had our first work day of the season to clean up our garden plot and plant some early season crops. A few of the LA grad students, Mike and Sara, met me at the plot to do some of the work. It took about 3 hours to pull some left over stalks, pick up the trash and plastic left by the last tenant and prepare the bed to plant some radishes, spinach, and onions.

Radishes and Spinach

Because of the unseasonably warm weather, we decided to try out a few early season crops very early. We piled on a nice layer of compost and incorporated into the soil where we were going to plant the seeds. We then followed the instructions on the packet and then marked our plantings with some Popsicle sticks. The hardest part was working the ground, but it was actually enjoyable considering the lethargic attitude that winter has placed on me! The weather seems to have me itching to work outside and ride bikes all over town.

Anyway, back to the gardening... We planted a row of radishes and a plot of spinach to see how it does. We still have about half of those seeds left to do stagger plantings so all of our plants don't ripen at once. I don't think everyone would be able to eat all of the radishes or spinach if it all ripened at once! We also planted the onions which could take upwards of 150 days to reach maturity, so obviously we needed to get them in as soon as we could work the ground.

The Onions and Raspberries

We decided to leave a few straggling plants left over from the people who farmed our plot previously. We have a few unidentified plants coming along, but we think the stalks are raspberries that we are going to have to trim back. We also found some volunteer strawberries and what looks to be like some type of bulb flower. We aren't really sure what all could come up, and we aren't going to say no to any nice plants that come our way. Over the next few weeks we will keep on tidying up in the garden and planting other early season crops. With any luck our plants will be up in a few days and the weather will stay nice and warmer. It's very exciting to see all of this stuff starting and being able to track all of the progress!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Eagle Heights Community Garden Seed Fair

The Seed Fair

A few months ago, I decided to try for a community garden plot at Eagle Heights Community Garden, an on-campus community garden situated between Picnic Point and the Eagle Heights university housing complex. I thought it would be a fun social activity and a relief from research and office work. With that, I asked a few of the graduate students from the UW Department of Landscape Architecture, primarily Robbie Greene (Prof. Verde), to join me in my adventure to spread the work around and make it even more social. Well, we put in the application and - guess what - we now have our own little garden plot, Plot #1114 (soon to be renamed something more creative)! Today was the first milestone in the garden process, the Eagle Heights Community Garden Seed Fair.

Garden Plot Map

The seed fair was held at the Eagle Heights Community Center early this morning. Registration was at 9:30AM which meant an early rise on a Saturday. The garden organizers give gardeners a few tickets to exchange for seeds that have been donated. The next 30 minutes was spent scrambling around the room searching for the seeds you want in your garden. I was able to get most everything that we wanted to plant, but had to supplement the list with a trip to a store where I needed to pick up some gloves and seed starting stuff anyway.

The Whole Garden

Plot #1114

As you can see, the garden is a bit desolate at the moment with dead stems, tools, pots, frames, and other miscellaneous garden equipment strung about (at least it is contained to the individual garden plots). The ground is starting to thaw a little and it is getting somewhat warmer here earlier than usual. However, I am not going to let that fool me into planting things early and risk a late frost. I will start the seed germination over the next few weeks and hopefully have everything ready to be planted in early to mid May. With any luck at all, this little 20' x 30' space will be transformed into a diverse vegetable/herb/flower gardent over the next 2 - 3 months. Needless to say, I am excited to get started...

Below is a list of seeds I picked up today:
  • Spinach
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Butterfly Flower Mix
  • Marigolds
  • Green Beans
  • Pickling Cucumbers
  • Sweet Onion
  • Carrots
  • Swiss Chard
  • Butternut Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Slicing Cucumbers
  • Beets
  • Lettuce
  • Radish
  • Rosemary
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes
  • Chili Peppers
  • Bell Peppers
  • Sweet Peppers

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lake Marion WRM Presentation

Lake Marion

In February, the 2010 Water Resources Management (WRM) practicum, presented their Lake Marion project to the University of Wisconsin-Madison community. It was a modification of a presentation given in Mazomanie, WI - the location of the work. Below is a section of the presentation I gave as an overview of the community input and participatory processes we used throughout the project. More information about the project can be found on the 2010 WRM Website with the rest of the UW Presentation Videos

The Mazomanie project focused on achieving six goals for the community as a plan to maintain and improve the quality of Lake Marion and to restore the Black Earth Creek Corridor adjacent to Lake Marion. The purpose of the project is to provide the Village of Mazomanie and other project stakeholders planning recommendations based upon environmental science and the interests of the community.

(A) Help preserve Lake Marion as a valued recreational and cultural resource for the project stakeholders.
(B) Assess current environmental conditions of Lake Marion, the Black Earth Creek, and the surrounding area.
(C) Evaluate strategies for maintaining and improving Lake Marion in the event of dam removal.
(D) Develop conceptual planning recommendations for the restoration of the Black Earth Creek Corridor.
Work with project stakeholders to gather their input and visions to incorporate into planning recommendations for the restoration and enhancement of Lake Marion and the Black Earth Creek Corridor.
(F) Develop conceptual layouts for a trail network linking community open space within the project boundaries.

The WRM Group

I have been a member of the WRM practicum since the Fall of 2009 when I arrived at UW to do my master's in community design in the Department of Landscape Architecture. The bulk of my research for my master's thesis has focuses on the interaction between the WRM students and the community, studying how this interaction affects the design and decision-making processes. This research has been chosen to be presented at the Death + Life of Social Factors: A Conference Reexamining Behavioral and Cultural Research in Environmental Design at the University of California-Berkeley and the International Symposium on Society and Resource Management here in Madison, WI. Although it was unplanned when I started in 2009, I finally 'officially' joined the WRM program this past fall. I have started taking my first courses this semester to fulfill the requirements of this second master's degree.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Break 2011: Madison & Minnesota

Day 1 Friday:
Katrina takes bus to Chicago
Drive back to Madison

This year Brad and my spring breaks were at the same time, which meant we could both get away from school! Last year I had spring break, then we both had a week of school, then Brad had spring break, so one of us was always in school. Fortunately, UK offered a spring break bus going to the Chicago area. Brad had to drive a little ways to pick me up, thank you Brad! Considering gas prices, the cost was about the same, but I didn't have to put as much wear on my car or be totally exhausted. Plus, I love riding coach buses! Brad picked me up at the Cracker Barrel, where we decided to have the Friday Fish Fry. It was okay...but I think we'll stick to local fish fry's from now on.

Day 2 Saturday:
Breakfast at Farmer's Market
Protests at Madison's capital
St Vincents Thrift Store
Willy Street Coop
Bellinis Italian Restaurant
Movie- "Donnie Darko"

Like always, Brad and my travels are always packed with lots of things we'd like to do. Saturday started off early with a breakfast at the Farmer's Market. The market goes inside in the winter, and a breakfast from all the farmer's produce is made. It was wonderful! We had a spring salad with vinaigrette, sweet potato hash, cornbread, and an egg omelet with salsa. We could really tell a difference in how it tasted with the fresh ingredients.

Protesting at the Capital

After a few weeks of being a part of the protesting at the capitol, Katrina finally had the chance to experience it. It was a very entertaining day with farmers driving their tractors around the square and others marching and singing in protest. We met some friends of mine there and walked around for a bit listening to the protest music and speeches.

Then we made our way up to the capital square to see some protesting. There were some pretty clever signs and a huge crowd! We didn't stay too long, it was pretty cold outside! After a siesta, we went down to the St. Vincent thrift store, where I like to go every time I go to Madison. While we were there we found a deep dish pie dish, which we made cherry pie in later. We then went to the Willy St Co-op for some cherries. It was a lot like Good Foods Coop here at home since they're both part of the Coop, except here it is only $10 to be a member for a year, and if you aren't a member, you have to pay 5% extra on your purchase. In Lexington, membership fees are $200 a year, but non-members don't have to pay extra. Not really feasible for someone like me!

Later that night Brad took me to a nice Italian restaurant near the capital, called Bellinis. It reminded me of Joe Bolognas back home, because both are in an old church. It was pretty cold that night, but it was cozy inside the restaurant with the nice atmosphere.

Day 3 Sunday:
Cook dinner for the potluck
James' home for Dinner

Downtown Columbus, WI

Sunday was a very nice relaxing day. The semester must have caught up with me at the beginning of the week because I just wanted to sleep! Today we had planned a potluck dinner with one of Brad's professors, James, and his friend. We got a few things from the farmer's market on Saturday to cook for the potluck. I really enjoyed waking up late, and spending part of the day cooking in pajamas! In the afternoon we met James (and his dogs!) and took a walk through his small town, Columbus, a small commute from Madison. It has a nice and quiet small town feel. An apartment in the middle of historic downtown is only $270 a month!

Dinner was quite a hit and pretty much everything was eaten. We had baked salmon, baked asparagus, roasted potatoes, coleslaw, Mediterranean spinach salad, bread, cherry pie, and apple cake.

Over the course of the trip, Katrina and I at some pretty good food. I think this potluck was among the best (and simplest) we enjoyed. Getting to see Columbus, WI, visit with some friends, and have great food is an awesome time.

Day 4 Monday:
Meet with Sam, Professor at UW
Lunch w Brad's friend Robbie
State Street
Children's Museum
Dinner- Mushroom Soup/Bread/Salad
Movie- "Willow"

Children's Museum

Today was our last full day in Madison before we left for Minnesota. In the morning I met with a professor from the Landscape Architecture Department at University of Wisconsin to talk about graduate school there. Brad and I then walked around State Street for a while and ate a Mediterranean lunch with his friend Robbie. Then Brad and I went and checked out the children's museum. Admission was only $3.14 since it was Pi day! It was pretty neat, not too much to do for adults (duh!) and there were lots of little kids. I liked the rooftop garden the best where they had a chicken coop!

Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera to the museum to capture any of the cool things they had there. I found myself wishing that my community would have had such a neat place to play and discover things. This one even had some vintage areas, spaces for arts and crafts, and party rooms! I am a bit jealous of the children of Madison...

Day 5 Tuesday:
Drive to Minneapolis
Mall of America
Mall of America

Tuesday was mostly spent traveling to Minnesota, where we planned to tour around for a few days. In the evening before getting to Minneapolis, we went to Mall of America, which is located about 30 minutes south of Minneapolis. The mall really is huge, but wasn't like I imagined. The outside area around the mall is pretty desolate and surrounded by highways. But the inside of the mall is wild! The mall is a 4 story basic square shape, with an amusement park in the middle. There are 4 anchor stores at each corner, and the shops go round the perimeter up to 3 levels. We think the 4th floor was for reserved for parties or meetings. It seemed a good portion of the stores were for apparel and most were stores you would find in other malls. Visiting the mall was pretty neat. Wouldn't want to be there during Christmas season though!

I would have to say that as annoying as I find shopping malls to be, this was a very fun experience. The exterior and parking was horrible, but the interior was 4 floors of glorious entertainment. Passing through the Mac Store, the Lego Store, and snacking at an Auntie Anne's pretzel were highlights of this visit. It puts any mall that I have ever been to, to shame!

Day 6 Wednesday:
Mill City Museum
Skyways and Nicolett Mall
Walker Art Museum & Sculpture Garden
The Local
Guthrie Theater- "A Winter's Tale"

View of Mississippi River from the Mill City Museum

Mill City Museum Glass Elevator

Our residence for this trip was the Days Inn on University. This hotel had a good rate for its location, and we got a few discounts which made it even better. However, there is a reason why this hotel had cheaper rates... It wasn't anything too horrible (scratchy sheets, funky drain, 8am cleaning duty, flat mattress, no outlets, and smoky smells)...but it did have free parking, internet, a free shuttle up to 3 miles, and a fridge! It was located right by a good pizza joint and a few blocks from the main part of Dinkytown district in Minneapolis.

Today began pretty exciting. We first went to the Mill City Museum, which is were the main flour mill was located (Gold Medal Flour). It had a lot of history within and it had a pretty nice museum, and an elevator theater. I really enjoyed seeing how they blended the historic part of the mill (which a lot had been burned or fallen down) and with the modern structure of the museum and elevator.

Nicolet Mall

Being a history buff, I really enjoyed touring the Mill City Museum and took a walking tour around some of Minneapolis' riverfront and Loring Park areas. It was especially intriguing to see some historical footage of the city and how it was developed. Using the skyways and Nicolet Mall to get around as a pedestrian was a retreat from the cold, traffic congestion of the rest of the city.

Parking Garage outside of Loring Park

Next we walked through downtown Minneapolis along the skyways, which was a really neat concept. You can pretty much walk all through downtown Minneapolis without going outside! We then walked all the way to the Walker Art Museum. It was quite a hike (distance wise and through traffic)...from Mill City where we parked. The sculpture garden was neat, except it was pretty flooded with snow, water, and mud. It would be nicer to see during the summer. We then went inside the art museum, where we walked through the entirety of the museum in about 30 minutes. We didn't really think our experience here was too great. They had some pretty weird things and only a few things by artists we had heard of. Needless to say, we wished we hadn't walked that far to see it. We probably would have gone to the Wiesman Art Museum, except it is being updated with a Frank Gehry addition!

Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden

On our way back we stopped at a bar and grill, The Local, on the Nicolett Mall Street in downtown. It was a nice place to rest and Brad got an Irish beer and me a 2 Gingers with Ginger Ale. We then kept on walking the hike back. It was a great moment when we could rest our feet back at the hotel. We freshened up a bit and went to the Guthrie theater, which is a neat place. It is right by the Mill City on the river. It has a huge escalator! which takes you up 4 flights to the theaters. It also has a cantilevered deck which looks out onto the river. We saw a modern Shakespeare play "A Winter's Tale", which was partly a tragedy and partly a comedy.

The Gutherie Theater

Day 7 Thursday:
St Paul
Como Zoo and Conservatory
Science Museum
Dinner at Origami
Dessert at Annie's

Como Zoo and Conservatory

By Thursday, Brad and I were pretty exhausted from the trip catching up to us, but we were still enjoying our tour. We began the day off at the Como Zoo and Conservatory. It was pretty awesome, and one of my favorite things we did! The zoo was pretty nice, and the conservatory was even better. They had a really nice flower show in one of the rooms. The Como was even more awesome because there wasn't an admission fee, only a $2 suggested donation, even though I would be willing to pay admission!

Downtown St. Paul

Landmark Center

We were quite surprised as we made our way to downtown St. Paul. It was St. Pattie's Day, and evidently there is always a huge parade a celebration downtown. It was really busy, but also somewhat exciting. There were tons of people, all in green, and a lot of them were already enjoying the local fare around the bars and pubs. Because of the event we couldn't make it to the Schubert Instrument Museum since it decided to close, but we did grab a late lunch and went to the Science Museum. We were glad we made it to the museum because we got a big discount since it was Thursday after 5. We got to see the regular exhibits, along with the King Tut special exhibit and the IMAX. We were totally worn out and we didn't even see everything! We made our way back to the hotel, and barely made it out in time for a late dinner at Origami, a really good sushi place. It was located in the Warehouse district. Afterwards, we wanted some ice cream, and we eventually found Lexington's Tolly Ho equivalent. At Annie's we ordered a real hot fudge sundae and a half order of fries. We were astonished at the how many fries were with the half order...they were really good, but we only ate a few since we were so stuffed!

I must say that, besides the visit with Jake, the science museum was my favorite part of the whole trip. I am crazy about history and getting to see the most important parts of that history excites me. This tour was reminiscent of the History Channel specials I would watch with my grandfather. It was an amazing exhibit and would encourage anyone to check it out if they are visiting the cities!

Minneapolis Museum of Science


Day 8 Friday:
Schubert Museum
Shop/Dinner/The Madcapper

Schubert Club Instrument Museum in the Landmark Center

The third day of our tour ended in Stillwater, which is about 30 minutes outside of St. Paul. This is where Brad's friend, Jake, is from and lives. First we went to the Schubert Instrument museum in St. Paul since it was closed the day before due to St. Pattys. The museum was really awesome (and free!). It didn't have a lot of things, but what they had was exceptional. They had a room full of antique pianos and harpsichords, a room devoted to a collection of 200 letters they have that composers had written to various people, a room full of antique music players (which they played for us!), a room with an Indonesian gamelan set (that we could play!), and several sculptures made of instruments (I made Brad find an oboe).

Liftbridge in Stillwater

After the museum we headed to Stillwater, which is a very nice town located off the St. Croix River. It was really busy town! Jake said a lot of people come from out of town to enjoy the restaurants and shops downtown on weekends. There were quite a few antique malls, and specialty stores like a nice kitchen wares store and bead shop. Jake, Brad, and I ate at the Freight House, then stopped by a diner for the After Dinner Mint Oreo Malt, and then to Jake's favorite hangout, the Madcapper. It was a nice place and had all you can eat popcorn! Brad sampled some Minnesota beers and I got a local favorite, the Madcapper (Peppermint Pattie) which is hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps. Jake's wife, Meg, came and joined us for a while and it was fun hanging out with them. Afterwards, we went cosmic bowling with Jake, Meg, and some of his coworkers.

This is my second visit to Stillwater. I find the place very interesting and entertaining. This time around I was able to enjoy a bit more of the night life at the Mad Capper and then bowl with a whole group of Jake's friends. The town sits on the river and make for some interesting open spaces and history, both of which I find very exciting and photogenic!

Hanging out with Jake at the Mad Capper
*A special thanks to our friend in Stillwater (Jake & Meg) for showing us around town!

Day 9 Saturday:
Drive Back
Fish Tacos
Movie- "The Producers"

Saturday was spent driving back to Madison, going by the grocery, and cooking dinner. On the way home we stopped by Culver's for a fish sandwich where Brad tried to order 'a number 7'. The lady looked as confused as I was and said 'Sir, we don't have numbers here". Brad was thinking we were at McDonalds (where the fish combo is really an 11!). It was pretty hilarious. We were pretty exhausted after the trip and decided we needed a break after spring break! Tonight we made some fish tacos, broccoli casserole (which Brad gets to eat all week!), and some chocolate chip cookies.

Day 10 Sunday:
Back to Lexington

Sunday morning Brad and I woke up early to drive to the Chicago area where the bus was picking me up. We couldn't believe how much we had done in the week, and that a week ago we were in our pajamas cooking! Even though we both have to get back into the routine with school tomorrow, there is only about 6 weeks left of it. A good thing, but also bad cause there is so much to do!

The bus trip back was nice. It was strange coming back to all this green, blooming greenery, and really warm temps. It means allergy medicine is going to be taken everyday! I've gotten sick from allergies for the past 7 years this same exact week! Hopefully not this year! I felt funny getting off the bus in a pea coat, hat, and scarf, while everyone here was in t-shirts.