Saturday, September 29, 2007

Basically, bragging about kitchen-related endeavors and the fact that I have a job.

Matt and I have been trying our hand(s) at cooking, with mixed results. I think he is a little more excited about it than I am, except when it comes to the slow cooker--I am sort of obsessed with that thing. I got one about a month ago and also ordered a cookbook called "The 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes." This cookbook is SO FREAKIN AWESOME. First of all, it's ridiculously simple. I think the hardest thing I've had to do thus far is cut sweet potatoes into 3/8" cubes (and yes, that's kind of hard--but then again, I am a terror with sharp objects and our red Kitchen Aid knives, while adorable, are basically murder weapons). Second of all, it thrills me to come home to a finished meal. I really prefer to do the food preparation the night or morning before; it's so exciting to come home from work to a house that smells like sweet potato and barley risotto and then to be able to just sit down and eat it whenever you want.

Anyway, we've made a couple things we really liked. Chili was one--clearly a good choice for the slow cooker. Then I made this sweet potato and carrot dish with a chick pea topping, and it was amazing--probably my favorite so far. We've done a couple of the barley recipes but Matt didn't think they were flavorful enough. I liked them because they taste so healthy and hearty but they are, admittedly, vaguely reminiscent of baby food. This week I think we're going to try one of the curries, which will hopefully be a little more interesting. If anyone has any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes (or just easy veggie recipes, in general), please pass them on! To be honest, I like trying to do new things as long as they don't require bizarre and/or specific techniques (I can beat things, I can chop things, don't ask me for much more than that) or require a ton of ingredients that I've never heard of before.

I'll switch gears and talk a little about employment. When we got here I really wasn't all that worried about finding a job. Honestly, my standards were low; I wanted benefits, halfway decent pay, and a job that would be good for just one year since I'm planning on going back to school full time, assuming I get accepted, next summer. I was sort of shocked at the lack of response as I started filling out applications and sending out resumes like a crazy person, and eventually I was feeling desperate and took a job at a coffee shop in the Milwaukee Art Museum. This was not, as it turns out, a terrible idea. The Milwaukee Art Museum is pretty spectacular for a small scale museum; the coolest part of the building, where I happen to work, was added in 2001 and designed by an apparently very famous architect, Santiago Calatrava. Here's a picture from the MAM website.

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I actually met a man from California the other day who had come to Milwaukee only to see this building because he's an architect himself and loves Calatrava. I thought that was pretty cool. Anyway, the coffee cart where I work is in a very beautiful stretch of hall lined with big windows that look out at Lake Michigan. Here are a couple pictures I took.

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Not bad, huh? It's really a pretty chill job. My boss is a young entrepreneur who knows EVERY restaurant worth going to in Milwaukee. This has already come in handy for us; he recommended the Pfister hotel for brunch and we went with my sister two weekends ago--it's fantastic. Also, I can make a MEAN capuccino and get more than my fair share of free coffee.

Inevitably, as soon as I took the coffee shop job I got an interview for a job with the Wauwatosa School District as a Special Education Aide. I had no idea what this would entail, but as it turned out the particular school I'll be working at is located at Milwaukee Mental Health and serves children and young adults who are inpatients at the Milwaukee Child and Adolescent Treatment Center. Basically, kids with psychiatric disorders. Once I realized this, I became terribly excited. Having a Dad who's a shrink, I love this kind of stuff and I know I will find it interesting, at the very least. We get to participate in rounds each morning with doctors and nurses to get the low down on our students; most of the kids are only short-term, so each week, or even each day, we'll have a different group. I'll be working with ages 3-21 (seriously). In short, I won't be bored. I start on Monday and I'm really excited to see what it's all about. Also, they're giving me health insurance--YAY. But I'm still going to work at the coffee shop once a weekend, for some extra money, and because I have some ongoing bets with museum employees involving NFL football (DOWN with the Packer backers).

In conclusion, I now have two (meager) sources of income and I'm very glad to put friends and family (mostly family) at ease--no, I'm not going to starve out here, I swear. I might freeze, though. That's a whole different story.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happenings in Wauwatosa

I was sort of over the whole blog thing but I find that recently I have so much I wish I could share with friends and family about our experiences out here in Wisconsin. So I think that I'll just share, and people can read or not read, and I hope it's not too terribly dull. I guess the thing is, this move doesn't only represent a (pretty extreme) change in location, at least not for me; perhaps more interesting are the little changes that have accompanied our new circumstances: being out of 'the nest' again (finally), cooking for ourselves, learning to live together, figuring out education and career stuff, making new friends, etc. And all of that on top of the fact that there are so many interesting and curious things about Milwaukee, and about the midwest in general, that I'm learning every day. AND the fact that Matt's in medical school, which (I'm coming to realize) is such an extreme circumstance in and of itself.

So, those are my excuses for starting this blog. To be honest, the real impetus was a run I took yesterday that led me to Hi Mount Road, or maybe two blocks of Hi Mount Road, on the edge of the Washington Highlands. The Highlands consist of about a square half mile of truly lovely (and large) homes, many of them designated historic sites; this neighborhood conveniently begins right across the street from us so I run through it fairly often and lust after the elegant English tudor and colonial revival-style houses and well-manicured yards. Here are a couple pictures of some of the houses--these aren't the best, actually, so I'll try and take some better ones soon.

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Anyway, back to Hi Mount Road--I don't think it's technically part of the Highlands. It's a little farther east. The houses are similar in scale but a little older, I think, and they are set even further back off the road. The entire street is covered with a canopy of huge old trees, which is, I think, why I like it so much. Most roads in Wauwatosa are tree-lined in an almost movie-set sort of way, but this street in particular is almost forested. It's absolutely beautiful. I'll post a picture as soon as I get the chance to take one because I'm clearly lacking in my verbal explanation.

The reason I wanted to write about this street is that it kind of represents all the things I am coming to love about Wisconsin. I didn't expect it to be so beautiful here. We live in a suburb, but it is nothing like a California suburb--the houses are old, and they are all unique, and they were built in a way that leaves space for the trees (which, since it's starting to be fall, are truly spectacular). People are out in their yards all the time, and the yards don't tend to be fenced with 9 foot security fences like they are in the west. We have little kids running through our backyard daily, going from one neighbor's house to the other, and I love it (so does Vinny--he's made some fast friends). Maybe the real word for it all is 'charming.' And it's not surface-level charming, either. We've been here almost two months now and I keep finding new things I love about it.

I'll try not to go off the deep end about Wisconsin's wonders. Clearly, California remains possibly the best state ever invented and pretty much everyone I meet out here would rather be there than here. But it's heartening to move to a completely different place and immediately become aware of its virtues, rather than its shortcomings, and to realize that there are places outside of California that are worth living in, and that it's actually refreshing to escape the west coast for a while.

I have so many other things to talk about, namely: jobs, wine club, the countless joys of the slow cooker (I swear), and the approaching winter (ominous, at best). But I'll have to do that later. I'll leave you with a picture of our house, taken just today. It's no historical site, but I like it. (We're on the left.)

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