Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lazy day at the lake

Nearly every summer since Lauren was just a few months old, we spend a day at Lake Arbutus with my mom and dad. Twice my grandma has been visiting from Texas and has gone with us. Somewhere at home I have a photo with the four generations: Grandma, Mom, me, Erin, and bitty Lauren in her white bonnet.

This is a favorite family tradition, reaching back to when my parents were teenagers and used to spend the day at Arbutus together. I camped there as a kid and now I love going with my own daughters. The air smells like pine and the amber water is always refreshing. We take floats on the lake, and this year Erin is finally old enough to paddle herself out to the swim buoys, though the girls and I prefer getting rides from Dan in the bigger float (which got a hole in it this year but, thankfully, still holds us).

After time on the beach, we get ice cream cones at the camp store and walk through the woodsy grounds. Often we stop at Black River Falls on the way home to buy fresh corn on the cob for dinner, too. We've got great memories from our trips to Lake Arbutus.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eat cheese or die

A trip to Wisconsin always involves hitting up favorite restaurants and a few trips to the grocery store. There are so many delicious foods we find here that we just don't find in many other places: lefse, beer brats with authentic rye brat buns (speckled with sesame seeds, of course) and tangy kraut, Old Dutch dill pickle chips, Coney Island dogs ... mmmmm!

But everybody knows (right?!) that Wisconsin has the best cheese around, and seeing long aisles hosting a wide variety of cheeses at the local grocery store (including plenty of selection from local dairies) is a bit of a culture shock coming from Costa Rica.

We Wisconsinites love our cheeses and are generally mad for tasty little snacks called cheese curds. There are dairies all over the state, making it possible for us to buy curds when they are best—super fresh! The mark of an ideally fresh curd is the squeak one hears when biting into it. If the curd doesn't squeak, it's past its prime.

We love cold cheese curds, but for a real treat we have 'em batter-fried. The cheese gets all hot and melty inside, and wow, how good! Some places (such as Culver's) bread the cheese curds, and while these are good, they're too much like mozzarella sticks and aren't nearly as tasty as those fried in a light, crispy batter.

Batter-fried cheese curds are a standard at Wisconsin fairs. We recently went to the Interstate Fair in West Salem and saw all sorts of fair goodies. We also toured the many animal barns, and at the end of one of the dairy barns, Dan spotted this message plastered onto a trunk with stickers: eat cheese or die.

We love America's Dairyland!

Monday, July 06, 2009

The good ol' summertime

The girls and I have left rainy Costa Rica for a terrific summer in Wisconsin. We've been here for two weeks already (hard to believe!) and are making the most of our time with Mom and Dad in my beautiful home state.

The sun goes down at dinnertime all year in Ticolandia, so we are relishing these gorgeous days and long summer nights. The girls especially have loved swimming at the aquatic center in Onalaska, hitting golf balls on the course at night with Grandpa, and playing softball with everybody.

We've also been out for ice cream (yeah, more than once, I'll admit), saw a local production of High School Musical, and been enjoying the local parks. One afternoon we walked on a trail through the marshes and saw an otter making his way toward the reeds. The weather has been cooperative, with little rain and cool evenings. It's a terrific change from the rainy season back in Costa Rica.

During a picnic lunch this afternoon at the park, I saw movement in the trees out of the corner of my eye. For just a moment I assumed it was monkeys, until I realized that the only monkeys in the park were sitting next to me eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Turned out it was two squirrels chasing each other, but it just shows that we've been in Central America long enough now to be used to seeing the monkeys, sloths, parrots, and other wildlife native to CR.

Of course we went and picked strawberries at Jollivette's again; it just wouldn't be summer here without homemade strawberry shortcake! Dan is coming up next week and has made us promise to save plenty of strawberries for him and to make shortcake then, too. This won't be a problem since Mom, Dad, the girls and I picked 40.44 pounds of berries. The picking is the easy part; it's the cleaning them that takes forever!

Erin was running out of clothes that fit by the time school let out, so we've been doing a lot of shopping. I brought a long list with me when we got here and it's about half done, not including all the school supplies we need to get.

I'm finding shopping—whether for clothes, groceries, or whatever—to be a little bittersweet. It's almost as if I'm going through culture shock shopping in the US on this trip; it's incredible how many bargains there are, how little things cost, and how easy it is to buy everything. I'm thrilled to be shopping but yet frustrated at knowing that soon I'll be back to where it's hard to find what I need for a reasonable cost. All this, and while I love to find great bargains, I'm not even a big shopper!

Switching gears ... I am really happy getting behind the wheel these last two weeks. The roads are smooth, drivers are courteous, and going places is easy. It's a pleasure to drive here and I would say actually relaxing compared to the stressful driving in Costa Rica.

In other news, we've been having a great time eating all the foods we miss so much: Taco John's, Coney Island, brats (with real brat buns and good kraut, of course), cheese curds, lefse, thick slices of ham, homemade mashed potatoes ... the girls get to the grocery store and it's an adventure for them. Erin in particular was stunned at the numerous long freezer aisles (compared to the one side of one aisle we have at the supermarket in CR). Let's hope we don't have to roll ourselves back to Costa Rica!

We have a lot of things planned for the rest of our summer, but truthfully we are just happy to be here in Wisconsin with our family and look forward to Dan joining us soon. As for tonight, I noticed there was a full moon earlier and now can hear the coyotes howling in the hills behind the house. It's good to be home!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

"Star-spangled happiness
and banner waves of pride."

~Cherishe Archer