Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Summer I Fell in Love with Milwaukee

Recently I have taken to labeling my summers. For instance "the summer I fell in love with Christopher" - 2008, "the summer we moved to Franklin" - 2010, "the summer we drove ALL over Wisconsin" - 2011.

The summer of 2012 is "The Summer I Fell in Love with Milwaukee." (My husband still says that Milwaukee the armpit of Wisconsin but I believe he is softening.)

We had decided early in the summer to try to stay put in Milwaukee, planning to take short trips about once a month to see family. We knew that Christopher needed uninterrupted weeks of studying and we just wanted to stay home a little bit more.

We moved a little over a month ago into a cute little house and perhaps that helped my infatuation become love. We now have a Milwaukee address which simply makes me happy. I love that we live close enough to Lake Michigan to be able to visit it several times a week. I love that we live within walking distances to the library, several grocery stores, many restaurants and Target. I love that while Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in America, the grocery store down the street has as many Spanish signs as English signs. (We moved from a blue area to a yellow area according to that map.)  I love that there are many things going on in the summer, especially the free things.

But most of all, I love the people - and by that, I mean "our" people. I love our friends and i think they are pretty wonderful. It makes me feel at home knowing that there are people in our corner. People who like to play games, people who like to cook as much as my husband does, people who stop over just because they can.

My brother and sister-in-law's family are in the middle of moving and a pretty big life transition. It reminds me of when we moved to Milwaukee. Last week I hosted a get-together with the new spouses of PhD students. Only one women was brave enough to say "I really need friends." I remember that feeling and I'm sure it was echoed from around the room. Moving is hard. Change is difficult. It's an up-hill climb; the breeze may be nice and you may enjoy the scenery along the way but it is still work. I think that we have reached the top of that hill. We can stand there and look back and know that the climb made us stronger.

I am aware that while we may be at the top of the hill, others are not, which allows us to offer encouragement and friendship. 

And Milwaukee? my love affair will continue - with pumpkins, apples, bike rides by the lake and cool evenings on the front porch.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A weekend of extremes

I had planned to write a post titled "the summer I fell in love with Milwaukee" but that one will have to wait. Right now I think the weekend is much more interesting.

Friday night I went out with a small group of girls to watch "Grease" on a huge outside screen with about half of the people in downtown Milwaukee. This was really fun and certainly not extreme but was part of my weekend (and goes to show how little time I've spent alone in the last three days).

On Saturday I canvased local farmer's markets looking for 8 bushels, approximately 400 pounds of tomatoes in preparation for Sunday's tomato extravaganza. My co-workers and I have been planning a huge tomato canning day for awhile now and I'm a little impressed that we actually pulled it off. For anyone local: West Allis had the best selection and I convinced a farmer to give me nice bushels for the price we had been paying for seconds. We will go back to this place next year. Since I went to the West Allis market alone, I was super thankful for my co-workers push cart to get everything to my car.

Saturday night we had a house warming/end of summer picnic at our house. We invited a lot of people and about 35 people showed up, including many families new to Marquette as well as our neighbor girl who didn't understand the concept of veggie burgers. We had a great time and I am especially thankful for a husband and a friend who made and cooked all the veggie burgers. It was neat to have a houseful of friends and entertaining to watch the kids and dogs (our friends brought their puppy who is one of Loki's few doggie friends) run all around. 

Sunday was the tomato extravaganza. We had approximately 9 bushels (450 pounds of tomatoes), two pressure canners, two water bath canners, two propane heat sources, one grill, two food processors, one huge turkey fryer pot and one equally huge wooden paddle/spoon to stir. About 16 hours later we ended up with about 240 jars of various sizes filled with various kinds of tomatoes. It was crazy!!! There were six of us so the yield is about 40 jars a piece. Needless to say, in the event of a zombie apocalypse, we will survive on salsa. We even have some tomatoes left over -- after the three ladies who had to work that night left, we remaining three decided to conveniently forget about the remaining two small boxes in the garage. We are already talking about a big apple canning day in a few months but we all need some time to recover first.

Now I'm sitting on the couch with Loki trying to decide what to tackle around here. We have lots of tomatoes from our CSA box and I may just make some salsa. True story.