No, not Christmas...REI Dividend Time!! That miraculous event that comes every year toward the end of February/beginning of March when the fine people at Recreational Equipment Inc. send us notice of our 10% co-op dividend. Our dividend was fairly small this year (because we got all the gear we wanted/needed for the wedding...I am definitely not complaining about that). However, when combined with $250 in gift cards leftover from the wedding and a 20% off-the-most-expensive-item-in-your-cart coupon we are sitting pretty!! We have literally been waiting since October to put these cards to good use and waiting (rather impatiently) for the dividend. So, here's what we ordered this year:
REI Quarter Dome T3 Tent
3 man, 3 season, 4 pound backpacking tent. Enough room for the humans, the dogs, and our packs. Mike's aunt and uncle already gave us the footprint for our wedding, so we're all set!
Keen Arroyo Sandals
Because I hate wearing socks while hiking in the summer...but I'm tired of stubbing my toes and getting poked by sticks.
Open Country 2-5 Cup Coffee Perk
Early last summer Mike went to pour out the coffee grounds from our little cheapy French press and the whole thing fell apart. It was time for an upgrade!

One Cup Coffee Maker
Because Mike hates instant coffee while backpacking.
I wish I could say that we were set gear-wise....but we'll be getting a bike rack for the car before our trip West this summer, and down the road (hopefully before next winter) we want a four-season tent and snowshoes.

I work at Southwest Wisconsin Technical College in Fennimore, WI. Fennimore has a population of 2500. I've decided that, today anyway, Fennimore is a city (town? village? hamlet?) of contrasts. I was driving back from a meeting and in the middle of a "major" intersection was a very large round bale of hay. And three cops. And several people. It was causing a traffic jam. I found this absolutely hysterical at the time (I'm still adjusting to rural life) and had to call my urban dwelling friends. On the other hand, I stopped into one of the bakeries (The Cottage Baker, to be precise) and bought two loaves of bread. One, called "Shepherd's Loaf" is the absolute closest thing I've ever tasted to the really really good french bread some bakeries in Paris produce. Not as crusty, but the aroma and flavor were dead on. I also stopped at Carr Valley cheese and bought a blue sheep's milk and a smooth, nutty goat's milk. yes....Paris-like bread and hay bale traffic jams. Ah, Fennimore...truly "the city on the move." (I have no idea what that means by the way, I assume it has something to do with that train in the photo).

Yes, yes, this is becoming a hikes-we-take-on-the-weekend blog, but it's been a long week. Some non-hiking highlights:
1) I spent most of the week in Stevens Point at a conference with Mike's middle school track coach.
2) Mike stabbed a rather deep hole in his hand with a drill while working at his aunt and uncles this week.

And some photos from today's hike at Nelson Dewey. This is possibly my FAVORITE place to hike in winter. We've yet to ever see another soul in the park while we are hiking, including rangers. It is pretty nice!

The weekend didn't turn out quite as expected. We'd planned to head to Madison Friday night, stay with our friends Sarah and Joe, go to their church dance Friday and rock climb and hike on Saturday. Unfortunately, Sarah was ill this weekend so those plans were nixed. We did get in a nice hike at Governor Dodge today (Sunday) and the slushy (and rapidly disappearing) snow, GREEN watercress on the melty streams, and drippy icicles make me think that spring will show up again at some point. Of course, "some point" probably means mid-April.
Look closely...there is GREEN watercress on that not frozen stream. GREEN. As in SPRING.
Stephen's Falls at Governor Dodge State Park.
The waterfall is flowing and Mike is pretending he can walk on (very cold) water.

Okay, there are still some ginormous icicles. But they're drippy.
Risking my life to see the drippy giant icicles. I saw that episode of Grey's Anatomy....

The Rock Spring House. The best place to cool off during summer hikes.

I hate these signs. Particularly when there is no actual snow on the "ski" trail.

On an unrelated note, Mike's good friend Schrader and his girlfriend Maggi (of a gazillion years) got engaged last night, on Valentine's Day. We are both extremely happy for them. My Valentine didn't disappointed either...I got flowers, sushi, and a ginormous bag of Peanut M&Ms (my fav).

Kids on bikes, dads out grilling, car windows rolled down, toddlers at the playground, guys playing bball and showing off their pasty legs, everyone (and dog) in town out on a walk. Yep, its just another sixty degree February day in Wisconsin.

I'll say this...we certainly aren't a population to squander a fabulous day...which is good, because it's supposed to snow again on Thursday.

My friend Danielle does these fabulous drawings from photographs. I was so excited to hear she was going to start selling her artwork and commissioned three drawings from photographs of my semester abroad in France in 2003. My mom also commissioned two drawings from a recent trip to Ireland. She did our drawings in her "whimsical" style, but also does more realistic drawings as well. In case you're interested, her website is

The following are from Annecy, one of the most beautiful and popular resort towns of the French Alps located on Lac D'Annecy.

Below are two photos/drawings of locations in Ireland. I'll have to find out just where these were taken.

We went to Dubuque for some odds and ends this afternoon. Menards was having a "15% off everything you can fit into this tiny green bag" sale. At least the bag was tiny by Menards product standards. A bathtub could not have fit into the bag. Lumber could not fit into the bag. Carpet could not fit into the bag. But we fit everything we needed into the bag. And now all of our light switches have covers and we have many many lightbulbs and luckily spray paint is not too large. But I digress. Somehow we ended up at Old Navy and then Target. Neither Mike nor I enjoy shopping. Particularly for clothing. However, between the two of us we purchased SEVEN pairs of pants. I don't remember the last time I bought TWO pairs of pants in one outing (and by "outing" I mean a foray into online shopping). Granted, four of the seven pairs (that's 57%, folks) were under ten bucks and Mike is pretty sure the last time he bought pants was in high school. But this was some heavy duty below-the-belt shopping. It was exhausting. I came home and fell asleep.
Mike is now playing an inane Wii game he got today, probably to console himself after all the time spent in the dressing room. The game involves insane rabbits. The rabbits do things like have tractor races and judge your dance moves. I'm so glad we have curtains so the neighbors can't see us dancing around the living room to the Austin Powers theme song.

Near record temperatures was almost 50 (or maybe it was 50). Lambeau and I went hiking with our friends Sarah and Joe and their dogs Rusty and Rooke at Governor Dodge. Mike had to go to a day-long CPR/First Aid class so he couldn't come.

Sarah and Joe

Rusty Roo


Me and 'Beau

On an unrelated note, I worked at the Fennimore Energy Fair this morning..."Save Money, Save Energy, Save the Planet." In the spirit of the fair, here are some of the windmills from the Montfort Windfarm. In further renewable energy news, Mike is currently up at the shop working on a solar collector. It looks fancy and involves a blowtorch.

More progress on the house! Bookshelves, coffee table, clocks, curtains, shades, end tables, night stands etc. I put most of the furniture together all by myself. Go me. Living room will eventually have a small consule table to hold my custom built purple iMac aquarium.

Living room - painting, bookshelves, coffee table, shadowboxes. Look - we've got blinds (high efficiency ones)!
No more Carroll Family Variety Hour for the neighbors.
New living room clock (covering up an unsightly outlet cover in the middle of the wall)

Improved "wine shrine"

Kitchen clock and valance (there are blinds under there too)
New curtains and blinds in bedroom.

Mike cooks glorious weekend breakfasts pretty much every weekend. Sometimes I help. Sometimes I don't. Today I helped. (Actually, saying "breakfast" might be pushing it a bit. Generally these food-coma-inducing-feasts get kicked off around noon. This "morning" was no exception.) This is definitely going to require a hike this afternoon!

On the menu today:
Spinach and mushroom omelets
Hash browns
Bacon (for Mike, anyway)
Coffee & Tea