March 30, 2005

Welcome to Spring

“April Showers bring May Flowers”

While I was posting the previous entry, the tiny piece of sky I can see between the buildings, out my third floor window, turned black. Rain begin to fall. I got up to look out, only to see large debris flying at my head. Other pieces were whipping past my window. “Should I take cover?” I briefly thought. “Or should I go find a bigger window to see what’s going on?” I opted for the bigger window. This was my second storm of the day.

Over my lunch break I headed west to Middleton on a baklava delivery run to my parent’s house. The drive west was a drive from partly sunny into pitch black. As I turned north the clouds directly ahead of me were black, with green behind and a rolling, frothy white front-end. I’ve seen tornados form and drop out of the sky and to me it looked as if I was driving right into a baby tornado.

The frothy clouds were moving fast, descending and swirling. I pulled into my parents house, ran inside and made them come out and look. As we stood there the tornado warning sirens started to sound.

Inside we turned on the news and saw the red cell a little to our north, headed towards Waunakee, (the next town up). It started to rain and then hail. Not little hail but marble to 1 inch in diameter hail, coming down thick and hard. We stood in the breezeway and watched. It began raining harder.

Their sidewalk, driveway and yard filled with water. We watched the radar as a second storm cell came in. More rain, more giant hail. It sounded like someone hammering the roof. Out their front windows, the lake steamed, still covered in ice. Clouds of vapor, moving in the opposite direction to the sky clouds, rolled onto shore, enveloping the houses west of us.

Ten minutes later the rain had stopped, the temperature had dropped about 15 degrees and things seemed stablized. I tiptoed through the water to my car and drove back to work. Blocks away from the office the streets became bone dry. Seven miles away it hadn’t rained a drop. Until now.

**Note: While the tornado was fully formed, it never touched down. Good news for all.

Charette

On Monday I was asked to write a small article for work about current goings on with my team and projects. This is a topic I’m intimately familiar with and it only needed to be 2-3 paragraphs. I couldn’t write a word. Completely frozen. Sometimes it is the easy things that seem insurmountable.

What brought me out of my mind blank was writing about the concept of a charette. I am using an approach commonly found among architects, to involve the community in a new project, while moving the project from planning to building.

I learned about charettes from Claire Ann, who in turned had learned about them from her brother-in-law, an architect of public libraries. I love the concepts behind a charette: listen, envision and build.

I conducted a series of charettes last fall, the results of which provided me with the foundation and landscape for a 1500 page web site. A web site built on the end users ideas has made the end users happy and excited. I believe the whole charette process has been very positive for me, my team and the site users.

March 29, 2005

Round Tummies In the Sun

Sunday I hosted a waffle brunch at my house for Easter refugees. One friend, who I had not seen in almost a year, came in and said, “Is that the same cat you had before? She’s so fat I didn’t even recognize her.”

My cat would be happy to hear it. Getting fat has been primary objective number one this winter. She and I have enjoyed a lovely winter of fatty foods and lounging.

She’s always had a fussy tummy. I had her on a food this fall made of cranberries, garlic, echinacea and a little bit of chicken. On that food, she became skinnier and skinnier, light and bony, no matter how much she ate. A couple months ago I switched her to a sensitive stomach food, so greasy and good. It was like being fed candy for every meal. She was in heaven and the weight went on with glee.

I’ve now switched her to something a little more balanced. For weeks after this latest switch she has pouted by her dish. Well, how would you feel if you were fed big slices of chocolate cake and then poof, only carrots and celery sticks? You’d pout too.

My weight gain plan has been a little more subtle, four months of hosting a green monster in my head. It takes a lot of energy to grow a goo ball large enough to take on the world. While the growing was happening and the subsequent battling back, I’ve spent a great deal of time resting, sleeping and moving slowly. And let’s face it, eating. Yes, eating, eating foods that taste good, that make me feel good or are easy to make.

I’m adopting the attitude of my cat. Have you seen my round tummy? I’m so proud of it. I worked hard to get this tummy. This tummy is evidence that life is good, that I’ve been fed on cheesecake and shortbread waffles.

After the guests left Sunday afternoon my cat and I took a nap on my bed, curtains open to the afternoon sun, our round tummies proudly exposed to the world, little smiles curling the tips of our mouths.

March 25, 2005

SukhoThai

For its size and Wisconsin location, Madison overflows with wonderful, ethnic food options. With all the choices, I seem to end up at the same few places over and over. I get stuck on the last great meal. I need to go back and have it again and again, instead of moving on, moving around and sampling something new. I justify the obsessing by telling myself that going back to my latest favorite assures me an excellent meal, while a new place might just be good or even mediocre.

My obsessions lately have been Laotian curry from Lao Laan Xang, Ethiopian mush at Yirgalem and Indian flat bread at Maharaja. This past week I ventured into “new” territory, kinda.

Last summer I fell in love with a Thai food cart on Library Mall. They had the perfect combo box, half filled with a light and tangy pad thai, half filled with a thick, flavorful squash curry in coconut sauce. It was perfection on many summer days. The cart is from SukhoThai. The restaurant has been around since 1994, with a food cart since 1997. Like I said, I’m slow to change my patterns.

For some reason, I had never connected the goodness of the cart with the potential goodness of the actual establishment. It finally dawned on me Wednesday night. I dragged a half full, very tired SB with me to sample the fare.

The restaurant occupies two old store fronts in a largly student area. Directly inside is a little Thai Food grocery store, behind which is a large kitchen, open to see the cooks working on big pots of fragrant food. Right next to the door are crates of beautiful mangos for sale and a sign saying they will slice and serve perfectly ripe mangos to you for only $2. The smells coming from the kitchen and thoughts of creamy mango made me giddy to begin the meal.

The dining room, painted in red and hung with Thai art was everything I would expect, nice, warm but not fancy. As I paged through the hefty menu, I was disappointed to not find many vegetarian items, until I reached the second half, entitled “Vegetarian Menu”. Ahhh… foiled by my cover to cover reading style.

So many options! I went for the Pad Rom Mit -The ultimate vegetable dish! Tofu stir-fried with carrots, baby bok choy, peapods, two types of mushrooms, onions, green onions, napa, broccoli, and bean sprouts, in a mild soy-based sauce.

I’ve had very similar dishes at other restaurants but tend to be disappointed at the greasy, heavy and bland presentation. I was not to be let down here. The vegetables were lightly cooked. The sauce accented the vegetables with a tangy sweetness, just tingling hot. The after taste was equally clean and light, without a hint of greasiness.

SB ordered a pineapple curry with chicken, a favorite dish of his from other restaurants. He was surprised at the runny consistency of the coconut sauce here and the lack of potatoes. Considering it was his second dinner, and he had vowed he wasn’t going to eat it, he polished off half his entree, saying it was light and flavorful.

For dessert we shared half of a fresh mango, cubed and served with forks. A perfect end note for a lovely meal.

I think I’ve found a new obsession, and with so many vegetarian options, I’ll be demanding my veggi friends join me for more thai.

March 22, 2005

The Kitchen Doors

This past Christmas I collaborated with a friend on designing and building a set of kitchen cabinet doors. We finished them on the eve of Christmas eve and off they shipped. I’ve been waiting to see photos of our success/failure ever since.

The tall doors with the semi-transparent insets, those are the ones. They look better than even I expected. We fashioned these doors out of pine boards, cut and routered to size. The inset is plexi-glass, cut to size from large sheets used to cover light fixtures in drop ceilings.

Since we did all the work ourselves, each door was very inexpensive. If I owned a house, I’d totally play with the idea of having glass insets in my cabinet doors and filling them with some sort of mosaic or paper collage. It’d be very exciting.

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