Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday's Bike Ride

As a result of leaving the house early -- 7:15 a.m. -- I managed to catch an hour and a half of sunshine before gray clouds took over.

The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Meeting House of the First Unitarian Society of Madison. (I heard organ music as I took this picture.) Wright was commissioned to design the building in 1946. Construction began in 1949, and the project was completed in 1951. An expansion project is currently underway.

I think this is the Lake Mendota side of the Elizabeth Waters Residence Hall. Designed in 1937, occupied in 1940, it remained a residence for women until 2006. Liz Water is "in the middle of everything", just as Middleton is "in the middle of it all".

The finger of land sticking into Lake Mendota known as Picnic Point. A brief history is found here. A detailed history is found here. Photos (not mine) are here.

UW-Madison's Science Hall . Constructed in 1887, it was the first completely fire-proof building on the campus. The first time I taught the UW-SLIS Reference and Information Services course (September-December 1997), the class met in one of the basement classrooms of this building.

A "blah" picture of the Memorial Union Terrace. Twelve hours earlier, this place would have been a mob scene.

Every time I see this side of Memorial Library, the following TV program comes to mind.

Bethel Lutheran Church, one of Madison's best examples of ecclesiatical architecture. Mom and Dad used to love to attend services here during their occasional visits to Wisconsin.

It was a very quiet morning on the Capitol Square.

The skyline view that locals love to show off to their out-of-town friends.

Biking through the Arboretum, I sometimes felt as though I was in Florence County in northern Wisconsin

Nakoma Normal Revival. Take a tour of homes in the comfort of yours. (Click on site 16 for more information about this beautiful house, built in 1929 for Louis Gardner, founder of the Gardner Baking Co .)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Friday Bike Ride

Yesterday's route kept me within hailing distance of University Avenue, for the most part.

Until he was 3 years old, Andy attended Kids Play Preschool, which was then located in what used to be the parish hall of St. Raphael's Cathedral. On the many occasions when I would pick him up and drive him home, passing by this building became something of a ritual for us.

"There's the White Building," one of us would say.

Not the round building, mind you, which is obviously its most prominent feature. It was always the White Building. (Officially, it's known as the Pyare Square Building. It had ruled the Hilldale area skyline for nearly 40 years, until the construction of the Ghost Condo, the top two stories of which loom in the center-right background.)

In my effort to find an alternative route to State Street, I encountered this minor construction delay in the vicinity of University Hospital and the Waisman Center.

Remember when the site of the Fluno Center (above left) was a dusty open space? The building is a prime example of the latest trend in urban planning, the high density vertical city. As is the new University Square building (above right). According to a 5/23/2008 UW-Madison news release, the retail and housing parts of the University Square redevelopment are expected to open this fall, with the university's $57 million wing opening in January 2009. The campus portion will house student services including University Health Services, and offices for the registrar, bursar, financial services and a student activity center.

I exited the Southwest Commuter Trail at Virginia Terrace and entered the southwest corner of the beautifully tree-shaded, architecturally rich Regent neighborhood, a few block south of West High School. Mayor Dave's neighborhood.

In a way, it's a shame that these views of Madison West High School aren't what people see as they pass by on Regent Street. The exterior is a beautiful example of 1920s era architecture. (Though I'm sure the interior spaces have left much to be desired since at least the 1960s.)

In order to remain competitive in the Madison retail marketplace, the Hilldale Shopping Center has undergone a transformation from partially enclosed mall to lifestyle center, the latest trend in the development of the shopping center. The Hilldale Row perspective (first of 4) features townhouse condos built on what used to be a surface parking lot. The 2nd picture shows an entrance framed by two not-so-attractive parking ramps, the brick facades notwithstanding. A "live" version of the 3rd photo, in which a woman is pushing a stroller, is found here. And this post concludes with a view of the Ghost Condo and White Building standing sentinel over the Hilldale's urban landscape.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Eddie's Picture Day

Eddie's sitting for his senior pictures took place this afternoon. In honor of the occasion, I took these two shots just before he left.
Unlike days or yore -- during the summer before my senior year in high school, for example -- mulitple changes of clothing is now de rigueur.
I think the Studious Guy is ready for his close-up.

The Vegetarian Saga Continues

The Leftovers
(The plate is 7 inches in diameter.
They aren't the lunkers they appear to be.)

On Monday after work, it was simply a matter of trying to do two things at once. I couldn’t give both tasks the focus they needed.

I started dinner preparations first, opening up a package of frozen spinach, dropping the green brick into pan, adding a quarter cup of water, and turning up the gas burner to high, as the direction specified.

“Why don’t you and Eddie put in the air-conditioner now?” I asked Andy as he walked through the kitchen.

We are expecting a three-day stretch of hot, humid weather. The temperature will reach the upper 80s, so it won’t be a scorching heat, but enough to want to add some artificial cooling to the house. (After 10 years, our monster window unit is still going strong.)

In the middle of chopping up 2 tablespoons worth of onion and a clove of garlic, I helped the boys position the a-c into one of the windows by the dining table. Once we secured it, and after the boys had wandered off to the family room, I thought the unit looked a little bit off-center, enough so that the plastic panels would leave a slight gap on the left side. I know that I’ve made this kind of adjustment on my own in the past, but I must have been thinking about continuing the dinner preparations. All of the sudden, as I attempted to shift it very gently – or so I thought – to one side, the a-c nearly popped out of the window. In the process, the glass of one of the storm windows shattered. None of the shards hit my arms or hands, fortunately.

The boys quickly responded to my call for help. At my request, they removed the unit from the window while I “borrowed” one of the storm windows from the neighboring frame. Otherwise, we would have ended up with a bug superhighway leading straight into the house.

It took less than five minutes to get everything back in order.

Then I was able to complete the preparations for Spinach Cream Enchiladas, which earned “best vegetarian entrée so far” reviews from JoAnna and Eddie. (Incorrigible carnivore Andy had other dinner plans.) I’ll even venture to say that these enchiladas are as good, if not better than, the ones that my sister Barb used to make nearly 30 years ago during the early Spruce Street years in Oshkosh.

(30 years! Sometimes it doesn’t seem that long ago when I drove from Springfield to Oshkosh with all of my possession stuff into a 1976 Datsun B-210.)

And here’s the recipe for the …..

Spinach Cream Enchiladas


1 package frozen spinach, cooked, drained well and chopped
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 or 3 pickled jalapeno slices, finely chopped
1 tablespoon juice from pickled jalapenos
1 4-oz. can chopped green chilies
1 3-oz package cream cheese
Salt to taste
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
8 corn tortillas
1 cup ancho chile sauce or
1(10-ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 cup heavy cream

Sauté onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and cook a minute or two more. Add chopped spinach, jalapenos, jalapeno juice and green chilies. Mix and stir until heated through. Turn heat to low and add cream cheese. Stir until cheese is melted and incorporated into the mixture. Taste and add salt as needed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Soften the tortillas. Dip each side in the enchilada sauce. Stack on a plate until ready to assemble the enchiladas.

Make the enchiladas in one baking dish. Spoon about 1/4 cup spinach mixture in each tortilla and roll up. Place rolled tortilla on sauce in baking dish, open side down. Continue until all tortillas are rolled and placed in baking dish. Pour the cream over rolled tortillas and sprinkle with the cheese. Bake in 400 degree oven until cheese is melted and cream is bubbling. This dish can be prepared ahead and heated when ready to serve.

The Professional Recipe Photo

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Eddie’s Vegetarian Diet, Day 2.

What do I do for an encore?

That was the question I repeatedly asked myself Monday evening. Basically, I considered two options. Take the easy way out, and use another one of Heather’s recipes. Or continue to search for something I couldn’t put into words. Unlike the portabella mushroom discovery, no keywords instantly popped into my head to use in a follow-up recipe search.

Easy decision, actually.

I took the easy route, especially since Heather’s Southwestern Vegetable Bake (why is everything a “bake” with her?) nearly pushed the portabella pizzaburgers off Monday’s menu.

Here's the recipe:

¾ cup uncooked brown rice
1 ½ cup water
1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinse and drained
1 can (11 oz) corn (I drained what little liquid was in the can.)
1 can (10 oz) Ro-Tel brand tomatoes and chiles (I drained about half the liquid.)
1 cup salsa (I used Newman’s Own black bean and corn salsa)
1 cup lowfat sour cream
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
¼ tsp. pepper
½ cup chopped red onion
1 can (2.25 oz.) sliced black olives, drained
1 cup (4 0z) shredded Monterey jack cheese

In a large saucepan, bring rice and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 35-40 minutes, until tender.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, pepper, and rice. Transfer to a shallow 2.5 qt baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with onion and olives.

Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with Jack cheese. Bake 5-10 minutes longer. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

As I started to combine the ingredients, I wondered if all the liquid should have been trained from the Ro-Tel can. Once I added the rice, though, the texture seemed perfect.

Then it was just a matter for the bake to take place.

“Five minutes,” an impatient Eddie observed when he glanced at the digital display on the stove’s timer. “Good. I’m hungry!”

“Ahhhhh…sorry….” I returned with self-conscious hesitation. “I still have to sprinkle on the cheese. Then the whole thing has to rest for 10 minutes. It’ll be closer to a half hour before we eat. Have a salad to tide you over,” I suggested.

Eddie directed a look of mock outrage my way and then headed back to the family room, where JoAnna was working on a solicitation for Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s re-election campaign.

For the carnivores, I baked four boneless thighs, seasoned with kosher salt, ground pepper, and Famous Dave’s country roast chicken seasoning. Which turned out to be an unnecessary addition to the menu. JoAnna, Eddie, and I all served ourselves seconds of the casserole, which makes an extremely satisfying meal in itself. If Andy had been home, I think we would have scraped the baking dish clean, which would have forced me to prepare a third vegetarian entrée in three days. (Already picked out, thanks again to Heather.)

At this rate, I’ll soon be ready for my own cooking show – The Retiring Guy’s Kitchen. (Or do I just feel a new blog coming on?)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Eddie's Vegetarian Diet, Day 1

Last week, Eddie, my younger son, designated Monday, June 16th as the day he starts his vegetarian diet.

"You think I'll be up to the challenge?" I asked.

At the time, I wasn't at all sure that I would be.

"You might end up eating a lot of salads," I added, "And tofu."

I didn't give this week's menu planning much thought until D-Day. (Or should that be V-Day.) Shortly after arriving at my office, I scribbled myself a note.

portabella mushrooms diced tomatoes crockpot

Just before walking home for lunch, I googled the above words and found the simplest recipe ever, courtesy of Heather’s Recipe Site. (No crockpot required.)

Portabella Mushroom Bake (or what will now be known in our house as Portabella Pizzaburgers)
4 portabella mushrooms (3-4 inches in diameter; stems removed)
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 cup grated cheese

Place mushrooms, gills up, in a glass baking dish.
Drain tomatoes. Add Italian seasoning and garlic powder to taste. Spoon evenly onto mushrooms.
Sprinkle grated cheese onto tomatoes. (I used a Kraft packaged blend of 5 Italian cheeses.)
Bake for 25 minutes.

On their own, portabella mushrooms are decidedly unappetizing to my eyes – looking about as tasty as tree bark. During the preparation of this recipe, I wasn’t sure if I’d end up eating one. I figured that Andy, my older son, definitely wouldn’t, so I grilled four small chicken breasts in a frying pan with a corrugated bottom and boiled some penne pasta. As a result, everyone was very pleased with the results. Eddie served himself everything but the chicken. Andy, as predicted, avoided the mushroom bake, although I think I might be able to convince him to try it the next time.

And what an inexpensive meal.

$3.49 mushrooms
$1.69 diced tomatoes
$1.50 cheese
$4.77 chicken
$1.00 pasta
$12.45 for the four of us.

Better yet, there was one portabella pizzaburger left over for Eddie’s lunch the following day.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Saturday Morning Bike Ride

Don't ask me why I took this picture, which is a heavily obscured view of Lake Mendota taken from the aptly, if unimaginatively, named Lake Mendota Drive in Shorewood Hills. This small community's best feature is its large inventory of beautiful homes dating from 1927, its year of incorporation. So why isn't there a single house in this picture? (There's one at the end of the long, curving driveway.) Perhaps I feared that I'd be mistaken for a Google 360 photographer and beaten within an inch of my life. Or, at a minimum, have my camera taken from me. I missed a defining picture of Shorewood Hills about a half mile west of this point. Two lakeshore homes side by side. One a McMansion built on the site of a teardown. The other a modest but well-kept home dating back to the village's early years. The smaller structure looks like a beach cottage in comparison.

In the past, I've always skirted Eagle Heights, a sprawling complex of mostly 2-story, UW student apartment buildings with a population of about 3,000 residents. No wonder it seems so much larger when you bike through it.

The J. F. Friedrick Inn & Conference Center, located along the lakeside bicycle/pedestrian path, used to be the site of UW-Madison SLIS's Basic Reference Summer Camp by the Lake. I taught this weeklong course three times but passed the baton four or five years ago. The windows of the 3rd-floor classroom to which I was assigned are obscured by the tree. This year, the course is being offered at the Pyle Center, which is great for the instructors as the FriedrickCenter is technologically challenged.

No, this bike trip wasn't a replay of the "Stopover in a Quiet Town" episode of the Twilight Zone. But you'd think, huh? Where'd everybody go? This photo was taken as I headed toward Memorial Union.

The razing of Ogg Hall. This picture has no sentimental value to me as I didn't attend UW. In fact, I never lived in a highrise dorm when I attended college, except for a 3-day freshman orientation at UB (the old, or what is now called the "South" campus) during the summer of 1968.

Ugly buildings alert. This stretch of redevelopment along Regent Street has always struck me as cold, sterile, and off-putting.

(As you can see, it was clouding up at this point of my bike ride.)
At this point, I headed in the opposite direction along the Southwest Commuter Trail, a veritable interstate highway of bike/pedestrian paths. (I vote for a Northwest Communter Trail, which would directly link Middleton and downtown Madison on an auto-free route.)

Ugly building alert, part 2. The Regent Apartments.

An artless shot taken in Nakoma, one of my favorite Madison neighborhoods, annexed by the City in 1931. This photograph does not do justice to a carefully planned layout of curvilinear (and now leafy) streets lined with beautiful homes in a variety in 1920s-era styles: Dutch Colonial, Tudor, English cottage, American colonial revival, etc.

Most residential neighborhoods -- those without restrictive covenants -- feature at least one home painted in a color that would look out of place even on a circus wagon. Here's an example found on the west side of Madison.

A 2006 assessment of the Westgate Mall is posted here. Working from a 1961 Madison City Directory, I once made a list of the original tenants of this originally unenclosed shopping center. Although I have misplaced -- or tossed -- the list, I recall it having the usual business mix for this type of mid-20th century retail development: grocery store, local department store, drug store, shoe store, cleaners, "5-&-10", women's & men's apparel, candy shop, appliance store, gift shop (more likely a "shoppe") etc.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Latest Views from the Side Yard

Taken before a blizzard of maple keys cover the ground.

(Yesterday Eddie swept and scooped a half-inch carpet of this tree debrise from the patio. I tackled the driveway and filled a trash bag.)

Deb Nelson, library gardener (no relation), has offered to give me a 2-hour consultation as a retirement gift. I told her that this side of the yard is overdue for a makeover. Based on her transformation of the library's landscaping, I'll be eager to implement her suggestions.

The window boxes and hanging baskets are small, but very effective, touches that JoAnna and I added last year. The significantly overhanging eave prevents the plants from receiving any rainwater. And this side of the house, facing south, is by far the hottest. Consequently, remembering to water on a nearly daily basis is a must. (And guess what, I just saw the spout of a watering can enter the frame of the window above the computer monitor. Thanks, Hon!)