Midwest Moment: April Edition

Each month we’ll take a moment…..GET IT…Midwest MOMENT….to share what we’re currently eating, drinking, snacking on, visiting, listening to or reading.

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What We’re Eating

Honestly, I wish we could say that we’re eating something healthy and local like asparagus, but the truth is that we’re currently eating a shit ton of fried pickles. I grew up never really liking pickles. Something about the texture or flavor never appealed to me. As I got older, I really started to enjoy a nice CRISP pickle. Don’t even think about a floppy limp pickle. That is awful and sad. We recently discovered the fried pickles at Monk’s and we haven’t looked back. The spicy ranch that comes on the side makes it one of our favorite appetizers! Plus at only $7.99 it’s also one of the best deals around.

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What We’re Listening To

Since I literally only listen to Taylor Swift the likelihood that you’ll ever actually get music recommendations here is pretty low. EXCEPT if Taylor Swift publishes a new album, then I’ll be MORE than happy to talk about it. But honestly music really isn’t my thing. It’s loud. It gives me a headache and to be 100% honest I would rather just sit in complete silence or listen to a nice audio book. I never said I was cool or anything….

A few months ago we listened to a This American Life podcast about a flute player who broke into a British museum and stole thousands of dollars worth of dead birds. We were both riveted by the podcast and in complete awe of a story so strange it seemed almost made up.

But NOPE. It’s 100% true.

Then just the other week I discovered that a full length book had been written about the same topic. The Feather Thief follows the same story as the podcast, but dives deeper into the madness behind a fly tying community that is so obsessed with rare and exotic bird feathers, that a 24 year old flute student breaks into a British museum to steal dead birds.

Fair warning that the book starts out slow, but quickly picks up steam about an hour in.

Definitely start with the podcast then read or listen to the book after.

The Highlight of 2018

Mike asked me the other day what my highlight of 2018 was.  I think he was expecting me to say something about the dogs or us living together for the first time. Instead, I told him that the highlight of my year was when my awful neighbor moved out.

Romantic and sentimental right?.....

But seriously, ever since I moved into my house six years ago, I’ve had one neighbor who drove my crazy. She would walk her dog as slowly as possible past my house, then stop and take pictures. I’m not joking. For a while I was incredibly creeped out because I would wake up and see a random middle aged women standing in my lawn taking pictures of my house. I finally opened the door one day and just stared at her without saying a word. Being passive aggressive is something I really excel at.  She finally noticed me staring and told me she was taking pictures of my “beautiful” trees. NO ONE BELIEVES YOU, LADY.

Don’t worry… it gets better.

The neighbor decided one day that she wanted to be “green” and start composting. Composting is great! I have nothing against composting. But you see...when most people compost, they buy a bin or container to put the compost in.

Nope.

My neighbor literally just started a “compost” aka, TRASH pile next to the fence separating our lawns. She would dump coffee grounds, banana peels, eggs and TRASH on the pile. Since you know...it was a PILE...it slowly started to migrate from her side of the fence over to my yard. Unsurprisingly, as trash fell into my yard, my dogs started eating it. So I did what any sane person would do, I angrily confronted her about the “compost” pile. She basically said she wasn't going to do anything about it.  So I bought a sheet of plastic to block the fence so trash would stop falling into my yard.

But I had fire burning in my heart. I wanted that compost pile GONE.

In the spring of 2018, I got a faint glimmer of hope. One Saturday, a  U-Haul truck pulled up to her house and people began loading boxes into the truck. I quickly ran and found Mike to show him all the excitement.! He was less than enthused about my obsession with the awful neighbor. I forced him into the car, with the dogs, under the pretense that we were going for a hike...okay we did go for a hike, but FIRST we slowly drove by the neighbor's house.

I stopped. Rolled down my window and said, “Oh no! Are you moving?!

Being fake nice is a talent I got from teaching. Because….guess what...teaching is 99% being fake nice to the kids and parents.

To my shock and horror the neighbor waved, and said “Nope! We’re just cleaning out all the the basement and taking it to storage.”

I think my face visibly fell when she said that.

Fast forward a few months and it’s now summer. One day I notice that I haven’t seen her car around for quite a while. I continue to watch and quickly notice a new women sitting on the back porch a week later.

So I put together a plan.

At the crack of dawn the next morning,  I sneaked over and got rid of the compost pile. I grab my shovel and proceed to frantically shovel load after load of the compost pile into the dumpster.

I’m dripping sweat, in the dark,  as I rush to shovel as quickly as possible because I don’t want to get caught!

I still don’t have confirmation that the neighbor actually moved, so the threat of detection is lurking with every scoop of trash.There were mice living in the pile- but even this didn't detery me. I was determined to get rid of every last piece of trash that had been piling up for six years.  As the sun started to peek over the horizon, I set my shovel down and look at my hard work.

Where there once was a GIANT mound of trash, is now a fresh clean square of dirt.

And I know without a doubt I won the battle.

So if your biggest accomplishment of 2018 was a baby or marriage or promotion. GOOD FOR YOU, because I’m pretty sure I’m still the real winner in all of this. I GOT RID OF THE DAMN TRASH PILE.

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Holiday Gift Guide

Here is the Midwest Munchers Gift Guide.

Honestly, this is just a list of stuff we own that we LOVE and frequently buy for others. If you buy any of the items listed below for someone and they don’t like it, you probably don’t want to be friends with them anyway because they are LOSERS.

Plus everything on this list is less than $50.

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This is the perfect gift for any friend, relative or someone you don’t really know that well. Let’s be honest….we’ve all been there. Everyone likes a $20 gift that involves exploring new bars/breweries and drinking beer. The 2019 Madison PubPass is a small book that gets you a free beer at 20 of the best bars and breweries in Madison, including Karben4, Next Door Brewing, One Barrel Brewing and more.

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The 2019 Milwaukee PubPass costs $25 and gets you a free beer at 25 of the best bars and breweries in Milwaukee. You have all of 2019 to use it so you can travel to bars and try beers at your own pace.

Fun Fact- Mike and I don’t travel anywhere for more than four days, so a Weekender Bag is perfect for us.

I refuse to leave the dogs for any longer than a long weekend. In all actuality, it’s because anyone who watches my dogs can’t walk three dogs, so I basically have to figure out how long my dogs can survive without being walked, then plan from there. I do have a large fenced in yard, so that helps.

Okay. Okay. Okay….even as I type this, I realize how nuts I sound.

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This Weekender Bag is perfect for each of us to bring on any four day trips. It has a large zippered shoe pouch at the bottom of the bag, and inside the bag there are organized compartments. It also comes with a large toiletry case. At less than $50 it’s the perfect nicer gift for anyone you know who travels.

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If you watch our Instastories, you see us playing Dominion A LOT. I actually bought it when we first started dating. We were going on a weekend trip to Door County and I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough to talk about if we spent an entire weekend together.

If you’ve dated as long as I have, you always plan for the worst case scenario.

We both aren’t big board game nerds, so this is the perfect game for beginners who are looking for a quick fun game.

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We spend 50% of our life eating and 50% walking or hiking with the dogs. A Wisconsin State Park pass is only $28 and it’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes to get outdoors or has a dog.

Costco, Coupons and Cutting Costs

One of the frequent questions we get asked is, “how can you afford to eat out so much?”

Financial responsibility folks!

We definitely are frugal with our money. Can you say “Costco and Coupons” three times really fast? I personally have zero debt except for my mortgage. I don’t have credit card debt, student loans or car payments.  I was raised by my accountant father who made it VERY clear from a young age that you don’t buy what you can’t afford. He is also notorious for bringing his own cream cheese to Panera for his morning bagel. My car is almost seven years old. Would a new car be nice? Probably, but I don’t need one and I would much rather spend my money doing fun things with Mike or paying for my dog's incredibly expensive vet bills.

99% of my clothes are from Poshmark and the few items I splurge on are great quality clothes from Title Nine. Even then, I wait until their annual warehouse sale, where I drop $500 and call my wardrobe “good’ for a few years.  

The other day Mike looked at me and said, “I don't think anything in your house is new.”

Hellllll no.

Everything I own is basically hand me downs from my family or furniture purchased off of Craigslist. I regularly purchase very nice Pottery Barn rugs and furniture off of Craigslist. Get this….rich people like to “remodel” and get rid of all their nice furniture for new stuff. That’s when I swoop in.

I do REALLY REALLY REALLY want a King sized bed, and a bed is one thing I would NEVER buy off Craigslist. A girl has got to have some standards.

P.S. If you are purchasing anything off of Craigslist, make sure to first Google Map the address and check that it is a NICE neighborhood. You can then avoid my first Craigslist adventure of ending up in a very shady neighborhood looking at a couch that most likely had bed bugs. Learned my lesson pretty quickly on that one.

Also, always drag your boyfriend or father along on any Craigslist transaction so that you don’t get kidnapped or murdered. My poor dad is routinely asked to come along with me to pick up furniture. It doesn’t hurt that he has a van.

We also balance eating out so often by cooking frugal meals at home. We rarely cook with meat, and if we do, we only use organic local meat. Shout-out to Fischer Family Farms! I passionately hate wasting food, so most meals we make build off the leftovers from a previous meal. I rarely pick a totally random recipe and go to the store to buy all the ingredients. The other night we had brussel sprouts from our CSA in the fridge, along with butternut squash ravioli and chicken sausage from Costco. We roasted the brussel sprouts in the oven. Topped them with parmesan cheese and tossed them with pan sauteed chicken sausage and the ravioli. We finished it with a drizzle of balsamic. Did we use a recipe? Nope! We literally based the entire meal around the fact that we had great organic brussel sprouts sitting in the fridge that needed to be used. I posted the completed meal on Instagram and a few people messaged asking for the recipe. I excitedly told Mike that maybe I should start posting my impromptu recipes that weren’t really recipes. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well you could do that, but you would have to disclose to people that the meals only turn out 60% of the time.”

Sooooooo yes. Cooking like this is definitely an adventure. Also, I would put the success rate at closer to 80%. Just sayin….

But along with being frugal, we also have put together a list of deals and steals for eating out. 

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One of our favorite thing to do is go out to dinner early and hit up happy hour. Most restaurants have great happy hour deals that can easily become a meal. The Avenue Club and Bubble Up Bar has great half price apps during happy hour, like these garlic, spinach, and cheese-stuffed mushrooms topped with Parmesan cheese and toasted bread crumbs.

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Forequarter has $5 cheeseburgers and tacos during their happy hour. They even make their own homemade corn tortillas.

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There are also great rotating daily deals at different restaurants around Madison. The bar at Estrellon has a Wednesday night cheeseburger special. This special is semi-secret and not published on their normal bar menu. They usually only advertise it on their social media pages. You simply show up at the bar and order a burger and fries. The servers and bartenders know the deal, so don’t worry about feeling awkward. 99% of our life is awkward encounters so we try to avoid any additional ones at all costs.

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DLUX has $5 burgers on Monday nights. Or splurge and get the $6-8 fried cheese curds and pickles.

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We also frequent a lot of restaurants that have reasonable prices every single day. Alchemy has burgers and wings for really reasonable prices. Plus the hipster people watching can’t be beat.

. The late night menu at the Tornado Room has steak, scallops and an amazing wedge salad all for discounted prices. Plus if I order a salad, you know it must be good. The only salad I usually eat is one with fried chicken and ranch. Full disclosure, we've only ever eaten off the late night menu once. It runs from 10:00pm-1:00am  and that is wayyyy past our bedtime. The other week, Mike went to a bachelorette party downtown. Since I had to pick his slightly inebriated butt up at 10:00pm, it made perfect sense for me to drag him there for some late night steak and scallops. Plus he was drunk so he was more than happy to pay. Let’s be honest though….Mike always pays. I gotta save my bucks for the Panera cream cheese or the dog's vet bills.

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Our Trip to Galena

Over a month ago, we started this website with the intention of writing blog posts. As the weeks went by I kept putting off writing a post.

When I actually sat down and thought about why I was avoiding it, I realized I was afraid of creating something that was shitty. There are SO many people out there who are “bloggers” and honestly few of them do it REALLY well. Let me tell you….I judge the mediocre ones. I really think that if you’re going to create something, it should be spectacular. And this in no way means, that you need to have a huge following to be good at blogging. I look at blogs like The Leek and the Carrot, and see great content and good writing. That is a nice blog!

As I sit here typing my first blog post, Mike looks over and asks me what I’m doing.

I tell him that I’m working on a blog post about our trip to Galena.

His response is, “Oh cool! Is it going to be called Galloping through Galena?”

And that little nugget reminds me EXACTlY why we do what we do. We’re here to share each and every single  weird detail of our life in the hopes that it brings at least one smile or laugh to someone out there. Plus, let’s be honest…..Mike always reminds me not to take life too seriously.

For the last few weeks, we’ve been planning a weekend trip to Galena, IL to stay at Eagle Ridge Resort. Our morning got off to a rocky start. We basically spent the majority of our morning arguing about lawn work and raking leaves. At this point, I really don’t believe that you’re in a committed relationship until you’ve argued with your partner about lawn work.

So needless to say, I was a little salty when we left to drive to Galena. Fast forward an hour and it’s 1:00pm and we haven’t eaten all day. As I slowly start to get quieter and quieter, Mike looks at me and kindly suggests that we stop for a snack since he says I “look crabby”.

^This was a pretty accurate description.

We stop and grab some Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles and juice at a gas station.

A GIRL NEEDS HER CHIPS.

Then, since Mike is the best boyfriend ever, offers to drive so I can eat my chips and juice uninterrupted. As I sit in the car, slowly becoming covered in orange chip dust as I inhale the chips as quickly as possible, Mike looks over lovingly and says “You’re so cute.”

And GUYS.

He’s not being sarcastic.

He actually thinks it’s cute when I’m crabby then eat a bag of chips in 3.5 seconds.

And that’s why he’s the love of my life.

After the rocky start to the day we quickly rebounded and spent a great day together. One of my favorite things about Mike is that we can quickly turn around any situation and still enjoy our time together. I also have to point out how far I’ve evolved when it comes to arguing. I used to be someone who would literally take notes and write down dates, so that when an argument happened I COULD PROVE that I was pulling me weight more and doing more. I think at one point, I actually wrote down every time my ex-husband took out the trash so that when I asked him to do it and he argued, I would pull out my list to show him how little he was doing.

This clearly points to me being slightly crazy, but it also points to an unhealthy relationship. No one should ever have to keep a list of how little their partner is contributing.

I sometimes wonder if our exes ever read our Instagram account and are genuinely shocked by how great of a couple we are.

Do they read it with shock and disbelief?

Do they think, “This is not the crazy chick I used to date”

And let’s be honest. I have been crazy. If you asked Mike, he would most likely say that I still am crazy.

I’ve been in relationships where I’ve hung on too long.

I’ve been in relationships where I read through their text messages.

I’ve been in relationships where I refuse to read their text messages because I’m too afraid of what I’ll find.

^That’s actually probably the more unhealthy one.

I’ve been in relationships where I’ve allowed others to treat me shitty.

And through all that I’ve learned and grown and when the timing was right I met Mike.

I do credit a lot of our relationship success to timing. I was ready to be a in a relationship where I knew what I wanted and was NOT going to settle for less than that. And Mike recognized, respected and appreciated that.

After a few weeks of dating, Mike told me that he liked me  because he thought I was “scrappy.” And that is not a lie.

And nowwwwww….back to Galena, IL.

We spent most of Saturday walking around Galena trying new restaurants and playing Dominion.

We stopped at:

That night we drove an hour away from Galena, to Mt. Carrol for dinner at Molly’s. Molly’s was recommended to us by the amazing Chef Jonny Hunter from The Underground Food Collective. The hour drive was scenic and by “scenic” I mean it was pitch black and pouring rain. We turned on the This American Life podcast and enjoyed the drive as much as we could. My near constant anxiety that we might hit a deer didn’t help the situation either. Once we arrived we were happy with our choice. The food was excellent and well worth the slightly scary night drive.  

The next day we begin to drive home. The drive home is mostly all back country roads. As we drove down, yet another country road, a boy on a farm waves at us from his tractor.

Mike looks at me and says, “Everyone in Wisconsin is so nice and friendly.”

He pauses for a second…..then says “OR MAYBE that kid recognized us as the Midwest Munchers!”

Then proceeds to laugh at his own joke for at least ten minutes.

And that is the story of our life.

Mike laughing at his own jokes.

Brussels Sprouts Caesar with Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Parmesan and House Croutons from Molly’s Restaurant.

Brussels Sprouts Caesar with Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Parmesan and House Croutons from Molly’s Restaurant.

1/2 LB Burger on a homemade Brioche Bun with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion and Cheddar with Twice Cooked Fries with Worcestershire Aioli from Molly’s Restaurant.

1/2 LB Burger on a homemade Brioche Bun with Lettuce, Tomato, Onion and Cheddar with Twice Cooked Fries with Worcestershire Aioli from Molly’s Restaurant.

Walking at Eagle Ridge Resort.

Walking at Eagle Ridge Resort.