December 2009 Archives

Hey! Hope everyone is doing well! It's been a busy few weeks - sorry for the late update.

Stopped by the Oakcrest Tavern for their fish fry last week, and... well, it wasn't anything great. We tried the deep fried cod along with the baked cod, and both were terribly underwhelming. The service was spotty at best as well, and the fish was entirely forgettable. Normally, we're fans of the Oakcrest, but when it comes to fish fry, look elsewhere. Here's a picture of the deep-fried cod:


And the baked tilapia - seriously, who has tilapia as their baked fish in a Wisconsin fish fry????


The fries were spectacular, but aside from that, the Oakcrest fails when it comes to fish fry. Their burgers are great, their fries are awesome, but the fish fry = suck. Skip it. Definitely not worth the money... I think we spent close to $45 for two fish fries. EEEEK!

Christmas eve was uneventful - had some food at the MidTown Pub and then picked-up a cookie from Sentry:


In other news, I found a blind Beagle this evening, and I absolutely fell in love with her. She was just wandering around on the road when I stumbled upon her. I honked and immediately noticed she didn't have any eyes. I almost started to cry instantly... but I called her toward the car, and she jumped right in.

I took her to the house where she quickly made friends with everyone. Here's her and Regis:


I called the police to report that I found her, and was going to meet an officer at the animal shelter, but she got along with everyone so well that I took my time in calling back. Here she is sitting on one of the dog beds:


Part of me wished her owners would never call, but they did... they called the police and the police called me to see if I could meet the owner and transfer the dog. Turns out her name was Maggie, she was 10 years old, and she got ocular cancer at the age of four and has been blind ever since. :-( She was sooooo sweet!!

Well, I guess that's about it... I'm just chillin' at the house, watching the Family Guy Empire Strikes Back parody DVD and enjoying some Miller Lites and cookies. :-)

I've been running a ton lately - averaging about 11 miles per day. Hope you all have a great New Year's.

Screw the shoes!

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Moving north has had its advantages (fish frys, cheese curds, donuts, etc), but it's also had its fair share of disadvantages (snow, cold, bad drivers, etc). And with last week's blizzard event, I came face-to-face with one of the biggest disadvantages: running in the snow.

I don't mind running when it's cold out, but when mother nature serves a healthy dish of icy and snowy goodness, running becomes not only difficult, but dangerous. As soon as we knew for certain that snow was imminent, I made sure to sneak in a long "final" outdoors run.

The day of the blizzard, I ran indoors on a treadmill (our office has a nice gym available for free), and I was immediately reminded of how much I loathe treadmills. Grinding out six or seven miles on a treadmill is pure torture - it's so boring and dull, even with headphones and a television. After the third mile, I would've given anything to be running outside... but, with 16-18" of snow covering every passable surface, my wishes were unlikely to be realized.

So, I trudged out 3 more days on the dreadful treadmill... in the meantime, I looked for solutions to help me get outdoors to run again - I looked at snow shoes, trail running shoes, slip-on spike systems - you name it, I looked at it. None of the solutions got rave reviews from online sources; fewer fit my shoes (size 13). I was growing desperate...

I had stumbled across an article about using sheet metal screws as replaceable spikes, but was afraid to try it for a number of reasons. After careful consideration, I ventured to the local hardware store and bought a handful of 3/8" long sheet metal screws. I placed 10 screws into each shoe (6 on the front, 4 on the heel) and gingerly stepped into them. I didn't feel anything sharp or pointy, so I donned the rest of the running gear and hit the outdoors.

Success!! The screws worked like magic. They gave me ample traction when the going got rough; they worked best on icy or hard-packed snowy surfaces. On dry sections of sidewalk, they're a bit noisy and you can feel that the shoe isn't completely "normal," but it's not uncomfortable by any means. Winner, winner chicken dinner!!

I've done 5 runs on the current set of screws, and it's looking like I'll have to replace the screws with some fresh ones. Although, to be honest, the sidewalks were about 98% clear today, so I may run without the spikes until the next snow storm hits. Here's what the screws look like after about 45 miles of use:


It's amazing how well that $0.70 solution works, especially when it's compared to other solutions that cost upwards of $40. It's also refreshing to know that when the next snow storm hits that I won't have to spend too much time on the 'ole dreadmill. :-)

We're off to a fish fry tonight, so stay tuned for an update later on!

Back on the hunt: Fish Fry Report

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So after taking a well-deserved break from the fish fry hunt, we decided to resume our search this past Friday. With the roads still in rough shape from Wednesday's snow storm, we thought it would be best to stay close to home and after a brief discussion, settled on Tully's II in Monona.

Tully's is located "around the corner" from Mark's house, so it was a logical choice and it received decent reviews from other fish fry fans, so we were confident the experience would be solid.


Upon entering the place we were immediately confused. You walk in and encounter a small dining area with 7 or 8 tables. Behind this small dining area is a large bar with a ton of bar stools and 2-3 tables. To the right of the entryway is a pool table room, and to the right of the pool table room is another small dining room with 7-8 tables and a salad bar. We weren't sure where to sit, so we stood around for a bit and eventually settled on a table in the "front" area.

Waitress took our drink orders; no Old Fashioneds today - we just weren't in the mood. We did order some cheese curds and browsed the menu which lent itself heavily to the pub/bar food genre.

Fish choices were many: baked or battered cod, baked or battered perch, shrimp, and a third option that escapes my memory. All were offered as AYCE (All You Can Eat), and the side choices were equally vast - from kettle chips to garlic mashed potatoes.

We decided on the baked cod, the deep fried cod, and the deep fried perch. The dinners include a trip to the salad bar; I found the salad bar to be a bit disappointing - everything tasted as if it had come from a freezer bag or a can, and the cherry tomatoes that I had were squishy and funny tasting. Not a good sign.

Food arrived at the same time as our curds (another bad sign); the curds were anything but special, just your garden-variety Sysco breaded yellow cheese curds that were fried a bit longer than they should've been.

The baked cod didn't look too appetizing:


It arrived in a small crock of sorts and was swimming in a buttery water. As you can tell from the photo, they coated the heck out of the fish with dill. The fish was rather lifeless - dull, tasteless, mushy, and anything but exciting. I regretted going with the AYCE option after the first few bites... there was no way I'd be getting my money's worth on this trip.

The fried cod was just slightly better:


It featured a fairly tasty beer batter that was a both heavy and slightly greasy. It did have a good flavor, but no amount of batter could help the poor cod. And to add insult to injury, as the cod sat, it became even greasier. Strike two. The saving grace were the cheesy hash browns - they were crispy and delicious.

The battered perch was even greasier than the cod; not even worth a photo. The final blow came by way of the check - 3 drinks, an order of curds, and 3 plates of fish was nearly $60. Not good.

Since we didn't over indulge in fish, we decided to head to our favorite watering hole, The Come Back Inn. We're becoming regulars here; when we walked-in, we were immediately greeted and asked if we were going to have "the usual." Yikes!

I went with a liter of Spaten Lager; I'd normally go with New Glarus Naked, but it's a seasonal offering that "expired" in September and won't be available until next May.


Their bar is so great - it's a huge slab of wood that's at least 10" thick; they have about 30 varieties of unique/micro brews on tap, free popcorn, the employees are all wonderful and friendly, and they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights (without a cover charge). It's also reasonable - a liter is $9 - and their food is pretty solid.

The CBI is connected to The Essen Haus, which is a true German establishment - their dishes are all of the authentic German variety and on Friday nights, they have a traditional "oompah band" that plays polka into the wee hours. We took a gander and were immediately hooked. There's something about sitting in a place that resembles a German pub while drinking a good German beverage and listening to an oompah band. I loved it.


... and the fireplace is anything but delightful... (the apartment has a fireplace, but it's not in use)

So, for those who may not have heard, Madison (and most of Wisconsin) got socked with a true blizzard last night! The weather-guessers are reporting that we've had 16-inches of snow so far, with another pile due to arrive today.

Here's what it looked like from the living room this morning at around 8:00am.


Nearly everything is closed, which is quite unusual as Wisconsin can usually deal with a lot of snow. Even the Metro Bus was delayed; malls are closed, as are all of the schools. But my workplace is open, and since I live about 3 miles from the office, I decided to venture in.

Finished my bike ride (on the trainer, in the living room - I'm not quite that crazy to ride outside), and then laced up my new winter boots. Bought these a few months ago - people laughed, but who's smiling now? My feet are nice and warm, and dry, even after trudging through a solid foot-plus of snow. :-)


Thank goodness for underground parking! The car was clean, dry, and toasty warm - they keep the garage at 65F, so there was no dealing with any scraping or "digging out." Did have a tough time getting up the hill that leads you out from under the building; it was pretty icy. These poor folks didn't fare as well:


The most treacherous part of the commute was the apartment's parking lot - seriously! The roads weren't too bad, but they were pretty empty. This is University Avenue, which on any other day would be packed with cars. Today it was packed with snow and not much else:


Normally, dealing with a lot of snow isn't too much of a challenge, but what's going to make this storm interesting is that they're calling for gusty winds that'll start this afternoon - gusts up to 50mph, with steady wind speeds of around 30-35mph. Blowing snow = large drifts, and the drifts can create a real headache.

It's been a little breezy today - here's what the stoplight near my office looked like as a result of "light" winds.


Combine all of that snow with gusty winds and falling temperatures, and you've got a recipe for an unpleasant environment. It's currently about 30F outside, which isn't too bad, but the temps are dropping. They're saying it'll be a low of around zero tonight, and tomorrow's high temperature is supposed to be 8F. Yep, that's EIGHT. 8F with super windy conditions, and the windchill should hit about -20F.

I may have to run on the treadmill tomorrow. :-(

Anyway, I made it in to the office - here's our parking lot:


I have to laugh - I just overheard someone who came in from outside say, "It's not too bad out there, I've seen worse." Gotta' love it.