Monday, September 23, 2013

I left my lip gloss in Wisconsin

Just a typical day at work:  sitting in a conference room under an enormous paper dragon, while outside in the distance, a covered wagon creeps up the hill.  Or, sitting in "Deep Space," an 11,000 seat, five-story underground auditorium while watching the head of an IT company give an address while dressed as an alien.  I was really lucky to be invited to attend this year's Users Group Meeting (UGM) at the Epic headquarters in Verona, Wisconsin, with several others from my department.

Deep Space--underground seating for 11,000 

I spent most of my time attending presentations by other health care institutions, but I had a little time to explore.  I love Wisconsin!  Everyone is gorgeous and friendly and fit and Swedish, and they say things like "holy smokes" without irony.

Covered wagon tours of the campus

Why not a petting zoo at a health care summit?

One day I took a break to tour the new farm campus, a new collection of office buildings.  The entire Epic headquarters is off the grid, as they have geothermal heat, solar panels, and their own wind turbines.
The Farm campus

The dragon conference room

We stayed in New Glarus, a small town that was a Swiss settlement in the 1840s and retains its Swiss heritage. (The hard liquor for sale at the grocery store added a certain European verisimilitude.) On our last day, I had a free afternoon to explore the town.  My favorites were the Swiss bakery and its apple-caramel fritters and the The Bramble Patch where I bought a hand painted platter.

First St.

New Glarus is also home to the New Glarus Brewing Company, whose beers are sold only in Wisconsin.  I thought I could put a six pack in my checked luggage, but I was told it is illegal to transport it across state lines.  I did try some on tap at dinner one night--the "Totally Naked" which is their lightest beer, and very nice, although I'm not much of a beer drinker, so I can't say anything more articulate than that.

Since I couldn't take any with me, I contented myself with this picture.  If you want to try the Spotted Cow, you have to visit the Badger State.

We caught an early flight home on Friday and it was nice to have some time to rest before returning to the cubicle, although I was chagrined to discover this morning that I left my favorite lip gloss behind in New Glarus. It was a quiet weekend, but Friday night, I heroically went to Bang and drank the last martini on their menu.

I also cooked Hubbard squash for the first time.  I've always been a little intimidated by it, because of that scene in Little House in the Big Woods, when Pa has to split the Hubbard squash with an axe because Ma can't cut it herself.  I managed to cut through ours with our biggest chef's knife.  Also baked 100% whole wheat bread from a recipe I've been saving since 1996.  Those of you who bake know that whole wheat bread can have the texture of gluey sand, and that it's best to cut your whole wheat flour with white.  This recipe, which impressed me back in 1996 when I made it the first time, uses only whole wheat flour and its liquid is mostly buttermilk.  The texture is tender.  Maybe the slight acidity of the buttermilk works some kind of magic?


  1. Wisconsin also has some pretty epic cheese.

    1. Yes it does! I bought cheese curds and some 12 year old cheddar to take home.

  2. Sounds fun. I'm intrigued by the bread recipe and might just have to try it myself. I've moved more towards whole wheat pastry flour & spelt flour in my baking because they are whole grains without the sand factor.

  3. I adore New Glarus--both the sweet little town AND the beer. I've driven past that huge building in Verona, but didn't know what it was--thanks for informing me! Glad you enjoyed your taste of the midwest.
    Now, about that wheat bread--really? Good stuff, eh?

  4. We've been to New Glarus as well, to shop and have lunch. Somehow New Glarus beer does make its way here to be sold in northern Illinois.

    Funny you should mention the hard liquor in grocery stores --when we were in Michigan I kept forgetting that you can't buy hard liquor in grocery stores there. In Illinois it's sold alongside beer and wine in grocery stores, which is VERY convenient!

  5. I have yet to find an efficient way to cook winter squashes. First there is that wrestling with the butcher knife to get them open, and then I'm heating the whole oven for forever just to cook this one squash. Frustrating.

    1. I know--they are labor intensive, but I love them. I roasted mine briefly, just to make it easier to peel, and then cut it into chunks and threw it into a beef stew with a cornbread crust.

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  7. you had me at apple caramel fritters.....!!

  8. Gluey sand--yes. My mother used to make whole wheat bread--ground her own wheat and everything, and the bread was very, very...dense.

    I've never been to Wisconsin. Someday.