First week challenges and celebrations

Tomorrow, a week will have passed since we moved into our new apartment in Wauwatosa, and it’s finally starting to feel like a home (rather than a huge cluttered mess)! I cannot count the number of trips we have made to stores and strangers’ houses to accumulate the conglomeration of new and used furniture/appliances that now furnish our apartment.

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Our first meal in the apartment. Hooray for Chick-fil-A being open late!

Definitely the most challenging process of the week was installing the washer and dryer set that we purchased off Craigslist from a nice man in Greenfield. You’d think it’s a fairly simple ordeal, but our experience included Jonny getting soaked by a leaking water hose, a mild electrocution (everyone is okay), multiple trips to Home Depot, and hours spent trying to attach the two sides of a disagreeable dryer vent hose.

There is a huge amount of construction going on in the streets surrounding our complex right now, so it’s usually pretty difficult to get in and out. People have said that because there are such long, snowy winters in Wisconsin, all construction gets condensed into the few short summer months of the year. On more than one occasion, I have literally driven laps around the neighborhood trying to find an accessible way into our parking garage!

This week, Jonny also started his orientation at MCW. He’s been making lots of new friends and sitting through all sorts of fun presentations, panels, and preparation activities. Each evening, there has also been optional community building outings, and on Tuesday night we went to the Wisconsin State Fair with some of Jonny’s medical school classmates! We watched some pig racing, stopped to let competition cows cross the road, enjoyed eating the enormous and iconic Wisconsin State Fair cream puffs, and searched unsuccessfully for hurricane potatoes.

While Jonny has been at orientation, I have been making trips all over town in order to stock our kitchen with food and necessities, but mostly food. In addition to the much-needed Costco and Trader Joe’s (the sweetest cashier at TJs gifted me a “welcome to the neighborhood bouquet!), I visited two Asian grocery stores in the area. The first was appropriately named “Asian International Market” and was a small store that carried mostly Vietnamese groceries but also included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai specialty ingredients. The second store was slightly larger, and I found myself comforted by the familiar smells in the air and sound of Chinese music as I browsed the aisles.

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Our first home-cooked dinner in the apartment! …obviously nothing much has changed.

Today we also celebrated Jonny’s “White Coat Ceremony” and his official beginning as a student doctor and medical student. His family arrived last night for the occasion, and so far it seems that they like Milwaukee much more than they thought they would!

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Moving yet again!

Today we cancelled our extended stay hotel reservation… because we are moving into our new apartment tomorrow!

By God’s provision, we actually signed the lease for our beautiful 2 bedroom apartment three days ago on August 2nd, our second day of being in Wisconsin. It was a painfully stressful day with logistic complications, typos, endless phone calls, and electronic signing of the lease in the Costco food court, but praise the Lord we got the place!

We will be living in a very safe neighborhood near “The Village“, a lively area of town with restaurants, stores, and plenty of cafes. Jonny and I will both have fairly short commutes to school, and the church we are interested in checking out is also very close.

For the past few days, we’ve been keeping ourselves plenty busy accumulating stuff for our new home. We’ve visited Costco 3 times in the past 3 days, and yesterday, we drove almost 2 hours to make an IKEA run (the closest store is in Schaumburg, IL). We meant to only decide on the furniture we wanted and then have it delivered, but we ended up piling everything successfully into the back of our compact SUV. It was quite a puzzle to accomplish. We also used our newly acquired craigslist/letGo skills (from our summer of selling our stuff) to purchase some affordable and great quality desk chairs and dining chairs, and a Dyson vacuum!

 

When we were transferring our desk chairs into the building to clear up space in the car, we had to explain ourselves to the very confused hotel front desk person and make sure she understood that we were not stealing their property. You’d be surprised how much stuff can fit into an extended stay hotel room. We probably have about 2.5 car loads now.

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There’s more than it looks like there is…

We will be picking up a U-haul tomorrow at 7:30am and should be moving done by the afternoon. It’s rushed, but it’s exciting, and we’ve never moved any other way!

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Happy husband with his hard-earned bowl of ramen

First Day in Wisconsin

It’s the end of a very full day, and we feel productive yet pooped. Today, we visited 8 apartments (plus 1 yesterday) from 8:30am to 6:00pm. Since we aren’t too familiar with the area, it was quite disorienting, but I’m pretty sure that we drove at least 5 laps around Wauwatosa, circling the neighborhoods around the MCW. Fortunately, there were definitely a few reasonably priced apartments we liked and could see ourselves living in for the next 4 years! We will post updates when they happen!

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Visiting the 7th apartment of the day

We didn’t get a chance to eat lunch until just after 3pm due to the stacked appointments, so we treated ourselves and went to Applebees (yes, it’s exactly the same as California) followed by a bit of mattress shopping. We also explored a few local grocery stores in the area to get an idea of where to shop. I learned that Pick n’ Save is a Safeway equivalent, Outpost Market is kind of like Sprouts, and Metcalfe’s is another local market.

For dinner, we had some surprisingly good Chinese food for dinner at Meiji in Waukesha, where we are currently staying. The prices are definitely a bit on the higher end, but it was so comforting to eat things that were so familiar! Special thanks to Josh and Emily for treating us to our first dinner in Wisconsin. =]

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Next came a Target run for laundry detergent which unexpectedly led to a rush to spend $50 on household supplies in the 5 minutes before the store closed because we saw a coupon for $15 off. Heck, we needed all the stuff for our new apartment anyway!

We concluded the day with a grocery shopping trip at 10pm to Woodman’s Market, a Costco-sized grocery store that is open 24/7 for some reason. We picked up some food so that we wouldn’t have to eat out every meal of every day until we got settled in (Jonny gravitated toward the Chobani and Lean Cuisine).

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A whole entire aisle devoted to Greek yogurt!

The End of the Road to Milwaukee: Day 12

Today was our last day on the road, and tonight we finally arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin!

This morning we did a speed tour of Louisville (pronounced “Loo-a-vul”) because we were anxious to get on the road. First, we visited Cherokee Park, one of 18 parks in Louisville designed by Frank Law Olmsted, the “father of American landscape architecture”. It was a huge and beautiful park but we unfortunately didn’t have time to explore the numerous hiking trails there.

We also stopped at Waterfront Park, where we enjoyed the views of the Ohio River (the border between Kentucky and Indiana) on a pleasant bench swing. On the way, we took a small detour to snap a picture in front of the house that Thomas Edison lived in while he was working in Louisville. 

Next we went downtown to see the “world’s largest baseball bat” outside of the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The bat is 120 feet tall, weighs 68,000 pounds, and is an exact scale replica of Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger bat! Across the street, we browsed through Arteatables, a candy shop selling Bourbon truffles made with the brands of Bourbon distilled in Kentucky.

For lunch, we really wanted to try hot chicken, but alas, all the hot chicken restaurants are closed on Mondays! Nevertheless, we got to enjoy some Kentucky fried chicken (chicken that was fried in Kentucky, not KFC), hot honey, and spoonbread (a soft cornbread dish) at The Eagle with our friends Jen and Michael and their baby daughter! It was so enjoyable and encouraging to talk to them about marriage, life in the Midwest, and developing new community.

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And then we were off for Wisconsin, our final leg of the road trip. We breezed through Indiana, but we couldn’t help stopping for dinner in the suburbs of Chicago for some much-missed sushi and Korean soft tofu soup. By the way, if you are ever driving around near Chicago, bring plenty of small bills and change because there are toll booths everywhere! I think we paid a total of $10 in tolls at 5 different booths.

When we got to Milwaukee, we immediately went to our first apartment viewing and have plenty more lined up for the next few days.

All thanks to God for our safe travels during the past 12 days. Please pray for us as we search for our new home and start our new school programs!

We will continue using this blog to document our life in Wisconsin, so follow if you’d like!

 

 

Road to Milwaukee: Day 11

This morning we enjoyed a lovely breakfast with Ally at Cafe Eclectic in Memphis. Ally and her roommates generously housed us last night at their home, and it was great to catch up with our good friend over a meal of Nutella stuffed french toast, biscuits with chicken and gravy, and a “sunny tater” hash. 

The next stop of the day was Nashville, Tennessee. We wanted to try the famous “hot chicken” at Hattie B’s, but the line was so long (even at 1:45pm) and we had so little time in Nashville, that we decided to skip it. Mistake??? We headed to Lower Broadway (a “renowned entertainment district for country music”) for lunch instead, and we ended up at Honky Tonk Central for a chicken sandwich, chili, and live country music. The venue had three floors and each level has its own artists performing from 11am to 3am daily!

After lunch, we went to the Nashville Farmer’s Market, a covered market that opens late into the afternoon. When we tried to buy a peach to snack on, we were informed that the stand had just closed its register for the day. The very nice lady running the stand told us to enjoy the peach on her, and it was even more delicious after that encounter.

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With our remaining hours in Nashville, we went to the extravagant Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, one of the largest hotels in the world, to look around. The Gaylord Opryland is truly a sight to behold, with sprawling gardens, numerous waterfalls, a river hosting boat tours, skywalks, and four massive atriums housing it all. The whole place felt sort of like a mix between a mall and a small city. 

We still had a three hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky and on the way finished the Serial podcast, season 2! Though not quite as compelling as season 1, we both were intrigued by the behind-the-scenes explanations of everything that happened in relation to Bowe Bergdahl.

Tomorrow is our last day on the road, and we are so excited to finally arrive at our final destination!

Road to Milwaukee: Day 10

Today we left New Orleans and headed for Memphis, Tennessee. (good timing too because it started to pour in New Orleans this morning.) We passed through the whole state of Mississippi on the way, so we stopped in Jackson for a “dine-in soul food” lunch at Bully’s Restaurant. We tried fried catfish, beef tips in gravy, fried green tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and fried okra, all of which were delicious! I really wanted to try Southern-style peach cobbler, so we ordered one for the road as well. It was much more cobbler-y than I expected (unlike the cobblers I’m used to with fruit on the bottom and biscuit-like topping on top), but still great!

We got to Memphis in the late afternoon, but we fortunately had enough time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, recommended to us by our friend Ally. The museum had been built into Lorraine Motel, the location where Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated on April 4th, 1968. It was a very educational but also a very somber experience to see the photos, displays, stories, and to read about the facts themselves concerning the details of the civil rights movement in the United States. So much injustice has been done to African Americans in our country, and so much good was gained through their persistence and courage. The museum is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Memphis!

For dinner, we headed across the street to Central BBQ for some “slow smoked Memphis-style” meat. It was a delectable meal of smoky pork ribs, a pulled pork sandwich on Texas toast, and stewed turnip greens. It’s hard for me to really describe the regional difference between the BBQ we ate in Memphis versus central Texas, so feel free to read more if you are interested. In our experience, Memphis seems more focused on pork and Texas on beef. Also, the pork ribs we had in Memphis seemed more “meaty” and the sauce more “tangy” whereas the ribs in Texas were huge, fattier, fall-off-the bone tender, and lacking sauce. 

On our way to Ally’s house in Memphis, we pulled into Mississippi River Park just around sunset. The sky was a beautiful pink, there was a steamboat docked on the riverbank, youth were playing basketball on brightly colored courts, and the Hernando de Soto Bridge stood tall in the backdrop.

After chatting with Ally and her roommates, we decided to go back to town and see Beale Street, “The Official Home of the Blues”. We wandered around the bars and clubs hosting live Blues music before tiredly heading home.

Road to Milwaukee: Day 9

This morning we got up a little earlier than usual so that we could visit Cafe du Monde, the famous coffee house in the New Orleans French Quarter, for cafe au lait (half coffee and half hot milk) and beignets (French style doughnuts). The original Cafe du Monde opened in 1862, and it is open 24/7 (excluding Christmas Day and bad hurricane days). Both coffee and beignets were introduced to New Orleans by the Acadians, descendants of French colonists from modern-day Nova Scotia, Canada. The coffee served in Louisiana is unique because it is often mixed with ground, roasted chicory (the root of the endive plant) that gives the resulting beverage a smoother, less bitter taste.

We sampled the both the hot and iced cafe au lait, as well as an order of beignets to share. The coffee was delicious and paired perfectly with the warm, pillowy fried dough-squares coated generously with powdered sugar. The atmosphere of the outdoor cafe was marvelous with the warm morning air, limited crowds, and a street musician playing the trumpet right outside.

Next, we headed away from the city for the much-awaited swamp tour in the bayou! We had a wonderful and hilarious guide on our tour with Cajun Pride, and we saw countless alligators, turtles, and raccoons (and also two adorable newly hatched heron chicks!). Our guide even brought animals with him on board so that we could have a hands-on experience with the swamp animals. We unexpectedly ended up getting to touch and hold a crawfish, turtles, a snake, and a small alligator! Our guide, Brandon, also did some feeding demonstrations, throwing the alligators marshmallows and chicken necks as they swam up alongside the boat.

After the swamp tour, we went to lunch at Willie Mae’s Scotch House for some James Beard award-winning “America’s Best Fried Chicken”. Willie Mae’s unfortunately sustained heavy damage after Hurricane Katrina, but they were able to reopen in 2007 with help from many organizations including the Southern Foodways Alliance. The chicken was so crispy and delicious, indeed the best friend chicken we’ve ever had! We also got to try their butter beans (large lima beans cooked up into a stew-like texture), mac and cheese, and cornbread.

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We returned to our Airbnb for a quick rest and then headed back out to explore New Orleans’ historic Garden District. The architecture in the Garden District is grand and beautifully archaic, with houses boasting tall white columns, wide porches, towering balconies, and black iron fences. The self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood brought us to the 3rd oldest cemetery in the United States, the site of an ice skating rink built for the 1984 World’s Fair, the house that Disney’s “haunted mansion” was based off of, the childhood house of Eli and Peyton Manning, and the current house of actress Sandra Bullock, among others. It was interesting to see common themes across many of the houses, such as a gas light that burns day and night and the sky-blue painted underbelly of balconies (that is supposed to keep insects from nesting there and also to “ward off evil spirits”).

Our exploring eventually brought us to Magazine Street, where we wandered through shops and split a fried shrimp po-boy and an Abita Amber (a Munich style lager brewed north of New Orleans) at Mahony’s Po-Boy Shop for an afternoon snack.

 

For dinner, we had reservations at Shaya, a modern Israeli restaurant specializing in their fresh, homemade, wood-fired pita and small plates. My friend and old boss, Dr. Tajirian, highly recommended that we come, and we were not disappointed! The pita was incredibly soft, warm, and delicious, and it went so well with the curried cauliflower hummus and shakshouka we ordered. We also tried the crispy halloumi dish recommended by our server and it was excellent as well.

 

Fun fact: At Shaya, we were curious, so Jonny asked our server what the greatest number of pita per person was that he had seen eaten. The server told us that he served a party in which there were three pita consumed per person!!! (for reference, Jonny had 1.5 pita and was ready to explode…)

 

Road to Milwaukee: Day 8

Today we had a long drive from Houston to New Orleans in which we entertained ourselves with an “Eater Upsell” podcast with Anthony Bourdain and started season 2 of Serial (despite everyone’s warnings that it wasn’t as good as season 1). Once we were in Louisiana, it was quite interesting to drive over large bodies of water with trees sticking up all over the place!

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We stopped for lunch at Prejean’s Restaurant in Lafayette, a record holder for the most medals awarded to any culinary team in the South. We enjoyed their delicious chicken andouille gumbo (the darkest but most flavorful gumbo I’ve ever eaten) as well as their gold-medal crawfish etouffee.

Once we arrived in New Orleans, we wandered around the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and Frenchmen Street. The buildings were so beautiful and unique, but the atmosphere was stimulating and crazy, especially once it got later into the evening. On Bourbon street, in particular, every other storefront was a restaurant, a bar with live music, or a strip club. It wasn’t the most comfortable, but it was truly unlike any other big city I’ve ever seen.

We had dinner in the French Quarter at Gumbo Shop, and had their creole combination platter (Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya and Red Beans and Rice) and a bowl of seafood okra gumbo. After our meal we walked around Jackson Square and enjoyed amazing views of the Mississippi river on the Moon Walk (the riverside promenade).

Later, we met up with our friends Nick and Iana (who live in New Orleans) and went to Maison Bourbon, one of Bourbon Street’s oldest jazz clubs (“dedicated to the preservation of jazz”), to enjoy some drinks and live music. Jonny ordered a Sazerac, a cocktail (made up of absinthe, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, and Rye whisky) that was invented in New Orleans in the late 1830s. It was great to hang out and catch up with some friends after traveling on our own for a week now!

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We have another full day in New Orleans tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Road to Milwaukee: Day 7

This morning we had to take a quick break from all our fun adventures and work on some apartment hunting in hopes to make the process smoother when we finally arrive in Milwaukee on July 31st. As you may or may not know, we are actually looking to live in a suburb of Milwaukee called Wauwatosa (or “Tosa” for short), the city in which Medical College of Wisconsin is actually located.

After some phone calls were made and viewing appointments booked, we headed out to Houston’s museum district, a neighborhood that boasts 19 different museums! If we were not trying to keep this road trip budget-friendly, we would have definitely stopped by Space Center Houston, the official visitor center and museum for NASA. We decided instead to visit some of the local (and free!) museums such as the Houston Center for Photography and The Menil Collection.

For lunch we decided to sample some “must-try” pho at 28-year old Pho Saigon in midtown Houston. Apparently, the third largest population of Vietnamese in the country resides in Houston, and pho has become one of the city’s signature dishes. A writer for the Houston chronicle even argues that Houston is “the home to the best pho in America.” We naturally ordered the special combination and enjoyed the clear, tasty broth and delicious beef and noodles.

 

To escape the heat, we headed to Hong Kong City Mall in Houston’s enormous Chinatown district (which definitely has more of a suburb feel than a city chinatown). After browsing for a while, we decided that “Hong Kong” City Mall seemed to be a misnomer as all the shops besides the Hong Kong Food Market were, in fact, Vietnamese!

Alas, we later gave in and went back to our hotel for a much needed afternoon nap followed by a workout at the nearby 24 Hour Fitness. Yes, we are indeed taking full advantage of our 2-year Costco gym membership! At the gym, we randomly ran into the older brother of one of the students that Jonny and I had led in the Foothill dorms small group in InterVarsity at Berkeley back in 2011/2012! Jonny has crazy good facial recognition for some reason, so he felt confident enough to say hello, even though we had only met him once before.

On our way out of the gym, there was an adorable group of ducklings in the parking lot blocking all the outgoing traffic, and it was quite a scene.

For dinner, we went to Niko Niko’s Greek and American Cafe, another Houston staple (and featured on Food Network), for a wonderful gyro and chicken plate before heading to Buffalo Bayou Park to watch the Waugh bridge bat colony emerge at sunset. It was an incredible sight watching approximately 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats swarm out from under the bridge across the darkening city sky. The bats emerge each day around sunset to hunt for insects to eat and return to the underbelly of the bridge around sunrise each morning.

We wrapped up the day with some dessert at Fat Bao, where we enjoyed a yummy lightly fried bao filled with green tea ice cream!

Tomorrow we have a 6 hour drive as we head for New Orleans!

Road to Milwaukee: Day 6

Today marks the halfway point of our 12 day cross-country road trip and what a special day it was. Jonny has been looking forward to trying the famed brisket at Austin’s Franklin BBQ for years now, and we were finally going to make it happen! This morning we grabbed some Tex-Mex breakfast tacos to-go from Torchy’s Tacos and headed to Franklin to wait in their infamous line. Franklin BBQ technically opens at 11am for lunch each day but closes its doors within hours because they run out of food. Especially on weekends, people start getting in line as early as 7am to ensure themselves a meal.

Luckily, we planned out our itinerary so that we would be visiting on a Tuesday, but when we rolled into Franklin around 9:30am there was still already quite a long line! We brought our camping chairs and settled in for a wait in line while others around us drank beer, homemade mimosa, and played cards against humanity. An employee at Franklin’s came down the line a couple times to ask about everyone’s meat orders so that they could estimate when they would run out. It sounded like there would be enough food for us (whew!) and we were given an approximate eating time of 11:40am (though it was closer to 12:30pm).

And wow, was the 2.5 hour wait worth it (though toward the end of the wait I was really starting to feel the heat)! We ordered a half pound of their famous brisket, a half pound of pork ribs, and two sides of potato salad and coleslaw. The meat was incredibly tender and tasty, and we enjoyed every bite.

 

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“Franklin’s meat is the Toro sashimi of BBQ” – Jonathan Horng

Next stop in Austin was a visit to the Texas state capitol, a building originally erected in 1888. The self-guided indoor tour was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity, and we got to see old courtrooms and the current Texas house of representatives meeting room.

On our way out of Austin, we visited Holy Cacao for their nationally recognized frozen hot chocolate (essentially a blended beverage made with European hot chocolate, locally-made Austin chocolate ice cream, and ice). It was delicious and definitely the best frozen hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted!

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After a two hour drive to Houston, we headed to the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park, a huge and beautiful sculpture/fountain in the uptown area. Jonny and I agreed that the waterwall was “the bean” of Houston, a perfect spot for people watching and taking photos!

On our last road trip, we listened to an episode of “The Splendid Table” podcast in which a writer for the Washington Post declared Houston as one of “the 10 best food cities in America” largely because of its culinary diversities. For dinner tonight, we sampled Houston’s signature “Asian-Cajun seafood boil” at LA Crawfish (a sight similar to Boiling Crab). This fusion dish was created by Vietnamese chefs who gave an Asian twist to the traditional Louisiana crawfish boil by adding lemongrass and ginger and serving it with a garlic and butter sauce. There are many of these types of restaurants throughout Houston, and many also serve pho and other Vietnamese dishes as well! We enjoyed 2 lbs of delicious crawfish (so much work to eat though) and some surprisingly spicy garlic noodles and called it a night!