Friday, December 30, 2016

OK Cap's Birthday Party

Last night the Rosary Ladies (Jilly Moose, OK Cap, Luxuli, and I) got together for OK Cap’s birthday, one day late. We went to the Nitty Gritty Bar, since they give you a free mug on your birthday, and apparently will also do so on the day after your birthday. This mug can be filled all night with soda or any beer on tap. Four was a perfect size for our party, because we could all fit comfortably at one booth, yet there were enough of us to holler convincingly whenever they announced OK Cap’s name as a birthday girl. My gift to the birthday girl was a bag of “birthday pasta” in which the noodles were shaped like little birthday cakes, and they wrapped it beautifully at the store. (Believe me, I cannot wrap presents well). Travalon had found a bag that morning with some little souvenirs from Alaska for the Rosary Ladies (and of course a present for Ma and Pa Hat, now that I have just returned from visiting them), so I brought those too. It was a fun, festive time, but for some reason OK Cap thought she was a year older than she actually is. I hope you never catch me adding years to my age! I didn’t even do that back when it would have helped me, say at the age of twenty. Now I am almost as close to seventy as twenty! The years keep flying by, but we might as well keep celebrating them with birthday bashes!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Third Day of Christmas Carol Sing

Last night I went to the Third Day of Christmas Carol Sing at the Lutheran Church where I used to sing, and Rich and Kathbert joined me. I love this carol sing because Christmas shouldn’t be over on the 25th but just beginning, and also my OTHER choir director chooses such wonderful carols. We sang “The Only Son from Heaven,” which has such a lovely early music sound to it, and the Sussex Carol, which gets my vote for happiest tune of all time. (For all those who say I only like minor key music, I will point out my love of the Sussex Carol as evidence that a really lilting major key tune can move me.) During “Angels We Have Heard on High,” my OTHER choir director stopped playing the organ on one of the middle verses and just let us singers take it, and it sounded beautiful! Lots of harmony, and such lovely voices. Here is an amazing piece of news: someone anonymously donated a cool million to this Lutheran church, so they were able to retire their debt from construction projects and do some new projects. Isn’t that wonderful Christmas news? After the carol sing, my OTHER choir director invited Rich, Kathbert, me, and a couple of other people over to his house for Swedish fruit soup. He showed us his excellent Christmas present from a friend: a piece of cardboard that says “Nothing” on it. Yes, he got nothing for Christmas! I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this has been the best Christmas yet… and it isn’t even over! There are still eight more days of it!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas with Ma and Pa Hat

I hope all my readers had a very Merry Christmas. Friday evening Travalon and I went to a choir member’s Christmas party and hung out with other choir members. It was a lot of fun, and they were giving away rosaries that had belonged to our dearly departed organist, so I took a couple and the next day gave one to a choir member who hadn’t been able to attend the party. It was a lot of fun with really good food.

Christmas Eve Tiffy was in town, so in the morning she, Rich, Travalon, and I got together for coffee. Travalon and I had been expecting to go to his family gathering that afternoon, but it had been changed just a few days earlier to Christmas Day, and we had already promised Ma and Pa Hat that we would visit that day. So that afternoon we went to see Travalon’s mother, then I sang at our church’s “Midnight Mass” at 5 pm (seriously, they always do the readings from the Midnight Mass, not the Vigil Mass), and then afterwards we invited Rich over for crab cakes and bacon-wrapped sirloin. Sounds decadent, right? But somehow I did manage to stay below my calorie count that day, which was an unusual occurrence the last few days.

Christmas Day Travalon and I went to Mass, where we saw Tiffy and her parents, then we got on the road and drove to Ma and Pa Hat’s house, playing many rounds of Twenty Questions along the way. My parents, brother, and one nephew were already gathered, and we had lasagna for dinner and cassata for dessert, then we opened presents, and then I talked everyone into playing – you guessed it – Twenty Questions. Travalon and I are generally pretty good at figuring out what the other one is thinking, so it was fun to get some fresh perspectives into the game. Eventually my other nephew showed up with a pie, so that is why I couldn’t stay under my calorie goal for that day. Also, while I got six flights of stairs, my steps for the day were pathetic, well under 4000. Then Travalon and I drove to La Crosse and stayed at a hotel on French Island.

Yesterday we had the day off of work, so we slept in and then swam in the hotel pool before going to explore French Island. It looks like a really fun place to check out in the summer. We went to a coffee shop in downtown La Crosse and then hit the road, playing more Twenty Questions and talking to Jilly Moose about her Christmas. (I talked; Travalon was driving.) George Michael had died the day before, and I remembered that back in June we had recorded a concert of his from 2008 that they played on Public TV, so we watched that, and we also watched the movie Enchanted, which is really cute. It is about a cartoon princess who gets forced into the real world. In the evening we went over to Rich’s house and had more lasagna (that he made) and cassata (that I had made). That is really the traditional Christmas dinner in my circles, and what a delicious one! But you can see why it has been very difficult for me to meet my calorie goals!

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Solstice! (One Day Late)

Did everyone enjoy the solstice yesterday at 4:44 am? I was actually invited to a solstice party by an old acquaintance, but I had to go to choir practice this close to Christmas. Anyway, not to insult any of my readers who might be neopagans, but every solstice party (and indeed, every pagan ritual) I have ever attended has been silly. Not that there’s anything wrong with silliness – in fact, I highly encourage it – but the problem is that I get the feeling the pagans are actually serious, so I am not free to laugh. If we were all in on the joke, it would be fantastic. 

It was also Hardingfele’s birthday yesterday, so on the off chance that she is reading this blog, happy birthday, Hardingfele! She used to be my #1 commenter, but lately my #1 comment is nobody. Anyone who wants to comment, feel free, and maybe I will write a blog post about your comment. Make it really outrageous, and I will try to rise to creative heights to respond. The problem (if it can be called that) is that my life is now so calm and happy that I don’t have weird situations to blog about. Maybe all I need is an idea, like when I asked two kids what they wanted a story about, and one said alternate universes and the other said banana peels. That spurred me to write a story about Joey Banana that has received several dramatic readings at Richard Bonomo’s house. (My story “Polyhymnia” has as well.) Know what will never receive a dramatic reading at Rich’s house? This post.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Work Christmas Party

Sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday – I just forgot. Yesterday was our Christmas party at work, and the head of the whole place paid to have a taco bar catered. Yum! Oddly, they gave us plenty of everything except tortillas, which are about the cheapest thing they provided. They gave us a lifetime supply of sour cream and enough of the other fixings so we could all have tacos again for lunch today. (We just had to get more tortillas.) After lunch we had a white elephant gift exchange, and I ended up with an elf hat that was way too big for me. I doubted Travalon would wear it, and nobody else wanted to steal it, but eventually Handy Woman traded it to me for the purse from Jamaica that she ended up with. There was one present left at the end of the gift exchange, which was a CD I brought, and Handy Woman said I should get it since I didn’t like my first present. I ended up giving it to someone whose kids wanted it; I wanted to trade it to her for the bright blue squid hat she got (that thing was pretty cool!), but she had already told her daughter she could give it to her goofy teacher for Christmas. After the gift exchange, we got to have Christmas cheer, as long as we followed rules like only beer and wine, and Handy Woman had to be the “designated server,” so she didn’t get to partake. Even so, I think she had as much fun as the rest of us!

Famous Hat

Monday, December 19, 2016

Snowy Weekend

Winter is upon us, no matter what the calendar says. This weekend was so snowy that I ended up not doing all that much. Friday Travalon and I just went to Mariner’s Inn for fish fry, since we can walk to it. To our surprise, there were some holiday parties going on there – I guess people are determined to have them, no matter what the weather does. Saturday it wasn’t as snowy in the morning, so Travalon and I went to Crema Café and ran some errands, then in the evening it began to snow again. He had a friend coming from Waukesha to go to a concert here in town, and we thought he might cancel, but he did make it out. Several friends of mine said they were interested in attending the Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at the Nau-Ti-Gal that evening, but due to the weather only Rich came. We went over and only a few other people were at the party, so we just had dinner and talked. I felt a little weird being there without my husband and with another man, since the bartenders all know us over there, so I had to explain that Travalon was at a concert with his friend, and that originally a bunch of us were coming to this party but nobody else could make it. They just laughed, so I guess they aren’t worried that I am stepping out behind Travalon’s back. His friend ended up staying over Saturday night, and he went to Mass with us on Sunday, since he is Catholic too. We got coffee and debated about driving to Ma and Pa Hat’s house, but Ma Hat called and said stay home, there was a travel advisory where they live. It was clear out, but bitterly cold. Travalon and I watched the Packers seem to be about to crush the Bears, until the Bears came roaring back and tied things up. Just when we thought they were going to go into overtime, Rodgers threw another one of his Hail Mary type passes to set up a field goal as time ran out. Whoa! So their playoff hopes are still alive and well, despite their terrible November. We did venture out to our friends’ house to play games and eat pizza, and we stopped by a fundraiser at the East Side Club that was having an ugly Christmas sweater contest, but it wasn’t too lively. I figured I wouldn’t win anyway, since one guy had a sweater with tinsel on it. Yuck! How do you beat that?

Famous Hat

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Party at the East Side Club

Last night Travalon and I went to the East Side Club’s Christmas party for members. As soon as we got there, someone bought us each a drink to thank us for being such loyal members. Maybe they are just excited to have some Gen-Xers come to things regularly; everyone else seems to be Baby Boomers or older. Travalon and I spent some time talking to a World War II vet who was amazingly well preserved, but then his 98-year-old sister who looks 75 and her 71-year-old daughter who looks 58 or so would seem to indicate they come from fortunate genetic stock. This guy used to sell beer at the big East Side Club Festival that used to happen in the 60’s (and maybe the 70’s?) until insurance regulations became too onerous. He said it was a great time, with all sorts of rides for the kids. I had heard of it before and wish I could have gone myself, but I’m not entirely clear this festival even happened during my lifetime.

During dinner Travalon and I sat with a friendly couple who play bocce ball at the Club in the summer, and the wife said she would give my contact information to some friends who form a team every year. Dinner was roast beef with salad, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable medley, although our tablemate had ordered the vegetarian entrée and she got a delicious-looking red pepper stuffed with couscous. I hadn’t even realized they had a vegetarian option! Dessert was apple pie, and we got wine with dinner and Tom and Jerrys after dinner, so I was a bit tipsy. Fortunately we were there quite a while, singing Christmas carols and then dancing to a guy singing and playing the keyboard. He could make the keyboard do this creepy thing where he sang into it and it sounded like he was singing in harmony with himself in thirds. Yikes! Travalon and I really had a lot of fun, even if we were the youngest ones there. Those Baby Boomers still know how to party!

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ode to Terrible Christmas Songs

The older – and happier – I get, the less creative I have become. Some of my older blog posts, even as recently as two or three years ago, seemed fun and interesting, but now I just recount my life. Even the sock snowman I made the other night at the museum is cute, but not as creative as some of the other ones being made next to me. True confession: I stole some ideas from the other ladies while making my snowman. Why would being happy make a person less creative? This doesn’t seem to be limited to my life; it is a cliché that great artists are always unhappy people, but maybe that is because there is at least a grain of truth to it. So does being unhappy make a person creative, or does being creative make a person unhappy? To test this question, I will now attempt to be creative and see if it decreases my happiness, or if my generally happy nature keeps my creative endeavor from being of any quality. Here is a poem about terrible secular Christmas songs:

It’s that time of year
When you turn on the radio and hear
Songs about reindeer and snowmen,
Things that appeal to no men.
Is it really the most “wonderful” time
When everything is snow and rime?
Yes, there are beautiful lights,
But nobody sings about lit-up nights.
Why do these lovely carols I know
Never get played on the radio?
Would people really rather hear
About godless and relentless good cheer?

OK, my experiment is done, and maybe I am slightly less happy than before beginning, because that poem is really not any good. Then again, neither are the songs that inspired it.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Playing Twenty Questions with Travalon

Inspired by that game we played at his birthday party, Travalon and I have been playing Twenty Questions some evenings. We always tell each other if what we are thinking of is a person, place, or thing, but we don’t actually keep track of how many questions get asked. Also, I will admit that we are pretty liberal with our hints if the other person is going in the wrong direction. I believe playing games like this that make you think is a good way to keep your brain sharp in middle age. Catzookz gave us a book about keeping your brain sharp, and it suggested doing little things differently, like taking a new route to work or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Actually, I naturally tend to do things like that just to put some pizazz in my daily grind. What could be more boring than commuting the same way to work every day or brushing your teeth? I certainly feel less creative than when I was younger, but am I less mentally sharp? It’s so hard to say. The other day Travalon and I were really “on” during Twenty Questions, guessing what the other person was thinking of within a few questions. Of course, we tend to be nice to each other and choose things the other person knows and likes. (I used to play with a friend who routinely chose people I had never heard of and who would also answer questions in a really misleading way, so it was nearly impossible to guess what he was thinking of. That is not the goal of the game!) Anyway, whether or not Twenty Questions is a good mental exercise, it sure is a lot of fun!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Humans Are Made to Sing

The other day I was talking to Handy Woman about classes we are taking; I was taking ukulele and am still taking Irish, and she is taking French and voice classes. I had thought about taking the same voice class, but I said it might have been kind of awkward if we had both been in there, and she said, “More so for me, since you have such a good voice.” Somehow that got us onto a discussion of how at my last job a doctor was giving a talk on sinuses and what to do about them, but none of the doctors in attendance could figure out why on earth humans have sinuses. I didn’t say anything at the time, but all I could think was, “To have a resonant space for singing!” Handy Woman and I reflected on that wondrous thought: humans are built to sing! I said in my experience most people can sing reasonably well, and scientists actually did a study a couple of years ago that concluded the same thing: most people can sing a tune with reasonable approximation of pitch and rhythm. Of the small percentage of people who couldn’t, they were about equally divided into two types: those who realized they were terrible singers, and those who had no idea. The article I read noted that the researchers couldn’t answer the question of why so many of the latter type ended up on those “Make Me a Famous Singer” reality shows, just to hear in utter disbelief that they are awful, but this does go to show that some of these people are not putting us on. They genuinely think they sound wonderful.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Concerts Weekend

I hope my readers had an enjoyable Advent weekend. I availed myself of Christmas music all three evenings. Friday Tiffy came to town, and she, Rich, and I had dinner at Brasserie V and then went to the handbell Christmas concert at the Middleton Performing Arts Center. As always, there were treats afterwards, including these amazing red velvet cookies. They played many of my favorite carols, including the Sussex Carol and “While by My Sheep,” and, oddly, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.” I had never thought of that particular hymn as having anything to do with Christmas, but suddenly this year it seems to be popping up everywhere as a Christmas song. I am not pleased, because it is one of my favorite hymns of all time, and I hate to see it relegated to just this time of year.

Saturday morning Travalon and I met Rich, Jilly Moose, Luxuli, and Tiffy for coffee, then I had to leave for a haircut. Afterwards Rich, Travalon, Tiffy, and I had lunch at the new Angkor Wat restaurant where Inka Heritage used to be. It was pretty good, and the portions are huge, so Travalon and I had the rest for dinner. He was a real sport and took me to the Madison Bach Musicians concert at First Congo, despite the snow. Tiffy had left right after lunch to avoid the storm, but lots of people made it to the concert, including Cecil Markovitch and Mr. N’Awlins. It was a wonderful concert, as always. There was a concerto by Biber for which the violins retuned to have two E strings and two A strings, so they were amazingly resonant. It was so beautiful!

Yesterday Travalon and I went to Mass at Westport because of the snow, then we had brunch at the Willows. Every second Sunday they have a walleye brunch. Again it was such a large portion that I will eat the rest for dinner tonight. We had a relaxed day around the house, watching the most recent Star Wars movie and the first half of the Packers game. I felt bad for Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, because he was having an awful game. Might as well happen against the Packers, right? But I do still have a soft spot for him from when he was the Badgers’ quarterback. Then Travalon and I met Rich and the Dairyman’s Daughter for the Tudor Dinner at Union South. First were hors d’oeuvres, but there was nowhere to sit, so we wandered into the sports bar area of the Union and got to watch most of the rest of the game. The Packers just slaughtered Seattle. Then we trooped upstairs for a supposedly English Tudor dinner with supposedly English Tudor music, although they sang some pretty modern stuff. Dessert was figgy pudding and a sugar cookie for those (like the Dairyman’s Daughter) who just cannot stand figgy pudding. Before dinner they parade through the hall with a fake boar’s head to “The Boar’s Head Carol,” and before dessert they parade through the hall with flaming figgy pudding to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Travalon was somewhat disappointed that the choir didn’t wear Tudor clothes, which admittedly would have been cool. The whole thing, with the concert after dinner, lasted almost four hours, which is very long, especially on a Sunday night. Some of us had to get up this morning…

Famous Hat

Friday, December 9, 2016

Night at the Art Museum

Sorry I didn’t get around to blogging yesterday. I had to go to Mass right after work for Immaculate Conception, and then a bunch of us from the parish had dinner in the church hall and trekked down to the campus art museum at the other end of State Street to see some high-resolution photos of European cathedrals. The photos are huge and really spectacular – they almost seem 3-D! The photographer took thousands of photos of each façade and then fed them into a computer to create a compiled image. A young woman who goes to our church had done some research on the churches, so she told us some interesting facts about each one as we gazed at the photo. I had only seen one in person, the cathedral at Chartres, but I would love to see more of them someday! In the lobby of the art museum was a setup where people could decorate and eat sugar cookies or make snowmen out of socks filled with rice, so I availed myself of both activities. They sound like kids’ activities, but all the other people gathered around the tables were millennial women. My snowman did somehow lose a button on the long walk back to the church, but Travalon thought he was cute anyway. Now he is sitting on our dining room table as the only seasonally appropriate decoration in the house, other than the Christmas lights up in the loft that a) are there all year, and b) I almost never remember to turn on.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Travalon's Birthday Party

Sorry for my long silence. I did end up catching Travalon’s cold and was completely out of it on Monday. This past weekend Travalon and I went downtown for coffee, then he went to the Badger basketball game while I rode the free Holiday Trolley that goes up and down State Street. Tiffy came up and we met for lunch at Himal Chuli, then Travalon joined us after the game, and the three of us went to the Capitol to see the State Christmas Tree. It has lots of adorable ornaments on it made by schoolchildren from all over the state. In the evening we met Rich and some other Slow Food people at a swanky sushi restaurant, and Travalon was brave and tried some sushi! He won’t eat the raw stuff, but he will eat cooked rolls. My roll was called a super volcano and was really good. Another wonderful thing there: lychee martinis! Then Travalon and I watched the Badgers lose to Penn State, a hard loss when they were up by three touchdowns at one point.

Sunday I was feeling worse and didn’t get downtown for Mass. Travalon and I went to a later one closer to our house, then we went home and watched the Packers beat the Texans at a snowy Lambeau Field. (Tiffy had left the night before because she knew the snow was coming.) In the afternoon I went to the annual All-University Choir Concert at the church I used to sing at, and when my OTHER choir director heard me say hello, he said, “You’re sick! You should be home in bed!” Rich and Kathbert were already there, saving me a seat. It is a wonderful concert, and completely free. It is not Travalon’s kind of music, so he went to a pub called the Thirsty Goat that we had both been curious about. He provided the pizzas for his birthday party, and Rich made chocolate mousse. The Rosary Ladies, Prairie Man, the Single B-Boy, and much later Cecil Markovitch joined us at Rich’s house. We played a game in which you put a piece of paper with a famous person’s name on one person’s forehead, and that person can only ask yes or no questions to figure out who they are. I love games like that, where there is no winner – we were all winners because it was so much fun!

Monday I was totally miserable. Yesterday I felt a little better and went to work and Irish class, then Travalon and I went to Liliana’s for their Gingerbread Dinner: gingerbread in every course! The first course was a salad with gingerbread pieces in it, the main course was a gingerbread-stuffed pork cutlet, and for dessert there was gingerbread pudding. Maybe because I hadn’t had much of an appetite for the last few days, I took most of my meal home. That’s okay, I have to eat a lot less calories these days anyway because my diet app suddenly stopped giving me nearly so much credit for exercise. It used to give me back about 100 calories per mile I walked, but now it only gives me back 150 or so for the whole five miles I try to go every day. And believe me, being sick, I haven’t always met that goal! So eating less is a really good idea.

Famous Hat

Friday, December 2, 2016

Travalon's Birthday Trip

Sorry for my silence yesterday. I took the day off of work for Travalon’s birthday, and we visited his mother and sang for her while I played the ukulele. She had been wanting to hear me play for a while, but I am still a rank beginner, so I’m not sure how impressed she was. For Travalon’s birthday, she helped him out with his dream to get a bass guitar. I highly encourage this interest – everyone should learn a musical instrument! Then we decorated her place for Christmas. After that we continued on to the Milwaukee Public Museum and found out that admission is free on the first Thursday of every month! What a great birthday surprise! We went through the entire museum, including a special exhibit on Hidden Wisconsin and of course the butterfly garden. I particularly enjoyed the West African and Polynesian art, and the Streets of Old Milwaukee display (one of Travalon’s favorite displays) was really lovely for Christmas. Many of the little ethnic houses had Christmas trees, and Christmas carols kept sounding like they were coming closer and then getting further away, as if you were on a real Milwaukee street with live carolers. They even have a real candy store in that display! Travalon got some guava-flavored candy. In the evening we came back to town and had a wonderful meal at Mariner’s Inn, not even a block from our house. I gave Travalon Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography for his present. He says he had a wonderful birthday. We may be having a small party for him on Sunday – stay tuned!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Writing Contest Unwritten Rules, Revisited

I didn’t know what to blog about today, until Hardingfele suggested our conversation regarding the Public Radio writing contest (you may remember my post about their unwritten rules), so here goes: Hardingfele sent me her story today, and I said it wouldn’t win because it wasn’t the right style. She asked what it was missing, and I said:

“I don’t know how to explain it. They are looking for a very particular style of writing, which I neither like nor can emulate. There is a pervading sense of sorrow, and the protagonist is flawed but comes to realize it by the end of the story. I don’t have any interest in reading about over privileged white women realizing that their lives aren’t perfect because they are focusing on unimportant things, unless it is that they have a spiritual epiphany, which they never did in the winning stories. To me, that is the only thing that could fill all these women’s yearnings. So you have to address the angst that only a spiritual life can fix, but without bringing spirituality into it.”

She said, “You nailed that, exactly.” That got us thinking about how we both have leftist sensibilities, but upper middle class white liberals do drive us crazy, and I think these stories provide the key. When you don’t have God in your life, but your material needs are all fulfilled, you feel a deep longing that people who either are striving to survive or who have a relationship with God don’t have. Then you look around you, trying to fill that emptiness but not with God, and you settle on trying to change things that are unjust, but you focus on the wrong things. For example, Hardingfele told me about a “Safety Pin Ally” thing, in which whites full of liberal guilt wear safety pins to show their solidarity with people of color. Now I am not a person of color, so I cannot speak for them, but I imagine such a move would strike me as an empty gesture. How hard is it to wear a safety pin? What does it cost the wearer? It does not involve any work or having to face the fact that you do have advantages because of your own whiteness. I have been thinking for the last few months about what my response to racism could be that would be helpful, and I am thinking of volunteer work. It seems more productive to ask the victims of racism what they actually need (mentoring?) rather than wearing a pin they never asked you to wear.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Pack Are Back! Phew!

I am very happy because the Packers finally won last night. It had been a while! Their offense scored right away after a monster drive down the field, and I thought, “At least they have shown up to play!” But the defense did not seem capable of stopping the Eagles from answering with their own touchdown. However, after that the defense started to come to life too, batting the ball down and even intercepting it, while the offense kept racking up points. And this was on the road – and the Eagles were undefeated at home! It’s good to have our Pack back! Though I do have to admit that the officiating seemed weirdly biased towards the Packers. Now let’s see if they can keep up this momentum…

In sad sports news, a soccer team from Brazil just died in a plane crash as they were on their way to a tournament. They were a small-time team who had really begun to coalesce the last couple of years, and this year they were on their way to the second-tier championship, with their sights on the first-tier one next year. It was a Cinderella story with a tragic ending. Pray for them and their devastated fans.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving Weekend Hiking and Jazz

Sorry for the long silence. I hope my readers had a good Thanksgiving – mine was very relaxing! Wednesday evening Travalon and I started off our four-day weekend by going to Octopi for their Trivia Night. Our team (“Famous Hats”) came in fourth out of eleven, and that was just the two of us versus teams with about six people. We want to try it again sometime!

Thanksgiving Day Travalon and I spent a few hours with his mother, then we went for a hike on Tivoli Island in Watertown, and then we went to Rich’s crazy dinner. There were about twenty people there, including most of the Rosary Ladies, two little kids and a whole enclave of vegetarians at one end of the table. A political discussion did break out among the vegetarians, but I was able to avoid it from where I was sitting just at the edge of their section, and some random singing broke out too, but that I don’t mind as much. I spent much of my time talking to a delightful woman from Nicaragua. As always, I provided the turkey and other people brought all sorts of things, including at least three types of sweet potatoes and half a dozen pies.

Friday Travalon and I took the day off of work, slept in, and made chocolate croissants for breakfast. We drove to Reedsburg to visit the Corner Pub and took a long hike in Mirror Lake State Park. Anna Banana II was in town briefly from North Dakota, so we met her, Jilly Moose, and OK Cap for dinner at Himal Chuli. Some of them went on to Rich’s house for leftover dessert, but by then Travalon was really not feeling too well, so we just went home and had a quiet evening.

Saturday Travalon was really under the weather, so we did not travel to Ma and Pa Hat’s house. I met the Rosary Ladies and Rich for brunch at Crema Café, then we went to the craft market and the pottery place in the same strip mall. I had been hoping to get Kathbert to come up to Cherokee Marsh because I knew she would remember how to get to the boardwalk, and indeed she did! We went for a long hike in the marsh, running into a bandmate of mine, then we went to Rich’s for leftovers. Thanksgiving Part Two!

Yesterday we went to brunch at Sofra in Middleton, then Travalon was feeling well enough to go on a gentle hike in Cherokee Marsh, so I was able to show him the boardwalk. We also went to a memorial concert for Doc DeHaven, a local jazz trumpeter and high school music teacher who had died this summer at the age of 85, and that was great. Different groups played all sorts of jazz, and it was all the kinds I like. (True confession: I am not an Ornette Coleman fan.) So it was a wonderfully relaxing weekend, and Travalon was recovered enough to go to work today.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ukulele Newbie Christmas Jam

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I will be going to Travalon’s family’s dinner for lunch and then Rich’s place for dinner. As if that won’t be way too much food, we had a potluck at work for lunch today, so I am already over my calorie budget and haven’t even eaten dinner yet. Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. Monday evening I joined a bunch of other ukulele newbies to play a number of tunes (including some Christmas ones) at a retirement community right near my house. If it weren’t so dark and cold, I could easily have walked! It was mostly a jam, but we did have an appreciative audience of some of the residents. When we played “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” a couple of relatives of one ukulele player stood above us on a balcony and danced around with stuffed hippopotami. (Is that a word? Spellcheck doesn’t mind it.) Then last night I totally forgot about the magic berries they had at Liliana’s (they make sour food taste sweet), so Travalon and I went swimming in the warm pool at our health club. On further reflection, that was probably a better choice: getting some exercise burns off calories, while eating magic berries adds them, and we already paid for the health club while we would have had to pay for the berries. All the same, I was sort of bummed when I remembered this afternoon about the berries. People tell me it is the craziest thing! Slices of lemon taste just like candy! Maybe someday I will get another chance to try them…

Famous Hat

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shakespeare Folio

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine was a little quieter than past ones due to the cold weather. Friday evening Travalon and I did join Rich, Cecil Markovitch, and the Single B-Boy for the fish fry at the Dorf Haus. They had tropical plants out in containers, and it really bothers me that people treat tropical plants as annuals that can be thrown away each year. How hard would it be to bring them inside?

Saturday Travalon had to work, so I met Rich for coffee and then went to a free concert at Grace Episcopal: Lute Player’s husband on the organ, joined by a violinist. Lots of Bach, which is what sold me on it. Then I went to the Chazen Art Museum to see the Shakespeare folio, which looks like a book, and not even that old compared to some I’ve seen. I believe it was dated 1623. I also checked out some of the art there: didn’t like the modern stuff, loved the Asian and African stuff, and really enjoyed an exhibit of photographs of the facades of Gothic cathedrals. In the afternoon Travalon and I went to Sauk to see if we could spot any eagles; we didn’t, but we did get an impressive view of water spewing over the dam, and the town was done up charmingly with Christmas lights. Then we met OK Cap for dinner at Bellitalia.

Sunday after Mass Travalon and I had brunch with Cecil at the Crema Café, then we ran some errands, and then we went to the movie Arrival, about a linguist trying to communicate with space aliens. I felt it was a more realistic depiction of how a first contact might go than you generally see at the movies, but the mind-blowing twist was, on further reflection, not at all logical. We took a hike around Teideman’s Pond and then watched the Packer game, which started kind of okay but devolved in the second half when the defense couldn’t stop Washington. We have just resigned ourselves to this being a bad year for them – now they have a losing record. Ah well, they can’t be good every year, and they are good most years. The announcers did make some comment about how fans are getting frustrated because we are so spoiled, with the Pack going to the playoffs every year. However, I would say Packer backers have been loyal through some historically low periods, like the decade before Lombardi and of course the 80’s. They will be good again someday. Look how long it took the Cubs to win again!

Famous Hat

Friday, November 18, 2016

Milkweed Collectors Helped the War Effort

Sorry that I didn’t blog yesterday. Travalon and I went to the East Side Club’s Thanksgiving dinner for members, which was catered by Bunky’s. (They have closed their restaurant and only do catering now.) We sat at a table with three kindergarten teachers who were very friendly, and one tried to talk me into joining the Social Committee. Not that I have an abundance of free time, but maybe that way I would at least know when social events have been canceled… After dinner, a member talked about how as a child during World War II she collected milkweed pods so the fuzz inside could be used to make life preservers, and several other people in the audience had done the same thing. I had no idea this huge war effort existed! The speaker had even made a DVD of two survivors of the USS Indianapolis disaster (if you didn’t know anything about this, join the club) who had survived in the ocean for five days before being rescued, thanks to their milkweed down-filled life preservers! It is kind of cool to think that back then kids were expected to contribute to the war effort with such an age-appropriate yet obviously important task. Not that I desire in any way to be in a war, but I wish there were something that united us all the way the war effort seemed to unite people seventy years ago. We could sure use it after this contentious election!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Chinese Light Festival Photos

Sorry that I didn't blog yesterday. I was very tired after Irish class, but after uploading the photos from my phone onto my computer, I realize there are enough for at least three posts. Today's post will just be of the Chinese light festival Travalon and I went to a couple of weekends ago.

Oyster with pearls

Chinese fan 

I took this picture because she looks like she is playing a mandolin!

These lotus blossoms were overhead as we walked on a boardwalk.

This dragon was huge!

Ginkgo tree


Year of the Tiger

I didn't think the Year of the Pig was that cute, but Travalon and I both liked this Year of the Goat depiction, and the goat is my Western sign.


Tomorrow I will try to post photos from our Lower Dells trip and some of our other road trips.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hyperlocal Popup Dinner

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I mostly hung out with Tiffy, who came to town for a special dinner party. We met Rich for lunch on Saturday and then hung out on the three-season porch in our condo. Why we don’t use that room more is beyond me. When we first moved in, it was Cashmere the Rabbit’s room, but she hasn’t been there in a couple of years. Travalon did get some furniture to put in there, so that helps. In the evening Tiffy, Rich, and some other people who do not have names on this blog went to a dinner party we had to pay for. Let me explain: a young couple (with an adorable 15-month-old daughter who loved me) throw these dinner parties, and you pay to go to them. This is their seed money to start an actual restaurant, although they are thinking of continuing more of the popup dinners because running a whole restaurant when you have a baby is a daunting proposition. Anyway, she is the chef and he is the sommelier; they both trained in Chicago and did an amazing job, besides being very personable. She did say she was embarrassed that during an interview she said she served “hyperlocal” food, meaning from her own backyard garden, and her family has not stopped razzing her for using that word. However, it must exist, since Spellcheck is not hating on it. Travalon, meanwhile, went on a guys’ trip to Chicago with Cecil Markovitch, the Single B-Boy, and Mr. N’Awlins, and they had an excellent time too, visiting a Greek Orthodox church with a weeping icon, a Mexican art museum, and a church where they went to Vespers and Mass. Then they had dinner at a Greek restaurant.

Sunday morning Tiffy, Travalon, and I went to brunch at Tavernakaya, since I had seen a few weeks back that they were advertising it but nobody was there, and you know how I feel sorry for people. Apparently word had already spread, because it was quite busy when we were there. It was really good: brunch basics with an Asian twist, like my eggs benedict were over Asian buns instead of English muffins. You could also get basic American brunch food or straight-up Japanese fare. Then we watched the first half of the Packers game, but it was so bad that all three of us loyal Packer Backers decided we were wasting our lives, so Tiffy headed home while Travalon and I went for a hike at Indian Lake with Rodney. (We did tape the game in case the Pack made a historic comeback, but of course they did not.) They can’t be good every year, but do they have to be this bad?? In the evening we went to the Parched Eagle Brew Pub for a pizza and a beer, and when I asked the brew master if he was going to brew a sour beer because I love those, he said, “And for good reason!” He said he is working on two, but that sour beers take a very long time to mature. This I did not know! Maybe that is why you don’t see them very often.

Famous Hat

Friday, November 11, 2016

Live Performance Rules

Last night Travalon and I went to see the Hillbenders, a bluegrass group, play The Who’s “Tommy.” They consisted of five guys: one on banjo, one on dobro, one on mandolin, and first cousins playing the guitar and bass. They were really good, and when one would play a particularly exciting solo, the audience would cheer. That got me thinking about how it is considered bad form NOT to applaud after someone’s improvisational solo section in jazz, but at a Baroque concert you would NEVER applaud right after an interesting passage. In fact, it is considered rude to applaud after each movement; you are supposed to wait until the entire piece is finished. But how do I know this? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me these rules, so maybe I just picked them up at all the live music shows I have attended over the years. Here in Madtown we have a particularly funny tradition where virtually everyone gets a standing ovation, so if performers are exceptionally good, sometimes they DON’T get a standing ovation, just a really long round of applause. There also seems to be some unwritten rule that people have to applaud long enough for the musicians to come out and bow a second time, and then they will play an encore. That seems to be true across genres. I can’t think of the last time I went to a show where they didn’t treat the audience to an encore, so maybe it’s just expected. Anyway, these unwritten rules kind of fascinate me, unless in fact they are written somewhere. Anyone know?

Famous Hat

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Pine Cliff Trail at Governor Dodge

Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. On Tuesday Travalon and I needed to get our minds off of the election, so we went to Liliana’s for dinner. Then we did watch the returns. Yesterday I had the day off of work, so we went on a therapeutic hike at Governor Dodge State Park. (Interestingly, I read an article that said one of the best ways to get over depression from the election results is to get outside.) It was a gorgeous day, and we started with breakfast at Crema Café before hitting the road, sitting by the window in the sunlight. That already improved my mood, and then we hit the trails at Governor Dodge. I have hiked there many times before, but I had never done the Pine Cliff Trail that goes around Cox Hollow Lake. Of course the sign only said that it was 4.5 miles, not that it had a lot of steep climbs – I ended up going up the equivalent of 24 flights of stairs! Poor Travalon had to carry Rodney up all those inclines, so he must have really burned a lot of calories! Rodney cannot really hike anymore. We did pass Pine Cliff, or at least a cliff with pine trees on it, and we hiked along the edge of a peninsula in the lake and past all sorts of interesting rock formations. At one point we were high up on a ridge with drop-offs on either side of us… and we still had to go up further! We also passed over a stream several times (or several streams?), and the ferns and moss were still green around it this late in the year. At the other end of the trail we found a sign stating that the trail goes past some of the oldest and most varied geology on earth. Who knew such a fascinating trail was awaiting our discovery? We did have to walk along the road a short way to get back to our car, just to forewarn any readers who might want to take this trail. After that we went to Mineral Point so Travalon could buy tea at the Cornish shop, and then we went to their little brewpub, but it is only open Thursday through Saturday during the fall, so we ended up at a pizza place across the street, in one of those old stone buildings the town is so known for. Delicious pizza! So what could have been a horrible day turned out to be wonderful.

Famous Hat

Monday, November 7, 2016

Duck Ride and Chinese Lights Festival

I hope my readers got to get outside to enjoy this unseasonably beautiful weekend. Friday evening Travalon and I went to the East Side Club for their fish fry, partly because of my propensity for supporting the underdog. Anyway, we think their catfish is delicious. Then we went to a small brewery called House of Brews, which was also very uncrowded. Are we just that good at picking the not-hot spots? I prefer a place to be uncrowded, but it probably doesn’t bode well for their bottom line.

Saturday Travalon, Rodney, and I drove to Rock Springs near Baraboo, where there is a spring with fresh water gushing out of it and also a state natural area called Ableman’s Gorge where we hiked to a rock called Van Hise Rock. It is in the Baraboo Hills, so the rock is the ancient Baraboo Quartzite which is over a billion years old and has a lovely purple hue. After our hike, we filled our water bottles at the spring and then drove to Reedsburg, where we stopped at a place called the Corner Pub for lunch. They had the best cream ale! It almost tasted like cream soda. We drove a little beyond town to Lake Redstone County Park for another walk. It was such a gorgeous day. We went to Devil’s Lake on the way back home and hiked a little there too. In the evening we had been planning to go to a silent movie downtown, but we couldn’t get tickets, so we went to the Fountain. (Again with supporting the underdog.) That place is in rougher shape every time we go – now they only have the back section open for private functions. They have a new soul food place on the front right side, so we got dinner there and ate outside, then we got some dessert at Red Elephant Chocolates across the street. Since we couldn’t get into the movie, we decided to check out the live music at the Fountain, a guitarist named Durango McMurphy. He was really good, but we were about it for audience. Rich had to come downtown to change the clocks on the church back to Standard Time, so we hung out with him in the church library and discussed racism, which seems to be my favorite topic lately. I’m not sure why, but I apologize to my readers who are sick of hearing about it.

Sunday Travalon and I went to the East Side Club for their inaugural Sunday brunch, but the front was all locked so we went around the side and found a club regular who told us it had been canceled, as had the Halloween party. Is there some way we are supposed to know this? How does everyone else know these things? So we went to World of Beer for “beerunch” and had “beermosas” along with brunch. It was another lovely day, so we played some tennis (and my backhand has already improved since last time), and then we talked about canoeing, but I am scared of our canoe since falling out of it the second time. Instead we went to the Dells and took a Duck ride through Lake Delton and the Lower Dells, which is full of cool rock formations. Tiffy texted me that there was a Chinese light show at a botanical garden in Milwaukee, and that was their final night. Because Travalon is such an adventurous guy, he said, “Let’s go!” so we drove there while listening to that pathetic Packers game. Our poor Pack are just not very good this year. The light show was beautiful, and I got lots of photos of things like a giant fan and playful pandas. Afterwards we had dinner at a restaurant called That’s Amore; I thought Chinese would be fitting after our adventure, but Travalon was in an Italian mood, and I will never argue about Italian food! I had spaghetti with seafood, and there was so much that I also had it for lunch today. Yum!

Famous Hat

Friday, November 4, 2016

Unstated Writing Contest Rules

Hardingfelde sent me a link to a Public Radio writers’ contest. The rules are pretty simple: the manuscript must be two thousand to five thousand words, be anonymous but accompanied by a letter with the writer’s details, and written by someone living in our state who is over 18 years of age. However, having read past winners, I think there should be some more rules stated. These people all write in the same style, which is one I neither write in nor enjoy reading, and maybe they should just state that up front in their rules:

Your story must be from a privileged upper-middle class white perspective, even if the protagonist is poor. Bonus points if you write like a woman; while manuscripts are anonymous, we always choose women writers. Remember that humor is not appreciated; we are not looking for the next David Foster Wallace or John Irving, no matter how much people actually enjoy their writing. There must be a lot of pathos, as though you have never encountered tragedy before so that when it strikes you are shocked by how horrible and unfair it seems. We will not entertain the notion of giving the prize to any story with a positive outlook on life, since our lives (and yours) are so easy that we need to read about fictional tragedy in order to feel like your story has any meaning. We strongly encourage you to include people of color in your story, but please do not write from their point of view, and we certainly discourage actual writers of color from submitting manuscripts, since we only award prizes to those with a white perspective. Remember, we your judges are all intellectuals, so be sure to write about something we can understand, like life in academia. We don’t want to read about any actual struggles, just tragedies of the sort that can befall wealthy white people.

What do you think, readers? Should I email this fleshing out of the rules to the contest judges so they can post a more honest evaluation of what they are looking for?

Famous Hat

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cubbies Win It All!!!

There is really only one thing I could blog about today. The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken!! The Cubs have won the World Series!! My grandpa, who was a huge Cubs fan, didn’t live to see this day, but then he did live through two championships, when he was a tiny baby. There is one fan who is 108 who said she would love to see a second championship during her lifetime – and she did! One hundred and eight years – a very long time to go between championships! As someone noted on social media right after the win: “Time since the Cubs won their last pennant – five minutes!” Before the game people were posting graphs of who was supporting the Cubs vs. the Indians, and the poor Indians were only favored in Ohio; the rest of the country was solidly pulling for the Cubs. Who wouldn’t want the Lovable Losers to finally win?

Travalon and I watched the first five innings of the game at the Parched Eagle with the brew master and some other random guys (I was the only woman), then we headed home to watch the second half of the game. The Cubs had a solid lead, but they made some errors, and Chapman was so tired that he pitched a two-run homer to tie things up. Whoa, we were heading into a tenth inning! Then – just to ratchet up the tension – there was a rain delay of about a quarter of an hour. In the tenth the Cubbies scored two runs, but then the Indians scored one, and just when it seemed that we might be heading into yet another inning, there was an easy out and it was all over! I screamed so loudly! My neighbors might hate me, unless they were also watching. This has to have been the most exciting World Series in years, maybe ever: two teams suffering from championship droughts, the Cubs down three games at one point, and then this dogfight of a game at the end. They only won by one run, but who cares? The Curse is finally broken! 

Famous Hat

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Diversity Forum

Sorry for my silence yesterday. I had Irish class in the evening, of course, and spent the workday at a diversity forum. These things always seem so pointless; as one panel member lamented, we always talk about problems, but we never do anything about them. The first panel was interesting because it was called “Diversity in Ideology,” and it featured faculty members from both ends of the political spectrum. I liked that because, while I am not particularly conservative myself, I do feel conservatives are underrepresented in the higher education conversation. At the end of the discussion, the panelists were surprised that they agreed more than they disagreed about the solutions to these problems, and that is what I think too: people of all political stripes who are of good will want what is best for society, at least where the welfare of minorities is concerned. Another panel was on coping strategies for women of color, which was very interesting to me. I am always fascinated by hearing about other people’s experiences. One very bad moment in my life was when I was raving about Door County to a friend who happens to be a minority, and she said her experience there was very negative, and I was shocked and horrified that she would say such a thing – but how could I discount her experience like that? How would I know what it is like to be a minority in Door County? The last panel of the day got kind of contentious because one black lady on it was saying how all white people are racist, meaning we profit from the suppressive system in this country, but white women in the audience kept taking issue with that and saying they weren’t racist, meaning they weren’t personally prejudiced. It seems to me that they were all talking past each other. What struck me the hardest was that while the black ladies were angry, the Native ladies were so sad. Two of them (on different panels) began crying while describing their experiences. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by their plight. The problem is that I have no idea how to change things, and this forum didn’t exactly provide any answers. I get that there aren’t easy answers, but if we all work together, I have hope that we can improve things.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween Party and Best Boat Ride Yet

I hope my readers had a good Halloween weekend and got out to enjoy the beautiful weather on Saturday. Friday right after work I went to the Boys and Girls Club with my band, where we played for a community meal and then got to partake in it. After I got home, Travalon and I changed into Hawaiian shirts, and I brought my ukulele along as a prop, to go to the Nau-Ti-Gal Halloween party. At first it was very quiet, so I was playing along with the band. Since they were playing in D and G (easy keys on the mandolin), but I only know how to play in C and F on the ukulele, I just played melody and harmony by ear. Eventually more people came, including a lion and a scarecrow who came separately. We joked that the Tinman would have to show up any moment, but he never did. We watched the Cubs game, but the poor Cubs lost 0-1 in their first World Series game at Wrigley Field in over seventy years.

Saturday was a gorgeous day. Travalon and I went to Crema Café for brunch, then I was supposed to join my band for another gig, but it was an hour away, then two hours for just tips, and another hour back. That is four hours not outside on a perfect day, and this venue had cheated us last time we were there, saying we would each get a free food item but then subtracting the cost of what we ate from our tips. I figured, fool me once, shame on you but fool me twice, shame on me. Instead, Travalon and I went for a very long boat ride into a creek off the lake and then out into the lake past Governor’s Island and into a beautiful bay between it and Maple Bluff. After that we went home and got Rodney for a hike on Governor’s Island, and then we went to the dog park at Warner Park, which Rodney really enjoyed. He is kind of in his own world these days, but he does enjoy sniffing around where other dogs have been. The East Side Club had a Halloween party on their calendar that day, but we went there and saw nothing but a spectacular sunset. Instead, we went to the Parched Eagle, a small brewery near our house, and, along with the brew master and a couple of other guys, watched the Cubs lose again. Then Travalon and I took a second boat ride (probably our final one of the season) just down the river to see the purple window more closely and then out into the lake just far enough to see the Capitol dome all lit up. It was an absolutely perfect night, but we were the only boat out there.

Yesterday was not nearly so nice outside, but Travalon, Rodney and I did go for a walk along the path up in Windsor, beside the Yahara River where it is only a babbling brook. We watched the Packers just barely lose in a bruiser to the Falcons – two closely matched teams, obviously, since they lost by a point, and their records are nearly identical. I went to Rich’s house to join him, Kathbert, and his houseguest (the brother of a former roommate) for dinner, which included broccoli fresh from Rich’s garden that was full of little caterpillars. Fortunately we discovered them before we ate the broccoli; Rich and I just picked them off, but the others were too grossed out to eat the broccoli after that. We had the Cubs game on in the background, and they won! So the World Series is not over yet. Rich carved a pumpkin that is a circuit and an equation, to keep his nerd cred intact. He has generously provided a photo:  

Famous Hat

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lobster Boil

Last night Travalon and I went to our second lobster boil at Mariner’s Inn. It seemed more chaotic than the one last year, maybe because there seemed to be a lot more people there. We were sitting at a table with two people and two empty seats when the waitresses moved the other two people to seat a party of four together. They proved to be pleasant company, and the one guy had coached high school football and basketball, so he had quite a bit to say about the coaching of the Badgers and the Packers. Everything he said made a lot of sense, but I’ll admit that I am no coach. He and the other guy at the table didn’t even get the lobster boil because apparently they weren’t originally part of the group, but their wives wanted in on it. Someone out in the main part of the restaurant had stolen their reserved seats, so the poor waitstaff had to scramble to seat them together. One of the waitresses is one we regularly see at the Norske Nook! These are some of the hardest-working people I have ever met; this isn’t the first time I’ve seen one waitress at multiple restaurants. Sadly, I see my blog post about the lobster boil last year is also about a Republican debate. It makes me nostalgic for a time before the nominee was the least qualified guy on the stage.

Famous Hat

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Game Two of the World Series

Last night I was not feeling well, but I did stick it out at work and drag myself to band practice. Then I went home and watched Game Two of the World Series with Travalon. We both missed the first inning, in which the Cubs scored a run; today I checked the newspaper, but in the description of the game, there was nothing about how this run was scored. Did a guy steal home? Did someone get a home run? How odd, because in descriptions of football games, they always tell you about interesting plays. Baseball is so much more about statistics, and there were all kinds of statistics for this game listed in the paper, so maybe if I’d understood them, I could tell you what happened. There was an unearned run later when the bases were loaded and the Cleveland pitcher walked someone. Unfortunately Cleveland stole home on a wild pitch, but that was the only run they got, so the final score was 5-1 Cubbies. Yay! Now the series is tied. I’ll bet the advertisers love it, because tons of people are probably watching the Cubs, and it is anyone’s series at this point. It has been a real battle of the pitchers. Tonight there is no game, so Travalon and I are going to a lobster boil, but all weekend long there will be games. I don’t know if we will make it to the Halloween parties at the Nau-Ti-Gal and the East Side Club! Of course, we don’t have costumes, so we are not ready for them anyway…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dinner at Light Bright's House

Sorry for my silence yesterday. I went to Light Bright’s house for dinner; her mother-in-law joined us, but her baby boy was already in bed, since I couldn’t get there until after Irish class. They both seemed more subdued than when I visited last month, probably since everyone is getting over viruses. I brought an Indulgence chocolate nib bar, and it was a big hit. Light Bright made chicken noodle soup using vegetables from her garden, and her MIL made something she had tried in New York City when she had visited a couple of weekends ago for her birthday: grilled eggplant and peppers with fresh mozzarella on it. It had a fancy Italian name which I can’t remember now, and it was delicious. We called it an evening around nine, and then I went home and (sigh) watched the Cubs lose to the Cleveland Indians 6-0 with Travalon. There are seven (potential) games in the World Series, but the announcers were saying that the last fifteen winners all won Game One, so statistically speaking it is not looking so hopeful for our Cubbies. Still, they could come back. Hope springs eternal… or at least until the final game has been played.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 24, 2016

Is the Curse of the Billy Goat Broken?

I hope my readers got outside to enjoy the gorgeous weather this weekend. Friday evening Travalon went to a high school football game while I went to a Newbie Ukulele jam. It was at someone’s very beautiful house, and we played hard for an hour – I got a blister on my thumb from strumming! – and then we sat around talking and drinking wine and eating cheese and lemon bars. It was a lot of fun, but I was a good two decades younger than everyone else. Retirees seem to love to take up the ukulele. Why not? It is an easy instrument, and a lot of fun.

Saturday Travalon and I had brunch at the Norske Nook, since his new project is to try every one of their pies, then we got on the road with Rodney to Prairie du Chien, listening to the Badger game as we drove. Just as we reached town, the Badgers beat Iowa! We went for a hike at Wyalusing State Park, then we went to another tavern from our book – we are now down to nine taverns to visit! This one had the friendliest proprietors yet and very delicious pizza. Then as we drove back, we found an AM station to listen to the Cubs game. I am not a hardcore fan, but Ma Hat’s side of the family are all fans so I am somewhat of one, and I do love Wrigley Field. We knew if they won this game, they would be in the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and they were on fire! The pitcher dispatched the Dodgers hitters so fast that they were already in the eighth inning by the time we got home. They won 5-0!! Maybe the Curse of the Billy Goat is broken…? We’ll see if they can win it all for the first time since 1908.

Yesterday was a lot of fun. Jilly Moose came to Mass, so she, Travalon, and I went to the East Side Club for brunch, since the president of the club had told us they have Sunday brunch, but the place was all locked. We went to the Daisy Café, but they had a very long wait, so we ended up going back to Plaka, and we were very happy with that choice. Travalon and I went for a boat ride back in the marsh, then we went to a ukulele singalong at the Sun Prairie Library, and then we played tennis. I am very out of practice and was winded after twenty minutes, and of course various neighbors kept happening by and watching us, which was embarrassing. It was still a ton of fun. We took Rodney for a hike along the marsh, and then in the evening we went to Rich’s house for a birthday party for Kathbert and the Single B-Boy. It was a small party: just Cecil Markovitch, my OTHER choir director, and a woman I hadn’t seen in ages but actually gave a shout-out to on this blog back in 2008. She said she has been living in New Mexico and Missouri since then, but now she is back, so she may end up with a name on this blog.

Famous Hat

Friday, October 21, 2016


Sorry for my silence the last few days. Wednesday I watched the last presidential debate with Travalon (and, yes, skipped choir practice again), and yesterday I took the day off of work to go to Holy Hill with him and his mother. It had been beautiful earlier in the week, but of course yesterday was cold and blustery. The leaves were very beautiful as we drove to Holy Hill and then to a park nearby that has a whole historical section. Then in the evening Travalon and I went to Packtoberfest at the East Side Club, which was a tailgate party and then a talk by a woman who had known (and even dated some of) the Packers back in the 60’s when they were so dominant. While her story was interesting and she was an engaging speaker, she started talking more about herself and less about the Packers, and kickoff had already started, so Travalon and I went downstairs to watch the game until she had finished and they put it on upstairs. The Packers were pretty lackluster against the Bears (who are down to their third-string quarterback) in the first half, although the defense was good, but in the second half the offense finally showed up to play. I don’t have high hopes for their upcoming road games, if it was that hard for them to win against a severely diminished Bears team at Lambeau. We went home for the second half, since it was getting late, and I even stayed up to watch the last inning of the Cubs game. They won! If they win their next game, they are in the World Series! Is the Curse of the Billy Goat finally broken?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ukulele Part 2

Yesterday evening as I was driving on John Nolan Drive on the way from work to my ukulele lesson, I saw the yellow submarine was gone from Lake Monona. How lucky that Travalon and I happened to see it on Sunday! And even luckier that we got to talk to the perpetrator. Then I was surprised to see that Ukulele Part 2 is an even bigger class than Ukulele Part 1! Almost all of us came back for Part 2, but some other people joined the class who had been learning on their own. Being unfamiliar with our teacher’s whimsical sense of humor, two younger ladies in particular were in stitches all night. For example, the teacher will put up a slide of two different chord changes, one inefficient and one efficient, and under the “bad” one he will put a frowning frog and under the “good” one he will put a smiling frog. Those of us in Ukulele 1 smiled broadly the first time we saw this, and now we are just used to it, but these two girls reacted like it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. It was fun having such lively people in the group; the rest of us are all kind of mellow, I guess. Surprisingly, I remain the only one in the class who took up the ukulele because I impulsively bought one in Hawaii; everyone else just bought theirs in a guitar shop or online, and they actually put some thought into it. Just to remind those of my readers who might like to take ukulele lessons in the future, the teacher does have instruments he will lend to you during class so you can see if you like it before making the commitment to purchase one.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 17, 2016

Mysterious Yellow Submarine

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Tiffy came up Friday evening, and she, Travalon, and I were going to try a new place for fish fry, but they were booked until 8:30 so we got ice cream drinks at Mariner’s, since we can easily walk there. We headed to the new place and got there just before 8:30, only to be told the kitchen had a backlog, so we could drink all we wanted, but we couldn’t order food for another half hour. I thought that was kind of nuts, but once we did get our food, it was delicious.

Saturday Tiffy, the Rosary Ladies, Richard Bonomo, and I met for brunch at Crema Café, then the other ladies went to pray the rosary while Tiffy, Rich, and I checked out the pottery/fused glass workshop in the same mall. We all have to try this sometime – it looks like so much fun! Across the street was a boat-sized papier mache yellow submarine, and we wondered what it was doing there. It had been there for months. The three of us went to Olbrich Gardens, and in the Thai Pavilion there was a tribute set up to the king of Thailand, who had died just a couple of days before. In the evening Tiffy, Rich, and I met some other people for dinner at Pig in a Fur Coat, a real “foodie” restaurant, and everything was delicious. Between all of us, we ordered just about everything on the menu and shared it all. Then Tiffy and I went to a wonderful Baroque music concert. Travalon, meanwhile, had to work all day and then went to the exciting Badger game in the evening. They barely lost to Ohio State, a very good team, in overtime.

Sunday after Mass and brunch, Travalon and I got Rodney and brought him to Blessed Sacrament for a Blessing of the Pets (as in a bunch of dogs and one presumably terrified cat). Unlike the one at St. Dunstan’s, this was outside. Then as we drove home along John Nolan Drive, we saw a sailboat towing the funny yellow submarine that had been residing across from Crema Café! We parked and took pictures, then when the guy in the boat anchored the submarine and docked his boat near us, we went over and talked to him. The submarine was a group art project at a community center to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles song, and then it was used as a float in a community festival parade. He said this was the last thing he was doing with it – floating it on the water for everyone passing by to see. Such a Madison story! Travalon and I were in a good mood after that, and we went for a short hike at Cherokee March to enjoy the lovely weather… but then we watched the Packer game. Ugh! The only thing that could rouse me out of my funk after that was a lively political discussion with Rich and Kathbert, so now I am ready for further punishment on Thursday when the Pack hopefully don’t lose to the Bears.

Famous Hat

Friday, October 14, 2016

Comparative Life Spans of Various Decorative Gourds

It’s autumn, and you know what that means: pumpkin spice everything and decorative gourds everywhere! I am very puzzled by the decomposition rate of various decorative gourds. For example, I have one on my desk that has been sitting there since last autumn and does not appear to be any worse for wear. It looks like a small, pale yellow pumpkin. However, during the gig at the orchard, I got two tiny gourds that looked just like little pumpkins, and they both molded within two weeks. Here I had thought they would last until Halloween, and they didn’t even last until October! So why did they go bad so fast while the one at work appears to be immortal? Will it last until the earth is swallowed up by the sun? And what exactly is its secret? Maybe I should alert scientists to this phenomenon so they could study it and apply their findings to, say, me. After all, this gourd is about 200 years old in gourd time, and it doesn’t look a day over 25. Wouldn’t we all love to know its secrets?

Famous Hat

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Wade House

Sorry for my silence the last few days. Tuesday I was too tired to blog after walking all over campus to get to a shared governance reception (I am the representative from my district for the University Staff Congress) and of course Irish class. At the reception I was hanging out with our big boss, and the Chancellor knew him and came over to talk to him. We have the same first name, so when she saw my name tag, she said, “Great name!” She was very personable. We also talked to my fellow congress member who works at a University crop research area where the old Badger Ammo plant used to be. Think how far he had to come for this reception! So I couldn’t really complain about having to walk almost a mile to get to it.

Yesterday I took the day off and went with Travalon to the Wade House, another stop in our historical taverns book. It was an old stagecoach stop halfway between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan, a big boarding house with a tavern on the main floor, but once the railroad passed it, it lost most of its business. However, the family kept it in good shape, and it was kind of a century-old time capsule when it was donated to the State Historical Society back in the 1950’s. Unfortunately it was a rainy day, so we got a bit wet as we trudged between the Wade House and the other buildings, a forge with an actual blacksmith working, and a sawmill. Everyone working there was in a period costume. All the buildings were quite a distance from the main building that houses a very cool carriage museum, but fortunately they took us out to them and back in a covered horse-drawn carriage. At the gift shop in the main building, Travalon picked up another book of historical places to visit around the state by the same authors, this one of gas stations, and on the way back we stopped by one in Fond du Lac. Our next great pilgrimage… This has been a wonderful way to see the whole state. 

Once we got back to town, we had dinner at a roadside restaurant in DeForest we had been wondering about, and it was quite good. Then I went to confession but was going to skip choir practice, only Rich could see where my iPhone was so he knew I was there and texted me. Busted! I told Travalon I had to go, so he was going to an exhibit of Vietnam War art, but it was closed, and all the shops were too… and then he couldn’t get back up into the church because they had locked the door to the upstairs! I forgot to tell him about the unlocked side door. I was going to blog last night but had to get a bunch of steps in because we hadn’t gone hiking in the rain, so there wasn’t time. Sorry about that!

Famous Hat

Monday, October 10, 2016

Killer Baby Unicorn Corn Maze

I hope my readers got to enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. Friday Tiffy came up, and she and I went to a Thai restaurant for dinner and then hiked up the hill to the Unitarian Society’s auditorium for the Madison Bach Musicians’ concert of English Renaissance and Baroque music. If you feel like English is everyone’s theme this year, you are not mistaken – it is because they are all celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. An original folio of his plays will be coming to the university next month in honor of the occasion, so if you get a chance, you should check that out.

Saturday Travalon, Rich, and I met Tiffy for coffee downtown, then we went to her sister’s beautiful apartment to walk the dogs, Karl and Eddie. Karl is a very friendly, athletic chocolate Lab and Eddie is a cute little cockapoo. Tiffy said they were unusually mellow that day, but they were still quite frisky, especially compared to poor old Rodney. We had some lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant, then Travalon, Tiffy, and I played catch with Karl before heading to the Treinen Corn Maze. This year the theme is Killer Baby Unicorns, and Tiffy had more trouble than usual reading the map because the lines were all curvy so we just sort of wandered. Travalon went off in search of secret punches, and we didn’t see him again until we emerged from the maze with eight secret punches, and there he was to greet us. We got maze pens and Maze Master Certificates again this year. Tiffy headed home, and I headed back downtown to watch the silent movie Metropolis with Rich at the Overture Center while Travalon (who doesn’t care for silent movies) went to Mr. Brews and then watched the Cubs win a playoff game. They are on fire this year! Maybe the Curse of the Billy Goat is finally broken!

Yesterday was so beautiful. As Travalon and I were heading out after Mass, we saw Cecil Markovitch and the Single B-Boy walking down the street, so we said hi and they said they were going to a nearby Greek restaurant for brunch, did we want to join them? We managed to find a parking spot just off the Square and joined them for a delicious brunch with a Greek twist: Cecil had a Greek omelet, Travalon had a gyro omelet, and the B-Boy and I had Moroccan chicken scramblers. It was so tasty! Travalon and I went to the zoo to enjoy the perfect weather, then we joined some friends for board games and tacos. In the evening we watched the Packers and taped the debate, to hopefully watch it tonight. The Packers started with a beautiful opening drive, but after that they weren’t so dominant offensively. Fortunately their defense kept shutting the Giants down, and they did win the game. Hopefully this is a winning season for them! So far they have only lost to the Vikings, but everyone is losing to them this year.

Famous Hat

Friday, October 7, 2016

Jilly Moose's Big News

Sorry for my silence the last couple of days. Wednesday I was bad and skipped choir practice to go on a boat ride on the lake with Travalon, and then after dinner I practiced songs on the ukulele while he sang along. He requested “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, but I couldn’t seem to figure out the chords, so I googled it and found a chord chart in E minor. That is not a chord I know on the ukulele yet, so I got the mandolin and played the chords (they are interesting – the song must be modal and not just minor key) while we both sang along. In case you want to play this song yourself, the verses go Em-A-Em-C, repeated, and the chorus has a D minor in it. I tried to transpose it into a key I could manage on the ukulele, but I just don’t know enough chords yet. Maybe after the Beginner 2 class...

Good news! Jilly Moose has a new job and will be starting the week after next. How exciting! I have been praying for all my friends who are looking for new jobs. Speaking of prayer, I just finished the 54-Day Novena for Our Nation today, which is mind-boggling since I usually don’t succeed in finishing basic 9-day novenas. This one did have email reminders, so that helped a lot. I was praying for a good outcome to the upcoming elections. What that is, I’m not sure. I’ll leave that to God.

Famous Hat

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Vice Presidential Debate

Yesterday I didn’t have Irish class, because my other classmate was unable to attend, so I went home and watched the Vice Presidential debate with Travalon. It can be summed up like this:

“Why do you support a presidential candidate who has said such-and-such terrible thing?”

“My candidate never said that. [Which is untrue.] And your candidate has let the world get to be the horrible mess it is today.”

Repeat ad infinitum.

I am not sure this debate would change anyone’s vote, but it does seem like an interesting strategy to deny someone has said something in this modern era of videos and Twitter feeds, when anyone can go back and find that the person did in fact make the statement in question. This campaign has seemed so surreal like that, people just denying that reality has happened. Of course, maybe lots of people will be in denial the day after Election Day! Everyone is so polarized right now that half the country is going to be miserable no matter what, unless we can all agree on some third-party candidate. Why do we only get two choices in our elections, anyway? You would think we could have more of a choice than that. As someone who doesn’t agree with either party, I would definitely love more choices!

Famous Hat

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ecumenical Sunday

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon had caught my cold, and I was still under the weather myself, so we just went to a nearby place called Murphy’s for fish fry on Friday evening and then stayed home the rest of the evening. Saturday we also had a quiet day; I was supposed to play with my band at the orchard where we played a few weeks back, but I stayed home and napped. In the evening Handy Woman had a few people over for a bonfire, so that was fun.

Sunday was the adventurous day this past weekend, because we were both feeling peppier. After Mass we went to a little Lutheran church in our neighborhood for their Fall Fest, which was free lunch (we weren’t expecting the food to be free!) and then games. We were going to play Bingo outside, but it was getting colder, and the game wasn’t starting, and I really wanted to play Bible Trivia. When a woman came to announce there was plenty of room in Bible Trivia, Travalon and I gave up on Bingo and went to play that instead. And guess what? I won first place and we both got cash prizes! I feel bad for the Lutheran church because they were probably hoping to recruit people, and everyone in the trivia game seemed to be something other than Lutheran, but they did spread some good will. We went home and got Rodney, then we walked around Tiedemann Pond, and then we went to yet another church for the St. Francis Blessing of the Animals – St. Dunstan’s Episcopal. There were about eight real dogs there, and three cats, and lots of stuffed animals. In the backyard they have a labyrinth, so after the service I did that. Then we drove to Holy Wisdom Monastery and walked on their trails to a pond that appears to be called Lost Lake, judging from the worn map we found after our walk. In the evening Rich came over to put up my old plant lights in the plant room, since there isn’t much sun in there after the equinox, but he needs to come back with a stud finder to succeed in this venture. The three of us had pizza, and we read him the Bible Trivia questions – he did very well, of course. It’s debatable whether he got one more question wrong than I did, because it really depends on which Bible you are using, a Protestant or a Catholic one. The question was about the last book of the Old Testament. (I figured it was some minor prophet and guessed Malachi, and I was right, but he was right about 2 Maccabees too.) The questions we both missed had some sports or local element to them that we didn’t know, like what is the number of books in the New Testament times the number of times some team won the tournament. (It was a trick question, because they had never won.) Rich told us a local Catholic church actually did the Blessing of the Animals, but we hadn’t found that in an online search. Oh well, we had a fun ecumenical day. 

Famous Hat

Friday, September 30, 2016

Wisconsin Craft Night

Yesterday evening Jilly Moose and I met for dinner at Brocach, then we went to the Union for Wisconsin Craft Night, my birthday present to her. It was mostly women there, and I saw two former coworkers, one of whom has also left that place. We each got a ticket for two drinks, and there were snacks like veggies, popcorn, pretzels, cheese, and crackers. There were also door prizes, and I entered to win a mini Union Terrace chair while Jilly Moose entered to win a water bottle, but neither of us won. We tried our hand at screen printing, which doesn’t take much skill, but I am still so bad at it that I got red paint all over my Packers Shareholder hoodie. Fortunately the paint comes out with soap and water. We also tried our hand at painting the Madison skyline. I did it freehand, not realizing that you were just supposed to paint a background and then decoupage paper cutouts of notable buildings like the Capitol and Camp Randall onto your painting. I painted the Monona Terrace and Capitol Building as seen from the lake (a Betty Lou Cruise view) at night, and people could tell what it was even though I completely forgot that the windows in the Monona Terrace are arched, so my rendition has square windows. I will try to post a picture of my painting on this blog at some point. Jilly Moose followed directions and created a painting of the sun and a palm tree with the Capitol and Camp Randall. The people who sat at our table were all very friendly, and the woman on the other side of me didn’t paint a Madison skyscape at all but some sort of abstract swirly thing, and her friend painted Madison as an aquarium, with fish swimming around the buildings. Some people at another table were really talented and painted cool things like pictures made of words or a psychedelic paw print on a black background. They were younger, and maybe they were art students, considering their talent. The third activity was pottery, but that took the whole time and you had to be able to come back three more times to work on your pottery and then pick it up, so we didn’t bother to do that. It was a super fun night, and if they do it again, we are totally going!

Famous Hat