Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day at the Dells

Today Travalon and I took the day off of work and went to the Dells. The day started on a sad note, when I found out my cousin's husband, who had a stroke back in May, died early this morning. They had just celebrated their second wedding anniversary. Then Travalon and I went to the Coffee Gallerie, and a sign on the door said it was their last day in business. That was a shock! We wondered what the third bad thing today would be, but other than having to get a tire patched before we hit the road, we had a great day. We took the same Upper Dells boat ride that Ma and Pa Hat took earlier this summer, and it was a very scenic ride. We stopped at a place called Witch's Gulch and took a walk, and then we stopped at a place called Stand Rock, where back in the 19th century a photographer named H.H. Bennett took the first action photo, of his son leaping from one rock formation to another. Today they have a German shepherd that leaps from one rock to another, and I made a short video of it. After the boat ride, we went to Nig's for a Swig, where we bought a raffle ticket to win a Harley Davidson, then to Bennett's old studio, which is now a museum, and then we had a delicious dinner at the High Rock Cafe, where we ran into Handy Woman. I knew she had the day off of work too, but I didn't know she was also going to the Dells! The last thing we did was go to a T-shirt shop where I had a tie-dye shirt emblazoned with the words "Famous Hat." I dithered about whether to have the letters done in black or white but settled on white, which turns out to be hard to read. I guess you can say it's subtle...

Here are some photos from our day. First is the writing on the sidewalk that says "Dells," but from the other direction looks like it says "sttop."

Here are examples of the beautiful rock formations called the Dells, from a French word for layers:

 This is Louie Bluff, named after a French fur trader who settled on it:

This does not seem like a very PC name: "Nig's"!

I took this photo for the typo at the bottom: "liqour."

This is my new "Famous Hat" shirt, but you can probably barely read it:

And finally, here is a short video of the dog leaping from one rock formation to the other:

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Videos from our Fun Saturday

This Friday there will NOT be a fish dinner. I will keep everyone posted about possible future dates. Travalon and I did try the rockfish tonight, and it was delicious and bone-free. It must be easier for them to debone a rockfish than a salmon. Then we went to the Tiki Bar at the East Side Club, but nobody else was there so we just had one drink while sitting down by the lake.

The other day I was saying to Travalon that I gave away my silliest hats when I turned 30, like my Mad Hatter hat and my Jughead hat. The problem is that now that I am middle-aged and no longer care about seeming mature, I dearly wish I still had that Jughead hat. If anyone runs across one, let me know.

Here are some photos and videos I have taken since returning from Alaska. The first is the Indian pipe we saw at Festge Park the day after we got back.

Next is a lotus blossom that was in Stricker Pond.

You can see the brass players in the band Chicago in the lower righthand side.

And here are some videos from our fun Saturday. Actually, this first one is the salsa band that played on the Monona Terrace on Friday night.

This is a video of the little fish we saw jumping at Tenney Park.

This is a video of a laser light show at a private party at Tenney Park. I really dislike this song, but the lights are cool.

And finally, this is a lady with a light-up hula hoop at the Orton Park Festival.

Famous Hat

Monday, August 29, 2016

Dancing to Salsa on the Rooftop

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Mine was excellent, starting with Friday night, when the Rosary Ladies all met for dinner at Himal Chuli, then we went to Luxuli’s place and prayed a rosary, and then we went to the rooftop of the Monona Terrace and danced to a salsa band called Grupo Candela. I made a very brief video which I will try to post at some point. It was a beautiful night, and everyone was so happy. I love Dane Dances! They are every Friday in August, but I missed a couple because of Alaska, and last week’s was inside due to inclement weather. They are still fun inside, but they are way better out on the roof, so I skipped it.

Saturday Travalon had to work, so I met Rich, OK Cap, and a couple of other people for coffee. Afterwards OK Cap, another lady, and I prayed the rosary and then talked for so long that by the time I got home, it was almost time for Travalon to get home. Once he did, we went to Mr. Brews for burgers (I got a black bean one with guacamole that was sooo good), then we took Rodney and went for a walk at Tenney Park. Some tiny fish were jumping out of the water, so I made a video of that. I also made a brief video of a light show. Then the three of us went to Orton Park Festival and tried some African peanut stew, which we liked. I made a short video there too, of someone with a light-up hula hoop. At some point I will post all these videos for you to enjoy.

Yesterday after Mass and brunch, Travalon and I drove down to the Hop Garden in Paoli so he could replace his “Warning: High Hoppage” hat because he wears it every day and it is getting ragged. Now he has a shiny new one. We also had some of their shandy, made with kombucha, and sat in the shade, enjoying it. I had a gig at the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival, and Travalon the dutiful husband came along. Jilly Moose, OK Cap, Rich, and Catzookz also came to hear me, although I don’t know how well you could hear our band because we were in a tent that was between two other tents with very loud electric bands, and as my regular readers no doubt know, my band is an acoustic one. We were miked, but who knows how much help that was? Lots of healthy food at the festival; I had a steak sandwich, a cream puff, and some of OK Cap’s kettle corn. Afterwards I had a salad at Culvers just to have a little vegetal matter. Then Travalon and I went home and watched War Horse, a movie about a beautiful bay stallion who is a war horse during World War I, and the boy who trains him. It was really good, but the DVD is a used one, and it seems to have skipped a couple of scenes. Hopefully we didn’t miss too much!

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Blast from the Past

Last night a guy came to town whom I hadn’t seen in many years. I wouldn’t call him a friend, since at the time we did not like each other, but he was definitely more than an acquaintance. I did not really want to see him, but Rich said he thought I should join them for dinner, and it was great! It is amazing how much time changes people; this guy was not the blowhard I remember, but to be fair I have changed quite a bit too – for the better, I like to think! – and maybe he was pleasanter to me because I was pleasanter to him. Is “pleasanter” even a word? Spellcheck has no problem with it. Sometimes I get a little sad thinking about what a pain I was twenty years ago, and even though it wasn’t entirely my fault, I hate remembering how I acted. Maybe this guy feels the same way. Maybe we are just all jerks in our twenties and we all grow up and become wonderful people, although Tiffy was not a jerk in her twenties, and I didn’t know Rich when he was in his twenties but he was surely not a jerk either. Maybe some of us are just slow to grow up, but now that we are middle-aged we are finally not so bad to be around. Ah, maturity!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fresh Fish and Swimming Laps

Last night Travalon baked some of the salmon I caught with dill, and we had it for dinner along with pumpkin tortellini and fresh broccoli. It was delicious, but it was not deboned. Now I am not sure if we should inflict our bony fish on our friends, plus Catzookz wants to know if anyone wants to go to a jazz stroll in Middleton the evening we were thinking of doing our fish dinner. I’m not sure if there is time to do both, or if we should put off the fish dinner. Feel free to weigh in on this weighty matter. The evening in question is Friday, September 2.

Then Rich and I swam laps at the health club. I swam for 35 minutes and then told Rich my arms felt like they were going to fall off. He said it has been far too long since I have uttered those words. Truly, I do need to work out more often and more vigorously. At first getting my 10,000 steps per day was enough, and I was steadily losing weight, but it’s as if my body has acclimated to the extra exercise now, and I had plateaued in my weight loss back in April. Worse, I gained some in Alaska, because even though we hiked vigorously every day, we also ate well. Who knew there were so many foodies in Alaska?

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Our Fish Arrived!

I am so excited because our fish arrived today! It was quite an adventure to get it. They said it would arrive last Wednesday, but when it didn’t, Travalon called the packers up in Alaska, who said that when I had filled out the form, I had somehow missed the telephone number question. Without a telephone number, FedEx will not ship, and of course the packers had no way to get a hold of us. So I called them and asked them to deliver the fish to my job on Friday, but on Friday there was no delivery of fish. I called and was told the person who took my message didn’t know the correct procedure, and the person who did was off of work that day, so they didn’t realize it was supposed to ship until the deliveries had already gone out Thursday morning. They promised it would be shipped yesterday morning, so I expected it around noon today. It actually came around 10 am, and then Travalon came and picked it up to take home. We have one salmon and nine rockfish, so that should be quite a few fillets. Tonight I will bake salmon and see if we survive it, and then if it doesn’t kill us, hopefully we will have a fish fry for some of our friends the Friday of Labor Day weekend. That is the plan, anyway.

Famous Hat

Monday, August 22, 2016

No Bahama Bob This Weekend

I hope my readers had a good weekend. I sure did. Friday Travalon and I gave Wiggie’s another chance, since he had discovered that they do indeed have food there, and he was even told they have fish fries. The bartender expressed some surprise that we were told that; she said they haven’t had them “in years,” but she did give us food menus, and we had fish sandwiches and French fries. Not the healthiest dinner, but very tasty. Then we decided to test the theory that a storm blows up every time we go to the East Side Club, so we headed to their Tiki Bar, but it was closed because a storm was blowing up (!). On the way home we passed a street festival with a live band on Atwood, but we decided not to check it out because of the impending storm. We ended up having a drink at the Nau-Ti-Gal instead.

Saturday morning Travalon and I met several people for coffee downtown, including some of the Rosary Ladies. (Jilly Moose was out of town visiting her brand-new nephew. Congratulations, Jilly Moose!) Afterwards we ladies prayed the rosary while Travalon went to the Veterans’ Museum on the Square. He told me they had an exhibit of World War I posters, so he and I went to check it out, and then we went to McGee's, the new chicken and catfish place by Rich’s house that used to be a Taco Bell. We called Rich to see if he was free to meet us for lunch, and he was, so the three of us had a delicious lunch there – best greens I’ve ever had! Travalon and I took Rodney to the big dog park in Token Creek, then we went with some friends to Mariner’s to see Bahama Bob play. However, his show had been canceled because they said the weather was too cold (it felt fine to us after having returned from Alaska), and we didn’t have a reservation, so we had to wait over an hour for dinner. Oh well, it was still fun.

Yesterday after Mass Cecil Markovitch asked if people wanted to go to Manna CafĂ© for brunch, so a group of us went there, and to my surprise they were able to seat us right away. Usually you have to wait for eons on Sunday mornings! Then Travalon and I tried fishing for trout at Salmo Pond, but we didn’t even get a nibble. We took Rodney on a walk around Indian Lake, then we went to the Customer Appreciation Party at Nau-Ti-Gal, which was free hamburgers and a band that played mostly 90’s grunge, which as my regular readers realize is not my favorite genre. Then we took a boat ride up and down the river, out into the marsh and Lake Mendota, and then some friends said they were in the neighborhood, so we all got ice cream drinks at Mariner’s. It was a lovely end to a relaxing weekend.

Famous Hat

Friday, August 19, 2016

Cottage Party at the East Side Club

Sorry I didn’t write yesterday. I was at a cottage party at the East Side Club with Travalon, Richard Bonomo, Cecil Markovitch, and OK Cap. Travalon and I came together, of course, and the other three said they would be a little late, but they each arrived in rapid succession just before our table (which happened to be the last one) went up to get food. For dinner we had lettuce salad, fruit salad, tenderloin wrapped in bacon, a baked potato, and a dinner roll. They have a full bar there, and then after dinner they had a special treat of either a grasshopper or what they called a Blizzard, which was an ice cream drink with Bailey’s and brandy. It sounded wonderful, but Travalon, Cecil, and I stuck with the classic grasshopper, and neither Rich nor OK Cap indulged. I was hoping afterwards they would set up bocce ball on the lawn like after the cottage party last year, but alas, bocce ball did not materialize. Cecil headed home, and Rich got pulled away by work concerns, so Travalon, OK Cap, and I sat down by the lake, gazing at downtown. OK Cap and I went for a vigorous walk, but suddenly there seemed to be a lot of still-distant lightning, so we decided to head back before the storm hit. As Travalon and I were driving home, the storm hit with full force, and he wondered if every time we go to a party at the East Side Club there will be a storm. We’ll have to go to RibFest next month and see if it happens again…

Famous Hat

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chicago Concert

Last night Travalon and I went to see the band Chicago perform at the Overture Center. I was one of the younger people in the audience, which makes sense since I was a young teen when Chicago were already a well-established band, so their fan base would be mostly people who were young adults when I was a toddler. We sat way up in the nosebleed seats, but we still had a fine view of the band members playing and even dancing onstage. Chicago is all about the brass, and the three horn players sometimes would dance like backup singers do in salsa bands. I really love their jazzier numbers, but of course they had to play their sappier numbers too, since those were their biggest hits. By the end of the night, the audience was up on their feet, and for an encore the band played “25 or 6 to 4,” which is one of their most rousing numbers. Several of the members were original and are pushing 70, but they had a younger guy to replace Peter Cetera, who for whatever reason will not get back together with the band. This guy kind of sounded like Cetera, except on one song Travalon thought he didn’t sound that much like him. My favorite part was the long drum solo in “I’m a Man.” Of course we got home late, and this morning I overslept and barely had time to get out the door to work. But it was worth it!

Famous Hat

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How the Mallards' Season Ended

Last night Travalon and I went to the Mallards’ first playoff game, just like we did last year. Again there were a sixth of the usual number of people there, and a lot less food selection. I kind of enjoy the smaller crowd, although maybe the players don’t like playing in front of a sparser crowd. One player, Josh Stowers, who is a freshman from Louisville, got two home runs in a row! So then of course every time he was up at bat, the crowd went nuts. Unfortunately the Battle Creek Bombers had some home runs too, and they were leading by several runs in the bottom of the ninth, but one guy got a home run and scored two runs, so then the Mallards were just down by one. And then two Bombers infielders ran into each other and fell down, and one of them could not get back up so they brought out a cart to take him off of the field. Not good! Finally the game resumed, and there was a guy on base so the next guy up could get us a walk-off homer… and then we saw it was Josh Stowers! The crowd went nuts!! But the Bombers pitcher was taking no chances and walked him, and then the next guy got on base so I thought maybe we’d win with a grand slam! But alas, there were already two outs and the next batter struck out, so the Mallards’ season ended by the barest of margins. Perhaps if they hadn’t had so many defensive goofs earlier in the game, they could have won easily. Anyway, it was another great season, and I am not ready to think about football yet!

Famous Hat

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Travalon's Alaska Photos

Today Travalon and I slept late, so we went to 11 am Mass and then brunch at the Crema Cafe. Then we went for a very buggy hike at Festge Park, and I saw an Indian pipe, which I will post a photo of at some point. We went for a hike around Salmo Pond and another around Stricker Pond, and then we ate dinner outside at the Nau-Ti-Gal. It seemed really hot to us after Alaska, even though it didn't reach 80 degrees today. Soon we will reacclimatize...

Here are some photos Travalon took with his camera, which takes better long-distance shots than my iPhone camera. First are some pictures of plants in Alaska.


Devil's Club

a very cute mushroom

Sign at Rochelle's Ice Cream Shop

Famous Hat and Travalon at Eklutna Lake

Moose in Denali National Park

Ready with the bear spray!

Travalon and Famous Hat in front of Denali (behind the clouds)


first grizzly bear

I just love this shot of me in Denali National Park


second grizzly

Don't I look happy to be fishing?

See what I mean?

sea otter

mountain goat

He had a better picture of the sea lions, and a picture of the Dahl sheep we saw in Denali, but for some reason those didn't upload to my computer. I will see if I can get them onto this blog somehow.

Famous Hat

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wildlife Cruise in the Fjords

Travalon and I are back home now. I forgot to mention, for all my religious readers, that the Mass in Anchorage was at a Dominican parish, and since it was the Feast of St. Dominic, they really did things up and had the Mass parts in Latin. Also, the warmest, sunniest place we visited was Fairbanks, even though it was the furthest north. And - true confession - I have had so much trouble trying to schedule the hot air balloon ride for my 40th birthday that I used the money for it on this trip. At least I did go on that helicopter ride over Kauai, which cost the same amount as the balloon rides used to cost. Now that same guy doesn't even do them anymore. We'll see if that dream of mine ever comes true...

Yesterday Travalon and I woke up refreshed after our night in the loft in our small cabin in Seward, then we went to a restaurant called Barn Apetit where a real Frenchman handmade crepes. We shared a table with a family from Germany, including a school-aged daughter, and they told us it really isn't hard to drive up to the Arctic Circle from Fairbanks. They had photos of the sign, and their dusty car after the ride. Then Travalon and I had to drive the scary road almost two miles back to the fishing place to get our fish from the night before. This road isn't quite as scary as the one in Denali, but it is narrow and unpaved with a drop-off to the water. We took our fish to a place to have them frozen and shipped to us, and then we went on a boat trip out in the fjords. This was a much larger boat with lots of people on it, and they fed us lunch. We saw a glacier as well as puffins (they look like a cross between a penguin and a toucan), sea lions, sea otters, and a humpback whale that came up right by our boat. The park ranger who told us all about the sea life was one we had met at Exit Glacier the day before, and she remembered us. After the cruise, we drove back to Anchorage, stopping at a stream to watch salmon swimming to their spawning areas. We flew out a little after midnight and landed in Chicago just after nine am our time. Then we took the bus back to Madison.

beautiful Seward Harbor

sea lions on the rocks

mountains on the Kenai Peninsula

weird plant on the path to the salmon stream

the view from the restaurant where we had dinner

waterfall in McHugh Creek

Finally, here are two videos of the salmon swimming upriver to spawn. The first one shows a salmon swimming against the current, and the second one shows some salmon closer up.


Famous Hat

Friday, August 12, 2016

I Caught a Salmon in Alaska

Today was my favorite day of the trip so far. Travalon and I had breakfast at the charming bed and breakfast with a couple from Fairbanks, and the husband told us he is a dentist who regularly travels to small villages above the Arctic Circle to see patients. Then Travalon and I drove the Seward Highway down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, along the Turnagain Arm, a body of water full of beluga whales and surrounded by mist-covered mountains. The whole landscape looked enchanted because of the mountains rising out of the mist. Outside of Seward we hiked through the rainforest to the Exit Glacier, and then we took a fishing excursion out into the fjords. Our first boat's motor died (we're familiar with that issue!) so we took a smaller boat along with our captain and a family consisting of Mom, Dad, and a teenage daughter. She proved to be the most adept fisher of the group, but I did pretty well myself, catching a number of rockfish and one beautiful 10-pound silver salmon. Travalon caught some rockfish too, and several pollock, which he threw back. He also caught a colorful fish that escaped from the captain, but they aren't good for eating anyway. We got back very late and had dinner at a surprisingly busy place called Thorn's.

The Turnagain Arm is very scenic

Travalon at the Exit Glacier

I caught this salmon!

Here are all the fish we caught among the five of us

After all that time in the ocean spray, my hair looked blonder and curlier than usual. Here is a selfie I took to show you.

Famous Hat

Thursday, August 11, 2016

One Hundred Miles from the Arctic Circle

Yesterday Travalon and I had to get going really early to catch our shuttle bus in Denali National Park, but fortunately they have coffee at the visitor center. Cars are not allowed to drive very far into the park, and after this trip we could see why! The bus drivers have to have nerves of steel to drive the road, which has a sheer drop-off on the driver's side on the way out... and of course that was the side I had heard you should sit on, so I spent most of the ride being terrified. Also fascinated, because the scenery is beautiful (a lot of taiga, or scrubby spruce forest, besides the mountains), and we saw several moose, a grizzly bear, lots of caribou, and a bunch of Dahl sheep that were far away on the face of the mountain. Unfortunately Denali was shrouded in clouds, but we went for a lovely hike at Wonder Lake, sampling the fresh blueberries along the trail. Because I was so terrified of being eaten by a grizzly, we hiked with another couple who were from Houston. On the way back, we had a very knowledgeable guide who told us stories about the wolves in the park, and then we saw a grizzly right by the bus! It ran across the road and slid down the hill on the other side. It takes hours to get through the park, so by the time we got done, it was dinnertime. We went to Prospectors Historic Pizzeria and Alehouse and had an elk pizza - delicious! Then we went to our hotel, a charming place called the White Moose Lodge deep in the taiga, and we waited to see if the sky would ever grow dark so we could see the stars and maybe Northern Lights. However, by a quarter to midnight it was still not that dark yet, so we just went to bed.

This morning we got on the road to Fairbanks and got there around noon. We took a walk along the Chena River and went to the Visitors Center, where some musicians were playing what sounded like Cajun music as Native people did traditional dances. We were only 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, so we found information about visiting it, but it takes too much time and money for this trip. Maybe in the future... We were delayed almost an hour by road construction, then we went to the McKinley View Lodge for dinner, but we still couldn't see Denali. The waitress told us it has barely been visible for the last few weeks. This would have been the place to stay - $79 per night with views of the mountain! We stopped in Wasilla to take a walk by Wasilla Lake and through the underpass to Lake Lucille, which was painted with a colorful mural. In the lake we saw salmon swimming around with their dorsal fins sticking up like tiny shark fins. Now we are staying at a charming bed and breakfast.

Here are photos. Travalon has better shots of all the animals.


Famous Hat at Denali National Park

Travalon at Denali National Park

This is the wildlife I got the best shot of - a ground squirrel!

 Delicious blueberries on the trail

Grizzly in the upper lefthand corner

Antler chandelier at the Prospectors Pizzeria

View across from the pizzeria

Photo of a photo of a white moose

The White Moose Lodge at almost midnight - notice the sky isn't dark yet

Scene from the White Moose Lodge

Travalon at the Antler Arch in Fairbanks

Historic Immaculate Conception Church in Fairbanks

Wasilla Lake

Mural on the underpass in Wasilla

And finally, here is a short movie of the salmon swimming in Wasilla Lake. Their dorsal fins look like tiny shark fins.

Famous Hat