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