Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The View from Holy Hill


Last night Hockey Girl and I went to a concert in which a bunch of students played Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and they were amazing! I used to listen to a lot of Vivaldi in my mid-twenties, more L'Estro Armonico than The Four Seasons, but definitely anything by the Red Priest, and this made me think I should pull out those old CDs and listen again. They started with "Fall" instead of "Spring," which is how I usually hear it, to match the actual season I suppose, but I liked that because it ended with the fiery final movement of "Summer." Viva Vivaldi!

Today I used a floating holiday to take the day off of work and join Travalon in taking his mother to Holy Hill. We do this every October, and today was a beautiful day to do it. However, it was also quite windy, so when Travalon and I tried to go up to the top of the bell tower, we stopped at the first open level. I could have gone up higher, but that is not the issue - coming back down is! I was afraid that with the fierce wind I would be far too terrified to go down the open staircase. The view was amazing even from the lower level, and we could see the skyscrapers of downtown Milwaukee thirty miles away. We also went to Pike Lake State Park, and Travalon and I hiked on part of the Ice Age Trail after we took his mother back home. My regular readers will be stunned to learn that I bought two rosaries at the Holy Hill gift shop, but I had a prepaid Visa card from doing a health assessment at work, so it was like getting free rosaries. One is an Irish rosary, and I have a sub-collection of those now, at least three and probably more. The other one is a one-decade wooden rosary with a tau cross for the crucifix; it is supposed to be a bracelet, but it is far too large for me to wear it that way, so I thought about using it as an anklet but finally decided I would use it as a "walking rosary." It should work well to use on my lunchtime rosary walks. We encountered a priest as we left the shrine, and he happily blessed my rosaries. I am not sure how many of my other ones are actually blessed...

Famous Hat

Monday, October 16, 2017

Aaron Rodgers and Buddy Guy


I hope my readers had a good weekend. After I blogged on Saturday, Travalon and I watched the Badger game, which had a very good outcome, and then we went to see a honkey tonk band at the Lakeside Café. I was in a strange mood and kept feeling like something bad was going to happen. With all the stuff going on in the world, who knew what that meant? But then I thought maybe it was the oppressive weather.

Yesterday I was feeling a little under the weather, so we went to the Mass near our house, then we watched the Packers game and saw Aaron Rodgers the quarterback get injured. And he might be out for the season! And after that they couldn't get anything going and they lost to the Vikings! This is terrible news, but right after that my bleak mood lifted, so that must have been the bad thing I somehow felt would happen, and compared to what bad things could happen, it’s far from the worst thing imaginable. After the game Travalon and I went for a walk beside Tiedemann Pond, then we went to see Wonder Woman, which is a really good movie, and then we saw Buddy Guy play at the Overture Center. He cheered me up completely – he is so funny! And talented, of course. So today, even though I had to go back to work, the black cloud had lifted from over my head, and I feel lighthearted. Plus the sun is out – that always helps. 

Famous Hat

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Japanese Garden in Rockford


Yesterday Travalon and I went to Rockford and had lunch at the Beefaroo, then we went to the Anderson Japanese Garden. We went through it once, then we looked at the map they had given us and realized we had gone through it backwards, so we went through it again and paid attention to each special feature. Afterwards we went to the Sinissippi Garden further down the road, so it was a very botanical day for us.

Today I had a gig at the orchard where my band plays every autumn, but the proprietress tried to cancel because the weather was so lousy. We didn't know, so we showed up and played for an hour anyway, and she gave us each a bag of apples for our troubles. It was so cold and wet that my fingers did not want to cooperate, but it hardly mattered because our audience basically consisted of our fiddler's two preteen grandkids.

Here are some photos from our adventures since returning from California. This first one is a cactus at the Nature Conservancy land near Spring Green with a couple of fruits on it.


Next are some shots from High Cliff State Park and, of course, Lambeau Field.





This next shot is of Travalon as the ferry arrived at the port on Washington Island.


Next, the old water tower on Rock Island:


This is the inside of the boathouse on Rock Island. Some Icelandic guy was going to make the island a resort way back in the day, and he built this beautiful building. I did not get a good shot of the outside of it, sorry.


Someone got a little creative with the rocks on the aptly-named Rock Island:


This is a beautiful view from the port on Washington Island:


On Washington Island there is a lake called Little Lake, presumably because it is on an island in the Big Lake:


Here are shots of the outside and inside of the stave church on Washington Island:



This boat looks like it goes with the stave church! It mysteriously appeared at the marina across the river from us.


Here is a shot of the Japanese garden in Rockford.


This is the gravel garden. It had a more scalloped pattern earlier, but the second time we went through, they had changed it to little squares like farm fields.


Finally, two videos! The first one is of the whitecaps on Lake Michigan as we were taking the ferry across it to Washington Island.

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This is a "deer chaser" in the Japanese garden. It fills with water and then makes a loud clunk as it hits the basin. These were traditionally used to frighten deer out of gardens in Japan.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Taco Tuesday with Trivia


Last night Travalon and I decided to go out for tacos at the Club Tavern, since they are 75 cents apiece on Taco Tuesday. It was great! We sat next to a couple of women who were playing a trivia game, and since we are trivia addicts ourselves, we naturally started helping them. I’m not saying this was all us, but they went from sixth place when we got there to third place at the end of the game. Meanwhile, Travalon and I enjoyed tacos and then couldn’t believe our bill was just over $5. What?? You can’t eat at home for that cheap! Best of all, when I entered the calories into my diet app, it said it was a really reasonable dinner. So guess what? Travalon and I are going to go to the Willows tonight for more cheap tacos! Sorry, choir peeps – I am skipping practice again because we also have band practice tonight. It’s just too hard to go to both, and we have a band gig on Saturday at one at Eplegaarden (in case any of my readers are interested, but I hear it’s going to rain) so it seemed important to make band practice.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

More Thoughts on Historical Racism


There was an incident on campus yesterday, I guess “in honor” of Columbus Day, where someone painted racial slurs on a space sacred to Native Americans. It really bothers me that people would do such things, and then they say, “There is no more racism in this country. So stop talking about it.” Really, people are posting things like that on social media. They say talking about racism is what’s causing it. I just say imagine that you had a nice house, and I stole it from you and said, “Tough, it’s mine now – I’m stronger and better, so that’s God’s will.” Or imagine that I dragged you to another town that you had no connection to at all, and I made you get a demeaning job, and then I stole your paychecks. Now imagine I had a daughter and she was still benefitting from everything I stole from you. Would you be satisfied if she said, “That was my mother who did that – I’m innocent”? Wouldn’t you still want your house back, or your lost wages? All this time later, I am not sure exactly how we would calculate what is owed to the people who had so much stolen from them, but we still have their houses and stolen wages, and some people say it’s ridiculous that they even want an apology, never mind what is rightfully theirs. I think if you can’t understand their anger, you are not trying very hard. To me the problem is painfully obvious.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 9, 2017

We Finished the Book!!


I hope my readers had a great weekend. Friday Travalon and I ran errands, then we drove north, stopping for a long hike in High Cliff State Park. We got to Green Bay in the evening and had dinner at 1919, the restaurant in Lambeau Field. We had a delicious fish fry – how does it get more Wisconsin than that? Unfortunately (or fortunately, since we couldn’t spend any money) the Packer Pro shop was already closed for the evening by the time we got there, and we didn’t see any actual Packers there, but then we thought hey, it’s their work place, and would we want to be at work on a Friday night?

Saturday we got up early and drove up the Door County peninsula until we got to the Washington Island ferry. We took the first one of the day over and went to a café, then we went to the last bar from our book!! Can you believe it? It only took us five years… I had a shot of the bitters they make there, and so the bartender gave me a membership card for the Bitters Club, which she stapled into our book. She also signed it with the most brilliant saying ever: “Party to the bitter end!” It was so perfect! The weather wasn’t perfect, and the ferry over to Rock Island was an exciting ride with the big waves. Travalon and I hiked all over the island, checking out an old water tower and a small museum. We caught the ferry back to Washington Island and explored that island, which has a lake on it called Little Lake and an actual stave church. Don’t worry, I took pictures. We caught the ferry back to the mainland, and that was the wildest ride of all, with the waves breaking against the bow of the ship and spraying us all the way up on the top deck. We went to Al Johnson’s, the famous restaurant with the goats on the roof, for their delicious hot chocolate, then we went to a fish boil in the shadows of the cliffs over Fish Creek. We even saw a rainbow there! So it was a perfect Door County day, except for the scary ferry rides. And now we have been to all the historic taverns, and Travalon has been to almost every state park except for a new one named after Governor Thompson.

Yesterday Travalon and I took a boat ride back into the marsh. We always see something interesting there, but this time I was blown away to see an actual sailboat. I have never seen one of those in the marsh! It was a very small one. We also saw lots of kayakers and some fighter jets. Then we went to a state park that is still a work in progress and hiked there. It had beautiful views of the surrounding hilly countryside. We ended the evening with dinner at the Chinese restaurant we had gone to for Chinese New Year, since Travalon remembered it so fondly, and then we went home and watched that thrilling Packer game, since we had taped it. Another wonderful day!

Famous Hat

Thursday, October 5, 2017

My Apology with a Broader Perspective


Remember my last blog post, about needing an “I’m Sorry” card? I can’t think of anything else to blog about, so let me elaborate on that situation. The person I snapped at with a great deal of sarcasm was a customer service worker, and I usually pride myself on being kind to such people and having a great rapport with them. I was simply at the end of my rope, but a complicating factor (maybe?) was that she was not white. Now maybe she just thought I was a grumpy customer, and indeed I was, since my snippiness had nothing to do with her race, but I wonder if she thought, “Snotty white woman full of white privilege who gets snarky when things aren’t going exactly her way!” So I felt a need to apologize not only for my bad behavior (and my apology was a simple one that didn’t mention race), but also because I felt somehow that I was representing my whole race. If you read websites written by people of color, they often mention this feeling that their behavior is judged not as being done by an individual but by their group, and this situation made me feel the same way. If this lady reads my apology, I am imagining her telling her equally nonwhite coworkers, “Look at this! A white person actually apologized!” The fact that my first name (or at least my hated childhood nickname that I no longer go by) is slang in black communities for a white woman who throws her privilege around may be the icing on the cake; I imagine this lady telling her coworkers, “How perfect is it that her name is Famous?” So maybe I will at least furnish some amusement for them, and hopefully they appreciate and accept my apology.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

No "I'm Sorry" Cards?


So today I was at a drugstore, looking for a card to send someone an apology, and to my surprise that category doesn’t exist. They have every gradation of birthday card you can imagine, and Halloween cards, sympathy cards, “miss you” cards, and all sorts of other things, but not a simple “I’m sorry.” This seems so odd to me because people send “thank you” cards all the time, but do they not send “I’m sorry” cards when they are sorry? Or am I the only one so short-tempered and impatient that I need this category of card? I ended up buying a blank card to fill out, but it does puzzle me. Is this a market niche that needs to be filled (and could I become rich filling it)? Or am I really the only person on the face of the earth who could use a regular supply of these cards? Further proof that I am very far from canonization, I suppose.

Famous Hat

Monday, October 2, 2017

Canoeing on Mirror Lake


I hope my readers had a good weekend. On Friday evening Travalon and I met with Hockey Girl at the Chocolaterian to show her pictures from our trip, and to enjoy chocolate, of course. She says it is her new favorite chocolate shop in town. The Parisian hot chocolate is what really won her over.

Saturday the Rosary Ladies, Rich, and I met for coffee, then we ladies went to a garden nearby to pray the rosary. When Travalon got home, he wanted to go for a hike at the Nature Conservancy land near Spring Green, and we saw that the lovely yellow flowers on the cacti have now become cute red fruit. We had a light dinner at the Spring Green bookstore and then went to Atwood Avenue for their Beer Week. The Chocolaterian was supposed to be having an event, but they had long since run out of beer to pair with their chocolate, so we had the last chocolate sample and some more Parisian hot chocolate. Then we went to Barley Pop, aka the adult candy store, for their sour beer tap takeover. Mmm!

Yesterday I was feeling a little under the weather and didn’t get up in a timely manner, so we went to Mass close to our house (literally three minutes away), and then we drove to Mirror Lake State Park with the intention of canoeing on the lake. The woman at the boat rental place recommended that we go back into the “narrows,” but I really wanted to see the area with the cool rocks over by Ishnala Supper Club, so she said she would give us an extra hour for just $7 extra. That worked out perfectly – we canoed back into the “narrows” (a river? creek?) for an hour, as she had recommended, and then we canoed past the rock formations and Ishnala, all the way to where the interstate crosses the lake. We weren’t quite out two whole hours, but we saw most of the lake. It was so beautiful – Travalon said it looked like somewhere up north with all the pine trees. Then we stopped by the Mexican grocery store by Rich’s house and picked up some pastries and some prickly pear fruit in honor of the ones we had seen at the Nature Conservancy land, and the three of us had dinner. Not as exciting as our previous weekend in California, but definitely a wonderful one!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Riding the Southwest Chief


Sorry for my silence the last few days, but the Southwest Chief train did not have wifi. The one from Chicago to Milwaukee does, so I am currently taking advantage of it. Monday I took a turn driving on the California freeways, and it wasn't too bad. We stopped in Santa Barbara to visit the mission, and I was stunned to find information there about a Native woman who was abandoned on a Channel Island many years ago when the island was evacuated; she was discovered 18 years later and lived the rest of her life at the mission. When I was a little girl, I read a book based on this very incident called Island of the Blue Dolphins, and it really captured my imagination.

We continued on to LA and drove on Mulholland Drive to see the large houses, but somehow we ended up on a terrifying road called Topanga Canyon Drive. Steep turns and drop-offs - yikes! Then we drove on a beautiful road called Laurel Canyon Drive to the La Brea Tar Pits. We went to drop off the rental car, but first the GPS in my phone tried to take me a way that didn't work because the roads are one-way, and then when I called the branch for help, they weren't helpful at all. Worse, when we did manage to find our way there, they said they couldn't take the car and we would have to go to another branch further down the road!! Say what?? At least that branch was helpful and even paid for our Uber ride to the train station. We were biting our nails about making the train, since by then it was rush hour traffic, but we were fine. We relaxed on the train, and around Yorba Linda I noticed the traffic was really backed up even at 7:30 at night, so we were relieved to not still be in a car. Then we realized the town of Corona was on fire, and the traffic was people desperately trying to evacuate. It was the scariest thing I'd ever seen - the flames went on for miles, and even after we passed it, the red glow was visible in the distance. Incredibly, I have read since then that nobody was hurt and only one house was damaged, even though 2000 acres were burning. I never need to see something like that again! It looked like the gates of Hell!

Yesterday we had such a chill day on the train. We just ate, checked out the beautiful New Mexico scenery, and talked to our fellow passengers. Apparently there had been an incident in the middle of the night in which one passenger stole a bunch of stuff from the crew, and when he was caught he also had illegal drugs with him. Needless to say, he was escorted off the train. We just heard about it after the fact. He stole bottles of A-1 steak sauce from the dining car and even the conductor's eyeglasses! What a kleptomaniac. We did get off the train in Albuquerque for some fresh air, so I can now say I have set foot in New Mexico. I'm not quite up to Travalon's 50 states yet, but I'm up to forty-something. We did stop in Las Vegas... New Mexico, which does not look anything like the more famous city in Nevada. We also saw lots of pronghorn antelopes, but they are way too fast so we didn't get any pictures. On this train they let us eat much later than on the California Zephyr, so we really appreciated that.

Today we had another relaxing day. We stopped in Kansas City and spent a lot of time in Missouri, which looks something like Wisconsin. We spent even more time in Illinois, which looks even more like Wisconsin. When we got to Chicago, we got to stow our luggage in the first-class lounge and take a walk outside the station, where we had some deep dish pizza in the shadow of the Sears Tower, or Willis Tower, or whatever it is called these days. Now we are heading to Milwaukee, where our car is parked, so that we can get home and to bed, and get up for work tomorrow.

Here are some more photos. The first three are of the mission at Santa Barbara. My regular readers will be shocked to learn that I bought a rosary there.




This shot is from the freeway. It is in Ventura, California with the Channel Islands in the distance, but it kind of reminds me of Maui with the palm trees and distant islands.


This is a shot of the gorgeous houses up in the Hollywood Hills.


Palm trees and moonlight was what we could see from the train as we passed Fullerton:


This is a shot of the huge wildfire in Corona, California:


I loved these commuter trains in Albuquerque! They are called Rail Runners and have a cartoon roadrunner going over two cars.


I took a lot of shots of the desert in New Mexico but will only bore you with one:


The Sears Tower! We are almost back home!


Even in downtown Chicago, the sunsets are beautiful.


And finally, a video of the La Brea Tar Pit showing the tar bubbling up.

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Famous Hat

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Monterey and Big Sur


This morning Travalon and I had coffee in Berkeley, then we drove over the bridge from Oakland to San Francisco, which goes over Yerba Buena Island. We took a detour onto the island and then to Treasure Island, a small, flat place with wonderful views of downtown San Francisco and a surprisingly lively flea market. Then we drove to Santa Cruz, where Travalon remembered there was a boardwalk we could take a walk on. However, that was almost two decades ago, and now the boardwalk is a big amusement park. We went to Sunset Beach State Park and walked along the surf. Boy, is the Pacific Ocean cold! Then we drove to Monterey and followed the famous 17-Mile Drive along the peninsula, going for a hike along a boardwalk. We saw lots of sea otters playing in the surf, and behind us we saw the prestigious Pebble Beach Golf Course. We drove through Carmel and saw lots of extremely fancy houses beside the sea. We drove out to Big Sur on Highway 1 and saw the sunset - the colors lasted for over half an hour after the sun had gone down! Then we drove south to Atascadero and had dinner at In N Out Burger, a Southern California icon. Tomorrow we head for Los Angeles to get back on the train.

Here are some pictures from our adventures. This first one is a shot of downtown San Francisco from Treasure Island:



Next are a couple of photos of Santa Cruz, showing the amusement park on the boardwalk and a couple of sailboats with black sails:



Here are some shots from the Monterey drive. This first one is of a cactus or something growing on the rocks out in the sea.


The rock formations were so beautiful.


This tree is called the Lone Cypress. It is a famous landmark on the 17-Mile Drive.


Next is the mission at Carmel. We couldn't go inside because there was a wedding going on.


This is my best shot (and believe me, I took a lot) of the sunset over Big Sur. There were tons of people pulled over on Highway 1 to get photos of it.


And this is a brief video of the waves breaking over the rocks off of Monterey:

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Famous Hat

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Muir Woods and the Napa Valley


Today was another super fun day. Travalon and I had coffee in the garden at the bed and breakfast, then the snippy hostess made a delicious breakfast, and we were joined by a delightful couple around our age who have a daughter at Berkeley. Then Travalon and I drove north on Highway 1, which was breathtaking, and we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and had amazing views of the bay. We thought it was a toll bridge, but we didn't get charged. We planned to go to Muir Woods to see the redwoods, but the parking lot was full, so we took the shuttle. That was a fantastic idea, because the road to Muir Woods is almost as harrowing as the one in Denali, and Travalon was relieved that he didn't have to drive on it. The shuttle was only $5, well-spent, because it dropped us off right in front of the visitor center while the people who drove in and parked had to walk for at least a mile to get there. We took a hike among the majestic, ancient redwoods, and it was peaceful until we got to a part of the trail along the side of a steep hill - I didn't enjoy that too much, being so afraid of heights. I spent a lot of the hike clinging to those redwoods for dear life as I inched along! They said the hike would take an hour and a half, and somehow we finished it in exactly that amount of time, despite my slow pace during the scary part.

Then we drove to the Napa Valley, which looks just like Tuscany, and we went to the Buena Vista Winery, founded by the same Hungarian count who founded Wollersheim. When we got there, the bad news was they weren't selling tastings anymore because they were closing for a wedding. The good news was when we told them our sad story about how we had come all the way from Wisconsin to visit Wollersheim's sister winery, they gave us tastings for free! Can't beat that! Then we went to Mass at a very cute, 193-year-old church in Sonoma. We drove over the Richmond Bridge and had amazing views of several tiny islands, and again we thought it was a toll bridge but they never charged us. When we got to Berkeley, we saw a protest!! A bunch of students want Berkeley to outlaw meat; they were chanting, "It's not food, it's violence!" That didn't inspire Travalon and me enough, because we had dinner at a Pakistani restaurant and had lamb and goat. We also drove around the Berkeley campus and found they had a road just like our Langdon Street in Madtown, with lots of frat houses. In fact, it looks like a hillier Madtown campus with palm trees. Nothing like the Italianate Stanford, but I think I would have loved it here. No matter, I loved going to school in Madtown.

Here are some photos of our trip so far. The first three are shots of Wyoming from the train.






I didn't get a really good shot of beautiful Donner Lake from the train, but here is the best one:


Now some shots of San Francisco! First, the world-famous cable cars:


Next, a hippie vehicle!


Here is the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in the infamous San Francisco fog:


Next, a couple of shots of the Japanese Tea Garden:



Here is a shot looking down from the top of Telegraph Hill. Travalon says it gives a really good idea of how steep the city is.


Some more shots from the top of Telegraph Hill: The Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz!



Next are a couple of shots of our voyage to Chinatown:



From the ferry to Angel Island, we saw this beautiful scene of two sailboats in front of the Golden Gate Bridge:


Here is the harbor on Angel Island:


This is a shot of the inside of Mission Dolores, the oldest building in San Francisco:


Next are several shots showing the interior (including Italian verbiage) and exterior of the delightful orange trolley from Milan.





This is the Tonga Room Tiki Bar, a very swanky place.


On the Stanford campus, there are a lot of original statues by Rodin. This is "The Gates of Hell."



This is the inside of the chapel on the Stanford campus. Unfortunately I did not get any shots of the campus itself, since I was too busy helping Travalon's 94-year-old cousin to stay steady on her feet, but he got some really good shots that he will share with me.


This is a view of the Golden Gate Bridge as we crossed it. I tried to take some photos of the bay from the bridge, but none of them turned out very well.


Here is my best shot of the redwoods at Muir Woods.


Proof that Travalon and I visited the sister Winery to Wollersheim!


This is the 193-year-old church where we went to Mass tonight:


Sunset over the San Francisco Bay. I missed the shot with palm trees in it...


And finally, some videos: the lights of San Francisco from the ferry back to Oakland, the light show on the Oakland Bridge, and the sea lions that congregate on Pier 39 of the Embarcadero.


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Famous Hat