Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Photos and Videos

At long last, here are some Christmas photos and movies I promised to post. First are some displays at the Zoo Lights: flamingos, a turtle, and a fountain. Thanks to Travalon for taking these.

Here is the state Christmas Tree up at the Capital.

This is a beautiful winter sunset over the river:

We saw this crazy inflatable chicken that sort of looks like Trump at a Socialist protest we passed:

The next photos are of my Christmas tree ornament and Travalon's first attempt at glass fusing, a very cute dog. I tried photographing his on both a white and a red background and couldn't decide which I liked better, so I am posting them both.

This next shot is my coworker's Christmas cactus in bloom.

And here is the Christmas cactus I have at home in bloom.

I thought the Christmas tree at the East Side Club was so pretty.

Someone made a smiley face in the snow on this sign Christmas Eve. They must be a lot happier about the snow than I am!

Here are the presents I got for Travalon: a red panda and a miniature guitar that says "The Beatles."

And here are the presents he gave to me: an adorable Peruvian nativity set and a pillow of vintage streetcars in San Francisco.

This gives you an idea about the decorating Mr. Icon and the Brazilian guy did at Rich's house. I took some other pictures, but they weren't as attractive.

Some more flowers: the mini cyclamen OK Cap gave me for my last birthday is blooming again, and we got ourselves a free poinsettia when we bought one for Travalon's mom.

And apparently this blog platform will no longer let me load movies longer than a minute, so I had to put them on YouTube and then link them. First is a house in town that goes all out for Christmas:

And finally, the Holiday Train video! I need to edit this, because the first minute is kind of a waste, unless you enjoy the anticipation, and the last minute is a bit extraneous too. Still, the rest really gives you a great view of the beautiful train.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017!

I hope my readers had a very Merry Christmas. Thursday evening Travalon and I went to the East Side Club Christmas party, where someone bought us a drink, and someone else told me to get on stage with the other two women leading the singing of Christmas carols. Then we kept winning the music trivia questions! It got so bad that I was embarrassed to answer any more, so I told the other people at our table what to say, and then they won. Afterwards we all danced. It was so much fun!

Friday Travalon and I had to get our passports renewed, and our photos look like mug shots. You are not allowed to smile anymore. We went downtown to the Periodicals Reading Room, and then I met Hockey Girl for a champagne tasting at the Barriques in Fitchburg while Travalon drove some Uber. Hockey Girl had given me an early birthday present of a wine tasting journal, in which you are supposed to write your impressions of the wine you are tasting, and I would write them before reading the experts’ take on each champagne. Hockey Girl was duly impressed that I would always get at least one or two of the same flavors as the experts – perhaps I do have a talent for wine tasting! Now, how to parlay that into a lucrative career… After that all three of us went to the Lakeside for an Irish jam, and I found out it is an open jam, so I will try to join them sometime. Hockey Girl and I played a friendly game of Scrabble, and I wiped the floor with her, but so much of it is luck, like if you can use a double word score or triple letter score square. Also, playing against Travalon’s mom, who is a really good player, has honed my own skills.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich downtown for coffee, then the two of us tried to take the Holiday Trolley one last time, but we waited through four stoplight cycles and it was not moving from the stop before ours. It was so cold out that we just gave up. Then my disappointment continued when we went to the grocery store for cassata supplies, but they didn’t have pound cakes! Luckily Rich said he could get me one, so I spent the whole day at his house, making the cassata and chatting with Mr. Icon, who is in town because his father passed away. Travalon drove some Uber, then he and I went to a really good Indian restaurant on Atwood, I think it’s called Dobhan, and then we went to Barley Pop to try some fancy beers. Travalon had one that smelled like a cinnamon roll.

Christmas Eve we overslept and were about to go to the church in Westport for Mass when I remembered that my choir was singing a piece with two soprano parts, and the other woman who knows it was home sick with bronchitis. We rushed to our church and got there during the homily, so I was able to sing with the choir. We joined Rich, the Single B-Boy, Mr. Icon, and Rich’s Brazilian housemate for brunch at Sofra, then we had to run all over town to find an open nursery to get Travalon’s mom a poinsettia. As long as we were there, we got ourselves one, and I got a couple of cool cacti things. Then we exchanged presents, and I gave Travalon a miniature guitar that says “The Beatles” on it and an adoption kit from the World Wildlife Fund for a red panda, which includes a very cute stuffed panda. He gave me a really cute Peruvian nativity set, a pillow that has vintage San Francisco streetcars on it, a Taco Bell keychain (that’s a gag gift), and a little kid’s book in French that I was able to translate for him with relative ease. After that we had to head back to church so I could sing in the pre-Mass concert with the choir, then we had Christmas Eve Mass, and after that we had a quiet evening at home. My days of running to the Lutheran Church, singing again, and then going to Fruit Soup in the middle of the night at my OTHER choir director’s place are over.

Yesterday we had to go to Mass AGAIN because my choir director insists on doing big pieces with two soprano parts on Christmas morning, then we drove to Oconomowoc for Travalon’s family gathering. I mostly talked to my sisters-in-law, and one gave me a necklace she had made! I hadn’t brought anything because we had been told to only bring presents for the kids. Travalon and I found an open Japanese restaurant to grab a quick, light lunch, then we drove back to Madison and headed to Rich’s house. Mr. Icon and the Brazilian guy had cleaned and decorated, so the place looked wonderful. I made eggnog with quite a bit of help from two other ladies, and of course Cecil Markovitch brought wine, as did some other people. (I think there were twenty people there.) Rich made his famous lasagna, and a vegetarian woman made butternut squash lasagna, so they had a friendly contest to see which was better. Honestly, they were both good and so different that I don’t know how you would compare them. We ate and drank and talked, then we had to take a break before dessert, so we played “Who Am I?” Actually, I do not know the official name of this game, but one person has a Post-It note on his forehead saying who he is, and he can only ask yes-or-no questions of the rest of us to determine who he is. So kind of like Twenty Questions. Jilly Moose was really good at this game, but nobody was better than Kathbert, who took maybe four questions to figure out who she was. Granted, she knew as the Lutheran in the room that people would tease her by making her a Pope, so it didn’t take her any time to figure out that she was JPII. One woman had to test her again, so she put the label “Kathbert” on her forehead, and somehow Kathbert realized in three questions that she was herself! I am not surprised, since, as my regular readers will remember, she always wins my blog contests. You just cannot outsmart Kathbert, so why bother trying? For dessert we had my cassata and a delicious banana-chocolate chip cake made by the guy who always brings fabulous desserts. I should have gone home after that and exercised, but we got sucked into more rounds of “Who Am I?” I could not figure out that I was Mahlia Obama until Prairie Man started shouting relevant questions from another room. Of all the people I know, he might be in the best position to take on Kathbert in a Battle of the Brains. Anyway, we got home late and I did not burn away any of the extra 1200 calories I ate yesterday. My diet app helpfully told me that if I keep eating like that, in a few weeks I will weigh a ton. Thanks for that cheery Christmas thought, diet app. Today I am back to being good.

Famous Hat

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Work Party

Sorry that I still haven’t posted the video of the Christmas train or any of the other pictures I’ve taken lately. It’s such a busy time of the year, and soon I have to go to the East Side Club Christmas Party, so that will be something to blog about later. Right now I can blog briefly about our work Christmas party. It was at the Great Dane at Hilldale and took the whole afternoon. Because we were offsite, we could drink, but at first only a few people did. We had a white elephant exchange, and the gift I bought at the antique mall (a Sharon Osbourne bobblehead) was popular with one person, because he stole it from the person who first opened it. Then it turned out I got the gift he brought! It is a colorful but very primitive-style clay angel. There were some very strange gifts, like a macramé Santa shaped like a crescent moon and a long stick with a skull on the top. I should have stolen the Unicorn Farts, which was rainbow-colored cotton candy, since Travalon probably would have liked it. It ended up getting traded after the fact to someone who has kids, so that is fitting. There was a lot of post-game gift swapping going on. After about half the group had left, the big boss said he still had to spend some money to get to his minimum for the party, so we all had tequila shots. Eventually the restaurant kicked us out of our private room, since another group was coming, so a few diehards hung out in the bar area, where there was a big Christmas tree set up. I have it on good authority that the person who ended up with the macramé moon Santa hid him among the decorations on the tree, and none of the waitstaff noticed, so he will probably be there for the entire season. The person who told me this story said macramé moon Santa matched the décor on the tree, so he was well camouflaged. If you happen to go to the Great Dane at Hilldale, take a look and see if you can find macramé moon Santa. Heck, you can probably have him, if the waitstaff don’t yell at you for taking an ornament off the tree that was never supposed to be there in the first place.

Famous Hat

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Ukulele Jam

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Sorry that I haven’t written in so long, but it was a busy time. Thursday I was supposed to get together with Light Bright, but her toddler got sick (as they often do), so Travalon kindly brought me my ukulele, then we went to Lakeside for a light dinner, and then he went to a basketball game while I jammed with the ukulele group. Man, were there a lot of ukuleles there that night! Hundreds of them! We played Christmas songs, and some people had brought jingle bells, a slide whistle, and kazoos. Then I remembered that I too had a kazoo in my ukulele case, so I got to join in the fun! It was such a blast.

Friday Travalon and I watched a DVD about the Camino to Santiago, then we went downtown as usual, and then I actually talked him into going to Fired Up with me to make fused glass. He made a very cute dog that I will post soon, and I made a lame Christmas tree ornament. We had dinner at the restaurant in the same mall, then we went to Lakeside again to hear classical guitar. The brother-in-law of the Daughter of Denni was there, as always, and he is our favorite, but there were some other amazing guitarists there as well.

Saturday Travalon and I heard one song by a klezmer band, then we went to a balalaika orchestra concert. This was all free. We rode the holiday trolley again and had some chocolate. Travalon went to a basketball game while I took a walk to enjoy the beautiful day, then we went to the Chocolaterian to hear the Daughter of Denni’s band play. We ended the evening by going to a birthday party for one of Rich’s housemates. The other one is from Brazil, and he thinks I’m hilarious, so of course I like him.

Yesterday we watched that highly disappointing Packers game. I can understand that Rodgers is a little rusty from not playing for weeks, but it was painful to watch him throw three interceptions, and also to see the Panthers get a touchdown on a questionable call. Then Travalon and I went to the antique store to find a suitably cheap and cheesy gift for the white elephant gift exchange at my work Christmas party on Wednesday, and then we went to the jazz jam at the Rigby. We had only heard a couple of songs when Travalon got a text that our glass pieces were ready to pick up, so we got them, and then we had dinner at Bahn Thai again because Travalon loves the red curry duck dish so much. I tried it too, and it really is delicious. Finally we went home and watched a couple of Christmas episodes of Keeping Up Appearances, always a hilarious show. Hyacinth sent herself Christmas cards just so she could brag to the postman that she had gotten over one hundred of them. Who has the energy to care that much what other people think about them? 

Famous Hat

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend of Concerts

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Sorry for not blogging in so long – I have just been so busy at work that my desire to sit in front of a computer and blog in the evening is much reduced. Also, I was busy most evenings: Tuesday we went to Taco Night, and Wednesday I actually went to choir practice for the first time in eons. Thursday I had to pick Travalon up from the car dealer; his satellite radio had stopped working, and the people who installed it couldn’t figure out what was wrong, so they told him to take the car into the dealer.

Friday Travalon and I went down to campus, and we went to Mass for Immaculate Conception at the new St. Paul’s chapel. It is so beautiful! Then we read in the Periodicals Room, and then Tiffy came to town. She and I drove Travalon to pick up his car; the dealer couldn’t find a problem with the car to explain his satellite radio issues, but at least they didn’t charge Travalon anything. The three of us went to Bahn Thai for dinner, then Tiffy and I met Rich at the Handbell Choir Christmas Concert, and Travalon sent a text saying he had tried plugging in a wire to his satellite radio, and now it works! How funny that the people who installed it couldn’t figure it out.

Saturday I met Tiffy and Rich for coffee, then we went to the Capital to see the State Christmas Tree, and then we had lunch at Himal Chuli. Tiffy and I went to a free Horn Choir Christmas Concert at the art museum, and we saw a protest with a giant inflatable chicken that looked a little like Trump. We did some Christmas shopping on State Street and then met some Slow Food people for dinner at an Italian place on Wilson Street. We were a little early, so we looked at furniture at Rubins – in the lower part they have swanky stuff, but up in the loft they have all sorts of random things, so that was fun. After dinner Tiffy and I went to the Madison Bach Musicians’ Christmas Concert, which was wonderful as always. They did Vivaldi’s “Winter” and a Bach cantata for the First Sunday after Epiphany, among other things.

Yesterday after Mass Travalon, Tiffy, and I had brunch at the Peruvian restaurant on State Street, and that was really good. They gave us free samples of their supercaffeinated coffee, so then I was totally wired during that nail biter of a Packers game. Afterwards I felt kind of icky, because while of course I wanted the Packers to win, the Browns fans must have been so devastated to be up two touchdowns, only to lose in overtime. They really thought they were going to get their first win of the season, and the Browns really did play better than the Packers. How sad to think that we are now evenly matched with the worst team in the league! I would have felt better if we had decisively beaten them and not given them so much hope. It seems weird to think that our playoff hopes are still faintly alive, when we have barely won the last couple of games. However, they say Rodgers might be back next week, so maybe then we will do better. The problem is that our defense is so weak that we need to score a lot of points to win, because we can’t stop the other team from scoring. I don’t think we are Super Bowl bound this year… 

Famous Hat

Monday, December 4, 2017

Travalon's Birthday and the Christmas Train

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Friday was Travalon’s birthday, so we started the day at MNM Coffee, where he got a free scoop of ice cream. We drove to Sauk to see eagles; none were out and about, but we had a lovely hike on the new trail they put in where the defunct railroad tracks used to be, along the river. Then we drove beautiful Highway 60 to Spring Green, which is the Birthday Town: Travalon got free lunch at the café, 20% off a book at the little bookstore and a FREE book at the library, a free drink at Freddy Valentine’s, a free cookie at the tea shop, and 20% off a journal at another shop. We walked all over town and got so many steps that day! Then we rushed to Wollersheim Distillery and got there not long before it closed so that he could get his favorite drink, an Apple Cream (apple brandy with cream soda). We came back to town and went through the Zoo Lights, which were magical, and then I said I would take him to dinner anywhere, so he chose David’s Jamaican. As my regular readers may remember, they catered our wedding, so they remember us fondly and gave us a HUGE slice of key lime pie for his birthday.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich and some other people downtown for coffee, then we rode the free Holiday Trolley down State Street and around the Capital. We went into the Capital to see the State Christmas Tree, then we used some coupons they had given us on the trolley at the State Historical Society store and Fontana Sports. Jilly Moose had asked if we were having a party for Travalon; he’s not a big party person, but I emailed some people to see if they wanted to meet for lunch at McGee’s soul food restaurant, and almost everyone but Jilly Moose could make it. Even the Married B-Boy came with his five-year-old daughter, who decided she adored me. What did this mean for me? That I had to run for several blocks to keep up with her as she held my hand, and then she still had the energy to run back! Having children would either kill me or get me into excellent shape! Travalon got lots of great gifts, including a book about historic gas stations by the guy who did the historic tavern one we followed from Jilly Moose and OK Cap, and a shirt that says: "I can't stay calm - I'm Croatian!" from Cecil Markovitch. In the evening Travalon went to a concert with a friend, so Hockey Girl and I went to the Chocolaterian and then a classical guitar concert. There was a very loud bat that either loved or hated the music – we couldn’t tell if it were complaining or singing along. It especially loved/hated Bach and Japanese music.

Yesterday I was very grumpy, so when the Packers were stinking it up, I told Travalon that I really had to get outside. Since it was so beautiful, and we were recording the game anyway, he went on a hike with me along the Yahara River. Then the Packers were playing better, but when we started watching them again, they started to stink again. Travalon drove me downtown for the annual All-University Choir Concert, and we heard the “end” of the game, but it went into overtime. I went to the concert, and as I was waiting for it to start, Travalon texted to say they won!! This was good news for Wisconsin, since the Badgers lost their first game of the season the night before, and it was a really important one, the Big Ten Championship. They can never beat Ohio State… The concert was wonderful and included “Tota Pulchra Es” by Durufle and that old classic “Riu Riu Chiu,” as well as another noisy bat. That’s the danger when you have concerts in beautiful old churches. After the concert Travalon and I met back up and went to see the Canadian Pacific Christmas Train. It had already gotten to Watertown when we got there, so Travalon suggested we try to beat it to Columbus. We saw it take off and thought maybe it had beaten us to Columbus, but we saw some other people pulled over by the tracks, and they said, “It’s just coming now.” Readers, you will be ecstatic to know that I got a really fantastic movie of the train going by, just feet away from me. It’s all lit up and beautiful and playing (don’t ask me why) the Jackson 5. The movie is almost four minutes long, but I should be able to post it to this blog, so look for that in the near future. 

Famous Hat