Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bobcats and Waterfalls

Sorry that I haven't blogged in so long. To make it up to you, here is a very long blog post with photos and videos. Travalon and I had a five-day weekend, and we started it on Thursday evening by going to the Mezz and sitting on the balcony. Friday Travalon and I cleaned, then we went downtown for a few hours and had lunch at a food cart, and then Travalon had to work for a couple of hours while I met Hockey Girl for dinner on the Monona Terrace.

Saturday Travalon and I took the Merrimac Ferry on the way to Devil's Lake, then we climbed up the Pothole Trail to the top of the East Bluff. It was so steep that I was sure I couldn't get back down that way, and someone told us the other side was even steeper, but there was a CCC trail that was supposedly more gradual. This did not turn out to be true, but it was a new trail to me, so it was an adventure. In the evening we were going to watch a Cajun band with Hockey Girl, but for some reason the concert was canceled, so we went to Common Ground and played Scrabble (I won), and then we saw a really fun group at the Harmony Bar that was called something like the Mad City Jug Band. They played a lot of 20's music and had a great fiddler, a banjo player, a bass player, a washboard player, two guitarists - one with a kazoo - and a harmonica player. So great!

Sunday Travalon and I drove north, stopping at the Packer Pro Shop at Lambeau Field. We went to what Travalon thought was the last state park he had to visit, Governor Thompson State Park, but he found out not too long ago there is another one called Straight Lake that he hasn't been to either. We started at a lake and hiked along a trail with three huge rock formations, but the mosquitoes were really bad and the ticks were unbelievable. I must have found thirty of them on me! As we were driving to Marinette, we saw a bobcat run across the road! Travalon was very excited because he has been really interested in bobcats lately. We had dinner and delicious beer at a brewpub called the Rail House, and then we swam in the pool in our hotel. Our room had a beautiful view of the Menominee River.

Memorial Day we took a walk on the island in the river right by our hotel, which had some historic sites on it, then we drove into Menominee, Michigan and walked out to the lighthouse. We were listening to the 40's station, and they kept having patriotic songs to mark the holiday. It was definitely the right station for Memorial Day! We drove even further north and visited three waterfalls: Dave's Falls, Twelve Foot Falls, and Horseshoe Falls. Can you believe this? On the way to the last one, we saw another bobcat run across the road right in front of us! It's like they knew Travalon was hoping to see them. We also had a picnic at Dave's Falls with leftovers from our dinner the night before. Travalon's brother called to say his mother was in the hospital, so we hurried back to see her, but she was asleep when we got there. The nurses said she was doing much better.

Yesterday we went to see Travalon's mom, and she was tired but was cracking jokes, and then they came to move her from the ICU to a regular room because she had improved so much. Travalon and I had lunch at a pizza place overlooking Fowler Lake, then we came home and got our boat on the water. We went a little way into the marsh and then went a little way into the lake. It had been really hot, but when we went to the Nau-ti-gal for dinner, there was a wonderful breeze. A boat that was docked there was capsized, and when we went to inspect it, two guys kayaking by asked if it was ours. We said no, and we had no idea whose it was. We told the waitress about it, since the restaurant also owns the boat slips, but she did not seem too concerned.

Here are some photos from our various adventures. This first one actually comes from Tiffy, who had a grand adventure in Scotland recently. She sent me this photo of Scots Gaelic, and I can make out a few words, but it isn't exactly like Irish Gaelic. It seems to say something about a public Gaelic room.

During Beer Week, Travalon and I went to the Next Door Brewery and had a beer and cupcake tasting. The cupcakes were vanilla, lemon, lavender, and chocolate. I remember one of the beers was a saison, and one was a stout.

Travalon and I did not actually dine on this car during our anniversary train ride, but another one that was even older.

I went to the Arboretum to see the magnolias and crabapples blooming, and I saw some turkeys too!

In Milwaukee, we saw this cat drawn on the sidewalk.

Here is a view of Devil's Lake from near the top of the Pothole Trail.

On our way up north, we passed this marker in a town called Beaver that noted we were halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

At Governor Thompson State Park, we saw lots of flowers, like trilliums (trillia?), including pink ones that I couldn't get a picture of, and these little purple flowers everywhere.

Here I am in front of one of the rock formations at Governor Thompson.

This is the lighthouse in Menominee, Michigan.

These little star-shaped flowers were all over at Horseshoe Falls.

I am not sure what this pink plant is, but I thought it was pretty cool.

This is a tiny island just down the river from Eight Foot Falls, which was just down the river from Twelve Foot Falls. Neither of these falls seemed to be as tall as their names implied.

This picture is from right by my job. For the last couple of years, someone has trimmed back these peonies just before they bloomed, which seems somewhat psychotic. I wondered if they would let the poor peonies bloom this year - and they did!

A couple of videos of the waterfalls; this first one is Dave's Falls.

This is Horseshoe Falls, which is very hard to get to. You have to take a "state forest road," which is not paved, and then hike on a narrow trail. But the falls are very pretty.

Finally, here is a silly video of Travalon flying our kite.

I have a very cool video of the wings on the Art Museum closing, but it is too long to post so I will have to put it on YouTube and then link it to this blog. Watch for that soon.

Famous Hat

Monday, May 21, 2018

Last Bunny Berigan Jazz Jamboree

Sorry that I never blogged about last weekend, but it would mostly be about the wonders of beer. This weekend Travalon and I started off with a mini-craft beer event when we went to Octopi on Thursday for pizza and beer. Friday we cleaned for an hour, as we have been doing, and I spent my hour cleaning in the plant room. It was very satisfying because now the plant room looks much neater. Then we went to Macha Tea for a popup pasta lunch. We hiked on the boardwalk in McFarland and then flew our kite near our house. It was such a relaxing day! In the evening we went to Karben 4 for more craft beer.

Saturday Travalon and I joined three Slow Food buddies in Milwaukee: first we went to the public market, then we took a boat ride down the Milwaukee River and went out into the lake just in time to see the “wings” on the Art Museum close, and then we had dinner at a small plate restaurant. We kept ordering one or two dishes at a time and would pass them around, and that worked perfectly. For some reason their menu was divided into sections that were listed in English, then maybe Spanish or Italian – it was hard to tell because the words are often the same in both languages – then in Irish, and then in some Southeast Asian language, maybe Thai or Javanese. Even odder, the Asian language was missing from the dessert menu. I meant to ask about that but forgot. 

Yesterday Travalon and I went to the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jamboree in Fox Lake, and we were so sad to find out it will be the last one ever. The festival has been going on for virtually my entire life, but they are low on funds and the demographic of the attendees is aging out of existence. Are there really no young swing fans anymore? We did see a few younger people there, but truly most of the audience members were quite advanced in age. The bands were excellent, as always. The weather had been cold and rainy, so we didn’t mind being inside all day, but it was lovely out by the time we left, so once we got back to town we took a walk on Governor’s Island. A bittersweet memory for Travalon, because that was where we took Rodney on his second-to-last walk ever. He says the stuffed animals comfort him through this time of loss, and when we got home, the latest addition to his family had arrived: a stuffed honey badger! Her name is Kizi, like the character from Roots. She is very cute.

Famous Hat

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Panda Family Tale Part Four

Travalon concludes his story about the panda family:

Negotiations between the Wheeling and Shanghai zoos began, but moved along slowly. The Chinese drove a hard bargain. They shot down an attractive offer of a Copybara and a Ring Tailed Lemur for Grandy and insisted on an exchange of a young but full grown American Bison, a fairly rare Rhinosaurus Hornbill bird, and $10,000 cash in exchange for Grandy, two giant deadly Chinese bees, and a platypus. Difficult, but because Wheeling valued loving homes for red pandas so much, they considered it. There were other bison at the zoo, the Hornbill could be replaced as the  Milwaukee County Zoo had a couple that could be dealt for. The bees sounded scary at first for their animal handlers to take on, but they were well trained. They could make a very interesting exhibit for Wheeling, especially for teenage zoo patrons, as they are so dangerous and only found in China. 

Coming up with the cash was a problem. It was tax season and the zoo owed. It also took a revenue loss during the past winter. Regardless, a Bring Grandy Home fundraiser event was proposed and launched.

Meanwhile back in Madison, despite the anxiety of the wait for Grandy, and the panda family missing him terribly, life went on pretty happily. Randy and Andy came along with Famous Hat and me on the Packer cruise. They loved being on the ocean, and seeing the southern US, but didn't care for the 85 F heat, so unlike the cool temps of the Himalayas. 
Mama Mandy struck up a friendship with Angie the barista bear, and they made a big Easter dinner for the whole panda family, green Irish bear family, Dieter, and all our critters. The pandas also rescued a starving female bobcat named Bobbi back in the marsh and we welcomed her to into our home, and later did the same with her tiny daughter Bobbette. Little Shandi still dreamed of a never-to-be romance with Dieter and continued to join him on the night watch. 
The funds were raised for the Grandy deal. More weeks went by as Shanghai had to get final approval from their CPA. Wheeling officials said, "What, they need a Certified Public Accountant to check the books for this?"  No, it was their Chinese Panda Authority.
The deal finally went through, and a worn-out Grandy was now on his way to join his family in our home! 
Needless to say, the whole red panda family lived happily ever after! 


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Panda Family Tale Part Three

Travalon continues his story of the red panda family.

In Minneapolis, brothers Randy and Andy Panda were thrilled to see each other and to be living under the same roof with these kind gentle and caring humans. They loved sitting in the back seat together on the ride home, catching up. Now settled in their new home in Madison, WI (often colder than Sikkim in the winter) they would romp in the backyard together and climb the trees every day. Andy followed his brother's lead most of the time, although sometimes on his own he would get into unexplained mischief.
Meanwhile, back in Sikkim the smoke from the last forest fire seeped into the Panda family's den and Mandy and Shandi had to evacuate, at least temporarily. Maybe they would somehow find the others. Within a few hours the WWF rescuers found them. The two female pandas complied with all the procedures and did not put up any kind of fight. Shandi was very frightened, but Mandy her loving mama held her close and assured her everything would be ok. It would be! They were both deemed very adoptable and their DNA's were matched with Randy and Andy's. Upon contact with the center in Wheeling, they were given the go-ahead to be sent to America, and offered to Famous Hat and I for adoption, a chance for most of the family to live together. Of course we immediately agreed! The more pet red pandas, the merrier!! 

They were checked out briefly in Wheeling and then transported directly to the Vilas Zoo in Madison for additional rest and nourishment before being welcomed into our home. Randy and Andy were thrilled to see their mom and little sister as the females were thrilled to see them and that they were alive and well! They all lived happily together under our roof, although our bed was getting a bit crowded as the green Irish bears and Jørgen the Narwhal shared it too. Shandi adored and had developed romantic feelings toward Dieter. She enthusiastically joined him out in the living room for the overnight watch every night. He enjoyed her company, but was much more focused on his job of protecting the condo. He was very loyal to his owners like most German Shepherds. 
Back in Sikkim the question remained: Where was the family's long-lost father Grandy Panda? Now well-rested and healed, he set out to find his way home, hoping the rest of his family would be there. As with the others, the WWF quickly found him. He snarled a bit, but quickly realized he couldn't escape these humans and their plan for him. As his DNA testing began an unexpected wrench was thrown into things. A rescuer from China determined that he looked exactly like a missing red panda from Shanghai Zoo #32. Without properly checking all blood samples, he was fully convinced that Grandy was the Chinese red panda Zhing-Zhing and convinced his associates to send him to Shanghai permanently. Grandy was shocked and saddened but there was nothing he could do. All he think about was the fact that he'd never see his family or the wilds of Sikkim again. He didn't enjoy life in his small glass cage, his restless cage companion Ting-Ting, or being gawked at by children tapping on the glass all day long. 
We made an inquiry about Grandy's possible whereabouts with the center in Wheeling. They contacted the WWF camp in Sikkim and luckily a rescuer from India answered and told them an older male red panda had recently been found and sent to a zoo in China. After being told a description of the DNA of the rest of the family, it was determined that this Panda they just shipped out belonged to that family, now far away in America. 
The Wheeling center inquired with the Shanghai zoo about Grandy. The Chinese officials admitted the Panda in question was indeed one of their residents although not Zhing-Zhing. They would not let Grandy be relocated to America easily though. Red Pandas, although some could be seen in the wilds of Central China, were a most popular animal to be featured. The Chinese, on the counsel of their government, insisted on a small animal exchange with Wheeling, and $10,000 cash for Grandy. Could Wheeling do it?
Conclusion coming soon...


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Panda Family Tale Part Two

Today, the continuation of Travalon's story about his red panda family:

Mandy Panda had no choice- despite all the potential dangers she had to send Andy out to find his missing father and older brother. She had to stay home and keep little Shandi safe. She also consulted with her sister, Brandi Panda and was advised to do so. 
Andy understood what was being asked of him. He was very determined to find them and lead them home safely no matter what it took! He knew his father liked to wander along the Lachung River, and the bamboo trees which provide leaves for red pandas to eat along it were plentiful, giving him the idea that his father most likely would have gone that way for food so he decided to follow that route. 
A few hours went by and there was no sign of his father, let alone any other red pandas or animals. He was truly all alone, or so he thought. Suddenly he heard footsteps and heard human voices. It was two other WWF Panda rescuers, and they snuck up on him from behind.
" Come here little one, we won't hurt you.." the man reached toward Andy. Andy, frightened and confused, would have none of it and scratched the man's arm. The man screamed in pain and the woman swiftly stuck a needle in Andy's back, tranquilizing him. Off he went to their camp for evaluation.
Meanwhile, Randy Panda's fate was determined. He was the chosen red panda to be adopted by Famous Hat as a Christmas gift for me and was to be sent to be our new domesticated pet at our home half a world away from Sikkim in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. In the days this transition took place, Randy was a bit scared, but also excited about this new life ahead of him. On arrival in Washington DC, he felt the chill of the North American winter, and saw the snow, it reminded him of the high mountain country of Sikkim. After going through final health and behavior checks at the Red Panda Center at the zoo in Wheeling, West Virginia, he was transported right to our home. He adjusted to his new surroundings well, and developed a lasting friendship with Dieter our little German Shepherd watchdog. He enjoys sleeping in our large bed with us, watching movies with me in my recliner and being  cuddled every night. He also has access to the trees in our backyard via a trap door where he could spend hours each day climbing or playing in the snow. 

Back in Sikkim, at the WWF camp, the rescuers were uncertain about Andy's fate, whether he could become an adoptable domestic pet, or if  he was better suited to be a zoo resident in China or America, or let loose back into the wilds of Sikkim. They just didn't have the right equipment for this complex analysis. The Red Panda Center in Wheeling was booked up, but they found another American zoo where this task could be performed- the Como Zoo in Minneapolis. After a few days of extensive DNA and blood type and behavioral tests on poor confused little Andy, it was determined he was eligible to be an adoptable house pet. It was found that his DNA matched that of a red panda's who was adopted and living with a family only 250 miles away- Randy's! 

Working with the WWF, the Como zoo's staff called us asking if we wanted to adopt Andy as well and reunite the two brothers. We agreed without hesitation! We were on our way to the Twin Cities with Randy along, not knowing the excitement of the soon-to-be reunion with his little brother. 

Meanwhile, back in Sikkim despite a small  forest fire nearby, Mandy and Shandi were safe at home in their den although worried to tears about the others, still missing. Mandy was a positive optimistic thinker, and something inside her made her believe the others were alive and safe. Little Shandi couldn't sleep, she cried for her missing daddy and brothers every night. 
We know where Randy and Andy were. What about dear old Grandy? After fending for himself in the wild for days and surviving a brief encounter with a snow leopard in which he sustained a paw injury, he found a safe place to stay for awhile also- the home of his sister, Miranda Panda!
Would this happy red panda family ever be all together in the same place again? Stay tuned!

To be continued...


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Panda Family Tale Part One

Today's guest post is by Travalon - the first part of the story of his red panda family.

Deep in the wilds of the Himilayan region of Sikkim, India lived a happy and close knit red panda family: the parents Grandy and Mandy Panda, along with their three cubs Randy, Andy, and Shandi (oldest to youngest).
One day Grandy went out to search for food for his family along a mountainside. Suddenly, an unexpected landslide came right in his path. Luckily, Grandy climbed up a large solid tree and was safe for the time being. Afraid of another one coming soon, he chose to spend the night up in the tree. 
The next day, all was calm but the path home Grandy had planned to follow was wiped out by fallen branches, rocks and mud. he was confused and lost, not sure what to do or where to go next. No one else was around.
His family had waited up all night for him to come home. They were worried sick assuming he was missing or even dead. Something had to be done. Mandy sent the oldest cub Randy to look for his father. Randy is smart and has a good sense of direction; however as there was no indication which way his father went, he went the opposite way. 

Hours went by and Randy too was lost and alone. Pouring cold rain began coming down too. Two humans who were exploring the area found Randy, looking very scared and shaking leaning against a tree. They were gentle and managed to pick Randy up and carry him to their camp. It turned out they were part of the World Wildlife Fund's Red Panda Rescue team. Randy was fed, cuddled and given a nice warm pen for the night. It was decided he would be eligible for adoption by a caring family in the United States rather than returned to the wild.
Now Mandy and the younger cubs were really worried sick and grieving the possible loss of the two older males in the family. 
There was word of a snow leopard (the ferocious enemy of the red panda) in the area and an avalanche coming in the next few days. It was also the beginning of the peak forest fire season in the area. Mandy had hesitated to send little Andy out to look for his dad and brother, but he was the man of the family for now....

To Be Continued...


Monday, May 7, 2018

Madison Craft Beer Week Begins!

I hope my readers had a good weekend. This was the kickoff weekend for Madison Craft Beer Week, so Travalon and I had an excellent time. After cleaning on Friday morning, we went to Rock Hound Brewery for their Beer Lunch: a $3 pint of one of their beers with any entrée. We both chose the macaroni and cheese, which was excellent. (It has beer in it!) We went downtown and walked up to the Square to have beer bread pudding at the Old Fashioned, then we met OK Cap at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace. They had an hour wait, so we walked a few doors down to Barley Pop and had some sours, and when we got seated at Tex Tubb’s, the food was worth the wait! I had shrimp tacos and a Star Wars-themed beer, Darth something, because it was May the Fourth (as in, “May the Fourth be with you”).

Saturday Travalon and I hiked behind Madison Country Day School, then I had a two-hour gig at the general store in Spring Green and got $3 in tips. Of course it was such a beautiful day, who was going to come in and listen to us? We had a tiny audience: a couple here, another person there, but at least every time one left, someone else came to replace them. Then Travalon and I went to Mr. Brews for their Kentucky Derby party and had Kentucky bourbon barrel-aged beer as we watched the Derby. The horse who was favored to win did come in first – how boring. OK Cap joined us, then we went to the Parched Eagle for their third anniversary party with a Mexican-themed beer release, so that took care of the Cinco de Mayo part of the day for us. We had some dinner at Athens Gyros, then we went to the Malt House and Barley Pop as well because both of them were having Sour Nights for MCBW. I love sour beer! One odd moment was when we walked to McDonalds from the Malt House so Travalon could get something to eat, but they were closed even though their sign clearly stated they should be open until 11 at night. The drive-thru was open so I yelled, “What the heck?” to them, and they yelled back, “There are only two of us here!” Yeah, I get that, but put a note on the door or something!

Yesterday after Mass I went to the Lutheran Cathedral of the West to hear my old choir sing a Gabrieli Mass, then Travalon and I went to Rock Hound Brewery for their Crushed Velvet brunch. The food was delicious, and the Crushed Velvet is a cocktail made of their coffee porter and champagne. We wanted to go to a talk at Funk Factory Geuzeria on lambics they made using fruit from the Arboretum, but you had to buy tickets online, and they were sold out. We went to the Arboretum and the zoo, then we hung out on the deck at the Lakeside Café until Funk Factory’s taproom reopened after the talk. I LOVE this place – they do nothing but lambics! And you can get small pours, so you can try several flavors. I asked what a Geuzeria was, and the bartender told me they don’t really brew, they blend, but Blenderia sounds silly so they decided on the Spanish word for a place that blends lambics. Anyway, we saved a fortune just trying the lambics they made from Osage oranges and persimmons from the Arboretum rather than hearing a talk about them. Then we went to Natt Spil for their fundraiser for a summer camp for children who are burn victims, and we had a pizza there. I think it may be the best pizza in town! So MCBW is off to a great start, and I already have nine stamps in my passport.

Famous Hat

Friday, May 4, 2018

Mini Ukulele and Other Photos

It's time I posted some more photos, so here are some from the trip Travalon and I took to Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago. First is a face someone drew on this part of the riverwalk:

Next are some photos from St. John the Evangelist, the Milwaukee cathedral:

My "Olbrich series" fridge magnets did turn out pretty well:

This is the rosary I got in Costa Maya, Mexico. I prayed with it once, but it is awkward to use and better for decoration, so I hung it over our bed.

Speaking of our bedroom, here are some of the denizens. First is a photo of my green Irish bears in three sizes. We call them (in descending order of size) Dineen, Erin, and Enid.

Here is the soft pretzel Travalon bought for me last week. It doesn't have a name yet.

And here are all the stuffies I have on my side of the bed, including Jørgen the Narwhal:

Travalon just acquired Bobbi the Bobcat. Here she is with Randy Panda:

Speaking of cute, coral-colored narwhals, we found these in a head shop on State Street. I think they are supposed to be sushi...? They were very cute, but I didn't want to spend as much as they were asking for them so I just took a picture.

Remember Rich's amazing hot chocolate from the Crema Cafe? Here is what the Chocolaterian served him, which is almost as beautiful except for not having any sprinkles.

Travalon and I went to the Sauk Dam, and we saw this rainbow from the water spewing through the dam. There is often water pouring through it, but I had never seen a rainbow there before.

And finally, photos of my tiny ukulele from Brazil. The second one is with my soprano ukulele for purposes of comparison. Sorry, no videos yet - I am still practicing. It's going well, though, so soon.

An added bonus: a video of the Flying Bango from the Bucks game!

Famous Hat