Friday, September 28, 2018

My ZZ Plant

At work I have four plants: three Christmas cacti and a ZZ plant. Two of the Christmas cacti are from my previous job, and I have posted pictures of their blooms – one blooms white, and the other blooms magenta. The third one was given to me on my last day of work by another coworker who was being laid off, and it blooms hot pink. When my office faced north over the lake, I wasn’t sure if they were going to get enough light, so I bought the ZZ plant. It cost three times what I would have expected for a plant its size, but it has not been a disappointment. The ZZ plant is an arum that looks vaguely like a cycad, and its scientific name, Zamioculcas zamifolia, reflects this, because it looks a little like cycads in the genus Zamia. However, unlike a cycad, it is supposed to be nearly impossible to kill, and you often see its glossy pinnate leaves in office buildings because it can survive happily in low light. Perfect for the north-facing window, I thought… and then I got moved to an office that faces east, so I brought in the Christmas cacti, who are supposed to love eastern exposures. They actually don’t look so happy, and the magenta-blooming one looks really sick, droopy and purple, but the ZZ plant couldn’t be happier. Right now it is growing even more leaves. Maybe it will be so happy that it will bloom, although the ZZ flower is nothing too exciting for the average viewer. However, for a botany nerd like me, it would be the height of excitement.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Vegetable Dinner and Bach Lunch

Last night I went to a very interesting dinner. I will freely admit to eating a snack mid-afternoon, knowing the dinner would be small samples of mostly vegetables. This was at the Discovery Institute, which is a really cool place with a Mesozoic garden and tiles on the floor that activate chimes. The dinner was put on by a seed collective consisting of vegetable breeders, farmers, and chefs, and after the dinner they had a short Q&A. The dinner itself consisted of going from station to station collecting small samples of food; each station featured a different vegetable, and some had different strains of the same vegetable, like different colored carrots or beets. Two stations had samples of hard apple cider. Everything was delicious, but my favorites were probably the potato soup, the carrot gnocchi, and the cucumber sorbet. I met a bunch of Slow Food people there, and we sat at a table under a bunch of trees, so it felt like we were in a forest inside. The most surprising thing for me may have been the little pork cutlet (the only meat I saw the whole evening) covered in tomatoes that I actually liked. I generally hate raw tomatoes, but these actually tasted good.

That’s what I love about Madison – you can find such crazy foodie stuff here, and lots of early music. Today at lunch I met Kathbert at the Lutheran Cathedral of the Midwest for a free all-Bach concert, though it wasn’t entirely all Bach because we sang a hymn to the tune “Down Ampney,” and if you are as big a hymn nerd as I am, you will know that is by Ralph Vaughan Williams. We thought it was going to be an organ concert, and we knew the organist, but to our surprise there was a whole little orchestra and four singers, and they did two Bach cantatas. We were even more surprised to find that we, the audience, were expected to sing during the closing chorales. Boy, were there some fantastic singers there! Kathbert figured there were a lot of vocal majors present. Afterwards one young guy who looked like an undergrad said to another one, “Best lunch ever!” I can’t say for certain that it was, but it was certainly up there.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Contentious Condo Association Meeting

Last night we had a very contentious condo association meeting, which in itself is weird because in the past they have been very placid affairs. However, two factions had developed among our neighbors, and women from both factions would give Travalon and me treats and booze to try to win us over to their side. Seriously, our neighbors have never paid this much attention to us! I suppose one faction will think we are traitors for not voting for their candidate for the board, but it would have happened either way we voted. Things got really contentious because the bylaws had a weird rule that you could use all your votes for one candidate, which seems kind of nuts, so there was a vote to change that. People who do not even live in our association but are romantically involved with residents got up and made speeches, even though they were told this was inappropriate. It was getting really tense, but after the vote for the board, the losing candidate seemed to take it graciously. Hopefully this weird divide does not remain among the residents of our association. I honestly don’t even know what caused it.

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Wisconsin Maritime Museum

I hope my readers got a chance to enjoy this beautiful weekend at the beginning of autumn. Friday Travalon and I just hung out with some neighbors. We were going to go hear Hawaiian music at Mother Fool’s but never got around to it.

Saturday was National Museum Day, and we could get two free tickets from the Smithsonian for any participating museum. Travalon chose the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, so we hit the road early and got to town just in time for lunch, which we had at a charming Japanese/Thai restaurant. The museum was very cool, with a whole submarine from World War II that we got to tour, and histories of all the shipwrecks that had happened in the area, as well as lots of model boats and ships, and a few real boats. There were hands-on activities for the kids that we tried too, being big kids. We really enjoyed the museum; one of my very favorite things was a dollar bill three sailors spent in Hawaii after signing their names on it, and when one sailor got back home to Wisconsin, his mother had the dollar bill for him. Isn't that mind-boggling? Some other sailor must have gotten it in change and brought it back to Wisconsin. After that we went to Point Beach State Park and walked along the beach, then we drove to Port Washington for dinner at a seafood restaurant on the lake. We walked most of the way out to a lighthouse we had walked out to when we were dating, but it was dark and late so we didn’t go all the way out. We got home around 11:30. What a great day!

Yesterday was beautiful too. Travalon and I went to Curd Fest to enjoy cheese curds and the music of the steel drum band I have mentioned on this blog before, Panchromatic Steel. Then we went on a boat ride out into the lake and back into Six Mile Creek, which was very weedy. The lake is so much calmer since it is no-wake right now while the water level is so high. Most of the other boats are sailboats and a few pontoon boats; the speedboats don’t bother going out when they can’t race around, so the lake is very quiet. After that we watched the Badger game, since we had taped it. I wouldn’t say that the Badgers won so much as the Hawkeyes’ special teams lost the game. We didn’t bother watching the Packer game we had taped because we saw part of it at Curd Fest and knew it turned out badly. I don’t have high hopes for the Pack this season: so far they have won by one point, tied, and lost by two touchdowns. Not a stellar record.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

Dinner at Forequarter

Last night Travalon and I went to Forequarter because I had been wanting to go for a long time. It is a funny place that does not have its name on the front, just the address prominently displayed, including the fraction ¼ in the street number. Normally Travalon does not like what he calls “foodie” restaurants, by which he means the ones that list a dish like this: “Trout” and then a string of words that most people have no idea what they mean. I have heard it said that you are foodie if you know the difference between arugula and radicchio (and I do), but even I do not know what some of these words mean. However, at Forequarter the ingredients were a little less mysterious, and the prices were a little lower, so I had high hopes that Travalon would not hate the place. Another thing he hates about foodie restaurants is that their portions tend to be the opposite of generous, though usually artfully presented, but our appetizer of two tacos was normal-sized. Travalon actually really liked what he had, whitefish and potatoes. I had really good gnocchi with chevre – okay, so that’s goat cheese, but I did know what that meant. My drink was their take on a mojito, but with basil instead of mint and orange instead of lime. It was interesting, but not bad. Travalon had an apple brandy drink he really liked. Anyway, success! He actually enjoyed a foodie restaurant.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Weird, Wet Day

Today is Jilly Moose’s birthday, so Happy Birthday! Yesterday a fun thing happened to me: as I was walking from work to Irish class downtown, the Wienermobile passed me. It played the “Oscar Mayer Wiener” song, then the guy inside it saw me and said over the loudspeaker, “Go Pack Go!” since I was wearing my Packer hat. Later I saw it parked downtown. It would be awesome to get to ride in it…

This morning started off weirdly for me. I forgot my lunch and would have to buy it, which seemed especially lame since Travalon had made a special trip to the co-op last night to get me some lunch for today. Then I stopped for gas on the way to the bus stop and somehow forgot my wallet in the car. Luckily I realized it just before getting on the bus, and there was time to go get it and still catch the bus. Whew! I was just settling in at work when the fire alarm went off, so we all had to go stand out in the rain for fifteen minutes until getting the all clear. Then I went back out into the rain to a meeting I had been invited to, though I wasn’t sure why, and going to it did not enlighten me any further. It seemed sort of irrelevant to me. At lunch I usually do a rosary walk, but it was still raining. Not wanting to hide in my office, I ran to the greenhouse where I had worked as an undergrad and checked out the plants. Some from my day are no longer there, but it is wonderful just to be around so many plants. Later in the afternoon I had another meeting… only I didn’t, it’s tomorrow, and I had it wrong on my calendar, so that was yet another trip out into the rain for nothing. Not a horrible day, just a weird one… so far.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Jilly Moose's Birthday Winery Visit

I hope my readers enjoyed the hot weather this weekend, maybe our last taste of summer. Sorry that I have no update for you on the missing sculpture. Hopefully the officials are really looking into this and weren’t just blowing me off.

Friday evening I went down to the Union Terrace after work and listened to live salsa music while watching sailboats, until Travalon and a Slow Food person joined me for a Q&A with a writer from the Colbert show. He went to graduate school here and actually got into improv with a local troupe, so it was interesting to hear that Madison produces some comics of note. After all, we can boast Chris Farley.

Saturday Travalon had caught my cold, so we had a quiet day and then decided to head to Fort Atkinson, where Bahama Bob and Banana Wind were performing at a bar on an island. Sounds like a perfect venue for tropical music, right? They had posted on social media that the gig was called off because flooding had made the island inaccessible, but then Friday they had reposted the gig, so we assumed it was back on. We should have called first, because we got out there only to find that the road was indeed under water. Travalon figured we could salvage the trip by going to a new brewery in town… but it had already gone out of business. We did have a wonderful dinner at an Irish pub, then we were going to walk on the River Walk, but it too was under water because of the floods, so we headed back to town and checked out a Mexican Fest. We thought about going to the Willy Street Fair but were too tired and just headed home.

Sunday we didn’t feel well enough to come all the way downtown for Mass, so we went to the local church, where the parishioners are not very friendly. They won’t shake your hand during the sign of peace, and they don’t talk to you afterwards. (OK Cap says this has been her experience there as well.) We took the boat out for a short ride, and the heat on the water seemed to bake our colds right out of us. Then we went to the Willy Street Fair, but it didn’t seem as crazy as some years. Good food, though. Jilly Moose came over, and the three of us went on a hike by the Yahara River, then we met the other Rosary Ladies at Drumlin Ridge Winery for Jilly Moose’s birthday, which is actually on Tuesday. I got her a wine tasting with a commemorative wineglass, as well as a wine slushie for myself. Was that ever delicious! And it went straight to my head. Each of us bought a different snack plate, so we had cheese and hummus and chocolate-covered pretzels, and Luxuli got Jilly Moose a slice of cheesecake with wine sauce that we each got to sample. Afterwards Travalon and I watched the Packer game that we had taped, since it was too beautiful to sit inside and watch it live, and it just went on forever. They kept almost beating the Vikings, but the Vikings tied things up, they went into overtime… and then nobody scored, so after all that it was a tie. At least they didn’t lose…

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Friday, September 14, 2018

"Spare Time" Mystery

Sorry for my silence the last few days. I had a terrible cold and didn’t feel like blogging, besides having nothing to say. Yesterday I made an attempt to go back to work but left after half a day. As I was riding the bus, I saw a truck labeled “Smooth Moves Inc” make a right turn from the left-hand lane, cutting off a car. You can’t make this stuff up. You do see crazy things on the bus; a few weeks ago we saw a police car being towed, and it didn’t appear to be damaged, so my bus buddy and I speculated that it had parked illegally. Is that even possible?

Here my story takes a darker turn. The bus went around the square, and I looked up at the roof where “Spare Time” should have been… and there was nothing there! Even more strangely, it looked like someone had just taken it down, because I swear I saw someone's head and the top of the sculpture over the edge of the roof. I immediately emailed the city clerk to demand to know why they were removing my favorite piece of artwork. Someone got back to me right away and copied the city art commissioner, saying he hadn’t heard they were planning to do that. Then the commissioner chimed in, saying she didn’t know anything about it either. So the mystery deepens… Was it frat boys? Was it an unauthorized removal by the building owners? Is the sculpture just being cleaned? The commissioner said she would get back to both of us when she found out more, so stay tuned.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Amazing Packers Game

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon and I started ours off by going to the East Side Club for their fish fry (mm, catfish!), where there were a couple of guys playing blues and jazz. Then we went to the North Street Bistro to hear a band play Brazilian music. I really love that samba beat, and the music is so cheery that it sounds like sunshine.

Saturday Travalon went to the Badger game, while I hung out with Tiffy for her birthday. We went to the Farmers’ Market and saw all kinds of crazy stuff, like 10-pound puffball mushrooms and all different colors of cauliflower, and I treated her to lunch at Himal Chuli, one of her favorite restaurants. We hung out in the roof garden of her sister’s apartment building until Travalon and I had to go to my department picnic. It was a potluck, and I made mini hamburger cookies. They are total sugar bombs, but they are very cute – I will post a picture soon. Later in the evening Travalon and I got together with Tiffy and Rich at the bar at the Hilton hotel.

Yesterday was Tiffy’s actual birthday. I saw her briefly after Mass, but she had to run off to see another friend, and Travalon and I were going sailing with our neighbor. That was great! The only thing is that I put on a ton of sunscreen, and my face is still pretty red. Why must I have a complexion that does not fit with what I love to do? I should have been either one of those indoors people, or much darker. Travalon and I went to see his mother in Oconomowoc, then we stopped at a restaurant in Lake Mills for dinner. They advertised spaghetti pizza, saying it sounds weird but tastes delicious. I would say it sounds weird but tastes uninspiring. Then of course we watched that game. Can you believe that game??? What a way to start the season!! At first the Packers were doing so badly, and Tiffy texted that they were adding insult to injury by doing it on her birthday. At halftime the Bears were up 20-0, and everyone on Twitter was saying the Packers’ season was over in one quarter because Rodgers had been carted off the field with a knee injury. But he came back in the second half, still clearly limping, but proving why he is the highest-paid player in the NFL. He just started throwing touchdown passes until they came back from behind and won by one point. This may have been the most exciting Packers game I have ever seen in my life. I’m glad I stayed up to watch it to the bitter end!

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

More Pictures of My Summer

Here are some other pictures I have taken lately. First is a petunia growing between the curb and the street in Reedsburg.

These are a couple of shots from the 14th story meeting room in my office building: the view out of the window, and three bass balalaikas that are stored there.

Here are some shots from our trip to the Railroad Museum in East Troy.

And here are some shots from our boat ride on Pewaukee Lake.

The Viking boat is back in our neighborhood, with more decorations:

A coworker brought me these things from Germany. The box of mints says, "Sunshine for you" and the coaster says, "Everyday Heroine." This was to thank me for a big favor I did for her.

Here are pelicans, a bald eagle, and the sunset from our sunset cruise on Horizon Marsh:

In Beaver Dam there is a restaurant that appears to be called "Ng's Garden Buff," although it is actually called Ming's Garden Buffet.

This is the stick figure statue on a building on the Square.

Here are some shots Travalon took on his trip up north: a pizza place he went to overlooking the lake, and the view from the cottage they rented.

Here is a shot of me taking a picture of my succulents in the kitchen window:

Finally, some videos. First is a steel drum band doing "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire.

This is the carillon playing "On, Wisconsin."

And finally, here is a video of Travalon demonstrating all the instruments in the riverside park in Beaver Dam. I know it is kind of dark, but you can get an idea of all the instruments.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Photos of Our Straight Lake Road Trip

Here are some photos from our recent road trip. This first one was a cute picture on a truck ahead of us. At another point we were behind a boat called "Garda Madra," which is Irish for "Police Dog," but I didn't think to take a picture of that.

This next picture is a cairn someone built in the Red Cedar River along the path Travalon and I followed:

Here is the overlook at Kinnikinnic State Park:

Travalon took this picture of me on the St. Croix River cruise:

This is the adorable island in Straight Lake:

Here is the overlook in Interstate State Park:

The waterfall in Merrillan is beautiful:

Here are a couple of shots of the charming coffee shop we had lunch at in Black River Falls:

Here is a shot of Lake Wauzee from the overlook in the county park:

And finally, here is the view of Round Bluff covered in mist from Mill Bluff State Park:

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Journey to Straight Lake

I hope my readers enjoyed the long holiday weekend. Friday Travalon and I took it easy, just walking to Mariner's for fish and then going maybe two miles away to the Parched Eagle. Saturday we also had a relaxing day, sleeping very late and then driving to Eau Claire in time to go to Mass at Sacred Heart. We stopped for a beer at the Lazy Monk Brewery in the shadow of Sacred Heart, then we drove to Menomomie, where Travalon went to school, and took a walk along the Red Cedar River. We ended the evening with beer and pizza at Lucette, a relatively new brewery in Menomonie, then we drove back to our hotel in Eau Claire.

Yesterday Travalon's evil cell phone, which as I have mentioned has a mind of its own, set off an alarm at 6 am, and I couldn't get back to sleep. We started a project: I had begun collecting the artistic Life WTR bottles, but somehow a few got recycled by accident. Travalon suggested that dollar stores in small towns might have older bottles, and he was right! We had so much fun stopping at various dollar stores and finding older Life WTR bottles as we went about our travels. We drove up to Kinnikinnic State Park, which a bartender had once told us was a boring state park, but in fact it had a beautiful overlook on the St. Croix River and a steep path down to a beach. We got nine flights of stairs worth of exercise coming back up! Then we took a brunch boat ride on the St. Croix, which was wonderful. It was raining a bit when we started, but at that point we were inside eating. This brunch had the best waffles I have ever tasted in my life. The weather cleared up, and we went out on deck and watched sailboats racing, with their colorful spinnakers. Then we drove to Straight Lake, the last state park Travalon had not been to yet. We hiked around a smaller lake called Rainbow Lake and then followed a long trail down to Straight Lake to find a vista worth the trouble, with a small island in the middle of the lake. We would love to come back and canoe out to that island! Then we drove to Interstate State Park, which also has a spectacular view of the St. Croix River. We stopped at a really good pizza place called Pizza Planet, like the Married B-Boy's old business, in Somerset. Then we went back to the hotel for a refreshing swim.

Today we continued our Life WTR bottle project as we drove along Highway 12. We stopped at a park in the very small town of Humbird and walked along the lake. We stopped at a gorgeous waterfall in Merrillan and had lunch at a charming little coffee place in Black River Falls. We went to Lake Wauzee County Park in the Black River State Forest and hiked. We found a beach there where you could swim out to a small island, but it was cold and drizzly so we didn't swim, though we saw some people paddle boarding with their dog. We will have to go back and visit this island too! Since we had to pay $5 to get into this park, we explored it thoroughly, including a point called Sherwood Forest and a basin created by old lead mining activity. There is a herd of elk in the forest, and we were hopeful that we might see one, but we were not that lucky. After that we drove to Mill Bluff State Park, one of our favorites, and waded in the pond before hiking around the bluff. We drove through RockyArbor State Park, and it was a bit flooded in places. The Mexican restaurant where we wanted to eat in Mauston was closed for the day, so we found one in the Dells with a spectacular view and mediocre food. Now we are back home with so many bottles of Life WTR that we can barely fit them all in the fridge.

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