Monday, December 31, 2018

Skyway Adventures

Happy New Year's Eve! Usually Travalon and I go to visit his friends in Waupun for the holiday, but the weather is too lousy, so we are holed up at home and I am blogging. We did have a good weekend. Friday we drove up to Minneapolis and walked for miles and miles through the skyway system, ending with dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. We stayed at a hotel on the university campus, then Saturday we went to St. Paul and took a tour of the Minnesota State Capitol. We went to the Como Park Conservatory again - for me, since I am geeking out on plants so much lately. They have a whole section there of just ferns! It's like what you would have seen back in the days of the dinosaurs. Travalon could not escape the gift shop without a new stuffed animal - in this case, a gazelle he named Gabrielle. He also bought me a little squishy giraffe. We went to Surly Brewery for lunch and delicious beers, and we had a very cool bartender named Justin, so I decided to call the little squishy giraffe Justin the Giraffe. Then we explored the skyway system in St. Paul, which is not as extensive as the Minneapolis one, but worth checking out if only for the old Union Depot. We got home pretty late and worn out from two days of walking about six miles.

Yesterday Travalon was having phone troubles, so he went to the phone store and they fixed it while I sat at home watching the first half of that atrocious Packers game. How could they lose 31-0 at Lambeau to the LIONS??? They are one of the worst teams in the league! Well, apparently so are the Packers. But I still love them because I don't know, I am a masochist or something. The one thing I'd been hoping for, that my favorite player Davante Adams would break the record for most receptions in a season, didn't happen because he was injured. So was Jones, and Rodgers got a concussion early in the game and had to leave. Argh! We taped the second half and went to Sauk to watch eagles and hike, and OK Cap joined us. The three of us went to Wollersheim, and we bought her a drink for her birthday, then we all met Jilly Moose at Oliva for dinner. Jilly Moose had to leave, and then Cali came, so we all invaded Rich's house and chatted with him and Kathbert. He made us all delicious hot cocoa from scratch, and I blathered to Kathbert about the wonder of tree ferns. They're trees! But they're ferns! How cool is that? However, I don't think I want one in my house. They must not be very easy plants to keep alive, since they are not a common sight at plant stores... and believe me, I know all the common sights at all the local plant stores!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sumo-Sized Shot of Limoncello

I hope that my readers had a very Merry Christmas. Travalon and I started our holiday on Friday with dinner at Mariner's, then Saturday we went down to Chicago with Cecil Markovitch, the Single B-Boy, and Trinidad Cap. Our first stop was a place called Eataly, which is an Italian superstore. Row after row of olive oil, wine, cheeses, and everything you can imagine - even a little section of succulents for sale, which doesn't seem particularly Italian. They have restaurants there, and I had black squid ink pasta for lunch. Then we went to Old Town and parked by St. Michael's church. A sign on the door gave the hours, and it should have been open, but it wasn't. The B-Boy rang the doorbell at the exact moment that the church bells rang, which was hilarious, but nobody answered the door. We walked down to Wells Street and checked out all sorts of shops, like two chocolate shops (one was practically a Catholic gift shop in chocolate), a delicious-smelling spice shop, a shop like Little Luxuries on State Street, and a really cool aquarium store. Travalon and I walked on the boardwalk by Lincoln Park Zoo, then we all went to Mass at St. Michael's, which is gorgeous inside and has two of the best cantors I ever heard. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant on Wells Street, and afterwards Cecil ordered two shots of limoncello while the B-Boy had one. Cecil was sure the B-Boy's single shot was much larger than either of his two shots, since the stem on the glass was taller, so he said he wanted a "sumo-sized shot." He said that wasn't original, he saw a card with sumo wrestlers working at a fast-food joint, but sumo-sized fries is not nearly as funny as a sumo-sized shot of limoncello. My one disappointment is that we all forgot to swing downtown and check out the Christmas lights on the Magnificent Mile.

Sunday after Mass I had brunch with Travalon, Rich, and the Single B-Boy at Crema Cafe, then Travalon and I watched the first quarter of the Packers game, but they were struggling against a terrible team (the Jets), so we taped the rest of it and drove to Sauk while listening to the game. We saw lots of eagles, but the game went into overtime so we drove to Indian Lake while listening to the rest of it. The Packers did win, so I was in a better mood until it took us three stores to get all the supplies for the cassata, because different places were sold out of different things. Then I went to Rich's house and made the cassata, and Kathbert came over to blat.

Christmas Eve Travalon and I slept in, then we ran some errands, and then I sang at the "Midnight Mass" at five. Rich had a solo, and he did a great job. Afterwards Travalon and I drove around looking at lights, then we had dinner at Amber Indian restaurant, and then we exchanged gifts. I gave him the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, and he gave me a stuffed sheep, a cactus pillow, four little Easter Island heads, and two John Batiste CDs. We also got travel mugs from Ma and Pa Hat, plus my boss gave me a travel mug. That is probably a good thing, since I have a bad habit of bringing them to work and then forgetting them there, so I need spare ones. Then we watched "A Christmas Story."

Yesterday we went to Mass again in the morning, then we drove to Oconomowoc to visit Travalon's mother, and his oldest brother and his wife were there too. They are so much fun to talk to! Rich's house was a blast, as always. I made eggnog with help from Cecil, and Rich served lasagna. Travalon and I had to leave for my usual Tuesday night adoration hour at six, and then Cecil came at seven for his so we went back to Rich's house for cassata. When Cecil got back, we all did a white elephant gift exchange. I somehow ended up with an evil-looking nun puppet, and Rich's housemate got a glowing hatchet, so Travalon enjoyed playing with the nun holding the hatchet. Rich got a really cool costume sword that almost looks real, and Kathbert got a bunch of cool kitchen gadgets. Mr. N'Awlins got a beautiful box of knives, and the single B-Boy got a book about growing old gracefully. Travalon got all kinds of weird stuff, like cookie cutters and popsicle makers. Cecil got the best stuff: an icon and a clock. That was even more fun than our usual pastime of playing "Guess Who You Are." We always had white elephant gift exchanges at my old job, but I never thought of having one at Rich's house before - and why not? They are so much fun!

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Missing Sombrero-Wearing Chihuahua

It was a number of years ago, but when I was well into adulthood, that one year for Christmas there was a big present… for me! I unwrapped it to find a box that said: “Space Heater.” Wow, what a great present! Thoughtful and useful! My young relations were giggling and said, “No, open the box!” and inside was a stuffed Chihuahua approximately two and a half times the size of a real one, with a sombrero on its head. And it sang, “Feliz Navidad.” It wasn’t quite like opening a jewelry box to find a plastic toy, but it was pretty close to opening a box of high-quality chocolates to find black jellybeans – you think you are getting something wonderful that you really want, and instead you get something annoying that you have zero use for. (Apologies to my readers who actually like black jellybeans, and I promise that I won’t question your mental state… out loud.)

I did find a use for the Chihuahua: entertaining Hardingfele’s young daughter. Then the battery wore out, and I was unmotivated to replace it. However, I made a Cinco de Mayo video of something approximating a mariachi song, and the Chihuahua was perfect to star in it. Just yesterday a friend needed a Mexican prop for a class, and I thought of the Chihuahua, but although Travalon and I searched everywhere, we couldn’t find it. And this thing is not small – it is just about the size of a space heater. Maybe it is at Rich’s house, with Aloysius the demented praying mantis that sings five equally grating vaguely Christian children’s songs? Maybe I gave it away? Do any of my readers have any idea?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Mystery Winter Boat

I think I am working in the right department. Here is someone’s sense of humor: under the bathroom sign that says, “Women,” someone put another sign that says, “Damen,” which is of course German for the same thing, and then under that someone put yet another sign that says, “Dames.” On the men’s side, under the sign that says, “Men” someone put one that says, “Herren,” and then under that someone put a photo of a heron. We also have a billboard with humorous memes on it, and the latest one that went up today says, “You can really only call the monster Frankenstein if it comes from the Frankenstein region of France. Otherwise, it is just a sparkling monster.” That made me laugh for five minutes straight. And yes, I do know the monster is not “Frankenstein” but “Frankenstein’s monster.” It’s still funny.

Monday when I went for a walk during my lunch break, I saw something strange: a boat on the lake! There is a thin layer of ice on the lake, so I’m not sure how or why this boat was out there, but it was moving very loudly and slowly on the far side of the lake. I texted Travalon and said it was in Warner Bay, could he get a closer look, but by the time he got there, he didn’t see anything. It appeared to be a white power boat with a yellow thing sticking off the front. The next day I emailed my contact in the Limnology Department, figuring it was one of theirs studying the lake, but she said it wasn’t theirs. Then it was back! I told her it was back, and she emailed back a few minutes later to say they had looked at it through powerful binoculars, and it was a white boat with a large yellow thing sticking off of it, so there you go. It hasn’t made an appearance today, so this mystery may never be solved.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Balalaika Concert

I hope my readers got to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather this weekend. I started the weekend inside on Friday evening, attending a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, or (as the person next to me noted) two-thirds of it. It was at the Lutheran church where I used to sing.

Saturday Travalon and I met Rich for coffee, then we rode the Holiday Trolley up and down State Street, and then we went to the Historical Society gift shop, where we found a really cool book on state capitols (as in the buildings). We went to a free concert put on by the local balalaika orchestra – yes, there is one in town, and the three basses reside in a meeting room in my department, when they are not being played in public. We drove out to Sauk, where we took a long hike and saw one mature eagle and two young ones, and then we met some people for dinner at Graft, a small plate restaurant. The food was so good! Handy Woman was there, and she had just gotten back from a work trip to London, so she and Travalon talked about what she had seen. He had given her lots of suggestions, having been there himself several times.

Sunday Travalon and I watched the first quarter of the Packers game, but when it didn’t look like they could beat the Bears, we taped the rest and went for a hike at Token Creek Conservancy. We listened on the radio as we drove back out to Sauk, where we used the new binoculars Travalon found at an antiques store to watch a faraway eagle soaring over the hills across from the dam. Then we went to a bowling alley overlooking the river for pizza. There were a surprising number of Bears fans there, and one loud, vulgar Patriots fan. (I don’t mean that she was vulgar for being a Patriots fan, although that isn’t far from my opinion of the situation, but that every other word out of her mouth was the F-bomb.) Of course the Packers lost, so I don’t know what to say about that. Jones got injured early, and they had lots of missed opportunities. I ended the evening by going to band practice, where we played Christmas songs, many of which have a shocking number of chord changes. The rest of the band is playing at the airport, but I can’t make it. I have adoration at the same time. Not that anyone frazzled after a long flight would want to hear me fumble for the right chords on their favorite Christmas song…

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Friday, December 14, 2018

God Jul Party

Yesterday after work my department had a “God Jul” (Christmas) party with typical Scandinavian treats and libations, specifically one called glögg. It is a sort of mulled wine, and I hadn’t had it since back in college, when I had a roommate with a Norwegian boyfriend who used to make it for Christmas. One of the professors brought cardamom bread, and there were all sorts of wonderful cheeses. I got into a conversation with a grad student that somehow turned to plants, and it turns out we are both plant nuts. I said, “I have a whole room for plants,” and she said, “I do too!” We even have been known to surreptitiously take a sprig of a plant to try to grow one for ourselves. What a relief to know I am not alone! Just then the party looked like it was going to get really fun, because two people with ukuleles positioned themselves in front of the video fireplace, but alas I looked up at the clock and realized I had to leave. Also, nobody had mentioned that this was a BYOU party – in fact, nobody had mentioned ukuleles at all, and I hadn’t thought to ask, since it was ostensibly a Scandinavian party, not a Hawaiian one. And it’s not like you can just bring a ukulele with you to every party you are invited to, or people might stop inviting you. Believe it or not, there are people who do not like the ukulele.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Another Linguistic Day

Yesterday was an eventful and fun day. Our department chair took us peon types to lunch at the building with the Mesozoic garden, and I was surprised that we walked over by cutting through another building. True, that is a shorter path, but I forget that not everyone wants to maximize their outside time. I am inside all day, so any chance I get for fresh air, I take. But of course many people do not feel the same way. After that I went to the December free Bach concert and sang in/listened to other people singing in German. Hockey Girl and I met for dinner at the French House, so then we spoke in French until I had to leave for choir practice, which was at Richard Bonomo’s house because the church was full of people celebrating the festivity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and again we were singing in German. We are working on a Christmas piece once attributed to Bach but now generally considered not to be by him (our choir director thinks it is by his predecessor, Kunau, but I can’t find any actual musicologists who share this opinion), and our choir director hated the English translation and kept changing the words. It was so confusing that I agitated for just singing in the original German, and to my utter surprise, he agreed. So it was a very linguistic day for me once again.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Waking Up Hibernating Creatures

The other day I was taking a walk on the lakeshore path at lunchtime, and I saw a strange little animal scurry across the path in front of me. It was very round and very slow, and it took me a moment to realize it was an extremely fat and disoriented mouse. Maybe it was so fat because it was hibernating, and something foisted it from its burrow. It was so poky that I could have grabbed it. I didn’t, but there are plenty of raptors in the neighborhood (I have even seen a bald eagle!) so it probably didn’t last too long. Seeing it reminded me of a long-ago time when I was in college, and some girls and I were renting an old house with a garden. Two of them were digging in the garden early in the spring, and they came across a hibernating snake, so they brought it to me. I was delighted and took the snake from them, and it wrapped itself around my arm, probably enjoying the warmth of my skin. It was just a harmless little snake, and I love all creatures, so it didn’t strike me as strange that they had brought it inside to show me. What did puzzle me is that they seemed disappointed – hadn’t they hoped that I would be happy with their discovery? They took the snake back and put it out in the garden, seemingly dispirited, and it was only much later that it occurred to me that they thought I would be horrified if they brought a snake inside and held it out to me. I guess they didn’t know me very well! It takes more than a snake to scare me.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Christmas Train and Concerts

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Travalon has been under the weather, but Friday we did go out to see the Christmas Train pass through Columbus, then we stopped at the reopened bowling alley in town for some Sprecher’s soda. As we were waiting for the train, we saw a light on the tracks, and at first everyone was confused, thinking a train was coming from the other direction. Then we realized it was a person with a light walking on the tracks, so we were hollering, “Get off the tracks! There’s a train coming!” It was a worker from Canadian Pacific, warning us all to get back from the tracks before the Christmas Train arrived, so then I felt foolish for warning him when he was there to warn me.

Saturday I met Hockey Girl for coffee, then I rode the Holiday Trolley on State Street while waiting for Tiffy to arrive. We had lunch at her favorite place, Himal Chuli, then we got some tea, and then we got on the trolley but it only went to a couple of stops before stopping at the top of State Street with the announcement that it was done for the day. We went into the Capitol building to see the State Christmas Tree… and we only got to look at it for two minutes before they were shooing us out, telling us the Capitol was closed for the day. In the evening we parked in the tiny First Congo parking lot well before anyone else got there, then we walked to the restaurant in the Institute for Discovery, checking out the Mesozoic Garden and the chimes first, and then we walked back to First Congo for a Baroque Christmas concert. The first couple of numbers were by Josquin Desprez, who is well before the Baroque era, but he is great. I love how he could write the most uplifting sacred motet, and then he could write a secular motet in which the first letter of each line spells out the French equivalent of “F—k you.” He seems like as much fun to know as Tolkein and CS Lewis, who went to a (very important: NON-COSTUME) party dressed as polar bears. I don’t know the story behind that one, but Tolkein was a real prankster.

Yesterday Travalon, Tiffy, and I had brunch at the Daisy Café, then Tiffy went Christmas shopping while Travalon and I watched the amazing, tremendous, HUGE Packers game. Okay, I know their season is over unless a bunch of mathematically improbable things happen, but it was just so much fun to watch them win decisively. Was McCarthy really holding them back? This game made me think possibly, since the offense was explosive without his nonsensical playcalling, and on the defense Breeland had a beautiful pick-six and a recovered fumble. Are the Pack back? I had to leave for the handbell Christmas concert with Tiffy and Rich before the answer was complete, but by then they were so far ahead of the Falcons that their defeat seemed completely improbable, and in fact they did win. The concert was as enjoyable as ever, especially a setting of “We Three Kings” with a Mideastern flair, a pretty tune I’d never heard before called “Chartres,” and a famous farandole by Bizet. And of course there were all the delicious Christmas treats afterwards! They had so many left over that I took a couple to my poor sick husband. He loves those peanut butter kiss cookies… and so do I!

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Famous Hat for [Unspecified Political Office]!

Sorry that I haven’t blogged in several days. Tuesday evening Travalon and I went to Liliana’s for their gingerbread dinner. Wednesday I had no time to blog because my car was in the shop for a factory recall repair to the passenger side airbag, and then I went to choir practice. Last night Travalon and I went to a meeting at the East Side Club to vote on whether some repairs should be done. The move passed, and I realize I am some kind of Robert’s Rules geek because I actually enjoyed the meeting. Too much time in shared governance at work? I would love to get into politics, but the only ones who would vote for me are children and animals, and of course they can’t vote. I just don’t have a natural constituency.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Vespers for the Late Bishop

Last night I went with Rich to a vespers service for our late bishop. The bishop of Sioux Falls, who used to be our vicar general, was celebrating, and I wanted to see him again. Back when he was installed in Sioux Falls, a bunch of us went, and there was an absolutely beautiful vespers service. The one last night was okay, but nothing like as beautiful as that one. Everything was chanted, but the chanting seemed a little tentative. However, the bishop of Sioux Falls is still very funny and humble. I wish he could be our new bishop, but the Single B-Boy told me afterwards that he had submitted his resignation to the Pope already, and Mr. N’Awlins concurred that he really is that chronologically advanced. I always think of him as a vigorous middle-aged man, but some time has passed, it is true, and he was looking a little frailer. Still, I never would have guessed he was at the mandatory retirement age for a bishop. Our current vicar general is the acting administrator while we don’t have a bishop, and some people think he might be elevated to bishop, but other people say they never choose a bishop from among the clergy of the diocese in question. Stay tuned… I hear this process can take over six months.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Travalon's Happy Birthday

I hope my readers had a good weekend. Friday evening Travalon and I were going to get together with the Rosary Ladies, but it didn’t work out, so we went to David’s Jamaican for their delicious buffet. We thought about hearing a band later, but we were tired and just went home.

Saturday was Travalon’s birthday, so he got to decide how the day went. First thing in the morning I gave him a present, a little stuffed dog that he named Clyde. Clyde is not any obvious breed; his coloring implies beagle, but his ears are more like some sort of terrier. Then we met Rich for coffee. Travalon had wanted to go to Milwaukee for the day, but the weather was iffy, so we stayed in town and went to Bohemian Rhapsody, the movie about the band Queen. It was really good! Then we went to Rich’s house for some spumoni cake. We went to Monroe Street for their reopening festival (since they have been under construction for many months), but alas, the trolley had only run until 2:00, while we were at the movie. We went to Infusion chocolate shop and Travalon got his free truffle, plus we each got several more truffles and some drinking chocolate. I asked Travalon where he wanted to go to dinner, and he said Natt Spil for their amazing pizza and cocktails, so that's what we did. We planned to check out the Nau-Ti-Gal party and then go to see a funk band at the Knuckle Down Saloon, but the party was so much fun that we stayed there, singing along with the guy singing and playing guitar. Then we went home and watched the movie MASH, which is much weirder than the TV show.

Yesterday was a far more disappointing day. We weren’t even hungry for brunch after church, so we just went home and eventually had some lunch while watching the start of the terrible Packers game. How could they lose to one of the worst teams in the league?? I met Rich and Kathbert at the annual University Christmas concert while Travalon went to the Union to watch the rest of the game, but somehow Kathbert and I didn’t find the concert as wonderful as usual this year, so it was no consolation for the game. Then we all went back to Rich’s house and blatted for a bit. Meanwhile, the Packers fired their coach, which I think is a good move. He may have had a winning record over the years and even helped the team win a Super Bowl, but lately he has been keeping a stranglehold on the team, doing his own play calling – which would be fine if his plays worked, but they don’t. People have been saying that the game has passed him by. I am not sure what is going on with the Packers, but getting rid of the entire coaching staff might be a good idea. Zooks the special teams coach allows way too much sloppiness, stupid mistakes and lots of penalties. I am not quite sure about the defensive coordinator yet, but we got him from the Browns, and they won two games while he was there. This year they have the same record as the Packers: 4-7-1.

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