I hope my readers had a good weekend. I had an excellent Friday evening: I went to the Third Day of Christmas Carol Sing at the Lutheran Church where I used to sing, along with Rich, Kathbert, Cecil Markovitch, and the Single B-Boy. My former OTHER choir director played the organ, although he is retired and in fact is now Catholic. Afterwards I was invited to a party attended mostly by organists, where we had wine and cheese and told crazy stories, not all of them involving organ playing. Travalon, meanwhile, went to a high school basketball game as he loves to do.
Saturday I kind of overslept, having been out too late with all the organists, then Travalon and I got on the road, stopping at Wollersheim to get a gift basket for my family and in Sauk to see eagles. We saw one bird but weren’t sure if it was an eagle or a gull. As we drove through the hills outside of Baraboo, the “Check Engine” light came on, so we stopped in Mauston to find out what was going on. The problem is not serious and can be fixed later, but that set us back some more on time. We also had lunch at a Chinese buffet there. We were deep in Minnesota when we came across a Sinclair travel plaza. Travalon loves Dino the Sinclair Dinosaur, so we stopped there, and I took his picture with the big Dino wearing a Santa hat and scarf outside. I also bought him a little stuffed Dino. It was almost four by the time we got to my parents’ house, and so I had missed my brother. For reasons I cannot understand, Ma Hat thought we were going to get there by lunchtime, which would have been an impossible feat unless I had gotten up at my usual time for getting to work, and no way was that happening. Anyway, my parents and two nephews were there, one of them visiting from Colorado. I gave them each an ornament, and Travalon gave my parents a map of Minnesota showing different hot dishes for each area. We also gave them a drawing of the Thai pavilion in Olbrich Garden. Then we all went to a local brewery that my aunt and uncle from Colorado had recommended – they even said they would pay for our dinner! Travalon and I tried a bunch of their beers, and they were all delicious. It was so much fun talking to my nephews, who are in their 20’s. Of course, in a few days, we will all be in the 20’s! Then we went back to my parents’ house and had eggnog and cookies that the Colorado cousins had made. The one thing that’s really different about Christmas at Ma and Pa Hat’s house these days is the tree. When I was younger, it had colorful lights and lots of mismatched ornaments. Now it looks like something from a department store display, with burgundy and gold ornaments and white lights. I’m partial to the old look myself, and I do wonder what happened to all those old ornaments. But all Travalon and I have is a little tabletop fiber optic tree, so I can’t really criticize anyone else’s tree.
Travalon and I stayed at the Kahler Grand Hotel in downtown Rochester, which has a very cool swimming pool on the top floor. It has a dome over it – for a video, check out my old blog post from when Tiffy and I stayed there. I also had to get a bunch of steps, so I went down to our room and ran in place while Travalon enjoyed the hot tub and sauna. The next morning we could very conveniently walk to Mass two blocks away, then we met Ma and Pa Hat for coffee. They gave me some of my old childhood drawings, and they are as amazing as I’d remembered. There was this alphabet book of animals, and three-fourths of the way through I got tired of doing the background so it’s just the animals. Each one has the letter that starts it incorporated into it. There is also a calendar I did that for some reason is in French, with amazing pictures of each sign of the zodiac doing something seasonally appropriate, like a goat blowing a noisemaker beside a glass of champagne as confetti rains down. For some reason there was also a French assignment I didn’t remember doing with photos of my family and a shockingly low grade. Then I looked more carefully, and it was my brother’s homework, not mine. I had forgotten he studied French too – I would have thought he was more the German type. What blew my mind was how stunning I looked at the age of sixteen. I don’t remember ever being beautiful; in my memory, I was always very plain.
Then Travalon and I hit the road but didn’t get too far because we had to stop at the Sinclair travel plaza again. They have an Amish restaurant, so we went there for lunch. Then we took a tour of French Island in La Crosse and stopped at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine for a vigorous hike up the hill. We drove home along Highway 14, and I loved seeing how each little town decorated their downtown area for Christmas. We also passed some amazingly decorated houses, but there was nowhere to stop on the highway to take pictures. We did come across the most beautiful light display in Richland Center, so we stopped and took a walk through it. I took lots of photos and short little videos, so I’ll try to combine them into one long movie at some point. We finally got back to town around eight and had dinner at Amber Indian Restaurant, because Travalon wanted the same thing he had on Christmas Eve: Lamb Marsala. I tried it too, and it is so good. I had the rest of it for lunch today.
I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year and a fortuitous 2020.