Wow, this holiday season sure snuck up on me. Here it is 10 days out, and we still haven't got our tree. The tradition has been for the past 20 years or so to get the kids in the car and head out to chop down the tree for the holiday. Well, that was really pretty simple when B.J. and Lizzy were little. I mean after all, it wasn't like they had pressing social engagements when they were nine and 12. Things have changed, though, now. Everybody has their own lives, and getting everybody together on a specific day to go hunting for a tree is tough. No one wants to break the tradition, either, so it keeps getting later and later. Hopefully we can do this one day this week. I hope so, or I'll be spending $60 for a tree that will only be up for a week or so. At least they still insist this be a family event. That is worth waiting for!
I'm probably the only one in the greater Madison area that thinks this way...but I would like to see the weather turn a bit more winter like soon. If not...Terri will want to continue to put up holiday decorations. It's pretty much what we did over the Thanksgiving break and barring any turn for the worse (weather-wise) she'll keep pulling boxes of lights and ornamentation out for me to put up. I spent most of Sunday in the trees in our yard. I like the lights and stuff, but man, I'm not as young as I used to be.
Had a great holiday. Got to see my sisters, nieces, nephew and my kids all sitting around the same table for the first time in awhile. It was nice. The food was great, if I do say so myself. The turkey carcass has already been turned into a tasty soup and the stuffing and left over
taters are already gone. I love both deeply. Managed to get through the holiday with a minimum of weight gain. Could be all the tree climbing. Could be my new exercise regime.
Terri and I went to see a huge smelly Sumatran flower at Olbrich Gardens. This is billed as one of the smelliest flowers on the planet. It's the Titan Arum, or the "Corpse Flower." We are very fortunate (or not) to have several of these in our midst. There are a couple at the UW and now Olbrich has one. They grew it from one of the seeds from the UW plant that bloomed a number of years ago. These big Sumatran flowers only bloom about four or five times during their 40 year life cycle...so it's a rare occurrence...and worth seeing...and smelling. The really weird thing about this plant is that it is programmed to smell like rotting flesh when it blooms, in the hopes that a bunch of Carrion Beetles will come and pollinate it. We got there at the end of its bloom cycle so the reek was not intense as it had been. To get a really bad whiff you have to smell this thing during the first two or three days of its blooming. So, alas, we were only mildly gagged. Darn the luck. Maybe next time. I have to admit, it's the only time in my life I spent a dollar to smell something that really reeked.
If you are looking for a quick fun weekend getaway...check out Mirror Lake State Park. We took off for a weekend pf kayaking and eating too much, and it was perfect. We left Friday morning, and by 12:30, we were set up in a great walk-on spot, and were paddling in Mirror Lake. Just an hour from our driveway, and really, it felt like we were way up north. Friday night we didn't feel like cooking, so we went out. Ended up at the Bronze Oak inside the Ho-Chunk Casino complex. What a deal. We used our Bucky Book coupon we had for the place, and had an amazing dinner and drinks for under $100! I mean this is a nice place, and we both had appetizers, steak, and all the trimmings including my new favorite comfort food lobster mashed potatoes...that's right, lobster mashed potatoes. They were unbelievable! We have since made them at home, and they were just as good. Saturday we paddled around Lake Delton. Saw where the floods last spring overwhelmed the levee and left the lake bone dry. Congrats to the people of Lake Delton and the state of Wisconsin for putting things back together so quickly and seamlessly. Stopped at the bar/restaurant across from the grandstands where the audience for the Tommy Bartlett water ski show sits, and had some snacks and drinks. Cool time. Sunday, we had time to kayak the rest of Mirror Lake, pack up and head home, all by 4:00. Great getaway...I recommend it highly...especially the lobster mashed potatoes!
Boy we had a great weekend...hard not to with the weather continuing to cooperate like it has. Went down to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Got our stuff and then stopped at one of my new fav places...Savoir Faire. It's just down from the Old Fashioned on the Square. Stop in sometime, grab a chair outside and have Kathy make you one of her awesome Bloody Mary's...truly one of the best I've ever had...and I've had a few! Later we got a chance to kayak the stretch of the Yahara between Lake Kegonsa and Mud Lake. Beautiful! We put in at Fish Camp Park. Know where that is? Don't feel bad, it's just a little boat launch right at the mouth of the Yahara at Kegonsa. It's only about an hour upstream to Mud Lake and 45 minutes back down, so it's perfect for a day trip. River paddling is really cool. Almost as cool as the paddle around Peninsula State Park in Door County. Well, almost.
Trying to get back into the swing of things after a little late summer break. We took off toward the big lake for a week in Door County. The first day we made it as far as High Cliff State Park. It sits above the shores of Lake Winnebago...and I mean way above. I've never been before, and it's really a must see. Weirdest deal. There are super high sheer cliffs all over. We're talking 60, maybe 70 feet. Really cool. Just stayed the one night, did a little bike riding to see the lay of the usual land. It may be worth a return visit sometime. We got to Peninsula in D.C. Monday, and set up camp right on the shore of Nicolet Bay. Awesome. We'd wake up every morning to a panoramic snapshot of the bay and the bluffs across the way. Loved it. We met our friends Tom and Cheryl and had some fun. Cheryl cooked at their condo Monday night, and as always, it rocked. Did the wine tastings...and enjoyed a crazy good grilled seafood dinner at the campsite...even if I do say so myself. We always end up at The Oilery in Fish Creek, and stock up. This time we went to dinner at a place in Sister Bay called The Mission Grill. What a meal. You should check that place out if you find yourself on the peninsula anytime soon. Suffice to say, a fun vaca.
Got to admit it. I'm smitten. I don't even know her name, but, alas, she's all I think about lately. I wait with baited breath till we meet...every Saturday morning, early, when there is still a nip in the air and the sun is just starting its ascent. It's the emu lady. The lady that sells emu meat at the Farmer's Market. I love the stuff. Emu steaks, emu burgers or the incomparable emu brats. I never thought my life would take a turn like this. I am head-over-heels for a flightless bird. I'm lucky I have such a wonderful, understanding wife, who gives me the latitude to harbor such feeling for another. Seriously, though, if you've never tried emu, it may be time. Super high in protein, super low in fat, an almost non-existent amount of saturated fat, and unlike the old saying, it tastes more like beef than chicken. Perfect!
Anyway, hope you're having a lovely summer. Getting ready to do all our canning and preserving soon. Dilly beans, tomato sauce, tomato soup, pickles, etc. Should be awesome. Terri and I are heading into our second rustic phase apparently. Hopefully this rustic phase won't include goat milking and cheese making like the last one did when we lived in LaCrosse decades ago. The cheese was great, the goat smell was, well, a bit too "goaty" for me. Not ready to re-live that. Maybe some emus!
Alright! Gordon Ramsey is back! I know it's probably a bit strange that I get so fired up about a chef, but I dig "Hell's Kitchen" big time. The new season has started, and this looks like a good one. The threat of fisticuffs and everything. That's TV!
Anyway, here we are, halfway through summer. Are you kidding? I gotta get going man. I haven't done a heck of a lot as I think about it. Spent lots of hours in my gardens, watching my fish and that kind of stuff, but I gotta start having some real fun soon. Got some camping trips coming up, but most of our stuff was scheduled for later in the summer; that's just the way it worked out this time. August is about the only time you can even have a shot at getting into the big lake to the east anyway, but I wonder whether the cool weather this year will keep the waters of Lake Michigan too cool for comfort. We'll see. I'm going to get my boat out on the lakes soon, but it's been so cool I just haven't been excited to do that yet. This is going to happen soon.
Looking forward to restaurant week as always. There is a big, juicy Ruth's Chris steak with my name on it. Can't wait! Can you tell...I'm all about the food.
Mother Nature helped us alter our vacation plans a bit last week. Terri and I were planning to make our annual trek to the backwaters of the Mississippi for some kayaking at Wyalusing, but the weather was decidedly foul. The big storms that hit there would have made Wednesday night in the camper too interesting, and Thursday wasn't much better. So our trip was abbreviated. Still nice to sleep in. Does a body good. It's really hard for me to believe that it's very nearly the 4th of July already. We will be taking in the fireworks this weekend with friends in the perfect undisclosed location. Close to the park, but yet far enough away so the escape after the smoke clears is a heck of a lot easier, and quicker. Looking forward to it.
Crazy!!! I had the great fortune to meet a fantastic guy, Frank. For health reasons, Frank had to find a new home for his collection of Koi. He told me he had a dozen of them when I answered his ad. He told me they were big ones. Well, I thought, you know, big is relative. But man, was Frank a man of his words. The fish he had were not only big (an average of about 11 pounds) but they were beautiful to boot! So we wrangled them out of Frank's pond, with much help I may add from Frank's extended family, especially his granddaughter Brittany. Thanks Brit, couldn't have done it without you. We brought them back to our pond and released them. They were obviously a bit sheepish at first, but got really used to it quickly. Made themselves right at home. It's an awesome sight! It looks like the doggone Shedd Aquarium! Now there are about 50 fish swimming around in our pond, of all various sizes and colors. We stand there for hours watching them. Who needs blood pressure medication?! Very cool.
Most years, all we need to do is drain all the antifreeze out of the water lines of our camper and she's already for the season...not this time. This is one of those years when the maintenance is going to cost us. I got a call from my pals at Camper Corral...who by the way are cool as heck. Tires are shot, furnace needs a new part, and of course all the regular beginning-of-season stuff has to be done. Whoa! Small price to pay, though, for lower blood pressure. Can't wait to start another season in the woods. Love it big. We try and camp as much as we can during the summer. Food always tastes better, the company is always good and it gives me an excuse not to shave for a couple of days...without "T" giving me the "look." Hope you have a great holiday weekend! Have a blast.
The weary traveler returns. Had to travel to O'Hare to pick up Lizzy...our little girl...who just got back from a solo trip to the Emerald Isle. She went to see her old pal Lexie who spent the last year in Belfast studying at Ulster University. A heck of a trip by all accounts. She brought me back a cool t-shirt...and some authentic Irish coffee mugs. She knows me so well. Both will get plenty of use. Welcome home Lizzard!
"T" and I bought a cool new lawn mascot over the weekend. A two-and-a-half foot iron rooster. He's so cool! I think we'll name him Rick. Rick Rooster will stand vigil under the crab tree. I have a thing for lawn statuary. Can't get enough. It's not out of control or anything, but the potential is there. Got to be careful. I'm digging the spring weather, although it could be a little drier. Oh well, can't have everything!
Had a pretty cool weekend. Terri and I got a lot of our cool weather stuff in the garden...peas, parsnips, onion sets...spinach and lettuce. Right on schedule which is a bit surprising. As you know, if you garden, it's lots of hard work, but there's something very cool about taking a walk on a warm summer morning with a cup of coffee, and making breakfast out of the stuff you grew from seeds. I dig it. And now that Terri has her greenhouse, she's really dangerous.
By the way, Bunky's has re-opened in its new building on Atwood, just down from the old Bunky's. We had dinner there Sunday evening and man was that great. They got things moved and up and running in like three weeks and the new place looks and feels great. Really comfy and kitschy, just like the Bunky's of old. Congrats you guys!
Man, I love Mexico about as much as I don't dig the weather here in March. Went to a tiny out-of-the-way fishing village about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen this year. Not one of the usual locations. We are used to the hustle and bustle of the resort centers, but this was way cool. The reef is about 500 yards from shore. Fantastic. Did some zip lining in the jungle...about 60 feet above the jungle really, snorkeling in the cenotes near Tulum, and of course some eating. Lots of eating. The tropics made for a perfect celebration of Terri and my 24th anniversary. We missed the food so much we had to go to El Pescador Tuesday night for a bit of a reminder meal. By the way, that is one of the most authentic Mexican restaurants in the city. Try it if you love great Mexican food...it's right there on East Wash.
Man...is there anything as long as a rainy weekend? I was actually glad to get back to work on Monday. We ran some errands Sunday, and the rain was just pelting down, that is until it turned to sleet, then to snow! Geez. We went grocery shopping thinking (wrongly) that nobody else would brave the elements and it would be a breeze getting through. Well that was way off. People were out in force. Oh well. When we were driving home along Lien Road on the east side, we saw this beautiful horseshoe waterfall spilling into the ditch...a waterfall I've never seen before. This thing was big, too, I'm not exaggerating. Weird. Lots of water with nowhere to go. I'm not a big fan of this time of year.
March...whose idea was this? 65 degrees one day, contemplating long johns the next!
What a lousy weekend. We lost our little buddy "G" Friday night. He went on one of his ill-advised adventures, found the busiest road in the area, and was hit and killed by a car. Needless to say we are heartbroken. He was a great little guy. He did everything with us. He went biking with us, he was our camping buddy, he was a big lift when things weren't great. We will miss him more than I can say. It's amazing what a big impression such a little dog can make in one's life. Gonna take a while to get over this for sure...he was a big part of our family. We love ya buddy.
Every year when I read about this, I wonder...what the heck. This Polar Plunge. I know it's a great cause (Special Olympics) but you couldn't pay me to jump in water from the ice that's formed on the surface of it. I will say it's a heck of a spectator sport. If you're interested in watching, or maybe participating, head down to the plunge park...Olin Turville, this Saturday between 11am and 3pm. Post plunging takes place at the Coliseum Bar across John Nolen. That part of it I can handle.
I thought I'd put myself into a spring mood, even though winter is still hanging tough. I went online and bought a couple of pairs of sunglasses...you know getting ready for the that sunny warm weather that I'm sure is just around the corner. Hasn't worked just yet...but anytime I'm sure. I'll let you know.
Let's see, what else is up. Oh yeah, happy birthday to my wife "T" coming up here. That reminds me, I better make a reservation for dinner and call the kids...quick.
Well that was a nice mid-winter respite. Restaurant Week, I mean. I know many of you know what I'm talking about, because by all accounts this year was even more successful than last winter's Restaurant Week. We had some remarkable meals, I'll tell you. We're lucky as heck to live in a city with so many great dining options, especially for foodies like "T" and me. Got a chance to check out some places we have never been to before...and now I wonder why not. Some of the real surprises: Inca Heritage on Park. It's a Peruvian place. Really yummy! We also tried Bluephies on Monroe for the first time during the week. AWESOME! And really, if you have never been, check out Le Chardonnay on West Johnson. Sammy has created an awesome menu. If you are a shell fish fan like me, check out the all-you-can eat mussel deal during the week. Fantastic. Hats off to all who participated this year. It was fantastic. Some crazy good chefs in this town!
Okay. We are quickly approaching that time of the winter, when everyone has had enough of the wondrous beauty of a stark white landscape, and the exhilarating nip of the cold air on their cheeks. About now, people look out at the mind numbing white sameness and dream of far-away beaches...or at the very least of drinks on the patio in the backyard. But, alas, winter is a cruel mistress. There is no respite in sight yet. No. It'll be...at the very least...weeks before winter will start loosening its icy grip, no matter how ready you or I are for warmer days. So I say, divert your attentions. Eat! Yes, I am planning to take full advantage of restaurant week. It means that I will eat no dinners at my home. I will, in an attempt to break my own restaurant week record, try and patronize a local eatery in each evening of the week. Tough duty, but without goals what are we really? I look at it as my contribution to ending the recession. Actually it's a great way to try the fare at some places you wouldn't normally dare try...for fear that the food would fall short...and the check would overwhelm. So then, this is my plan. I will, of course, be diverting my attention with food cooked by others...in concert with my other objective this winter...the treadmill. Wish me luck. I'll let you know how it went.
Whoa! Been a while since I wrote to you. New year...time to climb back on the blog horse. Weird metaphor, I know, but you get my drift. Hope your holiday season was great. We had a great time at the Bonner casa. Lots of food and long conversations. That's one of the things I really dig about the winter holidays. It gives everybody a chance to sit down and catch up a bit. Not gonna make any big resolutions. I think it's just setting myself up for failure. I do, however, plan on getting back to the daily workout thing. Last winter I ran everyday and felt fantastic. Got away from that for a while here, so it's time to get serious about that again. My jeans are a little tighter...and a new wardrobe is not in the cards...so it's back to the treadmill. I know everybody says that, but I really mean it. Here's hoping the new guys in Washington can get things back on track.....and everything will be fine in '09!