Man, can this be. Here is my very last blog for the year. Looking back, I gotta say I will not be sad when 2010 is over. Not a great year for many. But as with any new year, there's always room for optimism...and I'm optimistic about next year. Can't put my finger on it, but I have a feeling that 2011 will be much better than 2010. For us...couldn't be much worse, at any rate...on to bigger and better. Still not completely set for the holiday. We have been under construction in the living room as I eluded to in previous blogs...and that has stalled decorations a bit...so we will be on an accelerated program this weekend. Thank goodness I have a patient and forgiving wife, although if she stubs her toe on one more of my tools...I think she'll flip. But you'll be happy to know that I'm going to finish my construction before the deadline, and even if you aren't happy about it, I know Terri will be. Here's wishing you and yours the best this season!
And let the schedule game begin. Every holiday season, the jockeying starts about where we're going to spend the holiday, with who, and when, and what sort of gift thing we plan on doing and on and on. I swear, it's the most stressful time of the season. Once we get through all that preliminary minutia, things are great...until then...not so much. But far be it from me to whine about that...what with all the junk so many people are facing this year. Just having a place to set up a tree, and a place to go for the holiday is bonus round these days. We are about to start Magic's Holiday Wish 2010, and once I start hearing about what others face day-to-day, my problems seem...well, trivial.
It's nuts! For the first time in I can't remember how many years, I don't have to cook for Thanksgiving. My sis Connie called and said she was doing the honors this year, and all I have to do is show up! Nice. I have to admit, though, I am a bit disappointed that I won't have all that leftover stuff to munch on for the following week. I love that. What the heck, I may take advantage of the low cost for turkey right now and slam a couple in the freezer and whip something up post-holiday. This way I can be "out there" and make some off-the-beaten path stuff. Can't do that when you are cooking for a bunch of others. My wife Terri is adventurous and goes along with my often ecclectic culinary offerings...not many others would be okay with it, though, especially when it comes to those traditional holiday meals.
Big weekend...of work...planned. I am putting a faux stone finish on our fireplace this weekend. I finally finished all the work on the mantles and woodwork. A 100-year old hand-hewn barn beam cut in half, and the same age barn board for trim. It looks unreal...better than expected. Now comes this stone thing. I have never really done anything like this before...at least indoors. I hope all the tutorials I've watched online will see me through. Those things always give you such a cursory overview. Do this, this and this and voila you're done...yeah, right. I probably will end up covered in concrete and blood by the time it's done. I love a challenge, though, and am really looking forward to getting it done by Thanksgiving...and winter...so is my wife!
Oh no! We may have waited too long! The tourism people say if you want to catch any of the fall color this season...you have to get a move on. They are saying that the north woods is done...and the only color left is here in the south land. We didn't get a chance to take our annual fall camping trip to Door County this year...that usually gives us our fall color fix...so we missed out there...and now...time is up. The best spots left, they say, are in Iowa and Crawford counties, with Rock County and the Kettle Moraine area running close behind. That's what we'll do...hop in the car and head to Eagle. Maybe a stop at Old World Wisconsin is in order. Haven't been there for a while. I dig that place. Wisconsin waaay back in the day. If you've never been, it's worth going. Only an hour or so away. Wave when I pass you on Hwy 67.
Went to "Wicked" at the Overture Center Saturday night! What a show! Thoroughly enjoyed it, even though our seats had us "defying gravity" a bit if you know what I'm saying. Spectacular! It's one of those shows you can see again and again. We took our kids B.J. and Lizzy and Beej's cooler-than-heck girlfriend Julie. Terri's Mom and Dad went with us, as was her awesome Aunt Francis who was in from California. I really dig her...always a pleasure. Actually everybody got their tickets for the show from us for Christmas last year, so this has been in the planning stages for some time. Still meant some last-minute painting and sprucing, though. Was a wonderful time. We made brunch for everybody Sunday morning. Great weather, the pond was clear and the Koi were active and colorful. Really nice to see everybody. We don't get together enough. Hats off to the Overture Center management for lining up such great shows this season. Again, I have to say how lucky we are here in the Madison area to have a world class theater right in our backyards.
Ahhhh yes. The fall nip is in the air, the trees are starting to turn, and that can only mean one thing...the Quivey's Grove Beer Fest! Truly one of the coolest little beer fests in the business. We have been going for years now and always have a great time...and it's not just because of the beer, either. It's as much a social event as anything, but the beer is awful good, too! This year there are going to be 35 different brewers bringing their best stuff...75 beers in all to sample. That should do it. All that beer in those teeny tiny glasses. Hard to beat. See you there. I'll be the guy in the pretzel necklace.
Ready or not...here it comes. Autumn is in the air. A sure fire sign is the fact that the smog stressed trees along the belt line start to turn. Time to head north for a weekend to check out the color possibly. Got some folks coming in to stay at the house for a couple of days in a few weeks...so it's the mad scramble to tidy up before they get here. We have to put three people up for the weekend, so it's time to reclaim Lizzy's old bedroom, and turn it into a more adult-friendly setting. She moved out almost two years ago...but the room is still the orange and yellow sponge paint motif she insisted on. A bit like stepping into a Barnum and Bailey side show....but that's what she wanted back in the day. A subdued brown I think should give it the warmth and elegance or guests will appreciate. I hate to paint...but no matter. I have to stay true to my old credo that you never hire someone to do what you can do yourself. One day that may change, but certainly not yet. So here I go.....ready to roll, no rock involved. Well possibly a bit in the background. Maybe I'll run into you in the paint department soon. I'll be the guy with the subdued brown latex stained Aerosmith t-shirt on.
You know, I have been to Devil's Lake State Park a million times, but no matter how many times I've climbed those rocks...and took a dip in that lake, I am always thrilled. Took a little late summer camping excursion to D.L. last weekend and had a blast. No wonder it is the most -visited state park in Wisconsin. My kids B.J. and Liz came up to camp with us. Cool they are still interested in hanging with their folks. B.J.'s girlfriend Julie came up, too. Some old friends joined us for a day at the beach and campsite dinner on Saturday. I love that stuff!
It looks like my good friend Doug, who by the way just completed the 500 mile Ragbrai Bike bike ride in Iowa a couple weeks back, has Terri and I almost talked into doing the Door County Century Ride coming up in September. Terri is apprehensive...she likes to ride...but not for time. I keep telling her it's not a race, but she doesn't believe me. There are four distances you can cover: 30, 50, 70 or 100 miles. Doug and Komiko, who are old pros at the Century, are going for the full 100 miles. Guess what distance Terri and I plan to do. Should be fun...about 2000 riders from all over get involved. It all ends with a Packer game on the big screen at the Door County fairgrounds...beer and brats on the menu.
Joined the throngs of U-Haulers over the weekend. It was moving weekend for my daughter Lizzy. Spent lots of the weekend...hefting her stuff up and down undersized stairways. It was actually fun. Beej pitched in and it turned out to be a great time actually. She's living in a circa 1840 building in the downtown area. Interesting place! Her new roommates are cool people and actually helped us out A LOT on the move-in portion of the adventure. Thanks you guys.
Terri and I went to Eastgate to see "Inception." It was a great movie. Leo DiCaprio was terrific as usual, and that woman from Juno (her name escapes me) was excellent. A real actress...no flash in the pan there. She's so little, though. Anyway, got one of those 1800 calorie tubs of popcorn along with the usual Diet Pepsi. Lots of good that did.
Made it to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. Tons of people. Many of them there for the grand opening of the new Madison Children's Museum. If the line outside on Saturday is any indication, the museum will be a big hit. Stopped for Bloody Mary's and Mimosa at Savoir Faire, then had a bite to eat and a few drinks at Sardine. A nice day to sit outside and take in the lake view. Cool place.
T and I rode our bikes around the lake the other day. We were feeling all good about all the exercise we got...and then we started hearing the music from the block party on Atwood. Uh oh. Yep...a couple of sets (and beers) later, all that exercise was sort of negated. Sort of.
Had a great time, though. Great bands. Especially that blues deal from Chicago. Very good! Ran into some old friends. Always good to see Sara and Keith. Cool people. Been watching calories of late...which is the pits in the full swing of summer. Gotta do it. Trying to get back in Speedo shape before it's too cold to wear one. Can't complain about it...just four more days to go and I can...well, continue to watch calories...lest I negate more progress toward staying fit. Can't help it. Summer is for ribs! Eating them...not seeing them. Oh yeah, congratulations to my friend Doug. Biked across Iowa in the Ragbrai. Like 500 miles in a week! Good going dude.
Terri and I got a chance to see "Wicked" in St. Louis last weekend. I have to tell you...it blew me away. The two women who have the leads, Elphiba and Glinda, are awesome! Talk about spine-tingling vocals. Huge. This is the same cast that will tear it up at Overture Cnter later this year. If you have plans to go, you won't be disappointed. If you are on the fence, get off. This is not to be missed. We saw the show at The Fox, downtown St. Louis...what a place! It's a turn of the century theatre loaded with all kinds of old world opulence. It was electric. I gotta say I didn't know about going to St. Louis, frankly. I'd never been there before and didn't know what to expect, but that is a cool city. We walked around the downtown, visited the City Garden, an open-air park...just packed with people. The kids were having a heck of a time in the little pool areas and the dancing water fountains set up for that purpose. We also walked down to the Arch Park. Never saw that thing before...it was unbelievable! We didn't take the ride to the top (it was 100 in the shade) but lots of people did. Maybe next time. Can't say enough about "Wicked." Terri had seen it in Chicago several years ago, but I was a first-timer. Can't wait to catch it again during its Madison run. Cool deal. Grab your tickets and get ready to get a little "Wicked." See you at the show!
Is it me...or are the mosquitoes out of control this year. Geez, you walk across the lawn and they tear you up! We have been so lucky the past couple of years I'm just not used to it, or it's possible I'm just a baby. Anyway, I'm a deet devotee this year.
Went to the first Concerts on the Square last week. Awesome night! Terrific company, tasty food and great music. It had it all. Get down to one (concert) this year if you haven't for a while, or if you are new to town. A true Madison event not to be missed.
Heading to St. Louis this weekend. Gonna see "Wicked." The same "Wicked" that will be staged at the Overture Center here in Madison later this year. Tickets are going on sale soon. And really, it's your opportunity to see a world class show at a world class facility. Hard to beat an evening at the Overture.
Went to Janesville last weekend to see the band B.J. is singing for. Fragile Utopia. Cool name. Tight stage show. He's playing out a bunch this summer so it looks like T and I will be spending some serious late-night time in the bars this year. Tall order for us. Heck, a late night for us now-a-days is like 10:30! We'll make it. Proud of you Beej. You sound great.
Ever tried collard greens? Man, they are my new fav. I had them for the first time over the winter at Brickhouse Bar-B-Que and fell in love. This spring I planted a bunch of them...and they are ready. I made them the other day with a hunk of smoked turkey to keep the fat down...and were they good. Salt, pepper, smoked Paprika, chicken broth and a smoked turkey thigh. Wow, that's soul food baby! Planted some of those Daikon Radishes, too. Just waiting to make Daikon radish tacos. Tex Tubbs Taco Palace inspired me on those. Try them the next time you're there. To die for. Talked to Kevin Tubbs the other night when we were at El Dorado on Willy Street. Cool guy...off the hook chef. Lots of food talk, I know. I'll shut up now!
I am sure of it. I could live in the woods in my camper no problem. Considering what the economy is doing to my business, that may be an option to consider here. All that aside, had a wonderful time in D.C. last week. The fresh air, the beautiful Nicholet Bay, the great food, the cool little shops, and the great company, all the elements were in play. Our good friends Tom and Cheryl hung with us during the first part of the week. They didn't rough it like us though. Stayed at their condo in Egg Harbor. I shouldn't say they didn't have to live with some challenge. A pipe was broken on the hot tub, so that was a bit of an inconvenience. Anyway, we did all the usual things we do. Looked through the shops, had wonderful dinners, once at their place, once at ours, and once we let the geniuses at Mission Grill in Sister Bay do the honors. Awesome!
We went the tapas route this time, and it was a knock out. Got over to Stone's Throw Winery. Tasted all their good stock. Brought some bottles home.....and even had time to hang out on the patio at Shipwrecked for a couple cold ones. Fun stuff. Lizzy and the crew came up for the second half of the week. Good to see all those guys again. Jer and Johnno have been making the trip with us for like four years now. This was Nick and Hannah's first Memorial Day camp excursion. Loads of fast and furious fun. Had a blast! Goes too fast though.
Went to Lion King Sunday. It was their last show before the strike. Cool show. Everybody in my family had already seen it. B.J. In Vancouver, Terri and Lizzy on Broadway. I was a first timer. My in-laws were at the show, actually the tickets were a Christmas gift to everyone from us. Ended up at the Old Fashioned for a post-show meal and drinks. I had, appropriately enough, an Old Fashioned, so did "T".
I haven't been to a single Farmer's Market yet. Dropping the ball. We're hitting the time of year when all the good stuff starts showing up. Speaking of that. Made a wildly good Raspberry/Rhubarb pie (like I needed that). It was so good! The rhubarb was mine, the raspberries weren't. Not quite there yet. Soon, though, I bet. Have a nice holiday!
I have to admit...I'm a bit impatient for the summer to get here. Hasn't been all that great this spring...coolish, don't you think. At any rate, it'll start cranking here soon, and believe me I'm ready. We got some of our garden in...peas, radishes, onions. lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. Even though we had that early warmth before the bottom dropped out, we resisted the temptation to put other stuff in. Good thing. Soon, though...soon.
Looking forward to the first big camping excursion of the summer, too. Going to Peninsula State Park in Door County. Got a bunch of folks coming with us this time, so that should be fun. Maybe we'll have to take in a fish boil. Nothing makes white fish taste as good as the number two fuel oil they start their fire with. Yum. We'll also have to get the Oilery in Fish Creek, running low on their 25-year old balsamic vinegar. Man, is that stuff awesome. And my annual pizza. We always go to that place on top of the hill there. Sonnys? I think so. He makes a mean white one. Okay enough of that for now. I'm distracting myself. Still a couple of weeks away. Adios.
Been a tough couple of weeks around our house. My sister Bonnie, who lapsed into a coma several weeks ago, only to rally for a time, lost her battle with life-long illness. Tough to take. Losing a sibling somehow feels different than the other losses I've had during my life. My mom, grammas, grampas...just weird. Bonnie was a wonderful woman...sweet...sensitive. She absolutely loved her family. It's what she lived for. We"ll all miss her...but she'll always be with us. So long Bon. We love you. And that's all I have to say about that.
We are happy to welcome my sister Bonnie back from the Twilight Zone or wherever she went for about five days. Actually, she lapsed into a coma...and was sort of caught in the middle in that neither world, scared the heck out of us. Well yesterday, she decided to wake up. What a relief! She still has a long road ahead, but it's nice to see her baby blues open again. Whew! Welcome back Bon.
Terri and I put in some garden over the weekend. We thought as long as it's going to feel like late spring, we may as well take advantage. Nothing extreme, just the stuff that's tough enough to take any cruel joke cold snap in April. Peas, radishes, onions...that sort of thing.
Still no sign of life in my asparagus patch. I'm lying in wait. I love that stuff. We're going to give sweet potatoes a shot this year. They are temperamental and hard to grow here in the north, but we'll see. Another of my favorites. We also put in some Dikon radishes. They are
these big white carrot looking things with a distinctive radish flavor. Tex Tubbs Taco Palace inspired us. Tex makes a killer dikon radish taco...and we're going to try and emulate it. Hope they grow. We already have the margaritas ready to go!
Really? What is wrong with Monster Garage guy Jesse James. If you were married to one of the most beloved people in Hollywood, would you cheat on her? Unbelievable! Looks like Sandy has moved out...and may not be coming back. And after all the cool things she said about him during her acceptance speech at the Oscars. How humiliating. I wouldn't come back either. Oh well...life in the fishbowl. I would hate it.
Got out and rode my bike for the first time this year. Felt great, although it'll be a while before I dare squeeze into those bike shorts! I looked in the mirror when I tried them on and I actually heard myself gasp. My work is cut out for me.
Went to Penzy's the other day. Got some smoked paprika. If you've never used it...do. It's an unusually good spice. It is to paprika what chipotle is to peppers. Yummy. You couldn't have convinced me that I would at some point in my life spend any amount of time at a place that
sells nothing but spices...but T and I were at Penzy's for the better part of an hour. Great place. Check it out.
By the way, health care reform is now officially added to my list of things that should never come up in friendly casual conversation, along with politics and religion. Wow.
Geez...enough already. Every year about this time, I start getting antsy about spring. I know...I know...I best not hold my breath, but really...I'm done with winter. Our furry rat-like pal Jimmy the Groundhog didn't see his shadow right? So one would imagine that spring is not far off...but how far. The burrowing rodent is so date specific if he does see his shadow. Six more weeks of winter! But what does he mean when he says early spring? I suspect it's relative. So an early spring could mean about anything. By simple deductive reasoning and extrapolation, it should mean we should see spring sometime before mid-March right? I mean if it stops snowing by June, are we to believe that Jimmy was accurate in his assessment of an early spring. All I know is it can't come too soon. It's possible that it's just a passing thing and soon I'll get a seasonal "second wind" and start thinking the snow is a beautiful mantle of white to be grateful for, and the icy wind is bracing, and just that mischievous Jack Frost putting a little rose in our cheeks. Not likely. I'm betting that I'll still grumble when the slop goes over the top of my shoes early in the day ensuring 8-10 hours of wet, cold feet. And I'll also have special things to say about that icy wind that makes me shiver to the core as I trudge out the door at 3:45am everyday. Time to bid the old man of winter adieu, I'd say. Here's hoping the rat is on the money!
Well, I have to say, it's about time. I was starting to think we were done with snow for the year. Would have made it a long haul till April! I hope they'll let us get out on the snowmobile trails again. Been a long dry spell, but I shouldn't really complain given the last couple of years. It was nothing short of spectacular. Terri doesn't dig the smell, noise or the cold...so...I'm getting used to communing with nature...alone. Heading out to Laredos on Wednesday for dinner. I really like that place. I can't say whether it's the enchiladas...or the two for one Margs. I think it may be the combination. Seriously, though, I love their food. We try to go at least once a month. Got big plans for Valentine's Day this weekend? I'm going to take Terri out for brunch Sunday. Probably the Dane. Never disappointed. Have a good one
When I was told we were going to feature each of our favorite songs ever for Jim McGaw's 5 @ 5, I laughed. I mean trying to pick my favorite songs of all time is darn near impossible. There are a million songs that, I'll think at any given time, are my favorites! So I guess the songs on my list were my favorites when I wrote this list. I always thought Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" fit her voice and her mojo perfectly. Of all the big talents that came out of Idol, she's got my vote as the best one...as I write this that is. "Maggie May" came out when I was just starting to feel independent. I was in eighth grade and the thought of a clandestine relationship with an exotic older woman sounded so cool. That mandolin didn't hurt. My next picks are completely attributable to my fascination with all things Gaelic. I love that sort of minor harmony thing that the Cranberries do so well. Makes me shiver! U-2 is U-2. I love the music...I love the message. Bono is just too cool! If I could be just like anybody...I would choose to be...well, Brad Pitt, frankly...but Bono is cool, too. The final song on my list is Dobie Grey's "Drift Away." The quintessential soul song in my book. Always been a fave...always will be. Enjoy.
Hey! It's my second most favorite time of the year. It's Restaurant Week! If you've never taken advantage of Restaurant Week, you really should. Many area eateries are offering a meals at a really good price, and we're talking the good stuff man. Terri and I plan on making the most of it. We are using this as an excuse to go out with friends who we haven't seen for awhile. It's too easy to hibernate during the winter and any excuse to get out on the town is a good thing. We have reservations at a couple of old haunts and we'll try out some new places, too. Never been to Kickshaw, but I've heard good things. I'll let you know. Their menu online looks good. Last year I gained about five pounds...I could afford to then...not this year! I gotta get back on that treadmill!
I recently did my part to support the Hollywood studio system. We dragged our friends Tom and Cheryl out to see the epic blockbuster "Avatar." I know, the hype machine is running full tilt on this flick, but I gotta say, it was awesome. We saw it in 3-D at the I-Max on PD. The
place was packed...and we ended up not getting optimal seats...but man, that was cool. The 3-D pulls you right into the action. Well worth the cash. The effects were one thing...but the storyline was also cool. Not too hard to tell what director James Cameron thinks of the
military industrial complex. Yikes! He's obviously no fan of the "profit by any means" mentality. It was also great to see Tom and Cheryl again, the first time since Cheryl had her "little" surgery.