Madison, Wisconsin

GOOOOOOOO BADGERS!!!

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Madison was famously described by a candidate for governor in 1978 as “30 square miles surrounded by reality.” He meant it as a dig, but many Madisonians embraced it, then and now. And for the record, it’s now 77 sq. miles.

Being born in Madison, WI and having lived there for the first ten years of my life, it holds a place in my heart that I will never let go. I think back fondly on that first house my parents built in DeForest, a suburb just outside of Madison. My brother and I making our first friends, running down to the lake behind us to throw bread at the ducks who always seemed to hang out on our yard and my mom letting me run up to my friend’s house for the very first time on my own. I can still picture the house, it was dark brown and split level, a pretty cool house that my parents designed. We drove by it when we passed through Madison last week, it’s now a beige color and I remembered it being a bit different but still put a smile on my face to see it again.

After DeForest we moved into a duplex in Madison. We drove by this too and I have even fonder memories of this house, but maybe not the scary basement – I still have nightmares sometimes of this basement. Fonder memories possibly because I was older and could remember more but maybe just because those first years of your life are quite meaningful.

 

 

I’m still in contact with a few of my friends from then – Jackie was my bestie in those years, Kathy lived the next block over and Joyce would visit from New York during the summer and sometimes at Christmas to her grandparents house behind ours. I would walk to John Muir School with my brother, slowly picking up our gang of friends along the way. After school we would walk over to the small store run by the chinese man where I would buy grape Hubba Bubba gum or those huge, chewy SweeTarts. I can still smell that gum when I think of it.

My gang of girlfriends ruled the neighborhood. We had our secret hideouts in the forest close to my house where I had my first kiss with Jason Cook. Oh those sweet innocent years in the 1970s. No cell phones, no Instagram, no need to make a duck face. In the summers we ran around from after breakfast til before dinner, we never wore bike helmets, we made gross concoctions of mustard, mayo, bugs and more to dare each other to eat and we still made it out alive.

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My Wisconsin girl gang. We were tough! 😉

The duplex is where my love of musicals began. I remember my parents taking me to my very first movie – Grease and I was in love. Not necessarily with Mr. Travolta but just the beauty of movies with singing and dancing. And the joy of music evolved from there – Billy Joel was my first record, then Xanadu, J. Geils Band, The Muppet Movie soundtrack – it wasn’t until my later years that I got into the big hits from the 70s – Joni Mitchell, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac.

My parents both graduated from UW – Madison so we drove around the huge campus while my parents told stories about their days. The campus has changed a lot since they were there and I loved all the stories. There was a terrible snowstorm and the streets were too icy and full of snow for any vehicles; Mom had to walk all the way from campus to our duplex – it took maaaaany hours and by the time she got home she was practically frozen. Another story – There is a statue of Abraham Lincoln that has watched over campus atop Bascom Hill for over a hundred years. Dad said the story goes that Abe would stand up whenever a virgin would walk by, and he hasn’t stood since 1953. Haha Dad.

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We parked the car and walked down State Street. A pedestrian street lined with shops and bars. And sadly this time we walked down it there were a lot of beggars. It was a bit depressing to see. It was really warm that day and I stupidly wore jeans for some reason so we rushed through it a bit but I can see where it would be a lot of fun during the night. Definitely go get a brat at State Street Brats!

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At the end of State Street is the Wisconsin State Capitol which houses both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature along with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Office of the Governor. It is a beautiful building both inside and out. And it was air conditioned! ahhhhhhh

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The UW – Madison campus is so beautiful and next time I would like to explore it even more. Both my mom and I were craving a Garibaldi sandwich and a brandy old-fashioned sweet from Paisan’s so we headed there, enjoyed our food and drink and looked out over the serene view of Lake Monona. If you want a cool spot for dinner which also serves the Garibaldi go to Porta Bella just off State St. It’s funky, cool, old vibe, the small rooms and wooden booths make it perfect.

Madison, Wisconsin thank you and I love you.

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A hotel, a restaurant and an airline

I have three, no wait, FOUR, fantastic recommendations for you. I went to London the other weekend (no, not for the wedding, my invite must have been lost by the Spanish Post) and thoroughly enjoyed my hotel, found a great restaurant and a free product from the hotel which I recently ordered a larger bottle of their fabulous pillow spray.

Let’s start with the airline since I needed one of those to get to London in the first place. This was my first experience with Easy Jet and I was happily surprised at how smooth the transaction was with everything. I thought I had paid for my small suitcase to be carry-on but when I got to the gate she put a tag on it for me to check it when I boarded. In the end the plane wasn’t that busy so I was able to just keep it with me. With the return I did check it in London Gatwick and it was a super easy, do-it-yourself process. Plus the flight was pretty inexpensive and the flight attendants were some of the nicest I’ve experienced in quite awhile. Thanks Easy Jet! I will be a return customer.

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Okay, what do you want to hear about next? How about the hotel. I met Jeannie at the Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel. There wasn’t a single thing I can complain about. The staff was delightful, the hotel was modern and hip, the room was spacious and clean. It’s a 5 star boutique hotel located in the heart of bustling East London, just next to the Liverpool Tube Station. We used the Central and Circle Line for getting around and getting back but it also connects with the Hammersmith and the Metropolitan. Perfect for traveling cheap!

The rooms have free Wi-Fi, a free (non-alcoholic) daily stocked minibar and we were welcomed with a lovely bottle of Prosecco in the room when we checked in. And in the room they also had a free sample of REN & Now To Sleep Pillow Spray. It’s a soothing natural perfume, blending floral notes of lavender with deeply restful Frankincense, to relax both the body and mind. I loved it so much I just bought two larger bottles for my bedtime routine. I’ve been sleeping like a baby.

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You also have free access to the Health Club, where we really enjoyed the steam room. And the free apples for after you have sweated everything out. The last night we were a bit tired and decided to try their sushi restaurant. Try the saki sampler!

But the best thing and maybe it’s just me but the hotel serves complimentary (that means FREE to me) wine and canapes (one night it was small sushi rolls and the other some bread with paté) from 6 – 9 pm. It was lovely to come back from a long day of sightseeing and relax in the lounge area with a snack and a glass of wine. Or two. 🙂 FOR FREE Y’ALL.

And now what I know you’ve been waiting for – FOOD. The restaurant. It was fabulous. If you love Indian food you must go. Dishoom in Shoreditch (they also have a few more locations around London) was where I had the best Indian food of my life. It’s a big restaurant and they only take reservations for parties more than 6. So arrive a little early, put your name on the list and head over to the bar for a tipple or two while you wait for your table. I highly recommend the whiskey sour.

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Jeannie doesn’t eat foods with gluten and they had a large variety of items that she could eat. So feel free to eat your heart out. We shared the Crunchy Pomelo salad (with fresh kale, pink pomelo, pistachios, mint and coriander) and the okra fries (not gluten-free but Jeannie had a few). I haven’t had okra since my Oklahoma days! For the main dish I had the lamb Sheekh Kabab and Jeannie had the Chicken Tikki. It did not disappoint. They are also open for breakfast and the menu and teas look totes amazeballs. Just go already.

And I actually have one more rec for you. The good stuff just keeps on coming! If you do go to the Dishoom Shoreditch locatation and you feel like going out and dancing a bit, stop by Momento Lounge bar for some drinks and good tunes from the live DJ.

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And there you have it. Great times are made even greater with a good hotel, good food and good experiences.

But nothing compares to GREAT FRIENDS. And when you have this kind of happiness and fun together, it doesn’t really matter where you stay or what you eat.

Happy weekend y’all!!

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I Went To London and All I Got Was …

I went to London and all I got was a lousy cold and a coffee mug.

I’m not kidding.

But what a lovely coffee mug it is. 🙂

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Who’s ready for the wedding of the year?! Raise your mug! Ha. Okay, I’ve been a bit absent because my family was visiting for a week and then I went to London to meet my gorgeous friend Jeannie. But guess what? That means I got so many things to share with y’all.

Keep your seatbelts fastened and look for a new blog post coming soon. xo -k

Thankful and Grateful

Happy Thanksgiving! Gosh I am so grateful for so much. I’m always surrounded by an amazing amount of love and support from Felix, my family, my friends; and grateful for a happy and healthy life. I get to be here this year in the states to celebrate turkey day with my parents, uncles and aunt. And tomorrow is Dad’s 75th birthday, so pretty much a celebration lasting through the weekend. Happiness and drinks all around!

And I got to enjoy one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But darn it, I missed Gwen Stefani’s performance. Oh well, I got to see SpongeBob.

Enjoy that turkey or fish or cranberries or stuffing, whatever is your favorite. Don’t forget the extra gravy. Big hugs to you and yours this Thanksgiving. #sothankful

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Kiss My Grits, Cancer

Cancer can kiss my ass. Seriously. PUCKER UP! Pucker up big time.

An hour ago my mom was wheeled out of the OR from having a double mastectomy. My sweet, adorable, full of life, mama. I know she is hurting right now. She also had reconstruction with this surgery. I was trying to talk her into some double D’s, but no. She is gonna go for the nice perky ones. Right on, mama. You go.

She had a lumpectomy about ten years ago, then radiation, then special medication for five years. This time no radiation (thank goodness) but back on the meds for another five years. She is one helluva strong lady that I look up to and love very much. She is loved by her three grandsons, her two children, her husband, her brothers and sisters, friends, etc., etc. So, to put it plainly, she ROCKS.

Cancer is scary. Cancer creates fear and sadness. But you know what it can’t do? So much. I found this lovely poem online. Please read, feel inspired and tell cancer to suck it.

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

Author: Dr. Robert L. Lynn

DUBLIN

Hello fellow readers! I returned from visiting the green island of Ireland a few weeks ago. I hope to take you through every area we visited in my next few posts. So keep in touch.

First of all, the Irish people are THE NICEST people I have ever met. I have traveled a lot (not to brag, but I have done a decent share – but that said, so much more still to see) and I have never had such a pleasurable experience with the people of a country. Not a single rude person. Everyone was friendly, helpful and most of all, funny. It was such a fantastic trip.

Let me just preface that I was traveling with my parents, not that THAT is bad! I just wanted you to know who I was with on this adventure. I love my parents and we had a lot of fun. Since moving to Europe ten (!) years ago, I have traveled with my parents a lot on this side of the pond.

So, let’s get down to it. Flying from Mallorca to Bilbao to Dublin I landed around 5:00 pm at the Dublin airport. And my first experience with Aerlingus. Nice airline – they had leather seats throughout the entire aircraft! And of course, friendly. Then I had to pick up the rental car from Hertz. And this was my first experience of the steering wheel on the other side and driving on the other side of the road. My parents had landed earlier in the day so they were already at the hotel. It was me and the rental car driving on the wrong side of the road together. YAY! Already friends.

Finally arrived at Clontarf Castle and went up to the room. Dad was still sleeping and mom was getting ready for dinner. We unpacked, talked about the trip to Dublin and went down for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Good food, good service and guess what – friendly people everywhere!! What is in the water? And can I get some shipped to the island of Mallorca?

Dad and I started off with a Guinness. Because if you are in Ireland, you drink a Guinness!! And by the way, have you tried Guinness with black currants!? DO IT NOW. You can thank me later. The most deliciousness of Guinness you will ever have. Yo.

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We called it an early night because we had to begin the day around 8 a.m. (pretty much every morning for the rest of the week). I did like that we each had our own single bed. Usually when it is three people one person gets totally shafted and has to sleep in that crappy cot (extra) bed. You know what I am talking about, right? And it really sucks. And is really uncomfortable. And it is always ME that has to take this bed because I am obviously the youngest – but not that young!! But here at the Clontarf Castle we each had a lovely single bed. A good nights sleep if only my dad didn’t snore!

DAY TWO: Hop On – Off (HOHO) Bus in Dublin. Some people don’t like these buses but it is an easy way to see the city without paying too much money. Just as the name states, you can get on and off when and where you like and walk around for as long as you want and then get back on. Of course, keeping with the bus time schedule. I think they start around 9 a.m. and end around 8 p.m.

Clontarf Castle has a free shuttle early around 8 a.m. But we wanted breakfast and then took a taxi took the HOHO Bus. The first place we got off was Trinity College. It is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, as well as Ireland’s oldest university. It was originally established outside the city walls of Dublin in the buildings of the dissolved Augustinian Priory of All Hallows, Trinity College was set up in part to consolidate the rule of the Tudor monarchy in Ireland, and it was seen as the university of the Protestant Ascendancy for much of its history. Trinity College is now surrounded by Dublin and is located on College Green, opposite the former Irish Houses of Parliament. The college proper occupies 190,000 m2 (47 acres), with many of its buildings ranged around large squares and two playing fields.

The main reason we stopped at Trinity College was to see the Book of Kells. This book is believed to have been created ca. 800 AD. Amazing, right!? The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin. It contains the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables.  The manuscript today comprises 340 folios and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are on high-quality calf vellum, and the unprecedentedly elaborate ornamentation that covers them includes ten full-page illustrations and text pages that are vibrant with decorated initials and interlinear miniatures and mark the furthest extension of the anti-classical and energetic qualities of Insular art.

While they had two books on display (under bullet-proof glass) it was difficult to see with the amount of people trying to crowd in and look …. for hours. But I did get a peek and it was beautiful. A picture from a page in the Book of Kells from educationscotland.gov.uk.

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.Connected to the area to see the Book of Kells is the Long Room. The 65-metre-long (213 ft) main chamber of the Old Library, the Long Room, was built between 1712 and 1732 and houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. This was actually my favorite part of Trinity College. While the Book of Kells was so interesting and beautiful it also had so many people wanting to see it, read about it, learn every single thing possible. The long room was more calming and just so many books! My heart was happy.

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Back on the bus! We drove past tons of gorgeous places – St. Stephen’s Green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Dublin Zoo in the huge Phoenix Park. But then our next stop was the Guinness Storehouse. Did I mention the Irish people were friendly and funny? While leaving our guide mentioned to all getting off that the last pick-up from Guinness was at 8 p.m. Hilarious. 🙂 I thought we would be able to just go straight to the Gravity Bar at the top but you must buy a ticket to go there. Adult tickets are 18 euros each and you get a ticket for a free pint of Guinness at the Gravity Bar. The self “tour” was fine, interesting if you want to know how they make Guinness. We went through it pretty quickly and headed to the top. Here you can receive your free (with your ticket) pint of Guinness and look out over all of Dublin. Great views!

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Our last stop was Temple Bar. Not really to see the area – because it is mostly bars and retro clothes shops. Which if that is your thing, this is your stop! But there was a big hurling game happening and we wanted to check it out. What is hurling, you may ask? What you DON’T know!? What planet are you living on!? Okay, kidding. We had no idea but there was a big game and our taxi driver told us all about it. Hurling is called the fastest game on grass.

The objective of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents’ goalposts either over the crossbar for one point, or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. The sliotar can be caught in the hand and carried for not more than four steps, struck in the air, or struck on the ground with the hurley. It can be kicked or slapped with an open hand (the hand pass) for short-range passing. A player who wants to carry the ball for more than four steps has to bounce or balance the sliotar on the end of the stick and the ball can only be handled twice while in his possession. It was a lot of fun to watch and to try to understand what exactly was happening. The big game was between two rivals Kilkenney vs. Tipperary. And it ended in a tie, something that is very unusual I was told.

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.Flags flying for their/your favorite team. That concludes my first day of Dublin post. I hope you enjoyed it. Next up is Newgrange and surrounding area of Dublin. Please check it out. Good night!

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Life with a cat(s)

Actually it is – Life with a cat cats.

Maybe you know, maybe you don’t know. I have five cats. Yep, FIVE. I used to have seven! And spring is just around the corner which brings May flowers …. and kittens! So many wild cats around here you just never know when a new baby ends up wandering around. And seriously, how can you turn away sweet faces like these?

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.Or this?

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.Or these?

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.Which is why I can totally understand this:

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.Go get yourself a cat! They are adorable, hilarious and fulfill your life so much more than you can imagine. But actually I don’t really care if you are a dog person. Get yourself a dog! Or both! I would recommend to get one from the pound or like I did and have a wild mama leave you her babies. Either way, make sure you are ready for it. Please never ever get an animal and then realize you can’t care for it and then must give it away. That just breaks my heart.

An animal, is a friend for life. Treat it like one. Gracias.

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