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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Things To Bring – To a Tailgate

It’s TAILGATING time y’all! Time to gather up your friends, some brewskis, slap some dogs or burgers on a grill and enjoy. I like tailgating better than going to the actual game. There is something special about hanging out with friendly peeps on a beautiful fall day to enjoy some good ole’ American football. Speaking of which GO OSU COWBOYS!

I rounded up some things you definitely need for a perfect tailgate get-together.

  1. HOORAY SPORTS DO THE THING WIN THE POINTS – For those who don’t really follow sports but like hanging out, this shirt’s for you! Buy here with lots of different products available.
  2. This cooler is Amazing. Capital A. It has a Blender! Plus outdoor speakers, a USB charger, bottle openers and a lot more. Buy here.
  3. Sir Kensington’s is one cool company. All of their products are not only delicious but MUCH healthier. Their ketchup has 50% less sugar and NO high fructose corn syrup. Awesome. This one is my favorite – Sir Kensington’s Spicy Ketchup features chipotle peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and hint of coriander. Put this on your hotdog and hamburger NOW. Buy here for all their products
  4. You can’t go wrong with Velveeta and Rotel Queso. If you’re feeling really crazy throw in some chorizo with it! Available at most grocery stores.
  5. A portable, fold-up grill is exactly what you need for your next tailgate. Buy here
  6. This Killer Hogs BBQ RUB has won championships. Get it now. Buy here
  7. A flannel stadium blanket for sitting on those cold benches is needed for those colder autumn days.  Buy here
  8. The chef needs a beer and a cool apron. I like this one – SAVE WATER DRINK BEER. Buy here
  9. It is a MUST to have your football team’s banner flying around your tailgate. Buy here with lots of teams available.

A lovely quick white fun-filled holiday

Dec. 24:

Left Mallorca for Germany. Adieu!

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Flew over the Alps. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Landed in Düsseldorf in complete fog.

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Landed safely. Whew! Ordered an extra large coffee and went upstairs to meet my boyfriend to head off to Wesel for the Christmas celebration to begin. We arrive, pour some champagne. But first, lemme take a selfie.

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Awwwww, I love it. Mama N always decorates her house so beautifully and Christmas time is no exception.

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Opened all the presents. Dr. Dre Beats headphones!! Thanks Santa! Now time for the FOOD. Meat fondue. So delicious.

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And now we are stuffed. Upstairs for some laughs and wine. Next day we did a quick trip to Xanten, Germany to visit the cathedral.

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Then drove to Detmold and went out to dinner at the Greek restaurant. Yummy. Next day was time to fly back to Mallorca. And we woke up to a white winter wonderland!

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I hope your Christmas was blessed too. OX

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La Tour Eiffel

The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris.  It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World’s Fair,  it has become both a global and cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest structure in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world; 7.1 million people ascended it in 2011. The tower received its 250 millionth visitor in 2010.

The tower stands 324 metres (1,063 ft) tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to assume the title of the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years, until the Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. Because of the addition of the antenna atop the Eiffel Tower in 1957, it is now taller than the Chrysler Building by 17 feet (5.2 m).

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The tower has three levels for visitors. The third level observatory’s upper platform is at 279.11 m (915.7 ft) the highest accessible to the public in the EU. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or lift (that means elevator to all you non British speaking folks), to the first and second levels. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. Although there are stairs to the third and highest level, these are usually closed to the public and it is usually accessible only by lift.

The line for the elevators was too long for our liking so we bought a ticket to walk the stairs. I can’t remember how much it was but no more than 10 euros. And the climb began! Up and round and up and round we went. Finally we made it to the first level! It was much higher than I thought it would be. Like everyone else, we snapped some pics.

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You can see Sacré-Coeur in the background

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And a lovely picture of us! I have this new habit of sticking my tongue under my teeth for some reason. But aren’t we adorable!?

We decided to keep going. Up to the second level. Yeah, we’re cool like that. That was about another 300 steps and we were getting high! As in elevation, my friends. I am usually fine with heights but I was getting a little dizzy and trying not to look down. Possibly it was being more claustrophobic with the people climbing the stairs up and down alongside me but the stomach was starting to do some flip-flops here and there. We arrived at the second level and took a quick walk around. Snapped some more pics …

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.I took this one leaning back as far as I could. After that, vertigo kicked in and we had to GO! On the walk back down 600+ steps, Jeannette joked that we should start telling everyone, “Sorry, it’s closed.” I laughed the entire way down. Miss my Jeannie!

So there you have it. Maybe next time we will go to the top but maybe I will chicken out. Or maybe we will just hang out at the restaurant for hours and have several beers – will that make vertigo better or worse? Whatever the fact, time for you to climb the TOWER.

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Paris This N That

Paris Paris Paris! What a lovely city. Have you been? I would love to hear your favorite places.

I was in Paris last year, with Jeannie! With her job she sometimes needs to travel to France to meet with some French peeps and talk about French things … in English. Er, so I think. What the hell do I know? Anyways she had to go to Paris last month and asked me to meet her and the answer is always the same. OF COURSE I WOULD LOVE TO MEET YOU!

I did the same thing as last time, flew into Orly (with the WORST turbulence ever) and caught the Paris metro. It is SO easy! And saves me about 40 euros had I taken a taxi. We were staying at a different hotel this time. While it was nothing exciting and the room was quite small, it had a balcony which was fantastic. If you stay at the Mercure Paris Royal Madeleine hotel, make sure you ask for a room on the top floor with a balcony.  Just do it.

I arrived around 4 p.m. and we walked a few blocks to a bistro and ordered two bieres. It was a bit chilly and I never seem to pack right for Paris. The time before I seemed to have only packed denim, I made quite the fashion statement. Oh yeah, I brought denim back y’all. After that it was all the fashion rage! And this time I was prepared for summer. I had a miniskirt, a tank top, a pair of jeans, a light cropped jacket and a flimsy blue scarf. And the temp was NOT summer. Alas, I survived. While enjoying our beers, a drunk guy aged about 30 years old was almost run over by a bus. But he retaliated by punching the bus driver’s window, so no worries. And then he stumbled away. There never seems to be a dull moment when Jeannie and I get together.

We wandered a bit. Stumbled onto the Champs-Élysées and took a quick (and blurry pic) of the Arc de Triomphe before being flattened by one of the speeding cars rushing by.

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Then a pic of our shadows on the sidewalk a la Paris. (In my mind pronounced PA REEEEEEE)

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.And because anything that says Felix  always catches my eye (and my heart).

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.Next up for the Paris blog post(s) – Eiffel, Louvre and cool bar on the Seine!

OH MY!

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