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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Watermelon Lemonade

Man, has it been hot here and the forecast says even hotter this weekend. I need a refreshing drink to cool me off!

My newest favorite summer drink is watermelon lemonade. If you love watermelon and you love lemonade then this siree is the drink for you! And it’s pretty easy to make. Plus if you want to make it more “adult” just add a little vodka for you to chill with by the pool.

Ingredients:

1/4 to 1/2 cup simple syrup                                           1 lemon

3 cups water                                                                     1 watermelon (seedless)

First, cut up the watermelon (I like the seedless ones or with very small seeds like this one) and blend the watermelon pieces until smooth.

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Next, strain through a sieve into the pitcher or container. This is very important! If you don’t do this your drink will turn into a big pulpy disaster. And nobody likes big pulpy disasters.

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Then add the simple syrup. I like to make my own simple syrup, it’s simple! 🙂 Hence, the name. Just add equal parts sugar and water in a pot, heat on medium until the liquid is clear and the sugar has dissolved and let cool. I like to make a jar of it to use in my whiskey sours and other drinks. Keep it in the refrigerator!

So, add the simple syrup (I use 1/4 cup but if you want things a little sweeter than use 1/2 cup), 3 cups of cold water and fresh lemon juice to the watermelon puree. Give it a good stir and you’re done. Serve over ice and with a slice of watermelon. Enjoy! And seriously try it with a splash of vodka. You deserve it.

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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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