Wisconsin Welcome

Hello all– Wonder if you’ve been off vacationing yet this summer. –???  We’re just back from our week away– spent a warm & welcoming time with our Laurel & John at their new house near Madison. (warning– SO many photos here!  –couldn’t help myself.)

Our first evening we joined a few thousand others on the State Capitol lawn for a pizza picnic to the music of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.  They played a Spanish favorite– Concierto de Aranjuez!!  Magical!


One morning we traversed 3 lakes (including raising the boat in a lock) to arrive at the University of Madison Terrace on the lake.  We lunched on brats and fresh corn along the lake and finished off with the memorable ice cream from the school’s dairy department!



Saturday morning found us at the Farmers Market collecting bagfulls of fresh produce to cook up over the weekend.


John’s intrepid red jeep ferried us out across the countryside to the Crane Institute– a study center for cranes from all over the world.  Then we stopped off along the Wisconsin River for a picnic (until it started raining!).



Laurel & John made sure we ate well!  Succulent steaks on the grill with Laurel’s beautiful salads– next night, a big grilled paella to eat out under the oak trees with friends.


The highlight of the trip was getting to see John & Laurel’s new house!!  While they were at work, Larry & I did a little wall paper stripping, spakeling and instaling of bookcases in the study).  It’s such a cozy place!

We took a few evening walks to enjoy the fireflies and everything so green and bountiful in the Wisconsin summer.


Thankful thankful for the days out and about, for the quiet conversations over dinner, for the joy of seeing you settle into your new home John & Laurel,  We love time with you!!  (See you in Sequoia in a couple weeks!!)


Fresh Peach Cobbler

Hi there– how’s your summer going??  We’re getting a big dose of summer here with our kids in Wisconsin!  Yesterday afternoon, John grilled steaks while Laurel made salads and I put this peach cobbler in the oven.  Dinner out on their back porch with the fireflies under the towering oak trees–just grand!

But even better– the next morning Laurel & I sat out on that back porch in the sunshine and had leftover peach cobbler for breakfast!  Good start to a good day with L & J!!


7 medium ripe peaches
2/3 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cobbler Biscuits:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 tab. sugar
2 tab. cornmeal
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

Peel and pit the peaches.  Cut them into nice bite size chunks.

In a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, stir together the peaches, 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top of it all.

To make the biscuits, stir together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla until the batter is stiff.

Divide the dough into 8 blobs and drop them on top of the peaches.

Pop the whole thing into the oven at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are browned and the peaches are tender.  Add a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!

*If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, substitute by putting a tablespoon of cider vinegar into the measuring cup and filling up to 1/2 cup.  Let it sit a few minutes to thicken.


Wisconsin in Winter

Hi friends!!  We’re just back from our stay in Wisconsin with our kids– John & Laurel.  Those two know how to make everything fun.  So here’s my favorite– “Great Eight” things we did for our Wisconsin winter!!

#1.  One afternoon Larry and I trekked down to the campus of University of Wisconsin, for a stroll through the campus, a stop for the best ice cream (from their dairy department!) and a walk on the frozen lake!!  yikes!


#2.  We also studied our way through the Chazen Art Museum on campus one afternoon– small, but with a wide range of art from around the world and across genres.


#3.  Saturday morning we browsed at the indoor Farmers Market, where each week a different restaurant in Madison, serves up a wholesome breakfast (That week was root veggie hash!!)


#4.  On a blustery afternoon Laurel ferried us over to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens to wander through their greenhouse tropical garden– lush and warm and filled with singing canaries!

#5.  We tagged along with John & Laurel and their realtor Wade, while they did a little house hunting around Madison (But are still looking to find the perfect place).

#6.  Our most Wisconsin-ish adventure was an evening at the Fishing Expo– I had no idea there are so many many accessories to fishing, from boats to lures to wall mounted trophy fish!


#7.  Madison has a gorgeous new library downtown so one day we hiked down past the capital building and on to the library, where we raided the new book section an sat and read to our hearts content.  (P.S. the sculpture on the library wall is all made of battered old bookends!)


#8.  And last but sure not least, we had several wonderful meals with Laurel and John– starting with an assortment of coffee shops, a few morning walks to Batch Bakehouse, Salvatore’s Tomato Pies (the Best Pizza!), fashionable Mint Mark Cafe for breakfast, Noddle’s & Company Pad Thai, and our very own John’s incredible burgers at home!



Loved every minute with our John and Laurel.  They know how to hug and talk to and feed visiting parents in the very best sort of way!  Thanks you two!!  We can’t wait to come back to Madison…

Wandering in Wisconsin

Friends— We arrived in in Wisconsin for our John & Laurel’s wedding (more on that later!!) and since then have been taking in fun and food with our other kids winding our way across  the state.  A little “scrapbooking” of some of the best bits…

We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa to explore the Effigy Mounds National Monument–a series of Native American burial mounds set in a forest overlooking the Mississippi.  A green and leafy afternoon hike.  Loved it!


photos:  forest, pretty lichen, Larry, Brian & Lois on the trail, the Mississippi River, The 3 Heungs by some burial mounds.

Next stop– the Great Wolf Lodge complete with the country’s biggest indoor/outdoor waterpark.  Aside from my first harrowing trip down a water slide, it was a lot of fun splashing with grand-girls in the water.


photos: Charlotte, Jobay & Maryann complete with wolf ears,  Jobay– the rope bridge champ!, 3 bathing beauties, in the lobby of the Great Wolf Lodge.

A trip over to Milwaukee, demands a brewery tour. A little beer sampling and an animated tour guide named Winston made it a lively afternoon.


photos: Lakefront Brewery building. after tour snacks, Winston, soft pretzels and savory spreads.

Next morning, we walked along Lake Michigan to reach the Milwaukee Art Museum, a monumental structure, by the architect, Santiago Calatrava (Spanish!).


Lakeside view of the museum, Ani in the reception hall, Larry by a Chihuly glass work, Lois on the prowl at the museum.

One more stop, at the Pabst Mansion, built in the 1890’s by the brewing family, an elegant look at their sumptuous life.


photos:  The Past Mansion, the womens’ salon, bathroom doors, our bright tour guide with Captain Pabst, the servants dining room.

Finally, Larry and I explored the Milwaukee Public Museum–a well done natural history museum–complete with butterfly room!!

photos:  Display of the museum exhibits back in the 1800’s. The butterfly room and a couple of it’s residents.


It was a fine full week, traveling across the green and glorious state of Wisconsin– thanks to Micah & Jodi & those 3 fun girls, thanks to Ani & Brian and our littlest tourist.  You all made it such a wonderful time together.  I am thankful.

(Almost) Winter in Madison!



Hi hi– back from a week with our Laurel in Madison, WI.  I booked this trip anticipating snow up to my waist, icy winds and swirling snowflakes.  But, surprise!, it was all sunshine and balmy days.

Even without snow, it was a sweet time with that girl of ours.  Laurel is the best best travel buddy.  Here’s what we do — tourist, shop, eat.  Repeat.  So here’s a little of each in the dead of Wisconsin winter!

Our winter “touristing” included frozen lakes, state park look outs and a woodsy museum.

Here we are astride Lake Menona (don’t ask me why I thought that was a good idea!)


Brave people ice fishing on the lake– and ice at the lake’s edge.
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One afternoon we ambled along a trout stream.

Laurel and John up the look out tower– and we did find real snow–piled in the parking lot!!
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After touring the Aldo Leopold Museum (early ecologist), we took a soggy trek back to the home in the woods we shared with his wife and 5 kids!

John’s trusty jeep carried us through the woods,gorgeous fungi on the forest floor.
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Through the forest, just before a flock up enormous sandhill cranes passed over head– It was a so magical!

We squeezed in a little shopping–kitchen store, books stores, thrift shops, the indoor winter farmer’s market along the way.

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And you know we found some good things to eat –starting with morning coffee & scones.

Friday “Fish Fry” at the Tip Top Tavern–and a humongous pretzel at the Grumpy Troll Brewery
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Indian breakfast at the indoor Farmer’s Market
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And Laurel pulled together a Wisconsin cheese tray feast when friends dropped by…

And one last P.S.– Thanks to our awesome nephew Shawn– who surprised us with the best seats for a Maroon 5 concert in Milwaukee– a big serendipity!!  We felt like rock stars ourselves!
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So thank you, thank you Laurel & John– you are always so warm and welcoming. Love you.  xox

Wisconsin Part #2- Off to the North Woods!

Hey there– Here’s part #2 of our trip to Wisconsin.  Once the family all rolled into Madison, we touristed about a bit and then headed up to the North Woods–  lakes, trails and blue skies…  It was tons of fun!  (Warning: this post may contain excessive photos.  I’m trying to cut it down. I just can’t help myself!)

We started out our Madison tour at the grand Farmers Market nestled in the park around the State Capitol.  Veggies, flowers galore, and beautiful bread!  And people, lots of people!

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Photos above:  Four Farmers Market shoppers, zinnias and pretty squash

After a quick pizza lunch, we strolled back to the State Capitol building for docent tour, informative fun.

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Above photos:  Charlotte and the Forward (Wisconsin state motto!) Statue in front of the Capitol building, 2 girls on the mezzanine,  our docent in a legislative salon, looking up!

Then we shopped our way down State Street to the University of Wisconsin to sit on the lake terrace for brats, beer and their famous ice cream (made by the dairy science department!)  And after dinner, ambled down along the lake as the sun set.

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Above photos: Relaxing on the lake terrace at U of W, Micah and Jodi enjoying their ice cream, sailboats put up for the night,  sun setting on Lake Mendota.

Finally, we set forth North!  First stop was Wausau, Wisconsin to meet John’s family (he’s our Laurel’s finance). John’s mom Deb (5th from the left) cooked up a great backyard meal and the next day we explored (i.e. ate & shopped) our way through downtown Wausau.  Thanks for your warm & wonderful welcome Deb!!

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Above photos: Family portrait in Deb’s backyard, Jobay having great fun in the bookstore, Larry’s version of shopping (sitting in a coffee shop),  Shop street in Wausau. (thanks John for including a could shopping trips in the schedule.)

Next we were off to scale the peak of Rib Mountain, the tallest mountain in Wisconsin (but actually kind of hill-ish by California scale). The green, gorgeous deciduous forest was enchanting.  Simply beautiful.


Above photos:  Trekking through the forest, rocking climbing girls, lichen encrusted stump.

Continuing “Up North,” we stopped at a farm to buy sweet corn for the week ahead in the cabin, and met up with some curious baby cows.

Above photos:  meeting the calves, a friendly (cow) face

At last, we made our up to the cabin on Lake Minocqua, our home for the week.  And the next morning set out for a day on the lake, cruising, swimming, picnicking along the way.

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Above Photos:  Home Sweet Home for a few days, bringing in the boat, the grand-girls all suited up for our day on the water, local boathouse.

There was a morning visit to the Northwoods Historical Museum (featuring the world’s first snowmobile!)

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Above photos: Vintage old kitchen, local wildlife (Go Cal Bears!!),  snow mobile collection.

One day we passed a grand afternoon canoeing and splashing in Johnson Lake at John’s family cabin.  And let me say, canoeing is scarier than it looks!!

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Above photos:  Hanging out on the dock,  Brian in front of the cabin, Maryann the fisher-girl, canoe paddlers across the lake.

And here’s just a few more miscellaneous very favorite pics that I can’t possibly leave out!  (are you even still watching??   thanks for sticking with me!!)

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Above photos:  Hike around Star Lake (loved it!), Jobay enjoying sweet corn, 3 girls walking with John on our way to Lazy Jane’s Bakery Cafe for breakfast,  our “tour director” John pointing out the sights from Rib Mountain, Jodi & Jobay on Jobay’s #5 birthday in the cabin, boathouse and dock on Lake Minocqua.

So thankful for the days with the family in such a beautiful place– Thanks Laurel & John for inviting, planning, organizing, and herding us across the fine state of Wisconsin.  It was grand!

Family Trek at Star Lake



Hi friends– at the end of a wild and wonderful week in Wisconsin with the family.  Laurel’s John was our travel guide– and one morning he trundled us all up to Star Lake for a 2.5 mile trek through the forest, across a bog and around the lake.  It was gloriously green and one of my favorite parts of the trip…

Brian primed the pump for pre-hike drinks.

And Grandpa Larry is always good for a horse-back ride when the going gets long…

Aunt Laurel supplied Maryann with an install camera to snap prints along the way– and those two are always up for a dramatic pose along the way!

John and his hiking buddies by the Black Lagoon (an actual place, not just a book!)

I always have to include a “bottoms on the trail” picture (since I’m the last in line!)

Along the pathways we found all kinds of mushrooms and moss and interesting things growing.
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There were a couple rest stops along the path–Ani by Star Lake…

…and a bit of wading involved.

Soaking up the tranquil beauty all along the way.

Micah. Jodi and the 3 grand-girls took a family photo at the end of the trail.

Larry snaps a shot of the group at a rest point.
Thanks Laurel and John for planning a fun day out in such a gorgeous spot.  Loved loved it!

Out & About in Milwaukee!


IMG_1700Hi all–  Milwaukee. Who knew?  It’s a great place to spend a day touristing.  When I visited our Lovable Laurel a few weeks back, we headed north, chauffeured by her boyfriend John, for a sunny day about and about in Milwaukee– and we had a grand time.

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We started our morning int he tree lined Bayside neighborhood– One charming house after another, along the lake– and the coziest Farmer’s Market.  Lots of kids in wagons, people walking dogs and even a community choir belting out show tunes for the crowd.  It made me want to pack up and move to Milwaukee…

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Off we went to the jaw dropping Milwaukee Art Museum.  The most incredible part of the museum is the new wing, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.  The roof becomes “wings” that move to curl and extend up. Magnificent, really.

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We finished off the day shopping through the old town district of Milwaukee, ending up at the Brat Haus, for the “Wisconsin state foods”  –Cheese curds (also known as fried cheese!) and Bratwurst.  Then we packed up and rolled on home to Chicago–   Thanks Laurel and John.  It was a fine full day…