Archive for category Madison

Back Home for a Bit

Maybe I’m nuts, but I feel like I’m just getting started!  In the past two weeks I’ve slept in five different beds in five different states, and just when I start to get the hang of it, I’m back home again for a stretch.  Which time zone am I in again?  I won’t lie… I love it.  I will be a very old man when I tire of travel.

Last weekend (Labor Day) we hopped up to Wisconsin for a VERY fast visit of family and friends.  But it was a good, much-needed visit, and I even got a surprise visit from a good friend who I haven’t seen since my wedding!  It seems like there is a lot going on with loved ones back home, so any time we’re able to spend is valuable.  I’ve forgotten how much I miss Madison and the people I’ve left behind there.  Maybe it’s just the memories that flood back, or all of the great food that I miss so much.  For certain, Madison is a place of progress.  Even though I’m conservative, I very much miss Madison’s off-the-charts liberal politics because it seems like things actually get accomplished there.  The city is clean, efficient, and diverse.   I like it.

This week was the annual wine trip – my seventh trip to the California wine country.  For the first time, Rob was able to join us and it was great to discover some great new places along the way and to re-visit some old haunts as well.  We spent a lot of time laughing this year… a lot of time.  It was great for both bonding, and the healing of wounded souls… and the pushing of one’s luck!  Laughing so hard you can’t see through your own tears… yah, that’s a bad time to be merging onto a California freeway.  I owe my guardian angel some overtime for that one!  A warped sense of humor is a terrible thing to waste.

Once we got out of the airport, the trip was great!  The weather was absolutely beautiful thanks to a persistant marine layer that kept the sun at bay.  Our flight got in early enough that we were able to spend an afternoon in San Francisco before we headed off for three days of wine tasting.  In San Fran was the obligatory fish ‘n chips on the wharf, and hike up Nob Hill.  The views are worth the hike, and there are a couple of great wine bars up there on Hyde street.  Evidently the people in the Nob Hill dristrict are serious about their food… where else would you find someone walking down the street (in a hurry mind you) with nothing but an artichoke in her hand?

By the way.. You want the magic trick to get wine out of clothing?  Salt!  Just rub some salt into the fabric before the wine dries, and it comes right out!  It’s even better when the salt is administered by the attactive Swiss woman who taught me that trick.. 🙂

Unfortunately, this trip did nothing but heighten our disdain for the San Francisco airport.  A complete sellout meant waiting a hour and a half for a rental car… and a PT Cruiser at that.  Seriously, the entire rental car garage was EMPTY.  But Rob did a masterful job of holding the glove box on his lap after it fell out of the dashboard and that gave us a laugh.  Not funny was showing up at the airport on Friday only to find out that AirTran’s SFO are a bit confused as to the airline’s policies on checking wine as luggage and wouldn’t let it onto the plane.  After scrambling a bit, we were able to get the wine out of California, but it cost a lot of money and was not entirely legit.  I’ll leave it at that.  On the plus side, the flights were smooth!

If you’re not into wine, skip the next couple of paragrahs… becaue this is the part where I talk about the wime!  For the most part this year, the wines were fantastic.  Simi and St. Francis are still producing some of the best stuff in Sonoma, and Chappellet still rules in Napa.  Some of our favorite standbys were dissapointments this year though.  Siduri, Sebastiani, Ferrari-Carano and Limerick Lane all seemed a bit off this year.  Nothing offensive, just nothing to get excited about.  Perhaps our palates are changing?  Nevertheless, Kate took great care of us (as usual) at Siduri, and we did find a few great wines at those places.

Should you happen to wander into the northern regions of Sonoma County, I can highly recommend visits to Mosaic, Stryker and J.  Incredibly rich and complex wines (and Mosaic is small enough they can ship to Kentucky!)  If you’re visiting Napa… well, you have to visit the stuff on the valley floor if you’re a first timer.  But if you have time, or have been before, make the jaunt up Howell Mountain and make appointments at Burgess and Ladera.  Ladera’s pricey, but their Pinot’s and Cab’s are worth a try.  Burgess wines are also very nice, and they offer one of the best views of the valley and mountains.

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On snowstorms and igloos…

As I write this, Kentucky is in the throes of a “massive winter storm”… the “biggest storm in ten years.” Actual snowfall accumulation was about 5 inches. While my comments drip with sarcasm, I recognize that 5 inches is a pretty remarkable snowfall for Kentucky, but I can’t help but chuckle.

Now to their credit, Kentucky snowstorms are bizarre.. they often start with ice. Lots and lots of ice. I still can’t get used to it. Why can’t it just snow?? Why must I brush all the snow off my car only to be met with another quarter-inch of ice that must now be chiseled off? Feet and feet of snow is no big deal… that I can handle that because you just brush it away, and you can actually drive remarkably fast on it. But ice?? I’d do donuts if I could actually get enough traction to get one started!

Growing up in Wisconsin, a five-inch snowfall was pretty routine; heck, even welcomed because for a moment things were white again as opposed to the yellow-brown snow that weeks of sand, plowing, and traffic tends to create.

I have such fond memories of the “real” winters of Wisconsin. When I was younger, winters were awesome! Winter meant sledding, snowmobiles (!!!), outdoor hockey and a general excitement that I just can’t seem to covey to my southern friends. So imagine my delight when I came home yesterday to find my neighbors building an igloo. An IGLOO!! The last time I saw a real honest-to-God igloo was about 18 years ago when I lived in northern Wisconsin (Milltown… about an hour east of Minneapolis for the Google-maps nerds) when we built one in our backyard. I remember pre-forming the blocks in our backyards, covering the snow with water so they’d freeze hard like bricks. The key (as best as I can remember from 18 years ago) to good igloo-building is to stack the snow bricks just like real bricks, using pack snow as mortar, and then get inside the igloo for several minutes so that your body heat creates just a slight ice layer on the inside walls. The ice acts as a buffer between you and the snow walls – it keeps the heat inside, but the snow on the other side of the ice stays cold enough to not melt. If done properly, an igloo is actually remarkably warm on the inside – that much I remember for certain.

So with five inches of snow now rapidly melting, I miss “real” winters. I miss snowmobiles big-time… and the sledding hill by my house with the huge jumps that left bruises from wiping out on them… pick-up hockey games on the outdoor rinks… feet and feet of snow… Funny thing is now that it’s March I’m ready for spring. The longer I live in Kentucky, the less fun winter seems. Maybe I’m just getting old, maybe I’ve lived here too long. Probably both.

I should become the anti-snowbird. I’ll buy a winter home back in Wisconsin. It will have a big sledding hill next door, a huge fireplace, and at least two snowmobiles parked out front. Salt will be a forbidden commodity.. a shovel and a decent set of snow chains is much cheaper… and better for the environment! And if I get snowed in, I’ll just hitch a sled to the back of the snowmobile. Oh yes, and a little lake nearby that will freeze over so we can play hockey.

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