Sunday, April 24, 2011

Twenty Hours in Spring Green

I have mentioned Spring Green several times during my blogging career. The farm house on 60 acres that my aunt and uncle have there is a delight.

Fortunately for me, I was asked to see a play at American Player's Theatre on Friday night, which is in Spring Green. The show was in their indoor theatre. Just being in that space is a treat. The play, Wisconsin Story Project's "Stories of Cancer" was fabulous. I have seen a lot of theatre in my years and this show was excellent. All of the actors were professional and not one of them was just mediocre. It was a heavy and hard show to watch at times. You see, this project was done in Madison, interviewing cancer patients who shared their stories. The words that they hate to hear, the research they did, the overwhelming amount of people who reached out to them, their fear of death and much, much more were shared in this staged reading. And it was very moving. It was also great to finally go to APT.

The evening was spent at the farmhouse and Chris and I booked a tour of Taliesin for the next morning. For the amount of times we have driven past it (like every time we drive to the farm,) it is crazy that we never went there before. I am so glad we did this, too.

A two hour guided tour was really fun and interesting. We saw the grounds where Frank Lloyd Wright was buried, his school, his sister's house and of course, Taliesin. If you listen to WPR a lot, you are probably used to hearing a lot about the murders there but this is hardly highlighted on the tour. What is so fascinating (where do I start?) is that he liked low ceilings, bringing the outdoors in, the house is 32,000 (yes, that is correct) square feet, there is no angle where you can take a picture of the entire house and people do live there now. The views are amazing. We were only allowed inside his studio. The majority of the tour is outside on the property. This was such a spectacular tour. If you live in Madison and haven't done it, make sure to do it.

We also stopped at the very tasty General Store afterwards for a yummy lunch where I asked them for their recipe of the vanilla chocolate ginger craisin bar. If I make it, I will post the recipe.

I love Madison and it's so special that we have such a famous little town so close by.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Stores Designed for Lazy Americans

I had a little trouble when I was bringing my 40 pound bag of dog food to my car on Sunday. A lot of you know I hate the Target in Madison. It completely depresses me. Target is where I buy my dog's food. I like to keep the money in my local community, but show me a local store that sells a 40 pound bag of lamb & rice dog food and I will be there.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. I parked about a tenth of a mile away from the Target and walked, as it was so nice outside and I wanted to savor it. Which brings me to this:

How come, when gas is almost $4.00 a gallon are you people driving up and down the aisles closest to the entrance of a store until you find a really close spot? My bf and I often talk about how we will park in the parking lot over from the business to walk into a store and see the same people we were stuck behind still driving around. It's called LAZY.

So I parked behind the Macy's. And walked to Target. I don't give a darn about being close to an entrance. As I left Target with the 40 pound bag, my cart "locked" at a stop sign and I was literally stuck. All the other carts surrounding me were also "locked" as I transported the hefty items from my locked cart to another locked cart. (My back still hurts. I had to run on the treadmill this morning instead of outside because it still hurts so much).

And I asked myself, "How on earth are people who actually walk (like myself) supposed to get all of this stuff to their cars?"

It didn't make sense. Whoever designed this chain didn't take into account that some people park far away and need some assistance to get all of their items to their car.

I finally dragged the cart (with locked wheels) as far as I could. I then approached an employee who told me that the staff inside should have told me that the carts lock. What? Did they just hire some person in a red polo with a sign stating,

"For people who enjoy walking a little more, please be aware that you will not be able to cart your heavy items to your vehicle. This store was designed for fat, lazy people who can cart their things to their car. Because most people prefer to drive around for 20minutes until they find a spot that's close."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why we stick out when we are traveling in Paris, France.

I was annoyed, to say the least.

Please, if you can find me a nice shop where I can walk to from my condo to buy the food, let me know. I will then bring a strong person with me who can just carry it back. Who needs a car, anyway? Cars are overrated.

Walk somewhere and do your heart some good.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival

The initial run-down of options for the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival sparked my usual interest and I chose to view three this year (as opposed to five my first year here and two last year). Three is a perfect amount. More than one a day is too much for me.

Here are the films I chose:


“Made in India”

Shorts: “Mary & Bill,” “The Optima Hat Company” and “Style & Grace”

I recommend all of them.


As a Francophile, I always enjoy a nice French film. A lot of the movies featured in Wisconsin’s film festival are documentaries and this was one of the few “cutesy” lighter film options. Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu star in this comedy that takes place in 1977 (filmed in 2010). While Deneuve’s husband’s umbrella company is striking, she has to take over after being a housewife her entire life. This is an entertaining film - something that doesn’t pull your heartstrings. Lots of funny scenes.

"Made in India"

Couples who cannot afford surrogacy in the states are now paying Indian women to house their babies in their womb. It is much cheaper. And you wonder why. Lisa and Brian, a stereo-typical “American” couple from Texas find a company who will pay Aasia, an Indian mother of three to be their surrogate. This feature length documentary makes the audience feel the human emotions for both the barren couple and Aasia and her family. To see the exploitation and politics that go on give you a glimpse of the desperation that people have for both money and to have a child. This was a very interesting film. And just when you think it is over after all of the challenges that they succumb to, you learn something more that makes you feel even differently walking away from the film.

“Mary & Bill"

As if you didn’t already know, I enjoy exercise. In this documentary, Mary Stoebe is a ninety year old Madison resident. And she is a triathlete. Bill Wamach is an eighty-three year old local who is a high jumper, competing in the National Senior Olympic Games. The two are portrayed doing their routinely disciplined work outs. Mary started doing triathlons at seventy-seven, so what is keeping you? They are in excellent physical shape. While they have suffered from some injuries (Mary is an avid down-hill ski instructor who was injured on the slopes and told not to do her last triathlon, while Bill survived a heart attack), the film was funny and inspiring. They were present for a question & answer session after the film. It’s amazing how healthy they appear. They look better than some people I know in their forties.

“The Optimo Hat Company”

A ten minute documentary on luxury hat making on the South Side of Chicago. It felt like watching an infomercial for the owner’s business. Nothing too exciting.

“Style & Grace”

A black barber shop that has existed in Madison for close to sixty years where Smitty has been cutting hair. Nothing happens and the quality of the film is low budget. As I often say, Madison is not the most diverse city and I felt the depiction of African Americans in this film was unfortunate. But Smitty has a nice community in his shop. While he soothes screaming toddlers who are getting their first haircut, two men are playing checkers at a table in the corner, just hanging out. It’s a nice, forty minute short.

Wisconsin Film Festival, you did it again!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hold Onto Your Youth

As a lot of you know, I loved college and miss it dearly. Would I go back and do the four years again? Maybe. A year ago, I would have said, "in a heart beat." But I am really comfortable with my life. And that college drama is so unnecessary.

You know how a lot of people wonder how old they look? I mean, I know that when I am out with my niece and nephew, people just assume that I am their mom. I look old enough to have toddlers. But I want to look like a college student sometimes. So, I was very excited to have a "college night out" last night.

Working and living on a large university campus, you are surrounded by youth. For me, it feels good. The kids continue to look younger as you get older. That's a fact.

So, last night, my girlfriends decided to go out with some university students and experience a night out as a UW student. I must say that I realized when we got home that because the undergrads we were with are of drinking age, we went to college bars that probably wouldn't take fakes, so the crowd in there didn't seem or "feel" particularly young.

First, we went to the Vintage on University. It was full of people - but the average age was probably thirty, so it wasn't bad. After a drink, my friend, MKA and I were ready to dance.

I guess I should tell you that I wore these brand new Hipster glasses (very BIG in Paris!), my American Apparel dress and a scarf. Hair in a pony tail, big earrings, knee high brown boots. Feeling good.

Anyways, we moved on to Wandos - notorious for their fish bowl drinks. For $20, you get a large fishbowl with a bunch of straws and you can share the H1N1 virus with all of your friends. The place was packed. En route, we passed hundreds of drunks, one who chose to canvas in a drunken stupor, piping, "Vote for Joan Kloppenburg on Tuesday!" Look - I am glad these drunks are still doing some good. The line was long and some kids let us right in the front (I told them I was Mrs. Wando....)

Once inside, we shared our bowl of viruses and it was actually really tasty. (We had a blue one). Lots and lots of people commented on my glasses. Mainly, that they liked them. One dude asked me my name and I told him it was "Harriet Potter." (See, the lady who sold me the glasses at H&M called them "Harry Potter glasses" so I felt compelled to tell this guy my name was Harriet Potter).

Another guy at the bar asked me if I went to UW and I told him I was a freshman. (I am actually the most honest person in the world, keep reading. I asked him, "Do you believe me?" He said, "You seem a little too comfortable with yourself to be a freshman." Great point! Well taken.

Next, we went to the Churchkey, where the undergrads PROMISED there is always dancing, but there was really hardly any. One of our chaperons put money in the jukebox and got some good tunes on, but I was working everyone, trying to get them out and not succeeding.

As I sang out, "Wave your hands in the air and wave 'em just like you just don't care," one of the coeds warned me that I was "really dating myself" with that lingo. Oops! (Snoop did it at his concert, so I thought I was ok).

Evidently, it was some sort of "Moms" weekend and a lot of moms were out with their daughters. I hope I don't look like that when I have college kids.

We got home at bar time and I refused to do the pizza portion of the evening, even though our college guides said any college night out involves a trip to Ians. I just wasn't into eating a greasy piece at 2 AM.

So, I did well and I will do it again. I mean, this wasn't any raging frat party by any means, but let's just say in my book, I was at some pretty cheesy college bars. And I feel great today.