A Favorite Ritual

I want a bumper sticker that says, "I'd Rather Be Camping."  I would rather be camping.  Not just right now, but yesterday, last week, next week, in October, next May.  Everything is brighter sitting around a campfire alone or with friends.  

Every May I spend my birthday weekend camping with my friends and family, and it's most definitely my most favorite weekend of the year.  In May we went to Devil's Lake.  I looked forward to hiking around the lake and enjoying time with my closest friends.  

These are my parents :)

Devil's Lake State Park is in Baraboo, and is the third oldest state park in Wisconsin.  Hikable bluffs reaching 500 feet high surround a 360-acre lake.  When I was a child, this lake gave me a horrible case of swimmer's itch (which has been eradicated); now the lake is the most refreshing thing after a morning of hiking.  

And as birthdays should be all about doing your favorite things, I spent part of my big day at Shooters Supply, gun in hand.  Favorite day.

For Ben, we usually go skate at the Pettit, and out for hibachi before we celebrate the New Year.  What are your favorite birthday activities?  Do you do different things each year, or do you have a celebration ritual?

What I'm Reading: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

My friend Kevin says it's always playing when he comes over.  Ben says watching it with me is like being in a room with an echo.  Well, okay, you got me: The Princess Bride is my favorite movie.  

I'm not entirely sure when I first saw it or when I first knew we would be lifers, but The Princess Bride is always there for me, my default, my gal pal.  It leads a Top-5 which includes When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, Mary Poppins (obviously), and this amazing 1940 version of Pride and Prejudice that keeps me giggling throughout.  There are no surprises here. 

What DID surprise me, however, was receiving this beautiful, Folio Edition of The Princess Bride for my birthday.  (There's definitely something to be said for important people and important relationships; it's not only amazing birthday gifts, but important people are probably the only ones who can pick out the perfect gifts.)  

I'd never read the actual book, and let me tell you...  It's weird.  Unique?  Not what I expected.

Let me explain, "the good parts" are terrific;  I understand parts of the movie in a whole new way and everything makes so much more sense.  I love it.  ...Let's just say that when I read it to my sick ten-year-old one day, I'll keep it to "the good parts" because the rest is puzzling and/or hilarious depending on your sense of humor.  

Are you going to ask about whether the book is better than the movie?  Are you going to insist that it can only be better than the movie (because you're elitist like that)?  Okay- "have it your way."   I'll tell you what I think, though you might not like it.

I don't care.  Yes, the book is great; I'm learning a lot and I've caught myself wishing more of the background information could have made it way into the movie.  But I also love the movie and I'm pretty sure it was impeccably done, and I just can't honestly tell you the book is better than the movie.  If it were a boxing match, the book would be in a different weight class, but the movie would be more agile ("hey, you're quick!").  

I love it.  And by "it" I just mean The Princess Bride book&movie.  I love them identically.  Read it.  Watch it.  In whichever order you choose.  

And no, I will absolutely not be loaning out this copy.  Ever.  

PS, I learned a reasonable amount about Andre the Giant and how he got and prepared for the role of Fezzik.  That was worthwhile on it's own.  

This post is part of a weekly series on "What I'm Reading."  I'll be talking about whatever book I happen to be reading, and you can look for this series every Friday. 

Say It With Me:

The Exclusive Company.  

I wanted to get the famous record, Lazaretto, by Jack White, so on Thursday morning I drove down to The Exclusive Company near Brady Street (which is REPAVED--did you see that?!) to pick it up.

When I was a kid I loved going to this shop in Steven's Point to get my favorite CDs.  I wish I could remember what it was called, but it was completely different than the shiny totally decorated place at the mall: it was a small, white store front with posters, glass accessories, and handmade shelving upon which all the jewel cases were stacked.  I'd pick out whatever new Mustard Plug, Millencolin, Flashlight Brown, or Alkaline Trio CD I'd been deciding between the trip before.  Get to the car, rip open the plastic, and make my way home.  I loved that place.  

When I moved to Milwaukee, I felt more comfortable at Atomic than The Exclusive Company, but the time changes, the record stores close, and here I am, Thursday morning, at The Exclusive Company.  I know I can ask for help, but I'm just too proud; and anyway, once I find what I'm looking for all help would have meant was conversation.  I just want to look on my own.  (FYI, it's not under W for White, Jack... It's under W for White Stripes.)  I love to browse the shelves and see all the current bands that are releasing their albums on vinyl.  Leaving with just one new record seems improbable as I peruse, and when I pick up Local Natives' Hummingbird my load seems just right.

PS:  Amazon's Product Alert says, "This vinyl contains some unique features which cause it to play differently than other vinyl records."  Excellent.  This is the best article I found about all the unique details Jack White built into his record, the link contains a video of White describing all the features.

What I'm Reading: Wildwood, by Colin Meloy

My weekday off this week was Tuesday, and so I went out for breakfast with a friend of mine who had never been to Beans and Barley on Milwaukee's East Side.  (You've been there, right?  Please say yes!)  She's a teacher, so I wanted to catch her for a social hour before her hectic school year begins!  We live about two blocks from each other, and she's wedding planning, so there's always a lot to talk about.  

I worked at Beans for a little while when I was in college, and it was one of my favorite jobs, so I go there quite frequently.  (For lunch or dinner, I suggest any of the burritos WITH a margarita; for breakfast, the pesto scrambled eggs.)  

Anyway, after breakfast I mentioned that I needed to go to Boswell Book Company to preorder these Puffin in Bloom books... and here I was to discover that my sweet, sassy friend, had NEVER been to BOSWELL!  A misfortune to be corrected, we made the quick drive to this special Milwaukee bookstore.  

(You will hear more about these beautiful, Rifle Paper Co editions after August 28th, when they finally debut...and I pick up my copies!)

As my friend is a school teacher, we headed to the children's book area of the store.  I love reading children's books since the writing is so deliberate and illustrations so vibrant or just plain beautiful.   We laughed over a book by Peter Brown entitled, My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am Not.) which I highly suggest reading.  

While browsing, I came across a series of books called the Wildwood Chronicles which are written by Colin Meloy, the lead singer of The Decemberists.  I couldn't believe it, can hardly believe it still. 

I opened to the first page of the first book and began reading.  Two chapters in, I decided to buy it.  

You guys, it's so good.  

Yes, this is a children's book.  However, it is a New York Times Best Seller, and a quote from a review from The Atlantic is on the back cover.  I could get into a discussion about commercial fiction and "is readability a good thing;" or, "just because it's difficult to read doesn't make it 'Literature;'" and that whole, "adults reading Harry Potter thing;" but I won't.  What is important here, is that you read this exciting book and find out if the baby abducted by a murder of crows will EVER be discovered in the Impassable Wilderness.  

I cannot wait to find out!

...PS, Carson Ellis does the art in this book, and it's lovely.

This post is part of a weekly series on "What I'm Reading."  I'll be talking about whatever book I happen to be reading, and you can look for this series every Friday. 

Zipping Away!

Look what I got!!

II'm just kidding... I didn't buy this awesome car. No, I rented it from Zip Car last Thursday!

Zip Car is a car sharing service I decided to subscribe to when I sold my car this spring.  Cars are available hourly or daily, and there are lots of locations through Milwaukee you can find your car.  

Why is Zip Car important, you ask?

To that I respond with a question: How else is a car-less person to easily travel from the East Side to the Target by the stadium? 

The Target by the stadium where there are, for some reason, barns nearby?

There are three driving plans you can subscribe to, and I subscribed to the Occasional Driving plan since I don't need to use a car very often.  It's the plan with the most up front, but no monthly fees, which I like to avoid.  With a monthly fee, you get reduced rates on any car sharing you do.  

I signed up easily and waited about five days for my Zip Card, which is what allows you to unlock the vehicle you've rented.  Keys are kept inside the vehicle, since the car can only be unlocked with your card.

Included with each car is gas, insurance, and 180 miles per day.

Every direction is spelled out step by step, and there aren't so many steps that anything is complicated.  Here in the driver's visor is the gas card; you can fill up using this card at any gas station, which is one of my favorite features of this program.  You don't have to return the car full, but under about a half a tank you would probably take a few minutes and fill up. 

While wandering Target (brand new pens in hand!) I got an E-mail from Zip Car.  It's a cleverly written reminder of what to do to get your Zip Car, which the E-mail refers to by name, Melvyn, and describes your first time with a Zip Car like a first date.  I laugh-out-loud love the marketing around Zip Car, and mostly because it was true: my Zip Trip was like a first date.  I cackled my way out of the parking lot, hit the gas, had a blast driving this Mini... even if it was an automatic ;)  

What's there to do up in the Ol' Wisconsin Rapids?


You take Two Mile past Woodside Elementary School, past the corner I liked to safety patrol at, over the bridge by the island, past my piano teacher's house.  When you get to the airport and can't go straight anymore, turn right.  Keep driving, and you'll see Newman's Golf Course on your right.  You won't be greeted by the high school girl behind the counter, but she'll hand you your club and a scorecard for your group.  She'll take $3 for each of you, but she won't happily invite you to pick whatever color you want for your ball, and she won't remind you to take a tiny yellow pencil. She'll ignore your joke about blue balls.  She knows what that means.

This course hasn't changed much in my memory; they've replaced the putting greens at each hole, but each hole's hazard seems exactly as antiquated as it was twenty years ago.

My family and I went after the baby shower about a month ago.  We each wrapped up the game with at least one penalty, no one was injured, and V's water didn't break, so it was a wild success.  They had gluten free cones at the soft serve station, and as many options for your dessert as a Dairy Queen.  

Of all the great summer things to do in my hometown (and there are a surprising many!), a trip to Newman's is a requirement.

I don't know of any mini golf places near the east side.  Do you?  

What I'm Reading: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

Is it Friday already?

I guess I've had a pretty busy week filled with work, wine, and... More work?  Fortunately, I was able to one worthwhile thing (just kidding, the wine was also totally worthwhile!).

I read The Giver by Lois Lowry on Thursday. Have you read this book?

I thought this was a book that everyone had read, but I've been polling people I've come across, and for the most part, they hadn't.  

The Giver was published in 1992, and I was just a kid then, so maybe it makes sense that I feel like most of my peers had read this: it was still relatively new when we would have been "old enough" to read it.  In my case though, by the time I was "old enough" for this Newberry award winning book, I was very busy reading much more advanced things.  And I'm not saying that to sound smart, because it's really unfortunate: it's why I'm reading children's books and young adult books when I'm in my LATE-TWENTIES.  

I want to say that reading these books is a timeless thing and, "sure, you can always enjoy a book if it's good!"  But is it?

My thought is..


...though perhaps not in the same way.

I read this book and I pay attention to how the plot unfolds, and the knowledge in the back of my head that something is going on that I don't quite know yet.  Once I find that thing out, there's still more to learn.  There's clues of conspiracy (like about the lying rule), and suspense building to the last few chapters where everything goes against the grain.  

The end?  Obviously I won't share the details (because you really should read The Giver on your own!), but it completely surprised me.  And I'm not sure I like it yet.

Did you?

This post is part of a weekly series on "What I'm Reading."  I'll be talking about whatever book I happen to be reading, and you can look for this series every Friday. 

Quick Trip to the Dells

Remember when I mentioned that I went to the Dells last Thursday?  

Mostly we spent our time at Noah's Ark, where I took zero pictures.  However, LET IT BE KNOWN....  I went down the ride where the floor drops out from under you.  Twice.

Your  body post-Noah's Ark is 100% ravenous, and, if you're part of my household, that usually means a pizza carb overload.....  Unless you're gluten free, and then you binge on mexican.  So we found a real mexican restaurant:  Colotlan, a tiny place you would probably pass on by if you weren't looking for it. 

We drank neon colored margaritas and lots of pinto beans.

Our drinks were actually quite strong, and the amount of food we each consumed was no match for the alcohol content, so we were forced to wander the main drag before driving home.

As a kid, I loved driving through the Dells and seeing all the tee-shirt stores, hotels with slides (like a big lion whose mouth you crawl out of and then slide down it's tongue?), fudge shops, "Olde Tyme" photo shops, and much more.  The spectacle of it all is almost unbelievable, and people have flocked there for decades for fun, romance, and escape.  

Buildings with very specific exteriors have been repurposed to something completely different.  For example, the building that housed this black light mini golf course (what?) pictured below was once Stroud Bank, originally built in 1870 and named in 1999 to be a Wisconsin Historical Marker.

Of course, other places don't change at all.  These are some of my favorite vintage signs we saw while on our mission to walk off the booze...

I have no words for this store display.

And speaking of vintage, where's the last pay phone you saw?  I would have used this if only I knew any phone numbers.  ...Just kidding, I still know my parent's phone number. ;)

The Wisconsin River stretches right through the downtown splitting the strip in two.  There's a paved path running along the water where the sound is polluted by the bustle of the city a couple blocks away, and by the tour guide's metallic loudspeaker voices from the boat tours below.  It's a calm walk where I could still feel nature in the middle of Wisconsin's tourism center. Of all the things to do next time you visit the Dells, make time for this.