Wednesday, April 24, 2019

On Wisconsin

 Larry, Amy, and I just spent five days in Wisconsin.  The idea behind the trip was to solidify Amy’s decision to be a Badger next year.  That sort of backfired, though, since Amy did not enjoy the University of Wisconsin Admitted Students Day in Madison, whereas Larry and I had an excellent time wandering around campus and drinking beer.

Luckily the weather was great.  We spent Friday afternoon exploring coffee shops on State Street, where Amy had an excellent cup of chai. On Saturday morning we attended the weekly Farmer’s Market around the beautiful Capitol Building, ate some excellent cheese bread, and saw a lot of adorable dogs and babies.  So now UW passes muster.
We then headed out to rural Wisconsin to stay on a farm.  We had never done a farm stay before, but I am now a convert.

Amy chose the Circle M Farm because the reviews all mentioned the excellent breakfasts, and she knows how much I love breakfast.  She’s such a good girl.  The breakfasts were indeed amazing.  We had bacon from pigs raised on the farm, chicken and goose eggs collected in the morning, fresh herbs, honey from the next farm over, etc. etc.

The farmers (husband and wife, I made the mistake of referring to the wife as a “farm wife” within her hearing exactly one time) are lovely people and they work SO HARD.  I thought I had a pretty easy life before I stayed on a farm, and that has been confirmed.

While they worked, we spent our days cruising around the Driftless Area in our car visiting very small historic towns and drinking more beer.  We saw lots of farms and cows.  And ate lots of cheese.

I borrowed a book from the farm entitled “This Is Wisconsin” by Robert Gard, published in 1969.  It is a collection of oral histories collected by a UW professor as he travelled around the state.  The lives of pioneer Wisconsin farming, fishing, logging, and mining folk were difficult and pretty crazy.

The can-do attitude, self-reliance, and hospitality of early Wisconsinites is still evident in Wisconsin today.  It is a fascinating place, and Amy has to go to school there, because I want to visit more places and eat more cheese. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Fairy "Chimneys" of Cappadocia

Audiobooks have improved my life immensely.  I do not mind doing my housewifely chores if I can do them while listening to an audiobook.  I cannot honestly say that I now look forward to matching clean socks, chopping onions, walking the dog, or weeding the patio, but the audiobooks definitely help.

I am an Audible subscriber, so I get a lot of helpful suggestions about what I might like to listen to next.  Frequently I use my credits to get some trending favorite that I probably otherwise wouldn’t listen to, sort of like a large, anonymous book club for my ears.

Yesterday I was doing laundry and listening to “Wishes and Wellingtons” by Julie Berry (narrated by Jayne Entwistle).  This book is marketed as a “middle school fantasy”, but it is trending among middle-aged housewives, so I downloaded it.

As the genie is ferrying the spunky orphan boy, the feisty girl who refuses to be defined by her gender, and the sweet sidekick boarding school roommate from London to Persia, the group passes over “the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia”.

Okay, this is why I love reading all sorts of books – there’s always something new to learn.  I’ve never heard of the fairy chimneys.  Thanks to the internet, in minutes I was viewing photos of them.

They are fantastical rock formations located in Turkey.  Of course, my first thought on viewing them was “fairy chimneys?  They look more like fairy phalluses”, but I can see why the term fairy chimneys was chosen instead.

May I suggest that you look up the fairy chimneys and spend a pointless hour or so reading about them, as I did?  It is truly a strange and wonderful world that we are lucky enough to live in.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Balm for Troubled Times

I’m not sure at what age I was first introduced to British mystery novels.  It feels like they’ve always been a part of my life.  I have read my way through series after series of them, and the protagonist detectives, amateur or professional, seem like old friends.

Whenever the unclean state of our oceans and air, or the hateful rise of white supremacy, or some new health scare (Benadryl = Alzheimers?? Alcohol is Bad for You???) begins to weigh on my psyche, I reach for a British mystery.

Wikipedia dubs the 1920’s and 30’s the Golden Era of Detective Fiction.  Many of the murder mystery novels that were written during this era are set in England, particularly in English Country Houses and the Clubs and Town Houses of London. 

Since I have read all of the novels by the queens of this era (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey) I have a store of useless anachronistic knowledge about upper class life in Britain.

Boots? The generic name for the servant who cleaned footwear. 
Folly? The pointless structure in the back garden where you will find a vital clue, such as a cigarette butt.
Kippers?  Breakfast fish served in the morning room. 
The Interval?  Intermission at an opera, when the detective will spot a suspect doing something odd. 
Baize?  The felt-like material that covered the door to the servant’s wing of the house, always green.
Distributor?  A vital part of a 1920’s automobile that was forever getting wet or something and causing the detective to miss getting to the house before the second murder.

You get the idea.  It is a comforting world, and usually the person who gets bumped off is some wicked uncle no one liked anyway.

This blog post was inspired because I was just lounging on the sofa, drinking a can of La Croix Peach Pear, and avoiding thinking about what to make for dinner by re-reading “The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club” by Dorothy Sayers, when I saw this line:

“It was Salcombe Hardy, of the Daily Yell, large and untidy and slightly drunk as usual.”