Fall. So many traditions to look forward to: back-to-school shopping, weekly college football picks, my sister's High Holiday kugel (savory, never sweet) and my family's annual apple picking adventure to Eplegaarden in Fitchburg.
If you haven't yet been there, it is a pick-your-own orchard just south of Madison with a distinctly Old World feel. Signs are in faux Norwegian, giving instructions in things such as "selv plukking." The farm is also home to Harold Potterson's Haunted House , a uniquely unscary, grass roots attraction featuring "da little cuzzin of da famess vizard from Yolly ole England."
I challenge anyone to find a more smile-inducing slice of Americana (Norwegicana?) than this place, an ode to the time before Trader Joe's supplied our fruit. And if you have little ones, it is a manageable size. Overall, I don't think we cover more terrain on an excursion through through the orchard than I do on an average trip to Woodman's.
On a recent Sunday, my extended family made our annual pilgrimage to the shrine of the unwaxed apple. Plukking is even more fun in a big group, and having my pre-school aged nephews along provides added delight. There is no more picturesque and wholesome image than watching a two-year-old, entranced as Eve, pulling a live apple off a tree.
Wholesome does not always equate with quiet in my family, though. I repeatedly break the pastoral peace, needing to remind everyone in my posse, kids and adults alike, that the yellow crime scene tape around certain rows of fruit is there for a reason. And there are always the inevitable battles over what varieties to bring home. Do you waste some of your precious bag "real estate "on galas, a grocery store strain, no matter how fresh they may be? Or should the goal be to hunt down exotic (and perhaps endangered) species like Zestar and Northern Spy -- names I've never even heard of.
And please don't get me started on the Bubba Gump issue I encounter when we get home (remember shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo…?). What in heaven's name am I going to do with 20 pounds of apples? I doubt apple etouffee is very good.
But we don't let any of these hiccups get in the way of our tradition. In some ways it is these little tensions that make us family, give us our roots. Strains of Fiddler on the Roof are now running through my head (must be the kugel). I guess it doesn't matter if you are Tevye or Ole and Lena -- the song remains the same. A little grounding is what helps us keep our balance in an increasingly complicated world.
L'Chaim/Skal, y'all. I'm off to find something to make for dinner -- with apples.comments powered by Disqus
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.