summer 2017 in wisconsin

I just finished a five-week visit back home to Wisconsin, and it may have been the best summer I’ve had… ever? I had more fun than a person should be allowed to have. I didn’t want it to end!
Early in the trip Nick and I spent a weekend in Chicago, where we had burgers at the metal-themed Kuma’s Corner with a cousin of mine and his girlfriend. After that, we stopped by Chicago Music Exchange to drool over all the amazing guitars, and later had cocktails at Reno where another cousin of mine works, to say hi to her. The next day, we brought our nephew to the Shedd Aquarium. He loved the sharks best! And of course we had to have Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza while we were there. I also hung out in Chicago later, the day before I flew back to Singapore, visiting the American Writers Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art, which had an amazing Takashi Murakami exhibit, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg.

It’s really, really hard to beat summer in Wisconsin, specifically Madison. I’m honestly not sure there’s anything better. (I realize I’m completely biased!) I don’t think I was bored for even one minute. I went for a hike around Devil’s Lake, something I haven’t done in years, as well as biked around Madison a lot, including the Monona Lake Loop twice. I played my own bass again; I missed it so much!! I spent a bunch of time on State Street and at the UW Memorial Union Terrace, went to the Dane County Farmer’s Markets and Concerts on the Square, and had a great time reconnecting with high school and best childhood friends. Not to mention enjoying all the Wisconsin food I’ve missed terribly—cheese curds, fish fry, dumplings and sauerkraut, ice cream, brats, the beer!! The gloriously cheap local craft beer. Sigh.

My dad retired the last day of June, and I was so happy to be there for him. His coworkers pulled out all the stops, throwing a big party and making special shirts, “baseball cards” with my dad’s “career stats,” a huge poster with all his signature workplace sayings, and a 10-minute farewell video that had my mother and me in tears. They gifted him a very nice new bike and two sunburst chairs you see at the UW Terrace. It’s just heartwarming to see someone you love so appreciated and loved by others.

Another highlight of my trip was framing and delivering three of my drawings to their new owners, my cousin, nephew, and niece. I’ll write another post about my drawings soon, but it was a pleasure to pick out a spot in my nephew’s bedroom for his transformer drawing, and my niece lit up when she saw the horse drawing, even “petting” it and giving it a kiss on the nose. D’aww. 

My best friend Lee and his husband Thomas came to see me in Madison, and they were a sight for sore eyes! We did all sorts of classic Madison stuff, including checking out the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, having a boot at the Essen Haus, and making a little trip down to the New Glarus Brewery, which is something I’ve wanted to do forever!

Two of the best weekends I had back home were in Green Bay and Antigo, for my family reunions. In Green Bay, I went to the Packers Hall of Fame and took the Lambeau Field tour, which I had done before but the HoF was all updated and redone—it’s incredible. I could do a whole post alone on Lambeau Field. Also in Green Bay, I visited the farm one of my cousins manages, and of course went to my mom’s side’s family reunion. I talked to extended family I hadn’t met and/or seen in a long time, and some great stories were shared. I hadn’t been to this side’s reunion in several years (I always had a gig in Kansas City the same weekend) so it was wonderful to finally make it this time.

My dad’s side’s family reunion is held at my grandparents’ farm just north of Antigo, which is a small city in the north-central part of the state. My dad’s immediate family (my dad and mom, his siblings and their spouses, my cousin and her son, and me) went to the farm a couple days early to enjoy some “us together” time and prep for the reunion. We biked around the country roads, went berry picking, had a fish fry, went swimming at Jack Lake, and of course held our reunion. This year’s theme was Disco (for the adults) and Toy Story (for the kids). I wore my new “Disco Demolition Night” shirt and played two songs on guitar for the skit show, ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” and my own original “Back to Antigo,” which I sing every year now. People go all out with costumes, we crown a new “Potato Queen,” and sometimes roast a family member. We always finish up the festivities with a softball game, bonfire, and fireworks.

I really needed to see my family and feel like I’m at home where I belong after all these months abroad. I just felt awake and alive, and I got a vital dose of love and attention that I’d been craving. Singapore is nice and I’m happy for the adventure, but it can be a little lonely for me here sometimes; I’m not used to being apart from family for so long. And besides, there’s no place else on Earth quite like Wisconsin. I already can’t wait to return.

it’s monday! what are you reading?

It’s Monday, what are you reading? What am I NOT reading, is more like it! I’m having attention issues. And just busy—it’s the holidays after all, and for musicians that means lots of gigs. And I’m excited about some new developments, more on that at a later date. Anyway, as for reading, I was having a lot of trouble committing to anything for the last month or so but finally buckled down with my latest borrow from the library, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein. It’s really great so far, I’m about a third through it and can already recommend it.

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Last week for Thanksgiving I went up to Wisconsin with my husband to spend the holiday with my family. My mom’s side celebrated up in Green Bay, and I was lucky to go to the (nasty wet, cold) Packer game on Thanksgiving night! It was an ugly loss to the Chicago Bears but my dad, brother and I had a lot of fun anyway, as always. It was the night that Brett Favre‘s number was officially retired and unveiled in the stadium, so he was there, and Bart Starr was in good enough health to attend, too, so it was a really special, once-in-a-lifetime experience for us. The game was so bad that we teased: Brett Favre’s up in the box, suit him up! Haha 😉

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My husband and I had a great time tooling around Madison for a couple of days, too. First, we got old fashioneds and fried cheese curds at The Old Fashioned on the Capitol Square, hung out on State Street and shopped at Ear Wax Records, stopped by the Wonder Bar to say hi to my uncle and One Barrel Brewing Co. and Karben4 Brewery, a couple of newer joints. The next day, we played putt-putt at Vitense Golfland, shared flights at Capital Brewery in Middleton, and hit up my old stomping grounds on Willy Street, including Weary Traveler and Crystal Corner Bar.

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Now for the final stretch of the semester at work, holiday gigs and parties here in KC, and then back up to Wisconsin for Christmas.

What are you reading this week? Happy December!

top ten tuesday: thankful

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt from Broke and the Bookish is great for this week:

November 26: Top ten things for which I am thankful

Aww! And further, the list doesn’t have to be bookish. I hate to rank these things in an order, but this is just the order in which they came to mind. It does not necessarily reflect importance or a quantity of thankfulness.

1. My husband, Nick
What can I say? He’s a pretty cool guy 🙂

2. Family
My family is the best. I love coming from two big, warm, hilarious, generous, loving families, and married into another wonderful and caring family. I feel fortunate, too that I can genuinely call my family members friends, and that we truly enjoy spending time together. I seriously lucked out!

3. Music
Music has been a huge part of my life as long as I can remember, from opening my mom’s old guitar case and strumming on the strings (a very early memory) to my folks constantly having the stereo going in our house, from piano to guitar to double bass (my true instrumental love), studying composition, performing in orchestras all over Kansas City, and writing about music. I can’t imagine my life without it. Also, re: #1, husband and I met as master’s degree composition students.

4. Food
Food is the best, no? I love going out to restaurants, shopping at farmers markets, trying out new recipes, sharing with loved ones… and reaping the delicious benefits 🙂 I’m also grateful for how food brings our families together, uniting us through time and traditions.

5. Books
Of course! How else can you travel the world, through time (and space!) on the cheap? I’m thankful I have books to learn, to experience, to empathize, to keep my mind active, and to connect with friends old and new, IRL and online!

6. Friends
Speaking of friends, I’m really blessed with amazing friends, from childhood all the way to now. I am so glad I have a great crew of people with whom to hang out and make music.

7. Green Bay Packers
You know I love my Packers! I’m thankful for the entertainment, for the sense of community among the fans, for the good the organization does across Wisconsin, and for how no matter where you are, you can find fellow Packers fans. I love feeling connected to my family through the Packers, too—for example when I go to a game at Lambeau I sit right on the same aluminum bench my grampa sat on at the Ice Bowl in 1967. How ’bout dat, hey?

8. Yoga
I re-introduced myself to yoga this year, and it has been the best ever. I used to practice it years ago, but fell off the wagon for quite a while. This year yoga has helped me in ways big and small, from just being a nice break in my workday to improving my mental focus, emotional well-being, and the obvious physical health benefits. Yeah!

9. Where I come from and where I am currently
Madison, Wisconsin is an incredible place. I love the history and culture there, and the fighting spirit and good-humored nature of the people. I am proud beyond words of being born and raised in Madison. I’ve lived in Kansas City for more than a decade, and I love it here, too. Again the history, culture, and people are so great, and I am proud that I’ve made a life here as an adult. I’m thankful to have experiences in Madison and Kansas City—I believe they point to a good future wherever I may end up.

10. The little things
Because I have had an as-usual super busy but unusually stressful year, I have often tried to remind myself to really savor any small bit of free time I’ve had, no matter how fleeting. Just allowing myself to rest, read, sip a tasty beverage, watch a little mindless TV, go to a museum or take a bike ride… whatever. I’m so glad for any chance I have to squeeze in a much-needed recharge.

What are you thankful for in your life this year?