Category Archives: Friends

Conventioneers

It’s no secret that Trevor and I are big fans of The Walking Dead, and of zombies in general. Well, not fans of zombies, but, of, like, getting prepared for the zombie apocalypse by watching as many zombie-preparedness specials (or “fictional” t.v. shows, as you might call them) as possible.

And since we moved to Camp Crystal Lake three years ago, we enjoy Sunday nights during The Walking Dead‘s regular season with viewing parties. Now, to be clear, “parties” is a relative term and in our context means that my friend Lisa comes over and we all hang out watching our favorite zombie-fighting crew on t.v. as we eat cookies and drink tea. ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE TEA! (no, it’s just regular tea.)

So last spring when Lisa heard that the Walker Stalker Convention would be in Chicago at the end of May, she and I knew that we had to go. And we went. And it was fantastic.

Lisa Laura and Zombie on a Bench

Lisa’s brother Jason joined us (Trevor decided to sit it out [he might have been a little scared that there would be real zombies there (that’s just my speculation but is probably 100% true)]) and we three headed to the convention without knowing what, exactly, to expect.

We figured we’d see some good Walking Dead cosplay, and we were not disappointed.

Comic Cosplay

We don’t know who those two scared young women are, but we took their picture anyway, because this group was the best group of costumed fans ever!

Karl Cosplay

This is one of the best teenage Carls we saw…

But we also saw a lot of amazing Mini-Karls, and this one was with the best Carol we saw all day.

But we also saw a lot of amazing Mini-Carls, and this one was with the best Carol we saw all day.

Once we realized just how fun the whole place was, Lisa, Jason, and I got a little bit in on the action by taking pictures with some stars:

J. and Cardboard Carl

J. and Cardboard Carl

Lisa Laura and Rick Grimes

Hey, Rick. Hi. What’s up?

But those two weren’t as lively as we wanted. So we got a little closer to the action and approached some of the photo-op and autograph tables, where people waited in line to get a snapshot and a 30-second chat with their favorite stars. We almost bit the bullet to meet Sonequa Martin-Green, but I was too intimidated by her face. Because her face is the most perfect face ever. I thought it’d be like looking into the sun, and I wasn’t prepared for that.

Prettiest Woman Alive

For real, guys. She’s, like, the prettiest.

But then, Lisa and I saw a table…and we knew who we needed to meet, whose hand we needed to shake, and whose handle-bar moustache we needed to be within breathing distance of:

Bisquit

“When you were pouring the Bisquick, were you tryin’ to make a pancake?”

Cudlitz!

Cudlitz!

And meeting Michael Cudlitz was absolutely worth waiting in line. I’ve love-hated him since he recited his awkward poem to John Cusack in a high school hallway in Grosse Pointe Blank:

Look at those chubby cheeks!

And just plain loved him since his role as Officer John Cooper in the gone-too-soon Southland, easily one of the best police dramas ever to air on television. Ever.

Oh, you canceled my show? I guess I’ll just go kill some zombies. Peace. OUT.

Meeting Cudlitz was a hot minute of super-duper fun in the form of a rushed handshake, some babbling from Lisa and me about what big fans we are, and a few selfies. And after our Abraham-encounter, we did some more wandering, bought some souvenirs, and wound down the afternoon with a newfound love of conventions in our hearts. And some special time in the VIP Lounge.

VIP Lounge

This is a very, VERY important lounge.

Lisa and I immediately Googled to see when there would be other conventions coming to the area, and we saw that August was bringing Wizard World to Chicago. Of course we made plans to go. Lisa roped her daughters to join us for a proper girls’ day out, and yesterday, in a perfect summer book-end, we hung out at one of the friendliest social events I’ve ever attended.

I mean that honestly; conventions are so friendly. People come together to celebrate in their shared love of all things nerd-culture: comic books, action figures, superheroes, video games, cartoons, zombies, creatures of all shapes and sizes…And everyone wants to celebrate together. People who dress up love to pose for pictures; their faces light up when you tell them how great their costumes are; no one pushes or gets testy about crowds; and everyone is just there to have fun. I love it!

And Harper and Violet loved it, too. They dressed up as Rey (Violet) and Princess Leia Organa (Harper), and got tons of compliments, and some photos with other cosplay folks.

The gals are ready for the convention.

The gals are ready to wow their fellow conventioneers.

Harper with Creatures

I’m too old and uncool to know who these creatures are, but Harper was very excited.

Harper and Sonic

Sonic!

Harper Violet and Cindarella

And they met Cindarella! KWHAT??!

Lisa and I get in on the picture taking: Violet spies someone suspicious.

Lisa and I get in on the picture taking: Violet spies someone suspicious.

And of course we did some shopping and I got some things for other people and some things for myself, my favorite being a set of bad-guy portraits from South Carolina-based Jellykoe Studio.

They're almost too cute to be bad.

They’re almost too cute to be bad. Almost…

Clearly, Kelly and J. Spencer of Jellykoe are the greatest duo to ever create adorable things. I had to seriously control myself from getting one of everything.

But, as with all good conventions, Wizard World eventually wore us out. We’d taken some breaks, but our feet were tired and not even chocolate-vanilla twist ice-cream cones could bring us up to full energy levels.

Violet's had it.

Violet’s had it.

So we hauled ourselves to the car and hit the road home, tired, and very happy.

Minivan Selfie

I’m so tired I’m fading into the ether. Goodbye, convention. Goodbye, world.

Now that Lisa and I are two-time conventioneers, we’re hooked. We’re already talking about the big fish of the Chicago comic scene, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, coming in April. But while at Wizard World, we also entered a raffle to win tickets to Comic-Con International, the biggest of the big. We’ll probably win. I’m sure our odds are good. Right? Right.

We’ll see you next summer, San Diego.

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Pontooning Powers

At the start of the summer, we got a boat — a big deal for us — and we’ve tried to put it to as much use as possible these past few months. We’ve been doing a pretty darn good job, although we’ve done a bit of traveling and have had a little weird weather. Even Roo is getting in on the action, equipped with an pretty cool life jacket we got her (Trevor refused to get a pink one with little anchors all over it, citing “safety” and other blah blah blahs, so she’s got a super boring yellow one with a “high safety rating.” blah.)

And I don’t really have a lot to say about our pontooning adventures; they’re pretty low-key (although last weekend while hanging out with my friend Lisa and her family we went over a big wave and the front end dipped into the lake and we thought we were going to sink and possibly perish, but, of course, we did not). But here are some stories of the floatings we’ve had so far.

The Power family came out for the weekend in July, and we even got Rachel to come up from Florida. Florida! Along with the human Power family, we welcomed a new canine member of the family to the boat: Cheekah, a little gray Chihuahua who, unfortunately, didn’t get to meet Roo, but they probably would have been best friends and moved to New York together to get jobs as fashion magazine interns. Or as circus performers. Or pasta makers.

Fran and Cheekah

Fran and Cheekah, queens of the pontoon

During the Power Family Weekend, we also discovered that I’m no good at taking selfies. Now, this is something I’ve known, personally, for a long time. I really don’t take selfies unless I’m making a silly face to text to Trevor, and I pretty much look silly in 99% of the selfies I take. And sometimes, I’m not even present in the picture at all:

1/3 of my face made it into this one! Success!

1/3 of my face made it into this one! And everyone else looks fantastic! Success!

But being on our boat makes me take selfies. I don’t know what it is: the fresh lake air, the wind whipping through my hair, the afternoon boat beer…It’s a mystery. But I think I’m getting better at them.

Pretty good, right?

Pretty good, right?

I'm 100% happy with this one -- my entire head is in it, along with some of my neck!

I’m 100% happy with this one — my entire face is in it, along with some of my neck!

We had a great weekend all around, and it was so good to see Rachel. She left us on Monday to drive up to Door County to visit Grandma Madel, but we got to see her for dinner on her way back down and before she left for home. Hopefully Trevor and I will visit her in November for Thanksgiving like we did last year. Maybe this year we can convince her to help us steal a shuttle and take a quick trip to the moon. Or whatever; we can also just eat some space ice-cream. Or regular ice cream, I’m not picky.

Last weekend my friend Lisa, her husband James, and two of their three kids came over for some ‘toon time (yeah, I just used the phrase “‘toon time,” judge me if you will). We had a great time swimming around and eating snacks for a few hours.

Lisa Eli and Violet

Lisa and her two fish-monkeys

And Trevor might have asked for some help driving the boat.

Eli and TrevorViolet and Trevor

And he also made some a new friend (a friend who was wearing a matching outfit, so…destiny.):

Walking on Oak Street

Trevor and Eli: co-captains and new best friends

On Sunday, it was just Trevor, Roo, and me, and we tried out our new tube. Trevor got it primarily so Roo could take breaks while swimming, since Roo’s “swimming” technique involves a lot of water eating. Lifting her up into the tube is easier than lifting her up into the boat, and if she’s in the tube while we’re swimming, she’s a bit calmer than if she was watching us from the boat. A bit.

How cute are these two? CUTE!

She looks calm, right? Well. Trevor does, at least.

And those are our pontooning tales! Are they everything you’d hoped they would be? Even better?! Good.

Trevor will be doing a lot of traveling in late August and September for work; he’s going to Florida and then to China (China!? I know, right?!), and while he’s gone I’m hosting my amazing book club babes for a nautical book club adventure and some of my high school girlfriends for a Labor Day ladies’ pontooning party. So our adventures are not yet over, although, they will likely be just as “exciting” as these were. I’ll keep you up-to-date.

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Hasta La Vista, Sobre Vista

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of my life as well as (much more interestingly) the lives of five of my high school girlfriends. To celebrate this coming-of-middle-age, we decided to plan a trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley, California, so we could ring in the year the right way: with wine.

A handmade gift from Julie's husband, Jeremy

A handmade gift from Julie’s husband, Jeremy, that is filled with sparkling rosé, because what else would make sense? Juice? Water??! That’s crazy talk.

One of these amazing women couldn’t make the trip because, honestly, she’s too amazing. Truth. This friend, Mary, and her husband are opening a Goddard School in Skokie, and it just so happened that the week we’d scheduled our trip was the busiest week they would have until they open their doors this August. So, please be aware that we dedicated our trip to her, and this post is dedicated to her as well. And for her actual birthday in a couple of weeks, we’ll probably kidnap her and force-feed her wine (this will not be necessary; she will drink it willingly) until we forget that we’re forty(ish).

With the tremendous planning skills of the group (minus me, because I didn’t really do anything except pack a bag and show up), we had a terrific four-day trip together. Here’s how it all went down.

Tuesday Night

I spent the night with Lisa and her husband, Matt, because our flight left early Wednesday morning and they’re just a fifteen minute taxi to the airport (at 5 a.m…). This meant that I got to witness Lisa’s spectacularly organized packing method, hang out with their dog, Cholula, and sleep in their guest Murphy Bed.

This is good organization.

This is good organization.

Cholula Sleeps

This is a cute dog.

This is comfortable.

This is a comfortable place to sleep, and it folds up into the wall. Bonus.

Basically, I could have gone back home the next day and still been happy.

But, no! We had…

Wednesday

Lisa and I met up with Julie at O’Hare for our flight, and then once we landed in San Francisco, we met up with Megan, who had flown in from Philadelphia.

Megs and Lisa at the Airport

Megs and Lisa at the Airport

The four of us met Amy at the rental car place, and then we hit the road to Sonoma, where we were staying on Sobre Vista Road, overlooking the Enchanted Hills. Seriously.

Golden GateSobre Vista FrontWe stopped for provisions along the way so the kitchen would be stocked when we needed it (first on our grocery list was cheese, then more cheese, then some fruit, some bread, and then, finally, some cheese). But we had a few hours to spare until our dinner reservation, so we decided to hit up a winery, and we chose Buena Vista Winery. We chose well.

Our tasting room bartender was Dapper Don (maybe “Dapper” isn’t his given name, but, whatever) and he treated us to a one-of-a-kind experience. We walked in just an hour before closing, so when we were finished with our tasting and the winery was closing up for the day, Don took us on an unofficial tour of the Bubble Lounge (bubbles only are allowed!) and the barrel cave, where Megan may or may not have schooled him on the piano.

Buena Vista Tasting Room and Bubble Lounge -- We made some weird friends.

Buena Vista Tasting Room and Bubble Lounge — We made some weird friends.

Me and a Leopard

Hi, leopard friend.

Dapper Don Plays Piano

Don started playing…

Megs Plays Piano

…and when he was finished, Megan showed him how it was really done.

Buena Vista PatioBy this time, we were pretty hungry for dinner, so we headed to downtown Sonoma. But we were still too early for our reservation at The Girl and the Fig, so we had one more glass of wine at the Roche Winery tasting room, where we didn’t take any pictures, but it’s possible we broke a glass. It was fun.

Now, let’s talk about dinner. No, we’re not going to talk about the gorgeous mussels we ate, or the beautiful cheese plate (do you understand by now that we like cheese?), or the carrot entree I ordered and ate and am fantasizing about eating again right now because it was so good. No, let’s talk about the waiter, one Russell Sage — if that is his real name.

If you’re thinking that this distinguished gentleman was our waiter at The Girl and the Fig, you would be, unfortunately, wrong:

Our Russell Sage was a man who liked to wear cologne, who seemed to really like forty-year-old women, and who liked to lean in. He leaned in a lot.

Russell leaning in

Russell liked to lean. Julie does not look comfortable with this.

He was also a man who felt inclined to invite himself to our house to swim in our pool, and then leave his phone number on our check, in case we were motivated to call him. Oh, Russell. You’re not going to swim in our pool.

Now, if you think that Russell provided the only strange waiter experience we had at The Girl and the Fig, you would be stone cold wrong. There was also Geoffrey, whose name I know how to spell because he said he was “like Chaucer,” as he filled up our water glasses. And Geoffrey felt inclined to follow us out after our meal and sing “Happy Birthday” to us on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. We. Did. Not. Know. What. To. Do.

#awkward

GEOFFREY, WHAT IS HAPPENING? Julie, again, does not look comfortable.

So we just let him sing, and then after he went back into the restaurant and we waited for our car to pick us up, we tried to ignore Russell Sage waving at us through the window.

Thursday

Thursday was our big Napa Valley winery day. Lisa had taken care of making us reservations at four different spots, and Amy had taken care of getting Mike the driver to take us around so none of us had to be responsible for operating a motor vehicle.

We started the morning with sparkling wine at Mumm Napa. The view was perfect, our waiter was a normal human person who didn’t sing to us or lean in at us, and, honestly, who wouldn’t want to start the day with bubbles? Probably some people, but not us. No, not us.

Mumms CoastersAfter Mumm, we headed to our unanimous favorite, Frog’s Leap Winery, where we did a little tasting…

Frog's Leap Tasting Table…we met a dog named Abbie…

Abbie at Frog's Leap

Abbie parked herself underneath my leg and I could not have been happier to give her a ten-minute belly rub.

…we did some thinking…

Megs at Frog's Leap

…and a little light reading:

Napa Valley Then and Now

We didn’t want to leave Frog’s Leap, but, alas, we had to. Cakebread Cellars was waiting for us.

Cakebread Tasting Menu

Our time at Cakebread was pleasant, but a bit rushed. They didn’t let us sit down for our tasting, and our guide hustled us through the wines like it was her job (I guess because it was her job). But we met two lovely young couples — one from St. Louis and another from Dallas — and we drank some good wine.

Our last stop on our wine-whirlwind was Chimney Rock, and this one was special.

Chimney Rock

At Chimney Rock, we got a guide named Donna, and Donna was the queen. She. Was. The. Queen.

Donna took us out to the vineyards to look at the crops, talk about the history of the winery and the property, and to take some pictures — with and without her finger near the lens:

Donna's Pictures

Donna was an excellent guide and gave us a lot of great information about the head wine-ista (this might not be her actual title), Elizabeth, and she showed us the ins and outs of the facilities.

Amy gets the low-down from Donna

Amy got the low-down from Donna

Julie tried to figure out why her glass was empty

Julie tried to figure out why her glass was empty

Lisa contemplates stealing a barrel of wine

Lisa contemplated stealing a barrel of wine

We challenge the Chimney Rock employees to a game of five-on-five, and we beat them soundly (obviously there are no pictures of this because we were playing)

We challenged the Chimney Rock employees to a game of five-on-five, and we beat them soundly (obviously there are no pictures of this because it’s hard to take pictures and hit three-pointers at the same time, and I was clearly just focused on hitting three-pointers)

And then Donna gave us some wine.

Chimney Rock MenuChimney Rock Tasting Room

We took a group picture at three of our four stops — I think we didn’t get one at Frog’s Leap because we were having such a good time there.

Napa Valley Group Pictures Thursday

At the end of the day, we went home to hang around the house, chat, and drink all of the wine we’d bought that day.

Friday

Friday was our day of relaxation around the house, so we didn’t have too many adventures. Early in the day, we discovered that the owners of the house were likely watching us from their Sliver-like monitor room in some undisclosed location.

We found this camera...

We found this camera…

…and imagined this. (Image credit)

But after a bit of discomfort, we relaxed and did some swimming, some floating, some reading, and some napping. Whoever had to watch that boring video, I say, ha, sucker!

Megan reads, and then naps

Megan reads, and then naps

Lisa swims

Lisa swims

And I float

And I float

Saturday

By Saturday, we were ready to leave the house again, so we hit up a couple of wineries: Imagery Estate Winery, where we enjoyed some wine on the patio, and B.R. Cohn, where we ate some pre-lunch oysters.

And once our oysters were digested, we were hun-gree, so we headed back toward our neighborhood and to Juanita Juanita, a restaurant we’d been steered toward by our server at Frog’s Leap. And as soon as we got in, we knew we were in the best place. Kate, the owner’s daughter, helped us right away and was as friendly as could be. And when she learned that we were in California to celebrate our birthdays, she told us that it was, in fact, her actual birthday. So, of course, we loved her and joined in to help everyone sing her happy birthday, and Lisa tried to buy her a drink, but Kate told us that because her mom owns the place she’d been drinking there for free since she was fifteen. But she appreciated the gesture.

Everyone there was great, and the food was stupendous. Amy made a friend named Wyatt, who talked to her about his baseball card collection,

Amy and Wyatt

and we all appreciated the piñatas (although not as much as I appreciated the fish tacos).

Juanita Juanita Pinatas

But the best part of eating at Juanita Juanita and befriending Kate and the rest of the crew there was that when their friend Jesse, an off-duty cab driver, came in to hang out, we quickly convinced him to take us the two miles back to our house.

See, it’s not easy to get a fast Uber or a Lyft in Sonoma that fits five people, or one at all. We were looking at a wait time of at least thirty minutes, if ever, and while we loved Juanita Juanita, we were ready to head home. So we were discussing our problem when Jesse walked in and Kate told us he was a cab driver. We nearly pounced on him and the poor man tried to fend us off by telling us he had his personal car, not his cab. We didn’t care. We gave him some cash and a lot of toothy smiles, and he relented to take us.

He had to move his kid’s car seat, and Lisa had to ride in the way, way back, but Jesse was clearly the right driver for us.

Jesse's Cassette Tape

It would have only been better if it’d been a Guns N’ Roses tape.

Lisa in the way, way back

Lisa in the way, way back

He got us home quickly and with no problems, and we were left to spend the rest of the afternoon and the evening hanging around at the house, wishing we weren’t leaving the next day.

Amy and Lisa did some wine-yoga; it's all the rage in Sonoma.

Amy and Lisa did some wine-yoga; it’s all the rage in Sonoma.

Sunday

And on Sunday, we left. We woke up and watched the sun come up over the Enchanted Hills, and then headed to the airport.

Sobre Vista Sunrise

We said our goodbyes to Megan outside of our gate, and then we had an uneventful trip back to Chicago. We were subdued at baggage claim and then all went our separate ways, wine in our luggage, tired smiles on our faces.

Roo and Trevor picked me and to take me back to Camp Crystal Lake

Roo and Trevor picked me and to take me back to Camp Crystal Lake

And that was our trip! It was wonderful, we missed our friend Mary like crazy, and we are going to have to recuperate for the next five years until we’re ready to celebrate being forty-five. We’ve already decided that Key West might be our next destination, so, Florida, please start the preparations.

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Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, you spectacular humans!

We’re celebrating this Halloween weekend with our friends Cristen and Jayson (who arrived at Camp Crystal Lake last night) and Juli and Matt (who are scheduled to arrive this evening). It’s a rainy day, so we likely won’t be doing much decorating this morning, but we’re definitely gearing up for any trick-or-treaters who brave the weather and come by the house today.

Trevor is ready:

Holy crap.

Holy crap. Cristen doesn’t realize what’s lurking behind her.

Roo is ready:

Roo in Halloween Bandana

I’m ready.

The house is almost ready:

Face in Jar 1 GraveyardGrilled Hand

And I had time this week to get ready and try out some costumes. There was a costume contest at school on Wednesday, so I took the opportunity to dress up a little bit, knowing that I would blend in with some of the students. It just so happened that I had some elements of a witch costume in my closet, so I donned my hat and striped stockings, painted a spider on my face, and went to class. Luckily, the students were doing a group activity and didn’t have to listen to me talk; otherwise, they’d not have heard a word I said.

And I got to wear my "costume" to bookclub that evening, so it was a double bonus!

And I got to wear my “costume” to book club that evening, so it was a double bonus! Thanks, Cecile, for the picture!

On Thursday, our English comp./horror film class had a Halloween pot-luck, so my co-teacher and I took the opportunity to dress up. He pulled off a good Jason Voorhees, and I tried my best to be Rosemary Woodhouse.

Jason and RosemaryThe students didn’t dress up much (although we had a cowgirl and a male version of Mia Wallace’s o.d. in Pulp Fiction), but they really pulled through on bringing excellent snacks for our viewing of Scream.

A few students stock up on snacks

A few students stock up on snacks

One of our students brought blood spatter cookies. BLOOD SPATTER COOKIES!!!

One of our students brought blood spatter cookies. BLOOD SPATTER COOKIES!!!

And for actual Halloween today, I’m going to be someone who’s not scary, but pretty cool:

Supergirl

There will be more pictures to come, so check back later this weekend.

And everyone have a happy Halloweeeeeeeeeen!

Camp Crystal Lake is Open for Visitors

It’s been a busy few weeks at Camp Crystal Lake, because Trevor, Roo, and I have been hosting overnights for some of our favorite people (to be fair, though, we have a lot of favorite people [Trevor sometimes says I’m hyperbolic and I usually tell him that he’s absolutely insane]).

In September, I asked my book club — The Ladies of Literature and Libations (because yes, it’s cool to name your book club, and yes, our name is the best name of all the names) — to make the fifty-mile trek out from Chicago to spend twenty-four hours talking about all things David Foster Wallace.

David Foster Wallace

I was ready in case we got bored.

In February the group decided to read Infinite Jest, DFW’s 1079-page novel published in 1995. I’d read IJ before, but I hadn’t had a cohort to talk about it with (it’s a lonely book, and it’s a f*cking amazing book [imho], and book babes make loneliness less lonely and f*cking amazing even more f*cking amazing), so I was really excited. We knew it would take us a while to read it, so we had a couple of check-in points in the spring and summer. Then, on September 26, 2015, seven wonderful women came to Camp Crystal Lake to get down with the Jest. And it was super fun.

I made a pie (and veggie “Whoppers” [and I provided plenty of Trial Size Dove Bars]):

Peach Pie

And I made some bookmarks:

Book Mark

And, of course, book bags…

Enfield Stencil

Enfield Totebags

I filled each with little treats, including a bandana for everyone to wear and channel DFW:

This is DFW (image: Salon.com)

Book Club

And this is us–so many bandanas!

We talked about breathless prose, tennis, wheelchair assassins, addiction, and end-notes; and we didn’t even scratch the surface. But it was so much fun. I’m almost certainly going to make this an annual invitation.

We had a couple weeks to breathe before this past weekend, when T. and I got a visit from Dan, Best Man Extraordinaire, and his stupendous daughter Maya.

Bestest Man

It’s painful how cute these two nerds are (Image: Tone Stockenstrom)

I hadn’t seen Dan in forever, and I hadn’t seen Maya in double forever (remember: hyperbolic). I remember when she was just a tiny booger who looked like this:

Smiling Maya

This is the first time I babysat Maya. It’s the night I almost ate a baby because of an unrelenting hunger for cuteness.

And then this:

Maya

But now, she looks like this:

Maya Picking Apples

Image: Dan Segar

She’s so grown up! And in addition to being super grown up, Maya is one of the best kids I have ever met. Over the course of the weekend, she jumped off hay-bales, picked the best apples in the orchard, and drew a dozen or more pictures that included a time machine and a fruit cocktail (and a dolphin, paperclip, the Milky Way, bubbles…).

Maya in the AirPicking Apples

She also made her appetite preferences crystal clear to Trevor; after he asked her if she was sure she didn’t want more pizza before she ate a piece of apple pie, she replied, “You don’t understand: I’m not hungry for pizza. I’m hungry for pie.”

You don’t understand, Trevor. It’s pie, for god’s sake. Get the girl a piece of pie.

Tiger Face

If you don’t feed her a piece of pie every hour, on the hour, she turns into a tiger.

She also wanted to learn to knit after she saw my basket of yarn (really, though, who could resist a giant basket of yarn? no one, that’s who); and then she told me that I was really good at knitting. She’s too young to know how wrong that is, but it’s a pretty terrific thing to say, so I let it slide.

T. took Maya and Dan down to the park while I did some work, and Dan took some gorgeous pictures:

Maya and Trevor

Image: Dan Segar

Maya and Boats

Image: Dan Segar

When they got back, we all walked down to the beach and she made some abstract sculptures in the sand. And then, as though she wasn’t already the best first grader I’d met ever, she did math homework.

Math Homework

Now, to be honest, getting her to finish said math homework turned her into Paul Rudd in Wet Hot American Summer.

Image: Elle.com

But she still got it done.

In a couple of weeks, T. and I will open our doors again for four more of our faves: Cristen and Jayson, and Juli and Matt (remember Juli and Matt?! they got married in Maine this summer! and remember Cristen? she’s a filmmaker! and remember Jayson?? he’s Tapeface!!!!!)

I’m currently preparing the house for their arrival, and I’ll share more of our spookifying with you all here, so look for that soon!

Spookifying 2015

Austria, Newlyweds, Literature, and Vegetables

First of all, hello, Austria!

Last month I noticed that we were getting a bit of traffic from Austria. How did I notice this? Because I stalk our blog analytics like a crazy person and get excited when we get more than two hits per day. The Austrians seem to traffic our Grandpa Madel posts most frequently, which makes sense since there are very likely some Austrian Madels. I thought that perhaps Uncle Mark, who lives in Amsterdam, was visiting Austria. Or maybe it’s ancestors of Erwin Schrödinger. And until I find out for sure, it will both be and not be the ancestors of Erwin Schrödinger.

I commented on this Austrian anomaly to Trevor, who said that I should welcome them properly by saying hello. So, hello, Austria, and willkommen!

Welcome, Austrians!

Last weekend, T. and I were treated to a boat trip down (and back up) the Chicago River and out on Lake Michigan. This treat came because our friend Daniel got married to his beautiful wife Gina, and they hosted the reception on Chicago’s First Lady. I took a few pictures, but most of them were too dark and blurry to be of any use. Here are the least dark and least blurry (note: they’re still dark and blurry):

The newlyweds' first dance

The newlyweds’ first dance

Two awesome adolescents dancing on the river

Two awesome adolescents dancing on the river

On Chicago River

The future home of our future president (yes, I just choked on my own wine as I typed that)

The future Chicago home of our future president (yes, I just choked on my own wine as I typed that)

Skyline from Lake

The party was great — late ’80s and ’90s music, good food, and fireworks from Navy Pier — and although I didn’t get Trevor to dance with me, I got him to give me a semi-smile in this picture:

Trevor and Laura on Boat

But really, it was enough to make the night happy that two great people got married and looked beautiful and happy; and there were dozens and dozens and dozens of people who were there celebrating with them, us included.

My friend Shannon, who I met while in God of Carnage and with whom I am forever bonded because she’s the bee’s knees, performed this past Thursday night for the Get Lit(erary) reading series sponsored by the Williams Street Rep. The series presents a dramatic reading of contemporary and classic short literature, and it’s hosted at Le Petit Marché, a French bistro in downtown Crystal Lake.

The ladies get ready to read Emma Rathbone

The ladies get ready to read Emma Rathbone

The readers — actors from WS Rep or people otherwise associated with the Raue Center for the Arts — read pieces by Roald Dahl and Emma Rathbone, and a non-fiction piece about Rin Tin Tin, who sounded like an amazing dog, made even more amazing because he took this picture:

I don’t really know what’s going on here, but I like it.

It was fun to see Shannon read; the pieces were great (the Dahl piece, especially, since it made me think of Grandpa Madel, who I used to chat with about Dahl’s fiction); and I got to drink a glass of wine and eat a piece of cheese. So, like, obviously it was the best night I had all week.

And today was a day for house cleaning (booooooooooo!), reading (yaaaaaaaaaaaaay!), eating sandwiches (hoooooorahhhhhh!), and checking out how our garden vegetables are doing. The carrots aren’t quite ready, but I could not resist picking one.

WHY DIDN'T YOU LEAVE ME IN THE GROUND? I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER; I COULDA BEEN SOMEONE!

WHY DIDN’T YOU LEAVE ME IN THE GROUND? I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER; I COULDA BEEN SOMEBODY!

And the cucumbers are coming in slowly, but thank goodness they’re coming in at all. I planted four seeds and the plants that grew from those seeds are not-so-slowly taking over our entire planter box. I thought for sure that we wouldn’t get any actual cucumbers, but that we would just be smothered in our sleep one night. It’s bananas. No — it’s cucumbers! (ha!)

Garden Cucumbers

Holy cucumbers, Batman!

And now the terrific Trevor is getting us some Thai food, and we’ll probably watch some t.v. Tomorrow I have to grade one million student assignments and prep for Monday and Tuesday’s classes. (should I have spent a couple of hours today grading in order to lessen my load for tomorrow, you ask? yes and shut up you’re a jerk sorry you’re not really a jerk I just don’t want to think about grading on a Saturday night)

Gute nacht, Austria!

A-Maine-Zing!

The other week Trevor and I took a trip to Maine for our friends’ wedding. These two stupendous humans, Juli and Matt, got married on the rock where they first met when they were working at the Maine Media Workshops almost ten years ago.

Photo Courtesy of Cristen Leifheit, Mainely Adventures!

Juli & Matt, Pre-Nuptial (Photo Courtesy of Cristen Leifheit, Mainely Adventures!)

We’ve known Juli and Matt since 2010, and it’s been an easy and terrific friendship. Trevor bonded with Juli while they worked together at Catherine Edelman Gallery, and I bonded with them both when I met them and learned that they’re funny, smart, and interesting, and while they are active people — biking, rock climbing, and camping people — they do not judge me for being a couch potato. And that’s pretty nice.

They also introduced us to the equally stupendous humans, Cristen and Jayson…

Cristen and Jayson are kind of into each other...

Cristen and Jayson are kind of into each other…

…and together the six of us have watched a lot of Manchester United games, drank a number of beers, and had a lot of laughs.

The heads of some pretty cool folks I know

The heads of some pretty cool folks I know

So it was an honor and a joy to be included in Juli and Matt’s wedding celebration. Trevor and I flew into Boston on Thursday and drove up to Northport, Maine where we’d be meeting up with the bride and groom, and their families and other friends for a four day marriage extravaganza!

We got on our flight…

A rare photo of me and T.

A rare photo of me and T.

…collected our luggage from Logan International Airport…

Baggage Claim

…and immediately got ourselves some chowder:

Because it is one of the most important things to do while in Boston.

Because it is one of the most important things to do while in Boston.

After eating, we hit the road to Maine. It’s a two hundred mile drive to Northport, but a really lovely one, through lots of trees, over many rivers, and on lovely, virtually pothole-free highways. And just as soon as we’d crossed into Maine and stopped to pay a toll, we were greeted by a friendly tollbooth operator. He identified us as newcomers, welcomed us to Maine, and gave us some reading material:

Visitor's Guide

We drove, enjoyed the scenery, and got to the house where everyone was waiting with a keg of delicious beer, a blueberry pie, and some cheese. And that’s a pretty amazing welcome.

It was dark when we arrived, but the next morning we woke up and noticed where we were.

Relaxation Station

This is where we were.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon, so we had all day Friday to fart around in some beautiful weather with some excellent people. We ate, jumped into the ocean, swam in a pond, ate some more, drank some beer, ate a third time, and then sat in front of a bonfire…while eating…again. Food is love, so it was appropriate that during a wedding celebration we got our fill of crab, lobster, clams, mussels, and s’mores. Are s’mores a Maine specialty? No. But they are delicious, so we ate them.

Eating...

Eating…

...jumping...

…jumping…

...floating...

…floating…

...and more eating.

…and more eating. (Photo courtesy of Jayson Bimber, Mainely Adventures!)

Friday’s dinner was at at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast, and it was both scenic and delicious.

Young's Lobster Pound

Lobster Pound

Young's Lobster Pound

Juli and her nephew

Young's Lobster Pound

Nora and Ethan, picking out their dinners

Matt and Jayson

Matt and Jayson, getting ready for lobsters!

Rehearsal Dinner

Lobster

Hello, dinner.

C and J, astounded by their bucket of treats

C and J, astounded by their bucket of treats

We all went to bed on Friday night with our bellies full and our faces tired from smiling. Next up: a wedding!

The ceremony was in the late afternoon, so Trevor and I took some time to wander through a couple of bookstores and eat some more food (surprise, surprise).

While not technically

While not technically “food,” a Bloody Mary comes with a pickle. So, food.

Laura Power

At Stone Soup used books in Camden

Then it was back to the house to get ready before the wedding ceremony. Wedding!

The ceremony was at Beauchamp Point, where we’d jumped off the rocks the day before. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing, the ocean filled the air with brine and wave-sound, and everyone milled around in excitement.

Trevor, Jayson, and Ethan Waiting for the ceremony! Waiting for the weddingAnd then, we spotted the bride!

Here Comes the Bride

Juli and her dad, Steve, making their way down the rocks

Ceremony

Matt, Juli, and their officiant, Elizabeth (Photo Courtesy of Matt’s mom, Jennifer, Mainely Adventures!)

The ceremony was touching and made most of us cry. Weddings are emotional and Juli and Matt’s was no different. They were so happy and beautiful, and I say with certainty that I wasn’t the only one who shed some tears.

The first newlywed selfie! (Photo Courtesy of Juli Lowe, Mainely Adventures!)

The first newlywed selfie! (Photo Courtesy of Juli Lowe, Mainely Adventures!)

We all set back to the house for the reception. We ate some more (obviously!), laughed, chatted, and then danced the night away.

And now we’re home. Maine is a beautiful state. We have some great friends. And lobster is pretty tasty. Congratulations, Juli and Matt — here’s to years and years of love and happiness!