Category: Family Fun

Father-Daughter Weekend Up North

July 5th, 2013 — 10:52am

Last week my dad and I spent a long-overdue weekend together—just the two of us—at my parent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin. It all started around Christmastime. My dad is not an easy person to shop for, so when I found out that he wanted nothing more than to spend a weekend at the lake with me, it seemed like the perfect idea. The last time I can remember spending extended one-on-one time with just my dad was when we traveled to Colorado my senior year of high school to visit colleges. I remember really connecting during that trip and I have an especially fond memory of my dad telling me about the moment he realized my mom was “the one.”

Our weekend at the lake was equally special. My dad put a lot of thought into choosing activities we could enjoy together—a fish fry at Al-Gen, antique shopping, an ice cream outing, and several outdoor activities like biking, running, and kayaking. We kept very busy and had great conversation. My dad said it perfectly when he described how we had the chance to reflect on life, family memories and dreams for the future. It’s a weekend I’ll always treasure.

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Devil’s Lake Camp-Out

July 25th, 2012 — 3:43am

A few more pictures from the recent family camp-out…








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Campground Cook-Off

July 20th, 2012 — 9:57am

Earlier this month, my brother and his girlfriend were in town for a week-long visit to spend time with family and tour the sites of Wisconsin. On the Sunday after the 4th of July, we had a family campout at Devil’s Lake State Park. As part of the outing, my  brother organized a “Campground Cook-Off” with the following rules:

– Each couple cooks a dish
– No prep, must do all cooking at campsite
– Only food from Wisconsin
– Extra points if you use only the campfire to cook

In some ways, the challenge seemed right up our alley—very Iron Chef. But in many other ways, Larry and I felt out of our element. We don’t have much experience camp cooking—certainly not over a campfire. Add the challenge of using only foods from Wisconsin and no advance preparations allowed, and we were nearly at a loss. In the end, we pulled together some tasty swiss chard tacos  inspired by a Rick Bayless recipe. Most of our ingredients came from the farmers’ market.

When Larry and I arrived to the campsite, we quickly discovered we had taken the rules much more literally than the others had. Once we realized we could bend a few rules, we were inspired to break out the salt and chipotle salsa, greatly improving the taste of our tacos.

In addition to the swiss chard tacos, our feast included a quintessential Wisconsin soup (with cheese, brats, and beer), stuffed peppers, beer can chicken, and fresh salsa with chips. All were very tasty.

The campground cook-off definitely provided a new and enjoyable twist on camping!

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Celebrating My Grandma D

March 12th, 2012 — 4:01pm

grandmaNobody loved life more than my Grandma D. If there was a game of bingo down the hall, she was there. A bus trip to the theater or a craft fair—she was undoubtedly the very first person to sign up for the trip. My grandma loved the holidays, especially Christmas. And Halloween. She very much enjoyed trips to the casino and going out to eat.

My grandma loved her children. There was a special place in her heart for each one of them—my mom, the oldest, and four boys. While so many families now seem to grow apart and disperse across the country, my grandma was the glue that held together an incredibly close-knit family. They’d do anything for each other and spend time together often—for the holidays, of course, but also for birthday parties, outings to the State Fair, pizza parties, and fishing expeditions. There was always laughter. And my grandma was the ring leader of it all.422948_3159505739242_1013226766_33031348_1159939900_n

My grandma was feisty. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and often did. Her favorite word was “Amen.” She said that after almost every sentence. She was also particularly fond of the phrase “Lordy, lordy.” But more recently, and somewhat incongruously, she proclaimed to me proudly that her favorite word was “shit.” All I could do was smile proudly and think to myself, that’s my grandma.p2260051

My grandma was incredibly kind and generous. Although she never had much in terms of money or possessions, she was rich in love and gave abundantly. She made friends everywhere she went. She showered her grandchildren in love. She knew what mattered most in life.

Earlier this year, my grandma’s health took a bad turn. Within a very short time, it became difficult for her to move and breath. The things she had always enjoyed became increasingly difficult. She wasn’t ready to die, but she didn’t want to live like that either.

I visited my grandma at her apartment two weeks ago. We sat and talked. She was in her blue recliner. Her TV was turned up loudly and she reminded me to speak up. I didn’t know it would be the last time we’d spend together. Despite the fact that she wasn’t well, her spunk and personality were still fully present. Knowing what I know now, there are things I would have done differently. Things I would have said. But more than anything, I’m so thankful to have had that hour.p2260049

My grandma’s birthday is in April. But since the future seemed so uncertain, the family decided to host a party this past Saturday to get everyone together to celebrate early. My cousins drove in from Minneapolis and Oshkosh, and I came from Madison. But sadly, my grandma didn’t make it. When my mom went to pick her up for the party, she was already gone.

We still had the party that night—my grandma wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And we knew she was there with us in spirit. That night we came together as a family and shared stories about my grandma. We laughed. We cried. march-2012-044

Last night Larry and I had dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken in honor of my grandma. During our last visit together, my grandma raved about the Kentucky Fried Chicken my uncle David had recently picked up for her for dinner—certainly not part of the doctor’s recommended diet, but my grandma had clearly enjoyed it immensely. Larry and I toasted over plates of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. I looked up and said, grandma, this one’s for you.have-one

What I’ll miss most about my grandma is the way she lit up a room with her presence. I’ll miss her cards on my birthday with $5 tucked inside and a note saying “Have one on me.” I’ll miss all those Amens. I’ll miss my most ardent and devoted blog follower and my mom’s gentle reminders that Grandma was patiently waiting for my next post. I’ll miss the way she stocked her pantry with Twizzlers and other treats when my brother I would sleep over when we were younger. I’ll miss exploring her treasure-filled attic and examining her curiously in her bath robe with a head full of curlers during those same sleepovers. I’ll miss the pool parties and my grandma’s famous Butterhorns. I’ll miss the Christmas day pictures with grandma and her twelve grandchildren snuggled up together on the couch.

I’ll miss the way she told me admiringly during our last visit “you don’t ever let grass grow under your feet.” Because so much of my own zest for life comes from my grandma.

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Thanksgiving Day Run

November 29th, 2011 — 1:01pm

dadMy dad and I completed our traditional run from my parents’ house in Brookfield to the Milwaukee lakefront on Thanksgiving Day. What originally began as a Christmas day tradition has expanded in recent years to include Thanksgiving, other holidays, and random days when I’m home visiting my parents. The route is ten miles long and includes stretches along North Avenue, through the Menomonee River Parkway and Tosa Village, and a final  stretch downtown along Wisconsin Avenue. My dad always talks about how much he looks forward to our runs and the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with his only daughter (and sometimes also my brother, when he’s in town and can join us).

This year’s Thanksgiving Day Run was a great success. Despite warnings to the contrary, my dad is running stronger than ever. I also appreciated the unseasonably mild temperatures, especially as we got closer to the lakefront, where the winds usually pick up dramatically. During the hour-and-a-half run, our conversations ran the gamut from life, to work, to current events and politics. By the end of the run, my dad remarked, we’ve now solved all the world’s problems. Yes, indeed. As always, at the event of the run I felt great satisfaction and a sense of achievement—in both reaching the summit (the lakefront) and in spending quality time with my dad through our shared love of running. And certainly we had worked to clear plenty of room in our bellies for our Thansgiving feast!

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My Door County Weekend

September 29th, 2011 — 4:09am


Larry and I went camping in Door County this past weekend. I was excited to get away and spend time together, and enjoy some rest and relaxation before I leave for Ironman next week.


During our drive there Friday night, I was lured in by a sign in front of Scoops Ice Cream Parlor in Chilton advertising a flavor called Mmm…Bacon. Now how could I pass that up?


When we arrived at Peninsula State Park a few hours later, setting up camp was made much easier with our dual head lamps.


It was quite chilly out that night, as Larry demonstrates in this picture. Eventually, we snuggled up in our sleeping bags and tried to get some rest. We woke up in the morning to rain, which continued more or less for the rest of the weekend.


But we didn’t let a little rain spoil our adventures! After breakfast at White Gull Inn, Larry convinced me to head out on a bike ride in the rain through the park. (You may recall Larry and I met almost exactly two years ago during a bike ride.)


The rain continued to fall, so eventually we took shelter under umbrellas.


Our first stop was to Eagle Tower.


There, we climbed several stories of stairs to reach the top of the tower, where we enjoyed breathtaking views of Lake Michigan.


Despite the rain, several others were also out and about enjoying the day. We asked one of them to take our picture. After climbing back down the tower, Larry suggested we try to hike closer to the lake.


Eventually we came upon a nice secluded area overlooking the lake. Larry then put down his umbrella, wrapped his arms around my waist, gazed into my eyes, and began to talk about how he feels when he’s with me and the reasons he loves me. Both of our eyes starting welling up as I realized what was happening. Finally Larry got down on his knee and asked, will you make me the luckiest man in the world and spend the rest of your life with me?


To which I replied, Absolutely!


This made Larry jump for joy!


And together we enjoyed our beautiful moment.


And eventually rode back to our campsite in the rain.


But took a moment along the way to snap a picture of my ring, displayed as it should be, on the handlebar of my bike.


And after lunch, the sun came out for a while. And we kissed.


Then we enjoyed more of Door County.


And caught a beautiful sunset.


That night we called our parents to share the good news. Turns out my parents had known since the previous Sunday, when Larry had visited to ask for their blessing.


We stopped in Brookfield on our way home from Door County to celebrate with my parents. Larry and I had brought back apple cider for a toast.


Then we set off to my Grandma D’s to share the great news.


And then to my Grandma K’s.

So that’s the story of our weekend in Door County. We’re so happy and excited to share the good news with all of you!

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That’s My Brother!

March 4th, 2011 — 3:42pm

dailymilesidbar-firstchoice_525You know you’ve found some measure of success in life when you score a feature in the alumni magazine of your alma mater. But doing it within five years of graduating from college? Now that’s impressive.

My brother and his best friend Ben are featured in the spring edition of On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine for UW-Madison alumni and friends – a publication that boasts extremely impressive circulation numbers, mailing to 310,000 Badger households.

The article details Kelly and Ben’s partnership in the development of dailymile, a social-networking site for runners, cyclists, and triathletes. Although the article has been in the works for the past few months, my heart filled with overwhelming pride when I received a link to the article earlier today. I’m sure those feelings will magnify when I receive a copy of the magazine in the mail. That’s my brother, says proud big sister.

If you know Kelly and Ben, you know that they’ve given everything (their time, talents, and energy) to the single pursuit of a dream. Together, they’ve made it happen. And there’s no two people who are more deserving. Kelly and Ben are the most simple, down-to-earth, friendly, and hard-working guys you’ll meet. Congratulations, Kelly and Ben! And On Wisconsin.

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Northwoods Winter Adventure

January 21st, 2011 — 2:06pm

dscn0820While many people in northern climates are busy plotting their mid-winter escape to warmer locales, I’ve been more interested in heading north.  This past weekend I fled to the great northwoods for a snowy weekend at my family’s cabin near Minocqua. A friend and I navigated through a particularly brutal snow storm to arrive late on Friday night. By that time, my parents had long since arrived to de-winterize the cabin. I was extremely grateful for running water and heat upon our arrival. dscn0818

Our cabin usually sits largely untouched during the colder months. Amazingly, it was my first time there during the winter. It was exciting to see everything from a completely new perspective—frozen and snow covered. It’s incredible to contemplate how the entire landscape and ecosystem is totally altered in the span of just a few months. Instead of gazing down from our deck over a glassy lake, I was staring out on frozen tundra. dscn08231

Our weekend largely revolved around outdoor activities and warming up inside over board games, chili, books, and chats. One of my favorite excursions was to Winter Park in Minocqua, a x-country skiing mecca with 45 miles of groomed trails. We had a great time exploring the trails and huddling over the warm fire in the chalet. My friend and I also enjoyed a few late night runs on the 600 ft. tubing slope! Other weekend highlights included snowshoeing across the lake with my mom and a nice morning run with my dad (after which we enjoyed a great breakfast of hot blueberry pancakes). All in all it was everything I had hoped for in a mid-winter escape—perhaps “celebration” is more fitting. As I always say, bring on the snow.

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Knitting With My Mom

January 5th, 2011 — 8:17pm

december-2010-1251I’ve wanted to learn how to knit for years. It all started when a friend of mine knitted me a hat for Christmas a few years back. It was one of the most touching gifts I’d ever received. The hat was so colorful and warm. I was amazed by the time my friend must have spent on it, and also that it was possible to make something so beautiful with your hands. I treasured that hat and wore it down to to its last threads.

But wanting to learn how to knit and actually doing it are two very different things. And for so long, I just wasn’t able to bridge that gap. Even when my parents gave me needles, yarn, and a “how to knit” DVD for my birthday a few years ago, I wasn’t able to muster the time or patience to learn. And so my needles and yarn sat in the lonely darkness of my closet quietly gathering dust.

Last year I vowed to myself that I would finally learn how to knit. But still, a part of me doubted my resolve. What saved me is that my mom finally decided that she, too, wanted to learn how to knit. She ended up teaching herself this past fall through a variety of books and YouTube videos. This, of course, was a beautiful thing. She was now one step ahead of me, meaning that I’d finally have someone who could sit down and walk me through the steps—which was so much more appealing to me than trying to learn by starting and stopping a “how to knit” video hosted by perky Nici McNally.

So over Thanksgiving weekend I dusted off my knitting needles and yard and dragged it all back home for a lesson with mom. She patiently sat down with me and taught me how to cast on and how to do both the knit and purl stitches. I picked up the knit stitch relatively easily; but like most people, the purl stitch gave me more trouble. It was comforting, however, to know that they were the only two stitches I’d ever need to know. And so I practiced and practiced. Over the weekend, I even became a bit obsessed—taking my knitting with me wherever I’d go.dscn07111

But then I got back from Thanksgiving break and the demands of the daily grind resumed. I’d pick up my knitting every now and then, but it largely sat untouched. Meanwhile, my mom was completing all kinds of new projects—hats, scarves, neck gators—you name it. We hoped to spend some time together over Christmas knitting together; but unfortunately, the time never materialized.

So that’s how our latest “girls day” came about. My mom made the trip to Madison last week and our focus was to spend time together knitting. She taught me how to knit “on the round” and excitingly, I began my first real project—a hat. So we sat next to each other on the couch, our conversation moving over the rhythmical “click, click” of our knitting needles.

I continued to work on that hat all weekend. I was determined. I wanted to finish my first project and to also make my mom proud. I’m happy to report that I’m just about finished with my first hat. It’s a red fuzzy number—with some dropped stitches and other mistakes scattered throughout—but something I’m pretty damn proud of nonetheless. I think my mom is, too.

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Mom’s Visit to Madison

January 3rd, 2011 — 7:53pm

Every once in a while my mom and I get together in Madison for some “girl time.” No dad, no brother—just us. Although I had just spent a few days at home with my parents for Christmas, the time had felt short and rushed. And my mom and I hadn’t been able to spend time together knitting—a hobby we’d both recently picked up. So last week I suggested to my mom that she come to Madison—I’d take the day off work and we’d hang out. Luckily, she was game.

As always, we had a great time together—dinner and beers at Capital Tap Haus, a chilly stroll around the capitol, salted caramel hot chocolates from Starbucks, late night knitting and sleeping in, a breakfast of crepes and French press coffee from Bradbury’s, hunting for treasures at St. Vinny’s, admirning beautiful yarn at the Knitting Tree, a lunch of big slices from Pizza Brutta, and more knitting. It was mother-daughter bonding at it’s finest…memories I’ll treasure forever.

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