Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Jubilant American Summer, Part Three

Greeting her family with
"Cheer Kits,"
my youngest daughter
prepared her family
for her Ironman Race
with bananas, water,
race programs,
race ETAs and suggested sites
to best see her compete.

"Mom, I don't care if you skip my MBA graduation, but I want you to be home for my IRONMAN race." So said, my youngest daughter, an avid marathoner.
I appreciated my child stating it so bluntly. There was nowhere else I could be, but right by her side when she asked like that. The highlight of my jubilant American summer was when our family gathered to cheer my youngest on in her Ironman Wisconsin race.
Ironman Wisconsin
was on September 7th, 2014
in Madison, Wisconsin.

Participants were to swim
2.4 miles (3.86 km),
bike 112 miles (180.25 km),
and finish with a 26.2 mile
(42.22 km) marathon
and finish within 17 hours.

My family gathered
on the roof of the
Monona Terrace
Convention Center,
designed by Frank Lloyd Wright,
to watch the race begin.
Sunrise on Lake Monona
Volunteers wait in the water
for the race to begin.
Green swim caps for men,
pink swim caps for women.

Here's what the start of the swim
looked like from the parking lot helix
that the runners would later run up
(five or six floors)
to get their bikes.
Video courtesy of
It was awe-inspiring to me -
2,500 swimmers
all taking off at once.
It was glorious to watch.
I was really grateful
for all those years of 
middle and high school
swim practices,
knowing my child
would be swimming
for an hour-and-a-half.
Fired up and ready to go!
After the swim,
Kelly ran up the helix
knowing her
most challenging part
of the race
was next.
Kelly's older sister
and brother-in-law
were also ready
to cheer her on
in our
cheer crew tshirts.

That's Kelly in the red,
getting her bike.

The biking portion
was the one where she had the
least experience.
She was bringing
some bicycling experience,
the rest was hope.
"Watermelon Fury,"
was to be her companion
for the next eight hours.
I worried Kelly
was expending
her energy on
cheering everyone on.
Every time I saw her
she was cheering!
No worries, on her part.
"Bring it on!"
she seemed to shout.
Eight hours on the bike
is a long time.
We, as cheer crew,
did move from site to site
to cheer her on,
but we also had time
to go see
where my
oldest daughter worked
in downtown Madison.
That was fun.
Here's some video
of the bike course.
The sounds of the Ironman
are fantastic.
I love those ringing cowbells!
I knew if Kelly could make it
through the bike portion
it was all downhill
from there.
She was an experienced
marathoner and had run
at least one 50-mile race.
Making ourselves
easy to find:
Above is my sister,
my oldest daughter
and my Mom.

During the race,
there was lots of time
to interact with
other folks who
had come to cheer on
their competitor.
I loved watching this family.
What's not to love
about a teenage boy
cheering on his Mother?
This family's cheer shirts read
"I trained six months
to wear this T-shirt."
Kelly says: "Ironman Wisconsin was one of the most fun days of my life! Starting with the swim - bobbing up and down in Lake Monona while watching the thousands of spectators in the sunrise on the terrace. The bike was my hardest leg of the race, but that's because I biked 42 miles further than I ever have in my life! My bike broke at mile 70 and I managed to fix it all on my own, which kept me positive enough to make it to mile 112! The run was just a total blast - seeing everyone around Madison! Thanks so much if you came out!"

By nightfall,
I would have been exhausted.
I was amazed to watch
my daughter stop her race
at mile 19
and do push-ups
with another runner.
High fiving
and leading cheers!
No stopping her now.
Goal met!
Another sound
from the Ironman
that will stay with me
is the voice of
Ironman Wisconsin
He's there all day long
from sunrise to midnight.
When he pronounces a runner
an Ironman
as they cross the finish line,
the way he says it
brings a lump to the throat.
He communicates all of the
hopes, dreams, goal-setting,
training, endurance, stamina,
and results:

You are an Ironman!"

What a wonderful family memory.

A couple months after the race, my daughter received this email from a fellow participant:
"I wanted to tell you (and my husband encouraged me to be brave and do this) how GREAT it was to cross paths with you on the last half of the marathon at Ironman Wisconsin. Your energy propelled me along. At about the EXACT time I was thinking, 'You know, I could just walk this out...," you came up and were like, "JENNY! I'm going to run with you a while!!" And then I thought, "Well, crap. I can't walk now!!" Everything about you had this great exclamation point after it. I was in awe of your spirit and energy....I hope you had a fantastic race and that life is treating you well. Thanks again for all the positive energy you brought to the race. I think people sometimes wonder if something like that matters because it doesn't seem to make obvious differences or whatever, but I think it makes worlds of difference. I saw tons of people perk up all around you even if they didn't verbalize it. Who knows who was able to finish simply because of your energetic encouragement?? So! You take care of yourself. And stay positive.
Here's a review of the Wisconsin Ironman course, with great views of the helix where swimmers transition from swimming to biking. The Wisconsin Ironman gets more spectators than any other Ironman, even the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. An estimated 75,000 people turn out.

Here are a few other posts on Madison and Wisconsin:

The book that made me crazy with homesickness for America

Enjoying Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the UW Senior Sendoff on the Union Terrace

The Marvelousness of Madison

Empty Nest Expat is on Facebook - why not follow me there?
Missed my earlier posts? They're below:

My Jubilant American Summer, Part One

My Jubilant American Summer, Part Two

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The book that made me crazy with homesickness for America

Aldo Leopold
I have a young teenage friend here in Istanbul who pines to be out in the Turkish countryside among apple orchards, tending herbs, growing living plants and enjoying nature. Instead, he's growing up in a city of 15 million! That has to make his summers out in the country just that much more special.

I tried to think of English-language books that I could share with him that spoke to this inner calling of nature. "Walden" of course, by Thoreau. "The other side of the mountain" by Jean Craighead George, one of my own childhood favorites. To this day I still remember how much I savored reading her young adult novel about trying to live off the land by oneself as a teenager in the woods. Instead, I gave him a book, even though I hadn't read it myself. I had, however, heard mentioned over and over again as one of the best in the American canon for nature writing: "Sand County Almanac" by Aldo Leopold.

"Sand County Almanac"
 has sold over 2,000,000 copies
"Sand County Almanac" proved too difficult for his intermediate English. So he gave it back to me.
Having always meant to read it because of its steady, growing reputation, I opened it up and began.

"Sand County Almanac" is divided into a year of observations about living on a Wisconsin farm and the natural life that goes on there through the seasons. Aldo Leopold, the Iowa-born author, was a professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Wisconsin when he wrote it. He would retire to his "tired-out" farmland and shack on the weekend with his wife and five kids. Before his professorship, he was very active in the United States Forest Service writing the first fish and game handbook ever and proposing the first National Wilderness Designation ever for Gila Wilderness Area.

Thank goodness, I was going home to America within the month! The beauty of the Wisconsin farm landscape came pouring of every page of this book. So did his pride and passion for observation of his piece of land, something every property owner has felt. Having last lived in central Wisconsin when I was in America, I could hardly bear reading it so evocative was it for all that was gorgeous about nature in the Midwest, and Wisconsin in particular.

Aldo Leopold is considered
the father of wildlife ecology

No wonder my young friend had such difficulty with the English. Aldo Leopold's language is so learned and his thinking so lofty, I began to regard what was in my hands as "divinely-inspired" like Mozart's works or Handel's "Messiah." Could a human being create such a work of such sacredness, joy, and wisdom without help from a higher power?

If I could have every American read one chapter, it would be "February." There is no action in this chapter other than Aldo sawing apart a tree for his wood-burning stove. Doesn't exactly sound like a must-read, does it? And yet, each sentence is utterly compelling.

Aldo describes not knowing where our heat comes from as a "spiritual danger." A spiritual danger! Is that not what we experience when we consume our petrol mindlessly as we do without acknowledgement of the depletion of nature and cost to human life?

He says "if one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend a week in town astride a radiator."

I am not going to split my own oak for heat anytime soon, but let you and I just ask ourselves if we know the details of where our heat comes with the same deep consciousness and thought for its replacement as Aldo did. While sawing, he recalled exactly where the tree originated from, what it measured in length and width, what was going on in history at the time of its birth, and what the oak had to survive to get to this age. When another oak was felled by lightening on his property, he allowed it to properly age in the sunshine it could no longer use, and then split it one fine winter day secure in the knowledge that there was a renewable source of new wood growing on his farm. Do we consume our heat with that level of awareness and consciousness about where it's coming from, how it shall be renewed, and at what cost?

The forward alone is full of such copious amounts of wisdom it was, again, awe-inspiring to read. May I absorb his wisdom to my bones.

From the forward:

"But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger and better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy. The whole world is so greedy for more bathtubs that it has lost the stability necessary to build them, or even to turn off the tap. Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings."                                          
                                                                                    ~Aldo Leopold, 1949

You might also enjoy these Wisconsin or nature-related posts:

The Marvelousness of Madison

A Spectacular Hike to Gem Lake

Elk Bugling Season

Couchsurfing Hike to Český ráj

Hiking the Sázava River in Central Bohemia

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Enjoying Neil DeGrasse Tyson at the UW Senior Sendoff on the Union Terrace

My oldest daughter Allison has always made it a point to listen to rockstar astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It so happened that the senior class of the University of Wisconsin had asked him to come speak at their Senior Send-off at the end of their semester. She suggested we go hear him speak.

I too enjoy hearing Neil DeGrasse Tyson, I adore the UW Union Terrace and have many happy memories there, but most importantly, I could not wait to have a pork bratwurst from their outdoor grill.

Not having had pork in over nine months, I was more than ready for a piping hot, freshly-grilled pork bratwurst with ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, and fresh chopped onions. I spent a considerable amount of time leading up to my trip home daydreaming about whether or not I would put saurkraut on it too, but had decided in the end to just let the other condiments speak for themselves.

The Terrace was as exquisite as ever. It was a gorgeous sunny day. There were a few sailboats out on the lake, but in the main, it was glassy and calm. The weather wasn't too hot, it was enjoyably and perfectly warm. We came early and found a front row seat. Allison had brought travel Scrabble to keep us company as we had arrived four to five hours early to make sure we could find a seat. A Chicago cop sitting behind us, who laughingly explained he had a "man crush" on Neil DeGrasse Tyson, also had arrived in Madison early from Chicago to get a seat. When folks all arrive that early, community forms.

Alas, the gigantic outdoor grill at the Memorial Union Terrace was turned off! 5,000 people assembling and no one thought to fire up the grill and sell them some beer and bratwurst. I was sorely dissappointed. I had to settle for a Reuben Sandwich from the Rathskeller. I hadn't had a Reuben sandwich in probably three years so it was a delicious consolation.

Now if this seems like a lot of detail about what I had for lunch, you haven't felt the depth of food craving of your average expat. I once read a headline on an expat blog that said "expats miss their own favorite food tastes from back home more than they miss their Mom." I cringed but understood his food longing.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Neil DeGrasse Tyson shared entertaining examples of America's math illiteracy. I was particularly interested in his derison for the America superstition of not having a 13th floor in buildings. He found that laughable. 

He's not the only one. In Turkey, Turkish politicians have that same mystification over this silly Western prejudice. A Turkish MP had stated that the absence of the number 13 in public places is a Western superstition “which has no place in Turkish culture,” emphasizing that Turkey should not imitate Western practices and should add the number 13 as soon as possible." From now on, Turkish Airlines will have a row 13 where it didn't have before. Can any of my fellow Westerners argue that this '13' superstition is defenseable?
He had the crowd in the palm of his hand.
Another amusing example of America's math illiteracy was our lack of veneration for those who are experts in it. He asked the crowd, "who owns the stereotype of producing superb engineers? Which country?" The crowd offered up "Germany," to which DeGrasse pointed out that "Germany reveres mathematicians and engineers so much Germany puts them on their currency - with their equations - no less!" Later, I noticed that Turkey does too.

"Is there so much as a key or a kite on the 100 dollar bill to celebrate Benjamin Franklin's experiments with electricity?" he asked.
His frequent asides made it seem more like
we were all out for a beer together
rather than him giving a speech.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson made an excellent case that investing in NASA and the innovations that result from that are what could drive the American economy forward. He walked the crowd through examples of the impact NASA's space exploration had on the greater culture, for example, fins appearing on cars in homage to rocket fins. Another example, in 1971, Doctors Without Borders began. He asked if that would even have been a concept without the famous moonrise photos taken of Earth from the back side of the moon. Without borders, indeed. 
"Have we stopped dreaming?" he asked.
"When the shuttle program ended where you feeling nostalgic?" he asked. Everyone in the crowd nodded yes. "Nostalgia he said is what happens when there is nothing to look forward to. No one was nostalic at the end of the Mercury program. There was another one right behind it.  If we're not careful, the 2010s will be remembered as the decade of the 50-year anniversary of cool stuff that happened in the 1960s."
What it looked like to one side of me.
It was standing room only behind me.

It was uplifting to be around educated young people
excited to get out and change the world
and "make tomorrow come."

Tyson ended on a high note and had them
whistling, clapping, and rarin' to go.

What a delightful memory we created together, my daughter and I, of a splendid day on the Terrace. I love hearing a public intellectual with my family or friends and discussing new ideas together. I'm still waiting on that grilled bratwurst, though!

You might also enjoy:

The Marvelousness of Madison

Wonderful food eases newly empty nest

The Legend of Starved Rock

Monday, August 15, 2011

Provence Inspires Me to Make My First Tart

 Creating a Leek and Dried Morel Tart
 My college friend Robin said, "People ask, what do you do in Provence? I always answer not much: go to the Provencal markets, bring home food, cook, do it again the next day." 

There is something about Provence, because it is a poly-culture agricultural environment, that brings out the cooking creativity, passion, and endless enthusiasm for cooking in everyone who lives there, regardless of nationality.

What is a poly-culture agriculture environment? The example I know best and have lived personally is Madison, Wisconsin. It has endless small family boutique food producers making small volumes of amazing specialty items.  These local farmers are rock stars in the community and the farmer's market is equivalent to a concert where everyone comes and applauds.

On the other hand, a mono-culture farm environment is like my home state of Iowa with lots of corporate farms producing one crop.  It doesn't create the same enthusiasm to take everything home and cook it up. You can't anyway, because they're raising grain for livestock.

To aid her in her cooking quests, my college friend Robin has collected cookbooks from all over the world in multiple languages while she was working all over the world.  I could pour over cookbooks for hours, couldn't you? So many of her books were new to me. One that she particularly used a lot was by Stephanie Alexander named "A Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen."  Robin specifically enjoyed that all the recipes were organized around their main ingredient.

I found myself responding to the daydream-inspiring cookbook "The Food and Flavors of Haute Provence" by Georgeann Brennan.  What a gorgeous, easy-to-use book!
 The smells! Oh, the smells!
 Leek and Dried Morel Tart
Right out of the Oven
On one of my first nights there, Robin and Jim invited over lovely friends for a dinner party al fresco.  While Robin prepared a magnificent veal roast, with beautiful potatoes and roasted fennel, I had picked out a recipe based on a single ingredient Jim and Robin had in abundance.  They had a friend in Malaysia who happened to be the world's largest exporter of morel mushrooms.  He had given them 4.5 kilos of dried morels for their own cooking.  As you can imagine, a dried morel mushroom does not weigh very much so the supply of this tasty mushroom was unusually large and just waiting for me to cook with it!

I've had veal, but can't say I've had a veal roast before this. It had been prepared with care by her local Cadenet butcher. Have you tried roasted fennel? This was something new to me too. It was delicious, so easy (she just sliced it in half, spiced it, and stuck it in the oven).  Plus, it's so healthy and pretty on the plate!
 The veal roast ready for carving
Robin's husband Jim
carves the roast
while Mark, a local winemaker, looks on

Leek and Morel Mushroom Tart
Although puff pastry, leeks, and dried morel mushrooms are the components of the tart, this is a versatile dish in which many substitutes are possible.  In France, supermarkets, even the small ones in the rural areas, have fesh or frozen puff pastry, which is also available in the United States, but not as readily.  Pizza dough is an alternative to the puff pastry.  Unlike puff pastry, it is easily made even by the most unskilled hands.

The delectable topping, with its undertone of sweetness from the leeks' natural sugar, is made of thin slices of leeks that have been simmered in a little butter, then combined with fresh goat cheese and rehydrated morels and seasoned with thyme.  one can substitute onions, which also have natural sugar, for the leeks, and dried cepes or shiitakes might be used in place of the morels, as might fresh mushrooms.

Although the tart makes a fine first course, I find that accompanied with a green salad and red wine it makes an excellent meal in itself.
25 dried morels, about 1/2 ounce
3 cups warm water
6 large leeks, carefully rinsed
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 fresh bay leaves, or 1 dried
1/4 sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoon white wine
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 sheet prepared puff pastry, 10 x 12 inches and 1/4 inch thick, thawed if frozen
1) Put the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of the warm water to rehydrate them.  This will take about 15 minutes.  Finely slice the white parts of the leeks plus 1 inch of the pale green.
2) Meanwhile, melt 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  When it is foamy, add the leeks and saute until translucent, about five minutes.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, and the remaining 1 cup warm water.  Cover and simmer until the leeks are nearly tender, about 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and continue to cook until virtually all of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes longer.  Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Stir in  the sour cream and goat cheese, and add the salt and pepper.  the sauce should be creamy and thick.  Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
3) Drain the morels and cut them in half lengthwise.  melt the remaining teaspoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  When it is foamy, add the morels and saute for 5 or 6 minutes.  Add the white wine and chicken broth and continue to cook until all but approximately 1 Tablespoon of the juices has evaporated.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
4) On a lightly foured work surface, roll the puff pastry into a rectangle 1/4 inch thick and approximately 12 by 18 inches.  Place it on a floured baking surface to within 1 inch of the edges.  The paste will be almost 1/2 inch thick.  fold the edges over the leek mixutre, crimping them to make a free-form tart.  Place in the oven and bake until the crust has puffed and the leeks are golden, 12 to 15 minutes.  Add the morels and bake another 5 minutes.  Serve hot, cut into rectangles or wedges.
It tasted so creamy and good
from the warm sour cream
and goat cheese underneath!

Afterwards, I wrote in Robin's cookbook on the leek tart recipe page, the date and whom we had served.  Over a lifetime, I find these little notes create such an evocative list of memories of good times and good companionship.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Czech People Overlooked Yet Again for the Nobel Peace Prize

I am sure that 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo of China is a brave and amazing person who puts mere mortals to shame. However, it made me sad this year to hear that yet another year passed without Vaclav Havel receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.  It would have been so moving for him to receive the most prestigious decoration humanity offers  - last year - when the Czech Republic was celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.  It could have been one giant festival of appreciation between President Havel and the Czech people who helped him transform their nation.

Instead of using the prize as a carrot and a capstone for a statesman's career, it seems the Nobel committee wants to use the prize as an accelerator of change, demanding almost through recognition that winners and their governments conform to what the Nobel Committee thinks should happen.  This cheapens the prize in my opinion because it switches it from honoring the noblest and bravest among us to having a political motivation.

Last year, when Barack Obama won, I was offended, because I felt that as President he would need to make decisions that could be at odds with the Peace Prize goals.  It felt manipulative to me, as an American, that the Committee would try and influence the course of his Presidency while it happened.

My emotions conflicted, though, because I recognized that anyone who voted for Barack Obama could feel a bit of pride in the Nobel Committee's contention that no one of that particular year had done more to change the landscape than Barack Obama.  Since he had been in office such a short time, the American people could be proud that we had changed the landscape with new leadership.

I remember when I got on my half-full bus at 6 a.m.on that bleary day, I shouted out to the whole bus "how about that Peace Prize?" I was living in Madison, Wisconsin at the time where there was close to a 100% certainty that anyone on a bus in that town had voted for the President.

The Peace Prize selection glory reflects to those who followed.  No one can be a prophet without followers. Vaclav Havel was the statesman he was because the Czechs chose to follow him.  Barack Obama was elected President because the people of America chose to follow him.

Vaclav Havel's moral authority transitioned the country from Communism to freedom without violence and retribution in the Velvet Revolution and again to the stand-alone Czech Republic during the Velvet Divorce with Slovakia.  How fraught those giant changes were and how much worse they could have been!

Even in retirement, Havel's moral authority can slice through rationalizations made in the name of strategic interests. Once, meeting with an American reporter for an interview, he asked,  "Is it true Barack Obama cancelled his meeting with the Dali Lama?" (presumably to pacify China's leadership).  Havel demonstrates the courage it takes to speak truth to power when your own country's is less.

America is comng to the age where our power will be eclipsed in size by China.  Havel's success in keeping true to his values while navigating this size differential between the Czech Republic and the former Soviet Union is an example the whole world can learn from as the globe copes with China's rising, and frequently bullying, power.

One measure of a leader is how institutionalized the changes he embodied becomes;  yearly, the citizens of the Czech Republic set new attendance records at the internationally-famous "Jeden Svet (One World) Film Festival in Prague, devoted to human rights around the globe.  Czech people, having lived through totalitarianism, have a sophisticated understanding of oppression that is rarely found anywhere in the Free World. Havel, and the citizens of the Czech Republic, have something to teach all global citizens about what it is to speak truth to the larger power.

As I understand it, Liu Xiaobo and his fellow Chinese dissidents who created Charter 08, were inspired by Vaclav Havel and the Czech people who were signatories to Charter 77.  Would a science Nobel go to a scientist whose work was derivative of another's theory? Wouldn't the committee honor the original thinker of the idea? Shouldn't Vaclav Havel receive a Nobel for inspiring freedom in the Czech Republic but now also China? It seems he is becoming worthier and worthier.  Is there not time to honor that young man and not much time to honor Vaclav Havel?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Marvelousness of Madison

 Sun sets on a beautiful summer evening
at the UW Memorial Union Terrace
It's the perfect place to have a beer and a brat
and mix with all ages while listening to live music.

 I thought I would devote one post to describing what life in Madison, Wisconsin is like because I enjoyed myself so deeply there during my 10 months back in the States.  Madison, Wisconsin has everything I personally need to be happy. Sharing what I find valuable in the States shows what I also value when I travel. Here is some of what made my time there so fantastic.
 I lived on Lake Wingra
A quiet undeveloped lake
Adjacent to the Arboretum
 The Kayak & Boat Rental Dock
At Lake Wingra
 Soaking up sunshine on the dock
 The gorgeous Wisconsin
State Capitol
The Saturday Farmer's Market
is consistently chosen as the best in the nation.
  It's arrayed around the WI State Capitol building.
This is what the promenade of shoppers
looks like from the Capitol Rotunda balcony.
Lake Mendota is in the background.

Beautiful homegrown
flower bouquets for sale
 Morel mushrooms
at the height of the season.
Someone in America is out there in the forest
hunting these but it wouldn't occur
to most Americans to go out and look for these
themselves like it does to Czech people.
 Rhubarb for sale.
What are you thinking?
Pie, muffins, ice cream sauce?

It's impossible not to turn into a foodie in Madison.
Literally, Madison has access to the finest produce
and cheese I have ever seen in my entire life.
The Hmong immigrants from Laos sold the best produce
and the Amish had the best baked goods.
Here the Amish express their
freedom of religion by
serenading shoppers with hymns.
Some people resented this on their carefree Saturday morning.
I cherished the mixture of political and religious expression
at the Farmer's Market. It's what makes America great!
I never took so many pictures of food in my life
as I did in Madison.
Cooking is such an exciting creative endeavor there.
Here, my exotic spinach salad made with tropical fruits
like papaya, kiwi, mango, and strawberries.
My first ever homemade Caprese Salad
 My first-ever Zucchini-Basil Lasagna
Bubbling hot and scrumptious
My first-ever Moroccan Lamb Stew with Dried Apricots
Me and my gal pals out to hear
Ayaan Hirsi-Ali
chosen by Time Magazine as one of the
100 Most Influential People on the Planet

Residents of Madison are political animals.  All of the world's top intellectuals eventually come through the UW Campus. I went to hear and was exposed to many thoughtful and beautiful minds. I loved being able to hear Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, one of my feminist heroines and a woman of extraordinary ovaries (courage) for stating her personal truth. It was standing room only. I had read all of her books.

When Michael Pollan spoke, over 8,000 people showed up to hear him.  He's another one of my heros.  Michael Pollan advocates that all of America get to eat the way Madisonians get to eat: locally grown food, mostly plants in extraordinary variety, and hopefully, not too much.  I can not recommend his books highly enough. They will change forever how you think about the food you consume and food systems. Madison feeds both the stomach and the mind!

 Madison-area bumper stickers

Another way Madison political awareness shows up is in bumper stickers.  No where in the world have I seen the amount and variety of bumper stickers that exist in Madison, Wisconsin.  My personal favorite which I didn't capture on film because I was driving when I saw it was "How many Iraqi babies have to die so you can drive that SUV?" Kind of goes to the heart of the matter, doesn't it? The local newspaper publishes a different bumper sticker in the paper ever week.

I thought the bumper stickers on the car above
showed extraordinary political range.

The people of Madison are MASTERS at organizing themselves for anything they believe in whether it be a neighborhood association, a festival, or a cause. I remember the first neighborhood association newsletter I read when I moved into the Monroe-Dudgeon neighborhood in Madison.  First, I marveled that it was 12 pages.  Then I counted the number of names I could find of people who were involved in the creation of the newsletter or involved in some other association activity.  There were 48 different leaders! And those were just the people doing the work, it doesn't even count the people who came to the programs and participated.

 New Orleans showman
"Trombone Shorty"
created incredible excitement
at the Orton Park
Neighborhood Festival

Beyond their neighborhood association newsletters, there were different neighborhood association festivals that brought in national-class performing acts.  Not only was attendance at these neighborhood festivals free, the festivals raised thousands of dollars for neighborhood school activities. Imagine how well you know your neighbors when you all work on a big project like that and then enjoy presenting it to the community together.  What satisfaction!

I went to the Willy Street Neighborhood Festival and heard an amazing band from San Francisco called "Rupa and the April Fishes", I went to 'La Fete de Marquette' and heard a haunting woman from Milwaukee singing in French (I will forever carry her rendition of "Dance Me to the End of Love" in my mind), but best of all was hearing "Trombone Shorty" from the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans.  Trombone Shorty says he learned his showmanship playing for tourists outside the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.  He would work to make his act so compelling he could get tourists to stand there for 45 minutes without moving on down the street. What a showman! I went home with spirits higher than a kite from that evening.

Madison even had a bit of the Czech Republic.
When I saw this sign I knew it had to be a Czech-owned tea house.
It was! They also have a location on Wenceslas Square in Prague.

My very favorite thing in all of Madison
was this bus sign.
A great message in a college town.

Imagine ladies,
how our lives would be different
if this was a globally-held idea.
We could travel to any country on Earth.

The people of Madison
  pride themselves on promoting progress.

Here are some other posts about Madison you might enjoy:

Travel Sites Catalog All Traveling Sites Expat Women—Helping Women Living Overseas International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory expat Czech Republic website counter blog abroadWho links to me? Greenty blog