Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Pickin'

Last weekend there was a tiny bit of a nip in the air so we drove to the outside of town to our favorite pumpkin patch. My kids are almost to the age where this family tradition might not be so meaningful to them, so I'm capturing the moment while they're still happy to be there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kayaking Done Right

It just doesn't get any better!

Mary, Jill and I went on a little adventure in the kayaks this morning. It was a gorgeous Fall day in the Cherokee Marsh - perfect temp, crisp blue sky, calm winds...this is the day I will look back on when it's late February and there are inches upon inches of snow piled at my curb!

Jill surprised us with a lovely picnic including wine (she knows us so well!), bread and cheese. A little tricky to do in a kayak, but we managed to drift, drink, eat and laugh away the afternoon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Little Soccer Star

Sometimes he looks like this....

And sometimes he looks like this (yes, he's on the field, not the sidelines)
but he's still my little soccer star!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Farm Dinner

Tonight, Steve and I, along with our good friends Chris and Mike Hale, were lucky enough to have reservations for the Sassy Cow Creamery Farm Dinner.

This spectacular event is held just once a year (see how lucky we are!) and is limited to a mere 27 guests. The adventure began out in the country at the Sassy Cow Farm Store where we met our host, James, one of two brothers who own the farm and dairy. After a lovely cheese tasting, we were treated to a brief but informative tour of the inner workings of the dairy. We then travelled down the road to a freshly mowed hayfield and up a small hill to a beautiful, serene setting right in the middle of the family farm. Three tables under canopies were set with linens and china and glassware, and the view was just magnificent.

After an impromptu visit from the farm patriarch (who later joined our table for dinner and shared many great stories), we were introduced to Chef Eckles, who provided details of the four-course meal he had prepared. The first course, a butternut cream soup, was a-mazing. Creamy and rich, with crusty bread for dipping, we were all tempted to pick up our bowls and lick them clean. Our second course, a caprese salad with balsamic laced greens, included juicy tomatoes purchased Saturday from the Madison Farmer's Market. Fabulous!

The main course was a wonderful grass-fed beef tenderloin with boursin cheese, garlic mashed yukon gold potatoes and carrots glazed with Sassy Cow butter. The beef had a wonderful, fresh flavor, the potatoes had just the right combination of chunky and creamy and the carrots were perfectly cooked. And, as if it had not already been a dinner to die for, we finished off the evening with a huge slice of creamy pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap crust, topped with Sassy Cow butter pecan ice cream.

I am already begging for a place at the table for next year's event, but I truly cannot imagine having a more perfect evening than the one we just had.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Photo Booth Mayhem

The boys and I were having so much fun with this feature on the mac! I was laughing so hard I almost threw up! I guess it's a good thing it doesn't take much to entertain us!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Kayaking

Today we were lucky enough to find ourselves invited to an afternoon on Mary's pontoon boat. The day wasn't completely cooperating with our plans, giving us a freakishly unseasonal 70 degree temp and clouds threatening rain, but we're tough and we really, really wanted to go for a boat ride.

The kids had a blast, as usual, and Aaron spent the majority of his time in the kayak, paddling around. He's perfecting the art of eating a chocolate muffin while kayaking and if it ever becomes an olympic event, he's destined for gold.

The heartwarming moment of the day came when both of my kids squeezed into the one-person craft and paddled around as though they were best friends. And then I was convinced to give it a whirl - what a blast! Mary and I now have plans to do some paddling of our own as soon as the kids start school. A little paddling, a stop for a cocktail, a little more paddling...sounds like the perfect afternoon to me!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Trip to The HOT Windy City

We finally managed to get our kids to downtown Chicago for a mini-vacation. We travel to the suburbs a couple times a year to visit family but we've never had time to take the boys to see any of the cool places downtown. Steve found himself with a week off while waiting for his next contract so in a sort of "spur of the moment" whirlwind, we plotted our course, made our reservations, purchased our tickets, kenneled the dog, and (whew!) we were off!

Obviously, there are so many things to do in Chicago, but we only had 2 1/2 days so we had to plan carefully. Both boys are complete science nuts, they cannot get enough of Mythbusters, so the Museum of Science and Industry was a no-brainer. We had a blast! Tornados, explosions, creepy underground coal mines, fun mind games and a gigantic model train exhibit - it doesn't get much more fun than that! We spent about 6 hours at the museum, they practically had to kick us out at closing time, drove to our hotel, found a yummy place to have dinner and then fell into our beds, completely exhausted.

Day two was a trip to
the Shedd Aquarium located about 2 miles from our hotel, with a lovely lakefront sidewalk to travel there on foot. There was quite a bit of whining coming from our 8 year old, but even in the 90+ degree heat, we managed to get there, wilted but excited. The fish were amazing, especially the coral reef exhibit in the lower level...I could have spent all day down there watching the sharks, starfish and the other colorful creatures from the deep. Aaron loved the Beluga Whales, Evan's favorite was the Puffer Fish. At closing time we headed to the nearest water taxi - we were NOT going to survive the walk back to the hotel! The "Blue Dog" took us on a quick trip across the water to Navy Pier, where we spent time enjoying cold cocktails (italian ice for the boys), experienced Evan's first ferris wheel ride and then wilted some more in the 102 degree heat. Did I mention that it was HOT!!!!! A dinner at Gino's East Pizza (Super Yum!) and a nice walk back to the hotel made for the perfect ending to another great day.

Aaron was not going to leave Chicago without a trip to the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), so Day three began with car trip across town. We had been warned of the potential for very long lines to ride to the top but I'm happy to say luck was on our side and we practically waltzed right in. I have a really serious fear of elevators, but the trip to the 103rd floor only took about 60 seconds, not even enough time for me to break into a sweat. The big deal about a trip to Willis Tower for Aaron is the opportunity to step out onto the "clear floor" platform they have installed that allows visitors to sort of experience what it might be like to take a step off the edge of the 103rd floor. I actually had no intention of stepping near that thing, but once I was up there I had to try it. Stepping out there really goes against every instinct of self-preservation your body has, I've never had an experience like that in my life. I did not spend more than 60 seconds out there, but I did look down and I did survive without needing to change my undies!

Our trip home included a stop to see our newest family member, my great-nephew Stuart. He's only 3 months old and looks just like his daddy. So Cute!

And now we're safely home with lots of great memories (and piles of laundry). Our next scheduled adventure is the first day of school in a couple weeks. HOORAY!!!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Farmers Market

We are so fortunate to live in a community that provides such a wide variety of wonderful opportunities during the summer months. The lakes, beaches, outdoor dining, the zoo and my favorite activity of all, the Madison Farmers Market.

From April to late October, you make your way around the Capitol square, spending a sunny Saturday morning taking in all the delicious smells, the breathtaking colors and the comfort that comes from purchasing locally grown produce, directly supporting the farms and families who grow them.

Our family has established a routine with stops along the way at our favorite vendors - squeaky cheese curds from Chula Vista, hot and spicy cheese bread from Stella's Bakery, donuts from the Oakhouse Bakery and bison jerky from Cherokee Bison Farm. Depending on the season, we might pick up lovely peppers and tomatoes to make homemade salsa, fresh ears of sweetcorn and maybe a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers for the house.

I love that my kids can experience the market and have contact with the friendly people who are responsible for providing all of this wonderful food. It's a great family activity for everyone!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is Your Mama a Llama?

My family often refers to me as "the llama". I don't remember when it started, or why, but I have been putting up with it for years. They get a huge kick out of it. Me, not so much.
Why can't I be a giraffe? The long legs would be an answer to many prayers. Instead, I'm a pack animal with mangy hair, prone to spitting when agitated.
While at the zoo this weekend, my loving family thought it would be the perfect setting for a family portrait, maybe even worthy of this year's Christmas card...
The Dodson Family, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Concerts on the Square

We have been enjoying our summertime so much! Can you tell, I've been so busy I haven't even been sharing our good times here!

I'll promise to catch up before the leaves fall, but for now, here are some pictures of one of my very favorite things about living in Madison...Concerts on the Square. Lovely weather, wonderful music, favorite friends,  ridiculously good food - what's not to like?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Found It!

"Mom, you know the two couches in the basement, the ones we've kind of abused over the last couple years while playing Xbox, watching TV and maybe having a snack or two on when we know we shouldn't ? In the basement, where you don't like to go because there's always tons of Legos all over the floor, and maybe some of those snack wrappers that aren't supposed to be down there? Well, I've been missing a DS game and I think the couch ate it. Could we please turn the couches over and see if we can find it?"

"If you boys completely clean up the basement first, then I'll go down there and help you turn the couches over, cut slits through the fabric-stuff that keeps everything trapped inside, and we'll see if the couch really did eat your toy."

Monday, April 26, 2010

In My Garden

I've been working outside as much as the weather allows, getting the landscaping around the house cleaned up after a long winter. I'm always amazed to see the flowers break through the ground, surviving after being buried under all that snow for so many months. I have been pouring over my gardening books for inspiration and impatiently waiting for the garden centers to stock up. This year my goal was to get the gardens around the garage in shape, so I spent last week digging everything out - a lilac tree gone wild that didn't get enough sun to bloom properly, several hostas that I already have too many of, and my arch nemesis, creeping charlie. The only thing I kept were two peony bushes that I've never been too crazy about, but perhaps that will change once I improve their surroundings. I know I'll be putting in a beautiful hydrangea bush and I'm considering a climbing rose bush to adorn the brick wall of the garage, but that will be a gamble because of our climate and my lack of gardening skills.
In the meantime, I took some pics of what is currently blooming in the yard - I love the spring color because I don't get much of it in the summer until the hostas bloom.  Enjoy!

Virginia Bluebells

I love violets but not so much after they bloom!


Beautiful Rhododendron

Bleeding Hearts

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cool Find of the Day

We've seen all kinds of cool things on the beach this week. Lots and lots of beached jellyfish, some as big around as a large pizza, and in low tide this evening we found dozens of tiny cupcake-sized ones. We've seen a dead puffer fish, a dead sea tortoise (missing his head - UGH!), and a dead ghost crab, all very cool things for little boys to marvel at. And tonight, while walking off the delicious dinner we had at Backwaters on Sand Key (yum!), we found this "blue button jellyfish"! We had overheard some people talking about them yesterday but we weren't sure if it was something they saw here at the beach or somewhere else. Now we know! I looked them up and technically they're not really a "jellyfish". They're a chondrophore, which is the same type of creature as a Portuguese Man-of-War, an organism made up of a bunch of small organisms. So cool!

Life's a Beach

We're finally here and having a really good time despite the less than spectacular weather. I have to keep reminding myself, "it's better than Wisconsin". The sun is out and the temps are favorable, it's just the wind - relentless. The wind is coming from the north, so it's brisk to say the least. Today is much improved over the last two days, you no longer need a sweatshirt on while you're trying to get a tan. And the next several days are supposed to be warmer and warmer still, but I'm not sure if the breeze will die down or not.

Here are a couple shots of the kids on the beach.

I think my 13 year-old has learned a valuable lesson on this trip...when your mother insists that you put on sunscreen, listen to her even though you're a teenager and you think she's stupid. Sometimes she knows what she's talking about, and she didn't want you to have to look like this on your second day at the beach, trying like heck to keep any sliver of sunshine off your back.

And this one, he's been busy digging his way to China, building the Taj Mahal of sand castles and cleaning the entire beach of "cool shells". Plus, he wears sunscreen when his mother tells him to.