Monthly Archives: April 2015

25 things to know before you graduate from college

Pending one last exam season and the continued benevolence of fate, our son Vinnie will graduate from college in three weeks. Though his actual major remains somewhat murky to us, he is excited to make his way out into the world and, if his internship and work experience are any indication, we think he’s in great shape for wherever a Global Cultural Awareness degree takes him.

Still, there are a few last tidbits or parental wisdom we’d like to pass on before he leaves his collegiate cocoon:

1) Don’t be an hour counter, work until the job is done.

2) Celebrate family.

3) Try.

4) Recognize and nurture genuine friendship.

5) Put the toilet seat back down.

6) Taste your food. Chew slowly. Savor.

7) Call your mother.

8) Wash your hands.

9) Cover your mouth.

10) Brush your teeth.

11) Be kind.

12) Live your life with dignity.

13) Sprint to the finish.

14) Open the door for her.

15) Thank your teachers.

16) Stand straight and tall.

17) Listen. There are really cool stories everywhere.

18) Follow through.

19) Pay your bets and debts.

20) Offer up a prayer or two.

21) Sweat.

22) Surround yourself with good music

23) Apologize when you’re wrong.

24) Be generous.

25) Laugh.

Most importantly, as these pictures from last weekend’s final Fundamentally Sound show indicate, know you are loved.

Family shot Vinnie and Donna Vinnie and Erin Vinnie and Grandma Peggy Vinnie and the extended family Vinnie and the family Vinnie wit Steve and Cary Vinnie, Jenny and Erin Vinnie, Kathy, Keith and Traveian


I got smelt in Underhill

I got smelt in Underhill Friday night and I’ve been chuckling about it ever since.

A sleepy little town on a quiet curve of the Oconto River most of the year, Underhill comes alive during the annual smelt fry, a fundraiser for the Town of Underhill Fire Department that attracts smelt enthusiasts from all over Northeastern Wisconsin.

Though they look like bait to me, smelt are actually a very healthy, tiny little fish, full of those good Omega 3 fats you read so much about.

In Underhill, they serve them dusted with flour and deep fried. For $10, you get a plate full of all-you-can-eat smelt, homemade potato salad, coleslaw, tartar sauce, baked beans, pickles and cheese curds.

A veteran told me smelt tasted like deep fried salmon, so I gave it a whirl.

Turns out that veteran was wrong and I probably won’t be tasting smelt again.

But, everyone else genuinely loved the food. People of all ages filled the tables, and lines snaked around the inside of the fire station and out the door.

Lucky paddle raffle winners also took home frozen meat, fresh cheese and gift cards to local businesses. With lucky number eight, I won a T-shirt that made me laugh, but which I’ll never wear in public, and a $20 gift card to the local nursery.

Though I’m not a huge fan of smelt, I did love the Underhill Smelt fry. It celebrated all of Wisconsin’s greatest resources — fish, cheese, meat, beer, and friendly people.

Best of all, it raised funds for the volunteer fire department.

Thank you to the Town of Underhill Fire Department, for the annual hospitality and the year-round dedication.

May God bless you all.

Downtown UnderHill

Downtown Underhill was hopping during the annual Smelt Fry Friday night.

Smelt boys

Most of the guys in this group have been going to the Smelt Fry for 20 years or more. Vince began tagging along a few years ago.

Underhill Fire Dept.

The line for food stretched outside the door and across the parking lot when we arrived.

Full house

Inside, the tables were crammed with people.

Little Boy

The event appealed the people of all ages.

Smeltfest Assemblyline

The fire fighters and their families took care of the cooking.

Smeltfest chefs (2)

It’s hard work, but they all seemed to be having a great time.

Smeltfest chefs

Fire fighters are a social bunch.

Clean plate club

I took this picture for two reasons: 1) I thought it was charming that some little person had thought to class up the joint with the first dandelion bouquet of the season. 2) Look how clean those plates are! People love smelt.


Here’s what a tub of fried smelt looks like. I thought they looked a little like deep fried zucchini.

Smelt plate

A typical smelt fry plate, minus the cheese curds.

Smeltfest proud wife

Firefighters’ spouses pitched in as well.

Paddle Auction

I scored big in the paddle raffle, thanks to the number 8, my mother in-law’s favorite number.

We got smelt

Vince and I got smelt in Underhill. He enjoyed the cuisine, I enjoyed the company.

Underhill Fire Department

Thanks for the hospitality, Underhill Fire Department, and may God bless you and your fellow fire fighters.

On the Outer Edge of hometown pride

Last Saturday I discovered a bunch of talented people who love Appleton as much as I do.

My friend Jill and I walked down to the Outer Edge, a beautiful, historical building that actually sits in the center of town.

We popped into an Indoor Urban Market held there, and, for just a minute, I stood in the doorway to take it all in. From the left side of the room wafted the rich smell of French Press Coffee, from the right side passed handcrafted Bloody Marys, and down the center of the large room stood really appealing displays by local artists.

Oil paintings, soaps and lotions, candles, clothing, hand-knit sweaters and scarves, custom illustrations, and, in one particularly clever booth, brass instruments turned into lamps filled the room.

I bought some hand-some thank you notes from a company called “Circle Street”, which just happens to be the street next to my house.

I picked up another set of thank you notes from “Sketch Tag Art” and chatted for a little bit with artist Emily Reetz. Emily’s original sketches of Appleton landmarks thrilled me and I bought two prints as well.

Congratulations to all of the artists who showed their work last Saturday. I can’t wait for the next Urban Market and I hope to see some of those this summer at both the Farmer’s Market and Art in the Park.

Appleton Stationary

I loved the Appleton artwork, particularly this sketch by Emily Reetz.

Sewn Stationary

I also bought these cool hand-sewn thank you notes because I liked the look of the newsprint text and, apparently, the artist is my neighbor.

A fresh display

The artists took time to display their work beautifully, which made the shopping experience even sweeter.

Artistic scones

And, speaking of sweet, these scones looked amazing.


The Outer Edge is a beautifully restored building featuring gorgeous stained glass windows and vintage chandeliers.

Stained glass windows

I’m a fan of stained glass windows.

Brass lamps

These brass lamps were whimsical and really pretty.

Sketch Tag Art

Here is the artist and her Appleton sketches. I can’t wait to have her sketch our house.

The Outer Edge

A view from the balcony.

Run turkey, Run turkey, Run far away!

Through a new lens

Happy birthday to the Outlaw Mary Jane and the In-Law Donna

We’ve noticed that the sweetest candy and the shiniest shoes are called Mary Janes.

And, though both have been around much longer than our beloved Outlaw Mary Jane, we think the three Mary Janes share a number of attributes including eternal style, reliability, grace, comfort and kindness.

Today, we’re chewing a little sweet candy, and kicking up our patent leather flats to celebrate the birthday of our favorite Mary Jane.

It won’t be her most memorable birthday, not by a long shot.

That honor might belong to her third birthday, sweetly noted by her mother in an intimidatingly well-kept baby book. That year, she “Made a trip to radio station KYW, said her name over the radio. After the first time, she went to the end of the line, to repeat same again.”

The story confirms the lifelong paradox of Mary Jane, an introverted ham.

Her most memorable birthday might have been her 80th, when the family gathered in Naperville for a champagne toast and party.

It might have been the years her husband Vince took her to Arlington Racetrack to bet on lucky No. 8 and steal a couple of hours away from their growing family.

Or the years her mother decorated the dining room table with blue and white streamers, flowers and a store bought cake from Widens Bakery. Those were good birthdays too.

By far, though, Mary Jane’s best birthday happened in 1957, when she gave birth to her daughter Donna, the second of Vince and Mary Jane’s nine children.

In honor of that birthday, we’d like to take a moment to say Happy Birthday Grandma Mary Jane! and Happy birthday Donna, too!

We hope both of you celebrate all weekend long to kick off one of your best years yet.

3 year old birthday details

Here’s a 1934 entry in the well-kept Mary Jane Baby Book.

Mary Jane Candy

I used to say I was eating these in honor of my mother in-law, but, really I just like the sticky, peanut-buttery goodness. Still, I think of her every time I buy them.

Elaine's  wedding 087

The Outlaw Mary Jane loves to hang out with her family.

Grandma MJ pyramid

She’s a fun-loving mother in-law too.


Here is most of the family at her 80th birthday party.

Donna, Vince, Laura and Molly

We’re saluting the in-law Donna as well. Happy birthday to the family adventurer.


And Happy Birthday to the Outlaw Mary Jane!

A salute to taxpayers who support the arts

Take me to your heart, Graceland

Walking in Memphis

How to ace your college tours