Monthly Archives: May 2016

Rebuild: An idea worth noting

Anti cancer brownies

I had the best of intentions when I whipped up a batch of anti-cancer brownies for my dinner guests yesterday.

I believed the recipe when it told me brown rice syrup was a healthier alternative to sugar, and that cocoa was healthy, but that that consuming milk or dairy products such as ice cream together with cocoa may inhibit the absorption of flavonoids from cocoa.
I even complimented Festival Foods on its excellent variety of healthy alternatives to sugar when I shopped there ahead of my baking afternoon.

Brown rice syrup, I said to myself as I drove home from the grocery store triumphantly, who knew? I thought about all the ways I could use it to make all my recipes so much healthier.

But, I live with a co-blogger who debunks my research on a regular basis and she had a few things to say as I arrived home and began to assemble my treat.

“You know, it all gets broken down as sugar anyway,” she said as she read the label. “This has 22 grams of sugar per serving. How is that healthier?”

“But it’s brown rice,” I said sort of weakly as I considered the fact that she may have, once again, been absolutely right. “It has nutrients sugar doesn’t.”


I had some time to do a little more research as my super healthy brownies baked.

Turns out the extra nutrients in the brown rice are basically cooked out during the sugar making process. The brownies, chock full of dark chocolate cocoa (another item my co-blogger rolled her eyes at months ago when I first bought it. ‘Cocoa is cocoa, mom. You just paid extra for the words “dark chocolate”‘), smelled delicious.

But they looked ridiculous, dark, crumbly and really dry.

I served them, and we all chewed politely for a while.

“These would be delicious,” I said. “With a big bowl of ice cream.”

Anti cancer brownies

I’m all for healthy eating but I think the key is actual sugar in moderation, rather than modified food masquerading as sweetener. My next low sugar dessert is going to be chocolate covered frozen bananas. These brownies were a fail.

The Sound of Silence and a happily Disturbed fan

Early one cold morning, I parked my car in the driveway and stayed put. I had a million things I needed to do, a post-workout shower chief among them, but I sat still, trapped by the  extraordinary beauty of a song. I didn’t even want to think about unbuckling my seat belt until the last lovely strains had faded into the frosty dawn.

I ran into the house, pulled it up on YouTube, and played it for my sleepy family.

Disturbed’s Sounds of Silence still has that effect on me. I stop what I’m doing when I hear it randomly and listen. I seek it intentionally when I need a boost.

I am listening to it right now.

I am now a David Draiman fan. I know, for instance, that he once trained as a Hazan and, consequently, I’ve learned that a Hazan is a Jewish cantor.

I know that, while Draiman graciously welcomes oddball fans like me, he and his band don’t really need us. Their last five albums all hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts. I know he studied in Milwaukee and earned a degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

I know that I’m gushing, but I really can’t help it.

Here are four things I really love about Draiman’s version of the Sound of Silence:

1) I love the respectful attention Draiman gives to each phrase. He talked about how he relates to the lyrics in an interview with “With that song in particular, that opening line, ‘Hello, darkness, my old friend,’ always resonated with me so, so tremendously,” he said. He amplifies the message of a gifted songwriter and that’s hard to do. And, speaking of the songwriter…

2) When Paul Simon complimented his performance on Conan, Draiman was unabashedly thrilled. He posted screen shots of the text, and responded with glee. ““When the original songwriter himself gives his blessing and compliments you on what you’ve done, when our entire intention was to pay homage to one of the most prolific and gifted songwriters of all time, it’s truly overwhelming and incredibly surreal, and a very big shock. We couldn’t have hoped for a more positive outcome. It’s wonderful knowing that he loves it,” he told

3) He is confident enough in his brand and his unique catalogue that he isn’t threatened by mainstream radio play. In fact, he welcomes it. “We really couldn’t be happier. We welcome anyone and everyone to the fold, and it’s just great to know that the emotion and the style of this particular version of this song is affecting so many people,” he said in an interview with Fuse.TV. Since that morning I discovered the band, I’ve listened to many of Disturbed’s songs. And, while I won’t be belting out Stupify in the shower any time soon, I do respect the passion.

4) At 43-years old, he took a risk and discovered a level of talent he wasn’t sure he still had. He describes tearing up as he listened to his version of the Sound of Silence for the first time. “It had been so long since I have allowed myself to go to that place vocally, and hearing it, and hearing it come out as well as I thought it did was not just gratifying, but like having a weight lifted off me. So it was an unbelievable experience for all of us. And that people are connecting with it in the way that they are is just simply amazing.”

If you haven’t done so yet, take a moment or two and listen to Disturbed’s version of Sound of Silence.

I’m thrilled that such a fine example of creative collaboration — between the songwriter and performer, between the singer and his band, and between Disturbed and its growing fan base, exists in this world.


I am a fan, but still uncool enough to wonder how David Draiman sings with those piercings in his lower lip.

Here is the live performance on Conan that caught Paul Simon’s eye. I loved it too.

Uh oh. Better re-teach me how to Bucky

Molly and I arrived on campus in style for her first official act as a Wisconsin Badger.
Distracted by the deceptive savoir faire of Molly’s British GPS, we drove right up Bascom Hill and found ourselves awkwardly positioned on the patio between the building and its famous statue of Abe Lincoln.
“We shouldn’t be driving here, should we?” I called out of the window of our idling car.
“Probably not,” the student assistant pleasantly replied.
I chuckled merrily as I inched my little blue Bug down the sidewalk, weaving gently through strolling students, and headed back toward Observatory Drive. Molly hunched her tall self down as deep into the passenger seat as she possibly could go.
I parked, unbuckled my seat belt and then we had our second disaster.
“Oh no!” Molly yelled in utter panic. “We’re wearing the same shirt!”
I looked down and, sure enough, we had accidentally twinsied ourselves. Worse, still, we were wearing message T-shirts.
Even I, who actually bought and wore matching Christmas sweaters with my daughter through a stretch of her childhood, had to admit that it was decidedly uncool to show up at school wearing the same “You are Beautiful” T-shirt as your mom.
Molly quickly double-wrapped a sweater around herself, firmly sent me in the opposite direction, and headed off to take her placement exams.
Meanwhile, a glorious Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin stretched out before me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
While Molly spent five hours with a tiny purse calculator she’d dug out of our kitchen junk drawer and a couple of No. 2 pencils, I strolled up and down State Street, and enjoyed the Farmer’s Market. I sat on the Terrace with a cup of ice cream and savored the view. I heard a great military jazz band play, tasted lots of cheese curds and bought a new dress.
Later, when I met back up with Molly, I told her how excited I was that we (I mean she) got to spend four years on this glorious campus.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “But, I can’t believe we’re wearing the same shirt.”

Bascom Hill

Picture a cute little Volkswagon Bug (Blue Mist Metallic) parked on the terrace behind this statue. That was us.

Bring all of who you are

I really like this phrase (also, if you look closely, you’ll see me in this photo).


I mean, the variety of cheese curds at the Madison Farmer’s Market was truly mind boggling.


Of course I had to buy a Sconut. I’m a sucker for chocolate and a clever name. It was half scone, half donut.

Spicey cheese bread

But the real must-have at Farmer’s Market is the spicy cheesebread. Yum Yum.

Street band

I love a good street band.

The Capitol

Our capitol is beautiful.

The Raging Grannies

The Raging Grannies cracked me up.


Hooray for tulip season!


Despite the early season, there was an impressive array of produce. I scored some arugula, two kinds of radishes, rhubarb, scones, and two loaves of spicy cheesebread.

little boy and flowers

I thought the flowers were beautiful and the little boy pondering them adorable.


It was a special treat to hear the Army Jazz Band, which featured a cello.

end it with champagne

I spotted this cheerful French grandma all over Madison. I finally asked her to slow down so I could read her T-shirt. “Start the day with a smile. End it with champagne.” My kind of gal.

I got a kick out of the Raging Grannies. Here’s a taste.


From this house, to the world

Raise a thick pair of glasses to Appleton and journalistic standards

Yesterday, I learned to my shock that 66.67% of Appleton residents require reading glasses, though only 33.3% actually wear them in public.

Did you know Appleton was the most far-sighted city in the United States? I can’t help but wonder what’s wrong with a city whose residents are both so blind and so vain. Is it something in the drinking water? The carrots? A stubborn refusal to ingest an appropriate amount of vitamin E?

Desperate for answers, I quickly pulled the curtains to my home closed, dusted off my specs, and read the report.

“Appleton is home to the largest share of blind and vain readers in both Wisconsin and the country,” I read.

“Well, geez,” I thought. “I read it in the paper so it must be so.”

And then I checked the metrics.

It turns out the paper had been quoting a survey conducted by the Institute of Deliberate Idiom Obscurers Transcribed. In an effort to review self-reported incidences of binge squinting, the group conducted a comprehensive survey of all Polish/Croatian residents whose last names begin with B living in the Erb Park area.

The group also noted that the density of lenses on spectacles perched on 2.4 noses for every three faces in Appleton is the ninth highest ratio in America. Still, some, (but not necessarily trusted reporters), would question the lack of compelling methodology and the use of self-reporting in assembling the report.

And, it’s not just Appleton. Eau Claire, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Madison and Oshkosh all cracked the top 10 list. Come on, Wisconsin! Open your eyes!

The upsetting news filled my Facebook newsfeed yesterday, and prompted a somewhat desperate plea for a response from our local newspaper.

“Are you proud or embarrassed,” the reporter asked. “Let us know in the comments.”


Requiem for a cello

Mayo Clinic offers handwaves and hope

Every afternoon for four hours or more, Joe Johnson stands on Second Street Southwest in Rochester and enthusiastically waves to passing people and vehicles.

His purposefully outlandish dress draws attention, his warm greeting coaxes genuine grins. Having manned his post six days a week for the past nine years, he is one of Mayo Clinic’s most recognizable ambassadors.

“The people love me,” he said when I stopped to take his picture. “I’m the Second Street Waver. I like to spread the joy.”

Stationed as he is between the clinic’s main complex and St. Mary’s Hospital, just across the street from the Ronald McDonald House, the Second Street Waver knows how important a smile can be. He stands in the middle of one of the world’s foremost medical facilities and does what he can to heal.

With its fascinating juxtaposition of history and innovation, Mayo Clinic knows a little something about healing. Every aspect of its bustling, efficient, kind, terrifying, sweet, sweaty, spiritual, clinical, helpful, analytical, new wave, old school facility is focused on that.

Pianos stationed all over the campus invite people to sit down and play, offering both musicians and audiences therapeutic relief. An underground corridor connects most of the buildings, while helpful volunteers patrol its busy corridors with helpful tips and directions.

Retail therapy? Check. There is even a free shuttle to and from the hospitals and the mall.

Spiritual therapy? On every corner and for every denomination.

Artistic therapy? In every building, in the beautiful parks and on the walls.

Founded after a devastating tornado in 1883 by Mother Alfred Moes, the Mother Superior of a Franciscan community, and Doctor William Mayo, a country doctor, Mayo Clinic maintains standards literally carved in marble.

Heroes in running shoes and scrubs provide the best care they know, while others spend late hours in labs researching better options.

People make their way to Rochester from all corners of the globe. We met a cab driver who’d been working there for 18 years. In the back seat sat his small son. “I’ve been working to bring my family over for eight years,” the driver said. “We were finally able to get my wife a visa. She and my kids have been here eight months. They love it.”

Drama, sadness, fear and triumph mark the days in Rochester and members of the service industry are well-equipped to deal with it all. Large buses transport teams of medical students from the school to teaching hospitals. Medical teams consult in the mornings, operate throughout the day, and make their rounds in the evening.

Meanwhile, on an ordinary Wednesday, a kind man stands on a curb, waving flags and offering hand waves and hope.

Chapel at St. Mary's

The chapel in St. Mary’s Hospital is a gorgeous space.

Dolphin statue

The Dolphin statue symbolizes childhood joy and freedom.

Dr. Mayo and Mother Moes

Dr. Mayo and Mother Moes….and, if you look closely, Lauta and Mother Peggy. Until I uploaded this picture I had no idea that we’d, once again, accidentally dressed twinsie.

Episcopal Church

You can pray at a facility of nearly every denomination.

Freedom flower

The Freedom Flower

Healing Hands

Healing hands….on a garbage dumpster.


It’s a busy place. We saw two helicopters maneuver through the roof at the same time.

Marble drinking fountain

I thought this picture of a marble bubbler with the paper cups symbolized the juxtaposition of history and innovation.


This women scooted out of her wheelchair and onto the piano bench to heal and be healed through music.

Piano player

This is the somewhat famous piano in the Gonda Building at Mayo.

Saint Ricardo

Even the saints are doctors. This is a statue of Saint Ricardo and the baptismal font I accidentally back into while taking pictures.

Second street waver

Joe Johnson is the Second Street Waver, and has been for nine years. You can find the Second Street Waver on Facebook.

The Mayo brothers

Doctors Charles and William Mayo expanded on their father’s vision to create the world renown clinic.

The original Mayo Medical School

The original Mayo Medical School is undergoing renovations.

View from hotel window

This was the view from our hotel room. There are healing vibes everywhere.

The Play is the Thing (a post by Molly)

With the close of my twenty first and final show at Appleton North Theatre this past weekend, I’ve been reflecting on what a wonderful gift live theatre is to those who experience it, in the audience, on the stage and behind the scenes. While I certainly feel sad to end my high school theatre career, I feel even more grateful for the privilege of being a part of something as remarkable as live theatre.

The Play is the Thing


The Winter’s Tale (2012)

It is a privilege to care for a play,

To take home a small piece of the playwright’s soul,

Nurture it with hours of hard work,

Lose sleep while gazing at it, like a baby in a bassinet,

Plant it in the minds of audience members

And watch it flower on a wooden stage.


Journey to the West (2014)

It is a privilege to laugh with a play,

To let it shake your shoulders and redden your cheeks,

Feel your giggle grow into a guffaw,

Lose your breath, find it, and lose it again,

Bend in half around a witty joke,

And trap it in the pit of your belly.

les mis

Les Miserables (2013)

It is a privilege to love a play,

To hold it in your arms and kiss its cheek,

Let it draw a smile on your face,

Hold its hand for a few brief hours,

And listen to the melody of its words,

Tickle your ears and tease your brain.

Caterpillar rehearsal

Alice in Wonderland One Act (2015)


It is a privilege to live with a play,

To smell the air and breathe the wind,

That carries it through the acts,

Lace up your feet in a character’s shoes,

Fall asleep with her thoughts, wake up with her dreams,

Find her eyes staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.

white snake

The White Snake (2016)

It is a privilege to cry over a play,

To reach for it as it walks away from you,

Leave behind a piece of your soul,

In the dog-eared, coffee stained pages of your script,

Then pass it on to the next cast, the next stage,

While a tear traces your cheek and a smile curves your lips.


Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo