June 22nd was the third "Cogs and Roses" picnic at the Mequon residence of Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter. This year's theme was "The Orient Express," noting the 100th anniversary of that fabled train service. The house was decorated with signage appropriate for a station, and Henry Osier, in agent's garb, was manning a ticket window in one of the outbuildings.

Rainy weather held off and it ended up being a lovely day. There was a large turnout of many imaginatively garbed people that made fascinating watching.

Georgie produced a lovely cake, based on an authentic Orient Express promotional poster design.

Steampunk croquet was again a feature, with a significant twist this year. Instead of the past "steeplechase" or obstacle course pattern winding around the grounds, this year's course was laid out in a flat field, with all the wickets in sight of one another. The trick was in figuring out the order in which to play the wickets. Players were given the following instructions:

"Croquet Adventures III: A Journey Through Techno-History

In this course, each of the eighteen wickets is associated with an individual who has made a significant contribution to the technology or culture of the Victorian Era. The various items placed at these wickets are clues to the identity of those individuals--it is thus incumbent upon the participants to correctly associate these items such that the course may be played in the proper order as indicated on the list below.

"To assist in this identification, the year in which the contribution was made is listed after each name. Should a player require further clues, consultation with others is allowed--or in circumstances of dire puzzlement, contact the course master for the disbursement of helpful hints."

The list:

1 Louis Daguerre 1827
2 Dr. George Gatling 1861
3 Nichola Tesla 1886
4 Alfred Nobel 1867
5 Thomas Crapper 1861
6 Louis Pasteur 1886
7 John Erickson 1862
8 George Henry Corliss 1849
9 Elisha Otis 1853
10 John Ambrose Fleming 1901
11 Thomas Alva Edison 1889
12 Moritz Jacobi 1868
13 Robert Heinrich Koch 1892
14 Samuel Colt 1836
15 Guilemo Narconi
16 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887
17 Dr. Alexander Wood 1853
18 Samuel Morse 1837

The wickets were decorated with (in random order here):


1 high-voltage coil
2 motion picture camera
3 flask labeled in German "bacteria culture in medium"
4 vacuum tube
5 toilet seat
6 hypodermic needle
7 revolving pistol
8 (faux) bundle of dynamite
9 floating naval mine
10 telegraph key
11 spark-gap radio set
12 steam valve and governor
13 (model)Gatling gun
14 model of the USS Monitor
15 magnifying glass and bottle of "7% Solution"
16 lab glassware labeled in French
17 still camera
18 elevator

Can you match them (without recourse to Google)? Some are obvious, but others are quite obscure.

We played croquet, socialized, had cake and sparkling wine, and stayed for a tasty dinner that Chuck and Julie Ann had catered by Scheherazade restaurant, in keeping with the theme.

Everyone seemed to be having a good time--I know we did.


Transylvania Polygnostic University ("Girl Genius" Universe, by Phil and Kaja Foglio)

Be true to your school!

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Pictures from the Wiscon 32 Fancy Dress Party, "Fantastic Groves of Academe."




Distinguished members of the Department of Maniacal Engineering, Transylvania Polygnostic University, Beetleburg, Romania.

More educational pictures behind the cut:

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We slept in a bit Sunday morning, so I missed the "Pullman/Lewis Smackdown," which I would have liked to have seen, and which was by other's accounts quite good. Instead, we had a leisurely start and Georgie had time to prepare for her panel on "Why Return A King (or Queen)?" The panel, with Georgie as moderator, included Chris Hill, Tamora Pierce, Sarah Monette, and P.C. Hodgell, playing to a large and enthusiastic audience. The panel ranged over topics from 'bread and butter' arguments, such as that if you write stories set in medieval Europe, kings are the default government; to the "ideals" of kingship, in which "God's anoited" is the just ruler who is above politics; plus side excursions into other mythic kings such as the Fisher King and the Summer King/Winter King ideas.

After the panel, we went out for a quick lunch with David Bratman. After fighting the clouds of dust the winds were whipping up from the State Street construction zone, we were a bit dismayed to find that our goal, Mediterranean Cafe, was closed Sundays. We fell back on Potbelly's Deli, which provided us with quite good hot sandwiches.

Back at the hotel, we made rendesvous plans with co-conspirators Tracy Benton and Bill Bodden, and sallyed forth for the great Fancy Dress Party Grocery Shopping Expedition, which occupied the early part of the afternoon.

We got back in plenty of time for my panel, "On the Lifespan of Genres," moderated by Benjamin Rosenbaum. Joining me on the panel were Eleanor Arnason, Helen Keeble, and Steve Silver, filling in for absent Darja Malcolm-Clarke. The panelists were generally dismissive of John Barnes' premise, set forth in his "Helix" column, that genres have an inherent lifespan of about seventy years, after which they are "undead," but for different reasons. Eleanor provided some formal definitions of "genre" which sparked discussion as to whether the term was being used incorrectly, and if so, how. Steve Silver put his encyclopedic knowlege of SF publishing history and dates to good use, showing that Barnes' definition of SF as a genre having a starting point of 1927 (the "Amazing" era) was arguable at best. I showed how the resticted lifespan arguement was invalid when applied to any other genre, such as the Western story, let alone major art forms such as opera and the symphony. We had a good audience and a lot of participation, and I was very pleased with the panel.

After that, Bill and I went out to fetch the half-barrel of Capital Amber beer I had on reserve, and the party setup began in earnest.

This year's theme was "Fantastic Academe," and we had encouraged people to attend as graduates or faculty of schools they had, or would like to have had, attended. Georgie decorated the walls with school crests: Hogwarts, Miskatonic, Transylvania Polygnostic (from the "Girl Genius" comic), Pratchett's "Unseen University," and "Saganami Island," the space academy of the Honor Harrington universe.

The food theme was "Classic Wisconsin Graduation Party," honoring Maureen Kincaid Speller's matriculation from the University of Kent. Total surprise was obtained when Maureen first saw her smiling visage adorning the cake, and she was thrilled with the glitzy gown Tracy had made for her. If there was cake, there had to be ice cream, and there was. There was also the aforementioned bheer, cranberry-orange punch (popular recipe available on Tracy's journal "replyhazy"), cheese and sausage (natch), "taco dip" and chips, and cocktail franks in barbecue sauce.

Of course we costumed, and Tracy and Bill were quite spectacular in coordinating emebellished lab coats as members of the Transylvania Polygnostic faculty. Georgie was very 19th century elegant as "Headmistress of the Ladies' Academy of Grace Adieu." I had had Tracy make me a set of current doctoral regalia in my persona as "Sagramor the Sagacious," a long-lived sorceror who started his academic career at Oxford in 1208 and has collected schools and degrees up to Wisconsin 1979 (my own real class). We had some other good costumes show up, and were pleased to the extent other people dressed up for the evening even if not costuming.

The party went very well and we were pleased by it. Food and punch held out well. I had thought we had over bought the beer a bit, but got a last rush of thirsty fans after midnight; turns out there had been some very popular Dr. Who and "Galactica" panels that ran very late, and by the time the attendees got up to the sixth floor, other rooms were either out of beer or closed up for the night. When word went out that we had plenty of beer left, we were instantly popular! Things finally ran down shortly before two AM when we gave "last call" to the ten or so people left and closed up, at which time we may have been the last party open, even the con suite having closed due to the con contagion having taken a toll on their volunteers.
OK, Gearheads--how would you like to get this for your birthday? Georgie made this for me for a party last Saturday. The design is based upon a repeater pocket watch movement.





But, no, Burgess fans, it is not a Clockwork ORANGE Cake, although that would have been good, too: it was a Clockwork Chocolate-Cherry Cake, which was thouroughly delicious. (Sorry, it's all gone now--.)

I thought of telling our guests that whomever got the mainspring would be the King, but didn't want to temper their enjoyment of it in any fashion--.

The next question is, now that we have seen a Clockwork Cake, what would a Cakework Clock consist of? Now THAT would be Mad Science. (or would it be Mad Cooking?)

Two parties

Dec. 8th, 2006 01:26 pm
Saturday, December 2, got the holiday party season for us off with a bang. In the afternoon, we were invited to a surprise birthday party for our friend Judy Seidl. Georgie had to work, so I attended in my capacity as cake delivery man, making sure that the commissioned "red hat" cake got there safely. (Judy had been joking about being eligible to join one of the ladies' "Red Hat" societies--.) Georgie produced a lovely cake, complete with real ribbon band and fabric rose decorations that several guests initially mistook for a real hat. Judy had been lured out shopping by another friend, and I arrived to find the house filling up with guests as final preparations were completed under the generalship of mastermind Tim Kozinski. Finally the phone call came that Judy was about five minutes out and we took places to spring the surprise, which came off flawlessly. judy was very touched by the occasion, and we had a very nice get-together fueled by delicious snacks laid on by Tim, Bob Seidl, Shelia Horne, and other helpers.

That evening, we had an invitation to the annual holiday party given by fellow Burrahobbit Don Mueller. As always, Don's home was extravagantly decorated for Christmas, with innumerable Santa statuettes, figurines, ornaments and other items of motif. It's always fun to try to pick out what's new for the year. Don was serving out whatever was desired to drink from his handsome basement bar, while the guests brought in a truly astonishing and elegant variety of finger food. As usual, we tended to occupy the comfy chairs in the living room and chat, with occasional excursions to the nearby groaning board, or the self-serve wine bar. Georgie was able to attend with me, and we had a very good time, but the combination of her having put in a full day of work at the Library and I having done considerable errand running before the afternoon party caused us to fold up fairly early. We hope to do better next year!
The weekend of October 28-29 was a busy one for us as it usually is. Unfortunately, due to some illnesses and departures for other jobs at the Library, Georgie had to work through a lot of it this year.

The weekend started off with Milwapa collation at our house. I had tastefully decorated the downstairs with my (increasingly) extensive collection of 12" monster action figures. New this year were the "Barnabas Collins", Christopher Lee as "Dracula", "Dr. Phibes," and "Willie Wonka." "Willie Wonka" you say? Well--I think that when you take the figure of the vaguely sinister Depp in the Edwardian outfit and replace the candy cane with a long knife and a doctor's bag, he makes a good Jack the Ripper--.
We also had out some of our ceramic Halloween houses and the Jack-O-Lanterns of the season. Georgie always does the traditional Schnobrich pattern: Round eyes, traingle nose, grinning mouth with one square tooth. I try to do a different monster each year, and managed a creditable "gargoyle" pumpkin.

Once the collation was well underway, I fired up the DVD player and inflicted a slide show of our Vienna trip on the helpless captives (the horror!). They retaliated by producing Wierd Al Yankovick's new DVD/CD which was played. Three words:"Weasel Stomping Day". This cheerful and totally non-PC video is funny and gross in that bad-little-boy way Weird Al can carry off.

In the evening, Georgie and I went to the annual Lytheria Halloween party. I went as "V" from "V for Vendetta" and made a good entrance declaiming "Remember, remember the fifth of November!" (Scary thing, all I needed for this costume was the mask. Years ago, a Halloween party had actually fallen on Nov. 5, so I went as Guy Fawkes and still had the hat and wig. The boots were from my Ren Faire garb, and doesn't everyone have a long black cloak?) I wore the mask most of the night, and was surprised at how many of the other guests found it unsettling--.

Georgie, having had one of those ideas that would not go away, went as "Grendel's (Soccer) Mom." She made crude-looking skin shoes, and covered a simple dress with scraps of hide and fur, draping it with a gray-green shawl reminicent of lake weeds. The killer, of course, was her spiel: "Hi, I'm Grendel's mom. Grendel's a good boy. I think the anger management classes are working for him. Little Rolf's your boy isn't he? How's he doing? I'm glad the scazrring won't be too bad--." To that effect, delivered in that sincere, parent-teacher conference voice--. I must get her to write it down so I can post it. I didn't take pictures at the party, but pictures were taken, so I will post or link to some when I get them.
Saturday evening was ANOTHER party (this mad social whirl!), this one at the home of Chuck Tritt and Julie Ann Hunter, who were having a "Sweet Sixteen" party for their well-loved German Shepherd, Shiloh. Shiloh is essentially a member in good standing of the local fannish community, and achieving sixteen years is a notable feat, not just because it's way old for a dog, but because she's fought off cancer and other ailments in the last few years. I refer to Shiloh as "The Mystery Dog." She was found wandering alone in Ozaukee County, and soon after Chuck and Julie Ann adopted her, showed signs of an interesting background. Early on, they wer puzzled to come home and find the dog outside, although all the doors and first-floor windows were locked. It subsequently appeared that she had wiggled though a partly-open second-story window and successfully leaped to the ground in order to drive off a trespasser. When the UPS truck arrived, she got very excited and refused to allow the truck to leave until she had been allowed to get on board and sniff every package. The UPS driver was amused to tolerate this ritual but expressed puzzlement as to what he would do if she "found" something. The electric company was doing a helicopter survey of power lines and asked permission for the helicopter to set down in their field for a refueling stop. Not only did Shiloh show no fear of the helicopter, she tried to get aboard! Chuck eventually arranged for a private helicopter ride, and he reported that Shiloh was not only perfectly calm, but showed every sign of enjoyment. So,what dog training includes all of agressive perimeter defense, drug or bomb sniffing, and heliborn operations? Special forces for dogs?

Chuck and Julie Ann throw good parties. They are having fun with the currently popular Tiki-retro fad, and decided on a Tiki theme for the party. The long damp day broke at last into a beautiful sunset with rainbow, so we were able to sit on the veranda, soak up island drinks and nosh on tropical themed food while chatting with an interesting collection of fans, neighbors, MSOE faculty and friends. Shiloh was a friendly and accommodating Guest of Honor (but then, as Julie Ann said, Shiloh thinks she is Guest of Honor at EVERY party--). As I told Chuck and julie Ann, "Best dog's birthday party I've ever been to!"--and a very good party by any standards.
Sunday we broke our fast on bakery purchased Saturday morning, an launched into a round of early panel viewing, starting at 8:30AM with "Shapeshifters: Moral Ambiguity and Sexual Threat." The panel, who ranged from X-Men fans to a transgendered person cut a wide swathe through the topic and had a good time doing it. "Homes of Our Own" at ten AM explored a broad number of approaches to the theme of home in fantasy and science fiction (and mystery and romance--) but reached no conclusion on whether men or women discernably wrote about home differently. Both were very enjoyable.

We sallied out to Kabul restaurant for our main meal of the day at lunch time. Kabul is another one of our ritual stops in town and the chicken shish kabob and kofta karayi were as good as ever.

Georgie was on "Narnia: Faith and Feminism" at 1PM, along with David Lenander, Penny Hill, Sylvia Anne Kelso, and Cynthia Ward. This was a very good panel on Lewis and his writings with a number of different viewpoints. Georgie's remarks to the effect that Narnia is a Christian's story, but not a Christian allegory, were recieved by the audience with literal applause. Her idea that Lucy shares with Alice and Dorothy the position of "opener of the way" to the fantasy land was also well received.

Immediately after the panel, it was meet Bill and Tracy and fight our way through the entangling conversations for the trip to Woodman's and final party supplies. Since we arrived back inthe middel of the last afternoon panel, elevators we mercifully clear, and we took the opportunity to stage all our stuff down to the sixth floor.

We got into Room 607 quite promptly at 5PM and began setup, which consisted of loading cheese, meat, and drinks into the room refrigerators, and icing down the rest of the drinkables in the bathtub. Then we hung decorations, including Venice travel posters, feather masks, and gold foil spirals depending from the ceiling. Cutting up our trademark fresh pineapple and surrounding it with melon chunks did not take long, so we actually had time to take a break and get into costume in a leisurely fashion before laying out the remainder of a descent antipasto: olives, artichoke hearts, picked mushrooms, salami, prosciutto, and cheeses. We also had an assortment of delicious Italian cookies from Sciortino’s bakery here in Milwaukee. The piece de resistance of décor was a rented “champagne” fountain, which inspired a lot of comment. I was surprised at how many people had never seen one. We filled that with Asti Spumante and managed to keep it sparkling along through the night, even if the thing did leak, slowly. Keeping with the “sparkling” theme, we had Kirschten Regale sparkling cider and pear juice for soft drinks, and Andre cold duck for those who preferred red wine. (Yes, cold duck. Hey, it was with our theme. And it actually isn’t bad. It was a blast from the past for a lot of people--.)

Georgie looked gorgeous in her beaded dress of deep sea-green with matching Venetian mask and traditional hat, and a flowing diaphanous wrap spangled with sea-themed decorations. Tracy Benton was even more spectacular in her hand-dyed silk period gown of cloudy violet shades representing nebulous outer space. Bill Bodden was regal and imposing in black and gold as the Doge, and I was in black and white parti-color as Harlecchino, both of which costumes were also sewn by Tracy.

We opened the doors at 8PM, figuring that since the con was sold out and the dessert reception only had 400 tickets, there might be a lot of people at loose ends until GoH speeches. We were wrong about that, but we did provide a haven for a few drifters, and we considered it a good omen that out first guest came in an attractive Renaissance costume.

Things livened up gradually with many guests showing up attractively masked and garbed. The decorated vizard masks I had made proved popular as a party favor, and our food and drink selections stood us in good stead until the party wound down about 1:30AM. I would have to say, a good time was had by all.
On December 26th, Georgie and I attended the annual Holiday Tea given by our friends in the Household of Chantry Weave (Tin Kozinski, Shelia Horn nee Haberland, Bob Horn, Bob Seidl, Judy Seidl, Jeanette Gugler, and John Fritz). This year, the Tea had a 40's/wartime theme, and Georgie and I had helped out with the planning by digging up some recipe books specifically aimed at rationing issues. In aid of the theme, Georgie dressed up in a suit with shorter skirt than she normally wears, reflecting that fabric was being rationed as well, and seamed stockings, which drew much comment. I put on a suit (men's fashions not having changed much) but sporting Georgie's father's "Ruptured Duck" In the buttonhole. This is properly called an Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin, but was genrally know by the more humorous title. It was issued to discharged veterans as an indication of their status so that they wouldn't be hassled by people wondering why they weren't in the service or on duty. Bob Horn, who is a reinactor as well as a member of the Queen's Court at the Bristol Renaissance Faire, raised the bar by assembling an authentic U.S. Army Air Force officer's uniform. Others of the ladies and gentlemen appeared in vintage costume as well, and there was period music on the "phonograph." The cooks managed to assemble a groaning board of familiar delicacies, so apperently rationing would not have cut into the usual menu too much. We passed a very pleasant afternoon in chatting and snacking. Apparently, the Household will be taking a year off from this very labor intensive project next season, so we will have to find something to do to fill the hole--.
Well, it's been a busy week (in Lake Woebegon) and I hope to catch up a few events. We were invited to the home of our friend Tim Kozinski November first for a dinner in honor of Dwali, the Hindu festival of lights and New Year celebration. Tim had prepared a lovely table, set with silk napkins and placemats, and the sideboard had been turned into a flower-bedecked altar where Ganesha held pride of place among other deities. (Tim and Judy Seidl operate "Ganesha's Treasures" an Indian clothing business specializing in saris.) The main dish was to be roast leg of lamb, and we contributed a dish of jasmine Basmati rice with cardamom pods from Georgie. Sweet things to eat are very much a part of Dwali tradidtion and I had gone to a store/restaurant here called "Bombay Sweet" and picked up a large assortment of Indian "sweets" for dessert. "Sweets" are about the only thing that describes them, since they are neither candies not cookies nor pastries in the conventional sense. Quite a few are based on the kind of milk-batter balls that make up gulab jamun, with various coatings and fillings; others are cakes of sugary stuff with different flavorings , and still other are a sort of heavy material with a taste and texture like heavy mild marzipan which may be spiced with a bit of saffron. We also had some very nice samosas, a lovely daal (a lentil pilaf), naan with and without garlic, and the lamb was lovely. There was also saag paneer, but cooked spinach is cooked spinach in my book, and I am not the one to appreciate it properly--. All in all, the dinner was as good as any we had had at most Indian restaurants, and the company was excellent as well.
As usual, this year, our Halloween Celebrations centered around Lytheria, the east-side mansion owned by our friend Lee Schneider, and inhabited by a changing cooperative household of fans and students. Saturday night was the open-house Halloween party, which we attended in costume. Our friend, Lisa Mason, had suggested that "Scary Godmother" a cartoon character by writer and artist Jill Thompson would make a good costume for Georgie. (See Wikipedia entry on SG here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scary_Godmother ) After some time of finding the right parts the costume made its debut at the party, with me going as her skeleton lodger, Mr. Pettibone. Both costumes were well recieved, and a good time was had.

The following afternoon was the Trick-or-Treat production. We had decided that this was the year if any to do "Star Wars", never having done it, and set the theme as "Coruscant Job Fair" with recruiting tables for both Jedi and Sith, Imperial Armed Forces (motto: "The Clone Army Builds Men!"), droid repair school, and the Mos Eisley Musicians Guild. I came as Count Dooku, but turned the Sith table over to my master, Emperor Plapatine (Kev Gallimore) and spent most of the afternoon working the stairs and sidewalks when we had a line, which was most of the time. Georgie came as female Jedi Bariss Ofee, Henry Osier was the Imperial recruiter, Todd Voros the droid repair tech, Janice Hanchar the Cantina performer, Lee Schneider and Gary Cone as Security, Julie Ann Hunter as the Jawa, Barisha Lettermann as Amidala, and Chuck Tritt, Steve Hanchar, Jolene Stiles and Mike Davis (aka "Raxus") as bounty hunters/mercenaries. Perhaps due to the good weather, we had our largest turnout ever, giving away ALL the candy we had on hand except for some emergency reserves, meaning in excess of 600 visitors, mostly not counting parents. The schtick was that the kids had to choose whom to sign up with, at which time they got a chit to hand in for a "hiring bonus" from the cashier (Therese Roden).

As usual, fun was had. The best moment was when we saw a Yoda costume coming. The reaction of myself, Chuck, and Mike was "Yoda! Let's get him!" Taking charge as my "Count Dooku" personality, I declared "He's mine!" I went to the sidewalk, took a guard position with my (toy plastic) lightsaber, and gave my challenge: "OK, you shrivelled green runt, time for a rematch!" "Yoda" was taken aback for a bit, then gamely deployed his lightsaber to the cheers of the onlookers and moved in for the attack. We had a brief "duel" which ended when I let Yoda touch me on the leg. I then escorted the victor to up to claim his candy.

OK, let's see if this works: The Halloween 2005 folder should be publicly viewable at:

http://briefcase.yahoo.com/ggrihn

Hmm. Forgot to upload the photos to this folder. Check back later!
Lytheria is the name of the fannishly-well known house on Milwaukee's east side that is home to Lee Schneider and the ever-changing band of communards that have taken part in the great experiment as to whether or not a fannish household can long endure. This April marked the 25th anniversary of Lytheria, and a long-expected party was called for. Lee invited all the former residents he could find (that weren't banned--not everyone has left under happy circumstances) as well as friends and familiars. I fall into the latter category, having hung out there ever since I moved to Milwaukee twenty-four years ago. By this time, I've probably spent as much cumulative time there as some people who have paid rent. Of course Georgie has been a regular visitor too, and felt called upon to exercise her cake artistry in the cause, producing a spectacular three-dimensional replica of the house in four layers of cake, finished off with cardboard porches and model railroad architectural details. Several people who saw it did not realize it was a cake at first.

The doors opened at noon for some of the out-of town guests. I dropped off Georgie and the cake there about 5PM on my way to my last performance of "Hound," and came directly back from the theatre after the show. As i expected, the cake had not been cut, and wasn't actually disassembled until after midnight when a mob demaned it. The cake was delicious as well (as ususal).

It was very good to see some of the old-timers, such as Peter Thomas and Ingrid Stark (aka Ingrid the Crafty), but also sad to see how many were kept away by distance, by life, or at least in one case, by death. Twenty-five years is a long time and a lot can happen in it.

It was a good party and a worthy commemoration.
We got over to Lytheria for the annual big Halloween party about 8:00PM. it is a costume optional party, but we always have some: this year I went as "Van Helsing," from the movie of that name, and Georgie went as Anna Valerious. I was able to pick up long leather coat, brimmed hat, gloves, boots, and suitable pants from my own wardrobe--. I bought a decent leather vest and a roll-neck sweater that was a perfect match for the one worn by Hugh Jackman in the film, but it was too hot for indoor wear, so I substituted a plain gray shirt. Georgie got lots of complements on her leather corset and boots, and embroidered blouse and jacket, which were referential to the movie character, but in her colors.

As usual, Lee and the Lytherians (good name for a rock band--)set out a feast and had a full program of movies--including "Van Helsing" and "Hellboy." There were a few more costumes this year than some, including Henry Welch as a "hula girl" and Chuck Tritt as "Alladin," among others. We had a good time, but folded up about 11PM due to work and APA party earlier in the day.
We decided to celebrate our 20th anniversary by having a party for our friends. A wedding is what happens on one day. A marriage is everything that happens after that, and so all of the wonderful people we know and have known are a part of these twenty years.

We started by hunting down a hall. The Milwaukee Irish Cultural and Heritage Center has a nice, if genteely old, space, very cheap, and they were available. The Center staff recommended some bands (Irish music wasn't required, but both of us like it.) and we were able to retain Frogwater, a multi-talented duet. (www.frogwater.us)(Actually, band size varies, but a duet suited us.)Susan Jesky-Dermody, the group's leader is reputed to be one of the finest fiddlers in Wisconsin, and having heard them, I wouldn't disagree.

We hired one of our friends, Tim Kozinski, as private chef to assist us with food for the party. Georgie and I did some of the work, slicing cheese, pouring cider, and chopping veggies, and of course Georgie made the main cake, which was a reproduction of our orginal wedding cake,chocolate frosting and all. I contributed my deviled eggs. Tim made us roast beef, lamb en croute, stuffed mushrooms, spinakitopita, apple spice cake (for those who couldn't eat chocolate)and other goodies. Beer, ale, stout and Sprecher sodas were on us, and there was cash bar for anything else--which wasn't called for much.

Of the hundred plus people we invited, we ended up with a bit more than eighty guests--it was a busy time, many conflicts, some last minute, and some illnesses. However, there were certainly enough people to hit critical mass for a party and to make a serious dent in the refreshments. Everyone said they had a good time--including the band and the bartender! That's what I call a party.
October sixth is our wedding anniversary, and this one was number 20. Although we are hosting a party on the 9th, we decided as a private celebration to get the most splendid meal in town. (Foodies, hold on to your hats!) We frequently go to Sanford Restaurant for occasions, and have taken note of what is now called the ‘Surprise Menu.’ Seven courses, all people at the table have to have it, seventy-five dollars each. Matching wine pairs are an additional $30. We ordered the Surprise Menu for both of us and one set of wine pairings—we figured we could trade sips, and did.

What we got was spectacular beyond our dreams. Several of the courses paired small servings of different items, so in fact we sampled ten different dishes, all delicious, and seven different wines.

All Sanford meals start with an “amuse” or pre-appetizer. Lately it has been a poached mussel in saffron broth, served in a square shot glass with a straw to suck up the broth. This was good as always AND doesn’t count toward the seven courses.

First course: Roasted beet and garlic soup with rock shrimp. 2003 Rose de Pinot Noir, Saintsbury, California. Many of the items were form the menu, and this was no exception. What was exceptional was the bright beet flavor without the “root cellar” undertone that makes beets problematic. The garlic only served to mellow the beets, and the grilled rock shrimp garnish with a bit of seared endive was just right.

Second course: Lobster on a buckwheat blini, topped with caviar and herbed vermouth Vinaigrette, plus house smoked salmon, ditto. 2002 Riesling Qualitatswein Dry, Selbach, Germany. Delicious appetisers. Georgie preferred the salmon over the lobster, but I thought both were good. The Vinaigrette was just the right touch with the caviar.

Third course: Seared sea scallop on a Basil corn cake with caramel corn sauce, plus Quahog clam chowder. 2002 Sauvignon Blanc, Mason, Nappa. The clam chowder was excellent of its type, but neither of us is a big fan of it. Sanford has a marvellous touch with scallops, and the "caramel corn" was fun both as a taste experience and to show that Sanford hasn't lost his sense of humor.

Fourth course: Squab with fig and foie gras on dried fig couscous, fig reduction. 2001 Pinot Noir, Sanford, California. Lovely squab, and the fig couscous was a very good and unique addition.

Fifth (Main) course: Grilled Elk loin on butter poached root vegetable medley, red cabbage and red currant sauce. 1999 Shiraz, Voss Vineyards, California. The grilled elk is one of Sanford's regular entrees which both Georgie and I have enjoyed in the past. It was as good as ever and did not disappoint.

Sixth Course: Chilled Pineapple soup, with grilled pineapple compote and coconut ice cream. We were charmed by this unusual palate cleanser. The small scoop of ice cream was floated in the soup like sour cream in borscht.

Seventh (dessert) course: Bittersweet Chocolate tart, coffee ice cream, and caramelized rice pudding. 2000 Monbazillac, Grande Maison, Cuvee Chateau and 1997 LBV Porto, Taylor Fladgate. Yes, there were two dessert wines with this course, since none accompanied the pineapple soup. The porto was matched with the dark chocolate tart, and the sauternes with the rice pudding. There was a berry sauce and whipped cream with the tart as well, and another one of Sanford's miniature scoops of a different ice cream along with the rice pudding.

And, of course, when you get the check, they leave with you three little homemade candies—which we carried away with us! We didn't want to explode!

This was unquestionably one of the most magnificent dining experiences we have ever had--although still not the most expensive, although close to it--. Well worth it, in our opinion.
On Saturday, we went to the Shish café in Madison (technically Middleton) specifically to see Fritha Coltrane, daughter of local artist Diane Coltrane, dance. Shish is a Syrian restaurant, with a menu similar to, but a bit more upscale than, Abu’s here in Milwaukee. Unlike Abu’s, Shish has fish dishes as well as the more standard Mideastern fare. In order to compare, we ordered their sampler, and found that most of the dishes compared favorably with Abu’s, with a few regional differences. The kabobs were very good, and chicken schwarma was different and interesting. Tabouleh here is mainly parsley, instead of the formulation I am familiar with, in which wheat groats are the main ingredient. I think I slightly prefer Abu’s hummus and baba ganoush, and Abu’s falafels are definitely better.
We were there for the first of two sets of Fritha’s dancing. The dining area is an L-shape with tables around the walls and a decently wide aisle which was the area where she performed, in classic café style, working around the waiters. We had a good spot near the bend of the L, and could see as much as possible. We were pleased to see there was a full house. I lost track of the number of dances, but she gave us a good set with a variety of fast and slow dances. For those of you that don’t know her, Fritha takes after her mother, which means she is tall, slim, blonde, and very Scandinavian looking. She has trained in classical ballet, acrobatic dance, and studied with well known Mideastern dance masters, and all of this shows in her work. One wonders what the devotees of traditional dance think when she, with her very pale skin and luminous ice maiden features, performs. From what we could see, she was very well received by a mixed audience. The exception was one bearded white man who seemed to avoid looking at her whenever possible, and got very red-faced when he did look at her. His female companion, however, couldn’t take her eyes off Fritha. Another table of four women were having quite a jolly good time and did nothing to hide their appreciation. We joked with Fritha that her mother’s fabric artistry seems to have come down to her in that her veils seem to move by force of her will alone. When the set was ended, we were able to congratulate her on her performance before heading home.
Some of our friends have adapted the Hindu god Ganesha, “he who breaks down barriers,” as somewhat of a patron, including naming a business “Ganesha’s Treasures.” The festival of Ganesha occurs this week, culminating on Saturday Sept.18. Many of us will be out of town that day, so we met at a new Indian “bistro” called Saffron, on Bluemound Road in Brookfield, for a dinner in Ganesha’s honor. I am happy to report that everything was excellent. Saffron has a sufficiently large menu of traditional Indian dishes, plus things with a special touch, such as the gulab jamun with warm saffron cream sauce that I had for dessert. A good time was had by all, and Ganesha was thanked for the paths he has opened for us—of which more later.
In the afternoon of Sept 6th, we went to Leah Fisher’s residence for the “not going to Worldcon” party she give on Labor Days when she isn’t making it to Worldcon. This was such a weekend, but was a bit special since the party fell on Leah’s birthday and was a joint birthday party with Henry Osier (Sept. 4th). A cake had been commissioned from Georgie with a “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” theme. She produced a beautiful “Restaurant at the End of the Universe,” with the accretion disk of a massive black hole forming the backdrop, while “Milliways” (design based on ‘Thunderbird 5”, which I always thought resembled an electric skillet--) and Zaphod Beeblebrox’s starship hovered in the foreground. (Not the Heart of Gold—pure white and looking like a running shoe is rather dull—this was the one that “looked like a fish.”) We had a good time snacking and talking with the friends who showed up, and went out to Vanity Fair (see review above) after the party broke up.
Saturday evening, we drove out to the “wilds” of Mukwonago to the new home of John and Carol Ferraro. John is a Chicago-area fan who moved up to our neck of the woods upon marrying Carol Poore-Roper, a long time Milwaukee fan and well-known filker. The twelfth was to be the first housefilk of the summer season, and a housewarming for their handsome new residence. Mukwonago was a rural village, which heretofore had as its claim to fame its proximity to the “Elegant Farmer” farm market. Now it has become a “bedroom community” for Milwaukee and western areas such as Waukesha and Brookfield. John and Carol have acquired a nice piece of property a few miles north of the village proper, on the southern edge of the scenic Kettle Moraine region (and actually only a few miles due south of Ten Chimneys at Genesee Depot). We were, as usual, among the first to arrive and got the nickel tour of the spacious house. (The swarm of ferocious mosquitoes outside deterred anyone from touring the grounds--.) Since it was a housewarming as well as a filksing, more people showed up than might otherwise have, and the party spread in a lively fashion to the rec room for talk, the dining room for food and talk, and the screen porch for cards and talk. We were among the early departers also, about 11:00PM with the party still going strong. A good time was had by all, and the new home was well and truly warmed. We wish Carol and John much joy of it.

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