Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Dairy State 2013

For the fourth year we were again parked at the Ward’s home in Dale. "Parked" didn’t mean that we would be sitting still. That’s not our style as many who know us have learned. The very next day we attended a Northeast Wisconsin Birding Club (NEWBC) meeting at Mosquito Hill Nature Center followed by a fairly recent post bird club meeting ritual - lunch at El Tequila’s in New London. It should not come as any surprise that food and birding blend so well together. We repeated this ritual the following month after the group’s June meeting.

Pa, Alrick and Jennie
Alrick scoping out the local wildlife
Sunday we drove to Green Bay for a long awaited reunion with daughter Jennie (of Jennie Elizabeth Designs) and grandson Alrick. Our visit was combined with some early May birding at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary where the sequel to the outrageously popular but little known children's book,“Through Pa’s Binoculars” was born: “Through Pa’s Spotting Scope”. The scope was particularly useful in pulling out birds that were otherwise hidden in the shadows of various sanctuary displays. 

Mother's Day picnic in Green Bay

Todd and Cindy Ward...totally complicit surprise party planners
Our arrival in Dale meant that the ongoing secretive planning for Carol’s surprise 70th birthday party had now taken on more of a fever pitch. The party was to be held at the Ward’s home on Saturday May 11, the day after her “real” birthday on the 10th. On  Monday the 6th, while Carol was preoccupied with Cindy on a shopping trip to Appleton, Tom drove into Appleton to order a birthday cake, flowers, and purchase beer and wine...and then had to be back before Carol’s return.

Peninsula State Park overlook and spring ephemerals
Tom also had to get busy washing and waxing the RV knowing that there was going to be a crowd of folks stopping by at the end of the week. But time was severely limited. Why? Because Carol, unaware of any birthday party plans, had made prior arrangements with friends Dave and Betty Dunsmore to celebrate her birthday in Door County. Truth be known, getting Carol out of town for a few days allowed for many party preparations to continue in her absence.

Dave and Betty Dunsmore with Carol and Tom
Beginning on Wednesday and going through Friday morning we birded and ate our way through Door County with the Dunsmores. Breakfast at the Inn at Cedar Crossing. A sumptuous evening meal at our favorite Door County restaurant, Inn at Kristofer’s. Breakfast at the award-winning White Gull Inn. The weather held for part of the time but turned ugly and cold by the time we headed back to Dale on Friday.

party spread and Carol's cake
Invitations had been secretly sent and folks were due to arrive beginning on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.. Tom was going to distract Carol by taking her birding on Saturday morning while Cindy and Todd applied finishing touches to the party setup. Inconvenient crappy weather thwarted the birding plan. However, with a little help from iHop (a free birthday breakfast coupon) and the promise of a little shopping, Carol was easily conned into leaving.

Melissa and one of the Ward's cats, Gracie
Ken, Carol, Warren and Sharon
By 12:30 the surprise was about to be sprung. Tom coaxed Carol into the Ward’s house under the pretext of having coffee where Carol was presented with a long table of food, bottles of wine, flowers, a cake, and an ice chest full of beer. Shortly thereafter, guests began arriving from all over (Appleton, Green Bay, Oconto, Madison, Black Earth, and beyond to the U.P.). She was royally surprised time and again as many dear family and friends stopped in to wish her well. Over the course of the afternoon, while the weather shifted wildly from sun to rain to sleet and back to sun again, we partied inside the Ward's house.

Graham, Melissa, Jennie
Mike and Raven all the way from the U.P. with Carol
Besides the surprise of a party and those who showed up, the last big surprise was a slide show Tom had been working on since late January. He had solicited friends and family far and wide to collect what turned out to be over 100 pictures of people holding up signs wishing Carol a happy birthday, all set to music. Many of the people who were unable to attend wished her glad tidings via their photos (often very creative). Well wishes from India, Colorado, Cuba, Vietnam, Trinidad, and all over the U.S. dazzled her.
Melissa, Marge, Jerry, Keith, and Carol
And yes, there were some misty-eyed moments mixed in with all the laughter. All in all she was quite touched. A birthday celebration never to be forgotten. And Tom was very pleased to not have to worry any more about party planning subterfuge! To view the entire slide show as well as party photos and a list of all who submitted slide show entries click here.

On Mother’s Day, we were back in Green Bay to join Jennie who had arranged a Mother’s Day picnic. Again, the weather was cold and windy but that didn’t seem to deter the kids as they flew their kites and romped in the park.

get together with former neighbors from East South River Street
John and Marti at the Stone Cellar
Over the next several weeks we continued to meet with family and friends. Lunch with Nick and Paul. Dinner with Penny and Dale, and Bill and Jeff at the Stone Cellar Brewpub. Lunches and more birding with Betty and Dave. A visit with some of our former neighbors from our neighborhood on East South River Street where we learned that our old house had been put up for sale again (it sold within two weeks!). Of course let’s not forget all the happy hours spent with the Ward’s in their yard which miraculously this year was virtually mosquito free! Oh, yes, we even joined in a huge rally against genetically modified organism (GMO's) with a march through downtown Appleton shouting slogans and waving signs!
hey, hey, ho, ho, GMO's have got to go!
Maryann, Tom, and Janet
There were a few trips to Marge’s on Lake Wisconsin which allowed more time with Melissa and helping her get ready to move to her new apartment. Lunch with Melissa, Sally and Jerry and an evening with the Gaskill’s at their home in Black Earth. We also caught up with dear friends Maryann and Janet, sisters in Madison whom we had not seen in over 15 years! We visited with Harvey and Gayle Pagel at their RV site in Lake Delton to see all their photos from a recent trip to Hawaii celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

Harvey, Gayle, carol, and Tom
Tom, Carol, Sally and Dick
Wisconsin natives and RV friends we had met in Texas, Dick and Sally Werling, had driven from their home in North Carolina so that Dick could attend a wood carving class at The Clearing. We met up with them in Sturgeon Bay for breakfast then spent part of the day birding in Door County with a late lunch at Kitty O'Reilly's Pub.

Dad and Jennie, Father's Day
Cousins: Beth and Jennie
Carol kayaking
There were visits (lunches and coffee/tea breaks) with Tom’s former colleagues at Lawrence, shopping trips to town, and various doctor appointments. The truck wound up needing some extensive work to replace a faulty radiator (Grrrrr). Then more breakfasts, lunches and dinners with more friends including Daryl Tessen, Deb and Stuart Malcom, and Marti Hemwal and John Peterson. We greatly enjoyed a long weekend visit at Betsy and Bill’s (Tom’s sister and brother-in-law) cottage in northern Wisconsin with Jennie over Fathers Day. When the Appleton Farm Market started up again, we squeezed in Saturday morning visits to Appleton. Three full days were spent babysitting Alrick that included swimming at Hartman Creek State Park, the opening of the butterfly house at Mosquito Hill Nature Center, and going to a movie: Despicable Me2 (two thumbs up).

Alrick at Hartman Creek
Carol helping Alrick sort out butterflies at Mosquito Hill
There were a couple of Monday Martini Night visits to Dick and Jenny Orr’s home, drinks and conversations at the home of Rich and Barb Weiland French Agness near Dale, breakfast with Graham and his girl friend Caitlin, and a Friday fish fry at Club Tavern with Jess Miller and her boyfriend Jim. we attended a reading by Laurel Mills, our favorite local author, at Harmony Cafe, and then a mini get together with some of Tom’s high school class of ’65 classmates at the Atlas Mill. Also, Carol did a lot of gardening at the Ward’s while Tom assisted with the construction and planting of a new garden mound. Whew! You get the picture: we made the best of every minute we were in Wisconsin!

Jo, Audrey, Tom, Susan, Lucia - Class of '65
Graham and Caitlin
Uncle Graham and Alrick
A last minute surprise visits by the Seabornes, Scott and Betty, and then Jennie and Alrick, rounded out our last day in Dale. The next morning, Monday July 15, we bid the Ward’s farewell, thanked them again for their hospitality, and took off on the first leg of our swing east through the Canadian Maritime Provinces before we eventually settle in Florida for the winter.
As always our time in Wisconsin flew past too quickly. We're always amazed at just how fast the times passes and we’ll again miss our family and friends for another year. But barring any unforeseen incidents, we expect to be back in Wisconsin again next May.

Debs, Stuart, Todd, Cindy, and Carol PIMM's the word
Alrick opening birthday gifts
Tom, Todd, Cindy, and Carol, Wally's Still in Dale
searching for warblers, Door County
Alrick at Bay Beach Sanctuary, Green Bay
Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Ward's yard in Dale
Alrick, Waupaca River

dragonfly, Mosquito Hill Nature Center
Toft Point, Door County
flowers, Door County
Baxter's Hollow, Sauk County
Brainard's Bridge, Waupaca County
standing on the spot where we were married in 1996 at Brainard's
Common Loon, Minocqua
Tom kayaking, Minocqua


  1. You've been quite busy! Love the pic of you two at Toft Point.

  2. Lots of fun. Saw so many good folks in Wisconsin and we still didn't get to spend as much time with them and still missed seeing others. Our WI visits always seem to be our busiest of the year!