Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Aug '06

Who Loves Mickey?

Mickey Plate

Today during my drive home from work I noticed the license plate on the SUV ahead of me. It said, “ILVMCKY”. I started to wonder, “Surely that doesn’t mean ‘I love Mickey’, as in the famous mouse. Surely no self-respecting adult would put that on their license pl—”

And then my eyes took in the rest of the SUV.

Around the “ILVMCKY” license plate was a plate holder decorated with those infamous white gloves giving thumbs up and high fives. Smack center in the rear window was a silhouette decal of Mr. Mickey Mouse himself. To top it all off the trailer hitch was covered in silver Mickey Mouse ears.

Whoa. Mickey overload. Kind of makes me want to gag.

Or go to Disneyland.

Aug '06

Sweet Madison

Am I allowed to have this much fun on a business trip?

I’m in Madison, WI, this week for a distance-learning conference. I came by myself, but sometimes traveling is better when you’re alone and can set your own schedule. Aside from the set times of the conference, I can basically do what I want, when I want.

Yesterday I flew to Madison from SLC (and can I just say that the Madison regional airport is the most beautiful airport I’ve even been in. Gorgeous neoclassical architecture, soul-soothing tones of beige and off-white paint, lots of light, and classical music playing in the main terminal. Normally in airports I’m counting down the seconds until I can get out of there because airports are Stress Central. But here, in Madison, I was like, “Hmmm, how long can I draw out this experience? . . .”).

Anyway, after I got to Madison a very friendly shuttle driver took me and a married couple to our hotel, giving us a little side-tour of the UW-Madison campus on the way. Saw their sororities and everything, so I guess I practically saw it all.

I’m staying at the Doubletree Hotel on West Johnson Street. Because my company is kindly paying for my hotel and $54 a day for food expenses, I’m living very comfortably this week. My room has a free wireless Internet connection (which at some hotels you have to pay $10 a day for!), a fridge and microwave, and “deluxe toiletries” in the bathroom, which I’ve interpreted as Neutrogena shampoo (and conditioner–always a sign of an upscale hotel), foaming face wash, bubble bath, sewing kit, and vanity kit. (I haven’t opened the vanity kit yet; no idea what’s in there.) Plus they give me two free bottles of water every day and Chex Mix for my munchies. Just as I started typing this housekeeping knocked on my door and offered to refresh my water and munchies (which I took them up on, obviously; you can’t have too much bottled water or Chex Mix).

Last night I checked in at the conference and picked up my name badge. I hadn’t eaten much that day (had basically survived on a half-cup of apple juice from my first flight and a package of crackers from second flight, plus half a bagel I picked up at a Starbucks in the Denver airport). So by the time I checked in I was ready for a good meal. I walked over to Delmonico’s on South Pickney Street. Mmmm, it was good. The tables were covered in linen cloths with linen napkins. I ordered a spinach salad and the 6 oz. beef tenderloin with their hot bread on the side. It was de-lish. As I ate I worked on my freelance editing job, since I’m a little behind on that. My waiter was very nice so I left him a decent tip. I spent about $32 on that meal just for myself . . . and I didn’t even get close to meeting my $54/day food allowance.

My conference started this morning, but today was just a half-day session. So at 11:45 I wandered outside the Monona Terrace Conference Center and saw a small farmer’s market between the Terrace and the State Capitol Building. There were lots of fresh farm produce, fresh-cut flowers and bouquets, baked goods, and, of course, Wisconsin cheese. The flowers were lovely, and I considered buying myself a bouquet (only $4!!!) since it’s my birthday today, but I decided I didn’t want to carry them around town all afternoon. I did buy a small bag of squeaky cheese curds, though, for $3.

For lunch I walked to Cafe Soleil, a place I had read about on the Web. It was a lovely coffee/cafe/bakery with small tables and pillowed benches. I ordered exactly what I wanted: a Wisconsin cheese plate (small baguette, selection of Wisconsin cheese, pear jelly, and apple slices), a pain au chocolate, and a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was Ghirardelli (I recognized the flavor) and served in a nifty mug. The best part was that it was served all frothy. Yum. (John knows I like everything frothier, the frothier the better–orange juice, hot chocolate, anything.) The bread and cheese was quite de-lish, as also was the pain au chocolate. I worked more on editing while I ate and enjoyed my view of the streets north of the State Capitol Building.

I was really, really full after eating so I walked around the downtown a couple of hours. I visited the museum of Wisconsin history. Found it interesting. Did you know that during WWII Wisconsin was considered a treacherous state because it voted not to support the war and the political leaders made controversial statements during the war about the German descendants living in the state? Yeah, me neither.

I made my way back to my hotel along State Street, which is the boutique shopping district (a lot of tiny local merchants). I went into two shoe stores, found a pair of shoes I about died for, and then learned that they didn’t have any shoes in my size. And I don’t just mean that single pair I adored–they didn’t have any shoes in my size for the entire brand. Period. I guess I missed out on their mega sale three weeks ago where they sold out of a lot of the shoes that I fell in love with today. I’m still crying inwardly about it.

But the afternoon was not all lost. State Street has a Ben and Jerry’s. And I never go to Ben and Jerry’s at home because, let’s face it, we all know how artery-clogging their ice cream is. But today I went and had a sugar cone with a scoop of peanut butter cup ice cream. And, oh, it was so worth it. I ate it as I walked the three blocks or so back to my hotel. It was so hot and humid outside today that the ice cream started to melt instantly once I walked out the door. It was so fun to eat an ice cream cone (especially a Ben and Jerry’s peanut butter cup cone) walking outdoors on the way home to my hotel.

So again I ask, am I allowed to have this much fun on a business trip?