harvesting wild rice and cooking Wisconsin soup

The Real Deal: Wisconsin-Harvested Wild Rice Soup

“One of my favorite soups. Period.”

It’s far past the season to harvest wild rice off the north lakes. Any harvesting going on now is relegated to brave ice fisherman trying to find something to serve with the rice they already have. Before spending time in Wisconsin, I never knew there was enough rice and interested hobbyists to warrant a rice harvesting season and associated rules.  Nor did I know that hand-collected wild rice could taste so good.

Below is the recipe garnered from my friend Scott who has an off-the-grid cabin near Eagle River, Wisconsin. His grandmother’s simple recipe provides you the warm, cozy feeling that gives winter a fighting chance at respect and admiration.

For preparation, you need just heat, a pot, a knife and the following ingredients: Read more

2015 Travel resolutions

My 2015 Travel Resolutions

I need to start off by saying most of these 2015 travel resolutions will be broken. Looking back at 2014, it is amazing how often Elise and I made decisions at the last minute regardless of planning – if we planned at all. There’s always a diversion – a distraction – most often inspired by wandering into a comfy ethnic restaurant or flipping on an Anthony Bourdain episode. It’s silly how often our dreams change due to a good street taco or bottle of wine. Sometimes we get invested enough to buy a guide book to Place A, then a week later get tipsy enough to reserve hotels in Place Z. [see our Bulgaria Series]

In any case, it’s Saturday morning and I feel like writing, dreaming and waiting for Elise to get out of bed so we can travel over to the coffee shop and inevitably change this list until it bears no resemblance to what’s below. Maybe I’ll write the follow up…

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Glorious Fall Colors at Devil’s Lake – Wisconsin State Park

It’s always a crap-shoot Googling something to do over the weekend. Sometimes we end up with suggestions on drunken street “festivals,” yet another improv troupe (we’re in Chicago) or a great deal on a hotel in Phoenix. Last weekend, our roll came up boxcars when we searched “fall colors in Wisconsin” and “devil’s lake state park.” A few clicks later and we were on our way through a rainbow maze of country roads lined with autumn trees toward a mesmerizing view of Wisconsin’s beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. Read more

Renegade Craft Art Fair Chicago 4

Vintage Travel Map Lockets at Chicago’s Renegade Art Fair

To enjoy the 72 degree day, Elise and I biked down to Chicago’s Renegade Craft Art Fair and did our best not to blow the rent on stuff we don’t need. It’s hard not supporting our home decor by supporting amazing artists. After 300 stalls, we succeeded from making our walls and shelves more cluttered, although I got a card for my cat-lover friends – and a snow cone. This one travel-related trinket from The Weekend Store caught my eye, so I thought I’d share it with everyone.  Read more


Hunting for Bob Ross in the Wisconsin Northwoods

Cabins in the Wisconsin Northwoods are made for snow. The perfect amount is enough to cover the dark green Spruces like a Bob Ross painting, but not too much to fill your shoes when hiking through it. I almost feel sad when I accidentally brush up against a tree and that brush stroke of titanium white falls off the branch. It becomes naked and out of place.

No worries. There’s more where that came from. A lot more. Read more

Best Summer Music Festival? Portland’s Pickathon…

Inevitably, as musicians finish their 60 minute sets on any of the unique stages at the Pendarvis Farm, they say to the crowd:

“Pickathon is the best summer musical festival in the country! I really hope you’ll have me back next year!”

If I didn’t hear it from every band on our most recent trip, I wouldn’t believe it. However, when the artists are so obviously inspired by the genuine excitement and appreciation of being there, you must know it’s true. The music is made so much more powerful when the fun is shared across the blurry line between stage and audience. This is the case at Pickathon – and why it’s worth a flight and a few hundred dollars to be a part of a weekend full of those moments.



The Pickathon Mountain View Stage – Courtesy of Liz Devine

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On the Trail: Photos from Nambia to Nepal

John Muse, my high school buddy and frequent traveler, pulled out some of his old photos to answer our request for the “On the Trail” series. An ironic requirement to study foreign languages for his English PhD and a stint in Yale’s celebrated Whippenpoofs sent him overseas and around the US a number of times. Enjoy the gems he brought back from the trail: Read more

Sidney Bridge Climb – An Everest Down Under

Sidney Bridge Climb

Say “I need a bathroom Pleeeease!”

December, 2012…

The end of a two-month self-guided journey through Australia and New Zealand lands us in Sydney. The two most prominent landmarks descending to the Sydney Airport are the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.  The most prominent landmark viewed from the Intercontinental Hotel is the Harbor Bridge – the Coathanger – as the locals call it.  Image stabilizer binoculars focus on 12 Everest-like climbers – Bridge Climbers making their way to the summit!

“Liz we are all over that!”

A quick call to the hotel concierge and three hours later we were stripping street clothes and sliding into blue/grey body suits.  Absolutely nothing was allowed that might fall below onto the Bradfield Highway or into the Harbor. We underwent an alcohol breath analyzer to screen out the inebriated and even a metal detector for hidden forbiddens that might be tossed on the unexpected below.

All 12 climbers are connected to a cable that runs the entire tour length.  The climb itself was not difficult.  The 3 1/2 hours with no bathroom break was… damn that extra double-shot cappuccino!  Our knowledgable guide, Clyde, had led 6,000 plus Sidney Bridge Climbs and probably uttered, through our headphones, the same corny but funny jokes just as often. The price of $248 per person covering 1,332 steps works out to 18.618 cents per earned step. The 360 degree view was priceless! A satisfying accomplishment. This was a perfect activity to end our visit down under.

Sidney Bridge Climb-2

Photo courtesy of http://australia.shopsafe.com.au


Scott and Liz Capen are this week’s guest bloggers, and retired educators who travel the world searching for the next total eclipse. Elise and John met Scott and Liz while traipsing around Chugchilán, Ecuador.

Photo Moments: Tikal – Stones Through the Trees

Tikal, Guatemala

The endless debate between tour-groups and personal discovery came one step closer to resolution in my first moments in Tikal. Having never been to the jungles of Latin America, the myriad of potential dangers mentioned by guidebooks and online forums led me to sign up with someone who wielded knowledge of the land and an intimidating machete. In fact, there were true stories of random muggings underneath the imposing trees and resulting darkness. Even if I think “safety in numbers” with upper-class tourists is better described as potentially cost-efficient banditry, it seemed like a good idea.

The picture above is from Tikal’s Temple IV, a 212′ altar that reaches out through the canopy into a magical view over the Guatemalan jungle. The view is green to the horizon, with ruins underneath most, if not all of it. You’ve probably seen it – it was an introductory shot of Endor in the Star Wars trilogy.

Tikal, Temple IV Star Wars

Our group walked up and back down Temple IV offensively fast – I sat on the lone ledge for 45 minutes. I’m not sure if I knew the group was waiting below, if I thought they would leave without me, or if I remembered there were other people in the world besides those in this photo. Eventually, the sun pushed me back down into the shade and 20 very angry people. I apologized to those who could understand me, but I wasn’t sorry to savor the same view Mayan priests had of their great city 1200 years ago.


Goosebumps at Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Last week, I found myself thinking a lot about that whoa-I’m-in-the-presence-of-something-greater-than-myself feeling.  When we LaBarges have that cultural/emotional runner’s high, we get goosebumps (and usually show them to each other, because we’re that cool), though I imagine folks all over the world experience it differently.

The thoughts were sparked by revisiting a trip to Russia in the 90s when I got that feeling in a tiny town standing under a bundle of birch trees.  I had seen a huge number of churches and squares and people by that point of the trip, but it was the village and the birch trees that took me to a different place. I was 15.  I remember it perfectly. On my recent trip to Spain, it was the Real Alcázar of Sevilla’s walls and the open space inside of those walls that got me. Last week, it happened about 25 minutes into an up-to-that point unexciting production of LaBohème. Read more