Monday, July 14, 2008

Travelblog, episode 3: The reunion

So, when last we left off the bus had arrived in Milwaukee and we'd made it to the lake house. So where better to pick up the tale than with a description thereof? No better, that's where.

The house is on Crooked Lake in (or near...not exactly certain of the geography here) Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. My cousin's brother-in-law owned the house next door, and for years had told the couple that owned it (who were nearing or at retirement age) that whenever they wanted to sell he'd buy. Eventually they decided to move elsewhere and his company, Siepmann Realty, bought the house. As I recall, the company uses the house as a retreat, to house out-of-town guests, and for important things like family reunions. And I must say, it works really, really well.

The layout was fairly basic: it's a 3-bedroom rambler, with a split-level addition (I'm assuming it was an addition...might be original) at one end that housed a master bedroom up stairs and a family / game room below. There were two other bedrooms on the main floor, one with a queen bed and a 1/2 bath, the other with two bunkbeds. The rest of the house was a great room kind of deal, combo livingroom / dining room thing, and a good size kitchen. But the real action was out side: nice patio off the dining room portion of the great room, then a big sloped lawn leading down to the lake. Here are some exteriors:

A shot from down the lawn, looking up
at the side of the house

The front door, complete with
sweet stained glass

A shot of the interior. Doesn't quite capture
the full greatness of the great room, but it's close.

The lake, thanks to the Wisconsin flooding, was high. Really high. When we got there Thursday the lake was about 2 inches over the dock. By Saturday it was roughly level with the dock surface, and by Sunday when we left it had dropped below the dock level. Presumably by now it's down to whatever level it's supposed to be. But the lake level didn't affect the lake enjoyment in any way. According to those who went in (which I didn't, thanks to the whole eye surgery and not wanting to get lake water up my nose) the water was lovely. And there were kayaks to paddle, algae to collect, a motor boat to ride around in, and an island to visit by any of those methods. Needless to say, the kids spent a lot of time on the water.

Logan and Maya paddling around collecting algae

Maya jumping off the dock, which at this
point is barely out of the water

Megan and Maya swimming back from the island

For those of us who stayed dry there were cousins aplenty to talk with, great food to eat, a plethora of beverages to be had, and if that wasn't enough the entertaining game of "Corn Hole" (which isn't as dirty as it involves throwing a bean bag in to a hole in a sloped board) and a pellet gun to shoot. All in all, not a bad place to hang out. In fact, if we could have hung out longer we definitely would have.

And if the lake house wasn't fun enough, we also had my cousin's house to hang out in. She and her family live on the Chanequa (I think that's how it's spelled...pronounced "shaneequah") Country Club golf course and have THE party back yard. She's a master gardener so the plants are all perfect and gorgeous. There's a large side yard - big enough to play kick-ball in - with grass that my lawn hasn't seen since the 70s. Then there was the back yard, which in addition to some fine grass also had a big patio, a hot tub, a pool and a trampoline. Friday night's dinner was there, and when not playing kick ball the kids split their time between all three attractions, although once cousin PJ brought out the scuba tank and little battery-powered diving propeller thing the party definitely moved to the pool. For the adults (or at least the west coast adults) the main entertainment of the evening was a superb distant thunderstorm with many, many cloud-to-cloud bolts going off. And not just flashes, but full-on forked bolts. Really impressive, and far enough away that we couldn't hear the thunder.

For the "formal" reunion activity we had dinner at the Country Club Saturday night. The only drawback of this was that, being a country club, you couldn't wear jeans. Or jean shorts. Which pretty much required Logan to wear the slacks we bought him for his 5th Grade Promotion ceremony. And since I don't have a decent polo / golf shirt, I was in the same boat. Which made for a rather warm evening for the two Chicken boys. But the setting was gorgeous, the drinks were rediculously expensive, and the company was wonderful. After a full family portrait we returned indoors for dinner - a "Wisconsin Fish Fry" which means "three different kinds of deep-fried fish, a whole lot of meat, some corn, potato pancakes and french fries." In short, a completely beige meal. A tasty meal, but beige.

Maya and Logan enjoying some delicious beige food

After dinner two of the younger cousins handed out awards for everything from "farthest trip to get here" (cousin Bob who came from Atlanta) to "most senior Chicken" (cousin Jane, who is 77 or so...Mom missed out on this 'cause she married in) to "most British" (my nieces and nephew). The winners got the highly desireable "cow pie", apparently a Wisconsin candy treat made of marshmallows, a cookie and chocolate. Don't know how many of these got eaten, but I managed to avoid 'em, leaving room for some fine chocolate cake.

And, as always, it was over way too quickly and we were kicked out on the road. But that's a story for another day.

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