Old Court Days, Granny’s Knits and Gifts, and 605 Grille

Tomato Orange Soup 605 Grille
Hearty and savory Tomato Orange Soup at the 605 Grille

I arrived in Madison on Thursday, Sept. 27th. I was meeting the wonderful guys of InMadisonIN and Madison Indiana Observer, at Sakka Blue, and had plans for an afternoon of biking, hiking and taking an acquaintance to dinner. Lunch was great, but my afternoon buddy bailed, so I found myself with a day alone, wishing I hadn’t rushed to make it to Madison that morning.

But I take pride in turning disappointment into adventure. I already had dinner reservations for us at 605 Grille, one of my favorite Madison restaurants, so until it was time for dinner, I hung out with the closest friend I made while in Madison: Madison herself. I went to the river and the fountain. I walked side streets and alleys, past our old house on 2nd and sat on a river bench to write.

I walked back up to Main street to Madison Coffee and Tea to write and blog and visit with Sam and Carey, two of the nicest people I met while living in Madison.

I headed back to my hotel, The Holiday Inn Express on the hilltop. Shortly after moving away from Madison I made reservations to stay there for Chautauqua. I was using up our accumulated reward points before they expired,and was happily surprised to get a jacuzzi room for Thursday to Monday.

Apple of My Eye Salad 605 Grille
An ideal blend of fruit, nuts, greens and chicken in Apple of My Eye Salad 605 Grille

At 605 Grille I went for the soup and salad, since I hadn’t tried either there before. I requested Steven as my server. We get along great and although he was busy, he stopped by regularly to chat.

As you can imagine (if you’ve read my previous blog about the 605 Grille) the meal was delicious. That Tomato Orange Soup was was thick on my tongue, in that amazing way hearty soup done right makes your whole body feel warm and strong. The orange was just noticeable enough to enhance the tomato without overpowering it. I found myself not wanting to swallow again. I have a compulsive need to enjoy every moment of a taste and texture, and it took me forever to eat that bowl of soup.

For the salad I ordered Apple of My Eye, “Organic, local mixed greens with sliced apples, parmesan cheese and toasted pecans. Served with homemade balsamic vinaigrette.” I added grilled chicken and scratch made bread ‘n butter to mine.  It was delicious. Ever since the first time I ate a salad containing nuts, fruit and chicken (surprisingly not that many years ago) it has been one of my favorite combinations in salads. I like to see how different restaurants vary the ingredients or dressing to make it their own, but I always worry that in trying hard to make something fancy, the simplicity of ingredients that make the salad so appealing can be lost.

Lemon Coconut Buttermilk Pie at 605 Grille
Lemon Coconut Buttermilk Pie at 605 Grille

Thankfully, this was not the case. The blend in the salad was just right, and 605’s homemade balsamic vinaigrette is an ideal blend of tart and sweet to complement the salad.

For dessert I had the next-to-last piece of Lemon Coconut Buttermilk Pie. It was another prolonged savoring of taste and texture. (Coconut should always be done this way.) I then moved to the bar to visit some more with Steven before heading back to the hotel.

I had another bath (c’mon, when you have a jacuzzi for the weekend, you take at least two baths a day, right?) and this time discovered that body wash in a jacuzzi tub = bubble bath!


Friday, before Chautauqua officially began, Old Court Days were already set up. Vendors surrounded the courthouse with a variety of crafts: metal, wood, clothing, soap, etc.

Bubble Bath Traveling Marla
I discovered that you can’t use body wash in a jacuzzi tub without it turning into a bubble bath. Argon Oil, take me away!

I made several purchases Friday, but not as many as I would have liked.

I won’t stop at a vendor talking on the cell phone. I’m old-fashioned that way. I understand the reasoning:  standing around in a stall waiting for someone to stop and admire your wares is tedious, maybe embarrassing, lonely. But as a shopper, I don’t care. I want to buy more than a product. I want the personality, the artisan, the care. I simply won’t stop if you’re on the phone. It’s rude.

I know I missed on a few items I was admiring from the walkway, but I guess it’s just one of the pet peeves I have to live with about myself, and you have to live without my business.

I love the stalls where you can tell people love what they do. They are watching you look at their merchandise (though not in a lurking way, but just in a friendly “how do you do? can I answer any questions?” kind of way.) Even cooler still are the vendors working on their craft while they smile at you, chat at you or wait for your questions.

My favorite courthouse tent, which I would return to again on Sunday, was that of a sweet woman named Norma Bennett, proprietor of Granny’s Knits & Gifts. I was drawn in by a beautiful dress I imagined would look adorable on my grand-niece Adeline, or my friend’s daughter, Carley.

Granny's Knits and Gifts Old Courthouse Days Norma Bennett
Norma Bennett, of Granny’s Knits and Gifts, was my favorite vendor at Old Courthouse Days.

Then I saw them: endless scarves.

I had no idea what an endless scarf was, but I knew I loved scarves, and I knew I always struggled with mine sliding off my neck or having to tie them in a weird knot to get them to keep my ears warm if I forgot a hat. In recounting my scarf obsession later to the Village Lights Bookstore owners, I would learn of Isadora Duncan and death-by-scarf. That has sparked its own strange poem I hope to share with you one day.

But these were not that long, murderous scarf of Isadora Duncan. No, these little magic gems were a closed loop, impossible to slide off, and priced perfectly at $10, they would satisfy my love for scarves and my frustration at not being able to use them effectively.

I bought two on the spot: a green one and a brown one. I wanted every single color of endless scarf she had, but (a) I have been working more on restraint lately; and (b) Kurt was there. His nickname is “Frugal Druzgal” for a reason, and I could see his butt puckering even from the purchase of a second scarf, so I thanked her and forced myself to walk away.

I did return Sunday, not surprised to find that there was only one endless scarf remaining. It was bright red and I was convinced there will be a time and place for that bright red scarf, so I bought it.

Traveling Marla endless scarf Norma Bennett
Happened to capture a photo of me wearing Norma Bennett’s endless scarf when I was posing with some birthday gifts recently.

Norma gave me her card and offered to knit me endless scarves in any color I want and ship them to me, postpaid, for the same $10 I would have paid at the festival. Who does that? I thought to myself. She has the power in this equation, because I so desperately want the scarves. But then I realized: me.

Norma is exactly like me. That’s what I would do, if I had the talent to make scarves and sold them here at Old Court Days. She was the ideal of that customer service I felt was lacking in so many of those vendors on their cell phones.

I bought a dress for my grand-niece and my friend’s daughter, and took her card to order endless scarves as Christmas gifts for my girlfriends. Of course, if Kurt’s reading this blog, then let’s pretend I’m not going to do anything with the card but share it with you. I hope you recognize the value in her scarves and order one for yourself.

Granny’s Knits and Gifts, Norma Bennett: norben31@insightbb.com

She’s sweet and amazing and does really great work, and the scarves are beautiful and practical and snuggly, wuggly warm!

Love, Marla

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