Sunday, September 23, 2012

Doors Open (DO) Milwaukee

This is the second year Milwaukee has hosted DO Milwaukee, a weekend where the general public can go on tours and visit buildings that are otherwise closed.  We went last year and saw about 15 different locations.  Today we were out and managed to see a few places before our 7 year old son had a meltdown.  We discovered Smyth, a great restaurant in the Iron Horse Hotel,  that does a Sunday brunch with an extremely unique menu crafted after Route 66 foods.  My husband had swordfish & mushroom risotto. I tried tiramisu pancakes.  On the buffet was duck sauce and fig biscuits.  Then of course you also have fresh squeezed juice, eggs any way you like them, fruits, and a variety of breads, cheeses, etc.  Wonderful!  We will be back!  If you are a Harley fan, this is a hotel that caters to bikers and includes bike parking and a place to hang your leathers.  It is just across the bridge from the Harley museum.  Pooches are welcome and are treated as VIPs.  The decor is interesting.  Most of the furniture is made with reclaimed industrial parts.  On the wall is an American flag made out of blue jeans!  Cool place. 
Can you see the jeans?

Ranked #1 in Milwaukee on tripadvisor

Interesting menu
Plenty of motorcycle parking

We also waited in line for 45 minutes to take an elevator inside the Allen Bradley clock tower.  This is the most scenic view you're going to get in Milwaukee.  US Bank building is higher but its windows are blocked by the US Bank signs so all you see are the corner windows.  From the clock you can see in all directions, including the Hoan bridge which is my husband's newest engineering project.  Huge chunks of it were falling so they are doing a renovation.  Omar loved the binoculars they provided.  It was the perfect kind of day for seeing the city!

You can see better with these binoculars
Allen Bradley Clock

downtown Milwaukee

Milwaukee Hoan bridge

We also took a peek at the Mackie building whose second floor is the grain exchange room with soaring ceilings, frescoes, marble...everything a gorgeous building needs!  Then went to the Wisconsin Club gazebo, the Denis Sullivan schooner, and the old Pabst brewery that is being renovated.  We toured a future hotel that will have the old brewery equipment in the center with skylights and rooms built around it.  Such vision they have for an old place.  Overall it was a great day. Thanks to all the volunteers and Historic Milwaukee, Inc. that made it possible.

lovely paintings everywhere in the Grain Exchange room

Mackie Building
Such detail in the ceiling
My niece sitting in Captain Pabst's old office
vats will be part of Brewhouse Inn & Suites 
Loved the rain gardens being installed in the brewery area

Denis Sullivan schooner

Saturday, September 22, 2012

President Obama comes to Milwaukee

Wisconsin is still a swing state so we are having continuing visits from both sides.  Today it was President Obama's turn to rally the masses and get the vote out in his favor.  We had already heard him speak at the convention in Charlotte earlier this month, but this was a bit different.  He was in our home town!

There were two different types of events you could choose to attend.  We opted for the paid donation seats at $250 per person.  This was the lowest level, and would probably be the only chance I'd ever have of being part of a paid campaign event.  Those seats were intended for students, young professionals, and campaign volunteers.  Once you're a volunteer, they send you numerous e-mails with a variety of events and opportunities to donate.  Others paid $500 per seat for general admission.  For a donation of $5000 you could attend a photo session with President Obama, and I was surprised to find there were some people who brought entire families for the photo session.  I was thinking....there goes a car!  But if you have it to give and are so inclined, bless you for the donation.  And what a fabulous Christmas card it will make!  If you gave $25,000 you were invited to a roundtable event with the president.  I'm not sure how many did that, but the theater was full to capacity on the first floor.  They had blocked off the upper levels, I'm assuming because there were too many doors and not enough secret service to support the security.  That was unfortunate for many who attended because if you came after about 1:00, you had to stand.  We all stood in line until about 2:30, and then we were allowed to find a seat in the theater if we could find one.

Having fun with his speech
Hank Aaron talks about #44- his number and our 44th president

Baseball legend, Hank Aaron was a guest who introduced the president some time after 3:00.  I've heard it said that he rarely makes public appearances, yet he spoke in support of President Obama, and he was truly inspirational.  He compared his number 44 in baseball to the 44th presidency and how they share many of the same qualities, mentioning that when things got tough, you block out the noise and focus on hitting the ball.

President Obama entered to cheers and plenty of "I love you"s.  He always brings energy with him in spite of being on the road so much.  I saw on David Letterman the other night he said it's tougher doing a reelection because you're basically working two jobs, and he mentioned that he'd had a lot to do lately with what is happening in Libya and Iran.  You can read the entire speech at
From this event, we heard that he ate sausages at a local deli and then met a cheering crowd in the rain at Milwaukee Summerfest grounds.  Some of our extended family were there and said it was great.  It sounded like a similar speech but these tickets were free, and the speakers were many.  Mayor Tom Barrett, Tammy Baldwin, and even some Packer players.  It was a fun day, but even I'm weary of all the talk about politics and will be happy when election day is past and we can move on.  The big question is which direction the country will move.  As I hear both candidates speak, I see a very different picture of what the future America will look like.
Smiling as he leaves the stage to head into the audience
Here's where the secret service people swarm the president.  There were about 8 of them!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thai Cooking Class

All the ingredients were ready to go 
Tonight I went to my first ever paid cooking class.  I love to cook and I enjoy trying to figure out how to make recipes from restaurants where we've eaten, but some of the cooking is so foreign to me that I don't even know where to start with the ingredients.  Thai cooking is one of them.  My son Jake loves Thai food ever since he visited there, so we have occasionally eaten at a local Thai restaurant, but I never really know what to order and it is so expensive when you go out as a family.
One of the ladies at my "girls night out" suggested Sur la Table for a cooking class. You can find a local store near you and even sign up for classes online by going to their website.  You also get a 10% discount on any products you might want to buy at the store for the next week by attending.  I had never even been in the store and didn't realize they did cooking classes.  I already have a pretty stocked kitchen since I sold Pampered Chef 20 years ago, so I rarely find myself needing to buy anything. So tonight it was time to 'kick it up a notch' and learn something new.  I was actually surprised that there was so much to learn!
I showed up with 15 other people and we went to the back of the store where they have a demo kitchen with 4 stations.  There were aprons and name tags waiting for us on chairs.  We were offered gourmet coffee, sparkling water, or regular water.  Chef Zack greeted each of us by name and then there were three additional assistants who did the prep work and clean up (wish I had them in my own kitchen).  We were split into 4 teams and were provided all the ingredients as well as written instructions and recipes to take home with us.  We began with a little background information on the types of ingredients we'd be using and where you could buy them.  Zack talked us through each recipe and his assistants came around to check on how it was going and to remind us to do anything we didn't seem to be doing. In my group were a couple of ladies who were celebrating a birthday and this was the gift.  And then there was a computer engineer who does these classes pretty regularly.  We chatted as we cooked together and it was a quick 2 hours as we prepared and tasted phad Thai, Thai coconut curry with shrimp, spicy cucumber salad with peanuts, and mango sticky rice.  I loved everything!
Chef Zack talking about coconut milk
Thai Coconut Curry with Shrimp

Making the Phad Thai

At $69 for a 2 hour session, I was skeptical about whether it would be worth it, but now that I have these new skills, I think we'll enjoy the food and save $$$$ by not having to eat at a restaurant.  It will be nice to have a few new recipes and now that I'm familiar with the ingredients, I won't be so afraid to find new recipes on the internet and try them.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Milwaukee Dancing with our Stars Charity Gala

My good friend Johanna invited me to a gala where her childhood friend Julie (who is a famous local DJ) was dancing to benefit Margaret Ann's Place, a charity for people who have suffered the death of a family member.  Because part of my summer of 50 motto is to have more fun, how could I say no?  I hadn't been to a gala for about 12 years, so I had to look up what to wear on the internet.  You know you can do that, right?  E-how tells you everything about EVERYTHING!  It said to grab the fanciest thing in your closet and get pretty!
Friends Katie on the left and Johanna on the right with me at the gala
It was held at the local casino ballroom, and it was fancy! The evening included dinner and dancing, although I didn't stay to dance.  There was an auction and I was lucky enough to win one of the items I bid on.  It's a rare event that I have to wear real shoes and jewelry but it was fun to be with some lovely people and watch real talent on the ballroom floor.  The participants, all local celebrities, were paired with local dance instructors and given a few lessons.  I was so impressed that they did so well with really very little practice, when compared to the TV show for which the event was named.  Bravo Julie and all of the dancers who raised money for this wonderful charity.  Here are a few of the dance pairs.  Don't you love the outfits?!


Finally put on my old rollerblades after 14 years of non-use and I don't know why I was surprised that they didn't work very well.  I guess it's like riding a bike- you don't forget how to do it, but if the bike is rusty and not well maintained, you have to work a whole lot harder!

I was lucky to be in such good company when I checked off the list item for rollerblading.  My daughter Melissa and her son Landon said they were in.  Then my friend Lisa and her lovely athletic family joined us.  We had 3 strollers between us, which I found can actually work in your favor for balance.  Pushing a 70 pound Omar though turned out to be major work with my old crummy skates, and everyone pushed him, taking turns so I could at least finish with a little respect intact.  We did the Oak Leaf trail for about 3 miles and at the end I could barely move.  I decided somewhere along the ride that these skates were going in the garbage.  I loved the skating but needed some new skates.  I ended up taking the boots out of the skates and walked the last couple of blocks home in the boots!  The kids seemed to enjoy the day too.  It was sunny and Lisa's husband Bob is one of the most entertaining guys on the planet so he kept everyone laughing.  Great day with good friends!
Omar loved Kyra pushing him and he made her fall for entertainment...and she obliged!

WOW!  Melissa skating backwards!

Bob telling the Peter Pan story to Omar

Old skates right where they belong

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Girls Night OUT!

I've been out a few times with ladies when it's an organization sponsoring or for my daughter's bachelorette party, but I'm ashamed to say that the last time some female friends and I went out for an evening, I was pregnant...with my son who is now 25.  Remember I was in a male dominant US Air Force for a bunch of years so that counts as a reason not to find girls who want a night out, doesn't it?  And it's not that I don't get invitations, but I'm kind of a homebody.  Once it's dark, I am usually in for the night and will use every excuse (husband, kids, homework, housework, etc) to stay at home.  I realize this isn't a good thing, so on my list of 50 things to do this summer, I included a girls night out.  I'm so lucky to have friends who are 'experts' at this kind of thing, so I had to do no planning and it kind of worked out better than ever.
My husband left yesterday morning.  Poor guy.  On the airplane again.  This time he's off to a funeral for an uncle in Sweden and then to visit another sick cousin in Italy.  He'll likely be gone for more than a week.  My older son Jake happened to not have a hot date last night so he and Omar watched the Lorax together as I stepped out.  Note to self: I have to watch Omar with the TV.  He found the Lorax on pay per view by himself and ordered it!  Any other time, I would have been upset but it seemed to happen for a reason so I had no excuses not to go.
Aaaahhhh... 2 hours with nice smelling women and adult conversation.  Loved every second of it.  I might have to do this again in the next 25 years!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

North Carolina Tourist

Chimney Rock
Lake Lure as seen from Larkin's Restaurant
Tunnel to the elevator that takes you to the top of Chimney Rock
It rained every day while we were in North Carolina, but we didn't let that stop us from having a good time in the great outdoors.  We stopped at Lake Lure for a fish fry lunch on the way to Asheville.  This is a great place to eat right on the water.  What a beautiful serene place that is.

After lunch, we hiked for a short while at Chimney Rock state park.  The great thing about this park is that it has an elevator that takes you to the stunning view about 24 floors up (equivalent) so even if you have a small child, you get to see something.  And don't miss out on the bathrooms- someone painted all of them like murals of the park itself, which all of us thought were worth a visit!  There's even a nice gift shop with ice cream at the top.

waterfall painted behind the toilet
hawk looking very real!

From the top, there are a few additional trails you can take to see the surrounding area, and on the way is the opera box and the devil's head.  Then if you go back down the elevator to the parking lot, you can hike the easiest trail to the waterfall, which happens to be one of the highest in the eastern USA.  Of course Omar couldn't resist jumping in the falls once we got there and it was cool clear water- very refreshing.  I joined him and it was wonderful!
This was a great stop on the way to Asheville where we had hoped to do a portion of the blue ridge parkway, but we were unlucky with weather there and it was too wet and cloudy to see anything.  Instead we took a bus tour of the city and enjoyed the day sightseeing from under an umbrella.  We learned that Asheville was a resting stop on the journey from New York to Florida in the early days, so they have a portion of the city which is fashioned after New York city so the people passing through would feel at home and hopefully stay longer, spend more money, etc.  The street musicians play guitars, but also dulcimers and accordians there.  There is also the most unique coffee shop built into a double decker bus.  It was a great couple of days!
Opera Box view

Devil's head

Pool at the falls

a rainbow appeared at sunset
Easy access to the falls

the park fashioned after central park- but MUCH smaller
Omar splashing in the falls

street musicians were plentiful

Loved this coffee shop!

Monday, September 10, 2012

What an Amazing Life Experience- Democratic Convention in Person!

I'm back home now and what a wild week it was at the Democratic National Convention.  We had a great time and saw so many politicians and outstanding people who support Americans in general.  It was very uplifting!  For me, there were so many great speeches, but what stood out was the speech given by former President Bill Clinton.  I admit, I've not done my homework about the candidates for 2012.  I get depressed by news programs, tune out to political interviews, and find I enjoy being with people or gardening to reading the newspaper when it comes to politics.  I was so ignorant!  And ignorance really isn't blissful.  It felt good to hear about all the great stuff that is already going on in America since President Obama took office.  Too often, news reports focus on the negative and you can start to feel like there is no end in sight for those who lost jobs, lost homes, found themselves without healthcare, etc.  In case you missed it, you can read the entire speech at the washington post website

My husband was in the audience for all 3 nights and here's a photo he took of the two presidents above.  His favorite speech was by the Michigan former governor, Jennifer Granholm.  Again, the Washington Post has a video of the entire speech so if you missed it, watch it here.

I was lucky enough to attend the 2nd women's caucus where not only was first lady Michelle Obama there, but so was Dr. Jill Biden!  They are such real women.  Dr. Biden still teaches at a community college.  Mrs. Obama has her hands full helping her kids with homework most nights and still does a wide variety of first lady duties.  These women spoke from their hearts and the crowded room cheered time and time again!

I also took Omar to the caucus and he always has a unique experience.  He got himself invited to have lunch with a crew of secret service policemen.  We weren't allowed to take photos but they gave him a patch and pin to remember the day.  He got to squeeze biceps and share fries with them.  How many young guys get to do that?!  He also met dozens of volunteers and had a great time hugging EVERYONE! Even these Chicago police officers stopped for a photo.

One of the many volunteers who made this a great experience
Patch from the Secret Service police

Omar the the police from Chicago
That night we attempted to view the last night's events, but it was more than Omar could manage.  Seating began for us at 4 pm after getting soaked on the way in from a heavy downpour.  My husband was a delegate so he was on the lower floor next to the stage but we were guests, so we were lucky to find a seat in the upper level where you needed binoculars and a large camera lens to even identify faces.  Before the major speeches began, Omar wanted to leave.  We were back at the hotel by 8:30 and watched them on TV like everyone else.  Here are a few photos I took from the "nosebleed section".  Would recommend the experience to anyone out there who enjoys learning more about government.
See the cool screen behind James Taylor.  When you see it live, it's a fuller experience

When you're watching a commercial, they are showing data or polls
We had a view into the news programs which were on the 2nd level

Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin
Mary J. Blige