Friday, November 30, 2012

Great time to see Kilauea Volcano- It's active again

I just saw this post on Flicker and thought about our own trip to Hawaii to learn more about volcanoes.  We went to the big island of Hawaii in February 2012 and had hoped to see some major activity, but you know you can't predict that kind of thing.  We ended up taking a helicopter tour to see some hot lava at the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, but I've seen at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory page that lava is moving again.  Here are a couple of photos we took from that helicopter ride.  If you're wondering why the subdivision is abandoned, take a close look at all the black stuff.  Homes were overcome with hot lava.  For awhile there was one holdout.  A man had a home in the middle of this with no road access, since the lava had covered it.  He had to walk out about an hour to get to a road.  I'm not sure if he's still there, but it sure sounded like a lot of work to keep your home when everyone else is gone.
Hot lava in Feb 2012 at Royal Gardens subdivision
You can see the one remaining house there in the center

If you have the ability to go to Hawaii now, you will hopefully have quite a show.  We stayed for a week at  Kilauea  military camp because I'm an Air Force veteran, so it's a cheap place to stay and it's right inside the Hawaii Volcanoes Park.  There are also plenty of vacation homes for rent by owners.  If you've never tried this, you can save a bundle.  Here's the VRBO link for Hilo, but they are in many other cities.  Generally people are willing to rent out a room and often provide breakfast too, or at least some goods you can use if you don't have access to a car or stores right away.  On the big island, if you plan to see anything at all, you probably will need to rent a car to get around.  While we stayed at the military camp, they had tours you could sign up for which included the coastline, volcanic parks, and city.  You can also see the macadamia nut factories, orchid growers, and other tourist hotspots.  While we stayed there, we used their transportation, and to get to the camp we just took a taxi.  The airport to the Volcanoes park was about a $40 ride because it is quite a drive and some drivers don't like to make the drive at night.

So the active flows right now are near the water at Kalapana- another subdivision that got covered in lava.  We were there at the lava beach on a rainy day and got to see this rainbow.  It's a gorgeous setting, and would be even better if you could see the lava pouring into the water.
Rainbow at Kalapana beach

more information about Kalapana on a sign at the beach
You can also see the Halema uma u crater that is red hot, especially at night, from the Jaggar visitor center at the Hawaii Volcanoes park.  This is how it looked when we were there.  It has been active for a number of years now, but seems to be even bigger and brighter now, from what I've been reading.  You do have to be aware though that when it is active, there's a lot of sulphur in the air and sometimes this smells bad and probably isn't good for small children or people with respiratory conditions.  When we were there, it was a bit smoky at times, but nothing that bothered us too much.
Halema uma u crater at night

If you decide to go and have a car, I'd highly recommend taking a trip to Mauna Kea too.  This was the most amazing spot ever for star gazing.  The summit is at 14,000 feet.  We went to the visitor's center which is lower, but safer for kids or people prone to altitude sickness.  At night volunteers set up very large telescopes so you can see planets and stars.  When we were there, we saw Jupiter in a way I'll never forget.  You could see the rings and gas around it.  The clarity and the equipment made it all possible. Go just before sunset and you'll also get the treat of a sunset when you are above the clouds if you're lucky, and just after sunset the whole sky goes an amazing color of reds.  Unforgettable.  We loved every minute.  And don't forget that if it's warm at the beach, it will be much colder at this elevation.  Take a jacket, hat, gloves, etc.  Sometimes there can even be snow, but don't let that stop you.  Make an adventure!
Mauna Kea visitor center with free stargazing
Mauna Kea sunset

Early night sky at Mauna Kea

Christmas in a Muslim household

Since marrying Abdulhamid, I really don't celebrate Christmas anymore, and it's kind of a relief.  I used to feel all stressed out by the holiday parties, shopping, decorating, finding the perfect tree, putting up a tree, cleaning needles off the floor and waiting for a dog to knock it over, and burden of expenses in finding gifts for everyone.  If you look at Christmas in the US, and maybe many other places too, it's just become a frenzy of consumerism featuring a round bellied man who says ho-ho!  Even the Pope has come out in his new book, and said that Christmas is not the date that Jesus was born, however in the past few days, the Vatican has mentioned that the Pope is not canceling Christmas!

I still enjoy some aspects of the holiday for the social benefit.  I like Christmas carols and enjoy looking at the holiday lights.  We still have a dinner with our kids or plan a special outing where we are all together as a family.  We sometimes exchange cookies and holiday cards.    Yesterday, Omar and I even made a gingerbread house.

For me, Christmas has become a secular holiday much like Halloween.  We are making some new traditions for our family that are centered around the holidays, but it's not about church going or nativity sets.  Even in our multicultural schools, they hold winter or holiday concerts but there are no songs about Christ's birth.  It's more about "Jingle Bells", or "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas".  It's a nice time to reach out to your friends and hold tea parties, or give donations to the needy.  There are some American traditions that just seem to fit with the Christmas celebrations, no matter what religion you are.  Maybe what we all need is a good dose of what Seinfeld called "Festivus"!  Here's hoping that your December is a great one, no matter what you do!
I ditched the Christmas tree but still hold dear all the homemade dolls
 I've collected and received over the years.

Omar loves to go to the local brewery to see Santa
 and have a rootbeer bottle made with his own private label to give to teachers.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Africa Straight Up

Most people don't realize how very large Africa is.  This map gives a better understanding.

My husband was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, which is on the continent of Africa.  He and most of his family left due to unrest and war that began in the late 80s/early 90s.  Luckily for him, he was able to attend school here in Milwaukee and got a civil engineering degree from Marquette university.  He chose to stay here because the situation in Somalia still isn't peaceful, although recently there are some big changes occurring.  He and his brother have been trying to find ways that they can create jobs and improve quality of life in Somalia.  His older sister recently moved to Kenya to provide medical treatment for women in a clinic.  She said she's working 12-14 hours a day.  There is such a great need for doctors.  

Before I married him, my knowledge of Africa was somewhat limited to what I had learned in 7th grade textbooks and National Geographic magazine stories about men in skirts wielding spears.  I had a lot to learn.  Of course, our lives have been vastly different.  He grew up with a life of privilege- nannies, drivers, cooks, boarding school.  I grew up in a single parent household where money was tight and most clothing was hand me downs from friends or cousins.  Even our pets were different.  He had a chimpanzee and a cheetah.  I had dogs and cats.  I thought all Africans were poor and needed our Unicef donations we collected on Halloween.  Well, stereotypes change and we change with them if we are smart and hope to move forward.

We were lucky enough to travel through South Africa and Uganda a few years ago, so I got to see the lifestyles first hand.  We saw the slums with tin roofs and cardboard walls outside of Johannesburg, but we also saw the luxury hotels and homes of business owners in the city.  It's a place of contrasts like anywhere else.  By traveling through a small part of the continent, it has made me more open to ideas about what is possible there.  I no longer think of it as a place where we should be sending unlimited aid or helping those poor souls.  

Modern city of Johannesburg
Slums outside of Johannesburg, South Africa

My husband sitting in a luxury hotel in Uganda

There is a new video I'd recommend to anyone interested in what is really happening in Africa.  It's available on youtube and is under a half hour long.  It will change the way you think about Africa.  They don't want our handouts.  They want to be successful.  Some of the richest people in the world live in Africa now.  Some very entrepreneurial folks talk about how Africa will become successful only by Africans doing the work.  And it's said that no country ever achieved super power status by receiving unlimited aid.  What most surprised me is how much further advanced they are with regard to cell phone use for EVERYTHING.  You don't need a wallet for cash or credit cards.  Kenya has a Silicon valley of their own where they developing some amazing technology.  I'd love to see some of that technology come to the US.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photo Book

Turn your favorite photos into a photo book at

Anyone who has been following my blog knows that I had a list of 50 things I wanted to do over the summer to celebrate turning 50.  Today, I finally made a photobook of all the cool things I did this summer.  You'll find the list was slightly modified because there were a few things I couldn't do, but I more than made up for it in additional adventures.  Take a look at my year in pictures!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Becoming Debt Free

I don't know about you, but I'm really tired of being bombarded by ads telling me I need something.  I am blessed.  I have everything I need, but can definitely be tempted to buy stuff anyway, especially if there's a discount involved.  First it was Black Friday.  Then there was Cyber Monday.  Next it will be Christmas.  Then inventory reduction sales.  It never ends.  I'm tempted to buy stuff that doesn't make me happy, even though I thought it would at the time.

Over the past couple of years, I've had a lot of fun.  I have done some amazing activities and enjoyed spending time traveling with friends and family.  It has hurt my credit card.  I am really in a mode where I'm ready to get rid of debt completely and have cash on hand.

I read about a woman, Anna, who did a spending fast.  She paid off credit card debt to the tune of $23,605 in 15 months!  You can read about her experiences at her blog, 'And then we saved'.  She gives details about creating a budget and how to survive without totally giving up fun.

First I think it's important to decide what are true needs- for us that's groceries, gas for the car, utilities, haircuts, school expenses, etc.  Most of my spending has been on charity giving because who doesn't love to help people out with a need?  And then there's entertainment like movies, eating out, coffee on the go, travel.  And don't forget gift giving.  If I cut all of that out, I'd have a real chunk of change every month to pay off credit card debt.

The first step is to get off these ad lists.  I am going through my e-mail and unsubscribing from all those places that want me to spend.  They don't make it easy.  You sometimes have to click on something at the bottom of the e-mail, go to their website, select subscriptions, decline a "really good offer", etc.  This should also free up some time that I normally use to delete unwanted e-mails.

Next stop- catalog sales.  They come in the mail and some of them I never even look at.  They go straight to the recycling bin.  We could all kill a few less trees by opting out of these mailings.  This is kind of tricky because in most cases, you will need to have the catalog on hand when you try to stop having it delivered.  So go to the recycling bin, or bathroom/living room basket where you stash this stuff and now log on to catalog choice where you can create an account, then list the publications you receive that you really want to stop receiving.  You can even stop the yellow pages from being delivered to your home this way.  I have to admit, they are no longer used here since we got a computer, so I opted out of receiving those too.

Now on to the credit card offers.  I have enough credit.  Even though I may be tempted by their 0% offers, I'd be better off to just pay off what I have and not even consider more credit.  There's a website run by the consumer credit report industry called opt out where you can go and stop receiving credit and insurance offers for up to 5 years just by completing some on-line information.

Now about spending and still having fun.  I found this frugal living blog with all sorts of ideas for spending less and keeping life interesting.  Check it out if you need some ideas.  I'm looking forward to becoming debt free!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sleeping at a Haunted Inn

We had been given a gift certificate for 2 nights to the Kewaunee Inn, and it was expiring this week.  I heard about the Schooner Coast, that I mentioned in the Christmas Ship blog post, and decided this would be a good weekend to use it and do the tour of the coastline from Manitowoc to Sturgeon Bay.

When we received the gift certificate, I didn't know anything about this inn, other than it was in Kewaunee, WI.  As I did a little research, I realized this is one of the most haunted hotels in Wisconsin with 3 known ghosts haunting it on a regular basis.  It has both a historic and interesting past. From the outside, it doesn't look remarkable.  It used to be called the Karsten hotel, and has changed owners several times.  Currently, it is owned by a Chicago couple, but will be sold in just a few weeks once again.  The 23 rooms are all a little different.  They leave all the unoccupied rooms open so you can browse the hotel.  Ours was a large room with 2 beds and a jacuzzi tub.  Some of the furniture in the hotel is Victorian style.  The lobby has a flat screen TV, piano, and even a cello!  There is a restaurant, but it was closed for the season.  We were only one of 3 families staying there this weekend, so we pretty much had free run of the place.

The hotel was built in 1912 and opened in February 1913, but the real paranormal activity began in 1966, after a renovation was done.  There are stories and photos of orbs, ghostlike figures, cold spots, hot spots, moving objects, foul odors, and documentation from people who study this type of activity.  Even if you check out their facebook page, you are likely to see photos taken by people who stayed here, who once they looked at their photos had things they could not explain.  It seems they have decided there are 3 prominent spirits who haunt the hotel- Agatha, William Karsten Sr., and Billy Karsten III.

Agatha, a mischievous former housekeeper, has been known to be found all over the hotel but her room which they say is haunted is a guest room on the third floor- room 310.  We weren't so interested in staying in a haunted room, because I admit I'm a scaredy cat!  But I was curious what type of strange occurrences one might encounter.  We took a peek into her room and this is all we saw.

Room 310
Agatha Struck, housekeeper
There was a scrapbook in the lobby and these are some photos that someone took with a little about the paranormal study that was done.  My husband thinks they were doctored.  Who knows?

The other two ghosts include the former owner/mayor of Kewaunee and his young grandson.  You can read about all the ghosts at the Kewaunee Inn website, under the paranormal heading.  We didn't actually see a ghost, but we did have a strange experience with Omar's Ipad.  He was playing some music when we were in our hotel room 201- just down the hall from where William Karsten is said to have lived during his lifetime.  All of a sudden something happened to the screen where it was changing and we were unable to do anything with it.  I even tried to power it off, but it was as if there was already someone touching the screen so I couldn't make it change.  This lasted for about 5-7 minutes, and then Omar regained control again.  Could it have been the child ghost Billy Karsten, III?  Maybe he was curious about this new toy. We may never know.  At any rate, all the spirits are thought to be friendly.

This was a fun weekend.  The hotel was comfortable and just a block from the lake.  We went bowling, did some sightseeing and got up early one morning to see the sunrise near the lighthouse.  Not too spooky, but an interesting experience anyway.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Packing for a trip

We travel a lot.  I like to be prepared so I tend to start gathering stuff to pack about a week in advance, while my husband does everything the night before.  He makes me panic.  Only once did I wait until the last minute and it meant giving up sleep most of the night so we could have everything ready.  I might also add that it's easy to pack for my self.  It's the packing for everyone else that tends to put me behind.  For most trips I could pack a couple of outfits and a bathing suit and be fine.  Once you have a husband that forgets stuff, and a child that needs the entire house packed, it adds time and energy to the routine.  I always use a packing checklist that I've made myself over the years, but I can't seem to get him to do the same.  Because he says he knows I'll have anything he forgets.  This week I found a really comprehensive list for family packing at tip junkie.  I think it goes a bit overboard on what you'd need it you're traveling somewhere in the US that has stores nearby, but it's a good starting point to create your own.  By the way, if you have never tried tip junkie- it's a great starting point for so many needs.  Take some time to browse it and I'm sure you'll learn something new.  Anyone can add a tutorial so it's kind of a clearing house for good advice on a number of topics.

I remember when we were traveling to Africa and we were limited on the amount of stuff we could pack.  I was lucky to have a friend that has color sense who came and watched me pack and basically told me to pick 3-4 colors and then accessorize to make outfits go with each of the separate pieces.  I've used that advice over and over again.  I usually choose tan, black, white and red.  There's another list at tip junkie that covers packing light that uses the same type of advice.  This way you can mix and match and you won't need so many different outfits.  I've also fallen in love with those hand washables by exofficio so if you're in a situation where you can wash in the sink and dry overnight, you won't need so many undergarments. You can buy them direct from their website, but once in awhile, they are available at Sierra Trading Post, which often has better discounts.

We also have an array of luggage.  I still can't decide on what is the perfect bag, but my favorite currently tends to be an Eddie Bauer wheeled duffle I've had for 3 or 4 years.  You can stuff a lot in it without it going overweight, and usually I can put everything I need in it without having to bring too much in a carry on. It has never been damaged, and even if it does get damaged, they have a lifetime warranty on their products.  They come in nifty colors other than black, so it is also easy to spot on the baggage carousel.   I like to bring a back pack stuffed in my bag to use for day trips.  It's rare that I actually carry my purse on a vacation.

My husband travels a lot for business.  His favorite bag is a wheeled Briggs & Riley Transcend 20" carry on.  Now this is an expensive bag, but it's the only one you'll ever need to buy if you're a serious traveler, because these bags are covered by a lifetime guarantee that even covers airline damage.  It's also one of the lightest wheeled bags we've ever found.  We've had other wheeled bags, but if you do any traveling on international flights with smaller aircraft, they seriously limit your weight allowance.

So we are heading out today for a weekend trip here in Wisconsin.  Going to pack and get out of town for 2 nights.  If you want to fit everything in one bag for the 2 of you, here's one last article courtesy of Budget Travel.  The tips include rolling your clothes, stuffing your shoes, and using rubberbands to keep cords in check.  Good luck with your next packing experience!  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Perfect Hostess

This is Thanksgiving week, and like many other hostesses, I'm getting ready to have dinner in our home for a house full of people.  I love entertaining and the mix of people always makes it more fun.  I think we will end up with about 20 people here, but this is the first time my daughter's in-laws are coming.  I'm thinking I better make a good impression because they had us at their spacious home in Green Bay for Thanksgiving a few years ago and it was quiet, lovely, and very formal.  Which is generally nothing like how things are here at our house.

When I was cleaning out things at my mom's house, I found this fun book called "Searchlight Homemaking Guide".  I guess you could say it was the etiquette bible, written for young ladies who were leaving home to join a new husband in 1949.  This particular edition has a beautifully written name inside, "Jeanne Vetterly 1949".  I can't help but wonder how this book helped her to furnish her home, choose her clothing, raise children and be the perfect hostess.  Times were different then, but not in a bad way.  How wonderful it must have been to always have a book to refer to when you needed help with a problem.
First I thought it might be nice to find out who this young lady was, so I went to  Because I know my mom lived in Indiana, I find Jeanne in the 1930 and 1940 census, both in Indiana and Michigan.  It turns out she received this book when she was 21 years old.  Her mom was a "shoppe keeper" for women's wear and her dad was a butcher in 1940.  Must have been helpful to have parents with that skill set.  You always know how to dress and how to carve a turkey!

So as I read about how to set the buffet, I'll be thinking of how it must have been for her when she was doing the same.  Here's the page for buffet service.

So I'll get busy on putting out tables with all the necessary goods.  I think I'll go for the gaily colored tablecloths.  I hadn't thought of bowls of flowers, but that's a nice touch.  I remember my aunts doing exactly what this book says for holidays.  We always had mints and mixed nuts at the tables.  I had forgotten how much we enjoyed those.  And there was always a big pot of coffee, so maybe I should get the coffee pot out.  We are so used to individual servings of drinks, that I forget how it is to serve a crowd.  And if I need some advice on carving a turkey, there's plenty of that here too.  This book might come in handy more than I thought!

If you celebrate Thanksgiving where you live, I hope you have a joyous holiday!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Victorian Tea Party

It's the season for tea parties!  Bring on the scones, lavender teas, lemon curd, and cookies!  Oh how I love this time of year.  Usually, here in Milwaukee, a few hotels and mansions will do special tea service with all the goodies.  It's kind of a pricy event but I try to go to at least one every year.  This year I saw a Groupon for a historic home about an hour from me in Lake Geneva, WI.  It included a house tour and a Victorian Tea Party for 2 and it was priced at $30 so it was about what I'd expect.  Usually you pay $15-30 per person for the overall experience and you plan to be at the location for about an hour.

For the Baker House tea party, there was a 2 hour window to make your reservations.  They serve tea from 2-4.  When you arrive, you are greeted by a host dressed in a costume from circa 1885.  They have a wide selection of hats for both men and women, so you can browse the selection and choose one to match your outfit.  Then you wait for your group to arrive.  There were only 8 people in our group so we met in the bar and had a tour with "the butler" who told us about the mansion architecture, furnishings, and people who lived and visited here.  We only saw the first floor.  I understand there are luxury suites above and it's used as a hotel as well as a restaurant.

For the actual tea party, we were taken to one of the salons, and there were 5 tables to choose from for seating.  Omar and I took the corner table near the window.  They brought a tray of dry teas from which to choose your brew.  You could sniff them and read about them on a menu.  Then they brought you a personal pot of tea using that blend.  I chose the Buckingham Palace Garden Party blend, which was composed of Earl Grey with jasmine, assam ceylon, and kenya teas.  Very smooth and nice with a hint of cream added.  Omar tried the honey stick in his and loved it.

The menu of foods included a tiered tray of sweet and savory delights: sandwiches of cucumber, radish & cranberry cream cheese, egg salad, chicken salad; pumpkin bread; cranberry and lemon scones served with lemon curd and devonshire cream; and hand dipped strawberries dipped in milk & white chocolates.  It wasn't a huge portion- just enough to taste everything.  Omar kept saying, "I LOVE this place", although all he ate were the strawberries.

Here are a few more photos of the house and the hats.  Look for a tea party near you for holiday fun!
Oops.  Mr. Lincoln's hat is too big
a selection of hats

These aviator goggles were cool

Each fireplace was unique and lovely
The tables were set up with linens and china

Loved this lamp
Omar sniffing the loose teas

The Baker House, Lake Geneva

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Journey to Hallowed Ground- Touring Gettysburg-Monticello

Now that the cooler weather is here, it's a good time to start planning summer adventures.  Last spring we went to Gettysburg and followed the driving tour from Gettysburg to Monticello called 'Journey through Hallowed Ground'.  It was an adventure in American History and my husband was the most intrigued.  We saw 2 of the 9 presidential homes on the route- Monticello and Montpelier.  We drove through a few smaller battlefields and spent a whole day at Gettysburg National Park with a tour guide who told us stories about the battles and showed us where our Wisconsin troops had done their fighting.  If you decide to go, you can find the paperback book, "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground" by David Edwin Lillard at Amazon.  Even if you can borrow it from the library, if you plan to do the tour justice, you'll use the book so much it will get some wear.  It follows the route and lists everything of historic significance with a detailed description.  To accompany this, we used a couple of apps for smart phones.  One was "Gettysburg battle app"- it described where to find the monuments and also told where each battle took place and what was affected.  There was also an app called "American civil war locator" that uses your GPS to identify what is right where you are as you travel.
One of the monuments at Gettysburg Round Top
Omar dressed as a Union Soldier

Cannons are placed throughout the fields
Monticello- home of Thomas Jefferson

Montpelier- home of James Madison

This coming year, Gettysburg celebrates the 150th anniversary of the 3 day battle that lasted from July 1-3, 1863 and there are some huge reenactments and other events that make it a desired destination for any American history buff.  They have actually started events already, but there will be more as the date draws nearer.  If you want to go, you probably need to make a hotel reservation now because when we were there, we heard the reenactment was going to attract people from all over the world.  Abdul is still talking about the possibility of going back because we saw just a small portion of the tour.  If you are interested in ghosts, this is supposedly one of the most haunted places in America.  There is a haunted walking tour and if you can find the travel channels 'Ghosts of Gettysburg', it gives details of houses that are included.  It was said that it was because so many men died fast and terrible deaths.

A driving tour can be fun for the whole family.  Hope you find time to do this one some day!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Global giving gifts

When we were at the diaspora conference in Washington, DC a few months ago, we each received a $10 gift card to be used at  I went to their website and browsed several of the projects before selecting one in Senegal for begging children.  The hope is that if they have enough money for these begging boys, they won't be sent out to find food and money, and instead can go to school and maybe find a better life one day.  Once you donate, you receive updates about what is going on with the project.  It gives you a little ownership over a little piece of compassionate work around the world.

You don't need to have a gift card to use their website or to donate to a project.  Anyone can donate using a credit card or paypal to any project.  Think of it as a global clearing house for doing good.  You can also submit projects that you'd like to receive funding for.  As you think about small (or big) gifts for people you give at this time of year, I encourage you to consider these gift cards.  There's something empowering about using one, and not only are you doing good, but the receiver benefits as well as the end receiver.  It's just a chain of feeling good.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Christmas Tree Schooner

100 Years ago next week, the Rouse Simmons ship, affectionately called the Christmas Tree Schooner, sunk to the bottom of Lake Michigan.  It still sits off the coast of Two Rivers, WI, and wasn't discovered until 1971.  

Last night, the author of a book about the ship and the event spoke to a small group at North Point Lighthouse, here in Milwaukee.  Her name is Rochelle Pennington and she has been passionate about finding the story by traveling the coast of Lake Michigan.  The ship itself had been built in Milwaukee, but it was used to bring Christmas trees from the upper coast of Michigan to Chicago each year.  The family had been doing this for 60 years passing from one generation to the next.  You can read a short story of the ship's history at the schooner link above, or look for Pennington's two books, "The Christmas Tree Ship: The Story of Captain Santa" and "The Historic Christmas Tree Ship: A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love," which detail the life of Captain Schuenemann and the history of the Rouse Simmons through historical records amassed over years of work.  You can tell she is passionate about her work.  Although I'm looking forward to finding the books, I was more intrigued by a project being promoted along Lake Michigan, called "Wisconsin Schooner Coast".  
This is a 60 mile drive starting in Manitowoc and ending in Sturgeon Bay.  You can stop along the way to enjoy the coast, see lighthouses, read about wrecks, and enjoy a little fresh air.  I have been to most of the places it talks about, but I'm glad they are promoting it as a package deal.  You can even download a guide at the website link above that includes tips and coupons for lodging.  There are 2 great maritime museums included too.  I also stumbled upon a website that has an archives for shipwrecks that is kind of fun and educational at  And if you're looking for an alternative to Black Friday shopping, head up to Two Rivers Rogers Street Fishing Village where they will reenact the sinking of the Christmas Tree Ship.  Hmmm...what little boy wouldn't enjoy the drama of that?  Thinking we'll try that with Omar.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pyramid Power

Onan's Gold Pyramid House and garages with a moat surrounding
For many years, I've driven on highway I-94 between Gurnee and Milwaukee and have seen this pyramid from the highway.  I always wanted to check it out, and I got lucky yesterday when there was a tour of this fantastic house and grounds.  It's been listed on Atlas Obscura and Roadside America.  If ever you want to see something a little different when traveling, these are a couple of great websites.  If it's weird or amazing, they know about it.

We were met at the front gate by Rocko Onan, a charming man with wit and boyish good looks.  He grew up in this house as the youngest son of Jim and Linda Onan, the couple who built it and live there still.  He had so many tales to tell about the construction of the house, Egyptology, and pyramids in general and then gave a tour through 2 floors of the house, the grounds, and a replica of King Tut's tomb.  I took my husband and son, Omar along and we all enjoyed it.  I learned enough that it made me want to know more- the mark of a really great tour.  I didn't know much about pyramid power, but apparently if food is kept under a pyramid, it lasts longer.  People are reported to be made calm if they are anxious or become energetic when they feel tired.  Razor blades retain their sharpness.  Drinking water becomes charged with negative ions.  Tom reported, at one time people were convinced the water from their spring had healing effects.

Of course with a house like this, you imagine that the people who live there must be serious Egyptologists.  Rocko said the likes of Zahi Hawass had been there when it was first built.  If you are not familiar with him, he's the face of Egyptology.  He's on every TV special made within the last decade. Look for the guy with the Indiana Jones style hat.  The Egyptian government used the house as a staging place to promote tourism to Egypt before it was popular.  The Onan family made trips to Egypt as the guests of the government.  The Egyptian museum was opened for a private tour just for them.  

When you first walk into the house from the side, there's a meeting room that was originally supposed to be the family swimming pool, except they found a spring when they drilled for water...thus the moat that is in place now.  It had been a gravel pit so it's 40 feet deep in places!  The pool idea had to be scrapped and now it looks like this.
The painted walls were done by an artist from Zion IL- Alan Wright
Most of the artifacts you see are replicas

This room is rented for meetings or special events

We went upstairs and the rooms were surprisingly normal.  Of course it is a living space.  There are 5 floors and 17,000 sq. feet.  The pyramid is 6 stories high.  Linda was making a snack for her grandson in the kitchen, as we paraded through.  It must take some patience to constantly be on view this way.  How thoughtful they are to share their house with the rest of the world.  I asked Linda what it was like to go through the building of this house and how it must have sounded like an odd request.  She said it was just life.  She was busy raising kids and he was interested so much in pyramids, that it seemed natural.  Rocko said his dad was inspired to build it after reading a University of Wisconsin study suggesting pyramids create energy.
The chairs here were once Samuel Goldwyn's

This door has real gold leaf on it
This dining room has hosted celebrities from around the world

Notice all the light from the many skylights
The outside has a row of sphinxes lining the drive- very similar to what we saw in Luxor Egypt!  Ok the palm trees are a giveaway for which photo is from Luxor- but you can see the authenticity.  There is also a 200 ton statue of Ramses II.  I included a photo we took at Abu Simbel, Egypt.  This may be the only one you'll see in the USA!  We spent about 15 minutes going through the replica of King Tut's tomb.  When we had been in Egypt it was closed, so this was our first shot at seeing something like it.  Overall it was a great tour.  Loved learning a little more about Egypt and the whole energy of pyramids story.  There is so much out there to be explored.  If you want to know more, you can also like the page on facebook or go to the website.
Sphinxes at Luxor Egypt
one of 50 sphinxes lining the drive at the Onan's home

Ramses statues at Abu Simbel, Egypt

Abdulhamid and Omar in between the legs
Omar loved this mummy!

Examples of the stash buried with King Tut
An update to this article for 2013.  June-August, there will be tours offered every Sunday at 2 pm, with the gates open at 1:30.  Special tours can also be arranged for groups of 6 or more by calling 847-244-7777.  Click on this link for additional information.

View a video made by Home Strange including an interview with Rocko Onan at the same link.