Thursday, June 27, 2013

Old World Wisconsin

Keeping with my local touring and finding things unique to Wisconsin, I had to venture out to Eagle, WI to see Old World Wisconsin.  It was Midsummer and they were hosting a Scandinavian festival to show how the longest day of summer was once celebrated.  Better yet, I could get half price tickets by attending the festival!

On the green they had a decorative pole filled with flowers
This is a huge park in the Kettle Moraine forest that has farm buildings from the early European settlers.  There are dozens of volunteers who participate in reenacting the farm lifestyle so you can see life as it might have been.  Using the interactive map, you can go to each of the various places and check out what you can see.  Then once you arrive, you take the tram to get around.

I took my son Omar and we packed a picnic, which we ate as soon as we got there, on the green while watching the Swedish dancers.  Then we took the tram to the German farm where we heard you could participate in farm life.  Omar put on wooden shoes and went out to the woodshed, after we heard a little about the farm house, chased chickens, and tried very hard to avoid touching the wood stove while the volunteer made hot German potato salad.  It was 85 in the shade and the kitchen was even warmer.  Once he started splitting wood, it was hard to get him to leave.  The man finally had to say that he had to save some chores for the other children.  The wooden shoes were a big hit too.  I had to pry them off as he complained.  He was willing to give up his trendy skechers to the other farm kids.
Who knew destroying logs could be so much fun?

The German farmwife cooling off on the porch

From the German farm, we walked a bit.  Well, I walked and Omar sat in the now too small stroller and complained about why we weren't going to find the tram... because I wanted to have a better look at the pond that was completely covered in flowers.  It was truly worth the walk.
By now, we were halfway to the middle village area, so I kept pushing the stroller...uphill...on gravel, but we were again rewarded by sighting this lovely large bird- a sandhill crane.  Omar was less than thrilled since he couldn't chase it.  He was more interested in finding ice cream about now.  

Sandhill crane
Luckily we found the blacksmith and wheel makers and they had fire and tools on their side.  Omar was eager to pump the fan to make the fire glow red.  These men were so patient and let the kids participate.  In spite of the hot temps, they were working in the hot buildings so we could all learn.
From there, we checked out the general store.  That wasn't as exciting, but the clerk did let him stir the coffee beans and play in the flour.  Anything that messy is fun.  We hopped on the tram again to see the Norwegian farm where there was a school marm teaching how to use an inkwell and slates.  Then we found baby pigs, and I think omar made about 50 pictures of these little black cuties.  The adult pig wasn't as cute, but very curious.  There were people all over the farm doing chores- knitting, spinning, carrying water to cook in the outdoor kitchen, and cooking over an outdoor fire.  It was all very interesting.  We only managed to see about half the grounds in 5 hours.  We ended the day with a very modern Dove ice cream bar at the air conditioned cafe.  We both agreed that was great!
Beautiful plow horses

Cooking over a fire

The school marm

Musicians playing Scandinavian songs

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Forest Home Cemetery- Final Resting Place for Famous Milwaukeeans

The Pabst family graves- so many babies died young
I never thought I'd become one of "those" people who would hang out in cemeteries as I got older.  I can't tell you the number of cemeteries my mom brought us to when we were kids.  She was always interested in genealogy and would send us on something like a wild goose chase trying to find names on stones.  If you've never tried this, believe me, it's never as easy as you'd think it should be to find a stationary object among lots of others.  The cemetery directory lists a plot number in an area and then you have to hunt.

Well, I decided I'd read so much about our Milwaukee Forest Home Cemetery, that I should have a look.  They have an online self guided tour you can download, and it's said to be the resting place for anyone who was someone in early Milwaukee.  Because it's 200 acres, you'd be hard pressed to walk the whole thing in a day, so I opted for a car tour where you park the car and get out hunting for names you recognize.  They have various tours you can do, so I opted for the Beer Barons.  You might have heard that beer made Milwaukee famous.  There were many great Germans who settled in Milwaukee and started breweries.  The cemetery even offers guided tours on weekends with a historian who takes you around and brings the stories to life.

I was surprised by the sheer number of graves and how large the cemetery was.  And even though it was large, there were so many interesting headstones.  This isn't your run of the mill boring cemetery.  These beautiful hand crafted stones are works of art.  As you browse the headstones in the family plots, you also feel a bit remorseful as you realize so many of these families lost many children at a very young age.  The landscaping was also beautiful.  Trees were in bloom.  The grass was mowed.  Even the grass was trimmed away from the stones.  The place is painstakingly maintained.

There are many themes, but I opted for the beer barons, although I saw quite a few other famous graves along the way.  It said on the tour sheet to start at the Halls of History.  This was a good place to see photos of famous Milwaukeeans, as well as enjoy the air conditioning, and restrooms.  They have a few paragraphs about the people that will jog your memory.  When I hear a name, I think I know who they are, but this gives a few more details about how they came into their fortune or business, and includes other relatives that played an important part in their lives.  I found it quite interesting.
Display case in Halls of History
 From the main building, I took the driving tour to the areas where there were famous beer barons like Schlitz, Pabst, Krug, Uihlein, Blatz, and Best.  They are not grouped together, so you have to find the sign for the area number, park the car and walk.  It was a beautiful day, so I enjoyed the walk.  I think it would be even more interesting to take one of the docent led tours on the weekend so you could hear them weave stories of hard work and intrigue about these famous men.  I'll have to do that another day.
Blatz family gravesite- this is enormous!

See how the tree is growing around the stones

The trees are in bloom and very pretty

Monday, June 3, 2013

Koppa's Fulbeli Deli- another weird wonderful Milwaukee destination

Is that really a coyote?

You know something is different about this place as soon as you enter the door and a stuffed coyote perched atop the dairy cooler, or in this case "Diary" greets you.  This is Wisconsin where hunting and grocery shopping apparently go hand in hand.  This is it.  Koppa's Fulbeli Deli and home of the Hodag.    I've lived here 8 years and I still had to look that one up.  Apparently a mythical creature from northern WI, it inspired a breakfast sandwich similar to the egg mcmuffin.  And this place has living room seating while you wait for your sandwich to be prepared.  Have you ever seen an end cap to a grocery aisle with a stuffed deer head adorning it?  This place is cool.

Haven't you always wanted to do this?   And that picture to the right I'm pretty sure was on my bedroom wall in grade school.  Where do they find such great stuff?

My son showing off his chips while he waits in the "living room"

We went back to the deli, which is famous for great sandwiches and has some great names to boot.  I ordered the Frukwine and my daughter settled on a stralkowski, both reasonably priced (and huge) for $5.29 each.  My son who only eats a white diet of pasta, cheese pizza, chips, crackers, and dry egg noodles was thrilled that they even make french fries.  He picked up a bag of egg noodles and chips, just to be sure.  We were planning a lake side picnic which can cause a young boy to work up an appetite.

They only sat down for a moment because we noticed the FREE ATARI games.  This place was looking way better than any northwoods tavern at this point.  It was only a bonus that they have games, and they are surrounded by coolers with just about every drink known to man.  I have never seen such a selection.  Even kombucha.  And if you need a fruit fix, you can pick your yellow bananas off the imitation banana tree at the checkout.

Which game to play?  There were so many!
Fresh banana tree

"So I put the badger up by the Mardi Gras masks", I can imagine the crew discussing.  Makes Sense.
A vast selection of local beers
The decorating in this store is so incredibly unique.  You forget you're here to buy groceries.  And the people who live in the neighborhood and are really just "shopping" look at you strange because you are taking pictures of everything in sight.  How have I not been in this store before?  And the best part is that the prices are really pretty good.  They don't charge an admission fee to browse the aisles.  The service was decent, and they have everything you need in a pinch.  I think I love this place.  We eventually had to leave though.  We headed to Lake Michigan for a picnic with our kids.  The sandwiches, fries, and chips were perfect.  This was a great place to collect our picnic goods!

And the Frezon Foods section is definitely the religious part of the store...must be the shining lights

Omar (on the right) is teaching Landon to eat dried noodles too.  Lunch of Milwaukee champs!

Look at that sandwich!  Dripping with goodness!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weird Wonderful Brady Street in Milwaukee

So my last post was all about visiting places near home, and I'm following my own advice.  I checked out a few books from the library- "Weird Wisconsin", "Oddball Wisconsin", and "An Explorer's Guide to Wisconsin"- to get inspired and to find places that I hadn't been to yet.  I'll be sharing a few of those destinations with you as we explore them.

Brady Street comes up in almost any list of unusual attractions in Milwaukee.  It kind of reminds me of Venice Beach, CA.  You will likely see anything and everything.  And that's what makes it so much fun. They hosted the 2nd annual Art Walk yesterday, and the sun was shining so it was a rare occasion to stroll the 9 blocks of shops, restaurants, and cafes.  This neighborhood runs between the Milwaukee river and Lake Michigan so it really is in the heart of things.

There were more than 30 artists doing their work right out on the stoops of old buildings, or standing in the sidewalk complete with paintbrushes and easels.  They would answer questions, and in some cases let you participate.  It was a great way to encourage future artists.
Even the alleys were full of painters

We saw tattoos, piercings, musicians, costumes, dogs in strollers...the dog ration to person is probably about 1:5 in this neighborhood.  It seems there are dogs everywhere and when you have kids that love to pet dogs, it means you don't really get anywhere fast.  There was even a guy walking his lizard.  Where can you get all this for free?
Have you ever touched a lizard?  It was incredibly smooth.

Dog stroller meets kid stroller

A guitarist sits on the sidewalk collecting tips
There's one shop I had heard about several times; Art Smart's Dart Mart & Juggling Emporium.  Even the name sounds exciting!  Try saying that 5 times really fast!  They have darts, of course, and juggling supplies, naturally.  But they also have a wide array of kites, discs for golf, cute and funny kids toys...even rubber chicken heads.  You never know when you might be in the market for one.
Rubber chicken or squirrel heads at Art's

An artist painting Art Smart's Dart Mart
Of course all this sightseeing makes a person hungry/thirsty, so we had to stop in at a yogurt shop and try those machines where you can make your own and they weigh it.  Maybe that's something you're used to, but they are still new here in Wisconsin, and we love them.  You put in way more than you think you're ever going to eat...and the next thing you know, it's all gone.  And only on Brady Street would you see a table of imported from India handbags, scarves, and bangles so you can do one stop shopping.  I know lots of people who probably think of shopping for gifts at the yogurt shop.  It only goes to show you- there must be a following at this neighborhood with loads of locals who are regulars.  They even had a wall with photos of all the locals.
Notice the finely decorated table of gifts, all reasonably priced, to the right of the yogurt bar
After some refreshments, we were ready to see more.  There was a tattoo shop with some scary characters in the window- not of the human kind.  Every little kid who wandered by had to look with awe.  Star Wars bad guys and others.  Omar loved them all.  I'm glad the shop wasn't open or I'd have been prying him out of the front window.  We also noticed some interesting hand written poetry at one of the shops near the dog water dish.  I'm not sure if it was for the enlightened pets, or for the people who sit on the sidewalk.  Hmmmm.... so much to ponder.
can you see the look of envy in the reflected face?

There's also some great shopping on Brady Street.  One of my favorite bakeries is there- best Italian cookies ever!  And if you have time, there's a small city park with some very whimsical creatures just a few blocks away.  You can read about Cass Park on my local Milwaukee Parks blog.  What a fun way to spend an afternoon.  We'll be back again.  Such a cultural gem for our fair city of Milwaukee.
Fantastic deli and Italian cookies, pastries, and bread

I love how the ladies wear those cool lace bows and dresses that are from their own store