Monday, January 27, 2014

Embracing the Cold

Ice forms at Cave Point County Park, Door County WI
 We're on our second polar vortex here in Wisconsin...and just one month ago, I had never even heard that term!  There are certain advantages to hunkering down in Winter and just embracing what comes.    You can technically live in your pajamas.  When I go out, I throw on snow pants, a long parka and enough scarves, mittens, etc. to cover up any trace of indoor attire anyway.  And I have to admit, I love the stretchy waistbands, because it hides the fact you've been visiting the cookie jar way too often.  There's also the opportunity to catch up on that entire year of magazines sitting in the box in the corner of the living room.  And "OH NETFLIX!  Who's your friend this week?"  I've seen quite a few movies this season, and it's surprising how many I'd never even heard of before the cold set in.

I do love the outdoors, so when I can convince my husband to get out with me, we load up the car and head out to interesting places where we can observe Mother Nature at her best.  For a guy who grew up playing soccer on the warm, sunny beaches of Mogadishu, he's come a long way.  I won't say he "likes" snow and cold, but he tolerates it without complaining too often.  He loves checking Minneapolis weather, where his brother's family lives, just so he can say it's 10 degrees warmer here in Milwaukee.

This weekend our adventure destination was snowy, windblown Door County.  The morning started a little like this: 5 am.  Cat on my head.  Spider-man (AKA 8 year old Omar) singing show tunes beside me in bed,at the top of his lungs, by the glow of my iPhone.  "Hello Weekend!" I grab a robe in the darkness and go down the stairs with spidey and the cat close behind.  I hear the wind howling as I pass the living room window, and notice we got about an inch of new snow overnight.  It's a good morning for pancakes with real maple syrup.  Actually, EVERY morning is a good morning for pancakes, as it's Omar's favorite and only breakfast choice.  That is, unless he gets his hands on a fresh bag of gold fish crackers.

We pack up the car with a variety of cold weather gear, snow shoes, yaktrax, sled, and plenty of snacks to get us through the three hours google maps says it will take to get to Sturgeon Bay.  The drive leaves my husband white knuckled and tense as the wind whips snow across highway 43 and we see at least 40 cars in the ditch along the way.  We stop for a few short minutes to check out the Wequiock Waterfall in Brown County, since it's on the way and just off the highway, and it's completely frozen.  I walk down to the base and find it very slippery.  It was good I had the yaktrax, or it would have been impossible to get back up again.
Wequiock Falls in Brown County

We felt lucky to make it to Bridgeport Waterfront Resort, where Omar can hardly wait to see the pool.  We convince him to have lunch first, and it's a hearty fare at The Inn at Cedar Crossing.  The weather is going to get worse, so in order to get the most out of the day, we decide to drive out to Cave Point County Park right away.  Poor Omar can't hide his disappointment that we aren't going to spend the afternoon splashing in the indoor pool.  He orders chocolate mousse and for a moment, he seems happy enough.

Cave Point is blanketed with snow and the limestone formations are now covered in frozen sculptures.  It's quite breathtaking, and there are a handful of visitors braving the cold on the trail- a couple of photographers in the mix.  There's  sign clearly stating you need to mind your children at this park.  The drop-offs are steep and there's no way to get to the water to help anyone who falls.  My husband stays with Omar first while I explore.  Then he comes out with Omar for a short while, but it becomes clear that Omar wants to get as close as possible to danger, so he doesn't stay long.  The temperature is 1F and they are chilled anyway.  I snap a few photos and that's the end of our short excursion.
Cave Point County Park all frozen
We enjoy the warm resort for the rest of the night, and on the way back home the following day, we feel lucky to see the Coast Guard's Ice Cutter boat as it passes through the open bridge decks in the downtown.  It's large and majestic as it cuts the ice and passes swiftly on the way to Lake Michigan.  Where there was only frozen snow, there is now a liquid path.  Overall, it was a fun journey in spite of the cold.
The Coast Guard's Ice Cutter

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Start the Day with a Sunrise

About 15 minutes before sunrise, the sky and water look like they are on fire
There's something so refreshing about getting up for a sunrise.  This is maybe the best time of year to do it because you don't have to get up too early.  Sunrise here in Milwaukee is about 7:20 right now.  Since I have a son who's up early anyway, we just pulled on our snow pants and parkas over our pajamas this morning and headed to Lake Michigan.  We don't do this very often, but when we do, we always go for doughnuts afterwards.  It was my bribe to get him started in the morning, and now it's just a habit.  He's a good sport.

The entire coastline is frozen and there are some pretty looking "icebergs" out in the water.  They are really just smaller rocks that have had frozen waves over the past few weeks and grew into something much larger.
The geese and seagulls were out in full force this morning
For the past week, it's been pretty cold here so we haven't really seen much wildlife.  In fact this patch of water had been frozen up until Friday.  Now that it's open water again, the geese are back.  Many times, we're the only people on the beach for sunrise. Today, there were about 8 other photographers and a few people just out walking dogs.  I think it's a quiet, magic part of the day and encourage you to try it.  Get up early and get outside to enjoy the sunrise.
The clouds were moving rather quickly

The frozen beach with some pretty cloud formations

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Pushing the Comfort Zone and Trying New Things in 2014

Happy New Year!  We are back from sunny Mexico where we had a warm week of fun in the water.  We didn't have much planned so most of our days (when it didn't rain) were spent on the beach or at the huge pool at the condo our friend let us use.  We did try to do a tour of some Mayan ruins, but as soon as our little guy Omar saw the beach below, he hurried down the steps to put his toes in the water...and 5 seconds later he was completely wet from head to toe, with sand and warm sea water covering every bit of clothing.  I wasn't really planning on this, so I didn't have a full set of clothes to change into when we had to leave, but it all worked out.  I've learned to go with the flow, and to be honest, Omar kind of inspires me to have more fun in every day.  Come on- tell me the people touring the old structures and grounds in the heat had more fun than a kid fully clothed jumping in waves!
Omar playing in the sea
Lots of people make New Year's resolutions...and most of those resolutions never make it past the end of January.  I think we should all take a lead from Omar and just do our best to find fun in every day.  Try something new.  Make new friends.  Take life a little less seriously.  So that's my intention this year.  I don't know that every day will be more exciting, but when I can, I want to make those choices.  

I've already had a few fun attempts.  On January 1, we went dog sledding in spite of bitter cold.  Omar even had a second ride with their companion dog, BooBoo.  I mean it was him and this huge lovely dog ON THE SLED, with 8 additional dogs pulling them around the circuit.  What fun this kid has!  There's a wonderful group called Door County Sled Dog who take rescued dogs and train them to pull a sled.  We've seen them before, but this was my first ride on the sled.  To be honest, I felt bad for the dogs who had to pull us.  I would really love to drop a few pounds on their behalf so they wouldn't have to work so darn hard.  It was a lot of fun!
Me and Omar on the dog sled

BooBoo with Omar as they ready themselves to take off

BooBoo wears goggles- how sporty!
There's an old fabulous theater here in Milwaukee called the Oriental Theatre.  I've wanted to go inside for years, but only found the scratch that...MADE the time to go there on January 2nd.  It was truly a great experience.  My friend met me there for the movie "Philomena", and we toured the theatre afterwards.  They just don't build theaters with Buddhas, lions, and pipe organs anymore.  
Oriental Theatre lobby- it is so grand!
Steiff bear Santa at BMO Harris Bank in Milwaukee
Yesterday I went to see the stuffed animal exhibit at BMO Harris Bank in Milwaukee and then took a walk to the highest point in Milwaukee to take in the views.  I know lots of people are back to work, but it was eerily strange to be the only person at both places.  Look at this adorable Steiff bear all decked out in Santa clothes, riding an old time rocket with pedals.  It's a fabulous way to preserve history that they pull out all these Steiff animals and put them into a Christmas setting once a year for the public to enjoy.  
And the view below from Kilbourn Reservoir Park isn't half bad.  You can see there's snow, but you don't see my breath in front of me, or feel the ice underfoot.  I have been here in summer, but this is a whole different perspective with no leaves on the trees and visible smoke puffing out of the tall Milwaukee buildings.  The day was topped off with lunch at my house where I invited a couple of neighbors.  It's important to make your own fun.  I don't think it will just happen.
View of Milwaukee from Kilbourn Reservoir Park

I'll bet you can work a few new experiences and more fun into your life in 2014.  I'd love to hear how you do it!  Life can be an adventure if we make it that way!