• Chapter 79- The Original Wailers at Shank Hall


    Thanks to my favorite radio station 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, I won free tickets to see The Original Wailers at Shank Hall last week.  When I called in, DJ Marcus Doucette and I talked briefly about my name, my birthday, my phone number (all are pretty unusual) and my knack for winning things.   I tend to be lucky with things like this and other small or insignificant things.  But after my conversation, I decided to buy a lottery ticket.  No luck though, I did not become a millionaire in the past week.


    Back to the show…I got my friend Margo to come with me, and we arrived late (I can actually blame it on lack of parking from construction.  Well that and we both had a bunch of kids to get down for bed before we could leave home) and grabbed a drink.   The music was great, a lot of Bob Marley songs and some original.   The lead singer, Chet Samuels, had a smooth voice, and didn’t sound to be imitating Bob Marley or anything.  He had his own mellow style.  Howard Smith was on drums, and though I know nothing about percussion, I thought his playing was tight and on point.


    Al Anderson was on lead guitar and during a small intermission, serenaded us all with some “noodling” (improv and continuous solo playing).


    I was really impressed with everyone, but in particular the bass player Rohan Reid (pictured above).  His solo was incredible!  It was clear that he branches out from doing Raggae and plays jazz and other styles of music.


    After a while of just hanging out in the back and watching, my friend turned to me and asked why we weren’t out on the floor dancing.   It was clear that much of the crowd was having a good time but felt self-conscious about dancing.  So we abandoned our drinks and made our way to the front of the crowd and danced like ladies I made fun of at one point in my life.


    Thanks Radio Milwaukee for the tickets!  It was a great chance to get out and see some of what the city has to offer.


    What about you?  Have you seen any good shows lately?  Are you coming to Quarters to see ROM (my friend’s band) with me on Sept 26?

    A. Storm



  • Chapter 78- Gilles Frozen Custard


    It was a day when Little T was on a Special Date with Theo, and I needed to get out of the house with the other kids.  I packed them up and we drove to Gilles Frozen Custard, a place I remember going to when I was a kid (keep in mind I grew up two hours north of Milwaukee).  You see, when you have a dad who loves ice cream as much as mine, you spend a bit of time at places like Gilles, Leon’s, Dairy Queen and anything in between.

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    We ordered burgers and grilled cheese, and scored a table outside.  The folks next to us had 7 children with them, and I felt the tables turned a little. It’s usually other people who are gawking at the huge number of young children I’ve taken out in public.  But this time, I did the gawking.  And offering kind eyes when the parents were frustrated with one of their kids who had requested vanilla custard after she’d already put in the order for and received her chocolate custard.


    Baby S looks like a muppet here.  Blame it on her first taste of grilled cheese.

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    The custard was a pretty big hit with the twins.

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    Not so much of a hit with the baby.  Her first taste of custard didn’t go so well (don’t tell my dad).

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    The twins couldn’t really fathom why I didn’t get any custard.  The words “I don’t really like ice cream that much” simply didn’t register.  Probably because they were already on their sugar high and starting to climb parking structures.  So we walked around the lot a little and took a few photos.

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    And then, because a parking lot is a terrible place to hang out with your two year old twins while they’re all hopped up on sugar, we found a playground near by.

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    And ran.  And ran.  And peed on a tree (anyone else in the midst of potty training?).  And ran.

    And if the pictures don’t do it, here’s a video: run

    Hope you’re enjoying the last bit of summer here, and good luck to all the kids (and parents) with families heading back to school!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 77- Doors Open Milwaukee (Volunteer Orientation)


    For the past few years, I’d hear about Doors Open Milwaukee as it was happening and wish I had coordinated my life so I could attend.  The idea of the event is to open up buildings in Milwaukee to the public, free of cost, for one weekend.  Check out their website for a list of over 150 buildings at which you could get a closer look.

    This year I decided to sign up to volunteer so I wouldn’t miss the weekend.  Volunteers hang out at one of the sites for a 4 hour shift and greet people entering the building.  And for just those 4 hours, you get to be a part of this cool event AND get a special volunteer badge which lets you enter some of the more popular sites through a separate “volunteer only” line.


    So this morning, after a night of food poisoning, I got myself together by stopping by Rocket Baby Bakery to grab a coffee and croissant, and then met up with other volunteers at the Central Library.

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    We met up in the Centennial Hall, and got a briefing on expectations and details.

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    Volunteer Coordinator Melinda Kallenberger gave us the run down, and also informed us that they’re still looking for over 100 volunteers for the event!  People, stop reading my blog right now and visit the site to get in touch with Melinda and let her know you’ll sign up for one 4 hour shift on Saturday September 20 or Sunday the 21st!


    Afterwards, we got our location assignments (I’ll be in the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Dome Theater), chatted with other volunteers, and fell in love with the new GLOW IN THE DARK t-shirts for sale:



    This is a family-friendly event, too.  A free kids’ passport is available to get your young ones involved in exploring their city.


    I’ll post more about the event after it happens, but I’m so excited to finally check this out.  I hope you can carve out 4 hours of your time to sit and greet people who are hoping to learn more about the city.  Stay tuned for my experience with the weekend, and I’d love to hear if you’ve volunteered or attended before.  Please share!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 76- Governor Dodge State Park and more (Travel Edition)


    You see the time on that clock?  It’s 6:45PM.  And that’s what time we finally left Milwaukee for the two hour drive to Governor Dodge State Park for a few nights of tent camping.  Just 6 hours and 45 minutes late.


    Because my husband is a genius, and because the above picture is of Little A passed out before we even left Milwaukee County, he suggested we stay in a hotel that night and ease our way into camping.  The kids were beyond excited once we arrived at some crappy Super 8, because “MOM!!! There’s a tiny coffee maker!!!!  And little soap and a tiny fridge and a COFFEE MAKER!  You want coffee?  Here you go.  Papa, you want coffee?”

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    I’d read recently some great ideas and tips on traveling with kids, and had visions of neatly packaged snacks and toys and car games.  But instead, we piled in the car with blankies and water bottles.  That’s pretty much it.  So when it came to bedtime, Theo happened to have Harry Potter in his bag (of all the books he was going to read while on vacation…yeah right) and that was their bedtime story.


    The next morning, we headed to our site at the park and set up camp.  Little T, Little A and J got one tent, while the rest of us got the other.

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    Accommodations were great, mosquitos were minimal, and shade was a plenty.

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    Our Eno hammock (highly recommend that to anyone in the market for one.  Just make sure to get the double so you can fit a million kids into it) fit nicely between some trees, and we all took turns relaxing (or roughhousing) in it.

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    My oldest went on a hike and brought me back a special rock and a clover.  It was pretty much the sweetest.


    I was sort of dreading sleeping in tents.  Not because I’d be uncomfortable, but because kids would be out of their element and potentially NOT sleep.  But for the most part, people slept when they should have.

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    Bagheera joined me on a few of the trips I took back up to the ranger station to do things like get firewood and inquire about ice.  He’s the best dog ever and I could go on and on about him, but that’s really all you need to know.

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    This peaceful moment was brought to you by a few mugs of wine and my husband who took the kids on a car ride (all were either approaching or already in meltdown mode).   He was gone for much longer than I anticipated, and everything was packed in the car with him (except said wine and mug), so I got a little weird.  I’d spent enough time in the hammock, stoked the fire, threw some rocks, and found the only logical next step to take pictures of myself jumping off things.  So here you go.

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    The next day, Uncle Wow (Will) and Auntie Brave (Rae) joined us and we went to the lake to swim, play games, and eat ice cream.

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    Little T picked up my camera to take some photos of us playing a game.  I have no idea what it’s called but it involves a frisbee and a drink in your hand.  I’ll just let her pictures explain.

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    We hung out at the beach and Little A proved she’s fearless.  She’ll be swimming soon, while her twin preferred to play in the “sandbox”.

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    Back at the campsite Uncle Wow broke out a huge red balloon and my kids had a blast with it for 5 minutes until they popped it.

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    At the end of the camping trip, we packed up and kept heading west to the Driftless area to visit some family for a few days.

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    Here are some wildflowers Little T picked for me.  She’s such a sweetheart.


    We camped out at the cabin that Theo built back when we moved back to WI from Seattle.  It’s a beautiful place up on a hill, surrounded by trails and flowers and ferns galore.  We’re excited to spend more time there, and make some memories for our kids.


    Oh, and not only can my husband make things like cabins, he makes a mean pudgie pie grilled cheese sandwich and cup of coffee for breakfast.


    The above picture is of Theo taking the big three to the Sound of Music hill, and treating them to some chocolate.  I have a feeling that Hershey’s bar was accompanied by some words of love and adoration.

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    Back at my sister in law’s house, we gathered with more family for some cousin time.  And let me tell you, that motorcycle pictured is a hit!

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    Our old neighbors and dear friends stopped by the cabin to eat some corn and try and keep kids out of trouble.  We were pretty successful at both endeavors (minus some mystery slivers).

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    It was a great week.  Not all parts were super relaxing or easy, but it was great to spend time outside and see some people we love.

    We’re now home trying to recover from a few cases of croup and ear infections.  But hey, at least it happened now instead of while camping!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 75- Wisconsin State Fair


    I came away with two things after visiting the Wisconsin State Fair today: I probably won’t eat meat anymore, and the advantage of having a screaming child is that you can keep track of them really easily in a sea of people.

    Oh yeah, and also I vow not to do this again next year.  So when I get all excited and say things like “It’ll be fine!  I’ll just go right when they open at 8am and prep my kids for no rides/prizes/games just animals and maybe some food.  We’ll be in and out and everyone will have fun”, direct me back to memories of numerous looks of annoyance and pity from folks walking past me.   And my circus of children screaming at me for things like flushing their pee down the potty instead of letting THEM do it.  Seriously.

    It wasn’t all bad, though.  Here are the highlights:

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    I love the giant slide, I really do.  If it were like $1 a ride, I’d be on it all day.  All the kids went down except for Baby S (I should add that my brother in law and his girlfriend came with me, so don’t worry, I didn’t leave the baby with a stranger while I went on rides).  And remember the “no rides” comment above?  Well I didn’t make it clear that I made an exception for myself (totally unfair, I know).  And it came back to sting me later when we couldn’t go on the bungee rides.


    After the slide, we went to see the pigs.


    And man, are they lazy.


    Next we went to the poultry and rabbit barn.

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    This dude was not please that I was taking his photo.  Either that or the fact that he was in a small cage.

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    This rooster caused some distress with Little T.  She was really worried that J was getting too close because the rooster “looked a little bit dangerous”.


    Little A liked the “tiny dinosaurs”.


    And we saw chicks hatching!!!!

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    We were hungry, and stopped in a shady spot to share a corn dog.

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    The delightful image that popped into my mind as my kids ravenously ate the hot dog and cornbread combo was from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.  It’s after Jen wakes up from being dehydrated, starving and exhausted from riding in the desert, and Lo hands her some sort of meat on a stick and she gnaws into the food, barely coming up for air.


    So naturally, we got cream puffs afterwards.

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    Then commenced the screaming because I committed the grave sin of wiping someone’s face when THEY wanted to do it.  So we packed up to go home and then everyone screamed because we were going home.  You guys get what kind of morning I’m talking about, right?

    And once home, we all napped.  HARD.

    Maybe in a few years it’ll be easier to navigate the fair with the kids.  But currently, with a 4 year old, 2 year old twins, and 9 month old, it’s not enjoyable enough to make it worth it.  How about you, did you make it to a fair this summer?  How was your experience?

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 74- Buena Vista, Colorado (Travel Edition, obviously)


    Pardon the long break, everyone!  It’s been a busy few weeks, and this post explains a big chunk of that.  Get ready for a week in (a million) pictures…  I took Little A and Baby S to visit my sister in Colorado last week, and had a blast.  How did I end up taking just half of my crew, you ask?  Well, it was going to be a trip by myself, but Baby S is still pretty much attached to me and can fly for free, so she was a shoe in.  And because Little A was in need of some attention (she was battling a nighttime fear of excavators when I booked the flights), I chose her to join.  The plane rides were somewhere in between perfectly fine and incredibly uncomfortable for everyone on board.  People kept saying to me in the airports “oh my gosh, you’re so brave!”.  But I had decided before I left that it would be no big deal and sort of made that idea become true.  Plus, it was only HALF of my children.


    We talked about grand plans of going to hot springs, and hiking once we arrived in Buena Vista.  But really, all that happened was as follows:


    We splashed in puddles and enjoyed the views,

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    rode bikes,


    ate amazing food at The Asian Palate (that’s my dear sister Angela and her husband Bobby),


    had a fine beverage with my sister at Deerhammer while my brother-in-law drove around in the car with the kids (what?!),

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    and visited my sister’s boutique, Made On Main.  It’s a unique shop with beautiful clothing, art, jewelry and more inside.  The Grand Opening is this weekend if you can make it!  I’m lucky enough to have a sister who can provide fashion advice and outfit me with basically a new wardrobe. Thanks, Angela!

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    Recognize this?  It’s by Jamie Heiden!


    Original artwork by Angela.


    And then we crossed the street to her new endeavor, Petal & Flour, the go-to place for wedding consulting in Buena Vista.

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    The week was filled with dogs and bikes and water.  And surfing on the river.  CKS is the place to go to get started with that, but I’ll get to surfing in a minute…

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    Did I mention bikes?


    And rocks.

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    And pacies and blankies because when you’re out of your element, you need some comfort.  Even if you’re coming up on three years old and have already given up diapers.


    Eddyline serves a paddle of beer, and I felt it a must to partake.  Unfortunately, I’m more of an Ale, Amber, and Stout kind of gal.  So the line of IPAs and other hoppy beers was better suited to someone like my husband.

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    My sister and I took the girls out for breakfast at The Evergreen Cafe, and trashed the place (sorry Barb!).  But also had killer smoothies and a sweet potato breakfast complete with balsamic vinegar, black beans and cilantro.  Barb, the owner, was kind enough to share the recipe with me.

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    The deer in peoples’ front yards look a little different in Colorado.

    bv30 And so do the playgrounds.


    Back to river surfing.  Here’s how you do it:


    Easy, right?  Well if you’re interested in the sport, BV is a great place to go.  The Arkansas river offers some premiere whitewater rafting and surfing experiences, with a long stretch of navigable water.  At pretty much any time of day, you can see people getting ready to put in or boats floating past.

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    We took a trip to the pond to meet up with neighbors and cousins and get the kids out on the water.  For all the two year olds out there, here’s how you rock some new sunglasses.

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    Little A had a blast, clearly.  She got to mess around and be with big kids and run the show.  Not that that’s all that different than at home, ahem.


    I’m thinking she can be a poster child for Badfish stand up paddleboards, yeah?

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    After the trip to the pond, we went back to the river to watch these ladies, Liz and Alex.  They had come in from out of town and were happy to see us and join in on the fun.

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    It was great week.  I got to see my one and only sister, spend time outside, pet some dogs, throw rocks in the river, pawn my kids off on my brother in law (who happily obliged), give Little A some one-on-one, and gaze upwards at the western sky.

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    I’ll leave you with a few parting shots of Bobby and Earl Richmond (the latter who practically invented the sport) taking a nighttime surf.

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    Special shout out to my parents for helping with Little T and J, to my sister and brother in law for hosting, and to the people of United Airlines for attempting to help.  Well wait…I take that last part back.  No thanks to United’s tiny plane with NO changing table in the bathroom.  Because sitting on the toilet seat and changing your baby’s diaper on your lap while the bathroom door is open because there’s no room otherwise sucks.  But thanks to the lady sitting a foot away from said open bathroom door for not minding, and even keeping Little A entertained while it all took place.


    Hope the summer’s treating you well, everyone.  Tell me about your latest adventure, in OR out of state!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 73- Possibility Playground


    A change of scenery is always welcome, so when the opportunity to meet up with some family at Possibility Playground in Port Washington came up, we jumped at it.  The playground is “universally accessible” so kids with all abilities can enjoy the fun.  And as a bonus, it has a fence around the playground and only one entrance/exit.  So if you have a circus of children, it’s easier to keep track of everyone.


    The drive up to Port Washington wasn’t bad, I think it was 30 miles from door to destination.  Once we found the park, we made a stop at the (clean, yay!) bathrooms because the twins decided last week that they’re done with diapers.  Well, Little A did and J was all “uh, ok.  I guess I’ll be done too”.  In the two hours that we spent at the park, I schlepped all four kids into the family bathroom 5 times.

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    The playground was great!  There was a ton for them all to do (except Baby S, she spent the entire time strapped to my person because the ground was too hot for her to crawl around on).


    A nice little girl even helped J get his shoes off for the sandbox.  And he proceeded to spend a solid 30 minutes in there not caring what else was going on around him.

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    I spoke with Dennis, a very nice gentleman who volunteers his time with the playground.  He stops by most days to sweep up sand and keep things looking good and safe.  He filled me in on the history of the playground and some insight into the community.  I was really happy to talk with such a genuine guy who cared deeply for kids, wanting them to have a safe and fun place to play.

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    Between trips to the bathroom, we set up shop for some lunch.  It was a pretty warm day in the sun, so the shaded picnic table was great.


    My kids doted over their new baby cousin, munched on blueberries, and begged to get back to the playground.

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    Hats.  It was super sunny.


    In our post-lunch round at the playground, we discovered the slide and climbing wall.

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    And then attempted another family photo.  I love it.  Who cares if you can see all of our faces, if other kids are in the shot, or if we’re giggling and trying to run away.  I like being able to vouch that we were all there, together.

    I love the idea of this playground.  It’s great to see people coming together to make sure kids of all abilities have a place to play.  And I appreciate that anyone is welcome to join in the fun.  Everyone I spoke with that day was willing to chat and share a smile, which made the trip even more worth it.

    We’ll be back for more adventures, and next time I’d like to explore some of the lighthouses that Barbara Ali mentioned in her blog.  Maybe even take some time to grab a bite to eat in the cute historic part of Port Washington, too!

    Hope the summer’s treating you all well.  As usual, I’d love to hear suggestions for place you frequent, want to check out, or have even just heard of.  Comment below and let me know your ideas!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 72- Sharehouse Goods, McBob’s Pub & Grill, and Fathead Jerky

    Now that The World Cup is over, I can post about a game we watched at McBob’s Pub and Grill!  First off, though, I stopped by Sharehouse Goods, because I had driven past it the week before and wondered what it’s all about.  Check out their Facebook page for more, but the basic gist is that they receive goods and sell them, creating jobs for folks who need them.  They also serve Stone Creek Coffee, and are next to Fathead Jerky (McBob’s newest endeavor…a store selling a wide variety of jerky, jellies, jams and bacon flavored popcorn).

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    The inside of Sharehouse is vibrant and filled with a great selection of gifts, household goods, and toys.

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    McBob’s is known for their Reuben sandwich, and has a well-deserved reputation for one of the best in town.  I’ve had a lot of food on the menu, and my only recommendation is to dine in.  Sandwiches such as theirs always taste best right upon completion.  We arrived at about 3pm, just in time for the USA v. Belgium soccer game.  It was the perfect place to watch…we got a spot right at the bar, and had delicious food and drinks while we cheered on our home team.


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    Please pardon the terrible picture above.  It does NO justice to the deliciousness of the Celtic Combo (a Scotch egg and Irish spring roll- the latter being an egg roll with a reuben inside).  We couldn’t keep ourselves from devouring the food, and by the time I snapped a shot it was all messy.  I believe Theo arranged the food and narrated “it’s fine, now you can tell that someone really wanted it”.

    The food was great and our drinks were tasty, and Earl the bartender took great care of us.  If only he could have rigged the game in our favor.

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    What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

    Till next time!

    A. Storm


  • Chapter 71- Summerfest


    A friend suggested we see Ray LaMontagne at opening night of Summerfest, and I happened to win free tickets from Miltown Moms (which is a great resource for moms, and you should definitely check out) the day before.  I can’t tell you the last time I was at Summerfest, but I can assure you it was more than a decade ago!  We parked in some free parking downtown, then paid $1 and hopped on one of the busses heading to Summerfest.

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    Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ray LaMontagne (my dear friend Jessamy even sang one of his songs at our wedding), but it was somehow too mellow.  Maybe it was because I haven’t listened to too much of his music since his second album, and I was surprised at how psychedelic it sounded.  We stayed for a few songs, but ended up leaving that stage and walking around.  I should add that it was way colder than any of us dressed for, so part of the motivation was to keep warm.


    Because I’m apparently an old lady, I basically just gawked at drunk folks and how short teenage girls’ shorts were.   My friends and I stopped at one stage that had country music, and then ended up upon Trombone Shorty.


    This was definitely the musical highlight for me.  I let go of feeling embarrassed about dancing, and got my groove on to some seriously good music.  The crowd was having a blast, myself included.   I’d go back to see Trombone Shorty ANY day!

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    Next we stopped to see Neon something or other, a band which my friends had heard of.  Mostly in the context of “my niece loves this song!” or “yeah I think this is on the radio”.  They were doing a Pixies cover, and I’m pretty sure much of the audience didn’t know it was a cover.  But the next few songs were alright and then we realized it was almost midnight.


    We made it back to the bus with a million other people, and got dropped off near the car.  It was pretty easy to get to/from the grounds, and worth it to go.  There are of course a ton of bands I’d like to see, but this night will probably be my only attendance at Summerfest for this year.

    Any of you been to Summerfest this year?  Who did/do you want to see?

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 70- S/V Denis Sullivan, Sail & Fireworks


    Happy Fourth of July, everyone!  Hope you’re celebrating and relaxing.  I wanted to tell you that last night, Theo and I met some friends at the Sailing Vessel Denis Sullivan for a 2 hour sail on Lake Michigan.  It’s been approximately four years since we’ve seen fireworks, so this was a much awaited adventure.


    When we boarded, we met with the ship’s captain, Carlos.  He gave us an amusing but serious set of instructions and expectations for the sail.  As it turns out, he’s a really interesting guy who was incredibly easy to talk to.

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    One of the crew members brought her dog Brody on the trip, and he was a busy guy, checking out everything and everyone on and near the ship.

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    We made our way out of the harbor surrounding Discovery World, and set sail on the fairly calm water.

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    This picture of Theo relaxing pretty much sums up the feeling of the sail.  A nice breeze kept us moving calmly, and I felt like we were in a hammock.

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    We had some great conversations with the captain and crew members.  I was surprised to know that most of the crew live on the ship and spend the winters maintaining the boat.  Everyone we talked to was kind and genuine, and willing to share their experience with us…


    …even if they didn’t want to be photographed…


    We were served Purple Door Ice Cream, as a 4th of July bonus.  Have you had their salted caramel?  Do it.  It’s amazing.  That’s really all I need to tell you.

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    When we headed back into the harbor, there were a million other boats getting set up to watch the fireworks.  Carlos navigated the path and we docked right were se started.  At first, I thought the view of fireworks would be obstructed by the masts, but the minute they started I shut my mouth.  It was a great view!

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    After the show ended, we made our way through the sea of people leaving downtown.  For the future, I’ll never drive or walk to see fireworks at the lakefront again.  Biking would be the only tolerable way to leave.


    What about you, what are you doing to celebrate this weekend?  I’d love to hear.

    So happy holiday, all.  Enjoy!

    A. Storm