Archive for March, 2013

  • Chapter Eight- Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

    This will definitely be a site to revisit, as the Renaissance Garden in the back of the museum is probably its biggest attraction.  The garden faces Lake Michigan and is maintained to beautiful standards which you’ll definitely notice from Lake Drive if you happen to look left.  However, in March, you can imagine that the garden’s aesthetic isn’t at its peak.  I decided to take a trip here for an indoor/winter adventure without kids.  Perhaps my three year old would have tolerated the museum, but definitely not the twins.  So save this visit for a day without kiddos.

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    Step into the gates of Villa Terrace and you’ll be greeted by this fellow above, The Giustiania Mercury.  I can imagine that in the summer, this courtyard is even more beautiful with it’s whitewashed walls (made of brick and limestone made in Italy).

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    After entering the museum and paying anywhere from $3-$7, head to the Smith Gallery.  I started there and was greeted by these lovely folks, the Smiths.  Lloyd R. Smith and his wife (whose name I cannot find ANYWHERE) traveled to Italy and were so inspired by the architecture that they had this home built.  You can even see some home video of inside the Smith’s house from the 20’s and 30’s in this room.  You can also read all about the A.O. Smith company, which is part of this family.

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    In the hallway outside of the Smith Gallery are some beautiful architectural drawings of the building.  After viewing them, I headed to the Colnik Gallery.

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    Cyril Colnik was a famous blacksmith, originally from Austria, who completed the amazing ironwork on these grounds.  In the gallery is “Masterpiece”.  It’s a panel created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and won a Gold Medal.  It’s delightfully creepy, complete with a Vulcan in the center.  After being in this gallery, it gave me a greater sense of the craftsmanship in the ironwork at Villa Terrace.

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    Next I headed to the Great Hall and Dining Room to see what this museum was all about.  Exquisite paintings, pottery, woodcarving, marble, furniture, and detail abound in these spaces.

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    And the view’s pretty good, even on a Wisconsin winter day.

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    Next I headed upstairs and got another view of the Renaissance Garden and Lake Michigan.

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    The Drake Gallery has a beautiful ceiling you can daydream about having in your home one day.

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    One of the dressing rooms upstairs holds these beautiful pieces.  Dressing rooms…plural.  I’ll stop here and say that my favorite part of the museum was imagining living in a huge mansion like this.  To have a room JUST to dress in is so dreamy.  I’ve always wanted to live in a huge home with secret stairways and lots of rooms to explore and play hide-and-seek in.

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    Now THAT’S some fancy wallpaper!  It took 50 men to build the wooden plates to ink, and required 77,000 impressions.  Upstairs is also home to the special exhibitions.  Currently, it’s Modern Rookwood: 1918-1933.  There is a vast collection of works from the Rookwood Pottery Company back in the 1880’s.  Next in line to be exhibited is Michael Kutzer: Etchings and Woodcuts.  I’m a sucker for woodcuts, so I might make it back before summer’s here!

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    On my way out of the museum, I noticed all the ironwork of Cyril Colnik for a second time.  It blows my mind to think of how much manual labor it took to build this home.  I guess that’s why I do things like learn…to give me a greater  appreciation for what my surrounding offer.  I’d definitely recommend this tour, especially in the summer when you can view the gardens in their full glory.  I’m already looking forward to another trip.

  • Chapter Seven- Travel Edition: Appleton Public Library

    I hesitated to post this travel edition.  Because in my About Page, I tell you how this project is to experience Milwaukee and take part in the city I’ve grown to love.  So why write about Appleton?  The simple answer is that I was there sort of unexpectedly for more than a week.  So, post about Appleton or not post at all?  Or maybe try and dig up some old photos of places in Milwaukee that I’ve been and recall my experience.  I chose the first.  My apologies if you’re really bummed.

    While in home visiting my parents, I took all three kids to the Appleton Public Library.  Located across from the bus depot and behind the Avenue Mall (is it still called that?), this gem provided us with a solid hour and a half of entertainment.  Upon entering, memories of the Atrium and the train (I’ll get to that in a minute) flooded my mind.  Are they both still there?

    We headed straight to the Children’s Section, of course.

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    The twins got out and immediately had a million things to play with.  A board with tons of gadgets to press, pull, flip, shake, twist, buckle, lace and explore covered about 10 feet of one wall.  Toys and books were a plenty.

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    And the train!  A tad less cozy that I remembered, but that’s probably because they took out all the gross pillows and replaced it with new carpet.  Felt images were around for my three year old to create pictures with, and everyone seemed to enjoy sitting in such a nice space.  We had a mini story time with a nice toddler whose mom didn’t give her enough credit for being a polite listener.

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    There were three computers, and I don’t know how, but my two daughters SHARED one.  What?!

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    After terrorizing all the other kids in the kid’s section, we loaded up the stroller and headed to the Atrium.  Unfortunately it’s not accessible by stroller so we all headed down the stairs to view the lush plants.  Much like The Domes in Milwaukee, there’s something very special about being in a different and natural environment.  My kids are immediately distracted from whatever temper tantrum they’re having, and start looking, exploring and touching.  Here, they got to do all of that plus play with woodchips.

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    Mostly we played in the woodchips.

    Thanks for reading, see you next week FROM MILWAUKEE, I promise.

  • Chapter Six- The Mitchell Park Domes

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    I guess technically, The Domes are called the Mitchell Park Conservatory.  My kid recognizes the three domed buildings from highway 94, and just calls them “the domes” (shouted, of course).  So I’ll refer to them in three-year-old terminology from here on.  First off, if you’re going with kids, you should know that this amazing adventure will be a short one.  Expect to spend about 45 minutes viewing the different domes and running around in the lobby.  This is not an all day thing.  It is a get-out-and-do-something-different-and-expose-your-children-to-new-climates-and-horticulture thing.

    There are three domes, the Tropical, Desert, and Floral Show (exhibits change in the last).  Admission is very reasonable, kids under 6 are free, and adults are $6.50.  Friends of the Domes memberships are cheap, too!  I’ll start by just going through each dome and why it’s awesome.  This trip was with my beautiful sister-in-law and her two boys.  The woman working at the admission desk noted that we were outnumbered 2 to 5, but in this venue that was totally acceptable.

    The Tropical Dome:

    Enter in this humid and warm dome to find lush plants and trees (find the sausage tree!), bright flowers, chirping birds, and a calming waterfall.   Bring a penny or two to make a wish on before you toss it in the fish pond.

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    The Desert Dome:

    Between the Tropical and Desert Domes, you can see some neat reptiles near the Education Center, so check that out before you pass to the next dome.  Don’t be surprised that The Desert Dome is actually a bit cool.  It’s very bright and you can see lots of cacti and succulents.  I’m sure one of my smart friends knows why there is a giant blue globe at the peak of this dome, but I do not.

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    The Floral Show Dome:

    Winter means TRAIN EXHIBIT!!!!  When you enter this dome, there’s a nice viewing area above the model trains.  There you can sit down and watch your kids’ faces in amazement.  The theme this year is “The Circus Comes to Town” which is equal parts entertaining, fascinating, and sort of creepy (see ringmaster below).  But really, if my family had any say in it, this exhibit would run year round.  Other exhibits are generally floral in nature, as you might guess from the name.  But the train exhibit…kids are enthralled by the G-scale trains and the teeny tiny stage in the back.  That’s where the Music Under Glass series takes place.  It’s also a great place for cousins to play ring around the rosie.

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    Have a great week everyone!

  • Chapter Five- Milwaukee Public Market


    For my husband’s birthday, we took a trip to the Milwaukee Public Market without kids.  I’ll go through the vendors I’ve been to, but haven’t yet visited each one.  There are plenty that I’m hoping to try soon…it’s a big place!

    To start with, parking is pretty accessible.  Between the lot underneath the highway (just north of the market), and ample meter parking (free on Saturdays and Sundays), you shouldn’t have to walk too far.  Even if you do, there is a ton of stuff to see on your way to the market.  Just south is some great shopping (Broadway Paper and Anthropologie, anyone?) and the Milwaukee RiverWalk is right across the street.

    Jumping in…

    -Cedarburg Coffee Roastery: I typically stop and get coffee here, it is good and delicious as coffee should be.


    -The Spice House: When I splurge on things like fancy cinnamon, this is where it’s at.


    -Locker’s:  You forgot your mother’s birthday?  Get some beautiful flowers here!


    -West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe: Some of the best Wisconsin has to offer.  There is a large selection, and often samples are available on weekends.  I’ve found some incredibly yummy cheeses at this joint, good for gifts or when you want to impress your dinner guests.


    -Thief Wine: Because wine bars are fun.  And they sell six-packs of beer (one of the only places you can buy beer to go in the market).


    – C. Adam’s Bakery: Two words….Cake Bites.  For those of us who are drawn to savory over sweet, but every now and then like a teeny tiny bit of delicious sweetness, cake bites are the cure.  Flavors such as red velvet, lemon poppyseed, espresso, carrot cake and more will make your mouth happy.

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    -Aladdin- Taste of the East/Pita Works:  Funny that I didn’t get a solid picture of this vendor, because it’s in my top two places to eat at the market.  The pitas are good and have a lot of different options for customization, and the prices are up my alley.  You can get some good falafel, tabouleh, hummus, dolmas and much more.

    -The Green Kitchen:  Fruit and veggies are juiced fresh right in front of you, salads are made to order, and sandwiches are unique and fresh.  I wish I had all the equipment and ingredients in my kitchen to eat like this at every meal!


    -Upstairs:  Lots of seating for you and your crew, good view of the market, bathrooms and free books, too.  What!?  Did she just say BOOKS?



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    After our trip to the market, we met up with some ales, lagers and appetizers at the Milwaukee Ale House.  Happy Birthday, Theo.