All posts by amber

  • Chapter 143- Kettle Moraine State Forest- Pike Lake Unit

    A few weeks ago (ok, it was mid-March.  I’m a little behind here) I desperately needed to walk in the woods.  I’m finding a direct link between my emotional state and exercise/exposure to the outdoors, and on a Sunday that my husband was coaching soccer, I packed up some snacks and winter gear and headed north on highway 45.

    The kids asked for a place with an observation tower, so a quick search turned up Pike Lake.  The drive was only about 40 min from Milwaukee, and was super easy find.

    We parked near the playground on the beach, and headed north on the hiking trail.  Before we even started, though, two of my kids got super muddy and started crying.  Luckily I’m good at deescalating (ignoring) things like that and we made it to the beach to find shells and lots of fun ice formations.

    We had left the car about 20 minutes prior, and made it only 30 feet into the trail, so I tried to get the kids moving.  Eventually they gave in, followed me, and then ran ahead leaving me in the dust.  We found a little fort and Little T took notes while the other girls discussed some very serious business.

    We stopped at the next lake access and threw stones.  Because it wouldn’t be an adventure without throwing rocks in water!

    About 1/2 mile (and about 45 minutes) later, we stopped on a bench for snacks.  The terrain had turned to a prairie with a much different view and we sat and talked about how different the trail was at this point.

    This was one of the first hikes that I actually brought a physical map to, so we spent lots of time learning how to read a map.  We were on the lookout for trail markers, and decided that since this was one of the slowest hikes we’d been on, we should take the green trail as a shortcut.  That trail cut down into very beautiful and muddy valley, and the kids did a great job learning to read maps/signs.

       

    We found some pine trees and the kids listened to me go on and on about how beautiful the small forest was.

    The kids spotted an uprooted tree and speculated how old it was, if we could get it to live again by tipping it back up, and what it could provide for animals/plants now that it was on the ground.  And we poked it with sticks.  Cause that’s pretty much childhood, right?  Poking things with sticks.

     

    Close to the end of our two mile and TWO HOUR hike, S was feeling a little tired and whiney so J took her hand.  It was a pretty sweet moment because it was completely unprompted and served as a good reminder that they do indeed care for each other.

    When we crossed the road back to the parking lot, after slipping and sliding down a muddy hill, the kids cheered for their accomplishment.  It wasn’t all THAT far, but those little legs carried them for a long time.

    They of course still had energy for a playground, so we played for a few minutes, and then cried when it was time to leave.  Which is how many of our adventures end.  Yay!

    We didn’t make the observation tower, but it’ll be on our summer adventure list.  There are lots of other trails we’d like to try, so we’ve got plenty of reasons to head back.  Plus it’s so close to Milwaukee!

    Thanks for your patience in my posts…I’m trying to get caught up.  But who knows, maybe it’ll be June and you’ll still be seeing posts of hikes in snow 🙂

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 142- Point Beach State Park & John Michael Kohler Arts Center

    On one of the Fridays off my kids had in March (there were a ton, though I’m not complaining because it means we get to go adventure!), I convinced my friend Margo to caravan up to Point Beach State Park with me.  Remember that I’m a “wing it” kind of woman?  Well I grossly underestimated the distance and sort of just got in the car and headed north, and it took us almost two hours to reach our destination.  Granted, a trip to Culver’s for ice cream may have added a few minutes to our travel time.

    But it was worth the drive.  Once Margo, our combined 7 children, and I arrived, we briefly looked at the trail map.  It was a little confusing because not everything was open and snow was covering most of the ground.  So we migrated towards the beach and the kids immediately waded in the icy cold water.  Luckily, our boots were waterproof enough to keep toes mostly dry.

    We then decided to just head to the woods and play in the snow.  A campground was across from the beach, so we made our way there.

    The kids got right to eating and throwing snow, dragging sticks, and searching for frozen puddles and ponds.  We hadn’t had much snow in Milwaukee, so it was a great surprise to play in lots of wet but fluffy white stuff!  Margo and I watched our kids make up imaginary games, discover new “nature treasures” as my kids say, and trek over small hills and through trees.

    After more than an hour of playing and walking not very far but having a blast, kids started to get a little chilly.

    We decided it was a good time to head back south and try to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan on our way back home.  So after one last stop at the beach to get our boots thoroughly wet, we piled in the car and shoved some snacks in our faces.

    We were dry and somewhat rested by the time we arrived in Sheboygan, but my lack of planning gave us less than an hour to visit the museum.  The Arts Center has an amazing kids studio, called the ARTery which is open these hours.  The arts center is always free which is incredible.

    We made small booklets from magazines and folded paper, and worked on those fine motor skills to balance out the day.

    There was also a table with clay.  The kids were encouraged to check out the museum and a particular exhibit which had small figurines.  They came back to the ARTery and created their own little creatures.  Little T has a real strong affinity to cats, so she of course made a teeny tiny little kitty.

    Our time at the Arts Center was way too short, so we’ll definitely be back.  Sheboygan is only an hour north of Milwaukee, and we hope to combine it with the Children’s Museum and a trip back to Bookwork Gardens in the summer.

    On the way home, the sunset was incredible.  My oldest took the camera to capture the beautiful lines the clouds were making, so I’ll leave you with her shot.  A little blurry, but I think it does the sky and our day justice.

    Hope you all had a good weekend, and got outside to celebrate Earth Day!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 141- Discovery World

     

    On a sunny Saturday morning in February, the kids and I headed to Discovery World to check out one of their weekend events, Love Your Great Lakes.  It was a day filled with projects, games and learning opportunities led by local organizations and non-profits.

    We first took a stroll through the promenade, where we chatted with volunteers and staff who care about the Great Lakes.  We saw the Mequon Nature Preserve, River Revitalization Foundation, and even James Steeno with his local artwork.  When I was Outreach Specialist at REI back in the day, I got to work with many of these non-profits and learned all about some serious conservation and community efforts.  I was really happy to see their involvement at the event!

    All of the kids touched turtles and asked questions about salamanders, and Little A even got to hold a snake!  MPM and MAM also had stations set up for families to create and learn.  It was lovely to see all these museums coming together in the name of community and water preservation!

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    Our first stop in the museum was the Kohl’s Design It! Lab.  I’d never been before, because it seemed complicated or like it was geared towards older kids.  Now, there’s no real reason I thought that other than the fact that we typically head to museums during the week, when hours are more limited.  But let me tell you….I WAS WRONG.

    We were greeted by friendly staff who sat us down at a table, gave us menus, and asked which projects we’d like to try.  We ended up on planetary headbands and cardboard helmets.

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    Look at my 3 year old jumping right in!  We traced templates on foam paper, and decorated it with lots of fun embellishments.  I manned the hot glue gun, but besides that they were all pretty self-sufficient.

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    This lab space really is incredible.  Discovery World has so many different classes and workshops, and even makes a concerted effort to reuse materials.  Check out that wall on the right…there are 5 gallon buckets mounted on a wall, filled with materials for kids to use for projects.  So awesome.

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    As my people finished up, they headed to the Kids Corner, a space with building blocks, markers, crayons, and kid-sized furniture.  A great space for open play.

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    After the Design It! Lab, we went to see the Challenger ship, and walk around while trying not to run.  Exploring that and the water exhibit next door is always a highlight of our time at Discovery World.  And on this day, we spent over THREE HOURS at the museum and didn’t even see all of the exhibits.  Another reason that asking for memberships to local museums takes precedent over toys in our house.

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    Afterwards, we hit up the Sportsology special exhibit, where we threw, jumped, cycled and tested our physical capabilities.  J spent most of the time at the pitching station, while Little T worked on her pull ups for quite a while.  It was a really good hands-on experience for my brood!

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    On the way out, we stopped by the photo op in the promenade, and tried out our best silly faces.

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    Special thanks to Discovery World for hosting us…there were SO many things for my young kids to do and explore, and there wasn’t a dull moment from the time we stepped in to the time we stepped out.  We’re also very excited for the efforts to have new experiences every week, so there’s no chance we’ll get bored 🙂

    We’ll be back!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 140- Schlitz Audubon Nature Center

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    Contrary to what my kids’ faces say in this photo, we had a really nice hike at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center over winter break.  We met up with some friends and took to the trails to adventure and get really wet and a little chilly.  This post is a little short on words, so browse through the “General Outdoor Adventures” category on the right for many more adventures to SANC.

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    We headed out on the Norman C. Huth trail, and made our way to Teal pond, which was frozen through.  So of course, we went “boot skating”!  After slipping and sliding around, the group decided to keep going towards the North Prairie trail.

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    About halfway through, we had requests to take a break at the tall evergreens.  We stopped on some benches in the tall evergreens and ate some granola bars.

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    The kids were pretty beat after the hike, so after stopping on the rocking chairs on the porch, we went inside for snacks and hot chocolate.  In the main hall, you can grab a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and leave a donation in thanks.  We also looked at the resident rodents and turtles while warming up.  Schlitz Audubon has SO many opportunities to learn and explore, you just have to make the trip there to see all the options.

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    I’ll leave you with this picture of Little A and S reading trail maps in kid-sized rocking chairs.  Because there’s nothing cuter than when kids cross their legs as if they’re reading the Sunday paper.

    Hope you’re all doing well this spring, and getting outside!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 139- Urban Ecology Center and Bayview Printing Co.

     

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    Back in January, on a cold but not snowy day, we went to the Urban Ecology Center’s Winterfest.  It was held at the Washington Park branch, and was great free community event.

    Outside, families were roasting s’mores and the Door County Sled Dogs were hanging out just waiting to be pet.  The volunteers were happy to answer the million questions my kids had about the dogs, and were really happy to have the kids getting a hands-on experience with the dogs.  We learned about their daily schedules, workloads, needs, AND weekly dog sled rides at Whitnall park.  Next winter (if we have enough snow!), my family will be the first in line on a Sunday morning to experience a ride.

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    When our toes and fingers started to get tingly, we headed inside for face-painting.  Volunteers were kind and very patient in the decision-making process for a few of my kids (thank you).  They also informed us that there was music and free lunch in the next room, so we checked it out.

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    We ate chili and pie and watched some awesome interpretive/flash mob style dance where old and young folks alike were channeling some cross-country skiing.  It was amazing.  Inspiring, actually.  Because….

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    …then of course my kids got on stage, which prompted a group of other kids to get up and take over.

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    Afterwards, we met up with some friends who were dropping off paper at Bayview Printing Company.  Lucas, like owner Ashley, is a wonderful addition to the BVP experience.  He was kind enough to give us a live demonstration of printing postcards at the shop.  He even let us get involved!

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    And as a bonus, we later got to see those postcards in action at Friday Night Action, a gathering of folks who needed some way to channel their political dissent.

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    The day was cold and busy, but it was the perfect way to get out and connect with our communities.  The Urban Ecology Center has so many free events, amazing classes/camps/programs, and is genuinely making a difference in the lives of their participants.

    Thanks to Bayview Printing Co. for having us, too!

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 138- Madison for New Years!

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    Well it’s been a while, and it’s time to catch up.  For New Years, we spent the night at our dear friends’ house.  Kady and Laduma hosted our crew and threw an amazing shindig filled with glow-in-the dark balloons and a countdown at 8pm.  Shhh, don’t tell the kids!

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    After we woke up the next morning (not late enough for my liking), my husband drove back to Milwaukee to do a polar plunge with some friends and family.  The kids and I took our time leaving Madison, and I decided to take them through campus and show them my old university.

    Most everything was closed, so we ended up at the boathouse.  I told them all about how I rowed in High School with a club team, and then joined the crew team at UW Madison.  We also looked out at picnic point, thinking back to my framed drawing of it that we have back home.  My kids unenthusiastically agreed that it looks just like the real thing.

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    Since pretty much the whole city was closed on New Years Day, we ended up at the capitol building.  There were lots of people inside, and a large holiday display that the kids loved.

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    We walked around, noting the shapes and colors of the building, talking about our government and political leaders, and hoped to come back again when the rooftop access is open.

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    It was a pleasant albeit brief visit to Madison, a city that will always a certain amount of charm for me.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 137- Trails near Hoyt Pool in Wauwatosa

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    We’re trying to build in more family hikes to our schedules, so on Sunday we rallied to head out and breathe some fresh air!  Since snow was in the forecast, we kept it local and just went to the trails at Hoyt Park.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the trail system is actually called.  Because east of 92nd, it’s apparently called the Forked Aster Hiking Trail according to one map, but other than that I can’t seem to find any information on it.  And west of 92nd, there’s a trail system that goes all the way north of Capitol, but I can’t find a map or name for that.  I know the trails have lots of mountain bikers on them, but that’s all I have.  Please comment below if you have links to maps or names for these trails!

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    Anyway, back to the hike.  We arrived and headed into the woods at the west end of Hoyt Pool’s parking lot, right along the railroad tracks.  It was just starting to snow…big fat wet flakes.

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    The kids started out REAL slow, picking up every stick and log (seriously) they could find.  The loop is just over 2 miles and it was a bit chilly, so Theo and I tried to keep people moving at a steady pace.  But there was so much to see! The Menomonee River, mallards swimming and searching for food, rocks with interesting patterns, a dusting of snow to eat, and lots more.

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    The kids asked me to take a photo of what the sky looks like when we were considering just how far snowflakes have to fall to reach the ground.

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    When the snow picked up, Little A plopped herself in the middle of the trail to catch snowflakes and roll around.  Any dog owners out there?  It was a little like watching your puppy roll in the snow for the first time.

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    S of course insisted on hiking in a dress and tights, with her piggy, blankie, and pacifier.  We’re losing the battle on that last one.  Ugh.  I totally get how youngest children get spoiled.  You just don’t have it in you to fight the battle with some things.

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    There are some small mountain biking jumps, which we used as slides.  And then we immediately regretted not wearing snowpants!

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    By the time we made the loop, the snow was really coming down.  We made snowballs and threw them in the water.  And at each other 😉

    Portrait time:

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    Just as we were heading back to the parking lot (making sure to hike on the trail NOT next to the playground, because I don’t know about you but if my kids see a playground, it’s really difficult to keep them from it!), a train came by.

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    And just like that, we were back at our car.  We snagged a 6-person selfie, took off our wet gear and headed home for hot chocolate and baths.

    It’s amazing how much nature soothes my soul.  And I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I’m so busy with getting places and fulfilling duties and making sure people are safe and loved, that I rarely get to gaze at a sunset long enough to feel its rays enter my being.  I rarely get to see mountains in the distance and feel just how small we are, and how in my own head I’ve been.  In the summer we get to the beach or maybe go camping and gaze at the stars, but waiting for nice weather/school to be out is not enough for me.

    So doing things like this means the world to me.  And we benefit as a family, too.  We’re not complaining about getting a new Lego set/watching the tv/sharing a toy.  We’re learning about the world around us and completing a challenge together.  Granted, a quick hike in the city is a small challenge at this point (they don’t know about my plans to backpack through a National Park someday soon), but it’s something.

    I’d like to give a shout out to Milwaukee County Parks for giving our family the opportunity to connect and be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

    Wishing peace to all,

    A.

  • Chapter 136- Seven Bridges

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    Today, in an effort to switch up our routine of staying in pjs all day, we took a hike at Seven Bridges Park.

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    It was pretty chilly, so we got on our hats and mittens (and leg warmers where applicable), and drove just south of the city.

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    We started out on the trails on top of the bluff, and explored interesting pieces of wood, leaves, holes in logs, and other “nature treasures” as my kids started saying.

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    The path we were on led to some steps, which led to beautiful Lake Michigan.  Even though it was cold, the kids got busy right away with exploring the edge of the beach and finding rocks.  We found endless patterns and designs in the rocks, and worked on our rock-skipping techniques.  Ted happens to be pretty much a champion when it comes to things like juggling, catching M&Ms in his mouth from very high distances, and skipping rocks.  So even with the waves, the kids got to see some serious skill.

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    Little A rolled around in the rocks and seemed to think she was making snow angels.  I swear I could see her absorbing the damp air into her soul.

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    Ted and I played as adults play.  He practiced his long jump while he thought nobody was looking, and I showed my kids how I got the school record at discus.

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    S was a sight to see, just tromping along in her leg warmers, pacifier, blankie, and wet shoes from trying to imitate her papa jumping over the water.

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    The big kids went up and down some stairs that S deemed too steep, so she greeted them with open arms at the bottom.

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    Ted and J crossed a log bridge, and I have no idea what my son is doing in the photo.  Something awesome, no doubt!

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    Oh!  And I caught this moment on camera…Little A slid down to the creek and had a hard time getting up.  Her big sis handed her the walking stick and pulled her up.  Man, that was heartwarming.

    I’ll leave you with some of the treasures we found.  We’ve been doing a lot of doodling with shapes and forms at home, so we are storing some of the patterns in our brains for the next art session.

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    Thanks for reading, all.  Lots of love and peace to everyone out there.

    A. Storm

  • Chapter 135- Lapham Peak

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    Remember me?  I’m Amber and once was blogging weekly.  But then 3/4 of my kids went to school and our schedules changed and our most exciting adventures included piano lessons and grocery shopping.

    Well, that’s not entirely true.  We still had an amazing summer, spending half the time on awesome adventures and half watching cartoons in underwear.  We still get out to do fun things, but it’s been difficult for me to keep up with blogging.  Instagram has proven to be a somewhat easier method for me to share about our adventures.

    But what I’m getting at is that I have a new blog post for you!

    Yesterday, in hopes of catching some of the fall beauty that Wisconsin has to offer, I packed up some peanut butter and nutella sandwiches and the kids and went to Lapham Peak.  I did a trail marathon this summer (The Grand Island one, it was an INCREDIBLE experience!) and ran the brutal hills at Lapham in preparation.  The kids knew that I did some of my runs out there, and I wanted to show them the landscape.

    We parked at the Homestead parking lot, and headed out on the Plantation Path, a 1.8mi paved path.  Pardon the large amount of photos, but the kids requested that we take pictures of about everything so that we could remember the colors once the browns and greys of winter arrive.

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    The prairie was our first stop…the golden grasses were so pretty!  We read about invasive and native plants and how they travel.

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    After the prairie, we headed into the pine forest.  We noted that some needles turned brown and fell to the ground, creating a soft cushion for our feet.  The kids found leaves of all colors (I’m just realizing now that many of those leaves are in the pockets of their jackets that are currently in the washing machine), and insisted I take photos of them all.

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    Making observations, and guessing which kind of trees squirrels build their nests in.

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    We all loved the bright orange fungus growing on this log.

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    And since it had rained the night before, we rescued a few worms from the path.

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    We also took some portraits because the background was gorgeous AND everyone was happy!

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    Then wee cut off the Plantation Path and headed to the observation tower.  After climbing the 45-foot tower, we set up shop on top and got out some pencils and paper to start some nature drawing.

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    We made our way back down, hopped on the Kettle View Trail for a bit, and eventually made our way to the parking lot.

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    Right before our hike ended, we found our first woolly bear caterpillar!  The kids took turns holding it trying out names (such as “fuzzy” or “harry”…very original) before setting it down near the picnic tables.

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    We ate our sandwiches and apples, and talked about the beautiful colors around us.

    In all, we hiked almost three miles and all four of my kids were CHAMPS.  We were all tired and grounded and happy afterwards, and it was such a great way to reset before the week started.

    Anyway, I hope you’ve all been well.  Hopefully I’ll get back to this more often than I have in the past few months!

    Peace!

  • Chapter 134- Cloud 9 Workshop: Feeling Crafty Night

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    On Thursday, I finally attended on of Cloud 9’s Feeling Crafty nights!  And it was so fun!  Kelcey Kalumbula is the creator and owner of this incredible organization, and she offers a wide variety of classes and workshops for kids and adults.  My friend Margo and I had been wanting to attend a Feeling Crafty night for quite some time, and I’m so glad it finally happened.

    We arrived at the well-organized, comforting, and adorable space in the front of Bloom Creative Ground, and Kelcey quickly welcomed us to the class.  She gave us an overview of the three craft stations (at one table we made earrings from recycled materials, at another we made cards, and the most popular project of the night was making eco-sandwich wraps) and we quickly got to work.

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    I haven’t sewn in a long time, which worked out just fine because Kelcey was available the entire class for additional instruction.  We used sturdy machines which made it easy, and the project itself wasn’t too complicated.  Well, I made a few mistakes as did most of the class, but that’s really all part of the experienc.  But this night has inspired me to finally take my brand new sewing machine out of its box and get back to sewing!  Which is funny, because after I told Kelcey that, she noted how at least one person per class says the same.

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    While we were waiting for sewing machines to be available, we kept busy chatting with other participants, sipping our wine/margaritas, and dabbling in jewelry and card making.  It was really nice to meet some new people and relax in such a creative setting!

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    We had such beautiful fabric to choose from, and I was drawn to the patterns and colors that Kelcey brought back with her from a trip to Congo.  My sandwich wraps are the two on the left, and Margo’s are on the right.

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    What a great night, honestly.  I wish I’d done more during the school year, but Feeling Crafty nights will start up again in the fall.  In the mean time, Cloud 9 offers Summer Eco Art Camp, private events, After School Art Club and more!  Please check out the website for more information.

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    We’ve already gotten great use out of our sandwich wraps both in school lunches and on our picnic today.  They are machine washable, and my kids love them.  Now I just need to make more!

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    Thanks to Cloud 9 Workshop for a great night, and for some very useful take away projects!  I’ll definitely be back for more, and I’m hoping to get my kids involved as well.

    Hope you’re all enjoying this beautiful weather in Milwaukee!

    A. Storm