Archive for February, 2013

  • Chapter Four- Milwaukee Public Museum


    Things you should know about the Milwaukee Public Museum:

    1) Mondays are free days for Milwaukee County residents, yay!  But be prepared for it to be really crowded (I mean reeeally crowded) on those days.  I found killer meter parking for $3 on Wells St., but my friends had to pay $15 and park at the Convention Center.  We got to skip the long line to purchase tickets, because there was a nice lady at the door handing out wrist bands to MKE County residents who just wanted general admission.

    2) Strollers are not allowed in the special exhibitions.  So if, let’s say, you have a 3 year old and 1 year old twins, best not bother purchasing tickets to see the Pirates Exibition.  There are three floors (plus the ground floor on which you enter) of permanent exhibits about different cultures & climates, cities, wildlife, the Milwaukee community, art, history, science and SO MUCH more.

    3) Strollers are also not allowed in the (very cool) butterfly garden on the first floor.  So you might just have to juggle two toddlers on your person and lose a shoe and get really sweaty because it’s hot and you’re frantically (but slowly and gently as not to hurt a butterfly) looking for said shoe while stopping to look at and enjoy the beauty of a butterfly landing on your hand.



    4) If a Milwaukee resident, you must see The Streets of Old Milwaukee.  The exhibit showcases what life was like in Old Milwaukee with its shops, businesses, models, and gaslit lanes paved of bricks and blocks.  There are even wooden plank sidewalks!  Talk about exposing your kids to new environments.  I truly feel transported to a very different time and space when I’m there.  It’s darkened, sort of miniature, and gives a visual representation of what life was like for those who established this fine city.  Many of the artifacts have been donated by members of our community, and are so interesting to view…like large dioramas.

    5) If your entourage is large enough, a nice docent might offer the freight elevator for your use.  We learned that this freight elevator is called the “Elephant Elevator”.  When the docent asked us if we knew why it was named that, my hilarious friend replied “because it never forgets”.


    6) On the subject of witty friends, it’s advantageous to have one to do things such as help wrangle your children and bring delicious baguettes from Rocket Baby Bakery.  The baguettes will be much better than the museum’s mediocre and expensive food. So bring snacks and drinks for your kids to eat in the lobby when they’re reached their limit.  Even on this super crowded day, we found a table to seat all 8 of us.

    7) I think it would take you at least a dozen trips to even scrape the surface of the material displayed in this museum.  I think it suits school age kids better than very young, too.  I’d say that if you have littles with you, don’t expect to dive too deep into the information.  That said, the first floor is home to the Puelicher Butterfly Wing where little kids can try on costumes, get into cocoons and be more hands-on.  Also, right next to the Butterfly Wing is Exploring Life on Earth, where kids can see science in action by pressing buttons (animatronics and hands-on labs as museum folks say).  

    MPM2  MPM6  MPM5   MPM3

    This is definitely an adventure I’ll repeat.  Hopefully with and without kids.  This blog is an effort to do a few things, one of which is engage in my community.  I now see that this is an opportunity for me to take a history lesson, on my own terms.


  • Chapter Three- Milwaukee Art Museum (Two Parts: Play Date With Art & MAM After Dark)

    On Friday I went to the Milwaukee Art Museum TWICE!  This is the annual membership we’ve gotten the most out of, hands down.



    In the morning, from 10-noon in the main hall, was the Play Date with Art.  This program is offered once a month (I think!) and it’s free for members.  Typically we arrive, meet up with friends and family, and madness ensues.  My three year old heads straight for the art/craft tables, and is usually greeted by one of the amazing staff who gets her started on some wonderful project.  Jen, Shannon and Emily are getting to know our family (it’s hard to miss us), and are so patient and welcoming.  Even when one of the twins dumped 50 sharpies all over the marble floor.

    MAMam2  MAMam23

    Two times throughout the Play Date, there is a story/sing along time.  This time, Jen and Emily did some legit improv with a ukulele and the kids adored it.  In the past, they’ve have authors come and read books, other staff lead dances and songs, and lots of other ways to get kids engaged.  The format of the Play Date with Art is very relaxed and easy-going.  You can participate in whatever you’d like whenever you’d like.


    Around noon things start to wind down (or up in the case of my kids) and we head down to the HEATED GARAGE.  If you have kids, a stroller, or big and bulky coats, it’s absolutely worth parking there.



    MAM After Dark.  Another event I’d heard about on Radio Milwaukee for three years, but never had the motivation to attend.  Until now.  This after hours party gave me a few first impressions.  1) I was surprised at how many people were there!  2) The crowd was diverse, funky, sexy, and definitely included some costumes in the Carnival theme.  For me, this scene was way more interesting than 90% of the bars I’ve been to in the area.  3) High Schoolers create some damn fine art.

    MAMpm12  MAMpm13

    When we arrived around 8:30, the whole main lobby was full of people, some getting drinks, some dancing in front of the stage listening to DJ Marcus Doucette, and some getting their photo taken by Front Room Photographers.  We headed right for the photo op cause I was dressed in something other than jeans and a sweatshirt and need to document it.  We got drinks and walked around the lobby and two main hallways (called Gallerias I think).  After Dark goers were sitting on steps munching on free appetizers, milling around, making crafts at the DIY studio, wearing interesting costumes and tattoos, and browsing through the gift shop.  The theme of the night was Carnival, in honor of Mardi Gras, and included some traditions of vaudeville.  We didn’t stay long enough to see much of the stage performance, but did see a great version of St. James Infirmary by a band I didn’t catch the name of.  The acoustics were a little on the hard-to-hear-the-lyrics side, but I’m not sure you can get around that in this space.

    In the West Galleria was the Annual Scholastic Art Awards Exhibition, where we got to view some really powerful artwork by high school students.  I kept thinking how much of an honor it would be to say “yeah, my artwork is on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum”, which runs through March 17th.  Pictured below (last) is one of my favorites of the evening by a 12th grader in Shorewood.

    MAMpm17 MAMpm15  MAMpm16  MAMpm19

  • Chapter Two- Sweet Water Organics

    On Sunday I dragged my whole family to a tour of Sweet Water Organics (SWO) in Bay View. I first heard about it on Radio Milwaukee, and got interested in their method of urban agriculture, selling fish and produce through a Will Allen-inspired aquaponics system.  Sounds cool, yeah?  My guess is that if you have heard anything about Milwaukee’s budding culture of green technology then you probably have heard of both Will Allen and SWO.  I’ve wondered for a while if they are worth the hype.  I’d put off taking the $5 tour forever, and decided this was the day to do it.  


    Tours are on Fridays and Sundays, and kids under 10 get in free. Today’s tour included probably 30 people.  Pretty good turnout, I think.  We arrived cold and wet from the rain, and late (as usual, we’re late for everything!). Let me say that I’m only recalling about 25% of the information our tour guide gave us.  Tending to three kids does not lend well to listening.

    The first part of the tour went through the large warehouse, which at one time held the aquaponics system (10,000 square feet of space to keep heated and lit).  Aquaponics is a type of farming where fish and plants are grown together, in a re-circulating system without soil.  The original thought from SWO’s founders was that the profitability of the system would come from the sale of fish.  Apparently, though, they found that in this system (Sweet Water Organics 1.0) they needed more plants than they anticipated, and had to move things around.

    Enter Sweet Water Organics 2.0.  They’ve scaled back how many fish they have (now housed in the Fish House), and found a more efficient way to grow the plants outside in Aqua Gardens.  Lettuce production was at a yield of 150 lbs/week in the old warehouse.  Now, in the Aqua Gardens, they expect to produce 200 lbs/week.  And these greenhouses are only 1,200 square feet, lit by natural sunlight only.  The plants grow on styrofoam sheets.  Their roots grow down through holes in the styrofoam into tanks of water, which are fertilized by the fish waste.

    While the business of SWO is farming, there is a notable community outreach program.  SWO works with local schools and organizations to educate kids on the advantages and techniques associated with Aquaponics.  There are even programs in schools where kids are growing their own lettuces and selling them to restaurants and grocery stores.  If I had been listening instead of wrangling children, I could tell you what school I’m talking about.

    Considering it was really cold and we were pretty wet from walking outside, the kids did well.  I think they liked it, actually.

    SweetWater15  SweetWater12

    I did a little research on aquaponics after the visit, and it is definitely not without its detractors.  But the fact is that this is a small privately run business that is trying to be innovative.  In all, it left me feeling proud of this city.  Something forward-thinking and out of the ordinary.  I’d recommend the tour.

      Sweet Water Organics- 1.0 SweetWater16 SweetWater10 SweetWater5 SweetWater9 SweetWater8 SweetWater1 Sweet Water Organics Sweet Water Organics- 2.0


  • Chapter One- Calvary Cemetery


    My mom took me to visit some of her ancestors at this cemetery last summer, and I’ve been intrigued since. I’d read that it’s the oldest existing Roman Catholic cemetery, and it’s home to many religious folks and influential Milwaukeeans. The day had just brought a fresh blanket of snow, and I figured it would be a perfect setting to view the graveyard. At 55th and Bluemound, you’ll find Calvary Cemetery.  This Catholic cemetery is home to Frederick Miller (as in Miller Brewing, yo), Patrick Cudahy (as in the southern suburb) and many clergy and religious folks of Wisconsin.


    The terrain is hilly and many old trees shelter the graves and monuments.  In summer it’s shaded and glorious, and in winter it’s creepy and beautiful.


    It was nice to take a walk here.  Reminded me of how I played in our local cemetery for much of my childhood with my old friend Nancy.  We’d have tea parties under the willow trees, and ride our bikes along the paved paths without worry of cars speeding by and interrupting our no-handed swerves and turns.