Thursday, February 19, 2009

A little bit of Ireland in Brew City

Went to lunch yesterday at County Clare - this is a great Irish Pub and Guesthouse on Milwaukee's downtown eastside near the lakefront. I love the neighborhood in which County Clare is located - it is the oldest part of the city with many beautiful churches and homes that were built in the late 1800's. A great place to walk around at anytime of the year.

Milwaukee has a fairly sizeable Irish population with many immigrants moving to the city when it was first incorporated in 1846. Milwaukee's Irish Fest, which takes place in August, is the the largest Irish Fest outside of Dublin. And of course, there is fabulous music, dancing and food. Everyone is Irish during Irish Fest as well as St Patrick's Day when this city explodes with lots of fun and green beer!

There are many Irish Pubs in Milwaukee. They seem to be the most popular new style of bar/restaurant probably because they always have a welcoming and comfortable feel.

Milwaukee has a very active Irish community with three different schools teaching Irish dancing. The Irish Fest Center has an amazing collection of Irish music in the Ward Music Archives as well as an Irish Fest Music School. This is a great city to learn, perform and hear Irish music.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Legendary Les Paul & Tesla at Discovery World

We went to Discovery World on Saturday to check out the Les Paul Exhibit. Discovery World/Pier Wisconsin is a great addition to the Lake Michigan shoreline and a great tourist attraction in Milwaukee.

In the round building is the Great Lakes exhibit as well as a fantastic aquarium. There is a huge tank with fish indigneous to Lake Michigan. There are also tanks dedicated to salt water fish, sea horses and jelly fish. My favorite is a tank one that you can walk through as the fish swim above your head and surrounding you. Another great feature is a tank where you can actually pet a sturgeon. Several large sturgeon swim around the tank and I actually think the biggest one enjoys the attention.

On the upper level of the round building is the Pilot House where special events take place. I was just at the City Birthday Party here. Great views of the lake, harbor area and Art Museum.

In the longer rectangular section of the building is Discovery World, a museum dedicated to science and industry. There are many wonderful exhibits with a lot of support from local Milwaukee industries such as Allen-Bradley, Johnson Controls, Briggs & Stratton, etc.

We enjoyed a show in the Lubar Auditorium focusing on Tesla (the inventor, not the 90's rock band). The presenter was witty and entertaining and I learned (or relearned) a ton.

The Les Paul Exhibit is in Discovery World. They did a phenomenal job of putting it all together. Les Paul grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin so we feel he is "one of us". He is absolutely brilliant as well as extremely talented. It was very interesting to see his inventions and the amazing things he did for the music industry. The Gibson Les Paul has been and continues to be the choice of many musicians.

Great day at one of Milwaukee's gems!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Winter BBQ Guests

I live in a suburb of Milwaukee that has a population of 50,000 people. Surrounding us is another one-million residents of the Greater Milwaukee area. However, due to our incredible amount of parkland in Milwaukee County, we still have plenty of Wisconsin wildlife roaming around. Every year, the young deer tend to wander away from the woods and get a bit curious. We now have six deer who have decided to set-up camp in our backyard.

It has been a very cold winter and I am sure with the snow cover it has been tough finding food. I've thrown out some corn cobs and our neighbor puts out apples once in a while. I realize we shouldn't be doing this, but they are so darn cute!

This guy (or gal, not sure) is getting a bit more curious and is getting really close to the backdoor. Looks like he/she is looking to join us for a BBQ!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Little Dog in a Wintery Cold World

This is pretty much how Bailey spends her winter here. It's a bit too chilly for her outside. Her tiny paws tend to freeze pretty quickly and then she gets a pathetic "pick me up" look on her face. So this is a common sight - Bailey on the couch under the afghan. How cute is that?

Weekend Review

January in the Mil. Although it is chilly and your face freezes every time you walk outside, we still have to get out and enjoy life. This past weekend was alot of fun. Friday night I took the bus downtown (yes, I ride the bus quite often!) to meet Mike. Our first stop was a new bar/restaurant in Milwaukee's Fifth Ward- Fuzion. Very cool place. It is in an old warehouse with great wood beams, high ceiling, wood floors and alot of character. The bar features wine, beer, martinis and high-end cocktails. Jeff, the bartender, is awesome. Really knows his stuff and has a great personality. I had a Huckleberry/Pomegranate Martini followed by a Pomegranate/White Tea Martini - both very tasty (and good for me due to the antioxidants!) We had a couple of appetizers - turkey samosas and lamb sliders. Both were very good with great flavor.

Next we headed to the Todd Wehr Theater within the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts to see First Stage Children's Theater performance of "Witness". The play centered around a small Vermont town in 1924 and the hatred towards non-whites and the involvement of the KKK. Very well done - I truly think the child actors upstaged the adults. First Stage provides children the opportunity to learn the art of theater and performance. It is one of the top five children's theaters in the US. Milwaukee is very lucky to have such a great place not only for children to learn but for residents and visitors to enjoy quality performances. Bravo!

We moved on to Rudy's for a couple of Dos Equis with Chips/Salsa and Guacamole and then to Leff's Lucky Town in our neighborhood. Leff's is a gold mine - I don't think I've ever been in that bar when it hasn't been wall-to-wall people. And everyone is having a good time.

Saturday was a bit mellower in the morning - we had a very nice lunch at City Market in Wauwatosa and then I had to make an appetizer for our neighborhood winter party at the Kneeland-Walker House. We have a fairly active neighborhood association in the Damon-Woods neighborhood with almost half of the residents belonging to it. We tend to see the same faces at the events, however there is always someone new to meet. The Kneeland-Walker house is a Victorian mansion that was purchased by the Wauwatosa Historical Society in 1987 and is used primarily for events, tours and education. It is an amazing house with beautiful woodwork, leaded and stained glass and nice furnishings. And it is huge! The gardens are beautiful in the summer. The Firefly Art Fair takes place here each year in August. Really a neat place to hold a neighborhood get-together. We had fun chatting with neighbors and meeting newcomers.

Sunday was movie day - the AMC Theater in Mayfair Mall has a great early morning matinee price of just $5 and we see alot of movies on Sunday mornings. We saw Slumdog Millionaire which was fabulous! We've been hearing so many accolades and seeing the award nominations and I agree whole heartedly. Such an interesting story, wonderful acting and amazing visuals - especially in India. Wow, the way some people live.

After the movie we had Mike's sister and her boyfriend over for lunch. Mike and I made a Tortellini Spinach Soup and Panini Sandwiches. A very nice lunch and good company. All in all a very nice weekend in the Mil.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tugboat Wisconsin

I drove along Canal Street and spotted the tugs waiting the winter out in the Menomonee River. You have to love the tugboat. Perhaps it's due to Scruffy the Tugboat book that I read as a kid, but you really have respect for these little boats and the amazing jobs they do. Seeing a little tugboat hauling in a massive Great Lakes freighter is really fascinating. The strength and power is phenomenal. And this tug is really special because of its name - Wisconsin.
Some people claim that this tugboat is haunted. In 1941 it sunk in the Detroit River coming to the assistance of a grounded Great Lakes freighter, The B.F. Jones. Six men lost their lives. The tugboat was brought to the surface and restored. Now there are men who won't sail her. There have been strange noises and incidences where valves are open when thought to be closed. In a story from JS Online - a crew was bringing the boat back from Chicago when one of the men was joking and making remarks about "the ghost". He questioned why the ghost wasn't down running the engines. All of a sudden the engines died. Mechanics later found water in the fuel supply even though the lines were sealed...and the engines had been running just fine for nine hours. Oooh...I don't know.

Winter on the Water

This has been a brutal January in Milwaukee. The temperatures have been so cold that there have been days that are considered too dangerous to be outside. Of course, all the kids (and teachers) who got out of school for a couple of days were ecstatic. But they will be hating life when they have to make up those days in June! Although it has been really cold, I haven't seen the biting wintery winds that I remember as a kid that used to take your breath away. Not that I miss them either!

Well yesterday was a break from the freezing temps and it got all the way up in the 30's - just enough to melt a little bit of the snow piles which is now turning into ice I'm sure. That's because the temperature dropped again today and we're in for another frozen weekend. If anyone is going to do well in this economy and weather, I'd say it's the liquor stores - not much else to do and what better attitude adjustment source is there?

So due to the "balmy" weather I decided to check out the frosty fog on the lakefront. The pictures are from underneath the Hoan Bridge next to the Marcus Amphitheatre. This is where the rivers converge into the lake. Lake Michigan is not frozen, however the river has quite a bit of ice on it. Yesterday the ice chunks were cracking and moving around - actually pretty mesmerizing. Great sounds coming from the ice and water.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happy New Year...a little late.

Welcome to 2009! I got a little bit of late start on my blog this year but really intend to stick to it this time! Today is January 21 and I am finally starting to feel normal. After a party at our friends' house on December 21 I got some crazy chest conjestion/cold that has haunted me for a month. Sounds gross, but if phlegm had a viable market - I think I could be a millionaire. Anyhow - enough of that. I see the light at the end of the tunnel on this issue.

This is how I started the New Year. Finally did the Polar Plunge! Every time I drive by Lake Michigan with a tour group I tell them about the crazy people that jump into the lake on New Year's Day - now I can say I was one of them! I had no problem convincing myself that this was the year to do it. But I do have to say, I was a little reluctant when I got to the lakefront as the winds were much stronger than they were at home, making it a little bit chillier and the waves looked daunting.

But I went in. Actually the most difficult part wasn't the water - it actually felt refreshing. It was manuevering the huge icebergs on the shoreline that were wet and slippery that made things interesting. Luckily they had volunteers who were helping people in & out of the water. One of the last things I read before leaving home was a blog about last year's plunge and how the girl wished she would have worn shoes - good tip! I can't imagine doing this barefoot. Once I got into the lake, the big chunks of ice near the shoreline really ripped up my shins. Of course you don't know that until you get out and see the cuts and bruises. As I mentioned, the water was actually the easiest part - it was warmer than the outside temperature and I made my way into the oncoming waves. I really wanted to go all the way under, once I got to my shoulders I turned around thinking I would fall in backwards - that's when I realized how far from shore I was and really thought "I better get back before I get too cold". So, I made it back to shore and thank God for the volunteer who pulled me back over the iceberg. The adrenline really keeps you warm because you're so excited to have accomplished this crazy goal - until you get back and start trying to get your wet clothes off and warm clothes on. I am happy I brought my big robe and my boots.

My feet were really cold and my shins were pretty beat up and bloody which made the long walk back up the bluff to our car seem like an eternity. I kind of look like "The Jerk" in this picture with my robe and thermos - just don't have my pants around my ankles like Steve Martin! Well, I did it and that's that - I am now a true Polar Bear and can scratch that off my "100 things to do before I die" list. Next time I think I'd add a little "liquid courage" before going in and hopefully can convince some friends to join me for a dip!

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Blog is messed up.

Hey - I am back at it but have noticed that the format of this thing is all messed up. Hmmm...