Welcome To My Blog

Weekends are for wandering Wisconsin. That's what Rick, my guy, and I do. Occasionally we wander during the week, too. Sometimes we just drop in on other people's lives.

This blog is my way of sharing where we've been, neat places and things to do that we've found.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Wanderings

As I was driving back to Madison from Sheboygan on Christmas Eve night I reflected on where we've wandered during the Christmas holiday in the years that Rick and I have been together.

For our first Christmas (1997) we flew to California in the afternoon, landing in Los Angeles the wee hours of the 26th. We rented a car and drove up the coast to San Francisco stopping to see sights along the way. I recall that our most expensive overnight was in Big Sur and our room there had the least amount of amenities – no phone, no TV, and a bad radio!  

The following year we were in New Orleans. We attended midnight mass at the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Prior to the service we enjoyed traditional carols song by the choir. I remember the temperature being a little nippy while we were standing in line waiting for the doors to open. It felt like Christmas yet we didn’t have to concern ourselves with snow.

One Christmas was spent in Toledo OH with Rick’s son, Jon, and daughter-in-law, Kari. She was finishing her residency at one of the hospitals there and we drove out to see them. I don’t recall any storms either going or coming back home.

A few years ago we spent Christmas in Sheldon, my hometown. My mother was still alive but my father has already passed away. I’m thinking it had to be a white Christmas since it was northern Wisconsin. However, latitude doesn’t guarantee that the ground will be covered with snow at Christmastime. It’s not this year.

In 2005, we were welcomed to St. Charles IL where Rick’s son’s in-laws and their extended family celebrated the holiday. We still tease Winnie, Jon’s mother-in-law, about how she roasted the oven mitt that year instead of the turkey!
Notice that TWO cans of whipped cream AND ice cream were needed 
to satisfy this crowd during the dessert round!
There was at least one Christmas in Madison during our years together. A friend invited us for a get-together on Christmas Eve and then we attended the 11:00 candlelight service at Immanuel Lutheran Church. It was snowing gently when the service ended.

Most of our Christmases have been spent with Rick’s family. Two of his sisters have hosted for a number of years and his family likes to have a theme for the celebration.
One year the theme was "The 60s." I'm not so sure that Rick's car
shirt was something he would have worn during that time. However,
my earrings and necklace were definitely part of my wardrobe back then.
It’s terrific that the second cousins in the family (Rick’s and his sisters’ grandchildren) have a chance to get to know each other during these family occasions.

This year Rick’s grandson, Kellen,  who is almost 20 months old was the hit of Christmas Eve. His language is understandable and he’ll imitate anything you say. He was in seventh heaven with a houseful of “new” playmates to keep him entertained. And we were delighted with the entertainment he provided!

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it. 
~George Moore

Monday, December 19, 2011

Music on Stage

Two Saturdays ago, we saw Guys on Ice at the Overture Center in Madison. It's a production of the American Folklore Theater out of Door County. We had seen two previous AFT shows and had heard good things about this one. We weren't disappointed. Marvin and Lloyd, the two main characters of the musical, shared their philosophy of life with us in comedy and song. Since I've never been ice fishing, I can only assume that these guys are typical of ice fishermen everywhere. Or, at least Wisconsin ice fishermen, in particular, with all the references to the Green Bay Packers. (Side note: too bad about Sunday's loss!)
This past Saturday we were entertained by more music and song at the Shauer Arts & Activities Center in Hartford where we were treated to a Blue Canvas Christmas Tour. The Blue Canvas Orchestra is made up of the house musicians of the Big Top Chautauqua out of Washburn WI. What we especially enjoyed about this concert was that the band didn't perform typical Christmas carols that one can hear on at least one radio station per market that has been playing them since practically after Halloween! For an encore number, the band invited the audience to sing along to Silent Night. Afterward several of the members of the band told us that this audience was one of the best on the tour in terms of singing along. 

We are fortunate that we have such talented musicians, singers, and actors here in Wisconsin who travel around the state delighting young and old alike with their brand of regional lore, humor, and original music.  

Check out both of these groups for their performance schedules next summer. We plan to wander to their home stages once again when the 2012 camping season commences. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Holiday Lights

Lots of lights around Wisconsin this time of the year. And that’s a good thing as we approach the shortest day of the year in less than two weeks.

Here’s a sampling of the NECA IBEW Holiday Fantasy in Lights at Olin-Turville Park in Madison. The displays are lit from dusk until dawn now until New Year’s Day.

In the Milwaukee area, the light display at the Washington County Fair Park near West Bend should not be missed. The lights are on for limited hours until December 29.

Richfield (also in Washington County) had its Christmas in Richfield celebration last weekend including the lighting of the tree at the village hall. 
And finally, there’s the splendid Christmas tree (not a "holiday tree" this year) in the rotunda of our beautiful state capitol.
Children in private schools throughout Wisconsin made ornaments
for the tree. Many of those children came from parochial schools.
Maybe that's one of the reasons our Governor declared it to be a Christmas tree!
I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars. —Og Mandino

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And now for dessert....

All of the turkey has been eaten, the sweet potatoes are gone, and the green bean casserole has been retired for another year. What’s left? Why dessert, of course! But I’m not talking about pumpkin pie or even apple crisp. Think gingerbread houses – more of a feast for the eyes rather than for the taste buds.

For your enjoyment, here are a few gingerbread houses that were on display last year at Hilldale Mall in Madison. The houses were decorated as a fundraiser sponsored by Dane County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) - Casas for CASA. This year's CASA event was at the Overture Center the weekend before last. 

For many families, decorating a gingerbread house is a sweet tradition. How about yours?

This one was decorated by my sister, my niece, and me (with a little help from my niece's son).
Run, run as fast as you can!
You can't catch me; I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let's Eat!

Thanksgiving is upon us so it seems appropriate that this week’s post should be about food....and where to find it.

As we wander Wisconsin, we’re always on the lookout for a good place to eat – a place that the locals frequent, a place off the beaten path. If we can find a place with a story, that’s even better. Of course, the food has to be good, too!

A sampling of some of our favorites……

Madame Belle’s Silver Dollar Saloon (Richfield) and Tally-Ho Pub & Grill (Hartford) are near Rick and two watering holes that we frequent regularly. Yummy burgers at both and a particularly good Bloody Mary bar at Tally Ho on Sunday mornings. Both restaurants have the same owner. One has a ghost (you’ll have to sample each one to find out where the spirit dwells).
The owner also has the Harley-Davidson franchise in Milwaukee.
Comet Café in Milwaukee was one of the diners, drive-ins, and dives that Guy Fieri of the Food Network visited a while back. If you love bacon, you’ll love this café.
Apparently Guy was at the Comet Cafe for a very short time during the filming;
it was Food Network people who spent more time there interviewing and filming the Comet's staff and customers.
Hankering for an old-fashioned drive-in complete with carhops? Then stop in at Mullin’s in Fox Lake. However, you’ll have to wait until April when the restaurant re-opens for the summer season.
Mullin's in Fox Lake not to be confused with Mullen's in Watertown. 
In the same vicinity of the state, you’ll find Chili John’s in Beaver Dam. The owner is a fun guy and there’s no mistaking who’s in charge – he is! Some of the signs in his restaurant: “We don’t make mistakes, we do variations” or “Dinner Choices – 1. Take it, 2. Leave it.” The chili was tasty.
Just breakfast and lunch at Chili John's.
The Pioneer Pub in Wild Rose has a wonderful outdoor deck that overlooks a mill pond. It’s a place I like to stop on the way home from the Iola Old Car Show.
Live music was a treat the last time I enjoyed lunch at the Pioneer Pub.
There’s nothing better in the summer than a fish boil in Door County. One of the best values we found was at the Sandpiper Restaurant in Baileys Harbor. However, I see from a recent news article, the restaurant has been sold and I don’t know if it’s already closed. 
This restaurant just might be history at this time.
Last summer we traveled more than an hour to have a steak at Schwarz’s Supper Club in St. Anna. We had seen the restaurant featured on a documentary about Wisconsin supper clubs and were intrigued. We had our brandy old fashioneds at the bar while waiting for our table. When in Rome....as they say.

Bon appétit! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Historic Theaters

Before there was radio, movies, television, or YouTube, people were entertained by live performances in local theaters. We are fortunate that many Wisconsinites launched campaigns to make sure these wonderful places are still with us today.

The Isle Theater in Cumberland is a great community venue open for not only first run movies but favorites of the past as well. If you want good food before or after your movie, or any other time, check out Nezzy’s Sports Bar & Grill which is adjacent to the theatre at the back-side of the building.
Ceiling in the Isle Theater.
About an hour south of Cumberland is the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie.  A full performing arts season is offered in this beautiful space. The Theater is the centerpiece of the complex. And the gift shop is quite nice!
Box seats along the side of the Mabel Tainter Theater. 
The Al. Ringling Theater is located on the square in Baraboo. This theater was featured on an episode of PBS’s History Detectives. Elyse Luray proved that while the theater doesn’t qualify as a “movie palace” (it’s too small), it probably served as inspiration for architects who designed the movie palaces of the early 20th century.
Mural on the inside of the theater.

Mural on the ceiling of the theater's lobby.

The Stoughton Opera House, to the south of Madison, is another great example of the community rallying around this grand place to restore it to its splendor of the past and equipping it to serve the patrons of the future.
From the floor looking up at the box seats. 
One more historic theater where we’ve been is the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. The Pabst is a National Historic Landmark recognized for the important role it has played in the cultural life of Milwaukee.
Outside view of the Pabst (photo from Wisconsin Historical Society).
You’ll have to visit these theaters to see how beautiful they are since my pictures, only snap shots, just don’t do justice to the grandeur of the spaces.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For Those Who Serve

November 11 is Veterans’ Day when we honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. The day commemorates the end of hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany during the First World War which went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and wars still are waged today.

One of the neatest memorials to veterans is The Highground outside of Neillsville. What initially started out as a memorial to Wisconsin’s Vietnam veterans has evolved into an amazing site with tributes to women veterans, Native American Vietnam veterans, WWI, WWII, and Korean War veterans, and families that supported and lost loves ones through the Gold Star Tribute and Fountain of Tears.

Historic marker

Inscription in a plaza stone

The sculpture honoring the service and sacrifices of the Vietnam veterans was the first memorial in the country to include a woman. Bronze chimes, inscribed with the names of each Wisconsin Vietnam casualty, sound in the wind under the woman’s poncho that flows out from the back of the other three figures in the sculpture. My friend, Walter, himself a veteran, worked hard to raise money to fund the sculpture back in the 1980s.
Fragments: Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Tribute
The GI's tears flow through the fountain....
into the pond behind the wife and child of the fallen soldier.
Dove sculpture in the Meditation Garden
The Highground is a peaceful place with its effigy mound, meditation garden, and walking trails. It also offers an incredible panoramic view of central Wisconsin. Because The Highground is open year-round, any season is a good time to visit.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Football and Deer Hunting

We are in the midst of football season and deer hunting is right around the corner so what could be better than plays about these activities if Wisconsin Wanderers don't have game tickets or rifles!

Actually, Lombardi, based on the book When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss, was about the man himself rather than actual football. Most of the play, as presented by the Milwaukee Rep at the Milwaukee Center, took place in the Lombardi living room and in his coach's office. The famed coach's player interactions were mostly with Paul Hornung, Dave Robinson, and Jim Taylor, some of the greats from the 1960s. We saw Lombardi with his wife, Marie, and gained insights into why he was such an inspirational man.

One of the many banners decorating the stage.
We learned that the phrase attributed to the great Vince Lombardi - "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing" - originated with another coach who coined it decades before Lombardi came along. To Lombardi it was the pursuit of excellence that mattered most. 

The Milwaukee Rep has extended the run of  Lombardi so it's still possible to see the play. If you're a die-hard Packer fan, you'll appreciate the image that's flashed on the wall at the end of the play. 

At the end of last week we enjoyed Deer Camp, the Musical at the Shauer Arts & Activities Center in Hartford. One of the stars was "my brother, Darryl" and another was "my other brother, Darryl" from the Newhart show. So it was a reunion of sorts for them.

The show was a hoot! Four guys, two of whom were full-figured, sang and danced and we laughed and laughed. From the songs about their wives to the"grunt horn" song to the dance of the Chippendales, the actors kept us in stitches throughout the play. It was great fun and an enjoyable evening out now that camping season has ended.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Our Backyards (well, almost)

Sometimes Wisconsin Wanderers go their separate ways and find interesting events practically in our backyards. Rick and I split up on Saturday. He attended the First Annual Reunion of the Hales Corners Speedway and I went to downtown Madison. 

The Hales Corners Speedway is an icon to many like Rick who grew up in the 50s – 70s. Drivers with their modifieds raced there until 2003. Rick says that dirt tracks are the best and he attended many races in the southeastern Wisconsin area in his teens and early 20s.

Here are some of the photos he took of the racers from his past.
Billy "The Cat" Johnson drove this racer.
This modified belonged to Miles "The Mouse" Melius. Both drivers were Rick's heroes.
Drivers who raced on the Hales track built their cars using materials from others cars and whatever else they could find in their garages. Their craftsmanship had to be admired. 

The Wisconsin Book Festival took place this past weekend in Madison with its theme of “Voices.”  My first event was a panel discussion with essayists who have broadcast their stories on “Wisconsin Life,” produced by Wisconsin Public Radio in partnership with the Wisconsin Humanities Council. Catch the Wisconsin Life segments Wednesday and Friday mornings on Wisconsin Public Radio.

On Saturday morning it was a discussion of the book, Apple: A Global History, by Erika Janik, former colleague of mine, and now a producer at Wisconsin Public Radio. Erika is a historian and she has published a variety of pieces in the Wisconsin Magazine of History.

In the afternoon I attended a conversation about People of the Big Voice. This book is a beautiful visual history of Ho-Chunk families from the 1870s – 1940s from Black River Falls photographer Charles Van Schaick. My friend, Mike Schmudlach, is one of the authors.

It had been several weeks since I'd been to the Dane County Farmers' Market around the Capitol Square so I was pleased to get there on Saturday morning to pick up some great fall produce. 

With beautiful weather, the day felt like a celebration!
Rick and I did reunite for one more weekend adventure on Sunday, but that’s a story for next week!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sometimes we don't have to wander very far from home to find a unique experience. Such was the case this past Sunday when we were part of an interactive dinner theater with the theme of -- murder!

We dined at the American Serb Memorial Hall in Milwaukee. Actors from the Murder Mystery Co. warned us that something was amiss that evening at the Billionaires' Club's annual masquerade ball. And sure enough, we had just finished our first course when General D. Motor, president of the Club, died in our midst - from a poisoned cigar. Suspects were scattered throughout the hall. One of them, Miss Jessica Flesher, famous mystery writer, was at our table. 
General D. Motor, victim. 
The General with Rita Book, crack reporter on the scene.
It was up to Stacie and Bill from Brookfield,  Sue and Craig from Appleton,  and Chad and Mindy from Beaver Dam, along with Rick and me to solve the crime and figure out whodunit.
Stacie and Bill
Sue and Craig
Chad and Mindy, who played Jessica.
(sorry, Mindy, that the photographer caught you almost blinking)
It turned out that Jessica wasn't the murderer - thank goodness! Unfortunately, the best detectives weren't at our table but we had an enjoyable evening, nonetheless, with some very nice people. I even saw friends, Deb and Marilyn, from Madison who had ventured out for a night of mystery and intrigue.

I love improv comedy and would be delighted to be chosen as one of the "players" the next time we participate in this type of dinner theater. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

It was a hoot!

Sometimes Wisconsin wanderers end up out of state as we did this past weekend when we landed in Woodstock IL for another vintage camping trailer rally. This one was hosted by BJ Frantz who did a super job of ordering the perfect weather, picking a great campground, and putting together a stellar group of "canned ham" trailer enthusiasts.
WillOaks Campground has a lovely pond.
It was fun to see some of the same people we'd met three weeks ago at the vintage trailer rally in Montello WI. And there were new folks, too, who seemed like old friends after just a few minutes of conversation. Some of the veterans brought different trailers so we had a chance to see more of their collections.

Apparently there were coyotes in the area. At first I thought it was the kids camping in the rustic area whooping it up at 4:00 in the morning. Later I learned from our fellow campers that it was probably coyotes howling at the almost full moon. 

We checked out the annual Fall Diddley arts and crafts fair in Belvidere and chatted with our friends from Creative Design Studio. We had burgers at The Public House in Woodstock with new friends, Anna and Bill. Rally activities included outdoor movies with a vintage trailer theme, a progressive cocktail party, potluck dinner, trailer trash gift exchange and speed grab, and group campfires. 

It's all about the decorations! Julia and Norm from DeKalb
have some of the best.
Rick was probably using his iPad in this picture. He even set up his cell
phone to be a Wi-Fi hot spot! The guy just can't be disconnected at any time.
One of the "canned hams."
Sandy from Indiana owns this '67 Shasta.
Bill and Anna's Shasta - restored from the bottom up. Shastas have wings.
John and Ann's Friendship trailer - another restoration with great windows.
This trailer was made in Friendship WI.
We were pleased that our friends, Jim and Michelle, from Wayne IL dropped by on Friday afternoon. Jim had recently bought a vintage pick-up truck in Wisconsin.
Jim's Ford truck came from Curtiss, WI.
Yes, it was a hoot - a fun weekend with a wonderful group of people from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. I'm sure we will be joining them at next year's rally when we once again will wander south of the border.