Since my schedule revolves around Hardy's sleep these days, we go on short outings in-between his naps on my days off of work and on the weekends.  We packed up and drove over to the Mitchell Park Conservatory for a couple hours.  Did you know construction on the domes started in 1959?  No, I had no idea.

Milwaukee's first conservatory and greenhouses were built in the late 1860s, and were attached to the home of Alexander Mitchell.  When Mitchell died, his house was sold (now the Wisconsin Club) and a portion of the property was purchased by the Board of Park Commissioners.  Some of the land was donated by the Mitchell family, more was purchased from the Burnham estate, and by 1906 Mitchell Park was 62 acres.  The conservatory idea didn't fade away, however...  In 1898 construction began on the Mitchell Conservatory as designed by Henry Koch. The current domes were built to replace the Milwaukee Conservatory which was in place from 1898-1955.  The domes were dedicated in 1965 (by Lady Bird Johnson!), but they opened between 1964-67 (Show in '64, Tropical in '66, and Arid in '67).   In 2008 the domes were temporarily closed for improvements to the non-dome areas (I enjoyed this article in the Shepard Express about that).  They closed in early 2016 for repairs (concrete falling!) and reopened again in late October; in March 2017 they were designated as a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

That's enough for history, we go to see the PLANTS, right?  As a plant lover, visiting the Domes is a really fun experience, romantic, even. 

Visiting the Domes is like going to a small museum since you just walk around and look at things. But these are living things just doing their thing: growing. Creating air.  Making babies.  

I love the unexpected colors and flowers displayed by many of the plants in the arid dome (which is my favorite of the three).

For me, a visit to the domes isn't about talking.  It's more about pointing out awesome textures and colors, and ideally enjoying the presence of my Love.  So if a picture is worth a thousand words, here are the highlights according to Laura:

In the show dome right now was COLOR.  I love the first spring flowers that are starting to pop out of the ground before you even think something could be growing.  My tulips and daffodils surprise me every year, and there is already so much life in my roses that I know they will bloom one day and I won't even know when the buds arrived.  The process of life creation is really too incredible for my mind to comprehend.  And plants really put it all out there, too.  "Pollinate me, pleeeeaaase" they seem to beg!  (This is relevant!  There is a Pollinator Week at The Domes June 19-23.)

The more I read about the Domes, the more I'm excited to go back.  This summer the display in the show dome is called Ultra Violet Summer Floral Show; who wouldn't be excited to see what that looks like?  EVERYTHING WILL BE PURPLE.  See more.

  1. History of Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Domes 1795-1955. Accessed June 6, 2017.
  2. History of Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Domes 1955-2008.  Accessed June 6 2017.
  3. Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Domes.  Accessed June 6, 2017.
  4. Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory.  Accessed June 6, 2017.

On the Eve of 30

I've always been into my birthday.  My family always put a little effort into make a birthday into "Your Special Day."  As I've gotten older, my birthday is still one of my most important days, and if you were a loved one of mine who choose to include me in your own birthday, I would do  my best to make it special.

For a while when I was little I had a beautiful canopy bed.  The sheets and the canopy itself were white and pink, and my bedroom on a sunny morning would just be so bright and cheery that it was never hard for me to wake up.  To this day I like a bright, cheery bedroom, and sunny mornings are just the most beautiful.  Anyway.  I was maybe in second grade or something, and I woke up to the brightest sunny morning.  My parents and brother brought me breakfast in bed (pancakes, of course, probably chocolate chip) and sang me the Happy Birthday song.  We use these "It's Your Special Day" dishes on your special day, be it birthday or other equally good news, and it really does make the day extra special.  I think that was the birthday I got roller skates.

Eventually May 12 became a rainy day.  I no longer wake up to the sun, no one is singing me the birthday song, there is definitely not anyone bringing me breakfast in bed, and the Special Day plate is at my parent's.  Even if I had all those things happen, it would never compare to that sunny morning and the pleasure I felt as a child.

So, 30.  It's here tomorrow.  It was bothering me quite a bit, the milestone, you know?  Then I realized that entering my 30s means I get to say "g'BYE!" to my 20s and that actually sounded pretty good, it's been time to move on for a while.  Goodbye to all those lost friendships and relationships.  Goodbye to now long-gone furniture, clothes, apartments, things.  Goodbye to lingering stress, embarrassment, shame, and guilt.  Goodbye.

Out with the old, in with the new, right?

Hello to getting my floors refinished instead of buying...stuff.  Hello to overpaying my mortgage.  Hello to simplifying, cooking at home, nurturing relationships. Hello to honesty, commitment, generosity.  Hello to parenthood and this new Laura I haven't yet met.

Hello, 30, I'm ready; Let's GO.

I've written about my birthday before here and here.

hi :)

First off, hello!  How are you doing?  Probably good but busy, right?  Everyone is just so busy these days...  I think I read an article about how people describe their lives as busy, but in reality we have an amount of work that is equal to or less than in the times past.

I am also good!  I won't say that I'm busy (if I did it would include the word "super" first, but let's be honest, when I'm done writing I don't have cows to milk or something, I got a TELEVISION to watch while I am sitting down), but I will say that I have been kept occupied.  Fortunately I can definitely say that I have not stopped doing fun and interesting things since I last posted....eight months ago....but I obviously have not documented those things here!

In January 2015 Ben and I bought a house.  That is still incredibly crazy to say.  What other times in life do average people spend tens- nay! -hundreds of thousands of dollars at once?  That is overwhelming.  That purchase is spent with hours and hours of painting over other people's paint choices, and then that is followed by the agonizing process of "Making Your House a Home."  Is agonizing the right word? Eh, maybe, maybe not?  Obtaining and placing the correct item to the right place is wonderful, it's the process of obtaining that is perhaps agonizing?  Whatever, it doesn't matter.  The point is, I bought an adorable little house, and I love it.

So that happened.

Then lots of other things happened, like concerts and great meals and even a road trip out west (driving from San Francisco to Seattle up the coast--breathtaking!), but I guess the other big thing that happened is that I got pregnant.

....was that surprising?  Yeah, it was for me, too!  It probably shouldn't have been, but I since I didn't have to pay any doctors or undergo any procedures, it was a little surprising!

So we've got a little bébé coming late this summer!

"How are you doing?" says everyone all the time.  

"GREAT" I non-sarcastically reply.  "Seriously!"  My two most noticeable symptoms have been exhaustion (first trimester 1 and part of 2) followed by this:

 Don't even talk about my messy messy bedroom.  I am selling so much stuff on CL and eBay right now..and don't even talk about my bear claw hands...

Don't even talk about my messy messy bedroom.  I am selling so much stuff on CL and eBay right now..and don't even talk about my bear claw hands...

And my third symptom that is fun but makes me crazy is NESTING.  It's real, and I've got it bad.

That bell didn't just pop out, btw, that is six months of baking in there!  

So, let's talk about you, what are you up to? You super busy too?

The Good Land

Now that I have a Monday through Friday job, I love filling my weeknights with Things To Do, whatever it may be, to help move the week along.  Sometimes it's a little exhausting, but if, on Sunday, I wake up and feel like I just completed an AWESOME week, then I forget about the exhausting part.

A few weeks ago I had my friends Kevin and Erin over (remember them from skating at Pettit?) for dinner.   When I was in Nashville in May, my dear friend Maiken made falafel for dinner, and since I idolize her, I decided to make that for Kev and Erin.

I used this recipe, and it actually turned out GREAT.  (I skipped the cilantro due to a cilantro/spaghetti sauce debacle several years ago that has apparently ruined my voluntary taste for it.)  Erin brought a quinoa/olive/cilantro dish, which was the perfect compliment to the meal.

In my opinion, the best hummus in the city is from Shahrazad on Oak&Loc, so that was the finishing touch.  For dessert, we all shared a Mast Brothers chocolate bar (the cocoa nib one) (which I also got in Nashville).  

Food and friends are two of the best things in life, so it may not surprise you that the activities continued on Friday that same week, when Erin, Ben, and I marched ourselves down to Fish Fry and a Flick to combine food and friends with something else I love: a good movie!  Wayne's World was the move de la nuit.

My company does Summer Fridays, so I get every Friday afternoon off May through October.  It was a beautiful day (insert cliche photo of tree, cloud, sky, taken from hammock), I had a restful afternoon, and I was getting excited to see Cassandra wail on the wall of Discovery World.

The crowd at the movie was fantastic.  No one was disruptive, I think everyone had a good seat, and while the food was mediocre, the beer selection was on point and Angry Orchard cider was on tap.  Happiness for all those GF people out there.

The entire crowd cheered when Alice Cooper talked about Milwaukee.  Everyone laughed together and quoted the most quotable parts together.  To me it was almost the perfect Milwaukee night.

Birthday Part 2

Remember how I mentioned that I'll often celebrate my birthday for days on end?  This year was one of those birthdays.  

I generally take off from work for my birthday.  I've spent the previous weekend camping, so on my Big Day, I like to do something personal.  Last year I went to the gun range.

Afterwards I went to watch my niece Julia's soccer game, and met my friend Ryan for dinner.  It was a good one.

This year I wandered Lake Park.  For hours.  It was perfect.  Lake Park was beautiful and nearly abandoned.  I only saw one other person while I was there, and I bet that man was doing the same thing I was: enjoying being outside in the best company the globe offers.   You know, birds, trees, a cool breeze.

Birthday Part 1

For the past five years I've gone camping over my birthday weekend.  My mid-May birthday often falls on Mother's Day, but sometimes it'll be a Tuesday and I'll celebrate from Friday through Tuesday and I have no shame about it.

My first Birthday Camping trip, I camped alone.  I drove up to Kohler-Andrea outside Sheboygan.  I had with me the tent I received for my birthday in 4th grade.  

Side: my fourth grade birthday was fine.  I think I got a bookshelf or something and that was all well and good, but what I really wanted was a tent.  The night of my birthday, with a big sigh with a hint of disappointment for not receiving my tent, I removed myself from my typical spot on the couch and went to brush my teeth.  I came back down to join my family for our nighttime prayer and to say goodnight, and my mom asked me to fold my blanket or something.  I picked up the blanket.... and underneath was my Tent!! Joy!  We all went downstairs and set it up immediately.  I used that tent for many camping trips, often with my best friend Adrienne, whom I am fortunate enough to still be celebrating my birthday with!

I packed the sleeping bag that I had been using since memory begins.  I also packed a chair, a book, my journal, some food (about three heaping servings of campers stew/hobo dinner, whatever you call it), and two 40s of high life.  

The wood was wet.  It was cold.  I think it rained.  I slept on the ground and -surprise!- it was not comfortable!  I got drunk.  I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife and so I cried a lot.  I got really drunk.  I was so drunk that I called my mom while drunk.  (Who does that?)

Does this all sound pretty miserable?  Because this trip was truly miserable.  I was miserable.  I needed to say goodbye to part of my life that needed to be deleted and "empty trash," so when I say I was miserable, I mean actually miserable.  So I went camping.  Alone.  For my birthday.  And through all the misery, I was able to reconnect with myself.

I made a hot albeit smoky fire (granted with help over the phone from my dad and uncle who were at a different campground on my brother's bachelor camping trip).  I successfully cooked my three heaping servings of campers stew, and I ate it all.  I washed away all the bad with my tears.  A cardinal quietly visited me.  I was alone and happy.

The next year I had a new sleeping bag.

The year after that I had a new tent.

The year after that I had hiking shoes and wool socks.

The year after that I had a rain jacket.

And I'm not camping alone anymore on my birthday.  I surround myself with the best people in my life.  We hike.  We eat.  We drink.  We laugh together, and we get a little deep.

My dad isn't in this pic- he was taking a little nap!  And Adrienne and her bf Mike had already left, boo.

Every year I am grateful to have amazing people to share my time with, many of whom are not in this darling picture.

The Last of Color

NOTE:  I started drafting this post in mid-December 2014, and I finally finished it today, June 14, 2015.  It's not an important post, but because I started it, I definitely wanted to finish it. 

It was two months ago, before I started my new job, when I came down with an awful cold that knocked me off my feet for a little under a week.  The boredom of illness was kicking in, and even climbing the stairs in my house was exhausting.  That is the time I find I need some fresh air, something to revive me and tire me out thoroughly.  

Ben dragged me down to my favorite Milwaukee County park, Grant Park.  And we wandered.  It was crisp and chilly, clouds rolled in and we hustled out when it started to rain.  And not in a misty way, and not in a downpour, just in a polite way: infrequent big drops rustling the leaves and making splotches on the pavement.  A rain for which I could have no complaints except for the exhaustion which was taking over my body.

Anyway.  Let's go for a walk!

To me, there is nothing like stepping outside for a literal breath of fresh air.  After this outing, I had an excellent nights sleep, and felt better in time for my first day at my brand new job.  

Have you been to Grant Park?  Within it is the most amazing Seven Bridges Trail, which does cover a bunch of bridges and goes past several former bridges (RIP).  At the trail head is a covered bridge with a head trimmer upon which these words greet your experience: Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.  I looked it up and discovered this is a quote from a poem entitled Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood by William Cullen Bryant.  I really don't know much about poets, and you guys know I'm more of a fiction reader than literally any other type of reading, so....this is all I have to say about that.  :)

There was some relandscaping project happening at the park when we were there, and I really loved the dark clouds contrasted with the equipment.  The unexpected can be so cool.

I hope you can make it out sometime this summer!

Slipping and Sliding

When I was a little girl, I got to enroll in any activity I wanted to. I took gymnastics, soccer, ballet, swimming, ice skating...  I wanted to see what I liked doing, but unfortunately I wasn't good at much.  

I couldn't do a backwards somersault in gymnastics; I made a goal against my own team in soccer; I didn't have the dedication for ballet; I retook Basic 3 in ice skating three times before I lost interest. Three times! It was only recently that I even realized that I had been FAILING it.  My ever-loving mother had told me that she kept signing me up for the wrong class-- isn't that the nicest thing?  I only realized this when I went skating and had not a clue how to stop on the ice.  I never learned how to stop? It's so puzzling.

Surprisingly, I still love ice skating.  I own my own fancy bright white skates and love getting out there for a few laps whenever I can. Just guard yourself and your small children when I'm getting off the ice: it's dangerous for everyone around!


A couple weeks- nay, a entire month!- ago, Ben and I went skating with our good friends Kevin and Erin. We went to Maxie's Southern Comfort for dinner (I tried an oyster for the first time) and stuffed ourselves silly. Have you been? You must go. Don't forget your leftovers and make sure you get to take some cornbread (with the special spread!) home.  One last word of advice: eat AFTER skating.

  It's impossible to take a decent photo while sliding over solid ice on two narrow slices of metal. 

It's impossible to take a decent photo while sliding over solid ice on two narrow slices of metal. 

Going skating at the Pettit National Ice Center is an excellent date night activity.  It's about the same price as going to see a movie in a theater, but you get to spend actual time interacting together.  She can cling to you while finding her footing...she can laugh at you when you fall down.  You can wrap your arms around her when she looses her balance...You can keep an eye on her figure while she's on figure skates.  I think there's great fun to be had in experiencing people as human, and you're human for better and worse when inexperienced on ice skates!

It's adorable to see the tiny kids on tiny skates, and fun to get passed by more experienced skaters.  I love to see people spinning, skating backwards, and in general having fun.  

The Pettit costs $7.50 for open skating for which they are open various times throughout the season.  It costs $3.50 to rent skates.  I do suggest trying to find the best pair of skates for your feet, because if you are uncomfortable in the skates, you'll be even more uncomfortable on the ice.  Miserable, even!  Don't be miserable while ice skating!  I also get really warm, so I wear a light jacket, sweater, and pants.  I wear warm and tall socks, and a hat, scarf, and gloves.  I usually have to take off my hat and gloves a few laps in, though.

  Much better. 

Much better. 

If any of you work downtown and want to meet over lunch to skate the slice of ice at Red Arrow, let me know!