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.

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?

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.


Instead of doing (or attempting to do) one year-long New Year's Resolution, I break the idea up into four three-month long resolutions, and I REALLY stick to them.  Last year I spent three-months: refraining from processed sugars, then fried foods (this was surprisingly easy), then for three months I didn't watch any television and limited my movies so I could focus on reading, and the last quarter of the year I spent VEGAN which was awesome.  

This year I didn't consume any alcohol for the first three months of the year, then I began a writing regime (which this blog was a result of), and this quarter I have spent gluten free (GF).  

I have about two weeks left for my resolution, and I have learned a lot from it.  Wheat is buried in many products like soy sauce, and those are easy and relatively equal in price to get the GF version.  However, attempting to simply replace all the gluten-filled products you regularly eat with their gluten-free counterpart is an expensive endeavor.  I've eaten fresh fruits and veggies for days without touching any replacement products, and both my body and pocketbook have been happier for it.  

Since spending three months vegan, I began the year continuing to enjoy a guilt-free diet in regards to animals, but continuing my mostly-vegan diet and being GF was very difficult.  If this is something you have been able to master, I bow to you.  I definitely increased my poultry and fish consumption since adopting my GF diet but still found myself easily not having dairy (except the milk mixed in my omelets!).  

What I've REALLY indulged in is our city's wide variety of Mexican restaurants, most recently celebrating TACO TUESDAY at BelAir Cantina!

I jumped out of the car at Humboldt and Water so Ben could look for parking while I got on the waiting list, which was a 25-30 minute wait.  ***BelAir uses the NoWait App, which is free in the Apple App Store, so you can get on the list early and check in when you get there!  I've used this for Pizzaman before and it worked really well!.***  We walked to the bridge to enjoy the bright sunset and just talk through our work days.  A couple MIlwaukee rowing teams when by and that was really cool to see.

After a 45-minute wait we finally got sat.  We had the most enthusiastic server whom I was 100% thrilled by.  She made my night... and I totally failed to get her name.  It happens.

Last time we went to BelAir we had a substantial wait, so we trouped across the street to Finks, which used to be Red Room, do you remember that?  Oh, the memories...  Anyway.  Got a seat at the bar.  Waited. Waited. Waited maybe five minutes? More? Felt like more. The bartender couldn't even bother to acknowledge that we were there, so we left.  So, that happened, and I won't be making the mistake of going there again, and I hope you have a better experience at Finks..  Back to the tacos.

BelAir has a pretty great selection of tacos to choose from (about 30 of 'em), and when you order three they throw in the beans and rice.  For Taco Tuesday and Thursday, they offer 9 tacos and tamales at a $2 special price, and they have discounts on selected alcohol.  

It is said that one goes somewhere first for the food, and later goes back because of the service.    When I went back for my second trip, it certainly wasn't because I received great service (though that first time was the only time I got poor service) it was because of the atmosphere. I mean, look at this place...

...and then I go back for the food.  

My stomach is grumbling to know what your favorite taco place is in Milwaukee! Tell me now!

Say It With Me:

The Exclusive Company.  

I wanted to get the famous record, Lazaretto, by Jack White, so on Thursday morning I drove down to The Exclusive Company near Brady Street (which is REPAVED--did you see that?!) to pick it up.

When I was a kid I loved going to this shop in Steven's Point to get my favorite CDs.  I wish I could remember what it was called, but it was completely different than the shiny totally decorated place at the mall: it was a small, white store front with posters, glass accessories, and handmade shelving upon which all the jewel cases were stacked.  I'd pick out whatever new Mustard Plug, Millencolin, Flashlight Brown, or Alkaline Trio CD I'd been deciding between the trip before.  Get to the car, rip open the plastic, and make my way home.  I loved that place.  

When I moved to Milwaukee, I felt more comfortable at Atomic than The Exclusive Company, but the time changes, the record stores close, and here I am, Thursday morning, at The Exclusive Company.  I know I can ask for help, but I'm just too proud; and anyway, once I find what I'm looking for all help would have meant was conversation.  I just want to look on my own.  (FYI, it's not under W for White, Jack... It's under W for White Stripes.)  I love to browse the shelves and see all the current bands that are releasing their albums on vinyl.  Leaving with just one new record seems improbable as I peruse, and when I pick up Local Natives' Hummingbird my load seems just right.

PS:  Amazon's Product Alert says, "This vinyl contains some unique features which cause it to play differently than other vinyl records."  Excellent.  This is the best article I found about all the unique details Jack White built into his record, the link contains a video of White describing all the features.

What I'm Reading: Wildwood, by Colin Meloy

My weekday off this week was Tuesday, and so I went out for breakfast with a friend of mine who had never been to Beans and Barley on Milwaukee's East Side.  (You've been there, right?  Please say yes!)  She's a teacher, so I wanted to catch her for a social hour before her hectic school year begins!  We live about two blocks from each other, and she's wedding planning, so there's always a lot to talk about.  

I worked at Beans for a little while when I was in college, and it was one of my favorite jobs, so I go there quite frequently.  (For lunch or dinner, I suggest any of the burritos WITH a margarita; for breakfast, the pesto scrambled eggs.)  

Anyway, after breakfast I mentioned that I needed to go to Boswell Book Company to preorder these Puffin in Bloom books... and here I was to discover that my sweet, sassy friend, had NEVER been to BOSWELL!  A misfortune to be corrected, we made the quick drive to this special Milwaukee bookstore.  

(You will hear more about these beautiful, Rifle Paper Co editions after August 28th, when they finally debut...and I pick up my copies!)

As my friend is a school teacher, we headed to the children's book area of the store.  I love reading children's books since the writing is so deliberate and illustrations so vibrant or just plain beautiful.   We laughed over a book by Peter Brown entitled, My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am Not.) which I highly suggest reading.  

While browsing, I came across a series of books called the Wildwood Chronicles which are written by Colin Meloy, the lead singer of The Decemberists.  I couldn't believe it, can hardly believe it still. 

I opened to the first page of the first book and began reading.  Two chapters in, I decided to buy it.  

You guys, it's so good.  

Yes, this is a children's book.  However, it is a New York Times Best Seller, and a quote from a review from The Atlantic is on the back cover.  I could get into a discussion about commercial fiction and "is readability a good thing;" or, "just because it's difficult to read doesn't make it 'Literature;'" and that whole, "adults reading Harry Potter thing;" but I won't.  What is important here, is that you read this exciting book and find out if the baby abducted by a murder of crows will EVER be discovered in the Impassable Wilderness.  

I cannot wait to find out!

...PS, Carson Ellis does the art in this book, and it's lovely.

This post is part of a weekly series on "What I'm Reading."  I'll be talking about whatever book I happen to be reading, and you can look for this series every Friday. 

Lakefront Brewery

Beer is Milwaukee's thing, right? We live in Beerwaukee, or something?  Brewery tours, pedal taverns, all those "per capita" statistics about beer and our friendly city: beer should be listed as a founder of our city alongside Juneau, Kilbourn, and Walker.

How many Milwaukee brewery tours have YOU been on?  My count puts the possibility at seven, but that includes a distillery tour (why not!).  

I haven't been on that many, so when my greatest friends called me up last week with an invite to do the Lakefront Brewery tour, I was excited to go.  It's become an iconic tour to take in MIlwaukee, and I can hardly believe I hadn't done it until now.  

I learned a lot about Milwaukee, the brew business, beer in general, and most importantly, I had a lot of laughs because we had the BEST tour guide ever: Adam.  He says he has the best job in Milwaukee, and I believe him.  It's work, no doubt about that, but you're working while people are out for one reason: to have a good time.  

The tour isn't about customer service, selling a product, or working with people and their crazy (...although at the same time it is kind of about all of those things).  

The tour isn't even about talking to a person: it's about teaching people about the brewery, a short history about beer, and a short history of MIlwaukee.  It's about loving beer.

And Adam, our tour guide, totally loves beer.  And that is clearly why he loves his job.

So the building is enormous and filled with brewery equipment.  If their beer production increased, I don't think they would have room to grow.  All the equipment is so different than the equipment I'm used to being surrounded with at my own job.  

Up until last week, all I ever got to enjoy of this place was the exterior: a cream city brick building which was once a coal-fired power plant, the Three Stooges which were once tops of fermenting lids, all next to the marsupial bridge which crosses over the Milwaukee River.

After the tour we got more beer and had the fish fry.  And this is all inside the brewery!

There was a band of two men playing polka music on accordions, and we danced and we ate and we drank and we had a good time.

I laughed so hard dancing that I just couldn't breathe anymore.  I would highly suggest doing the tour after a LONG day at work, like I did, because it felt so good to laugh and have a beer with friends.

Curious about my list of seven tours to take?

P.S. My only piece of advice for your tours: Don't get trapped behind tall people!

Milwaukee County Historical Society: Museum Edition

In the movie Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, the Banks' children take a day excursion to the bank to see what Father does for a living.  They pass the old woman on the steps of Saint Paul's selling her "bags full of crumbs" and asking passers by to "feed the birds, tuppence a bag."  They hurry on their way, following Father to the prestigious bank, and are dazzled when they get there.

Today, banks are mediocre at best when it comes to appearance, and I haven't felt dazzled by any banks.  Mostly I've been dazed by credit card offers with "low" interest rates, high finance charges, and tired service, and corporate carpeting.

Obviously when I decided to go visit the Milwaukee County Historical Society's museum on Old World Third Street I was not expecting it to be housed inside a beautiful bank.

Which is across the street from the Journal (not pretty) and next to Pere Marquette Park (pretty), where the Milwaukee Riverwalk Cruises pick up.

So back to the dazzling.  The museum of the Milwaukee County Historical Society is housed in the Second Ward Savings Bank which was completed in 1913 by architects Charles Kirchhoff and Thomas L. Rose.  The vault doors weigh 22 tons each.  The building was donated to the Historical Society in 1965, entered to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and went through some renovations six years ago to bring the building back to its former dazzling glory.  

You'll be dazzled if you go visit this beautiful building in person, but I'll try to show you the dazzle with my amateur photos....  Ready?

This conference room was furnished in 1967 by the HIstorical Society in memory of Albert Elser, the president of the bank in 1928, and Alfred Elser, a member of the board of directors.

These letters are from the "Welcome Milwaukee Visitors" sign that was on City Hall.

The mission statement of the Historical Society references a need to preserve local history, and I think this building is a big part of that.  Upstairs is the Harry H. Anderson Research Library where you can access naturalization records until 1944, county and city directories, jail registers until 1964, incorporation records until 1960, census records, manuscript collections, and in a vault are thousands of marked and unmarked photos from Milwaukee past.  

In the basement vault are oil paintings of the men who facilitated the building of the Harley plant alongside  a lego model of City Hall among other historical items the museum has once had on display.

I enjoyed my time here, mostly because it was something new and different to do for a short afternoon.  I was the only visitor there so I was able to meander instead of being herded by a crowd.  It's not an overwhelming museum, there's not too much to see, but the building makes up for it.

(For this article, I referenced pamphlets distributed at the museum, as well as the Milwaukee County HIstorical Society website and blog.)

Breakfast Favorites: The Original Pancake House

Yesterday's breakfast at The Original Pancake House. Yum!

I'm certainly not claiming the Pancake House as my all-time favorite breakfast joint (we'd have to head to Rapids for that!), but this place is a top-5 for sure.

I love breakfast and love to make my own. I love baking coffee cakes and muffins, spreading my own butter on the toast, cracking the eggs in the hot pan, but brunch is a Milwaukee tradition!

Where is your favorite breakfast joint? What is your favorite thing to order?