Thursday, March 9, 2017

Forest Bathing

I recently read about a thing the Japanese do, called forest bathing, which seems to be very popular right now.  The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved. In these stressful times, it's a good idea to do like the Japanese do. Get outside today.  The other benefit to this is the addition of vitamin D, something we apparently don't get enough of during the dark winter months.

Now it seems like common sense that one would feel better after getting outside, but there's actual research showing physical changes like mental clarity, relaxed mood, lower blood pressure, increased energy.  All of those are very good things.  This isn't about hiking, i.e. getting from point A to point B. It's just about being in nature.  Think about how you can make time for this in your own life.

If you need help, check out the park maps and find one with natural areas.  Maybe try one of the Forked Aster trails. It won't be long and there will be spring flowers, more birds coming our way and green buds on trees again.  Be there to see it. Once you find your outdoor space, be present.  Turn off the mobile phone. Look around you.  Do some deep breathing.  Notice how your feet sound when they hit the ground. Listen for animal noises. Touch the bark on the trees. Listen to running water.  When I did this, I found myself feeling more relaxed by the time I was out of the woods.  Let me know your experience.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Milwaukee Statue Walking Tour

Abraham Lincoln in front of the War Memorial
The weather has been incredibly warm for February, so maybe you're itching for a nice walk, but you want to avoid the mud along the trails.  How about a walking tour through Milwaukee to look at public art and statues?

You can download GPS My City and use it anywhere you go.  I have it so when we travel to foreign places, I can download city maps (for a cost) and use them without wifi being necessary. There are many city walk tours, or you can even design one for others to use.  Here's the link to the Monuments and Statues Tour in Milwaukee. It says it takes 2 hours, which is exactly the amount of time you can park in downtown at most metered spaces, but that's just one way. If you use the app MKE PARK, you can get reminders about when your meter is going to run out.  Though I like the intent of this walk, I broke it into 2 pieces and did it on 2 different days, with some modifications which meant seeing many more statues that were not on the original tour.

Day #1.
If you park north of Juneau park, near the log cabin, you don't have to pay to park.  Then you can walk through the park, take a detour over to Cathedral Square as the tour suggests (you can see the bell tower of the cathedral, so even without a map, you can easily find it), return to see the War Memorial which has a tour of its own. Grab a brochure inside at the top of the stairs to view the statues and art work.  This is a good place for a bathroom break too.  The restrooms are between the War Memorial and the Art Museum.  Then head over to see the statues in front of O'Donnell Park by the flag pole, and maybe some art work at the Art Museum. The cafe there is nice for a drink or snack if you have time. From here, you could continue over to Discovery World to play with some of the outdoor musical art, then walk to Lake Shore State Park for a great view of the lake. This whole tour took me about 2 hours.  

Day #2.
Park at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, where there is nearly always on-street parking available. You'll start by looking at the art in Pere Marquette Park, which is marked #6 on the map. Then walk along the river passing a few other art pieces to see Gertie the Duck (4) and the Fonz (5).  You can walk from Gertie to see Gandhi (7) at the courthouse, but take the route along Plankinton so you will see the Statue of the Mail Carriers. You're not far from the Hyatt hotel now, so if you want to see the plaque about Roosevelt getting shot, stop there at 333 W. Kilbourn. From Gandi, I walked to the Milwaukee Central Library where there's a Benjamin Franklin statue inside, as well as a good place to use a restroom. Right out front of the library are several statues, including the Civil War Memorial (8). Continue down Wisconsin Avenue to Marquette University where you will find the oldest building in the US- Joan of Arc Chapel, which is surrounded by a few statues.  You'll find Joan of Arc, Father Marquette, and behind the chapel to the west is Mother Teresa. The chapel is open 10-4 if you'd like to stop in to have a look.  Head back to Pere Marquette Park via the Wisconsin Center so you can enjoy the artwork outside the building and continue to the outdoor sports wall of fame at UW Panther Arena on 4th Street. You should be able to see your parked car by now.  This walk took me less than two hours, but I could easily have spent more time inside the library.  It's one of my favorite buildings.  Take a tour there one day if you have time.

There's another city walk tour for landmarks, which walks along the lakefront looking at buildings. It is a much longer tour, taking you from the water tower to the Allen Bradley clock.  This one would be more fun on a Bublr bike, and there are plenty of places to get a bike, even in February! Download the app and you can see in real time where there are bikes.

Whatever you decide to do, get out and enjoy this nice weather while it lasts!  I'd love to hear about your city walks.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Door County Sled Dogs Need Your Help

Normally in February I'm talking about sled dogs, but in a much different way.  I did get to see the Door County Sled Dogs at Red Arrow Park over the weekend, but there was no snow.  The event should have been held in a park with dog sled rides, but the weather didn't cooperate.

It was the birthday bash, and they were adorable as always.  They have great needs, and since they aren't giving rides this year, they haven't had an opportunity to bring in funds for much needed medical bills, food, and other great doggy stuff.  Take a moment to look at the wish list and help out if you can.  Or better yet, make a donation via the link on the website. They are all rescues so it takes a village.

At the Birthday Bash, the dogs were on hand for photos and petting.  My kids and grand kids did some heavy petting. We don't have a dog ourselves, so I feel fortunate that we are able to hang out with them once in awhile.

The next big event for the dogs to meet the public will be at Serb Hall on April 22.  Follow the Sled Dog webpage for details. Here's the flyer from their page.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Winter Hiking Near Water

Ice along the wall at Big Bay Park, Whitefish Bay
Though it's getting colder again, this is a good time to release all the stress from your life and get outdoors. Being in nature does wonders to clear the mind, lower blood pressure, and calm the nerves. Turn off the TV and step outside. Listen to the waves lap at the beach. It's bliss.

I was at Doctors Park last week before we had new snow. With water everywhere from snowmelt, I'm sure it is very slippery now, on the stairs and ramps.  Be sure to bring your hiking poles or wear yaktrax (I'm including the link in case you're new to Wisconsin winters).  Make your way to the lake to see these beautiful nuggets of ice.  I think this one is appropriate for the month of February, don't you?And the stones along the beach are quite pretty when the water is cold and clear, washing over them. In years past, this beach was under ice formations, so this is warmer than usual. I took the stairway and it was doable.
Stairway to the lakefront

The lake isn't frozen

Nugget of ice looks like a heart
The restrooms seem to be finished now, but are locked up.  Still, it's nice to have toilets and running water when you're at a park in summer.  Thank Friends of Doctors Park and Milwaukee County Parks for this nice structure. It has an attached pavilion.

New restrooms 

Attached pavilion
Today the sun was out, so I made my way to Big Bay Park in Whitefish Bay.  The ramp was snowy but not slick.  The stairways winding through the woods are near the spring though, which means many of the steps were covered in ice.  I'd take the ramp if you aren't sure about your footing. The low hanging branches had been hit with water and turned into beautiful ice.  Enjoy the photos, but get out and do some hiking and let me know what you're seeing this week.
Snow covered rocks make a beautiful back drop for photos

Look at those icicles!

Just a small dose of Jack Frost here

I love the dogwood this time of year. You can see the ramp to the lake behind it.
Looking for more ideas to make it through Milwaukee's winter?  Check out my post about 100 Things to do in Milwaukee this winter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Swing Park has an Address Now

The weather has been unseasonably warm so far this month, which maybe isn't a bad thing.  It just means that we haven't had a chance to do the traditional things we'd be doing in January like playing in snow.  Still, there's plenty to do. We've been making our way through my list of 100 things to do in Milwaukee this winter, which brought us to the Swing Park this week.

I was happy to see the city has posted an official address sign for the swing park now.  We used to have to describe it as "under the Holton Street Bridge" or "across from Trocadero".  Maybe you've heard now that Trocadero has closed its doors, which could have added to the confusion. Now you can officially find it at 1737 N. Water Street. Using Google, it shows up at the appropriate location. It was added to TripAdvisor. There's an unofficial page at Facebook. Guess the secret is out.  Have you been there yet?

This is a great place to visit in all kinds of weather.  Since it's covered, you won't get rained or snowed on.  The benches light up at night, so it's a fun park to visit after you've been out on the town. The swings are sturdy enough for any adult and you can get some major air with the right amount of pushing/pumping. The sand under your feet will maybe help you imagine you're on a beach somewhere.

It's kind of noisy at the moment, due to construction on a new building next door. And the portable toilet that was there in summer has been removed, as well as the baby swings next to it.  Not sure if they are coming back once construction is finished.  Stay tuned.
These benches light up at night

Not a lot of swings, but they are sturdy

An accessible swing on rubber matting
Parking is no longer available in the lot next door, but there are a few spots on the street near the bridge.  Alternatively, you can park across the bridge by Lakefront Brewing on Commerce St., and walk over the to swings.  There's always a nice view of the everchanging Milwaukee river scenery from here. Seems like new buildings are going up every year.  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter Festivals and Other Cool Events Around Milwaukee

It's been kind of disappointing with the low amount of snowfall we've had this month.  Even the ice rinks have been unusable in the parks. Frankly, it looks a little more like spring out there right now.  Not that I don't like warmer weather, but it would be nice to get the snowshoes out at least a couple more times.

Weather permitting, this is normally a great time to find some fun  at winter carnivals, festivals and other events.  Mark your calendars, cross your fingers for some new snow, and plan to attend these January and February activities. I've included a few that are outside Milwaukee county, but are worth the drive.  Know of any more?  Leave it in the comments. And don't forget my list of 100 Things to do in Milwaukee this Winter. There is no reason to be bored or housebound this winter.

Boerner Botanical Gardens hosts a Winter Fest January 22, 10-2. Most activities will be held indoors, but there are planned nature walks, games, and entertainment by Miss Sparkle the Clown. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested for the nature walks. 

The Urban Ecology Center at Washington Park holds  Winterfest on Saturday January 28. Become a member and use sleds, snowshoes, skates, etc. The festival will include music, hot cocoa, homemade pies, and crafts too. Admission is free.  This is a beautiful park with lots of winter fun choices. 

This is also the kick-off weekend for the Winterfest at Lake Geneva where snow sculptures are created by talented teams of artists.  It's a drive, but worth it if you've never been because it attracts talent at a national level. Winterfest is also home to a Human Dog Sled Race, The Abominable Snow Race, magic shows, helicopter rides, a chili cook-off This lasts from January 28-February 12.

Lynden Sculpture Garden will have outdoor fun as well as art activities indoors at their 7th Annual Winter Carnival.   Free to members or with admission to the sculpture garden. Prices for nonmembers: $9 general admission and $7 students & seniors. Kids under 6 are free. Family passes for nonmembers will be available at the door for $20. Expect outdoor art-making, studio activities, scavenger hunts, tours and tree-walks, and whatever other winter activities--ice skating, painting the pond, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing--the weather permits. This year the highly participatory, artist-driven carnival, curated by recent MIAD graduate Reece Ousey, features an artist's version of an outdoor mini-golf course created by Miguel Ramirez--a winter-friendly extension of previous indoor projects Ramirez has exhibited in Milwaukee. Current and former Lynden artists-in-residence, including Sara Caron and Pat Hidson and Tori Tasch, will be on hand with new projects. Caron is planning a walking performance, and Hidson and Tasch will offer a pressure-printing workshop. The Little Havana Express food truck will be serving Cuban cuisine--sandwiches, empanadas, and hot beverages--from 11 am to 2 pm.

Schlitz Audubon will hold a Winter Carnival, Sunday January 29, though parking will be offsite at Bayside School. All Members: $5 Non-Members: Adult $10 | Youth $5
Scheduled Activities include Lake hikes, trail hikes, Kohl's Wild Theater, Frozen Science, and an Owl Meet & Greet.  Don't miss the Horse Drawn Sleigh Rides too. 

Sheridan Park is the place to be for the Frosty Hog Fat Tire Bike Race, while just down the street is the Yeti Dash at Warnimont Park. Both events will be held February 4.

The Milwaukee County Historical Society in Pere Marquette Park will have a Family Day celebrating the new music exhibit Melodies and Memories-200 Years of Music, February 4, 11-3. Learn about instruments through the Brass Bell Music Store Instrument Petting Zoo, participate in an art project to make your own instrument, see four different performances throughout the day by members of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and enjoy the exhibit including the Cascio Interstate Music’s instrument player pods and 65+ tunes at the listening stations. Admission is free. While you're here, take a walk along Milwaukee's River Walk which can be very pretty to see when the river is frozen.

Mequon Nature Preserve will host its 5th annual Winter Frolic on February 4 from 10-4. Some of the activities: Alaskan Malamute Dog Sled Demos, tractor rides and petting zoo, sleigh rides, workshops, crafts, ice fishing, bonfires, and snowman building.  Sounds like fun. This event was huge last year so expect parking shuttles or go early. 

Weather permitting, the Door County Sled Dogs will give rides at their Big Birthday Bash, February 11-12 at Whitnall Park. Even if there is no snow, you can meet the team and bring a gift from their birthday wish list.  All the dogs are rescues and you can imagine the expense of having so many beautiful large dogs. 

At Wehr Nature Center. Experience Wehr’s Winter Wonderland on Valentine’s Day weekend (Saturday February 11, 3-5 PM) and see why we are so in love with nature! Explore the trails on snowshoes, learn animal tracking with a naturalist, and even make your own edible scat snack! (Don’t worry it is fudge!) Best of all, compete for great prizes in the ultimate Winter Obstacle Course team challenge on the frozen Mallard Lake.Hot spiked cider and cocoa will be on hand as we warm up by the fire and watch the winter sun set. Event is 21+
Price includes all activities, gear, and 2 drinks.
$20 per person; $15 for Friends of Wehr Members
Reservations guarantee your spot. Walk-ins welcome as space allows

Mitchell Park Domes hosts Hearts Under Glass February 14, 6-10 PM. Celebrate Valentines Day with your special someone in the romantic atmosphere of the Domes at night. Take a moonlit stroll through the Desert Dome, enjoy a cocktail in the candlelit warmth of the Tropical Dome, enjoy the whimsical atmosphere of the Great Train Robbery 2017 Train Show in the Show Dome. Admission is $10 per person.

Cedarburg is hosting its 43rd annual Winter Festival February 18 & 19. Enjoy a winter weekend of family-fun festivities with camel rides, chili contests, ice-carving contest, dog-pulling contests, costumed bed races on ice, barrel racing, a parade, pancake breakfast, marketplace, children's activities, tractor-drawn hay rides plus sign-up to tee off with the "Ice-Burg Open Golf Tournament" in Cedar Creek Park and special events at the Cedar Creek Settlement, including an outdoor Chili Bar and Snow Bar on Saturday from 12-4pm, free wine samplings and live music on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday evening, adults will enjoy the "Cool Brew" featuring a beer tasting, appetizers and live music. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Penguins in Milwaukee

If you thought the only place to see penguins in Milwaukee was at the County Zoo, you're in for a surprise.  No, these aren't real penguins.  They are a new tool used by people who need some help with balance while ice skating. Called penguin pals and designed for beginner skaters, they are also helpful for anyone who might not be so steady on two skates. 

Come skate and bring your friends to Slice of Ice, located in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee.  This rink is for figure skating only, so no hockey sticks allowed.  You can bring your own skates and skate for free, but there are rental skates available for $7-8. You can have skates sharpened while you wait for $6. This is the only outdoor rink which is regularly groomed, though there are other outdoor rinks in the park system as well as villages. Be sure to check the county parks link to see if the outdoor rinks are open before visiting.  Some strange weather has closed a few of them already, but they may open again.

This Monday while many schools have a free day, come check out the rink and enjoy some good company. Starbucks is located inside so you can find hot coffee, even if you just want to sit and watch the skaters.

Monday, January 16, 2017
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Free Skate Rentals and Penguin Pal skate aids sponsored by WaterStone Bank. Free Pepsi products while supplies last.
(Skate Rental Fee will be in effect from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.)

Parking is sometimes a challenge.  There is no free parking, but here's a handy map which is also on the Slice of Ice website that shows some parking options.  I've downloaded the app MKE PARK and find it useful, though you have to pay a few cents extra for the convenience.