Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Moving On

I've been writing this blog for more than five years now and have totally enjoyed doing it.  When I first began, it was a way to share the fun I was having with my youngest son, Omar, who was born with Down Syndrome. It led to a book, 101 Things to do in Milwaukee Parks, published in 2014, and kicked off a writing career that led to 18 more books and still counting. You can see more at my Amazon author page.

Now Omar is nearly a teenager, and though he still heads to the parks with me once in awhile, we don't do it as often as we used to.  Even my grandkids are in school full time now.

Milwaukee County Parks hired a few new employees who manage social media, and with the excellent job being done, I find there really isn't a need for this blog anymore.  You can sign up for the e-newsletter or check their website for events in county parks. Articles about the outdoors and events are posted regularly at the Milwaukee Parks Facebook site.

Since I started this blog, Miltown Moms has also taken on a full time presence in the community, where you can also find events and fun in the parks.

So now I say good-bye and thanks for reading! The posts will still be archived and available to searches, in case you're looking for something specific.  You can follow me at my Facebook page to stay posted on our next big adventure.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Outdoor Ice Rinks 2018

The weather has been cold enough for ice to form, so you can get out the skates for the season. Remember that most of the outdoor rinks are maintained by volunteers and weather does affect the quality of ice. Know of any other rinks?  Add them to the comments.

Slice of Ice on Water Street has been open since mid December. With the best groomed ice and convenience for toilets, hot chocolate and snacks, this is often my first choice. If you have your own skates, it's free to use the ice.  If you need skates, you can rent them there.  Skates are $8 for adults and $7 for kids. Skate sharpening is $6.

Here is the county park link for all the outdoor ice spaces. For specific information on each park, there are multiple links on that page to the friends group that manages volunteers for the rinks. I'll highlight just a few updates here.

The Friends of Center Street Park have two rinks this year at Center Street Park funded in part by Waterstone Bank.  2017-2018 Hours of Operation (may vary based on weather conditions)
Rink: Everyday Sunrise-10pm
Warming House: Monday-Friday 4pm-9:45pm; Saturday-Sunday 12pm-9:45pm
Skate Lending: Saturday-Sunday 12pm-4pm (Based on availability of volunteers; to check out the most up-to-date hours and to volunteer yourself, visit our Volunteer Sign Up Page)

My favorite outdoor space is at Washington Park Urban Ecology Center.  There you can borrow ice skates and walk just outside the door to the ice.  You may have to help with shoveling if there's been a recent snowfall.  If you tire of skating, they also have sleds, snowshoes, and skis available to members.  This is a bargain for anyone not wanting to purchase and store lots of cold weather gear.  Annual membership begins at just $30!

Fox Point has a rink at Longacre Park, 7343 N. Longacre Road. Check the warming house hours at this link. You can sign up for notifications at this link.

The Hales Corner Ice Rink (Alyson Dudek International Ice Rink) is open from 9 am-9 pm.

In Shorewood, skate at the Lake Bluff Ice Rink.  Check the Facebook page for updates.

Klode Park in Whitefish Bay has a rink with warming house and toilets.  Bring your own skates.

Greendale Park & Rec maintains a rink at the middle school,  6800 Schoolway. Open from 8 am-9 pm.

The Washington Park Urban Ecology Center has chairs and skate rental for first time skaters

If you prefer indoor ice, you can always check out Wilson Ice Arena.   You can rent skates ($3) and skate for a fee of $3.50-6 depending on age.   The Glow Skate sessions are lots of fun, but this link never seems to be updated regularly so follow the County Parks weekly update for more information on when those will occur in 2018.

Forest Therapy Sessions

In 2017, I wrote a piece about forest bathing, and since then I've discovered more on the topic.  There is an Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides. They do training for people who want to lead sessions in the outdoors, and there is a certified therapist here in Milwaukee, Bill Hebbert.
Bill with my son Omar

His bio on the site says, "Bill was born in Wyoming and raised on a ranch close to the land and elements. His appreciation for the Natural World and Trees in particular was nurtured in these open spaces. He studied Engineering at the University of Nebraska and worked his adult life for a Fortune 200 corporation but will be retiring soon. For the last 35 years he has been a Mediation Practitioner and Teacher in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition while living in SE Wisconsin near Milwaukee. Mindfulness and Awareness in the Natural World is a rewarding passion."

There was contact information under his bio, so I e-mailed him. I was fascinated by what he might do for me and for others interested in getting more out of our parks.  I met with him at Doctors Park for a mini session with my 12 year old son, Omar.

We walked to a small grove of cedars where he instructed me to close my eyes and listen. Then we noticed the smells. I could touch a tree and talk about how it made me feel. There was deep breathing and an acute awareness of my surroundings.   For someone who likes to be busy, it was a bit difficult to let my mind rest, but deeply therapeutic when it happened. It felt to me a kind of a standing meditation in the woods, if I had to sum it up in a simple statement. The practice, when done often, can improve overall wellness. Read more about that here.

Bill got his training  during a session held at Morton Arboretum, and for the time being, he's the only guide in our area. He leads groups for a cost, because after all, he paid for the week of training as well as some field work. If you want to reach out to Bill, you can e-mail him at This information is also at the Nature and Forest Therapy website, so should other guides become qualified, you could find them. Perhaps we'll be lucky enough to have Wehr Nature Center selected as a future training site and can then have more locals attend. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

100 Things to do in Milwaukee This Winter (2018)

Now that winter is here, it's a natural tendency to spend more time indoors.  No need to get cabin fever.  Here's a list I came up with of fun things that will keep you exploring Milwaukee all winter long.  If you want even more, get a copy of my Milwaukee Bucket List and 101 Things to do in Milwaukee Parks at a local bookseller,  The Waxwing, Barcelona, or Amazon.

Join the Park People of Milwaukee County for $40 and get a coupon book of park perks to use all year, which includes free admission to some of the places listed below.

1. Sledding
2. Skating at Slice of Ice or one of the lagoons (weather permitting). 
4. Rent cross country skis or sled at Whitnall Park, then enjoy a snack at the warming house. 
5. Visit the Rock Complex for snow tubing or skiing fun.
6. Ski at night with Lapham Peak friends. 
7. Spend a day with the animals at the Milwaukee County Zoo
8. See the plants and the train exhibit at Mitchell Park Domes
9. Hike. Most of the parks will still have trails open, but stairs may be closed.
10. Snowshoe for free at Havenwoods State Forest using their snowshoes.

Bradford Beach after a hard freeze (2015)

11. See the icecanoes at the lakefront. Doctors Park or Bradford Beach are usually some of the best, but check any of the beachfront parks after we've had a very cold week and winds.
12. Join the Urban Ecology Center to use their lending closet equipment and enjoy outdoor activities all winter long. Warm yourself by their fireplaces too.  
13. See raptors up close at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center
14. Visit Wehr Nature Center
15. See a frozen waterfall at Whitnall Park. You can hike from Wehr Nature Center or park near the Golf Course.
Waterfall at Whitnall Park
16. Sip some tasty hot chocolate at Red Elephant
17. Join the Greater Milwaukee Knitting Guild and make something warm. 
18. Learn to cook something new at Milwaukee Public Market
19. Make some new friends by joining a Meetup group
20. Learn more about Wisconsin at Milwaukee Public Museum
21. Eat some pizza and enjoy the organ music at Organ Piper Pizza
22. Take the Skywaukee tour with Historic Milwaukee Inc
23. Tour our historic and beautiful Milwaukee Central Library
24. Check out an event at the local library.   
25. Take a chocolate pairing class at Indulgence Chocolatiers
26. Spend a Saturday morning at the Winter Farmer’s Market.
Winter Farmer's Market in the green house at Mitchell Park Domes
27. Try a new place for soup.
28. Become a volunteer
29. Try ethnic foods at one of our local restaurants. 
30. Try ice fishing
31. Do rock climbing at the new Adventure Rock
32. Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright by touring the homes or visiting Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. 
33. See the Tiffany glass windows at St. John’s church
34. See the inside of the basilica
35. Enjoy paintings and the winter exhibit about steel at MSOE Grohmann museum.
36. Schedule a meal at MATC’s Cuisine restaurant, where you’ll receive gourmet food prepared by students.
37. Skate, jog, or run indoors at the Pettit Ice Center
38. Go swimming
39. Play sports at the open gym sessions at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex
40. Have fish fry or Sunday brunch at Shorewood’s historic Hubbard Park Lodge
41. Take a winter selfie with the Bronze Fonz and enjoy the winter views of the river.
42. Catch an Admirals game when they are in town. 
43. Or a Bucks game. 
44. Go to the top of Kilbourn Reservoir Park to get a great view of Milwaukee. North Ave at Bremen. 
45. Climb the tower at Northpoint lighthouse.
North point Lighthouse after a new snow

46. See the entire valley from the Healing Garden on the roof of St. Luke’s Hospital. 2900 W. Oklahoma.
47. Take a yoga class with OmTown Yogis at the art museum or at with Edie Starrett at Lake Park and get a unique view of the lakefront. 
48. See the Tolkien original manuscripts at Marquette Raynor Library
49. Meet an author at Boswell Book Co.
50. Have tea at the Pfister
51. Learn more about life after WW1 at the Chudnow Museum. 
52. Marvel at the collection of maps and globes in the American Geographical Society Library at UWM.

53. See some impressive art at  Milwaukee Art Museum
54. Paint at Splash Studio
55. Or check out Open Canvas with your kids, friends, soulmate. 
56. Go out for a burger or bloody Mary and have peanuts sent by rocket to your table at AJ Bombers
57. See a live concert, play or other production at one of our theaters. 
58. Visit CafĂ© Sopra Mare for coffee and music at the Villa Terrace. 
59. Introduce your family to the symphony at a family friendly performance. 
60. Sit on a Harley and send your photo to anyone with an e-mail. 
61. See a classic 1940’s film at Charles Allis Museum
62. Play board games at Yo Factory, and of course get the frozen yogurt. 
63. Learn more about Jewish culture at Jewish Museum Milwaukee
64. Walk through American Science & Surplus and get inspired to do something or make something.
65. Go bowling.

66. Be a spy for an hour or two at The Safe House. 
67. Play video games at Dave & Busters
68. Or do gokarts, laser tag and arcade games at Light Speed Rocks
69. See Lynden Sculpture Garden under snow or by lantern.
70. Take a craft class at The Waxwing.
71. Learn chalk painting at Studio Barcelona
72. Watch the Brewcity Bruisers roller derby or sign up for their boot camp. 
73. Listen to some poetry at The Coffee House. Then write your own. 
74. See some art at Gallery Night and Day
76. Learn more about the birds who visit Milwaukee in Winter and look for them.

77. Pamper yourself with a pedicure, facial, or haircut at Vici Aveda Beauty School
78. Have a winter seasonal custard flavor at Kopps
79. Learn to curl at Milwaukee Curling Club
80. See some beautiful things at Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts
81. Stroll the aisles at Fischberger’s Variety Store. 
82. Learn about the great lakes at Discovery World.
83. Try a class at CORE/El Centro
84. Get up early and see a sunrise at the lakefront. You don't even have to leave the warmth of your car if you park at Bradford Beach. Pick up Holey Moley donuts on the way.
85. Meet a friend at Colectivo for a Gospel Brunch or MSO Monday. 
86. Check out Fresh Thyme Farmer's Market recipes on-line and make something
87. Get yourself an adult coloring book and gel pens at Barnes & Noble, then get busy. 
88. Taste some coffee in Valentine’s Tasting Room.
89. Sign up for the weekend guide at Miltown Moms so you’ll be ready for action. 
90. Try a brewery Tour
91. Bundle up and swing at the Holton Bridge Swing Park, 1737 N. Water St.
92. Listen to local musicians at Anodyne Coffee. 
93. Attend a lecture, music event or take a class at UWM’s Peck School of Arts
94. Take a coffee tour, then sit by the fireplace with a warm brew at Stone Creek Coffee. 
95. Join other gamers at Board Game Barrister for some fun. 
96. See a planetarium show or stargaze at Manfred Olson Planetarium.

97. Have an unusual flavor at Purple Door Ice Cream.
98. Get some magic tricks or juggling balls at Art Smart’s and entertain your friends. 
99. Stop in at Northern Chocolate Company (Friday/Saturday only) and bring cash for some of the best molded chocolates you’ll ever taste. 
100. Play ping pong at Evolution

If you're a foodie...and who doesn't like to try desserts?'ll want to check out this list of 25 most epic desserts and see if you can find something delicious to try.

And if you're ready to take on the entire state of Wisconsin, take a look at this list of 100 Things to do in Wisconsin this winter which includes more places. 

Frozen Beaches

We've had the normal January deep freeze, in my opinion, though every time it comes, we tend to talk about how terribly frigid it gets here in Milwaukee.  I've lived in Wisconsin for 20 years, but January and February never get easier.  That said, it can also be quite a beautiful time if you're willing to bundle up and get outdoors. We never know what beauty the frost and cold waves will bring.  In past, it has been ice caves or frosted trees.

Bradford Beach was the showplace for the past couple weeks as strong winds brought waves onto the trees growing along the northern part of the park. There were also a few floating blocks of ice with the clear blue color one expects from icebergs. This is normally a great place for winter photography anyhow because the sun rises off shore and the reflections can be quite beautiful when there is ice.  I missed sun rise, but captured some of the unique sculptures created by Mother Nature. You can walk on the trail that parallels the shoreline with regular shoes, but if you plan to climb on rocks, you'll need some yaktrax.

McKinley Beach also had its share of wave action, leaving the enormous rocks completely iced over. I love the effect the water had on them.  A few brave souls were walking down the pier that goes into the lake, but I must warn you that it can be quite dangerous.  The waves can suddenly be larger than expected. I found out as I was taking photos and got doused by a large one along here, leaving my jacket and camera covered in frozen droplets.  Looks pretty.  Not so comfortable though.

Atwater Beach is starting to freeze with a layer of snow-covered ice extending past the beach's normal shoreline.  People were out on the ice, though not always a good idea because waves under the water can leave you stranded when pieces of ice break off.  This is a shallow area though, so it's probably not going to be life threatening, if you try this. With warmer temps coming this week, I would urge you to stay on the sandy beach. I loved that someone with a sense of humor put a scarf on the statue up on the bluff.

For a somewhat sheltered hike to the lake, check out the steep trail to Shorewood Nature Preserve at 3600 N. Lake Drive.  The trees at the beach are frozen here as well, and it's a great place to spot birds both in the trees and along the shore. The hike back up the hill always gets my lungs working hard.

If you love ice, you'll be happy to hear that Lake Superior will likely freeze solid this year, offering an opportunity to see the ice caves at the Apostle Islands Lakeshore. Though it's a long drive to get there, the experience is unforgettable.  To monitor the situation, check out the Facebook page for Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Take a Mural Walk

Murals are popping up everywhere in nearly every Milwaukee neighborhood. It's even difficult to keep up with the locations so they get pinned to Milwaukee's Mural Map. I'm pretty sure when the map was created, none of us knew what an urban art space Milwaukee would become.  We can certainly be proud of our local artists and the people who fund their work. The Milwaukee Mural Map Facebook page is updated as soon as a new mural is announced, so to be in the know, follow the page.

A few weeks ago I spent a morning viewing the five new murals on KK, a female artist collection called Street Canvas. The first murals are on walls by Lulu Cafe. It's about a 2 mile walk/bike ride down KK to the last one on the side of Rusty Sprocket. With plenty of coffee shops in between, you could also have a great coffee tour, featuring some of Milwaukee's own roasted brands. Here are a few of them.

Another great walking tour would be to see the collection of painted electrical boxes downtown. All are done by Mauricio Ramirez, in a geometric pattern I'd never seen before.  He also painted Selena at 5th & Bruce. When he was working on the Wisconsin Avenue projects in early summer, I met him and talked about the work he was creating. Though he's not originally from Milwaukee, he certainly has been able to capture the essence of the city through his artwork.

Here's a cut/pasted list of the boxes, which is also at the website link.

800 E. Wisconsin Ave. at NE Wis/Cass (NM Bus Stop)
650 N. Jackson Street SE Corner Jackson/Wisconsin (Across from Fed Courthouse)
401 E. Wisconsin Ave. SW Corner Wis/Jefferson
411 E. Wisconsin Ave. SE Corner Wis/Milwaukee
200 E. Wisconsin Ave. NE Corner Wis/Water
707 N. Plankinton Ave. NW Corner Wis/Plankington (At MO’s Irish Pub)
703 N. 2nd St. NW Corner Wis/2nd
300 W. Wisconsin Ave. NW Corner Wis/3rd
700 N. 6th St. NE Corner Wis/6th (at convention center)
706 N. 9th St. NE Corner Wis/9th.

Each painting depicts someone or an idea from Milwaukee's history. For the complete story behind each box, read this piece from Milwaukee Downtown. 

Maybe you can use the Milwaukee Mural Map to create your own walking tour.  Black Cat Alley and the surrounding neighborhood is full of interesting art.

Gallery Night and Day affords an opportunity to walk around the Third Ward and see some great galleries, as well as public art outdoors. Art is all around us!