Meet Me in Milwaukee

This last weekend was “Part 3″ of summer fun with my Wisconsin family.

Part 1 & Part 2 were on the calendar from early in the year. Of course, both of them were originally meant to be longer adventures before life & work caused the plans to change. So…as Part 2 was being shortened by work requirements we quickly decided to add a Part 3. Our plans were to meet up in Milwaukee for a long weekend of baseball, museums, frozen custard and all around fun as a bit of a back to school blast. Once the dates were confirmed, points were used to grab hotel rooms for us and we began to add possible activities to our TripIt itinerary to fill our days with fun.

Miller Park Memories

Miller Park Memories

Baseball…Our only “definite” for the weekend was a Friday night Brewers baseball game. The giveaway for the game was a Brewers t-shirt sponsored by Kwik Trip – we all chuckled at the appropriateness of that for us. We got to the stadium early & had fun checking out the kids zone activities before settling into great seats along the right foul line. While we weren’t thrilled with the outcome of the game, we cheered heartily throughout.

Museum Moments

Museum Moments

Museums…On Friday we experienced the Milwaukee Public Museum – Ry’s excitement of being at a museum was palpable as we walked up the stairs towards exhibits. We wandered through exhibits of dinosaurs and butterflies and rain forests and scientists at work and old Milwaukee and so much more. On Saturday we headed towards the foggy lakefront and the Discovery World Museum – what an incredible collection of science and technology to explore. From interactive models of the Great Lakes to an aquarium that included “petting pools” to hand powered toys and machines to the techno jungle to a Les Paul’s House of Sound – each exhibit was designed for plenty of hands on interaction. Without a doubt, I think the adults had as much fun exploring as the kids in Discovery World.

The Great Milwaukee Frozen Custard Tour

The Great Milwaukee Frozen Custard Tour

Frozen Custard…As we were starting to plan for this weekend, I came across an article about the best frozen custard places in Milwaukee. I added the details into our TripIt itinerary and we joked that we would see how much custard we could enjoy. Turns out that we managed to make it to 3 of the 6 custard stands in the article – each day we did a late lunch at a stand – first burgers and then the custard. Our approach to evaluating each stand varied among the group – some went for hot fudge sundaes, malts, flavors of the days. A few of us went with a standard baseline – vanilla frozen custard in a waffle cone. On Friday, we started with the oldest stand, Gilles. It was a tasty start to the tour. The “first time visitor” packets they handed out where a fun introduction to their history. On Saturday, as we left Discovery World we headed for our second stand. In the “serendipity way” that sometimes transpires, as we were nearing our destination, Chris comments about how he used to go to a place called Oscar’s in this area when he was a kid…and just like that we were turning into the Oscar’s parking lot. I do believe that someone was transported back to happy childhood memories with the burger & custard. On Sunday, we concluded this portion of the tour with a stop at Kopp’s on the way to the airport. The outdoor eating area of benches by a huge water wall was a nice change-up from a “traditional” sit down area.

Family Fun Times

Family Fun Times

All Around Fun…Beyond the baseball, museums and custard we had plenty of fun, no matter what we were doing. Thursday kicked off with lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings – with Ry challenging me to the lunchtime trivia game. Our hotel was a great base camp – for R&R whether it was a good nap, pool time for the kids or lounge time for the grown ups. One evening we browsed through a local mall and enjoyed dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Another evening, we invited cousins over for an impromptu pool & pizza party at the hotel. Through it all, there were plenty of moments of fun just because we all were together.

On Sunday afternoon, it was time to say our goodbyes & “see you soon” and head back to the non-vacation life. But never fear, we are already talking about what our next “meet me in…” vacation may be – we all agree we need to do this again.

Birthdays and Baseball

This past weekend was a “quick trip” to Wisconsin for a family birthday celebration. While the time there was short we packed a whole lot of fun and more into the few days…

Friday was for an early morning flight into Milwaukee…which means a bit of a road trip to get home…When we road trip in Wisconsin, we stop at quite a few Kwik Trips – the kids roll their eyes as we pull into the parking lot – we try to explain that road trips are meant for stops like that…(and a huge thank you for the crew that came to pick me up – suggestions that I drive up there on my own were met with loud and emphatic no responses)

Ready for a Birthday Bash!

Ready for a Birthday Bash!

Saturday was for the Family Birthday Bash…since all 3 kids have birthdays within a couple of weeks of each other there is “1 big party” to celebrate them…the adults in the house were up early to get a jump start on the party prep – finishing some food prep, getting the outside area ready for the party – yard work and decorating were on tap…Grandpa arrived to setup for a Wisconsin fish boil (salmon and rainbow trout that he caught)…cakes were picked up…kids were excited…family arrived and a party was had…kids squealed with delight as gifts were opened…it was early to bed for all of us after a busy and fun day…

Take us out the T-Rats!

Take us out the T-Rats!

Sunday was for Baseball…if you do something two years in a row that must mean a tradition is forming….this year the baseball game was the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers down in Appleton…a bit of a road trip (including Kwik Trip stops)…standing in line for the gates to open and get a bobblehead…a beautiful day for a game…the fun of minor league stadium entertainment…Ry asking players for autographs on the program…meeting Bernie Brewer…just as the game was headed into extra innings, a heavy rainstorm opened up over the stadium…a mad dash to the covered concourse…then a mad dash to the van as the rain let up a bit…stopping at a local burger & custard stand for supper and sweets on the way home…a beautiful rainbow seen through the van windows as we drove through more summer storm weather to get home…

The original plan for this trip was for me to stay for another week – work for a couple of days and then a long weekend of additional summer adventures. A project at work changed those plans and so Monday was for flying back to PA…but in a couple of weeks we are meeting up in Milwaukee to “finally” enjoy the rest of the summer adventures we were planning…

Currently…July

As this month draws to an end, the days have been a bit cooler – I even heard the local meteorologists say it was more like mid-September. The month seems to have run the full gamut of weather & temps – but I’m liking the hint of fall that has appeared (& am well aware it is fleeting). As the calendar marches on towards August, here are a few of the things that filled my July days…

Sunflowers just cut from a local farm field...happy Kansas gal!

Sunflowers just cut from a local farm field…happy Kansas gal!

Reading…making good progress on the stack of books from the library and continuing on in the summer reading challenge…although I think it’s safe to say that I won’t have 25 read by August 6th…

Watching…way more World Cup than I’ve ever watched before…enjoying the return of Under the Dome…other summer escape TV shows – The Last Ship – Covert Affairs – Royal Pains – Manh(a)ttan…when Mom & Dad were here, we watched Joss Whedon’s recent film adaption of one of my all time favorite Shakespeare plays – Much Ado About Nothing…

Crafting...utilizing my big tin of Crayola crayons & markers (thanks Mom!) to decorate some birthday gift bags…not much progress on my Brewers crackerjack cowl – I need to “power through” some of their losing streaks & come current again…

First peaches of the season at the farmers' market...

First peaches of the season at the farmers’ market…

Cooking…Saturday morning produce runs to the the farmers’ market & local farms make cooking a lot of fun. Among the go-to dishes in rotation: Fruit Custard for breakfast (the recipe I found online left a bit to be desired, so Mom & I have tweaked it…that deserves it’s own post); a pot of green beans & new potatoes seasoned with some bacon or ham; roasting corn on the cob in the oven; stewed tomatoes and okra; keeping the mason jar of Danish Cucumber pickles replenished in the fridge…

Earthbound stars...prepping okra for a simple supper

Earthbound stars…prepping okra for a simple supper

Traveling…no big trips this month, but enjoyed being a local tourist while Mom & Dad were here to start the month…

Looking Ahead…August starts with the kids birthday bash weekend back in Marinette…also, planning another WI trip later in the month for a bit of delayed vacation fun…it’s about time to do some canning to be ready for holiday gifts and more…it won’t be long until football season…planning holiday gift knitting…

Linking up with Leigh Kramer for the monthly “What I’m Into” round-up.

What are you into these days?

Summertime…Reading…Challenge…

My current reading queue...

My current reading queue…

If it’s summertime, it must mean that it’s time for a library reading challenge! I remember many a childhood summer filled with assorted challenges hosted by the local library – many a trip to the library to pick up a new stack of books – many a delightful hour spent reading (or devouring) an assortment of books and subjects. I chuckled when I saw that my local library is hosting a summer reading challenge for kids AND adults – of course I signed up. The adult goal is to read 25 books – we’ll see what my summer holds. My library book stack in my spare room & my hold requests list are looking like this goal can be attained – although, as I look at the tracking website, they are only counting books until Aug. 7th – really, summer is more than 8 weeks here…

Since last diving into books on the blog, I’ve read quite a bit. Some of these are in my summer reading challenge – others are just “normal” reading progress. From my recent reads, these are the ones that are at the top of the list:

  • The Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin; When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin; Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin – A “new to me” author I discovered via another blog. Nice stories that have uplifting themes to them. I’ll definitely be working my way through the rest of his books. These are a nice change of pace…and maybe even a good emotion reset, when needed.
  • The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning & Greg Garrett – A modern retelling of the Prodigal Son parable. A good story of a timeless tale. Now, I think it’s time to finally read Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel that has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years.
  • The Director by David Ignatius – A new espionage thriller where “the director” referred to is a new CIA director brought in from running a successful tech company to revive a struggling agency.
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman – I stumbled upon this series via another blog. It is a fun variation on the spy/thriller genre that I enjoy. A widowed grandmother in the 60′s is bored and offers herself up to the CIA to be spy.
  •  That’s Not in My American History Book (audio) by Thomas Ayres – A fun, trivia filled walk through some of the more obscure parts of American History. As I listened to the author read this book, I was taken back to my AP US History class – in addition to teaching “the basics” that we needed, Coach Walker loved this type of history. I still remember several of the lesser known history facts that he imparted to us in class 23+ years ago. In fact, some of the stories told here weren’t new to me because of Coach Walker. In my collecting of random facts, I think I have a new arsenal of American History info for the next trivia encounter. #bringonBWWtrivia

Other recent reads: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs; The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry; A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick; Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberley McCreight; The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig

Recently Abandoned: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall – I started this as an audio book and just couldn’t get into it. The description sounds like a fun “kids book” read – but evidently I can’t do this as audio – I really don’t need the reader doing the girls in assorted high-pitched/whiny voices; Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – This seems to be everywhere as a “must read” these days. And yet, I just couldn’t get into it. I may come back to it at some time…but for now it is time to move on to the other books in the stack that beckon me…

As you can see from the picture above, I have lots of books at hand to keep me busy in the coming weeks. What about you? What are you reading this summer? What are your summer reading memories?

P.S. Here’s a summer reading challenge we can all do: Pages4Progress. Visit this site to log the number of pages you’ve read and dollars will be donated towards ensuring primary education is available around the globe. It just takes a few moments to share your page count and join in the every growing total.

Once again, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for the Twitterature round-up. (And most likely adding to my to-be-read list as I check out other blogs…)

Family…History…Fun

It was a treat to host Mom & Dad here for a bit of a vacation to start July. Over the last couple of years, it seems like Mom & Dad visits have included quite long “honey-do” lists tied to moving. This time, the focus really was on fun and exploring the area. #localtourist
Amish covered bridges...this time with sunshine

Amish covered bridges…this time with sunshine

On Thursday, we were “back” to Amish Country for the day. We enjoyed wandering through some of our favorite shops and went for a lighter lunch option of delicious sandwiches at Kitchen Kettle Village instead of the full family style meal. After “introducing” Mom to a fabulous swivel rocker at one of the furniture stores, she is now contemplating it as her Christmas gift – I don’t blame her, it may be the ultimate chair. Of course, I had to show them the covered bridges that I found the last time I was over there.

Exploring Valley Forge

Exploring Valley Forge

We decided that July 4th would be a good day to explore Valley Forge National Historic Park.  Even the few bands of winds & rain from Hurricane Arthur didn’t stop us from a fun day of exploring this slice of American History. We picked up the Audio Tour CD at the Visitor’s Center and set off to explore the park. The audio tour was excellent – I’m sure that I’ll use it many times as friends & family come to visit. Along the way in the park, we stopped at some of the sites to further explore. While there were July 4th activities planned throughout the park, we didn’t experience large crowds to make us question our decision to be there on Independence Day – the way the park is laid out, it is easy to “find space” away from other visitors. Towards the end of the driving tour, the Washington Memorial Chapel is an amazing piece art that captures the revolutionary history.

A gorgeous day for a canal boat tour

A gorgeous day for a canal boat tour

On Saturday, the plan was to head north to Easton – it is a beautiful drive along the Delaware River and I needed to do some gift shopping at the Crayola Experience store. As I looked to see what else there was to do in Easton, I discovered the National Canal Museum was nearby – so our plans for the day expanded. While small, the museum was filled with history about the Pennsylvania canal system and fun interactive exhibits to help kids (& adults) understand how it all worked. After touring the museum, we enjoyed a 45 minute mule-pulled canal boat tour. The weather was perfect for this. Since the day was spectacular, after lunch we took a more extended drive along the Delaware River as we meandered home.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad’s birthday is early in the month, so early in the week I picked up a birthday cake from a great local bakery & we enjoyed it nightly. We also celebrated with a great Sunday brunch at the historic William Penn Inn that is nearby. When we weren’t out exploring, it was fun to just hang out at home – indeed, we are a family that can easily spend time together “just being” – reading a book or something online, doing puzzles, knitting – together in the living room.

As is always the case with family time…it was over much too quickly!