NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Thank You Farmers

Here's a few Wisconsin murals I've seen on my wanderings for work.  “The Blue Heron” by Milwaukee artist Catherine Lottes is located in Menomonee Falls on Appleton Avenue.


I must've seen the mural below in the spring, I remember driving around town but don't remember seeing others.  However Beaver Dam had the Wall Dogs come in and do 15 murals in July 2017 so next time I get to Beaver Dam I'll have to find a few more!


Speaking of mass mural installations, you may remember my post about the opening of Black Cat Alley murals in Milwaukee.  One of the murals caused controversy (as good art sometimes does) and was recently vandalized. It's an interesting story, read about it here.  I don't remember seeing the mural in question, the alley was very crowded when I went and there was a lot to see! The original story about the art and the artist's vision is at this link.

Culver's restaurants has painted some barns blue and added a message thanking farmers for their contribution to feeding us.  This one was most likely near Beaver Dam, but there is one near Mineral Point also so it could've been there.  The first Culver's was opened in Sauk City in 1984 by the son of a cheesemaker who used to inspect dairy farms. Craig and his wife combined a love for his mom’s homemade hamburgers with his favorite childhood vacation treat, Fresh Frozen Custard, creating their signature combination: Culver’s ButterBurgers and Fresh Frozen Custard. There are 136 Culver's in Wisconsin and 102 in Illinois, and now they are located in 24 states! I don't like my bun buttered and I can't eat dairy, but I love their grilled chicken sandwich and french fries.  If you're dairy sensitive like me just ask for no butter when you order!

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Outdoor Wisconsin - A Few Photos Left Behind

Here are a few odds and ends I photographed around Wisconsin this fall that I forgot to publish!

October came and went quickly in Wisconsin, but I had a few chances to enjoy the outdoors.

dunes at Kohler Andrae

I stayed overnight at Kohler Andrae State Park where I could walk down to the beach from my campsite.

view of the beach at Kohler Andrae

Early in the month I caught some fall color up at Dorchester city park in northern Wisconsin's lovely Marathon County.

my campsite under the trees
I even popped onto the North Country Trail for half an hour a little further along in the tiny town of Mellen.

Mellen is one of those towns that is so small their City Hall, police department and museum is all in one small building!

High Cliff State Park was peaceful and the deer just eyed me as I walked by but wasn't alarmed.

The park has Indian mounds along its trail system, though the shapes are better discerned from above.

A new discovery was the site for Maribel Caves Hotel. The hotel was built by Austrian immigrant Charles Steinbrecker in 1900 and was originally named after the nearby Maribel limestone caves. Tourists came to see the caves and the hotel had spring water pumped to it for spa bathing. If I had known more I would have stopped at Maribel Caves Park where a series of trails lead to caves and crevices to explore.  Some of the caves are gated and can only be seen on a guided tour. Public cave tours for the 2018 season will be every 3rd Sunday of the month May-October from 10am-3pm.

The hotel was destroyed originally by fire and the land is now in possession of the county since the 1960's. It was in much better shape before 2013 when it was hit by a tornado.  To see a photo of it in 2012 click here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Freshly Fallen Snow

I was supposed to be heading up to Door County for work on Monday but Eastern Wisconsin got a winter storm with the Peninsula being the hardest hit...they got 12-18 inches over 24 hours!  Obviously I called and rescheduled for another day, though I sure would have liked to see it in the snow.

Rawley Point Light, Two Rivers

But this morning I had to get up early and tackle those appointments in Manitowoc and Two Rivers that I scheduled.  You know I was heartbroken to be done by noon and on my way to Point Beach State Forest in Two Rivers to try to take a hike.  I started by being the one to break trail out to the lighthouse.  The snow was light and fluffy, and up to my knees in some spots!

sand dunes covered in a foot of snow

The sand dunes were beautiful, so much so that I decided not to spoil the beauty by going all the way out to the shore.

So off I went to the Ice Age trailhead, to break through more fresh snow.  The powder was piled high on the trees and every now and then a breeze would blow some across the trail.

I got tired quickly, but hated to give up since the sun was actually shining.  It doesn't do that often in winter in Wisconsin unfortunately.

 About 30 minutes was all my frozen toes wanted out of the adventure, so it was off to Sheboygan where I had errands to run and a hotel to find.  I settled on the Harbor Winds - small, quiet, clean and right on the riverfront near downtown and all the restaurants for under $60 a night!  Best of all my allergies aren't flaring up and if in town I won't hesitate to stay there again.

I don't think I've gotten a shot of the Sheboygan performing arts theater before after dark.  Even though I've been to Sheboygan many times I always find a new way to enjoy it.  Last time I was here I went out driving after dark along the lakeshore and watched the waves crashing on the shore under a full moon.  Tonight I drove past some new restaurants on the South Pier that maybe Wayne and I can check out this summer!

Highs up to 40F here on Friday and Saturday so the folks that like to snowshoe and cross country ski better get out quick and enjoy it..

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Things I do When Old Man Winter Comes Calling

Late in November I made sure to hit the far north, because they already had their fair share of snow I didn't want to be traversing those roads in December or January!

Just minutes over the border into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I stopped for a few pictures in Ironwood since I crossed through a neighborhood I hadn't seen before.  The Miners Mural recognizes the Gogebic Range miners with 111 larger than life-size miners across a span of 60 feet in 4 rows deep. Each miner is depicted in period correct clothing telling his name and the local mine that he worked.

Oldest bar in Ironwood, established 1887!

Across the street was a great neon sign I couldn't resist!

Clock in Eagle River

December is the slow time for sales reps in the optical field.  I wasn't on the road much and after the first two weeks I was mostly home for a change which was great because Baby, it's cold outside!   I know it's cold everywhere lately, including Georgia and Florida, but it's been so cold here it literally steals your breath away, and I even had to go get a new car battery even though it is only 3 years old.  Thankfully this week the forecast finally shows an upward swing in temperatures, I'll probably be wearing shorts on Thursday as we go from below zero windchills this past weekend to a high of 52F!

Frosty morning in Crandon

If I were on the road I wouldn't have seen this fox in my neighbor's yard a week ago.  There is another one it travels around with, I wonder how often the cats have seen them as they stare out the window?

Our poor cats are going stir crazy, (as am I) since they are used to being outside and this sub zero weather we've experienced for weeks means we don't even crack open a window for them to smell the outdoors. I can't wait to take them outside again later this week!

That was Celia "helping" me when I made an ornament wreath, one of my many projects I tackled while on my holiday break.  Each wreath takes me about 2 hours, and I made one for my mother and a neighbor too so that was a whole day gone right there.  I made them for the kids 2 years ago as gifts, so now I am done.  They are cool, but very time consuming.  The remaining ornaments I bought on clearance last year I think I will use to make an ornament swag and some ornament garland next year because that looks a lot easier and I won't even need a glue gun!  I'd give you a link but I encourage you to google it yourself because the techniques and color combinations are endless.

I broke an ornament when I took it down,
just pop it out and glue in a new one!

In addition to making wreaths and fabulous yard art, I've been on a beautification kick in general and we've bought new curtains and cellular window shades for almost every room in the house.

Wondering what is in the corner? Display stands for frame shows!

Our spare room may not be fancy, but what a difference curtains make! I ordered a new headboard for our bedroom and plan on putting the old one in this room, and I also took a collage frame I haven't been using and filled in the openings with scrapbook paper and hung it over the bed.  I made a Word document of architectural terms in different fonts and printed it out, then I distressed it and the coordinating paper with some ink to create my own unique piece of wall art.

Obviously we all know I love architecture but it became my room theme since I had a framed enlargement in the room already from downtown Milwaukee and a canvas print of some detail from the Chicago Board of Trade.  I'm going to fill two more smaller collage frames with black and white photos of the Madison Capitol to finish off the theme.  I think the doorknob I found at Hobby Lobby is cool because it matches the colors in the print and is an architectural item!

My winter to-do list now includes stopping at some antique stores for some hunting for arts and crafts pottery (vases at the link are gorgeous but cost over $300 each!) and maybe some architectural pieces.  Why the sudden interest in home beautification?  If I haven't mentioned it before we've decided we are not going to sell our house and live on the road due to our need to stay close to Cory as he continues his life-long battle with mental illness. When we retire in 3 years we will keep the house as a home base and just go on month long vacations a few times a year most likely.  With this in mind we also refinanced the house a few weeks ago at a lower rate and will also pay it off now in 15 years instead of 18 years.

Another quick project I did in 15 minutes was a
scrapbook inspired collage mounted on wood.
Shown are pics of Cory and Katrina in Door County

In November Cory and I attended his hearing in Milwaukee where we gave testimony at his appeal hearing with the aid of our lawyer about his need for permanent social security disability benefits.  While we definitely have a better doctor now after 2 other failed attempts, his condition is unfortunately severe enough that all of his doctors have agreed that he is permanently incapable of the demands of working enough hours to support himself financially.  We don't have the results from the judge yet, but expect them sometime this month and I will give more details at that time in the spirit of mental illness public education.

The master and spare bedrooms aren't the only rooms in the midst of rejuvenation, our kitchen has received a new window, curtains, shades, silverware set and more.  A new light fixture, sink, kitchen table and buffet have been added in the past few months and I went on Etsy a few weeks ago and found some adorable herbal prints there.  They came in a set of six but I left out the cilantro since I never use it for cooking and a grouping of 5 was perfect for the spot.  Frames were less than $4 each at Hobby Lobby so the whole group cost under $100.  The ceramic knobs on the buffet are replacements I found online also since it came with silver ones.  I got the table and buffet at the JCPenney clearance center in Wauwatosa and with delivery both pieces were still under $600 total so I had no problem springing for new knobs!  I wish it wasn't so dark, but I couldn't pass up the bargain and it matched the chairs we already owned so I saved on chairs as well.

I'm running out of improvement projects, so I'm happy to be back in full swing for work this week.  I have time off coming up at the end of February and I'm considering a trip down to North Carolina with my mother to check out the Replacements Warehouse and look at vintage dishes. If anyone has been there let me know what you thought of your visit!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Walls of Wittenberg

Wittenberg is a village in Wisconsin with a population just over a thousand souls and an amazing 30 murals that you can tour.

Wittenberg Telephone Company Mural "Number Please"

In addition to the community coming together to support this endeavor to revitalize a small town that a highway bypass left behind, an art park with landscaping and sculptures was added. Their hope is to bring some visitors to town to keep businesses thriving instead of closing. The mural above and the mural below were both painted by Reynaldo Hernandez of Milwaukee.

Rom Rojas of Door County painted "Foundations of Faith" which explores the area churches including the faith of the Ho-Chunk Nation. Speaking of the Ho-Chunk, stop and visit the Casino while you're in town!  I personally don't visit casinos, but lots of folks do and they provide needed income to Wisconsin's native population.

Here's a closer view.  It was pretty neat, the architecture enthusiast in me enjoyed it.

The murals were painted between 2006 and 2014.  Maybe when I swing through this summer I'll see them painting another, who knows? The Packer mural, "Go Pack Go" was created by Carole Bersin and Alicia Rheal. It's painted on the side of the local Sentry grocery store and was too big to fit in one shot.  I'm not a sports fan and have never watched a football game on television, but I am going to Lambeau Field in March for an optical continuing education event as one of the vendors so I'm getting in for free to see the stadium.  I'm told the host for the event has great snacks between educational courses including hot pretzels and giant cookies!  I guess I won't go hungry!

Linking up to Monday Mural.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Look What I Did for the Holidays!

Holiday decorations strung over the street in downtown Wausau

Over the Christmas season I actually took almost two weeks off work.  I know now you are scratching your head and wondering why I didn't post on my blog with all that spare time.  I found an alarming amount of other projects to immerse myself in instead, including a sudden urge to make new yard art for Christmas.  Here's a picture of the yard art I made with Wayne's help about 8 years ago.

Spongebob and Patrick have real hats stapled on..and were full of spider webs!

Well, the Bikini Bottom gang are getting a little worn from the weather, and while re-drawing their outlines and adding a coat of polyurethane extended their life another few years I decided the time had come to make them some new friends.

So here's how I do it:  I browse online for coloring book pages that fit the theme/characters I am looking for.  I divide the picture into a grid and then transfer the grid onto 3/4 inch MDF plywood.  I just do some approximate math and as in the picture above divide the sheet of wood into 8 squares and do the same with the image.  Then I only have to tackle a small portion  of the drawing at a time, just like in those old mystery grid art puzzles I used to do when I was a kid!  Some of the pictures I printed out were not winter themed, for instance I added a scarf and pants to Schroeder after I traced him out and with Peppermint Patty I changed the balloon she was holding to a candy cane and added mittens and a scarf but kept her signature sandals!

Wayne joins the artistic process

I got the MDF plywood tip from this link, my Spongebob crew were made out of regular plywood and what a difference the MDF makes.  It is a much smoother working surface and I expect the paint job will hold up more years.  If you look closely at the cutout of Linus below you will see the pencil marks from the grid, as well as the pencil marks where I made my inital drawing.  The final drawing in ink doesn't always match up as the image takes shape I have to make adjustments for it to look right.  I could never do it completely freehand though, the grid makes it all possible!  After making the final image in permanent marker Wayne cuts it out with a saw, and we erase the pencil marks as best we can with one of those big pink erasers.

As you can see, there is a method to my madness by using the permanent marker.  After Wayne puts a coat of primer on Lucy she would be a big blob and I'd have to figure out all over again how to fill her details in.  It's okay that the lines show through, I go over everything with black outline again after it is painted anyway to give it that cartoon drawing look.  I love that we do this as a team as we each get breaks from the task while someone else does the following step.  I draw, Wayne cuts and primes.  I paint the details, Wayne paints the sides and back.  I figure out how to arrange them on the lawn, Wayne attaches the stakes and pounds them in!

Jewel thought this was the best thing ever.  We were in the garage two days making all of the figures and painting them and she was there every step of the way.  She even climbed up the wall from the tool bench and jumped into the kayak hanging from the ceiling so she wouldn't miss any of the action!!

Bird's eye view of the creative process

For the color part of the process I used acrylic craft paint from Michael's, those small bottles of paint cover a surprising amount of surface.  I think I used 2 of the small bottles for the flesh tone, and for the red I had bought the large bottle and did not run out even though I used a lot of red.  I also did a little bit of mixing instead of buying multiple shades of blue for Linus' blanket and Schroeder's pants, and added a little yellow to the red along with a dash of brown for Peppermint Patty's hair.  Lucy's purple dress was custom mixed from the red and blue I had on hand as well.

Notice our camper lurking on the side of the house, just waiting for spring to come out and play

I started outlining with the black paint and it was taking so long that I switched to a King Sized Sharpie permanent marker.  Much easier to get the fine details, especially on Snoopy and Woodstock and it went so much quicker.  A quick coat of polyurethane was applied as dark started to fall, I'll add another coat when the weather warms back up.  We also paint the exposed edges and the back of the figures black.  Wayne made a wooden cross support of scrap wood for Charlie Brown's "tree" and we just took a branch and used wood glue to insert it into a drilled hole and hung an ornament on it.  My only complaint is somehow I made Pepperminta Patty too "short" and I plan to go back and fix that before next winter, otherwise I love how she turned out including her Packer colors with the yellow scarf and mittens against her green sweater!

I love these guys!! And my helper who you can see in the kitchen window!

We used screw in clips to hang the lights on the doghouse and Snoopy is actually a separate piece and is attached on the back with a screwed on brace.  Wayne used long wooden stakes screwed onto the boards to hold them in the ground.  We actually had to go back a few days later and unscrew them and pound them deeper into the ground and re-attach them after some heavy wind.  The link I provided above used a different method, choose whichever sounds better to you.  If you look closely at the bottom of the doghouse right under the blue bulb you can see one of the screws, I'm not a fan of this method but it is what Wayne chose so I had to go along with what he was willing to do and it obviously cannot be seen from a distance.  How can I complain with all the technical assistance he provided?  So modest too, every time a neighbor came over to compliment us as we were putting them up he passed all the glory to me.  Online these kind of figures run $90 each, we paid $75 for 3 sheets of 3/4 inch MDF plywood and had Home Depot rip them in half which gave us 6 sheets to work with that were 4x4.  I think I spent less than $20 on paint and other supplies.  Of course we put about 10 hours of labor into them at least, so maybe not a business you want to get into to make money but doing it yourself sure saves a lot of cash!

Next on my yard art to-do list...Halloween!  We'll see how many years it takes me to get around to that...

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Texas Flashback

Talk about old posts that never saw the light of day, this one goes back to the trip Katrina and I took down to Texas last January! Here's a few of the places we stayed along our trip.

Just 13 miles from the State Capitol in Austin we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park in Texas.  Was is nice to sleep outside and get up in the morning and not put on a jacket?  Heck yeah!  I sprung up off that air mattress and went for a walk both mornings right away.

 I may have not liked the toll roads in Texas (got off at the next stop when I saw the prices YIKES!) but I couldn't have been happier with the park.  Like Wisconsin there was an out of state fee that was a bit outrageous at $6 per person per day.  In Wisconsin it is $11 per vehicle, not per person.  Imagine if you had a car with 4 people?  That would be $24 PER DAY added to your camping fee.  I'm not a fan of penalizing out of state visitors, I wish state parks would discontinue this practice and make the fees more even and fair.  I wish they would all do away with the sticker system altogether and just raise the camping fees a little and have our state tax budget do the rest.  Not likely in Wisconsin as Scott Walker got a budget to pass in 2015 that cut funding for parks and moved to make them self-funded.  So, fees keep going up which is okay because they were a bit lower on average than other states, but staff keeps getting cutting for the park system so the system isn't only taking away dollars but diminishing the experience opportunities for the public as well.

Not into cactus? The park had water as well! 

In case I haven't mentioned it here on the blog yet, I'm a big fan of the toiletry bag I got from LL Bean.  I use it camping and for my hotel stays, everything I need fits inside and I just unzip it and hang it on the back of the bathroom door!  I could fit my travel hair dryer and flat iron also, but I usually just toss them in the tote bag with my towel and change of clothes.  Worth every penny!

While driving past Waco we saw this -

Luckily there were a few clues in this mural that wraps the building of the Twisted Root Burger Company in Waco, Texas. The artist portrayed scenes from War of the Worlds, it might be one of the coolest murals I've seen to be honest.  Would have been cool watching it go up.

In Arkansas we stayed at Lake Catherine State Park.  Of course we arrived after dark and there were no hosts around to help so we had to try to figure things out on our own.  We reserved a yurt, and in the dark thought this was it.

It was freezing!  We had a small space heater that kept us from dying, but it was not a good night's sleep.  Katrina must have hated me that night.

As we were leaving in the morning we saw this...where we were supposed to stay.  I went to the office and got a refund on the price difference.  You know, having something hanging at the site saying it is reserved and who it is reserved for would have prevented this.  That is how things are done in Wisconsin state parks.  So, not very organized was my impression.

Speaking of cold nights, I'm done sleeping outside for the foreseeable future because it has been below freezing here for weeks now at night but with my job I'm away from home at least one night a week.  With my allergies I have to find hotel rooms that have windows that open more than an inch to air out the cleaning chemicals and carpet air freshener and most nights I sleep with the window open and with the heat off so it's almost like sleeping outside.  I strip the hotel bed, put down my dust mite cover and lay on top in my down sleeping bag.  Every time I wonder what the maids think when they come the next day!  Even with all that I toss and turn on the hard mattress and think about how much sounder I sleep outdoors with only a 2 inch air mattress between me and the ground...