Saturday, February 28, 2009

lenting it up: ash wednesday reflection

In the center of downtown, right across from the municipal building attached to City Hall, sits Old Saint Mary Parish, apparently one of the oldest buildings downtown. Built in 1846, it's as old as the city itself.

Conveniently they had a 7 AM Ash Wednesday mass that I could hit before work. As an added bonus, one of the auxiliary bishops, Bishop Richard Sklba, was presiding over the service. Nothing like adding an extra dash of holy to one's Lent. (And as an extra added bonus he was quite dynamic and humorous).

The readings for Ash Wednesday '09 were Joel 2:12-18 and 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2. The Gospel was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, which is one of my fave passages about not flaunting your spiritual devotion. Bishop Sklba did note the irony of the fact that this reading asks us to not be blatant about our worship, yet the first thing Catholics do for Lent is plaster a huge smudge of ashes on their forehead. He emphasized though the community-aspect of this practice and also, of course, the self-reflection (in addition to the fasting) that Lent includes. He referred to Lent as "Christianity for Dummies," sort of a back-to-basics course. Since the basics are what I like about faith, I guess that's why I like Lent. He had two really good suggestions that I'm going to try and incorporate into my 40 days -- use this time to get organized (he mentioned ordering one drawer each day) and rebuild relationships with friends and family (letter-writing, emails, etc.).

As you can see from the photos, the church building itself is quite beautiful on the outside. Unfortunately I had to rush out after Communion and did not have time to linger and photograph the inside. I can assure you, it's gorgeous. Stained glass, gold inlays on the ceiling, somewhat imposing but still small enough to be much more intimate than the Cathedral. The only thing I'd change is the Robin's Egg Blue carpeting that looks like someone's grandmother's house in the '50s. I am curious as to who the regular parishoners are, as the Ash Wednesday crowd was quite the mix of downtown professionals of all ages and backgrounds.

Keeping downtown, tomorrow I'm going to hit up St. Benedict the Moor at 10 AM for the first Sunday of Lent. Hopefully I can post updates right away, as I have several Milwaukee adventures from today to write about (with pictures) as well.

For further reading, my friend Larissa wrote some pretty excellent reflections on the season over at her blog. Check it out!

milwaukee props: sustainable spirits

While Thursday night's libation of choice was beer, Friday ended up focused on spirits -- made right here in Milwaukee.

Our original plans canceled, Becky and I ended up checking out the Great Lakes Distillery tour with a group from FUEL Milwaukee. You may remember my raving about the Rehorst event earlier in the month, now I am completely sold. If I buy a bottle of vodka for my home use, it will only be Rehorst.

The tour hammered home not just their focus on quality and standards, but their commitment to sourcing local products for their creations. Ninety-five percent of money from a Rehorst brand purchase stays in the local economy.

I learned the reason they make a wheat vodka is because they can use Wisconsin-grown wheat. I learned that my favorite product, the Citrus & Honey Vodka is made with honey from Wisconsin Natural Acres in Chilton. The lemons are HAND-ZESTED, and while not grown in-state (for obvious reasons) are sourced via a locally-owned produce distributor.

I'm not a gin drinker, but they did sell me on the idea that "gin is just juniper-flavored vodka" and that non-gin drinkers like their product. I have to agree. The difference is they make theirs with ginseng (Wisconsin grown of course!) and sweet basil (sourced from The Spice House) instead of angelica root.

Apparently a very limited supply of their artisan series brandies -- Grappa (grapes grown in Wisconsin), Kirschwasser (distilled from Wisconsin wine) and the highly recommended Pear Eau-de-Vie (also distilled from Wisconsin wine) -- is available now. I'm anxious to sample. I'm also excited to try their absinthe rolling out soon.

Because of all sorts of antiquated post-prohibition laws and crazy distributor monopolies, they aren't allowed to sample at the distillery. Luckily the fabulous Iron Horse Hotel is across the street. We joined the group of about 40 people in The Library (it was great to snuggle up on the leather couches next to the fire place) for a taste test of the vodka, Citrus & Honey and the gin. My friend Kristen was there too and I got the scoop on upcoming Skylight shows (who wants to go to Pirates of Penzance with me this spring?).

Though we were craving fish fry, Becky and I decided not to brave the icy weather and just move on over to Branded to nosh. We each had the Billy Blue salad (Becks had salmon with hers) and split a HUGE bowl of House Chips. The chips are tastetastic and coated with Wisconsin Parmesan. We, of course, washed down our meal with Rehorst Citrus & Honey and tonic (after I established that tonic is not soda). Branded is a bit on the pricey side, but man, I have to say it's one of the coolest places in town. It completely succeeds at being swanky and unpretentious at the same time. I highly, highly recommend it. Hopefully one day I'll get to stay in a room there!

It's good to see places like Great Lakes Distillery and the Iron Horse putting Milwaukee on the map. Rumor has it that Sheryl Crow was hanging out at the Iron Horse this week, and then I ran into my friend Eric (in from California for the day to close on a house in Milwaukee) at the distillery. Okay, maybe not in the same category, but both can spread the word about what fantastic things are happening here.

milwaukee props: beer and cheese

While I agree that it's important for Milwaukee to position itself as MORE than just beer and cheese, I think it's equally as crucial for the city to highlight just how FANTASTIC its beer and cheese is. Especially since a California drought should help us regain our America's Dairyland title back from those obnoxious Happy Cows.

My activities on Thursday and Friday evening reminded me just how well-positioned Milwaukee is to stay ahead and hip as a cultural center for the beer, booze and cheese.

On Thursday I headed to the Milwaukee Public Market with my pals Larissa, Cynthia, Nora and Jim for the second annual Moo & Brew event, this year renamed "Moodi Gras" (and the reason I did not give up artisan cheese for Lent).

This was one of my favorite events in 2008 and I definitely give the 2009 version "two thumbs up," even if it was slightly scaled back from last year (stupid economy).

The event is pretty much heaven for beer and cheese lovers. And it also raises money for Hunger Task Force, so you can feel good about all the calories you consume. This year they worked to pair up the beer with complimentary cheeses, so it really was a party in your mouth.

We started at the Ale Asylum table. This brew out of Madison has been showing up at a lot of events lately. We sampled the Ambergeddon (best beer name EVER) and the Hopalicious. I preferred the former based on taste, name and badass logo. By the end of the night I was tempted to get it tattooed on my upper arm. Maybe it was because somehow I ended up with a whole bottle of it.

Next up was a sampling from Castle Rock Organic Farms out of Osseo, Wisconsin. They had two blue cheeses--regular and smokey--both cave aged (Lars was enamored that they had their own cave). The smokey was definitely a unique flavor and I'd be curious to experiment with it a bit more.


At the same table was a Roth Kase selection of Grand Cru Gruyere (yummy and I bet even yummier in fondue) and Solé Gran Queso (which the sales rep unfortunately called "Kway-soh"). I believe my favorite cheese, the Ostenbørg Chive and Horseradish Havarti was also at this table. I was too busy scarfing it to take a photo apparently.

Ready to wash these selections down, we headed over to the Great Lakes Brewing table. Out of Cleveland, these guys were sampling their Burning River Pale Ale and their Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. I've tried both before and both are excellent. The porter is extremely drinkable, and as Nora said would be perfect for a summer barbecue. Ah, summer.

Time for more cheese, and with a celebrity cheesemaker no less (okay, not really, but I did read about Marieke Penterman on a cheese blog). Hollands Family Farm from Thorp, Wisconsin makes several kinds of gouda and sampled three: regular, cumin and herb. All delicious, but the cumin was quite unique and would be a nice addition to a cheese party.

Next up, everyone's favorite local champ, Lakefront Brewery to wash down those flavors. Appropriately for the theme they sampled their seasonal Big Easy, as well as their Bock. In all my years as a Lakefront drinker I don't believe I've sampled the Bock, and I can't say that I was disappointed.

A truckload of cheeses followed, from Carr Valley Cheese in LaValle, Wisconsin. They experiment with a lot of cow, goat and sheep combos and produce some smashing results. We tried the Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar (spicy!), Apple Smoked Garlic Cheddar, Benedictine, Menage, Creama Kasa, and Gran Canaria. Many of Carr Valley's cheese have racked up awards and accolades and the cheese coma that followed proved it.

Luckily we hit a looooong line before the next stop and allowed the cheese to digest a bit.

We found out the reason for the long line was the chatty Furthermore rep, who remembered me from last year and my looooooooove of Fatty Boombalatty. I'll admit this Spring Green, Wisconsin brewery's Knot Stock, with its cracked pepper taste, did go better with the accompanying cheese, but man, I love me some Fatty.

He also teased me with an unopened bottle of their brand new Thermo Refur beer made with organic beets and black pepper. Sounds wild and amazing and is rumored to be at Comet now, but will be in liquor stores next week. Dying to find some!

Appropriately my favorite microbrew discovery from the '08 Moo & Brew was paired with my favorite cheesemaker discovery from last year. Sartori cheese was up next sampling three kinds of their totally original BellaVitano cheese -- Black Pepper, Raspberry and Gold. The Black Pepper and Knot Stock created a flavor explosion, however, the final sampling of their Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago was my "I need a block of this" cheese of the table.

Wrapping up the beer sampling was Unibroue, which granted is out of Quebec, but still a fave amongst us Wisconsinites. They were only sampling two of their many beers this year -- the Ephemere and Maudite. I jumped on the opportunity to have the appletastic Ephemere as I rarely find it while out and about.

The final cheese of the night came from Saxon Creamery in Cleveland, Wisconsin. We tried Pastures, Big Eds and Green Pastures -- all very original flavors. I think the latter was my fave out of this group. Jerry from Saxon had a really great story too of learning farming techniques from his late father-in-law Big Ed when he decided to become a cheesemaker.

I did miss the cooking demonstration and cheese book signing they had last year, as well as the inclusion of Madison's Potter's Crackers. The crowd was a bit more diverse this year, with the addition of suburbanites and weird girls with matching tights.

Hopefully the Public Market will capitalize this on this sold out event and make it more than an annual thing. Barring that though, see you next year!

girl on film: i'm just not that into chick flicks edition

Today, the last Saturday in February, I am finally getting around to writing a post about my embarrassing activity the first Saturday of February. My partner in crime, Ms. Quarter, over at A Quarter Century in the Cream City accomplished her end of our team-blogging bargain just four days after our outing. I am one giant slacker.

To refresh your memory, we both sacrificed our "no chick flicks" rule earlier in the month for a girls night out to see He's Just Not That Into You. I will fully admit to reading the book a few years back (though I wish I could remember who I lent my copy to) and enjoying it. The movie, however, made me want to drown myself in a bucket of Yoplait and/or blind myself with papercuts from Oprah's books.

I'll also admit that my recollection of the movie (I refuse to refer to it a "film" outside of this post's header) was pretty much repressed the next morning, nevermind three weeks later. Whilst Ms. Quarter explained the "threw up in my mouth a little" love luv stories of the flick, I'll do my best to explain the "tragic," bizarre love triangle (not as awesome as the New Order song) between Jennifer Connelly (still not sure why she was in this movie), Scarlett Johansson (herein referred to as ScarWhore), and Bradley Cooper (herein referred to as Douchey McDoucherton).

In one of the movie's opening scene's we meet ScarWhore's character, who is pretty much the same character she's played in the last few things I've seen her in. This time her name is "Anna" and she's a struggling singer, looking to make it big -- in Baltimore (?!?). Instead of collaborating with Dan Deacon, she opts to hit on record executive (?) or talent agent (not real sure what his actual job is, but of course he's really, really successful at it) Mr. McDoucherton, whom she meets in the grocery store line after she wins a cooler for being the 100th customer of the night or something like that. After some flirtation Douchey explains that he's married and ScarWhore coquettishly explains that she's just looking out for her career. Of course their networking relationship rapidly blossoms into him stalking her at the yoga class she teaches, her skinnydipping at the yoga center pool and then (surprise?!?) him strategically wrapped in her purple bedsheets.

In the meantime we meet Connelly's character who works with Aniston and Goodwin (see Ms. Quarter's summary on those two). I believe the last time I saw Connelly in a movie theater she was performing sexually deviant acts for heroin, this time she's the married lady with sage advice for the office singles. She is also renovating a brownstone and a fervent anti-smoker (her dad/grandpa (?) died of lung cancer!!). For the first chunk of the film her husband is an offscreen presence, who she is becoming suspicious of due to remnants of cigarettes she finds around the construction site.

I would include a "SPOILER WARNING" here, but I assume if you are reading my blog you are NOT an idiot (like the multitude of theatergoers who actually *gasped* at this reveal). At any rate, guess who Connelly's husband is? OMG, it's Douchey! But she trusts him and he's been banging ScarWhore. The horror!! The surprise!

Throughout Act II we watch Mr. & Mrs. D's relationship unravel. She becomes a caricature of "the nagging wife" and even feminist-minded ladies may be like "well, duh, of course he'd cheat on her." Um, yeah, not what I thought the point of the movie was. But then again, this was about as "Girl Power" as the Spice Girls. Their arguments about smoking become some sort of shallow metaphor for the cheating (because this target audience will feel really smart "getting" a metaphor). Of course Douchey tells ScarWhore he's leaving his wife, and tells Connelly he's cheating while they're on a shopping trip to Home Depot.

During Act III, Connelly tries to save her marriage through sex. Right, because, that's a really empowering message to send to women. "Comically," she shows up at Douchey's office to seduce him while he's already having a "session" with ScarWhore (who just landed a recording contract, let's f*ck!). ScarWhore happens to be wearing a negligee under her sundress, but wait, Connelly is wearing sexy lingerie too! What to do? Throw ScarWhore in the office closet while you get it on with your wife for two hours. All that time and ScarWhore doesn't get dressed, but instead runs out crying in her skivvies after Connelly splits.

What can a jilted mistress do? Well in Act IV she can hook up with poor sap Kevin Connolly, covered in more "depth" (because these characters are sooo deep) by Ms. Quarter. Here comes another twist in this movie -- SHE'S just not that into HIM. Ouch. After he tries to buy a condo for them she runs away.

Around the same time, Jennifer Connelly finally runs away from Douchey, who it is implied is still stalking going to yoga. The final straw is her finding a pack of American Spirits in his pocket, which prompts her to break a mirror (now she'll never get back to the Labyrinth!) and toss his clothes down the stairs.

During the credits we learn that ScarWhore is going on a yoga pilgrimage to India (maybe she can time travel and end up one of Akbar's concubines) and Connelly is enjoying her new single life (and rehanging a patched up mirror -- too bad she already brought seven years of bad luck upon herself). So yes, the flick ends teaching us that apparently yoga and home decorating are what single ladies can do to get by.

Aren't you glad I summarized that for you?

And in case you're wondering how I survived two hours of crap, the occasional redeeming tune would pop up on the soundtrack. It was quite bizarre to hear the Talking Heads, Wilco (A.M. Wilco no less!) and The Replacements pop in above all the terrible dialogue. Unfortunately there was no "Dance Magic" (or Bowie in spandex for that matter).

WTFisconsin: Save Film Incentives

I blogged last week about my dismay at Governor Doyle cutting Wisconsin's film incentives from this year's budget. 

Luckily thanks to groups like Film Wisconsin and Milwaukee Film, concerned folks are banding together to contact their legislators to tell them this action is not okay. Film Wisconsin posted some excellent talking points to their Facebook group and Milwaukee Film sent a link to the Arts Wisconsin page that explains how to contact your representatives.

With time being "of the essence" I didn't worry about crafting the perfect letter, but just shot this one off to the governor, with some modifications for my representatives, Sen. Jeff Plale and Rep. Jon Richards.

Dear Gov. Doyle,

As a young professional and member of the "Creative Class," I was shocked to hear that you proposed cutting one of the most innovative programs in this state -- the incentives for the film industry in Wisconsin.

Cutting this program would be devastating to hundreds of people that this state needs to retain. The economy has already offed thousands of traditional manufacturing jobs, why use the state budget to unnecessarily kill occupations in a viable industry?

It seems extremely short-sighted to axe a new program after one year. Especially a year when a major motion picture, several television shows, and commercials were filmed in Wisconsin. With your emphasis on education, I'm surprised you'd want to eliminate an industry that many institutes of higher learning have adapted curriculum and created training programs to support. Do you really want to drive educated workers OUT of Wisconsin?

I understand that the budgeting process is a delicate one, but Governor, I believe you overlooked much potential when you switched the tax incentives to a grant program. Unfortunately the grants fall incredibly short and would not have any of the impact of the tax incentives. I urge you to reconsider cutting the incentives and encourage Wisconsinites to get back to work in the business of film. Please recall what you said when you signed the incentives into law: "Filmmaking is part of manufacturing in the 21st century…and Wisconsin will serve a valuable role in manufacturing film.”

Join the next generation of Wisconsinites in keeping Wisconsin in the 21st century.

Kind regards,
Meghan Arnold
 If you care about the future of Wisconsin's economy and its positioning to attract and retain talent, I highly recommend you send a similar message.

Friday, February 27, 2009

early to bed...

Lovely evening tonight with Becky checking out the Great Lakes Distillery and Iron Horse Hotel. I'll hopefully have time to update this weekend (pretty low-key), but now I'm going to go lay in bed, watch tv and wake up early to run some Couch to 5k.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

WTFisconsin: Literally

Clearly the Wisconsin Tourism Federation has not gotten up to speed on social media. Or even AIM. Dude, seriously, WTF?

Do you think they have t-shirts?

That's the best thing I've heard since I learned about Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School or GET High in the western part of the state. My dad actually found about that on a business trip to Arizona.

I could lament more, but I'm off to stuff my face with beer and cheese.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

lenting it up: ash weds.

Successfully got up and went to Mass at Old Saint Mary Parish this morning. Reflections and photos coming tomorrow. Going to bed though a little bummed. Apparently my alma mater gave up winning basketball games for Lent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

lenting it up: getting serious

Last year I skipped Lent. I missed Ash Wednesday mass due to our 22" blizzard and Good Friday for a 13 incher. I don't remember what I gave up.

This year, being in spiritual purification mode, I'm really going to make an effort to reflect and do things the right way.

As you may know, Lent is, in sum, "the 40-day season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving." I figure I should focus on those in my Meghan way.

Prayer: What better time to revisit the yet visited Milwaukee Challenge? I'm going to start with Ash Wednesday Mass at Old Saint Mary Parish tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. Hopefully I can keep up the momentum.

Fasting: I am pretty sure the "fasting" part is where "giving stuff up" comes in, in addition to the whole no meat on Fridays or Ash Wednesday thing. So what am I giving up? I feel like I should always give up something physical and something a little more abstract. That said, I'm giving up soda (loaded up on Coca-Cola at dinner tonight) and Facebook-stalking (only 40 days, only 40 days). Guess what is going to be more difficult?

Almsgiving: This may be tricky, as I just dropped a ridiculous amount of money on my little incident last weekend and am getting hit with a $60 bill for a Q-Tip from when I got a strep swab a few weeks back. However, I think I'm going to pool at least some leftover cash for a good cause this Lent. Any suggestions? I'd like to keep it local.

What are you giving up for Lent? Even if you're not Catholic, it's a good season for self-reflection.

30 by 30: Couch to 5K

After having several friends talk up the ease of the Couch to 5k Running Program, I decided to try it for myself. I'm now in Week 2, and kind of enjoying it.

A couple of weeks ago I went to InStep in the Third Ward (also at the recommendation of several friends), and bought fancy new running shoes. I actually don't know if I've ever owned ACTUAL running shoes before. Definitely cross-trainers and basketball shoes, but this may be a new journey for me completely. The nice thing about running shoes is that my feet no longer kill when I run. So it's not that terrible.

I also bought a heart rate monitor to help me track my progress.

Well, I'm only on the second week, so it's not awful yet. The treadmills at the WAC are different than going outside too, I suppose.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

If anyone has tips, please leave them in the comments below.

thankful tuesdays: i'm a girl again edition

Once upon a time I was a young and innocent nerd.

That's me on the right, with the mom jeans. I was 15 (Embarrassment courtesy of my pal Lindsey via Facebook), and it was 1995. Don't judge.
Anyway, back when I was young and idiotic innocent I used to have all sorts of fantastical ideas and emotions about life, love and happiness. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps.
It seems like over the past few years, jaded too much by life, I've transferred that habit of seeing meaning in every little thing out of real life and into watching LOST. Lately though, I've been surprising myself. I've been getting excited about life. I've been girly about some things. It's weird. I vaguely remember this Meghan and I guess after a long coma, she's back. 
And I'm kind of thankful I'm not really a heartless robot.
That's me in the middle, making much better fashion choices 14 years later.

Monday, February 23, 2009

girl on film: nyc teen romance edition

It just so happened that my Netflix queue spit up back-to-back "coming of age" flicks centering around music and teens in New York City to my mailbox on Saturday.

I'll keep this short, but DO watch The Wackness and NEVER watch Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

The former will make an indie-rock loving gal like myself love mid-'90s hip-hop and the latter will make me HATE my music choices du jour.

I also am really grateful I went to high school in the 1990s. If kids today are really that grotesquely sexual as in Nick & Norah (even though The Wackness was more sexually candid) I fear for the future.

monday munchies: brunchfest

Experienced a double-brunch weekend this past one: Saturday at Brocach and Sunday at the Original Pancake House (which I find so ironic that it's a chain, therefore unoriginal). No offense to my wonderful company on Sunday, but the Brocach experience wins hand's down in terms of food, drinks and service.

Yes, the blueberry pancakes at OPH were pretty darn tasty, but they weren't mindblowing. Apparently everyone else's food was completely unsatisfying. I don't understand why there's a 15-30 minutes wait. And everyone there looks like extras from Children of the Corn donned in the LL Bean catalog, kinda creepy.

Brocach on the other hand, was fantastic. Our waitress was incredibly enthusiastic about working there. The Bloody Marys and Mimosas were 2-for-1. The menu offered vegetarian substitutions for almost every dish. I got biscuits and gravy for the first time probably since I stopped eating red meat in 1994. How? Mushroom gravy! Freaking delicious. Huge serving and had plenty of leftovers for later. Highly, highly recommend brunches at this place.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

classic meghan story: my top 3 lockouts

#1. Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - Brixton, London, England

I'd spent four glorious days and nights in London and was off for a three-day jaunt through South Wales. The evening before I'd spoken with my Welsh friend, Klem, and made arrangements to meet him in the early evening and to meet his friend, Amy, for a tour of Bath in the afternoon where I could switch trains. I was then to meet Klem and a gaggle of Welsh hippies and journey to a hippie commune and stay in a yurt. Unfortunately the night before my London host, John the Scottish Bastard, had decided to pull out all the stops on our budding affair and I became a complete brainless idiot when leaving the flat in the morning. I forgot to do a full check of my belongings (like a wallet), before walking out of the self-locking door.

Here's the actual journal entry scribbled on the last train to Brigend that evening, after just passing Bristol:
Absolute nightmare of a day, I suppose to offset the wonderfulness of last night [Editor's Note: BARF!]. Am presently en route to Brigend, was supposed to have arrived an hour and a half ago after spending the day in Bath. Due to locking wallet in flat on way to train station, spent morning walking to London as didn't have more than £4 in pocket and feared getting back. More on that later...
[Editor's Note: No one ever needs to read the sappy romance novel description of my evening in London that is described in between these passages]

...Guess my head was too in the clouds this morning because I locked my wallet, as mentioned earlier. Walked nearly 8 miles, but was not sure if wallet was in flat or fell out of pocket.
[Editor's Note: it was in the flat. I walked to retrieve the keys from John at work. He was in a meeting when I'd spent some of my spare change on a phone call.] Then had to return keys back to Tower Place before heading to Paddington to get first train out. Hope much that Klem got voicemails. If not, hope mood is not pissed off when I arrive 2 1/2 hours late. Also -- hope someone is there.
Apparently I was also too twitterpated at the time to describe the eight miles of South London I experienced. As I recall, it was basically like walking through the World Showcase at Epcot Center, except I don't remember any Canadians.
...Arrived in Brigend on a dark, rainy night Tuesday night. Slowly the few travelers from my train found their rides and I stood hopeful and anxious looking for any signs of my companions. After about 1/2 an hour of being asked if I needed a taxi, I called Klem, who thought that was the original plan. He instructed me to take a cab to a pub called The Pelican in Ogmore-by-Sea. The driver told me "My missus was born there" and pointed out some local features that were enveloped in darkness as we pased. The "village" or wherever I was dropped off was this pub and a couple odd cottages scattered about. Save for the electric lighting and cars in the carpark, I wouldn't have thought I was still in this century. Walked inside weighted down by my large red backpack. No sign of Klem. Decided to grab a pint while I waited. Asked if they had a phone. Of course not. The elfin bartender offered me the use of his mobile, but I passed for the meantime and opted for a Guinness. Klem arrived as the head on my beer settled. He got a pint and we grabbed a table and caught up for a bit. I felt terrible because he had gone to the station at 4 and I was discovering to get to town was no easy feat...
I ended up staying with Klem's family instead of at the commune, which worked out just fine. True I'll never be able to stay that I slept in a yurt in the Welsh countryside, but not many people can stay they slept in a 400-year-old farmhouse with warming stones placed in their antique sofa bed.

#2. Wednesday, April 25, 2007 - Brewers Hill, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Frantically trying to get my laundry done so I could pack for my big trip to Coachella Music & Arts Festival the next evening, my mind was going about 15 different directions. I took a shower and just threw on my robe to go grab my last load out, well after midnight. I'd been waiting for the critical socks and underwear supply to finish so I could go to bed. My roommate, Maribeth, was over at her boyfriend's house that night, so I had the music blaring and could walk around in my robe unawkwardly. Since it was so late I decided no one else in my building would see me if I scooted across the hall in the robe either.

Well I didn't account for the fact that I failed to check the lock on our self-locking door and dropped my laundry basket in horror as the handle refused to turn. Yeah, I was pretty much naked in the hallway. Luckily I had some shorts and a tiny tank top mixed in with the sock load and changed in the laundry room, keeping the robe on as cover. I wandered to our lobby and waited for the first person to pass. Of course my phone and everything was in the apartment. Regardless, I knew no one's number by heart except that of my boyfriend at the time, Phil. I only knew the area code on Mar's number and that wasn't going to do me any good. Some poor guy getting home late lent me his cell and I called Phil, who miraculously picked up. He took a cab over (he didn't have a car either) and we went to his house. I called work and scheduled a couple hours of personal time in the morning.

I walked home the next morning in a hodgepodge of Phil's clothes and his boots. The plan was to wait for the office to open at 8:30 or hope that Maribeth stopped home before then. I got in the building when someone was leaving for work and camped out in front of our door, with my forgotten laundry, listening to my alarm clock beeping on the other side of the wall. Mar sympathetically shook her head and let me back in when she arrived around 7:30. I hastily packed and hauled ass to work to get something done before my early evening flight. I ran home at 4:30, grabbed my bags and went with my friend Keiker to the airport. Flew to Minneapolis and was boarding the flight to LA listenening to guys behind me talk about Coachella when it hit me. The thought was like the movie zoom-in, with DA DUM DA in my head. MY TICKETS!! On my bulletin board in my bedroom. Called Maribeth before take off and had her FedEx them to the condo we were staying at. Had to buy a scalper ticket for Friday because it was too late to get overnight. $80 for the scalper ticket and then $60 for the FedEx. One expensive lockout, or so I have always believed, until...

#3. Friday, February 20, 2009 - Downtown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I'd spent the whole evening cleaning and primping in anticipation. I was meeting friends at the MAM After Dark / Cedar Block event, and one particular friend I was particularly looking forward to seeing. So focused on not having my apartment like a craphole I lugged three bags of garbage and two boxes to recycle out the self-locking backdoor and slammed it shut. Damn I looked fabulous locked out this time. Again without a phone or cash.

My helpful neighbor tried to get the apartment manager's number for me, but it didn't work. I tried getting in my front door, but no luck. Luckily my friend Mandi was waiting for me at Buckley's and we called her friend to get a locksmith number. The turnaround time was less than half hour for someone to come out, but $180 later (and only $80 allowed to put on my credit card, they were real shady about being paid in cash -- later Googling shows that Dependable Locks is one big scam. DAMMIT) I finally got back into my apartment.

My "A" game was gone by the time I got the museum, but ended up having a fabulous weekend anyway -- and a great conversation piece to carry me through.

Lessons learned: Self-locking doors are evil, boys are distracting and give your friends a spare key.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

WTFWisconsin: This Film is Not Yet Rated

Last year film geeks and economic development geeks alike were really jazzed that the State of Wisconsin passed tax incentives to attract major motion picture production to our state.

Apparently the governor has now proposed the young program be axed from this year's budget.

Hopefully state legislators can keep it in.

I will have more of an opinion once I learn a bit more about what can be done, but straight up this sucks. Wisconsin's old industries are dying and we need to think out-of-the-box. Also, a year-old program should be allowed to have some breathing room. Especially with film. I mean a writer's strike crippled the industry for half of last year. Give it some time to grow.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

thankful tuesdays: happy birthday kathleen!

Today is the 29th birthday of a very special lady in my life, my best friend, Kat.

I am very fortunate to know a lot of amazing people, but with all due respect to them Kat is the most amazing person I know.

Life has thrown her some of the most incredibly horrible situations that life can possibly throw at one person -- in just 29 years. It's not fair. Period. But Kat has overcome it, never once placing blame on God or astrology, but instead plodding forward, using the experiences to make her a better, wiser, stronger person.

All of us are so proud of the woman she's become. I know I wouldn't be the woman I am without her support and her co-conspirating over the past 15 years. The last half my life would have been pretty dull if I didn't have Kat to scheme with me.

Even though we are thousands of miles apart, I always know I can shoot the "Kat-Signal" into the sky and she'll be there to support me in an instant. I am so grateful to have such an incredible friend.

Happy birthday Kathleen!!

Monday, February 16, 2009

no sleep til laundry

Not quite as cool as Brooklyn, but I'm exhausted and waiting for my laundry to finish. No blogging tonight. Sorry guys.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

sunday catch up: i owe posts

Still terribly behind on posts. Here's what I owe:
One thing of note I can tell you though is what my February resolution has been. You may recall January's: Don't go to bed with dishes on the sink. February's is: use the stairs at work, unless carrying something heavy.

Any suggestions for March?

Friday, February 13, 2009

weekending: celebrating singlehood edition

This will be my first in three Valentine's Days celebrating solo. I am actually breathing a huge sigh of relief at that. If I don't have an amazing weekend I have no one to blame but myself (or my dear Golden Eagle Warriors if they can't pull one out tomorrow).

Tonight I will be amazingly depressed. I am going with some friends to see Antony & The Johnsons at the Pabst Theater. I'm guessing it will be an early night because after the show three years ago I went home, crawled into the fetal position and sobbed. It's gonna be great!

No, seriously I absolutely love Antony's hauntingly beautiful music and the weeping is pretty damn cathartic.

Tomorrow I'll start with yoga, and then I hope to go get some running shoes at InStep (seriously considering starting the Couch to 5K program). I'll maybe head up to Atomic for one last visit. I can't make the Atomic Valentine show, but you should go if you can.

In the evening I'll be going to the Marquette vs. St. John's basketball game and getting an Al McGuire Statuette. Afterward, my favorite single ladies and I will be tearing it up at the Get Down: Hook Up or Throw Up at Mad Planet.

Sunday I'm guessing will be recovery.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TONIGHT: Car-Free LoveFest!

It begins with the final public meeting on the Milwaukee Connector Study from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Harbor Lights Room. "Transit corridors throughout Milwaukee County will be evaluated, focusing on bus rapid transit and streetcar vehicles. You are invited to attend an open-house public information scoping meeting to review and comment on the project scope, schedule, study area, routes and more."

After that's got your juices flowing, head over to the Bike Federation of Wisconsin's Love Your Bike Party at Lakefront Brewery from 7-11 p.m. "A party for anyone who loves bicycles! Join the Bike Fed for a night of socializing and celebration!" There is a bike-themed silent auction, including a bike art auction. Plus food, and FREE BEER. The party costs $15 or $5 if you contribute Bike-Art (must be framed if picture) OR it's FREE if you are a first-time Bike Fed Member ($25).

Yes, it should be a fun night and you should leave being completely enthralled with alternate forms of transportation. Forget that day two days later, February 12 is when you can love yourself and the environment.

Will I see you there?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

midweek check-in

Thanks to everyone who passed around my "I Heart Milwaukee" post. I hope to see some more of them start popping up out there.

It's a busy week here at AWHQ.

Monday: Played racquetball at the West Allis WAC with my buddy Phil G. Had a little flat tire adventure on the way home.

Tuesday: Walked home after picking up Andrew Bird Noble Beast CD at Central Library. Had hoped to match Ms. Quarter's Team Blog on He's Just Not That Into You. Instead ran into my friend Ben and grabbed a $5 martini at Buckley's. Then had a quick appointment at East Town Spa next door. Then had to meet my friend Joan at Brocach to use another gift certificate. More on this coming later.

Tonight I hope to finish those outstanding blogs and possibly do some more laundry before heading to Becky's for LOST.

I also have to fill you all in on the events of this weekend. Should be great times!

Running out of time, but don't forget tomorrow is the Milwaukee Connector meeting at the Harbor Lights, followed by the the Bike Fed's Love Your Bike Party at Lakefront. See you there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

thankful tuesdays: global warming edition

I am really thankful for 60 degree days in February. I am thankful to the polar bears that likely sacrificed their lives so that I could enjoy a respite from the winter doldrums.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I Heart Milwaukee!

National Geographic's Traveler Magazine focuses on cities this month. But your typical "it" towns of Shanghai, Montreal, London, get the gist. However, they're asking for input from readers to represent their city. Show it some LOVE if you will. So below is what I'm sending in for Milwaukee. I encourage you to do the same!

Milwaukee is My City.

The first place I take a visitor from out of town is to our beautiful Lakefront (parks, beaches and festivals in the summertime, or maybe just  Lakefront Brewery in the winter (well also in summer, I won't lie).)

When I crave the best wings on the planet earth I always go Points East Pub. Affordable drinks, a friendly staff and usually live music in the backroom.

To escape the
city streets I head for a bike ride on the superb Oak Leaf Trail. There's over 100 miles of bicycle trails in Milwaukee County alone and you can link into other trail systems to seemingly ride forever!

If I want to
see a great movie I go to the beautiful Oriental Theatre, or its sister, the Downer Theatre. Both work with Milwaukee Film for unique screenings by local and international filmmakers and participate in our film festival.

For complete quiet, I can hide away
in the future "Milwaukee's Central Park". Bring your bike, dog, hiking shoes, camera. It's so peaceful here you forget you're just a couple miles from downtown.

If you come to my city, get your picture taken with
the Bronze Fonz (just don't call it "art").

If you have to order one thing off the menu from
Beans & Barley it has to be the chicken salad plate. I've never once been disappointed, nor seen anywhere in the world incorporate so many vegetables into one meal.

The Milwaukee Public Market is my one-stop shop for great gourmet cheeses, artisan bakery, fresh deli and produce year-round.

Locals know to skip
Water Street and check out Brady Street, the Third Ward, Riverwest or Bay View instead. Milwaukee has so many diverse neighborhoods, pretty much one for every personality type.

When I'm feeling cash-strapped I go to
any of Milwaukee's free summer music events -- Jazz in the Park, River Rhythms, Chill on the Hill -- just to name a few. I'll also never miss the quarterly Gallery Night - a fantastic night on the town with all the art you can handle for free.

For a huge splurge I go
to any of Milwaukee's independently owned boutiques--two faves are Boutique Vieux et Nouveau and Lela.

Photo ops in my city include
the Santiago Calatrava-designed Milwaukee Art Museum and the best vantage points are from a boat on Lake Michigan, the Discovery World museum, or neighboring parks.

If my city were a celebrity it'd be
Mickey Rourke, poised for a comeback.

The most random thing about my city is
it is home to the largest four-faced clock in the world (Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock).

My city has the most
charmingly aloof men.

My city has the most
fun-loving women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves hiking (or snow-shoeing in the winter) part of our miles of trails; canoeing, kayaking or sailing in one of our many waterways (or ice skating on them in winter); playing a round of beach volleyball at Bradford Beach; then going for a sunset or moonlit stroll along the lake.

My city's best museum
is the Milwaukee Art Museum. The architecture is impressive, but the collections and special exhibitions will blow you away.

My favorite jogging/walking route is
along the Lakefront (I can't give the preservation of this public space enough props) from downtown all the way up to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

For a night of dancing, go to
'80s Night at Mad Planet (not your typical '80s night, this skews toward alternative, industrial and deep cuts). Or, for live music, check out the beautiful and historic Pabst Theater, Riverside Theater and Turner Hall Ballroom.

Pizza Shuttle is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what's going on at night and on the weekends, read (And of course The Accidental Wisconsinite!) Also make sure you're twittering with the right folks. Milwaukee has a solid creative community leveraging social media to get the conversation started.

You can tell a lot about my city from
the dedication of its sports fans

You can tell if someone is from my city if they
are ridiculously nice and can drink you under the table.

In the spring you should walk Milwaukee's unique neighborhoods, catch a early-season Brewers game at Miller Park (don't forget to tailgate), and people watch on the first warm day sitting outside at Alterra at the Lake.

In the summer you should
hit up Milwaukee's plethora of festivals and free music events (including Summerfest, the world's largest music festival), create a brilliant meal from locally-grown produce found at our city's numerous farmer's markets, and experience the wonder that is the Wisconsin State Fair.

In the fall you should
drive to Elegant Farmer for apple and pumpkin picking, head over to Madison for a Badger Football game, and back to Milwaukee for a Packer party on Sunday (because who can get tickets to Lambeau, really?). The bars really get creative with the latter, my favorite from this season was The Bomb Shelter bar serving bear meat at halftime during the game against Chicago.

In the winter you should
explore Milwaukee's magical one-of-a-kind pubs and taverns like Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall and Paddy's Irish Pub. Not a drinker? Escape to the tropics and the desert at the Mitchell Park Domes.

A hidden gem in my city is
the Urban Ecology Center. Not only does this incredible organization do wonderful educational work (connecting inner-city kids with nature), but it's a fantastic asset to the community and visitors alike. There's usually an interesting hands-on program regarding the environment or sustainability going on, and if you're a member you can borrow equipment (from drills to skis to kayaks for free). The "super-green" building at the Riverside location alone is worth the visit -- plus where else can you slide into a community center?

For a great breakfast joint try
the Café at the Plaza in the Plaza Hotel. Charming old school dining counter and open kitchen and in the summer they have the most adorable courtyard area. Huge portions at affordable prices, it tastes like your grandma is making you breakfast.

Don't miss the
Locust Street Days festival in June, the quintessential neighborhood festival. One of Milwaukee's nicknames is "The City of Festivals" so there's usually a church festival, a neighborhood festival and a large ethnic or music festival happening every weekend in the summer.

Just outside my city, you can visit
historic Cedarburg. With several boutiques, a winery, and even a crepe shop, this town is the definition of "quaint," and a great place to take parents. 

The best way to see my city is
walking the length of the ever-expanding Riverwalk. You can walk from the harbor, through downtown and into developing residential areas.

If my city were a pet it would be a
loyal hunting dog. It may seem to loll about sometimes, but it'll surprise you at times  and run after some birds with the gusto of a young pup.

If I didn't live in a city, I'd live (where?) -
in the Welsh countryside, as I can't imagine living in an American suburb.

The best book about my city is
The Making of Milwaukee by local historian John Gurda. I'm not sure of any fiction books that are set here. But we win the classic television category hands down with Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is
"Roll Out the Barrel." Seriously, what other MLB team includes a polka after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame?".

If you have kids, you won't want to miss
the Discovery World Museum. Hands-on exhibits, a to-scale replica of the Great Lakes, an authentic tall ship and a splendid aquarium provide fun for adults too.

The Santa Cycle Rampage could only happen in my city. Sure other cities have Santa events, but do they include biking in the snow, brewery tours, shotskis and polka seranades?

My city should be featured on your cover or website because
Milwaukee is a vastly underappreciated gem. I am a transplant from "urban darling" Portland, Oregon and I think Milwaukee has got it goin' on.

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