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2019-The Year in Review


Here is our summary of all the places we have been in 2019.  I also wish to apologize for so few blog posts being written. Unfortunately, this also ties in with the fact we did not get to many places last year. We, especially Al, has had many more commitments on my days off that we could not go any place. I have spent the last 6 months trying to catch up on making the videos that will be going into as-yet unwritten posts.  You can view these on our YouTube channel.

We still did have fun though, we did get back to some of the festivals we have not been to in a long time. That included Bald Eagle Days in Prairie du Sac in January. We are returning this year too.

We also returned to Woodstock for Groundhog Day on Feb 2nd. This is one of our Favorite festivals and the fact that the movie was filmed here makes it even better!

We also made it to Middleton’s Mustard Festival in August. Thanks again for all of you that saved your mustard bottles, they made a fabulous hat that I proudly wore!

In September we made our first visit to Weiner and Kraut Day in Waterloo in 7 years. The highlight of the festival is the Weiner Dog parade. See it here.

We also went to a festival new to us, the Sorghum Festival in Fall River, also in September.  Sorgum is processed as an alternative sweetener that tastes like molasses.

Sorghum

 

 

We also got video of processing the sorghum to make the syrup. Similar to making maple syrup.

 

 

Education also took a front seat this year for both of us. In November/December Al went to Kick’s Unlimited for Karate. We have become friends with the many instructors there and I shared with them my old videos that I got of them over 10 years ago. I also got new video as well. Al tested for his Gold Belt on December 2nd and earned it! I learned a lot about the many forms done by all of the skill levels from white to black belt.

I took a class introducing me to resin art at Meant to Bead, my favorite beading store, located in Sun Prairie.  Thanks Erin for teaching me a new skill, I have many resin projects in mind for 2020!

I made these pendants with extras to make later.

The weather was excellent this holiday season and we took advantage of all of the fun Holiday events that took place those three weeks. We enjoyed our 4th visit to see the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train. See video here.

We also enjoyed Sun Prairie’s fire truck parade, Baraboo’s Lighted Parade, Holiday fantasy in Lights in Madison. We also made it back to the Rotary Lights in Janesville, or first visit there since 2015. A great Holiday season!

One favorite highlight of 2019 is our continued partnership with the Fever River Puppeteers in Hazel Green. I have made a video of each of their shows since September 2018 to help preserve them. Chuck and Sandye Voight would love to see you! I look forward to our visits there!

This year looks quite exciting, as we are planning to spend a week in Door County in mid-July. This will be our first trip there since 2011 and we plan on seeing everything we can!

Happy New Year to everyone. Please share our blog and subscribe, thanks!

 

The Evolution Hoodie by Coalatree


http://kck.st/2TdeDzH

One thing we have noticed during long trips where we are gone for at least 3 or 4 days is that things get dirty and there isn’t time for a laundromat in many cases since you are often going from Point A to Point B on a tight schedule.  I remember having to put warm cotton hoodies in the laundry bag and not being able to wash them mid-trip, not good!

We have found a solution to this problem by investing in this Kickstarter by Coalatree, a company making easy-care eco-clothing.   You can wash this hoodie in a sink in the evening and it’s ready to wear in the morning.

The Kickstarter expires April 18 so you should back them now to get the early bird prices.  The color choices are maroon, green. black and oatmeal. More colors may be available after the campaign ends. We look forward to wearing these in the fall, they will be ready to ship in September 2019.

Mousehouse Cheesehaus in Windsor


7-3-18  Celebrating 30 Years!

You can’t miss it as you leave Madison, heading north on I-90.  Take exit 131 and you are soon there.  This prime location has given them so many customers, they had to expand over the last year to keep up.

In the 70’s, the store was mostly a liquor store with some cheese. Tony’s parents owned it from 1988-1998, increasing the amount of cheese over liquor. Tony took over ownership of the Mousehouse Cheesehaus in 1998 from his parents and added homemade fudge in 2009.  I took this photo in 2010.  The mouse on top of the roof is named Igor. Hours are 8 AM-7 PM daily so plenty of time to stop in.

In 2016, before the expansion, CEO Tony Sobczak and Vice President Heather Smythe explained all that they do on a local Wisconsin program called, “Talk of the Town”. She has been there for 20 years!

July 2018

The expansion was completed in 2017 and there is room now for much more cheese and fudge! Read more about the expansion here.

The inside is just as amazing, bring a cooler because you are going to need it.  This is your one-stop shop for all things Wisconsin.

You can now watch Fudge and Cheese Curds being prepared through the new viewing windows. On the left is the fudge window, the right is the cheese room.  Stop in around noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays to see these confections being made! Separate prep rooms for the cheese and fudge ensures the highest quality for you, the customer!

Inside the Fudge room. Inside are 2 steam-jacketed kettles with stirrers to make the fudge creamy and smooth while cooking. It takes about 40 minutes for the fudge to be ready to pour and flavor. Read more on the fudge here.

In the Cheese room, you can watch cheese curds mixed with herbs and spices to give you many flavor choices.

 You can watch both cheese and fudge being prepared on Tuesdays and Thursdays at around 12:00 PM. The new viewing windows to the cheese and fudge kitchen are a hit with the kids too! These new kitchens ensure that your cheese and fudge are prepared with the utmost care and in a very clean environment. You can see how clean everything is!

Enjoy a tour of the store with me in the video below. You can taste all the cheese before you buy too. You can get pre-assembled gift boxes or choose your own selections for a custom box. Watch Megan make many varieties of delicious fudge right from the viewing window!           Also, see April mix many flavors of delicious cheese curds made that very morning! I’m getting hungry just watching.

You can also get sandwiches here, no need to go somewhere else for lunch or supper.  Igor’s Big Belly Deli can make prepare sandwiches to order to go or eat there in their dining room. Get 8-inch subs too, pre-made and ready to eat.  Menu here.

We hope you enjoyed touring the Mousehouse Cheesehaus.  Tony, Heather, and crew are happy to serve you and bring you the best cheese and fudge in Wisconsin!  Contact them here or come for a visit!

  • CONTACT INFORMATION
  • 4494 Lake Circle Windsor, WI 53598
  • Toll-Free: 800-526-6873
  • Local: 608-846-4455
  • Email at: customerservice@mousehousecheese.com

Photo by Mousehouse Cheesehaus

 

8 Hours in Chicago


1-30-18

Our highly anticipated trip to Chicago turned out to be a really great day filled with memories. We did it in a different way than in the past, we took the train in for half of the journey.  The closest Metra train station to Madison is in Harvard, IL  so we went there.  It is 1  1/2 hours away.

 The depot opens about 1/2 hour before the train leaves, you can get coffee and pastries too. This is the map of all of the Metra lines going into Chicago.

I have not ridden Metra since the 1980’s and Al never had. In Harvard, you take the Yellow line.  We took the 5:47 AM train, the first one on a weekday morning.  If you don’t get your tickets online, be prepared to pay cash for your fare on the train, the Conductor can make change. It costs $2 to park for the day in their lot, there is a kiosk to pay for that across from the depot.

We waited for the train, the setting moon lighting the scene.

On the train by 5:35 AM.  The inside of the train car, clean and comfortable.

 

We were entering the city around 7 AM and the Willis Tower came into view through the train car window. We were getting excited!

We arrived at the Ogilvie Transportation Center on time, what a big station! It was visible from the Willis Tower, the large black building on the left.

This was the first time we had ever seen a bustling weekday morning in Chicago. People burst out of the trains, hurrying to their jobs. One thing I noticed, the most common color of people’s coats was black.  We lingered in the station a few minutes to buy our return tickets, we had to be back on the train by 3:30 which departs at 3:45.

Al Kutil

 

This building is mostly glass and beautiful for a train station. It was built in 1984, designed by Helmut Jahn.  There is also shopping and restaurants here, especially great if you are on a layover to catch a connecting train or bus.  Almost blending in high in the glass atrium is an Elgin Clock keeping the passengers on time.

Al Kutil

A  side view of the clock on the left side.

It was time to make our way toward the exit, we were on a tight schedule! Here is a view of the crowd heading to the ground level on Madison St.

And here we are outside!

This building is HUGE, but not as big as where we were headed next, the Willis Tower a couple of blocks away. Across the street is Union Station.  It was funny seeing 5 cabs scurrying like mice after the light turned green.

We crossed the bridge and turned right, walking alongside the Chicago River. This plaque was on the bridge.

Sunrise was glinting off the building on the right, thousands of commuters hurrying to their towers for a day of work.

Much to our surprise, we saw a combination barge-tugboat Spartan, Spartan II from Ludington, Michigan traveling alongside us on the Chicago River. What a surprise! It was delivering a medium to keep dust to a minimum during construction projects. It turns out there are currently 47 new skyscrapers being built at this time!

Al Kutil

We continued toward the Willis Tower, it looked majestic in the morning sun, had to stop and look a minute.

See those projections on the outside of the building facing east? These are the Ledge™ boxes on the  Skydeck on the 103rd floor. A closer view.

We saw two food trucks across the street from the tower. BBQ Boss and Beavers  Doughnuts. See all Chicago food trucks here.

It was now 8:13 AM. The entrance Skydeck Chicago opens the doors to get in line at 9:30, we went in to wait and rest a bit.  The entryway is designed to protect people from ice falling off the building.

Photography is prohibited beyond the entrance (except the Skydeck) due to the many private businesses within the building. here is what little we could get. That’s Al on the left getting the businesses.

We waited from 8:30 to 9:30 on the lower level, several shops and small restaurants there. Sure we could have looked around town a bit in that hour but we didn’t want to get back late and then have a long like to contend with. We were right in front of the line. Promptly at 10:00 they opened. You have to put your belongings through a security scanner and walk through one first, then you can get your tickets.  We did that, then into the elevator line. We were on the first elevator up!  Since the express elevator was down for maintenance (knew that since watching Tripadvisor posts) we actually got out partway up and got into another elevator. We made it up to the Skydeck by  10:12 AM. We stayed up there until  12:30. Quite a few changes in the skyline since 2003 when we were last here. The Ledge™ was a lot of fun too! This was the picture they took with their camera installed in the ledge. You can get your pictures for $30 in the gift shop after you conclude your visit. A great memento for sure!

Another picture of the view looking northwest. It was a beautiful clear morning!

Video of our time there. You can also see it in the video on top of the page showing our entire day. Read the blog post just on the tower here.

We were out just after 12:30, three hours left of our day. We headed toward State Street. On the way, we came across the Flamingo sculpture. It has been in Federal Plaza since 1974. We also saw it from the tower. I am glad we saw this since it may be in danger of being removed.

We see The Berghoff restaurant on 17 West Adams St. Serving authentic German cuisine since 1898, it is a Chicago favorite!  Founder Herman Berghoff sold beer at the world’s fair in Chicago in 1893 and it led to the restaurant 5 years later.

We made it to State Street by 1:41 PM. We had not eaten yet and had little time so we stopped at Subway on State for a quick lunch.

We ate in 1/2 hour, by 2:10 we were back out. I could hear music just up ahead. We headed north and found out the source. A group of street musicians called Chicago Traffic Jam Band was jamming at the street corner. What a bonus to capture some authentic Chicago sound! They can also be hired to play at your venue!

See and hear them for yourself!

We stayed about 5 minutes but had to keep moving.

2:25 PM

We reach the famous Marshall Fields building, now Macy’s though to Chicagoans it will always be Marshall Fields.  At least the famous green corner clock is still there and the time is accurate. We didn’t have time to look inside, perhaps next time. I used to go to the soda fountain there when I was a kid, great memories!

And of course, the Chicago Theatre. I went to a great show there in 1993 with my Dad called, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour by Tom Stoppard. Here is what a similar view looked like then, Dad is on the left. Thanks for taking me to the show!

There were three plaques on the building, denoting it to be a landmark.

Across from the theatre is a Channel 7 webcam, here is the view it has.

Near here on 24 West Randolph St. is the Oriental Theater. You could call this section of Chicago their Broadway. And you see Broadway shows here as well.

Just past the Chicago Theatre is the “L” train on a track elevated above street level. It is part of the CTA, or Chicago Transit Authority. Our train actually went under their track (see video).

We got as far as Wabash and East Washington. The train went overhead there! This is the historic Jeweler’s Row District. Much fine bling to be had here!

3:06 PM

It was getting late and we had to get back to our train! We turned east while on West Washington and went by one of the sites of the Blues Brothers movie film, the Richard J. Daley Center.

See the scene below.

We go under the tracks we soon will  be riding on.  You can enter the Ogilvie Transportation Center under here.

3:30 PM

We are back! We got on the Union Pacific Northwest Metra back to Harvard with 15 minutes to spare!  We left at 3:45 PM sharp.  I got video with my phone pressed against the window to capture the views.

It was an enjoyable ride of almost two hours, passing through Woodstock. We crossed on the historic stone bridge as seen on the walking tour for the movie Groundhog Day. I was shooting video with my phone and caught the crossing on the way back. The first picture was taken last year.

Back in Harvard by 5:24. We had a wonderful day and hope to do it again!

To sum it all up, this was our walking route, courtesy of Google maps.