Chilly Lake

Lake Michigan Jan 22

There was one positive thing to come out of this freezing cold morning. The temperature was -2 degrees when I left for work, but Lake Michigan made up for it. It was so cold out, the lake was steaming as the sun was coming up. It was one of these rare, beautiful moments when Milwaukeeans actually stop their cars on the way to work to look at the lake. I only got one shot on the iphone because it was COLD!!!



North Point Lighthouse

North Point LighthouseAfter a brief blog hiatus, I’m back and ready to ward off the winter blues with a little Milwaukee exploration. It’s been a strange Wisconsin winter, yo-yoing back and forth between days that feel like spring and stretches of time with all of the cold but none of the snow. I’ve finally acquired all of the winter gear necessary for a Wisconsinite to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but (and I can’t believe I’m complaining about this…) there’s no snow!!

Back in December, we caught a break and had a day with snow on the ground and a cold-but-not-too-cold temperature. I had a Groupon for a tour of the North Point Lighthouse in Lake Park that was mere days from expiring, so the Koprowski’s + 1 braved the cold and went on the tour.

Preserved and maintained since 2002 by a not-for-profit organization called View From North Point LighthouseNorth Point Lighthouse Friends, this tiny lighthouse has played an important role Milwaukee’s history. I don’t normally associate Milwaukee with its maritime role, but the tour/mini history lesson we received was quite interesting. We snagged a docent who navigated us through their small museum collection, including lighthouse artifacts, the Fresnel lens and shipwreck history. I learned that the Appomattox, one of the largest vessels ever built for the Great Lakes, sank just off of Atwater Beach in 1905, a few blocks east of my apartment in Shorewood. It’s one of the less glamorous stories I’ve heard (apparently the ship hit the rocky shoreline, and despite valiant efforts to free her over the span of two weeks, they finally just had to abandon ship and let her sink…), but it’s a Shorewood shipwreck all the same.

North Point StairsOf course, the best part of any tour is always climbing the tower. As we spiraled upward, we reached a landing with a slippery metal ladder leading up to the top. Cursing my decision to wear boots with heels, the docent’s taunting comment of “brides climb this ladder in their dresses without a second thought” urged me onward and upward. Even my dad made it up 🙂

It’s a beautiful view of Lake Michigan and the coast, with a nice little side of history. Interestingly enough (or sad enough…?) I drive past that lighthouse every morning and night on my way to and from work, and I’d never seen it before. Who knew?


Christine and Jeff - Lighthouse

Up North in Yooper Territory – Iron River, MI

Rainbow Over Lake HagermanOne of my first memories is of walking over the bumpy sand in the shallow lake water in Eagle River, WI where my family used to rent a cabin every summer. We would take a week in the Northwoods to fish, swim, grill out, hike and listen to my dad read ghost stories aloud to us at night. As my brothers and I got older, it was more and more difficult to find a week to get away.

Flash forward to 10+ years later. A gracious family friend let us stay in their cabin just across the border into Michigan. Just into Yooper territory 🙂  We First night on the lakemanaged to find a weekend where Mike and I could both take a day off, and one week ago we caravanned up to Iron River, MI. 3 days, 2 nights, no makeup or hairdryer. It was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a while. The cabin was gorgeous, with that cozy, Northwoods feel that makes you want to start a fire in the fireplace, even in the middle of August (I was vetoed).

After taking the kayaks out for a spin around the lake, I’m proud to say that I jumped into the lake and even swam around for a while.  We stayed out by the pier until it was dark. The air is so clear and everything smells great.

The next morning was perfect – the water looked like a mirror it was so calm and

Mikey and Me

Kayaks with Mike

the sky was bright blue. After morning coffee on the pier, Mike and I took the kayaks out for a couple of hours.  I wrapped my point-and-shoot inside a Ziploc bag, tucked it into my sweatshirt, and we were off.  We toured the shoreline to look at the cabins, and we could glide through the really mucky, marshy areas that we Morning Coffee on the Pierwouldn’t have been able to see otherwise, winding around the islands. I was ashamed to discover that my instinct of avoiding a spider nest on a reed that was heading straight for my face preceded my instinct to not tip my kayak over in the middle of lake, but I saved it at the last second with only minimal water in my boat and camera still in hand.

On the other hand, I was thrilled to discover that we were only about 30 miles away from Eagle Trading Post Eagle RiverRiver. We took some time that afternoon to visit the small town that I remember from my childhood. Walking into the Trading Post was like walking back in time. Nothing had changed in 15 years. I literally think some of the same postcards were there. The same counter where it took me an hour to pick out a leather pouch one year, the same counter where I thought I’d be cool like my brothers and buy a pocket knife for fishing (yes, Steve, I actually went fishing…), and sliced my finger open before we even made it out of the store. We drove down Military Road, which was right where we used to stay. Our dad used to read us Wisconsin lore and ghost stories, and one of the ghost stories took place right there on Military Road. I didn’t put two and two together as a child. He says you don’t want to scare your kids too much – just a little bit 🙂

Steve at one of the "scenic views"

Steve at one of the “scenic views”

I think we had forgotten how great it feels to be up in the Northwoods. Sunday Cloud Reflectionrained on and off, but the guys swam and my mom and I hiked. The on-and-off storms produced beautiful cloud patterns. Right before we left, the most beautiful rainbow I’ve even seen made a complete arc over the lake. It was a nice way to say goodbye. The rainbows (and thunderstorms) followed us the whole way home, and we even manage to stop at some of the “scenic view” markers. I think we’ll all find a way to take more time out to head Up North from now on.

Rediscover – CMK


Best Place Historic Pabst Brewery Tour

On Sunday afternoon, I redeemed one of my many Groupons that need Pabst Signredeeming by going on a tour of the historic Pabst Brewery. Very old Milwaukee – no pun intended. My brothers came along with me, and we were all a little uncertain of what exactly this tour was going to be when we parallel parked along one of the 7 blocks of empty lots and looked up at the abandoned buildings that once made up the brewery. If I’d been past these buildings before, I certainly don’t remember. And how could I have missed these great buildings? They’re weather-worn with boarded up windows, but the architecture is gorgeous with turrets, courtyards and intricate brickwork. A giant Pabst sign spans between 2 of the buildings, marking the spot’s former grandeur.

Off of Juneau Ave, enter through the vintage gift shop or Best Place Tavern’s Captain’s Courtyard (named after Captain Pabst). It’s a beautiful brick patio with a cloister design layout built right after the repeal of Prohibition. The tour begins with a pint a Pabst or Schlitz  – your choice! While neither one would normally be first choice for me, it’s a part of our Milwaukee history, and when in Rome…

King Gambrinus

King Gambrinus greets you in the King’s Courtyard

Sip while you wait in the tavern for current Best Place owner Jim Haertel (who gets so into the tours he seems to make it a habit of running over) greets you with a smile and a pint. The tour starts with a series of 5 Old Milwaukee beer commercials filmed by Will Ferrell for his website Live Funny or Die. Hilarious. Who wouldn’t want to see Will Ferrell screaming down from the top of the Pabst sign? Jim gives a brief history lesson of how Milwaukee fell into becoming the next beer capital of the US (when it was actually Chicago’s turn) in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire. For those of you who might not love the idea of spending the afternoon in a mini history lesson, Jim’s tales are anything but dry, covering the success, drama and infidelity of the Best, Miller and Pabst families, bringing us all back to a time when union rules included beer breaks every three hours while on the job.

While this brewery is no longer operational and Pabst is now made by Miller, the tour is fascinating. Walk through Blue Ribbon Hall and Hamm’s Rathskeller in the Sky (which is now rented out for an array of social events).  The block of buildings once held the bottling plant where Laverne and Shirley stuck a glove over a beer bottle in their opening theme. The courtyards are beautiful – I never knew they were there! Jim took our group out to Juneau Ave, where he told us the story of how he worked with the community to purchase the 7 blocks of remaining brewery buildings in 2001 (all unused and rundown for quite some time) in order to keep them out of the hands of a developer Pabst Renovationswho wanted to flatten the entire expanse to build condos. The buildings are saved and are now labeled historical sites. Both the current owner and the city of Milwaukee are working hard to restore the buildings and to hold on to such an important piece of the city’s history. Jim brought us through an old administrative building where volunteers are working to clean up Captain Pabst’s office along with another hall that will be eventually rented out for banquets. Some of the Pabst buildings have been purchased by universities, while the rest have been converted into affordable living apartment buildings and offices.

Jim has a vision for the Best Place buildings he owns. He ran the idea of a “beer, bed and breakfast” by us, with each room decorated with memorabilia from a historic Milwaukee beer, complete with that particular beer on tap. Was he joking? I hope not – I’m sure that idea would draw people back to Pabst once again. The tour was fascinating and I was really impressed with both the rich history of the brewery and the vision of the owner and of the city itself to preserve that history.  Stop by for a drink and a dose of Milwaukee history and your ticket will help cover the renovation costs.  Cheers! – CMK

Cheers to Pabst!

Get Splashed

Splash Studio Get splashed. On Saturday, Nate and I had a mission. A painting bar called Splash Studio had opened in the Third Ward a few months ago, and we wanted in on the action. How could we resist the combination of painting and wine? As part of Gallery Night and Day, Splash Bar was holding an open house, offering $5 mini-canvases and drink specials. It seemed like the perfect time to check it out.

I am so happy we walked in.  The staff was welcoming and eager to explain their  concept to us. At any time, feel free to walk in, purchase a mini-canvas and a drink and start paining at the bar or at one of the bistro tables set up around the studio and on the outdoor terrace on Broadway. Grab an apron while they set up your space with a bundle of paintbrushes, a selection of paint, a water cup, mixing plates and a paint cloth. They have a rainbow of large pump dispensers of paint, so you can help yourself as needed (which is very helpful when you have to paint over your masterpiece and start over).

They also offer “Splash Sessions” where you can learn the techniques needed to Splash Session Viewreproduce particular paintings done by local artists. The studio is set up with rows of easels, each with a blank canvas. Check out their calendar online, pick the painting you’d like to do, and make a reservation. The classes are 3 hours long, and an instructor on  a podium guides you through the steps. By the end, you have a painting to bring home to hang in that empty space behind your couch.  While we were doing our freestyle mini-painting, we watched the progression of the splash session behind us, and it was pretty incredible to see the progress. We realized that as talented as we are, a little bit of guidance wouldn’t hurt. Especially with those facial features…

Back to Nate and I. We had decided earlier in the night that our first attempt at paining would be portraits of each other. I’ll preface this by saying that neither one of us has done much painting since middle school, so don’t judge us too harshly. Mixing colors, cleaning paintbrushes, realizing that my hands were covered in paint – it was all kind of therapeutic. Local artists were doing their own work on easels throughout the studio, and the artists and staff checked in often to see if we needed anything and to look at our paintings. I thought I would be uncomfortable with people looking at our work (in case they thought we were TOO good…), but they were very encouraging.  Even if it was suggested that our final portraits bore a slight resemblance to “a Simpsons character” and “an Oompa Loompa.”

Portraits, by Nate and Chrisi

Portrait 1Portrait 2Portrait 3

Portrait 3 1/2Portrait NatePortrait Chrisi

Canvas #2 presented more of a challenge than we had anticipated. As you see in the progression of photos, we changed our vision several times. That’s the beauty of canvas… if it’s “not quite what you wanted,” you can just paint over it. For our first visit, I’d say it’s not too shabby. And we had a great time. Next time we’ll try one of the classes.

2nd Mini, with a theme progression from “happiness” to “nature”

2nd Try 1

2nd Try 3

2nd Try 4

2nd Try 62nd Try 5


Paradise Springs Nature Area

Springhouse View Out


It’s always a little trippy to return to a childhood spot that you haven’t seen since you were, well, a child. As part of my efforts to reacquaint myself with this state, I visited Paradise Springs Nature Area in Eagle, WI (see map). It’s part of the Kettle Moraine Forest (Southern Unit), and only about 15 minutes from where I grew up. Still, it’s been over 20 years and I was interested to how my memories matched reality.

Paradise Springs SignA short (only 1/2 mile!) paved trail winds through the forest, past a wading pool and a trout pond to a once-elaborate stone springhouse that still sees about 30,000 gallons of water flow each hour and maintains a temperature of 47 degrees year round.

My parents used to tell me the story about how the wading pool was built by a grandfather

Wading Pool

Wading Pool

for his grandchildren to play in many years ago, and in my mind, I mixed up my memory of this spot with the fairy tale The Frog Prince, where the princess is playing with a golden ball and drops it in a well. Interestingly enough, visiting this nature area at the age of 28, my memory wasn’t far off. The trout pond, the wading pool, the springhouse – they could all be the setting for a fairy tale.  The DNR brochure even says, “Keep Paradise Springs clean. Please do not throw anything into the spring; Paradise Springs is not a wishing well.” The springhouse is so serene, and the water is impossibly clear. Still, I couldn’t help thinking at the same time that it would also be a great setting for a Blair Witch Project 4 or some other similar horror movie set in the woods…

Springhouse from Afar

Springhouse from Afar

According to the DNR brochure that you can pick up at the start of the trail, the property surrounding the natural spring has known many different owners over the years. The most notable was Louis J. Petit, the “Morton Salt King.” He built an elaborate springhouse, horse track. trout pond and wading pool (for his grandchildren) in the 1930’s. A guesthouse and a water bottling plant used to occupy the property as well. Interestingly enough (and I’d like to do some more research as to why this happened), you wouldn’t even know that this property used to be such a commercial area. The guesthouse is gone. The water bottling plant is gone. The stone wading pool/ trout holding tank that Mr. Petit built for his grandchildren is crumbling. Still, it has a different kind of charm. The road that once ran through the property is now paved and winds through the Kettle Moraine, past the trout pond (where people still come for catch and release trout fishing) to the springhouse.

Other than a man fishing at the trout pond and his girlfriend reading on a bench nearby, no one was there – and on a Saturday afternoon! From what I hear, it’s rare to see many people there. It’s the perfect place to take a picnic, and as it’s paved, it’s also handicap accessible. My childhood memory, mixing reality and fairy tale, didn’t let me down. It’s a beautiful way to spend an afternoon. I’m also willing to bet it’s gorgeous in the fall, and I’ll return to see. – CMK


“Spectacular Sculpture”

After Monches Farm, I wasn’t quite ready to return home. Visit their website,"Spectacular Sculpture" and you’ll see that Monches recommends several area attractions – mainly local art galleries – to visit in the area. Take a drive out there and you’ll see how easy it is to be inspired by the sprawling Wisconsin farmland and the Kettle Moraine forest. On a good tip, we went to see what was described to me as a sculpture garden that “I wouldn’t believe.” Heading east on County Line Road toward Paul Bobrowitz sculpture garden, I was skeptical (and intensely curious) when I saw the sign we were to follow. “Spectacular Scupture” was spay painted on what looked like a reclaimed traffic sign. We followed the signs through a residential neighborhood.

Sunrise to SunsetI was less and less underwhelmed until we reached the driveway. The photos don’t do this place justice. A giant iron pig rocking a guitar greets visitors. A sign reads “Bobrowitz : Open Sunrise to Rockin' PigSunset.” Follow the instructions on the handwritten sign close by: “Park your ride off to the side. Walk around. Enjoy what you’ve found.” Drive slowly down the driveway – each piece is unique. Whimsical, delicate, dark and creative. When you reach the house and garage at the end of the driveway, it’s hard to take it all in.

Driveway First ViewArtist Paul Bobrowitz came strolling down to greet us. When I wondered out load how more people don’t know about this place, he just grinned. He explained that the vast collection you see in his yard is only about 25% of his work. Covering the 6 acres surrounding his house, all sculptures are made from found objects. You’ll see piles of different metals outside his workshop, separated by color, texture and shine. It’s truly a testament to the adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” We strolled through the grounds, and it was almost overwhelming. Some are massive, some are small and delicate, some are beautiful and some are comical. Make sure to take some time to stop and examine what each piece is made of. It was an unexpected find, and I’d recommend a quick stop to anyone.  – CMK