Monthly Archives: July 2012

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

What is it about a greenhouse?

Take a girl out of the country and she finds a greater appreciation for it. Growing up in Mukwonago, surrounded by farmland, I was fascinated by cities. Following graduation, I lived in Madison, Paris, Marseille and now Milwaukee. I had to leave to understand its charm. In the absense of country, I’ve somewhat recently acquired a taste for quaint/chic/authentic country garden centers, thanks to my mom.

Monches Farm is a particularly special little antique/gift shop/perennial garden in Colgate, WI, not far from Holy Hill (which I visit once a year in October for the spectacular fall colors).  Drive through the Kettle Moraine, passing over the Ace Age Trail, and pull into the gravel driveway to a small parking lot. Funny how I hated that gravel driveway when I was younger… now it enhances the atmosphere. The brick red house on the left is overflowing with seasonal gifts and antiques, but my favorite parts are the greenhouse and the barn. I like the barn for it’s collection of bantam chickens that run loose but still stick close to their food, and I’m inexplicably drawn to greenhouses. Warm in the winter, hot in the summer, clay tile floors – what’s not to like? (With the exception of those huge spiders that also seem to like the climate…) What is it about a greenhouse? I think it started with the game of Clue – they always remind me of the conservatory. They’re romantic in a nostalgic kind of way – they’re timeless. This particular greenhouse is a crowded one full of green plants mixing with terra cotta and concrete. Cages of mourning doves add an unexpected surprise. Gorgeous. Doors open into the perennial field. Last Saturday the day lilies were in full bloom in that heat. It’s worth popping into the gift shop, and definitely worth the 1/2 day trip out to walk through the grounds. – NOSTALGICALLY YOURS, CMK.

Monches Greenhouse Inside Out

Welcome to Shorewood, WI

Garden Room Street View

For my first post, I wanted to keep it local. If I’m going to become re/acquainted with my home state, I’ve got to start close to home. I love living in Shorewood, but I’m guilty of routine. For months, on my way to The City Market for my early morning coffee, I’d walk past an earthy fair trade store with beautiful cold weather accessories alongside some of the scariest dolls I’ve ever seen, and I’d wonder what other treasures they were hiding inside. I’d drive past what I assumed was some kind of grocery store or restaurant called, quite simply and succinctly, International Food, and I’d marvel at how they could have managed to fit such a broad spectrum of product into such a tiny space. I’d admire the rooftop greenhouse of Garden Room from the street.

Well, I’m proud to announce that over the last week I learned that International Food is one of several primarily Russian grocery stores in the area. While the fair trade shop is sadly closed, I wandered into the new, funky vintage shop Swanky Seconds that took it’s place. And yesterday morning, a steamy Sunday, the upper level of Garden Room was underlined and highlighted at the top of my to-do list. After a quick stop at The City Market for a large iced coffee, I took a stroll down to the next block ( yes – this first excursion did not require much of a workout).

I’d been to the main level of Garden Room before. The front entrance displays plants and flowers, brightly colored pots and watering cans and other gardening accessories. Small running fountains hidden between plants force you into an instant serenity that continues as you head toward the interior. Inside is a gift shop, full of gardening supplies and creative green gifts. Vintage jazz is playing and sun is streaming through the skylight onto the tangle of green plants, falling over a balcony into the tea room below. Take the steps down into the basement and you’ll find Anaba Tea Room, all clean lines Zen-like calm.

Garden Room’s Rooftop Garden Room

Take the steps up to the rooftop and you’d find yourself in a greenhouse. Instead of plants, doors open on either side to encourage a breeze, and small tables and chairs are arranged as a continuation of the Anaba Tea Room. They spill out onto a balcony lined with red geraniums. Walk back through the greenhouse and out the other door to a rooftop garden where gargoyles and other statues line a brick path for you to follow.

I’ll admit it was too hot to stick around for long, but it’s a brief break from reality on East Capitol. I’ll be back for tea in in the rooftop greenhouse.

Cheers – CMK.