Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poseidon - god of the Sea

Mac's class is studying the history of ancient Greece. The kids are divided into five different city states and Mac is the strategoi (military leader) of his city state, Argos. Mac chose Poseidon as his Greek name.

The kids have to wear chitons while living in ancient Greece, so Mac and I put together this costume from instructions that he brought home from school that called for using a twin sheet. We made a few adjusts such as only having one sleeve verses two. Mac read that most men only wore the chiton over one arm leaving their right arm free to do work. I also had to hem the sheet as it was too long, and trim the side as it was too wide. All in all it was a very easy project and Mac was pleased with the end result.

Tea With Mad Queen

Last week I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with Mad Queen while she was in Bloomington for a short stay this summer. She and her family are currently living in Japan and we hadn't seen them for over a year. We had a nice time catching up. It was interesting learning about life in Japan. I was educated on everything from public bath houses to the costly prices of peanut butter.

I made a few little afternoon tea snacks and Mad Queen, Princess Shaleilah and I enjoyed a very special artisan jasmine tea that was a gift from Steph.

Artisan Jasmine Tea - as it brews it unfurls into a beautiful flower

Raspberry Tart

Zucchini bread and crackers with aged Wisconsin cheese, garden tomatoes and basil

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beach and Beans

While in Milwaukee we also spent an afternoon on one of Lake Michigan's beaches. It was a beautiful day and the kids loved every minute of it. They mostly enjoyed digging a huge hole in the sand that was big enough to sit in. The beach was very clean but the water smelled fishy.

The downfall to the afternoon at the beach was stinky sandals! The kids went into the lake with their sandals on and their feet and sandals never smelled the same again. The first thing I did upon returning home was to throw both pairs into the wash!
Jelly Belly Warehouse in Pleasant Prairie
Our last adventure before leaving Wisconsin was taking a tour of the Jelly Belly Warehouse. The kids loved finding out how Jelly Bellies are made, and the best part of the tour was receiving our very own bag of Jelly Belly beans.

And of course exiting the tour through the retail store gave us yet another opportunity to bring home even more Jelly Belly beans. Ugh!

The boys and I opted to buy a bag of the Belly Flops which are Jelly Belly rejects. They still have that same great taste but not the perfect shape. Since the bag of Belly Flops has a variety of beans in it, the fun part is figuring out which flavor you're about to sample. At one point Keith was the guinea pig and was told, "here dad you taste this one and see what it is; it's either juicy pear or booger flavor." Luckily for Keith it turned out to be juicy pear.

Anaba Tea Room

While driving around the cute little neighborhood of Shorewood which was near our hotel, I came across the darling, Anaba Tea Room. Since I didn't have the option of having tea with my usual tea-mates, I decided that I would make an effort to have afternoon tea with boys sometime during our stay in Milwaukee.
Anaba is a Japanese word for "a little-known, but pleasing spot." And it was just that, a quaint, calming atmosphere. Anaba features Rishi tea, a Milwaukee-based company, which gets its tea leaves directly from tea forest of Jing Mai Mountain in China. Anaba serves over 60 kinds of tea, including many varieties of green, black white and caffeine-free teas.
The boys and I shared the "afternoon tea for two," and Ethan picked our tea, a peppermint-ginger green tea -- it was an excellent choice! The combination of the two flavors made my taste buds go wild. I purchased what they had left of the peppermint-ginger, unfortunately it was only an ounce, which I will use sparingly.

This was the first time that I had afternoon tea with my boys and surprisingly, it was a pleasant experience for all of us. Anaba's was very accommodating. When the boys turned their noses up at the cranberry-walnut scones (which I thought sounded delicious), our server brought us two chocolate-chocolate chip scones instead and the boys devoured them. We were served three tiers of sandwiches, scones and even crumpets. The scones and crumpets were served with an apple jelly, Devonshire cream and lemon curd. On the bottom tier, along with the scones and crumpets were two delicious five-spiced carrot tarts made with chai caramel and poppy seeds. I've never tasted anything like it. The tart crust tasted like a combination of a carrot cake and cookie. Ethan and I both thought these were delicious. The top and middle tiers were sandwiches, and boy were they heavenly. There was a tuna sandwich with capers, olives and lemon garlic mayo, a cucumber sandwich made with minted cream cheese, and roasted pistachios, a chicken salad sandwich made with cranberries and walnuts mixed with sweet Vidalia onion dressing served open faced on spicy ginger maté scone, and a cilantro and lime shrimp with watercress, tomato and green onion also served open faced on spicy ginger maté scone.

Anaba is definitely one of the best tea rooms that I've been to. The food and tea were unique as well as delicious. It was definitely the highlight of my trip and I hope to have the opportunity to go back again.

A Zoo Worth Visiting

It seems that if you've seen one zoo, you've seen them all, but we thoroughly enjoyed the Milwaukee County Zoo. Maybe it was because the temps were only in the mid 70's or that the zoo was laid out very well with lots of shaded areas, or the fact that there were so many interesting animals to choose from. Whatever the case, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of the nicest zoos that we've been to, and believe me, we've been to a lot.

The kids' top pick -- the primates. There were many species and several had babies. There were orangutans, gorillas, spider monkeys and lemurs, just to name a few. Another a big hit with boys were the Birds of Prey. We met a blind eagle that was in captivity because it had been shot in the eye, and a crow that flew through the audience picking up cans and putting them in the recycling bins.

If you're in the Milwaukee area, the zoo is definitely worth a visit.

A Day at the Bay

While in Milwaukee we were fortunate enough to make the short two hour drive up to Green Bay to visit with my aunts and uncles. We all met at Bay Beach which was the perfect location for the kids. This was their 3rd visit to the small amusement park along the bay of Green Bay. It's a place that I grew up visiting as a little girl when we lived in Wisconsin, and it has been fun to pass down the experience to my boys. It's definitely one of the most affordable places to spend the day -- at only $.25 per ticket, how can you go wrong?

It was great visiting with my aunts and uncles, and we even met up with my cousin and her family. Here's a picture of my two uncles enjoying a huge ice cream cone. The only thing missing in this picture is my dad, who if he'd had been there, would been enjoying one of those yummy cones too.
The train and depot which is always a big hit with kids and adults alike.
The super slide was Mac's favorite (the one in the brown shirt), he went down it several times.

The scrambler, another favorite of the boys

Ethan's favorite -- getting to ride a horse

Milwaukee Museums

One of the first places we visited in Milwaukee was the Milwaukee Public Museum. Here the kids enjoyed learning about Africa, Asia, Europe, the Arctic, South and Middle America, and the Costa Rican rainforest. There was even an exhibit which showcased the turn-of-the-century streets of old Milwaukee.

The kids favorite part of this museum was the Puelicher Butterfly Wing, where you can stroll among many species of free-flying butterflies. One of the museum's downfalls is that there's not a lot of natural light making it very dark inside, so it's difficult to take good pictures.

A giant clock stands at the entry way to a room full of gears at the Discovery Museum

Our second museum visit was to Discovery World located on Milwaukee's lakefront. This museum features interactive exhibits, laboratories and areas to explore energy and water. There are lots of high-tech resources and virtual simulations.

The kids and I enjoyed the HIVE, which stands for Human Interactive Virtual education. The experience is what you might expect to feel like if you were inside a video game. Our virtual trip felt like we were being flown through a solar system. Also fascinating to look at was the expanding sphere that was situated between two staircases. The sphere would continuously open and close, while being lit up by colored lights.
The museum also hosts marine and fresh water aquariums that mimic Wisconsin environments and is home to the S/V Denis Sullivan, a three-masted schooner.
Some of the highlights for the kids were laying on a bed of 3000 nails and the flight simulator, where Ethan perfectly landed a huge military aircraft.
It was very difficult to get the kids out of this museum. They would have easily gone back for a second day if we had the time.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Kings of the Enchanted Forest

King Ethanmenar is the king of the dragons. He set off into the forest with his bow and arrow that he made from branches and jute, to fight off the evil trolls who keep stealing the forest's magic.

King Macdanabar is the king of The Forest Wizards -- good wizards, the benevolent kind. He is in charge forest restoration. He seeks to enhance and protect natural habitats for all creatures. He uses his magical walking stick made with daylilies and garden flowers to help King Ethanmenar fight off the evil trolls.