Category Archives: Summer Adventures in Mad Town

Summer of History

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This summer we decided to become members of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  I had already known we would be going to Old World Wisconsin at least once, as it is one of my daughter’s favorite spots.    Becoming members seemed like a natural next step….free admission to 12 spots in WI….our day trips were going to involve some very interesting Wisconsin history!

Old World Wisconsin

If you haven’t been to Old World Wisconsin, I highly suggest you get there!  My daughter even dresses the part, with a dress that looks like period clothing and a bonnet.  The complex is huge and exploring it is so much fun for both of my kids (7 and 8 years old).  Added to the fun and learning is the fact that there are so many staff, dressed in period dress, that lead the children (and adults) in activities of late 1800’s Wisconsin farm living.  It’s a living history museum where the school has an actual teacher that teaches a lesson, and the kids can do chores like thrashing rye, weaving linen, gathering eggs from a chicken coop, and carding wool.  Staff prepare meals in the manner of the time period for the other staff and the kids get to learn all about it.  This time, one woman was making a rhubarb pie in one kitchen, and in another kitchen, the woman showed my kids how to start yeast for bread.  We always leave thinking we wish we could stay longer and when can we come back.  The best part is, there is always something new too.  This year, you could get an old fashioned soda in the inn and could buy small items in the shop with an old fashioned coin!

 

Pendarvis

Another spot we enjoyed in our #summerofhistory was Pendarvis.  While this is a much smaller spot, we still enjoyed it.  The staff here gave us a tour that I thoroughly enjoyed.  There were all adults on our tour, aside from my own kids, and I felt that the guide geared it much more to adults.  Thus, I think my kids got a little bored.  They were glad when we got to the end of the tour and were able to explore on our own for awhile.  The mining aspect of this little town was very interesting and now the kids know why we are called the Badger State!

A great little day trip for us was rounded out by a stop at Hook’s Cheese for superior and delicious fresh cheese curds and a stop at the quaint and sweet High Street Sweets.  There is a very nice park with picnicking facilities directly across from Pendarvis too!

Circus World

We spent an afternoon at Circus World in Baraboo with friends.  This is also a stop that is free with membership in the historical society.  I personally loved the old circus wagons with all of their colors.  My son very much enjoyed the huge model of a working circus from the past that takes up a whole room.  It was very interesting to see the old buildings and explore the winter grounds for the Ringling Brothers Circus.  A lot of history right there!   The kids enjoyed learning both the history of the circus and seeing the shows, especially the silly and funny show with 2 goofball clowns.

 

 

We’d like to see Villa Louis yet, and we will return to Old World Wisconsin again soon I’m sure.   Another historical thing we did during our #summerofhistory was the mail boat tour of Lake Geneva.  This is pricey tour, and pretty expensive, but it had been on my own summer bucket list for many summers.    It has been around delivering mail for 100 years.  While delivering this way is no longer really necessary, it’s a tradition that is fun and a part of the history of the area.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it to younger kids.  It is about 2.5 hours long and a rather slow, luxurious boat ride. However, you will learn a TON about the history of the area and see and learn about many of the huge, beautiful mansions that line the lake.  Plus, it really is fun to see the high school age mail jumpers deliver the mail around the lake, jumping off and on the boat as needed!

 

 

My kids really do like learning about history, and I think it is very important to learn about the past.  My daughter enjoyed a Pioneer Day at Shake Rag Alley and now wants a butter churn for Christmas. Ha!

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Movie Under the Stars

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Every summer we try to catch a movie as a family at an outdoor drive-in movie theater.  It’s always a fun time!  We started the tradition when our kids were wee babies, simply because our habit of seeing movies in theaters was interuppted by….babies!  So J and I brainstormed and thought , “how can we see a movie WITH a baby?” (we don’t have family nearby for babysitting and sitters were hard to find for awhile!).  The answer J came up with….let’s go to the outdoor.

And what fun it is!  The kids always play on the jungle gyms up by the big screen early while waiting for the sun to set.  We often dress them in their jammies before we get there, so when they fall asleep later, it’s easy to just put them in bed when we get home.  Other parents have the same idea, and it’s cute to see lots of kids running around before the movie starts, playing in their jammies outside.

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Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen....in jammies!

Playing around on the jungle gyms below the BIG screen….in jammies!

We take our van and park backwards and pop open the back to make a snuggly area for the kids to lounge.  We put nap mats or an inflatable matress, blankets and pillows in there and the kids have a great place to watch the movie (and fall asleep).  One time, my son only made it about 10 minutes before he fell asleep.  Whoops!  Too comfortable!

Sometimes, if the kids both fall asleep, we stay for the second movie (it’s often a more “adult” or older kid oriented movie).  Then, when the movie’s done, we load the kids (asleep) into their car seats for the ride home.

When the kids were babies, we brought a pack-n-play for them to fall asleep in.  Put a bug net over the top….done!  Worked like a charm.

Some things to remember to bring:  chairs for the parents, bug spray, blankets, and sweatshirts.  It has almost always been colder than I expect it will be to sit out under the stars and watch a movie.

Our usual place is the Highway 18 outdoor.  But check this website too for others in Wisconsin.

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Blooming Butterflies

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We are big butterfly fans here.  Well, G and I are.  O probably doesn’t care as much, although he enjoys them when we study them, search for them or see them in our yard.  It’s been a few years since we’ve been to Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies.  The first time we went, we saw very few butterflies, and because of that, I decided to skip it for a couple of years.  This year, I decided we had to try again.  Boy am I glad we did.  We either hit a perfect day, or it was just better this year.  I HIGHLY suggest going with your kids!

The docents told us that it’s always better to be there on a sunny day.  The butterflies were extremely active while we there, repeatedly fluttering past us closely, landing on nearby flowers, and even landing on US.  They have an identification guide available which is very helpful for determining what kind of butterflies we are seeing.  I think we saw 7 or 8 different types of butterflies.  At one point, near a sugar water station, there were 5-6 butterflies just flitting around our hands.  G always makes it a mission to have one land on her.  She stayed perfectly still, and butterflies landed on her repeatedly!  I don’t recommend this for all children.  We have to remember not to touch their wings and to be VERY gentle.  But it worked out okay for G!

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After the butterflies in the conservatory, their is an easy scavenger hunt to complete in the outside gardens.  There are 5 stations set up to emboss a butterfly in your “Butterfly Passport”  set up throughout the garden.  G and O and I had a lot of fun completing this.  Each station has a yes/no question to think about which was usually an observation (“Do you see some large, flat leaves that a butterfly could perch on?”).  Once the entire passport is complete, the child gets a coupon to use for an ice cream at Michael’s Frozen Custard.  We found the scavenger hunt to be easy and not too much for small kids to complete.  But we are also very familiar with the gardens and don’t really even need a map.  Even so, I think  most kids would like it!

Exploring Olbrich during the "Butterfly Passport" scavenger hunt.

Exploring Olbrich during the “Butterfly Passport” scavenger hunt.

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Other things to consider:  We tried Crema Cafe for lunch and found it to be delicious!  And sometimes we stop at the Monona dream park located within Winnequah Park on the way home.  Always a hit.

We’ve done some other butterfly exhibits.  The one at the Milwaukee Public Museum is small but had a TON of butterflies.  The one at the Chicago Botanic Garden was also small but had a lot of butterflies as well…and it’s part of the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is a big plus and one of our favorite places (a topic for another post!).

Lastly, there is a great printable butterfly lapbook to complete here.  The kids have used this lapbook that they completed more than once!  See my post on lapbooks in general here.

 

Step Into the Past at Old World Wisconsin

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We are already fans of Laura Ingalls around here, and we have yet to even read all the original books!  We’ve been reading all the “My First Little House Books” (see what I’m talking about here).  Someday we’ll go through all the original books, but so far we are enjoying the easier books.  Both of my kids find it interesting to talk about pioneers and “the olden days.”  They especially like to hear what they would be doing if they were on a homestead during the pioneer days or if they lived on a farm 100 years ago or more.  They are awestruck just thinking about life without the electronics and conveniences of today!

Enter Old World Wisconsin.  We took a day trip to this amazing museum last week.  It was an absolutely wonderful day.  I didn’t anticipate my son having as great a time as he did, and we ended up being there for about 5 hours without any complaints or whining or “getting tired.”  G and O are 6 and 5 and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The grounds are set up with different areas, each area representing people from different countries.  My heritage is a mix of many European countries, and I really enjoyed seeing old Wisconsin farms built by people from Germany, Norway, and Denmark.  The farms have heirloom gardens to explore and heritage breeds of animals to see.  People in period dress work at each site and interact with the visitors and answer any questions.  The grounds are beautifully maintained.   It is quite large, but trams run between all the areas and we had no problem hopping on and off at the different stops.

The best part of each area were the experiences to enjoy.  All of the buildings are fun to explore on their own, but the best part is trying chores and actually feeling and seeing what it was like to live on one of these late 19th century farms.  In the Norwegian area, not only did we explore the farmhouse, see the sheep, and walk through the beautiful gardens, but we got to card wool and see and feel different woolen mittens and blankets that were made from the wool.  We sat through class at the one-room schoolhouse and learned a couple of fun recess games.

Carding wool.

Carding wool.

Learning about what it was like in a one room schoolhouse.

Learning about what it was like in a one room schoolhouse.

Learning some new "old" playground games.

Learning some new “old” playground games.

 

In the German area, we hung out in the summer kitchen with a wonderful young lady in period dress who showed us how she was making sugar cookies in the old wood-burning oven, how she had made rye bread, and then she took us out to give the two pigs a treat.

Giving a treat to the pigs.

Giving a treat to the pigs.

 

I was in LOVE with the heirloom gardens at each farm.

I was in LOVE with the heirloom gardens at each farm.

Then, we went to a neighboring German farmhouse and learned how to use a huge loom to make fabric.  We stopped in a barn along the way and noticed the adorable baby pigs.  We walked along a wheat field to yet another German farm where we donned wooden shoes to walk out to the chicken coop to look for eggs.  G did some more chores at this house including washing dishes and grinding wheat.  O swept the porch and “mowed” the lawn with an old-fashioned grass clipper.  Funny how much they loved chores when they were at OWW!

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One of the neatest areas is Crossroads Village.  We explored an inn, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a wagon shop and more.  The best was the general store.  We were the only ones in the store and the shopkeeper really took the time to explain things and interact with my kids.  He showed them all the different types of grain for sale and how to use the old scale.  G had a fun time “arguing” with him about words that are used now and weren’t used back then (she was wearing Crocs….he said “no no no, THIS is a crock!”….and held up a ceramic crock, also “vest” vs. “waistcoat”, etc).

Old-fashioned fabrics lined one wall of the general store in Crossroads Village.

Old-fashioned fabrics lined one wall of the general store in Crossroads Village.

We learned how to make shoes at the shoe shop.

We learned how to make shoes at the shoe shop.

There are ample picnic tables, and you could easily bring a picnic lunch, but we chose to eat at the restaurant in the round barn on site.  Good food!  We ordered too much though….it’s just that the German potato salad and cheese curds sounded SO good as extras.  We were starving!

I highly highly highly recommend going to this museum.  We will definitely be going back next summer!

Kids in the Garden

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Teaching kids to garden or enjoy gardens, is invaluable.  It seems as though there are so many lessons to be taught around plants.  Their habitats, structure, life cycle.  Their part of the food chain.  The WORK that gets put into “creating” food for us to eat.  And the list goes on.  So, therefore, I get my kids to be outside enjoying gardens with me as much as possible.  They are not always interested, but when they are, they are learning, learning, learning.

This year, I told the kids they could each have their very own garden plot to take care of.  They could pick out the flowers themselves and plant them (we didn’t do any veggies….those are all in the larger beds).  They get to weed and water and do whatever they want with their own plants (like pick the flowers or not).  It’s been such fun!    They need reminding when the plants need water, and they’ve been lucky that we’ve had a lot of rain!  O is giddy that the sunflowers he planted are ENORMOUS already, especially in comparison to the rest of the little plot!  He’s also pretty proud of the amount of yellow daisy flowers he’s had.  The plant started with just one flower.  G loves her yellow and gold marigolds.

The two little kid plots in my garden.  O is giddy about his gigantic sunflower plant!

The two little kid plots in my garden. O is giddy about his gigantic sunflower plant!

 

The kids also occasionally help with weeding and watering the veggie garden.  We started heirloom tomato and pepper seeds in March and watched them grow in the greenhouse (“green tent” as G called it).  They really get more enjoyment out of planting those first seeds and watching the seedlings than watching the big plants grow now.  I think it’s because in March all plants are so new again.  Everyone is just so excited to see GREEN stuff.

Little plants in the "green tent."

Little plants in the “green tent.”

Hopefully soon we’ll have some delicious veggies!

Get those kiddos digging!

Get those kiddos digging!

Little plants are not so little anymore!

Little plants are not so little anymore!

Lastly, flowers.  My kids help plant perennials for the garden, but picking them out is mostly my domain.  They might help more in the future.  But G loves them when they are blooming!  One of these days I’d really like to get a whole section of garden just for cut flowers.  Someday!!  This year I added a few plants that butterflies and bees love, and I can’t wait to expand with more of those plants next year.  I’d also like to add more lilies in different varieties.  They are truly my favorite flower.

A lily inherited from my husband's grandmother.

A lily inherited from my husband’s grandmother.

Carefree Celebration shrub rose.

Carefree Celebration shrub rose.

And if you’re wondering my favorite resources for plants, here they are:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for heirloom veggies.  Jungs, Bruce Company and Flower Factory for perennials, shrubs and trees.  And Stark for fruit trees.  We won’t discuss what happened with our fruit trees.  Fruit trees will be attempted again someday though!

Blooming Madison (aka Magnolias in Madtown)

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Magnolia at Olbrich Gardens

Magnolia at Olbrich Gardens

Spring is neato.  Just thought I’d state the obvious.   After a long (LOOOONG) winter, I very much love seeing the first crocuses and daffodils pop up through the soil.  I love the “spring green” color that starts to fill in the brown cracks when you look at a bunch of trees.  And then the flowering trees start to appear.  And so, let me tell you about magnolias.

Magnolias make my family happy because they are pretty much the first tree to blossom in the spring and boy do they ever BLOSSOM.  Big, fragrant blooms make for fun hikes and an excellent reason to get outside in the spring.    Two words.  Olbrich and Arboretum.  “MUST GO” spots in the spring.  Or really anytime.  But especially spring.

My whole family likes to walk around Olbrich.  Pick an evening and go as the sun is starting to set and the magnolias are blooming and you will end up with truly GORGEOUS photos.  We have a ball taking pictures at Olbrich.  I get to practice my photography, and I give the kids my point and shoot and they get to take pictures of whatever they want.

Second, you must check out the tree garden at the Arboretum.  Longenecker Garden is beautiful anytime because of the variety and quantity of trees, but the magnolias are spectacular when in bloom.  The branches go down to the ground and every one will have blooms.  Some of the trees are massive too.  Makes for a fun and fragrant outing.

Enjoying magnolias at Longenecker

Enjoying magnolias at Longenecker

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A few weeks later in the spring (right NOW this year….in previous years, it’s been earlier), the crabapples and redbuds will bloom.  Once again, we usually visit Olbrich when these are in bloom.  I can’t get over how pretty blooming trees are!

Redbuds in bloom at Olbrich

Redbuds in bloom at Olbrich

Check out that beautiful blooming tree in the background.

Check out that beautiful blooming tree in the background.

Who wouldn't want to sit here?!

Who wouldn’t want to sit here?!

 

As a side note, I find that a great little adventure with my kids is combining Olbrich, a picnic, and the dream park in Monona which is part of Winnequah park.

As a side side note I took the magnolia pictures May 5 of this year.  In 2012, the magnolias peaked around March 25. WOW!   This is a crazy late spring!  And we visited Olbrich to see flowering crabs at peak today, May 23.   The picture of the bench above I took on April 29, 2010.  I could have duplicated it today, almost a month later this year!  And Longenecker is at peak for flowering crabs and lilacs right now according to their website.

 

 

 

 

 

Find a Farm: Eugster’s

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With autumn upon us, it is prime time for farm fun.  There are many wonderful farms to visit in the area with tons of fall activities.  BUT that’s for another post.  THIS post is about a farm you can visit all summer long and even now, before all the fall festivals.  While Eugster’s Farm Market DOES do farm festivals, they are a lovely farm to visit in the summer too!  During late summer, we visited there and had a great day.  This farm has so many animals to see and activities.  You can feed the baby goats with baby bottles of milk.  There is a Kitty palace where you can sit with kittens and give them all sorts of love and attention.  There are chickens to feed and watch.  There are turkeys, a donkey, cows, and more.  You can milk a pretend cow, see a beehive in action, play with tricycles, dig in a huge sandbox and swing on the multiple swingsets.  There is a phenomenal vegetable garden that you can have the kiddos help water with water they pumped themselves from a well.  The garden was absolutely gorgeous with masses of huge tomatoes, sunflowers, beautiful cabbages…..and on and on.  There are tractors to crawl on.  There is also a store with ice cream….a great treat after a fun day exploring.  We also bring lunch to picnic with here…there are picnic tables to eat at.

Fall is our favorite time for farms, so stay tuned for reviews of many of them coming soon!

Giving the baby goats some milk.

Giving the baby goats some milk.

Milking a pretend cow.

Milking a pretend cow.

 

Waiting for friends.

Waiting for friends.