Spring Fever-Is it Real?

20170329_065841

Spring has sprung; the robins, sandhill cranes, and redwing blackbirds are just a few of the birds that have returned. The worms emerged during the recent rains, the “occasional”sunshine exudes warmth and baseball season starts on Saturday.

But, does “spring fever” really exist? While not actually a fever, warmer longer days following the spring equinox creates a biological change in people. Humans experience a higher energy level, need less sleep, reduce their food consumption, and encounter a lifting of their spirits when winter ends and spring begins.

My  personal bout of spring fever started a few weeks ago. I laced up my walking shoes and leashed Riley, my walking companion, for our morning and evening walks. Even our very short legs, his four and my two, yearn to be stretched out and moved. I’ve started my yard tours to check on our bulbs and plantings to discover what survived and is emerging from the previously frozen tundra.We even went to the garden store on Saturday to dream and purchase seeds to start indoors for our flower garden. We met quite a few like- minded people itching to start their gardens. I can’t wait to plant the seeds and watch my yard flourish into a canvas of color. I also suffer from clean window-itis every spring. I want to rid the windows of all their winter dirt and soil so I can clearly see my garden and it doesn’t interfere with the streaming sunlight.

All the people walking dogs, riding bikes,pushing strollers, and in-line skating along Apple Creek trail yesterday was another sure sign of Wisconsinites afflicted with spring fever. We are also experiencing the effects of spring fever at work as people are showing a strong interest in building new houses.

What symptoms of spring fever do you experience? Do you feel the biological pull to exercise, redecorate your home, or plan a garden? Or maybe, it is the lifting of your spirits as well as a makeover with a new hairdo or wardrobe. Whatever your symptoms of spring fever, be sure to embrace the season.

The Holiday Staycation

We stayed in Appleton for the holiday with big plans to play tourist again. Our daughters came to visit and one brought along a cold or the flu, thus our tours were cut short and this blog post is late.

We had plans that included visiting ice sculptures, touring holiday light displays, volunteering with We Care Meals, hiking on Christmas Day, and stops at various museums and local shops and coffee shops. Surprisingly, we accomplished several of those things.

20161224_123813-collage

Before our daughters arrived and the rain melted the Appleton downtown ice sculptures, my husband and I ran downtown on Christmas Eve to take a gander.We didn’t have a lot of time as we spent the morning shoveling the heavy wet snow, building a snowman, and needed to rush home for the Packer game.Although the sculptures had started to melt, you could still see the creativity and skill that went into each one. It is a shame that the wicked temperatures on carving day put a damper on the winter event.Still, we enjoyed the sculptures and the snowman in Houdini Plaza and appreciate the Downtown Appleton, Inc. on their hard work in continuing to make the downtown thrive.

My family toured different Christmas displays than we saw last year. For the most part the ones we saw in Appleton were somewhat disappointing. We got a chuckle out of ourselves  as we loved the home that played a Santa video on a projection screen in the front window. Even as four adults we enjoyed the creativity.

Although the flu put a damper on our staycation, we did find an opportunity to venture out at the end of the week. First we enjoyed brunch at Appleton’s iconic Little Diner Xpress followed by a trip to the Kohler Design Center and museum. We spent hours in both. A trip to Kohler is well worth the drive; especially if you take the more scenic back roads. The ideas and technology displayed in the two levels of the design center are endless and have something for everyone.We loved the history in the lower level; having no idea that the Kohler family was involved in the manufacturing of agriculture implements, cast iron furniture, and in helping farmers and the country with the development of the diesel engine connected to an alternator; as well as design and manufacturing of plumbing fixtures. Kohler invented and manufactured the first dishwasher and garbage disposal as well as the first indoor bathtub modeled after a horse trough. Kohler, an innovative and forward thinking company, believes in taking care of their families and employees. The beautiful American Club is a prime example of the hospitality and warmth the Kohler family extended towards their employees and the community. Their story is worth reading and telling.

Lastly, we took a short jaunt to Menasha on New Year’s Eve for coffee and lunch at the charming coffee shop , “Your Daily Grind.” We stopped in a few shops which are all independently owned. At the recently opened Renewed and Reclaimed,we happened upon a great find we couldn’t resist. These simple snowmen were made by the Neenah High School special needs students in Workshop 120. The owner of “Renewed and Reclaimed”, Jodi, sells these items to support the students in the endeavor to hone their skills and buy specialty tools . One hundred percent of the proceeds goes directly back to Workshop 120. Please stop by “Renewed and Reclaimed”, located on Main St., in Menasha to support Jodi in her efforts.

20170103_12592020170103_125940-1

Although our holiday and the beginning of the new year were hampered by illness, we enjoyed getting to know our community of the Fox Valley a little better and highly recommend you touring these places. We are open to hearing about other “must see”destinations in the Fox Valley.

 

 

The Volunteer Spirit

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My family and I searched for a venue where we could physically volunteer on Christmas Day in order to bring happiness to others. Obviously we aren’t alone in the spirit of giving as many of the volunteer opportunities in the Fox Valley were full- of volunteers.

Luckily, we found an opportunity to volunteer, although we didn’t get to do much besides deliver meals to 4 homes. I was able to talk to a few people who took advantage of the free homemade meals. The gratitude for both the free hot holiday meal and a few minutes of friendly conversation showed on their faces. While we welcomed the small opportunity to help others, it was really the story of how Ed Rathsack and his brother started the We Care Meals Group in Appleton, that touched my heart.

I spoke to Ed Rathsack at length on Christmas Day about how the We Care Meals served on Christmas and Easter came about. Over 30 years ago Ed and his brother were returning home after a family Christmas gathering where the table and their stomachs were filled with holiday food, spirits, and love from spending time with family and friends. As they listened to the radio they were distraught to hear of 4 suicides committed right here in the Fox Valley due to loneliness and depression during the holidays. These two men vowed to make a difference.And what a difference they have made. The original We Care Meals were started by Ed and his brother, a chef in the Fox Valley Tech Culinary program. While the We Care Meals Program has expanded and evolved over the last 30 years, it only exists due to donations, grants, and the many volunteer hands and hearts. Manderfield’s Bakery, Van de Walles, and the Outagamie County Sheriff’s department are some of the businesses and organizations that volunteer food, time,and money to make We Care Meals in the Fox Cities a success.

We Care Meals provides both home delivery and the opportunity to share a communal meal complete with live music and gifts for the young ones.This year the meal took place at the beautiful Riverside Gardens. You don’t need to explain yourself to partake in a meal or to have one delivered, We Care Meals are open for all in the community. We Care Meals also provides an opportunity for others to give. It warmed my heart to see families with young children volunteering right alongside everyone else. I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer again but in the meantime Ed Rathsack and his crew are already accepting donations for the next We Care Meal to take place on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. Please call 920-731-7867 to make a donation.You may also contact the United Way of the Fox Cities.

Thank you Ed- The Giving Grandpa!

A Year in Retrospect in the Fox Valley

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

A year in retrospect in the Fox Valley. We returned to live in the Fox Valley last December 21st after a 23 year hiatus. We lived all over Wisconsin during our time away and found many things to love and of course a few to dislike about each area.

So what is it about Appleton and the Fox Cities that we find attractive? The winters are NOT on the list of what we ( especially I) love! Actually, I abhor them and am already freezing and tired of wearing so many clothes. But we had a beautiful summer and a long fall, allowing us to spend weekends on the boat, take long walks in the evenings, and partake in all of the outdoor music the area has to offer.I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

The Fox Cities really grew up in our time away. As a matter of fact when we first moved here in the early 1980’s, one had to go to Green Bay to do big shopping other than Sears and J.C. Penney’s. Then the downtown developed with the Avenue Mall and later the Fox River Mall came on the scene.It is exciting to see a bustling downtown with locally owned shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.  Today, the arts and music scene, while continuing to evolve offers something for everyone. We loved the Heid Summer Music Series and attended each one . The Mile of Music, extremely well done with a wide variety of acts, attracted a crowd of all ages, including the little ones at the Lawrence University Academy of Music. We’ve enjoyed the arts too, with visits to the Trout Museum, Take Me to the River month long exhibit at the old Thilmany Mill in Kaukauna, the Art Fair in City Park, and the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh. The beautiful PAC brings in some great shows.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fox Valleyaires Barbershop Concerts and area competition in which my husband participates.

We have also taken time to enjoy hiking in both the winter and fall at Thousand Islands Nature Preserve while watching the wild river run over rocks and logs into the more serene lake. We’ve driven along the lakeshore in both Oshkosh and Manitowoc, thrilled with the park areas that have been established so people can enjoy some of the areas natural beauty.

The sporting events have also grown in the area. We love hockey so ventured up to Green Bay to watch the Gamblers and the UW- Madison Hockey team. We’ve been to the Timber Rattlers for baseball and will most likely return.

The year hasn’t been all about what the Fox Valley offers. It also involves work. In the spring, I started a job as a new home designer with Midwest Design Homes and Jon Huss Custom Homes. This fun position allows me to use my creativity in helping people design their dream homes. It also means that I need to go out and network. I have met some wonderful people in the area through the chambers, BNI, and Fox Valley Women in Business.

We also spent that past year working on settling in our new home and making it ours. That meant hours of sweat equity in landscaping and maintaining a brand new yard. To think that 2 years ago I was reveling in the ease of condo living. Now we are once again shoveling snow, mowing, and weeding. Plus, our beautiful 3 season room should be completed today!

We need to continue to discover and enjoy the area. First on my list is to seek out the best holiday displays and visit the Kohler Museum over the holidays. We will also return to the Trout Museum and walk downtown Appleton to admire the ice sculptures.

What are your favorite activities in the Fox Valley area that you would recommend?

Artistic Talent Abounds in the Fox Valley

20161116_142603

The artistic talent in the Fox Valley continues to amaze me. I recently had the opportunity to enjoy two different art shows, one in Appleton and the other in Kaukauna. The talented exhibitors in both shows hailed in and around the Fox Valley. The first show, “Take Me to the River”  continues until December 2, in the old Thilmany Mill in Kaukauna. The second show, “An Evening of Art 2016” was a one evening show and auction.

The raw talent displayed in both shows astounded me. Many of the artists’ works can be seen at the Trout Museum, local coffee shops, galleries, as well as galleries around the world. Many of the artists have won both local and international awards for their work. I really loved the fact that both shows were actually art shows and not craft shows. Don’t take  me wrong, I too, enjoy the cute craft shows but many times even I can occasionally reproduce something similar with a little work. Both “Take Me to the River” and and Evening of Art 2016″ had a diversity of work in multiple mediums. Some of the artists themselves displayed different mediums showcasing their talent and growth. Some art was easily interpreted while others left  it to your imagination. I also found it fun that even though I have only been in the Fox Valley for a short time, I knew several of the artists at each show. Albeit, some of my acquaintances were from living here previously, and one was in my Girl Scout Troop.

If you haven’t taken the time to visit “Take Me to the River” at the Grand Kakalin, I suggest you go soon. Check out the website and their Facebook page. Each day there is a different activity to engage the audience. They continue to have talks by the artists, music, readings, food, and how-to demonstrations by the artists.

The “Evening of Art 2016” planned and hosted by the Moses Montefiore Sisterhood ,auctioned off art by local artists to continue to support the Fox Valley art community. Proceeds went to the Trout Museum of Art. Again it was a lovely evening with food, wine, and art. If you missed this fantastic community event, I suggest you watch for its’ return next year.

This last picture is of the cheese carving at “Take Me to the River”, sponsored by company I work for, Jon Huss Custom Homes. The very talented Troy Landwehr of Kerrigan Brothers Winery showed off his talent during the opening night. The intricate carving of Jon Huss Custom Homes and the water running over the dam only took Troy a few hours to complete.

Again , the month of November brought out some extremely talented artists in the Fox Valley. I suggest you look for other venues where they display their art or stop by the Grand Kakalin before December 2. You don’t have to be an art aficionado to enjoy either event or to appreciate the local talent.

20161116_142833

So Much to Do, So Little Time

IMG_20160609_181454967Summer; it’s waning way too fast for me. We are almost to the end of July and I still have so much to do. And the problem- sometimes life and work get in the way!

I love summer and especially love discovering what the Fox Valley offers. I am so excited for the Trout Museum of Art at the Park this Sunday.We used to attend this great event in the romantic, family friendly City Park when we lived in Appleton previously. As a matter of fact, everyday I wear a beautiful pearl ring that I purchased there as my 30th birthday present. I get compliments on it all the time. I realize that many of the same artisans visit the different art fairs but the one at City Park is near and dear to my heart. I think it has something to do with the setting, the large trees, the gazebo, and the fact that we often played there with our friends who lived in the neighborhood.

I am also so excited to experience the 4th Mile of Music next week. My family, along with the news, has been talking about it all summer. We chose the weekend to celebrate my birthday and spend together as a family. Our daughters will most likely select the music venues for us to attend. The Mile of Music organized by Cory Chisel has put Appleton on the map. It is another great selling point for people moving here; especially from larger cities. Big city music without the traffic and crime!

As the weekends slip away, we did get to enjoy boating on the Wolf River last weekend. The clouds rolled in as we arrived at the river so the heat and humidity weren’t too bad. We had a great time watching all the people and looking at the homes along the river. We also stopped at the Bridge Bar to a cool drink and to listen to one of the local live bands.

The weather has been a bit disappointing as it has rained  on a few Thursday evenings. We love to attend the Heid Music Summer Concerts in both Houdini Plaza and Jones Park. Although the music and venue differ greatly from the Concerts on the Square in Madison, it hasn’t discouraged us from attending and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

As I said, time is too short to enjoy all that the area and summer have to offer. I’m looking for advice for myself and the new residents  I meet as a new home builder. What events and activities do you recommend in the Fox Valley during the summer?

 

Summers in the City & the Beat Goes On

Appleton and the surrounding communities has certainly grown up over the last 25 years. The music, fairs, and activities keep the city alive and thriving. I enjoyed experiencing it again firsthand this last week.

Believe it or not, I had never visited the lovely Jones Park before. Last week, I joined some friends for the Heid Music Concert Series featuring Vic Ferrari and the Symphony on the Rocks. They put on an excellent show lasting over two hours with the music spanning decades. The weather proved to be perfect and the setting allowed for sitting both in the shade and the sun. The beer flowed easily for those that wished to partake, there were plenty of port- a -potties and parking was free and easy to find in the garages. The Heid Music Summer Concert Series proves to be a well organized event. Kudos to the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors.

It seems that Farmers Markets are popping up everywhere given the popularity of the “buy local” movement. Appleton is no exception. Although we grow a lot of our own produce in the summer, you can’t live or visit a city without experiencing the local farmer’s market. It really gives you the flavor of the city. The variety of locally grown food, music on every block, craft, and food sellers impressed us this weekend. We enjoyed strolling down the “Avenue” welcoming the beginning of summer.

I can’t wait for the Mile of Music and the Appleton Art at the Park in City Park. Both events promise to be delightful and exciting. I bought a ring there over 25 years ago and get compliments on it weekly.  As time allows, I will continue to enjoy the Heid Music Summer Concert Series and hope to try out some of the other weekly music venues.

What are your favorite summertime events in the Fox Valley? Please share.

20160625_105936
Downtown Appleton Farmer’s Market