Friday, December 31, 2010

Omanhene chocolate in Accra

Our group landed in Accra this afternoon pretty groggy, but we were up and moving for a New Years Eve dinner by the pool at our hotel. I looked down and was incredibly surprised to see Omanhene chocolates sitting at the table. If you go to Alterra a lot, you'll recognize it. It's a Milwaukee-based company that makes amazing socially-responsible chocolate and cocoa in Ghana. It's a relatively small company, so I surprised to see it was big in Ghana as it was in Milwaukee. Those moments when you travel half way across the world only to be greeted by something from so close to home are pretty awesome. I really Omanhene because it's one of the few dark chocolates I can find that tastes good (I tried to contact Omanhene before the trip to see if they offered tours, but they don't). I'm also pretty impressed with their business model. By large, Africa is a foreign aid-driven continent, which has its advantage as well as many disadvantages (more here). Fair-trade can be good, but also very limiting. Omanhene isn't certified "fair-trade" but can be considered "socially-responsible" (which in my mind is better) because it supports the UN Global Compact. You can read more about that here.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm in Chicago today en route to O'Hare for a long USAID trip to Monrovia, Liberia (with a stop over in Accra, Ghana). I'll be doing a leadership training and some meetings, hopefully some touring around. For the flight, I have plenty of West Wing DVDs to keep me company along with my laptop and trusty lock. Gotta love those long flights. So, I'll be posting from the road so be prepared when you tune in and see embassy buildings and rainforests instead of Lake Michigan, beer and brats.

Just a note about Liberia: It's just beginning its recovery from a decades long civil war. There aren't many pretty pictures out of Liberia, so while I'm in between meetings, I hope to get some good photos of more positive subjects. I know there's a lot more to the country than war and violence. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010

Around this time every December I compile a list of my Top Ten favorite albums for the Top Ten Party, a party where everyone lists their top ten albums of the year. My husband started the event several years ago as a way to justify hours of nerdy music talk. So, every year, as its gotten bigger and bigger, we rent out a bar and hang up giant lists of everyone's top ten favorite albums of the year.

Here are my top ten......

1. The National

2. Janelle Monae:

3. The Arcade Fire- "The Suburbs"

4. The Black Keys- "Brothers"

5. Warpaint- "The Fool"

6. Best Coast- "Crazy For You"

7. Joanna Newsom- "Have One On Me"

8. Wavves- "King Of The Beach"

9. Taylor Swift- "Speak Now"

10. Land of Talk- "Cloak and Cipher"

Honorable mentions: Beach House- "Teen Dream" (it was my #1 last year), Florence and the Machine- ""(I missed out, it came out last year)

I took a few photos on my iPhone. As you may notice, I (apparently) only hang with people who wear glasses.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Window Displays {Day One}

One of my favorite things during the holidays is to look at all the window displays. I love the creativity that goes into them. My favorite one, the moving carolers in the downtown Wells Fargo Building, is not up this year, but I caught a few pictures of other ones. So, I'll be posting another one every day this week. Enjoy! And don't forget to stop and smell the roses (or stop and look at the window displays).

Friday, December 17, 2010

50 Milwaukee Holiday Gifts at Inside Milwaukee

Big news!!! I'm really excited to now have a weekly blog over at Milwaukee Magazine's website, Inside Milwaukee. My mini-blog is called Local Finds and will be an expansion of the Backyard Discovery segment I usually do. So check it out every once in a while for lists and reviews of local events, hangouts, and discoveries.

Read my first post "50 Milwaukee Holiday Gifts" if you're in need of some procrastination-friendly gift ideas from locally owned businesses.

Have a good weekend!
I'm working on a special MKE Christmas Photo Project for all next week. Can't wait for Monday!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rx: Final Exams


I saw this photo in the Denver Post yesterday and thought, "yep, that about sums it up". I lucked out this year with only one class, but next semester may be daunting. I thought those days (and nights) of cramming and paper-writing were over, but no, I'll get my dose soon. So, anyone stuck in the library after midnight and/or dealing with acute carpal tunnel, here are some tips I learned in nursing school.

- For dry, red, over-studied eyes: Eye drops with glycerin help restore moisture. People blink less when they stare at a computer screen source.Sometimes applying a warm damp-wet compress over your eyes for 5-10 minutes is enough to improve circulation and comfort.

- REM (rapid eye movement or dream sleep) is needed to process all that input. Also, REM sleep makes you feel more rested and studies show that will improve concentration while studying or testing.

- How can you fall asleep fast? A big dose of L-tryptophan is a mild sedative (warm milk, turkey, peanut butter), 25mg of Benadryl works within 30 minutes, and relaxation methods like 15 minutes of yoga or guided meditation like hypnosis can also work.

- For sore wrists, fingers, and necks: NSAIDs like ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) reduce inflammation and soreness. Or, doing restorative yoga poses like Downward-facing Dog and Child's Pose can do miracles.

Good luck, kids!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Backyard Discovery: City Tins

Last week, I was talking to a friend about my struggle to find the right Christmas present for everyone. She suggested giving City Tins, a tin of discount coupons for tons of Milwaukee hangouts, restaurants, and services. I was like "whaaaa? how did I not know about this". I'm a little behind. But I'm glad I found out about this now, just in time for Christmas.

It's like fun in a box.

So, here are the basics. City Tins are the creation of Christin Cilento Ladky of Whitefish Bay and Tara Laatsch of Wauwatosa and consist of discount coupons printed on coasters and packaged into a cute little tin. You can choose from two types: Restaurant edition (22 coasters) or Staycation edition (20 coasters). Both are $25 and contain huge discounts on the greatest places in Milwaukee. Trust me, there's no duds in the mix. I could see this paying for itself after only 2-3 uses. I heard you can buy them at Outpost and Beans and Barley, but you can definitely buy them online. I'm so glad to see such a creative and awesome idea in Milwaukee.

Read more.......

(and P.S. If you're in need of more local gifts/ holiday gifts / any gift at all, I have a big gift guide coming to the Milwaukee Magazine blog sometime this week.....)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coffee Break: hidden animal tea cups

Did everyone survive the snow storm? I was listening to NPR on the way home and heard Wisconsin's weather covered on "All Things Considered". That's crazy, because we only got like 1 inch of snow and a bunch of wind in Milwaukee. Al that cold weather has been making me crave things like soup, coffee, and hot chocolate.

These little teacups from imm living have a cute little surprise at the end of your coffee (or hot chocolate). Very cute.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The New Do: the Katie crop

After having shorter, chin-length hair for a decade, I started to grow my hair out. Well, after a year, it only got to a couple inches past my shoulders and often made me look like a teenager. Some people just aren't meant to have long hair. So, last night, I went in for my hair appointment and chopped it all off. Now all is right in the world.

I love the Katie Holmes crop; a warm dark brown color with a versatile shape. She has an easily rockable look, minus the couch-jumping husband. And if you're in Milwaukee and looking for a good hair stylist, Sara at M Salon is my favorite gal ever.

Monday, December 6, 2010

DC: H Street

I spent most of last week on Capitol Hill for meetings and a USAID training, luckily surrounded by DC-savvy locals that knew their way around the restaurant/bar scene. H street was a healthy walk from Capitol Hill but well worth it. From what they said, the area has really transformed over the last year. Now, it's re-paved, revamped, and revitalized. We started with a dinner at Sticky Rice, a Japanese sushi joint that even serves tater tots. My favorite was the Sticky Balls, a combo sushi roll with everything on it. Sooo good.


Then we headed down the street and passed a lot of places I want to eventually check out, like Fruit Bat (a central/south american cocktail bar), The Rock and Roll Hotel (Warpaint was playing but I missed it), and the Country Club (an astro-turf decorated bar with indoor mini golf). We landed at the Biergarten Haus. To a Milwaukeean, this seemed like a home away from home. I thought it was a great hangout, it had more of a Bavarian feel and better beer selection than Old German Beer Hall in Milwaukee. They had hammerschlagen, but no, I did not see a shot-ski.


Friday, December 3, 2010

MKE locals (in DC): Maggie Michael

Maggie Michael is a painter originally from the Brookfield area whom is well known in the DC area from her work at American University, the Hirschhorn, and high end DC galleries. Her pieces can sell for $7,500. And they should; they are complex and contemplative, ebbing and flowing, harsh, but fitting. She's an amazing talent (read more about her here). Here are some of my favorites......

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DC: District of Chic

Fashion on Capitol Hill is often stereotyped as black and boring, but I love to browse the District of Chic blog to prove us all wrong. While walking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, I saw a mix of East Coast Prep meets Executive Lawyer. Lots of wellies and Tory Burch happening 'round here. But the general DC area is a little more diverse and colorful. Either way, I am glad I brought comfortable/cute shoes because Capitol Hill is one long and arduous trek.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS day, Mondo Guerra designed t-shirts

Speaking of World AIDS day, how cool is this? Mondo Guerra, that insanely talented designer from Project Runway is debuting a t-shirt line at Piperlime today (I don't see them on sale yet) to which the proceeds will benefit amFAR. I am in the airport getting ready to board, but had to quick post this. By the way, everything is running incredibly smooth Mitchell International today. And Air-Tran has free onboard wi-fi. Hooray.

World AIDS Day, DC bound

It's World AIDS day today. There usually isn't a lot of media frenzy over this day of rememberance and advocacy, but it's important to realize the disease still exists. In 2009, there were 443 new HIV infections in Wisconsin, an 11% increase than 2008 (source). There is a difference between HIV and AIDS. HIV is the infection that over time will lead to a syndrome called AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) characterized by a low Tcell (CD4 count) and/or certain opportunistic infections. In Milwaukee, there's an excellent service organization called AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) that provides prevention, needle exchange, testing, medical/dental/mental healthcare, social services, housing and food pantry.

I'll be heading to DC today for a USAID project over the next week. I have a few great DC-related posts coming down the pike (along with some of my tourist photos).

I'll see in DC.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top 5: Etsy Shops I'm Lovin'

I'm scouring the Cyber Monday deals today looking for Christmas gift ideas. I'm coming up a little empty-handed, so while I click and browse again and again over here, I'll leave you with my good ol' Etsy standbys; my Top 5 Etsy Shops that I'm currently lovin'.

Laura Lombardi Jewelry

High Street Market

Debbie Carlos

Oh, Little Rabbit


Friday, November 26, 2010

The Weekend: Art Vs. Craft

Get excited!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Outpost Natural Foods' Cranberry Sauce (with ginger!)

This recipe from Outpost Natural Foods, our local food store in Milwaukee, looks insanely easy. Therefore, there isn't any excuse to buy canned cranberry sauce (or as I call it, Cranberry Jello).

Cranberry Ginger Sauce


1 twelve-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 1/2 cups orange juice

1/2 cup honey

2 tablespoons ginger, finely minced


Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until honey dissolves.
Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thick, stirring often and partially mashing the berries with the back of the spoon as you go along.
Remove from heat and transfer to a dish.
Chill and serve.

Per serving: 61 calories, less than 1 gram fat, 0g protein, 16g carbohydrates, 1mg sodium

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MKE Style: Cabin Cozy

1. White Birch Rosemary Candle, $38
2. Bomber Fingerless Gloves, $98
3. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg, $25.95 (hardcover)
4. Silver Melange Boyfriend Cardigan, $88
5. Patagonia Tranquila Leggings, $59
6. Highlander Plaid Boots, $175

Deer hunting season in Wisconsin is in full swing meaning that half of the state's male population treks up I-41 to have some "man-time" at the family cabin. If you're a woman and getting towed along, it's not a bad deal. Up North is a nice refuge from the cities and suburbs (albeit cold). Personally, I would skip the hours in the tree stand and morning hikes (unless I'm decked out in orange), but he brisk woodsy air and gatherings around the campfire are worth the trip. So, if you're going, here are some things to bring along so you can rough it in style back at the cabin.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fine Line Magazine {Launch Party}

Last Friday, I popped into Studio Deep End for the Fine Line magazine launch party. I showed my support and picked up a print copy ($10) to take home. It has a sharp embossed cover and is filled with "gallery art" prints nice enough to frame. It's not only nice to see something this high-quality coming out of Milwaukee, but also to see that magazine print is not completely dead. I like that it's morphing into a niche product. 99 percent of the magazines I get, I could better use as digital copies, but 1 percent are artfully put together compositions and worthy enough to be placed on a bookshelf.

Read more about Fine Line:
Journal Sentinel article.
Milwaukee AV Club article.
Third Coast Digest article.
OnMilwaukee article.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Weekend: Coffee and Doughnuts

Happy weekend, y'all. Almost every weekend, my father-in-law comes into town with fresh bakery doughnuts in hand for some Sunday morning coffee talk. This picture looks like it was taken right off my kitchen table. In actuality, it was taken by Neil at Front Room Photography. Remember Neil? He took my wedding photos. This photo was from another wedding he shot this past summer. You can't go wrong starting a wedding day off with Alterra coffee and gooey Honeydip donuts. Keeping it real.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coffee Break: Alterra's Turkey Trot Blend

Thanksgiving is fast approaching so don't forget to buy coffee. I know, everyone loves that 2 hour nap after dinner, but some of us have to hit the road to see in-laws. I was at Alterra on Humboldt to grab some soup today and saw the Turkey Trot blend sitting next to their other new coffee this month, the Harvest Blend. Both look good, but the commentary on the Turkey Trot label sold me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vintage Decorating: Oil on Canvas Paintings

I often pass up oil portraits at antique stores. They're usually hiding in a large box on the floor with dozens of cheap prints and plastic picture frames. I just can't get past that it's weird to have a painting of a stranger in my house. But I do like the idea of grouping them with similarly painted oil on canvas pieces. Many old paintings in corner antique stores or flea market booths are the scenic or still life paint-by-number paintings from the 50's and 60's or the work of an amateur, long-forgotten local artist. They should cost under $60 depending on their size and condition.

These images are from the new-ish print zine, At Your Leisure from J3 Productions. It looks great and it's so nice to have print creeping back into the fold.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Stylish iPhone Addict

I totally love the new Windows Phone 7 ad because I live that every. single. day. It's not me on the phone, of course. (FYI, I'm horrible at answering calls/emails). It's my husband that is on the phone--talking, emailing, texting, working, playing the "words with friends" game--and I'm the one saying, "really ?". Sometimes I pretend that I'm important, too, and so busy that I can't talk. Then he'll ask me what I'm busy doing and I'll say "shopping". So, if you're the one on the phone or the one saying "really ?", don't worry I've been doing the shopping for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I want to go to there: Copenhagen with the Botwins

Tonight is the season 6 finale of Weeds, the show I once enthusiastically loved and now patiently tolerate until the awesomeness returns. Hopefully tonight will be the night with their hairbreadth escape to Copenhagen. The show has seemed like a never ending road trip from California to Mexico to Seattle to Montana and now Dearborn, Michigan. But, if they end up in a beautiful city like Copenhagen, I think I could tolerate that. I wouldn't mind seeing more of that great city. Here are a few highlights and photos of Copenhagen. I totally want to go to there (especially if there's popcorn on the plane).

The Royal Cafe

Copenhagen Street Style

Amager Torv

And a few guides from:
New York Times

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Etsy Window Shopping: mgmy

I just love this planter from Etsy seller, mgmy. At $32 plus shipping, I can't justify getting it for myself, but it would probably make a great Christmas present for an avid window sill gardener. Speaking of Christmas presents, I'm working on another gift guide this year including lots of local goods. It should be up the week of Thanksgiving (friends and family take note).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day, I'm sharing my friend CJ Foeckler's Vet photos he took in the Zablocki VA library in September. They were used to promote the Veterans Day parade that occurred last weekend. They've also been making a few high profile appearances. But, bottom line, I think they capture what this day is all about.


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