Monday, August 17, 2009

The Hangover + Katy Perry = Philstina in Vegas

TV rots your brain (and apparently your wallet). Who didn't want to go to Vegas after watching previews of The Hangover and Katy Perry's Waking Up in Vegas music video?

A too-good-to-pass-up Friends Fly and Stay Free promo from Southwest sealed the deal for Phil and me. We're booked for December!

I like booking quirky classes during Vegas trips like Trapeze lessons and pole dance aerobics (ouch). I'm thinking of trying indoor sky diving since my friend Allison mentioned it before her Vegas trip a couple weeks ago. And, we've never seen a show in Vegas, so we might add that to the list.

I've been preparing Phil that I want to mimic our Picasso dining experience...any suggestions for an amazing restaurant?

At the very least, I hope we don't get stranded like last year. Wish us luck at Pai Gow!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Surfing in Sheboygan?

Phil's friends from Ohio State, Brian and Trish, live in Howards Grove, Wisconsin, a small town that rivals the village I grew up in near Youngstown, New Middletown, Ohio. Howards Grove is about double the size of my hometown, but we at least have a stoplight. Ha ha. I've lived in Cleveland now for about 10 years, and it feels like so long ago that I lived in a small town.

We spent this afternoon in Sheboygan, a larger city near Brian and Trish, exploring the riverfront near Lake Michigan. I was surprised to see a number of surfers catching certainly don't think of Wisconsin when you think of surfing. It was nice and cool near the lake despite today's warm temps.

The riverfront is nicely developed with casual (but not touristy) little shops and restaurants that line the marina. I couldn't help but think what state the Flats might be in now had it been less concentrated with bars with more variety suitable for families and daytime use. There's still hope.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery tour rocks!

When researching brewery tours to take while in Milwaukee, Lakefront Brewery got the best reviews, hands down. In addition, I wanted to check out Lakefront since it is the country’s oldest certified organic brewery (the ESB organic beer was tasty).

Phil and I had a great time on the tour! For $6, we were incredibly entertained by the comedic Curtsy (anytime someone snapped a photo, he shouted to tag him on Facebook) and sampled four tasty brews (two at the beginning, one in the middle and one in the end). My favorite was the Wheat Monkey. I think it’s my new favorite beer.

At the end of the tour, Curtsy convinced some volunteers to reenact the famous Laverne and Shirley sitcom opening. Check out the hilarious video below to see how much fun we were having.

Our time in Milwaukee is done, and now we’re heading to Howards Grove, a suburb of Sheboygan, to visit Phil’s grad school buddies.

Charles Allia Art Museum Mansion

Milwaukee seems to have a good mix of public and private art galleries. We got a glimpse of the Milwaukee Art Museum earlier today and then headed to Charles Allis Art Museum, which is the former Tudor mansion of a Milwaukee mover and shaker couple from the turn of the century. The Allis family amassed a large collection of art from around the world with the intent to bequest their home and collection to Milwaukee County so it can be appreciated for centuries to come.

For me, there’s something special about walking through a museum that used to be a private residence. Paintings seem more spectacular when hung above a fireplace where their former owners admired them as opposed to in a formal gallery. (In college, I wrote a paper on the differences in viewing experiences for public and private museums and used the National Gallery and Phillips Collection in D.C. as examples.)

The Allis collection includes a lot of Asian art (check out the 18th Century folding screen photo) and American paintings. The home’s d├ęcor is beautiful, and I was tickled to walk through the butler pantry and see the old intercom system with the rooms still labeled.

I wish we were able to spend more time in the Riverwest neighborhood, which has a lot of independent galleries and shops, but we just drove through quickly on the way to our brewery tour.

Wiener schnitzel wonders -- and more pancakes!

I heart Wisconsin pancakes! In Hayward with Sarah a couple weeks ago, I sampled sausage-filled lumberjack hot cakes. Today, I tried German apple pancakes with Hungarian sausage, and they were a cross between a funnel cake, stuffed French toast and pancakes. AMAZING!

During lunch, Phil and I engaged in an enthralling conversation about famous Germans at the historic, kitschy Karl Ratzsch (opened in 1904) in downtown Milwaukee. Our brief list was quite pathetic – Hitler, Heimlich and Hansel and Gretel --- until our Twitter peeps helped us out with a more extensive list (sorry, Bach).

Kicking off a downtown tour w the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum opens at 10 a.m., so that was the first place we headed from the airport. Downtown is about a 15-minute drive, and as we got closer, we were greeted with a very industrial panorama of the city. Phil and I think Cleveland’s entry points are thankfully a bit more urban.

Since Phil isn’t exactly a man of the arts, I knew I’d have to make my Milwaukee art itinerary on the light side or risk his wrath. So, we agreed to check out the lakefront outside the Milwaukee Art Museum as opposed to spending a couple hours inside viewing the collection, particularly since a lot of folks mentioned the exterior is more impressive than the collection. (This is my third Great Lake in two weeks.)

The Cleveland Art Museum has me completely spoiled. A) it’s free B) we have a comprehensive collection (no Asian art at MAM) c) our building’s exterior is growing more impressive with the expansion efforts.

But, Milwaukee’s art museum was something to see. Overlooking Lake Michigan, it looks like an elegant ship and has a “plank” that connects to a parking garage, which provides nice views of the city.

The lobby was really cool. Plenty of architectural eye candy and one Chihuly installation. If I had more time (and an art enthusiast at my side), I would have spent more time there.

P.S. If you find street parking, be aware that the city is cheap: a nickel gets you two minutes. Seriously?

CLE whole body scanners embarrassing and SLOW

As of Sunday, only two airports in the country, CLE and Houston, have installed whole body a.k.a. "naked" imaging scanners in passenger security lines. At CLE, there appears to be one full-body scanner in each security checkpoint...all other scanners are the normal ones.

This morning, I was directly behind Phil in one of the security lines, and he had to go through the full-body imaging scanner (ha!) while I walked through a normal one. Despite a short line overall in security, he took five minutes longer than me to walk through because of the extended time the new scanners take.

I'm not sure if more of these scanners will be added in the future, but if not, I'll do my best to avoid them so I can get through security quicker (and not think about someone checking out my lady parts).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

$32k to fly with Zippy? I think not

I love my pooch a lot...enough to send my retired racing greyhound to doggie daycare once a week. But, I don't think she's worthy of flying business class with me to Milwaukee tomorrow (hell, I only fly biz class when upgraded for free).

Check out this story in USA Today about a lady who booked out the entire biz class section on an international flight. I wonder if her dog stole her airline pretzels like my carb queen would (see empty bread loaf wrapper in photo)...