Wonderful Wisconsin: Cheese and Crackers, Beer and Packers

Two weeks ago I left Mexico and returned to my hometown near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was the aerial view from my 2 AM flight out of Mexico City. This vibrant city truly never sleeps.

img_5213After a quick 3.5 hour flight into Chicago, I took a Coach bus into downtown Milwaukee.

Isn’t my city a beaut? 😀img_5219After living in Mexico for the past three months, I have returned home with a new appreciation for the state and city where I was raised. 🙂

According to a recent article by Forbes Magazine, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is one the top up-and-coming cities in the United States.screenshot-2014-10-16-at-3-16-21-pmI decided to approach this two-week trip with the mindset of a traveler. Here goes nothing!


Free! 😀 My parents had been gracious enough to host me for the past two weeks. I set up camp (i.e. inflated my air mattress) in Dad’s man cave and I was all set. Dad’s man-cave is decked out with the essentials: deer mounts, recliner, duck decoys and game calls.manPoor guy! I can’t thank him enough for letting me invade his man space. The best I could do to repay Dad and Mom for their kind hospitality was by cooking for them.vinilo-adhesivo-cocina_mv249I LOVE cooking and there is nothing better than cooking for the ones you love.famfoodAfter getting settled in with Mom and Dad, I decided to explore the city with Ella. I was a Vet Tech for the past five years and a guardian to my precious beagle Daisy, so I’ve really missed not having a dog around. I was not going to let this opportunity get away from me. My first week home, I took Ella down to Lake Park in Milwaukee for a nice long walk.


Lake Park:
When the first Park Commission began in the late 1800’s, they recruited leading landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to lead with the design. Olmsted envisioned Lake Park to resemble the romantic feel of European parks with open meadows and interwoven paths, taking advantage of both Lake Michigan and the numerous secluded ravine trails. Leading Milwaukeeans saw public parks as “gardens for the poor.” It gave city residents, not fortunate enough to afford luxurious manicured gardens, a way to escape their cramped city lifestyle and experience the beauty of nature. Olmsted’s most notable works included landscaping New York’s Central Park and the U.S. Capitol grounds.
I dressed up very posh to walk Ella in Lake Park, outfitted with high heel leather boots, skinny jeans and trendy printed scarf.

…I immediately regretted this decision.

As we entered Lake Park, Ella spotted a biker and took off running. Apparently Ella was a Clydesdale in her past life, so with all her strength, she took me along for the ride. It was slightly comical as I was violently pulled to the ground by this 40 pound puppy, and the biker watched in horror as I was dragged horizontally across the wet lawn. Hah. I can only look back and laugh. Luckily I left with minimal grass stains and minor loss of dignity. After rebounding from that episode, I was able to hit the trails with Ella and take in the beauty of nature. I decided to follow the ravine trail tucked away from Lake Drive that offers a peaceful and serene encounter with wildlife. Ella was a peach for the rest of the walk and I quickly forgave her for her mad dash earlier. I mean, who can stay mad at that face?ellaAfter the ravine trail, I headed down towards the lakefront. Lake Michigan is absolutely beautiful and Bradford beach was so quiet now that summer has ended.

Bradford Beach

North Point Lighthouse

An essential component of Milwaukee’s maritime history, North Point Lighthouse was first commissioned in 1854 by the U.S. lighthouse service. Since bluff erosion has been a persistent problem along Lake Michigan’s shores, they had to move the lighthouse back and rebuild in 1888. In the 1990’s, the lighthouse was decommissioned and converted into a museum. I wasn’t able to go inside, but the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters are open to the public on weekends. For a small fee, you have the opportunity to learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the keeper’s lifestyle during that time, plus your contribution will benefit the preservation of this historic site.10447635_10103576858783207_2653417372407093469_n
Lake Drive Historic District

lakedriveOld Milwaukee architecture is truly awe-inspiring and that walk was just a glimpse of the beauty of Wisconsin during fall. With the leaves changing colors to spectacular hues of orange, yellow and red, the scenery is unforgettable.10177437_10103576858977817_2061172596161557415_nHere are more sights that capture the essence of autumn in Wisconsin. We are truly lucky to experience such beauty.

Holy Hill National Shrine of Mary

holy hill

Ice Age Trail
Check out that gigantic Puffball mushroom. Although edible, I was not hungry enough to take a bite! 🙂10703656_10103588933146087_207344814037879877_n10615324_10103588931080227_8355416391714607131_n
Seven Bridges Trail


Boerner Botanical Gardens

This garden is great way to view all of the seasonal flowers in bloom. I was here for a wedding, but they are open to the public April through November for a minimal fee, plus they offer guided tours.wedTurns out it was a good time to spot some wildlife as well!deerI had to send those pictures to my students, since they don’t have deer in Mexico. They thought it was so cool! 🙂

Historic Pritzlaff Building

After the gorgeous couple said their vows, we headed over to the Historic Pritzlaff Building in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. This building was constructed in the late 1800’s and was recently renovated as a banquet space for private events. The cream city brick walls, massive wooden columns and vaulted ceilings make the space very open and representative of iconic Milwaukee architecture. Pritzlaff Co. used to be the nation’s largest hardware distributor in the early 1900’s and they used this building as a warehouse and auction room, which is evident when you see the expansive interior and walk-in vault in the center of the room.wed2The reception was a wonderful mix of great food and dancing. Zilli Hospitality Group catered the event and served a variety of enticing appetizers, including lobster pasta and watermelon with goat cheese topped with a balsamic reduction. Yum!

I always love trying to new food during my travels, and this trip home was no exception. 🙂


Mekong Café
Weekday Lunch Buffet: Vegetable spring roll, Laotian larb (minced beef with fish sauce, lime juice and toasted rice wrapped in lettuce), Crispy tofu stir fry, Thai marinated chicken and Tom Kha soup (creamy coconut vegetable soup flavored with ginger and lime juice).jjThe food overall was superb. No complaints. A great way to sample foreign foods and indulge in unlimited crab rangoons. Fried wonton, crab and cream cheese just might be a little taste of heaven. 🙂 Only one disclaimer: do not confuse these two items! 
What may appear to the untrained eye like a tasty rice krispie treat is actually a fried shrimp crisp. Quite the surprise when you choose that for your dessert! Hah. Anyway, the shrimp crisp is a wonderful accompaniment when dipped in soup as a savory appetizer. Just make sure to stick with the fortune cookie for dessert if you want something sweet. 😉
 Milwaukee Ale House
Beef Nachos Appetizer


Blaze Pizza

Crisp oven-fired pizza topped with artichokes, mozzarella, fresh basil, Italian sausage, mushrooms, ricotta cheese, chopped garlic and red sauce dollops. This build-you-own pizza concept reminded me of Subway, but for Italian food. Fresh ingredients, affordable price and absolutely delicious! 😀

Bel Air Cantina
Complimentary chips with a nice variety of spicy and smoky salsas. We arrived on $2 Taco Thursday. Three tacos will earn you a nice helping of rice and beans, so we decided that three was the magic number. 😀 I chose Korean bbq beef, pollo verde and baja tilapia tacos with seasoned rice and black beans with sour cream and a fried plantain. YUM!belair


I feel like even though Wisconsin may be pegged as the land of beer, cheese and Packers, we really do have a lot more to offer.cheeseFrom hiking to backyard bonfires, and wildlife encounters to farm visits, I was really able to enjoy the peace and beauty of the outdoors.

Luckily, I was even able to experience the back-country roads as a biker babe on my friend’s Harley. Milwaukee is the birthplace of Harley Davidson, so it could not have been a better experience. 🙂firefamholyhill2holyhill3On the flip side, from local music to trendy bars with handcrafted Wisconsin brews, I was able to experience the thriving heart of downtown Milwaukee.show

Beer Recommendation: Lakefront Brewery pumpkin lager. Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee prepares this microbrew using real pumpkin and a balanced blend of fall spices including cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom. This lager is the perfect seasonal brew for fall. Cheers!
Pumpkin Carving

I was even able to take a walk down memory lane by carving pumpkins with a girlfriend of mine. We had a blast carving this zombie gnome and wicked witch, while watching a classic Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus. pumpkinsThe TRUE horror story occurred one week later. SLUGS had infested my pumpkin! Gag me with a spoon! Yuck!

Warning: Please shield your eyes if you have a sensitive stomach!pump


Speaking of gross, let’s talk about my souvenirs! Hah. It was very hard to leave my students for the last few weeks, but I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear that I’m bringing back gifts! 😀

Jelly Belly Factory

I felt literally like a kid in a candy store. I loaded up on all the traditional flavors and then grabbed a variety of weird and wacky beans. From BOOGER and VOMIT to EAR WAX and DIAPER WIPES, they will be able to taste them all, or at least dare each other to try them! Hah.

I thought it was a great place to buy souvenirs, since this distribution facility is one of only two in the country. Visitors are able to take their kids on free train rides and sample as many jellies as their stomachs can handle. 😛10702051_10103584465574137_949476641799410580_n10012452_10103584496267627_3980898198310811884_n10606359_10103584343294187_7041822523578767893_n-1I was even able to grab some souvenirs for new friends back in Mexico.gifts

Rum Chata: A cream liquor made with a delicious blend of cinnamon, spiced rum and real Wisconsin cream. No mixer is necessary for this Pewaukee distilled creation. The hardest part was saving it until I got to Mexico. It is just that good!

Stove Top Stuffing: This will come in handy around November when we try and recreate a hearty Thanksgiving meal south of the border. Jalapeño stuffing, anyone? 🙂  
I was really happy to get things for friends that are unique to America.
Now that my trip has come to an end, I packed up my bags and returned to Mexico City this evening.
After all is said and done, perhaps the best souvenir of all, was the one that I took for myself.  A framed picture for my dresser to remind me each day of the people I love most. ❤img_5477Wisconsin is where my family lives. I was able to create lasting memories with family and friends, which has made this journey home the most memorable adventure yet.fam2
I can only hope to be as hospitable when my family comes to visit me in Mexico. Until then. Buenas noches. 🙂

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