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Posts Tagged ‘Wisconsin’

  1. Winter Walk At Indian Lake

    February 29, 2016 by admin

    No need to sit inside all year.  There’s always a way to get outside and explore.

    We are blessed to have a good county park system in our area.  This makes it so much easier to get out and explore all year around.

    Our latest adventure took us to Indian Lake County Park, about a twenty minute drive from our house.admin-ajax.php

    A walk through the winter woods is a great adventure.  Making sure we wore proper clothes, we were comfortable during our long walk.  We were able to explore to our hearts content before turning back and heading for the car.

    Along the way we found animal tracks, a warming cabin which inspired a long talk about planning a camping trip,  cool leaves that had melted into the ice, and this funky fungus!  Much better than staying inside.

    We used the “I’ll follow you.” method of exploring the park to give Bluey the maximum amount of control over exploring this park.  He chose the paths, he made changes in our explore- he was in charge.  And when he was ready to back, we returned to the car.

    With no pre-selected path, we explored the many cross-country skiing paths, and meandered through the woods.  It was a great morning of exploring, creating another great memory, and another place where Bluey says: “Let’s go back there soon.”


  2. Homeschool Snowday

    January 26, 2016 by admin


    One reason to love homeschooling is we get to have a whole new definition of ‘snowday’ ‘holliday’ and ‘vacation.’  Our recent snow means P.E. happens on the hill!  We guarantee that our Bluey gets more moving around time in his day than his public schooled peers.  IMG_3875

  3. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

    January 12, 2016 by admin

    Out 2

    Out 2When the weather outside is frightful, you can still go outside!  Dress warmly and go have fun!

  4. Horicon National Wildlife Refuge

    September 7, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2111Horicon National Wildlife Refuge is a place of wonder.  Located just about 1 hour from Madison, it is a super easy day trip for a hike or a bike ride upon your arrival.

    We had decided to bike and made our first vehicle stop at the Federal Visitor Center on Headquarters Road for some suggestions on the best path for our family.  We were pleased to discover a nice nature display, an observation deck, a small gift shop, and clean bathrooms within the Center.

    The Center’s guide suggested that we try a bike path that runs along side an auto tour road.  This path included access to a network of floating pathways which led out into the wetlands and a central observation spot. We have the most luck on our hikes and biking when our travels include water, so we knew this was probably a great trail to explore.

    Tip1: Be careful to examine your maps closely. In our haste to begin, we ended up on a path that shared the way with vehicles. The majority of drivers were using extreme caution, but a few zipped down the path with seemingly no care about the blind corners, hikers, and bicyclists.

    We were happy that the bike trail had only a few rises that Bluey easily managed. We had to leave our bikes to explore the floating pathways.

    Tip2: There are no bike racks at the head of walking-only pathways. Be prepared to take valuables with you and to leave your bike propped off the main road.

    The surroundings were breathtaking. We’ve done a lot of biking and hiking in the areas in and around Madison. But we were impressed with the beauty of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.  And we had more wildlife encounters than we’ve ever experienced in our prior outings.  If you aren’t familiar with many species of water birds, you may want to tuck a pocket guide in your gear.  You will have a chance to see many rare birds in a wildlife setting such as this.

    Tip3: It appears that dogs are allowed on many trails but we’d suggest you leave them at home if you are interested in experiencing wildlife.

    Even though we spotted a school bus, vehicles, and others out and about on the trails- we managed to enjoy the majority of the area we chose on our own, without fighting crowds. Parking wasn’t an issue and access is free.

    We can’t wait to go back in the Fall and perhaps witness some migratory bird viewing!

  5. At The Wisconsin Council Of The Blind

    March 6, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2889“What do blind people do?  I mean, do they have jobs and stuff?”

    Our curious Bluey asked this simple question the other day.  So we had to find a satisfying answer.

    We had been looking for batteries and saw all the tiny batteries designed for hearing aids.  This led to a short discussion about hearing aids and how they helped people who could not hear very well by amplifying the sounds around them.

    And then we had a conversation about people who have visual impairments.  Bluey wanted to know how you could have a job, or read a book, if you were blind.  We talked about how people with vision difficulties have all sorts of jobs from doctors to lawyers to artists. Blind people can do almost anything, even read!

    But Bluey’s questions lingered.  We were driving in our car for most of this conversation, so the description TRDad had for how the Braille alphabet worked was not quite clear to our youngest.

    On our way home, we pulled into the parking lot of the Wisconsin Council of the Blind and Vision Impaired.   An advantage of living near the state capitol is that we have the offices for many advocacy groups not far from our home.  The small offices for the Council of the Blind is right in our neighborhood.

    We had no appointment, no knowledge of the Council’s regular working hours, and no expectations.  Our best hope was that someone might be able to show us a book in Braille, or something along those lines.

    Despite our surprise visit, we were welcomed by the staff from the start.  The two women who run the front desk, Heather and Amanda, greeted us and immediately understood how they could help and were eager to do so.

    IMG_2890They showed us around the Sharper Vision store where visually impaired people can find items to assist them.  We saw all sorts of tools and techniques that help vision impaired people go about their daily lives.  They let Bluey listen to a headset that converted websites from text to speech.  We saw rulers, knives and other household goods adapted with Braille measures and marks.  They showed us clocks and phones that talked out the time or phone numbers (Bluey really liked the talking clocks!)

    Best of all, they showed Bluey how the Braille system worked with examples from books and notecards.  Amanda even showed Bluey how to run a Braille typewriter- printing his name for him while he watched!IMG_2891

    We were so happy to have made this random stop!  Heather and Amanda were a wealth of information and very kind.  They left us with a handful of Braille bookmarks to give out to friends, and an increased knowledge and understanding of the lives of visually impaired people.

    When you and your family have questions, seek out the people in your area who might know the answers.  You’ll meet new friends and learn more than you might’ve hoped.IMG_0197

  6. Our Latest Big Thing

    February 27, 2015 by admin

    farmhouse_1_mdWe have recently been thrown into a home search.  With our landlord unexpectedly selling the property where we live, we’ve been given notice to find a new place.  We’ve been renting for five years, so our first plan was to find another rental property.


    In a twist of life events that surprised this TR family, we are instead cautiously moving forward with exploring home ownership.  This is a nerve wracking experience as we are financially conservative and solidly working class.

    We have been renters for many years following some significant life events that left us financially devastated.  Our climb to recovery has been slow and steady.  We’ve been back on our feet for a few years now.  And when we examined the amount of money we throw away by renting (more than 1200 a month!), it seemed ludicrous not to try out home ownership.

    Obviously, we want to stay well within our means.  No palatial spread on acres of land is in our immediate future.  So how do we do it?  How do we find that perfectly sized, affordable home that is within our current school district?

    We began by reaching out to a mortgage lender to assure that we would indeed qualify for a home loan.  This involved a lot of gathering of documents and precise communication about our borrowing goal.  We then began investigating our market.

    There are a few critical pieces to our search of homes- and (do a google search for your county’s property assessment and tax information ).  These two sites give us a wealth of pertinent information about any property that piques our interest.

    As with any big project, we are keen to stay organized and focused to successfully find a new home.

    We print out properties that we want to pursue and keep them tabbed in a 3-ring binder.  We plan to utilize a rating system to determine which homes should be visited first.  We’ll make notes within the binder after our walk through of each property.  Our hope is that this will streamline our decision making and ease some of the stress involved in finding a suitable house.

    Stay tuned!

  7. Surrounded by Molds

    February 1, 2015 by admin

    IMG_9969 We wanted an adventure on a recent weekend that was somewhere new and something unique.  It took a bit of research as we’ve already been to a ton of places within a two hour radius of our home.  But perseverance uncovered what we hoped would become a very interesting day trip.

    Just outside of Sparta is the FAST Corporation.  The company makes fiberglass statues and when they are done with a mold, they store it on their surrounding property with the hope to reuse it at some point.IMG_2765

    Tip1:  A sign at the entrance cautions that molds are favorite nesting spots for wasps in the spring.  Since we visited in the dead of winter, this was not an issue.

    When you first pull into the free parking area, your eyes are drawn to the welcome sign and a small grass yard with some abandoned statues.  We had a moment of worry that this was all the corporation had to offer.  And then we did a 180 and realized that we were surrounded by molds of all sorts and sizes.  Let the adventure begin!

    Tip2:  There are no public restrooms on the property during the weekend.  You might be able to use the FAST restroom during business hours.

    Our family spent a transfixed hour romping among the molds.  We saw everything from dogs to dinosaurs to indians to ET, the extra terrestrial.  It was oddly peaceful and a lot of fun to try and guess why someone would order something like a gigantic devil’s head.IMG_2766

    Even though we were dressed properly for a winter outdoor explore, the weather certainly influenced the amount of time we spent here.  We imagine you could easily take two hours to walk around this property in the warmer months.  This TR family is eager to return and discover molds we may have missed on our first visit to FAST!IMG_9988

  8. Discovery World

    January 11, 2015 by admin

    We were recently gifted with a membership to the Discovery World Museum (DWM) in Milwaukee.  We immediately started making plans for a visit.  We’d been to this museum before, so we knew it would be a great trip.  In fact, our kids had been asking when we’d get to go back!

    Tip1:  DWM has very steep admission prices.  If you don’t have a membership, you’ll need to plan ahead for the expense.

    We started our exploration of the DWM at the science and biology end of the building- a three story wing that faces Lake Michigan and offers amazing views along with great interactive displays.  We particularly love the Great Lakes map exhibit where you can actually make rain fall from the ceiling.  And our Bluey greatly enjoys scrambling around on the full sized boat on the 2nd floor.

    IMG_9770In the basement level, a top-notch aquarium can keep you mesmerized for quite some time.  There are jellyfish to watch, and sting rays and sturgeon fish that you can touch!  They feel like… well, that would be telling. You’ll have to find out on your own. 😉

    Tip2:  A snack before romping through the DWM’s 2nd wing is a great idea.  There is only one small, overpriced cafe at the museum.  We recommend you enjoy your own snacks from home!

    At the other side of the building, you’ll find the technology in Wisconsin wing.  It holds fabulous displays on various machines that have been developed and built in Wisconsin- from Evinrude engines to Les Paul guitars.  There are countless devices to manipulate and learn the science and technology that went into making them.

    Also within this wing, The Kohls Design Center allows you to take a break from the museum exhibits and create various arts and crafts projects – for FREE.  A team of assistants will help you find all the materials you need to make a unique craft that you can take home from the museum.IMG_9768

    Exploring the entire DWM will easily take all day, if you can last that long.  If possible, we recommend you break your enjoyment of the DWM into several separate day trips.

  9. Halfway Prairie

    January 7, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2589In a recent search for a new place to explore, we found ourselves at the Halfway Prairie near Mazomanie, Wisconsin.  We had originally been aiming for Indian Lake Park.  But driving up the street to our original destination, we saw the impressive ruins at Halfway Prairie and decided that we had to go there first.

    Visible from the road is a large, crumbling building, and a smaller building next to it.  This drew us in and we parked our car to explore.IMG_2590_2

    The larger building is mostly a ruin- the windows, roof and wooden parts have long ago rotted away, leaving tall stone walls behind.  Our best guess is that it was a former school, or maybe a church?  We’re not sure.  But it was very cool to explore the outside.  (The building is fenced off for safety purposes.)

    Tip 1:  Hunting is permitted in this wildlife area, so exercise caution if you explore during hunting season!

    The smaller building is locked and boarded up.  It is much smaller and less ornate looking than the other structure, and in better condition.  Perhaps it was a maintenance shed, or a caretaker’s home?

    Several paths flow off from the buildings, heading deep into the prairie beyond.  We enjoyed walking the paths and following some of the remaining fence lines.  At one point, we startled some sleeping deer who took off across the fields towards the wooden area further back.

    Tip 2: Indian Lake Park contains parts of the Ice Age Trail.  Perhaps one day the trail will cut through this wildlife area.

    IMG_2587_2We were quite taken by the quiet serenity of Halfway Prairie.  We’re sure to be back, and we recommend this out-of-the-way park for a day of explore.

  10. Pewits Nest

    November 9, 2014 by admin

    IMG_8666If you are up for a hike a short drive from the Madison, Wisconsin area, and like quiet secluded places- we must recommend you head for Pewits Nest at some point.

    We recently had a great day exploring this small, natural area near Baraboo.  If you enjoy Wisconsin’s great outdoors, you’ve probably been to the nearby state park at Devil’s Lake.  But Pewits Nest is much less popular, and therefore much less crowded.   In fact, finding Pewits Nest can be a bit of a trick because there are no signs for it on the road.  You could easily drive right past its unmarked dusty parking lot- so make sure you check your maps carefully so you know where to look.

    Tip: Although less popular than many natural areas, it is still a good idea to arrive early in the day if you want to have the place to yourselves for a bit.  And there are NO public restrooms.

    The trail from the parking lot begins as a wide flat path going through a quiet little forest, but soon the path narrows as rugged cliff sides begin to rise on one side.  Soon enough you are surrounded on three sides by tall cliffs, with a fast but shallow creek running  through the middle.

    It was simply beautiful.

    With no trail map available, we went into exploring mode and followed the trails as far as they seemed to go.  We enjoyed rock hopping in the creek and tried to find a trail to the waterfall, which we could just barely see through an opening in the cliffs.  We found ample signs of wild animals and saw many beautiul trees and native plants.IMG_8690

    We left with a firm desire to go back and explore further- even our dog thought this place was the bees knees as she channeled her inner puppy, keen to check out each nook and cranny.

    Tip 2:  Dogs are permitted but must be leashed at all times.  All plants and animals in Pewits Nest are protected- so leave them alone!

    On the way out, we met a truly interesting group of people in the parking lot- but we’ll share that story another day.