It’s Always Sunny in Milwaukee

Oh, wait, the name of that show is Philadelphia – and now I know why they didn’t pick Milwaukee. We are just getting back from our trip out to enjoy cooler summer temperatures and the Milwaukee Irish Fest. It will likely take us until the NEXT Irish fest next August to dry out. It rained pretty much from the time we got there until the time we left. e got in a visit to Irish Fest on Friday night, but being optimistic about having the whole weekend to spend there, we left as they closed up the children’s activities. We arrived bright and early the next morning and volunteered for the 5K run to benefit the Arthritis Foundation, and that gained us free access to the festival. Guess when the rain started? As soon as we stepped inside the festival gates. We did a few of the kids’ things under the tent, but we couldn’t take them on the playgrounds or anything. We visited the Celtic Canines booth, where Granuaile got up close and personal with a few of Rosie’s Midwestern relatives. We were joined there by Brighid and Eilis, who had stopped to do a craft project at one of the kids’ stations, and we left the damp doggies to go grab some lunch. The rain was beginning to fall heavier, so even though there were tons of things to do, it was too cool and too wet to stay.

We went back to the hotel with the two little kids, and Brighid made the decision to stay and see some of the bands she had come all this way to see. Over the course of the weekend, she got to see Gaelic Storm, the Tossers, Enter the Haggis, and a few others. She had a great time, regardless of the Irish Mist that fell the entire weekend.

On Sunday, Jim and I took a ride out to Racine, WI to look at a new housing development of “Arts and Crafts” style houses. They were so cute!! They are styled after the old Sears build it yourself Craftsman homes, and had the touches that those homes frequently featured – like built ins!! After our trip out to Racine, we went back to the hotel and waited for my friend Beth to arrive from Indiana. We had such a nice visit with her! She phoned from her hotel when she arrived, and Brighid and I ran out to meet her. We came back to downtown and headed to Mo’s Irish Pub for dinner. The food there is good, and the portions generous, but this is Irish weekend, and the place was packed with loud, rowdy Irishmen/women. To make matters worse, Mo’s was running a shuttle to and from the festival grounds, so every few minutes, a person would announce over the loud speaker that they were getting ready to depart for the fare grounds. When the waitress blew us off by not offering dessert, we took ourselves across the street to Mo’s other fine establishment – Mocha. We got some coffees and desserts there, but better than that, we got to sit and chat for a while! It was so nice to talk girly stuff and not have to worry about the little girls interfering.

Monday was the day Beth was leaving, so we got up fairly early and Jim went to work while I got the girls ready to go pick up Beth. We came back downtown to the Milwaukee Public Market, where we both spent a good bit of money on the delicious offerings of the market. Eilis ate half her weight in free samples of cheese curds, so I picked up two flavors of the cheese curds and a few of the beef sticks that Jim purchased for them a few days before. They really loved those. We also picked up a couple of other snacky type things to enjoy during the rest of our week here.

From there, we went back to Beth’s hotel to pick up her car, and we headed to the Jelly Belly factory store!! Woohoo!! We waited a few minutes in line, and we were soon boarding the Jelly Belly express train through a tour of the warehouse. They don’t actually make Jelly Bellys or any other candy here, so the train took us around the warehouse, stopping at various video screens, where we could see how Jelly Bellys were made somewhere else. But not here, or anywhere near here. Shut up and ride the train.

Okay, so now came the BEST part of the whole trip, and the point at which Eilis decided this was the BEST DAY OF HER LIFE. The Jelly Belly express drops you off at the entrance to, wait for it, you know where I’m going with this, don’t you, the Jelly Belly Factory Store! We all got off the train and filed past one of the Jolly Jelly Belly train conductors (don’t get too close to the piercings in her nose, kids, and yes, she colors her hair blue to match the Jelly Bellys), who handed us each a sample pack of the tiny precious Jelly Bellys, and then we walk through the door to the Jelly Belly fantasy land. Walls lined with every imaginable flavor of jelly bean in the land, as well as mountains of other candies made by the Jelly Belly people. They have a snack bar, but since we snacked on stromboli in the car earlier, we were not too anxious to grab a snack. They also have a sample bar, where you can try a free sample of any of the candies that they keep in the store.

The biggest bargain of the day was the Belly Flops! We got a bag for Megan and a bag of Hodgepodge flops for the kids. They are 2 pound bags of either the jelly beans or the mixed candies, bargain priced, that didn’t turn out quite right for some reason, and they don’t sell them as Jelly Bellys. And the best part was they had small bags of belly flops in sugar free! It was a nice afternoon, we bought way too much candy for people who aren’t supposed to eat it, but the kids snacked all the way back to the hotel.

And I learned a valuable lesson. Sugar free is not my friend. I bought the sugar free flops and some sugar free chocolate covered raisins. They were all REALLY good, but I got such terrible stomach cramps from the malitol they use as a sweetener that I ended up throwing away the leftovers the next day to avoid being tempted by them.

On Tuesday, we headed to the outlet mall in Brookfield. We got there around 11 and did some fall/winter clothes shopping for each of the girls. They had some good stores there, including Gymboree, Children’s Place, Old Navy, the Gap, etc. I got some GREAT bargains for Eilis, and was so tempted to get Halloween costumes, but resisted since it’s so early. Everyone was getting pretty darn hungry by about 2, so we packed up in the car and headed off to find food. Hi-Way Harry’s was the only restaurant that looked like a sit down place in the immediate area, so we wandered in. We felt a little under dressed, as most of the people here looked like business people on lunch breaks, in jackets and ties and skirts, but they were friendly and seated us right away near the stone fireplace.

We had a nice lunch, and then headed back to Milwaukee. Granuaile slept a little in the car on the way back, and we left most of the bags in the car when we got back to the hotel. I ran down to the mall, where they had a produce stand, and got a couple of things to go with dinner, and Jim was home after a little while. We all ate a little something and hit the gym, then went back and watched TV until bedtime.

Remember that rain it’s been doing? Yeah, today too. I got the kids up and dressed and we headed for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, which was such a huge hit on the last trip. Well, it is MOBBED – probably because it’s raining outside – and the kids can barely get close to any of the activities. We make our way through a few things for about an hour, and then the power in the museum goes out. One of the museum workers is wandering through the building, telling people they will try to stay open, but there is no air conditioning, and the only exhibits you can really play on are the ones that are on the outside walls of the museum, where at least the outside light is coming in. Because it’s already packed in here when we have the full run of the museum, we decide not to take a chance on finding an activity when we are all herded into a small space, so we are going to head out. A few other families are also heading out, and as we reach the elevator, the people getting off warn us not to get on because they have been stuck in there for 15 minutes, not moving. There is a door next to the elevators that leads to the stairs, so we opt for that escape plan. Well, we got all the way downstairs, only to find that the door is locked. We hike back up the two flights of stairs only to find out that the door we entered the stairwell through does not have a door knob on this side, so we have no way to open it. We stand there a few minutes, knocking; with Eilis begging in the most dramatic of voices for someone to PLEASE OH PLEASE help us. Finally, a man and his children who are leaving the still darkened museum let us in. He has pushed the elevator button, and it appears to be working, so we hop on and hope for the best. We are soon making our way through the dark parking garage to find our car, and we pull out – free parking today because the power is out and they have no way to know how long you’ve been in there!! – Not sure what to do with ourselves. If we go back to the hotel and there is no power there, we’ll be bored and sweating. We decide to go find someplace for lunch that’s away from this downtown part of town.

As we drive away from downtown Milwaukee, we realize that there are indeed unsavory parts of town, and we don’t want to be in them. Because I suck at directions, I don’t want to veer too far off of the main roads through the city because I fear we will never find our way back. We finally end up deciding to head back and just go to Mo’s Irish Pub again. Well, Brighid decided that. When we get back, I just can’t bring myself to go to Mo’s again, so I make them walk a few blocks and we find the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery. It’s right on the water, it smells good, and we can have a table in about 5 minutes.

The service here, as it seems to be in all of the Milwaukee restaurants we’ve tried, is super friendly. We browse the lengthy menu, and Eilis settles on a make it yourself pizza; Granuaile is going to have macaroni and cheese; I order the Cobb Salad, and Brighid gets smoked salmon fish and chips. The fries that come with the fish and chips are delicious, but she is not an immediate fan of the smoke salmon fried. I guess if you’re used to the white fish – cod or halibut – the denser, fattier salmon is a bit of a departure that takes some adjustment. She ate one good sized piece from the generous helping, but does not wish to take the rest back to the room with us. Eilis has a ball putting her pizza together. They bring out a ready to fill pizza crust, cheese, sauce, and pepperoni, and Eilis did a great job building her pie. My Cobb salad, unlike the traditional, is not chopped. The salad is good, the usual chicken has been substituted with smoked turkey that tastes really good, and I enjoy the bit I can eat of it. And really, for Gracie, how could you mess up Mac and cheese?

With the break in the rain a welcome relief, we walk back to the hotel and veg out again until dinner. We eat, go to the gym, and relax back in the room until bedtime.