Friday, August 20, 2010

Go ask Alice

Go ask Alice. About her gardening that is
By Sheryl Popp

Garden Tour 2011 spoiler alert: Next year, the gardens of Alice Iaquinta will be part of the Gardens of West Bend tour. But when I visited with her recently, the focus was really on what she had to say about herself and her yard. Generally speaking, people favor gardening interviews with me mostly in July or August. This year, many gardens are past their peak, although I haven't been anywhere that some vivid colors spots don't remain. So our chat in Alice's cozy backyard was most pleasant.

Alice made time for me on her last vacation day before returning to her teaching job at Moraine Park Technical College. There she teaches ethics, interpersonal communications and marriage and the family courses - a pretty full load. In 2006, Alice earned a masters of divinity degree from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee. After that, she was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest through a movement that is gaining momentum in the church, despite the Vatican's official position. Part of her course curriculum for the degree was in philosophy and ethics, so that is why she was asked by MPTC to teach the course. "It's really perfect for me," said Alice. "But it is gut wrenching to teach ethics in today's world. I need my sanctuary here." Her career does create time conflicts in spring and fall, but more on that later.

Alice moved into her Villa Park area home in December of 2000. There were five crab trees and a blue spruce in the back yard, and a maple and purple plum in front. Some tiered garden plots had been constructed in the front of the home, between the house and driveway. "The grass was nice," said Alice, "but it was my goal to reduce it." That winter was pretty blizzard-intense, Alice recalled, and she spent a good deal of time dreaming of how she would like her space to be someday, and drawing sketches. Alice has always gardened, and inherited her love of growing things from her Italian grandmother, Dominica. "She was a wonder with her gardens," said Alice, "but flowers were secondary to vegetables. I think she would relax in the evening by watering her flowers, especially phlox. So my phlox garden is sort of a tribute to her. She taught us how to suck the nectar out of phlox, and she had an enormous snowball bush. We would pick the flowers and have snowball fights with them. My grandmother would still spade by hand, in her house dress, when she was 78." The first summer in her new home, Alice was determined to carry out her plans, convinced a woman could handle the workload. She began rototilling the first flowerbed on July 4, 2001, and is currently putting the finishing touches on the last one.

There have been some obstacles, One summer, Alice became ill after a huge load of mulch was delivered. A man and his son from her church appeared on her door step and moved the load to the rear of the home, so she could place it when she recovered. "One funny story was about a lot of trees," said Alice. "I shopped at Trees for Less to buy two to three foot trees, because they have a root ball I could carry. I drag everything home in my convertible. When the truck delivered them, I had all the holes dug, but the trees were all six to eight feet tall! The driver said the owner of the place was making me a gift of the bigger trees for the same price. I asked the driver if he could place them next to the holes, and he said they didn't do that. But, when he learned I was moving them by myself, he did place them for me. So I enlarged the holes, and watching me kick, pull and push those big root balls into them must be been pretty funny. But I'm proud of myself for it." Then there was the time when it all just become too overwhelming for Alice. I had asked how she managed to keep everything so nice with her teaching schedule. "I have learned I have to ask for some help," answered Alice. "That was hard for me. That summer I was ill, I was thinking about giving up the house because I was so worried about the work. I ran into Mary Steiner and her friend Kristine Brundl, and told them that. They just looked at each in perfect agreement, and then they came to my house several times and cleaned up the yard. They were wonderful. They truly turned me around."

In the back yard, there is the phlox garden, and one on the property line that is more of a cottage garden. Looking in that direction, Alice enjoys seeing the taller flowers, shrubs and trees abut the skyline. She has one flowerbed devoted to antique Buck roses. These roses grow from the root up, and are not grafted. "I needed something that didn't need to be covered," said Alice. They bloom at various times, providing consistent color. The backyard has both gazebo seating to one side and a cozy patio to the other side. Alice places a great deal of value on enjoying each spot as it peaks: the early spring sea of yellow digitalis (foxglove), a cloud of purple flowers on her redbud tree, a circle of parrot tulips in a front bed. Flowering shrubs in the front yard provide six weeks worth of aromatic delight, a double mock orange, then ruby weigela, and lastly Jedi viburnum. Alice's favorites are whatever is currently blooming, although because of her schedule, she doesn't have fall blooming flowers. "My goal now that the last bed is in," said Alice, "is just to maintain. I feel like I've done everything I set out to do, and proved that a woman can do a lot on her own, although I must say the rocks I move have gotten smaller over the years. But I created the ambiance I wanted to, and I feel like that's part of living a full life. I love to entertain here now, and the gardens give me the opportunity to replenish, refuel and nourish myself. Also to pray. It's easy to meditate when you're pulling weeds."

Alice's tip. I hate dividing hostas, so I really thought this was a good idea. Alice buys her hostas at end of season sales, and immediately divides them into pieces. Then the plants can grow and fill into their spaces. It also saves her a wad o' cash.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Allenton Lions Club hosts 28th annual jam-packed event
By Sheryl Popp

You might think that the Allenton Lions Club annual classic car and truck show / swap meet & flea market / pancake breakfast event might not garner top attendance when the first Saturday in July falls exactly on July 4. Well, then you and I, and even Gerald Schulz, event co-chairman, would be wrong. "We have a good size crowd every year," he said. "It doesn't seem to matter if it's the fourth." I sat down with Gerald to learn a bit more about the big bash. The Allenton Lions have 52 members. Those on various car show committees start planning at their February meeting. Gerald is on food detail, I learned, and is actually so busy that he only takes brief breaks to quickly tool around the event and check out the crowd and the fun. "I've been a member since 1996," he said. "I've been taking tickets and serving food at the show ever since."

Classic Cars
The car show dates back to the first year after the Allenton Lions Club formed. Event co-chair Al Luedtke remarked in a 2009 TV interview, that the charter members of the club just thought it sounded like a fun thing to do. Each year, he continued, a different car is featured at the show. In the early years, the feature car would be one belonging to a club member. Last year's featured cars were GTOs, and this year it's flat head Fords. That car becomes the symbol for the year's event advertising. Over 400 cars are expected to show up and show off. The Lions award dash plaques to the first 300 cars arriving at the event. All cars must be 25 years or more old. The show is held in Veterans Park in Allenton (at Hwys. 33 and 41), and admittance is only $2.00 for adults. Children under 12 enter free with an adult. Even last minute entrants will be accepted day of show. The fee is $10.00 per vehicle.

Pancakes Galore
Another popular component of the car show is the annual pancake breakfast. It's all you can eat, from 6:30am until 11am. Henneberry Pancakes of Hartford provides sausage and applesauce to accompany their flapjacks, and served over 1,400 folks last year. The fee is $6.00 a person. Other refreshments are available throughout the day, and provided by the Lions. Burgers, cheeseburgers, foot long hot dogs, fries, roasted corn on the cob, ice cream and popcorn are on the menu. Beer, I asked? "Yes, of course," laughed Gerald.

More activities!
I can't figure out how come my shopping ESP hasn't directed me to the car show, because each year there is flea market and swap meet. There are about 100-110 booth spaces available for vendors. The flea market and swap meet, like the car show, are open from 6am until 4pm, rain or shine. "I think it's really nice that there's something for everyone to do," said Gerald. But wait, there's more. At noon, the pedal tractor pull begins. Live music, provided by two acts, Kenny Brandt and Revival, goes on throughout the day. Additionally, there are cash door prizes, a bucket raffle and a Chinese auction. At noon, the Lions will have selected a number of donated raffle prizes to be auctioned off. This list could include such items as fireworks packages, Packer autographed footballs, Bucks and Brewers tickets or hotel getaway stays. The community donates generously to help the Lions make this event a success every year. Three fire departments park cars, businesses donated prizes, cash, time or materials needed.

I looked up a few pertinent facts about Lions. The Lions Clubs were founded in 1917, and today, the International Association of Lions Clubs is the largest service organization in the world. The major focus of Lions fund raising activities is sight conservation. Who has not seen the collection boxes for used eyeglasses, or heard about the Lions camp for blind children in Rosholt, WI? I grew up near there, so I thought it amazing to read that Lions took up this cause after a speech given by Helen Keller at the Lions International Convention of 1925. She challenged the Lions to become "Knights of the Blind." The Allenton Lions support an additional variety of local causes. "All the money we make above expenses goes to various causes and people," explained Gerald. He brought me a list. Forty organizations are on it, and recipients range from fire departments to school districts to youth groups to community medical expenses. And of course, vision projects and the Wisconsin Lions Camp. Speaking of vision-related Lions’ efforts, please bring your used eyeglasses with you to the car show. Also, there will be free eye screening for children at the event. Gerald personally wanted to acknowledge charter members of the club, Ken Goeman, Ken Gross, Harold Krebs, Jim Wiedmeyer and Tom Buckingham. The Allenton Lions also sponsor four blood drives a year. The next is July 12 at the Allenton Town Hall. To learn more about becoming a Lion, call Robert Klockow at 262-673-4834.

I get the idea from Gerald that his wife, Elaine, is a super cook. He brought along a number of her recipes and it was hard to choose among them, but popular vote went with two dessert choices.

Elaine's Pecan Toffee Squares
Crust
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
Filling
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 6 oz. pkg. chocolate coated toffee bits
1 cup chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350º Grease a 9x13" pan. In large bowl, combine cake mix, margarine and 1 egg. Mix well with pastry blender or fork. Press mixture into bottom of greased pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, in med. bowl, combine condensed milk, vanilla & 1 egg. Mix well, stir in toffee bits and pecans. Remove pan from oven, pour filling over warm base. Return to oven. Bake for 22 to 30 minutes, or until filling is set. When cool, cut into bars. Store in refrigerator.

Elaine's Dream Bars
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbls. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Combine first three ingredients and mix to crumbly mass. Pat lightly into 8x12 shallow baking pan. Bake at 375º for 10 minutes, remove from oven. Combine 1 cup brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. In separate bowl, combine dry ingredients, nuts and coconut. Add to sugar-egg mixture. Pour over baked crust and bake 20 minutes at 375º.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Farm Fresh Atlas of Southeastern Wisconsin

Farm Fresh Atlas is invaluable (and fun) resource
By Sheryl Popp

From pumpkin farms to fresh eggs, from roadside stands to organic produce, look into the Farm Fresh Atlas of Southeastern Wisconsin to find a place to buy these items locally. I came across the Atlas several years ago, and thought it would make for a great story.

To learn more, I spoke with Rose Skora, agriculture educator for the UW Extension, Racine/Kenosha counties. She was pleased to share the history of the Atlas, now in its sixth edition. There are five independent atlases in the state: Eastern, Western, Central, South and this one. The idea for a southeastern version happened at a meeting in Dane County that Rose attended. At that meeting were representatives of the UW Co-op system, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and Town & Country Resources Conservation and Development. "The last two are grass roots organizations supported by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Slow Food of Wisconsin," said Rose. "Everyone who was at the table was there to talk about local food issues and educational issues." She was referring to the importance of sustainability, or sustainably grown food. Sustainable food growing practices, and the products thereof, benefit the consumer, the producer and the environment. "At the time," said Rose, "we were focusing all our efforts on farmers. But if the consumer base doesn't support their (the farmers') effort to market locally, it can't work." The focus group decided the Atlas was a great idea, and why reinvent the wheel? They contacted the appropriate people at the Southern (and oldest) Atlas, who supported the idea of a southeastern Wisconsin version of the publication.

"Each year in the off season," said Rose, "representatives from the different atlas areas have a collaborative meeting, but each version is its own entity. Our first year was a challenge. No one had a database of direct marketing farmers, so we used a lot of state agency lists. Also each committee member used their own mailing list. It was a lot of work to put together, and also to get press releases out to promote it." Rose went on to say that now, the Atlas is a recognized entity, and farmers contact them. "Having a waiting list of people to get into the Atlas is a nice problem to have," she said. "The business side of it is still a challenge. For example, it's eight pages longer this year, and we have to find the funding to pay for the printing costs. All our funding comes from the listing fees the farmers pay."

The Atlas is a year round guide. It reaches 80,000 consumers. It lists what products a participating farm produces (eggs, meat, flowers, etc.), whether they sell on-site or participate in farmers' markets (and which ones), if they're organic, a U-Pick or a community supported agriculture (CSA) site. A map shows the general location of each. Indexes list business sponsors and southeastern Wisconsin farmers' markets. Listees pledge their commitment to the following principals, developed by the Southern Atlas people: reduce synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, conserve land and water, treat animals with respect and give them access to the outdoors, support local and sustainable business partners and provide safe and fair working conditions for employees. Further, they are family or cooperatively owned. In the last several years, 70% of the advertisers have reported they have had known sales as a result of the Atlas. There is also complimentary email arriving on the Atlas' site from consumers. "That's the really exciting part," said Rose. "Seeing the enthusiasm and interest from customers who use the Atlas and know it helps keep farmers on their land. It's the key driving component for doing it."

Rose mentioned that Alan Linnebur, Agricultural Agent with the UW Extension for Washington County, is the local distributor of the Atlas, and the link with participating farmers and other participating businesses in the county. He can be reached at alan:linnebur@ces.uwex.edu to learn more about listing in the Atlas. He also highly recommended getting the perspective of several of Washington County's listers. I spoke to Diana Susan, at Meadow Creek Elk Farm, and several folks at Wellspring, a CSA in Newburg. Diana sent these comments:

Many years ago when we became a part of the Farm Fresh Atlas, we realized it was more than marketing our elk meat to consumers; it’s about being a part of a movement that links neighbors to one another, resulting in building a stronger, healthier community.

We believe that offering products and food that is produced locally, we are a part of an enduring stimulus plan that will energize the community allowing dollars to be recycled over and over again.

The customers that visit Meadow Creek Elk Farms are eager to purchase our elk meat, knowing that what they are eating is free of hormones and antibiotics, but they also are there because they want to contribute to a better environment by supporting local agriculture.


I drove to Wellspring, having never visited before, and because it was an opportunity to take some photos on pack-out day. Jeff Schreiber, farm manager, was busy working and directing the volunteers who very efficiently washed and packed the day's produce. "This is a great resource for us," he said. "We have had direct results from the Atlas. We have four or five drop off sites, and about 30 members that pick up here. Today, we're packing about 100 boxes." They had a great variety of early produce, lettuces, spinach, chives, radishes and different greens. Some workers trade labor for part of the cost of their share. I also chatted with Angie Restler, executive director of Wellspring. She believes Wellspring is the first organic CSA in Wisconsin, having begun in 1988. The 36 acre property was purchased by Mary Ann Ihm in '82. It was her dream to launch this type of cooperative farm. "Half of our 100 shares are half shares, so we reach 200 families," said Angie. There is so much more going on at Wellspring that I have agreed to feature Wellspring's operation in an upcoming In Good Taste story. Look for that this summer.

You can request a copy of the Atlas online at www.farmfreshatlas.org/southeast/contact.htm. You can also simply look up all the information on the main website. Many of the folks in Washington and Ozaukee counties are at our local farmer markets, but making farm visits is really a lot of fun too. Whenever I have done this, I always feel a lot more connected to both food and producer, and have learned more than one can on market day. There are more than a dozen listings in these two counties, with many others just a short drive away.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To continue their mission of helping others, Washington County Red Cross needs our help
By Sheryl Popp

The Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross always depends on the financial support of businesses and individuals to operate. Since the Stonebridge Apartment Building fire in West Bend last April 2, the need for funding has accelerated. I visited with Kim Maggraf, executive director of the Washington County Chapter, to learn more.

This was not my first visit to the Red Cross in West Bend. In December of 2004, I chatted with the previous director and two local volunteers who had spent time in Florida, helping people recover after a number of hurricanes. As its new director, Kim was pleased to point out that the office has grown to encompass not only West Bend, but all of Washington County. That happened almost two years ago. Obviously, serving the entire county can stretch resources further than before. The mission of the American Red Cross is to prevent, prepare for and respond to, disasters. "We provide disaster services, disaster preparedness classes and emergency response services to the entire county," explained Kim. "That includes CPR training, first aid training, defibrillator training, swimming and lifeguard classes and babysitting training. We offer classes to the general public, businesses, schools and at area recreation departments," she finished. Classes are regularly provided in schools, and to businesses as they need it. "Businesses will generally try to have at least one or two employees per shift who can use a defibrillator and who are trained in CPR and first aid," said Kim. Regularly posted community training classes have fees associated with them to cover Red Cross expenses. Classes are held at various county locations. A brochure of summer offerings is now available, or visit www.redcrosswc.org for a listing.

Another vital role of the Red Cross is one I had not known about. "I don't think most people realize that we provide emergency services to members of the armed forces and their families in times of crisis," said Kim. I think, like me, most people believe that soldiers and other armed services personnel are more accessible to their families than during any other period in our wartime history. We see commercials about picture phones, and we're solicited to send all kinds of holiday messages to soldiers. "People also think that the military knows where everyone is at all times," explained Kim. "But these days there are just so many unknowns, especially in highly dangerous areas. So that kind of information is not always readily available. The Red Cross is the only organization that can provide these services. So, say a person serving overseas has an emergency at home. A family member can contact us and we will ask the military to help locate the service member. The US Armed Services trusts that the Red Cross will have investigated the situation quickly. And if the emergency is something like a medical crisis, we have to document it. In a recent case we just handled for a West Bend family, the military went through five units in five cities before they found the person we were looking for." Red Cross personnel are on call 24/7 for this service. Another way they offer assistance to families of active military personnel is emergency financial assistance, for example, travel expenses. "Often this is the form of a loan however," added Kim.

Kim Marggraf is making a daily commute from Sheboygan to perform her duties as director of the Washington County Red Cross. She doesn't mind the commute too much, since the drive down Hwy. 28 is enjoyable. "I was looking for a new position with a non-profit organization whose mission I believed in," she explained. "I happen to know the executive director of the Milwaukee Chapter, who let me know when this position opened." The decision was made last November, and Kim began working part time in January and full time last March. She has a professional background with non profit agencies, event planning and fundraising, so she was well equipped to take on this job. However, if she wanted a challenge, she got one. "I was still part time when Haiti happened, and hadn't been here very long on a full time basis when the West Bend fire occurred on April 2," said Kim. "We really had a lot of donations made to us after the Haiti disaster. We would like to recognize DCI Cheese in Richfield who donated $45,000 - $100 for each employee," she continued. "We're very grateful for all of the donations, and the situation there continues to be serious. But we still need monies directed toward Washington County too."

On April 2, some Red Cross volunteers were on the scene of the Stonebridge Apartment fire almost instantly. Others went to the office to help handle logistics. Area residents, according to Kim, gave generously to the families who lost everything. Donations included money, food and clothing, which was to go directly to fire victims. Other donations were made to the Red Cross, to be used by them for fire assistance. But the Red Cross' expenses still exceeded $10,000. "There were 60 homeless people after the fire," said Kim. "We provided them three nights of shelter if needed. We gave them a cash allowance for food, clothing and medical expenses. Our disaster budget has to be replenished." I asked what would happen if another disaster occurred in Washington County tomorrow. "We would be there," said Kim. "We would find a way because that's our mission and our commitment. We might have to cut down on staffing, or ignore building repairs and maintenance, but we would help." Another component of disaster assistance Kim thinks people might not know about is after care. The Red Cross offers counseling services, continuing into the weeks following the event, and also provides links to other service agencies that can offer more assistance. In addition to volunteering your time, or writing a check, there are two upcoming ways to assist The Washington County Chapter of The American Red Cross. The first is Culver's Walk for the Red Cross, on Sat., June 12. You can sign up for the walk at http://american.redcross.org/walkforredcross, or for more info, call 262-334-5687. Check in is at 9am and the walk is at 10am. The fee is $7 for individuals and $15 for a family. Not only do you get a great walk along the Ice Age Trail beginning at Culver's (as little or much of the five mile loop as you would like), you can also have lunch or a treat at Culver's and they'll donate 10% of all orders to the Red Cross. On Sat., June 26, Noodles & Company is donating 25% of all sales to the Red Cross when you mention the Red Cross with your order, between 11am and 7pm. How could helping out be any easier than ordering a bite to eat?

Kim provided the following fun recipe with a healthy sounding twist.

Sunflower Crisp Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups cornflakes
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup salted, roasted sunflower nuts
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg & vanilla. Crush cornflakes; there should be about 3/4 cup. Blend in flour, salt and 1/4 cup of the cornflake crumbs, reserve remaining crumbs. Stir in sunflower nuts. Chill dough thoroughly. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in remaining crumbs to coat evenly. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375º for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A trip to Widmer's Cheese Cellars in Theresa, oh boy oh boy oh boy!
By Sheryl Popp

After all these years, you can probably imagine I've duplicated types of events and businesses in articles any number of times. I'm then challenged to find a new angle, and give both subject and readers their due. But send me out to a cheese factory, and I'll go every other week. I have a great friend named Dave, who says he would never have to diet if he could give up cheese. Alas, silly man, c'est impossible. Really, is there any other food as versatile as cheese? Sauces, sandwich component, snack, dessert tray with fruit, grated and melted, cheese simply makes everything better.

We are so lucky in this state, to have as many family owned cheese factories still in business as we do. I visited with Joe Widmer, owner of Widmer's Cheese in Theresa, for this week's story. His family history is intertwined with Wisconsin cheese making, and he has many facts at hand. "At one time, there were a lot more cheese makers in the state," he said. "There were 140 in Dodge County alone and over 2,000 in the state. Now, there are about 130 in the state and five or six in Dodge County." Widmer Cheese was founded by Joe's grandfather. "The Germans came to Wisconsin first, and the climate here was similar to Germany's, and good for dairy production," Joe began. "Other immigrant cheese makers followed them here, which is why you have so many third and fourth generations making cheese." Joe's grandfather was Swiss, and he left home in 1905 when he was very young, only 17 or 18. "In those days," said Joe, "you had to have not only a visa, but a job lined up, and also three job references from your home country. My grandfather's job was only 10 miles away from here." Joe's grandfather John had a girlfriend back home, who wanted to visit him and the United States. In 1911, John traveled to New York to pick her up, only to find that she had no visa, and the authorities intended to send her back to Switzerland. "My grandfather asked if there was anything he could do to keep her here, and they told him he could marry her then and there," said Joe. "So he did. They honeymooned in New York, then returned to Wisconsin. This factory became available in 1922. They bought it and raised four children here." Joe explained that in those days, most cheese factory owners lived above their business. He was raised there, one of six children. "My wife and I lived here with our children too, until we built a home 10 years ago," he said.

Joe's the youngest in his family, and when he got out of high school, his father asked him if he wanted to continue his education or go into the family business. "I told him neither," said Joe. "I was sick of cheese and sick of school." Joe went to work on the railroad for several years. Whenever he came home, his dad talked up the idea that a food sciences degree in dairy was available at Fond du Lac Technical College. Joe decided to go, and graduated in 1978. He's gone to the Center for Dairy Research at UW-Madison twice, to obtain master cheese maker status for cheddar, brick and Colby cheese. Joe's father retired in 1980, and he ran the business with two uncles until 1997, when he was able to purchase their shares. Things have gone well, and Joe is happy with his career, but says it was a bit daunting to make the decision to enlarge the factory in 2004, when he added new offices, warehouse space and mail order capability.

Here is the greatest thing about Widmer's. What Joe decided not to do is automate. His cheeses are hand made, and they use the vats his grandfather John purchased in 1922, and the very same bricks to press the whey out of the cheese. More of an explanation is needed here, and it really fits in with my idea of valuing significant flavor in cheese. (My feelings were hurt a bit when I read in Widmer's info that one of the reasons for this is that aging baby boomers have aging taste buds and therefore seek more full flavors!) Widmer makes the same three cheeses that Joe obtained master status in. Within those three types, a number of variations are made possible by either adding flavorings (ie. caraway brick) or by varying the amount of time the cheese ages. Widmer's is perhaps most well known for their mild brick, but as most foodies know, that's not how brick began. It was invented in Wisconsin in 1877 by another Swiss born cheese maker, John Jossi. It's a derivative of Limburger, and uses lower levels of the bacterium rubbed on the outer rind of the cheese. Rubbing the rind is what develops the aroma, outer coloring and flavor. Jossi also had the idea of pressing the cheese with bricks, ergo its name. Although not as strong as Limburger, brick is still a heady cheese. Brick aficionados love the original version. But many people have more conservative tastes. Widmer developed its mild brick by rubbing the rind less, and wrapping it air tight, which stops the aroma from developing. "The primary reason we make cheese the same way as my grandfather is taste," said Joe. "It's like the difference between eating your grandmother's doughnuts and buying pre-packaged doughnuts at the grocery store. But there is secondary bonus. Using the same vats, the same bricks and the same rubbing methods makes for a great tour." Widmer offers guided tours Monday through Friday, at 9:30am, by reservation.

Joe's grandfather chose to produce Colby because it was another Wisconsin original, and cheddar because it was a popular, flavorful cheese. Widmer's ages cheddar from one to 10 years, and I sampled the eight, which was to die for. I inquired about the other items sold in the factory store. "All cheese factories will sell a greater variety of cheese than they manufacture on sight," said Joe. "You want people to be able to purchase everything they need from you. But, although we have some imports, most of our products are made in Wisconsin." More recently, Widmer's created an aged brick spread, which is mixed with cheddar. This too, is a super tasty, must try item. There's a lot more to learn by going to www.widmerscheese.com, plus all their great cheese can be ordered off the website. The factory is located at 214 W. Henni St. in Theresa, just off Hwy. 175, which is the main street. The phone number is 920-488-2503. The store is open from 7am-5pm Mon.-Sat., and 10am-4pm on Sun., June through Oct.

If you like to cook with cheese, one of the super features on the Widmer website is a collection of recipes. Here's one I think would really impress your guests.
SKILLET GRATIN OF SMOKED TURKEY
1 lb. potatoes, cooked, skin on, cooled
6 Tbls. olive oil, divided
2 tsps. minced garlic
2 Tbls. basil leaves, shredded
2/3 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 lbs. smoked turkey, shredded
1-1/2 tsps. salt, divided
1-1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, divided
8 ozs. leeks trimmed, rinsed, sliced (4 cups)
12 ozs. Wisconsin Brick cheese, shredded (3 cups)
Peel potatoes, slice into thin round slices. Reserve. Heat 2 Tbls. olive oil in cast iron skillet; add garlic and saute' 1 minute. Add basil & stock and cook until reduced to form syrupy glaze. Remove from heat, add turkey, season with half the salt and pepper. Reserve mixture in skillet. In 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat remaining 5 Tbls. olive oil over med. heat, add leeks and saute' until limp, about 2 mins. Add reserved potato slices and press down into pan to form a cake. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Continue cooking undisturbed over med. to low heat several minutes or until well-browned on bottom.
To Serve: Sprinkle Brick cheese evenly over turkey mixture in skillet. Flip the potato cake over and place on top of cheese and turkey. Bake gratin in skillet in 350º oven 10 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve with crisp green salad and sliced tomatoes.
Makes 6 servings or wedges of gratin.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Go on in for Go Karts and more at Stocky's Fast Track
By Sheryl Popp

Photo: Jeff Stockhausen (seated in go-kart) is shown at Stocky’s Fast Track in West Bend. His son, Steven, stopped in just in time to share photo duty with his dad.


I looked forward to seeing the indoor race track at Stocky's Fast Track in West Bend. I'd only driven a go kart once, and as you'd expect, that was an outside track. (If the DMV had seen me, they'd revoke my driver's license.) Jeff Stockhausen showed me around, and explained how he and his wife, Sandy, came to open the track.

Those not raised in the area might not be that familiar with the Stockhausen family. They have, for a number of generations, been in the building and farming businesses. Jeff's dad, Vince Stockhausen, started the family's grading and excavating business in 1955. Jeff and Sandy are simultaneously juggling the track, family and other careers. Jeff was second assistant chief of the Newburg Fire Department, retiring from the department with over 20 years in. He is still a part of Vince Stockhausen Excavating and Grading. Sandy is still a member of the fire department, is lieutenant of the rescue squad, and is a diabetic nurse educator for Aurora. Additionally, Jeff retired from competitive jet-ski racing in the late nineties. "I was an amateur up until my last year, when I turned pro," said Jeff. "I learned you couldn't be a pro racer and work full time." During those racing years, Jeff traveled all over the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He saw an indoor go kart race track for the first time in Texas, and learned they were popular in Europe. "Sandy and I began talking about opening a family business," recalled Jeff. "We have six children, so we wanted something everybody could be involved in. Of course, none of them work here now," he laughed.

They hatched the idea after Jeff quit racing, and opened the first track in April, 2001. There weren't many indoor race tracks in the country, and this was the first in the state. Jeff and Sandy designed the track themselves, with advice from the vendors who manufacture the karts. The first track was next door to their current location. The original building had been constructed as a shop for the excavating business, but only part of it was used. Stocky's remained there until 2005, when the track moved next door. "We went from about 15,000 sq. ft, to 25,000 sq. ft.," said Jeff. "This building is more open, and we built onto the front of it." Why the need for more space? Naturally, to expand their offerings. The idea of an indoor race track went over very well, right from the beginning, but they were only able to offer limited food service. "We have bachelor and bachelorette parties, corporate events, and kids' birthday parties. Our customers range from about age nine (kids have to be 54" tall to reach the pedals), to age 70," said Jeff. "I tried to get my 94 year old aunt to take a ride, but just couldn't quite convince her to try." In the new building, Jeff and Sandy are able to offer expanded food service, and more separate event areas, including a banquet area. "We built a full kitchen, a full bar and a bigger arcade, so there is a lot more to do now," said Jeff. The bar is a sports bar, with lots of TVs, and has special promotions for Packer and Nascar events. "Robbie Riser (GM of Roush Fenway Racing and Allenton native) stops in with his kids whenever he's in town," said Jeff. The restaurant serves home made pizza, which is quite popular, a good size list of appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, and a Friday fish fry that is well attended. Prices are competitive. "If people don't want to choose from our menu for their event," added Jeff, "we'll help them arrange other catering." Corporate customers have included Miller Beer, Johnsonville Brats, Harley and Rockwell Engineering.

The Main Event
What about go karts? Well, I learned a bit. The track is 420 ft. long. Drivers can make between 10-15 laps per race, depending on how disciplined they and how well they follow the rules. For safety purposes, all karts can be remotely slowed, or shut down. "We have the best driver safety system available." said Jeff. Any or all of the karts can be stopped at the same time. Customers can purchase a single ride, a four or a ten ride package. Prices are less for children, and there are even double karts available for a parent to accompany a child not tall enough to drive solo. There are three different speed options. Everyone actually races against the clock, not the other drivers on the track, the same as Nascar Formula 1 racing. The karts are electric, and each has a transponder installed that registers with a loop in the floor of the track. That tracks one's time, and projects it on an overhead score board. Five to six karts can race at once, and Stocky's owns 14, although they'll be switching them out soon. "It's a big investment," said Jeff, "even without counting new chargers for them, but the technology has really advanced and we need to upgrade." The electric karts must be charged about the same amount of time they run. However, if they run as long as a half hour, they'll need to charge an hour. And...they charge overnight. That's a big electric bill. "But it's better to be green and not use gasoline, right?" said Jeff. Jeff's son Steven had stopped in, and helped explain another benefit of electric karts. "They have higher performance than a gas go kart," he said, "because they have more acceleration, with no arc (just think of speed increasing in a straight line) and increased torque."

Just like practically everyone else, Stocky's is struggling against the economic downturn. Less people come in to drive a kart just for fun, although many groups or individuals still make Stocky's a destination from out of town or even out of state. "People will drive," said Jeff, "because there just aren't that many indoor tracks. So you can have your event rain or shine." I believe that more people should take a look at Stocky's birthday party packages. A party for five kids includes two races per child, two pizzas, two pitchers of soda, an ice cream birthday cake and two hours at a party table. (Additional children may be added for additional fees.) Pretty darn good deal huh? Stocky's Fast Track & Grill is located at 6389 Stockhausen Lane, just off Hwy. 33 in West Bend. The phone number is 262-306-0100. Anyone interested in league racing should give Jeff a call. To see some good photos of the track, go to www.stockys.us. The track is open Tues.-Thurs., 5pm-10pm, Fri., 2pm-midnight, Sat., Noon-Midnight & Sun., Noon-8pm.

Jeff provided the following recipe, a long time favorite from up north hunting trips and family events.

Egg Bake
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
12 eggs
chopped mushrooms, onions, green peppers, etc., optional
2/3 cup whipping cream
1 lb. cooked ham, bacon or sausage
Spray 9x13 glass pan w/non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 cup cheese on bottom of pan. Crack the eggs into the pan, to cover the bottom. Break yolks with a fork, do not scramble them. Sprinkle in vegetables of choice, or leave plain. Top with the meat. Pour the whipping cream over the top, but don't mix in. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Put in unheated oven and bake at 350º for 35-45 minutes, or until top is browned. This recipe is very flexible. A few more eggs can be added to cover bottom of pan, or more cheese or meat can be added. Use as many vegetables as desired.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Local author's book about and for Moms, is released on Mother's Day
By Sheryl Popp

Bonnie Lowell has penned a book titled Maternally Speaking: I Gave Birth to Four Eggs. (One Scrambled, Fried, Over Easy and Sunny Side Up). It's a humorous book, as you can tell not only by the subtitles, but also from the cover's caricature. I was thrilled when Bonnie dropped off a copy of her book and press kit, as I don't often have a topic in hand that's timely. This has to be the most timely of all time! I invited Bonnie to share her background with me, and tell me in person what led her to write such a book.

Bonnie is a native of the area. She was born in Cedarburg, and lived in Erin and Hubertus before settling in Slinger. One reason was that she was pleased with the Slinger school system. When her children were younger, she was a stay at home Mom. Bonnie was always the type to record her thoughts and jot down amusing anecdotes about mothering. When she decided she needed an outlet away from home, those stories were invaluable. "I saw an ad for the Ozaukee County Fair, inviting the public to perform in an entertainment tent," recalled Bonnie. "I was the only comedian to sign up! There I was, on stage for the first time and I just loved it - the immediate audience feedback." That was about 1990. Bonnie went on to book herself into local comedy venues, and took second place in a Menomonee Falls comedy contest. "Talent scouts saw me there and I got some Milwaukee gigs out of it," said Bonnie. "I would take just about any opportunity to get on stage." She and some fellow comedians even set themselves up a regular performance night at the Safe House in Milwaukee, before her stand up comedy career ended several years later. "After a family tragedy, and my own divorce," explained Bonnie, "it just became hard for me to be funny, and something had to give."

Bonnie needed to retool and rethink herself, and move on with her life. Over the next decade, she struggled to raise three children, and get back into the work force. And she didn't quit writing. Before her current book, Bonnie wrote several children's books, and a sad, cathartic book relating to the family tragedy. The new millennium brought a new marriage and a fourth child into Bonnie's life. She also pursued a new career. "I needed something that was flexible," she said. "I had customer service and sales experience and I thought being a realtor would be a good fit for me." Bonnie has now been a realtor for eight years, and she enjoys the work very much. But, given market conditions, she once again had extra time on her hands, and less money. "I wanted to feel more productive, so I went back to writing," said Bonnie. "I'd tried to have my serious book published and leaned then that it was easier to have a humorous book published. So I pulled out the material I'd compiled about parenting and motherhood for my comedy act. It was a lot more fun to write." That was around a year and a half ago. Six months or so ago, Bonnie began looking for a publisher. She had found one on line, and after attending a publishing conference in Minneapolis, she gained the last bit of confidence she needed to think she could really make this happen.

"It took a while, but the publisher I'd found did get back to me," said Bonnie. "They were a good fit for this type of book. Working with my editor, I learned my strength was storytelling. I actually had tried to write as if I was talking to you now. So there were rewrites that took several months." Bonnie also learned that her publisher expected her to handle a lot of her own promotional duties, but luckily, she wanted to be involved. She drew out a sketch for the cover of her book, and asked a local caricature artist to develop it. Bonnie was able to order advance copies of the book, and has had several smaller book signings. "All the books I ordered are gone," she said happily. "And it has been very well received so far." Her children are all supportive, and the youngest, Alex (age 10), loves the idea that his name is in the book, and that word is spreading at his school.

What's the premise?
"My book is really a tribute to all Moms, even though it's my story," said Bonnie. "I think women make awesome support groups. I was alone a lot of my kids' childhoods, and I needed humor to get through everything. I love Erma Bombeck, but I think there was a need for a more modern voice. Times have changed, and I wanted to bring issues like dealing with divorce(s) and Internet dating into my book." Bonnie divided the book into two major segments. The first, called "The Seven Wonders of Womanhood," deals with women's issues while growing up. A chapter about Bonnie's experience the first time she shaved her legs hooked me while I was leafing through the book. Totally hilarious! The second two thirds of the book are primarily about motherhood and her parenting experiences, and some of the differences between Scrambled, Fried, Over Easy and Sunny Side Up. "My stories are relatable," said Bonnie. "And I think that's why the book is going over well. I feel like I've found my audience again, sort of like I'm going home with my readers. I'm an optimistic realist. I don't gamble with money, but I gambled on this. I thought, other people are writing books. Why not me?"

There are several upcoming opportunities to see Bonnie in person. She will be at the West Bend Community Memorial Library on Sat., May 22, from 9:30-10:30am for a talk and a book signing. Then in June, she will be at Perc Place in Hartford for a reading, book signing and talk on Sat., June 5, from 3:00-5:00pm. Her book sells for $14.95. It is also available through www.maternallyspeaking.com. There is an email link through the site, or you may email her directly at bonnielowell@charter.net, or find her on Facebook. Bonnie is actively looking for speaking engagements, so please inquire if your group or organization would be a good fit.

Bonnie said of her recipe choice: It is rare to get four kids to agree on anything except maybe that they all love snow blizzards that cause snow days. But I can honestly say they all love my lasagna. Here's the recipe:

Bonnie's Lasagna
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 15 1/2 oz. can tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 lb. (9) Lasagna noodles
3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese
3/4 lb. Velveeta cheese
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
Brown ground beef and add onion. Cook until tender. Stir in tomato sauce, paste, water, garlic and seasonings. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Cook noodles according to pkg instructions. In an 8 x 12 baking dish, layer 3 noodles, meat sauce, parmesan cheese, sliced mozzarella and sliced velveeta cheeses. Repeat layers 3 times. Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Delicious! Usually I make a double batch and freeze one pan for an easy meal for a later date.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Part serendipity, part love of the outdoors, leads to a business for Brant
By Sheryl Popp

The Brant in question is Brant Anderson, and his business is aptly named Brant’s Lawn Care. Brant’s a young guy, but he’s put together a business he loves and is in the process of widening his expertise in that business.

Brant’s family moved to West Bend from Michigan when he was very young, according to his mother, Becky, because of her husband’s business. Brant’s father serviced accounts in Wisconsin. “We picked West Bend because it was centrally located,” Becky added, “and we liked the town.” Becky sometimes helps Brant when he’s swamped. She’s even been known to pull weeds for free! Becky thought it was funny when I asked if she was ever thought she’d be paid.
Getting the biz off the “ground”
“When I was in high school,” said Brant. “I wanted to be a police officer. But for side jobs, I mowed lawns in the summer and shoveled snow in the winter.” He’s actually been shoveling snow since he was two years old,” laughed Becky, “and even at two, he was helpful.” She also recalled he always loved to watch snowplows out the window, and loved lawn tractors. So it was a natural progression for him to begin working for friends and neighbors. “I always enjoyed working outside,” said Brant. “Then when I was 15, I worked for a landscaper during the summer.” His duties? “I developed a close relationship with weeds, moving pavers and spreading mulch,” he joked. On his own, he kept getting more mowing and shoveling clients. When his landscape employer gave him eight snowplowing accounts, Brant bought a truck with a plow. That was in 2007. “Then I decided I needed insurance and that I had better incorporate,” he said. The first winter he was in business, Brant had 12 accounts.
In 2008, Brant decided to enroll at Blackhawk Technical School in Janesville. His degree will award him green industry technician status. He graduates this month. Brant concluded that although he did not start his youthful side business with the idea of making it a career, he was nonetheless good at it. It was also compatible with his love of the outdoors. All he had to do was widen his knowledge of the industry to better meet customer needs, and make the work both more challenging and more rewarding. For example, courses on prairie and woodland plants are part of his curriculum. He also found the networking opportunities at Blackhawk extremely valuable.
These days, there’s a lot less lawn mowing. “I’ve been doing more landscape work,” said Brant, “and I’m a Department of Agriculture certified pesticide applicator.” Brant has enjoyed learning how to design spaces planted with mixtures of plants and shrubs, both through school and on the job experience. He credits Johnson’s Nursery in Menomonee Falls with being a great resource for him, both purchasing product and as an informational resource. “A lot of my accounts are maintenance accounts,” said Brant. “By that I mean just keeping up their lawns and gardens, and some of those are year round accounts too.” His business has grown enough to require several employees, some seasonal and some year round. “With additional staff, I’ll be able to take on a greater variety of jobs,” said Brant. Here’s someone who actually enjoys the maintenance end of his business as much as the creative end, although he doesn’t get to jockey lawn tractors that much any more.
Brant says his career choice has been interesting, and he’s satisfied with the direction his life is taking. “I’ve had some greater experiences I think, than a lot of people do at 18 or 19 years old. I know customer satisfaction is so very important, because there is a lot of word of mouth in this business. It’s great to make people happy with your work, and satisfying to see the end result. “It was hard to grow the business last year,” he added, “with the economy tanking, but it’s looking better this year.”
If you’d like some help with a new project, or if you could use someone to do regular maintenance in your yard, it’s a good idea to have Brant over for quote. He’s got a great attitude, a love of working outside, and is very competitively priced.
Services include those already mentioned, plus seeding, mulch instillation, fertilization, salting in winter and more. Call 262-323-1134 for more information.

Eden Day Spa, Germantown, WI


Make Eden Day Spa part of a fun day in Germantown
By Sheryl Popp

There are lots of fun things to do on County Line Rd. in Germantown these days. All on one sweep, on one street, you can shop for nice clothing and gourmet goodies, then take a break at your choice of luncheon eateries. (My personal favorite? Picking something off the rack at TJ Maxx that has an original price tag of, oh say, $168 and paying $25, or something that was ticketed at $100 and is $7 on clearance! Honest.)

Now, there's another place to add to your list of stops. Eden Day Spa, owned and operated by Jennifer Rinzel. You could round out your day relaxing after lunch with a pedicure. Or, if you developed a stiff neck from all that shopping, how about a massage? Seriously, there are many reasons to check out Eden Day Spa.

I visited with Jennifer to learn more about her, and the services offered by the spa. Jennifer's family was originally from Germantown, but moved to West Bend by the time Jennifer was in high school. She still lives in WB, but has always worked in the Menomonee Falls area. "I have been self-employed in the massage therapy business for 13 years now," said Jennifer. "I knew in high school I wanted to get into some kind of medical field, and do something that would help people." She enrolled in the Blue Sky School of Professional Massage in Grafton and graduated in 1997. (I know of the school, and have interviewed graduates in the past, but did not know it was one of the top ten such schools in the nation.) "As soon as I started taking classes," said Jennifer, "I loved it. When I graduated, I rented space in salons, so I became familiar with the spa/salon atmosphere." The first few years were all about building a solid client base. "It was an uphill climb, especially at first," recalled Jennifer, "but I always did well enough to pay my bills."

It had been Jennifer's long term goal to open her own business, and, after changing locations several times, she began thinking the time had come. That was in early 2009. It took some time to find a good location. "There had to be a certain amount of inside space for what I wanted," she explained, "and a certain amount of parking." The space she settled on was on Riversbend Circle, just off County Line Rd. (across from Cracker Barrel). "Some suites had been rented," she continued, "but this one was empty. I was able to work with the builder to build out the space." Meaning, it was completely open and Jennifer was able to lay it out as she chose. That took about six weeks, and Eden had its grand opening last February. The business has a reception/waiting area, opening into space for nail services, including three pedicure stations. Separate rooms were designed for massage services, and face and body services. Jennifer hired a mural artist to enhance the ambiance of her private services rooms, which boast sunflowers, lily pads, waterfalls and birds of paradise. Additionally, there is a restroom, kitchen, laundry room and office. In all, there is a staff of ten, including Jennifer's mother, Lauren, who serves as receptionist and office manager. "I have a good mix of people who have been in the business for a while," said Jennifer, and more recent graduates, so they've got some different approaches."

Massage services are available in one half, one hour and one and one half hour increments. They consist of therapeutic and relaxation techniques. The majority of clients, according to Jennifer, take massage therapy for neck, shoulder or lower back pain issues. "It's sort of a maintenance program," she explained. "Most people could benefit from a massage every two to four weeks, depending on the problem." Also offered are pre-natal massage, hot stone massage and ear candling.

Nail services are pretty familiar to most people; manicure, pedicure and spa versions thereof. Artificial nails are gel. Groups can be accommodated for parties. "We've had girls' night out groups already, and I would really love to do children's parties and wedding parties," Jennifer said. Jennifer chose all the various product lines used in the salon, based primarily on her preference for organics. The nail products line is called SpaRitual. These are not only organic, but vegan as well. "And the polishes are something different, not the same colors you see everywhere," said Jennifer.

Facial and body services include customized facials, as well as body polishing, microdermabrasion, foot, eye and lip treatments and waxing. (There are a dozen different waxing services!) The spa also owns a multi-function steamer for problematic skin. The facial and body products lines Jennifer chose are Eminence and Desert Essence. Eminence is a line made in Hungary, with, of course, all natural and organic components. "I really liked the smell and the feel of these," said Jennifer. The company belongs to the Organic Trade Association and products are available for sale also. The second line is Desert Essence. Body care products include lotions, hand soaps, body wash, shampoo and conditioner. This line retails for less than the Eminence products.

Currently, there are a number of specials being offered: $10 off massages, $15 off facials and a manicure/pedicure combination for $55. These specials are good through June 30. Prom specials, lasting until May 30 are: Free French tips with manicure or pedicure, $10 off glitter toes or nails and $10 off gel overlays. Once these all expire, new specials will be listed at www.edendayspagermantown.com. This website is really complete, listing all products, services and prices, along with profiles of most of the staff. If you are at a loss for a Mother's Day gift, think about a gift certificate. Or that shopping/lunch/spa day together. Eden Day Spa is open Tues., Wed., and Thurs. from 10am-8pm, Fri. from 10am-5pm, Sat. from 9am-3pm and by appointment on Monday. The address is N96 W17695 Riversbend Circle West in Germantown and the phone is 262-251-1600.

Jennifer provided the following recipe, which she received from her Mom/office manager. Jennifer grew up with it, and since it's always served on her father's birthday, it must be his favorite too!

Lauren's Famous Cheesecake
2 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. almond flavoring
dash salt
3 cups sour cream
graham cracker crust (below)
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
In bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Add vanilla, almond seasoning and salt. Beat well. Add sour cream and blend well (do not beat). Prepare 9" springform pan, covering sides and bottom with graham cracker crust mixture. Pour batter into crust. Sprinkle reserved cracker crumbs on top or use a fruit topping of your choice. Bake at 375º for 40 minutes or until set.. Chill overnight.
Graham Cracker Crust
2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbls. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup melted butter
Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Fun for collectors and antiquers can be found at Paul Auction in Kewaskum
By Sheryl Popp

Several times within about a year someone asked me what my dream job would be. I tell them I wish I had a clue about that when I was younger. Today, I thought of another career I’d add to my list when I visited with Mike and Karen Paul at their auction business in Kewaskum. I would love to be an antiques appraiser, or operate a nice shop - plus, - have all that expertise. In fact, I was so intrigued that I asked the Pauls if we could divide their story into two parts. This coming August, I’m returning for another visit to delve deeper into some of the anecdotes they’ve collected over time, and look more closely at the auction process.

Karen and Mike grew up in the Kewaskum area. Both sets of parents moved their families there when Karen and Mike were children. Mike’s father Jim began the business in 1969. “It was an extension of his personal interest in accumulating things,” recalled Mike. “It got to the point where my mother told him it had to go.” Along with partner Bill Horn, who also had collections, Jim hired an auctioneer and they arranged an auction to sell their collective “stuff.” “They were just flabbergasted at the amount of money they made,” said Mike. The partners began buying more merchandise, and Bill thought they could sell it themselves. Working on their own, each developed a passable “chant,” which is what the language and style of the auctioneer is called. Jim never had any training or education regarding antiques. “He bought what he liked,” said Mike, “and in a short amount of time he quit AT&T (then Bell) and went into the auction business full time.”

The partnership dissolved amiably around 1975 when Horn left the state for a new job. Mike began work a bit younger than some children. He was five. “I couldn’t wait to be at the auctions,” he said. “I made life so miserable for babysitters that word got around town, and my folks couldn’t hire anyone to watch me. They had to take me with them to work.” True story, honest. “Our eight year old son is the same way,” said Karen, “without the bad behavior though.” By the time Mike was in fifth or sixth grade, he was really able to help, holding up merchandise, running paperwork around and delivering items to bidders. This is known as being the ringman. “Because auctions used to be conducted in rings like circuses,” explained Mike.

Paul Auctions were held in the old Holiday Inn space in West Bend, and other halls before their current hall was built in 1979. Mike was a freshman in high school. He called his first auction when he was a sophomore. “I sold a tricycle for 50 cents,” he recalled. Although Mike would have liked to join the business when he graduated high school in 1982, the recession had hit. The business couldn’t afford him, so Mike went into another family line, the Navy, where he stayed for nine years. By the mid eighties, the business had turned around and by the end of the decade, his father asked for some help. Mike came back to Wisconsin in 1991. Two days after returning, Mike called an auction. How was he prepared for that?

Fate works for our benefit sometimes. Because he loved the business, Mike attended auctions in Norfolk, where he was stationed. One day, before one began, the owner of the business approached him and said none of her staff had reported for work. Could he help? She’d seen him a number of times before. He said sure, but didn’t tell the poor woman anything else. When he held up and described the first, slightly esoteric, auction item, she was so amazed that she halted the proceedings, and Mike promised to fill her in later. He was able to work for auction houses throughout his stint in the Navy. He and Karen were married in 1996, and they bought the business from his father in 1998. “Karen quit a good job to do this full time with me,” said Mike. “We didn’t want to spend a lot of time apart because of the odd hours of this business,” she explained. “We decided to handle it together.”

The auction business has evolved over the years, and now it’s evolving again, according to Mike. “At one time, my dad even sold live cows,” he laughed. “The seventies were the heyday of fresh merchandise coming to market. Today, it’s primarily estate settlement with an emphasis on antiques.” The days of the super find are about over, he continued. One no longer stumbles over the valuable painting in grandma’s attic. Today, the best auctions happen when a collector passes away. In 2009, Paul Auction was featured in the publication “Auction Antique News,” when a “breweriana” collector’s collection was sold - and featured there again this past February, when they sold the lifetime collection of an antique lover from Appleton. Additional referrals come to the business due to downsizing and divorce. “I have people who kid me that I work one or two days a week,” said Mike. “But they only think about the day of the auction and maybe, setting it up.” In truth, Mike is often hired before things come to auction. He does a great deal of appraisal work for estate settlement and insurance purposes.

“It’s funny, but when I’m appraising an estate for three siblings, for example,” said Mike, “one will think every single item their parents owned is a valuable treasure. One would just as soon hire a dumpster and toss everything. I hope the third child is somewhere in the middle.” “My favorite stories are the ones where the family thinks everything is junk, and it’s all so good that Mike wants to see what they’ve thrown in the dumpster,” said Karen. “One time, he continued, “the family had hauled away two dumpsters full of valuable merchandise.” That’s the upbeat side, but of course he must disappoint folks sometimes. “I have to take items I know I can sell, and I can’t give people false expectations,” said Mike. Paul Auction generally hosts sales every other weekend. “Mike believes in being very descriptive and detailed in our ads,” said Karen. “It really pays to read them, and then go online to see some of the merchandise.”

Next August, we’ll continue with the mechanics of the auction, and some great stories. For now, Mike has left us with a recipe and some advice. “If you’re closing an estate, never close or sell without knowing what you’re doing. I see that all the time.” Paul Auction is located at N131 Cty. Highway S. in Kewaskum. The phone number is 262-338-3030 and the website is at www.paulauction.com Mike’s recipe is one he makes yearly for the wild game benefit dinner in New Fane – for 400 people. He’s scaled it down to handleable size.

Mike’s Famous Venison* Meatballs
2 lbs. ground venison burger*
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix or less to taste
½ cup bread crumbs
1+ tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1 Tbl. Worcestershire Sauce
2 slightly beaten eggs
2 slices torn up bread*
Combine eggs and bread, and add first 6 ingredients. Mix and form into meatballs. Bake on jellyroll pan @350º for 15-20 minutes. Add one large can of cream of mushroom soup for sauce when serving.
Notes:
*can substitute ground beef
* Mike uses venison ground with beef fat. If using lean venison, increase Italian sausage to 2lbs.
* Dry, stale bread or crusts are ideal

Thursday, April 8, 2010

St. Mary's Tropical Nights Fundraiser

St. Mary's School launches 3rd annual "Tropical Nights" fundraising event
By Sheryl Popp
Sunday Post Features Writer
West Bend, WI

St. Mary's Tropical Nights-themed fundraiser incorporates cruising - so it's being launched - get it? Fundraising chairwoman, Dawn Marris, tells me the original committee based their money making idea on breaking the monotony of winter with a festive event that heralded spring, and made attendees think of warm weather. They even have leis for sale at the event!

I don't think I could find anyone who doesn't know that all schools need to raise funds, and that private and parochial schools are responsible for the vast majority of their operating budgets. In fact, that's why Dawn is doing what she's doing. St. Mary's had financial advisory committees and people in the past, but no real marketing committee until this last year. Last month, Dawn had two people join her committee, which is huge for her.

St. Mary's School, located in West Bend (Barton), opened their doors in 1850. They are the oldest, continually operating parochial school in the state, and third oldest in the country, which makes them an institution that area residents can be proud of. They are a K4-8th grade school, with multi-age classrooms. The K-4 program is offered at a cost lower than traditional daycare, and they also have before and after school care programs. Monies raised not only support the school's religious education program, but also fund building and grounds repairs and improvements to their historic building. Rather than several small fundraisers, it was decided to concentrate on one, larger event that could in turn, generate larger sums. (The past two events raised $60,000.) Again, there are numerous schools in the area hosting big fundraisers, but the organizers of Tropical Nights have truly worked to provide attendees with a lot of bang for their buck. Or their $35, which is the ticket price. Similar events often have a $50 cover fee. So, what do you get for that? Read on.

Tropical Nights will be held in the Parish Center on Saturday, April 24. Don't make any plans too early Sunday morning, as this party's lasting until midnight. Doors open at 5:30pm, and the first silent auction and raffle games begin right away. The dinner buffet, catered by Country Catering of Kewaskum, features many choices on their well-rounded menu, and desserts are coming from Sweet Creations in Slinger - yum. A cash bar will be open as well. Dinner begins at 6:00pm. During the course of the evening, there will be a total of three different silent auctions, and a number of different raffle games. Of special note are the Chinese raffle, which is similar to a Chinese gift exchange, and two treasure chest raffles. The treasures to be found in those chests are a ring and a necklace donated by Silver Spring Coin.

At 8:00pm, a live auction begins. How fun is it that a professional auctioneer will be conducting the auction? As of 4/15, over $18,000 worth of auction and raffle items had been donated to the school, so of course, Dawn and the entire school staff would like to toss out a giant thanks to not only the immediate community, but those organizations and groups from around the state that helped out. Examples of auction items are: Four regular season Packer tickets, Brewers, Bucks or Admirals tickets; theme park passes, a getaway weekend and other prizes. Examples of raffle items include themed baskets, gift certificates, decorative items from local stores and more. If you choose not to attend the benefit, you can still participate by buying tickets for the grand prize raffle. One need not be present to win, and those tickets are on sale now. They sell for only $2.00 each or six for $10.00. There are five grand prizes available. First prize is winner's choice of a 40" LCD TV, valued at $2,000, from Kettle Moraine Appliance or a travel voucher valued at $1,200 from Shooting Star Travels or $1,000 cash. For those in attendance, this drawing will be at 11:00pm. One very special auction item is the "Be principal for a day," prize. This is only open to parents with children enrolled at St. Mary's. Last year's fourth grade winner was thrilled with her experience and would gladly do it again.

St. Mary's School is located at 415 Roosevelt Dr. in West Bend. The school is accepting donations of cash or prizes through April 16. To donate, or if you have questions, please call 262-338-5602, the school office. To purchase event or raffle tickets, please call 262-338-5605. Event tickets must be purchased by April 15. Raffle tickets are also available after every weekend mass. To learn more about the event and to see some fun photos from last year's fling, go to www.tropicalnights.webs.com. (This event is adults only.)

Dawn brought in a recipe of her grandmother's, Betty Christensen, to share with readers.

Grandma's Date Bars
1/2 cup melted butter
2 beaten eggs
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 cup nuts, finely cut
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup dates, finely cut
Confectioners Sugar
Mix together all ingredients except Confectioners sugar. Place into 9x9x3" greased pan. Bake in 350º oven about 20 minutes. Cut into bars and sprinkle with Confectioners sugar while still warm.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jug's Hitching Post means the world to Jason Jug

Things are going okay, considering the economy, but it has taken a
while for Jason Jug, owner of Jug’s Hitching Post, to be in a position
to say that. Jason grew up in the restaurant business. His father, Mark
Jug, is proprietor of MJ Stevens in Hartford. The family, originally
from the Milwaukee area, has been in the restaurant business since
1933. Mark Jug moved his family to West Bend in 1979 when he purchased
the Longbranch Saloon in Barton. Jason was five, but remembers a few
salient points, like searching for loose change on the bar floor.
(During the day, of course.) MJ Stevens was purchased in 1985, and at
13, Jason began washing dishes and bussing tables there. Eventually, he
worked his way into the kitchen and began cooking for the restaurant.
At one point, he left the business and tried a career in sales, but
came back to MJs in fairly short order.
“I learned that was what I wanted to do,” explained Jason, “and I
became head chef in 1998.” Jason was only 23 at the time, but had
accumulated a great deal of experience. “I pushed for the expansion of
MJ Stevens,” he recalled. “We needed a bigger kitchen so we could serve
more people.” Things were going very well, but after about seven years,
Jason felt he needed to have personal growth, and take on more
responsibility. In 2005, Jason and his father began looking at various
properties as they became available. Jason settled on The Hitching Post
in Kohlsville (just east of West Bend), in December of 2005. “Parking
was a huge factor,” he said. “There was a lot of space.” The building
also had a great history, which Jason looked into.
The building dates to the late 1880s, when it was primarily a dance
hall. Dinner was served at midnight and sold for a whopping 25¢. Since
the first time a bar was opened on the premises, in the early 1900s, it
has been called The Hitching Post. In the 1960s, the basement was dug
out to create two levels, with the upper remaining a hall, and a larger
bar added in the lower. When Jason bought the building, he had a budget
firmly in mind for renovations. That number flew out the window in a
flash. “I ended up gutting the entire place without quite knowing where
I was going,” he said. “I had no guarantee that it would work out. I
had all kinds of contractors running around here for three solid
months, and we opened in March of 2005.” All the major systems were
replaced. Jason did all the design work himself, and the whole place
shows off the attention that went into custom design - the brick detail
on the walls behind the bar, the woodwork detail on the bar and
remaining walls - everything from underneath the floor on up. Old tools
decorate the walls, and the place seems bright and welcoming,
particularly if you choose a table near the fireplace.
Not just a bar?
Breaking into the business was tough. After a few years of treading
water, Jason asked his father, Mark, for advice. “He told me I had to
add food,” said Jason. “But, I’d spent everything on the remodeling. So
I sold my Trans Am - my baby actually - to buy the stove and
ventilation system.” The strategy worked. “I’ve had other tough times
over the last five years,” Jason added (such as learning all the
practical aspects of the business, like the books, as he went along),
“I’m glad I toughed it out. It’s like a dream come true now.”
Jason chose what appears a fairly simple menu at first glance, but
there is actually a lot there. “I just wanted to serve good quality
food at reasonable prices,” he said. “We’re known for our burgers,
which are all 1/2 pound, fresh black angus. People come from Fond du
Lac for our burgers. And I have customers that come from Wales for our
crab legs (a weekly special).” Another menu feature is Jason’s homemade
soup. Jason likes soup so much that he can’t name his favorite. He has
over 100 soup recipes, which I consider awesome. He says the most
popular are cream of duck and beef mushroom. There are also Papa Jug’s
pizzas, made with all fresh ingredients, appetizers including duck
strips, big giant nachos and multiple fish fry choices. Plus, Jug’s is
open seven days a week, and there is a special each day. Jason is in
the process of reworking the menu, and plans to add several new
sandwiches and grilled fish and new salads in time for warm weather.
“My main concern is consistency,” said Jason. “Even smaller criticisms
are taken to heart.” Other plans for the business include a month long
special on gift cards, coming soon, and hopes for outdoor patio
serving. “Things are going okay now,” said Jason. “We’re on the
snowmobile trail and we have bikers stopping on poker runs, that all
helps out. Someday, I’ll buy my Trans Am again.”
Lunch and dinner are served at Jug’s Wed. - Sun., from 11am until the
cooks leave (9pm). Mon. and Tues., Jug’s is open from 4pm-9pm. The hall
upstairs has a stage where Jason occasionally books bands, and the hall
is rented for birthday parties, showers and small weddings. (Its
capacity is 100 people.) For any group over 50, there is no room
charge. Food can be brought in, or catered by Jug’s, but beverages must
be purchased from the business. Volleyball leagues are now forming,
please call the bar at 262-629-5859 if interested. Jug’s Hitching Post
is located at on Highway D, just west of the intersection of Hwy. D and
Hwy. W in Kohlsville. It’s a quick drive from West Bend. For more
information, go to www.jugshitchingpost.com. You can find a list of
upcoming events and specials, plus an email link.
Jason wanted to share a really nice recipe, but one that was fairly
easy to make. His directions were packed with advice! He added that the
shrimp works as an appetizer or a good side dish with fresh fish or
steak.

Jason’s Cajun Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Sauce
12 med. to large shrimp
smoked bacon, such as Nueske’s (found at Kewaskum Meats,
Gehring’s or Schwais)
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
2 tsps. cajun spice
1 tsp. minced garlic
pinch of black pepper
Wash shrimp in cold water and drain well. Wrap shrimp, depending on
size, in 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2 slice of bacon. Do not overlap the bacon, but
try to cover the whole shrimp. Secure with toothpicks. Mix oil, spices
and garlic in large bowl & add shrimp. Gently mix shrimp into marinade
with slotted spoon until basted. Refrigerate at least one hour. Remove
shrimp from bowl and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 12-15
minutes until shrimp are white and bacon is cooked. You can also grill
on charcoal or gas grill on low to med. heat. Serve with sauce.
Side Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1 Tbl. ranch dressing
1 tsp. Cajun spice
1 tsp. horseradish for extra kick
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Swing into spring at Nick's All Star Baseball Academy
by Sheryl Popp

Naturally, I know March Madness is just beginning, but baseball is the second sports world sign of spring. So it seems a good fit to profile Michael Nick's baseball academy now, even though the facility is open year round. I sat down with Michael and asked him to bring me up to speed.

Michael hails from Indiana originally, but moved to Silver Lake in West Bend when offered a job promotion in 1989. As he had always played and loved baseball, it was natural for him to foster that same passion in his son, Jonathan. They played together since Jonathan was little, and Michael took him to the academy (then owned by someone else), when he was eight. Four years ago, the academy's owner accepted a job out of town and was faced with closing the business. "I looked at the baseball academy as very beneficial to the community," said Michael. "So I offered to buy out his assets. It was kind of a hobby, and I thought both my children could work here in the summers." Before long, the hobby became expensive. Michael credits Vince and Janet Stockhausen with making it possible for Nick's All Star Baseball Academy to remain in the community. "This building (next to Stocky's Fast Track) was their old race track," explained Nick. "They made the space affordable and I have more room here - 5,000 square feet." The additional space has made it possible to grow the academy's offerings.

Actually, Michael had been widening the scope of the academy all along. "Originally," he said, "it was limited to private lessons and open hitting, and you had to be a member. I went out into the community looking for local talent like Wille and hired those people to teach specialty camps and clinics. I wanted this baseball academy to be different than any other." For other non-sports knowledge folk like me, "Wille," is Willie Mueller, a former Milwaukee Brewer pitcher. He played "The Duke" in the movie, Major League. Other trainers include local coaches, former Brewer Jim Gantner, and Mitch Knox, a West Bender who played for the University of Kentucky. Services at the academy include hitting lessons for baseball and softball, pitching lessons, hitting, fielding and pitching camps, catching, pitching and fielding clinics, girls' fast pitch lessons, men's slow pitch, weekly mini-camps throughout the winter months and more. One can still become a member and receive unlimited batting cage, soft-toss and pitchers mound usage. The facility's website, www.nicksallstarbaseball.com, lists all the various memberships and fees, plus scheduling. Camps and clinics are designed for various age groups, or to address a specific skill set.

"We film kids and analyze their form too," said Nick. "We place a great deal of emphasis on starting kids younger," he continued. "That's because most kids get hurt in sports because they don't know the basics. They didn't learn at a young enough age. Sports injuries are up like crazy. So, we introduce drills that you can't get in a big camp. We focus on quality and not quantity. Our camp size is about a dozen kids. That's about the biggest thing I've done since I bought the academy."

Specialty clinics help kids hone a skill that is rarely taught in a team environment. Not all are strictly physical. For example, an example of a mental issue might be a pitcher who runs into trouble whenever there are too many players on base. A physical example would be working on power hitting. That, said Michael, could literally be the difference between a double and a home run. Lest we forget, baseball has become an exact science. To succeed in this most competitive sport, players need to utilize every advantage. "Every kid dreams of becoming a pro," said Michael. "West Bend is really known for great baseball too. They've gone to State six out of the last seven years, and have done really well." Additional offerings and services that set Nick's apart include:

• a focus on younger girl's fundamentals and girl's fast pitch
• the indoor dirt pitching mound. It's completely regulation, with exact measurements. This is a huge advantage, said Michael, because a pitcher has to adjust his throw if using a simulated mound during the off season, and then back again. To the best of his knowledge, this is the only inside dirt mound in the state.
• a coach's key program. This allows local teams to have the facility to themselves for an hour and a half a week, year round. "This keeps kids' baseball muscles working," said Michael, "and it keeps the team cohesive, which builds continuity over the years. Also, it's just good general exercise during the winter."
• adult men's groups. Michael is developing less skill driven programs for men who would just like to practice. "I'd like to make it more of a social thing for them," he said. "I"m always looking for new ideas. For example, one of the kids who works here brought in the idea of agility and strength training. So we're offering a new clinic on that."

When Michael bought the academy, he looked at it as a community gathering place, but has learned it's a lot more than that. He employs six high school kids (including, as planned, his son Jonathan and daughter Jessica), and 12 local coaches. Other ex pros contact him because they have an interest in remaining active. He has also seen that the academy is ideally suited to promote a way for family members to connect, such as single parents and their children, or older siblings with their younger brothers and sisters. "The thing is," said Michael, "this remains a constant for them. Love of baseball doesn't change like musical taste."

Nick's All Star Baseball Academy isn't a money making venture. Michael is now self-employed, so he's able to handle the administrative end of things, and teach some of the clinics. It's open to anyone in the community and surrounding area, and fees are more than fair, considering class size and program advantages. If these costs are still too much for a family, inquire anyway. Something will be worked out. Nick's All-Star Baseball Academy is located at 6405 Stockhausen Lane in West Bend. The phone is 262-334-5093. Do go to the website above for a complete list of services, camps and clinics. Regular open hours at the facility are: Mon.-Thurs., 3:30-7:30pm, Fri., 3-6pm, Sat., 12-4pm and Sun., 12-3pm.


Michael told me he was a great cook. At first thought, you might not judge a cook by chocolate chip cookies. Take a closer look, these are indeed "special." "And," he added, "make sure to say they have to be put together in the order given or they don't work out."

Michael's "Very Famous" Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cream together:
1 cup of softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Next, add to the above:
1 Tbl. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat two eggs and add into the above. Then stir in:
1 cup dry crumpled corn flakes
3 cups oats
Set aside and in separate bowl, mix:
1 1/2 cups unsifted four
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. mace
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. powdered cloves
Add to the above mixture. Finally, stir in:
4 oz. coconut flakes
1 pkg. chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (Michael uses walnuts)
Drop cookies onto cookie sheet and bake at 350º for 10 minutes.
Note: To preserve softness, put into container with a piece of bread.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Good Taste features Hartford Players

Hartford Players enthusiastically entertain community and surrounds
By Sheryl Popp

For over 20 years, the Hartford Players have been happily staging plays in Hartford, providing a creative outlet for talented area residents, and giving back to the community through scholarships. They are currently in the middle of a dinner theater production called "Wake me When I'm Dead," to benefit the Schauer Center. Murder mystery dinner shows are tremendous fun, and I thought it would also be fun to learn more about the company in general. I visited with the troupe's current president, Fred Wittenberger, to learn more.

Although not a founding member himself, Fred had the company's genesis story ready. "Jim Mohr and Jerry Becker, two Hartford attorneys, were attending a play," said Fred. "Mohr turned to Becker and said 'Hartford should have a community theater.' They put the idea into action pretty quickly, and by recruiting friends and family, they were able to stage A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum that summer." That was 1988. They must have had fun and a decent turnout, because the next summer they were back with Music Man - and have not missed a year since. For most of their history, the players performed at Hartford High School. When the Schauer Center opened in 2001, The Hartford Players became one of its resident groups. "When the community began looking for a spot for an arts center, some of our members were even contacted to help search for a location," said Fred. "Once it was built, they still had some undeveloped space and some of our members volunteered to help construct the backstage area and build dressing rooms."

The Hartford Players were conceived as an acting company that would provide a venue for adult community members. While the occasional role might call for a child or teen, plays with mature casts are generally chosen. They have a board of directors with nine members, who are also the corps group of actors and directors. "Most of what I do now as president," explained Fred, "is read plays. Lots of them." Once he or another board member finds a piece they think is a good fit, it's taken to the board for a vote. There are open auditions for all plays. People come from all over the area to try out for parts, many from other local community theater groups. The company stages two plays a year. "The first, scheduled in March generally, is usually a comedy," said Fred. "I like comedies, and I'm convinced they sell better. The July play is a musical, which will have a bigger cast. Since we've been at the Schauer Center, we've also done a benefit show for them every other year."

Fred began acting with the group after college. A local guy, he enjoyed acting in high school and continued at St. Norbert College before majoring in business. (Fred is the third generation owner of Wittenberger Bus Service in Hartford.) At the time, the company was performing Arsenic and Old Lace and one of the leads broke a limb. The director filled in for him, another actor filled in for the director, and a smaller part opened in the play. Fred was asked to perform it. That, as they say, was that. "I had been on stage a lot after Arsenic," he said. "Then, we decided to do a benefit performance for the Chandelier Ballroom after the rotary club took it over. It was going to be cocktail theater show. I had an idea for a small, four-person play. And, I had an idea of who to cast as the main couple. So, the board liked it and I ended up directing it. That was in November of 2001, and since then, I've done a lot more directing. I like it, I like choosing a piece and working with it." There are on-line resources to find plays, I learned, and I can see why choosing and reading is the most time consuming part of Fred's involvement. I briefly looked at one service he mentioned. You could find plays in a variety of ways, but a quick alpha check offered me 66 plays beginning with "O," and 105 that started with the letter "W." Whew. Once a play is chosen, Fred will block it and then schedule auditions, about four months in advance of the play. "That's because I like to get the play cast and get the actors their books. I like them to be able to come to the first rehearsal fairly well prepared. People know that when I direct, rehearsals won't run much past 9pm because I have to get up at 4:30," he laughed.

The Hartford Players are a non-profit organization, with a strong commitment to community. "We try to keep our prices affordable, and we like to make enough to fund our scholarship program," explained Fred. "Although we're a resident company at the Schauer, we still have to pay rent for performances. We have operational costs and licensing costs. We do five performances of a given show, and that may cost us $10,000. Ticket sales cover that, and we give out two to four $1,500 scholarships each year." Applications for the scholarships are available on the Hartford Players website. Applicants must be from the area, and be interested in a degree in any of the arts.

Their current play, the dinner mystery, was a bit of a trailblazer for the company. The Pikes Peak lounge on the second floor of the Schauer is now open, and offers a casual atmosphere for cabaret-style events. "They asked us to do a dinner show in Pikes Peak as a fundraiser," said Fred. "So they set up the event catering and we chose a play that coincided with St. Patrick's Day." Although this play doesn't wind up until March 13, Fred is really excited about the next production, an adult version of Grease for their summer musical. "Sue Gilbertson found the play and will direct," said Fred. "Auditions begin May 11 and we're looking for a 50-ish cast. The concept is that the characters are at a high school reunion and sort of relive events." Fred says that one thought he'd like to get across is that the Hartford Players are really a fun group of people to work with. With that in mind, consider volunteering for technical crew (always needed), if you don't want to act or sing on stage. To learn more, and to contact the group, go to www.hartfordplayersltd.com. All ticket sales for the Hartford Players are handled through the Schauer Center.

Fred provided the following recipe from his wife, Betsy, also an actor. He says it is very easy to make, and popular.

RUEBEN DIP
8 oz. corned beef, cut into small pieces
1 16 oz. can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed
8 oz. grated Swiss cheese
1 cup thousand island dressing
Mix all ingredients together and pour into small casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with rye chips.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Owner of West Bend Curves shares motivation

I, Mary Hill, am making women stronger by being a proud owner of a Curves franchise in West Bend that is staffed by amazing employees and attended by remarkable members. I started my Curves journey as a manager of my local Curves and loved it so much that I decided to buy my own Curves in my hometown, West Bend. This town has given to me since I was a child, so it was natural to give something back. I attended Decorah Elementary, Badger Middle, and West Bend East High School. I then went on to graduate from my father's almamater, UW-Whitewater, with a BSE. This is where I met my husband. We were married in 1995 and wanted to start a family right away. God's plan was a little different, after many years of doctors, hospitals, and miscarriages; we found out in 2006 that I have a medical issue. It would cost even more money then we have already spent on infertility treatments to have a baby, and then the economy took a down turn. I have struggled many years with depression and weight, but since 2006, I started to look at life a little differently. I may not be able to have my own child, but I am helping lots of other women live longer to take care of their own children. By having this mind set, doing for others, I know I will be with my children in heaven someday and living in eternity with them is much more important than being depressed now. When I am working out at Curves, I see it as my family, watching my employees and my members become stronger women; while making a stronger community and hopefully achieving a personal goal of making a difference in this world. Oh and by the way, I also lost 30 pounds to date. Thank you for letting me share, and lets all get “Stronger Together!!"
Curves is only a 30 minute workout specially designed for women. Curves is designed to help women who want to be healthy, lose weight, tone and firm or even for those who want to gain muscle. We also feature the most advanced technology in the world, Curves Smart. Curves Smart is a personal coaching system that will ensure you get the best workout every time you come in based on your specific fitness level. Curves has helped many women in this community lower their medication or even eliminate medication altogether. We have also helped women slow or even reverse osteoporosis. Members have been able to accomplish these things by working out a minimum of three times a week and checking in with their circuit coach once a month.
urves also offers a free weight management program that is simple to use. Our program teaches you how to change your lifestyle and stop the yo-yo dieting. The Curves weight management class is offered the second Saturday of the month. We offer three classes every month. The first one is our Start Up class, which teaches you how to get started with our weight management program. Class two is a Special Topic class. This class changes topics every month. March’s topic is on reading food labels. Then, the third class is on Phase III. Phase III is the part of our program that teaches us how to raise our metabolism safely without gaining weight back that we’ve lost. All three of these classes are FREE to members and non-members.
Our mission, at Curves, is to make the world one million women stronger in 2010. Every year, millions of women suffer from preventable diseases. If you take it upon yourself to make your own health a priority, you can live better. Live longer, healthier, and with more confidence. And if one woman can affect another . . . who can affect another . . . we can be a part of something huge. Together we can improve the lives of one million women. Visit our new Stronger Together website at www.curves.com/StrongerTogether. Here you can “join the chain” and find a lot of useful tools to keep your resolutions this year. Stop in to see what we are all about! You won’t regret it!  Curves is located at 1640 S. Main St.,  between Shopko and Kohl‘s, in the Paradise Pavilion. The phone number is 262-306-1965. The following recipes are from the Curves diet program – including the Smores!
Asian Shrimp Pilaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Number of Servings: 6 Special Notes: Substitute plain brown rice for rice pilaf to save 400 mg or more of sodium per serving.
Ingredients:
1 6-oz. pkg. rice pilaf mix
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (about 1 clove; consider cooking garlic for 30 seconds first if you don’t like raw garlic)
1/2 cup diced or shredded carrots (about 1 large
carrot or 8 baby carrots)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper (about 1/2 pepper)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Directions:
1. Prepare rice per package directions, omitting the butter or oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for shrimp.
2. In a small bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, and garlic. Put carrots, bell pepper, scallions, and peanuts in a medium bowl. When rice is cooked, stir it into vegetables, and add soy sauce mixture.
3. Meanwhile, drop shrimp in the boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until it is pink and opaque. Drain well and add to the rice mixture.
Nutrition Info:
Calories: 250; Fat: 6.0g; Saturated Fat: 1.0g; Protein: 20g; Carbohydrates: 29g; Fiber: 2g; Cholesterol: 55Mg; Sodium: 700Mg
Smores Bars
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serving Size: 1/16 of recipe
Number of Servings: 16 Ingredients:
8 whole graham crackers
6 Tbls. extra light olive oil
1/4 cup sugar
4-oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups miniature marshmallows
Directions:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375° F. Use heavy-duty foil to line the bottom and long sides of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Spray pan bottom with vegetable cooking spray, then line with crackers, breaking as necessary to fit in the pan. Mix oil and sugar. Pour over graham crackers and spread evenly. Bake 7 minutes. Let cool until sugar hardens, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat chocolate and condensed milk in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until chocolate has melted. Stir in vanilla extract. Spread chocolate mixture over the graham crackers; sprinkle with marshmallows. Return to oven; bake until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 7 minutes longer. Let cool, then lift bars from pan using foil lining. Cut into bars with a knife coated with vegetable cooking spray. Serve.
Nutrition Info:
Calories: 220; Fat: 12.0g; Saturated Fat: 4.4g; Protein: 3g; Carbohydrates: 28g; Fiber: 1g; Cholesterol: 10Mg; Sodium: 75Mg