Sunday, July 29, 2012

Door County Style - Part Two

This is my second post from our trip to Door County, Wisconsin. We stayed in a little tiny cabin right next to the Fish Creek hotel and just steps from the bay. You could see the yachts and sailboats from our screen porch. I was a bit tardy in making reservations, so we took the last available cabin.

It only had one bed, so my gracious teenage daughter agreed to sleep on the inflatable mattress. I love staying right in town because you can walk everywhere. We went star gazing on the pier one night and then to Malibu Moo's the next for cold-slab style ice cream.

If you've never been to Door County, I'll give you a little visual tour. I love the noncommercial nature of the peninsula. It is a haven for artists, musicians, and theater-people. You can eat and shop your way through the peninsula that is anchored by a gorgeous State Park.

Small towns dot the peninsula: Sturgeon Bay (at the base) is the largest - but don't stop there. They follow quickly: Carlsville, Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Sister Bay and upward. At the very tip is Gills Rock where you can take a ferry boat to Washington Island, passing through Death's Door.

My daughter and I love to shop. Here, in Fish Creek, is the Confectionary where I have taken her since she was a little girl - and Founder's Square with wood chip pathways, fudge shops and more.  Another favorite, in Ephraim, is Wilson's, a Door County favorite that has been around forever. Stop in for an old fashioned soda or my favorite - the Dusty Road (three flavors of chocolate ice cream dusted with malt powder).

There are many reasons I love this vacation spot. It is only five hours from Chicago - an easy drive. People are casual - water and shoreline are everywhere. The food is amazing and the air is at least 10 degrees cooler. Breathe deep. Kick your shoes off. Enjoy a Door County vacation!

Just a few of my favorite spots:

Egg Harbor:
Alpine Resort (classic Door County lodge with an amazing screened porch overlooking the bay).
Egg Harbor Antique Mall (just south of town).
Trio Italian restaurant - lovely atmosphere and excellent northern Italian cuisine.

Between towns:
Edgewood Orchard Gallery - lovely sculpture garden in the woods.
Hands-On Art Studio - Make your own jewelry, pottery - even weld! Art nights for adults, too.

Fish Creek:
Brilliant Stranger - Say hi to our friend Dawn Patel who crafts clothing and exudes bohemian flair.
The Summertime - I worked there as a waitress, but its unique architecture will charm you.
Bayside Tavern - Order the cheese curds and the pork chop sandwich.
The White Gull Inn - Classic cape cod style inn - amazing corned beef hash and coffee cake. Fish Boils are excellent as well.
Greenwood Supper Club - see my last post for more details.

Skyway Drive Inn - In between Fish Creek and Ephraim. Classic 1950s drive in theatre - complete with the dancing hot dog commercials.

Wilson's for Ice Cream.
Rent a sailboat or pontoon boat at the shore.
Beach People is a cute shop offering beach style gifts.

Sister Bay:
Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant - grass topped roofs with goats!
JJs La Puerta Restaurant - The JJ Burger and Mojo fries in a funky, surfer dude atmosphere with a touch of Mexican flair.

Ellison Bay:
Pasta Vino - Pete D'Amico opened up his growing Italian restaurant business in this spectacular dining room space - worth the drive!

There are many more places I love to visit, but these will get you started. If you haven't been, make your reservations now at

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Greenwood Supper Club: A Classic Wisconsin Charmer

One of my favorite places in the world is a beautiful peninsula in northern Wisconsin called Door County. Her pine trees, rocky shorelines, wooden sailboats, abundant stars, and fresh lake breezes hold a special place in my heart.

I have been vacationing in Door County since I was a little girl, and this weekend I returned for our annual visit with my husband and daughter. We also enjoyed spending time with my mom and her husband Bob. One evening, we dined at our favorite Wisconsin spot - Greenwood Supper Club.

Greenwood Supper Club opened in 1929.  In its early years, it went by the glamorous name, "The Slipper." The menu tells us that it was rumored that John Dillinger himself would "gas up" at the old pumps before returning home to Chicago. The Slipper had a large dance floor and even showed movies .

In the 1930s, the name changed to "Greenwood" for its scenic views of the green, lush wooded setting. Under the ownership of the Ohnesorge family, they added some of the cedar and maple leaf interior and paintings of local landscapes. 

Today, the Greenwood continues to be the perfect spot for a fish or steak dinner after a long day of biking, hiking, or lounging on the beach. Although I am not a constant meat eater, I definitely enjoyed my steak - note the garnish of an old-fashioned apple ring and parsley (one of my favorite treats as a kid). The photo below shows my beautiful mom, looking cute as she decides on the shrimp scampi.

Greenwood is casual and kid-friendly. It is not trendy and definitely not vegetarian. It has a very classic menu with daily specials. Most nights, a waiting line will force you to wait for a bit at the long, curving cedar lined bar. My husband doesn't mind and usually orders the classic Wisconsin drink: Brandy Old Fashioned - Sweet.

Greenwood Supper Club makes me feel like I am really dining out. I don't want it to ever change. I am perhaps most charmed by its vintage style and those little details that remind me of its past. I snapped a few shots of the ladies room sign and a warning to keep your kids in hand!

Greenwood Supper Club - Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Sweet Vintage Bicycle

My mom taught me to never drive past a garage sale.

On the way to buy groceries last week, I spotted this pea green bike in a neighbor's driveway sale. I have been looking for a simple coaster-style bike, so I couldn't resist. Twenty dollars and a much-delayed grocery trip later, it was mine.

As a girl, it took me a long time to learn to ride a bike. I had a beautiful grape-colored bike with a banana seat covered with daisies. My poor, patient dad would run alongside of the bike, and I would start to get balanced. Then, he would let go, and I would crash headfirst into the nearest tree or street sign. Even after I learned, I was accident prone. my friend Amy and I, while riding our bikes to school, tried to jump up and down the curbs. This was not a good idea for me.

Halfway to school, I crashed off of my bike falling headfirst onto the cement curb. I walked to the nearest house that had a "safe house" sign in the window (remember those?), and asked for help. The poor lady took one look at my bloody head and dropped an entire jar of pickles.

Is it any wonder I love biking?

Here is my little garage sale bike as I fixed her up. I couldn't resist adding a basket and some pin striping.

My dad was very good at pin striping hot rods. A few years ago, I bought a real pin striping brush at a car show. I'm not an expert, but I think my little bike, now proudly named "Sweet Pea", turned out great.

Milt says he can definitely never ride it now with its flowers and basket, but I will!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Blogs, and Vintage Sofas, Will Bring Us Together

This is a story about our vintage sofa.

Milt and I - in our quest to redo our living room in mid-century style - found this amazing sofa at a local thrift shop. We love it, even though our 14-year-old daughter would rather have a comfy sofa that she can lay down on without falling in the crack.

We've had this for about four years now. Then, yesterday, I stumbled on a fellow blogger who is renovating a mid-century home in Miller Beach, Indiana, with her husband. She posted a funny blog about things she regrets not buying at thrift stores.

There was our little sofa.

I couldn't believe it :-). I had to send a quick "after" photo to Brooke to show her that, even though she might have regretted not purchase the sofa, it had ended up in a good home.

It is well loved - and it introduced me to another vintage blogger.

Here she is with her super cool blog!

Check her out!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eating Out on the Road - 50s Style

On a recent thrift shop venture, I spotted this little vintage cookbook made by the Ford Motor Company in 1959. Apparently, in addition to making cars, they roamed the nation, eating out at fine restaurants and collecting recipes. The book is organized by state and recommends famous establishments, giving a recipe for each one.

The authors say, "quality of food is only part of the story; atmosphere counts also." I agree! As an avid watcher of food and travel shows, I love when I can find a hole in the wall treasure or an old-school place that still has pads under the white tablecloths and leather booths.

The book features three places that I have actually been to:

 Shelter Island's Bali Hai is in San Diego. I visited this gorgeous restaurant all done up in Polynesian tiki style with my good friend, Beth.

I don't know if it still goes by that name, but it has wraparound windows facing the ocean inlet.

Below is another favorite in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This traditional Greek restaurant features a house Greek salad with hidden garlicky potato salad inside of the veggies. Yum - the recipe is even in Ford's book.

Finally, my favorite discovery in the list: Yesteryear in Kankakee, Illinois.

This was my favorite restaurant when I was a young girl. My parents would take us here on very special dress-up occasions - the last time was for my 16th birthday. I remember that day specifically because my dad ordered quail - and I started to cry when they brought two tiny birds on a mound of mashed potatoes. The restaurant itself was beautiful. It was sprawling and grand and had amazing crooks and little rooms. 

What I did not remember is that this is actually a Frank Lloyd Wright home, the Bradley House, that was then turned into a restaurant (in the 50s). The restaurant closed in the 1980s. It was bought by a millionaire who was kidnapped for ransom and buried alive in Kankakee (not even kidding). Since then, it has changed hands and is hoping to be preserved and restored to its former glory. I am a bit tickled that I had such good taste as a kid - to acknowledge both the "food and the atmosphere" of a national treasure.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Loveliness of Vintage Hats

Vintage hats were the first things that I collected. I inherited a black 40s hat with a diamond/pearl studded wing from my friend Janet. The camp we were attending was using it as a skit - but I wanted to wear it. In the 70s, no one wore hats. To me, they represented glamour and sophistication.

I am still obsessed. I buy them at flea markets, garage sales, antique malls. Sometimes I wear them - and other times I just can't resist their unique styles and shapes. They are like pieces of art. We have a line of vintage hats and fedoras (that we wear) on our bedroom wall.

These are a few of my favorites, and I try to find reasons to wear them in public.

Of course, I'm happy to have married a man who looks handsome in a fedora. He has quite a collection of those as well!

Perhaps they remind me of Audrey Hepburn, my favorite actress of the era. Here she is, looking fabulous in hats of several eras:

Someday, maybe hats will be back in fashion. Or, I may have to move to England!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Naked As They Come

Sheloves magazine is doing a synchroblog where women write about their own feelings about their bodies. I love this idea of women blogging together about an issue that concerns all of us. To join in, I am reposting an essay that I wrote for the Peninsula Pulse Literary Contest last summer titled, "Naked As They Come."  Though not really a love letter, it does speak to how I came to reconcile my own neurotic view of my physical self.

Here is the link to the synchroblog!
Naked As They Come

I don’t like to be naked.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of my body. In fact, I think I look better naked than in clothes. But my tendency toward prudishness might rival Queen Victoria. For example, when I am changing, even if I am the only one in the room, I will turn and face the wall while undoing my bra. I remove it under my clothing and then slip my nightgown over the top – never leaving myself unduly exposed.

This somewhat freakish tendency toward being body shy is probably partially due to my Germanic heritage and my conservative Baptist upbringing that measured our skirt length and frowned on two-piece bathing suits. In my family, we never called our body parts by their biological or even typical slang names. I remember vaguely referring to my reproductive organs as “down there.” The word “boobs” was considered a bad word – we didn’t even refer to them as “breasts,” but instead preferred to call them “moons.” My family did not follow the 1970s notion of free love or open familial nudity. We covered up, thank you very much.

It is true that nakedness is biblical – even Adam and Eve were originally designed to live naked. It is also true that sinful behavior was what forced them to acquire vegetative clothing. However, nudity was not a common event in my family; we felt it was best limited to the privacy of the bathroom – one person at a time.

In my childhood years, I was also painfully thin, which led to a desire to keep my stick thin appendages under wraps. Tom Rygasawicz, the bullying child who sat directly behind me from 2nd to 7th grade, would whisper, “Storms, you look like a skeleton” or “How does that body hold up your giant head?” Being scarecrow skinny and smart was definitely not the best combination in junior high.

So – painful past and neuroses aside – how did I come to terms with my nakedness? I believe it was through a series of divinely inspired comedic events.

Naked Moment #1 – Fresh out of Bible college – where any type of nakedness was generally frowned upon, I took an internship at the Chicago School of the Art Institute. It was the punk era, and I sat across the lunch table from students sporting 12-inch Mohawks and t-shirts saying things like, “I shot Bambi.” This was a new world for me – where anarchy was prized and moralism frowned upon. Needless to say, I kept to myself.

I interned in the public relations department, and one of my earliest assignments was to interview an award-winning professor about her upcoming exhibit. Pad of paper in hand, I searched out her classroom on the second floor. Class was in session, but I was assured that we had a set interview and I should just walk in.

Pushing open the door, I came face to face with a nude male model wearing only a pair of worn red high top gym shoes. I remember the high-tops vividly because, once my eyes shot down to his shoes, I was physically unable to look up again. I also remember letting out a loud piercing yell.

The result was like the freeze frame on a video clip. All pencils dropped, all eyes shot to the open door where I stood and the model hung his head in very Baptist-like shame. In what seemed like a moment of epic, biblical proportions, I made time stand still.

Not only was this the first real life completely nude male I had ever seen, but I was introduced to it by a complete stranger, within a few feet of his nicely developed physique and in front of an audience.

Somehow I stumbled out of the door, muttering my apologies to the teacher, the class, the model, and returned to my office without the desired story in hand.

Naked Moment #2 – Years later, I was married and now accustomed to a certain level of nudity. I was no longer completely unaware and prudish – although I did still change out of my bra while facing the wall. I liked nakedness in its place, of course, but not as a general custom.

For the first years of our marriage, my husband and I owned a little antique shop. We had found a charming setting in an old downtown area next to a commuter rail station that carried people to and from Chicago. Not surprising, we focused on Victorian antiques – quite appropriate for my style. We had English teapots and mahogany armoires – lace embroidered table scarves and floral wreaths. Piano music tinkled in the background.

Crashing into this careful display of gentility were our upstairs neighbors. Our landlord had rented the upstairs apartment to a group of 18-year-old boys who were still trying to finish their senior year of high school in between parties. Every weekend, the fire escape would be crowded with scantily dressed females and loud mouth boys carrying plastic cups of cheap beer.

We constantly complained to our upstairs neighbors about their music. About noon, they would wake up and turn on the stereo. The bass was turned up so loud that our china teapots would rattle and the flow-blue plates shook on the walls. Our middle-aged customers would frown and look up at the ceiling.

Even after several confrontations and a call to the landlord, the noise level refused to decrease. One particular Saturday I had enough. My usual peacemaking personality had boiled to the point of no return. I was going up there. I was going to let those boys have it.

I headed up the back stairs, pushing aside pieces of discarded clothing with my feet. The place smelled like a mix between a brewery and a laundry basket. The door was scuffed with a punch hole through one section of the plywood from a roommate who had probably been locked out. I pounded on the door. No answer. They probably couldn’t even hear me over the pulsating music. I pounded again. Finally I kicked on the door.

I heard a slight rustling. The knob turned. And, my 18-year-old neighbor swung the door open wide. As he did so, he leapt out in front of me – arms and legs spread wide – completely naked.

His long tousled blonde hair did little to obscure his entire body from my view. I was so startled that not a word came out of my mouth. I’m sure my face reflected my shock.

“Dude,” he said with a grin, modestly covering his genitals with one hand, as if this was a common occurrence. “I thought you were my friend.”

I put one hand up toward him as if to block the site. “Could you keep your music down?” I said.

The music finally stopped.

Being surprised by two completely strange and naked men – plus years of living with my less-body-shy Polish Catholic husband, had dimmed my fear of seeing naked bodies. But the final test was yet to come.

Naked Moment #3 – My husband and I were attending a 1940s Big Band Swing Dance in Chicago. We are both fans of vintage clothing and ‘40s/‘50s era music – so this event looked promising. The dance was being held in an old Chicago theatre with a live orchestra – old movies being played on the background scene – and vintage clothing vendors. All of my favorite things in one spot.

We both dressed up in ‘40s splendor. Milt had a fedora, his suspenders, and wing-tip shoes. I was wearing a black and silver 1940s cocktail dress with eight-inch cuffs and a slim fitting skirt. I completed my look with a crocheted snood for my hair and black fishnet stockings.

We arrived about an hour early, so decided to get a bite to eat at a Mexican restaurant directly across from the theater. This was an authentic restaurant as the neighborhood was not one that catered to the young and wealthy. I remember small Formica tables and little dishes of carrot relish on each table. As we ordered steak tacos, I realized that we were the only English-speaking clients in the place. And, with our strange retro get-up, we were attracting a bit of attention.

“I wonder what they are thinking?” I asked Milt. “They must think we’re in a play.”

The food was delicious and inexpensive, and since I had finished first, I went up to pay the bill at the cash register. I had been up there for a few moments, when Milt came up behind me.

“What?” I asked.

“Is your dress supposed to be open in back?” he whispered.

“What!?” I asked again.

“Your dress,” he said. “Is it supposed to be open like that?”

As he spoke, my hand felt down the back of my dress from the waist to my butt. Just below my waist, I no longer felt the silky crepe of my dress, but crosshatched fishnet hose. It occurred to me slowly and painfully, that the entire back seam of my dress had separated – those frail 1940s threads giving in at last. My entire ass and legs were completely exposed to the entire dining room.

Even worse my husband, having alerted me to the problem, had calmly returned to our table – failing to shield my naked fishnet clad bottom from the view of fellow diners.

I turned around slowly – holding my hands in an attempt to cover a small portion of my exposed backside – to the smiling gaze of what seemed like hundreds of men. I was not completely naked, true, but pretty close. Paid check in hand, I hurried out of the restaurant.

Now I had a choice to make: To stay and enjoy the evening. Or, to take my naked self safely home.

The problem was – I really, really wanted to go to that dance. We had already paid for tickets, and the dance was just across the street. I walked in faith – unsure of how there could possibly be a happy ending.

An elderly lady – or an angel from heaven as I call her – helped me out. In the bathroom of the theatre – where I was examining the damage of my dress in a full-length mirror, she offered her help. From her purse, she held out a tiny sewing kit. “I can fix that,” she insisted. “Go in the stall and take it off. I’ll whip a few stitches in it.”

I have a photo from that evening – in front of a backdrop of a World War II bomber plane – and I’m smiling. I somehow recovered from my naked exposure in the taqueria.

To be naked is to be exposed. To be uncovered. To allow others to see who you are. There are no pretenses in nakedness. There is vulnerability. You cannot protect yourself well when you are naked. You are there for all to see. You open yourself up – trust others – let them see you for who you really are.

My naked stories are still ones that I call on for entertainment or when asked for my most embarrassing moments. But, I think they did a bit of good as well, shaking me a bit out of my German Baptist mode.

Nakedness baptized me in humanity. It loosened me up. I learned to laugh at myself and to realize that I have something in common with this diverse world. Nakedness is a yoke that binds us in a way nothing else can.

From the moment we’re born until the moment we die:

We’re all naked beneath our clothes.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Should Girls Be Brave Like Katniss?

One of my facebook friends was questioning the right of Katniss Everdeen, of Hunger Games fame, to serve as a female role model. She felt like Katniss's choices, which in the first book of the series, were brave and admirable, became exceedlingly less so as the series progressed.

Her comment came the day after my daughter and I went to see Pixar's latest release: Brave. The movie tells the story of Merida, a fiesty, fiery, red-headed princess who does not want to be betrothed. She likes to ride horses, shoot arrows, and climb mountains. She abhors needlepoint and wearing restrictive queenly costumes.

I couldn't help but note the similarities between Merida, the pixelized heroine of Brave, and the flesh and blood portrayal of Katniss Everdeen.
  • Both of them have adoring, if sometimes misguided, mothers.
  • Both of them are experts at archery.
  • Both of them prefer male to female companionship.
  • Both of them are fighting for the right to their own destiny.
For Katniss, her destiny is being controlled politically. She must fight - even at the expense of her own morality - for the survival of herself and her family. For Merida, her destiny means being able to NOT choose one of the three strangest male suitors ever to be portrayed in cartoons. It also means being able to be a queen and a woman in her own way.

While I agree that no girl should ever take a fictional character as a role model, I do believe that there are some basic lessons that most girls can take from these two characters.

1) Learn to shoot a bow and arrow (just kidding!).
2) Find and learn to trust your own instincts.
3) Don't settle for what is expected of you by your parents or by society.
4) Refuse to be limited by the stereotypes of what a girl should be.
5) Realize that marriage and men are not solutions to life's problems - in fact, in The Hunger Games, they complicate everything.
5) Aim for excellence (that's the bow and arrow part).

Now, I must go and sign up for archery lessons...