May 24, 2017
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Use a typewriter to craft the opening lines of an impromptu “story of the day” at the new American Writers Museum, which opens Tuesday in Chicago. ( MARY BERGIN PHOT0 )

The word is ... American Writers Museum to open in Chicago


In the same room are Julia Child, Alex Haley, Prince, Patrick Henry and Hunter Thompson. What do they have in common, besides being dearly departed?

The power of words helped each forge a legacy through cookbooks, novels, song lyrics, speeches or gonzo journalism. Their impact is longlasting.

Most of us in the world of writing — be it poetry, comedy, linguistics, commentary, screenplays, books, advertisements or newspaper articles — can’t fathom that level of acclaim. Yet we make a living by putting words together to inform, influence, entertain, minister, persuade or document the world as we know it.

Opening the Door to artisan cheese


Fans of fine dining know that an amuse-bouche is a chef’s little gift to diners — a nibble or slurp that usually is an elegant extra at the start of an evening meal.

Think fancy canape, shot of gazpacho, tiny culinary work of art. Whatever you are given is not on a menu, so you can’t order it, but the edible surprise is intended to whet the appetite for what’s ahead.

Author takes us hiking on the Ice Age Trail


What constitutes a full day of hiking for many of us is just a warm-up for Melanie Radzicki McManus of Sun Prairie. The longtime travel writer and first-time author hoofed the entire 1,100-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail in 36 days and five hours. That’s a record for women hikers.

You can read all about it in “Thousand-Miler: Adventures Hiking the Ice Age Trail” ($20, Wisconsin Historical Society Press), whose vivid, you-are-there, conversational approach takes us along the zigzag route from St. Croix Falls and Interstate State Park in northwest Wisconsin to Potawatomi State Park in Door County.

Soldiering on: New World War I exhibit opens at Wisconsin Veterans Museum


Casual decisions sometimes lead to profound, life-altering circumstances.

No one learned that more than John Pavlik of West Allis, who was 16 years old when he learned to drive an ambulance. Soon he was evacuating the National Guard 32nd Infantry’s wounded on the front lines during World War I.

Florida-bound: A snowbirder’s view of retirement


Call me asleep at the wheel or on a river called denial, but I am only beginning to take notice of how my generation’s retirement will look different than our predecessors’.

On each day until 2030, at least 10,000 baby boomers (those born from 1946 to 1965) will reach the age of 65. About 75 percent make the decision to claim Social Security benefits as soon as they are eligible, and most retirement advice or statistics online obsess about money that we will or won’t have to make the golden years shine.

A tale of two chefs — one at the top and one on the rise


Order a cocktail at Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, and the drink may well arrive with a napkin that contains an oh-so-obscure band portrait and one word: Cork.

The retro photo is evidence of how dramatically a young man’s dreams can shift and accelerate. That’s because one of seven smiling mopheads with flowery shirts and matching white pants in the 1970s picture is Tony Mantuano.

Springing forward: What’s new in tourism, food


Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal for many of us. That includes tourism and food in Wisconsin; neither is a stagnant industry, and here is new-to-me proof.

Work soon begins on an almost $9 million expansion of Sundara Inn and Spa, on the outskirts of Wisconsin Dells. The nationally touted and adults-only destination opened in 2003.

Take Ten: Big anniversaries


Birthdays and anniversaries generate fanfare, especially when the number of years ends with a zero. It’s that way for events and attractions as well as individuals and their relationships. Here are 10 reasons why 2017 will be a good reason to party in Wisconsin.

* June 8 marks the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth in Richland Center, and that means exhibits, tours and other events at the legendary architect’s most iconic buildings. The annual Wright and Like Tour ventures into private and public buildings in Milwaukee on June 3. Key Wright structures nationwide are being considered as a World Heritage Site, and a UNESCO panel convenes in Poland to deliberate on the nomination in July. (click on “engage”), 877-588-7900;, 312-994-4000;, 608-287-0339

Underwater treasures: Lake Michigan site proposed as National Marine Sanctuary


Deep below the surface of Lake Michigan, dozens of known shipwrecks stay intact because of isolated locations, frigid water and a lack of salt to erode what has sunk.

“We have masts still standing on a schooner, almost like a prop for a movie,” says Russ Green, regional coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many wrecks remain undiscovered in the 307-by-118-mile lake, whose average depth is 279 feet.

The Caribbean and Cape Town: Readers share AirBnB experiences


When asking for AirBnB stories earlier this winter, I expected tales about money saved and friendly connections made during domestic travel. Two of you took a chance on during international trips, and I’m rewarding your willingness to engage personally with other cultures.

“Sitting on the veranda of The Tree House Lodge, overlooking Long Bay on The Big Corn Island, we realized it was only by chance that we found ourselves in this sweet little beach house on this tiny tropical island in the Caribbean surrounded by the kind of turquoise blue waters you only see in travel magazines and postcards,” writes Michael Kleinschmidt of Merrill.

Catch a parade: Iowa Chicken Run is Mardi Gras tradition in Louisiana town


On his head is a cowboy hat, between his lips is a whistle and in his hands is a stunned, slow-blinking chicken.

The man, Rodney Victorian, leads an impromptu lineup of tractors, wagons, horses and ATVs through Iowa. Not the state, but a scrappy town of 3,000 residents in southwest Louisiana. When he toots the whistle and waves a red flag, the procession stops, crepe-paper float riders dismount and children crowd around their fowl-toting captain.

Take Ten: Fox Valley breweries


Midwest Features Syndicate is partnering with the Department of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to help students gain work experience and build a writing portfolio. This week’s author is Jessica Zemlicka of Ripon, a senior majoring in journalism with a public relations emphasis.

She chose to spotlight breweries “to celebrate the experiences they each offer to their visitors. Beer is a big part of Wisconsin’s history and it’s nice to see how Wisconsinites are marking their own path in that history.”

Zombies in the Dells: Resort offers virtual reality games at The Arena


I am gingerly following a narrow, stone walkway, but then the path ends abruptly. Ahead and above is nothing but sky. Below is nothing but ocean. I am nearly petrified but not alone, part of a three-person team that starts chattering about what to do next.

Across from us, another threesome waves from their own little floating island. They are standing upside down.

Body art: Field Museum exhibition explores tattoos through the ages


More people are adding an indelible mark on their life, based on a process that is thousands of years old.

When asked to write about tattoos during my first newspaper job around 1980, it was hard to find anybody besides military vets and bikers to interview. Now nearly one-half of Americans who are 18 to 29 years old have at least one tattoo, and the business of tattooing is a $1.65 billion industry in the U.S.

To each his own chili


If you seriously doubt our nation’s ability to seriously but pleasantly debate anything, I have one word for you: Chili.

After asking Facebook friends what makes a bowl of chili distinctive, passionate preferences bubbled up pretty quickly. Geographic loyalty mattered a little, but certainly not politics. Hallelujah!

Where are we going this year?


Visionaries bring out their crystal balls in January and share what they know, think or hope for the new year. That is especially true during years when a new U.S. president begins work, but the whirl of predictions thankfully doesn’t begin and end with politics.

As you burrow in for the winter and await vacation, consider the hunches of these travel prognosticators who cast a keen eye on consumer preferences, emerging trends and their own sense of what’s new or exciting.

An ocean Vista: Some tips for navigating a Carnival cruise


Name a village of 4,500 with a brewery, waterpark, casino, IMAX theater and dozen dining outlets specializing in steak to sushi.

Thirty years have passed since my first Carnival sailing, and the cruise line no longer is simply a nonstop floating frat party. Sun decks, slushy drinks, silly games and gyrating dancers remain, but this world sure has widened.

Take Ten: Northwoods wedding venues


Midwest Features Syndicate and this newspaper are partnering with the Department of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to help students gain work experience and build a writing portfolio. This week’s author is Jessica Johnson of Roberts, a senior majoring in journalism with an emphasis in writing and editing. She was editor-in-chief of the Advance-Titan, the college newspaper, when we connected.

Johnson chose to spotlight wedding venues because “family friends are the owners of Coyland Creek, and after attending a wedding there this past summer, I knew I someday wanted to get married at an out-of-the-box wedding venue. Their venue inspired me to see what other unique wedding locations northern Wisconsin has to offer.”

Dells ice castle taking shape


A farmer’s progress comes at the mercy of Mother Nature, and that’s true for Dan Beck’s crew in Wisconsin Dells, too. He jokes that they have an icicle farm, and above-freezing temps are about as bad for growing them as lack of rain to a corn farmer. Another challenge is wind that races in from more than one direction.

Beck is Wisconsin site manager for Ice Castles, a Utah-based company that turns frozen water into a wintry wonderland of tunnels for crawling, thrones for perching and a maze of sometimes-narrow, twisting trails on 1.5 acres. What began as an empty Mount Olympus Resort lot is slowly growing into a massive fortress with 10-foot-thick walls, two 50-foot slides, a domed room with waterfall, water fountain, light show and more.

Remarkable getaways


A memorable overnight getaway doesn’t have to break the budget, or maybe it’s high time that you splurged. Where? I count these properties as remarkable, based on my travels and experience in 2016.

* Lismore Hotel, Eau Claire: Swanky new accommodations downtown are a quick walk to the riverfront, artsy venues and other casual to classy diversions. Technically, you don’t need to leave the former Ramada Inn for some of this: The Informalist is the hotel restaurant and cocktail lounge, serving burgers to black garlic pasta, roasted cauliflower steak to steak tartare. Also at ground level is ECDC (Eau Claire Downtown Coffee), brewing espressos and blending PB&J smoothies. On a rooftop is The Dive, a former swimming pool that is now a rooftop bar, one part enclosed, one part open-air seating: It turns lively at night, especially during summer. Why call it Lismore? That is Eau Claire’s sister city in Australia. Rates start at $97., 715-835-8888

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