Advertise on
Winter Fest is good family fun.
Winter Fest is good family fun.
Kids love tiny trains.
Kids love tiny trains.
Skating on fake ice is much harder than it looks.
Skating on fake ice is much harder than it looks.

Winterfest skates off to a promising start

This afternoon, I took my wife and 3-year-old daughter to Winter Fest, the 10-day indoor family-friendly party at the Frontier Airlines Center. I went not just because is a proud sponsor of the event, but my kid said she wanted to see some "winter stuff" and right now Milwaukee isn't very wintry (not that I'm complaining).

My wife and I had a nice time, but my daughter had an amazing time. From bounce house to bounce house, she barely stopped running. She was most intrigued, as usual, by the guy dressed up in a penguin costume. She was temporarily intrigued by the "ice skating rink," which wasn't really ice, rather slippery wood. That idea fizzled when none of the three of us could stay vertical.

The first-year event shows lots of promise, but when we visited, it was somewhat lightly attended. Mind you, it started on Dec. 21 and runs through New Year's Eve, so it's possible we hit it on an off-day. Frankly, the sparse crowd made traversing the event extremely easy, and we encountered very few lines (which made for a very happy child).

I would like to see Winter Fest pick up some steam, however, because it could be even more fun if it was a bit more crowded. With vendors and talent and rides and more, I see a lot of potential here.

Winter Fest costs $16 at the door if you want to skate, but just $5 for general admission. If you have a kid, he or she will want to spend hours there, too, so consider it money well spent.

The mini road trippers pose in the shadow of the State of Wisconsin on the way back from Wausaukee.
The mini road trippers pose in the shadow of the State of Wisconsin on the way back from Wausaukee. (Photo: Eron Laber of Front Room Photography)

The endorsement of the mini-road trip

To some, it might be hard to justify driving 400 miles in 24 hours, to take a one-day road trip to a sleepy Up North town in the dead of winter.

To me, it's just what I needed, and after my quick trip to our very modest (read: cheap) cabin in the Town of Wausaukee, an hour due north of Green Bay, I'm ready to do it again tomorrow.

Friday's trip was a quick getaway with one of my oldest friends. The cabin is heated, but has no running water in the winter. Still, with limited entertainment options that included eating pizza, listening to music and bowling a game, Eron and I realized that if we are actually going to get in some quality conversation despite our busy lives, we'll need to drive three hours away from Milwaukee to do it.

And it was great. For an area that shines in the summer, the quiet, "boring" winter wasn't boring at all. It looked and felt like winter Up North, too. With a frozen lake, snow on the ground and temps much colder than Milwaukee, it couldn't have felt any farther from home.

Tomorrow, I'll do one more 24-hour jaunt with another friend, Jon. It's just part of my plan to make full use of the week off we give our employees. While it's easy to sit around and waste away the time on the couch, it's just as easy – and almost as cheap, really – to get out of town for a day. If you're not as lucky as me to have a run-down 1964 single-wide mobile home in the middle of nowhere (yes, I'm being sarcastic), all the motels along our way had plenty of vacancy. Your most expensive part of the trip will be gas.

For as much as I love Milwaukee, sometimes it's good to get away and catch up with friends. Even one day will do the trick. You'll come back recharged and ready to face the new year.

Most importantly, you'll ask yourself why you don't do it more often.

Prince, you could've stayed and become a legend.
Prince, you could've stayed and become a legend.

Bold and not-so-bold predictions for 2012

Writing year-end "best of" lists is easy, and writing 2012 New Year's resolutions is even easier. After all, it's not very challenging to opine about what we would like to see.

It's much trickier to predict the future.

So, because I consider myself a sporting guy, here are five "bold" predictions for 2012 ... and five "not-so-bold" predictions for the new year.

Add your own via the almighty Talkback, keep score at home, and at the end of 2012, we'll all check back and see how we did.

And please note, my predictions aren't necessarily my personal wishes. This is just what I expect to go down in the new year.

Ryan Braun won't serve a 50-game suspension: I'm not sure the reigning National League MVP will get off scot-free, but I don't see him serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs ... because he didn't take PEDs. Rather, I think an embarrassing and/or awkward, but unrelated to baseball, situation will be revealed, and either Braun will serve a shorter suspension or none at all. In the end, his reputation as a baseball player won't be hurt, and at least in Milwaukee, his reputation as a person won't be, either. Additionally, someone at ESPN is getting sued and/or fired over their incorrect and libelous account of the story.

Scott Walker will survive the recall election: There will be an election, but the combination of voter apathy, an already polarized electorate and a weak Democratic candidate will fail to give Walker the boot. Even though he will stay in office by a very narrow margin, Walker won't change his policies one iota, further infuriating the left and further strengthening his base on the right. He will never win re-election, however, assuming the Dems can offer up a candidate who really wants and deserves the job.

The Packers will win the Super Bowl: I guess this isn't that bold, but repeating a Super Bowl victory is harder than it looks. The Packers will do it on the arm of Aaron Rodgers, and despite a non-existent defense, they'll sco…

Palermo's Jake Hay dropped by for lunch.
Palermo's Jake Hay dropped by for lunch.
To me, the "Meat Lover's" pizza tasted the least like frozen.
To me, the "Meat Lover's" pizza tasted the least like frozen.
Four of Palermo's new offerings.
Four of Palermo's new offerings.

Hot pizza on a cold afternoon

I've often said that I could eat pizza every day. Fortunately, I don't, but when Milwaukee's own Palermo's offers to swing by the office with four pizzas and two ovens, who am I to say no?

Palermo's Jake Hay brought our group lunch today, and we sampled four of the company's new frozen pizza offerings. I liked each of them, really, but my favorite was the "Meat Lovers." Honestly, had I not seen it come out of the package, you could've convinced me it was baked fresh.

The "Philly Style Cheesesteak" was also quite unique (Hay says he's not aware of another company that produces it), as was the "Spinach, Bacon & Feta." The thin-crust Sicilian pizza, to me, tasted the most like frozen pizza. But make no mistake: everything Palermo's offers is pretty good. I would – and I will – buy any of these the next time I'm at the grocery store.

Of course, now I'm wondering why we don't have a pizza oven in our office.

Oh yeah, it's so I don't eat pizza every day.