Tuesday, Apr. 1st, 2014

5 weird products you didn’t know were made in Wisconsin

Hey check out that Wisco-made potty back there!
Hey check out that Wisco-made potty back there!

1. Peanut Butter Cup ... Wrappers

There may be no wrong way to eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but there’s only one right way to wrap one: in honest-to-goodness Wisconsin-made paper. Every single brown wrapper cup thingie used by Reese’s is made in our state.

2. Carmex

Chapped lips? Cold sores? Look no farther than the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, home of Carma Labs, maker of the legendary lip remedy in the little yellow-capped jar. Countless cold sores have been eradicated by a product made here in Wisconsin.

3. Shrinky Dinks

Yep, Shrinky Dinks. These shrinkable plastic creations are the brainchild of two Waukesha County women, one of whom was looking for a Cub Scout craft project in 1973. Forty years later, these oven-enabled craft kits are still a popular classic.

4. Smoke Juice

E-cigarettes feed the cravings of smokers who want to – or have to – do without the actual smoke. If you’ve puffed on one of these high-tech nicotine delivery devices, there’s a chance the atomized shot of smoke-flavored liquid you inhaled was made by Johnson Creek Enterprises, which is based in Hartland.

5. The World's Most Awesome Toilet

You probably knew that Kohler, a major maker of faucets, toilets, and other plumbing fixtures, is based in Wisconsin. But you may not have known that Kohler makes the most amazing toilet on the market. The Numi (above) is motion-activated, has a heated seat, plays music and speaks 10 languages. And it’s no exaggeration to call it a throne: It costs $6,400.

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Monday, Mar. 31st, 2014

The Pursuit of Hoppiness: Is the Wisconsin Beer Commission Ferment to be?

Wisconsin – the “Napa Valley of beer”?  Sounds about right, if you take into account our state’s rich history of independent and unique brewing companies, our abundance of “beer geeks”, and the undeniable fact that man, we sure can brew (and drink).

But although we may already consider Wisconsin the holy grail of the perfect brew, how do we get others to take notice – and visit and spend some cash? Rep. Gary Tauchen may have the answer. His proposal, which he believes would revitalize beer tourism, calls to create a Wisconsin Beer Commission whose primary objective would be “marketing and promoting the state’s brewing industry”. This elite group would include representatives from both small and large brewers, as well as distributors and retailers. (Basically, so everyone feels they have equal say in all the goings-on and no fistfights break out. Beer folk are passionate people.)

This news has some craft brewers raising their mugs already. And why not? People may come for the beer, but then perhaps they’ll stay awhile longer for our awesome bike trails, interesting brewery tours, and of course, the cheese.

So, perhaps what we Wisconsinites have known all along – that there’s nothing better than a cold craft beer, a diverse cheese platter, and a good bike ride – will soon(ish) become a reality for tourists around the country (and dare I say it … THE WORLD). In the meantime, however, I suppose we’ll have to drink all the beer ourselves. Darn.

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Sunday, Mar. 30th, 2014

Sunday Event Picks (March 30)

The Anna Johnson Band returns to Chippewa Falls today for a CD release show. Details below.
The Anna Johnson Band returns to Chippewa Falls today for a CD release show. Details below.

From early in the morning and into the night – a lot of fine quality events occurring on Sunday. Wanna know what they are? Of course you do. Our picks are below. Check out the rest of Sunday here.

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Saturday, Mar. 29th, 2014

Saturday Event Picks (March 29)

Today! Check out the world premiere of Game of Throws: Two Teams Aim for the U.S. National Kubb Championship in the V1 Gallery. Details below.
Today! Check out the world premiere of the locally made Game of Throws: Two Teams Aim for the U.S. National Kubb Championship in the V1 Gallery. Details below.

From early in the morning and into the night – a lot of fine quality events occurring on Saturday. Wanna know what they are? Of course you do. Our picks are below. Check out the rest of Saturday here.

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Friday, Mar. 28th, 2014

Local kubb pro to hold 36-hour “kubbathon” for the Confluence

Anyone who knows local man Aaron Ellringer knows that he is serious about kubb. As a 2010 US National Kubb Tournament Champion, he has won multiple trophies in the sport and has even designed his own brand of kubb sets. This summer, Aaron, along with some other locals, will be attending the World Kubb Championship in Gotland, Sweden, where the game originated. This ragtag group of Midwesterners will be competing as the only American team in the tournament.

In an effort to truly exercise his kubb-durance, Ellringer came up with a brilliant, if quirky idea: "an ongoing public kubb game that allows people to come and go, learn and play, for days on end!" On March 25, Ellringer elaborated on the idea in a blog post. This post was "a declaration of a two day kubb project and a new challenge for the world's longest consecutive kubb friendly."

Ellringer has already begun preparing for this record-setting event. "My wife sacrificed some work time to make sure she could be with the kids," he said. "I'll make sure I have plenty of coffee and schedule some folks in to give me a break."

But this kubb fanatic didn't just set the marathon up for the purpose of personal preparation. As an Eau Claire native, Ellringer feels very strongly about the confluence and its future. Through 36 hours of straight up kubbin', he hopes to raise awareness of not just the sport, but of the election on April 1, the Confluence Project and the confluence itself.

"I'm guessing I'll see more than a hundred people pass through," said Ellringer. "But folks are already hearing about it around the world."

The Kubbathon will take place near the Haymarket at the confluence between the morning of Monday, March 31 to the night of Tuesday, April 1. Follow the progress on Twitter: #kubbathon.

Coincidentally, the V1 Gallery will be hosting the world premiere of  Game of Throws: Two Teams Aim for the U.S. National Kubb Championship,  a new kubb-umentary, for free this Saturday, March 29, at 3pm: the perfect opportunity to amp yourself up for the Kubbathon.

"No fooling, I'm going to play a lot of kubb," said Ellringer.

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Thursday, Mar. 27th, 2014

Donors pledge $675K to Confluence, put total over $5M

Votes in next Tuesday’s referendums alone won’t build the Confluence Project: The proposed development needs dollars, too. And on Thursday, Community for the Confluence announced a slew of donations for the project just in time to secure a $250,000 matching grant from Charter Bank.

Back in February, Charter promised to match up to $250,000 in new pledges of $25,000 or more made by March 31. The newly announced pledges, which will leverage the quarter-million from Charter, include $100,000 from Northwestern Bank; $100,000 from Bon Iver/Justin Vernon; and a total of $225,000 from a number of anonymous donors. Combined with the matching money from Charter, that’s a total of $675,000 toward the performing arts center portion of the Confluence Project.

“We’re very pleased to see such positive and generous response to Charter Bank’s matching gift challenge of $250,000,” Paul Kohler, president of Charter Bank, said in a press release. “The commitments from businesses and individuals demonstrate the broad base of support for the Confluence community arts center and hopefully add important momentum to the philanthropy expectation for the center. When all areas of our community work together on a common goal, we can accomplish tremendous things.”

Jerry Jacobson, president of Northwestern Bank, added that his bank’s board unanimously supported the pledge. “We believe this project is great for all of the Chippewa Valley, not just Eau Claire and the university," Jacobson said in a press release. “Everyone in the region will benefit and for many, many years. This is an investment in the future, and that’s what we here at Northwestern Bank are all about. It’s a pleasure to be a part of something so transformational.”

The roughly $50 million downtown performing arts center would be shared by community arts groups and UW-Eau Claire, and the community is responsible for half of its cost. About $15 million of the community’s $25 million share is expected to be raised from donors. With the new pledges of $675,000, total philanthropy has exceeded the $5 million mark, said Community for the Confluence, a group comprised of the project’s backers.

The Confluence Project also will include a $26 million building that will include commercial and retail space as well as student housing. This mixed-use building will be privately financed.

The donations could become a moot point, however, depending on the outcome of a pair of referendums on Tuesday. Eau Claire County voters will choose whether to pledge $3.5 million in taxpayer funds toward the performing arts center. The referendum for city of Eau Claire voters is more complex: If approved, it would require a separate, second referendum anytime the city seeks to spend $1 million or more on a performing arts facility. This would jeopardize the $5 million already pledged by the City Council last fall, which is why Confluence supporters are campaigning for a “no” vote on the city referendum.

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7 *Natural* Wonders of Wisconsin

Cave of the Mounds, y'all. Images from Travel Wisconsin.
Cave of the Mounds, y'all. Images from Travel Wisconsin.

I was ready to call double shenanigans on Travel Wisconsin for their woefully inaccurate list of Wisconsin's "7 Natural Wonders" until I noticed the world "natural" in the title. The "7 Wonders" I had expected to see included the Forevertron, that huge fish in Hayward, and a giant six-pack of La Crosse Lager. Maybe the World’s Largest Soup Kettle in Laona or the World’s Largest Letter “M” in Plateville or my uncle Merl's near-supernatural ability to eat an entire bucket of lefse. Simply scanning TW's list reveals lake shores, waterfalls, caves, state parks, and … a marsh. I was very disappointed.  

Upon rereading the title I realized this was a list of natural beauty and uniqueness. Fair enough. I guess I just tend towards the unnatural. The list includes …

1. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Calling to the explorer in all of us, this national park is a grouping or “archipelago” of 21 wilderness islands dotting the cold waters of Lake Superior and more than a dozen miles of shoreline with some of the most pristine remaining sandscapes in the Great Lakes region. National Geographic Explorer magazine named it a top place to visit. There are old-growth forests, windswept beaches and cliffs …

2. Big Manitou Falls
Often the backdrop for wedding couples to figuratively take the plunge, the 165-foot tall Big Manitou Falls in Pattison State Park near Superior is the fourth tallest waterfall east of the Rocky Mountains …

3. Cave of the Mounds
Let’s start with credentials. Cave of the Mounds in Blue Mounds is designated a “National Natural Landmark,” yet it may be easier to remember it as the “jewel box” of America’s major caves, named as such for the delicacy of its formations. The main cave began forming more than a million years ago as acidic water dissolved the limestone bedrock …

Keep reading for more natural Sconnie wonderment.

So there you go. Wonderful stuff.

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Wednesday, Mar. 26th, 2014

Top 5 autocomplete search results when you type "Is Eau Claire …" into Google

The Mighty Google is great at revealing our collective fears, values, and curiosities. So in an absolutely legitimate and totally scientifically sound experiment, we typed "Is Eau Claire …" into the Google Search Bar of Truth and behold! This is what we saw before us:

1. “Is Eau Claire a good place to live?”

Well, we may be a bit biased – after all, we do live here – but we would have to say yes. So would a lot of studies and surveys: In recent years, Eau Claire has made various lists of best places for raising kids, retiring, and starting a business or career. The fact this is the No. 1 search term suggests we’re in for a Web search-driven influx of those seeking the good life.

2. “Is Eau Claire a party school?”

UW-Eau Claire certainly has that reputation – a well-deserved reputation, as anyone who has participated in (or simply observed) the bar-to-house party migratory pattern of partying Blugolds can attest. However, surveys in recent years have shown a decline in binge drinking, so it’s clear not all UWEC students conform to the stereotype.

3. “Is Eau Claire schools closed?”

During the winter, whether they “is” closed or not depends on the weather. Apparently, however, they “was” closed the day a lot of Internet users learned subject-verb agreement.

4. “Is Eau Claire a dry campus?”

Yes and no. It’s located next to the Chippewa River and is bisected by Little Niagara Creek, so it’s not all dry. However, the elevation of the campus brings it out of the flood plain, so you don’t need to bring hip waders if you enroll. Oh, but you mean “dry” as in the boozey booze? In that case, see No. 2 above.

5. “Is Eau Claire safe?”

For the most part, yes. In fact, the Eau Claire Police Department proudly notes that crime rates in the city are as low as they been in three decades. And the Eau Claire metro area typically ranks near the bottom when crime statistics are compiled nationwide.

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Tuesday, Mar. 25th, 2014

Eau Claire’s 5 most romantic street names

Venus, the Goddess of Love, surveys her Avenue located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Venus, the Goddess of Love, surveys her Avenue.

Buckle up, buttercups – it's time for a wild ride down some of the area's most romantically named streets, avenues, and roads. Because nothing says "romance" like a drive down a residential street with a lusty name.

1. Venus Avenue

The heavenly Goddess of Love reigns on this North Side street, making it a hard-to-beat address for romance. Bonus: Venus Avenue is in a neighborhood nicknamed “The Planets,” so a romance that begins here is sure to be out of this world. Amiright?

2. Twilight Lane

If nighttime is the right time, then you’ve come to the right place if you lose your heart on this short but sultry street just west of the city. Hot tip: Keep an eye out for hunky, brooding vampires.

3. Hotchkiss Avenue

You may not be familiar with this out-of-the-way street near Lake Altoona, but hunting it down will be doubly rewarding. First, the avenue’s name begins with “hot” ... need we say more? Yep. Second, it ends with “kiss,” which is appealing for obvious reasons. The “C” and “H” are there to add a little sugar. (Get it?)

4. Bittersweet Road

What would romance be worth without the fear of betrayal? Would a first love be remembered so fondly if it hadn’t been lost? Puppy love is saccharine; mature love tastes of dark chocolate. This is the lesson of Bittersweet Road.

5. Paris Place

Given Eau Claire’s French name, it’s fitting that a little bit of the City of Love has found its way here. Looking for un petit amour? You may find it on a romantic, winding ride through the west side.

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Sunday, Mar. 23rd, 2014

Sunday Event Picks (March 23)

Chick magnets! Check out the 9th Annual Lambing Time at Govin's Farm today, Details below.
Chick magnets! Check out the 9th Annual Lambing Time at Govin's Farm today, Details below.

From early in the morning and into the night – a lot of fine quality events occurring on Sunday. Wanna know what they are? Of course you do. Our picks are below. Check out the rest of Sunday here.

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Most Commented Posts

THE CONFLUENCE PROJECT WINS BIG

With two victories under their belt in the April 1 election, supporters of the Confluence Project are now preparing to take their message of community support for the ambitious endeavor to policymakers in Madison.

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