Madison is not only the capitol of Wisconsin, but it's also the home of the flagship school of the University of Wisconsin system. With such important entities within this city, you'd expect a lively mix of shops and restaurants, and you'd be right. We focused on State Street, which runs near both the university and the state capitol building. Since neither the college nor state government were in session the day we visited (January 2nd), some businesses were shuttered. Still plenty to see and do, however, and those closures meant less people and traffic to clog up the sidewalks and streets.
We began with lunch here:
Himal Chuli, a Nepali restaurant. Tiny place, so online reviews mentioned it can be difficult to get a table. We had no such trouble on this day. We'd never eaten at a Nepali restaurant but the menu looked good. Many of the dishes reminded us somewhat of Indian cuisine. For instance, samosas, which I ordered, had the familiar-sounding filling of potatoes and peas. They were fine, but shaped differently than the Indian-style food of the same name: rather than looking like turnovers that lay flat on a plate, these were more like pyramids that rose up from my plate.
What I liked even better was the cup of dal that came with my order. The menu called it a "mixed bean soup", and while it was much more broth than beans, it had a delicious flavor. I would like to try to replicate it at home sometime.
After lunch my family of three split up to explore various shops along State Street - we each have different tastes. I checked out Madison Modern Market, which has a lot of cool items for kids and adults, as well as things for the home and fun gifts - all in all, a well-curated place. I saw many potential purchases, which is saying a lot for someone like me who normally shops secondhand. I did finally succumb to this:
Kikkerland's Rainbow Multipen, which has ten different colors. It's the type of pen where you swivel the top around to change colors. I'm a sucker for color variety in my artwork, so I happily paid three dollars for this. But I was sorely tempted to buy so many other goodies at this shop - that's the kind of store Madison Modern Market is!
We'd agreed to meet up at A Room Of One's Own, an indie bookstore around the corner from State Street on Gorham Street. As indie bookstores are one of my favorite places to browse, I made sure to give myself some time to look around before reconnecting with my family. I was attracted right away to a grouping of journals and planners near the front door. I'm also a sucker for these, so I succumbed to this:
And to prove her point, the author showed a sample from a "general notes" section, (part of most of the journal pages). Along with "moved to new studio" and "booked summer vacay", she listed "trash-picked a plant" and my favorite: "met a baby named Fritz". I found that last tidbit very amusing somehow!
Here's what a couple of the pages inside look like:
And a close-up:
I like the funky graphics! The layouts do repeat, but there are enough different ones that they don't feel repetitive at all. I'm happy with this purchase.
Due to lack of time - my husband and daughter showed up before I got very far into the store - this was my only purchase from A Room Of One's Own. Well, that's not exactly true - near the cash register was a small shelf of uncorrected proof books. If memory serves me correctly, these were free with a purchase, although a 50c donation toward a jail literacy program was suggested. I scanned the books, and selected Ryder Carroll's The Bullet Journal Method (he's the creator of this planner system, which I've pondered using). And yes, I did give 50c for this book.
Also of note: various promotional posters from book releases were for sale; I saw several mounted on the cash register counter base. Perhaps I've not been looking hard enough while at other indie bookstores, but I've not seen such posters, nor proof copies, on offer elsewhere. I liked that A Room Of One's Own had both.
We arrived in Milwaukee in time for dinner at Jalapeno Loco, which is located across from Mitchell Airport. Solid Mexican food.
We visited more of Milwaukee the next day. We have a fondness for this city and its blend of old-fashioned neighborhoods and shops of interest.
I always try to make it to American Science & Surplus, my go-to place for containers I use for storing various all-natural DIY cleaning supplies and toiletries. I often find interesting craft supplies as well. And during a previous visit, my husband purchased a particular piece of lab equipment for around 20 bucks. It had been used, but so are the versions he'd seen on eBay - that go for a few hundred dollars! (The AS&S piece didn't have a sign labeling what it was, so my husband suspected the employees there didn't know.)
From AS&S, we trekked over to Outpost Natural Foods Co-Op for wholesome lunches at their cafe. Excellent bulk food section too.
And speaking of bulk foods, you can't go wrong with The Spice House in the Old World 3rd Street area. We went there so I could find jalapeno pepper powder (the food co-op didn't carry it) - but I ended up buying a few other spices as well. This is a very nice store. Very high quality store, but it doesn't have the upscale feel that newer stores of this type tend to have.
It's become a Christmastime tradition for us to visit the holiday display at Mitchell Park Domes. A "Scrooge" theme was featured for Christmas 2018. I didn't feel this theme was covered very well, but the variety of poinsettias was breathtaking:
This is only a small sample of what we saw. I thought the blue-tinged poinsettias especially noteworthy since I'd not seen them before.
With a busy but fun day in Milwaukee over, we headed down to Chicagoland and dinner at Rockwood Tap house in Downers Grove. My husband is fond of the beer menu and the food menu has many good choices as well.
Before departing Chicagoland the next day we stopped off at one of our favorite area plazas. Also located in Downers Grove, the Downers Shopping Plaza has, among other retail establishments, a See's candy store, a Trader Joe's and a nice Goodwill. My husband and daughter busied themselves at the first two stores while I checked out the Goodwill.
I found it loaded with a lot of good stuff during this visit. As it was so soon after Christmas (January 4th), I wondered if people had donated gifts they didn't want, or else had gathered up older possessions to make room for the gifts they'd received. Either way, there were a lot of purchasing possibilities! I was happy to find a pristine copy to replace my beat-up volume of Asian Noodles (Nina Simonds, author). And these really appealed to me:
A set of four chunky colored pencils with folk art flavor.
So cute, and the group was mine for one dollar.
I didn't know what these were, or who had made them. For all I knew, they were from a set of kids' colored pencils. But from searching eBay and Etsy, I learned that these pencils are based on Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls and are considered souvenirs of that country. Like with most listings, the asking prices for vintage versions are higher than for newer examples. I'm leaning toward thinking mine are newer. Even so, the price I paid for four was a bargain.
Our trip was over, other than taking our daughter back to West Lafayette, spending the night there and returning back home. The resumption of our everyday routines was about to begin. But we'd had two very nice holiday trips!