Painting and drinking. A classic combination.
Painting and drinking. A classic combination.
Good times at Artè.
Good times at Artè.

Girls night out: Artè in Tosa

I've wanted to experience a paint bar since the first time I saw a friend's proud post on Facebook. She was holding up what appeared to be a professional painting of a whimsical tree. Though not a particularly creative or artistic person, she was indeed the artist behind the masterpiece, and all it took was some step-by-step instruction and a little alcohol.

I recently celebrated a friend's 30th birthday at Wauwatosa's trendy new spot, Arté Wine & Paint on Underwood Avenue, and got to experience this artsy craze for myself.

The space is large enough to accommodate over 20 people in a class, and has a separate paint bar area for the artists who are ready to be more independent. But it is cozy and bright, decorated with the colorful paintings they feature and kitschy details like chalkboard walls in the bathroom.

We put on our smocks, sat down at our canvasses and checked out the paint and brushes that were already set out for us. I've heard it been said that there is nothing scarier to look at than a blank canvas, but our instructor made us feel at ease and in good hands.

Our paintings would be of the Milwaukee skyline at night, with a sunset or sunrise reflecting off of Lake Michigan.

In the beginning of the class, the instructor told us which brushes to use, which colors to mix and added pointers and brief lessons when necessary. We watched closely as she painted her own version, and I scoffed at my own painting's apparent shortcomings.

But by the end, the room had grown a little rowdier and it seemed that our apprehension was replaced with creative freedom. Each person's painting took on its own character.

Perhaps it was the drinks.

Arte offers a nice variety of wines and cocktails to loosen your inhibitions. There are non-alcoholic options for those not partaking.

Our class was filled with groups of friends out for a fun night and couples on dates. Arte offers private parties and team-building events as well.

By the end of the two-hour lesson, we were …

Apple picking is classic Wisconsin family fun.
Apple picking is classic Wisconsin family fun.
Unlike last year, apple offerings are abundant this year.
Unlike last year, apple offerings are abundant this year.
Apple picking offers fresh air, exercise and tasty treats.
Apple picking offers fresh air, exercise and tasty treats.

Area apple orchards offer very different experiences

Autumn glory is upon us, and it's time for the most family-friendly outing of them all – apple picking! Our area offers no shortage of apple orchards to enjoy, and they each offer something a little different.

To the south of the city, nestled on a little pond along Highway 100 in the city of Franklin, you'll spot Awe's Apple Orchard.

Even the gravel path leading to the main orchard area is lined with beautiful apple trees to entice you. You'll drive past the quaint pond, enormous old trees, and fall-themed scarecrows. Adjacent to the parking lot, you'll spot the store and the white tent where you purchase your apple picking bags.

Awe's Orchard is not huge, but it's smaller size contributes to its charm. When I visited, we picked McIntosh, Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp apples, and we got excited for Halloween seeing their sizable pumpkin patch.

But perhaps the best part of our visit to Awe's was trying their homemade cider donuts. They are fried and crispy on the outside, and perfectly soft on the inside. It's the perfect way to reward yourself for all that rigorous apple picking you did.

That same day, we headed north to Barthel's Fruit Farm in Mequon for a very different apple picking experience.

Far from strip malls and city life, the farm is expansive, and their apple-picking process is a well-oiled machine. You'll veer right to visit the store located inside the farm, and you'll go left to pick your own.

The drive-by attendant will provide you with all the information you need, as well as the bags for picking. You'll drive a bit past apple orchards that aren't quite ripe yet until you arrive at your destination.

It was a little crowded on the Saturday I visited, but it certainly didn't detract from the experience.

Pay on the way out at their drive-through register. If you want to pick up a caramel apple to end the experience, you can park off to the right before you exit and visit the store.

The highlight of our trip to Barthel's was their magical…

Some apps can make your life a lot easier during back-to-school season.
Some apps can make your life a lot easier during back-to-school season.

The five back-to-school apps you can't live without

Warm weather may stick around for a while, but summer as we know it is over. It’s back to school time for Milwaukee schools, and that can mean excitement and new beginnings.

It can also mean chaos and stress for many families. Luckily, there’s no problem a good app can’t solve.

Here are my top five apps for families at back to school time:

1. Artkive – With a new school year upon you, you are bound to be buried in dozens and dozens of art projects. I was forever plagued by what to do with these sweet creations. How could I throw them out when they serve as testimony to my child’s early artistic genius? Would my child think I don’t love them if I throw out the magnificent stick figures he doodled? 

I would keep them all if I could, but then I would be a hoarder.

With Artkive, I snap a picture of each masterpiece and keep them organized on my phone by the school year in which they were made. After you’ve artkived a years’ worth of art projects, you can create a keepsake book of all the colorful doodles and sketches. This way, you won’t have boxes and boxes of art projects, but you will have a record of your kid’s creations.

2. Cozi – A familiar scenario in my household used to be accepting a friend’s invitation, then later calling to cancel because we already had something going on that I didn’t know about. But the Cozi Family Planner App has solved all that. It’s the best app my family has found for keeping everyone on the same page with appointments and events. Everyone can access the calendar, add or delete their own events, and everything is color-coded by person. The best part is the Family Central homepage that lists the days’ events at a glance. No more double-booking yourselves!

3. MyHomework – If your kid always seems to be on their phone, you may not have to fight it anymore. They just might be checking their homework! With the MyHomework app, your child can keep track of all of their assignments for school r…

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