Kay Collins in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Kay Collins in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Talking Milwaukee tours

Once upon a time, I was not a fan of the MKE. I was planning on moving to Miami Beach, living in a high-rise condo with a view of the ocean and walking around in six-inch stiletto heels whilst getting my tan on. I despised winters, I despised our height challenged "skyscrapers," and I despised that Milwaukee was not Miami.

I was delusional.

Ten years and one divorce later, I'm back to loving my fair city with gusto. I love the crossword puzzle of neighborhoods and how easy it is to hop, skip and jump my way around town. I love that I can wear my Chuck Taylors anywhere at anytime, and I love nothing more than seeing the seasons change. The fact that our skyline is perpetually skimpy? That's something I will always stick my tongue out at.

Milwaukee is my home, and I can't imagine myself anywhere but here. Neither can Kay Collins, the owner and operator of KBC Tour Company. She spends her days showing people from all corners of the globe how amazing our little slice of metropolitan truly is. Milwaukee won the tour guide lottery with Kay as she is a winning ticket with her combination of a sunny personality and contagious enthusiasm. Milwaukee is certainly well represented with KBC Tour Company as its champion.

OnMilwaukee.com: When did the "Ah-ha! I will start a tour company!" moment happen?

Kay Collins: It actually goes back to when I worked at the Greater Milwaukee CVB (now Visit Milwaukee) when a tour operator told me they were going to drop Milwaukee from their itinerary because the local guide they were using was really bad. Ouch! It took me quite a few years after that to start my business, but that comment was always stuck in my head.

OMC: Have you always lived in Milwaukee?

KC: No, I grew up in the small town of Lena, just north of Green Bay. I have a degree in hotel/restaurant management from UW-Stout and worked for Marriott Corp. in Vail, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. before I moved back to Wisconsin. I've been in Milwaukee since 1990.

OMC: Wha…

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Michelle Zerzanek's cards are all hand printed and all extremely cute.
Michelle Zerzanek's cards are all hand printed and all extremely cute.
Then I stumbled upon the Etsy shop of f2 images by Emiko and Mark Franzen, I was awestruck.
Then I stumbled upon the Etsy shop of f2 images by Emiko and Mark Franzen, I was awestruck.
Boys can craft with the best of 'em and Ken proves that with his shop, Urban Turn.
Boys can craft with the best of 'em and Ken proves that with his shop, Urban Turn.

Shopping locally on Etsy

When I feel like procrastinating (which is almost always) I turn to my BFF, the Internet. Once I fire up the ol' browser, without a second thought, my fingers are automatically entering W-W-W-dot-E-T-S-Y-dot-C-O-M.

Etsy.com is the equivalent of eBay for the DIY crowd. Except there's zero bidding, zero fake designer purses from a land far, far away, and zero stress. Anyone who creates, designs or finds amazing vintage items can list their items on Etsy for a small fee. I myself have listed various this's and that's. It's an incredibly easy process to do so. For buyers, the reviews of each seller squash "buyer beware" and with an account you can keep track of your favorite items, add widgets to your own We bsite, and have "conversations" with sellers.

What I love most about Etsy, however, is its awe-inspiring window shopping. I can spend hours (OK, let's get real, days) browsing through the site, drooling at all the DIY genius. The other day I was doing just that when I noticed a button which read "SHOP LOCAL." I clicked on it, and what do ya know? Milwaukee is full of enterprising spunk.

Perhaps it's the long, long, looooong winters or the late night brainstorming sessions fueled by a cold can of PBR, or it could simply be that Milwaukee is a quintessential hot bed for creative souls producing clever and indigenous products.

Throughout the bazillion items on the site, I found the Milwaukee DIY'ers yielded some of the most inspired results. Knowing these items were born right in my backyard and that I literally moved amongst the artists who handcrafted them was the icing on the creative cake.

Case in point:

Koolmono is owned by Natalie Minnick and is filled with Japanese-inspired fashions, mostly for kids, some for women. The kidlet kimonos are ridiculously cute and would certainly make you the star at your next baby shower. Registry be gone! Natalie, a full-time stay at home mom, started her lil' Etsy empire after her growing son informed her the kimono her hu…

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"If you do a brunch buffet, the restaurant has to do it right," says Graham.
"If you do a brunch buffet, the restaurant has to do it right," says Graham.

Milwaukee Talks: MilwaukeeBrunchReview.com's Christopher Graham

October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."

Brunch. Brrrrunch. Doesn't the sound of it make you all warm and fuzzy inside? Do images of spicy Bloody Marys and football games dance through your head? Or perhaps your mind wanders to mimosas sipped patio-side while you recount the past night's events? Whichever way you order up your Sunday brunch, it is most definitely with a side of awesome.

There's some postulation of when and where "brunch" was invented. It could've been in the late 1800s in England or in the early 1900s in New York. It may take a Bloody Mary war to get to the bottom of this, and appropriately so. Brunch is quite possibly one of the greatest inventions the world has ever seen. There should be a Nobel Prize in Brunchery.

Until the world sorts out just who invented the concept of brunching and where, we are lucky enough to have our very own brunch aficionado in our city. Milwaukee, please meet Christopher Graham, the founder of a blog ripped right out of my sweetest dreams, milwaukeebrunchreviews.com

. I had the pleasure of meeting Christopher last week and was thrilled to find a person who loves the post-breakfast, pre-lunch meal even more than I do. I am smitten with his blog as his reviews are well written and intrepidly honest.

Here is my interview with Christopher Graham, the man, the mimosa, the Milwaukee brunching legend:

OnMilwaukee.com: When did your love affair with brunch begin?

Christopher Graham: My love affair with brunch started when I moved to Milwaukee in 2005. I had just graduated college in De Pere, and I was getting to know some new people around the city. Brunch was a big thing to do for them, and I followed right in tow. Pretty much it was love at first bite.

Why did I start my blog? Since I started brunching around the city, I knew my…

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The moment AJ Bombers is announced as the winner (photo: Pete Fanning).
The moment AJ Bombers is announced as the winner (photo: Pete Fanning).
The scene outside the Water St. bar (photo: Pete Fanning).
The scene outside the Water St. bar (photo: Pete Fanning).
The author, along with Bombers owner Joe Sorge (photo: Scott Baitinger).
The author, along with Bombers owner Joe Sorge (photo: Scott Baitinger).

AJ Bombers, FTW

October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."

The wonderful world of Twitter has brought a lot of things into my life. Friends, experiences, advice, an occasional stalker, this job and AJ Bombers.

I first stepped into AJ Bombers a little over a year ago to plan the very first Bloody Brunch, a gathering forged from Twitter friends and followers, which raises money for blood-related charities while sipping on the city's finest Bloody Mary concoctions. AJ Bombers was our venue of choice after seeing many a TwitPic showing off their version of the classic Mary, the "Bloody Bomber" which arrives complete with a slice of their now famous burger as a garnish. We gathered in a wooden booth with peanut bombs flying above and met with owner Joe Sorge. We were sold.

The food is fun, not fussy. The menu is filled with Twitter-tested and tweep approved fare, and an always evolving specials board advertises some of the most creative ingredient combinations you've ever laid your peepers on. The ambiance is a signed permission slip to act like a kid again. Playful metal bombs soar in your direction on tracks overhead, depositing just the right amount of salted shells at your table. While you study the plethora of names inscribed on the walls and chairs, most with an '@' before them, you absentmindedly toss your peanut shells onto the floor and decide you will, just this once, order an ice cream cookie sandwich for dessert. Or maybe a root beer float. Or both. When in Rome and all that.

But the best part of AJ Bombers is the people. Joe and his wife, Angie, have created a restaurant that is a safe haven for those of us who have taken a liking to this new wonkey world of social networking. There is a quote on the front door that states "Where everybody knows your name. Well, at least your Twit…

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