FARWELL TO A LEGEND

He looks a little older these days

Most of you have heard me mention my friend Curtis before. I first ran into this gentleman on a trip to the local establishment Urban Joe’s Cafe,. Throughout the years I have known this man I have watched him navigate his way through school, maintain a fitness routine, become a father all while working full-time as the face of the franchise, if you will, of Urban Joe’s. This past Saturday was his last day. Curtis, his wife and young son are moving next month to start a new chapter of their lives in sunny Las Vegas. Although the restaurant will continue to offer the mouth-watering cuisine prepared by chef Carlos, and the same charming atmosphere, it will no doubt miss the personality of Curtis.

Curtis and his wife, Danie

Curtis has done a great deal to become more than just the face of Urban Joe’s, but a piece of the fabric of the community. When people think of the city of West Allis, they can recall a visit where they received great food in a pleasant place. What made Urban Joe’s so special when Curtis was there was his ability to care for his customers. To make them feel less like a number and more like a friend. To that end, he became a pleasant part of the people’s lives that live and work in the city. I know several people who, when visiting the city, make it a point to stop and see Curtis. They do so because everyone likes to be treated with respect. They like to feel valued and cared about. Those are qualities that you cannot put a price on and ones that will surely be missed with the departure of this wonderful family.

While the city of Las Vegas is going to gain some amazing and wonderful people, the city of West Allis will have lost a great deal of it’s warmth and welcoming nature. Whatever city you are from, I am sure this has happened there as well. Great people come, bless us with their gifts of love and hospitality and move on to share it with a new city. That means a great responsibility falls on the hearts and shoulders of the people left behind. It is why we must work to provide a warm and welcoming feeling to everyone we meet. We not only represent ourselves, but the places we work and the cities we live in. We should remember how we like to be treated and feel when we go somewhere. Let us provide that feeling to others. We need to work together to make sure the light of love and welcome shines bright for all we come in contact with.

On a personal note, I know Margie and I are going to miss seeing Curtis and Danie as we consider them good friends. We wish them and their family great health and fortune in their new adventure. Margie, my mom and I were lucky enough to spend some time with Curtis on his last day at Urban Joe’s. We will certainly continue to support this local business but we will always miss the presence of our goods friends. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing Curtis and Danie no doubt feel the same.

A HIDDEN GEM FOR ALL YOUR GIFTING NEEDS

Hidden gem

It is holiday season crunch time. You know many of your favorite stores will be a madhouse of last-minute shoppers. Even if you are strong enough and brave enough to boldly enter lands filled with untamed consumers, chances of finding exactly what you want, in the color and size you want, are slim to none. There is always online! We are fast approaching, if not past, the time when we see the dreaded ‘May not arrive by Christmas’ line. Plus, how do you look online for those impossible to buy for people in our lives? We all have at least one. You can’t very well look up a gift you can’t even think of.

some of the many wonderful gifts!

Today Margie and I discovered a magical solution that solves all of those problems and more! Only a few blocks from our house in the fabulous city of West Allis Wisconsin where we live we found the hidden treasure called Oniomania. A strange name, but translated as an uncontrollable urge to buy things. It is a small store. You can walk around it in five minutes. You will, however, be able to spend hours inside. Somehow fit into this small area of space are hundreds of the most unique and compelling gift ideas you could come across. Many are from local crafters and artists. They are one-of-a-kind gifts you will not find anywhere else. You will not only enjoy finding gifts for that impossible to buy for person on your list, you will undoubtedly go home with something fun for yourself. In doing so you will not only help support local business owner Andrea, but many of the independent business owners she supports by providing a platform to sell their amazing, made from the heart creations.

Just some of our gifts we took home

Speaking of owner Andrea, you would be hard pressed to find a more customer oriented person. From the moment we walked in the store she was filled with pleasantries and helpful knowledge. She had knowledge of, and helpful suggestions for every one of the hundreds of items in her store. We purchased items for people we didn’t even know we were shopping for. Two of the people who really lucked out were Margie and Neil. (I told you that you can’t help but take home something for yourself) For years Margie has been wanting one of these lamps composed of different pieces of colored plastic put together in some sort of mind-boggling puzzle formation. Not only did Andrea offer us a host of colors to choose from, she somehow managed to put them together and take them apart with amazing speed so we could see what it would look like before we took one home. Margie also purchased a wonderful pair of tropical themed socks to help me make it through the long, cold winter.

available now!

As a further testament to her generosity and commitment to community, Andrea has also been kind enough to offer my book, A Happy Life for Busy People, for sale at her store. Inside this fun to read book you will learn a host of different methods for reducing your stress, increasing your joy and becoming the best version of yourself. All of this can be accomplished at little to no cost to you in only 2 to 5 minutes a day. Couple that with the relaxing scented soap I purchased or one of the many relaxing locally crafted candles, and you have yourself a great start to the new year. Imagine being able to give this gift of happiness to someone you care about? What a better way to show you care than giving the gift of joy and happiness to those special people in your life? You will feel good doing it too knowing you helped support many local, hard-working people that make the city the special place it is.

Whether you live in West Allis Wisconsin or somewhere else, I am going to include the link to their Facebook page so you can discover and enjoy Oniomania for yourself. Whether you purchase from this particular store or another local establishment, you will find yourself filled with a lot more holiday spirit. You will be less stressed because you will be able to find that unique and special gift available nowhere else and you will have a warm heart knowing that you made the holidays a lot brighter for those neighbors in your own community. Shop local. You will find great gifts for those you care about, you will support your community and you will give yourself the inner joy knowing you will brighten the holidays for many people by picking up just one gift.

CLICK HERE TO DISCOVER ONIOMANIA BEFORE YOU STOP IN

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Most times in our household when the question comes up, “What do you want to do for dinner?” my quick answer is “Pizza!” To me, a bad pizza is still a better dinner than one without a pizza. My first choice, of course, would be to enjoy some of my lovely lady’s culinary creations, but if the question is asked, chances are we are going to go out. In most households, pizza, burgers or something similar is usually a quick answer.

This past Monday evening, after having put a new battery in my car, I was keen to try something different. In most towns there are plenty of wonderful independent restaurants that deserve your patronage. Especially during these tough times with the pandemic, I encourage everyone to support such places as you are able and feel comfortable doing. In our small town of West Allis, Margie and I love to frequent locally owned establishments. We stop for coffee and breakfast at Urban Joe’s Cafe and visit our wonderful friend Curtis. If we feel like a beer we head to Westallion Brewery, where our friend Kim can be found serving some of their wonderfully created in house beers.

This night we wanted to not only support a local business, but try something fun and unique. We decided to visit a local Peruvian restaurant called Chef Paz. We see on social media that the establishment as well as the owner is very involved in the community and we like to see that. When you walk in Chef Paz you will notice the cozy and quaint feel of the place. The decorations are fun and you do not have to wait to be greeted. On this night it happened to be quite cold and the gentleman working even turned on a small heater by our table to make it more comfortable for us. This made us feel valued. There was even a fun little sign on the table letting you know it had been cleaned. We felt it necessary to use it as a photo prop.

As food from the wonderful nation of Peru is not something we normally enjoy, we found the options and flavors wonderful. This isn’t one of my food reviews so I will not get into great detail about the dishes we chose, other than to say they were delicious. What I will tell you is that it was fun to take our taste buds on a little journey. It may be difficult to travel these days, but you can explore some of the culture of different places through their food. Trying new dishes and local places is a great way to add a little variety into your life. Here in West Allis, winter is setting in and it is the perfect time to find and explore new joys with the ones you care about.

Another great thing about giving your business to locally owned establishments is the pride and care they show when dealing with their customers. You could really tell Raul, the gentleman who helped us this evening, was dedicated to that goal. He explained the flavor of lots of the dishes and even made a few recommendations. To him, we were just not another table. To locally owned businesses you are guests and supporters. The service we received at Chef Paz was friendly and welcoming.

We ended our evening enjoying some delicious rice pudding for dessert. There are certainly more dishes we would love to try and will return again another evening. Leaving Chef Paz that evening, we felt good about supporting a wonderful local business. We also felt like, if for just a moment, we escaped the cold confines of West Allis and found ourselves in the city limits of Lima, Peru. I encourage you to explore local shops and restaurants in your community. They will appreciate your business during these trying times, and you will enjoy being treated like a valued customer.

EVERY MONTH I CHOOSE TO SPEND MORE ON GROCERIES

Let us talk grocery shopping, shall we? Usually, my grocery shopping will find me in such stores as Meijer or now Aldi as Margie has become a huge fan. I look at the ads or the app to see what is on sale. Often, when I am at the store I compare brands and prices to find the best deals. I imagine that is not that much different than what happens in most households on grocery shopping day.

Then there is once a month that all of that is thrown out the window. Once a month I visit two local stores to do a little grocery shopping. The selection there is smaller and the prices tend to be a little higher. What might cost you one price at the larger chains may cost you a few cents to a dollar more at these locations. In addition, you have less items to select from. You might have 7 flavors and 6 brands of oatmeal at the large stores and only 4 flavors and two brands to choose from here. Both stores do have specials that tend to be very good deals to take advantage of, but as a general shopping experience you would say yourself some change at the larger chains. So why do it? Why would someone who searches out the best deals and coupons willingly shop somewhere with less selection and higher prices? Let us look at each store individually and examine why.

The first is Piggly Wiggly. It is a national chain that has 530 stores in 17 states. This is according to their website. I have not personally visited all of them. The local store here, however, does a good deal to benefit the community. I am not sure as to what extent they do that today, but I recall selling hot dogs there to raise money for the West Allis Charities. Another great thing about this store for me is the memories. Both of my grandparents shopped there. I recall going there as a young child and learning all about the joys of not only shopping but cooking and food in general. There are a few unique products here that you can find nowhere else. They also have a mascot of sorts, Mr. Pig, who always seems to be in a great mood. They also feature fun logo products with his likeness on it. After all, who wouldn’t want to see a smiling pig?

The second store is Rupena’s Fine Foods. Located a mere 10 city blocks from my house. Again, here the prices seem to be a tad higher and due to a small store size and limited shelf space, selection can be small. What makes this store great? Once again, community involvement. Not only do they have a stand at our state fair that serves amazing deep-fried stuffing balls, although sadly I heard that may end, they are often seen throughout the community. Another thing that makes this store stand out is its quality. Their deli and meat department are some of the best in the city. When cooking a meal for the ones you love, quality can mean a lot more than saving a dollar or two. They also have custom seasonings that add a little something special to any dish. My favorite thing about shopping at Rupena’s Fine Foods is the atmosphere. From the second you enter the store you are taken back in time. Back to a day when you knew the neighbors that you met in the grocery store. Back when cashiers not only made eye contact with you, but they engaged in meaningful conversation as well. For most of us these are things of the past but a quick visit to Rupena’s and you will find they are still alive and well.

A thing these two stores have in common other than logos featuring very happy members of the pig family, is they are brick and mortar places that provide good jobs to people in the community. They offer an alternative to the big box grocery stores. They offer a shopping experience where you feel like a valued customer and not just another number in the bottom line. If quality products and community involved businesses are important to you, than you owe it to your city to shop at places like this. You do not have to do so every trip, but at least once a month or so you should. The extra dollars you spend there are not just helping those employees that work there, but helping the community as a whole. Through the events they sponsor, the storefronts they keep filled and the sense of community they provide. Those extra dollars are not just an expense, they are an investment.

LOCAL LOYALTY


Above is a picture of the local diner named Michaels Family Restaurant. Nestled in the fabulous community of West Allis Wisconsin where I live. This is not so much a food review as it is a value review. Michaels is, as the name suggests, a warm and friendly family restaurant. As my lovely Margie enjoyed a well-deserved weekend away with her daughter, I took my mom out to breakfast here. Although our hostess was a tad sunshine challenged, our waitress, Julie, could not have been more friendly and helpful.
What makes this place a destination I feel compelled to write about is the local aspect at work. In an age where Wendy’s has recently joined McDonald’s and Taco Bell to start serving breakfast, it is far too easy to make our morning meal an after thought of something we do along the way. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. As I write this I just enjoyed a ham and swiss sandwich at Starbucks. This might be good for being both efficient and productive, but does not give us an amazing life. Yes, being efficient and productive can be part of an amazing life but at the sacrifice of being present, it can leave us wondering what happened to the morning.
In this post I am going to advocate taking at least a few morning to sit down and enjoy a breakfast without being rushed. Why do it at a place like Michael’s? I will give you a few good reasons. First, this place is a great value. Virtually the same price you would pay for some reheated breakfast sandwich at a chain or fast food place, you can get a warm, home-cooked meal served to you by one of your smiling neighbors. That leads us to the second reason to visit Michael’s Family Restaurant in the morning, it is supporting a local business. There are plenty of opportunities for you to save a few cents here and there by giving business to the chain establishments. That is ok too as they employ a lot of our friends and family. That being said, there is something special about a locally-owned family restaurant that has been there for over 30 years. Some of my first memories include going there with my grandfather when I was young. He understood the importance of supporting a local business and seems to still be teaching me long after his passing. I have enjoyed several mornings catching up over breakfast with Margie, the love of my life, as well. All the way up to yesterday when my mother and I shared a nice meal to start the day.


You can make memories in a chain restaurant or even running around trying to accomplish everything on your to do list but you deserve to give yourself a few minutes at a local establishment supporting your neighbors while enjoying their company. If you are in West Allis Wisconsin, I recommend stopping by Michael’s Family Restaurant. If breakfast isn’t really your thing, that’s ok. They also serve lunch and dinner with the same warm community spirit. Unable to make to the fine city that I live in? That’s ok too. Find a local restaurant in your neighborhood and enjoy some time with those you love.

CLICK HERE TO GET NEIL’S BOOK FILLED WITH MORE IDEAS TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AMAZING!!

A STRONG COMMUNITY SERVED A LA CARTE!

Here is a snapshot of a festival in my city of West Allis Wisconsin. As you can see it is a street festival where a lot of people, and dogs, came out to enjoy the nice weather. It not only was a great chance to find some good deals and enjoy some great food and refreshments, but to get to know some of our neighbors as well.
We had the great pleasure of running into friends we already knew including our friend Curtis and his wife Dani (not to mention their charming son and fun-loving dog) and our friend Regina, but we also had a chance to meet some new neighbors. There were new business we had not stepped foot in that we got to see. There were also several stands we enjoyed such as a food vendor named Pigtailz and a business that sold specialty rice krispy treats.
The point here is that it not only gave us a great time but lead us to developing closer ties with many in our community. I recommend attending such festivals in your neighborhood. If they do not exist, encourage leaders and business owners to start one. If you have the chance not only get to know but support local businesses when you can. It not only helps them make a living, it also gives them a sense of pride and strengthens your community. As far as that goes, I am very excited for the steps forward my community of West Allis has taken recently and is poised to take in the future and I am going to do my best to continue to be a part of that.