Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of cheese curds January 19, 2015

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I’M A BIG FAN of local mom-and-pop restaurants. I prefer to eat at a place that’s distinctly home-grown as opposed to chain anything.

The Curdy Stop, Redgranite, Wisconsin.

The Curd Stop, Redgranite, Wisconsin.

On my last trip through central Wisconsin, I spotted a new eatery, The Curd Stop, in Redgranite, west of Oshkosh. I love the name of that community and how Wisconsin State Highway 21 curves right through the town.

How the building looked as an ice cream shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, May 2014.

How the building looked as an ice cream shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, May 2014.

In the past, the lavender hue of an ice cream shop, once housed in this building, always grabbed my photographic attention.

The Curdy Stop up close.

The Curd Stop up close.

But this time I noticed the building had been repainted a muted brownish red and was sporting signs about cheese curds. That’s so Wisconsin.

Time did not allow my husband and me to stop at The Curd Stop this trip. But, after checking out the eatery’s Facebook page, I’m determined that we will dine there sometime.

The menu promises farm to table fresh food that’s locally sourced.

For example, on Fish Fryday, you can dine on freshwater Lake Michigan yellow perch from Two Rivers, one of my favorite Wisconsin communities.

Order up The Curdy Classic and you’ll get locally sourced beef with Wisconsin artisan cheese tucked inside and melted on top.

Given the name, you can expect most menu items to include cheese curds or some form of cheese. And I do love cheese.

The restaurant promises that “all menu items are handcrafted fresh, not frozen.” Just how I like my food.

“Wisconsin never tasted so good,” according to The Curd Stop.

If any of you readers have dined at The Curd Stop in Redgranite, I’d love to hear.

Do you have a favorite home-grown eatery? Tell me why and give them a shout out here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Feeling at home, wherever you live May 16, 2014

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This colonial style home atop a hill along Wisconsin Highway 21 in Arkdale always catches my eye.

This lovely Colonial style home atop a hill along Wisconsin Highway 21 in Arkdale always catches my eye.

DO YOU PICTURE a dream home in your mind?

There is something sweet and endearing about the simplicity of this country home near Redgranite, Wisconsin. Perhaps it's the porch, the setting...the welcoming style.

There is something sweet and endearing about the simplicity of this country home near Redgranite, Wisconsin. Perhaps it’s the porch, the setting…the unassuming bungalow style.

Or are you living in your dream house?

A sturdy farmhouse near Redgranite, Wisconsin.

A substantial farmhouse east of Redgranite, Wisconsin.

I’ve always wanted to live in a big white two-story farmhouse with a front porch. Rather like the farmhouse where my Uncle Glenn and Aunt Elaine and cousins lived near Echo, Minnesota.

Open front porches, like this one on a home in Redgranite, Wisconsin, encourage neighborliness

Open front porches, like this one on a home in Redgranite, Wisconsin, encourage neighborliness and sitting outside on a beautiful afternoon or evening. Love the curve of the porch roofline and the stone front and steps.

The house, as I remember it, featured lots of dark woodwork with a built in buffet and that coveted porch.

A stunning Cape Cod style home constructed from locally quarried stone near Redgranite, Wisconsin.

A stunning Cape Cod style home constructed from locally quarried stone near Redgranite, Wisconsin.

But then again, I also appreciate the Craftsman and Cape Cod styles of architecture.

A well-kept farmhouse between Redgranite and Omro, Wisconsin, has likely evolved through the years with numerous additions.

A well-kept farmhouse between Redgranite and Omro, Wisconsin, has likely evolved through the years with numerous additions. I appreciate the enclosed porch and the Victorian detailed scrollwork near the roofline.

I’ve always preferred old over new, although sometimes I think living in a modern home would equal fewer maintenance worries.

This cheery yellow house is located along Wisconsin Highway 21 in Redgranite. A welcoming holiday banner still graces the front door three months after Christmas.

This cheery yellow house is located along Wisconsin Highway 21 in Redgranite. Christmas lights and a welcoming holiday banner still grace this home three months after Christmas.

In the end, though, I’ve concluded that no matter where you live, it’s not the walls or design or age or style that truly define a home. It is simply being content where you’re at, with the people you love.

NOTE: These images were taken on a late March trip to eastern Wisconsin when snow still covered the ground. Not any more.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Antiquing in Wisconsin: Mixing machining & merchandising in Redgranite December 2, 2013

I RECOGNIZE THE SMELL. Grease and oil and dirt mingled. The odor hangs heavy inside Mike Schwochert’s machine shop along State Highway 21 in Redgranite, Wisconsin.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

Inside Old Time Machine Inc.

The shop smells of history and hard labor and of hours standing upon this cracked cement floor spotted with oil stains.

This place reminds me of the work my husband does as an automotive machinist, although Mike pursues a different type of machining, producing machined parts. He does drilling, boring, tapping, milling, tool and die production, welding and fabrication, and more.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

The setting that drew me into the machine and antique shop scene.

It is the name of Mike’s business—Old Time Machine Inc—and the neon marker OPEN sign and the hodgepodge of furniture, glassware, gas cans and other items displayed outside the building that initially draw Randy and me here on a Friday afternoon in mid-October en route to Appleton to visit our daughter.

We backtrack, turn off the highway and skirt the backs of downtown Redgranite businesses to reach Old Time Machine because we’ve driven past it. Highway 21 is a crazy busy route through central Wisconsin, meaning it’s safer to do a turn-around rather than slam on the brakes.

Another view of Mike's machine shop.

Another view of Mike’s machine shop.

Inside this building, constructed in 1953, we meet Mike, the kind of guy who, just looking at him, you know will greet you with a welcoming warmth and friendliness that shows in his face, in his smile. It’s no surprise that he promises “excellence and precision in every job,” offers 24-hour emergency repair and works a second job in Appleton.

Madre's Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike's machine shop through the doorway into the larger back space.

Madre’s Antiques is in the front of the building and Mike’s machine shop (that’s Mike back there working) through the doorway into the larger back space.

And you might add third. On this afternoon, Mike is also manning Madre’s Antiques, his wife Christina Tsacudakis’ shop. She took over the former office, a small area at the front of the building that now holds an array of antiques and vintage collectibles.

A local collectible is among the offerings.

A Redgranite collectible is among the offerings.

I find plenty here that interests me such as vintage drinking glasses, a pheasant tray collectible my middle brother would appreciate and a gorgeous red and white enamel kitchen table.

In the white cupboard behind the table sits the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased.

In the white cupboard behind the table the small striped Pyrex bowl I purchased sits on the second shelf.

I need none of these, But I scoop up a small unpriced striped Pyrex mixing bowl because, well, I collect and use old bowls.

When I ask Mike the price, he admits that he sometimes gets in trouble for underselling his wife’s unmarked merchandise. I buy the bowl for $2. I expect he will be reprimanded.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bins now hold antiques and collectibles.

The fabulous reclaimed parts bin, left, from the machine shop now holds antiques and collectibles.

It’s a charming spot, this cozy antiques store with a back shop parts cubby emptied, cleaned, repainted aqua marine and repurposed to hold merchandise. Small treasures tucked inside multi-sized cubes. Perfectly fitting for this place.

My first view of the shop as we approached from the west.

My first view of the shop, 250 W. Bannerman Ave., as we approached from the west.

Unlike many antique shops, I don’t feel overwhelmed here, but rather at home. Comfortable with the limited offerings, the lingering odors of oil and grease and grime, and the sense of small town history that prevails in this long-time machine shop, purchased in recent years by Mike.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling