Often in our travels, Vanessa and I seek out ways to connect with the local community. Sometimes it’s through cultural events, other times it’s in cooking classes (which is a story for another day) and once in a while, it’s through crafts. We tried glass blowing in the Black Forest region of Germany where the language barrier almost cost me my front teeth—yet another story. In Texas, we were given paint brushes along with copious amounts of wine—I’m sure you can imagine how that turned out. Most recently, we were given pieces of glass and a myriad of sharp tools.
Seriously. What were they thinking?
There’s Nothing Like a Girlfriends’ Getaway…with Cheese!
We were in Janesville, Wisconsin for a girlfriends’ getaway. Our visit started off splendidly when our host and now dearest friend, Susan, arrived at breakfast carrying two bags of cheese curds—the best food known to woman. This was Wisconsin after all…the largest cheese producing state in the country.
In exchange for the cheese curds, we happily agreed to pose for a photo in the Cheese Head hat. When in Rome, right? And let’s face it; we’ll do almost anything for cheese.
More cheese curds magically appeared when we stopped for lunch at the Whiskey Ranch in downtown Janesville. This time they were deep-fried. Be still my heart. Of course, we happily indulged despite the moans from our soon-to-be-clogged arteries.
On to Something Healthier…Just in Time!
We followed all of this deep-fried decadence with a visit to Bodacious Olive where—in an effort to save what non-fat cells we had left—owner Bekki Kennedy introduced us to the many health benefits of premium olive oils and vinegars. There wasn’t a cheese curd in sight. But we sampled from a variety of flavors in the beautifully appointed, boutique-style store and vowed to change our eating habits.
Ah, such good intentions.
You Might Need Bigger Clothes
Afterward, we went on a successful shopping spree. Not because we had to (cheese!) but because we wanted to. Always in favor of supporting small businesses, we were delighted to spend time perusing the aisles of Carousel Consignments, where Vanessa almost passed out from sheer joy. Every inch of this 4,000 sq. ft. shop on Janesville’s Main Street is filled with treasures. Literally stacked to the ceiling! From housewares to retro phones to record albums to decades of National Geographic magazines, if you’re looking for it, it’s probably here. Heck, if you lost it at some point in your life, we can now tell you where to find it.
Nearby, Angie’s on Main provided even more treasures of the collectible variety mixed with newer items like scarves and jewelry—which, of course, I had to check out…and purchase. The industrial-chic Velvet & Tulle was another favorite. Located in a former butcher shop dating back more than 100 years, this charming boutique offers a unique selection of clothing and accessories in a wide range of sizes. We did a little credit card damage for sure, but that’s what girls’ trips are for, right?
Shopping, Wine, Chocolate & a Spa: In Other Words, A Good Day!
We also stopped in at Raven’s Wish Gallery, where Vanessa picked up a turquoise squirrel bag for a friend. Because, of course, she knows people who love squirrels. These squirrel-lovers include a woman who feeds a three-legged creature named Captain Dan. I knew better than to even ask.
We rounded out the itinerary with a wine and chocolate tasting at North Leaf Winery where they make both the wine and chocolate in-house to create the perfect pairing. While imbibing, we even created our own wine stoppers and surprisingly, they turned out pretty well! (Craft machines…that’s us!)
We then soothed our tired muscles (you know, from digesting all those cheese curds) with wonderful massages at Bellasazi Salon & Spa. And finally, it was off to Glass Garden.
Take Cover: The Shards are Flying
Our class in making art from glass was to begin at 7 p.m. Due to a GPS that insisted numerous times that we should drive across a closed road, we arrived at 7:05 to find everyone in place, glass pieces and sharp tools in hand. Not the most welcoming look.
Note to self: being fashionably late is only acceptable in New York.
Due to our late arrival, Vanessa and I wouldn’t be able to work side-by-side. We were sent to separate tables—I’m not sure that Vanessa thought of this as a punishment. She settled in on the other side of the room. I choose the table closest to the wine and cheese curds. I know my gifts…crafting isn’t one of them. Wine and cheese curds I can work like a pro.
The instructions, while clear to everyone else, were like a foreign language to me. There was something about glue and placing decorative items here and there. And there was something about clipping the glass. The one thing I took from it all was that we were to keep our pieces of glass in our work boxes while clipping. Otherwise, the tiny glass shards can fly out and possibly hit someone working nearby. (Are you beginning to understand why Vanessa sat across the room?)
Making “Friends” with the Crafters
Having already disrupted class by arriving past start time, I made a mental note to be sure that I didn’t lift my glass and hurt anyone. I was there to mingle with the locals—not to injure them. The lady to my left, however, must have missed that little bit of instruction. Every time she clipped her glass, a shard would fly and hit me in the arm. After the third or fourth hit, I suggested that maybe she could consider clipping it a little lower in her box. She responded with more flying glass shards.
Concerned for my safety, I slipped away from the table to visit with Vanessa.
Terri: I don’t think the lady to my left likes me.
Vanessa: Why? What did you do?
Terri: I didn’t do anything! She keeps cutting her glass outside of her work box and the shards keep hitting me.
Vanessa: I’m sure it was an accident.
Terri: She’s hit me at least five times. No one has that many accidents.
Vanessa: We have that many accidents before noon every day. Should I remind you about our painting class…or glass-blowing…or the time that you fell off a toilet…
Terri: Fine, we’ll call it an accident.
I rejoined my table and decided to make friends with the lady to my right since the woman on the left seemed intent on killing me. She was lovely. We chatted about her family and her travels. She inquired about my life in New York and even gave me tips to make my “artwork” better. Most importantly, she clipped her glass without injuring me. So I shared my cheese curds with her.
All’s Well That Ends Well
Seeing that I had made a new friend, the lady on the left stopped her glass clipping long enough to comment on my artwork.
Lady on Left: You know, that doesn’t look like much right now, but after it’s fired in the kiln, I think you’ll have a nice piece of art to put in your New York apartment.
Terri: Thank you. That’s kind of you to say.
And I handed her my last cheese curd. Now that’s Midwestern hospitality.
If You Go…
From charming downtown shops and eateries to a fabulous botanical garden, Janesville makes an ideal place for a girlfriend getaway. Here’s a list of the places we visited. All of these received our seal of approval—and that’s the highest honor any establishment could ask for, right?
Angie’s On Main is an eclectic gift and consignment shop occupying 12,000sq ft over three floors. You’ll find amazing handmade items, furniture, antiques, jewelry and more. Angie even sells artwork by local children—I love that! Located at 37 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545
Carousel Consignments is THE place to go to find anything and everything! I’m not kidding. It’s 4,000 sq ft of housewares, collectibles and more. Or in Vanessa’s case: It’s heaven. Located at 31 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545
Raven’s Wish Gallery & Studio features contemporary art from over 75 locally and nationally known artists while encouraging everyone to live an artful life! (Good advice.) It’s also THE place to find gifts for your squirrel loving friends—apparently. Located at 101 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, WI 53548
Velvet & Tulle is an absolutely charming boutique with a variety of stylish, fun pieces from clothing to accessories—all of it housed in a beautifully restored historic building. Located at 217 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, WI 53548
Bodacious Shops of Block 42 includes Bodacious Olive, Bodacious Brew and So Chopped under one industrial-chic roof. Located just steps from the Rock River in downtown Janesville, you’ll find healthy choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Settle in at Bodacious Brew with a cup of your favorite tea or coffee. Indulge in something other than cheese curds at So Chopped. Be sure to stop in Bodacious Olive for an incredible array of premium olive oils and vinegars along with kitchen gadgets. 119 N. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545
Lark is an excellent choice for dinner while you’re in town. Focusing on seasonally driven, locally sourced dishes, we found the menu to be inventive and delicious—and that’s an excellent combination. You’re guaranteed to leave “happy as a lark!” 60 S. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545
Whiskey Ranch Bar & Grill is a classic. Taking bar food to a new level, you’re certain to find something to please your palette. And you simply MUST order the deep-fried cheese curds—there’s really no way around it. 24 N. Main Street, Janesville, WI 53545
Bellasazi Salon & Spa has been a part of the Janesville community for more than 20 years. A proper girlfriend getaway must include massages at this tranquil oasis. Besides, everyone needs a break from cheese curds if only for an hour or so. 1423 Plainfield Avenue, Janesville, WI 53545
Northleaf Winery for wine and chocolate—is there a better dessert? We think not. 232 S Janesville St, Milton, WI 53563
The Glass Garden is the place to go to test your crafting skills. I’m not saying it made either one of us a better artist, but we’re beyond help. 25 W. Milwaukee Street, Janesville, Wisconsin 53548