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Sunday, February 28, 2010

UMMA in Ann Arbor

This Buddha is displayed at U of M's Museum of Art a.k.a. UMMA. He's called Vairocana, meaning Great Radiance, and he appears as a royal prince with a crown and jewels rather than a monk. This 17th century cedar carving was made in Japan. The UMMA recently expanded by 53,000 square feet more than doubling its size and making viewing of their treasures like the Tiffanys, Max Beckmann's Begin the Beguine and Monet's Breaking up of the ice --amongst others-- a pure delight! More info here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Angelina's Bistro

From the moment we walked in the door until we left, everything was perfect at Angelina's Bistro on Broadway at Grand Circus Park in Detroit. We chose seats that overlook the kitchen to watch all the action! We got to dialogue with Chef Mike as he was putting together the bruschetta plates and the Pesce and Salumi dishes with great artistry. The tastes were soooo divine. The pièce de résistance was the Apple Croustini topped with vanilla bean ice cream. We practically licked the caramel sauce off the plate. Their menu and other details are posted on line here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Jacoby's on Brush in Detroit

Jacoby's, Detroit's oldest saloon, is located in historic bricktown close to all of the downtown action. When we were there, it was elbow room only and we were enjoying the atmosphere, the olympics and, of course, a selection from their huge list of domestic (yes, even from Michigan) and imported biers. They serve German good food and for those who prefer, American. Wienerschnitzel anyone? Check out all the info here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kalamazoo's National Library of the Year

The absolutely astonishing renovation of the Kalamazoo Public Library is simply a beauty to behold. To be named the library of the year nationally is an incredible feat! Their motto is TLC which stands for Technology Learning and Collaboration. We were blessed to enter on a sunny day and see the rainbow prisms dancing around the main hall from light sculptor Michael Hayden. They call it the Electrolier. Every where you look, there are other works of art in various forms --3-dimensional fabric, stained glass, painted columns, oh my! We were like kids in a candy factory in a heckuva dream library that oozes comfort and charm and earnestly beckons return visits. Many thanks to librarian, Ann Fleming, for her keen insights.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sherwood Brewery in Shelby Township

There are 74 breweries or brew pubs in Michigan at the moment. Each one prides itself on their handcrafted beers. We tried out Sherwoods in Shelby this past week. It is located on Hayes, just north of Hall Rd. They also make their own wine and sodas! The Root Birch Beer is quite delicious. The beers were excellent too. From the left, our sampler tray included the Buxom Blonde (American ale), the reddish Hemp ale, the oatmeal stout and the jalapeño ale. Also, their best seller is their Alaskan Sister Wit with orange peel and spices. Yummy. We enjoyed with tasty nachos. The classic rock radio station CSX was there Saturday night adding to the wall-to-wall joy.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Michigan Union

It's called Michigan Union, opening in the heart of Ann Arbor's U of M campus in 1919, a multifunctional gathering place of students. JF Kennedy stood on the steps of this venerable institution 40 years ago announcing the formation of the Peace Corps prior to his election as our 35th US president. The Dalai Lama visited here as well as U of M alum and former US president Gerald Ford. It houses a coffee shop, pool hall, bookstore, a ball room used for weddings, concerts and proms and a wide assortment of rooms for guest speakers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 Detroit Boat Show

For thousands of Michiganders their thoughts transition from Winter activities to thoughts of Spring while attending the 2010 Detroit Boat Show at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit. This year the boat show ran Feb 13-21 and covered over 500,000 square feet and displayed over 1000 boats that ranged in length from 10 feet to 50 feet. Michigan ranks 3rd in the USA for the number of registered boats. It's no wonder! You are never any further than six miles from a natural water source in Michigan and always less than 90 miles from a Great Lake shoreline! Michigan is a boater's paradise!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shrine of the Little Flower

Woodward Avenue and 12 Mile, the heart of Royal Oak, is dominated by the striking art deco tower of the Shrine of the Little Flower which refers to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux in France, known as "the little flower". In 1998, it was named a National Catholic Shrine--one of only five in the US. Public tours of this complex are pretty interesting. The church is famous for Father Charles Coughlin's controversial radio talks broadcast from this tower across the nation in the 1930's which were more political than spiritual. He had a huge following but was then forced off the air. There's a little spiral staircase that leads to the room from which he spoke....just behind Christ's head. The sanctuary is octagonal in shape with the altar in the center and it seats 3000.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Jiffy Tour

The Chelsea Milling Company is the Home of Jiffy Mix. The company is operated by the Holmes family whose roots in the flour milling business date to the early 1800’s. Today, it is the sixth generation of Holmes and their employees who are milling in Chelsea. They produce more than 20 different Jiffy Mixes all made in Michigan, using our homegrown wheat and ship to all 50 states and beyond. Their corn muffin mix is the world's top seller. Free tours are scheduled Monday through Friday mornings where they entice you with fresh baked goods and give you a wonderful 66 page recipe book! Our tour guide, Lynn, obviously has a passion for her work. It was truly great fun and educational, too!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Air Zoo Larry

Being greeted by WWII veterans and having them tell us the highlights of the museum is a very special touch at the Air Zoo of Kalamazoo. Larry's firsthand experience stories made us tear up and we all had to give him a hug. Talk about starting visitors off in the right frame of mind! Behind him is the Ascender, a rare plane that very few people get to see. Larry so enjoyed filling us in on all the details. This museum is being lauded world-wide. They doubled their number of visitors last year. Just go!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Air Zoo

Last weekend we visited the fantastic Air Zoo just outside of Kalamazoo. The layout, exhibits and methods of display made this museum experience one of our favorites in Michigan. No wonder it was voted the "Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners" and "Best Place to Spend a Day with Your Family," the Air Zoo features amusement park-style rides, full-motion flight simulators, 4-D Missions Theater, Space Ball and Zero G, as well as more than 50 rare aircraft, exhibits, educational activities.... and the admission is free!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Blast in the Motor City

The winter blast in the big D was just that--a total blast, this past weekend. Campus Martius was jampacked and Shanty Creek brought their own snow making machine down and the kids were sliding, making snowmen and just having a ball. They had several fire stands like this one set up and many families were roasting marshmallows. It was a great sight! And the Red Wings won. 'Twas a glorious night in downtown Detroit.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paczki (Poonchkey) Day

Susan at the New Palace Bakery in Hamtramck has been boxing up and serving pączki all day and still has a smile on her face. Pączki are deep fried pieces of dough stuffed with sweet fillings. Customers were lined up to get their pączki for their Fat Tuesday celebrations. In the early 1900's Hamtramck was predominately inhabited by Polish immigrants. In Poland, pączki are eaten especially on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). Many Polish Americans celebrate Pączki Day on Fat Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the reason for making pączki was to use up all the lard, eggs and fruit in the house, because they were forbidden to be consumed due to Catholic fasting practices during lent. Whatever the reason, we throw a party on Mardi Gras Day in Detroit and love our pączki. What a great tradition.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents' Day

Today is a day that celebrates all of our 40 some past US presidents, so we've chosen a 50 year old statue of our illustrious first president, George Washington, in downtown Detroit just east of Hart Plaza on Jefferson Avenue. The sculptor, Donald De Lue, was the same artist who did the Omaha Beach Memorial in Normandy, France after World War II. Pretty cool.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo

Is cupid on its way? This angel hovers over the doors of the First Presbyterian Church in Kalamazoo, one of the most photographed in the city with a long history going back to 1849. They are involved in many ministries such as Habitat for Humanity and Martha's Table (housing of the homeless). Happy Valentines Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine Spirits

There's a new distillery in our state called Valentine Vodka and it's the talk of the town. Owner Rifino Valentine unabashedly supports Detroit and Michigan and has created an exquisite hand-crafted vodka made from local grains-- barley, wheat and corn. The red-clad winged female creature on the bottle commands attention. The taste is smooth and refined. It is made in small batches the old-fashioned way, in copper pot stills in Webberville using Michigan State University's equipment. Plans are underway, though, to move to Detroit. The bottle is currently sold with an enticing artisan-wrapped chocolate, ribbon-tied around the neck. It's Michigan made, of course, by Mimi Wheeler of Grocer's Daughter in Empire. Sipping is believing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chelsea's Purple Rose Theatre

Actor Jeff Daniels grew up in Chelsea where he established the renowned Purple Rose Theatre some 20 years ago. They create many original plays and feature lots of Michigan talent. Currently showing is the world premier of Gravity, a fascinating play about Isaac Newton by local playwright David MacGregor. Check out their apprenticeship program, backstage tours and schedule here. While in town, you can stay at the Chelsea House Victorian Inn, eat at The Common Grill, tour the Jiffy plant and delight in the Chelsea orchestra! It's definitely a great getaway weekend.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stuart Avenue Inn in Kalamazoo

This 1886 Bed and Breakfast has history! The Upjohn family, famous for it's vast pills and drug empire, is part of the lore of the Stuart Avenue Inn. James Upjohn lived in this stately mansion in the early 1900's. Owners Chris and Dana make guests feel very much at home and cook up a sumptuous breakfast. Our most recent visit included apple brie french toast with warmed maple syrup. The top floor has two suites with beds for 8-10 people, which we used on another visit as our girls' weekend away. There's so much to see and do in Kalamazoo!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Joe

The Joe Louis Arena (a.k.a. The Joe) has been the home for our Detroit Red Wings for 30 years. It is named after the Detroit boxer, Joe Louis, heavyweight champion (we featured his fist here). Holding 20,000 spectators, it is also used for concerts, ice shows and even circuses. The San Jose Sharks come into town this Thursday night followed by the Senators on Saturday. A weird Detroit tradition is to throw an octopus on the ice if our home team scores a goal. No, it is not allowed, but crazy fans sneak them in under their coats or pants!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mt. Clemens Ice Carving Show

Over the weekend, Mt. Clemens celebrated the fifth annual Ice Carving Show. The carving demonstrations were done on the Fountain Stage on the Macomb Place between Walnut and Pine Streets. It was wonderful seeing families walking down the streets looking at all the fantastic sculptures including a Statute of Liberty, an eagle, an Eskimo, a dog and cat nose-to-nose and sooo many more just glistening in the sunlight. The 6th annual event takes place the first weekend in February 2011.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Yummy European bistro comfort food--that's what we were told to expect at the newest eatery Rustica, in Kalamazoo and it far exceeded our expectations in every way! With lovely ambiance, great service and food to swoon over, we left in a state of bliss. We highly recommend for appetizers, the yellow fin tuna crudo and the bay scallops with lemony-parsley risotto. The cassoulet with a glass of gewurztraminer was absolutely superb. Other hits were the grilled arctic char, the handmade potato gnocchi and the winter mushroom dish with marsala. It's location is on the Kalamazoo pedestrian mall in the heart of everything--a perfect end to our Art Hop crawl.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Art Hop in Kalamazoo

We were blessed not to have that 2 feet of snow that hit the East coast and took immense pleasure in participating in our very first Art Hop in Kalamazoo this weekend, which is done every first Friday of the month. Wow, were we impressed! It's not only located in art galleries, but in restaurants, an architectural firm, hospitals, stores, and virtually any business that wants to participate. There was even one located in a prayer clinic. Each of the 19 venues featured a particular local artist or group of artists whom you were able to meet and chat with. It was all pretty fascinating. This photo is in the Studio Grill café. Imagine the hordes of onlookers behind us! It was fun discovering downtown Kalamazoo and hoofing it around town to nearby sights. We met lots of genuinely friendly people. The next Art Hop is March 5th. You simply download the map and sites from their site here. You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Gandy Dancer

Michigan has a lot of beautifully restored historic train depots and Ann Arbor's is no exception. The Gandy Dancer it's called and their specialty of seafood is out of this world. It looks rather formidable with its stone structure and unique lighting, but we think it adds to the mystique. If you are of a certain age, then perhaps you know what a gandy dancer is. We had to look it up: they are the guys who used a leverage tool to straighten the rails when they were laid in the 19th century and perhaps they appeared like waddling geese when straddling the rails, hence the nickname!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sterling State Park

Sterling is the only Michigan State Park on Lake Erie. Located in Monroe, the views on the 1300 acres are beautiful year round. They have 200+ camping sights and nature trails. We saw some hardy men fishing on the ice. Can you imagine picnicking here in the summer? How about joining the muskrat run tomorrow?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dundee's Old Mill Museum

This museum showcases the local history of the Dundee area where you will see fashion, furniture, farm life and the legacy of Henry Ford and the hydro electric generator he had installed. It is located on a very scenic area of the Raisin River.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beaver Island Lighthouse

Beaver Island is the largest island in Lake Michigan, located 30 miles off the coast of Charlevoix. It's 13 miles long and 6 miles wide at its fattest point. Population? 550. It swells bigtime in the summer, as it is a huge tourist destination. The Charlevoix Public Schools have owned the lighthouse on the southern tip of the island (0ne of the oldest on the Great Lakes, dating back to 1858) for the past 35 years. They have an alternative school program to provide work experience programs to disadvantaged youth who've restored and maintained this lighthouse! In the summer it is open for climbing and getting an awesome panoramic view of Lake Michigan and the shoreline.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ice Fishing at Metro Beach

With their augurs the rugged fishermen (a.k.a. cold-footers) drill a hole in the ice and stick their poles in to catch fish. This is a very popular pastime in our state nor matter how cold it is! If it is too bitter, they seek refuge in their little shanties in which of course they have a cache of refreshments. It requires much patience, but those who love this activity call it a zen-like experience.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Polar bears swimming overhead

Winter is such a great time to visit our Detroit Zoo. No lines to wait in and the polar bears are active! You can walk through the unique underwater tunnel of the Arctic Circle and literally watch these big darling bears swim overhead. It's a Michigan thrill of a lifetime.