Tag Archives: Bloomfield Hills

Kirk in the Hills: Sunday Night Music

9 Apr

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Detroit has always been home to industry and innovation, creating great wealth among men; many of these men turned out to be extremely generous philanthropists. Edwin S George is one such man, in 1947 he donated Cedarholm, his home and estate for the creation of the Kirk in the Hills congregation of the Presbyterian Church. Kirk hosts special music events and concerts throughout the year, tonight we are attending a performance of The Passion according to St John by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Kirk campus resides on a 40 acre setting on Island Lake, the Gothic designed sanctuary is an imposing sight; the interior is equally impressive. Completed in 1958, the sanctuary looks and feels straight out of the 13th century. We purchase our tickets and have a look around, true to Gothic architecture my eyes are immediately drawn upward; I take in pointed arches, vertical lines and stately flying buttresses. Majestic stained glass windows in deep blue, red, white, with  a touch of yellow and green are immense and line both walls. Distinctive light fixtures dangle from long chains casting light both up and down. The floor is slate, a main aisle splits the nave in half, multiple rows of wooden pews make up each side. We find ourselves a seat and get comfortable; the concert is about to begin.

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The musicians have taken their seats in front of the altar, a group of about 20 white-robed choir members take their places. This is our first experience attending an oratorio. An Oratorio is a musical composition including an orchestra, choir and soloists using various characters and arias to tell a story. The tale of The Passion begins with the betrayal and capture of Jesus; the choir starts by singing a powerful chorus, a soloist playing an Evangelist stands at the lectern performing a recitative (sung speech), another plays the part of Jesus; voices are strong, dramatic. The story continues to be told by members of the Kirk Chancel Choir, the accompanying orchestra is magnificent, a beautiful Knight Vernon harpsichord rests between the front pews.  The music is stirring, it completely sets the mood; at times it is haunting. The church is exquisite, the ideal setting for this piece, the acoustics are perfect. I am following along in my program and see we are nearing the end; the final chorus has begun, it is loud, extravagant and moving. When it is finished there is a beat of silence before the applause begins. The sanctuary is an amazing place to attend musical events, the DSO will be performing here on April 13 and May 18. The 20th Annual Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival takes place here June 8-23, come check it out!

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It is nearly 10pm on Sunday, dinner is long past due. Birmingham is just a short drive away, we are sure something will still be open. We park in front of Dick O Dow’s on Maple, we luck out, they are still serving food. The chill of the night air disappears immediately as we step inside, the space is warm, cozy and oozes Irish charm. The floor is made up of wide wood planks, wainscoting and walls are rich, dark wood, as is the bar, the ceiling is painted and treated giving the whole room a rustic feel. Authentic instruments and knick knacks find homes on shelves throughout the restaurant; our waitress tells us everything came directly from Ireland, pretty neat! Our hunger has gotten the best of us and we order as quickly as possible; Irish Sliders which are made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, cole slaw and 1000 Island Dressing are tasty and hit the spot. The Carey’s Special sandwich layers Irish bacon (think Canadian bacon), fried egg, Irish cheddar, lettuce and tomato on a baguette, fries come on the side, yum! We eat speedily, but enjoy each bite; afterward we kick back and relax for a bit soaking up the atmosphere. In one night we feel as if we have traveled back to 13th century Scotland and then to an old pub in Ireland. Who says there’s nothing to do on a Sunday?

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WOODWARD; Science, Sliders & Sweets

18 Apr

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Southeast Michigan is loaded with fascinating, engaging and entertaining places to visit; one such place is the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Situated in Bloomfield Hills, the museum invites us to take a fun and thought-provoking look at science, technology and natural history. The museum expanded over the years, which is architecturally evident on the exterior of the building. The original structure is complimented by a reflecting pool complete with Mermaids and Tritons sculptures designed by Carl Milles. The main entrance is located in the museums newest wing; the architecture here is modern, large windows allow natural light to pour in. Once you purchase your ticket at the desk you are free to roam. The exhibits are laid out in a manner that enables you to traverse them as you desire. Dinosaurs are ever popular, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton gets lots of attention. Did you know the Mastodon was plentiful in Michigan during the last ice age?

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Further on we are introduced to anthropology through the guidance of  a virtual holographic-like woman named Meg, it’s amazing how life-like she is! There’s a wonderful collection of objects  from the Great Lakes native peoples; beautiful items like traditional clothing really caught my eye. I think my favorite area is the Mineral Study Gallery; I can remember coming here as a child and being captivated by the shapes and incredible colors. George Booth (founder of Cranbrook) started this mineral collection in 1926, there are currently over 11,000 specimens. Case after case I stop and stare at the samples, I like to read the names and try  to remember my favorites….it never works….Be sure and check out the Michigan Minerals. As we continued walking we found ourselves in the Hulbert Observatory, we lucked out as it was the first Sunday of the month so it was open to visitors. This is really cool! The observatory is home to a six-inch refracting telescope, I have no idea what that means, but from what I gather, it’s pretty impressive in the telescope world. The motion gallery is also well-liked, here adults and children can participate hands-on. Throughout the museum we are taught about the world in simple ways we can relate to, they really do make learning fun!

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If you have driven down Woodward near 15 mile road you have probably seen the little white porcelain diner known as Hunter House. Established in 1952 by the Papazian family they have been serving up delicious sliders for over half a century, daughter Susan now runs the restaurant. We arrived late afternoon so seating was plentiful, we placed our order at the counter, paid, then took our seats in the front window overlooking one of America’s most well-known streets: Woodward Avenue. The diner seats only 28 on vintage black and chrome stools, either at the counter or facing the windows. After a brief wait our order was ready, I went over to the grill to retrieve them; 2 plates of burgers and an order of fries, I could hardly wait to dig in. After the addition of mustard for me, I replaced the warm steamed bun back atop the hamburger with the grilled onions smashed right into the patty. The first bite is always the best; the soft bun, crunchy pickles, a bit tart to go with the sweet onion, and the burger itself, delicious high quality beef tender and moist…awesome! The fries are the skinny variety, friend to a golden crisp, they are the perfect complement to the slider.  Whether you’re in the mood for a little nostalgia or just have a hankering for a plateful of excellent little burgers, this is the place.

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We made one more stop, this time for something sweet, at another Michigan original, Kilwins on Old Woodward. Opened in 1947 in Petoskey Michigan, Don and Katy Kilwin perfected their recipes for delicious chocolate, fudge and ice cream and shared it with the public. Their original recipe ice cream is still made at the dairy in Hudsonville. Kilwins now has 80 stores across the US, many of them situated in tourist-type towns. The Birmingham location is housed in a 100-year-old building that still retains the original hardwood floor. As soon as you walk in the door your senses are delighted with the sight and smell of ice cream and confections. It was just before Easter so chocolate rabbits and foil wrapped eggs decorated shelves. A batch of fudge was being made, oh how I long to dip my finger in and have a taste. The candy counter is filled with tempting treats, milk, dark and white chocolate all call my name. We just wanted a bite, so we split a Milk Pecan Snapper. Picture this: a large gob of rich chewy caramel pressed into a pile of crisp pecans, topped with a thick coating of  luscious milk chocolate, Yum! UPDATE: This location is now closed.

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Cranbrook Garden Tour, Toast Birmingham

25 Jul


What would you say if I told you you could spend an afternoon at a European estate for only $6, well sort of…… All you have to do is drive to Bloomfield Hills and take Lone Pine Road to the estate of the late George & Ellen Booth, also known as Cranbrook.   Cranbrook House and Gardens began in 1904 when newspaper magnate George Booth and his wife purchased a neglected, barren farm. They hired Albert Kahn to design their home, and scores of landscape architects, gardeners, and laborers to create what is now known as Cranbrook Educational Community. Today you can tour the 40 acres of gardens surrounding the house or take a tour of the house itself, either way you will feel as though you have been transported to the English village of Cranbrook without ever having to get a passport.



Begin your tour at the Gate House, this is where you will buy your ticket and pick up the self-guided tour map. Wind through the entrance path surrounded by woodland plants and wildflowers, you will notice the temperature is a bit cooler here, cross the bridge and arrive at the La Bocca Della Verita fountain, it’s a nice place to sit and listen to the trickle of the water while looking at your map. Over to the side is the bust of Zues, one of the stones in front of him will make him weep, see if you can find it.



As you enter the main courtyard of Cranbrook House stand for a minute and take it all in. The house is an amazing example of the Arts and Crafts Style of the early 1900’s, everything was beautiful then, even the most ordinary utility item was decorated. Imagine what it must have been like to live in this extraordinary home; to be surrounded by nature and elaborate gardens, fountains, scenic vistas, art and sculpture. One look at the Sunken Garden with it’s intricate floral pattern made up of red, white, and pink Begonias will take your breath away. I like to stare it it from above for a while before taking the stairs to walk alongside it. Each year it is made up of different flowers and colors, I think this years display is one of my favorites, Oh how I love a beautiful garden! The Phlox were in full bloom; pinks and white, their perfume intoxicating, standing side by side with Purple Cone flower and Daisies, producing  a magnificent display. The herb garden is such a contrast to the floral displays, but still maintains that formal feeling; a marble sculpture of Ecolo keeps watch, the scent of the herbs is quite pleasing too. There is a Well Wishers Garden and Fountain off to one side, just a small space to enjoy a little peace and quiet before you happen upon the Turtle Fountain.  It is actually a copy of the La Fontana delle Tartarughe in Rome, and is marvelous. Have a seat and take in all the details, you can almost see the turtles moving. Just beyond the fountain is an impressive peek at Kingswood Lake. Remember; this was barren farmland at one time, every detail of this majestic estate was painstakingly planned out, the final result most impressive. The Reflecting Pool is a picture of elegance, the still water reflecting against the blue of the sky, so simple and yet so awe inspiring, spacious, lush lawns on each side. Here again, take a moment before descending the stairs to walk beside the pool and garden. Plantings here are more monotone; greens, yellows and white. At the end of the pool is Mario Korbel’s “Harmony” fountain, quite striking in such a setting.



Take the stairway at the end of the Reflecting Pool down to Kingswood Lake. You can walk the perimeter and observe even more splendor. There was a family of Swans gracefully crossing the lake, we stopped to watch the parents and youngsters pass by, looking so regal as they did. The Oriental Garden is delightful; the bright red bridge standing out among the green of nature. Don’t miss the Pewabic Tile Rainbow Fountain, it’s gorgeous, the tiles finished in their signature iridescent glaze. You will truly feel as though you are somewhere else, there are no sights or sounds anywhere to remind you have only ventured to Oakland County.  




Birmingham is a mere hop and a skip from Cranbrook and boasts a large selection of restaurants. The heat of the day put us in the mood for something cool and refreshing such as a salad or sandwich, Toast would be perfect. Located on Pierce, this “neighborhood joint” serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a quirky and fun atmosphere. Outdoor seating was plentiful, but out of the question, give me air conditioning! We scored a window table with a great view of the busyness of the day; lots of people on the sidewalk, most with a cold drink in hand. Somewhere along the way our appetites changed from lunch to breakfast, so we picked two items to share. The first was a Granola French Toast; soft challah bread cooked to a golden brown, topped with vanilla yogurt, granola, fresh berries and a drizzle of honey. The second item was the Breakfast Burrito, it is quite large and stuffed with all kinds of goodies; eggs, chorizo, beans, cilantor sour cream, topped off with house made salsa, yum. This is a fun place to have a meal, seating varies from standard table and chairs, to couches, booths and armchairs. Portions are generous and the menu features unusual ingredients. The decor is a mix of vintage and contemporary and looks great, if you like something a little different, try Toast.



The day had passed quickly and it was getting to be time to get back. As we walked back to our car we stopped at the newly renovated Shain Park  located on Merrill St.  This large expanse of public space has a little bit of everything; a large water fountain shooting sprays of water high into the air, it seems a favorite gathering place. The children’s play area was also popular while we were there; things to climb on and through, including a real tree. Cement and granite pathways lead you past a performance stage, the Marshall Frederick Statue, and a variety of benches; I liked the Butterfly bench, there’s also a xylophone bench, which seemed to be well-liked too. It was nice to sit back and watch folks take time out of their day for a little pleasure.