Tag Archives: Coffee

LANSING: Lookin’ Around….

24 Aug

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We’re in the north end of Michigan’s capitol city, Lansing, today the Old Town District is hosting ScrapFest. Here’s how it works; back in June teams had one hour to collect up to 500 lbs of scrap from a local facility, then they have about two weeks to create their sculpture, made entirely of scrap metal. During ScrapFest pieces are displayed and auctioned off, 40% of the proceeds go to the artists, the rest is donated to the Old Town Commercial Association. It’s pretty amazing, check it out…

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The day promises to be a hot one, we arrive just as the festival opens; Turner street has been closed to traffic, artist’s tents line the street, sidewalk cafes are overflowing with diners, metal sculptures of varying heights and widths fill the remainder of the street. My eyes follow the finger of a woman pointing to someone in the distance, I zero in on the man wearing hoof shoes and a metal framed horse head for a hat. There’s so much to look at I find myself wandering with no real purpose or plan. Some sculptures are electrified, a couple of cables and a car battery do the trick. A ‘painting’ sits on an easel, look closely to see the city skyline, a church steeple, the moon and the stars, a second one features a bridge–is that the Mackinac? Kris and I marvel at the towering figure in front of us; with the turn of the wheel his arms, hands and fingers come to life.

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There’s a sculpture of a crane with a scene of cat tails that would look fabulous in my back yard. A large tree is cloaked in lovely metal flowers, there’s a piece that reminds me of antique Tiffany lamps; green glass and metal form a beautiful canopy of leaves. Each sculpture is unique, so creative, it’s hard to believe the components came from a scrap pile. The angel is getting a lot of attention,her stainless steel feathered wings are magnificent. I like the giant mobile-looking piece, do you remember the game Tip-It? That’s what I thought of when I saw it. Lots of people are taking pictures of the robot DJ with his turntables, how about the candle-powered light bulb, the Knight with his chariot, the silhouette of the horse, the gorgeous fire pit, which one would you bid on?

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We pass booths selling mini-sculptures, coasters, key chains, clothing. A line is forming at the food truck, the band is getting ready to play. Kids are making crafts, the street is filling up curious pedestrians. We’re hot and thirsty, Bloom Coffee Roasters is just up the street. Housed in an attractive orange-brick building, the small space serves as a neighborhood gathering spot offering coffee drinks from beans roasted in-house. Folks at the counter are on a first-name basis with the staff, shelves hold bags of freshly roasted beans, mugs and t-shirts. A couple of iced coffees will do the trick for us.

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Back outside the street is jam-packed with people, we make our way from Turner to Grand River on the way back to the car. Kris spots some interesting things through the window of The Gallery In Old Town so we go inside. Turns out the Gallery is an Estate Liquidator, they hold auctions and what they have left they bring to the shop to sell off, at really good prices. This particular lot had a bunch of vintage things; a funky organ, kitchen items from the 40’s and 50’s as well as some pop-style light fixtures. This is a good place to check out from time to time, you never know what you might find. A quick stop on the bridge gives a nice view of the Grand River, a lone fisherman has this part of the river to himself. 

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With art on our minds we drive over to the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on the campus of Michigan State University. You can’t miss the building; it’s the striking pleated stainless steel and glass building visible from Grand River. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, her buildings are getting a lot of attention since her death in 2016. The Iraqui-British architect was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, she was the first and only woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects and she was sometimes called the “Queen of the Curve”. I googled her to see her other buildings before I wrote this, she certainly had a way with geometry, I think her buildings are spectacular! The Broad is a parallelogram-shaped building with a distinct  lean, the structure continually changes color depending on the time of day and the angle of the sun. We enter through the west entrance into the Passage Gallery, looking around I am surrounded by curly fries, Kris corrects me, spaghetti, he says. The exhibit is called Toiletpaper Paradise, based on the magazine TOILETPAPER. “Domestic settings are re-imagined as psychedelic, subversive montages vignettes”, I’d say that sums it up. It’s pretty groovy, large pieces hang on the walls, rugs are scattered on the floor; the familiar in an unfamiliar way.

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Around the corner is a big silver tent, a docent leads us inside, a series of red light bulbs illuminate the space, a pulsing rhythm emits from speakers, live crickets chirp in their own rhythm. The docent demonstrates how the crickets will change their chirps as she alters the sound coming from the speakers. We amble through galleries, the next exhibit is The Transported Man, here ordinary objects become not-so-ordinary when you read the additional information about them. A mysterious floating table, a bar of liposuction soap, I like the elephant’s trick, looks like the cat had too much helium…a festival of the odd. We see a wall of windows, each a different color, notable artwork hangs on a cranberry-colored wall. As much as we like contemporary art, the building itself is the main attraction for us. The staircase seems to float, every hallway leads to something unexpected, it’s like an extremely sophisticated fun house.

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DETROIT: Cabin Fever…

29 Jun

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Thomas Palmer, a Detroit resident, U.S. Senator, American ambassador to Spain and land owner—farming 640 acres of land that included orchards, cattle and Percheron horses, in what is now Palmer Park, married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Pitts Merrill in 1855. By 1885 Lizzie was looking for a place to escape the traffic, noise and crowds of Detroit. Her husband presented her with plans for a rustic cabin, built to her specifications, on land he owned along Woodward Ave, which at that time was considered out in the country; the cabin would be used  for entertaining and as a summer retreat. The team of George Mason (Masonic Temple) and Zachariah Rice (The Grand Hotel and DYC) designed the cabin which was completed in 1887.

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Nearly 130 years later the cabin still stands on its original spot. Eventually Palmer gifted the land and cabin to the City of Detroit, in 1897 the area was officially designated Palmer Park. Once a year the People for Palmer Park and the City of Detroit open the cabin to the public, today is Log Cabin Day. We follow the sidewalk along Lake Frances, a young girl expertly riding a Penny-farthing (or High Wheeler) passes by. We approach the cabin, volunteers are dressed up in 1880’s clothing, we hear musket blasts coming from the Civil War camp in the distance, the 102nd USCT  history group is putting on a demonstration. A policeman sits atop a beautiful horse, visitors have gathered waiting for their chance to pet the majestic animal. Behind the cabin the Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic play American folk, fiddle and bluegrass tunes as Appalachian step dancers perform on a makeshift stage, these high-schoolers are impressive.

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Walking around the cabin we pause to look at the building, it was constructed with trees harvested from the surrounding forest, awnings are made from split logs. The structure is in need of repair, the fireplace exteriors are shrouded in tarps that have seen better days. Cheery flowers have recently been planted in front, flowering shrubs are in full bloom, members of PFPP have been hard at work on the cabin. Inside, historians dressed in period attire speak about the Palmer family, they tell us about the cabin with its stone fireplaces, pocket doors, wooden floors and the indoor toilette–something that was unheard of in those days. The stairway is central in the house, the woodwork is in remarkably good shape, pretty fancy for a cabin. The home had 21 lovely stained glass windows, volunteers demonstrate the expensive restoration process, the remaining windows are protected by metal screens, a donation jar nearby is stuffed with 1 and 5 dollar bills. In another room the Detroit Unity African-American Quilters show off their handiwork, photographs and postcards cover the walls sharing Detroit history and memories. The American Jewel stove is the highlight of the kitchen, from where I’m standing I can feel cold air seep from under the cellar door. A continuous stream of visitors make their way from the front to the back door.

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Outside, a cast of 7 from Project Daydream is performing Cinderella, Guernsey Dairy is handing out scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, kids and grown-ups are hard at work creating hats out of paper bags, scraps of material, ribbons, feathers and beads for the Mad Hatter contest. We see more members of The Wheelman group wearing vintage clothing and riding antique bikes. CJ Forge Blacksmithing demonstrates the craft of creating hand-forged items. We check out the bright yellow International pick-up truck, cool. The Detroit Mounted Police Unit moved to Palmer Park in 2010, we visit the horses, they seem to appreciate the company, leaning their heads against the fence hoping for a pet. Palmer Park is truly an urban oasis with 296 acres of lawns, historic woodlands, Lake Frances, hiking and biking trails. Be sure and check out all of the activities PFPP offers throughout the year.

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Kuzzo’s Chicken &Waffles is just minutes away, we’ve written about them before, but you can never have too much chicken & waffles. We slip in just as a number of tables leave, good timing. Today’s special is Motor City Blues; a blueberry Belgian waffle served with 3 chicken wings or tenders, we love the tenders. The waffle is delicious, beyond delicious if that’s possible; studded with sweet, juicy blueberries, dusted with powdered sugar and a scoop of butter, drizzled with maple syrup, YUM! The biscuits and gravy are a must; flaky, moist biscuits served with a bowl of creamy sausage gravy……enough said. We still have yet to try one of those fancy layered Kool-aid drinks served up in Mason jars–next time.

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Driving down 8 Mile Rd we notice the sandwich board on the sidewalk for Detroit Vintage, we drive around the block, park in back and stop in for a coffee. The building has been in the owners family since 1956 when it was the Paris Inn restaurant, the current incarnation is a whimsical, eclectic, coffee shop/tea room/espresso bar/gallery/boutique. Attractive displays fill the space; antique, vintage, interesting items are stacked, layered and hung. Seating areas are tucked in among the whimsy. Glass-domed dishes contain Italian creme, lemon pound and triple chocolate cakes, cookies and cupcakes look equally tasty. We make ourselves comfy, drinking iced coffee as we take in strings of white lights, large red stars, clocks, sconces and a bicycle that hangs from the rafters. What an absolutely delightful place.

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PLYMOUTH: Looking Back….

6 Apr

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I can’t remember a nicer March. We’ve had 9 days in the 50’s and 8 days above 60 degrees. All of these warmer-than-usual days inspire us to get in the car, enjoy a ride on a sunny day,do something different, take a day trip. About 35 miles northwest of downtown Detroit is the city of Plymouth; beautiful historic homes, parks and a vibrant downtown filled with independent restaurants and shops make it an attractive destination. Our first stop is the Plymouth Historical Museum on S. Main Street. I have to admit I really enjoy visiting local history museums, not only does it shed light on what makes the city unique, it also shows us what we have in common. I always end up saying something like: they made that here? Or, that’s where that comes from? I’m always learning something new.

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Inside the museum we pay the admission fee, climb the stairs to the second floor and find ourselves in a re-creation of Main Street, circa the late 19th century. The exhibit theme through June 12 is Downton Abbey. Items from the museums extensive collection of  historic clothing and artifacts are arranged to highlight the events of the popular television show comparing them to what was going on in the US at the time. Beautiful Victorian items fill parlors with bold-patterned wallpaper, heavy drapes and busy rugs. Shop windows are cluttered with clocks, carnival glass, knickknacks, plates and Birth Banks–popular at the time. There’s a general store and a dentist office, reproduction items from the Titanic. Queen Victoria (1819-1901) reigned Great Britain and Ireland for 63 years, a period now known as the Victorian Era, it was a time of industrial, cultural, political, scientific and military change.

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Off in a corner sits a permanent display from the office of the President of Daisy Manufacturing, a fireplace surrounded by dark wood paneling, a small table and seating area looks cozy; more on Daisy later… With the purchase of the Weldon Petz Abraham Lincoln collection, the Lincoln Room opened in 2002. Display cases hold artifacts from Lincoln’s youth, the books he read as a boy, rare family photographs, handwritten legal documents, artifacts from the assassination, even a lock of his hair. This is the largest Lincoln collection in the state of Michigan, it’s absolutely fascinating to see.

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The museum’s lower level is dedicated to the timeline of Plymouth from the native tribes to modern times. This is our favorite part. We wander into an exhibit featuring the Phoenix Plant, one of Henry Ford’s Village Industries. In this small-scale factory the all-female employees made generator cut-outs, voltage regulators, gauges and light switches for Ford vehicles. This was the first factory in the US to pay women the same rate as men. Be sure and watch the videos, the women’s stories are amazing! The factory was open from 1922-1948. Next door is the Daisy Air Rifle room, it’s super-cool. What a story–The Plymouth Iron Windmill Company ended up making the most popular air rifle in the country. They brought actual items from the old Plymouth factory to be used in the museum, including the original floor, bb’s and all–check it out. Did you know Daisy made the world’s first water pistol, the Squirt-O-Matic in 1913?

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The Made In Plymouth section is next. The Alter Company was in business from 1914-1917, this is the only Alter automobile still  known to exist. The 1916 edition sold for $685, they even have an original stock certificate. We meander up and down aisles, the projector and seats from the Penniman Allen Theatre look really old, we see a slice of life during WWII; what a kitchen looked like, a crazy machine used for giving women a permanent wave, personally I think I’d have stuck with straight hair… Dozens of portable adding machines from the Burroughs Company fill glass cases and shelves, an Evans bicycle hangs on the wall, typewriters and telephones were made here too.

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A sign, speaker, menu and trays from Daly brings back memories. The first Daly Drive-In opened in the summer of 1948, serving Dalyburgers, Dalydogs, banana splits and shakes, it was a favorite hang out for decades. One location remains on Plymouth Rd. in Livonia. Cloverdales soda fountain and Kemnitz Fine Candies are also represented. I’m getting hungry.The Plymouth Historical Museum, as it exists today, is due in great part to the generous donations of Miss Margaret Dunning. Margaret, a businesswoman and philanthropist, lived in the same house on Penniman Ave for over 90 years. She passed away in 2015 at the age of 104, her legacy lives on.

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We head downtown for lunch, Simply Fresh Mediterranean Grill looks inviting. The space is bright and airy with a white tin ceiling and walls. Menu items are made fresh from family recipes and traditions. We order at the counter, while we wait we notice black and white historical photographs; one group is Plymouth, the other a small town in Jerusalem the family came from. We are sitting in a cozy space in front of a sun filled window when the food arrives, one plate after another of tasty Mediterranean fare. We get our usual favorites: hummus, fatoosh, stuffed grape leaves, and a new dish to us, Chicken Kifta. Ground chicken mixed with onions, parsley and spices, grilled and served with pickles and a side of garlic sauce, the food is beyond delicious.

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We’re pretty full, but something sweet would be nice, Kris suggests chocolate; we know just where to go. Kemnitz Fine Candies has been making homemade candies and chocolates fresh daily since 1951. The little shop on Ann Arbor Trail has been a favorite for generations of Plymouth families, this is our first visit. Gold letters above a striped awning direct us inside the shop, it’s crazy busy, Easter is tomorrow. Everywhere I look I see bunnies made of milk, dark and white chocolate wear identifying numbers, bags of pastel foil-wrapped chocolate eggs, individual chocolates and jelly beans. Girls behind the counter wearing bunny-ear headbands wait on customer after customer, our turn. We each pick a couple of items, all we need now is coffee.

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At Espresso Elevado on Main St. you can get a fantastic cup of coffee, an espresso drink, loose-leaf tea or coffee beans roasted on-site; we’re here for the cold brew coffee. Bright yellow walls surround tables and chairs, a cooler with cold drinks, the counter crowded with organic and local pastries and chocolate from Mindo Chocolate Makers in Dexter. We wait in line and hope space opens at one of the tables, we’re in luck. I retrieve the bag of chocolates from Kemnitz, wow, incredibly good, is there anything better than coffee and chocolate?  I’ll have to think about that one…..

ANN ARBOR: Naturally…

23 Jun

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We’re in Ann Arbor today at Nichols Arboretum to see the largest collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. Operated by U of M, the 123- acre “arb” is located near the eastern edge of Central Campus. The naturalistic landscape was begun by O. C. Simonds back in 1907; home to natural areas, trails, pathways, specialty gardens, broad valleys and thematic areas, it provides an easy escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. We park in a neighborhood off Geddes Ave and make our way to the entrance; we are greeted by a floral display, a newer iron gate closes the gap between two very old stone posts. Walking straight out we reach the highest point in the arb, they say the escarpment and slopes were created by glaciers, here we have a panoramic view for miles.

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We begin our walk through the main valley following a wide gravel path north and west toward the Peony Garden. The path winds through shaded woodlands, giving us respite from the afternoon sun, wildflowers bloom in purple and white against a lush green background. Leaving the main path, we follow a narrow dirt trail deeper into the woods, a deer nibbles leaves a few feet away. As we ascend the hill we eventually emerge from the woods, the peony garden is below us in the distance, a large grassy area surrounds it. In 1922 Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo and passionate collector of peonies, offered to donate peonies to the arb, regents accepted his offer, appropriated $2,000 to establish a peony garden, which then opened to the public in 1927. Today each of the 27 beds contains 30 peonies, the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom.

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Our timing is perfect, beds are bursting with blooms in white, every shade of pink, deep red and burgundy, it’s fantastic! I wander from plant to plant in awe of their beauty, a closer look reveals the difference in varieties; some are shaped like goblets, others are flat and cupped, there are inner petals, outer petals, pistols and stamens, crowns and collars. Placards give detailed information, I love the names: Fortune Teller, Lady Emily, Do Tell, Loveliness, Madame Jules Dessert and Nanette. Some are quite fragrant, I bend at every one hoping to be rewarded with sweet fragrance. Kris joins dozens of others taking photos of these delicate beauties. Up close the colors are stunning, one is all white with flecks of red near the center, multicolored blossoms fade from bright rose to pale pink to white, centers are yellow or gold, petals are ruffled or smooth, wide or narrow. It is an amazing thing to see!

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We choose a wide path that takes us through the woods, mushrooms cover a fallen tree, in the distance yellow flowers top reed-like stems, we come upon a stairway terraced into the hill, it leads us to the bank of the Huron River. We stand in an open area, the sun blazes overhead, two women in  kayaks drift by us carried by the current. Buildings on the opposite side of the river remind us we are actually in a city. We duck back into nature, taking a more secluded trail this time, a Robin sitting on the edge of her nest watches us closely as we pass. Mature trees and more wildflowers surround us as we make our way back, another set of stairs leads us gently up a hill, at the top we take in the vista that surrounds us, and then we are back to where we started.

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By now we are famished, Angelo’s On The Side is a short drive away, I hope we make it before they close. We’re in luck, there’s a space in the back lot and they’re open. The original Angelo’s opened in 1956, serving breakfast and lunch, it is still owned and operated by the same family. This side is a coffee-house and carry-out counter with limited seating for dining in. Chalkboard menus surround the counter, we quickly agree on what to order and take a seat overlooking the street. A wax paper lined tray arrives, upon it sits giant battered onion rings and a mouth-watering California Club Sandwich. A stack of turkey breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and cucumber are piled between two slices of exceptional homemade white bread Thick slices of onion are nestled in crispy batter; we exchange few words, the food is too good to be interrupted with talk.  

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A couple of blocks away on S University we stop in at Mighty Good Coffee Roasting Co. before hitting the road. The coffee shop is located on the ground floor of a mid-century style building, three walls are glass and there’s also a patio. Kris and I drink cold-brew coffee regularly, every shop uses its own method and choice of bean; this is the first time we have encountered Nitro-infused cold brew. This method uses a stronger mix of cold brew concentrate with cold filtered water, they put it in a keg, add pressure and serve it up on a nitro tap. What you get is a creamy, slightly bubbly coffee that’s higher in caffeine. It’s usually served in a pint glass without ice, cream or milk, just looking at it you’d swear it was Guinness Stout. Kris orders one on ice, I stick with traditional cold brew. We relax on the patio drinking our coffee and sharing a chocolate chip cookie; the nitro is outstanding as is the regular cold brew. What a great way to end the day.

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Heidelberg Project, Father Solanus, Cafe con leche

24 May

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Within about a mile of Jefferson on Mount Elliot there is an interesting variety of places to see including two historic cemeteries, a riverfront park, East Riverwalk and our destinations of the day.

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The Solanus Casey Center is located on Mt Elliot in Detroit. Inspired by the life and example of Father Solanus the center strives to be a place of pilgrimage, healing, reconciliation and peace. Father Solanus was well known in Detroit throughout his more than twenty years of service at St Bonaventure. His ministry of charity, comfort, and concern for the poor inspired the Detroit Capuchins to establish their Soup Kitchen which continues to this day.  The center welcomes people of all religious backgrounds and all walks of life.

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Park on the street, then walk through the garden on your way inside. When you enter the building through the beautiful glass doors you will notice an instant sense of tranquility. Skylights flood the lobby with sunlight and it draws you further inside. There is a small museum like section that tells the story of the life of Father Solanus that I believe anybody would find interesting.  He spent his life in the service of others, in times of trouble and sorrow people sought his prayers and advice, many still pray to him today.  The St Bonaventure Chapel is connected to the center and is open daily from 7:30-5:00pm. Be sure to wander in, religious or not you can’t help but admire the intricately carved wooden alter, the architecture is simple and elegant at the same time. Feel free to have a seat, it is a perfect place to meditate or reflect. 

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Just a short drive away is the Heidelberg Project, these two places couldn’t be more opposite.  Here there is a sense of energy and controversy, it feels loud.  The colors are bright, houses are painted with polka dots and numbers, found items are grouped together in unlikely collections. It challenges you in a way that is whimsical not offensive. Walk the two block area with an open mind, just have fun.

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The Mission of the Heidelberg Project is to inspire people to use and appreciate artistic expression as a means to enrich and improve their lives, and to beautify and preserve the environments in which we all live, work, and play. Tyree Guyton created the Heidelberg Project 25 years ago, in an effort to bring positive change to his community and the city of Detroit. It began as an outdoor art project in the heart of a blighted neighborhood in Detroit, but has grown to be much more. Today the project is recognized as one of the most influential art displays in the country. It is a demonstration of the power of creativity and its ability to transform lives. Each day the project attracts visitors from all over Detroit, the nation and the world. It offers a seed of hope, a forum for ideas, and a bright vision for the future.

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After all of the activity it was time to go to Southwest to Cafe con leche, this is the coffee shop I mentioned in an earlier post. It is one of our favorite places to go and have some sort of espresso drink, sit at a table in the window overlooking Clark Park,and watch. In warm weather or cold, Kris always gets a large Cubano, it is wonderfully rich espresso that is brewed directly into a cup containing raw sugar, so the espresso and sugar mix together, then it is stirred gently and enjoyed. My selection varies from visit to visit, but when it is cold outside you can’t go wrong with a Spanish Hot Chocolate. Owner Jordi comes from Barcelona Spain, so he knows how to make them right. Hot chocolate so thick, you can eat it with a spoon! It has almost a pudding like taste and texture to it, heck, it’s so good, get it anytime.

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This cafe has a loyal following, regulars come and go at the same time each day, the baristas greet them on a first name basis, and ask “your usual”? It is comfortable and friendly, Spanish is the primary language being spoken, but people easily change back and forth to English, and there is usually a nice selection of music being played quietly in the background. They offer a small selection of mostly Mexican pastries, and they recently added Panini sandwiches. Located at 4200 W Vernor, it is a great place to kick back and relax and just hang out.