Tag Archives: Explore

OHIO: Walnut Creek

13 Jan

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Traveling during the holidays we find everywhere we go, big cities or small towns, buildings, homes, cafes and shops are lavishly decorated in holiday style. This year we begin our adventure in Holmes County Ohio, home to a large Amish settlement spread out among quaint little villages with names like Berlin, Walnut Creek, Charm and Sugar Creek; Ohio has the largest Amish population in the world. A drive on scenic backroads dotted with Amish homes, farms and picturesque scenery is the perfect way to wind down after the excitement of Christmas.

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We land in Berlin, have a late lunch at Boyd and Wurthum then head over to the Berlin Village Antique Mall, this place is huge. Here we find a large array of kitchen items from cookie jars, salt and pepper shakers and glasses to canning jars in blue, red and gold. A tall cabinet holds old automotive items; oil cans, license plates and vendor signs. Shelves are filled with beautiful colored glass and figurines; if you need a lamp they have dozens to choose from. The antique window frames are attractive, retro-fitted with metal designs they’d look right at home in my garden. Vintage board games by Ideal look familiar. We come across a few old television sets, how did we ever get by watching TV on such a small screen?

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Next door we pop into the Berlin Village Gift Barn, it’s a giant, fancy barn filled with lovely things to decorate your home or cottage. In addition to shelves of merchandise, areas are set up like rooms, my favorite was the cozy living room complete with brick fireplace, knotty pine floors, comfy couches and plenty of pillows–gorgeous. There’s an abundance of accessories like clocks, wine racks, stoppers and serving pieces. We stop in at Heini’s Cheese Chalet, it’s almost closing time, so we have to move quickly. If you like cheese, this is the place to be; rows of refrigerated cases offer you a world of varieties from Asiago, Swiss, Mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Colby, Marble–well, you get the idea. You can choose from smoked or traditional, the best part? You can try ’em all!

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We go east out of Berlin to Walnut Creek, we’re staying at the Wallhouse Hotel; 6 stories of upscale, modern elegance smack-dab in the middle of farm country. As we step foot in the lobby the towering white Christmas tree steals my attention, behind it a lime green wall, how about the sparkly black floor, it that granite? Checked in we take the elevator to our room, very attractive in shades of gray and a touch of lime green; we’ll sleep in luxury tonight on our pillow-top mattress. There’s a kitchenette and seating area, we even have a private balcony. As we head out for dinner we check out the rest of the place; there’s an indoor saltwater pool on the lower level. On the opposite side of the lobby we find a seating area surrounding a fireplace, bright blue sequined pillows rest on white leather couches; the dining room is dark and still, pots of coffee and fresh-baked cookies are waiting for guests.

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It’s a short drive to Der Durchman where we are having an authentic Amish dinner. On any given day you will find both locals and out-of-town visitors dining on platters of chicken, ham and roast beef along with fresh vegetables, homemade side dishes and hot biscuits. A wall of windows curves around the vast dining room, from this hilltop location they say there’s a 5-mile panoramic view of Goose Bottom Valley and the surrounding farmsteads, unfortunately for us night has fallen and all we see is darkness. Our dinner is delicious; juicy broasted chicken, homemade egg noodles and stuffing with gravy. When we’ve finished we head back to the room for some rest and relaxation.

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In the morning we dine on farm-fresh eggs, crisp bacon,  biscuits and gravy and fruit; they put out quite a spread here in the hotel. Out the window the sun shines in a powder blue sky, we watch cows head out to pasture, what a serene way to start the day. After check out Kris takes us on a leisurely tour of the area, everywhere I look is picture post-card perfect. The terrain a patchwork of gentle rolling hills; houses reside on hilltops, farms sprout out of valleys, fields have been turned over, they will lay dormant until spring. The grass is still green, cows and horses amble through fenced in fields eating as they go. Majestic horses pull Amish buggies, passengers are bundled in blankets, I love the clip-clop sound of the horses. 

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Walnut Creek has a tiny business district we’re going to explore, Coblenz Chocolate Company is family owned and operated; caramel is their specialty. The shop is beautiful inside; tin ceiling, dark woods, Christmas trees and garlands. Tables hold stacks of boxed candy already wearing ribbons and bows. What’s your pleasure? Swiss-style truffles, Milk, dark, nuts, caramel, it’s a chocolate lovers paradise. You can even watch it being made! I’m getting some dark chocolate caramels to take home. We browse through tiny shops ending up at a lovely Victorian store known as Carlisle Gifts. A grand curving staircase connects the first and second floor, huge chandeliers hang from the open ceiling. The store is divided into sections by the type of item, for example clothing is in one area, candles another, they offer quilts, greeting cards, purses by Vera Bradley, Annaleece Jewelry, Republic of Tea, bringing a little bit of city to the country.

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There’s nothing quite like the gentleness of Amish country; the blend of agriculture, cheese making and hardwood furniture. Everything here is done the old-fashioned way, by hand and in time. Visiting is a nice reminder for us to slow down and enjoy the simple things.

 

DETROIT: St. Francis D’Assisi

5 Jan

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It’s 11 pm on Christmas Eve, we’re on Wesson Street in Southwest Detroit, soft light glows in the windows of St. Francis of Assisi Church, we join the other early arrivals climbing the stairs to celebrate midnight mass. Completed in 1905 the majestic Italian Renaissance building is a wonder of Malvern brick, Bedford trim, Corinthian columns, trumpeting angels and massive oak doors. In the vestibule volunteers are busy arranging trays of cookies, cupcakes and chrusciki; a large urn brews coffee. Friends and family members greet one another with heartfelt hugs and handshakes.  

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The interior is dimly lit, the organist plays Christmas carols, the choir sings in Polish and English. The church is big, I read it can seat 1,700 people. We walk around a little, seeing what we can before settling in a pew. Altar boys appear out of the darkness, candles are lit, it’s time… Suddenly the lights go out, there’s a stir at the back of the church, Fr Cruz leads a procession down the center aisle, everyone joins in to sing Silent Night. The procession makes its way to the manger left of the altar, as we sing the words “Christ the Savior is born” a bright light appears in the night sky above the manger, next the sky is filled with stars; excitement and anticipation fills the church, Fr Cruz holds up a doll representing the baby Jesus, the baby is placed in the crèche.

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Instantaneously lights start to come on, one after the other; the cross atop the altarpiece is first, next the altarpiece itself, then the chandeliers, the dome, the ceiling, the perimeter, more lights than I have ever seen in a church, more than I can count–it’s spectacular! So begins midnight mass in marvelously dramatic style. From our vantage point we can see everything, we listen as the priest speaks, all the while taking in stained glass windows, the exquisite vaulted ceiling supported by a row of arch columns and the spectacular altarpiece–it’s like a church in a church. Angels are everywhere; four of them are holding up the roof. Directly above us hangs one of dozens of opulent chandeliers; angels surround the perimeter, brass acanthus leaves hold marbled stained glass in place, there are more than 25 bulbs in each, they’re truly works of art.

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We take in our surroundings, the most unique feature has to be the recessed lights in the ceiling, they form a cross in the nave and transept, they surround the ceiling medallions and frame the cupola. Mass has ended, parents carry sleeping children out to their cars. Now we are free to roam; tonight the church is adorned with decorations, white lights wrap Christmas trees and wreaths, red bows are tied to branches, pots of Poinsettia are staggered on the altar steps. Turning around we see the organ loft, pipes of varying heights remind me of a city skyline. Side altars are lavishly carved and painted in ivory and gold. Cross-shaped candle stands are placed throughout, handsome dark wood confessionals hug the wall; there’s one beautiful thing after another.

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St. Francis D’Assisi is one of only 3 churches consecrated in the archdiocese of Detroit. The parish has seen many changes throughout the last 111 years. What began as a Polish church now serves many families of Hispanic heritage as well as the children and grandchildren of Polish Americans. Being here is truly an experience. I couldn’t have asked for a more special Christmas Eve.

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DETROIT: Library After Dark

20 Dec

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Detroit is extremely fortunate that many of its outstanding 20th Century buildings still exist; the Detroit Public Library on Woodward is one such place. In 1912 Cass Gilbert was commissioned to construct the building; WWI and other delays slowed the completion, finally, in 1921 the amazing Italian Renaissance library opened its doors. This is the 4th largest library in the United States, it welcomes 222,000 visitors a year. 

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Tonight the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation is hosting “The Library At Night” tour. For over 70 years the Friends Foundation has provided funds, books, materials, and special programs to the library community through gifts, grants, general contributions and event fees. Tonight’s tour will highlight the architecture of Cass Gilbert, craftsmen and artists, followed by appetizers, wine, craft beer and live music in the Fine Arts room. Using the Cass Ave entrance we walk the long hall toward the front of the building, we pause at the front entrance, majestic bronze doors have been permanently folded to the sides. Wreaths, garlands, red bows and strings of white lights decorate railings, columns and stairways. We meet up with our tour group in the original Children’s Library, we’re ready to begin…

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The large room is an eclectic mix of old and new, funky lighting hangs from the ceiling, benches are upholstered in olive-green, cinnamon and navy. Original architectural elements have held their ground for over 150 years. Our guide points out the Pewabic Tile fireplace surround; done in shades of blue, tan, yellow and gold it depicts scenes from favorite childhood stories, it’s gorgeous. Above it a pictoral map of Michigan by Frederick Wiley shows the arrival of the French to the wilderness of the territory. I never noticed the little door hidden in the bookshelves, we get a peek inside the secret room. In the hall, I’m once again reminded of how much I love this building. Tonight between the holiday lighting and the darkness beyond the windows it looks extraordinary. 

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Walking from the original building to the 1963 addition we find ourselves surrounded by mid-century design. The transition between old and new is thoughtful and seamless. We enter the new Children’s Library, here stuffed animals, picture books and rhyming stories entertain youngsters; be sure to check out the mosaics hanging on the wall, kids from Detroit Public schools had a hand in making them. The library is also an art museum of sorts, beautiful art can be found everywhere and it’s all out in the open. The hall leading to the Burton Historical Collection is lined with rows and rows of card catalogs, they’re over 100 years old and span the history of Michigan and Detroit from the 1700’s to the present– there’s no plan to modernize or get rid of them, some things should stay the same. The 2-story room that holds the collection is very 1960’s in style, the tall narrow windows allow natural daylight to saturate the space. One of the highlights is Stalin’s Gift, a lovely jewel chest commissioned for the Russian Royal Family in 1883. Joseph Stalin gave it to Charles Sorensen of Ford Motor Company for Sorensen’s help establishing Russian auto plants during WWII; his widow donated it to the library.

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We’re on the move again, we pause at Frank Varga’s mosaic of Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish mathematician and astronomer, it was donated to the library in 1974. The Friends Foundation used tour proceeds to purchase the spotlight that illuminates it tonight. The Grand Staircase is made entirely of marble, it’s exquisite, as we ascend the stairs we get glimpses of the spectacular Italian Renaissance ceiling. Throughout the building you will find gold leaf, symbols, figures, Greek and Roman motifs and themes of books, knowledge and wisdom. Every room on the 3rd floor features a ceiling designed by Frederick Wiley, most are reproductions of ones found in European palaces, all are stunning.

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The 3rd floor is my favorite, the view of the ceilings and murals is fantastic; then there’s Adam Strohm Hall… Adam Strohm was the first library director to work in the building, there’s so much beauty in one place it’s mind-blowing. Check out the bronze entrances around the doors before you step in. Immediately our attention is directed to John Stephens Coppin’s “Man’s Mobility”, the painting features three era’s of transportation from horse and buggy to rocket ships. The mural on the opposite wall is Detroit’s early history by Gary Melchers. The windows you see are not stained glass but painted, the idea was stained glass was too dark, painted windows would let in more light for reading. Then there’s the ceiling, I’d like to just lay on the floor and stare at it for a while, take in the whole room…The ceiling in the Art and Music room was a new design, it’s very simple compared to the others; Cass Gilbert liked it so much he used it again in the US Supreme Court Building.

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The tour ends in the Fine Arts Room, another gorgeous space. Tonight we’re in for a special treat, they have opened a window and allowed us access to the loggia. There are 7 mosaics underneath the loggia windows, each depicts quotes from Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” monologue from As You Like It. The mosaics were created by Mary Chase Stratton (Pewabic Pottery founder), Horace Caulkins and Frederick Wiley; you can see their names affixed in gold leaf at one end, Cass Gilbert’s at the other. Just being out here is amazing! We have a picturesque view of the DIA lit in red and green for the holidays. Most people don’t even know the loggia exists, it’s a special privilege to be standing outside, under the stars on a Friday night. One of the volunteers has removed a colored gel from the spotlight so we can see the mosaics in their true colors–awesome. We climb back in the window; a woman sings as I stand in line for appetizers and wine. Kris ducks out into the hall for pictures, he has the floor to himself. It’s been wonderful to revisit this treasure and extra special to do the tour at night.

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We’re grabbing a bite to eat at The Peterboro in Detroit’s historic Chinatown. We were here for the soft opening and keep meaning to come back, tonight’s the night. Serving contemporary Chinese American cuisine they offer both small and large plates.  I find the space really attractive, large red lanterns cast a warm glow over the otherwise dark room, red and white lights wrap black-painted ducts, a large canvas features a fierce looking tiger. We decide on several small plates, each arrives at the table as it’s prepared. The Seaweed salad is the first to arrive, crispy quinoa and pickled mushrooms add crunch and unique flavor. The Market Veggie Rolls are nice, I like the sweet chili sauce. Mom’s Roast Pork is boneless rib tips marinated in hoisin and honey, nice flavor, odd texture. The Crab Rangoons are our favorite dish, crabmeat and cream cheese deep fried in a crunchy shell, what’s not to like? 

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MONROE: Looking Back

9 Dec

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Today we find ourselves in the historic town of Monroe MI. Located about 25 miles south of Detroit, 14 miles north of Toledo, the city is best known for the Battle of the River Raisin in the War of 1812. It’s also the boyhood home of Civil War hero Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Other famous natives include Christie Brinkley (born here in 1954), Valerie Harper, Paul W Smith of WJR and Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, Miss America 1988. La-Z-Boy and Monroe Shocks and Struts started here and remain here today. Kris and I find the best way to get a feel for a city is by visiting the local history museum, let’s go.

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The Monroe County Historical Museum is housed in the former Post Office, this stately building was built in 1913 on the old homestead of Maj General George A Custer. We use the back entrance, the first thing we see is the Monroe Shock Absorber display. A large case is filled with advertisements, endorsements, memorabilia and promotional items. A detailed timeline takes us through the history of the company and the men who started it; Monroe products are included in the collection. The main space is one large room with exhibits that line the walls. We learn about Fred J Routledge, marksman and inventor who designed and developed the “Mo-Skeet-O” backyard trap shooting system. You can check out the Trap Thrower, Hand Trap Thrower and a Remington-Routledge Shotgun. In addition to manufacturing Mo-Skeet-O components, Routledge specialized in choke-bore for small-caliber shotguns.

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The museum is in the process of decorating for Christmas, pretty trees draped in garland are seen throughout the space. A lovely mural “Romance of Monroe” hangs high on a wall, it was painted as part of the PWA project for the post office back in 1938, good to see they kept it. Framed maps of Monroe from the 1800’s fill a small hallway. We take the elevator to the second floor, we are greeted by numerous Christmas trees, the atmosphere is festive. This level is dedicated to The Custers, one of the largest public exhibitions of Custer artifacts. It begins with the romance of George and Libbie (Elizabeth) and follows their life, George’s national fame during the Civil War, his death and Libbie’s crusade to his lasting legacy.

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There are many personal items like their family bible, photos, furniture and mementos. We see George’s letters, uniforms, boots and medals; we follow his momentous occasions to Custer’s last fight. Libbie was responsible for getting the statue of her husband designed by sculptor Edward Potter, dedicated by President Taft in 1910 erected in Monroe; be sure and see it when you’re in town. We loop around, ending up back on the first floor at the La-Z-Boy exhibit, love the cool recliners on display. Kaye Lani Rae Rafko has her own little section; photos document her life from baby to beauty queen, they even have her crown. In the 1940’s the Port of Monroe steamship took passengers from Monroe to Put-In-Bay Island Park, they have some great posters and trinkets from back in the day.

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To complete our Monroe history lesson we drive over to the National Park Service River Raisin National Battlefield Park. Here’s the description from the website: “River Raisin National Battlefield Park preserves, commemorates, and interprets the January 1813 battles of the War of 1812 and their aftermath in Monroe and Wayne counties in SE Michigan. The Battle resulted in the greatest victory for Tecumseh’s American Indian confederation and the greatest defeat for the U.S. The resulting rally cry “Remember the Raisin” spurred support for the rest of the war.” We start in the visitors center, here exhibits, maps, military items and recreations tell the story of the battle that ensued just outside the door.

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The British had taken Detroit, there were two battles at this location to retake the city, both were bloody defeats. The event that spurred the rallying cry “Remember The Raisin” happened January 23, 1813, the day after the battles of Frenchtown (Monroe) that resulted 387 Americans killed, 500 taken prisoner. After sunrise the killing and scalping of Americans resumed; Native Americans killed 30-60 American wounded prisoners as a means of revenge. It is at this point US strategy shifts from a land war to a naval war; if you remember your American history you’ll recall US Adm Perry defeated the British fleet on Lake Erie, a turning point in the war. Outside we follow a paved pathway that leads from one historic marker to another, each gives us a description of what took place on this spot; infantry campsite, battles, skirmish line, reading them gives me the chills as the information sinks in. Learning about it in school is one thing, but standing here, looking around, makes a deep impression. 

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We’re cold and we’re hungry, we head over to Public House on Monroe Street. If the building looks vaguely familiar it’s probably because this used to be a Big Boy, that’s where the similarity ends. The restaurant is a regular stop for us anytime we’re on our way back north from a southern MI or out-of-state adventure. We’re seated in a booth in the comfortable dining room, we briefly scan the menu, we’ve made up our mind on the ride over. The service is always friendly, our glasses never empty. Without delay our food arrives; the Southwest Hash is a mix of potato, green pepper, onion, and chorizo topped with 2 over-easy eggs and a side of wheat toast. The flavor combination is outstanding, the eggs perfectly cooked, I love this dish. We’re also having the Banana Caramel Nut waffles; tasty silver dollar size Belgian waffles smothered in caramel sauce and bananas, sprinkled with walnuts, so, delicious! The sweet a nice contrast to the savory dish. The menu covers Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner; everything is made in house from soups and salad dressings to desserts, they have a nice wine list and serve  Interurban Ale from Arbor Brewing Co. Check it out next time you’re in the area. We’ve just had a sampling of what Monroe has to offer, there’s so much more to explore, we’ll be back.

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DETROIT: Eastern Market Holiday Style

1 Dec

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With Thanksgiving behind us it’s time to start thinking all things Christmas; what better place to begin than the Sunday Holiday Market at Eastern Market. My favorite thing about coming to this type of market is the quality and variety of merchandise, food and drink assembled under one roof; the artistry and talent is amazing. We begin in Shed 3, vendors have set up tables along the perimeter of the room, items are attractively arranged, samples are plentiful. Shoppers seem to be out in clusters; families of multiple-generations, girlfriends out for the day, couples; everyone seems to be in the holiday spirit.

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We traverse wide aisles filled with people looking for the perfect gift, we shift from table to table like some strange choreographed dance, one group leaves another steps up. I have a soft spot for hand-made things, the crocheted baby items are adorable; tiny little hats, blankets and cocoons. Displays are beautiful; gold and silver wrapped packages and tiny white lights are festive, T-shirts featuring Michigan and Detroit themes are extremely popular. Bottles and Beach Glass have been re-purposed into art, The Mc Clary Bros. table has a big selection of drinking vinegars, would you like a taste? One of the vendors is selling cranberries, fresh, sugar dusted, mixed with butter; it all looks appealing. The Eclair Tout De Sweet table stops me cold, these are not your ordinary eclairs, flavors include chocolate peppermint, gingerbread, nutella; buy one and eat it here or order a dozen for your holiday gathering. 

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Moving onward I check out gorgeous handmade jewelry, coasters and drinking glasses featuring the Mitten state or the Old English D. Vintage clothing hangs on portable racks, sweatshirts and hoodies are plentiful. I’m delighted by the Happy Heads Doll Collection from Detroit-born Marvalisa, her work is colorful, whimsical and well, happy… Artwork, earrings, Poinsettia in every color share space with a DJ, a cooking class is taking place in the community kitchen. The cutest little girl is wearing purple eye glasses and holding a sign for hand-made greeting cards. In another area an artist is hard at work painting a canvas, her completed pieces featuring Frida Kahlo are for sale. Bright colors and whimsical flowers decorate glass pieces at the Glass Garden.

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Outside the last shed has been transformed into a Christmas Tree farm. Families wander up and down the long rows of trees looking for the perfect one. It smells wonderful, a mix of fresh-cut wood and pine, it’s divine. Greens have been made into garlands and wreaths, trees stand tall in make-shift stands, the sound of a chainsaw is common. I like to watch as families narrow down their choices, when the final decision is made the tree is placed in a chute that bundles it for the ride home. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

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We cross Russell Street to get lunch at Beyond Juicery + Eatery, recently opened, it’s a great place to grab a fast, healthy lunch. I order at the counter, Kris takes a seat at the front window; good people-watching today. I hear my name and pick up my Total Energy smoothie at the counter. Strawberry, banana, honey and vanilla, it’s sweet and delicious. The food is up next, with a handful of napkins and plastic forks we busy ourselves eating the Cilantro Chicken Wrap: chicken, tomato, romaine, cheddar, avocado and a spicy cilantro sauce wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and grilled to a golden brown—yum! The Jalapeno + Lime bowl is a combination of quinoa, romaine, jalapenos, cheddar, roasted tomatoes, red onion served with lime vinaigrette; tasty. Ingredients are fresh and flavorful, service is friendly and fast.

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Holiday hours at DeVries & Company 1887 include Sunday’s from 10 am-3 pm, we haven’t been here in a while so today’s our chance. This specialty food shop started by Rudolph DeVries over 125 years ago is an Eastern Market staple. What began as specialty shop selling the highest quality butter, eggs and cheese now covers three floors and includes merchandise, locally made products, coffee, tea and chocolate. They are still best known for their extensive cheese selection with over 200 domestic and imported varieties to choose from; did I mention they have samples?

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We climb into the hand-operated elevator and take it to the third floor. To the right hand-painted windows glow in direct sunlight casting colorful shadows on walls and the floor. There’s a huge collection of Michigan and Detroit themed goods; glasses, books, cookie cutters, oven mitts. You can buy a 6-pack of Faygo pop and purchase a Faygo candle to go with it, how do you think Red Pop would smell? Maybe Rock and Rye? Wooden shelves hold glass pieces in a rainbow of colors. The second floor is home to seasonal decorations and hand-made jewelry and accessories. With so many pretty, unique necklaces to choose from, it’s hard for a girl to make up her mind, but I do…

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Back on the first floor I sample cheeses, make mental notes of the tea selection and wish there was a way I could taste everything! One rack holds holiday favorites such as fruit-filled hard candies, peppermint bark and that old-fashioned ribbon candy we all liked as kids. They have oils, vinegars, jams and jellies. I’ve never seen Fentimans soda before, they have been making botanically brewed beverages in Great Britain since 1905, did I mention they sell Vernor’s in glass bottles. Packaged cookies and crackers are stacked high on tables, pasta, rice and grains each have their place; it’s a food wonderland. You still have a few weekends left so c’mon down and check it out.

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Hamtramck: History And Holidays

25 Nov

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Today we’re in Hamtramck for the Polish Art Center open house; the shop is an emporium for all things Polish. The front windows face Joseph Campau, decorated for the holidays they feature beautiful city scenes. On the right are four entries for the Szopki contest, the winner will be announced today. Inside we enter a winter wonderland, small white cones strung together dangle from the decorative tin ceiling creating an indoor snowfall; the mood is festive. Everybody seems to know each other, greetings come in the form of smiles and hugs. A line of customers extends from the register to the back of the store, their arms overflow with merchandise.

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I hear someone playing a harp, we negotiate our way to the other side of the shop, a man sits in the center of the room, the most beautiful music fills the air as his fingers pluck strings effortlessly. We are surrounded by attractive Boleslawiec Polish Stoneware; bowls, cups, tureens, goblets and more all hand-painted in pretty patterns. T-shirts and hats have cute Polish sayings and designs, colorful Polish Folk aprons hang above. The crowd has gathered around the food table, a variety of dishes such as roast pork with winter vegetables, meatballs, bruschetta, smoked salmon with all the toppings, fruit and cheeses are offered to open-house guests; everything is delicious!

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We browse past pretty-painted wooden boxes, serving pieces, figurines, greeting cards, napkins while sipping on champagne and eating homemade truffles. Back in the first room coloring book author Catherine Macaro is busy coloring and signing books. The Christmas ornaments are lovely; snowmen, dolls, snow-covered houses and trees to name a few. Here we have a large selection of Polish cd’s, soup mixes, jams, dried mushrooms, hard candies and my favorite, chocolate. While we wait for the check-out line to die down we check out the Amber jewelry, they have a huge variety from necklaces to rings, the antique wooden display cases are almost as pretty as the jewelry.

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We have made our purchase, earlier I noticed the Hamtramck Historical Museum is open today, that’s where we’re going now. The museum is being renovated in stages so each time we come it’s different; it’s gotten much bigger since our last visit. The building was actually the first department store in the city in the 19-teens, many remember the space as the old barber college, its last incarnation before the museum was a dollar store. All aspects of the city’s history are represented, they have thousands of items ranging from documents, photos and memorabilia to films, medical records and household items. Shelves hold vintage packaging from the Holbrook Ice Cream Company, Swan soap, needles and threader, I like the name of the home permanent: Bu-Tee-Wave, kinda catchy don’t you think?

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Kris automatically gravitates to the Dodge Main display. When the Dodge brothers opened their assembly plant in 1910 immigrants from Poland flooded the area. Dodge Main occupied 67 acres, it was made up of 35 separate  buildings, it included a medical facility, test track and fire department.  Some of the cars built here include Charger, Coronet, Polara, Lancer and Monaco. Display cases are filled with photos, emblems, name badges, key chains, articles, patches, mementos and an actual brick from the factory building. By the mid-20’s factory workers made up 85% of the heads of households in Hamtramck—whoa.

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I wander past photos of the old Village Hall, concert posters, record albums, sheet music, wedding and communion photos, commemorative plates. Business advertisements are found on matchbooks, ashtrays and trinkets. I check out the antique stove, next to it a Westinghouse Electric Roaster, this was a staple in every Polish household back in the day! A cheerleader uniform from St Lads (hey, my dad went to school there), bowling pins and Hamtramck Beer are reminders of the good ol’ days.

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After reading letters, placards and newspaper articles I realize Hamtramck has always welcomed immigrants; from the early days when Detroit Stove Works and the Dodge brothers attracted men from Poland, Syria, and Lebanon continuing to this day.This 2-square-mile city is Michigan’s most internationally diverse. Families from Poland, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Ukraine, Albania, live side by side in peace. 27 native languages are spoken by school children. Polish Catholics, Ukranian Orthodox, Iraqi Chaldean Christians, Muslims, practice their religions in the same neighborhood. Hamtramck has hosted Presidents, the Pope, movies, famous people, the Food Network; it’s home to Kowalski, GM, Detroit City FC and, of course, Paczki. 

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Hunger has gotten the best of us, today we’re eating at Polonia Restaurant on Yemans. This charming restaurant has been around for over 40 years. The decor features art by Polish artists, artifacts, hand painted mural, old-fashioned tin ceiling and indirect lighting, giving it a homey feel.The menu is filled with traditional Polish and Eastern European specialties. Our food arrives on large white plates, the Polish plate is a combo of pierogi, golabki, kielbasa, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and gravy; all of it quite tasty. The mushroom nalesniki are outstanding; paper-thin crepes stuffed with flavorful mushrooms smothered in creamy gravy and a drizzle of sour cream–wow! It’s been a wonderful day and a great way to kick off the holiday season. na zdrowie!

Birmingham Beauty

18 Nov

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As long as this beautiful Autumn lingers we’ll be outside enjoying every minute of it. Today we are in one of our favorite places to go for a walk, Birmingham. Everybody  knows about the great dining scene, trendy boutiques, cafes and shops, but few know the quiet side of this affluent city. C’mon, we’ll show you around. We park our truck on Lakeside Dr, just north of Maple and west of Old Woodward; we’re at Quarton Lake, one of Birmingham’s hidden jewels. Tucked into a prosperous neighborhood the lake is surrounded by Quarton Lake Park with a walking trail that follows the perimeter.

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Walking south we encounter joggers, babies in strollers, leashed dogs with their owners, friends carrying Starbucks cups catching up on the week’s events. It’s a truly glorious day; the sun shines in a medium-blue sky, colorful leaves still cling to towering trees, elegant homes stare out at the lake. Following the gravel trail we come across native plants and flowers gone dormant for the winter; large pods have split open, their seeds carried by the wind. The fishing pier leads us out into the lake, the water is still except for the tiniest ripple, the surrounding beauty reflected like a mirror on the surface. The combination of nature and magnificent homes along the shoreline create a spectacular view; it’s easy to forget we’re only blocks from a thriving city.

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Quarton Lake is fed by the Rouge River, remnants of an old gristmill powered by water from the mill-pond are acknowledged by a plaque; the wooden mill served local farmers for 83 years. We reach the waterfall, some of the grandest homes overlook this spot. We cross the Rouge River pedestrian bridge finding ourselves in an open, grassy area complete with benches and sculpture. When the trail ends we follow the sidewalk along Maple Rd then duck back in the neighborhood on Lake Park Dr, the other side of the lake. Residents have replaced flowering annuals with hardy mums; pumpkins and haystacks join the Autumn decor. Leaves are scattered on the lawns of stately homes; slate roofs, luxurious porches and lavish landscapes are not uncommon. We reach the far end of the lake, an opening in the trees allows us to watch the Mallards as they paddle around, squirrels chase each other from tree to tree. We reach Oak Ave and walk towards Old Woodward.

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If you read DetroitDvotion regularly you know we are fond of historic cemeteries, picturesque Greenwood Historic Cemetery resides over 8 acres on Oak Ave. This unassuming little graveyard is the final resting place for some of Oakland County’s most prominent citizens and early pioneers. In 1821 Dr Ziba Swan purchased a large parcel of land from the federal government, setting aside a half-acre for a community cemetery. In 1825 Polly Utter and her 13-year-old daughter Cynthia were brutally murdered by Imri Fish, a boarder in the family home. These were the first murder victims in Bloomfield Township, they were also the first interments. The burying ground was enlarged several times through the years; in 1946 the City of Birmingham took over the operation. Walking through it today is like reading a history book on Birmingham. 

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We roam among limestone, marble and granite monuments, mature trees provide a colorful canopy today; fallen leaves have blown and gathered into piles of red, chartreuse, burnt orange.  Headstones from the early 1800’s are worn and barely legible, the age of the deceased is listed in years, months and days. Adams, Quarton, Opdyke and Baldwin, lie within these gates, local roads bear their names. John West Hunter was the first settler to live in Birmingham, the library is named after Martha Baldwin, Elijah Willets was the founder of Birmingham; John Daniels, the city’s only American Revolutionary War Veteran is buried here. 

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We amble over to the gravesite of sculptor Marshall Fredericks, (Spirit of Detroit, Cross In The Woods, Freedom Of The Human Spirit) his Leaping Gazelle sculpture rises up toward the sky. The Booth Family plot is anchored by George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth, they established the Cranbrook Educational community; the headstone of each family member wears a symbol that identifies something unique about that person. Pewabic Pottery founder Mary Chase Stratton is buried alongside her husband, architect William Buck Stratton. Each of these people had significant impact on the face of Detroit and the surrounding communities. More recently, legendary author Elmore Leonard was laid to rest.

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We cut back through neighborhood streets, cute brick bungalows and traditional 2-story homes share real estate with newly constructed homes in a variety of styles from concrete modern to manor homes, no two are the same–I like that. As we approach Old Woodward we walk through Booth Park, this is also the start of the Booth Trail. The trail follows the Rouge River through an undeveloped part of the city, it’s absolutely gorgeous. Leaves crunch under our feet as we follow the mulched trail, the river on the left, homes built into the hillside on the right; their view must be exceptional. The trail weaves alongside the river, most of the trees are bare, shrubs are vibrant and green. Amateur photographers take advantage of the scenery, there’s plenty of it, ducks are camera-shy and swim away. Pedestrians and dogs are plentiful today, everybody wants to be outside. This trail connects to the Rouge River Trail. The mild temperature encourages us to keep walking.

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We zig and zag back through neighborhood streets, old and new homes side by side in the long-established city. Old Woodward is a haven for the hungry, so many places to choose from, the patio at The Bird & The Bread looks inviting, lets check it out. The air has taken on a little chill, without the sun to warm us we opt to eat indoors; the front of the restaurant is all windows making it the next best thing to actually being outside. I’m excited to see they’re still serving brunch, I sip on a hot cup of coffee as we wait for the food to arrive.

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The restaurant is huge, it includes a wine bar, tap-room and seasonal kitchen; there’s even a curtained-off area for small groups. Old Woodward is pretty quiet today, only an occasional car or pedestrian. Our server brings our food and a couple of side plates, I scoop out half of the biscuits and gravy as Kris divides the Quinoa pancakes with house made lemon ricotta and orange marmalade. The pancakes are light and fluffy, there’s a slight crispness on the edges, the ricotta and marmalade go perfectly together, it’s high in deliciousness. The tender buttermilk biscuits are smothered in a creamy sausage gravy, what’s not to like? It feels good to sit and relax, mind and body fully nourished. 

DETROIT: Mt. Olivet Cemetery

10 Nov

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Today we are taking a walk through Detroit’s largest cemetery, Mt. Olivet; opened in 1888 it’s part of the Mt. Elliot family of cemeteries. Located on Van Dyke, straddling Outer Drive, 300 acres of lawns and gardens are the final resting place for both notable and ordinary citizens. The names of cultural, political and business leaders are carved into headstones, mausoleums and monuments; Polish, Italians, Germans and Belgians are grouped together. Military burials date from the Civil War to Vietnam. 

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The sheer beauty of an old cemetery in Autumn makes it an extremely appealing place to take a walk. Massive Maples and Oaks are dressed in their finest colors giving us a grand finale before Winter takes hold. It’s like wandering through a park filled with stories, art and tranquility. The grass is deep green, relishing the recent rain and cooler temperatures, fallen leaves litter the ground, deep red begonias are still hanging on. Near the entrance a towering statue of Jesus on the cross overlooks the grounds, this was originally a Catholic cemetery. We traverse the uneven ground going from one private mausoleum to another; here’s a name we recognize, Albert Fisher, pioneer of the auto industry and uncle to the 7 Fisher brothers who founded Fisher Body. The simple structure has lovely ornate doors, look straight through, there’s a beautiful stained glass window with an angel.

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Most of the mausoleums are fitted with lavish doors or grates, many with unique stained glass in back, some have simple Doric columns, others look as if they’re constructed of rough rock, a few look Egyptian. Live plants still occupy urns, burning bushes are just starting to turn, squirrels run about like this is their playground. There are large family plots with one big headstone bearing the family name, blooming roses embellish the Healy family plot. The Thomas Grant obelisk is unusual in that it is rounded; time, weather and probably pollution have created an attractive shadow to the carved areas. Long, flat gravestones look like concrete doors into the Earth. There are numerous statues throughout, more so than most cemeteries I think. In many cases, it’s a group of statues, like an entire family is mourning the deceased. It’s sad to see missing hands, fingers, heads.

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We get back in the Jeep taking the narrow private road through the tunnel under Outer Drive, we’re now on the opposite side. We are greeted by the Garden Of The Rosary surrounded by finely manicured shrubs. Again we walk. We take our time, look at every detail; the ornate patterns carved into the stone, stained glass windows set into glossy white marble walls, expressions on the faces of statues, stone robes that seem to flow over the pedestal their mounted on, the way the lavish wrought iron has taken on a certain patina through the decades. There is a peacefulness here, I feel like I can just keep walking.

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Some of the more well-known people laid to rest here include Major League Baseball players Jimmy Barrett, Joe Lafata, Cass Michaels and Maurice Van Robays. Pianist Joe Hunter, 3-time Grammy winner with the Funk Brothers and actor Tom Tyler who played ‘Captain Marvel’ in the 1941 movie with the same name can also be found here. Politicians include congressmen Robert Clancy and senator Patrick McNamara. Race car driver William “Shorty” Cantlon was killed during the running of the 1947 Indy 500. I found this especially interesting, Rose M Gacioch, a player in the All American Girls Professional Baseball  League is here. She pitched for the Rockford IL Peaches, Rosie O’Donnell played her in the film A League Of Their Own. There is also a number of notorious crime figures here, including members of the Detroit Mob; really fascinating stuff.

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We have reached the Garden Mausoleum, the field-stone structure was constructed some time in the 1950’s. Concrete pathways lead us through the courtyards, annuals are still blooming, shrubs a perfectly shaped, this section has a statue of St Matthew. We peek into the chapel, hallways are lit by skylights, they lead us past stained glass windows, crypts and colorful mosaics. We pass from one area to the next; St Peter, St Anne, St Catherine, St Thomas and on it goes. Here and there on the walkways antique-looking jars hold lit candles, fresh flowers lay nearby; a tribute to those gone but not forgotten.

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The Polish Army Veterans Monument is situated between trees, the inscription is in Polish. We find names of other Poles in the immediate area. Meandering further we see mausoleums constructed of thickly veined marble with Art Nouveau accents–gorgeous. I see a gravestone in the distance I must get a closer look at, the large stone face is intricately carved with an entire scene; a woman prays at a grave site surrounded by towering trees, it’s amazing. These days cemeteries are much more open to the idea of people coming to enjoy the peacefulness, going for a walk, taking in the beauty. Mt Olivet even hosts the annual Sunrise Run and Pancake Breakfast fundraiser. Speaking of pancakes, it’s time to eat.

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It’s just a hop and a skip to Hamtramck, Polish food sounds good, our favorite Polish restaurant is Polish Village Cafe. It’s between lunch and dinner so getting a table is easy. No need for a menu, we know it by heart. We start with bottles of Zywiec Porter, so smooth, so good. Next we eat cups of dill pickle soup, I like to dip pieces of sourdough bread in mine. We divvy up the Polish Plate and Potato Pancakes eating under white lights wrapped in leaf garland draped from beam to beam, the decor changes with the season. What never changes is the deliciousness of the food, the warmth and hospitality of the staff. It always feels like home. 

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Chrysler: Stylin’

3 Nov

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If you love cars images in this post may cause excitement, drooling, rapid heartbeat and verbal outbursts. All other readers, please take into consideration what an amazing experience it is to be able to wander around the Design Studio of a major automaker, step foot in the Design Dome, sit inside concept cars, be in the space where designs are born, put on paper and carved into clay, as I said, AMAZING! Chrysler pulled out all the stops for this open house; future and current models are on display, they dug deep into the archives pulling out and dusting off concept vehicles of different eras for our viewing pleasure.

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We have crossed the building from one end to the other finally arriving at the Design Studio, the door is open, let’s go in. From the instant we enter the studio I know I’m going to have my hands full keeping up with the boys; at the very first sight of vintage muscle car art hanging on the walls their eyes begin to glaze over, they don’t know where to look first. I see other visitors with the same affliction bumping into folks, their eyes focused only on what’s in front of them, nothing breaking their concentration. I have to admit, this is way cool… We are in the Product Design area, we come face to face with a gleaming silver luxury sportscar called “Firepower”, very sleek-looking, I love the two-tone interior. In this area walls are a deep putty color, bold, abstract-ish paintings of muscle cars pop on the neutral background. In a large open area trucks, Jeeps and cars intermix with employee work space. On the far side, glass enclosed offices belong to brand executives, we get an insiders peek at the personality of each; one has a great Pop Art poster of Virgil Exner.

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There’s stuff everywhere; photo-art of a 1960 Imperial Dash, a vintage Challenger interior. An actual clay 1970 Challenger dashboard stands on a cabinet, (Hey, I used to have a ’70 Challenger!) this is the original model from which they were made. Underneath we find shifters, switches, panels and gadgets. Renderings fill large bulletin boards, big chunks of clay and modeling tools allow kids and grown-up to try their hand at car design. A Jeep Treo is getting a lot of attention as is the also-never-produced Demon convertible. Through a doorway we enter a room with a Turbine Car, a video tells the story of this exceptional car on a screen nearby.

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There it is, the styling dome… It’s much larger than I expected, lights in the ceiling remind me of stars in the sky, droves of people mill about; Kris, our friend and I each head off in different directions. It’s like some sort of dance the way people shift from one remarkable car to the next, all the while smart phone in hand. There’s a white Challenger T/A, a blue Viper Indy Pace Car, I’m sorta fascinated by the Mopar Drag Pak Challenger, I notice Kris can’t take his eyes off the red Charger concept from back in 1999. People pose for pictures in front of one-off cars and trucks as if they are celebrities. 

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Making my way through the crowd I meet back up with the boys outside on the Design Court; a handful of unique vehicles await us. I like the Africa Jeep concept, there’s a snazzy Chrysler 300 Super S with a blue matte finish paint job, the Mopar Edition Charger looks good, the Challenger GT AWD concept looks tough with the black hood, roof, trunk, wheels and tires.

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Back inside we move on to the next area, the black 1968 Charger R/T stops us in our tracks, muscle car photo art hangs on the wall. Vehicles are scattered about; an orange Wrangler with plaid seats looks ready to hit the trails, folks climb into the grey “Stitch” Jeep, I heard the seats are actually Viper seats. A WWII military Willy’s Jeep reminds us how long they’ve been around, a half-Jeep is mounted on the wall.

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A small section is dedicated to Viper, love the far-out renderings; how about that snake-skin green? Check out the new 340 Daytona, this one has a clay front end, I like the pic Kris took of the Daytona Hemi hood decal. The futuristic drawings of the Challenger are awesome, a large board shows us examples of the Hellcat logo. Trucks are next, this is the first time I’ve seen the 2012 Lil’ Red Express Truck concept, stacks and all. The bright yellow Dodge Ram Rumble Bee truck is extremely popular, I’m glad to see the Bee is still around. A father and daughter work together on the truck clay model, this is truly a family affair.

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Work areas are dark in the next department, more great automotive art hangs about. This must be the Silver section the silver Chrysler 300 concept is stylish as is the Chrysler Nassau concept from 2007, the ME 12 Chrysler is more charcoal than silver, it’s streamlined, elegant, graceful, slick, wouldn’t it be fun to get a ride in this one? The Brilliant Blue custom Jeep plays homage to the old 1976 Cherokee’s, love the color. As I walk I notice shelves stacked with modern wheels, huge automotive photos on the walls, posters with pictures of cars and trucks and their progression through the years.  The boys and I meet up by the Renegade on the scanning machine, even thought I don’t know how it works it’s captivating to look at. We’re so impressed, enthralled and excited by everything we’ve seen, I especially like the way the vehicles are all connected through time; the past, present and future all in the same space. A big thank you to our friend for taking us on this exquisite journey and another thank you to Chrysler for the privilege of seeing the inner-workings of the company. A great time was had by all. 

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Chrysler: Testing…Testing…

30 Oct

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Recently, a friend asked if we’d like to be his guest for the 25th Anniversary open house at the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills…Uhhh, Yeah! We assumed it would be a cursory tour, surely Chrysler wouldn’t allow people to poke around their engineering and design epicenter… man, were we in for a surprise!!??  The best news was reading “photos  allowed” in the invitation, seriously? We are so there….

Chrysler Corporation was founded June 6, 1925 by Walter P Chrysler who re-organized the Maxwell Motor Company into his namesake. Always engineering innovators they were first to mass-produced cars with four-wheel hydraulic brakes, rubber engine mounts, air conditioning, electric windows and anti-lock brakes, to name a few. They also developed a road wheel with a rigid rim designed to keep a deflated tire from flying off the wheel; this safety wheel was eventually adopted by the auto industry worldwide. Back in 1955 they built the first production car to reach the 300 horsepower mark with their aptly named Chrysler 300, yep, that’s where it came from.

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We meet our friend in the parking lot and make our way to the entrance of the mammoth building–get this: at 5.3 million sq. ft. the complex is the second-largest building in the United States in floor space, only the Pentagon is larger; as of April 2016, approximately 15,000 people work at the complex–wow! We join the crowd of visitors and take the escalator to the second floor. Carpeted corridors throughout the elongated atrium are lit by natural sunlight, hallways appear endless. I can’t even begin to describe the massiveness of this place, I’m sure you could hide the Fisher building in here; we seem to walk forever to get from one section to another. We pick up the pace passing pretzel stations (in case you get lost at least you have food!), face painting and photo booths on our way back to the first floor, bands are between sets at Tech Plaza, we pause to check out the octagonal skylight, the center point of the building I presume; the place is buzzing with activity. I’m careful not to lose our friend, Kris keeps wandering off in a daze, I’m worried his head will explode!!

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We are now in the guts of the building, rows of fluorescent lights hang overhead, our friend is familiar with the building and explains things as we go; we’ve arrived at Science Court. We trek down hallways, there’s no shortage of dynamometers. We pop in and out of labs, most have funky-shaped foam mounted to the wall for sound deadening. An engine is set up for testing, here they can detect and isolate engine noise; I’m amazed we’re able to get such an up-close look. Down a ways a clay model Ram is attached to an elevated test unit, further on a B-5 blue Scat Pack Challenger with a shaker hood is parked in the hall, with a 392 c.i. engine this beauty makes 485 horsepower. If that’s not enough get-up-and-go for you check out the Redline Red Charger Hellcat, with a horsepower rating of 707 it can go over 200 mph; perfect when we’re running behind for a show at the Fox! The Aero Acoustic Wind Tunnel is next, the vehicle they’re testing? A super-cool white, black stripe, Viper ACR. The low, sporty lines of the vehicle make for an impressive demonstration of aerodynamic testing. Again I am astounded by the enormous space; sized to accommodate cars and trucks of the American market, the turntable is 18 ft in diameter,  it took 3 years to build the tunnel, it has a maximum airflow speed of over 140 mph. In a large open area a mini van frame is constructed with different color structures, so that’s what it looks like without skin…

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In the Noise, Vibration & Harshness Lab we see a burgundy Challenger Hellcat, sweet, next to that a gorgeous Viper in red with black stripes, this is so cool! All eyes are on the Yellow Jacket T/A Challenger that was recently introduced to the public, look at that flat black hood and front spoiler, now that’s a muscle car! A silver Grand Cherokee sits with its rear wheels on rollers, this can simulate various driving conditions, I just noticed this model is right-hand drive. Adults and kids alike are attracted to the Power Wagon with the grey and red lettering and graphics, I think this is the off-road package. Over in the Electro Magnetic Compatibility Lab testing focuses on the vehicle’s electronic systems and how they operate when exposed to radio frequencies. Potential interference can come from radio and television towers, ham radios, cell phones and burglar alarms, guess I never thought about that before.  A Ram pick-up is in one of the chambers, I kind of dig those pointy cone-shaped things; a black Cherokee waits its turn in the Vehicle Shielded Test Room.

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Moving on to the Environmental Test Cells we follow a pathway through the cold test chamber, ‘cold’ is an understatement, it was freezing, which made the hot test chamber feel really good. Standing in a small room we look through a glass panel into a driving cell, the snow-maker is on kill creating blizzard-like conditions, high winds blow snow directly into the front of a Cherokee; a not-so-subtle reminder of  what we have to look forward to. Exiting the drive cell we come face to face with the refrigeration unit for all that white stuff. In another area we watch a road test simulator at work, a Cherokee is going for a test run; looks like a rough ride. A Limelight Challenger R/T and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited hang nearby waiting for their opportunity. 

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Walking to the Pilot Plant we talk about all the things we’ve seen so far, most of us have no idea how much work goes into each model vehicle; from the very first idea put on paper, to the clay model, systems testing, to the build itself— all of which happens right here in this complex; it truly boggles the mind. The Pilot Plant is basically an assembly line, new models are kept top-secret and are covered for our visit. By building the initial vehicle here any problems that come up can be ironed out before the vehicle is put into assembly at the plant. It’s fascinating to look at, bodies rest on wheeled platforms, tools and electrical cords dangle from the ceiling, parts are kept in sealed crates, in the paint booth a Wrangler wears a fresh coat of black. I think we’ve seen everything we can on the first floor, next up, Design.  

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