Tag Archives: Ice Cream

Ford’s Flora…

10 Aug

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We’re in the smallest of the Pointes, Grosse Pointe Shores, on a piece of land known as Gaukler Pointe, you might know it as the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate. We purchased a membership for a small fee that allows us free access to the grounds nearly every day of the year. Each time we visit the landscape changes in appearance; there’s always something different in bloom, roses, daffodils or phlox perfume the air, the sun sits at different angles in the sky, changing the shadows of the trees, the color of the lake. The one constant is the utter beauty of this secluded piece of land. Thanks to Eleanor Ford’s foresight it can be enjoyed by all.

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Public access to Bird Island began this spring. Originally a sandbar in Lake St. Clair, Jens Jensen built a peninsula of land that created a protective cove for Edsel’s boats and served as a habitat for songbirds and wildlife. At Edsel’s request the island was planted with seed-bearing herbaceous shrubs, Elm, Ash, Linden, Crabapple, Dogwood and other berry-producing plants. Now connected to the estate by a bridge, Bird Island adds 3,000 ft to their shoreline. We follow the mulched path that hugs Ford Cove, a few boats float perfectly still in the sheltered water. We pause on the wooden bridge, sailboats dot the horizon, a placard explains the transformation of the island with photos of the flora and fauna found here. Clusters of ripe red berries cover low-growing shrubs, fuzzy, cone-shaped plumes grow on others, we enter an area completely surrounded by trees, we get glimpses of the lake through narrow branches, like peeking through Venetian blinds, the only sound we here is water lapping at the shoreline.

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The trail leads us to an open, grassy area, benches are perched along the shoreline giving us a panoramic view; power boats and jet skis have joined the mix of activity on the lake. Back in the woodlands we enjoy shady areas, a much needed break from the heat of the day. A mass of yellow flowers top tall green stalks, bumble bees and honey bees are enjoying the colorful blooms. The Ford bees are busy making honey, their hives are in a ways from the path, view them from a distance—or with a zoom lens like Kris did. Back in the trails you’d never know you’re just outside a major urban city. Eleanor would often go for walks here, asking to not be disturbed, she valued her privacy. Today we see just one other couple on the trail. 

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We take a break from the grounds and head to the visitors center, we’re having lunch in the Cotswold Cafe. The charming cafe has a greenhouse-style ceiling and wall that looks out onto the patio, furniture is garden-like, the carpet is green–very outdoorsy; the sun shines overhead lighting up the room. We are having the Avocado and Palm Heart Salad: mixed greens, diced avocado, palm hearts, cherry tomatoes, red onion, yellow pepper and red quinoa lightly tossed in a lemon and mint vinaigrette, so refreshing on a warm day. We took the Croque Monsieur, thick slices of toasted white bread, Dearborn ham, Swiss cheese and Dijon mustard topped with a creamy, browned cheese sauce and turned it into a Croque Madame with the addition of a poached egg on top. The sandwich is absolutely delicious, a nice mix of crunch and sauce, tangy and creamy. We have cleaned our plates, let’s get back outside.

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Just outside the visitors center is the Tribute Garden which honors Eleanor Ford with a mix of annuals and perennials. The garden provides color all year long with Liatris, Lupine, Zinnia, Marigolds, Tulips, Phlox, Roses, Columbine, so lovely. A small screened in garden acts as a butterfly house, today it’s teeming with butterflies enjoying Verbena, Zinnia, Coneflower and Salvia. Moving onward we pass the shuttle stop, cross a driveway and walk on the grassy shoreline, sunlight glitters on the water’s surface, the number of boats has doubled while we ate lunch. The landscape and gardens were designed by Jens Jensen, he is best known for his natural landscape design. He preferred open spaces, pathways, native plants and materials. The most prominent feature at the Ford house is its long meadow which is visible from anywhere on the grounds. Extending from the house to the gate lodge, running east to west, the great meadow captures the rising and setting sun. Jensen worked on this landscape from 1926-1932, he combines meadows, woodlands, wetlands and native plants to engage all 5 human senses.

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Water is another element critical to Jensen’s design, the lagoon is a secluded pond, as if we were in the woods and happened upon it, stacked natural rock creates the sides, here we look through and are rewarded with a stunning view of the swimming pool.  The pool is free-form in shape, surrounded by trees, water from Lake St. Clair fills the basin; a docent tells us Eleanor liked it kept at 80 degrees. A waterfall at the end of the pool allows pool water to overflow into the lagoon, at one time the lagoon was open to the lake but was closed for privacy and security. Oh how I’d like to dive in, splash around, take a few laps! 

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Walking away from the pool we enter a more formal-type garden, the Rose Garden. Eleanor loved her roses, Jensen, however, did not like formal gardens, the compromise resulted in a lovely collection of rose bushes. On one end an elevated slate patio with benches gives us an overall view of distinguished beds, each featuring a single color of rose; pink, pale yellow, apricot, cream and white, in the center a fountain, stone frogs wait expectantly in each corner for the water to flow. To the left a fountain built into the wall is also dry today. I turn completely around, my eye travels from the pool to the lake, visible through a frame of trees. Roses smell sweet as we pass on our way to the New Garden.

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In 1939 this space was re-designed by Jensen’s son-in-law Marshall Johnson, here we have straight lines, hedges and a reflection pool, these types of gardens exemplify the Golden Age of Gardening that was popular on large estates from 1880-1940. I like these types of gardens, such a contrast from the natural style, they work well together. Flower Lane is just what it sounds like, a winding gravel path leads us past irregular shaped borders that host a variety of cultivated perennials and shrubs such as delphinium, lupine, veronica, shasta daisies, phlox and daylilies. Edsel and Eleanor chose the plants, white, yellow and blue are the dominant colors; in springtime this area is a mass of Daffodils, Tulips and Hyacinths. The flowers are bordered by overhanging flowering trees, such a sight in May, the grounds are truly beautiful any time of year. After all of this walking, it’s time for a treat.

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Sweeties is located on Kercheval in Grosse Pointe Park, this darling shop sells ice cream, candy and coffee, what else do you need? The mint green and white brick exterior gives way to a natural wood paneled interior; on the right tall shelves hold large jars of “penny” candy. Scoop out your desired amount of Mary Janes, Swedish Fish, Black Jacks or Tootsie Rolls. In the mood for ice cream? The freezer holds about 16 varieties of tasty flavors from Mackinac Island Creamery and organic and vegan selections from Reilly Craft Creamery of Detroit. After a few different sample tastes I choose the coffee chip, such a nice deep coffee flavor and big chunks of dark chocolate, yum. Kris is having the salty caramel, so good! We sit at a table in an area resembling a library, bookshelves run floor to ceiling and are packed with thick volumes, vintage board games and a children’s section complete with tea sets, wooden puzzles and books are all for customer use. On the way out I check out the variety of coffee beans, bulk chocolates, nuts and popcorn. So many things to try, we’ll have to come back often…..



Marine City: Sweetness OD

10 May

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If you haven’t been to Marine City in a while (or ever) you need to put it on your list of places to visit. This quaint city along the west bank of the St. Clair River has a newly vibrant downtown that includes restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, waterfront parks, a public beach and two live theatres. There’s even a car Ferry that will take you across the river to Sombra, Ontario Canada. Roughly 50 miles northeast of Detroit it’s perfect for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Today we are seeing a matinée performance of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka at the River Bank Theatre, first we’re having lunch at the Marine City Fish Company. We arrive before the theatre rush; the eatery specializes in local fresh fish, house made pasta, house-smoked ribs and smoked salmon. We’ve selected the BLT: house-smoked brown sugar bacon, white cheddar, tomato, greens and  creole mayo on a grilled french roll. The bacon is crisp, the brown sugar and creole seasoning work well together, yum. The smoked salmon salad starts with a generous portion of baby greens, onion, tomato, cucumber, gourmet cheeses and of course, the house-smoked salmon; the cherry vinaigrette is a nice touch. When we’re finished I notice there isn’t an empty seat in the place. There’s still time before the show, let’s go get dessert.

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The Sweet Tooth moved into its new location earlier this year, the larger space allows the chocolates to be made on-site and includes a rentable room for parties. The man behind the chocolate is Marine City’s own Candy Man, Todd May. Todd has transformed the shop into a Wonka wonderland! Candy bars wear Wonka labels straight out of the movie, other Wonka candy varieties are nestled together on a table display. Whirly Pops and Unicorn Horn suckers are a rainbow of colors, big glass jars hold jaw breakers, suckers and gumballs. Big wooden cases display vintage candy signs and retro candy from the 50’s-70’s.

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On the left side of the shop glass cases display handmade chocolates from truffles, barks and clusters to turtles, toffee and pretzels dipped and sprinkled a half-dozen different ways; a dazzling array of bulk bins line the other wall. The Sweet Tooth also sells Michigan’s own Hudsonville Ice Cream, that’s what I’m having, if I can just decide which flavor….. In the meantime Kris decides on toffee and a chocolate dipped Nutter Butter, I order a scoop of Sleeping Bear Dunes Bear Hug in a cup, best decision I’ve made today. Deep chocolate ice cream, thick caramel swirl and chocolate covered cashews, delicious.

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When we’ve finished we walk down Water Street three doors to the River Bank Theatre. Originally the Marine Savings Bank, the brick and stone building was constructed in the early 1900’s. The structure was converted to a theatre seating 179 patrons with tiered and box seating; the vaults and architectural details remain, love that. Wonka has taken over the theatre, framed posters of lickable wallpaper hang in the lobby. Bank vaults are visible, fascinating to be able to look at them up close. Heading to the theatre entrance we’re handed programs and shown to our seats.

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We’re sitting in the last row, we have a wonderful overall view of the space; decorative plaster has been restored, fancy medallions and highly detailed moldings surround the interior. Two staff members from The Sweet Tooth hold old-fashioned cigarette-girl-type-boxes filled with Wonka bars on stage, patrons stand in line for Nestle Crunch, Reese’s and Cookies and Cream bars (wrapped in Wonka labels, of course) in hopes that they might be the lucky recipient of a ‘golden ticket’. Before the show starts winners raise their hand, they each receive a Sweet Tooth gift card.

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The lights dim and the show begins, Willy Wonka emerges from box seating, as he descends the staircase to the stage he sings Pure Imagination and our ride to the Wonka factory begins. The sets are colorful, creative and downright fun, all of our favorite golden ticket winners are here, audience members can’t help sing along to songs ingrained in our memories– The Candy Man, I’ve got a Golden Ticket, I Want It Now, etc. Oh, I can’t forget the Oompa Loompas, elementary-aged children dressed in white overalls, orange-faced, wearing green wigs, singing and dancing—adorable. As all good stories go, they all lived happily ever after. In the wise words of Willy Wonka “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it.” Now get out there and have some fun! 


10 Sep

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Northville is about 30 miles northwest of Detroit and has a surprisingly industrial heritage. The city was the location of Henry Ford’s first Village Industries factory. Mr Ford purchased the former Northville Mills building in 1919, eventually that building was razed and a larger one (designed by none other than Albert Kahn) built across the street that would provide valves for every Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicle built. The theory was by having small factories in rural communities a farmer’s income would be stabilized through the winter months, they were given a leave of absence to return to working on the farm. In 1972 Ford Motor Company donated the original building site to be used as a Historic Village, Mill Race Village was born.

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Operated by the Northville Historical Society, Mill Race Village is populated with buildings that were slated to be razed, preserving  architecture, furnishings and the lifestyle of the 19th century. On our way into the village we pass the Bell Pier, the 24″ bell was manufactured by the American Bell Foundry that operated in Northville from the 1890’s to the 1930’s; they were well-known for their dinner bells, bells for churches, factories, schools and farms. Crossing the wooden bridge we find ourselves in an old-fashioned village. We wander into a small home built circa 1889 that is now used as weaver’s studio, lovely textiles such as rugs, tablecloths and blankets are on display, a woman demonstrates how a loom operates. Pretty flower gardens fill front yards, huge Hydrangea bloom in beds, Black-eyed Susan’s and phlox add bursts of color.

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The Yerkes House built in 1873 is a gorgeous example of the Carpenter Gothic style; the green and tan beauty is adorned with ornate trim and decoration, I’m particularly fond of the pointed windows. The size of the home, furnishings and housewares convey the wealth of the family, the floating staircase is my favorite feature. Next we walk over to the river, water gently flows from one level to another, don’t miss the view!  The Hunter House built in 1851 is classic Greek Revival, it was moved to the village in 1972 from its original location on Main Street at Griswold.

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More people arrive as it gets later in the day, making it look like a bustling village. The New School Church is air-conditioned, we are grateful for that. This building has served many purposes from church to school, a barracks and then as the Northville library for 70 years. It can be rented for weddings, parties and meetings. Wash Oak school was the typical one-room schoolhouse we have all heard about, rows of desks await children, the flag hanging near the blackboard only has 47 stars. There’s activity at the Hirsch Blacksmith shop, a “smithy” is demonstrating his craft for visitors. The other side of this replica building houses rotating exhibit space, Kris and I enjoy the Silver Springs carbonated beverages display, fruity drinks such as the Lime Rickey were bottled right here in Northville.

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One of Northville’s oldest structures, built circa 1831, the Cady Inn was once a boarding house and stagecoach stop before it began serving hungry diners. These days the Historical Society Offices and Archives are located here; this space is also available for rental. The temperature continues to rise; at the General Store we purchase bottles of cold water and admire the original tin ceiling. This was the last timber-framed building standing in downtown Northville before being taken apart piece by piece and reconstructed on this spot. Outside we quench our thirst as we watch a resident squirrel enjoy an afternoon snack. Next door we stop in at the Interurban Station; this tiny building was originally the waiting room for Farmington’s transit system. A map of the interurban train line hangs on the wall, thick red lines trace routes from Detroit to Port Huron, Flint, Toledo and Ann Arbor.

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Downtown Northville still retains that small-town atmosphere despite its recent growth spurt. Grand Victorian era homes fill neighborhood streets, most built before 1930; old-fashioned street lamps and benches line Main Street, very quaint. We are having lunch at Garage Grill & Fuel Bar, a cool Art Deco style gas station-turned restaurant. Built in 1940 as a Gulf Oil gas station, it’s had many incarnations through the years: Sunoco gas station, Chrysler dealership, dry cleaner and what we remember it as, a garden shop. After a complete renovation it opened in 2012 as Garage.

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The interior decor plays homage to the structures origins; air pump, gas pump, vintage toys, photographs and a bunch of automotive memorabilia. The hanging light fixtures are pure deco, did I mention the booth seating is done in Levi’s? Just as we finish our salad our Big Sicilian pizza arrives, no pizza stands here, just Texaco oil cans! The pizza is covered with pepperoni, house-made sausage, prosciutto, bacon, red sauce and mozzarella, so flavorful, absolutely delicious! On the way out we have a peek at the fully restored 1930 Ford Model A in the back, sweet.

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Walking down Main Street we stumble across Browndog Creamery & Dessert Bar, we know what will happen if we go in, but we can’t resist. The shop makes small-batch ice cream and desserts all in house; the baked goods are tempting, but what’s better on a hot summer day than ice cream? Flavors are unique, french press mocha, triple vanilla, pumpkin road, and one I had to try, New Holland Poet Oatmeal Stout—-it has a nice taste. In the end we walked out with one of those waffle cones dipped in chocolate, smothered in sprinkles and filled with Cookie Monster ice cream. Don’t let the blue coloring throw you, it’s pretty tasty, a vanilla-ish base loaded with a variety of cookie pieces. We join other leisure-seekers in the attractive town square; tall grasses and trailing petunia emerge from large urns, we finish our ice cream cone to the sound of water splashing in the fountain, such a nice place to relax.

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It seems no matter where we find ourselves in the metro area we are always learning, always discovering, and  best of all, having a great time!