Sunday, December 30, 2012

Detroit 1-8-7

A few years ago, when I first heard about a cop drama being shot in Detroit, I was skeptical. There's certainly enough crime to go around in that city, but the police force is a lot more strapped for cash than departments in, say, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, or really anywhere I can think of outside of my home state. If the show succeeded, it would bring in a lot of much needed cash. The odds, though, seemed a bit against it. Especially after the reaction of a former Detroit police officer himself was revealed the day after the premiere. He wasn't negative, but he was certainly amused. The cars were too new, too nice, and I think he mentioned Detroit losing its forensics lab, considerably delaying many cases. (I wish I could find this and link it, but it has long since been buried by the internet.)

Detroit 1-8-7, whose title doesn't even make sense considering 1-8-7 is California penal code, not Michigan, which, contrary to LA's self-absorbed beliefs, is not familiar to the majority of Americans, was predictably canceled in its first season. I forgot about it - I'm sure a lot of people did - then I noticed it while browsing the DVD shelves at the Ann Arbor library and thought, "Why not?" 

As has been popularly noted, the first episode is pretty awful. The original concept was as a mocumentary, and it shows. They do pack in a lot of Detroityness. For example, a pair of cops eat lunch and reminisce at American Coney Island, which I have visited myself (and it was delicious). No mention of Lafayette Coney Island next door, however. What an oversight! (Tongue in cheek.) One of the 

Another oversight is the use of the word "soda." It's true that I do know some local Michiganders who naturally use the word soda. Hearing it in the show did make me giggle just a little, though. "Pop" is most definitely the king out here, and if they were really trying to be so firm about local color, they would have said pop. This actually became a bit of a running gag with a few future mentions of pop versus soda, including this zinger "they don't say soda here, they say pop... everyone knows that."

The dialogue in the show is actually pretty good and the characters sound natural, not melodramatic as in other cop shows, the main reason I don't really watch them. (My favorite police drama is Castle.) The most serious character is Detective Louis Fitch played by Michael Imperioli, whose beautiful brown eyes are very much sigh-worthy. His relationship with his new partner Detective Damon Washington is... cute. At first, in classic fashion, he starts off gruff and antagonistic. "Why must I be saddled with this green, overenthusiastic newb? I am a loner, man! You don't understand captain!" (My paraphrasing.) Thankfully, it quickly changes after Washington gets shot at the end of the first episode, a rather predictable outcome considering throughout the episode Washington has been expecting the birth of his baby, receiving numerous calls from his anxious wife. 
Which brings up another recurring gag: Washington's wife constantly calling him on his cellphone while he is in the midst of working a case. Fitch rides him constantly about it, even taking to calling him on his cell phone  to discuss their case when they are standing right next to each other. 

Other pairings include Det. Ariana Sanchez and Det. John Stone, newly transferred from narcotics, Sgt. Jesse Longford, who often spouts off Italian despite not being Italian (his wife was), and Det. Vikram Mahajan. The banter of the latter two is pretty enjoyable and generally light-hearted. Actually, they remind me a bit of detectives Esposito and Ryan from Castle. Aisha Hinds makes a great head of homicide in the form of Lt. Maureen Mason. 

Another main character, perhaps overlooked, is the city of Detroit itself. It's admittedly a thrill to see all of these places that I've been to and driven by flash across my television screen. And the characters talk about Woodward and Ferndale, and all kinds of places and things that I talk about, too. It makes them believable and shows that the creators of the show really did try, which I appreciate. 

It's the characters that make a show for me, and these characters are solid and definitely do not paint Detroit police officers in a bad light. They are portrayed as noble in a lot of ways. It may only be one season of a short-lived show, but it's enjoyable and might have deserved more than it got. Also, the musical soundtrack is pretty gold.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eight Days A Week

Today marked 7 days in a row of working. I work again tomorrow, which means I will have worked 8 days in a row, a feat I have not managed in many months. Once, back in 2006, I believe, I worked every single day during the month of December minus 2 days. I spent the 3rd of the month moving in the aftermath of an ice storm, and Christmas day, when all 3 of my places of employment were closed. I remember feeling like a total zombie and concluding that I could never do such a thing ever again.

Much to my surprise, this week turned out to be not entirely exhausting. Only once did I work both jobs in the same day. The rest of the time was one job at a time with no more than 6 hours at a stretch. I think I did very well! And I don't feel like killing anyone. (Of course, there is still tomorrow...)

Today, since I only worked 2 hours, I was able to have enough free time to pick up some wine for Christmas at my mother's plus a last minute gift, then come home, relax, eat a microwavable burrito that was really more like beef stew wrapped in a tortilla than a burrito (still tasty), and take my roommate Kimmy to the airport. She is off to visit her friends and family in California through the new year. Bon voyage, Kimmy! Your kitty Sawyer already misses you. He pooped on the floor in protest.

I was later joined at home by my other roommate Bri and her boyfriend. We sat and chatted while they dined on Thai food and awaited my own boyfriend's arrival. Then the four of us gathered around the TV and Greg figured out how to re-hook up my VCR so we could watch and heckle A Muppet Family Christmas, which I don't remember ever watching, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Yes, the movie from 1964. Santa was such a dick! And I think we determined that Hermey might have had his gender reassigned at birth, or was possibly a drag king. Good times.

Trivia: Billie Mae Richards, the actress who voiced Rudolph continued acting through 2004 when she appeared in a Care Bears short video. She passed away in 2010.

Well, sine this is the night before Christmas Eve, I will bid everyone good night, good luck, and a very happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Am I Listening To?: New Orleans Christmas

It does exist.
I enjoy collecting atypical, uncommon music, such as my collection of Disney songs in non-English languages - Hercules in French, Mulan in Chinese, the Little Mermaid in Japanese, etc - and one of the Sailor Moon Christmas albums to name a few. 

Thus, I have never been one for terribly typical holiday music either. I'm not going to say that the artists on Putumayo Presents: New Orleans Christmas are obscure or unknown because my boyfriend Greg recognized about half of them off the top of his head. (He went to college in New Orleans and still refers to the city as home.)

Jazzier than the Jazz Christmas CD.
What is different about this collection of holiday tunes is their distinctly New Orleans flare. Papa Don Vappie's New Orleans Jazz Band's rendition of "Please Come Home For Christmas" is swingin' and booty shakin', not the moody downer that I tend to think of it as. ''Zat You, Santa Claus?" features the unique and classy voice of Ingrid Lucia, whom I will be looking into further as a result of her catchy addition to this album.

I bought this CD from Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room. There was another CD called A Jazz & Blues Christmas also produced by Putumayo, but that CD was not nearly as jazzy as the New Orleans CD. (It was, however, pretty bluesy, and I still liked it, I just wasn't moved to purchase it.)

Other tracks are "Christmas in New Orleans" by James Andrews, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Ellis Marsalis, "Santa's Second Line" by New Birth Brass Band, and "Holiday Time in New Orleans" by the Dukes of Dixieland, which offers the listener a sort of tour of New Orleans during the holiday season. (Side note: I refuse to refer to New Orleans as "the Big Easy" since that was the nickname of a girl I dated in college.)

If you're looking for some new, lively holiday music this year that isn't too far out there, check this CD out. My roommate Kimmy and I listened to it whole she made beignets for our Roommate Christmas celebration, really setting the right tone. There was plenty of booty waggling, I promise you. I can't wait to play it for my mother and brother who both appreciate some good jazzy tunes.

I hope everyone had a happy Hanukkah and, in case I don't have much chance to write next week, a merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Craft Fairs Around Ann Arbor

There are many street, art, and craft fairs throughout the Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro areas all through the spring and summer, such as the DIY Street Fair I attended in Ferndale in Septembe, and the Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair that I missed this year, but explored last year. During the month of December, however, many craft fairs pop up just in time to buy presents for the winter holidays. 

This past Saturday was host to a number of craft fairs. I had intended to go to DIYpsi, but since I worked at 2pm downtown, I elected to check out Tiny Expo at 220 Felch Street, just a few blocks north of Crazy Wisdom. 

One of the locations hosting Tiny Expo was Metal, a "design and fabrication studio." It was fun to wander around the cramped, industrial complex, and there were some really cool T-shirts and jewelry that I would have been more interested in if I'd had more money. This isn't to say items were overpriced, I am just poor, and I've already spent a lot of money on presents this month. 

I recognized a few vendors from the Ferndale DIY Street Fair, such as the guy selling T-shirts of various creatures being kidnapped by aliens. I would love the pirates being kidnapped by aliens T-shirt, but I just don't have the money. My roommate Kimmy particularly enjoyed Bigfoot being kidnapped by aliens. 

The other shop playing host to Tiny Expo was Pot & Box, a container gardening store. I don't know about Bri, but Kimmy and I were quite delighted by the discovery of Pot & Box. I was thinking that perhaps if I made little gardens in clear glass containers, the cats would be discouraged from destroying them. Or they would go all Godzilla on them. An experiment that must wait until I have more disposable income, I think. 

A friend of mine recently participated in a craft fair out in Kalamazoo, and this has bolstered my hope to have a table myself one day. I guess that means I need to get cracking this winter and add more to my box of crafts. So far it is filled with reusable coffee sleeves. I've succeeded in making two kinds of hats and some fingerless gloves, so I thought I would make sets of matching gloves, hats, and scarves. 

Keep calm and craft on!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Jumpstarting the Holidays in Metro Detroit

I guess the day after Thanksgiving is the unofficial start to the Chrismukkah season, though I did have a woman rather cross with me that we hadn't put out menorahs yet at Crazy Wisdom on November 1st. (If you spot the unintended pun, you're a bad person.) I realize Hanukkah starts on December 8th this year, but come on. 

Anyway, my roommates and I did not wait until it was December to put up our tree and decorate it. Kimmy and I had a lot of fun shopping for new ornaments at the World Market in Portage/Kalamazoo while we were visiting my mother. I bought a little miniature tea set ornament and, best of all, a purple dragon!! The store had two, so I bought them both and gave one to my brother and his family. 

This past Wednesday, I met up with my boyfriend Greg at his house in Dearborn Heights, and we drove through the impressive light display that is set up along Hines Drive every year called the Wayne County Lightfest. You pay $5 per vehicle to get in, and the drive is just shy of 5 miles long. Mostly the displays are Christmas themed, but there are also scenes for Hanukkah and Kwana, as well as many, many nondenominational Santa Claus and toy light-up scenes. If you are in the Detroit area and enjoy holiday light displays, you cannot miss this one.

If you live around Ann Arbor, you may already know about this one, but I've lived here for a few years now, and it was new to me. I'm talking about Midnight Madness, which takes place on the Friday after Black Friday as a way to promote local holiday shopping. Restaurants in downtown Ann Arbor offer drinks specials or half off appetizers, etc, while the shops run sales and have special events like music or caroling, sometimes offering special treats, and participants stay open until midnight. In Kerrytown, there was a wine tasting. 

Crazy Wisdom usually stays open until 11pm on Fridays anyway, so the extra hour wasn't too much of a stretch for me, and I had two helpers that night instead of one. And am I ever glad I did! It isn't called Midnight Madness for nothing. We had a near nonstop line from when I got there at 7pm until just after 11pm. It was nuts! The store was a mess, and there was nothing I could to clean it up because I was shackled to the register. It broke my hear to see so many empty easels and the books on the tables in shambles. *sob sob* But the ridiculously high sales made up for it. To say simply that Midnight Madness was a success for us wee little local shops is a gross understatement. 

Midnight Madness really is a great time. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and elated to get some great deals. Some people didn't know there was anything special going on and were enticed to "go back in," as one man put it, to buy more things. People around Ann Arbor should check it out. I think it's a better time than Black Friday at any rate. 

It turns out that Kerrytown does a lot for the December holidays. The same night as Midnight Madness they host KindleFest, which includes a children's lantern parade, as well as a visit from St. Nicholas and Krampus. This Friday the 7th, from 4pm to 9pm, is the Kerrytown Holiday Greens and Gift Market with community-wide caroling and fires for roasting marshmallows and keeping warm. (Though December has been unseasonably warm so far for Michigan. Not that Michigan is ever really seasonable. We're a very nonconformist state.) 

If you are looking for more things to do around Detroit to brighten your Christmas or Hanukkah or Solstice or what-have-you, there is also Christmas at the Crossroads Village and Huckleberry Railroad in Flint, and, of course, Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village. I was very sorry to have missed Noel Night this year. (Read about Noel Night on the Huffington Post.) Here is a rundown of  Noel Night 2011, including some pictures. 

Well, that is what I have been up to this past week. I hope I've given some of you some fun ideas for the approaching holidays, and if you missed out on some events, like Midnight Madness and Noel Night, I hope you mark them on your calendars for next year. Winter greetings, everyone!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving, instead of driving to Kalamazoo to have dinner with my family, I stayed on this side of the state and had dinner with my boyfriend Greg's family. I'm not sure if I've ever done Thanksgiving with a significant other's family before. Christmas, yes. Possibly New Year's. Maybe other holidays. But Thanksgiving seems to have been largely reserved for my own clan.

Greg and I helped prepare dinner with his aunt, who was hosting. I made herb butter for the rolls while Greg made the stuffing for the turkey. I also assembled the salad complete with homemade dressing per the recipe in his aunt's Thanksgiving dinner three ring binder. I really think having a binder or notebook with recipe pertaining to a specific holiday is a pretty grand idea. Especially when those holidays have certain requirements or expectations. Like turkey, and stuffing, and casseroles. You know what I mean.

There were only five of us at dinner, which is small for me when it comes to family gatherings. Greg's mother had left that morning to spend Thanksgiving with her daughter's family, so that lowered the numbers some. I enjoyed myself, and the food was fabulous!

On Saturday, my roommate Kimmy and I popped some Christmas music into my car stereo and headed to Kalamazoo for a gathering of my family. Greg was working, so he couldn't come with us. Along the way, we stopped at Sweetwaters Donut Mill for the best donuts ever. I later had a red velvet cake donut with Neapolitan ice cream on top. It was so delicious. 

It was great to see my brother and his family again. My baby nephew is crawling now and can even pull himself upright with the use of immobile objects. He tried to pull himself up using the dog's tail, but it didn't work out.

We were supposed to decorate my mother's Christmas tree, however, the box of ornaments were nowhere to be found. Until after half the guests had left for home and Kimmy and I went down to the basement to retrieve our own Christmas tree to bring back to Belleville with us. Kimmy found the ornaments tote against the wall beneath another tote. So she and I ended up decorating the tree with my mother and her new friend. We also all watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, a family tradition. (God, I love that movie. Minus the part with the cat. That bit annoys me.)

So Thanksgiving was a success for me, and I even managed to relax a little! And today, I had the tastiest leftover turkey sandwiches. Slices of juicy white turkey meat between an everything pretzel bagel slim with a slice of Muenster cheese warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds. Little slice of food paradise.

Clipart from the Best Collection of Webimages & Clipart. First image modified by me to include text.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding Steampunk in Ann Arbor

Over the summer, Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan had a steampunk themed front window display. Time passed, and when the window displays changed, the steampunk display moved inside, where it continued to garner quite a bit of attention. Being a fan of steampunk myself, I often wore a T-shirt while I worked in the bookshop with a clockwork seahorse on it, prompting a number of conversations with customers about steampunk. This is how I learned about the Steampunk Michigan Facebook Group.

Now, at Crazy Wisdom, instead of just a short-lived window display, or a shelf of extra items on their way out of the store, there is an entire section devoted to steampunk. Here you will find novels, like the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger, or The Mammoth Book of Steampunk by Sean Wallace. A recent acquisition that I am personally quite fond of is Steampunk Fashion. I couldn't find this particular one in the online shop yet, but there are a number of steampunk fashion books that I did find. In fact, a quick search for "steampunk" and "clockwork" resulted in a great many hits! All of these books can be ordered through the store if they aren't there already. If you order them online, you get 10% off the cover price, and can pick them up from the store in person at no additional cost, or have them shipped to your house for a small shipping cost.

In addition to books, Crazy Wisdom also carries a modest collection of steampunk jewelry scattered about the store, and a few pieces of art and wallscrolls, too. Strangeling artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith has also been dabbling in steampunk, and you will find statuettes, prints, and others of her work at Crazy Wisdom. One of my personal favorite little statues, though I don't know the artist, is a clockwork dragon which has made appearances as a standalone figure and perched on a box. And I can't forget the steampunk tarot deck! (And matching bag.) I want to buy it and one day make some shadow boxes with it. 

So if you live near Ann Arbor, Detroit, or even in the Toledo, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo areas, and you are looking for places to indulge in your steampunk passions, make your way to 114 S. Main St in Ann Arbor, MI. In fact, come dressed up. I'd love to talk shop with you. 

Note to steampunk artists and artisans: Looking for a place to sell your steampunk wares? Click here for Crazy Wisdom's vendor policies

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What Am I Listening To?: ZZ Ward "Til the Casket Drops"

One of the perks working in a bookstore is that we get sent all kinds of freebie promo items. Usually this means books, but occasionally we also get sample CDs. One such CD that I picked up a couple months back featured a number of new lady artists that I had never heard of before. I popped it in my car's player on my way home that night and was immediately impressed.

The first track was called "Til the Casket Drops." The lyrics - specifically the use of the of word casket - certainly caught my attention, but it was the singer's voice that really grabbed me. West Coast based ZZ Ward's voice is strong, full, and fearless. Her bluesy tones and attitude fill a void in my life that I didn't realize was there. When the second track "Move Like U Stole It," also by ZZ Ward started, I knew I had to find out more about this woman.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot of info out about her yet. Her debut album Til the Casket Drops wasn't due out until October 16th (coincidentally, right before my birthday). Wikipedia couldn't even tell me what ZZ stood for. I found her Facebook page and clicked like, something I do very rarely because I'm terrible at keeping up with celebrities I "like," which is how I discovered she had played in Ann Arbor the week before at the Blind Pig. Ugh! Come back, ZZ! I want to see you perform live!

More digging turned up this video on YouTube for the song "Til the Casket Drops" that played on ABC as a promo for season three of their show Pretty Little Liars. This was my first real glimpse of ZZ, and I was struck by her style. Love the hat! Love the jacket! Love the hair, too. She is one classy young woman. Also, I think the video was pretty seamlessly combined with clips from the show (which I have never seen), so good job on that end, too.

Naturally, one video led to another, and I found this great acoustic of "Move Like U Stole It," a song that I find endearing because it is about seducing a nerdy guy. The mentions of both "glasses" and a "bow tie" of course make me think of Doctor Who, too. Hey, I can't help being a bit nerdy myself. It's in my blood!

If you're into Soundcloud, ZZ Ward has two sets posted, her mixtape Eleven Roses that features some, but not all of the songs also on her debut album, and her EP Criminal. As I said above Til the Casket Drops came out on October 16th, and my dear roommate Kimmy bought it for me for my birthday. I love it. It's one of those albums I can play in my car and dance to. In fact, I am not sure I could sit still while any of these songs are playing. Even "Last Love Song," a slower, prettier tune, has my body grooving. 

If you enjoy strong female vocals and/or a more bluesy tone to your music, check this woman out! I really look forward to following her career. I hope you do, too.

Video for "Put the Gun Down":

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween 2012 Part II

I wish I had more of an update. Greg and I ended up not going to the haunted hay ride because I was feeling too sick. I continued to feel sick off and on over the next few days, including on Halloween night. 

I was actually a little surprised that we didn't have any trick-or-treaters at our apartment. Our doors face the outside world (as opposed to an inside hallway like the previous apartment), and I know there are tons of children around here. It's probably good that they didn't stop by, though, since the three of us all forgot to buy candy. Even our party on the previous Saturday was candy-less. 

Since my dragon horns broke a few days before, and my attempt to fix them did not work out, I had to come up with a new costume. I decided on a demon-ish thingie. I clipped my hair up with two barrettes shaped like bat wings, did my eyes all dark, and bought fake black nails from CVS that I had half a dozen compliments on since I refuse to take them off because they look so cool. Seriously, everyone thinks I got some high-end manicure, but nope. I think they were $7, and I probably have enough nails in there to put on another set once these fall off. 

While waiting for Greg to get off work and come get me, I played with make-up and nails in my room while watching the original Dark Shadows on my laptop. (I'm only on episode 100, so no vampires yet, just some ghosts and attempted corporate takeovers.) Then we headed out to explore downtown Ann Arbor because everything Halloweeny seemed to have shut down. It's like Halloween was canceled or something.

As we passed by the Ravens Club on Main, we found a sign out front attached to the window advertising live New Orleans jazz music. Being hungry, and having been intrigued by the Ravens Club for some time without ever having gone inside, we decided to pop in and have a late dinner if the kitchen was still open. It was. I ordered the roasted chicken on a bed of greens with an herb butter sauce that was fabulous, and Greg got rabbit gnocchi, which he also enjoyed.

I was told by a friend that the Ravens Club is where the local bartenders go to drink. I believe it, too, because the drink menu is both fancy and extensive. It's the second place I have seen "sidecar" on the menu. (The other being Old Town Tavern, also in Ann Arbor, a block over from Main.) I ended up ordering the #2, a vodka cocktail with blackberry puree, among other goodies. I believe Greg ordered the New York Sour, which had egg white in it, which I think is weird. It tasted all right, though. 

The music was a bit loud, but enjoyable, and we were not the only people dressed up for the holiday. A few tables over was a girl being mauled by a bear. She had strapped a giant teddy bear to her back and smeared fake blood all over her throat and T-shirt. Two Waldoes walked in while we were eating, one male and one female. I don't remember any other costumes specifically. I thought the being mauled by a bear one was clever and told my roommate Bri she should do that next year. Bro is from Alaska, and somehow Alaska and being mauled by a bear go together in my head. 

After dinner and drinks, I wanted ice cream, so Greg and I drove over to Steak 'n Shake in Ypsi for some milkshakes. I suddenly realized that I hadn't had their seasonal shakes yet, an activity I used to partake in every year in Kalamazoo. I got a caramel apple milkshake and Greg got the new winter seasonal white chocolate shake with sprinkles. 

When we left Steak 'n Shake at about one in the morning, we noticed two people making out in the back seat of the car parked in front of us, much to our amusement. I think this should be the new trend. Next Halloween, everyone go to Steak 'n Shake and make-out in the parking lot. It could be fun! Those two certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves. If you don't have a Steak 'n Shake near you, then you just miss out. Southern Californians, I suggest you try Vegas.

Happy fall, everybody!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween 2012 Part I

First off, I need to share this image that I made with everyone. My apartment is currently located on the edge of the giant storm that is about to clash with Hurricane Sandy, which prompted my roommate Bri to head out and buy candles and extra batteries while I took stock of my canned goods and assembled what candles and lighters I could find in the apartment on the dining room table just in case
Anyway. To kick off the Halloween celebrations, my boyfriend Greg and I went to the Ann Arbor Michigan Theater's showing of Nosferatu with live organ accompaniment, which, apparently, they do every year. The man who plays the organ does the score himself and changes it up every year so as to keep things interesting for returning patrons, which I think is pretty damn impressive, not to mention that he plays basically nonstop for the entire film, which has to take some stamina. 

I believe this is the first time outside of a church that I have listened to organ music on this scale, and the effect is quite different from church services. I found that the full range of the organ was displayed while accompanying the film. Not only was there eerie music, but church bells donging out the time, knocks on doors, and the rat-a-tat-tat of a drummer delivering a message to the town. Very cool. And the Michigan Theater's organ is the original organ that was installed in the 1920s, one of only about 40 still in their original homes in the United States today. 

As slow, somewhat simple, and plagiaristic as Nosferatu may be, I do like that it is the woman who figures out how to defeat the vampire and saves everyone's asses in the end. Though I have always thought that Ellen (Nos' version of Dracula's Mina) looked like a man. For years I wondered if German women really were just that masculine looking, but a trip to Germany in 2006 informed me that not all of them are. I will say that the Germans do tend to be a hardy folk, but I don't see this as a bad thing. 

MOVING ALONG...

On Saturday night, my apartment was host to a Halloween party. Not everyone who said they would showed up, but I think it was a great turnout anyhow. At one point, we did seem pretty filled to the gills in here. And we had so much food! I really didn't expect there to be so much. We're supplied on nachos for the next season. 

There was also some Halloween-themed music, good conversation, and the best party game ever, Telestrations. If you're familiar with Apples to Apples, Telestrations is better. If you're sick of Apples to Apples, try moving on to Telestrations. I seriously doubt you will be disappointed. Telestrations has a point system that we regularly ignore because the hilarity that ensues is reward enough.

I am hoping that tonight Greg and I can go on a haunted hayride. If so, that will be mentioned in Halloween 2012 Part II, which will be the title of next week's blog (unless some serious shit goes down before then, which really wouldn't surprise me considering the way things have been going lately). We're hoping to be able to go to this free haunted house thingy in Ann Arbor on Halloween night. We'll see about that, too.

Happy Halloween, folks! (And bitches!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another Busy Weekend, Another Chapter in Life Begins

According to the Western World's figuring of age, this past Saturday, I turned thirty. Three zero. I am in my third decade. And how do I feel? Accomplished. I did more in my twenties than I ever dreamed I would when I was a little kid. Sure, back then, I thought I'd be married by now, possibly even have a child like parents before me (my father was thirty when I was born), but the world has also changed.

When I was twenty-five, I uprooted myself and moved to California. Boy, what a ride that was! Moving to San Francisco was a dream I'd had as a kid, and had mostly shelved after college. I might not have come back to Michigan if my father had not become ill and eventually passed away (though San Francisco is outrageously expensive, and I had to survive off of free day-old bagels for a couple of months there). I am glad that I did move back, though, because it meant meeting Greg, and my relationship with him is truly one of my greatest accomplishments. 

Funny story. I remember thinking way back then that it was okay for me to be a fan of the San Francisco Giants - that I wasn't betraying the Tigers - because what were the odds that they'd ever play each other in the World Series? Pretty damn good, as it turns out! Or maybe I jinxed myself. Since the Giants won in 2010 (I was back in Michigan at that point, so I missed out on the revelry), I would be especially pleased if the Tigers won this time. Though I'll honestly be happy with either outcome. (Sorry, Michiganders! Go, Tigers!)

Since I spent last year in Ann Arbor celebrating my birthday with friends, I decided to travel to Kalamazoo this year and spend it with friends I don't see very often and family, whom I also don't see very often. My older niece shares my birthday and turned thirteen (she is not an official member of the internet), so it was very cool to celebrate with her again. She is blossoming into one awesome chica. 

The night of my birthday, my roomie Kimmy, my boyfriend Greg, and I carpooled down to my favorite spot in Kalamazoo, Olde Peninsula Brewpub. It was interesting as the place had been invaded by zombies. I am glad I had a heads up that Kalamazoo was trying to break Grand Rapids record of the most zombies in one place because I can't imagine anyone's reaction to seeing zombies popping up as we drove down the street. I was highly amused and quickly lost count when we tried to play "Count the Zombies." Some excellent quotes include, "Was that a zombie? I thought it was a hipster," and "They've gained technology! SHIT!"

Sunday the 21st marked two years since my father passed. He has definitely made his presence known since then. Kimmy has reported hearing a man's voice in the house and seeing strange lights in the hallway at night. My mother told me last week that the lights above the mantel turned themselves on mysteriously, and that another time she saw Pa and he gave her a kiss. Plus, just a few days ago, my sister-in-law was filming my baby nephew crawling across the floor and captured orbs of light zipping around him rather in the fashion of lightening bugs. She re-filmed the area a few times trying to recreate the lights, but they did not appear again. It's possible their house is haunted, but it makes sense to me that the baby is just receiving a visit from his proud and happy Grandpa. 

My life has changed a lot in the last couple of years, so turning thirty really only felt like a minor step up. Hopefully, it continues to feel that way, and I will have just as many adventures in my thirties as I did in my twenties. Positive ones. I've really had my fill of negativity lately. I don't think I mentioned that I broke my toe last week. To end this on a positive note, I should get my car back by Wednesday, and I have Halloween night off, which means shenanigans! Whoooo! My next update will probably about our upcoming Halloween party. (I'm excited.)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Day at the Toledo Zoo

I like zoos. When I was a kid, trips to the zoo (usually Binder Park in Battle Creek or John Ball in Grand Rapids) were fun and educational. I saw so many animals I never would have had the chance to see any other way. As an adult, I have learned about all the different rescue and conservation efforts that zoos around the world have undertaken. Most animals (the not lazy ones) are probably happier in the wild, but there are a great many species that would be extinct or closer to extinction if not for these rescue efforts.

Having visited the Detroit Zoo last year with my roommate Kimmy, we decided this year that we would check out the Toledo Zoo, which so many of our friends and coworkers have insisted to us is "way better" than the Detroit Zoo. We were joined this trip by my loving boyfriend Greg, who is a good sport about going along with our antics and general goofiness. (His occasional goofiness came out at the zoo and was caught on camera!)

We never did decide if the Toledo Zoo was "better," but it definitely seemed quite a bit bigger. Greg said it was even bigger than when he was a kid. Since the weather was getting chilly, I think a lot of the animals were hanging out trying to keep warm, so we saw a lot of sleepy piles of fur. That's okay, though. At least we got to see them! And the weather stayed mostly pleasant.

The thing about the Toledo Zoo that everyone seemed so keen on was the Aquarium. I was expecting something bigger, but considering we were there on possibly the last day of the aquarium building being open before it underwent major remodeling that they expect to take years, it may well turn into something just as spectacular as I was imagining. The aquarium certainly had a lot of different kinds of fish, and we did spend a god amount of time there. However, it was only one building among many at the zoo, not an attraction onto itself. 

As you may have noticed from the pictures on this page, there are a number of statues and so forth that offer great photo opportunities! There is also, of course, face painting for a nominal fee, though none of us had it done. Speaking of paying for extras, the food, I thought, was quite reasonably priced and really pretty tasty. Kimmy got chicken tenders while Greg and I got burgers and fries. And it really was one tasty burger. The Carnivore Cafe had a surprising variety of offerings. 

Our visit lasted pretty much from open to close, and we had to rush through the last view exhibits before being ushered out the exit. If you go to the zoo, definitely plan to spend the whole day there. Naturally, we had to swing by the gift shop on the way out, but I was really disappointed by their merchandise. I'd been hoping to pick up a souvenir T-shirt, but the only kind they offered were "unisex," meaning designed for men. 

The only complaint that Kimmy had was that the animal enclosures seemed too small for the animals. I wondered if perhaps there were other accommodations elsewhere, and these were just their daytime hangouts. The winter quarters for certain animals that we passed by, though, did seems quite small and dull to me, too. The Toledo Zoo is no San Diego Zoo Safari Park (formerly known as the Wild Animal Park), but it is a very worthy zoo, and definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Surprisingly (to me, a Michigander), there are a number of things to do in Toledo. There's the Toledo Museum of Art, the Imagination Station, and the recently rechristened Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship (which is only open through Labor Day on the weekends, so I'll have to wait until next summer to see that one). I think we all agreed that there are definite reasons to return to Toledo for further exploration. Since it's only a 30 to 45 minute drive away, it seems kind of silly not to.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Return of the Skeletons

I'm terribly sorry for not updating this sooner. On Sunday, which this blog is about, I was out all day with my mother and boyfriend, Greg, in Northville, then had our weekly game night. Then on Monday, when I had planned to update, I was involved in a car accident. I'd say I'm fine, but the doctor I saw this morning about a sore neck sent me to get X-rays after she found a very sensitive spot on my spine. The jury is still out on the well-being of my car, as well. The front end was smashed in, though the engine was untouched, and I was able to drive it to the mechanic's shop. 
A Northville home overtaken by spiders.
Anyway, I wanted to post about Sunday's adventure. I've often told my mother about the various festivals and so forth that Greg, my roommate Kimmy, and I attend in Northville, MI. Since she decided to visit this past Sunday, I thought it would be fun to show her around Northville since it has such an adorable downtown, plus the internet informed me that the skeletons were back. Not too far from downtown are also Mill Race Village, which is open to the public complete with docents on Sundays, and Parmenter's Northville Cider Mill

Greg, Kimmy, and I went to Parmenter's last year and enjoyed cider, donuts, and a free wine tasting. We ended up buying a bottle of their cherry wine, one of the best cherry wines I have ever tasted. This year, my mother and I also enjoyed their cider and donuts, as well as a brief wine and hard cider tasting. We also discovered a little craft fair and quite the crowd! If I had known ahead of time, I would have brought cash and made a few purchases. My mother bought a nice dragonfly necklace, and by pooling our change together, I did walk away with a 1/4 pound of smooth and creamy chocolate mint fudge. 

Back downtown, we wandered through the shops that were open on Sunday, such as my favorite, Gardenviews. I always love to go in and see how they've decorated for the seasons. It's a store that I knew when first I found it that my mother would love, and I was not mistaken. Anyone visiting Northville must stop by. 

We next wandered to the Mill Race Village, and when it began to rain, we returned to downtown and grabbed some warm beverages from Next Chapter Bookstore and Bistro. There I had more hot cider, this time with spices and whipped cream on top. It was wonderful! And there was some lively banter with the man taking our orders.

Outside, along the street, we enjoyed viewing all the skeletons on display. Greg and I recognized some from last year (the skateboarders were back, as well as the old skeleton with the walker, though she was in a different spot), but there were definitely some new ones, some of which I have pictured here throughout this entry. 

I love it when a community gets together to do something clever to celebrate the season. I don't have any pictures because it was dark, but while picking up a pizza from downtown Belleville, Greg and I discovered the main street was lined with scarecrows! It's a contest, and anyone who'd like to may enter their own designed and decorated, life-size scarecrow. I wish I had known about it sooner so I could have put one together. Something to keep in mind for next year, I suppose. 

I think now I should take it easy, make some hot cocoa, or maybe eat a bowl of ice cream. I'm feeling a little sore from the accident. Alas!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

DIY Street Fair 2012

Every year, the city of Ferndale, Michigan is host to the DIY Street Fair, centered around E 9 Mile and Woodward. Admission is free, and not only are there countless booths of handmade jewelry, T-shirts, crocheted and knitted goodies, photographs and other pieces of art, but food tables galore, mostly from local restaurants (a good way to sample a city's fare, if you ask me) and a beer tent. Oh, and let's not forget the live music, which you get to enjoy at no extra cost. And the carnival rides, which might have cost something. I didn't ride any both due to a lack of interest, and an injured back.

Greg and I grabbed atchafalaya chicken sandwiches from the Howe's Bayou stand. They were really delicious! I would definitely give that restaurant a try sometime. For dessert we got ice cream from Treat Dreams, a local ice cream shop that features unusual flavors such as honey lavender, lemon basil, ube (purple yam), and Sunday breakfast. They have traditional flavors, too, which aren't as fun, though they are certainly tasty. I got mint chocolate chip. Greg got Stoli salted caramel.

We wandered around a bit, admiring some things and being confused by others, and I picked up two pairs of really fun earrings. One pair features images of a Ouija board, and one earring says "Wicked" while the other says "All signs point to yes." The other pair of earrings were bought from the same place and say "dream" and "create." Both pairs of earrings were made out of pennies. Very cool use for our next to worthless currency, and the pennies made them a good size and weight.

Although Greg had originally wanted to go to the fair to see one of the bans that was to play later that evening, the music for that stage was so loud and badly done, that we ended up leaving early and taking a stroll through Rust Belt Market, open late for the occasion. If you've never been to Rust Belt, and you live in the Detroit Metro area, do so! It's really fun and filled with antiques, crafts, donuts, handmade soaps, and local coffee. Rust Belt is only open on weekends, though, so plan your trip carefully.

I'm sorry that I don't have any pictures to share. The phone that I used to take the pictures recently drown, taking with it all my photos before I could send them to my email. (Very sad face.) I guess you'll just have to click the links and enjoy all the pretty, colorful pictures there.

Next year I'd like to re-visit the DIY Street Fair, hopefully with more money.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kerrytown Bookfest 2012


Part of my job at Crazy Wisdom is to work what they call offsites, which usually means a book festival or some other such gathering where we set up a table to sell books and spread the word of our existence. The tea room upstairs had a table set up at the Home Grown Festival in Ann Arbor, for example, and the day after, the book store had a table set up at the Kerrytown Bookfest.

None of us at the store, nor even anyone I spoke to, had heard of the Kerrytown Bookfest, yet this was their 10th year anniversary, and the first year our store had been invited to participate. None of us knew what to expect. I was intrigued at the prospect of both working a book festival, and checking out a book festival no one I encountered had heard of before. The location was the farmers' market, so outside, but covered in case the weather was bad. It wasn't, though. Chilly enough that I was grateful for my hoodie, but sunny and pleasant otherwise. 

I arrived at the store early that morning, and we pulled all of our stuff over in a wagon, since Kerrytown is only a few blocks away. We set up our table, crowded with books, and I was shown how to take credit card orders with one of those metal card impression thingies. The last time I had to use one was during the Great and Mysterious Blackout of 2011. So having had experience, I felt pretty good about the day. There was a calculator for people who had cash, and a handwritten receipt pad with pretty clear tags about what I was to fill out.

The Kerrytown Bookfest wasn't just about books, at least from the vendor's side. It was about networking. We had a few local authors come to our table and ask how to get our store to carry their books. There was also a fellow from the University of Michigan's writing department who was spreading the word about a book and writing festival he's trying to get going (more about that as information comes to me). 

On the little breaks I took to wander around and get something to eat and drink, I encountered a number of people - attendees and fellow vendors - who knew our store and were excited to see us represented at the festival. But it wasn't just a bunch of local bookstores out to showcase their wares, there were rare and used bookstores that had traveled from far off cities that I had never heard of (okay, probably not that far off considering Michigan isn't that large of a state), and more than a few craft vendors. I marveled over the creations of one woman who was crocheting adorable little monsters, aliens, and other creatures. I'm pretty sure one was an ood from Doctor Who! Another woman had knitted stuffed animals that could be turned inside out to become another animal, including an egg that turned into a bird and vice-versa. 

For lunch I bought a made-to-order duck sandwich from the little lunch counter inside the Kerrytown shops and a caramel latte from Sweetwaters located across from the lunch counter. Sweetwaters might be my favorite Ann Arbor-local coffee shop, but it's a tough choice. Roos Roast is very delicious, though their shop is tiny and their offerings limited. 

I didn't end up buying anything other than sustenance at the bookfest, but I enjoyed myself thoroughly. It's another one of those things I can't believe I got paid for. It affirmed for me that the book world is where I belong and where I love to be. Speaking with local authors was heartening and gave my hopes of more solid publications a boost. (Magazines and anthologies are all well and good, but I am selfish and want a book all to myself!)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Navy Week Detroit 2012

The War of 1812 may ring a bell for most people, but many aren't going to remember what it was about. That's not what this blog is about, however. This entry is about the 200 year celebration of Detroit setting the record as the only major American city to have ever surrendered to a foreign power. (Seriously, Detroit holds that title. You can read all about it here.) 

September 5th through the 10th was Navy Week in Detroit. Now, the Navy is cool and all, but the reason I wanted to go was the promise of a tour of the USS Niagara, a reconstruction of the original ship that won the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. A tall sailing ship docked at a port near moi? Yes, please! 

Since I didn't work until 7 that evening, my boyfriend Greg and I headed out that morning for Detroit's Riverwalk, where most of the activity was planned. In addition to the Niagara and other modern Navy vessels, there was a military band performing, and, inside the RenCen, there were a number of educational booths set up, including a table with people dressed up as sailors from 1812 and an array of what they would have carried with them on board ships. There were 12 year old sea biscuits that were still crumbly enough for me to easily break one in half, so I was less than impressed with their hardness.

But back to the ship! The USS Niagara is a fully functioning ship, and even offers cruises in which you can choose to work as a sailor on the ship and learn how everything works (which I think would be freaking awesome). There were workers hanging about answering questions, but mostly we just walked a pre-set path through the ship. Belowdeck was extremely low ceilinged. Greg couldn't stand up straight at all, and I could only stand up in the spaces between the beams. Cramped is an understatement. They did manage to fit some hammocks, a small table, and a tiny, yet fully functioning kitchen. I am not sure how most people managed to cook all hunched over, though. They didn't actually let us in the kitchen, so I couldn't investigate properly. 

Once we'd finished with our tour of the Niagara, we headed into the RenCen for a few minutes before returning to the car and going in search of American and Lafayette Coney Islands. Then on our way out of town, we stumbled upon John K. King Used and Rare Books, where Greg and I had our third date over a year ago. (I hadn't been back since; Greg had.) I think wandering through an old glove factory that's been converted to the largest used bookstore in the state was the perfect way to end our outing in Detroit. 

A tall ship, coneys, and books. Oh my!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Day at the Beach (With Disc Golf)


All summer long I've been wanting to go to the beach. It's summer! That's what you do! But living on the east side of the state, I can't just run off to Lake Michigan every spare day I have like I used to when I lived in Kalamazoo. (Which makes me very sad.) I only went swimming in a pool once when I went to Kalamazoo to visit friends and family, even though my apartment complex has a very nice pool right next to my building. To be fair, though, I was prevented from swimming for the month of August by my fresh tattoo, Erasmus. (He was quite scaly and needed much time to properly heal.)

Knowing my desire to go to a beach, my boyfriend Greg looked into local beaches for me, and we decided on one at the Kensington Metropark where Greg used to go as a kid. Kensington also has boat rentals and a disc golf course, among other things, so we figured we could easily spend our Labor Day there, Labor Day being the unofficial end of summer in Michigan when most public pools and apparently metropark beaches close for the season.

It only costs $5 to get into a metropark for the day, or $25 for a season pass. In my experience, metroparks are HUGE. I've now been to two, and I've enjoyed my experiences both times. The west side of Michigan does not have such things. There were State parks and a couple county parks growing up, but Kalamazoo's county parks have nothing on Metro Detroit's metroparks. We drove around for a few minutes before we found the swimming beach (as opposed to the boat launch area), where there is also a water park for a modest extra charge.

The restrooms and changing areas are quite nice and clean, though I was a little disappointed the showers were not private. There is also a picnic area, and the beach is quite sandy. After enjoying the water, Greg retrieved our picnic basket from the car and we had a lovely lunch on the beach. (I love that I am dating someone who not only has his own picnic basket, but a complete setup that includes a cutting-board for bread and cheese.)

After lunch, we changed out of our suits and drove across the rode to the disc golf course, which was $2 per person. I've never been to a disc golf course that charges before, but I have also never been to a course like this one. It's called Black Locust, and the first hole starts at the top of a hill. Well, that's where the professional launch is, anyway. The amateurs like me and Greg carefully make our way down the hill to the bottom. It's a hell of a view from the top, though, and it was really tempting to throw my disc from up there, even if it didn't make it very far.

Unfortunately, the course was also extremely busy, and we had to wait after every hole. This was Labor Day, though, so other days would hopefully be less crowded. There are something like 27 holes in all. Greg and I only ended up doing 13 because it was hot, humid, and I was in extreme need of water by that point. (We didn't bring it with us – again.)  

After a day of swimming and disc golf, we headed towards home, picking up ice cream along the way, and watched The City of Lost Children (in the original French, of course). All-in-all, I say it was a very successful Labor Day.