Friday, January 27, 2012

The Plymouth Ice Festival 2012

If you think that the above is a picture of Uncle Sam punching a bear, you'd be right. Last Saturday, Kimmy and I drove out to Plymouth to meet Greg at the Plymouth Ice Festival. I've never been to an ice festival before, nor have I seen a person create an ice sculpture. We arrived with plenty of time to check out the premade sculptures and watch the team competition. 

I knew that they used chainsaws to shape the ice, but I didn't know that they joined pieces of ice together. It looked like they used an iron to heat a piece of metal which they held against the two pieces of ice that they wanted to join. Then, we think they put dry ice over the joint to further solidify it. 

There was definitely an over-arching theme of sea creatures (including a squid attacking a whale), though there were also some mechanical-looking insects, and a couple statues of liberty. Naturally, there were also some photo opportunities. We took a picture of Kimmy with her face poking through an ice-sculpted Eskimo, and there was an ice dinosaur that small children could sit on. 

We stopped for lunch at one of the carnival wagons they had set up just for the occasion, hot dogs and chili cheese fries! We ate inside the warming tent, which wasn't nearly as warm as I was hoping for, but had tables and chairs set up for people to use. Also inside the tent were some booths pimping out various products and services where we picked up some free candy and pocket tissues. Dessert was cupcakes and lattes from the Cupcake Station, home to some of the best cupcakes I have ever had in my life. I got a red velvet cupcake and Kimmy ordered a Samoa cupcake. (Mmmm....)

If you've never been to downtown Plymouth, it's actually very fun! A lot of the buildings are old, so those are fun to look at, but there are also a lot of nifty shops and restaurants to explore. One store in particular couldn't keep from drawing us in. It's called That's Awesome!, sister store to Salon Awesome! (Yes, with the exclamation points.) It's located next to the Kilwins on the corner of Main St and Penniman Ave. The Plymouth library is also nice. (I'm a book nerd.)

Should you find yourself on the east side of Michigan in January of next year, I suggest stopping by Plymouth and checking out their ice festival. You just might be impressed.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week 2012

One of the things I love about Ann Arbor is the food. In just a few blocks of downtown, I can find Indian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Irish, Italian, the ultra modern and more. And every January these restaurants get together and have what is called Restaurant Week, the perfect chance to try out new places that you've never heard of or that you've always been curious about.

Just $12 gets you up to a three course lunch, some places even offering two meals for the price of one. Dinners are $25, which is a pretty incredible deal when you get two three course meals for $25 like my boyfriend and I did at Conor O'Neill's Traditional Irish Pub.

Not only did we get our choice of appetizer to split (flat bread and the most interesting spinach and artichoke dip I've ever had), two entrees, and a dessert (also to share, but it was Bailey's cheesecake, which I find difficult to eat by myself anyway, it is so rich), but Conor O'Neill's was offering, for those over 21, a beer sampler. We received three whiskey glasses of Irish beer - Guinness, Smithwick's, and Harp Lager - and another whiskey glass of Magners hard cider, which tasted much better than I remembered from the last time that I had it. 

I wish we'd remembered it was Restaurant Week sooner so that I could have tried out more places, perhaps for their lunch specials. Nearly 50 local restaurants participated, and there was some mighty tasty looking food listed on the website. Yes, that's right, you can go to the Restaurant Week website and not only see who is participating, but each one lists their menus prepared for the occasion, or at least what you can expect to find for the money.

One place in particular that caught my eye was Sava's on State, which I hadn't heard of before, but now I really want to try it! I am also drawn to Gandy Dancer, both for the name, and because they offered creme brulee, my favorite, for dessert. Looking at the website, the interior of the building looks absolutely gorgeous. The restaurant is inside a restored 1886 Michigan Central Depot, which perks up the ears of my inner steampunk.

If you missed out on Restaurant Week this year, as I nearly did, keep an eye out for next year. I guarantee there will be something you will enjoy!

Post Script:
One might wonder why this entry isn't posted on my food blog, and the answer is that since this blog often highlights local festivals and other unique goings-on of the area, and I haven't participated in anything else of note recently, I decided to put it here. Besides, I have a Greek theme going on at the moment over at Food & Word, and I don't want to interrupt it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Lone Wolf in the Woods

After the first snowfall of the year, my roommate Kimmy and I decided to take a walk in the woods just down the street from our apartment. As we were almost ready to turn into the park, we came upon a jogger coming out.

"Are you going into the park?" she asked. We told her yes. "Be careful, I saw a wolf in there. I was running on the path when I looked up and saw it. I scared it away, but it scared me, too!"

We thanked her for the information and decided to continue anyway. There were two of us and one of him, plus Kimmy claims she was taught how to scare away wild animals when she was in elementary school. We saw plenty of rabbit and squirrel tracks, but no wolf tracks, which was slightly disappointing. We agreed that it would be pretty exciting to see a wolf in the wild. 

The woods were beautiful in the light coating of snow. Tiny snowflakes floated down from the sky, and we were mostly kept from the cold wind by the covering of trees. When we moved out of the trees into the less wooded, more fieldsy trails, however, the wind caught up to us and stung our cheeks. We also heard something that gave us both pause...

AWOOOOOO!!

Yes, there was our wolfy friend, and I don't mean the Violin Monster. We did not see the wolf, though we did hear him. There were no answering howls, so we didn't see a problem in continuing our trek. We pressed on with more vigilance, but the only canines we saw were of the domestic variety and had handlers. 

We walked by the perennial gardens, took pictures, and made snowballs. The snow was too powdery to hold any kind of shape for long, but cupped in our warm hands, the snowballs stayed together enough to fly through the air before exploding on the ground.

There were no more signs of wolves as we made our way home. The walk was enjoyable just the same, though it was with great pleasure that we returned to the warmth of the apartment and I brewed myself a cup of hot tea.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The New Year

This year I rang in the new year with friends on the steps of East Hall, the condemned original building at Western Michigan University, that overlooks downtown Kalamazoo. Every year at midnight on January 1st, the city shoots off fireworks from Bronson Park. I was snuggly wrapped in the arms of my sweetie and shared many a New Year's kiss. After the finale, we headed back to our friend's house, shared some champagne, then settled into a hilarious game of Telestrations. (Last year we played Scattergories, an especially amusing game when certain people have been drinking.) 

Work has been quieter and I've been spending some much needed down-time at my apartment. Yesterday, though, Greg and I ventured to Shatila Bakery, an amazing middle eastern bakery located in Dearborn, MI, to pick up some desserts for Game Night. They also have a French pastry counter that reminded me of the pastry shops we went to in Japan. I pretty much wanted to eat everything there. We decided to sample some kind of cheese-filled pastry that was reminiscent of a cross between a pierogi and a donut. It was delicious! They also have an ice cream and coffee counter, which, sadly, we did not sample. I think I need to go back for the ice cream, though.
Yes, this is going to end up a very brief entry. I just haven't done that much since the year began. I was really hoping for snowier weather so I could go sledding at last, or maybe build a real snowman (the snow daleks I made last year were tiny because there was never any good packing snow). I could still go ice skating even without the snow (Campus Martius Park looks pretty), so maybe I will have an update on that in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the slower days at work and spending time with Greg. Also, Kimmy is back in Michigan, and I am sure we will be up to no good soon enough.