Monday, November 25, 2013

Old Town Chicago

This last Saturday, I was blessed to attend the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. It was a rather simple affair at a very large, lovely American church around the corner from Old Town. If you have ties to Chicago, you may have heard of the church. It's the Moody Church, also home to the Moody Bible Institute. I was not aware of either until the wedding, but oh boy! did people ever look shocked when I told them where I was going. 

We stayed with Greg's friend from high school and his girlfriend in their fantastic apartment in a three story town home. I was delighted when we walked up to the Japanese-style front gate with a kanji name plate on the post. The apartment wasn't Japanese in style, but the owner is a Japanese woman. I loved the interior and exterior. It was also great making new friends, one of whom also works in a bookstore! When I saw Cards Against Humanity on their living room table, I knew they were good people. 

At the wedding, it was also wonderful to catch up with friends I hadn't seen in a while. I really don't make it back to Kalamazoo as often as I'd like to see my family and friends. Of course, the high gas prices add another deterrent to frequent visits. Since there was about an hour and a half between the ceremony and reception, a trio of us decided to wander through nearby Old Town. 

Old Town is a great little neighborhood! At the suggestion of the bride, we checked out Spice House, where Greg purchased a shaker of maple garlic. It smells so amazing, I can't wait to give it a try! He also picked up some kiwi white balsamic vinegar from Old Town Oil, and we toured through Old Town Aquarium among others. 
It was quite chilly that day, and my wedding clothes were not really intended to stand up to the constant onslaught of frigid wind we were getting off Lake Michigan. As the sun set, I decided we should turn back before the temperature dropped intolerably low. We met up with friends again for dinner before leaving town. (And battling with lake effect snow as we rounded the southern tip of the lake and continued into Michigan.) 

If you are planning a trip to Chicago, for sure check out the museums and other great stuff like that, but also look into the little neighborhoods like Old Town. I am glad we did! I hope we can find a weekend sometime soon to see more of Chicago. I still have yet to visit Shedd Aquarium or Navy Pier. I did visit the Field Museum on my last visit to Chicago, but Greg's friend (who dressed up as Sue, the Field's resident dinosaur,  for one of their functions) said he could get us in on the cheap, and since I didn't get to see all of the exhibits before, I'd would like to go again. Maybe after the snow is done taunting us.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things to Do in Ann Arbor and Detroit This Holiday Season

Click the titles of the events to go to their specific pages with more info. Note: Not all events have pages.

Kerrytown Annual Tree Lighting Festival Dec 1st

On Sunday, December 1st, Kerrytown will have its annual tree lighting ceremony in the courtyard at 5pm. Enjoy Christmas carols and candle luminaries.

Every year during the first Friday in December, the shops and restaurants of Main Street in Ann Arbor hold Midnight Madness. Festivities begin at 7pm and end at, you guessed it, midnight. Enjoy special deals and sales to get you ready for the holiday season. Unfortunately, this year, the event comes after Hanukkah, but you can still snag some great deals at your favorite downtown stores. From 7 to 9, Santa and the Mrs. will be roaming the streets, and Downtown Home and Garden is offering roasted chestnuts, live music, and a SPECIAL SURPRISE. (Yes, all caps.) Enjoy Victorian caroling, Huron High School's A Capella Choir, and traditional folk dancing. Certain shops in Kerrytown are also participating.

While Midnight Madness is going on inside the Shops building, outside, enjoy the KindleFest and Lantern Parade with local artisans, live music, fire pits, German food and more!

Noel Night in Detroit is a big deal! Park on the outskirts and use a shuttle to get around to the over 75 participating venues, free of charge. Check out live music, theater and dance groups, the Historical Museum, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Museum of African American History, take a horse-drawn carriage ride, and so much more. I went a couple years ago and plan to go again this year.

Santa Comes to Kerrytown Dec 7th, Dec 14th, Dec 21st
Visit with Santa at the Kerrytown Shops on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.

Brew & Browse at Kerrytown Shops Dec 13th
Kerrytown Shops are open late, from 6pm to 9pm, offering "festive holiday spirits" for purchase, DJ Jeremy Wheeler dishing out holiday tunes, and a sneak peak of Tiny Expo wares.

The sneak peak is happening Dec 13th from 6pm to 9pm. Dec 14th features the whole deal from 10am to 7pm. Browse the wares of local artists and crafters in this annual indie arts and crafts event.

For Eastern Market's Winter Wonderland, bring a new unwrapped toy for Toys For Tots, and an empty stomach. There will be food trucks, holiday treats, music, and grab a cocktail while your browse through this indoor event. Located in Shed 5 from 5pm to 9pm.

My sore hands won't allow me to list all of the holiday events going on in the Detroit suburbs, so if you are looking for a list of Christmas events in places like Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Northville, and beyond, click this link here: Christmas and Holiday Events 2013 - Metro Detroit & Oakland County, Michigan.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I haven't been as active lately as I was last month and the month before. Mostly, I have been working. Since I really do like both of my jobs, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. We have been having a persistent issue at Crazy Wisdom, which has been stressful for everyone, and, of course, getting ready for Christmas at Catching Fireflies. With Hanukkah coming so early this year, we have also been quite busy with helping folks pick out and wrapping Hanukkah gifts! 

There have been a couple of highlights there, though. Crazy Wisdom participated in the Main Street Halloween Treat Parade, which was a lot of fun! It isn't a parade, really. Kids from the surrounding area come trick or treating up and down Main Street at all the participating stores and restaurants. So even though I worked all day from 10am to 10:30pm, I still got to hand out treats and be a part of Halloween festivities! I was dressed all day as the White Rabbit from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, but a coworker in the tea room pointed out that since I was wearing a top hat, I should probably more properly have been the March Hare. (Yay for literature nerds! :D We're the best.)

Crazy Wisdom also had its annual store meeting which is always fun because it's the only time of year that everyone who works for the store is together in one place. We get bagels and mimosas, and I never realized until now how good the coffee we serve could be. (I generally prefer tea to coffee, and that is the specialty of the tea room after all.) This year, we also invited a woman who is very much a close part of the Crazy Wisdom community to lead a blessing ceremony invoking the Goddess that I very much enjoyed. It was incredibly empowering! The energy in the room was just amazing, an the fresh cut herbs she brought in from her garden smelled divine. I think that I need a sacred herb garden. Maybe we can put one together on our deck this spring?

I don't usually consider myself sensitive to the energy of a place because I have seen it affect people far more than it usually affects me (becoming nauseated and suddenly getting pounding headaches and such). I have increasingly become more aware of it, though, I think, probably due to working at Crazy Wisdom. Also shifting between there and Catching Fireflies in the same day has made me more sensitive. Catching Fireflies is very colorful and whimsical and generally just a fun, upbeat place to be. It's also new. This is our first holiday season, so the energy is fresh and anticipatory. We're all excited to see what happens. Crazy Wisdom is very different from that. It's still fun, but in a more grandmotherly way. We've been at this location since 1999, and the the business is 7 months to the day older than I am. It's established. Starting my day at Catching Fireflies, with it's young, excited vibe, and ending at Crazy Wisdom, a warm, peaceful place, is the perfect rhythm. 

I want to remind people that this is still Movember and I am still accepting donations! I have so far received $1 from a generous customer at Catching Fireflies who overheard me telling my coworkers about what I was doing. He agreed that men's health is often overlooked and just as important as the ills that affect women. So if you have the time, please click on the image to the left and donate $1 to my team. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movember 13

Everyone is familiar with Pink Days and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Though breast cancer does affect men in many ways, breast cancer has always been very female-centric. Unknown to a lot of people, there is a growing men's health movement, as well, and the most visible form is Movember, when men of all ages shave their facial hair and grow it back in the form of the infamous (and ridiculously popular for some reason) moustache. 

(Or mustache, if you are American. I am that, much to my chagrin, but I will use moustache here because this is Movember, and it wouldn't make sense with the mustache spelling. This particular movement started in Australia where they spell it moustache, so there.)

The men who participate are called "mo bros" and the women are referred to as "mo sistas." The funds raised go towards prostate cancer and testicular cancer research and education, and to support men's mental health

This year Greg decided to join in Movember and shaved his beard. I didn't think I would mind nearly as much as it turns out that I do. I've never seen him clean shaven, but that isn't the problem. I prefer men with facial hair, but that isn't it either. When I took the before and after pics for him, a creepy feeling overcame me. I guess I assumed at the time that it was just early (the sun had not yet risen) and I was tired. The other day I realized what it was: I remember before and after pics being taken before of another newly clean shaven man: my father. 

When he had cancer. 

My subconscious has associated shaving with radiation and chemo therapy. This is an image that has been reinforced by the women I see out and about with scarves wrapped around their heads to hide their baldness. I work in Ann Arbor, just a quick jaunt from U of M's hospital. There are lots of women walking around with scarves wrapped around their heads. Also thin men with freshly shaved faces and thinning hair. 

Now, Greg's hair is far, far from thinning, but he is pretty darn skinny, and with his hair pulled back in a tight ponytail as it usually is, he looks like he doesn't have much. On the rare occasions he lets his hair down, you realize there is a thick enough mane to hide a baby inside, maybe two. It's quite glorious. Greg also isn't sick. But my inner-brain is going, "Wait a minute. Shaved beard, thin face. I know what this is!" And it begins to hyperventilate. 

Now that I've made you feel sad, you should give me a dollar. :) You know, to help prevent other women with husbands, boyfriends, brothers, sons, and friends who are sick cope with that same sinking, horrible feeling in their guts, not to mention the men who have to face this every day.

And if you want to participate in Movember as either a mo bro or a mo sista, join our team! Or make one of your own. It's fun! And goofy! If anyone asks why you have an old timey handlebar on your face, making you look like some Victorian nerd, you can educate them on the overlooked seriousness of testicular cancer, or remind them that men too often have a lower awareness of mental illness than women.