Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pure Michigan

Every year, usually in March or April, I have a moment. It is a moment that sounds, smells or feels like Leland, Michigan. It can be the way the clouds look, the way the warm sun plays with a cool breeze on my skin, or the smell of Fish Town (a bit yucky but inviting at the same time.) This moment reminds me that my northern Michigan vacation is getting close.

I did indeed have my Leland moment earlier this year-- as I rounded the corner from Clark Street to Henry Street. There was a strong wind (why is the wind always so strong on the west side of the Hotel St. George?!) but the sun was wonderfully warm. There was little humidity in the air and the clouds were billowy.

But the truth is that I have been smiling about Michigan a lot more lately, in fact almost every time I turn on the tv and see a "Pure Michigan" commercial. After years of getting the "Jersey shore is better" look and being asked "why on earth do you vacation in Michigan," the Pure Michigan commercials visually sum it up in 30 seconds. The speaker's voice (is that Michiganian Tim Allen??) is welcoming and has a hint of MI accent. The images are beautiful. And it reminds me that despite the perpetually negative stories about the auto industry coming out the Motor City, Michigan is a fantastic, highly under rated state.

So later this week I am off for a week to enjoy some Pure Michigan moments of my own-- year #30 at The Jolli Lodge! As another old Michigan commercial used to say, "Yes, Michigan, the feeling forever, Yes Michigan!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ever have one of those...

... "my only clean outfit is lighter than the last pair of clean undies" kind of day?

Yeah, me neither:-o

You can dress her up but then you shouldn't take her out:-)

Monday, June 22, 2009


I ditched the crappier than crappy east coast weather this past weekend to visit Erica in beautifully sunny San Francisco. From Fisherman's Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, to cable cars and Chinatown, to the Golden Gate Bridge and curvy Lombard street, we were busy ladies on Friday. We also found time for fish tacos and bean tacos at Erica's favorite tacqueria-- I am going to think about those for a long long time, they were so delic!

Saturday morning, we picked up a Mini Cooper convertible and headed off for Sonoma. The tour of the biodynamic Benziger winery was fascinating and tasty. The other tasty part of the day was the picnic we had at a nearby park. Bread, cheese, fruit and spinach dip...I'm in heaven!! We then headed to the Charles Schultz museum in Santa Rosa (did you know that Snoopy is a NASA mascot??) and to Muir Woods to see the giant redwoods. The surprise of the day was that the temperature can be in the high 70s in Sonoma and yet was so cold by the time we returned to Erica's neighborhood that I could see my breath.

We didn't slow down on Sunday, hitting Gobble and Squat in The Haight (I felt very hip) for brunch and then walking into Golden Gate Park. The conservatory was spectacular. As we kept walking we saw a group of people doing the Lindy Hop, a big band concert and then a summer concert featuring Sugar Ray and Matt Nathanson. The Most San Franciso award goes to the gentleman at the big band concert who was sporting a pink fedora, goatee, black pinstriped suit, black leather gloves with white piping, black boots and a cane with an animal hoof knob. We also dipped our toes in the Pacific, went to a pirate store (really) and ate at a vegetarian sushi restaurant.

Wooosh, the weekend was over. San Fran rocks, thanks Erica for a great time!


The home of Ghiradelli chocolate

Sea Lions at Fisherman's Wharf

Curvy Lombard Street

Golden Gate Bridge

Mini Cooper convertible, OH YEAH!

Muir Woods

Little old me in the shadow of the big trees!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Morris Dancing on Promenade

Out for an evening jog, I could see something going on, on the south side of the Promenade. From a distance, I thought it was a group of cheerleaders throwing pom-poms. As I got a bit closer I all I could think of was that it was Greek dancing (Dancing Zorbas stuck in my head).

But as I stopped running, I saw a group of about 8 men, with bells strapped to their shins, wearing white pants and shirts, dancing a bit like Michael Flatly with scarves, while a fiddle/violin and accordian played a jig-like melody. Foreigners from the Old Country (wherever that may be) in town to perform in a festival? Nope, it was a Morris Dance group and the fun was just beginning.

Next it was the women's turn. Dressed in straw hats and a similar outfit with blue vests, they also danced a jig of sorts. It seemed like a mix of Irish dancing and how people dance around a May Pole.

Act after act, I stood there mouth agape ("close your mouth please, we are not a cod fish") but also smiling widely as I grew more and more amazed at what I had stumbled upon.

Finally, I watched a group of about 6 women dance with flexible swords that had handles on each end. It was absolutely amazing!

So what is Morris dancing? It is an old English form of dancing from the Cotswolds among other places. Apparently the sword dancing originated in the North of England. I asked one of the dancers more about it and he said he didn't think any of the dancers were themselves British, they just all loved to dance.

I'll see if I can "borrow" some pictures from another blog later today. There were so many cameras in the crowd, someone else has to have blogged about this.

Here's a video of Morris Dancing from 1929:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wilkommen in Astoria

When first in a "studio" in Astoria, I was 12 and competing (and embarassingly losing) on Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego. Fast forward 17 years, walk down two blocks (literally) and I found myself back in Astoria on Sunday at "Studio Square," a cool new beer garden that opened in May.

"My Matt" and I were there to meet "Germany Matt" and his new fiancee Tricia who live nearby and said Studio Square is a must try. They are correct! Studio Square mixes the relaxed atmosphere of a German beer garden with the urban style of New York, plus a few guidos thrown in for good measure. The garden was bustling but we were able to get 4 seats with no problem. And there were lots of bartenders so the lines were very quick. My Matt had a Radeberger, Germany Matt had a Radler and Tricia had a Hoegaarden. What did I have? HOMEMADE SANGRIA ON TAP! I was unaware that one get get Sangria out of a tap, but obviously you can. It was some of the best I've had and they add a good amount of lots of different fruit, not just a token apple chuck like you get at some places. The fries were great too!

Thanks Matt and Tricia! We had a great time and look forward to another afternoon in the beer garden in the near future.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cafe Steinhof

I have no idea where I first read about Cafe Steinhof but all it took was two words: Cheese Spaetzle, for me to want to pay a visit. Located in South Park Slope, the ambiance of Steinhof is great-- all wood, lots of antique signs in German and super friendly staff.

I ordered the cheese spaetzle and a pear cider. The spaetzle noodles appeared to be homemade-- little roundish dumplings of goodness. I was impressed by the dish's cheesy-ness. The fact that the cheese on the outside had gotten just a bit crispy (Schlecker-style) made it all the better! I would have preferred that the onions were carmelized on the top instead of mixed in, but over all a solid cheese spaetzle:-) The pear cider was the perfect accompanying drink.

Matt ordered sauerbraten. He liked it, especially the red cabbage that came with it.

We would definitely go back but both of us agree that we like Cafe Katja better. Not sure exactly why-- perhaps gemutlichkeit or maybe Katja's soft pretzels and liptauer cheese. I don't know. But Steinhof is a solid Austrian restaurant and a "go back to" place next time I am in Park Slope.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The Highline park, created on abandoned elevated train tracks on the west side of Manhattan opened this week. I went to check it out last night. Very unique!! Wild flowers and plants grow on what's left of the train tracks, while glass, concrete, metal and wood form the walking path area. There is even amphitheater seating and wooden lounge chairs. My only criticism is that the pavement is uneven in spots...an accident waiting to happen. Right now, the park is open up to 20th street. More will open in coming years.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

In my absence...

Matt sends a one line email...

Had an 'Only in New York' moment today...I bought a Vietnamese sandwich in the back of a jewelry store

Mr. M, do you care to explain more?

pictures courtesy of Chungfood.com 02/07/09

Monday, June 01, 2009

From Where I Sit

I had a fantastically lazy and relaxing Sunday at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Here, a panoramic view from where I sat.