Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Retired in Ann Arbor: It's almost the time--

---that many of us decide to turn over a new leaf.

Here's a quote to get you in the mood:

"Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgement repeated every day.  It is the accumulative weight of our disciplines and our judgements that leads us to either fortune or failure."  --Jim Rohn

I saw this in the spring 2011 Michigan Engineer magazine-- and was struck by how this could be applied to everything from weight loss to money management.

It makes me feel optimistic to think that every morning I start with a clean slate.

Now that the Christmas shopping season is over, it's time to return to the fun, cool and inexpensive (or free) things to do in and around Ann Arbor-- and tips for living a healthy and sustainable life in Ann Arbor.

See you in 2012!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bye-bye Christmas--

We hope you had a great time!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Serve it up right.

Seasonal beer

Now that we're in the last day of buying holiday gifts, it's REALLY time to avoid the big stores, and consider gifts that are easy to find, and are appreciated by almost all people on your list (who have reached the age of majority):  a nice bottle of wine or spirits.

With the assistance of the expert behind the counter, you can buy a gift of a nice bottle, for a reasonable amount of money--

But......what about the beer drinker?

If showing up with a 6 pack isn't your idea of a great gift, (even if it's a nice 6 pack), there is an answer!
Go Euro, and buy the correct glasses to serve their beer of choice.  That's right-- in Europe, even in small humble pubs, the bartender pours each beer (or cider) into the appropriate glass.  And these glasses are some of the best bargains of the season, at $3-$5 apiece. This might be the perfect last minute gift.

Special glasses for our wonderful Michigan beer
Where to find these glasses?  Two of our favorite places are The Wine Seller, and Plum Market, but check out any local party store with a nice selection of local artisan or imported beer.
Merry Christmas, Dad!
German wheat beer glasses

Retired in Ann Arbor: Nicola's, our local bookstore

Do you hate to see the Border's stores sitting silent and dark?  Remember how cool the store was when it opened in the old Jacobson space?

You have the opportunity to love your local bookstore again!  Our favorite for many years has been Nicola's Books. 

If you've never been in the store, it's time to go!  You will be surprised at how big it is inside.

My favorite things about Nicola's:

  • really knowledgable (and nice) staff 
  • excellent magazine section
  • kids, cooking and travel sections
  • great selection of books on Ann Arbor and Michigan 
And yes, I have an e-reader and use the internet for everything, but I think there is also a place for physical books in my life-- so if you agree, visit Nicola's, and support our local bookstore.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Motherlode of gifts

So now that we're nearing the end of our 30 days of gift idea blogs, I'll bet you think we're running out of small, quirky independent shops in Ann Arbor, right?


We haven't even scratched the surface of the gift shops in our local museums, and some of them are pretty awesome.  I visited two of them to give you a few pictures of the cool things you can buy-- but they are all worth checking out.  Also, each of these are a destination-- so a membership could be one of the most appreciated gifts.

Many of these are still open for holiday shopping-- be sure and check their sites for hours.

These first items are from the gift shop in the Kelsey Museum of Archeology.

Where else can you buy peacock feathers by the piece? 

Great vases reproduced from Egyptian designs-- and yes, it's $13
For your budding Indiana Jones!
Perfect t-shirt for your little archaeologist

The next photos are from the excellent gift shop in the Art Museum.  Almost all items are made in the USA-- and many are from Michigan artists.

Necklaces with Swarovski crystals

Cyberoptix ties made in Detroit-- these are the coolest.

or Monet?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Retired in Ann Arbor: Vault of Midnight!

Want to be the coolest parent/grandparent of adolescent or young adult kids?  Check out The Vault of Midnight for a huge array of games, graphic novels, comic books, and many other interesting gifts.

Don't know what they would like?  I'll bet the staff will help you find the perfect gift.

I'm tipping my hand here:  I have never really been interested in merchandise like this, but after wandering this shop with a little assistance from the staff, I started to get into it!  And husband didn't want to leave.....

If you have a Tintin fan on your list, you're set.

Be sure and check out the store events page.  I love that they play the games that they sell.

To truly understand how cool this shop is, check out this Comic-Con link and scroll down to the 2010 award.  Batmans (Batmen?) are guarding the award in the store-- check it out!  It's not to be missed. 
Tons of games
Beverage cozies for your superman or wonder woman

Monday, December 19, 2011

Retired in Ann Arbor: Classy clothing at Van Boven

Looking for high-quality, tasteful, but fun clothing for the guy in your life?  Try shopping at Van Boven's in Nickel's arcade.

Van Boven's was founded in 1921 by Pete Van Boven, a former University baseball player and two of his friends.  The store replaced a butcher shop (!) that had been in the same space for five years.  Today it is still owned by the Van Boven family.

Great selection of beautiful silk ties

The nicest Michigan gear anywhere!
Shoes from Van Boven across the arcade.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas cheer!

The Christmas events are in full swing, and my Christmas sweaters are in full rotation-- we were joined by some of our kids this weekend for an early Christmas-- which included some great events!
We kicked off the festivities by going to Jolly Pumpkin Friday night for a pint and dinner-- we lucked out and got the best table in the house, and had a great time.  If you like pubs but suffer from pub food fatigue, you need to check out their menu-- it always is interesting and great.

On Saturday we had a great Ann Arbor afternoon.  While waiting for an eye appointment at See, we headed out to do a little shopping in Nickel's Arcade.  First, we were drawn into Parrish Fine Framing and Art, by a great old map of Michigan in the window.

We are blessed to have such interesting geography, that a framed map makes great wall art, as well as a valuable collectable.  Check out the maps from before 1850-- you might see a mountain range up the west coast of the state(!) or some phantom islands in Lake Superior, and you'll be amazed by the selection in this small shop.  
Also, if you get something for Christmas that warrants framing, this shop does an excellent job.  I like their motto:  "Frame what you love, love what you frame".

We made a stop in Comet Coffee, and then  were drawn outside by a small group of musicians playing Christmas carols on antique brass instruments.  And of course, because we are in Ann Arbor, they weren't just any run-of-the-mill musicians; we had happened upon a free concert by The Dodworth Saxhorn Band--a professional group that looks and sounds like it stepped out of 19th century.  We enjoyed their Christmas carols, with the snow flakes floating down, and good cheer in the air.

If you would like to see them in person, follow this link to see when they are performing at Greenfield Village during this holiday season.

We were getting a little chilly, so we headed back into the shops in the Arcade--  this time, checking out a new women's shop called Wendy.  (Coincidence that we share a name?  I choose to think it's a sign that there are many items from here that belong in my closet.....)  Check out this Ann  review.  I love to see a store in Ann Arbor that has beautifully tailored clothes for the professional woman (and well-dressed retirees!), and does not presume that you wear 2 inch zippers or lots of bare skin.  If you love well-executed tailoring and details, along with beautiful fabrics, this store is for you!

French cuffs
Great necklace
One more stop at Maison Edwards Tobacconist, before we head home.  Even if you don't know anyone who smokes anymore, this is definitely worth a stop to check out their shaving gear and soak up some great atmosphere.  Check out the reviews from the above link if you need more reasons to visit.

Thanks to Chuck for inviting me up to the balcony for this great view of the shop!

So many shops, so little time!!
I know we're getting close to the end of the holiday shopping season, and there are still so many great local shops I have yet to cover.  If you have any specific requests, be sure and let me know at  I'll try and squeeze them all in!
Regards, Wendy

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One of a kind gifts, with history--

Arcadian Antiques has a wonderful collection of interesting antiques, that are in pristine condition.  Besides the beautiful dishes and glasses, they also have quilts, and interesting baby and wedding gifts.

Want to make a memory?  Give an heirloom.

A gift for your trendster

Huge selection of depression glass
Cozy quilts

Baby gifts
Frames for a special photo

Wedding gifts