Friday, November 28, 2014

Small Business Saturday

Tomorrow is one of my favorite days to shop small businesses in Ann Arbor-- and I owe it all to the Small Business Saturday program by American Express.  This year is even better!  If you have an American Express card, go online and register your card with the program.  It requires one click on the mobile app, and a link is on the first page of their website.

In the past, if you charged $10 or more on your registered card in a participating small business on the Saturday after black Friday, a $10 credit would appear on your statement.

This year, you are allowed 3 $10 credits!!  What a fantastic idea.

I thank you, American Express, and so do all of our lovely local businesses.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's time to join the chipmunks--

3 years ago I started a blog called  At the time, I didn't know how long I could post about fun places to eat, shop and enjoy in Ann Arbor before running out of destinations-- but here we are, 3 years later, and it seems like we have just scratched the surface of fun places to go and things to do!

This is one of my first posts, and I like it--but what was I thinking?  This looks more like a month's work instead of a week's.

It's time to join the chipmunks, and get ready for winter!
Today is one of those gloomy, cold days that makes me want to sit in my chair and read a good book-- but instead, I decided to make THE LIST.

  1. Buy and stack wood for fireplace
  2. Reactivate Netflix subscription
  3. Find favorite soup recipes from last winter
  4. Winterize sprinkler system
  5. Hang Thanksgiving wreath 
  6. Compost Jack-o-lantern
  7. Put away lawn furniture
  8. Clean and fill bird feeder
  9. Bring in Christmas cactus from the porch-- oops.  Too late-- 
  10. Buy a new Christmas cactus when they are on sale.
I'm sure I'll add more things, but this is our honeydo list for this week!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Matthaei Botanical Gardens footpaths

It's time to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather, and go for a walk in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.   If you walk the footpaths, the distance adds up to 3.5 miles of easy walking.

Dix Pond

We often visit the conservatory during the winter months, but usually walk along the river or in the Arb during nice weather.  I think we have been missing out!
Helpful identification markers along the path

Fleming Creek

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Argus Farm Stop

Do you ever have those days when you wish it was Wednesday or Saturday because you need something from Farmer's Market?
Or do you think about going to Farmer's Market, but you don't want to fight the traffic or look for a parking spot?

Then there's a brilliant new shop in Ann Arbor that has been opened just for us.   I recently stopped into Argus Farm Stop, and was greeted by the friendly owners, who made me a cup of delicious hot cider and invited me to look around the shop.

You can find local and beautiful fruit and vegetables, dairy, meat and baked goods.
Argus is a direct-to-customer market for local food providers, where 80% of the price that you pay goes directly back to the farmer, which is much higher than a grocery store.  
Read more about their charter at Argus Farm Stop.  You can find them at 325 W. Liberty, a couple of blocks from Main Street.  Open 7-7 weekdays, and 8-6 on weekends.  See you there!

I decided to take advantage of the sunshine, so sat at one of their picnic table with my paper, and enjoyed the day-- and being retired in Ann Arbor.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Simple pleasures in Ann Arbor

I was happy to read the recent article in the NYTimes about affixing more value to the ordinary experiences of life.  It is great to read about studies that prove that experiences are more likely to make one happy than possessions, and how even ordinary experiences can make you happy.

Ann Arbor is one of the best small cities to find interesting and inexpensive speakers and activities, and this is the time of the year to sign up and mark your calendars!

Some of my favorites include:

OLLI  (Osher Lifelong Learning program)-- Join for $20/year, and check out the great opportunities for learning and social events

Margaret Waterman celebrity lectures-- Includes lunch at the beautiful Michigan Union ballroom

Ann Arbor City Club Lunch and Learn sessions-- At the Ann Arbor City Club, which is a destination in itself.  Check out their history, here

Science cafe', presented by the University Museum of Natural History-- At Conor O'Neal's.  Free and very fun, with snacks provided by the sponsor.  Science and beer..... what could be better?  Starts Oct 22.  Want to know what it is like?  Read about the first time I went, here.

Penny Stamps Distinguished Lecture Series-- Paradigm breakers, presented by the School of Art and Design.  Free, Thursdays at 5:10 during the school year.  Michigan Theater.  Includes a short organ concert before the lecture begins.  One of my first blog posts was about my visit to this lecture.  Read about why it is still one of my favorites!

I can't wait to see you there!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bird Seed and Beer!

It's no news that Ann Arbor scores at the top of all kinds of Top 10 lists, but I would like to suggest a new rating:  a quirkiness index.

The other night we decided to run into Downtown Home and Garden because our chickadees were sitting on their empty feeders and shouting at us.  This is our favorite place to buy birdseed, because of the selection, local sourcing, and the fact that you can measure what you want, rather than buying it in large plastic bags!  (The price is also competitive.)

Old school:  measure your seed and write the weight on the sack

While we were shopping, we ran into some friends that we had not seen for awhile, and decided to hang out for a bit while the store closed, and Bill's Beer Garden opened.

We spent a great couple of hours enjoying the early evening and catching up.  And what does that score on the quirkiness index-- (your favorite 100 year old former livery stable turned urban emporium, converting to outdoor beer garden in the evening)?  I'd give it a 9.  Oh wait!

You're hungry?  Walk through the drive-through part of the store, and visit Mark's Carts for a snack or dinner.  And you can bring your food back to enjoy with that great Michigan brew.

Bring the kids!  The vibe is like a neighborhood BBQ.

And I think that makes it a 10 out of 10 on the quirky (and awesome) scale.

It's so refreshing to be away from the "cookie-cutter" chain stores and restaurants, and find an experience that is completely unique to Ann Arbor.  Thanks, Mark Hodesh!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

25 year marriage SAVED.

It's that time again!!  As we are loading cucumbers in our car to head to Food Gatherers, I thought I would repost one of my favorite stories from last year.

 I recently heard a statistic that stated couples that had been together for a long time had fewer arguments than newer couples.  For anyone who has had a long marriage, this is hardly a news flash.

After all, if something hasn't been settled by now, it's certainly not going to be settled by yelling at each other (again), so life goes on, and the differences of opinion get avoided, when possible.

So what does this have to do with the gi-mungous pile of cucumbers and pickles in the picture???

Flash backwards a couple of summers when we first put in our giant kitchen garden.  It was awesome!!  Then the prolific gardener I live with, did his thing.  And the produce started coming in bushel baskets.  I'm not kidding.

So here is where the arguments started.  It seemed every time I left the kitchen, he would sneak out to the garden, and bring in a huge basket of vegetables.  Whaa?

"What am I supposed to do with those???" I asked-- to no one, (because by now, he was as far away from me as he could get).  In defense of my favorite gardener, I guess he had done the hunting and gathering, and now it was my turn.  Except I only knew how to hunt and gather too.  Problem.

Every inch of the refrigerator was stuffed with produce, and I was about ready to start sneaking it on our neighbors' doorsteps in the dead of night-- like in some Garrison Keillor story.  And I especially learned to dread cucumbers!!  Now I like cucumber salad as much as anyone-- but really.  How many cukes can one woman eat?

But we've had our fair share of creative problem-solving through the years, so first, we learned the age-old skill of canning.  It is actually kind of fun, and since the extended family enjoys anything pickled, we're off to a good start.  We have successfully pickled carrots, peppers, yellow beans, green beans, onions, beets, and of course pickles.  It's not particularly hard if you follow the directions-- if you want to try it, the only book you need is The Complete Book of Home Preserving, brought to you by the Ball Corporation.  It answers every question, and has recipes for everything you would possible can.  See it here, buy it at Nicola's!

But alas, the "burpless" cukes that we like best, cannot be pickled.  (Sweet Success, by Burpee, if you're interested.)  So they kept showing up, 10 lbs at a time.

Just when we were on the verge of D-I-V-O-R-C-E, (don't worry kids, just kidding....) we came across THE ANSWER.  One of our very favorite charities, is Food Gatherers.  They have a stellar rating with the folks who rate charities, (top 1%)-- and they are happy to take extra produce, and put it to good use.   In 2013, we gave 52 lbs of dukes to the "plant a row for the hungry" program, and we both have a smile on our faces, after visiting.

So drop off your extra produce, volunteer, and keep an eye out for the date of Grillin' 2015-- the most fun fund raiser of the year!!
You can't miss their entry...

Friday, July 4, 2014

Zingerman's Deli

Olive oil and vinegars-- ask for a taste!
 It was time to make pizza, and we were out of pepperoni, so we decided to head to Zingerman's for the good stuff.  My strategy for eating fattening or basically unhealthy foods is to buy the highest quality, and (hopefully), eat less of it.  If you are used to the tiny slices of the pepperoni you get sealed in plastic from  the grocery store, you really must try the real thing from Zingerman's.  The slices are bigger, and are deliciously spiced, with fennel overtones.

Fantastic cheese case
You can ask for a taste of anything before you commit to it, so you are in a no-risk proposition.

Zingerman's staff seems delighted to share tastes of their wonderful offerings, and are very knowledgeable about everything they sell.

Zingerman's also has a well-deserved reputation for being expensive, so smaller quantities keep the price in the reasonable range, as well.  While we were there, we also bought some Ursinger's German hard salami (nicely smoked, and made in Wisconsin)-- which is one of my personal favorites.  One slice of good salami can completely wake up a turkey sandwich!!

There is a reason that the international food writers love Zingerman's.  If you don't know why, maybe it's time for you to visit!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Farmer's market and marché agricole

Michigan asparagus
It's rather pitiful that the pictures of my last post have no leaves on the trees-- but in my defense, I have been much too busy 'doing' to post!

We have spent some time in southern France, and one of our favorite activities is to visit the farmer's markets wherever we are.  It was very nice to be able to go to our Farmer's market when we returned.

I think French tourists would be delighted to find our market!

Michigan flowers

French breakfast radishes
Michigan mushrooms

French asparagus
Market at Chalon-sur-Saone
Our beautiful market space

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Argo Pond walk: Looking for signs of spring

Wooly Bear caterpillar on the sidewalk just past the dam
The sun was out on the last day of March, so we decided to go for a short walk around the Argo Pond.
Skunk cabbage pushing their way up to the sun at the bottom of the steps off Barton

We started at the inner parking lot of Bandemeer Park (drive across the single lane wooden bridge and follow the drive to the parking lot at the beginning of the disk golf course.  Then walk back under M-14, across the river, and under M-14 again.  This is the worst part of the walk to me, and I like to get it over with first.

Then it's time for a choice:  either stay on the sidewalk/road and walk Barton to Longshore Drive up above the river, or if you have good boots and don't mind some mud, take the steps down and walk the path that follows the river.  I like the path best, but if it's raining or icy, the road is the safest.

When you reach the canoe livery, the dam is just ahead.  If you want to add additional steps, turn left and follow the cascades to Broadway (and have a snack at Northside Grill).  Or after you cross the dam, cross the railroad tracks and head left toward town.  You are a short distance from Kerrytown, with many cute shops and lunch destinations.  

To continue walking around the pond, cross the dam, and turn right on the sidewalk, past the Ann Arbor rowing club barn and dock.  Follow the sidewalk back to the parking lot where you will find your car.

This is a very pleasant 2.5 mile walk, that takes about an hour to do if you don't take any detours.
Argo dam releasing water downriver
I love the 8 man crew boats ready for practice, parked next to a leftover snowbank.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Retired in Ann Arbor mentioned in The Ann magazine

Yes, those birthdays just keep rolling by, and this article talks about how we are enjoying those days between celebrations.

Aging in Ann Arbor:  a warm harbor for a graying population

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ann Arbor City Club

The Ann Arbor City Club sponsors some of Ann Arbor's best activities in the spring.  This Club has a long and distinguished history in Ann Arbor, since its creation in 1951 as the Ann Arbor Women's City Club.

Prior to becoming the Club, this location was home to several prominent Ann Arbor citizens.  The original home was built in 1881, and was surrounded by blueberries and fruit trees.  Then Mr. Spooner bought and sub-divided the land, building some of the other beautiful houses in the neighborhood.  Read more of the history of the club here.

Here are some activities that you might want on your calendar:
April 2-- Lunch and learn with U of M Professor Perry Samson, on "What We Don't Know About Tornados"
April 8-- Lunch and learn with U of M lecturer Bruce Conforth, on "American Blues:  History, Style and Context"
May 7-- Lunch and learn with Research Affiliate, U of M Center on the Demography of Aging and the Population Studies Center, Amy Pienta, on "What Happens to Research Data at the End of a Project?"

Another great event is the Flea Market, on Saturday (9AM-4PM) and Sunday (noon-4PM), March 29-30.  This is one of the not-to-be-missed events of the spring!  If you love auctions or estate sales, this is your event. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The last of the winter recipes--

Hopefully this is the last blast of winter-- now that we've officially broken the record for the most snow, I think it's time to get on with it!

In preparation for spring,  I like to take one more pass at the recipes that I seem to make only in winter-- in hopes that in a couple of days I'll be grilling salmon and breaking out the sauvignon blanc, without a backward glance.

So what are my favorite winter dishes?
First, I have to share a great new dish that I got from  Real Simple magazine:  Brussels sprouts roasted with kimchi.  First, here is my disclaimer:  I hate kimchi.  I don't mind some Korean food, and you may find me in line at Kosmo ordering a Bi Bim Bop on occasion, but I always skip the kimchi.

When I saw this recipe, I was not sure how I would feel about it, but by that time I had probably eaten a bushel of sprouts myself, and needed some variety.  This calls for 1/4 cup kimchi per pound of sprouts, so I thought it was worth a risk.  I bought a jar of Oh Gee Kimchi from The Brinery, tossed it in the raw sprouts, and put them in the oven.  When they were done, Heaven!

Next, I made a batch of lebkuchen cookies.  They were always our nod to our German heritage at Christmas time, but (like the Germans), we decided they were too good to only have at Christmas.  I bought extra fruit and peel mix (seasonally carried at Hillers) so I could make them through the spring.  My family is divided on them-- either you love the taste, or not so much.  Guess which camp I lead? 

Hearty soups like this chicken rice

Chicken and biscuits
And when you think everyone BUT YOU has been to the tropics (or at least Florida), and shared a picture on Facebook, make yourself a nice drink with Wolfmoon mixers:  Pineapple Jalapeño, Bombay Sapphire, and some nice juicy chunks of fresh pineapple.  You'll feel fine in no time.

Wolfmoom Mixers can be found at the Produce Station