Michigan Roadtrips

I love Michigan and have lived here all my life. Within one to four hours in any direction, you can take an endless number of road trips and discover fun things to do.  (Under the “Michigan” category, you can bring up earlier posts – and I hope you will.)  

We’ve got countless lakes at every turn, gorgeous weather and amazing vineyards as well as sports, casinos, festivals, concerts, theaters, galleries, universities, zoos, great restaurants, parks and markets….you get it, right?

I’m sharing a couple of slideshows of road trips I’ve made over the last four weeks, from St Clair and Marysville to Traverse City, Lake Leelanau, Cedar and Suttons Bay. If you have a chance to visit Michigan, these are a few of my favorite places.

  1. St Clair & Marysville

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2. Traverse City, Cedar, Lake Leelanau & Suttons Bay

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Perfectly Beautiful Saturday

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With the first of our three day Fourth of July weekend, the weather here in Michigan couldn’t be any more perfect.  In fact ever since Wednesday this week it has been gorgeous including cooler nights and even a pretty solid and much needed rainfall in the wee hours Friday.

Spence and I choose to stay home on holiday weekends as the majority of the state heads “up north”.  The Great Lakes State, Michigan has much to offer the farther north you travel and it’s stunning.  However, there’s also traffic, construction and people pulling boats, jetskis and various other toys.  We’re retired and can travel anytime plus when everybody else leaves town, it’s quiet and laid back.

With a soft breeze, brilliant blue sky and fluffy white clouds drfting above us we’re enjoying the garden.  I picked the first 5 raspberries earlier, eating them right off the bush, like a bite of warm raspberry pie. In a bit, Spence will fire up the grill and I’ll open a bottle of wine and we’ll be chillin’.

Indeed, it’s a perfectly beautiful Saturday.

 

 

59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty nine

Forty seventh thing: The next entry in this series of things that make me happy is new experiences.  Since retiring, I have had a number of new experiences that have enriched my life, making my new “normal” exciting.

Some experiences, such as taking guitar lessons (a life-long dream) turned out differently than I’d imagined.  It was hard – awkward, painful and clearly not for me.  Others, blogging, yoga, meditation, writing, culinary knife skills – I truly enjoy.

This past weekend, I attended my first opera, “Orpheus and Eurydice”produced by the Opera Grand Rapids. Loving music, theater and dance, I was intrigued and was sure it would be great.  In truth, it was more than I could have imagined, it was magical.

Photos courtesy of Opera Grand Rapids Facebook page

Due to my unfamiliarity with this story I sought out a synopsis via Wikipedia, finding that it is comes from mythology, a subject I’d loved in high school.  The story is compelling, a love so great that after his wife Eurydice dies tragically, Orpheus travels into Hell to bring her back.

The staging was set in modern day, simple yet dramatic and very effective. There were three leads, dancers and a chorus, a small cast I learned (compared to grand operas).  The orchestra (while not visible from the pit) was amazing as was the haunting music.  There was a screen along the top of the stage which supplied translation of the lyrics making the story easier to follow.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” was fascinating and performed beautifully – the singing and acting conveying a deeply moving love story.

I’m so grateful to my dear friend for sharing her love of opera with me.  It was the highlight of an absolutely stellar girl’s weekend and a new experience that I’ll never forget.

Photos courtesy of Opera Grand Rapids Facebook page

For more on this series, “59 Candles, 59 Things” just click on 59 Things under categories.

Adam Lambert in Concert

Last Saturday, my sister and I attended Adam Lambert’s concert at the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort.  Having been die-hard fans since his first audition on American Idol (which he should have won!) this is my second (her third) time seeing him perform.

When we saw him last, he was touring with Queen (there’s an earlier post on that concert). He was brilliant – the vocals so beautifully echoing the magnificent, gone-too-young Freddie Mercury. Bliss.

This time, Adam performed his music including a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” which rocked the house.  Adam is a natural and gifted performer, singing and dancing, while flashing that gorgeous, mega-watt smile – truly riveting to watch.

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November 2015 in Michigan – and I’m still wearing flip-flops!

Michigan has been my home for all of my 59 years.  By November, leaves are off the trees, the variety of fall colors are a sweet but fading memory.  And it’s time to break out the jackets – or at least the sweaters.

Not this year. The Autumn of 2015, has to be the most beautiful in my recollection. On Monday it reached 79 degrees at home though I was en route to Traverse City (northwest Michigan) with my lifelong BFF.  I think Traverse City easily reached 75 degrees on Monday with Tuesday and Wednesday equally warm.  On Tuesday at 5:00 p.m., I was standing in the sand, wearing flipflops and taking photos of the crystal blue water, lighthouse, sunset and amazed at our good fortune.

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The color change, which historically would be over by now, was in full glory. It wasn’t just warm, it was sunny and the sky was brilliant, painting the trees with light. Driving the two lane roads throughout the countryside, we marveled at every turn. I love Michigan and this time of year is always something special, though often it’s brief.  I’m so grateful to be able to experience it in retirement.

Everyday, this was my view – it was hard to leave such beauty. You can smell the fresh scent of pine in the air.

As we were packing the car for our return trip, I noticed mushrooms sprouting along the forest floor.

What a magical couple of days!

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Until next time!

Why I Love Michigan in Autumn

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This group of trees is a few houses up the road from our home and is always the most brilliant example of Michigan Autumn at it’s best. We’ve had a pretty dry couple of weeks and the color change is beautiful, with the leaves hanging on longer and the colors becoming richer. Today, after admiring them for years I couldn’t resist taking this photo.

59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Twenty Four

Thirty-second thing: One of the things that makes me happy takes place a mere ten minute drive from our home and is one of the most fun things to do in Michigan. The Michigan Renaissance Festival is held in nearby Holly Michigan and is an experience unlike any other.  Each weekend, encompassing seven weeks, thousands of people flock to this festival. Here’s a bit of history, courtesy of http://www.michrenfest.com:

History
For 37 years, the Michigan Renaissance Festival has provided Holly with a unique venue that regularly attracts more than 250,000 visitors from Michigan, surrounding states and Canada. When the Festival first began back in 1979 on the grounds of Columbiere in Clarkston, Michigan, the Renaissance Festival attracted 11,000 patrons during its 5 weekend event. Years later the Festival found a more permanent home where it currently stands, just 12 miles south of Flint on Dixie Highway.

Spence and I have attended this event for nearly thirty years and though at least 65% or more of attendees dress in Renaissance garments, we do not. That doesn’t deter us from the sheer joy of people watching.  Yesterday was a perfect autumn day – sunny and in the 60’s with a light breeze as opposed to those weekends we’ve attended when it’s been in the nineties – hot and dusty. We arrived at 10:00 (when the gates open) and departed around 3:00.  The festival grows every year with more beautiful landscaping and permanent structures. There are shows, rides (man-powered as in Renaissance times) jousting, a parade (see video at the end of this post), camel rides and petting zoos and endless food choices (I favor the Scotch Egg, others wait in line for grilled turkey drumsticks to name a few) plus beer and wine for the adults. People bring their dogs – often in costumes. If you’re in Michigan from August-early October, I recommend this event!

The parade is something special to see:

Japanese Cultural Center – Tea House & Tea Ceremony

After strolling through the gardens at the Japanese Cultural Center yesterday, my Mom, sister and I proceeded to the Tea House to take part in the Tea Ceremony.

Awa SaginawAn was designed by renowned architect Mr. Tsutomu Takenaka and constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan. Its foundation rests part on American soil and part on Japanese soil. It is treasured as one of the most authentic tea houses in North America.

Designed by a Japanese architect, the exterior was built by a local contractor. The interior was finished by four Japanese contractors working directly with the architect.  A few interesting facts:

  • There were no nails used anywhere in the interior. Everything was planed and fitted.
  • No paint was used. The material of the walls is natural and has a sandy, stucco type feel to the surface.
  • The ceiling of the Tea House is hand-woven cedar.
  • All the wood is natural and unfinished and includes trees that were fitted into the walls, brought from Japan.

We took our seats shortly before the ceremony was to begin after first being encouraged to take photos, that included a few selfies. (Girl’s Day Out documentation)

Our hostess came in at 2:00 beginning with a brief yet fascinating history of Tea Houses (this one and Tea Houses in Japan) and Tea Ceremonies.  The type of Tea Ceremony we were attending was established only 400 years ago by the 11th Grand Tea Master in 1872 for the World Fair in Kyoto Japan. To introduce the world to Tea Ceremonies, it was determined that the traditional kneeling on Tatami Mats would be too painful and awkward so they provided benches. This is how we were seated. Traditional Tea Ceremonies in Japan, in Tea Houses or Tea Huts, go back many years and the number of Tatami Mats are descriptive of the size of the Tea House (2 Tatami Mats, by example would be a small Tea Hut) and participants would kneel throughout the duration of the ceremony.

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Our lovely hostess was a wealth of knowledge
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Born in Japan, she came to the US in 1957 when she married her husband, a Saginaw Michigan native.

The Tea Ceremony is based on four principles, Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility. Tea leaves are picked by hand in May, steamed, dried and ground into powder for Tea Ceremonies (not brewed as the type of tea you’d drink daily).

There is a hot water pot with a bamboo ladle and a cold water pot should the temperature of the water need to be adjusted. There is a lovely process of cleaning and preparing the tea bowl before the guests. Then using a long implement, tea is measured into the tea bowl and whisked into the steaming water.  The whisk is fashioned from a single piece of bamboo.

Each movement was slow, deliberate, silent and reverent.  Our hostess was assisted in the ceremony by two ladies in Kimonos, one who served the other. The Tea Bowl in which the tea is prepared is highly prized. With a lovely design on one side only, the bowl is turned as it is served so that the guest may admire the design. The guest then turns the bowl and slurps the tea from the plain side of the bowl. The “slurping” is considered a sign appreciation indicating “it was good to the last drop”.

Historically, Tea Bowls were so revered that a Shogun was known to take it as his only possession upon retirement and the value was such that often a Tea Bowl was given in place of land.

The ladies served each of us, delivering the sweets first, one person at a time.  Then bringing our tea, one at a time.

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The sweet on the left, Yokan, is made from a sweetened red bean paste, the consistency like a firm gelatin. (I thought it tasted like dates) The one on the right had a much more complex name and is made of a cookie type crust over a sweetened white bean paste. I thought it tasted a bit like shortbread.

For more information about the Japanese Cultural Center, visit their website at:

http://www.japaneseculturalcenter.org

Did you miss part one of my Girls Day Out?  Click here to go to the first post:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/japanese-cultural-center-the-gardens/

For a short video of the Tea Ceremony:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/the-tea-ceremony-at-japanese-cultural-center-a-short-video/