Japanese Cultural Center – The Gardens

The Japanese Cultural Center in Saginaw Michigan is less than an hour’s drive from home. There are gardens and by reservation they do a Tea Ceremony one Saturday per month.

My sister called. “Girl’s Day Out?” Absolutely.

Mom, my sister and I drove north, arriving at 1:00. The Tea Ceremony commences at 2:00 giving us time to enjoy the gardens which border water across from Ojibway Island along Lake Linton.

The Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House, and Gardens resides within the town of Saginaw, MI to promote intercultural understanding and peace through a bowl of tea.

It was a most enjoyable day, mid 80’s and a soft breeze.  First we strolled through the “strolling garden”.

It is a quiet, safe haven to view weeping cherry trees, authentic stone lanterns, hand crafted bamboo gates, an Asian-inspired gazebo, and an arching vermilion bridge over a winding stream.

Its gate opened in 1971 as designed by Mr. Yataro Suzue and Lori Barber.
He stated then: “beauty is not trickery, not illusion … but arranging elements like trees, water and rocks in a way that there is no crowding, no competition for attention.

All italicized quotes are directly from the Japanese Cultural Center’s website:


Related posts:

The Tea Ceremony at Japanese Cultural Center, a short video

Japanese Cultural Center – Tea House & Tea Ceremony

Painting Party at Picasso’s Grapevine

This is what the teacher painted

For those who follow my blog, you’ve seen references to my lifelong BFF who has been integral in injecting fun into my retirement life.

Yesterday, she gathered a group of family and friends for a painting party which is a new trend but the first time I’ve attended one.  Held at Picasso’s Grapevine, the hostess brings in wine and snacks, the venue provides ice buckets, cups, corkscrews and the like.  As we signed in we were given our own easel and canvas.  She’d pre-selected our subject for painting which was on display – a kind of Van Gogh-esque Sunflower scene.  In front of each easel were smocks, a large, medium and small brush, a cup of water (to clean our brushes) and a paper plate palate of acrylic paints in white, black, royal blue, burnt sienna, yellow, orange, red, green and purple.  Our instructor, Heather, started us off with a toast and as we raised our glasses, she explained the process.  At first we were all very quiet as we gripped our brushes with precision, getting the feel of painting.  As time went on and wine was consumed, we loosened up. The painting became more intricate and the laughter ratcheted up as our group walked around to look at how others were interpreting the same instruction.

Our group, lifelong BFF and I are far left.

Over all, it was a blast and even though I don’t think I’m ready to start selling my art, I felt a sense of accomplishment by doing something outside of my comfort zone.  It was fun, relaxing and I have a memento of our painting party as a bonus.

C'est Magnifique, no?
C’est Magnifique, no?

Between the Cracks

This story captivated me. It’s not far from where I live in Michigan. Make sure to click below to see the whole blog post, complete with photos of the most creative artistry and the story behind this inspired artist. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I will be making the trip to Ann Arbor to find these treasures as soon as spring arrives!

Halotherapy, the Salt Room Experience

“Halotherapy is widely used in Europe as an all-natural, drug-free therapy that complements traditional medical treatment for a variety of respiratory and skin conditions, such as asthma, allergies, bronchitis, sinusitis, common colds, congestion, sleep disorders and more.”  from Salinas Salt Room Spa

The Salt Room in Rochester Michigan
The Salt Room in Rochester Michigan and yes, the floor is all salt, as are the ceilings and walls.

I first heard about the salt room from my yoga guru, Jules. I was intrigued and thought “I’d like to do that”.  Then the holidays came and went as did my intent to follow through.  Enter my lifelong BFF who has been instrumental in my post-retirement exploration of new experiences.  She texted me suggesting a date to do it, had found a Groupon coupon and set the appointment for our Girl’s Day Out.  Game on!

Intrigued and not sure what to expect, we helped ourselves to a complimentary cup of tea, took off our shoes and were quietly ushered into “the Salt Room”.  With six comfy, ivory leather recliners, we took our seats along with a mother and daughter who joined us in the room.  The lighting was subtle, the atmosphere – ethereal.  Shortly after the doors were closed, soft music started.  My BFF suggested we use the time to meditate, which was perfect.  The room was a bit cool but soft blankets were provided.  As I meditated, I breathed deeply, using the mindful breathing I’ve been taught in yoga.  Our session was 45 minutes in length and we left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.

Prior to this day, I owned a lovely Himalayan Salt Lamp. (from Isabella.com)  When heated by the 15 watt bulb, the salt rocks emit negative ions, adding healthier air and beauty.

My lovely salt lamp. Both the
My lovely salt lamp. Both the “bowl” and the rocks are salt.

In the days since my visit, I also bought a Himalayan Salt votive holder.

I even did some searching an found a Himalayan Salt Inhaler which was delivered an hour ago!

And in my new enthusiasm for Himalayan Sea Salt, I’m even using it in my cooking.

Lest you think I'm making this up....
Lest you think I’m making this up…

And speaking of floating….

As I look out my window on a snowy, frigid Wednesday in Michigan, I fondly recalled a warmer day from this summer. My favorite Canadian and former co-worker Jess, invited us again this summer to the Port Huron Floatdown.  An annual “unofficial” event spanning 30 years, we’d missed it in 2013 due to our vacation but this year I was in.  Bucket list – right?

It was a hot, sunny day.  This was good as dependent on currents, it takes hours to complete. A tube was graciously provided for me complete with drink holders and head rest.  There was a flurry of activity to load up the tubes, kayaks, coolers, ginormous floats and rafts.  We were told  it’s “a bit crazy” to get to the launch site. Reality check: your designated driver gets as close as possible, stops in the middle of the street and you unload your stuff post-haste and hoof it to the beach then shoreline beyond.  I don’t recall how many were in our group – 30 or so?  So we’d all arrive, then tie up and off we’d go.  Right?

It was a bit more involved.  Traffic and multiple arteries to get to the beach. Bedlam. Chaos.  A veritable parade of colorful floating vessels, life vests, coolers transported by thousands of swimsuited minions, teeming and careening through the shifting, soft sand towards the shoreline. I hung out with Bams, Jess’s grandma (one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met, love her). We found a spot by a fence and offered to “watch the stuff ” (I’m good at that type of task) while the rest of our team ran back to work as spotters for the remainder of our flotilla, who arrived over the next 20-30 minutes blending into the throngs of floaters.  Once reunited, we quickly tied our stuff together.  In tandem, we pushed off the beach and into the water, leapt into our vessels (maybe gilding the lily about leaping – in my case flopping) launching at the same time as every other group who was ready to float.  And then we were off, starting our float just south of the magnificent Blue Water Bridge, which spans from Port Huron to Sarnia, Ontario in Canada.


Shipping lanes were closed so the typical freighter traffic was not an issue.  Suddenly we realized we were missing some of our gang.  Leaving no man behind, Jess and her mom turned their kayaks around. No mean feat with our flotilla in tow, paddling against the current, passing other floaters shouting “hey you’re going the wrong way“. Undeterred, we spotted our lost friends and in short order, attached them and now floated en masse towards St Clair.


We snacked, drank cold beverages, had our share of a variety of delicious jello and pudding shots.  And floated along this spectacular waterway, a bunch of friends having fun.

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  With one modification, sunscreen on my thighs (which have rarely been exposed to that much sun in recent years).

You might be asking yourself, “where was Spence?”  Age 70 at the time of the float, Spence is a Viet Nam veteran with shrapnel and war injuries that have left him in constant pain. I wanted the decision to be his.  Ultimately, he decided that floating in the cold water for hours wasn’t going to make sense for him.  Always game for a day by the water and hanging out with these friends, he enjoyed the sun while relaxing on the deck with his cooler of beer at our finish line.

Good times for sure. Adventures in retirement continue. And on this cold day, it’s fun to flashback to that balmy summer day.

Sensory Deprivation or Floating Away Stress

Everyday in retirement holds infinite possibilities for experiencing new things, traveling new places. And I’ve been one busy young retiree.  Immediately after I retired my lifelong BFF found a 3 day Primordial Meditation Workshop – was I in?  Abso-freaking-lutely!  I knew meditation would be good for me but was always too stressed, too tired or too fill-in-the-blank to commit to it.  Fast forward to now. I’ve rarely missed a day, sometimes meditating twice a day. Using a free smart phone app called Insight Timer, I’m up to 221 days, 87 hours of meditation and that doesn’t count the meditation done in my private yoga class.  I began working with an awesome yoga instructor/life coach/spiritual guide every other week, leaving each class feeling more zen, younger and flexible.

So when my sister gave me a brochure to Great Lakes Floatation and asked me if I’d be interested in going, I thought “but of course”.  I deduced that being in such a great mental place, I could easily handle being inside a sensory deprivation tank for an hour. Just me floating in a mega-salt water bath, in the dark. My sister by contrast, approached our girls-day-out in the midst of a catastrophic, money-hemmoraging home repair nightmare that for two days prior to the float included jackhammering her basement floor.  I knew that she desperately needed this but wondered if she could “let it all go” and just float.

I needn’t have worried.  There is something magical about the silky, tepid salt water.  About the dark and total absence of sound.  I repeated my meditation mantra for awhile, I think I dozed off a few times.  I stretched and floated in a state of nirvana.  I liken it to transporting back to the safety of the womb. (too much?)

When we emerged from our private tank and after a shower, we met up in the after-floatation lounge.  I felt fantastic but the transformation in my sister was remarkable.  All the frustration and stress that she carried in with her, had “floated” away.

My tank


My sister’s tank

Great Lakes Flotation LLC
5232 South Morrish Road, Swartz Creek, Michigan 48473  – in case you’re interested