Still Waiting on Spring

Michigan is still waiting for spring, it seems. Sometimes we get a sneak peek, but then it hides away again. Today is sunny – but also 24 degrees. I have strawberry plants that have arrived and want to be planted, but the ground is still frozen! For now they are living in the house, but I am going to have to come up with a new plan for these guys, my awesome Viking strawberries.

Yesterday was sunny and mild except for the crazy wind. The wind was biting cold when it slammed against you, but when it wasn’t stealing your breath, the day was actually not too bad. Our family celebrated the return of the sun to our area by heading downtown to Belle Isle and visiting the aquarium and conservatory, where we not only got the sun, but we also had humid temperatures, tropical plants, heat. It was wonderful, despite the fact that we were dressed for winter but walking through a greenhouse.

It was jam packed there – I am guessing everyone in the whole metro area was out enjoying the weather. We have had gray skies for too long! This whole state has a Vitamin D deficiency, as we wait for spring.

The garden was beautiful, full of green growing plants, smelling of earth and warmth. We saw a banana tree, a lemon tree, an orange tree, a pomelo tree. Cacti. A ginger plant, pink puffballs. Giant leaves bigger than Wyatt, delicate fronds, wispy ferns. A water fountain. Even signs that a cat lives there somewhere, but not the cat itself, although I would have loved that, and Wyatt would have too. He loves his kitties.

It was a nice day, that we ended with pizza slices from Supino’s, which has the most amazing pizza ever. It was Wyatt’s first time eating there, and he kept asking for more. Another fan is made. We stuck with the basics but I love their pizza with basil – I love basil anything. The slices are huge, thin crusted, so you can just fold them over and eat. But there is something about the crust, some taste, some deliciousness we can’t put our finger on – that is where the magic is. In that crust. We had a car picnic so I didn’t get any photos, but next time I will.

I feel inspired! This week we are going to start seeds indoors. Normally it would be too late, but with this delayed spring I think we should be ok.

How about you guys? Any thing in particular you like on pizza? Are you a thin crust person or a thick crust person?

 

Third Birthday Celebration

My little guy is three. Three! I can scarcely believe how fast these years are going by. It seems like just yesterday he was a tiny peanut in the NICU.

The day Wyatt was born was the coldest day of the year that year. This year, we had a severe winter storm alert the night before. Schools were called off, big snow, ice and just generally crappy conditions were forecast. We were disappointed since Billy had taken the day off of work for us to celebrate as a family. And when we got up, the weather was pretty nasty. But within the hour, it began to warm up, and thaw. And melt. Huge snow clumps were raining from trees and telephone wires and house awnings, like enormous snowflakes. The sky was blue, the air was not blisteringly cold, and there was no bone chilling winds. So, we loaded up with multiple coats and layers to prepare for the day and whatever it might throw at us, and headed out into the blue.

First stop was Tim Hortons. Our guy loves doughnuts, and as a special treat, we had doughnuts for breakfast. Wyatt devoured a doughnut with sprinkles, most of his father’s sour cream glazed, and then followed that up with a few bites of Timbit. Not his normal breakfast obviously, but a special birthday one. I had a giant coffee and my favorite chocolate dip. Billy had the remnants of the doughnuts that Wyatt didn’t eat. I guess I lucked out since Wyatt is not a chocolate fan. ūüôā

Once Wyatt finally stopped eating doughnuts, we set our sights north to the Detroit Zoo. We have a membership to the zoo, and we love it. One of the things we love most about it is that with a membership, we never feel pressured to “do” the whole zoo in a day, if we don’t want to. We can show up, walk around for an hour or so, just visit our favorite animals. We do of course visit all the exhibits some days, but most of the time we amble about, taking our time. And we love to go on weird off days, when we have it mostly to ourselves. And Wyatt’s birthday was perfect – almost empty, probably due to the fact that it was midmorning on a Friday, and that the weather had been miserable in the morning. Plus, you know, it is winter. Lol. So, we had the zoo to ourselves.

First stop was the amazing Polk Penguin Center. It is seriously awesome, with a 4-D experience to enter, like you are on a boat headed to the Antarctic, complete with day and night changes, storm simulations, and even a little rain and water spray. Wyatt loved that part, getting wet in the spray. He loves the penguins, probably because he can get face to face with them!  That little trio of Gentoo penguins waddled on over to preen and show off and pose Рthe volunteer told us that the Gentoo are the friendliest and love to have their photos taken! If you want to see the penguins in action, you can check out their webcam feed.

From the Penguin Center, we headed further in, toward the River Otter habitat, one of our family favorites. This little river otter family is so delightful and entertaining, the way they zoom around, and play. We could stand and watch them for a long time, and we were the only ones there besides the volunteer for a good while. She shared some pretty fun stories, and the exhibit itself is relaxing, made of solid wood like you are in a cabin up north. It was a good moment, watching the otters play, in the brisk air, the scent of pine around us. We were so delighted by them we didn’t take photos!

Next we had planned to go through the Reptile house to warm up, but it was way too humid in there, and after being out in the cold, it was too much of a temperature change so we headed back out. At least the reptiles were comfortable though!

We decided to just walk a little further before leaving – the zoo is pretty huge and we didn’t want Wyatt to get too cold. So our last and final stop were the camels. Usually this family is sleeping or just relaxing all together on the ground, but today they were up and at ’em, super active. There was one right by the wall too, we could hardly believe it! They are pretty cute, especially the babies! Wyatt was entranced. He is usually a ham, posing for the camera (just like the Gentoos!), cheesing it up, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the camels to look at me long enough for a photo!

All in all, it was a fantastic visit, albeit short. Next time we will see more, the Red Pandas, the lions, the wolves, the kangaroos, the polar bears (our Nuka just got a girlfriend!). All favorites of ours. One thing I love about the Detroit Zoo is how many of their animals are rescues. They do such a great job, and while I don’t know the percentage of their animals that they have rescued, I do know that a great deal of them were. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area!

We headed back home and had one of Wyatt’s favorite dinners – fish sticks and macaroni. The night sky even showed off for his birthday, with a clear sky and a giant brilliantly bright moon. My boy loves to be outside at night, stargazing, so this was the perfect ending to our day.

He was a happy little boy.

 

Snow Day!

This is our season.

There is something so refreshing, so vitalizing about being out in the snow, in the cold. Feeling the sun on your face, the crunch underfoot the only sound you can hear. The crisp air, that seems so much fresher and cleaner in the winter.

We are bigtime fans of winter and snow, can you tell?

We used to winter hike all the time, even more than we did in the summer, honestly. But when Wyatt was born, we didn’t venture out as much. He was so small, born early and weighing a whopping 2 lbs 13 oz, he is still a little guy. But tough like crazy. He also has cerebral palsy, and while we are working on walking, he is not there yet. We are determined not to let this stand in his way, and want him to enjoy the winter as much as we do.

So today we bundled him up to the gills, popped him into a sled, and set off. And boy, did he have a blast! Big smiles on his face, mine, and his fathers. This time, laughter ringing through the mostly silent woods. We didn’t take a long walk, but long enough. Next time I will bring a scarf for his face, and we can go a little further.

The Norwegians have a word – friluftsliv, which means “free air living”. As different from hygge as you can get, which is about being cozy inside, friluftsliv is about living in the great outdoors, embracing the elements and nature year round.

This year, I want to embrace both concepts. Incorporate both into our lives. We don’t need to be exclusive. Some days call for cozy afternoons, snuggled up reading in the warm house, thick socks warming your toes, listening to a crackling fire, sipping a drink that warms your insides and soul. Other days, you need to move, explore the outdoors, to connect with nature and life and fresh air.

I just checked out a book from the library, There is No Such Thing as Bad Weather, which is part of the Norwegian expression, there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. We did well on the walk for today, and now, we are enjoying some cozy time inside.

Friluftsliv meets hygge, the perfect blend.

It’s All About the Bicycles

Today is a day that Billy and I count down to in the summer – the start of the Tour de France. He is a huge bike guy; I just love the Tour. I am in awe of what these men do, how far they ride, for how long, through the Alps for goodness’ sake. Whole mountain ranges are devoured by their bike tires and sweat. It is an amazing feat, and I am blown away by their tenacity and athleticism. We hope to go and stand on the sidelines one day, cheering them on along the road of some small town in the mountains of France.

Our date night this week was bikecentric РI am not sure if the Detroit Zoo planned it for the week of the Tour on purpose, but if not, good timing on their part! The zoo hosted an evening event, a Bike Safari if you will, where participants could ride their bikes through the winding paths of the zoo, stopping to view the animals along the way. It was family friendly, although it was sponsored by New Belgium Brewery; you just got one of those neat wristbands to prove you were over 21.  Over 800 people attended, and it made for a very fun evening. Despite being so many people in attendance, it was not a difficult ride. I get really nervous if people ride too close to me, I am not a super confident bicyclist. However, there were three different start times, and it really divided everyone up very effectively. People riding were spaced very well, and it only became tricksy a few times, when riders would stop suddenly in front of you to see an animal, rather than biking to the side of the pathway and stopping.

There were three hydration stations set up, and two of them included a 3 Рoz sample of New Belgium beer to those who wanted to imbibe. We of course drank our samples, along with the water that was also provided. I am not a super big beer drinker, but I enjoyed my choices! The options were Cirtadelic Tangerine, Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Dayblazer. I chose Dayblazer and Fat Tire; Billy had Voodoo Ranger and Dayblazer. We also got a can each at the end of the ride as well, same choices. We stuck with two we had already had Рme again with the Fat Tire, Billy with the Voodoo Ranger. They were icy cold and delicious after the long hot ride through the zoo. There was a live band at the finish, along with a few food options and the opportunity to purchase more drinks. Alternatively, people could choose to go listen to scientists speak at the reptile house about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project. Nature nerds that we are, we opted for the wolf-moose project, although our beers did come with us.

The two scientists were full of interesting information and facts. We have always wanted to visit Isle Royale, so it was cool to talk to people who have not only been there, but really know the island intimately, and all of her inhabitants. It is a sad scenario though. Right now, there are some 1500 moose on the island. And just two wolves, who are so inbred that the pack is dead. They cannot reproduce. The pack in its heyday numbered 50, at least in as far as scientists have been tracking its numbers. Due to all the inbreeding though, numbers began to fall as they died off. Their health was compromised and a strain of parvo killed a bunch off. The moose are without predators, and while this seems like yay moose ~ it really isn’t, as they may run out of food sources themselves as the island may not be able to support that many moose, unchecked. This is the subject that the scientists we spoke with were studying, the effect of the moose upon the fir, and just how long these moose could be sustained by the fir trees on the island. They eat fir trees, and these fir trees barely have the opportunity to grow, as the moose just eat the heck out of them. An obvious solution would be to introduce a new pack. I would love to see this happen, and have the balance returned to the island.

That is only replica moose scat, btw. Lol. And a kick butt caiman looking at us in the reptile house.

This event was a great time, and well worth the money we paid to do it. It was a wonderful night and we will definitely go again. If you are interested in reading more about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, you can go here and here. If you are interested in participating (even cooler!) check this out.

 

Bringing the Outdoors, In – OAC, Detroit

The DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit was designed to bring “up north” to Detroit, and it really captures the spirit of being outside, while teaching about the natural resources and treasures that can be found in our state. We had been wanting to visit for a while, and we decided it would be a fun little excursion for our family to celebrate Wyatt’s second birthday.¬†

 
As you walk through the OAC, you are introduced to all the different natural resources and landscapes that make up the state of Michigan – water, sand, forest, flora, fauna. I didn’t take photos of everything, but you get to “explore” the watery world of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s rivers, complete with a simulated kayaking ride and simulated fishing, ¬†stand in a giant yurt and learn about the many camping opportunities that abound here, stand behind a giant waterfall, explore a mine (Detroit has huge salt mines), learn about the sand dunes, and duck into a beaver dam exhibit. The waterfall was a big hit with Wyatt, as was the aquarium. The waterfall was my favorite part too.

The second floor gave kids the opportunity to stand in a giant duck blind, a prop airplane, and learn about different natural resources, including¬†maple syrup! There was also a nice display about Citizen Science, which I thought was really cool. When we were walking around there was a small school group visiting, so we couldn’t get too close to some of the exhibits, but they seemed to center on hunting, which I was fine with skipping. So was Wyatt, who was just a little freaked out by the taxidermied animals ~ including Smokey.

After exploring the upstairs, we headed back down and hung out in the play area, which included a giant tree that kids could “climb” to the second floor, and a slide. It was really neat, for a bit older kid than my guy. We enjoyed hanging out around the faux campfire in the Michigan shaped Adirondack chairs though.¬†
The fee for entry was only $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for kids two and up, and is a great place to take kids, especially in the cold blah of winter. We left having learned a few new things, and inspired to take a possible small camping trip this summer, which I feel might turn into staying in a cabin near wilderness, rather than in a tent, but close enough for now, right? It was also a nice reminder of the natural treasures that make up Michigan. If you are ever in the area, I recommend popping in for an hour or two! We had a great time. 

Date Night at The Republic Tavern

It’s been eons since my husband Billy and I have gone out on a proper dinner date. One where we got to encounter new foods, new sounds, a new experience and really, to spend time with each other just the two of us.¬†
This building is way cool, which is not depicted in this photo. Lol. The restaurant is in the Grand Army of the Republic Building in Detroit, and it looks castle-like.  Republic  is a scratch kitchen, meaning they make everything from scratch. They also locally source as much as they can, which is pretty darn awesome. Since it is locally sourced, it is also seasonal.   
The restaurant was packed, as I had anticipated. Luckily, Republic takes reservations, something I am finding that less and less restaurants do. I love reservations, especially now that I am a parent. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a table anymore. My time is limited, so when I go out to eat, I want to know I can go in and get a table. So yay Republic!¬†
The crowd was a little older, maybe late thirties and up, except for at the bar, which seemed to hit all age ranges. The hum of conversation was perfect Рnot so loud you had to shout, but not so quiet that you felt weird talking at a normal volume. 
The drink menu had a few good wines and beer listed, as well as handmade specialty cocktails. They also offered a whiskey flight, which intrigued my husband, but he settled on a draft beer instead. I ordered a glass of Biutiful Malbec, and we settled back to peruse the menu. The waitress told us that the menu was designed for us to pick and choose and share, and that the food is served family style. It is also served as it is made, and is brought out as it is done. ¬†This wasn’t a problem for us, as we weren’t ordering very much, but I am curious as to how that works in a bigger group or with different food.¬†
We started with the Ploughman’s Platter, which was amazing. Black pepper bread, pub cheese, a sharp cheddar, venison salami, pickled celery, actual pickles, and some sort of smoky tasting jam. I didn’t care for the jam, it was like eating a bonfire, and I don’t eat meat, but the rest was so good. I could have eaten that pub cheese all night. The pickled celery was also amazeballs.¬†
We skipped the Greens section of the menu and went straight to the entrees, or Pasture, as they called it.
I had the whole smoked trout, with aioli, nuts, and veggies. I knew to expect a head, since it said “whole” right in the description but I still couldn’t look at it. My husband and our awesome waitress discreetly took care of it for me. I thought the trout was very good, especially with the sauce. No complaints, but I also wouldn’t go wild over it.¬†

My husband on the other hand, did go crazy over his. He ordered the Pork Steak, which was charred, and served with herbed jam, paneer, cherries and apple. It also had bacon with it. 

I think it is safe to say that he enjoyed it. 
We had also enjoyed a few drinks each by this point, so my photos get a little worse from here! But don’t worry, there is only one!
For dessert we split the lavender lemon crumble, which was seriously the best part of the meal. It was tiny but delicious, a bijou jewel on the crown of the dinner. It was shortbread crumble, lavender and honey ice cream, with lemon curd. Oy. It tasted of summer and spring all at once. 
We had such a fabulous time, and laughed like lunatics, and just in general, had a blast. We don’t normally splurge on ourselves much anymore, and it was so nice to do so with my guy. Overall, I highly recommend Republic to anyone who is interested in craft dining. They bill themselves as American Rustic, and I would agree that that is their style. If you are a vegetarian, it is maybe not the best option for a night out, but would be perfect for a nightcap and dessert, maybe after visiting the Opera House which is just across the way a bit.
I love all these restaurant options in Detroit these days. We haven’t been to the city for dinner for a while (try two years!), so we are behind on all the spots, but we are having fun discovering them!! ¬†Detroit’s food game is en pointe these days!