A bit of green, a bit of grey

On the weekend, we usually head for the wild. Or as wild as we can get near Detroit. Lol. The woods call our name and we go. This past weekend however we took a detour and it was a lovely one.

Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day, spring was in the air and all was merry and cheerful. Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery was having a Celtic Celebration, and I couldn’t wait to go. I love the work that comes out of Pewabic, and my family ancestry is very Irish. They had advertised dancing, things for the kids to do, and best of all, live music. I grew up spinning around the living room in my mom’s arms to the songs of the Irish Rovers and I play them now for my son. So I was super excited for him to hear some Irish music live. I knew he would really love it, that and the dancing, all that lively jumping up and down.

We got there at the start of the event since Pewabic is not a large building really, and full of breakables and we had the boyo with us. I wanted to ensure that we were not swallowed by a crowd, plus I didn’t want to chance breaking anything by accident. It was nice as we were among the first to arrive, and we were able to listen to the music and do some coloring without much crowding. Although, Wyatt was more interested in his pretzel than coloring, so Billy colored instead. Lol. Wyatt did love the music as predicted, and loved The Rattling Bog the very best, just like I do.

Oh that fireplace! If only…maybe one day? So many beautiful items were on display, so much fantastic artistry. I ended up buying the bunny pictured alone, although I am going back for more very soon. I love rabbits. The tile I bought was by a Canadian artist named Mary Philpott, and is in the style of the British Arts and Crafts movement. I am in love with it! You can check out more of her work here.

Sunday was about Billy. Kind of. He wanted to go to an RV and Camper show, which I wasn’t super excited to do. But you know how you do, you do things your spouse wants and vice versa, right? Plus, he threw in that it was in the same city as a coffeehouse that I have wanted to go to for twenty whole years! So, off we went. I didn’t hate the RV thing – but I did think once you saw a few of them, why look at them all? We are considering getting one so we can start doing longer trips with the kiddo on vacation. As a kid with cerebral palsy, he has a lot of equipment that goes with us on trips, and a small RV might just be the ticket. Plus…I have turned into a weird germophobe along the way. I love staying in hotels but I am always a bit skeptical about their cleanliness, which I am sure is warranted in some cases, but not all! I guess I just need to bring my own bed with me places now. LOL.

So this coffeehouse – Billy went to it twenty years ago when he was doing travel computer training, when we were first married. Only an hour away, and we never made it back there – until last weekend! This magic place is called The Raven Cafe, in Port Huron, and is so very Edgar Allen Poe. I loved it! It was worth the wait. The coffee was hot and black and delicious, and our food was pretty darn good too! Wyatt wasn’t as impressed, and began to finger paint on the mirror next to us with his cheese sauce. (we of course cleaned it up and stopped him! we are not those parents..lol) If you ever are in the area and get the chance to stop in, I recommend it. The service was friendly, the coffee perfect, and the tables named for poets! It was the perfect day for it as well, cloudy, rainy, a bit gloomy, and the cafe was all warm woods the color of honey and just warmth and coziness. The website describes itself as “Part Hogwarts and part Cheers, the Raven is a unique place. When you step through the doors, you’ll get the distinct feeling you’re walking into a story.” And this is a very apt description, and I agree. I can’t wait to go back again.

 

So our weekend had a bit of glee with a side of gloom, and I loved them both!

 

A Wild and Woodsy Birthday Weekend

This weekend was my son’s fourth birthday! Time flies – I never knew how fast until I became a mom.  One minute he’s my little peanut baby boy and the next he is a big time four year old!

We love to be outside, especially in the winter, so this weekend we kicked off celebrations with a special outing just for the three of us to the Howell Nature Center. The Howell Nature Center is a rehab facility for wild animals that get sick or injured, with most of the animals being returned to the wild. However, not all of their animals are able to return due to the severity of their injuries, and reside at the Nature Center.

It was a cold and snowy morning, so we had the place to ourselves, which was nice honestly. Quiet, peaceful…until the Sandhill Cranes figured out it was their feeding time. Wow they are so loud! It was pretty cool to hear them though, and we watched them get fed. When we approached the enclosure the pair were excited, asking their caretakers for their frozen mice. And on the ground was an egg! The female had laid an egg, unfertilized, but an egg. It was really huge and pretty, and brand new. The woman working said it would be used for educational purposes. It was neat to see!

After watching the cranes, we wandered around, visiting the other enclosures. Some animals were being housed indoors for the winter, but many were still in their homes and feeling like visiting us, such as the bobcat, who strolled on by like a giant indifferent cat; the beautiful foxes – my favorite – Vixen and Copper, who were rescued from a breeder in Ohio that was going to use them for fur; the mink, who was flipping and flopping and playing all over his enclosure; and many mammals, like the deer, the coyote, and the porcupine. And we saw almost all of the birds – including two beautiful snowy owls! Yeti is a snowy that is their most recent intake. He was found in a back yard, starving, having been hit by a car as well, with a broken wing, no longer able to fly. We saw so many owls and hawks and eagles – I also fell in love with a handsome guy named Leo, who is a long eared owl. He was so cool!

On Sunday, we celebrated with a party for the boyo! We go to our local metropark all the time, and Wyatt loves it there. So it made sense to have it at the nature center! We did an owl theme, since my kiddo loves owls (and does a pretty good imitation of an Eastern Screech!) and there was so much for the kids to play and do. The interpreters read the book Owl Babies to the kids, then had them all make the cutest little owl babies out of pinecones and cotton! It was such a simple little craft, and the kids really enjoyed it! Although getting them all to stay in one place was a little like herding cats. They would wander around, come back, make another – typical preschooler behavior. They all did such a nice job though, and the interpreters did a great job with the kids. It was the perfect activity.

We kept the food simple, just pizza and some trail mix, pretzels and Teddy Grahams – and of course cake and ice cream. I went a little crazy ordering the cake, but it was beautiful and delicious. Then we just opened gifts, and let the kids explore and play for a while. It was a really nice day – and it even snowed for us, causing the woods to look gorgeous and all the birds to flock to the feeders. We saw so many different birds, but the most brilliant were the cardinals, with their red feathers so bright against the snow. At the end of the afternoon, we said goodbye, and handed out the goodie bags that my stepdad made that looked like cute little owls! Inside we had a small decorative birdhouse for all the kids.

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We were all exhausted of course afterwards, but it was more than worth it. My boy had a wonderful, fun day with all his friends, just the way it should be on your birthday.

 

Saturdays are for family

Saturday is our designated day for us, as much as we possibly can. Our weeks are so full, with work and school and therapy and appointments and cleaning and chores and all the stuff that comes along with living everyday. So we set Saturday aside as our day. The day we let things go, and just be together.

This past Saturday it was very much needed. It’s been an intense two weeks emotionally for me, and I do best when I get space and quiet to process things. We were predicted to have some crazy bad weather later that night through Monday morning, but when we left the house it was a brilliantly sunny day. A little chilly, but warm enough to get outside, walk around a bit, and soak up a little bit of sunshine.

We headed to Belle Isle in Detroit, somewhere we haven’t been for a while. The river was full of giant freighters, making their way through the Great Lakes, and people were running, biking, and two people were even playing hockey on the ice on one of the ponds. We took our time driving around, looking for birds. We eventually pulled into the nature center parking lot to get out of the car and stretch our legs a bit, and get some air and some of that sun. We walked on the trail behind the nature center, among the tall frozen grasses, the sounds of birdsong surrounding us.

 

Being out in the air was so restorative. You can take a deep breath, and feel yourself just relaxing and letting go of things that are bothering you, at least for a little while. And when you have two guys with you that look like lumberjacks, even better.

We of course popped inside the nature center after our walk. It was nice to warm up a bit, talk to the interpreters, and sit and watch the birds from the viewing area.

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And sometimes you see more than birds!

When we had hung out long enough, we bundled back into the car, shared a snack, and headed into the city, to one of our favorite bakeries, Avalon. If you are ever in Detroit, they make some fantastic bread and cookies. Usually Billy stops on his way home from work on Friday nights to get us fresh bread for Saturday morning breakfast, but he hasn’t had a chance lately. So we decided to get our bread for the week since we were already in town anyway.

I always want to go a bit crazy in there and buy everything, but I practice some restraint. This time we got a baguette, challah bread, a raisin bread loafling, an olive bread loafling (they were made from the dough that wasn’t enough to make a full loaf – so I am calling them loaflings..), a plain croissant, three cookies, and a peanut butter and chocolate brownie. I refrained from the Rose Latte which sounds amazing, and the chocolate croissant – this time at least! The sun was shining bright through the windows, it wasn’t crazy busy, and there was a man playing some music on his trumpet, so we stuck around a bit to listen and enjoy our cookies.

Eventually though, we had to head for home, but we did so with restored spirits and full bellies.

A Flight to the North Pole

Last Friday, Wyatt was given an opportunity to “fly to the North Pole.” It was definitely an amazing experience, one that we will never forget. 

All week I had been telling him about how we were going to fly to the north pole and see Santa, so he was pretty excited when we arrived. And just like any other flight, we had to check in for our boarding pass. I loved that even the monitors said that we were checking in for the North Pole! And Wyatt looks cute and tiny sitting there waiting for his ticket. Lol. 

There was an orchestra playing, decorations everywhere, and Wyatt was grinning from ear to ear as we moved to the next phase of our day. We had to check in with the event, where they gave him a sweatshirt, and a name tag, which reminded me of Paddington Bear, that hung around his neck. There was more music being played here, with people in costumes greeting the kids and entertaining everyone until we moved to the security line. We did have to go through security, as we were getting on a real plane and would be in the terminal. This was the only part that gave me some anxiety – because Wyatt was in a wheelchair they moved him to the other side of the gate – without me! I was very nervous about my kiddo being left there without me, and I asked the TSA agent to please make sure he didn’t wheel away. Wyatt didn’t take off but he did try, that little monkey! 

Once we were through and I could breathe again, we were zoomed off by an elf to the terminal to wait for our plane. This area had clowns handing out balloons and playing games, and the flight crew was on hand to greet all the children. This, I think, was Wyatt’s favorite. He was in awe of the pilot and co-pilot. They gave him some little wings, which was pretty cool too. Finally, our plane arrived taxied up and we were ready to board our flight!

It is all very choreographed and efficient, so things are kept moving, partly because small children are not usually super patient. So I didn’t get as many photos as I wanted, but I did capture a few moments. Wyatt was also obsessed with the seat belt. I ended up keeping him on my lap, seat belted in. And then, we “took off”! The plane in reality taxied around for about an hour, and even gathered some serious speed to mimic take off. We had to leave the window shades down though, to maintain the illusion for the kids- which was a battle between me and my son, who kept wanting to open it. Lol. On our flight we were served lunch, and the elves sang carols. It was a great time, and Wyatt loved the music, and the actual plane itself. Once we landed, we were whisked away through the North Pole’s airport to “Santa’s castle”, or the hotel. Everything was decked out in Christmas decorations, cookies and candy and most importantly, coffee, lined the tables for us to snack on. Here they also had a show for the kids, of characters dressed up like superheroes who put on a mock battle, and Anna and Elsa were there singing all their songs. The kids were called up one by one to see the big man himself, and then – we went home! But not before we were given, literally, a sack of presents for the kiddo. 

The generosity of the donors and volunteers that put this day on was immeasurable. The time, the planning, the gifts, the people from the hotel to the Silverliners who organized it, to Delta Airlines who flew the plane – it was an absolutely perfect, amazing, one of a kind day.

Here is a link to a local news story about it! See if you can spot us!

My Grandma’s Coconut Tarts

Note: This is a repost from two years ago – it was originally published on my old blog, Quixotic Magpie. But as I recently made Empire Biscuits with my mom and sister-in-law, I thought I would give these tarts some love.

My family is divided into two camps: The Coconut Tart people, and the Empire Biscuit people. Don’t get me wrong, we will gladly eat either/or, but..we have a preference for one or the other. I love a good Empire Biscuit, but Coconut Tarts are my weakness. My grandma made them every Christmas and it was the dessert I looked forward to the most.

My grandmother is gone now, but my Uncle Art has taken up the mantle, and baked the tarts for the holidays. Yesterday I spent some much needed time in the kitchen, learning how to bake these tarts. I have decided to share my love for these with all of you! Just note – I am not a baker, nor am I a food blogger. Lol. My tarts look a little more rustic than professional – I have not managed pretty food yet, just yummy tasting! Because these turned out awesome in flavor, if I do say so myself.

Surprisingly, these are not a health food! 🙂 They are fattening and delicious!

Ingredients for the gooey coconut filling:

3/4 cup sugar
1 can Eagle Brand condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 lb. butter melted
1 egg
3/4 cup coconut, firmly packed

For the pastry :
2 c. flour
2/3 c. butter flavored Crisco + 4 additional TB (my mom uses cold butter but I don’t know how much)
a pinch of salt
2/3 c. water

Preheat the oven to 425.

We made the filling first, but I don’t think it matters which you start with. It was easy! Basically, just combine all the above ingredients in a bowl, and whisk until everything is mixed really well. You want to make sure you really incorporate the sugar, it has a tendency to want to sit on the bottom.

Next we made the pastry- this was a little bit more complex but not too terribly difficult. I just really hate getting my hands dirty. Bleh. You start by adding all the ingredients together in a medium to large size bowl- we used a vintage Pyrex one which I am sure was not bought vintage like mine were. Then I cut it in the Crisco using a pastry cutter. Once this was all cut in well, my uncle showed me the next technique, of making the dough all crumbly. I am not sure of the technical terms, but we called it making it crumbly.

This technique involved running it between his hands, using the friction to combine it and make it all crumbled into little balls. Once the mixture was all crumbly, we could easily roll it all together into a ball.

Ta-da!

Once we had this nice round ball of dough, we split it into two balls. Next, we placed one of the halves onto a floured piece of wax paper to roll out. We also put another piece of wax paper over the top of the dough, so it was sandwiched between two floured sheets of wax paper. Then I commenced rolling. You want it nice and thin, but not too thin. Maybe 1/4 inch thick. 

 We had some little helping hands too. My cousin’s three year old daughter assisted me.
Once it is rolled out, you can cut circles to place into the muffin tray. I would say the one my uncle used was about 4″ across. He said this was not perfect but it worked for him. So maybe the size of a wide mouth water glass. 

Once you roll out all the dough and have cut the circles, you can start slowly placing them into the muffin tin. This part is the slowest, most laborious part in my opinion. 

Mine were a bit messy but looked like this when I was done. A bit of a trick – instead of using your fingers to press the dough down into the tins and onto the sides, once you have it set in loosely, you can use a small lump of dough as a little press instead of your fingers. 
Once you have everything ready to go, you are ready to fill! Give that filling a good whisking again to stir up any sugar that may have settled while you did all this stuff with the dough. When finished, add about 2 TB filling to each tart. This is entirely up to you, how much is added. I just wouldn’t suggest all the way to the top, because then they will overflow during cooking. Pop them into the oven for about 15 minutes (12-17, but we did 15) until the dough is a nice golden brown, and the filling has a nice golden color as well. My uncle then covers his with a dish towel for a few minutes to trap the heat a little longer without baking. 

Once they cool, enjoy! Perfect with a milky, sugary cup of tea. Yum!

And that is all there is to it! I hope I did an ok job explaining this – I didn’t realize how difficult it was to write down a recipe that is mostly conveyed by look and feel in our family. If you try to make them, let me know how it goes!

Our Must Watch Holiday Favorites

I think most of us will admit that watching a good holiday movie is one of the little indulgences in a season that can be chaotic as well, with all the running and shopping and wrapping and all the bits and bobs that we do in December. But curling up with a favorite feel-good movie with loved ones is an easy way to just let it all go for a while, and get sucked into some magical world where all ends well and brings a smile to your face. 

When we kick back with our hot chocolate or wine, depending on the day and mood, these are some of the movies we must watch every December. Some are traditions that began when we were just little, some have been added in over the years. Maybe some of them are on your list too!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Our whole family can pretty much recite this movie word for word. It’s a comedic look at the holiday but also has its poignant moments too. I remember watching this with my dad one year when I was in high school, and he was laughing so hard at the “Squirrel!” scene he was silent laughing with tears rolling down his face, rolling on the floor. Like really ROFL! 

Love Actually: Ok, this is not just my favorite Christmas movie, it is my all time favorite movie. I can watch it anytime. It never fails to make me shed some tears, and I just really, actually, love it. (Quick – whose story is your favorite? It’s such a tough call, but personally, I love Hugh Grant’s)

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: I adore this movie. We just watched it with Wyatt the other night for the first time, and he did too. I was so happy that he liked it! 

The Muppet Christmas Carol: Another family favorite. I am a huge Muppet fan, have been since I was a little girl, and I love this version of a Christmas Carol. And Michael Caine is as always amazing. I am looking forward to watching this one with Wyatt too this year.

White Christmas: Oh, how I love this movie. I used to watch it every year with my mom and brother, and now Billy and I and Wyatt watch it. Wyatt actually loves musicals, he is a musical kid. And Bing’s voice – Christmas isn’t Christmas until you hear a carol crooned by him. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: An oldie but goodie. 

A Claymation Christmas and A Garfield Christmas: I’m putting these on here together because we watch them together on the same night, back to back. Much to my husband’s chagrin, Wyatt also likes these movies. Lol. Billy is not a fan, especially of Claymation Christmas. It’s just such a part of my youth, watching these while drinking wassail with my brother and stepsisters, that I keep the tradition alive. And now Wyatt enjoys them, so a whole new tradition has begun!

So, there you have it! Our must watch Christmas movies. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch other ones – I watched Chrismas Prince on Netflix last year at least every other day for a while. And now, I am gearing up to watch the Wedding! (The Royal Wedding! Lol) I randomly watched The Christmas Bunny last year and loved it, although my heart broke a little bit a few times. And Carol Brady is in it! Well, not as Carol Brady, but as a curmudgeonly rabbit rescuer! I loved it and of course wanted a rabbit after watching. We didn’t get one, but I still wanted one. And one year I watched a movie called The March Sisters and loved that one too – and I have been looking for it to watch it again ever since. 

What about you? Any movies you must watch? 

Wolfenoote!

Happy Howly Wolfenoote!

Wolfenoote is a holiday that was imagined by a little boy across the world from me. A holiday he created to honor wolves and also people kind to dogs. It is a simple holiday really – eat roast meat, enjoy a cake made to look like a moon, and if you are a dog lover or kind to dogs, you can hide gifts in your house for loved ones to find. Our family thought this was a fabulous way to spend the day after Thanksgiving, and had a great time making this new holiday a new family tradition! 

We began our celebrations at the Detroit Zoo, where we went to visit the two wolves that live there, Wazi and Kaska. We took our time warming up in the log cabin that houses a photograph gallery that is meant to dispel myths of the danger of wolves and to educate people about this beautiful animal. We usually breeze through, but today really took our time looking around at the exhibit, as well as at Wazi and Kaska. They are both stunning, but Wazi is gorgeous with her white coat. The top photo I took of her in the summer, today they were both taking a nap near the front of the acreage, as the zoo has dedicated two acres to their habitat. 

Afterwards, my husband ate “roast meat” (an Arby’s roast beef sandwich lol) alone, as I am a vegetarian and Wyatt doesn’t like it, but the spirit was there for all of us. And later we opted to decorate sugar cookies with white frosting to make our moons, as cake was just a little too much today after the eating excesses of yesterday.

We also decided in lieu of gifts for ourselves, that we would “adopt” a wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center in New York. They dedicate themselves to educating people about wolves, “their relationship to the environment and the human role in protecting their future.” They are home to three packs of wolves – their Ambassador wolves, Mexican Gray Wolves, and Red Wolves. There are only 114 Mexican Gray wolves left in the wild, and zero Red Wolves. Yep, zero. They were declared extinct in the wild in 1980, and efforts have been made to get these wolves onto a road of recovery. 20 wolves reside at the Conservation Center. The story is a sad but interesting one, if you want to read about it on their site. 

My son is currently choosing between “adopting” Zephyr or Trumpet – although all are adorable and equally deserving. Once the decision has been made, I will have to update! Here they are if you want to read about them. **Update- Wyatt chose Zephyr, and gave his photo a kiss even. Lol.

Zephyr
I think this guy is a handsome one!

We had a great time with this holiday, and it was kind of fun to do something so different. And I really loved that this came from the mind of a 7 year old boy. 

Happy Wolfenoote!