Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cinnamon Cut Out Ornaments

   One of my favorite things to do with my son during the holiday season is to make homemade ornaments for the tree. They're fun, creative, and make great gifts! If you haven't seen my other post about homemade salt dough ornaments, you can find it by clicking here. Cinnamon Cut Out Ornaments are one of my favorite kinds of ornaments to make because they're really easy to make, smell delicious and look adorable. Enjoy!

Cinnamon Cut Out Ornaments 
(For decoration only! DO NOT EAT!)

1 Cup Ground Cinnamon
2/3 Cup Applesauce
1 Tbs White Glue

1. Mix all of the ingredients (the cinnamon, applesauce and glue) together.

2. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thick on a surface sprinkled with extra cinnamon. Cut shapes with cookie cutters and lay flat on wax paper. Use a straw to make a hole at the top for the string.

3. Turn over frequently for the next 2-3 days. Let them dry completely. 
4. Once completely dry, you can decorate with fabric paints or glitter glue, or just leave them as they are!

Don't forget to share with someone you love!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hot Mummies

This is a fun, festive Halloween meal I saw on Pinterest a few weeks ago and was very excited to make for my son (he's very into zombies and mummies right now). It was super easy and turned out great!

Hot Mummies (or Mummy Dogs)

Preheat the oven to 375.

You'll need:

Hot Dogs
One can of crescent dough

1. Slice the hot dogs using 3 cuts to look like little people (see picture).
2. Unroll the can of dough. With a knife, cut each rectangle lengthwise, into 7-10 long pieces.
3. Wrap the strips of dough around each hot dog to look like "bandages," stretching dough slightly to completely cover hot dog. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate "bandages" so hot dog shows through for the "face."

4. On ungreased large cookie sheet, place wrapped hot dogs; spray dough lightly with cooking spray.
5. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until dough is light golden brown and hot dogs are hot. With mustard, draw features on "face" (I didn't do this part because we don't care for mustard).


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Made In Flint

My grandmother riding in a wagon being pulled by a goat (?) on Dayton Street in Flint, Michigan. This image is hard to imagine (and particularly humorous) if you are at all familiar with the present day Dayton Street. 
  There are, surprisingly, a large number of Michigan transplants living in Massachusetts. Nearly every week, I encounter a new person with a Michigan connection of some sort. Because of this, I frequently get asked (from both former Michiganders and my Massachusetts coworkers and friends) what it’s like to be from Flint. Flint fascinates people! Saying you’re from Flint is like telling people you survived living in the jungle. People are incredibly curious how someone can come from such a violent, infamous city and turn out “normal” (apparently they don’t know me THAT well!). They’re curious how someone can get so nostalgic for a place that they appear to both love and hate. For lack of better explanation, I tell them this...

  Flint is an abusive relationship that I will never escape. We have a history together and a lot of good memories, but we just couldn’t stay together. As much as I tried to hold it close to me and make it better, it beat me down and pushed me away. I will always have a mad, crazy love for Flint, but it will never show me any love in return.

  OK, maybe that’s not totally true. I’ve gotten quite a bit of love from Flint; after all my roots are there. My grandparents were raised in Flint. My mother and father grew up in Flint. I was born in Flint. I attended both elementary and high school in Flint. I graduated from college in Flint. I met my husband (who was also raised in Flint), fell in love, and got married in Flint. My son was born in Flint. I had a very happy childhood and young adulthood living in Flint and created some very happy memories there over the years. 

My great aunt Ellen (on the left) and friends at a high school dance in Flint.
  But I also have some not-so-happy memories. I have memories of scary situations,  of danger and crime. I have memories of bikes being stolen, friends and neighbors’ houses being broken into, my car being stolen (twice!), my purse being stolen, drugs being dealt next door, guns being pulled on people, all kinds of real, scary events that one can potentially witness when they’re from a city like Flint. Flint is mixed bag of memories.

  However, those of us who were born and raised there wear that baggage like a badge of honor, and to outsiders it’s like a neon sign flashing, “I survived Flint.” For some strange reason, we are proud! I will never escape Flint’s presence in my blood, nor do I necessarily want too. But what I’ve learned in the past 10 years is that you can take the girl out of Flint, but you can’t take the Flint out of the girl. It’s a big world and I think deep down I always knew that Flint wouldn’t hold me back forever. I knew eventually I would spread my wings and break free.

  Although I’ve always been appreciative of my experiences there (good and bad), I know breaking up with Flint was the best decision for my family. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally reminisce about my time in Flint or wonder what it would have been like if I would have stayed. I know it wouldn’t have ever worked out, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep it in a special place in my heart. That doesn’t mean that I never have deep, painful urges to go running back. That doesn’t mean that I don’t miss all of the wonderful, smart, talented people that I met while living there. That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate all of the good things that it has done for me. It’s a conflicting set of emotions.

  Flint will always be my hometown. It will always be both the good AND the bad. It will always make me feel happy AND cause me pain. It will always be bittersweet memories.

This is what it’s like to be from Flint.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Living Facebook Free!

(Clearly I was the only one on that ride who realized how awesome it was.  Perfect illustration of me in life!)

I love technology! I love computers. I love iPods and digital music. I love digital cameras and Photoshop. I love email and being able to contact people in other states instantly. I love exploring various topics with my child on the Internet. My husband and I both have jobs in the field of technology. I can't deny it, technology is huge part of my life.

But what happens when your love of technology starts to become a problem in your life? What happens when technology starts interfering with the ways in which you interact with your children? What happens when you don’t know how to entertain yourself when your power goes out or when you forget your iPhone and you’re waiting at a restaurant? What happens when your happiness becomes dependent on how many people responded to your Facebook status? That’s when you know you have a problem. That’s when your love of technology has crossed the line from an excellent source of information and way to communicate with long distance friends, to an addiction...and addictions are never healthy.

Luckily, I’ve always had a pretty healthy relationship with technology. I am in no way addicted to it. I know when to turn off the computer and complete my other projects. I’ve always been really good about keeping all electronics off while my child is awake and trying to interact with me. I’ve also never owned a Smart Phone, so I’ve always been comfortable entertaining myself in other ways while sitting in waiting rooms and other places. But there was one thing in the technological world that was starting to cause me grief; one thing that I had a love/hate relationship with from the very beginning...FACEBOOK.

I first joined Facebook back in 2009. Some of my husband’s friends had joined and convinced him to hop on the FB train (a fun fact a like to tease him about). He then convinced me to join and I knew it was a bad idea from the start. To begin with, I was fiercely protective of our privacy. After living a somewhat public life in Flint (it’s a lot smaller than you think) and moving several times, I was ready for people to not know information about myself or my family. I was ready to keep my mouth shut and no longer be an open book to anyone who would listen. I knew that Facebook had the potential to reveal private information, whether YOU were the one who posted it or not. It could make your privacy vulnerable. There was the risk of other people posting information about you or photographs of your children and you had no control over situations like that. I also didn’t want everyone to be able to find me. I really hated high school and I didn’t have many friends. Facebook seemed like a constant high school reunion that I didn’t want to attend. I loved the fact that I had changed my name and moved several times and I knew that former classmates probably wouldn’t be able to find me. I had kept in touch with the people that I cared about and didn’t see the need to try to keep in touch with the others that had drifted away over the years.

Regardless of my reservations, I signed up and so began my four year slide down a slippery slope. Luckily, I was pretty smart about some things right from the beginning. I became very familiar with the privacy settings and made it virtually impossible for people to search for me. I never used my maiden name or filled out any information about my high school or work experience, so this also helped me maintain some privacy. I always kept my “friend” number low. I didn’t go crazy friending every person I had ever spoken too or had classes with. I tried to keep my “friends” limited to family, friends, former professors, references, and people that I had spent time having conversations with. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few times I screwed up and friended a former high school enemy just to see what they were up too. But I always deleted those people instantly and regretted ever friending them in the first place. Anyhow, my point is that I went into it in a pretty smart way, and maintained that most of the time, but other things started to happen that I wasn’t quite as prepared for...

Knowing when to be silent
. I’ve always been a journal keeper and I know how therapeutic it can be to write down your thoughts. Unfortunately, I started to update my status with every little thought that popped into my head. I never aired dirty laundry or anything like that, but I started to post things that I would have normally kept to myself or shared with only my husband or best friend. For example, if I had a bad interaction with another a random person at the grocery store, I’d write about it. If I saw something on the news or something happening in the media that I thought it was stupid, I’d write about it. If I heard a song that I liked, I would post a link to it. If I hated the weather, I’d post about it. Things would happen in my life, and I would think, “I totally need to update my status with this later.” It became ridiculous. It took me a few years to get the mouth diarrhea under control. I realized that just because you have a thought or opinion in your head, doesn’t mean you need to share it with the whole world. It’s not classy, and some things are better left unsaid. I think learning when NOT to speak up is a hard lesson to learn and it’s one that my generation in particular needs to work on. Once I realized this, I then had to go back and delete years worth of embarrassing comments. I was horrified at some of the stupid things I had written. I was so grateful that Facebook was not around when I was in college because I can only imagine the kinds of crap I would have written about back then. Luckily, we only had AOL Instant Messenger to communicate with, and that usually only consisted of leaving up some angry lyrics as your “Away” message. That was how we got our points across back then. People had to read between the lines. Nowadays, nothing is obscure or cryptic.

Facebook Fights. If I read something that someone else had written and that I disagreed with, I’d state my opinion below their status, they would defend themselves, then their mother/brother/friend would hop on and defend them, and thus a little spat would ensue. The same went for if someone disagreed with things I had written. No major name calling or swearing ever occurred, but there was definitely occasional tension. That’s the problem with Facebook though. It’s mixed company. You have friends, former classmates, family, coworkers, and other random people, all thrown into the same mix and it just doesn’t work.

Picture Sharing and Lurkers. One reason I stayed on Facebook so long was because of my love of photography. I genuinely LOVED looking at other people’s photographs. Not in a stalker way, but in an art appreciation kind of way. I really appreciate a well-composed photograph and Facebook was a great place to satisfy my need for pretty pictures, as well as share my own. But, as the years went on, more and more people stopped posting pictures (perhaps because of all of Facebook’s privacy/sharing issues?) and some of my “friends” never posted pictures to begin with. That didn’t seem fair to me. It was weird to me to think that my “friends” were potentially looking at my pictures and reading my status updates, but never sharing any pieces of their lives with me. You can’t come to my house and look in my windows and not expect me to be curious about what’s in your house! My friends and I had a name for these people: lurkers. I hated lurkers. These are the people who created a Facebook page (even with a profile picture) but NEVER posted anything. Yes, it’s true, perhaps these people were actually really busy and created their profile pages, but were never actually on them and didn’t have the time to share things. But, I doubted it. Most of them proved themselves to be full of crap about being “too busy for Facebook” because when I would speak with them, they were completely up to date on all of their Facebook gossip. I used to tell myself that I wanted to stay on Facebook to stay in touch with family, but the reality was a lot of my family members never posted anything and never commented on what I posted. So how was that keeping in touch? Lurkers. They were a huge part of what ruined Facebook for me.

Fake Friends.
Facebook gives people the illusion of having real friends. Facebook makes you feel like you are a part of people’s lives, even when you are 400 miles away. When people share information or post pictures of their kids at birthday parties, you feel like you were there! Isn’t it nice to feel like you are a part of so many families? Doesn’t it make you feel loved and involved? I definitely fell victim to this. I had several instances where I got in touch with an old friend (either because they found me or I found them) and we had a conversation through a series of messages and at some point in those messages we said, “Man, it’s so good to talk to you again. We should get together some time.” So then, I would make an attempt to actually get together...because that’s what friends do. They spend time together! But the thing was, they didn’t want to actually get together. They were completely happy to have our friendship exist in only the virtual world, and I had a real problem with that. Why would you want to be friends with me on Facebook if you didn’t want to be friends with me in real life? It didn’t make sense to me and it hurt. I also was constantly making plans with people and they would cancel at the last minute via Facebook. It’s a hell of a lot easier to type someone a lame excuse as to why you don’t feel like seeing them than to call them on the phone and hear the disappointment in their voices. It’s a lot easier for someone to “like” your picture than to make the effort to be a real friend. Your virtual friends are not really there for you when you need them. And what’s the point in having those kinds of relationships?

Humblebragers and Praise Seekers. Another huge reason I wanted to get off of Facebook is because I couldn’t stand the things people would post about. I know we all think we are interesting, but the reality is...most of us just aren’t! And we are definitely not interesting when we look like we are fishing for compliments. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Humblebrag”, it means when someone acts like they are complaining about something when they’re actually trying to make something else (a hidden message) known and are bragging about it. Here’s an example: “I’m such a fatty! I just ate about 20 pieces of chocolate. I really have to learn how to control myself when flying first class.” You see, at first, it seems like the person is putting themselves down and telling you something embarrassing, something you can relate too. But then the secret message, the thing that they really wanted you to know, was that they were flying first class. They wanted you to know that either they’ve got the cash to spend to fly first class or are potentially being flown first class by their employer, or something of that nature. The last part was what they really wanted you to know, but they worded it in a way where they were hiding their bragging. Humblebrags always made me laugh because I couldn’t believe that these people didn’t realize how transparent they were. There’s something to be said for actually being humble and unfortunately, it is a dying character trait. Similarly, so many people these days feel like they deserve praise for everything they do. The one subject I  saw posted about the most that really killed me was working out and exercise. Now, I get it. Working out can be a big deal for those who aren’t used to doing it and/or are making big attempts to lose weight and change their lives. But for someone who’s always consistently worked out for the past 18 years and never looked for praise for it, I didn’t understand why we needed to praise people for doing something that they should be doing anyways (By the way, I am in no way super fit or muscular or bragging about being super fit or muscular. I’ve just always maintained good health with normal weekly routine workouts). To me, praising someone for working out was the same as saying, “Yay. Good job Betty! I’m so glad that you went to the grocery store to buy food for your family.” You don’t praise people for that! It’s just part of everyday life. It’s something that we need to do. Working out is the same to me. Who wants to say, “Yay, Bobby! I’m so glad you decided not to be lazy any more and are dragging yourself to the gym 3 times a week just like everybody else. Good job!”? Do we really need to be praised for deciding to take care of ourselves or be healthy? Do we really need to be praised for every single personal accomplishment (don’t get me started on the zillion people who post about the races they ran in and are looking for a people to tell them what a good job they did when they weren’t even there to see it)? Can’t we just be content and happy with ourselves for our accomplishments? Can’t we call our friends to tell them about these accomplishments and get the praise from someone who genuinely cares about us?    

In addition to the things listed above, one of the biggest problems I have with Facebook (and perhaps technology in general) is that I don’t like the way our society is choosing to spend their time and interact with each other. For example, I went to my son’s soccer game the other day and as I was walking past the other games that were being played, I saw kids sitting on the sidelines playing on their parent’s iPhone, either while they were waiting to play in their game or while their siblings were playing. I find that incredibly sad. What the hell is wrong with just sitting there and watching the game? What about cheering on and supporting your sibling or friend? What about picking grass and running around with your friends? Are our children really that desperate for something to do that we need to fill every moment with an iPhone game? It’s even worse when I see the parents doing it instead of watching their child play soccer. I can’t stand that we are so distracted that we are missing life. We are missing the moments that make living worthwhile. Are you going to reminisce on your deathbed about your FarmVille game or about the special moments with your children?

Another personal example, when my husband and I first got married, we would play games together like Scrabble and Gin and do crossword puzzles and word searches to unwind and relax in the evenings. It felt good. It felt old-fashioned. It felt like we were really spending time together and living life. As the years went on (and jobs changed) we both became glued to our laptops (or iPads, iPods, etc.) in the evenings. We still had a great relationship and still watched movies together and other things like that, but it just didn’t feel the same as the early days. It felt...distracted.

I also didn’t like not having as much time for the hobbies I used to enjoy doing, such as reading, making art, teaching myself guitar, etc. I would tell myself that I simply didn’t have time to pursue those things any more. The reality was, I HAD the time to do those things, but chose to waste it online instead, and that didn’t feel REAL to me. Living online was not the same as REALLY living.

Even though I was never fully a technology addict, I knew that it was time to make a change for myself. I had grown so disgusted with Facebook and was starting to become unhappy with the ways I was spending my time. I was unhappy with the friendships that I thought that I had. I was unhappy with our society who can’t sit in an uncomfortable silence for one minute at a restaurant table with other people, the society who can’t think of conversation topics so they resort to looking down at their phones. There needed to be a change and the change was going to start with me. I knew I couldn’t stop the world from handing their kids iPhones to entertain themselves, but I could control the choices I was making  for my own family and myself. This was the day I decided to commit...

Facebook Suicide. 

I was no longer going to live in the Facebook world because I was going to start/return to living in the REAL world. I wanted to see and speak to REAL friends. I wanted to hear REAL praise at actual appropriate moments. I wanted to feel REAL awkwardness and experience REAL disappointments.      

Quitting wasn't easy though. Just like quitting anything, I had to go through a process when I finally decided to give up my Facebook life. Immediately after deleting my page, I felt relieved. I was SO thrilled that I no longer had to pretend as if I was interested in the countless posts regarding workout routines or diet habits, I no longer had to check to see who’s birthday it was (It would be bad Facebook etiquette not to acknowledge a birthday on a “Friend’s” page!), I didn’t have to “like” pictures of pet dogs or children I didn’t know, and more importantly, I didn’t have to work to maintain friendships that would never be REAL outside of the virtual world.

However, the good feeling didn’t last long because on the second day, a mild sadness and loneliness hit. Part of me felt as if I had lost a big virtual family. Considering I live in a different state than most of my family and friends, Facebook was my only way for staying involved and keeping up with gossip. I had dedicated over four years to watching some of my family members and friends get married and have children, and I was sad that I was no longer going to be able to witness these happy occasions in their lives. Seeing it on Facebook was almost like being there and without it, I wasn’t sure how I was going to keep up.

Another thing that hit me (that I wasn’t expecting) was the feeling of, “Well now what do I do with my time?” Facebook had become such a normal, daily habit, that I had to figure out what I was going to do during the time I would have normally been Facebooking. I thought it would be easy to instantly return to my old hobbies, but it took some time to remember what the I used to do before wasting all of my time on the computer. Eventually, it all came back to me though and I have to say that I am ecstatic to be practicing some of my old hobbies.

I made a little list of the Pros & Cons I’ve experienced since committing Facebook Suicide. Note: Let me remind you again that I have not quit technology or the Internet entirely, I simply quit Facebook.


I have some privacy back. No one gets to peek into my life anymore (Well, unless they’re on Instagram. I couldn’t give up all of my guilty pleasures!). No one can engage me in conversations on my page that might be weird, or add me to groups that I don’t want to belong too, or send me invites for games I don’t want to play, or show my pictures to their creepy uncle in their basement, it’s all gone. Of coarse, I can’t control what other people post, so I could still essentially be tagged, mentioned, or make a cameo in random posted pictures, but I can live with that. It’s still an improvement.

My relationships have improved. The people who wanted to keep in touch with me have kept in touch. There are so many other ways to communicate: email (my favorite virtual method), texting (my least favorite), phone calls, snail mail, and good, old fashioned arrangements to actually see each other face to face and hang out in person! There are a few people in particular that I feel even closer with since leaving Facebook. As for the others, they didn’t make the cut! My husband and I do more activities together in the evenings like we used too. We were always close, but I feel even closer now without the distractions!

I have more time for my hobbies (and other things). I’ve done more reading than I have in a long time, I’ve done more writing than I have in the past four years, the options of how to spend my time are endless! I can’t believe I panicked for even a minute about how to spend my time. I've even made it to bed early a few times, which is a HUGE deal when you're a mom!

I’m more present than ever. I’ve always lived very much “in the now” because I learned a long time ago that you can’t plan too far ahead. But now I’m even more present and it’s such a great feeling. It’s very real. It’s life, and I want to live in every moment!

CONS (there’s really only one that I can think of):

I no longer get to see pictures of the people that I DO care about
Not very many people were posting pictures on Facebook anymore anyways, but for the ones that were, I will miss seeing them! I will miss seeing what those people are up too and watching their kids grow up. I will miss sharing in their sorrows and their successes. But this isn’t really even that much of a con because NOW we will have more to talk about when we finally do see each other! I can ask questions and they can answer them (like a normal conversation) and I won’t feel like I already knew the answers because I already saw everything on Facebook. I look forward to engaging in these conversations about life. Plus, people can still email me pictures. Yes, it requires extra effort, but it is an effort that people put in when they want to be friends.

Our society is becoming socially inept and heavily dependent on their "devices" to occupy their time and thoughts. People are forgetting how to communicate and interact with their families. They’re forgetting how to act in social gatherings and how to start conversations in group settings. They’re forgetting how to stay humble and how to protect their private lives. They’re forgetting what it feels like to hurt someone’s feelings. They’re forgetting hobbies and skills they took years perfecting that are now going to waste. They’re becoming insecure and depressed because they’re constantly comparing themselves to others and the material things that other people have. They’re forgetting how to have empathy. They’re making excuses for not getting off of their butts to take care of themselves or even better, take care of others. They’re teaching their children that they don’t need to support their siblings at soccer games and that every uncomfortable silence needs to be filled with a distraction. They’re forgetting about everything good in life that involves living in the present moment. They’re forgetting how to love...AND IT MAKES ME SAD.

I can’t change the actions of others but I can control my own and I choose to live in REAL life and have REAL relationships. I couldn’t be happier to be FACEBOOK FREE!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monument Mountain & South Street Package and Variety (Another Secret Spot for Great Indian Food!)

   My family recently hiked on Monument Mountain in Great Barrington. We’ve been doing the same hike for awhile and decided to change things up. This was a refreshing new hike for us!

   We started out by taking the Indian Monument Trail. According to the brochure/map, it was “the most gradual, providing walkers with a leisurely ascent up a former carriage road.” You start on a path that runs along the side of the road where you can hear the cars buzzing by and you stay on that for quite a while. Then, you head directly through the woods, which was an easy path to take, but there wasn’t much to look at. The path was very straightforward and gradual, but I struggled with how boring it was. It made it seem longer. We took this path because we had our son with us and we weren’t sure of how difficult each path would get.

   Once we got near the top, there were some rocks that appear to have been chipped away at/formed to serve as steps.

   At the top, there were some large rocks that we could rest on to have a snack and enjoy the view. To get the best view for picture taking however, you have to climb on top of the rocks, which can be nerve-wracking for those who have children with them or who have a fear of heights. I wouldn’t say it’s the most kid friendly mountaintop I’ve ever been on. There are some steep cliffs and dangerous edges! But the view was beautiful!

   On our way down, we decided to take the Hickey Trail. This trail was a lot more fun!There were several log bridges that you had to cross (that weren’t too far off the ground)   and a cave with a tiny stream of water pouring over the edge of it. We all found this path to be far more enjoyable.

   There was also a third trail, the Squaw Peak Trail, that was supposed to have the best views, but we didn’t attempt it because the map said it ran along the top of steep cliffs and that sounded a little too risky to do with a child. If you’ve done this trail or know anything about it, write me and let me know! I’d like to know if it would be appropriate for children.

   Overall, my family had a great experience. If we go back, we will skip taking the Indian Monument Trail the whole way up and take one of the other trails. They seemed to have more interesting things to look at. I need a little bit of excitement while I’m hiking!

A few points I wanted to make:

- I would say this hike is probably best for kids 6 and up. I think younger kids are capable of doing the hike, but I would worry about where they’ll want to explore once they get to the top. Keep a close eye on them!

- There are no bathrooms or portable toilets, so make sure you use the bathroom before you arrive to the trails.

- Bring your bug spray! Once you’re going directly through the woods, the gnats and mosquitos can get a little crazy around your head.

- It states this in the map but I want to make a point of restating it, please keep your dogs on their leashes. We went past several people who did NOT have their dogs on leashes and this makes the hike more uncomfortable for other people, especially when you have children with you. Dogs are curious creatures and that doesn’t go away just because they’re on a hike! Several of the dogs we passed tried to approach us (and it wasn’t always in a playful manner) and it was a little scary. You never know when animals may decide to act out. Just keep them away from other hikers, it’s courteous.

One of the most exciting parts of our hiking adventure though wasn’t the hike. It was this:

   South Street Package and Variety near the corner of 143 and 8 (South Street) in Hinsdale. I know, it doesn’t look like much, but this caught our eyes as we were driving by:

   Any hole-in-the-wall Indian place that is buried in the hilltowns is worth a try for us! Most people probably wouldn’t even think to stop and try it, but we LOVE hidden finds like this!

   When you go in, it looks like a typical package store (that’s a convenience store for you Michigan folks!) but there’s a little dining spot in the back. Nothing fancy, but details like that aren’t important when you’re passionate about good Indian food!

   The owners were a very nice family from New Delhi, India. We chatted with the husband for awhile while his wife cooked our order. It’s always fascinating to learn about other people and what brought them to Western Massachusetts! I just love meeting new people!

   We ordered the Chicken Saag, Chana Masala, Chicken Tikka, Pratatha, and Raita and they were all DELICIOUS! We especially liked the Chicken Saag and Chana Masala! We practically inhaled it! Even my son loved the Chicken Saag and he normally won’t go anywhere near anything with green in it!

   The food was great and very reasonably priced. We will DEFINITELY be dining there again. If you are ever in the Hinsdale area and LOVE and appreciate good Indian food, please support this business.

A final thing I wanted to add...

   Please know that I do not make any money from this blog and get nothing for free. I am not asked to visit or review any of the places that I write about. I do this strictly for fun and as a way to catalogue my family’s adventures. Hopefully, it will inspire you to visit and support some of these businesses though and go on some adventures of your own. Thank you for reading and thank you for supporting local businesses!   

   To read a little history about Monument Mountain, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monument_Mountain_%28reservation%29. To read more reviews of the Monument Mountain hike, go to: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g41586-d2008981-Reviews-Monument_Mountain-Great_Barrington_Massachusetts.html. 


Friday, July 19, 2013

Top 5 Places to Eat in Michigan

   It’s funny what you miss when you move away from “home”. A recent visit with family had me thinking about my home state of Michigan and some of the places I liked to go when we lived there (specifically the restaurants). Although there are lots of good restaurants in Western Massachusetts, sometimes I really crave the food at some of the places we used to frequent in Michigan.

   This inspired me to compile my Top 5 Places to Eat in Michigan list. If you currently live in Michigan or plan on visiting, look these places up and give them a try. Then write me and let me know what YOU think of them!

Here they are in no particular order (although I did save the best for last).

1. Badawest in Flint. I LOVE BADAWEST! We make sure to eat there every time we visit Michigan. I’ve eaten at a lot of different places now and I can’t find better Middle Eastern food. Some of my favorite dishes are the Hummus (It’s so good and creamy that I could eat it off of my hand), Tabouli, Lentil Soup, and Shish Tawook sandwich. Only downside, the bread. It’s flat and not impressive. We used to go to a place near Sterling Heights when we lived in that area and they baked their own pita bread that was amazing (and gave you this delicious garlic spread with it). But you’ll be able to look past the bread once you taste the delicious food. I don’t think they have their own website, but you can find out more information and view the menu here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/badawest-restaurant-flint.

2. Bi Bim Bab in Novi. Delicious Korean and Japanese food, all in one spot (and for a decent price).  We have a pretty good Korean restaurant out here, but what I miss most about Bi Bim Bab are all of the tasty side dishes they bring out before your meal. Some family favorites are the Bulgogi, Sun Du Bu Chige, and the Dragon Roll. Only downside, the location is a little strange. It’s in a little mall that doesn’t really have a lot of other businesses in it (or at least it didn’t last time I was there), but who cares. That keeps it under the radar. You can visit their website here: http://www.bibimbabrestaurant.com/index.html.

3. El Azteco in East Lansing. I don’t think I can accurately describe how much my husband LOVES this Mexican restaurant which resides close to his alma mater, Michigan State. He used to go out of his way to eat at this place whenever he could when we lived in Michigan. The atmosphere is really nice and you can sit on the roof in the summertime and enjoy your Margarita or Sangria. Some of my favorite dishes are Topopo Salad and the Guacamole and Bean Tostadas. Only downside, it can get busy (and noisy) on the weekends in the fall when there’s tons of college kids around. Check out their website here: http://www.elazteco.me/ELAZTECO.ME/restaurant.html.

4. Stage Deli in West Bloomfield. This Jewish Deli offers a variety of tasty dishes. I don’t think I’ve ever ordered anything here and NOT liked it. I used to frequent their smaller location in the food court of Somerset Mall during my lunch breaks when I worked in Troy. Some family favorites are the Matzo Ball soup, Lox, Stock & Bagel, and the Mitch Albom Cobb salad. I also used to love buying a loaf of their House-Baked Seedless Rye bread to take home with me. Only downside, I can’t think of any. You can read about their locations and view their menu here: http://thestagedeli.com/.

5. Sposita’s Ristorante in West Bloomfield. Once you have a steak at Sposita’s, all other steaks at other restaurants will be a disappointment. We loved the cozy atmosphere and how low-key everything was (in comparison to Lelli’s, which is a similar restaurant). The owner was always very friendly and made you feel like an old friend. We always had great service and great experiences. The ONLY thing we order at Sposita’s is the Filet. IT IS THE BEST! Don’t waste your time ordering anything else. Go there for the steak! The Zip Sauce on the Filet is to die for!! We ask for an extra little cup of it on the side so just so that we have more! The only downside, the decor is a little out of date, it’s not particularly kid friendly (although it’s not un-kid friendly either), and the food is pricey. But you get A LOT of food for what you pay for your meal. It’s not just a meal, it’s an experience! First they bring out bread, then they bring you a salad with various toppings, then you get a cup of minestrone soup, then you get a small plate of pasta, then you get your entree which includes potatoes and a vegetable. It’s like a tasty train of food! I used to skip the plate of pasta because I wanted to leave room for the Filet (and I don’t eat a lot of pasta any way). We used to go there every year on our wedding anniversary (until we moved away). On our first anniversary, we brought the top layer of our cake (which you are supposed to freeze and eat on your first anniversary) with us for dessert. Our server took it in the back, put it on a plate with a candle, and came out singing “Happy Anniversary” to us! It was SO SWEET! Every year on our anniversary, I LONG for Sposita’s! I miss it terribly! Nothing will ever compare for me. It holds a special place in my heart. We’re already planing on going there next time we visit. I couldn’t find a website with their menu on it, but you can find the address and some more information here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/spositas-ristorante-west-bloomfield.     

Us at Sposita's for our 6th Wedding Anniversary, the last one we spent in Michigan.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Bend (Part Two)

   You may remember my post about The Bend in Chesterfield from last summer (click here to read) where I said that I was disappointed. WELL, I decided to give it another try last weekend and I have to say that my opinion has changed. It was lovely! Now that my child is a little bit older and a more experienced swimmer, it was a totally different experience! There still isn't a sandy "beach" but if you have on water shoes the rocks are no big deal. There are also some patches of tiny rocks where you can put down your beach towel and lay comfortably. The water was very clear and surprisingly not too cold. There was a little current that was perfect for throwing your inner tube in and floating down the river (of coarse, not too far). There were families hanging out and collecting rocks and even people playing guitars. It was very peaceful and fun. I imagine if it were the 60's, this would have been a perfect hippie hangout!

   I still stand by my previous statement that I don't think it's the best beach for small children. There are lots of rocks that they can slip on, the water gets really deep really fast, and the current in the river can push swimmers downstream. But small children can still wade in the shallow parts and collect rocks. If your kids are a little bit older (I'd say 7+), this place is great! My family had a blast!


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Montague Bookmill

   Let me start by saying that I forgot my good camera for my trip to the Montague Bookmill and had to use my iPod, so I apologize for the quality of the pictures. I can’t believe I forgot to grab it in all of my excitement and rushing around! Anyway, hopefully you’ll still enjoy what you see.

   Nestled on the banks of the Sawmill River, the Montague Bookmill was originally a gristmill. It went through several changes and owners over the years and was eventually converted into a used bookstore in 1987. You can read a more in-depth history here. The Bookmill now also houses The Lady Killigrew Cafe, The Night Kitchen (a gourmet restaurant), one of the locations of the used music store Turn It Up, and Sawmill River Arts, a collaborative fine art and fine craft gallery. But I, being the book enthusiast that I am, was only really interested in the used books so that’s mostly what I took pictures of.

   The location was beautiful! The building was absolutely charming! There were tons of books everywhere, a real dream for an English major! It was very enjoyable to browse while listening to the roars of the waterfalls behind the building (as well as the folky music that was being played over the stereo). The windows let in these amazing rays of light that really lit the place up. It was the perfect image of a New England used book store.

One of my favorite sections of every book store!

The Children's section, another one of my favorites!

   After browsing, I stopped into The Lady Killigrew Cafe for some lunch. I ordered the No. 5, a honey ham, cheddar, whole grain mustard and marinated apple grilled sandwich. It was delicious! What REALLY impressed me though with the house salad that came with the sandwich. I don’t know what was in it, but it was unbelievably tasty! I’m already scheming about when I’m going to be able to go back and order an even bigger salad!

Beautiful lunch, beautiful view!
   The only negative points about the Bookmill that I feel as though I should mention are that it had no air conditioning (which can make it less pleasurable to browse when it’s 95 degrees out) and the books weren’t quite as cheap as I’m used too. Most of the books were half of the original listed price, which is still a good deal. But I know of other used book stores where I can pay less than $5 for just about any book that I want and they have just as big of a selection. I have a really hard time spending more than $5 on a used book when I know that I can get a better deal at other book stores, library book sales, goodwill stores, tag sales, and online (with shipping). Heck, our local transfer station has a whole tiny house dedicated to homeless books that you can take for free (but the selection is obviously very limited and the condition of some of the books is questionable)! But please don’t let these minor points discourage you from making the trip out to browse. It’s still completely worth it!

   On a side note, I wanted to mention that while I was walking through the parking lot to my car, I saw a car with a Michigan license plate. I’m always amazed to find out how many Michigan transplants are out here. I meet more people from Michigan than any other state (Just the other day I discovered that one of our local librarians grew up in Lapeer. We both shared a moment as we discussed how badly we miss the beautiful clear waters of the Great Lakes.).

   The drive home from the Bookmill was even more beautiful than the drive out there! There’s a gorgeous view of Mount Sugarloaf just as you’re going across the bridge into Deerfield. My crappy iPod picture I took from the car while I was driving just doesn’t do it justice. I decided to take a quick drive up the mountain to snap a couple additional shots of one of my favorite views in all of Western Massachusetts.

    To sum it up, other than the old man standing at the end of his driveway on High Street that flipped me off (Perhaps I was going too fast? I’m pretty sure I was only going 30. Perhaps he didn’t like my music selection? Some people feel very strongly about Sheryl Crow. I guess we’ll never know.) this trip was excellent! I hope you’ll check out the Montague Bookmill soon!  

To plan your trip to the Bookmill, go to http://www.montaguebookmill.com/index.html.