Sugaring in Detroit

Round about this time of year, winter gets to be a real drag. We want spring!! We want sun and warmth. We want to see flowers blooming, to smell the wet earth. But this time of year, when the days are getting warmer but the nights remain cold, is good for maple syrup.

 Last year at this time of year– late winter– it was quite warm, with no snow. We got no sap from our trees. It was also a bad year for crops in Michigan, especially apples, because after the warm winter, we had a cold spring which killed buds and left us with little produce later in the year. This year’s weather seems to be back on track and though we hope it warms up soon, cold weather is a good thing.

  So what is going on in our sugar bush? We have two maple trees on our miniscule front lawn. One produces a lot of sap, the other one, very little. So, basically, one tree has put out enough sap for 10 pint jars of syrup. So far.

 And, there are winter flowers too. I have snow drops and winter aconite blooming in my yard.


The sugar bush:


Drunks of Antiquity

No, this is not about the likes of Hemmingway or Poe, but rather a tour of old bars in Detroit, where drunks long ago might have gathered.

I must preface this post by saying that I have lived for the last 30 years in Detroit and  most of them in the same neighborhood. It is a quiet, residential neighborhood, what is known in Detroit as a “good” neighborhood. It is strictly residential, no corner stores, no parks, and certainly no corner bars. But on the other hand, no boarded-up abandoned houses either.

Back to the tour. It was put on by (more on this later). The first stop was Jacoby’s in downtown Detroit, I have been to this bar many times because it’s in the heart of the business district. I suppose once upon a time it might have been a working man’s bar, but lately it’s the hang out for the legal profession downtown. It is old and gemütlich.

The next stop was the Two Way Inn, This place claims to be the oldest bar in Detroit. It was built in the 1870’s before that area was part of Detroit. It doesn’t look that old on the outside, but its age shows a little on the inside. The staff was very nice, told us ghost stories and about the history, but a bar is about drinking too and I thought their selection was poor: 1 kind of bourbon, nothing on tap, and not much in the way of bottled beer. While there I had a bottle of Zywiec, a Polish beer, then a shot of  Crown Royal on the rocks. Eh. Here’s Pete supporting the bar.


Piling on the bus, we drove all the way across town to Nancy Whiskey,, which also claims to be Detroit’s oldest bar of some sort. Or longest held liquor license. Whatever. It was nicer looking on the outside, and by far the nicest looking on the inside too. It sustained fire damage in 2009 which means the inside was beautifully restored and repainted.  They had a good selection of everything; I had a shot of Redbreast on the rocks.

Our last stop was a place called Abick’s, This place, like the previous two, is a real neighborhood bar, and like the previous two, a corner bar. There was a corner bar a block away from this place, but it was closed for remodeling. Right. Being a neighborhood bar, it was not on any main street and had no sign out front. Truly a hidden gem, but so far off the beaten path, I doubt I’ll ever go back.  I had a Maker’s Mark here.

Our tour guide at the front door of Abicks:


What was striking about the Two Way Inn, Nancy Whiskey, and Abicks is that they are located in neighborhoods that are decimated. Two Way Inn was next door to a beautiful circa 1890- 1900 clapboard house that was unlived in and falling apart.  Walking from the bus to Abicks, we passed one house that was completely boarded up with the front door (boarded up) ajar and the house next to it was completely open. Nancy Whiskey was located in a marginally better neighborhood, at least there, I saw signs of rehabilitation. Living where I do and driving pretty much the same way to work downtown every day, I don’t see these neighborhoods. It was shocking. I wanted to tell the suburbanites on the bus that all of Detroit is not like this, which is true, but sadly most of it is.

An abandoned house across the street from Abicks:


About the Detroit Bus Company tour. I have a few suggestions. First, print the pick up time on the ticket, not the tour start time (yes, we missed the bus). Next, have a bus with enough seats for all to have a seat. I can’t understand how they can have sufficient liability insurance to be driving drunks all around town, on the expressway even, with people standing. Finally, a microphone for the tour guide would be a good idea; she was hard to hear over the patrons on the bus, who got louder as the tour went on. It was fun but not quite what I expected. I thought there would be more history and less drinking.

Sixth Annual Burns Night Dinner

Last Saturday was our annual Burns Night Dinner. Thank you, Robert Burns, for the opportunity to gather friends and family for a night of eating, drinking, and reciting poetry. Attendees this year were Pete and I, the Wrights, the Bowens, and newcomers, the Skupniks. Our dear friends, the Hightowers, were sadly unable to attend as were our sons.

On the menu. Appetizers were pungent English cheese and smoked salmon. Dinner was scotch broth, haggis, roast beef, taters and neeps, and mashed peas. For dessert we had oat cakes and brownies with ice cream and bourbon sauce (who let the bourbon in???).



Of course we broke out the Burns poetry. Unfortunately not everyone read a poem. Next year, everyone must recite something!

Before, during, and after we sampled a variety of scotches. The blends were Dewar white label and Dewar 12 yo, Johnnie Walker red and black, and Drambuie. The single malts were Ardbeg 10 yo and Uigeadail, Springbank 15 yo, Lagavulin 12 yo, and Glenrothes 1998 vintage.


smoking room

I’m not a huge scotch fan. In fact, I seldom drink it. But I think I would get a bottle of the Glenrothes. Good sipping, not a peat monster, and not pricey like most scotch.

A view from the other side

And here is a photo of the palm side of the mittens where you can
also see the rather complicated thumb. After finishing a project like this, there is a sort of let down, a void, until one can think of and start the next project.Image

Miss February next?

I finished the mittens within the month of January! Hooray for me!! They look incredibly complicated, but if you can read a knitting chart, they are not impossible and the results are beautiful.

Here is one side of the completed mittens:


Things are looking up in Detroit

 Improvement in Detroit moves at a glacial pace. Deterioration, on the other hand, moves like an avalanche. So it’s hard to tell sometimes when things are getting better. I think they are. For example, the Detroit Institute of Arts has a special exhibit running now on the art of Faberge. This exhibit is extremely popular, drawing visitors from the suburbs such that it is sold out every weekend. We went on Saturday, had a ticket for 10 am when the museum opens and the show was already sold out for that day.* When we were done, we went to lunch. The first restaurant we went to, Le Petit Zinc, was full and we couldn’t get in. So we went to Bucharest Grill, very busy, but at least we got in. On a Saturday in downtown Detroit, no sports being played!! This is a good thing.


*It’s a great show, very informative, lots of beautiful stuff. If you have a chance (on a weekday) to see it, go!!

Knitting Miss January

For my birthday the year before last, my sons gave me a knitting kit from Knit Picks which included enough yarn for a pair of mittens and the pattern for them. The pattern book actually includes 12 different mittens, two for each of the mitten-wearing months from October to March. Each month’s pattern has a right hand and left hand pattern, which when done, make a picture appropriate for the month. My favorite is January: snowflakes. So I am making the January mittens, starting with the left hand.

The top side and under side:



in limbo

Dear Blogging World,

Perhaps you can help me. I really hate my job and the thought of going back to work in a few days fills me with dread. it’s an unrewarding job with no room for advancement and nothing to feel personally satisfied about except the mundane shuffling of papers (look how neat the stack is!).

I want to quit my job.Two things are holding me back. One is that I am the health insurance carrier. So, that is important but it is not insurmountable. There is private insurance that can be purchased. The other restraint is the feeling that just because I hate my job this is not justification enough to quit. 

This is where I need your help friends. Should I quit? Or should I just suck it up for a few more years?


Cookiepalooza 2012

This year’s batch of cookies are fewer in numbers but equal in flavor. We (Joe and I) made molasses crinkles and maple pecan cookies, two old favorites. This year I didn’t make any cookies from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book that I’ve used for the past few year. Instead, I baked out of The Gourmet Cookie Book  that has the “best”cookie recipe from each year of the magazine’s publication from 1941 to 2009. We made Benne Wafers from 1957, very tasty but they don’t look like the picture in the book. they are sesame cookies from Africa (according to the book, ‘benne’ is an “African” word for sesame) via South Carolina. Yes, I know there are many African languages. 

    Then from 1978 we made Bizcochitos, a recipe from New Mexico. Also very tasty, they are essentially pie crust dough cut into shapes and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Gotta have some chocolate, so from 2006, we made chocolate peppermint bar cookies.

    Voila the results:



Mad Men Musings

This is the topic that inspired me to write again, Mad Men the TV show. One of the big themes in that show is the men’s world of advertising and poor little Peggy’s attempts to make her mark in that world. She is portrayed as a lone woman struggling against all the males in the profession, when all the rest of the women are in subordinate, secretarial positions. There’s Joan, of course, who literally slept her way to the top, but she’s not an adman like Peggy is.

I’m looking forward to the new season of episodes.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance Through 20th Century Europe by Victoria de Grazia. It’s an academic tome about how American commercialism spread through Europe. The chapter I’m reading right now is about corporate advertising and focuses so far mainly on the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson which was the biggest advertising firm in the world in the 20th Century. I even worked in their Detroit office as a secretarial temp once years and years ago.

The firm was founded by Mr. Thompson in the 19th century and by the 20th it was international. In 1908 he expanded to other cities in the US, including Detroit, and hired Helen Lansdowne as a copywriter. The author writes “Even then she showed the compositional skills, taste, and intuition about pleasing other advertisers and company clients that would make her the doyenne of copywriters.” According to wikipedia she was active in the suffrage movement. When she was hired by J. Walter Thompson as a copywriter, she couldn’t vote!

In 1916 she married Stanley Resor who ran the business side of J. Walter Thompson, while she ran the creative side.  This is a company that in the 20th Century revolutionized the concept of advertising and extended its influence all over Europe after it entered into a pact with General Motors which required JWT to open an office in every country where GM had manufacturing or an assembly line. Thus JWT, in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, had offices in London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Madrid, Alexandria, The Hague, Paris, Port Elizabeth, Warsaw, Bucharest, and Barcelona.

Peggy, you’ve got a long ways to go!!!

La Dolce Knita

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