Watching the Bees- A Michigan Summer Meditation

Watching, waiting, savoring. 

Watching, waiting, savoring. 

One of the luxuries of summer in Michigan is taking the time to slow down. To rest, to refresh, to play and to watch. 

Whether it is standing along the Detroit River watching the freighters sail by, guessing which country it is from by the flag fluttering in the breeze; sitting beneath a tree watching the dappled shade play and dance on the green leaves; or watching a bee busy buzzing along the petals of a flower- watching, savoring, and appreciating are qualities that make family travel in Michigan so inviting. 



Ubuhle Beadwork at the Flint Institute of Arts

Don't read this post!

GO NOW TO THE UBUHLE WOMEN: BEADWORK AND THE ART OF INDEPENDENCE exhibit at the Flint Institute of Arts. It only runs through March 31, 2018. Then, after you've seen the exhibit, please come back and read this post and the others on our website!

Don't make the same mistake we did.

We had never been to the Flint Institute of Arts. Flint, I am sorry to say was a place we  have not visited in many years. 

After spending a delightful Sunday afternoon at the Flint Institute of Arts we have committed ourselves to returning not only to the Flint Institute of Arts, but to the other attractions in the Flint Cultural Center-the Sloan Museum, the Institute for Music, the Planetarium, etc.

We didn't go specifically for the exhibit. In fact, we didn't really even know it was there, we were just looking for something different to do on President's Day weekend. 

The Ubuhle Women exhibit is a travelling exhibit created by the Smithsonian Anacostia. Quite simply, the exhibit is a testament to the power of art and creation to heal the pain of our world. It is a wonderful example of how hope can triumph over despair. 

Each of the women in the exhibit have a story to tell-missing husbands, families devastated by AIds, the death of a child, poverty-but through this art work have learned not only to express themselves, but to tell their story to the world and to earn a livelihood that can help pull them out of the ravages of poverty.

In many ways, the exhibit is the perfect metaphor for the work that the Flint Institute of Arts is doing in the Flint community and in Michigan in general. 

I don't want to over-hype the exhibit, but the collected tapestries of African Crucifxion,  is worth the trip alone. It's collection of individual tapestries assembled to create a compelling narrative, each individual bead, patiently sewn-insignificant on its own, but essential to the larger story-one of hope and redemption. The center piece, The Crucified Christ:The Tree of Sacrifice, was completed by artist Thembani Ntobela and completed shortly before she died of Aids related illness. She re-worked the beadwork of the face relentlessly, meticulously, to ensure that it was perfect- a face of peace. 

In a perfect world, some benefactor would ensure that every school child in Michigan would be able to take a field trip to the Flint Institute of Arts fort the Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence exhibit. In the meantime, do yourself and your family a favor and go. Now!




Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village 2016 Recap

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village yielded some unexpected surprises which added to an already enjoyable family experience.

The first surprise was at the Josephine Ford Plaza, before you even entered the village. Nestled along the side, a bit away from the fountain and main gathering area was a collection of classic hearses, festooned with spooky regalia. These lovingly maintained autos added an appropriate reminder of the historic origins of Hallow's Eve. I give credit to the thoughtful planners and curators of The Henry Ford for adding something new, yet making it culturally accurate and family friendly, by placing it out of the way so families with young children or sensitive children could easily avoid it. There were many families with young children who did not seem to be bothered by the hearses, but obviously, for some folks it might be a bit too intense, but easily avoided. Well done!

The route itself changed this year, continuing along Post Street rather than turning right at Christie Street and heading through the Edison at Work District. This eliminated the mad scientist inside one of the Edison labs, which was always fun, but did allow for a greater concentration of the main storytelling areas. Anthony, in his dramatic performance of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart was as mesmerizing as ever.  The singing witches trio was bouncy and fun, and provided a nice contrast. I think it was a good choice to vary the route, although I do think some additional consideration to timing the performances should be made, because occasionally the singing drowned out The Tell Tale Heart oration. 

Readers of this blog will know that we previously mentioned this is a true family friendly event and The Henry Ford makes great efforts to accommodate a wide range of ages and sensitivities. That being said, folks looking for a scary or gory Halloween experience or to receive bags full of candy are going to be disappointed. 

Rather, expect a charming stroll through a tastefully decorated historical treasure, with amazingly talented entertainers, great attention to detail, lovely costumes, and enough seasonally appropriate spookiness to spark the imagination not shock it into submission. 

Family Questions for Discussion

1. What did you think of the new route at Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village?

2. Did the change add or detract to your family's experience of the event?

3. How does sharing a common travel experience help strengthen your family?

4. What was  your favorite part of the Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village?

5. What would be your family's dream autumn travel experience be?


Enjoying the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center-Detroit

If you are longing to give your young children a taste of the true Michigan outdoor experience while visiting the Metro Detroit area, then spend a few hours in the heart of downtown at the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center and Milliken State Park. 

Located at 1801 Atwater Street in the warehouse district along the Detroit River, this wonderful facility will provide a great taste of the true Michigan Family Travel experience- nature, culture and togetherness. 

We arrived a bit early one Sunday for our trip to the Outdoor Adventure Center so we ate our picnic lunch, then left the free gated parking lot and walked around outside at Milliken State Park and Harbor which is immediately across from the Outdoor Adventure Center.  This is billed as the first urban state park. As we proceed along the walkway towards the river, we saw interesting sculptures, a family preparing for a birthday party in one of the park pavilions, a person meditating, families roller blading, and a large freighter.

If you have not had the opportunity to see one of these massive freighters it is amazing. This vessel was so long and tall that it seemingly blocked out the Windsor skyline, leaving us truly awed by the properties of physics that allowed this vessel to remain afloat!

Freighter on Detroit River

Freighter on Detroit River

We lingered for a while, the children snapping photos of the interesting juxtaposition of nature and the urban landscape and enjoyed the fresh air.  

Michigan has an abundance of interesting lighthouses that have played an integral part of our cultural history and Milliken State Park and Harbor has a replica of one of our favorites- the Tawas Point Lighthouse.  A great link for more information is provided through so be sure to check that out. 

Replica of the Tawas Point Lighthouse

Replica of the Tawas Point Lighthouse

It was now a few minutes after noon and we walked across the street to the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center. There is an  entrance fee- at the time of our visit it was $5 for visitors 12-62 and $3 for under 12's and seniors. 

Then we proceeded left from the admission desk and were plunged into a gallery featuring beautiful life-sized statues of animals one might see "up north." In all honesty, after over forty years of trying, I am resigned to the fact that this replica might be the only elk I see!

There are also historical figures in this gallery providing information about the important contributions they made to the development of Michigan and our nation. 

As one proceeds there is a glass aquarium featuring fish one might see in one of the many inland lakes, rivers or one of the Great Lakes. Young children will likely enjoy the immersive feature of this exhibit. 

Our daughter had an interesting experience trying to paddle the kayak along the digital river as the kayak gently rocked from side to side. We all enjoyed walking across the wooden suspension bridge connecting the giant woodland scenery. 

Of course, spending time among the replicas and artificial scenery is no substitute for the real thing, but I do believe the Outdoor Adventure Center serves its purpose well- to educate, entertain and inspire visitors to take a chance at the real thing. Michigan has such an abundance of great state parks, metro parks, city and township parks that are usually amazingly well maintained and feature outdoor opportunities for young families desiring nature walks, to more intense multi-day backpack immersion. 

Although our older children enjoyed it, we all agreed that were they under 12, they would have truly loved it. Still, none of us walked away from our two hours  at Milliken State Park and Harbor and the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center feeling disappointed. In fact, we reminisced about great camping trips we have had in Michigan and motivated us to try to get one more in this fall!

Family Travel Questions for Discussion

1. Who was Milliken State Park and Harbor named for? Why do you think they named this park after him?

2. How do freighters float?!!!!

3. What is the significance of the Detroit River to Michigan's development-historically and now?

4. How big are elk?

5. Who were some important figures in Michigan's history? Who was your favorite?

6. How many type of fish did you see in the underwater exhibit?

7. What are some of the fish you might find in a Michigan lake or river?

8. How important is fishing to Michigan?

9. What are some interesting facts about birds you might find in Michigan- the Bald Eagle or the hummingbird for example? 

10.  What is a yurt?

11.  What are some outdoor adventures you are inspired to try? 



Michigan Labor Day Weekend 2016

As the summer travel season winds down and  families prepare for the return to school and the hectic pace of studying, carpooling, lessons, tutoring, community service, playdates and the other fun, but busy commitments we are all engaged in, this weekend has been one last weekend to slow down and savor. 

Because of the impending busyness we decided to stay home this Labor Day weekend and not travel. I am glad we did, because we had a wonderfully pleasant weekend and the weather featured some of the most agreeable days of the last three months. 

We had a wonderful late summer evening stroll at Heritage Park in Farmington Hills, Michigan. This 200+ acre nature preserve on Farmington Road between Ten and  Eleven Mile is a gem in the near northwest suburbs of Detroit. We strolled along a few of the over 4 mile, well-marked trails. The sun was low in the sky, dripping sunlight through the maple and beech trees, casting a moody glow reminding us that the bright long days of summer are waning. We saw at least 5 deer, perhaps more-we weren't sure if we counted the same couple of deers twice, including one young buck!

We also had a great walk with our dog Bailey in Livonia's Rotary Park off of Six Mile Road near Merriman. He loves the smells of the woodland creatures and meeting new friends along the two miles of trails! A big thank you to Livonia and Farmington Hills for maintaining the parks at such a high quality and generously welcoming even non-residents to share in these family-friendly treasures. 

Bailey Strolling through the Park!


On Friday we went to the Arts, Beats and Eats event in downtown Royal Oak, Michigan for the first time! I know, we may have been the last people in metro-Detroit area who had never been to the event, but we are usually away Labor Day weekend, so that is my excuse. I am glad we went in the afternoon, because the main food areas were already quite crowded. We managed to find parking in a city lot near Eleven Mile and it was 15 bucks. Knowing that it went to a good cause- the police and firefighters and other city services of Royal Oak, I didn't mind paying the money. In general, I would have felt the fee a bit high. We had a great sampling of food from sweet potato pie to thai noodles, a slice of pizza, corn on the cob with herbs, two veggie spring rolls and an apple empanada all for $20 worth of tickets. Apparently, some folks don't like the ticket system,  but in my opinion it is the fastest way to keep the lines short. I think if you go with the attitude that the tickets are for the whole fun people watching experience with great free live music as part of the cost and not necessarily considering the value of the "meal" alone you won't really be disappointed.  

On Saturday we saw the wonderful photography exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts- The Open Road:Photography and the American Road Trip.  There is only a week left, so if you have the time to get down to see it, I would highly recommend it. Exposing your older children to the work of Robert Frank who so powerfully captures an honest, unsentimental-yet poignant aspect of the American character is worth it, especially if you reside in the tri-county area and are able to get in free!

We were even able to sneak in a wonderful family dinner party- delicious hummus pizza, fruit salad, birthday cake and cookies, ice tea sipped in the shade- talking about garage sales, Tiger games, trips "Up North" and plans for the Autumn.  The simple things are often the best aren't they?

There are so many wonderful things left to see and do these last hours of this holiday weekend, but for sure being grateful for the luxury to spend time with family, friends (and mowing the lawn) will be high on my list!

Be safe on the roads- there are plenty of travel adventures ahead!

Family Questions for Discussion

1. What is your family tradition for Labor Day Weekend?

2. What is the history of Labor Day?

3. What have been some of your favorite festivals of the summer?

4. What is on your Labor Day Weekend "bucket list." The bridge walk? 

5. What is the perfect Labor Day picnic meal?