Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Watermelon Cooler

I enjoy trying a 'fancy' drink every now and then. I discovered this recipe from last month's edition of Real Simple. It's perfect for summer, deliciously refreshing and pretty darn easy to make.


Another good one- iced herbal tea with plums and thyme. (I used Celestial Seasonings' Country Peach Passion-- my favorite)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ann Arbor, Michigan

After family reunion, I kissed Kelly goodbye at a Tim Horton's near the airport and jumped in the Gaskin's mini-van to spend 5 days at my sister's home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Ann Arbor is where all the NPR reporters report on the auto industry from.  If I were reporting on Detroit, I would like to do it from the comfort of Ann Arbor too!  It's a lovely little college town with green-green trees, beautiful architecture, lovely neighborhoods, artsy stores and an Ikea nearby!  We availed ourselves of all of these and more.

A good bit of our time (in both quality and quantity) was spent cooking.    It's fun to cook with someone else, especially when you both enjoy it--- and enjoy the fruits of your efforts!  We made lime-chili chicken tacos with homemade tomatillo salsa.  We made egg salad sandwiches with fresh dill and homemade mayonnaise (because we ran out).  We made blueberry muffins and easter eggs with the kids.  Nathaniel made oatmeal-cherry-apricot cookies and I ate them.  Food is a great part of any vacation!  

I also developed a crush on Jeni's grocery store.  I heart Meijers.  She aptly described it as a cross between Target (good design, products and produce) and Walmart (low prices).

In between the eating, we visited some of the local highlights.  Almost all of my pictures are from the Henry Ford Museum (which sounds adorable when 3 year-old Eli calls it by its full name all day!)  

Greenfield Village
My favorite part of the Henry Ford Museum was Greenfield Village, a 90-acre collection/re-creation of American heritage.  What an amazing place. . .  

Singing on the street corner.  All the employees are attired in clothing from different periods. Whether singing, working in the fields or blowing glass, they really play the part.  

We were there on a sparsely attended rainy weekday and ran into these fellows a few times.  At one point they were singing to an audience of 1.  When they finished a song their fan clapped and one of the singers enthusiastically responded, "thank you, Cameron!"  It was funny. 

We took this picture in a barn filled with agriculture equipment to send to Grandpa Garner who is an agricultural engineer.

 We stopped at this english cottage to step out of the rain and snack on muffins.  
Yum, muffins. 

The brickwork was designed to provide roost for sparrows.  I want little sparrows to live at my house!  It reminds me of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White-- to be surrounded by charming woodland creatures.  

Jeni and Evelyn watching the birds.  The garden was really beautiful!

The oldest windmill in the United States. (Moved and reconstructed on site.)

Next to the windmill was a home farm.  These women were sitting down to a colonial-period lunch that they had cooked-- stew, greens, and raspberry pie.  It looked good!  The meal was made from things grown and raised on property. 

They also spun and dyed wool yarn to make clothing etc. for use in the winter. 

Pretty onions in the garden out back.

Noah Webster's home.  (Author of the Webster's Dictionary)  I was very impressed by this home.  In addition to the dictionary, Webster wrote some of the first school text books.  He felt that the religious value of the Bible was diluted when it was used to teach reading and grammar.  In order to preserve it's role as a moral compass, he suggested that primers and grammar books should be written to be used in public schools (another new concept he influenced).  What a great man!
And to top it off, I was completely smitten by the homemade rug-carpeting in the last bedroom. Isn't it gorgeous?!

I really want to make this rug!

It was neat to see the same rug design, in miniature, among the doll houses on display in the museum, a few hours later.  It must have been a trend for some time--- like puff quilts in the 90's!  
Thomas Edison's Florida laboratory.  Did you know Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were close friends and often vacationed together with their families?  This is the laboratory near their Floridian vacation homes.   

The Henry Ford Museum
When we couldn't postpone lunch any longer, we left the Village and went to the museum for the last few hours of the day.  Evelyn and Eli got fancy car-boxed lunches.  

I love this picture!! Evelyn feels so pretty with her pink car atop her head and Eli is closely inspecting his blue car. 

Massive generator from the electricity exhibit.  These were striking pieces of machinery.  The design could be attractive, especially when they're painted red and yellow. 

Before moving on, I'd like to share my testimony of the Henry Ford Museum.  Okay, that's over-stating it, but I was so impressed by valuable contribution that Ford has made to the community and the country.  That matters.  The man and the organization chose to share of their prosperity with everyone else.  

The vision extends beyond preservation and a cool place to visit, though.  The Greenfield Village operates a school-- somewhat of a historical apprenticeship program.  In one of the houses, a kid-- about 16 or 17 --was sharing information about the home.  He invited us to ask him about anything in the room and said (essentially), "every item has a story and when you start to see the connections and relationships between history and the world around us today BOTH of them become more alive and history becomes compelling."  He was clearly moved.  I was so impressed by the program and the fire that had been lit in this (and I'm sure many other) kids.  Good people doing good things are so inspiring!

Detroit Museum of Art
On my last day, we drove into Detroit to go to the Detroit Museum of Art.  

This is a beautiful piece composed of found wood.  It may seem "typical" of the current green-art trends etc., which is why I love that the artist created this decades ago. (Unfortunately, I didn't get picture of the placard to share his name and the date.)
Not the best photo, but this might be my favorite Degas.  I love the intense yellow, orange and turquoise.  You don't see that from him very often. 

This is definitely my favorite Gauguin.  I didn't even know he sculpted.  It's beautiful.  (Again, not a great photo.)  
Jeni inspecting Bar-T Corral by Conrad Marca-Relli (1958).  The construction of this piece was very interesting with muslin and paint layered on and then removed in sections.  Cool.

That's the end of the photo-tour.  It was a wonderful trip!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wilson Family Reunion

Last week was our Wilson Family reunion in Canada. Getting there proved to be eventful for many in my immediate family. . .

Before Kelly and I even left for the airport, we heard that David (brother), Leslie and their 3 kids were denied boarding for their flight because they didn't have passports for their kids (5 and under). This news also worried my sister who were planning to drive across the border with two kids, but it turned out to be an airline issue, not a legal issue. (Passports are not required by federal law, but apparently airline rules trump federal laws.) The whole thing was very sad. We missed you!

Two other brothers and my sister-in-law also missed their flight and had to reschedule for the next morning. Kelly and I were planning to carpool with them for the 3 hour drive to the lake, but we opted to take two cars, rather than waiting at the airport for 9 hours!

The reunion was in rural Ontario-- where Canadians have their summer "cottages".  It was beautiful and cool and swarming with mosquitos!  (What's a family reunion without lots of citronella?)  We stayed at a "camp" on a private lake with little apartments and a lodge.  It was perfect for our group.  

Here we are!  Uncle Marty counted 60 in total (including my cousin Bently's fiance and cousin Levi's baby due in Aug).  (Missing-- David and family, Uncle Mike, Nancy, Blake, Bentley and Bonnie, Uncle Steve, Jeff and Melanie, Jaime, Roger, Levi and Katharina)

Saturday began with the kids Olympics.  Each family made a family flag, and everyone got involved! 

Working on the Peterson flag. 

Flags on display.

Mary Jane (cousin) put together a fun relay to 'build' a spider on a web.  The winning team (pictured here) was focused more on speed than anatomical accuracy. 

While the rest of the kids built spiders, Eli (nephew) was focused completely on the next relay, which featured buckets of popcorn. "I think I just want to eat this popcorn."

The spirit of the olympics!  (I love this picture.)  ---My Mom and Dad put together cute olympic torches from poster board, favor cups and tissue paper.  

The Olympics finished with a Nicholls family reunion tradition-- the shoe kicking contest, complete with three division-- kids, women and men.  (I won my division!)  

After the olympics and lunch, we hit the beach.  Beach activities included swimming, canoe racing/tipping, catching minnows, watching from the beach--- and apparently hugging!  (Jordan and Shawn)

Kelly and I left the beach early and took a drive around the lake and through the nearby town of Bancroft.  We found Kawartha Dairy with the best ice cream in the province, right next to the Burger Bus and mini-golf!

That evening, the Wilson family talent show revealed an amazing repertoire of animal noises!  (A funny contrast to the very musically inclined Garner family talent shows!)   Jack (cousin-in-law) did a great job as MC, with several talents as follows (sorry!  I know I will forget some!)

-Gaskins performing a Sherrif Chuck skit (pictured above)
-Amy dancing with her dancing ribbon
-Ryan and Shawn riding unicycle
-Jack and Katie demonstrating pig noises
-Haiden pig noises
-Emily's award-winning story telling
-Haiden telling jokes
-Lori and Tori singing the Grandpa's and Grandma's song
-Bryan demonstrated his turtle's voice and seal and howler monkey sounds
-Katie showed her very high kicks!
-I sang a camp song, Absolutely Cuckoo
-Suzzie and Nathan marching band demonstration (Suzzie calling the commands and Nathan with an imaginary instrument) 
-Kelly applauded (he insists THAT is his talent)

A few more pictures of our great weekend. . . 

Canoeing was a popular activity.  At one point, Nathan and Emily were stranded on the "island" in the middle when they neglected to tie up their canoe.  They had a blast making survival plans and trying to catch fish while Uncle Marty wrangled their boat back to them.  


Maggie and Tori talking on the dock.

Kelly recovering from our red-eye flight.  Or maybe just enjoying reunion!

Evelyn enjoying her candy necklace.

Thank you Grandpa and Grandma!
Without you, there wouldn't be a Wilson family reunion.  :-)