How to keep metro Detroit kids happy at the tail end of winter

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With the weather hovering between icy wind and mild temperatures, kids are getting antsy for spring. Until you can simply send your little one outside for hours of amusement, here are some ideas to keep them happy and occupied.

Make a special occasion out of going to the theater. The Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township is showing the children’s classic “Charolotte’s Web” March 23 and 24. Your adolescent might enjoy “Rock of Ages” put on by the Clintondale Community Theatre the first two weekends in May.

The Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens offers youth art classes. March’s classes are 3-D Map, Illuminated Monogram and Impressions. April’s classes follow an upcycling theme. No appointment is needed to create your own art at Plaster Playhouse in Shelby Township. Simply choose your piece of plaster or pottery and start painting!

Boost your baby’s brain power through programs offered at your local library. Throughout the year, the Clinton-Macomb Public Library offers storytime sessions including Baby Time, Tot Time, Little Listeners, Preschool, Music & Movement and Pajamarama. My daughter loves Pajama Storytime at the Eastpointe Memorial Library, where kids dress in their pajamas, bring their favorite stuffed animal to hold and listen to the youth librarian read stories.

Check with your local Parks and Recreation Department to see what seasonal offerings are scheduled. The Warren Community Center boasts an indoor waterpark comprised of a lap pool, pool basketball, waterslide, lazy river and play structure complete with a water cannon and waterfall. Other nice amenities for adults include a sauna, steam room and fitness room.

Get hands-on and join your kid for a skate around the rink. The St. Clair Shores Ice Arena has public skating from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. It is $3 per person, and children under 6 are free when accompanied by an adult. Admission to the Mount Clemens Ice Arena is $5 for adults and $4.50 for students, seniors and youth. Skate rental is $3.

Pack on the layers and head out to one of Macomb County’s Metroparks. Weather permitting, Lake St. Clair Metropark offers ice fishing, cross-country skiing and outdoor ice skating. Snowshoe or cross-country ski across marked trails at Stony Creek Metropark, or head over to the winter sports area with hills to snowboard, sled or toboggan. Eastpointe’s Spindler Park recently revamped its new sledding hill. Open dawn to dusk, it includes a hay bale safety barrier and seating area. The Macomb Orchard Trail isn’t just for running or biking; it’s also open to cross-country skiers.

Just Delicious SconesJust Delicious Scones on Utica in Roseville is a quaint tea room, bakery and coffee shop with … well, delicious scones. Get big-girl dressed up for this fancy excursion. Sip tea or cider from beautiful china and delicately nibble on scones – a memory your child will remember. If your little one isn’t likely to sit still for long, try Chuck E. Cheese in Roseville or Sterling Heights. Jungle Java in Clinton Township is an indoor play center with a sports court and laser maze. It includes a separate toddler play area and a full menu.

Let the kids burn off energy at the Bounce House in New Baltimore, St. Clair Shores or Sterling Heights. It consists of giant inflatable slides, moon walks and an obstacle course along with arcade games that might even entertain mom and dad. Try Airtime in Sterling Heights or Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Shelby Township for open jumping on wall-to-wall trampolines, foam pits, dodgeball and basketball. Jumpers are sorted by age to make sure the intensity level is a good match, though there are waivers that must be signed before participating in the fun. Play miniature golf any day of the week at Jawor’s on Gratiot in Roseville. It has an 18-hole course for kids of all ages and is open year-round.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do as long as you make the time you spend together count. Unplug and give your kids your full attention – that’s all they want!

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Top five reasons I’m pumped to Walk for Warmth

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Despite being in its 26th year, I never knew very much about Walk for Warmth. This year, I decided to participate with my family. Here are the factors that motivated me to register – maybe they will motivate you too!

1. Help those in need
Hosted by Macomb Community Action, this event raises funds for low-income Macomb County residents with heat-related emergencies. Funds will go toward paying utility bills and even replace broken furnaces, providing vulnerable residents with an essential need – warmth.

Macomb Mall sign2. Shop at the newly-renovated Macomb Mall
With an Old Navy gift card burning a hole in my purse since Christmas, this is the perfect excuse to spend some time shopping. Macomb Mall has generously donated their newly-remodeled space for this event. Check out the renovated lights, tiles, paint and seating as well as the new stores like ULTA Beauty, Rue 21, Chipotle, Potbelly and H&M – I’m so excited to have one nearby! I also look forward to trying 1,000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza.

3. Exercise
After hibernating the past few months, I’m ready to stretch my legs, strap on my baby carrier and heft my soon-to-be 10-month-old around. At the rate she’s growing, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do this! I signed up for the indoor 5K walk, but there is also the option to compete in the outdoor 5K run – brrr!

4. Start a tradition of giving
A few months ago, our department participated in a training seminar offered by Care Worklife Solutions, the county’s employee assistance provider. The presenter shared a story about how as a child, she went with her father to pass out fresh produce to their neighbors and those in need. Because she grew up witnessing the impact of giving, it continues to play a large role in her life today. Not only would I like to place more emphasis on charity in my own life, but I would also love to create a culture of giving for my daughter. Since this is an annual event, this is the perfect time to step up your own philanthropy, both now and in following years.

12804713_1208548415840582_6694656021203243462_n5. Be part of the community
With so many struggles occurring all around us in this state and in the world, it can be easy to forget those in need right in our own community. Funds from Walk for Warmth might be helping my neighbors or yours. A great turnout for this event will not only enable participants to support Macomb County residents, but also send the message that we care about our low-income residents and support them.

The 26th Annual Walk for Warmth event will take place on Saturday, Feb. 27. There is still time to register, sponsor or make a donation at mca.macombgov.org/W4W. I hope to see you there!

The Walkability Factor

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Macomb County roads are always evolving, and whether you drive, take the bus or ride your bike to work, roads affect all of our daily lives.  Many spend hours sitting on these roads in rush hour traffic while commuting to work each week. Every winter, we turn to our local news for weather and traffic report updates to plot out alternate routes and hope the roads are plowed.  Even Executive Mark A. Hackel has taken up the topic, asking local legislators to look at our potholes and take action.

While the northern part of Macomb County is paving dirt roads and widening busy thoroughfares, the built-up southern end of the county is taking measures to close the concrete gap.  An example of this can be seen on Gratiot Avenue in Clinton Township.

In an effort to improve pedestrian safety, the Michigan Department of Transportation has installed four new high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK) signals.  Signals were installed on both sides of the Gratiot median at Quinn Road and Laurel Street.  The HAWK signals remain dark until activated by a pedestrian, at which point the signal will flash yellow, turn solid yellow, then solid red, indicating to traffic to slow and stop.  Traffic can begin again once signals flash red and pedestrians have cleared.

Another pedestrian-friendly project recently completed in Macomb County was the installation of a traffic island and pedestrian-activated signals on 12 Mile Road in Warren between Macomb Community College’s South Campus and Wayne State University’s new Advanced Technology Education Center.  As a result, students and SMART bus riders are able to conveniently traverse the five lanes of traffic.

While roads are the portals that take us anywhere we want to go, they often serve as impassible dividers within a community. For example, a store may be within eyesight and walking distance, but crossing eight lanes of traffic may be nearly impossible or simply impractical if the nearest intersection is a half mile away.  These projects increase the convenience for anyone trying to get around by bike or on foot – something that is becoming more popular with not only young professionals, but also senior citizens who want to stay in their community without relying on cars for transportation.

Walkability plays into the major placemaking movement many communities are striving to adopt.  The city of Roseville has taken on an initiative to create a pedestrian-accessible business district at the Utica and Gratiot junction.  The Roseville City Counsel passed an ordinance that creates a town center overlay district for this area which could feature landscaped streets, restaurants with outdoor seating and a mix of commercial and residential areas.  The council also passed other ordinances allowing for more sidewalks, less parking spots and more bicycle parking.

Both Roseville and Eastpointe were recently declared Development Ready Communities by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  Last October, Eastpointe hosted a charrette where it invited students from Lawrence Tech and the George Brown College’s Institute without Boundaries program from Toronto to brainstorm redevelopment ideas for the city.  Of the many ideas that were generated, some were to turn the Stephens and Gratiot intersection into a walkable area of commerce and to add bike lanes on Kelly Road.

Bike lanes are soon to become a reality for the city of Warren.  Warren officials approved funding for a non-motorized pathway along Van Dyke Avenue that will include a dedicated lane, median enhancements, a decorative crosswalk and sidewalk ramps.  Once completed, there could be an opportunity to extend the path to other neighboring communities.  The goal is that the increased pedestrian and bike traffic will lead to more revenue for businesses in the area.

The next time you find yourself sitting in traffic in Macomb County, keep your eye out for some of the exciting new developments that are coming down the pike.

This article was also published in eMacomb Winter 2015.

A cut above the rest

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Mr. Paul’s Chophouse is a place you want to know. It oozes old-school charm. Tucked away in a primarily industrial area in Roseville, it might be easy to miss. However, when you walk through the door, the dim lighting draws you into the elegant, intimate world that is Mr. Paul’s Chophouse, set apart from the rush hour traffic whizzing down Groesbeck.

With a rich background in the food industry, brothers Paul and Peter Gogo founded Mr. Paul’s Chophouse in 1968. It is now run by three of Paul’s sons, Paul Jr., Chris and Peter. I had the opportunity to go on a tour (where I even ended up in the walk-in refrigerator!) and speak with Paul Jr. about the family business.

Paul Jr. has been with the restaurant from the very beginning, learning every aspect of the business.  He always knew he would follow in his father’s footsteps, and the part he enjoys most about his job is his guests, many of whom he knows by name.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you first enter the restaurant, you pass through a small waiting room where the ambiance is set by a trickling fountain.  There are two dining areas, one with an inviting bar with mirrored panels and glistening bottles and glasses lining the shelves, the other with an elegant baby grand piano. There are cozy booths, chic tables layered in linens and exposed brick walls adorned by paintings.

In the kitchen, I saw carts stocked with all the ingredients needed to make fresh Caesar salads (even the dressing is made from scratch) ready to be rolled out to the awaiting diners and prepared on the spot. A chief was chopping romaine lettuce and lemons and another was preparing the famous Chateaubriand. This romantic meal for two is served on one platter within a flaming ring.

Don’t get me wrong, the food is excellent, but the special touches and unique presentation make dining in an experience to remember. “It really is a lost art, the tableside cooking,” co-owner Peter Gogo told the Macomb Daily in 2002. “It allows us to be acquainted with the customer on a more personal level.”

I celebrated my five-year anniversary here. My husband and I got dolled up for the evening and were seated at a cozy booth near the piano where the player took requests. I enjoyed a glass of merlot; steamed mussels with white wine, garlic and lemon; the classic Caesar salad made tableside; and charbroiled filet mignon – and savored every bite.

Mr. Paul’s Chophouse is the definition of fine dining in Macomb County and has played an integral part in the community for years as a destination for family celebrations, business meetings and special occasions. Many engagements have occurred here throughout the years, cementing it as a memorable place in many couples’ hearts.

But it is also a place full of “the regulars.” You don’t need to be celebrating a birthday or on your first date in order to enjoy a nice pork chop or their popular sautéed lake perch. Whether you want to get on a first name basis with the bartender or treat yourself to an item on the surprisingly affordable lunch menu, there’s a spot waiting for you.

While many things have changed since 1968, Mr. Paul’s Chophouse continues to offer the staples that it was founded upon, fresh food and excellent service. By staying true to its form throughout the years, Mr. Paul’s Chophouse has somehow managed to stay as relevant and innovative as ever – a true original.

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29850 Groesbeck Highway, Roseville 48066 (586) 777-7770

 Mr. Paul’s Chophouse Dinner Menu

Hours
Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

This article was also posted at MakeMacombYourHome.com on Dec. 10, 2014.