The gift of reading

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs an expecting mother-to-be, some aspects of my baby shower were easier to figure out than others. Venue: Fishbone’s – check. Cake: Giuseppe’s Bakery – check. Favors: Midwest Suds Soap Co. products made by my sisters and me – check. But when it came to registering, that was a different story.

There are thousands of items with limitless variations to sort through. The aisles of bedding, toys, car seats, diapers, nursery pieces, strollers, bath essentials, clothes, bottles and safety gear were a little overwhelming. However, armed with a scanner gun, my husband and I were determined to find everything the baby will need.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter fruitlessly wandering the store for a while, we naturally gravitated over to the book area. Paging through our old favorites from when we were young, the scanner gun quickly snapped into action. We scanned every Dr. Seuss book we saw as well as “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and other Eric Carle books, “The Monster at the End of this Book,” “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and more.

As I examined the familiar covers, I remembered my parents and grandparents reading to me, and I look forward to reading to my child. And as he or she grows, I can’t wait to share with them “The Giving Tree,” “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “The Secret Garden.”

We didn’t register for very many things on our first try. We weren’t sure how many footie pajamas we would need or what brand of diapers to choose, but we did know our baby will need books.

caterpillarMarch is National Reading Month, and it’s a great time to remember the huge impact reading has on our lives. Literacy is not something to be taken for granted. It needs to be initiated, nurtured, developed and maintained. The fundamental reading skills we acquire in our youth translate into academic and career assets in the future.

Illiteracy is not something that only affects children. Reading Works is an organization that helps metro Detroit adults learn to read or raise their literacy level. Find out more on their website readingworksdetroit.org.

This month is the perfect time to read to your toddler, take a child to the library or set aside time to discover a new book for yourself.

A version of this article was also posted at MakeMacombYourHome.com on March 13, 2015.

Get to Green Dot

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Green Dot Stables is one of my favorite burger restaurants in the area. They offer a really unique selection of sliders and keep things fun by offering a mystery meat and drink. You can ask your server what the mystery is, or simply take a chance and order. My last mystery meat slider was rabbit wrapped in bacon. Seriously, a rabbit slider? This place is special.

An island among a concrete wasteland, Green Dot is right in the middle of nothing. Located in a mostly industrial part of northern Corktown, the restaurant is on West Lafayette and 14th Street, a block from West Fort Street. A first timer not familiar with the area may be wary to give this place a try, but there is ample parking, and each time I go, I see an increasing number of young families and baby boomers — it’s a welcoming environment for everyone.

Green Dot is not a large restaurant, but it can accommodate larger groups by pushing tables together. There always seems to be a line, and your whole party must be there to even get on the wait list, whether there are two of you or ten. So, arrive with the rest of your group, because the clock doesn’t start ticking until you all get there. However, if you must wait, there is usually room at the bar, and there is a waiting area in the back.

The theme of the restaurant is, well, stables. There is jockey and horse racing memorabilia throughout. The dim lighting, exposed brick interior and shingled overhang above the bar give it a retro VFW hall vibe, but the place is definitely trendy and made for foodies.

Now the food. We usually order in rounds. I would say start off with three burgers, allow some time for that to settle, and then see what else you still have room for. Some of my favorites are the tempeh (marinated tempeh with wasabi mayo and wakame salad), the black bean (tomato slice, avocado and sour cream) and the bacon cheeseburger, the last probably being my favorite. Never underestimate a regular old cheeseburger. My husband Brandon’s favorites are the BBQ bacon (beef patty, sweet potato and homemade BBQ sauce), the fried chicken (panko and sage maple syrup) and the PB&J (peanut butter with chipotle raspberry jam) ordered with bacon. We always try the mystery meat and have yet to be disappointed. Green Dot also has lamb, corned beef, quinoa, catfish and a lot more.

I recommend truffle & herb or Cajun fries to share with the table. They have bottled beer and a few Michigan brews on draft, and the classic cocktails should not be overlooked. Brandon is a big fan of the Zug Island iced tea (scotch, triple sec, raspberry tea, lemonade and bay leaf) and Moscow mule (ginger beer, lime and vodka). Each item you order is only two or three dollars, but you might be surprised how quickly it adds up, so be forewarned.

If you are looking for a laid back environment, cheap beer and high-quality specialty sliders, then I would recommend you get to Green Dot.

 

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2200 West Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48216 (313) 962-5588

Green Dot Stables menu

Hours
Monday – Wednesday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Thursday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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.

Champagne Chocolates: A decadent delight

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Before you find yourself in the drug store on your lunch break on Feb. 14 frantically searching for your Valentine’s Day gifts (we’ve all been there), do yourself and your loved ones a favor and make a stop at Champagne Chocolates in Mount Clemens.

Champagne Chocolates has everything you need for Valentine’s Day: boxed chocolates, toffees, barks and turtles – and they are all hand-crafted on-site daily.

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These candies are made with the freshest ingredients – and I’m not just saying that. While most chain stores started stocking Valentine’s Day candy right after Christmas, Champagne Chocolates has just begun to make theirs. The candy is preservative-free, ensuring freshness and optimal quality.

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Thursdays are Raspberry Delight Day, which means Owner Debbie Heuchert goes out in the morning to buy fresh raspberries that will sit atop chocolate cups filled with dark chocolate ganache. Debbie also regularly heads to the Peanut Peddler to handpick hazelnuts for the candies.

“We take pride in our ingredients,” said Debbie. “When you start with good ingredients, you end up with good products.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA lot has changed since Debbie started making candies in her basement 25 years ago, but she still uses her own original recipes. Her husband John also plays a valuable part in the business, building machinery to improve consistency, accommodate larger molds and increase productivity.

Ten years ago, she opened up shop in downtown Mount Clemens. This past July, she moved to a new location at 65 Macomb Place, suite E (around the corner from Max & Ollie’s Vintage Boutique and across from Bath City Bistro). Still in Mount Clemens, the new building is larger, allowing for more efficient manufacturing. The more prominent location has also lead to increased sales.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“We love being in the heart of Macomb County,” explained Debbie. “The downtown area has a big town feel, but you know everybody. The businesses here support each other.” She also appreciates all of the hard work done by the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). The recent Mount Clemens Ice Carving Show the DDA hosted brought a lot of fun – and new customers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADebbie loves to indulge in the creative side of the business, especially when it comes to developing chocolate recipes. Champagne Chocolates carries a few items you might not expect, like chocolate-dipped bacon and Rustic Bars made partially with organic ingredients.

They also offer chocolate parties where you and a group of friends can make your own truffles and learn some interesting facts about chocolate – did you know all of their chocolate nibs come from the same farm in Ecuador? If you bring along a bottle of wine, staff will also help you pair it with the perfect chocolate.

Be kind to your valentine, and treat them to a box of chocolates or toffees from a great local business. You won’t regret it!

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65 Macomb Place, suite E, Mount Clemens, MI 48043 (586) 468-1170

Truffles with a Twist and Chocolate Party information

Hours
Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Closed Sunday

This article was also posted at MakeMacombYourHome.com on Feb. 6, 2015.

Stuff your stocking with specialty coffee

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Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer this holiday season? Coffee Break in Eastpointe sells one-pound packages of small-batch roasted coffee beans from countries around the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhole bean selections come from Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico, Honduras, Peru, Congo, Indonesia, Sumatra, Ethiopia and Kenya – and the list continues to grow. Priced at just $11.99 a bag, compared to $14.95 at Starbucks, not only are you acquiring a unique gift, but a great deal too.

Coffee Break is a cozy and chic coffee house that offers big-chain quality with small business appeal. Dim pendant lights, custom-laid floor tiles, charming bistro tables and free Wi-Fi create a comfortable environment for any coffee lover. The rear alcove also features a sleek leather couch facing a flat screen TV mounted above a blazing fireplace.

While you’re there, take a break from your Christmas shopping and relax with a hot cup of coffee, latte, cappuccino or espresso – my favorite is the marshmallow latte. They also serve a wide variety of bag and loose-leaf tea with festive flavors including hot cinnamon spice, ginger and licorice, cranberry autumn, spiced plum, chocolate mint and organic peppermint. Coffee Break also has a limited menu consisting of sandwiches, baklava, handmade shortbread, pastries and more.

Conveniently located on 10 Mile between Kelly Road and I-94 (just a mile from where I-696 meets I-94), Coffee Break has been operating in Eastpointe for four years. Just a stone’s throw away from Sugarbush Tavern, a prominent sidewalk promotes walkability among other neighboring businesses including Mario’s Meats, Little Italy Pizzeria and Fairway Drugs.

Vastly versatile, Coffee Break can accommodate any coffee enthusiast’s whim, whether you are looking for a meeting spot to catch up with old friends, to explore a new taste from across the world or to simply obtain your caffeine fix. Coffee Break coffee is sure to delight whoever receives it this holiday season!

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19156 E. 10 Mile Road, Eastpointe 48021 (586) 362-8683

 Hours
Monday – Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This article was also posted at MakeMacombYourHome.com on Dec. 22, 2014.

Find made-in-Michigan and vintage gifts at Iron Ivy

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen looking for holiday gifts this year, Iron Ivy is the perfect place to shop. This local business is full of antique and vintage items ranging from feathered hats and sequined purses, dinnerware and china, toolboxes and crates with classic logos to furniture and lamps. They also carry a great selection of made-in-Michigan products handcrafted by 20 metro Detroit artists.

The owners of Iron Ivy are Jim and Donna Jalosky. Married for 39 years, they have always collected antiques. Jim knew how to weld from working in a collision shop, and when he taught Donna, these skills soon translated into art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom bugs a few inches tall to giant 6-foot birds, Jim and Donna produce sculptures made from upcycled metal. This means that they turn anything and everything into art. Shovel heads are crafted into faces, dogs are constructed from tool boxes and watering cans and ostrich-type birds have buckets for bodies. Each is a one-of-a-kind, whimsical piece.

As a hobby, Jim and Donna started welding out of their garage in 1998. When they outgrew their space, they moved into a workshop on 9 Mile. In 2011, they landed in their present location on Gratiot near 10 Mile in Eastpointe. They live in Warren and really enjoy working close to home. They would like to see the area grow into a strip of specialty shops, making it an artistic destination on the eastside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey worked for three years to renovate the current facility, adding artistic touches wherever possible. A tile mosaic stream cuts a serpentine path along a portion of the floor. It incorporates tumbling stones found in a decaying rural building and features fish comprised of broken pottery from a vendor at Eastern Market. They also added large windows facing Gratiot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIron Ivy artwork is sprinkled throughout Eastpointe. The public art can be found in the median in front of the store (Gratiot and 10 Mile), in the garden in front of Andary’s Family Grill and adorning the walls inside (Gratiot and Semrau Avenue), at the entrance of the Urban Seed Community Garden (9 Mile and Pleasant Avenue) and in the city manager’s office in city hall (Gratiot and Aurora Avenue).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn addition to Jim and Donna’s metal creations, also interspersed throughout the store are handmade items by other local artists including jewelry, fused-glass pieces, photography and pottery from two local potters with 30 years of experience. There are items made out of license plates, framed word art made from photographs and collages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne artist recovers discarded bricks from Detroit onto which he transposes photographs. Another artist sews pieces of fabric from old jackets into purses and transforms the comfort and warmth of sweaters into stylish gloves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIron Ivy offers a wide array of trinkets, accessories, home goods and art. Just in time for the holiday, they are also stocking their shelves with vintage Christmas items, including ornaments. Shop local this year and walk away with some truly special gifts.

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24935 Gratiot Avenue, Eastpointe, MI 48021 (586) 381-2119

Hours
Tuesday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed Monday and Friday

This article was also posted at MakeMacombYourHome.com on Dec. 12, 2014.