Sunday, August 28, 2011

You'll never guess

I've been in the hospItal since Wednesday with an ear infection! I'm feeling.better I think? I'm having trouble balancing when I stand up and walk around, which I definitely didn't need on top of all of the rest of mobility problems I've been having. Uuuggghhhh. Anyway, That's what's going on here! Hope you all are enjoying the end of summer,

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book reviews

I love to read and have always been a voracious reader. One of the best parts of not doing anything is that I have a lot of extra time to read! Here are some reviews of books I've read recently.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: I really enjoyed this book. I read it about a year ago, as a recommendation from Amazon, and it was an excellent recommendation. It's about a retired major who becomes friends with a Pakistani immigrant and has to confront racism in his small English town. There's also an issue about the inheritance of an antique gun after his brother dies. Highly recommended! The tone is really enjoyable and the characters are well developed.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: This is an epistolary novel about the effects of World War II on the island of Guernsey, which was occupied by the Germans, and a little bit of London too. Letters between Juliet/Izzy, a journalist, and the residents of Guernsey tell the story of the German occupation and how the residents of Guernsey used their literary society and friendship to overcome those hardships. Eventually Juliet/Izzy decides to write a book about Guernsey island and moves there for several months. The characters are
wonderful, the tone is funny, and it reminded me a lot of Jane Austen's writing, which is
good because she's my favorite author :). Highly recommended! The story and characters are really wonderful.

The Georgia Nicholson Diaries: This is a series of ten books by a comedian that are the diary of a teenager, and they are hilarious! I think they are meant to be read by adults who remember being that ridiculous, or who enjoy reading about how ridiculous teenagers can be, but they are also very popular with teenagers, and I don't think they get that. Oh well. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging is the first book and shares Georgia's search for a sex god boyfriend, and her struggles with her parents and much younger sister. Hilarious, and very good for a light read.

I'll add that I'm really not a fan of dramatic novels and prefer stories that are mostly nice and not bloody or traumatic. My life is tough enough, and I don't need to read things that are unpleasant.

Which is perhaps why I wasn't so much a fan of the novel Faithful Place. This was an Amazon recommendation, and I do like mysteries along the lines of Dan Brown and Agatha Christie, so I thought, why not try this one. It's about a police officer who hasn't had contact with his family for about 20 years when he was supposed to elope with his girlfriend, but she never showed and so he ran away on his own. His girlfriend's suitcase is found, and soon after her body, and he's drawn back into the world of lower class Dublin while trying to solve this case. The story was sort of interesting, but I had it figured out about half way through the book, and the way it was written wasn't terribly interesting. I'll give it a half recommendation, if this is your kind of book.

Remarkable Creatures:. I haven't finished this one yet, but I'm really enjoying it. It's set in the 19th century in Lyme Regis, England (another Austen tie in!) and deals with the relationship between two female fossil hunters. It's set in the first half of the 19th century so evolution hasn't been proposed yet, but these fossil hunters find fossils that don't fit animals that are alive today, so where did they come from? One becomes a very famous fossil hunter, and their friendship and work is played out against the background of 19th century opinions about women working and taking credit for discoveries like these fossils. Highly recommended! Makes me want to read more Tracy Chevalier. I enjoyed The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn (and seeing the tapestries at the Musee Cluny) so I'll probably add more of her books to my "to read" list.

Last one for today! My cousin was an extra in the movie Flipped, and after seeing the back of her head and finding the movie cute, I decided to read the book, and really liked it. The story is almost exactly the same as it is in the movie. It alternates points of view of the same events as experienced by a boy and a girl who are neighbors. The girl is in love with the boy for years, but he finds her embarrassing and so tries to ignore her. It's about the things she does to impress him and how their relationship changes over the years. Very well written and a very cute story!

Hope you find something here that interests you, and if you have read any of these, tell me what you read and how you liked it!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Other things to do in and around Traverse City

There are tons of attractions in the Traverse City area, which I'll say is the top left corner of the lower peninsula, or the tip of your left pinky from the back of your hand.  There are lots of cute towns with various shopping and eating places, islands to visit, and lots of outdoor activities.  For example, there's Sleeping Bear Dunes, a park featuring 400 foot tall sand dunes, Old Mission Peninsula is fun to drive around and has some wineries and historic attractions, and there are five lighthouses in the area to visit.  Did you know that Michigan has the most lighthouses of any state?  There are lots of cruises you can take in the Grand Traverse Bay, parasailing, you can rent boats, there are lots of golf courses... and there are a few casinos too, if that's your thing.  The visitor's bureau has a pretty good website of things to do in the area, but there are of course many more things than they list!

This year we visited Leland and it's Fishtown historic district for the first time.  Fishtown has these old, decrepit looking buildings that are what would have been there 100 years ago.

(Not my photo, because I didn't take many this year, but I went here!  Lifted from the site above)

Today they're home to some souvenir shops and a couple of food places.  An amazing smoked fish store, with fantastic prices because it's fresh and local, and the cheese shop in the photo above with really good cheeses.  I really enjoyed the goat gouda.  The town itself is very small and very cute with galleries and shops.  You can even charter boats and go fishing on Lake Michigan, for those who like to fish!

And of course, the big thing to do anywhere you visit is eat!  Since this is the Cherry Capital (Michigan produces 75% of American tart cherries and this is where they are grown) anything cherry is good to eat, and they are everywhere.  Dried, covered in yogurt or chocolate, worked into sauces, in pies... there's even the huge National Cherry Festival on the 4th of July weekend.  I've already blabbed about the wonderful ice cream at Moomers, so no need to repeat that.  Restaurants that I recommend are:

Thai Cafe: I know it sounds ridiculous to recommend a Thai restaurant in northern Michigan, but this is a really good restaurant!  The spices are very well done, the flavors are wonderful, I've liked everything I've had from there. And they give you huge portions.

Firefly: a really interesting place because they have large dishes but you can also do a tapas-type dinner and order a bunch of small plates to share.  I've been twice with a friend of mine who has had a great time working up north for like five or six summers, and we've done the tapas dinner thing both times.  Loved everything!  The nachos really stand out in my mind.    

North Peak Brewing Company: they do in fact brew their own beer, which I didn't order because I don't really like beer, but my brother did, and he liked some of them.  The fish and chips are great, the pretzel crusted walleye is also very good, and the veggie nachos are great too.  I love nachos and am quite the critic, so that's a real complement.

Amical: this was a new visit this year and a huge success!  Everything was wonderful, and the star was this enormous tomato soup en croute (with pastry on top) - seriously, the soup could have been a dinner all on it's own because it was so big, and it was delicious!  I didn't finish it though because I had a whitefish coming for dinner, which was also wonderful.

We also ate at Poppycocks and I thought the food was very good, but they don't take reservations, so we had to wait around for a while, and there was an issue with them not having a lot of vegan options for my sister despite saying they did, but the food we had was good.  The sun-dried tomato polenta stack was really tasty, and the salmon and whitefish were both very good.

So, if you go to visit the Traverse City area, there are lots of things to do, and you should visit!  In the winter there's skiing, so it's a four season destination.  Please do visit, Michigan could use the money!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pleasanton Bakery and The Village

One of the best bakeries I've ever been to is the Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery.  Their breads are fantastic!  My favorites are the Tomato Parmesan and the Cherry Chocolate, but they only make certain breads on certain days, and we weren't there the Cherry Chocolate day, so I missed out this year!  All of their breads are wonderful.  I haven't had any of their cookies or other sweet treats, but I'm sure they are good too.

                                                        The Pleasanton Bakery

The bakery is located in this place called The Village, or Grand Traverse Commons, which used to be a mental hospital, and the other buildings in the area look like it.  The Pleasanton building used to be a fire department building, and this is the rest of it.

It looks a lot less creepy in these photos because it was sunny when I took them, and because I don't have a picture of the front of the building, which is the creepiest looking part.  The hospital has been redone and now has shops and restaurants on the bottom floors, but on the top floors they're putting in apartments and offices. 

I find this redo of an old mental hospital strange and creepy because mental hospitals were not fun places to be.  The patients were usually mistreated and punished for behavior that was beyond their control, and they often lived in very bad conditions.  It just makes me a little on edge to be in the building and know how miserable the poor patients must have been.

But luckily the Pleasanton bakery isn't located inside the old hospital, so I have no problem going there to pick up fresh bread! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wine Tours

I'm going to start off by telling you guys that my internet issues weren't over the last time I posted!  We lost power on Monday night.  What are the odds?  Luckily it was only out for about five hours, but really!  The internet gods must be angry with me, but I love the internet and don't know what I did to hurt their feelings!  In any case, hopefully there won't be any more issues with my internet!

Back to my trip up north.  The Traverse City area is actually on the same latitude as Bordeaux, so there are several different wineries, but the quality of most of it isn't as good as the stuff from Bordeaux.  They do make excellent rieslings though, and since my favorite kind of wine is sweet white wine, I indulged!  I'm not as keen on red wine (of course I avoid the wine that's supposed to be good for you!) and the ones up north aren't that good anyway, so I only sampled whites, champagnes (okay, sparkling wines, I know that champagne is technically only from a certain area of France) and a rose or two.

Our first stop was Chateau Chantal, which has my favorite riesling, the Select Harvest Riesling (not sure why it's labelled as Late Harvest on that page).  They also have a wonderful sparkling cherry wine and cherry wine without bubbles that are delicious, and very specific to the area since it is the cherry capital.  The best part about visiting Chateau Chantal is the wonderful location.  It's on a hill on the Old Mission Peninsula which divides Grand Traverse Bay in half and you can see both the East and West Bay.

                                                                     The East Bay

                                                               The West Bay

Our next stop was Brys, which was not as good as Chantal, but they had some nice wines.  We also stopped at Left Foot Charley, which is a newer winery, and they specialize in white wines.  They mostly weren't sweet enough for me, but they were good.

Our last stop was the Grand Traverse Distillery, which makes vodka and whiskey.  We took a tour, which lasted a little bit too long for me, so I guess I must be a little ADD these days.  They make an extremely pure product with very specific steps, like what type of barrel they use and how many times they drain the water.  It was interesting to learn about how into the process they are.  Their products have won a lot of awards too, and they haven't been around very long, so that's great for them.  The tasting was kind of funny because you got these mini-shot glasses to try the drink with, and it was me, my parents, and my brother who just turned 21, having a shot party.  The problem for me was that the vodka was just way too strongly alcoholic to have plain without a mixer, so I had a sip and gave the rest to my brother.  It was very good though, and we bought one of each of their offerings.

Winery tours and tastings are really fun, and definitely an important part of your trip to Traverse City!  Don't expect the best wines you've ever tasted, but you'll definitely find some good ones.