I Heart Detroit. Part I.

Hello everyone! I just got back from a fun-filled weekend in Detroit. The significant other had to attend a convention and so we made a little vacation (staycation?) out of it. I thought I’d share some photos I took of some of my favorite places I frequent in this great big ol’ city. There are many more places to talk about than what I show here (hence the title of this blog post as Part I), but there’s no way to visit them all in one weekend.

The Westin Book Cadillac in downtown Detroit is a lovely luxury hotel and I admit I took a little pleasure in pretending I was “Little Miss Fancy Pants.” It was fun. We got a reduced rate, thanks to the convention, so we gladly took advantage of it to stay here. I love looking at architecture (Detroit, by the way, has SO many old, beautiful buildings) and this hotel was recently fully restored to its Italian Renaissance style of 1924. I think this building, inside and out, is gorgeous. And I love the 3 flags representing the U.S., Canada, and Michigan flying in the wind together.

Oh Avalon. YUM! Every time I come to Detroit I have to stop here in Midtown for tea, a loaf of bread, and a cookie. This women-owned company uses 100% organic flour and whatever local ingredients they can get their hands on. I buy their bread regularly (they distribute it locally) but there’s nothing like going straight to the source and buying the bread right there, freshly sliced. My favorite is the Dexter Davison Rye – it has caraway seeds on top. It’s not cheap (the large loaves are $7), but the quality makes it well worth it in my opinion. I could easily sit in here much of the day, watching people coming in and out, drinking tea, and breathing in the wonderful smells of bakery. The atmosphere is wonderfully cozy.

When this 40-story skyscraper was finished in 1929, it was first known as The Union Trust Building. But because of the Stock Market Crash, investors who believed in the building took it over from the Union Trust Company (a banking group) and it became The Union Guardian Building, and then simply The Guardian Building. A cool thing to know about this building is that it was designed and built completely by Michigan architects and contractors. The design of this striking building is incredibly unique with its bright colors and is described as “Mayan Revival Art Deco.” The Guardian Building represents the people of Michigan who believed in the success of Detroit and like the people of Detroit today, it still stands proudly. The Guardian Building is as beautiful as ever and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. And rightly so.

Open since 1917, Lafayette Coney Island is a must for many who visit Detroit. I love the retro look, the diner atmosphere, and the fact that it’s really no different than when it opened. The funny fact about this place is that two Greek brothers who owned the place got in an argument shortly after their restaurant opened and so it split into two restaurants that sit side by side (the other is called American Coney Island). I am not sure which one was the original, but most people I know are partial to Lafayette. And going by looks, I’d pick Lafayette too. I do not eat gyros or coney dogs (hot dogs topped with chili), but I maintain an appreciation for this historic novelty restaurant. Plus, what’s cool is that both coney islands are still owned by the same family that opened them.

One thing I really enjoy about Detroit is all the art on the abandoned houses. There are many. This particular house sits in Corktown, near the old train station (one of the most famous and most beautiful dilapidated buildings in Detroit). This mural I consider to be very faithful, as it reads “The Dream is Now” and on the left in smaller letters (hard to see here), “If We Fight Together Our City Will Rise.” There is much hope and pride here in Detroit, and you can feel it all around when you’re here. It’s a precious feeling.

Another favorite food place of mine with incredible atmosphere. And soooooooooo tasty! We didn’t know until this morning that the Cork Town Race was today followed by the St. Patrick’s Parade. I am not sure why it’s a week before St. Patrick’s Day, but it was a gorgeous day for a parade – sunny and warm. It was packed all around Slows and all down Michigan Avenue so we didn’t know what to expect with wait time for food (side note: Slows wait times are often 2 hours! This shows how great their food is!).  Slows is obviously huge on the meat, but they source local and responsibly-raised meat.  And they do have some great vegetarian options too, much to my delight. I get The Genius sandwich, which is a barbecued seitan sandwich topped with cole slaw and pickles. Today, because of the parade, they were serving just a few different items and it was standing room only. But The Genius was just as delicious as it always is.

This is another beautiful piece of art work on another abandoned building near the train station in Corktown. I find it so captivating (I actually gasped when I first saw it). I just love the contrast of black and white. I wish I knew the story behind it. If anyone does, let me know.

Best,

H

PS. All photos taken by me using my iPhone. Check out Westin, Avalon, Guardian, and Slows.

Read, Listen, Eat.

It doesn’t really matter what your religious or political views are; and you might not necessarily agree with everything Joel Salatin says (or how he says it), but this book is worth reading, and you WILL get something positive out of it. Not all of us can (or desire to) live on a farm raising livestock like Salatin and his family do. But the whole point of this inspiring book is to encourage us to get in touch with our food supply (once again), think about, question, and learn where it all comes from and how it was raised and grown, and to do something in order to make for a healthier life for animals, people, and the environment. He also gives great ideas on how to do what you can where you live like composting (yes, you can compost right in your apartment), gardening (even the tiniest garden makes a difference and is very satisfying on many levels), and voting with your buying dollar (one of the biggest powers we have to change things).

These four guys from Nashville that make up the rock band, MONA, toured in the UK last year, have been featured in Rolling Stone magazine, were given a shout-out at last year’s MTV Music Awards as the band to watch, released their self-titled album here in the U.S. on February 28th (released May of last year in the UK – we had to wait!), played live last week on both Jay Leno and Conan, and their single, “Shooting the Moon” was featured this past week as the Single of the Week on iTunes. Whew! Check them out -they are now currently on tour in the U.S. (see cities and dates here). And don’t miss out –  their single on iTunes is available for FREE download until Monday, March 5, 2012 at 11:59 pm. Of course, the entire album is also available on iTunes, or you can look for it in record stores starting March 6th.

Photo from A Year From Oak Cottage

Mountains of braised kale!

My friend introduced me to braised kale couple of years ago. Since then, each time I get over to her place (which is not often enough, by the way), she makes it because we both love it so much. I cook a lot (and I’m a big vegetable eater), but oddly I never asked her how to make it and never looked it up (OR paid attention while she was preparing it because we’re too busy talking and catching up). I guess I never knew it was called “braised” either. But this past weekend I was at her house and I finally asked her how she makes it. She told me and it’s so easy!

I’m very familiar with kale. But to think I’ve been either steaming it, baking it (kale chips), or sticking it in stews all this time instead of braising it! I just never knew to do this braising thing. I am not a meat eater (apparently braising is a great way to cook tougher cuts of meat), nor am I from the south where braised greens are a lovely tradition (and historically seasoned with smoked pork and sugar – or so I’ve read), so “braised” was never a term I knew or paid attention to.

But now that I’ve learned and made it myself, I crave braised kale every day. The texture is chewy and wonderful, the flavor is savory and slightly bitter, and it’s easy and fast to prepare. I’ve made it three times this past week!

Here is my version of vegan braised kale:

INGREDIENTS

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

4 pressed garlic cloves

1 cup hot water with about 1.5 tsp. Better Than Bouillon, Vegetarian, No Chicken Base

1 large bunch kale, stems removed and chopped

salt and pepper

In a large skillet, warm olive oil until glistening. Add pressed garlic and brown for about 30 seconds to a minute (until very fragrant). Add kale and coat with the oil and garlic. Let sit, stirring every so often until kale starts to get soft and wilted. In the meantime, prepare bouillon. Add bouillon to skillet. Stir once in a while, until wilted yet still bright green. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.

If you read the book, listen to the album, and/or make braised kale, I’d love to know.

Be Well,

H

The Experience of Quality Time (in a Delicatessen!). [love]

Yesterday, in Ann Arbor, I had the rare opportunity to relax all morning at Zingerman’s Deli with a friend of mine. It was glorious and I relished every single moment. Once a place I popped into as often as possible (I used to live just 3 blocks away), my visits to Zingerman’s are now too few. Because I no longer live in the area, before yesterday I hadn’t been there since June of last year.

For those of you not familiar with Zingerman’s, please put it on your list of places to visit! Ann Arbor is a super-cool, progressive little city in Michigan with oodles of art, yoga, boutiques, bookstores, and restaurants. It’s a fun place. But Zingerman’s? It’s legendary. First opened in 1982 by University of Michigan graduates, Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig, Zingerman’s Deli started as a quaint little sandwich shop. Over the years, always using the best ingredients (a great percentage of it local), outstanding customer service (the employees are always in a good mood and very knowledgable), and plenty of genius business decisions (check out Zing Train, featuring ongoing seminars that share their secrets for marketing and great customer service), they’ve transformed Zingerman’s into a business that rakes in $40 million annually.

I’m telling you – no trip to Ann Arbor is complete without stopping in at Zingerman’s! Whether it’s to eat breakfast, lunch (my favorite sandwich is #55 – Gemini Rocks the House), have coffee or tea, or sample unbelievable cheeses, oils, and vinegars from all over the world, Zingerman’s is never a disappointment. Never. It’s a foodie’s dream. I don’t know anyone who has been there that didn’t think it was incredible. Even people like Mario Batali and Drew Barrymore have nothing but great things to say about Zingerman’s. Check out their testimonials here.

You can probably tell by now that this is a business I greatly admire. And with good reason. From their dedication to the community in supporting other local businesses, to bringing high quality goods from around the world for our palates to sample and enjoy, to their top-notch customer service – this place makes my “favorites” list and deserves only the strongest praises. Zingerman’s, you’re the best!

My visit to Zingerman's Deli on 25th of February, 2012.

Have a fabulous week,

H

PS. Clancy’s Hot Sauce is delicious and locally made in Michigan. Check out their website here.

New York Fashion Week Favorites – Fall 2012 Edition. [design.]

Hello everyone! Last week I talked about the quirky obsession I have with color palettes and the exciting arrival of Pantone’s Fashion Color Report. This week, as promised, I’ve selected my favorite looks from New York Fashion Week (which just wrapped up this past Thursday). See if you can spot some of the colors from the Pantone list!

Kelly Wearstler. It’s obvious this interior designer also has the ability to design hip and wearable clothing. Love the layered look, the polka dot detail, the bunched and stirrup leggings…the gloves!!! That green minidress paired with those leggings and pointy-toe shoes is fabulously minimalistic and…did I mention the gloves? Both models are wearing them (look carefully). Well done.

I have a weakness for velvet. And gorgeous retro necklines. And bold pops of color. Both of these looks by L’Wren Scott appear comfortable and easy to wear, yet they have a real chic, head-turning capability to them. And I must say, those blue strappy heels? With the model’s skin tone? Just beautiful.

A few years ago I was thrift shopping at a St. Vincent de Paul store, and I came across an original red and black printed Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress. It was in the “retro” section, a part of the store reserved for “more expensive” pieces. It was $8. Yes, of course I bought it! These two looks above, just like that iconic wrap dress, show DVF’s knack for prints and elegant silhouettes. I love a good jumpsuit – especially one draped and fitted like this one. Fabulous. With those long gloves, it looks super-sophisticated. And the red military-style jacket is beautifully tailored.

One thing I really appreciate about Nanette Lepore is her attention to detail. This look is so much fun. There’s so much going on in this bright and busy pattern, yet the muted tights and the metallic blast of shiny gold booties finish the look perfectly. And what an interesting neckline!

Did you know Gwen Stefani grew up sewing her own clothes? Sewing your own clothing helps you create your own personal style, and instead of relying on what’s available in stores, you can make something no one else has. L.A.M.B. clothing shows Stefani’s unique style that she developed for herself, and although this particular look is more on the reserved side, it still shows the fun and edgy persona that we all love about her.

I love this dress by Victoria Beckham. It’s neat. It’s tailored. It’s colorblock done well. The dropped waistline is in just the right place. And it looks like it would be comfortable to wear. This look is fabulously preppy and the boots (I am a boot lover!!) just top it off.

Another comfortable look – this one by Lauren Moffatt. This is a wonderfully vintage-looking piece, made  to be modern with the incredible print of the dress, the handsome color combination of navy and grey, and those sensational shoes. I also have to say that I love the blunt, chunky red bangs on the model – the hair goes perfectly with the rest of the look.

In my opinion, a classic, simple black dress with just one or two special details will always shine above the others. This dress, by Thakoon, is a perfect example. Besides the point of interest on the bodice and sleeves, my favorite feature is the bateau neckline – a most-flattering line for not only the neck, but for the collarbone as well.

This look, by rag & bone, reminds me of someone who enjoys camping and hiking, and who can handle herself outdoors. It must be the knitted layers, the pattern, and the colors of brown, honey, and grey. Obviously it’s a more sophisticated version of outdoorsy, but this woman is on a mission. She is strong. And she just might be wearing a little patchouli!

Michael Kors, how did you know I would be all over these art deco dresses? Gorgeous, shiny, swingy dresses in black and gold – so much fun!!! I’d probably wear a t-strap heel with these instead, but my goodness, who’s really looking at the shoes?

This look, by Theyskens’ Theory is cool and casual. Although I’d leave the bag behind, the rest is great. I am a big fan of monochromatic looks, giving attention to textures that compliment one another instead of color. The sweater features a little sweetness with the bell sleeves and when belted at the waist like this, shows shape. And of course, I love the boots!

Best,

H

PS. All of these photos (and hundreds of others from New York Fashion Week) can be found at www.nymag.com.

The Color Report is Here! [design.]

As an artist who dabbles in clothing design (and who has been hand-dyeing fabric for over ten years), I can’t help but notice how all the colors are paired in my environment. In fact, I automatically stick them into palettes in my mind. This happens everywhere for me, whether I’m at the grocery store, at a restaurant or café, driving, or at a friend’s house. I am a serious color dork and I can’t help it. Sometimes I even take photos if I want to make sure I will remember.

Imagine my delight then, when Pantone releases their Fashion Color Report each spring and fall. I so look forward to this! The Fashion Color Report is dropped just as New York’s Fashion Week begins. Right now, we are in the midst of Fashion Week (it began on February 9th and goes through the 16th) – and on the 9th I got my email from Pantone with the big news featuring THE colors for Fall 2012.

Although I do considerably enjoy giving some of my attention and appreciation to what the designers are showing, I don’t take Fashion Week TOO seriously. And I don’t rely on Pantone to tell me what colors I should be wearing either. I generally stick to my own style and color palette, but it IS definitely a pleasure for me to take note of these trends and colors (and some of them DO make it into my wardrobe, usually as pops of color). It’s all in good fun!

But these colors don’t have to be represented only by fashion; they can also be seen in home design and even food (after all, this fall’s Tangerine Tango, Honey Gold, and French Roast were obviously inspired by yummy things to eat and drink). I can guarantee that once you observe this palette of colors for fall, you WILL begin to notice them everywhere you go. Just wait and see!

1. Titanium straw – what a great idea! 2. I really want this coat. 3. Not a fan of most pinks, but I’m loving the shades of these cute little dresses. 4. This blouse from J. Crew is beautifully designed. 5. Lavender tea cakes = rhapsody. 6. LOVE these handmade travel bags! 7. Blue is one of my least favorite colors, but these stilettos are way too much fun to pass up. 8. Love the grey and chartreuse combo. 9. This handmade leather watch is so cool. 10. I enjoy this pink in very small amounts. This pillow is perfect.

Be well and enjoy,

H

PS. Next week: New York Fashion Week Favorites!

Alvar Aalto [design.]

Have you ever heard of Alvar Aalto?

Artek?

Um, Apple, perhaps? Ok, THAT got your attention. Read on and you’ll see why I asked.

Alvar Aalto (Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto, 1898-1976) was an architect born and raised in Finland. He began his career as an architect in the 1920s and designed some of the most beautiful, contemporary buildings in the world, incorporating and inspired by the elements of nature. See the list here.

After marrying Aino Marsio (also a Finnish architect) in 1924, however, he found himself spending more time as a product designer. Together, they began to experiment with bending wood (mostly birch, a very pliable wood) for furniture. This research led to a combination of veneer bonded with plywood, and some of the most innovative and modern designs of their time. This chair is one of his first designs using this process, and was originally designed for tuberculosis patients; the chair allowed for more comfort in breathing while sitting for long periods of time. Read more about this chair here.

Their work with these materials led to similar seating designs, which led to rave reviews from the public. So much so, that in 1935, Alvar and Aino started a company, Artek, to sell these pieces. Today, Artek is still manufacturing and selling Aalto’s original furniture designs. Ever sit at the Genius Bar in an Apple store? You were sitting on Alvar Aalto’s High Stool 64 that he designed in 1935.

One of the most famous designers in Finland, Alvar Aalto created beautifully simple, timeless, and functional pieces for the home and office with this wood technology. His organic, clever, and innovative designs easily make him one of the founding fathers of modern design, leading other designers to follow suit.

Pretty cool, eh? You probably thought those stools were from IKEA. *wink*

Read more about Alvar Aalto in this article.

Where Is My (Creative) Mind? [life.]

Print by Amanda Cherie.

I have to admit I have had some trouble being creative this week. It’s frustrating, but I do expect it to happen sometimes. Today I have been working on different blog posts all day long, but none of them seem “right” to me. Therefore, I have decided to keep this post short, and feature this spirited print by Amanda Cherie. The quote, by Joseph Chilton Pearce, is something I need to recite in my head more often.

Best,

H

If I Were a Tree… [life.]

"Three Birches" by Joyce Koskenmaki

I think birch trees are pretty amazing. They are handsome trees, with their unique, papery bark and dancing leaves of brilliant green. But besides their ornamental quality, they are also a great resource for helping to nourish and heal the body, mind, and spirit.

Did you know birch trees are edible? They produce sap and this sap can be boiled down to make syrup, just like a maple tree. Ever hear of “birch beer?” For those of you that haven’t, it’s a soda drink similar in taste to root beer that is made from birch syrup and it’s delicious (try Boylan brand, or if you’re feeling super-adventurous and happen to have access to birch sap, make your own). The sap itself, by the way, contains nutrients such as Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, and some amino acids.

The healing properties of birch trees are numerous. The sap can be made into tonics for antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-itching treatments. The leaves can be used to make a diuretic tea and is supposed to keep our kidneys and urinary tract healthy. The twigs can be boiled and softened and used on cuts and wounds. The bark and the twigs are also edible, although I think animals get more satisfaction out of the flavor than we would!

Bundles of green birch boughs can be used to make a “vihta” (pronounced just how it looks – vih-tah). The vihta is traditionally used in the Finnish sauna to increase circulation by slapping the skin with it. The wonderful fresh scent of the vihta combined with the steam rising off the hot rocks on the stove makes for a most therapeutic sauna session for the skin, breath, and mind. Birch wood is also the preferred wood for sauna stoves, as it burns well and hot but lasts a long time.

On breezy summer nights, there really is nothing as relaxing and restful as sleeping in a room with the windows open to a forest of graceful birch trees. The leaves flutter rhythmically and make the softest lullaby. This is great help for anxiety and insomnia (both of which, unfortunately, I suffer from).

The Finnish word for ‘birch’ is “koivu” (pronounced coy-voo). The silver birch is the national tree of Finland. And although I am not from Finland, I am from the “Finn Hook,” which is a region of the United States populated by the highest concentration of Finnish people, likely due to the fact that the climate and geography (ie. plenty of birch trees, pine trees, lakes) are pretty much the same (by the way, a finn hook is also a clever massage tool made in Finland – it’s made of birch). My family tells me I am 100% Finnish, yet I was born in the United States. I’m the fifth generation, in fact. So yes, I am American. . .but I am also a Finn.

The birch tree is poised, graceful, and full of healing properties for the body, the mind, and the spirit. It stands tall and gives all of itself to benefit others. If I were a tree, I’d be a birch tree. A Finnish-American tree. A “Koivu Tree.”

If you were a tree, what tree would you be?

Be well,

H

PS. Please visit www.joycekoskenmaki.com for more information on Joyce Koskenmaki and her incredible art work. Unfortunately, this piece I’ve featured today on my blog is no longer available (ugh, I really want it and I can’t have it!), but there are other great works available. Check it out!

My Photo-Per-Day Project. [art. life.]

I’ve been having a really fabulous time with Instagram lately. I have had this iPhone app for a while but honestly, I didn’t get into it right away. However, this changed when (ding-ding-ding!) I thought of a grand idea! See, I planned to take at least 1 photo per day to document my life starting January 1st, 2012. And actually, I tried this last year. But I thought of it in February last year, so it wasn’t the true start of the year. Plus, in the every-day-running-around called “life,” I forgot to take photos every day (by the way, I am also that person who regrets not taking pictures when attending different events and special occasions).

Enter Instagram. My photo-per-day idea has now turned into a constant and challenging, yet entertaining art project. For those of you that read my last post, you know my goal for 2012 is to make time for more creativity. And in this way, I am!  Each day, I take at least a few photos (using only my iPhone) of whatever I find interesting that day. Then, I play with colors and contrast a bit using either the CameraBag app or the options on Instagram. And once in a while, I keep them as is. BUT! I choose just ONE for each day to post on Instagram. That’s my rule.

Some days are incredibly boring! For instance, the other day I was running around the house, looking for something interesting to photograph. Finally, I looked outside and saw there were just two bits of melting snow in the yard (a very odd occurrence this time of year where I live) – it wasn’t my most exciting day, that’s for sure. But other days I get so much inspiration and find super-fun stuff to photograph (which makes it undoubtedly hard for me to choose just one to post!). Regardless of the day, however, I am filling my life with daily creativity and that is the ultimate goal.

Anyway, I thought I’d share what I’ve posted so far. Each day I post, the more I look forward to seeing what’s to come in 2012.

Best,

H

A Brand New Year & Making Time. [blog intro.]

For my first official blog post, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year! Yes, I know, I’m seven days late in my wishing, but I was busy traveling (a much-needed-and-inspiring-vacation consisting of great food, conversation, and laughter with friends) over the holiday and to be honest, I just decided (again) that I would really start a blog. Really!

This blog has been online since last year, but sadly, I didn’t make time to dedicate to it. However, they say the New Year is for making changes and starting fresh, and personally, it’s making more time for creative endeavors. One can easily lose creativity in day-to-day craziness with work, house chores and such and for me, that means losing a part of my identity. This year is going to be dedicated to getting it all back.

Cheers to identity! [glasses clink]

Oh, by the way, my name is Heidi and here is a summary of what I’m all about:

artist + designer + crafter + scientist + friend + finn + daughter + sister + partner + stylist + sometime-model + free spirit + daydreamer + food activist + spiritual human = me.

My goal with this blog is to touch upon all of these characteristics in the categories of art, design, love, and life and hopefully to inspire you to make time for more creativity too.

So! Until next week,

H