Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,300 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The End of a Year

My favorite photo this year: Lansing City Market at Dusk during Silver Bells

I’m a New Year’s baby. Well not really New Year; more like the eve of the eve of the New Year. I suppose it’s close enough. I was born in 1969 by two days. Yet it still allows me to lay claim to being a 60’s baby. When I get my Allstate birthday card in the mail I see the factoids from that year: Woodstock took place, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, and Nixon began bringing troops out of Vietnam. To me my birthday couldn’t be any better planned. It’s after Christmas so I don’t have the bewildered; “This is for your Christ/Birth/day/mas”. I usually received my Christmas gifts and then whatever I didn’t get I could ask (politely) for my birthday. What child wouldn’t love the double chance to get what she wanted?! It also isn’t right on top of the actual New Year. It’s like a lead in day; a preparation day. I have three days; birthday, New Year’s Eve and then the New Year. At the end of each year, for me, it actually is my new year; at a new age. How exciting! As I count down the last hours before my 3 day yearend finale I wanted to take a moment and reflect on this last year; personally and as the City Saunterer. Personally, I’ve had a crazy year. This time last year my older sons were both in college; one at LCC and one at Alma. Also my twins had started kindergarten. This was a very difficult time for me with my kids all away from home at any given time. I think really, that this City Saunter project was divinely placed in my head to keep me from losing it. For that I have been very grateful. The next big thing that happened was putting our 15 year old Samoyed to sleep. Poor Sparty had been very sick and was ready to move on. I truly didn’t realize how much I missed him until one day when out driving we passed a man out walking his Samoyeds. Just one glance at the happy, bouncy dogs with their huge pink tongues dangling out of their smiling faces made me burst into a crying fit. I miss my Sammy. It’s been almost a year and I can’t think to replace him yet.

My next great adventure was my oldest son graduating from the welding program at LCC. I am so proud of him for completing this journey! It was also around early spring that we found out that our 18 year old was having a very difficult time away at college. He returned home after a year away and moved back into his room off the kitchen. Failure, however, wasn’t in his nature as he quickly rebounded and signed up for a full schedule at LCC in the Computer Programming degree. Tally: One graduated from college, one back in college, 2 kindergarteners.
By summer our oldest was spending most of his time with his girlfriend who lives in Indiana. During one of their visits in July we were told the news that we were going to be grandparents. Tally: Two first graders to be, one kid in college (living at home), one college graduate moved out to Indiana, a common law daughter and one grandson due March 2012. It’s funny how things can change so fast. This year was really a hang onto your seat type of year.
In October I completed one full year of walking the streets of Lansing. I totaled 180 miles walked. I was interviewed by Lansing State Journal, Capital Gains, In Her Shoes Talk Radio, WLNS New 6 “Tell Me Something Good” Segment, The Tony Conley Morning Show on 1320 WILS, IMPACT 89 Exposure Radio Show, and LCC Connections. I held a City Saunter sledding trip, a photo walk, and a support Peace One Day walk.

I had the great pleasure of walking with some wonderful people this year, including two Patrick O’Mearas, Robin Miner-Swartz, Rebecca Eldridge, , Susan Miller-Gorbe, Michael McCallum and many family members. I have met some amazing people as well, including Suban Nur Cooley, Jessica Yorko, Julie Powers, Dave Trumpie, Virg Benero, Eric Schertzing, Lori Lanspeary, Tess King, Mark Stiles and my all time favorite, Bob-Z Wob-Z the Clown.

A year of purposefully photographing Lansing has enriched my portfolio immensely. It has also provided me with some great photographic opportunities. This included photographing The Big Zoo Party, The Dragon Boat Races, The Wine & Stein, the NEO Center’s Open House and The Lansing City Market at Silverbells and Ye Olde Christmas. I was also asked to be the exclusive photographer for the MarketLansing group. I have accumulated a large set of Lansing photos and have found great joy recapping my finds to others. I frequently have friends ask me where I took a photo or ask me to tell them where a certain place is based on a photo. Now, to my great amazement, I can tell complete strangers about my project’s scope and stand their dumbfounded when they say; “You’re the City Saunterer!!?” Wow!
Isn’t it always the simple ideas???
So today I walked my last walk for 2011. Tomorrow I turn 40-too. Saturday is New Year’s Eve and Sunday is the first day of another year of showcasing this great City we share!
Happy Happy New Year!!

At the Fork in the Road

I had been following their short existence for a while now; first as a mobile food truck, Trailer Park’d, and recently at their new location on the west side of Lansing. I have been vicariously enjoying the menu of this place through friends’ graphic descriptions and photographic posts of specific purchases made there. Finally, today I was able to walk my way to Fork in The Road. It literally sits at a true fork in the road; the first (or last) commercial area sitting between Oakland and Saginaw as you’re coming into (or driving out of) Lansing.

Upon entering the door I was joyously greeted by Kristin. She seemed overly happy to see me; as if she were expecting me. Then she leaned over and asked, “Are you the intern?” Even with no as my answer she still seemed really happy that I was there. After a brief description of my intent; to patronize small, local businesses, blog about it and photograph my finds, she was more than eager to set me along the correct path. At Fork in the Road you decide what you would like to order; the options are brightly inscribed within chalk board painted areas on multiple surfaces throughout the diner. Then you go to the order counter to place that order. Finally you take a seat at one of the nine tables or four bar stools to wait for your food item to be hand created and delivered to your location. I politely waited in line taking in all the menu possibilities. With words like “Owosso Organics Hot Sauce”, “burnt onions” and “Ballin Ass Tacos” I knew a meal would be really the only true way to honor this artisan diner. However, I was somewhat in a hurry and decided to try out the skills of the master barista instead. I was told from the young woman at the counter that John created fantastic coffee drinks. I had previously seen one of his creations on a friend’s Facebook page and must admit it persuaded me to take a walk on the westside earlier than I had scheduled. So I ordered my Americano and took a seat at the bar. When a kitchen is open to the public so they can see all that is done within, it is called a fish bowl and that’s exactly what Fork in the Road has. This allowed me to sit at the counter and really observe the professional fluidity within this tiny diner. The two creating the food art were Jesse Hahn and Ben Ackerman, the owners. Their movements almost appeared choreographed as they weaved around the kitchen, producing luscious plates of food one after another. The food never once sat longer than a few seconds as one of the three other employees (including John the barista) quickly swooped in to deliver the masterpiece to its new owner. When not delivering food, John Miller is creating piping hot coffee drinks. As he began my drink he looked to the counter and made eye contact. I knew he knew who this next drink was for. It’s really that kind of a place. He then placed a dark chocolate mug filled with clear liquid in front of me. He was explaining to me that he was trying a new coffee from Grand Rapids and wanted me to tell him what I thought of it. All the while I was trying to figure out how that coffee could be clear. I waited however. This place, at least at the bar, is like sitting back and watching a magic show take place. Soon John returned with a steaming, dark, tiny cup full of coffee. He poured it slowly into my mug full of hot water (silly me) and we both paused for a moment and watched it foam and swirl. “Let it sit for about three minutes”, he instructed with a nod. As it sat I was able to ask him a few questions. It seems that this John Miller is the very same guy I took photos of a few months ago. On one of my last Old Town walks I happened to walk past Artie’s Filling Station just as they were taking promotional photos. I introduced myself and asked if I also could take some photos. They were ever so happy to let me. So now serving me my steaming, magically brewing cup of Americano at Fork in the Road, is John Miller from Artie’s Filling Station!

As construction woes go, I guess he has seen a few. However he seemed perfectly in place working at this little diner. There was a passion to him, and all of them really, that comes across in everything they were doing. John has an artistic flair to each cup he hand delivers to each customer, pausing to make sure it meets all expectations. He sometimes adds small details that enrich the creation even more. Then there’s Kristin who eagerly walks around making sure everyone has what they need. She often stops to explain all the locally grown food products they use within each recipe. I even over heard her graciously apologizing to the man sitting next to me who didn’t realize he needed to place an order but had just sat down instead. She made it seem like it was her fault because he didn’t see the sign saying “place order”. Yet you could tell she honestly felt responsible for someone not understanding the nuances of their quaint kitchen. It was obvious with the quality, appearance and swiftness that Ben and Jesse were meant to work together to create delicious homemade, locally grown meals. Even the diner itself had something about it. The soft sage colored walls and brown marble counters provided an earthy setting, a stage almost, for the perfect artisan meal. Each of the windows was decked out with intentionally mismatched fabrics, creating an urban apartment feel. Add to that the not-too-loud reggae music providing a soft rhythm and this easily could be my new favorite spot to enjoy a quick, delicious meal (or cup of coffee) and enjoy the good things in Lansing.

Finding Rainbows

Today Evan was sick. He would not be going to school. The news, when heard by his twin sister, Ellie, immediately disrupted her world. She had awoken with a little extra sleep and danced into the kitchen bright cheeked and in great spirits. Now, she sat morosely staring downward; gigantic drops of tears falling onto her uneaten scrambled eggs. Despite bounding from her room with perfect health moments ago, she now was certain she also had a tummy ache. This, I think, is one of the hardest parts of being a parent; convincing a child that they must do something that they do not want to do. She sat at the table; chin quivering, tears flowing, unable to eat. She dramatically described a series of presumed scenarios one after another; no one would play with her, she would sit alone on the bus, she would be sad, growing more upset as she went. Like a good (bad?) mother I finally just said, you’re going to school. Let’s go take a shower. She pouted through the shower as well. After the shower, while getting dressed I realized she needed a pep talk. She needed me to give her a reason to not be afraid, not be sad and to have some courage to get her on her way. I told her that sometimes when things seem really bad or upsetting that God has a way of putting things in our path that make us feel better. It might be simple like a hug from the teacher or a smile from a friend, but it makes you feel better. I called them rainbows. I told her to go to school and find some rainbows. And I know she will.

This project is really all about finding the rainbows. We can walk around looking at how dark the clouds are or how much damage the storm made, but we can also hunt down, search for, collect and cherish all the rainbows too. In a way, you can’t have one without the other. If all the quaint intersections were as well put together as Old Town then it would diminish the awe and beauty of that area. If everywhere was perfect light then we wouldn’t appreciate how bright each lamp was. It’s like realizing that the cold, blistering wind is blowing in your face. But it is also making that melodious wind chime sing. I noticed many trees down from our snow storm. But that will become the logs that fill the hearth that families will warm in front of.

So as I walked the Colonial Village area today I took extra notice of the little things that made me smile and lightened my heart and added them to my rainbow list.

Long conversations with friends (errands before my walk)

Poodle dogs in winter sweaters

Birch Trees

Seasonal lawn decorations (especially Christmas)

A polite wave or verbal hello from a passerby

Seeing my car after a long walk

Pink tinsel