Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Dreaming...and Design Sponge


I love the varied, inspiring stories at Design Sponge. I produced a delicious piece for them a few years ago, and somehow, managed unwittingly to create a new one virtually three years to the day, published last week. Kristina's enthusiasm has been a boon for my work - I decided I wanted to make a rustic and nostalgic-feeling to go with my mother's famous lemon meringue pie recipe. I hope you all like the results!

And, there's ANOTHER piece she and I have put together which is due out later this week. No secrets revealed, but I promise you it's fantastic....
In other news....

It's that time already, isn't it? I swear I was just back home having a wonderful visit with my parents. But I look, and that is almost two months ago already... where does the time go?? So many bits and pieces to share with you. I'll make it easy, and start at the beginning.

This is my mother's dogwood tree. I can tell just how long I've been away when I return home and witness how much larger it has grown. Almost covering the front lawn now, its limbs long and weighted with blossoms, the tree is magnificent. The breathtaking petals are worth many photographs, and as I'm not one to walk away from an easy photo opp, I dutifully obliged.

Walking out the door, the dogwood put an immediately lovely tone to each day. I, my husband, and my father each ventured out at points to photograph it. Whether it was early morning with coffee in-hand or just before running off to a separate destination, the tree was a strong presence and a welcoming subject. We were lucky to arrive and catch it near the end of its bloom cycle, just before my mother's iris plants and trumpet vines were to come onto the scene.

While home, we visited a place I'd been to a million times when younger - an island situated between Detroit and Canada, called Belle Isle. It is America's largest city park, and is home to playgrounds, gorgeous historic structures, a nature center, oodles of picnicking areas and scenic shoreline, and well, you get the idea. We visited for an afternoon and it was a blast to find the island much in the condition as I remembered it as a child (thank goodness some things haven't changed). A landmark fountain carved in marble was our first stopping point. An eccentric gambler and socialite bequeathed half a million dollars to have this built in his name during Detroit's Golden Era, completed in 1925. These are some of my favorite details....

These panels encircle the topmost element of the fountain, measuring around 3 feet tall apiece, and I found their detail and subject matter rather poetic. The fountain itself spans 160 meters and has 109 water spouts! It is framed by lions, porpoises, frogs, cupids, fish, and rams, along with various ghoulish mask-faces and scenes of indigenous people and craftsmen. Pretty damn cool.

From there - and by the way, it was the hottest day on record: over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (this was the beginning of May, people!!), but thankfully saved by incredible whipping winds - we four ate a simple picnic lunch on a sprawling lawn and then went to see the historic Conservatory.

a quick crab & red cabbage-scape salad with assorted sides

basking in the breeze

This place also has a special place in my heart. It is a gorgeous structure, and for free, you can see incredible and diverse displays of flora from all over the world. 

The cactus room was one of my faves...

There were succulents, jungle-y tropicals, lush blooms (an atrium-full - just think of that scent), such as amaryllis, and lilies, and more housed inside the five separate climates the dome and adjoining wings provide. There is even a courtyard lily pond with koi that glide through the water. Here is a view of the grand structure from the courtyard view, and a companion shot from long ago. :)

As it turns out this conservatory, currently known as the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory due to her gift of 600 exotic orchid plants (making Detroit the largest municipal orchid collection, for you factoid lovers), is the oldest continually operating conservatory in the United States. Built in 1904 by Albert Kahn the dome measures 85 feet high to accommodate soaring palms and other tropical beauties. It was as breath-taking and meticulously kept as ever.

That evening, we treated ourselves to food we don't eat everyday. Barbeque! Rich, smoky, piles of meat, cooked over low-heat and long - North Carolina-style. Slow's has designed their unique space using reclaimed wood and metal, and they have a rockin' beer list from small and artisan producers that will keep you drinking. To top that, they offer four kinds of sauce to go with the fixings - yummy! Makes me hungry all over again.

A potent ale from England - heady.

That's enough to send you drifting, dreaming for now, I think. But do come back - I haven't told you about the story of the gourmet salad farm. Every bit quirky and lovely as you might think. Right in my hometown. ;)


  1. it really smells like vacations! :)

  2. Could you send me the information on the gourmet salad farm? I've got a friend heading to Detroit from Tokyo on Monday and his charge is to photograph and help out on urban farms. This would be great for him to see! I'm also a Michigander and can't wait to check out Belle Isle!

    Thank you!

  3. Stephanie, just posted the story with the salad farm details. It's been a super hectic week, with us traveling to New England tomorrow. I'm stoked, but it's been a real juggle to get everything in place! hope this satisfies your friend and that you fall in love too:

    Ana, you are so right. Glad it sent you someplace... :)