Michigan isn’t known for its warm winters so I wouldn’t claim that a winter vacation in Detroit is a must-do. Still, I had a great time visiting the downtown just before Christmas and found it heart-warmingly cheery.
Th Cadillac Lounge is set up from Thanksgiving to Feb. 28, offering a warm place to have refreshments and play games.
Here’s Dodge Fountain, off for the winter, and the Michigan Labor statue behind it in Hart Plaza.
A side trip to Belle Island to see the cute aquarium.
If you’re longing for cute suburbs, the Pointes have charm and good shopping–local stores, some well-chosen chains, and Sanders chocolate.
When I was a kid, the street in front of me was torn up for reconstruction, and we neighborhood hoodlums dug in the exposed clay, a novelty for Iowans, and used it to make pots. We were engaging in some of the most basic chemistry, that is, allowing something to lose water and change its chemical structure. Most of chemistry is simply rearranging things and making pottery is no exception.
Clay begins as rocks which are dissolved by rain and water. The elements within are aluminum and silicon oxides that are held together with water. When the water is removed, the rocks reform as pottery. The most useful form of clay is kaolinite in which the aluminum and silicon oxides are in equal proportions.
Handling clay by throwing it on a wheel or pressing it together removes some of the water. With the water gone, the silicon and aluminum bond through the oxygens and not through wet hydrogen bonds. The new bonds are stronger. Firing the pot will drive off more water and change the chemical structure of the kaolinite from sheets to an amorphous glass.This process removes and locks out any water that might permeate the surface. Stoneware is fired at a higher temperature and contains less (no) water and is stronger than earthenware. Containing no water, it doesn’t heat up in the microwave.
Glazes are made from quartz and corundum, colorless forms of silica and aluminum oxides. Transition metals which take on various colors depending on their oxidation state and bonding, are added for color, and once again, firing the glaze allows bonds to form.
Of course, none of these technicalities can describe the art that goes into making beautiful pottery. Most recently, I visited Pewabic Pottery in Detroit.
One thing I love about pottery is that you can use it. It appeals to the practical side of me and the artistic side. Even the roughest of mornings can be brightened with the right tableware. And now, it’s time for breakfast.
Detroit has too much art for a short visit but I did what I could to take in the visual arts on my trip there. Entranced with the street murals, I headed to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see Diego Rivera’s 1932 masterpiece.
From start to finish, the mural took just nine months to complete. Rivera had assistants but he alone painted all of the people.
There was a lot more to see at the DIA.
Or do you prefer your art more modern?
In contrast, and not too far away from the DIA is the Heidelberg Project, a city block made into street art. Part of the artistic value is the controversy. Is it beautiful? Ugly? Trashy? Transcending? What is it saying about consumerism? Why is it filled with clocks?
The artist, Tyree Guyton, said that he’s attempting to create a new reality in his neighborhood AND get people to visit a place that they would be scared to visit otherwise.
If you are curious about Detroit and want to see its art but are scared, here is a crime risk assessment. With the exception of the Heidelberg Project, most tourist areas are in low crime spots. Crime is dropping in Detroit…it’s fallen to the 5th most dangerous city in the US. Use caution. And keep your eyes open–especially for art.
A quick trip to Michigan took me to the top of Mt. Pisgah and landed me so many blueberries that I tried canning for the first time.
Blueberries are known for lowering blood pressure, slowing cell damage, and improving insulin levels by keeping fat cells small. However, canning them with sugar as in jam changes their chemical composition, converting the chlorogenic acid, which imparts some of the good properties of blueberries (and might cause weight loss) into eleven different compounds. Cooking and sitting in a jar on the shelf also lowers the resveratrol in blueberries. This chemical is abundant in grapes and some claim it increases testosterone and can cut the risk of gastrointestinal cancers, although studies disagree. Some food chemists recommend putting canned jam in the freezer to retain the health benefits. My jam isn’t as nutritious as fresh blueberries but it was fun to make and is so good that we had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner.