In this column, Crysta Coburn writes about crazywisdom-esque people and happenings around Ann Arbor.
One of the many reasons people enjoy living in Michigan is our four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The seasons can also be described as birth, growth, maturity, and death, or child, teen, adult, and elder. Four seasons gives a year rhythm, and yet we are better at some beats then others. Culturally, we praise awakening and increasing—spring and summer, childhood and teen—far more than we appreciate maturity and death, fall and winter, adulthood and elderhood.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or getting ready to roll out your mat for the first time, here you’ll find a variety of useful tips from local yoga instructor, Katie Hoener.
As a frequent traveler and transplant from the East Coast, I’m often drawn to major metropolitan areas. Although renowned for impressive attractions and activities for any interest, the bustling crowds and traffic snarls in urban centers means serenity can be in short supply. Fortunately for Michiganders, a tranquil getaway doesn’t require a boarding pass, or transcontinental travel, but just a few miles drive west on US-23 to Livingston County. Brighton’s Canterbury Chateau weaves together cozy interiors and relaxing amenities, with a touch of the tropics, into an accessible escape from the daily grind. By smartly balancing Victorian charm with modern touches, this bed and breakfast provides a welcome respite. Combined with many local recreational activities available in the Brighton area, visitors can enjoy a restful weekend while exploring nearby attractions.
Once upon a time, nearly every culture on every continent held some measure of belief in the existence of fairies. A life form described as small humanlike creatures that live in natural habitats, often invisible to human eyes. Early writings depict them as mischievous and even at times, malicious. Travelers often left offerings of food and drink for them in exchange for protection against the elements, wild animals, and other dangers that might befall on their journey. Legend has it that fairies especially appreciated milk, bread, cheese, sweets, and other prepared foods.
Last spring I heard Aaron Dworkin, violinist and former Dean of the U-M School of Music, Theater & Dance, speak at a leadership workshop at Zingerman’s Roadhouse. He expressed the best part of playing in a group/ensemble as a child was that he felt like he was ‘included’ for the first time in his life. Prior to this, he didn’t know anyone else like him and he lacked a sense of ‘belonging.’ He inspired me to investigate further. I wanted to hear from Ann Arbor students and teachers about their experience playing music in collaboration with others and what it means to them.
We have all read articles touting the positive effects of music on brain development, and seen the studies that show music can improve test scores and academic performance in children. What isn’t written about so much are the social and emotional benefits of music.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or getting ready to roll out your mat for the first time, here you’ll find a variety of useful tips from local yoga instructor Katie Hoener.
By Crysta Coburn
One morning, while running a tad late for work, I decided to cut through the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in hopes of snagging a quick breakfast. Tasty Bakery to the rescue!
A chocolate-dipped donut might not sound like the healthiest choice to jump-start the day, but this donut was “wheat free, gluten free, soy free, organic” and “naturally sweetened.” It was also deeply satisfying for both my sweet tooth and my tummy. A lot of donuts are still full of the oil they were cooked in, leaving grease stains behind on napkins and not always settling well in my stomach. After indulging in this Tasty Bakery delectable, I felt great!
I’m not gluten intolerant, so I don’t have to “settle” for gluten-free “facsimiles of real food,” as I have sometimes heard gluten-free breads and baked goods referred to. Let’s get one thing straight right now: you are not “settling” at Tasty Bakery. Their products are just as flavorful as gluten-filled baked goods, and, as I said before, sometimes even more satisfying. I could have eaten three donuts and still felt fine! (Probably. I haven’t tried this. Yet.)
Naturally, when faced with a table full of sweets on an empty stomach, I couldn’t leave with just one thing, so I also grabbed a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie. I could have gone with a cookie that was also vegan, but I decided to go the non-vegan route because I was curious to see how just the gluten-free cookie stacked up against its traditional counterpart. Conclusion: they stand toe-to-toe. I loved it! I’d like to try the vegan next.
On another occasion, while getting a coffee from Sweetwaters in downtown Ann Arbor, I also grabbed a Tasty Bakery Berry Bar, made with “organic gluten-free oats, organic blueberries, organic coconut oil, organic coconut nectar, arrowroot flour, organic Madagascar vanilla, sea salt.” The packaging was also compostable, so you can see not only is Tasty Bakery dedicated to making gluten-free delicious and accessible, but they are also committed to better health for us and our environment.
I’ve made gluten-free baked goods before (check my blog foodandword.blogspot.com for that time I famously attempted gluten-free paczki), so I know it can be a tricky business to get the balance right. There are a lot of traditional wheat flour substitutes out there. Arrowroot flour is popular, as is featured in Tasty Bakery’s Berry Bar. They clearly have gluten-free baking down to an art, and Ann Arbor knows it. You can find their products in coffee shops all over town (check their website for a full list). Don’t be afraid to try them! Your mouth (and tummy) will love you for it.
Tasty Bakery’s storefront is located at 416 West Huron Street, Suite 24, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Find them on Saturdays at the Ann Arbor Farmers’ Market in Kerrytown from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and online at www.tastysansgluten.com.
Big City Small World Bakery
If there is a quintessentially Michigan food, it is the pasty. Usually, this is a delight attributed to the U.P. or at least the northern region of the Mitten. But on the corner of Spring and Miller streets in Ann Arbor at Big City Small World Bakery, pasties are on the menu and they are served up flaky and hot.
I had dropped by for a quick lunch before work, but I was thinking I’d get a simple sandwich and soy latte, not a pasty and a latte made with coconut milk. I’ve never seen coconut milk as a milk substitute on a menu before, so I had to give it a try. Since switching to dairy-free coffee drinks — a hard transition for me — I have often been disappointed. Soy is okay and almond is great with chai. But now? In the Milk Substitute Competition, I give the blue ribbon to Coconut. Thank you, Big City Small World, for giving me the most delicious faux latte I have had yet!
As for the pasty, I ordered chicken, but they also offer veggie, which I intend to try on another trip, and the gravy is homemade and quite flavorful. The sandwich choices also include veggie, as well as turkey and egg salad, all on homemade bread (which they also sell in loaves). In fact, all of their baked goods are homemade.
I’ve been a fan of Big City Small World’s infamous vegan ding dongs for quite some time. (It’s an absolute mystery to me how they’ve managed to make vegan pastries so creamy and moist. It’s wonderful.) I find Big City Small World to be a great place to find vegan goodies like this.
For those who aren’t fans of chocolate layer cake with vanilla frosting dipped in chocolate, I recommend the eclairs. The custard is rich and delicious! (Though this one is probably not vegan, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a vegan option.) For coconut lovers, try the golf ball-sized macaroons. They offer a range of gluten-free items as well.
The “world” isn’t the only thing that is “small” here. The bakery is quaint with a few options for indoor seating. If the weather is pleasant, there is ample outdoor seating, where you can admire the eclectic art that covers the side of the brightly painted yellow building, or cast nervous glances at the unexpected wire mermaid sitting on the bench. After the bakery is closed, I like to think of her as a gargoyle-like guardian for nighttime pedestrians. During the day, she’s just another friendly face inviting me in for a ding dong and a coconut milk latte.
Big City Small World Bakery is located at 500 Miller Ave., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103. They are open Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also find them on Facebook.
Encuentro Latino Restaurant
If you are familiar with downtown Ypsilanti, you may recall the Wolverine Grill. Well, the Wolverine is no longer there (moment of silence), but its location has been passed into obviously capable hands, and the new restaurant, Encuentro Latino, is serving up some seriously satisfying authentic Guatemalan cuisine.
The interior of Encuentro is still largely set up the way Wolverine was, with a line of booths down one side of the long and narrow space and a counter with stools lining the opposite wall, offering a cozy diner feel. (They also have diner prices!)
I started off my dining experience with an iced horchata. Whenever I order horchata from a new restaurant, I try not to get my hopes too high. There are countless recipes for horchata across the Spanish-speaking world. (For example, Mexican and Guatemalan horchata is typically rice-based, while in Spain tiger nuts are used, and Puerto Rico favors ground sesame seeds.) Some that I have tried are disappointingly watery and lack flavor. However, Encuentro’s horchata did not disappoint, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice.
I also tried the crispy chicken tacos from the appetizers list — “served with cabbage salad, tomato sauce and cheese.” Why has no one ever told me how perfectly shredded cabbage pairs with mayonnaise? It’s like they were made for each other! And the tomato sauce is to die for. A large part of why I ended up choosing the tortillas de harina for my entree is because it also features mayonnaise and tomato sauce. (Also yummy beef and scallions.)
Speaking of tortillas, Guatemalan tortillas are a little different than the ones you’re probably used to from Mexican restaurants. They are puffier, measuring about a quarter or a half-inch thick, reminiscent of pita bread, warm and wonderful. You can really sink your teeth in, especially if you opt for one of the pupusas (stuffed tortillas) on the menu. There are pupusas de chicharron with pork, as well as vegetarian pupusas de frijol.
Tragically, I did not try the desserts, though both the creme brulee (my favorite dessert) and tres leches were definitely calling my name. Since Encuentro is within walking distance of my home, I know I will return. My mouth is also watering for their breakfast menu and its promise of fried plantains! Hasta pronto, Encuentro.
Encuentro Latino Restaurant is located at 228 West Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197. Find them online at www.facebook.com/Encuentro-Latino-restaurant-106983366342816/. They are open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Writer Mary Runser meets the owners of Ypsi's new CULTIVATE COFFEE & TAP HOUSE and Ann Arbor's new THISTLE & BESS.
By Crysta Coburn
Hitting the Stage with Kristin Danko
You could not meet a more upbeat and passionate person than Kristin Danko, the executive creative director of Ypsilanti’s newest theatre company, Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG). Kristin and her partner, Aaron Dean, founded the company after spending years in Chicago’s experimental theatre scene. Kristin, who holds bachelor’s degrees in both theatre and music and a master’s degree in arts administration from Eastern Michigan University, brought her talents to Ypsilanti in 2013. Why did she leave the Windy City for our little Ypsi? I sat down with her at Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea in Ypsilanti, across the street from her alma mater, to find out.
After seven and a half years in Chicago, Kristin had tried her hand at everything from storefront theatre and musicals to improv and comedy. She loved it all, but …“I got really tired of acting,” she told me. “I wasn’t feeling challenged, and I wanted to challenge myself in theatre in a new way.”
So when she was accepted into EMU’s graduate school, she and her partner packed up and headed to Michigan. They originally looked at living in Ann Arbor but were shocked to discover that rental prices were comparable to what they had been paying in Chicago. They found themselves more attracted to the DIY-vibe of Ypsilanti, and also liked the quirkiness of the city. They’ve lived in Ypsi for over two years now and have no plans to leave.
“There is so much talent here!” Kristin gushed, but she also lamented that there aren’t enough outlets for actors to pursue after graduation. She and the whole NTG crew hope to change that by becoming the “premier experimental theatre for Ypsilanti,” a place where actors can get their start and experiment with original shows. “New theatre companies are a dime a dozen in Chicago,” she said. “[Ypsilanti has] more opportunity to explore the art form.”
The NTG will be performing a cabaret show March 24 to 26 at Ypsilanti’s Back Office Studio, where Kristin is also Artist in Residence. They will also perform a weekly sketch show at the same studio starting Fridays in May. The goal is to get their own space, but for now they are thrilled with the support they’re receiving from the community.
What Kristin finds so magical about theatre is the “connection of energy” between the audience and the performers. “You’re creating something with a group of people that’s bigger than you. Once you perform, we get to all go through this together.” The excitement is contagious. I can’t wait to see what Kristin and NTG come up with next!
Contact Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow NTG on Facebook at facebook.com/neighborhoodtheatregroup, on Twitter @NTGYpsi, and on Instagram @NeighborhoodTheatreGroup.
Crafting Up Something Fun with Celena Lopez
Celena Lopez of Ypsilanti is an independent, clever, and crafty lady. She has made handcrafted blankets for all of her friends’ babies, mostly knitted, but “the last one was quilted because I ran out of time.” I don’t generally think of quilting as a quick and easy task. That’s the kind of can-do attitude that Celena brings to her projects. She may not always know how or when a project will get done, but it will get done, and in my opinion, it will be beautiful and carefully and professionally finished.
After her first year in the world of D.I.Y. craft fairs, Celena had already graduated from sharing a table at Ypsilanti’s twice yearly show DIYpsi to having a full table all to herself. She has also traveled for out-of-state craft fairs, such as Handmade Toledo Maker’s Mart. She sells under the name Diosa de la Luna. Her wares can be found year round through her online shop and at the Eyrie located in Ypsilanti’s historic Depot Town, a store that features only Michigan-made products by local artists and crafters.
It was the Eyrie’s owner Janette Rook, a friend, who initially started Celena on her path to selling. As Celena puts it, “She said one day, ‘I know you’re a crafty person, why aren’t I selling your stuff?’” Another friend and independent artist Marcy Davy of All Things Grow also encouraged Celena to get involved in craft shows.
After thinking hard about what she could sell, Celena settled on her beloved Ypsilanti’s iconic (and infamous) water tower, knitting its image into dish cloths and sewing felt pieces onto fabric framed in wooden embroidery hoops. The tower has also been turned into a stuffed toy and anthropomorphized with big eyes and a “hair” bow for a female tower or a bow tie for male. Both are adorable. She has branched out into other hoop designs since. (I purchased one depicting a jar of fireflies that made the perfect housewarming gift for a friend who moved to California, where they don’t have fireflies.)
Recently, Celena has moved into becoming an independent sales rep for other artists “specializ[ing] in connecting wholesale buyers with artists of trendy paper goods and gift items.” She explained to me that with her finding the buyers, the artists can concentrate on creating, allowing them more time to meet product demands.
This hasn’t slowed her down too much, though. She still works on her own art while also holding down an hourly part-time job and finds time for outdoor adventuring with her husband, Ben, and their too cute Pomeranian, Asher. This last year, Celena successfully trained for and completed Ypsilanti’s Color Run despite the arthritis in her ankle caused by an injury, which just proves this woman will take on anything! And win.
You can email Celena at email@example.com and find her online at both diosadelaluna.weebly.com and celenalopez.com, or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/DiosadelaLunaDecor.
A Look at Ayurveda with Andrea Ridgard
The word Ayurveda is made up of two Sanskrit words, ‘ayur’ (life) and ‘veda’ (study or science). Andrea Ridgard is a bright and passionate local Ayurveda healer and practitioner who was gracious enough to sit and talk with me. She explained that Ayurveda goes beyond just “the study of life” — it can also mean the study of one’s self. As Andrea put it, Ayurveda is “asking yourself ‘Who am I?’”
“The base line is the five elements,” said Andrea, which are earth, water, fire, air, and ether. They come together in pairs to make the three vital energies called doshas. As a healer, Andrea is looking for what has come out of alignment, something that “feels off,” between these energies. She pays particular attention to skin, eyes, and digestion. “A healthy digestion equals a healthy constitution!” (This is why Ayurveda is so frequently tied to diet.) When something feels off, such as sluggishness, sudden insomnia, and constipation, “you’re not aligning with yourself.”
When a patient sees Andrea for the first time, she has them fill out a form that asks many questions about lifestyle. She told me this is often enlightening for the patient because they start to notice patterns and habits in their lives that they never realized before. Sometimes it’s, “Wow! I have no routine!,” which can be stressful on a body.
Andrea is not likely to prescribe treatments like taking herbs, which she has less knowledge of. As a hatha yoga instructor (yoga is a sister study of Ayurveda), she is more likely to suggest that a patient practice a certain posture for a 30-day stretch and take notice of any changes that occur in his or her body. She described Ayurveda as a “slow science,” not a magic pill. “Patients need to take on some responsibility,” she said. “It can be a very big lifestyle change for people to slow down. There’s a lot to miss when we’re rushing.” She sees being an Ayurvedic healer as “an invitation to stand beside someone and help them on their healing.” She will refer patients to others who are more capable of helping when possible.
One simple practice Andrea advises for anyone is to start the day with a cup of hot water. (The amount and temperature is up to how much the individual can stand.) This will warm up the digestive tract, making it easier for the body to process food, and it will ease constipation better than coffee. I started it myself. I’m not a morning person and often skip breakfast. Now I feel more settled and ready for food in the mornings. Try it and see what you think!
Contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and a list of her class offerings, head to groundedhere.com.
In this column, Crysta Coburn writes about crazywisdom-esque people and happenings around Ann Arbor.
By Tatiana Knight | Photos by Tobi Hollander
When yoga became famous in the 60’s in the U.S., it was an esoteric set of poses and breathing exercises to aid meditation. It was initially presented as a map to living our lives by following a kind of yogic 10 Commandments. Not very many people knew about yoga, and those who did were not “normal,” but considered hippies or society’s outliers.
By Sibel Ozer
A non-artist friend asked for help with a painting she had started a year ago. I suggested we do some foraging for inspiration, and we spent a day antiquing, visiting the art museum, stopping by an art store, and hunting for materials in her backyard. Next, we cleared her garden table for a day of painting, where I modeled free expression.
By Melissa Sargent
We've packed up the holiday decorations, our house guests have all gone home, and we are ready to take on our new year’s resolutions. A little power cleaning and a few sprays of a fresh scent might seem like a great way to start anew. But before you pull out the disinfectant or plug in the pine mountain scent, think about what may be sealed up inside the house with you and your family.
By Gary Merel
Since digestive systems, much like finger prints, are unique, the foods that work for you might not work for someone else. However, there are definitely foods and food groups we should only eat sparingly, or not at all. High on that list are refined carbohydrates and grains.
By Roshani Adhikary
These winter blues get me every year! I don’t feel like leaving my house to go and practice at a studio, so I've been following a lot of yoga DVDs. Lately, I find that my knees are really starting to kill. I don’t have an instructor to turn to, so I’m wondering if maybe you can help.
Death is not an easy topic. No one likes to talk about it, even when it's regarding pets. As a veterinarian, I believe the reason pet parents do not like to talk about death is fear of the unknown. Perhaps they had a bad experience in the past or heard terrible stories from friends, but whatever the case, they are left with a lot of tough questions.
In the wonderful Dr. Seuss books that narrate the adventures of The Cat in the Hat, we are introduced to the Cat’s helpers named “Thing One” and “Thing Two.” When he wants to create maximum mischief, the Cat brings out these two little guys. And do they know how to party! Their antics can go on for numerous pages, involving all sorts of outrageous projects, which always lead nowhere.