Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Girls, a Pie, and an Art Fair Place

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You know what's fun? Art fairs. Art fairs are fun . . . especially when they're gigantic and located in really cool downtown areas. You know what else is cool? Ann Arbor. And Ann Arbor just happened to have four art fairs (combined into one huge event) last weekend.

I spent last Thursday afternoon at the Ann Arbor Art Fair with my friend, Renee, who apparently enjoys outdoor festivals as much as I do. After a slight interstate detour around the 12 Oaks/Farmington Hills area (neither of us happens to be very good with directions, and it just so happens that I was navigating), we finally made it to U-of-M town, where streets of drool-worthy arts and crafts were waiting for us and our wallets. Now, I can't recall a time when I actually bought something from an arts and crafts show, but I was determined to take home a souvenir or two by the end of the day.

Well, the whole "buying something" thing didn't happen. I suppose I'm way too good at reasoning with myself when it comes to whether I need something or not. Renee, however, got a few new gems and I got to window shop for a few hours. And, to be honest, some of the best pieces were completely impractical, anyway. Take this woman, for instance:

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She's amazing, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have known where to put her once I got home. Oh, and she cost $25,000. Not exactly a candidate for a spontaneous, afternoon purchase.

Then, there was this little guy. Undoubtedly created to be loved by all of my heart and soul, of course.

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Hewwo? Helllwo??

Eventually, we wandered past a little alleyway, which I had seen a few times on separate trips to Ann Arbor. The alley is covered with artwork and graffiti of all kinds, and even has a little poetry to go along with it. I had never been by during the day, so I decided to take a minute to enjoy the view.

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The perfect backdrop for an art festival, don'tcha think?
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Oh, and yes--I almost forgot. At some point, we ran across the Grand Traverse Pie Company, a sister bakery to one I wanted to visit while in Traverse City a couple months ago. Ann Arbor may not be cherry country, but that didn't stop Renee and me from partaking in some delicious cherry pie. If you squint a little bit, you can pretend that that fork and plate are sitting in a beach town cafe up north. Good enough for me.

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I put that (unused) napkin in my purse when I was done. The recycle symbol and nice message made me feel temporary feelings of anger towards the trash can.

The moral of today's story: Take time to appreciate the finer things in life. Whether that means scouting out artwork or gobbling up fruit-filled pastry, well . . . that's totally up to you.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Technology is a hassle I can't live without.


This post comes to you from a draft that was originally scrawled in a college-ruled, one subject notebook, with a medium point, Bic Clic-Stic ballpoint pen.

It's three in the afternoon on a Wednesday, and instead of working on a list of things I have to do, I'm sitting here on my couch, telling you the tale of my unsuccessful attempts of getting anything done in an age that relies so heavily on digital communication. Why? Because I have no Internet.

Brad, being the technology-loving guy that he is, recently got some fancy, TV tuner contraption that apparently requires a small army of people to assemble. And by "small army," I mean everyone at the cable company. There's currently a cable guy upstairs, working on our computer and every other connection we have right now (router, modem, telegraph, cans and string), and of course, that means I've lost access to my beloved Wi-Fi. And because we have a phone box that's hooked up to our internet connection (because our cell signal is almost non-existent in our house), that means no iPhone or 3G, either. I am a lost panda.

No phone, no lights, no motor car. Not a single luxury . . .

*Minutes later*

Okay. Tuner set up. Cable guy gone. Still no Internet. We need a new router, apparently. My inner communicators are paralyzed.

No research, no web edits, heck--I can't even type up this post.*  Nothing to do with the outside world. What have I become? Why is technology this essential?

I'm absolutely amazed at the way the world has changed in its demanding, "I-need-it-now" attitude. And obviously, I should be amazed in the way I've adapted. It's fascinating, but a little bit horrifying. But it's much easier to go along with when you're not missing the usefulness of every single piece of technology you own.

And so, I shall wait. And try to pretend that I am normal and can handle this.

*Update: Internet restored, making for a very happy Jennifer. It's the little things.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Branding Machine: Shawn Johnson

Remember this pint-sized girl? The one with the strong legs and ear-to-ear grin?


Yup, that's Shawn Johnson, and she's back in all her Olympic hype-glory. Four years since Beijing, Johnson has grown-up, and at 20, has officially retired from professional gymnastics. So, what is she up to now?

Apparently, she's signed endorsement deals with some of the world's biggest brands, which love Johnson regardless of the fact that her Olympic affiliation is now in the past. That, or there were some major contracts set in place before Johnson announced in June that she was leaving her sport, and it was too late to sign Jordyn Wieber instead (I'm kidding . . . kind of). Either way, I'm willing to bet that the rest of the U.S. won't mind seeing the Beijing star's winning smile on their televisions every now and then this summer.


So, where can you expect to find Shawn Johnson before and during the upcoming Olympic games? Check out some of her recent endorsements:



Coca-Cola is like the Disney of soda brands. The company just seems to do everything well, setting itself apart from others while always remaining true to its very Americanized core. Coke's latest venture? Olympic-themed cans, each with a silhouette of a different Olympic hopeful. Among the athletes featured: David Boudia, Marlen Esparza, Henry Cejudo, John Isner, David Oliver, Jessica Long, Alex Morgan, and, the woman of the hour, Shawn Johnson. Johnson's silhouette features a balance beam pose, capturing a moment in the event for which she won gold in the last Olympics. The image is a recognizable one for any gymnastics fan, and no doubt cashes in on the feeling of patriotism that consumers often feel when connecting with athletes from their home country.

Johnson also voices her personal story in the following Coke-sponsored video, which helps connect consumers to the athlete's--and soda's--brand on an even more personal level:

Procter & Gamble

Something tells me you've already seen numerous replays of Shawn Johnson tumbling around her mother's living room in Procter and Gamble's latest Bounty ad. Okay, I'm just basing that on countless amount of times I've already seen the commercial. Regardless, the TV spot, which features Johnson and her mom, coincides with Procter and Gamble's recent theme of recognizing and thanking mothers of Olympians for remaining dedicated to their children. I can only imagine how many times I would've broken my own neck (and scared my own mother into a panic attack) if I had attempted to hand-walk on railings and coffee tables, but Johnson just makes it seem like a slice of everyday life.


And then, of course, there's Nike, which is probably not a surprise when it comes to endorsing an athlete of Johnson's caliber. After all, what would an athlete be without a nod from the "swoosh" empire? Probably an Adidas or New Balance groupie . . . and that just doesn't sound right. After all, these are the Olympic games we're dealing with. Where there are Olympic games, there are usually some specially-designed pieces of Nike swag nearby. And that means Nike's gonna scoop up their favorite athletes before they're seen wearing some dreadful Reebok gear or something of the sort (for the record, I have nothing against Reebok, Adidas, or New Balance).

Here's a video of Johnson and Nike working together to create a virtual likeness of the athlete:

Pretty cool, huh? James Cameron should wrangle her up for Avatar 2.

Have you seen Shawn Johnson or any other Olympic athletes tumbling around your TV or favorite magazines lately? If so, let me know where! I hope you're as excited for the upcoming games as I am!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Delicious Downtowns


I think I must be getting more and more popular, because people keep visiting me.

Yesterday, my grandparents stopped by on their way through Michigan (my grandma used to live here!) and we had a grand, ol' time. After an afternoon in Northville (amazing lunch at Rebecca's and shopping at Pendleton, where my grandparents bought me an adorable tote), we all went out for an evening in downtown Milford. And it didn't take much deliberation to figure out where to eat.

Milford House is one of my favorite places in town, mostly because of its convenient location and perfect menu variety. Pizza, pasta, soup, salad, sandwiches, steak, seafood--it's all there, and it's all good. There was a slight crowd last night, but the restaurant is always busy; fortunately, we were able to snag a table outside on the patio. The scene was a gorgeous, breezy evening with a perfect view of the street, where several classic car owners regularly passed by during our meal for a Thursday evening cruise.

We made some quick friends after singing happy birthday along with the people sitting at the table next to us, but had to turn down the free peach cobbler they offered as a thank-you. I know--no one in their right mind turns down free peach cobbler . . . but we had our sights set on ice cream.

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My grandparents, being all cute and whatnot.
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Brad and I aren't as conservative as our grandparents when it comes to eating ice cream. We don't do any of that sharing stuff. Well, I actually did ask Brad if we could share since I was so full from dinner, but he shot me down. It took me a really long time to eat that ice cream cone. Him, not so much.

I'd actually been to this ice cream stand a couple times before, but never noticed that it was owned by the Milford House restaurant. Even though it's attached to the same building. And has a Milford House sign. Hurrr.
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Grandpa and I didn't get our butter pecan (they were out), but we survived just fine on chocolate and Creme de Novi (a glorified mint chocolate chip). No #firstworldproblems here.

So, as a celebration of Michigan, reaching the weekend, and grandparents everywhere, I hereby declare that you all go get some ice cream . . . on me. Just kidding. But not kidding about the eating ice cream part--that will actually turn you into a super hero. Or at least make for a really happy Friday.

Monday, July 9, 2012

M.I.A.: Fourth of July Edition

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Pile of chairs after the pre-holiday storms, shopping with my parents, seafood feast

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Movie-watching all week. Disney, superheroes, aliens, the drive-in, you name it.

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Boating trips to Claytor Lake. We took Maggie.

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The Fourth

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Trip back home. Message from Daddy, Brad being my chauffeur, and an amazing Ohio sunset.

Despite the fact that I'm really tired and now have tons of laundry and grocery shopping to do, I had an amazing Fourth of July week in Virginia with my family and friends. Fireworks, hanging out, movie-going (Brave, MIB3, and The Amazing Spider-Man), and tons of hot dogs and watermelon made for a terrific time, and I can't say that I'd mind having another week to do it all again.

Our trip home last night went pretty well, in spite of one semi-terrifying trip through a massive thunderstorm in Charleston, West Virginia. Basically, Brad and I had to make a detour to the nearest exit because driving on the interstate was like driving through a zero-visibility hurricane.

Feel free to relive the discomfort and nail-biting with me here:


Needless to say, it's good to be back and out of the downpour. Now, it's back to real life. Please excuse me while I try to remember how this goes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Come On, Let Your Colors Burst

I know the Fourth of July is tomorrow, but that doesn't mean we have to limit ourselves to just one day of fireworks and festivities, right? I say we celebrate all week long. Or all summer long, if we can manage to get away with it.

And so, I hereby declare a jump-start to tomorrow's celebrations with some photos from last Thursday's Wixom fireworks display. Feel free to ooh and ahh as you scroll down. And don't forget to sing like Katy Perry.

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This band was awesome. They even sang "Sweet Caroline"--and everybody knows that no Independence Day celebration is complete without a little Neil Diamond.
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All dem people. Waitin' for fireworks.
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Light-up cowboy hats and glowsticks. I was actually more jealous of a little boy with light-up sneakers. I miss my LA Gears.
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Show time.
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Happy Fourth, everyone!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cue Wicked-Witch-in-a-Storm Music

A common sight this weekend.

So . . . how 'bout them storms?

Heat, wind, thunder, and lightning--that's been the talk around town since I arrived in Virginia for  Fourth of July week. When I got in on Friday, everything was fine. Then, literally, just after stepping into my parents' house and talking to my dad for about a minute, we heard a huge howl of wind and looked out the window to see chairs blowing around on the back deck. My dad opened the front door to see what was up, and a soda can blew in from somewhere outside and hit me in the leg. That's when we all decided to get inside and close the doors. Well, after I gathered up some loose chair cushions to keep them from blowing away (I really know my priorities).

My parents, Brad, and I sat down to eat dinner that evening, and the power flickered on and off for several minutes while we fumbled around with candles and cell phones. Luckily, the electricity came back on and continued to work throughout the next day, which was not the case for so many people in our area.

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Just a sampling of power outages along the Virginia/West Virginia border.

Apparently, about half of Virginia's and West Virginia's residents lost power Friday night, all from the insane winds that powered through this part of the country. Add the factor of 100+ degree temperatures, and suddenly, you've got thousands of people without air conditioning in record-setting temperatures.

Keeping with our Saturday morning plans, my parents and I went shopping the next day in Roanoke and Christiansburg, fully expecting to see tons of people taking advantage of air-conditioned shopping areas. Surprisingly, each place we visited was uncharacteristically empty, and many stores were closed due to power outages. There were also split and fallen trees everywhere we went, with many crews devoting their afternoons to sweeping up broken limbs.

Rumor (the news) has it that these storms may continue on throughout the week, and many people may still be without power until at least Wednesday. I also heard that it's been much worse in West Virginia, where people are low on food and gasoline, and struggling to get out of town.

Saturday evening, the storms came back, but in the form of thunder and lightning. Normally, I don't like to sit outside while electricity is crackling through the sky, but the storm stayed at a pretty safe distance, so I watched the lightning on my parents' front porch, doing my best to quicken my shutter finger.

That sky.
Storm rolling in.
Holy lightning, Batman.
Who else found themselves in the storm's wake this weekend? Were you in the VA/WV area, or one of the other states that were affected?
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