Monday, January 28, 2013

That Time Brad Made All the Cool Things at the Car Show

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Yessss. Auto show time. An exhausting, yet dazzling event that's suited to both car fanatics and people who just drive cars (or people who just like shiny things). Naturally, a perfect set-up for Brad and me.

Being the intermediate Michigander that I am, I did notice this year's show was strikingly similar to last year's. Lots of the same themes and branding decor pointed to nearly identical setups in some cases, but I like interactive dance displays and electronic decor as much as the next person--regardless of a few repeats. If we're supposed to recognize Volkswagen by its disco/party image, or Lincoln by its retractable ceiling decorations, then they're doing what they need to do. Although I was drawn to some of the newer things as a result, I also got the chance to spend a little more time on some areas I didn't get to see in full during the 2012 show.

Particularly swoon-worthy was Ford's technology/product integration. In addition to live tweet and merchandise displays, the company provided free "Blue Oval Cards" to encourage engagement and track customer preferences. In short, I could swipe my card at any Ford car station and have digital brochures sent to my online account, as well as play product-related games to be entered in big prize giveaways. And no, I haven't won a car yet, but I'll keep you posted if anything comes up. ;)

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Clockwise, from top left:
Tweet wall at the Ford exhibit, the Ford Blue Oval card, "Higher or Lower" game, and the Ford Focus swipe station

Switching gears a little, I have to brag a little on Chevrolet. Mostly because--oh, hey, look--Brad helped create this truck! Say hello to the 2014 Chevy Silverado:

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It's like a grown-up science fair project.
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The Silverado in blue.
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Apparently, months and months of hard work can turn out incredible results like this one, as well as the GMC Sierra. I am/was so proud of this boy, I had to take about a zillion "mom photos."

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Standing next to one of his latest projects, the GMC Sierra.

Engineer I am not, but general observer of things I most definitely am. These trucks were massive, gorgeous, and quite a lot to be proud of. Basically, everyone should go buy one right now. And that is my completely unbiased assessment.

The remainder of our four-hour visit was spent admiring new trends (a lot of blue and matte paint finishes), new spins on old favorites, and completely rejuvenated body styles/everything styles. One of the most attention-grabbing new designs was the new Corvette Stingray, the drool-worthy talk of the NAIAS. Take a look at that bad boy.

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One of our favorite stops was the Camaro/Hot Wheels section, where visitors raced toy cars and received free, limited-edition Hot Wheels of their own just for playing. There was also a photo booth right next door, but the line was pretty long and we were getting pretty tired around the time we passed by. I did envy the yellow sunglasses they were passing out, though.

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Life-size Hotwheels at play.

Right before heading out, we made it downstairs for the second level of exhibits, something we did not get to at the 2012 show. In this area, commercial vehicles, an indoor race track, and tiny cars were all the rage. Urkel would be so excited.

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If you have any photos of your own from this year's auto show, I'd love to see them (and, of course, your stories and comments are always welcome)! Just visit my Facebook page to join in the conversation. I'll also have a whole album of additional photos from the 2013 NAIAS for you to browse through, so head on over and I'll see you there!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Lesson in Cold (Or Numbers. Or Whining.)

Okay, Michigan, I get it. It's cold.

It seems that sometimes, optimism only goes so far. Sure, it's great to bundle up on chilly, winter days and remind yourself, "Hey, it could be worse," and move on. Just pretend it's Christmas every day--nothing a few layers and some gloves can't cure.

But then, Michigan decides that it's not impressed with your bright outlook on life, and goes ahead and slaps you in the face with some frigid air. An "arctic blast," as it's called around here (I've heard/used this term several times before and it's sure to pop up again). 

"Take that, you little southerner," Michigan taunts. "I can do far better than a daily 19 degrees." And all of a sudden, it snows every day, the wind chill brings the mid-day temperature of 0 down to -15, and you start seriously questioning whether or not you'll ever leave the house again.

The wind just carried some snow off my back deck in a manner that mimicked a wintry sandstorm. I'm a little intimidated.

To my credit, the quick change in temperature is a little extreme, considering the fact that all of the sculptures at the Plymouth Ice Festival this weekend were starved for a chill and hanging on for dear life (more on that in an upcoming post). Now, it's the coldest weather southeast Michigan has had in years. This is all so sudden, Winter. So sudden.

You should see the pile of outerwear that's hanging out in my living room--discarded after a weekend of leaving the house, coming back into the house, switching coats for warmer coats and Topsiders for boots . . . I'd put it all back in the closet, but it's a bit overwhelming. Plus, I'm sure I'll need half of it for when I go out later.

Tell me it gets better. Tell me that instead of finding my car with its door handles frozen and tires deflated, I'll soon develop a mentality that distracts me from impending frostbite. Or at least tell me your own winter stories so I can be entertained during all of this.

Maybe this gives me the excuse to get that new coat I've been wanting. After all, I can't have too many now. Obviously.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Movin' on Up

We are buying a house.

Oh, not now . . . I haven't prepared you all for that, have I? I mean, soon . . . this year. We hope.

In reality, we've just started looking for a place and are dipping our toes into that whole realm of house hunting. Truth be told, it hasn't really sunk in yet. We have so much more to do. But we've gotten started! Wheeeoooh. *Commence congratulatory remarks and pats on the back*

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This is not where we're moving.
Brad's and my first house, right after we were married . . . we were there less than two months due to the short time frame between our wedding and our moving day. We did not own a lawn mower, so please excuse the yard.

At present, our world is slowly shifting into that state of being where we're immersed in online listings, watching too much House Hunters and Property Virgins (I know they're not real, but give me this one), and becoming bestest friends with out real estate agent (I mean, he seems like a cool-enough guy). We've looked at a few places in person and are going back for more this week. Put that on your to-do list and check it right off.

What have I learned so far?

- Um, that foreclosures give you a lot of home for your money, but it takes a lot more money if you wanna use a lot of that home.

- If you want to make your house-viewing appointments, you have to start making dinner right after you eat lunch and hope your husband shows up on time to eat it. Otherwise, you'll both starve and end up eating take-out to calm the hangriness (see:  "hangry").

- Viewing prospective homes at night helps in avoiding crowds, but can be sort of creepy, particularly when a home has no electricity and/or random sewing tables sitting in the corner.

I'm obviously a total newbie at this, so if any of you have tips or stories about first-time home buying (or choosing/buying a house in general), feedback is welcome. And you know you'll be hearing more from me along the way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Holiday Nights


Holiday Nights was just about the cutest little event I've ever been to. I heard about the whole shebang last Christmas season (2011, to clarify), but by that time, it was too late to get tickets or plan around our travel itinerary. This year, however, I wasn't going to miss out on an evening of colonial carolers, lights, mulled cider, or Model-T rides. No, sir. Not when it set up a perfect excuse for me to wear my new hat.

Brad and I got to The Henry Ford about 20 to 30 minutes before the event began, and the lines to get in were stretched wayyy beyond the front gates. I wanted to shop in the meantime, but Brad was smarter than me and pointed out that if I left for the gift shop, I'd lose my spot. So I waited. And other than the fact that I had to hop around a little to fend off the chilly night air, it wasn't so bad. Before we knew it, things were up and running, and the lines flowed inside to a magical, Christmas-themed evening.

Since we'd visited Greenfield Village just a few weeks before, Brad and I had somewhat of an idea about the park's layout. This meant high-tailing it over to the glass shop (Brad's favorite), where we huddled inside a toasty room and watched artisans do their thing with lava-like concoctions. The theme of the night was glass candy canes, which the glass blowers created as they stretched hot, spiral-patterned glass across the room in strands that miraculously never broke.

Candy canes in progress. This strand of hot, molten glass would eventually be cut into several, small pieces and twisted into cane shapes before being cooled and sent to the Greenfield Village gift shop.

Brad mentioned that he could've spent the entire evening watching the glass artisans, but I had plenty of other items on my agenda. So, it was off to explore the grounds, where we made our next stop at the line for free Model T Ford rides.


Zooming through Greenfield Village with our driver/tour guide.

If you've never ridden in an old Model T, I highly recommend it. Granted, you can only fit about three or four people in the car, but the light, swift feeling you get as you float by pedestrians--nearly pushing little, old ladies off the street--is one of a kind (I can assure you that no one was hurt in the process--at least not during our ride).

After we had gotten our fill of 20th-century road rage, Brad and I strolled around Greenfield Village, taking in the decorations, sights, and smells of the season. The night was cold, but there was no wind, making for . . . well, a perfect evening, really.

An old Ford sitting out front of the Model T ride area.
Inside the Wright Brothers' Home. The rooms were decorated for Christmas, all in authentic styles for the time period.
Mrs. Cohen's hat shop, decked out in Christmas decor.
Charming shop window.
Silent Christmas movies were projected directly onto the Tintype Studio building.
This film was a silly, Santa-themed flick. A small-scale sleigh and reindeer were part of the mix.
More carolers, singing atop a lovely gazebo.

In one particular spot of town, there was a small bunch of creepy characters donning masks and frilly, festive attire. They didn't talk, and their main job seemed to be intimidating passersby. I didn't get very close, but watched a couple of them sneak up on unsuspecting pedestrians.

That photographer is very focused, what with Terror staring him down and all.

The star of the night, though, had to be Kris Kringle himself. Perched atop a balcony on the Robert Frost home, Santa spent the evening waving to crowds of spectators and calling out the names of actual children who stood below. I don't know how he did it . . . must have been Santa magic. He also had a few reindeer in tow, but the pick of the herd seemed a little tired and unimpressed by all our cooing and picture-taking.

". . . And I see Jennifer, and Brad . . . hello there!"

Eventually, we mustered up the courage (okay, I was the only one who was nervous) to go ice skating on the outdoor rink. It had been years since I took a pair of blades to the ice, so I wasn't expecting much. Which is probably a good thing.

The ice rink. Dun dun dun.

We laced up our skates and waddled out to the rink, which was choppy like snow from the constant crowds. And then, my premonitions came true: the ice was slippery, so I held onto the railing like a little girl. You know what, though? I didn't really see anyone else doing much better, except for maybe that one kid with a hockey helmet who sped around us all, rubbing in our feelings of inferiority. Long story short, people were wiping out right and left, so I kept my composure and slowly scooted around the rink. Once. And I laughed a lot.

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Cell phone pictures, because we were smart enough to not take the camera out of its bag while we struggled to stand on the ice.


Near the end of the night, Brad and I joined hundreds of other people in gathering around the town hall for a Christmas carol sing-along and grand finale. Everything started out cheerful, just music and milling about, when suddenly, a series of bell tolls rang out, and we looked across the village green to see a mob of lantern-carrying townspeople advancing towards us. The whole thing was very reminiscent of the mob scene from Beauty and the Beast.

Blurry photo to drive home the intensity of the mob.

Great news--the mob didn't turn into a real-life Walking Dead scenario! Rather, the townspeople met up with the rest of us 21st-century time travelers and joined in the festivities by proclaiming a celebration of Christmas and leading us in more caroling. Then, the fireworks started and we all just stood there being happy and enjoying life.

Fireworks over Greenfield Village

Then, just as quickly as it had begun, Holiday Nights was over. We made one, last stop at the gift shop before leaving to pick up a few Christmas gifts (if you're looking for unique, Michigan-made or Michigan-related souvenirs, this is a great place to browse), then rolled out with the rest of the crowds. I can not emphasize enough how great this experience was . . . and the fact that there's so much going on during the event just makes it possible to return year after year to see more (I still have to try some roasted chestnuts and go on a horse and carriage ride!). I think I must be destined to memorize this village like the back of my hand.

Have any of you visited Holiday Nights recently or in years past? How about something similar? Let me know in the comments! :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Celebrating the Old, Celebrating the New

New Year's Eve with my sister, Carolyn, and our friends, Olivia and Sidney

To usher in 2013, my sister and some of our friends decided to throw a Mad-Men-themed party, and of course I couldn't refuse the invitation. Dressing in our sixties-best, we turned back the clock and channeled a mix of our inner-housewife/female-empowered selves. Truth be told, I don't think we really knew what we were doing, but at least we looked good doing it.

Brad and our friend (and party hostess!) Ashley rigging up the Super Nintendo. Important stuff.
(Brad's not dressed up because we all knew he'd spill food on his new shirt.)
Olivia and her prized Jell-O mold.
She's hoping you won't notice that it fell out of the bowl into a visual form similar to that of zombie innards.
Carolyn, growling as usual.
I think she's up to something.
Putting on our pretty smiles.
... And letting our real selves slip out.

After the longest game of UNO known to man (I lost by one card), Carolyn, Brad, and I jetted back to ring in 12 a.m. with my parents and Ryan Seacrest. Quite possibly a good thing for me, since I had a cold and lost my voice before the ball dropped in New York. In my NyQuil-induced stupor, I wondered if Americans  west of the eastern standard time zone were jealous of our time advantage, how cranky I was going to be while spending the whole next day in a car, and why Fergie never wears pants. Then, I fell asleep, and Brad and I miraculously managed to pack everything up and make it back to Michigan by 10:30 the next evening. 

At the moment, I'm extending my celebration of the new year by enjoying my still-standing Christmas tree (I may or may not have added more ornaments after we got home the other night) and using this new year as an opportunity to look at the world around me in a more positive light. I've already resolved to keep in contact with more people and seize the moment as it comes, and I'd say I'm off to a pretty good start. I also have a few errands to run, but I think those can wait just one more day. ;)

How did you all welcome 2013? Any big plans for this year?
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