Saturday, September 5, 2015

A Walk Down Thornapple River Drive

In a little over an hour we walked from Thornapple & Ada Drive, down Fase, back to Thornapple to the camel back bridge and back. Pockets of nice woods and a bit too much traffic but we did get to walk across the river with very few human encounters. Not bad.
Nice remembrance of the ladies who always sat in the back row of church.
Looking forward or backward ~ I prefer forward :-)
We finally reached the river and the camel back bridge. It's not quite like it was but traffic does move a bit more smoothly.
Back in town we found a few mushrooms and what had to be a painted over lawn jockey/greeter.
The Headley Street/Ada Reinvision project continues ~ more to follow!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

An August Walk ~ Grand River Drive, Ada MI ~ 8/8/15

Wildflowers, fall weeds, cat tails, winter berries and other signs of approaching Autumn.
The geese are flying south and we in Michigan are enjoying each warm day while we can!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sailing Down the River ~ 7/12/15

Sometimes spontaneous plans actually work out and a small group gathered at the Waalkes' house for a lovely pontoon boat ride up and down the Thornapple River this afternoon.
The scenery is beautiful but we did a lot of gawking at the huge mansions sitting up on the hill, along with their stairways to heaven - eeks!
We pulled over in front of the Van Andel mansion so Garret & Ellen could take a dip.
Sliding under the Camelback Bridge is always an interesting experience :-)
Garret was refreshed after his swim and we all enjoyed the snacks, beverages, & company.
On the way back we spotted this guy performing some jet ski flyboarding trickery! It was great fun to watch.
 
But mostly the river exudes serenity and we were grateful to experience a few hours of what the river had to share.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thoughts on the Fourth of July ~ July 4, 2015

(Photo source unknown)
Most people know that we generally celebrate the independence of the United States on this day. Apparently some don't know from whom we became liberated and most cannot tell you what actually happened on July 4, 1776. So here's a rundown for you, so you can win your next trivia contest.

April 19, 1775 - American Revolution technically began with the shot heard round the world. Lexington and Concord still quibble about who fired/suffered the first shot.

June 11, 1776 - Continental Congress appointed a committee of five (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman) to draft a declaration of independence. Jefferson takes on the initial draft which is modified by committee members.

June 28, 1776 - The Declaration is presented to the Continental Congress and further modifications are made, including this provision which was completely omitted (whether it was omitted in committee or in congress is unclear):
He (King George III) has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

Interestingly, Jefferson owned slaves but yet took King III to task for fostering the slave trade. The Southern delegates would have no part of it, however, and the clause disappeared.

July 2, 1776 - Congress declared the United Colonies to be independent of Great Britain.
Continental Congress resolves these United Colonies are & of right ought to be Free & Independent States. John Adams thought this would be the day that went down in history to be forever celebrated but alas and alack, that fell to July 4.

July 4, 1776 - Congress approved and ratified the final wording of the Declaration and that was the date printed on the Declaration. 

August 2, 1776 - Most of the delegates signed the declaration but it would be months before all 56 signatures were affixed. And one delegate would never sign. Robert Livingston, who was on the original committee of five to draft the document, didn't think it was the right time to declare independence or was recalled by his state, depending on what you read.

November, 1776 - A copy of the Declaration was delivered to Great Britain

So, there is a rough timeline but what about the contents of the declaration itself? The second paragraph contains what are among the most well-known words in American history:  We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The document then goes on to list 27 accusations against King George III which are intended to further justify this radical move by the Colonies. Let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

Here is a very brief background of two of the complaints, the 7th and the 27th. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the French Indian War and part of the terms included King George drawing a line along the Appalachian mountain ridge and declaring that everything west of that belonged to the Indians. Only he could make treaties with them and all further migration was forbidden. This was anathema to the colonists who considered all land theirs for the conquest.
Complaint 7 - He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States for that Purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

And here is Complaint 27. He (King George III) has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions. 

You know the subsequent history for Native Americans who dared to inhabit "our Frontiers." Genocide, relocations, broken treaties, massacres, and boarding schools for Native American children that continued right up into the 1970s, all done to the "merciless Indian Savages". Slavery, persecution, murder, and racial prejudice continued on for African Americans and today we still need to remind everyone that black lives matter. Women continue to strive for equal pay and our LGBT population can now get legally married but can still get fired or denied housing for being gay.

"All men" were created equal, but that was a small and privileged group back in 1776. Let's temper our independence celebrations with an honest and realistic look at our history.
(Photo source unknown)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cashing in a Dinner Purchased at Auction ~ 6/12/15

The Community, an active church in Ada, holds an annual auction raising money for its own mission as well as to support other local missions with whom they have partnered. It's always a great event with much friendly (mostly) competition for certain items. And if there's an offering that includes Billy Norden or Todd Veenstra preparing food, bidding is hot, heavy, and relentless.

So when an auction dinner item combined Billy & Todd, we knew it would be a huge draw.  A few of us preplanned and formed an alliance of 10, assigned one bidder, and won the dinner. Was that in the best spirit of a fund-raising auction? Probably not, but we did get the dinner :-) So tonight was the night and we walked into a house full of great smells and with a beautifully laid table (the latter by our hosts, the Luehmanns).
The chefs had been working for several hours already and we were there to enjoy the fruits of their talented labor. After drinks were made and wine was poured, we enjoyed our first casual taste of the feast: spring rolls with hoisin sauce, smoked steelhead spread on roasted polenta, gruyere, manchego, roquefort, and pork terrine. Delectable! But we were wary of filling up because we discovered there were five courses to come.
We were soon called to the table and watched our next dish being plated and then served: local asparagus, prosciutto, poached egg, torn garlic croutons drizzled with balsamic. The dish was lovely to see and even better to consume.
I honestly do not remember ever having quail before but tonight it was on our menu, stuffed with sausage (pork breakfast sausage containing sauteed peppers, onions, herbs & spices) and beautifully plated with a wild mushroom ragu. I'd have that again.
Thankfully, we had time in between courses for digestion because there was no way anyone wanted to miss a bit of this meal. Red snapper was being readied as we dined on quail. The snapper was served with couscous and pineapple salsa and it may be my current favorite fish dish. The flavors and textures combined wonderfully.
Part of this auction item was inspired by the cooking show, "Chopped", on the Food Network. Our version was to have each couple bring a mystery ingredient from an assigned category (meat, vegetable, dairy, grain, and seasoning). The chefs were presented with the items before we were seated at the table and had to use their creativity and imagination to come up with a dish that would hopefully be eatable. Here are the mystery items.
What you are looking at is Dutch rusk, mozzarella, goat and rosemary sausage, carrots, and paprika. If I had received these items, I would have sliced up the items, thrown them on the rusk and sprinkled it all with paprika, and called it good. You people brought these ingredients so enjoy! But not Todd & Billy. Here they are pondering what to create.
And here's what they served: fried mozzarella dusted in rusk, paprika and fresh herbs, the sausage, julienned carrots, leeks and roasted red pepper, topped with fresh thyme from one of the chef's garden. The sauce was a dijon and whole grain mustard aioli that made everything better. Alrighty, they may have added a few ingredients of their own but we were glad they did.
It was finally dessert time and once again we were all wowed by the quality of the food we'd been so lucky to have experienced. The homemade baklava was served with homemade salted carmel ice cream and roasted cherry and goat cheese ice cream. And you read that correctly on the goat cheese. I'm not a big dessert person but this I could eat every night (I did take part of the baklava home with me and enjoyed it the next morning for breakfast; the ice cream was all consumed that night).
Over the course of the evening, we enjoyed great conversations, some touching on Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad (Heidelberg & Heisenberg), all the while avoiding spoilers (which is harder than you might think), while ingesting this delicious meal. I can safely say that a good time was had by all.
The Luehmanns not only set a beautiful table and had enough plates for this culinary bounty but also had this to look at when we were finished.
Highest praise goes to the chefs who donated their time, talents, and food costs, and prepared an exquisite meal that was elegantly presented and served. Hats off to Billy & Todd for this gastronomical extravaganza!