Saturday, January 28, 2012

New thing #17: Perfect Eyebrows

Zip, zip... perfect!
One of the indignities of growing older is when your eyebrow line begins to fade. Hair disappears from the outside and turns a wiry gray on the inside. But those stray hairs that start at the eyelid and sprout up to your hairline? Those never go away. It takes diligence to keep them under control. And with the crop I was cultivating, it was time to call in the pros. 

I've plucked and I've waxed, but today I wanted to try threading. There is a salon near the mall that specializes in this quick process where a doubled strand of thread is twisted across your brow, catching a whole row of those stray hairs and whipping them out by the roots. 

Penny is the fastest eyebrow threader in the Detroit Metro area. She has you help pull your skin tight, grasps one end of the thread between her teeth and rolls the rest around your eyebrows like lightening. The sensation is similar to waxing without that dreaded wait for the wax to be ripped off. And in the time it takes to wax one eyebrow, you are fully groomed and out the door.  Ten dollars, ten minutes, and I was good to go with crisp, clean perfect eyebrows.  Penny recommended I come back in three weeks for a touch up, and admonished me to not touch my brows in the interim.  I will take her advice!

New thing #16: Reiki

I really wanted to love Reiki. I've heard the treatment described as "a wonderful glowing radiance" that flows through your body. With chronic pain in my shoulder from years as a desk jockey, and discomfort from recent minor surgery, I was in need of a little healing therapy. So when The Girl invited me to a psychic fair that included Reiki practitioners, I was all for it.

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It's based on the idea that there is a universal energy that supports the body's natural ability to heal. The practitioner channels this life force and helps transfer it to the patient. My treatment began in a tranquil room, with dim lights, soothing music and soft incense. I was instructed to remove my shoes and coat, and lie face up on a padded table that was covered with a beautiful quilt. The practitioner, a quiet woman about my age, asked if it was alright for her to place her hands on me. She covered my eyes with a soft cloth, and began pressing lightly on the top of my head. Over the next 20 minutes, she alternated between gentle pressure on my shoulders, hips, feet, legs and hands, and waving her arms in the air above my body to "attune the energy".

At first I didn't feel anything. Around the time she got to my ankles I did feel a brief warm, comfortable all-over "rush". Then my stomach started to gurgle like a percolator, which totally distracted me from my mojo moment. It was pretty uneventful after that. When the treatment was done, she took the cloth off my eyes and asked me how I felt. I laid there for a minute, not sure if we were finished or not, then got up and thanked her for the session. I was kind of bummed. I didn't feel any more relaxed or relieved of any pain. I'm still open-minded about alternative therapies, but today this one didn't work for me. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

New thing #15: NAIAS

The North American International Auto Show, one of the largest media events in North America, is held in Detroit every January. The leading automakers display their latest product launches and concept cars. More than 700,000 people attended the show this year, the most since 2005. But even though I've lived in the metro Detroit area for nearly ten years and I work in the automotive industry, I had never attended the show. I'm not a "car" person. Usually the only thing I notice about someone's ride is the color.

So on a lazy Sunday morning, Senior and I headed downtown. We parked at Greektown Casino and rode the people mover to Cobo Hall. People watching is usually prime on the people mover, but today was pretty dull because everyone looked like us, middle class cul-de-sac-ers bundled up against the cold. 

The Auto Show, however, lived up to the hype. Everything was bright and modern with an energetic vibe. The OEM's outdid themselves. The Ford booth was an interactive playground, complete with virtual rides and game shows. GM let you get in touch with your inner artist by drawing on their dry-erase grafitti wall and making customized buttons. You could dance with a virtual hamster at the Kia booth, simulate an IMAX theater experience in the Lexus booth, channel your inner IKEA in the Volvo booth, and gawk in the Mini booth at the race track that ran up to and along the ceiling. Hundreds of people wandered through the hall, listening to the animated and well informed spokespersons and watching the entertainment. Detailers worked feverously to keep up with the fingerprints and smudges on the displays, and the insidious smell of cinnamon roasted almonds permeated the hall. It was a really enjoyable show!

Oh, and there were a whole bunch of cars there too. Mostly white or gray ones.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New thing #14: Holly Hotel

My girlfriend shared her great Groupon deal for a chef's selection dinner at the historic Holly Hotel, followed by a show in their comedy club. The Holly Hotel is over 100 years old and has been called the most haunted historic building in Michigan, so the six of us were ready for ghost sightings during dinner.

We were greeted with the scent of cinnamon and cloves as we entered the ornate and beautiful dining room. Although it was January, vintage holiday decorations still stretched up to the high ceilings and over the intricate trim. We were quickly seated in a quiet corner and the evening's menu was explained. The chef would improvise an eight-course gourmet menu featuring local ingredients and a selection of wines. I'm addicted to Food Network cooking shows, so I was really excited to try some new foods.

One of the most charming parts of the dinner was the place settings. Silverware stretched as far as the eye could see, the linens were starched, and a mixture of vintage china was used for each course. The portions were perfectly sized so we felt satisfied but not stuffed.  Our attentive waiter described each course as he brought it to the table:

  • 1st course, amuse-bouche: A "mouth amuser" to wake up our taste buds. This was a duck, raisin and apple salad served in a phyllo dough cup with a balsamic reduction. It was absolutely delicious. 
  • 2nd course, soup: The flavor of the parsnip, carrot & curry soup with fresh spinach was good, but the presentation fell a little short. It looked like lumpy gray wallpaper paste. 
  • 3rd course, salad: A fairly ordinary but tasty salad of winter greens that could have used a little more dressing (unusual for me to say, I like a dry salad).
  • 4th course, fish: This was gorgeous - a small piece of braised whitefish was topped with crab salad and some garlic sprouts, sitting in a muddy red sauce. Many in our group said this was their favorite course. 
  • 5th course, intermezzo: Time to cleanse our palates with a refreshing coconut/pineapple shaved ice.
  • 6th course, entree: Shredded lamb in a pastry shell was perfectly cooked and served over minted parsnips with hosin-mole sauce. It was the best lamb I've ever tasted, and probably my favorite course. 
  • 7th course, cheese: A light and airy Stilton mousse served on a toast point and garnished with a dollop of strawberry preserves. 
  • 8th course, dessert: This was a rather strange personal-sized pumpkin spice cheesecake, topped with with a cinnamon schnapps reduction and PopRocks candy. My girlfriend pointed out its uncomfortable resemblance to Fancy Feast, but it actually tasted pretty good. 
After dinner we moved to the lounge to enjoy coffee and live music before the comedy show. Space was at a premium here, and we were wedged in so close to the entertainer that we could have been his backup singers. He was a good sport, and it wasn't long before we headed down to the comedy club located in the basement. If you've ever been in the basement of a turn-of-the-century home, you can imagine what this was like. A dark, cramped space with low ceilings and way too many occupants to be within the fire code. I don't know how they get away with it. The saving grace was that our table was right next to the emergency exit. The show started soon so we settled in to watch.  The warm up guy was funny, and the "special guest" comedian was very funny. But the headliner was only a mildly funny illusionist who spent a great deal of time pulling an audience member's ring out of an orange. Or something like that. Meh.

Before calling it a night, we all went to the bar next door to catch the end of the football game. We knew we married great guys when they missed most of the Lions first trip to the postseason in 12 years and didn't complain about it. The Lions didn't win, but it couldn't put a damper on a memorable evening of great friends and lots of laughter. But sadly, no ghosts.

Monday, January 9, 2012

New thing #13: Spring in winter

Never in my 50 years have I gone outside for a run on the first Saturday of the new year. For one thing, it's usually too snowy and cold here in my native Northeast. For another, running has only recently become a passion of sorts. But this is a special year, and temperatures 30 degrees higher than usual prompted Senior and I to put on sneakers, grab the pup and head out to enjoy the day.

There's a cute little township park about a mile from my house. It has lots of baseball and soccer fields and a small pond, and no admission fees. I always like to see the green space when I pass by, but I've rarely gone in since my kids outgrew recreational sports. Senior had been there recently though, and found that they had cut some new trails through the woods surrounding the playing fields. With this in mind, we headed down the hill towards the park to do some exploring.

Sunlight filtered down through the tall trees on the well-marked trails.  A thick layer of wood chips kept our feet dry as we wound through the woods and up and down some challenging hills.  We followed one trail up a really steep hill to a dead end.  At this point we did a little off-roading. Along one side of the park near a subdivision, we came across a lean-to in the woods.  We were glad to see kids are still using their imagination!  A little further on we hit a marsh, and decided that mucking across to get back to the main trail would not be the best plan. We backtracked and picked up a new trail, hiking most of the park before heading back home. Along the way I learned what a Shagbark Hickory looks like, and how to finesse a farmers' blow. It was a fantastic afternoon.

The last quarter mile towards home was uphill, and into a wind that finally remembered it was January instead of April. But that didn't put a damper on our enjoyment of this once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of Spring in the middle of our Michigan winter.