Firefly

Firefly is a restaurant in Traverse City, MI that I had the privilege of visiting on Saturday night.  Our hotel was within walking distance of downtown so we headed out to find some dinner around 7:30pm.  We walked past several places with the understanding that if one of us has a hankering for someplace in particular we would stop.

After passing the first two restaurants I suddenly remembered a place I had eaten in May of last year.  As we neared the intersection of Cass and Front,  I mentioned I was interested in going to that particular restaurant.  I couldn’t remember the name, but I knew it occupied an old bank on Cass St.   So we started heading south on Cass and it turned out to be only a block or so away.

When I pointed it out, my friend paused and then said, “how about the Firefly, I’d rather eat there”.  I never been there, never even heard of it, so I quickly agreed.  It turned out to be several more blocks south and worth the walk.

Everything on the menu sounded so good, it really was difficult to decide on a single dish.  Well, we found our way around that by ordering off the “Small Plates” menu.  They offer three dishes to mix and match.  By the way, I am using a sarcastic tone and air quotes when I say “Small Plates”.  They were anything but small, I am not sure what a large plate is but you can bet it is way too much food.

We ordered Potstickers (which actually did come on a small plate), Asian Skewers on a bed of sweet potato fries (more like a mound), and Red Curry Noodles.  I think when they said “Small Plate” they just meant the plate you eat off, as they did not provide us with any dinner plates, so we just used our bread plates.

The Potstickers were good, but I would skip the Red Curry Noodles.  They just didn’t seem to have much flavor, but the Asian Skewers were to die for.  I am not a fan of beef, or meat in general, but I would order the Asian Skewers again, and not share this time.  As a side the sweet potatoes came with peanut or horseradish dipping sauces.  I took the peanut and it did taste pretty good together, a very interesting combination. Oh, and did I mention Firefly serves my favorite beer, Short’s Soft Parade (I’ll save my gushing for another blog entry).

All in all the food was good, I’d go back, perhaps with at least five more people to make a dent in the “Small Plates”.

For more information: http://www.tcfirefly.com/

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Empire Asparagus Fest

This last week found me reveling in all things Asparagus!  Namely the 7th Annual Empire Asparagus Fest.

My friend and I attended the festival on Saturday in beautiful sunny weather.  It really couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  The festival is held in Empire, MI, a cute little town that reminded me of Bellaire.

The festival is not large, only two tents, one for vendors and one with tables and chairs, and a stage for the bands to perform.  At the entrance to the tent I purchased a plastic glass that came with one drink ticket for $5 from the local Lions Club.  Additional drink tickets could be purchased inside the tent from other Lion members circulating the crowd, and crowded it was.  Be advised that one ticket does not always purchase one drink.  Some of the more expensive wines were available for two tickets a glass.  My advice, check out the breweries and wineries first to see what you’d like to drink then go track down that Lion!

There is also plenty of food and if I hadn’t been conscientious of my pant size, I could have eaten myself into a larger one.  When I entered the tent I immediately noticed a woman carrying a bowl of Asparagus soup with a stalk in it.  It looked yummy, but I didn’t get a chance to stop her before she melted into the crowd.  However, I gained an end goal in my search for lunch.  Needless to say I did not find that particular soup and instead came across a cup of Asparagus Soup from a place called Maybings Ethnic Organic Foods, at least that is where I think I purchased my fare from.  Either way I am attributing a mighty good soup to them.  I have photos that I will post eventually, a little glitch kept me from getting them up asap.

There was quite the variety of dishes; crab cakes, fried asparagus, asparagus herb bread, oh the list could go on….  There is nothing like asparagus season in MI!

and

Less than 365 until the 8th Annual Empire Asparagus Fest.

For more info: http://tinyurl.com/237dxzt

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Great Lakes Mega Meet

I attended my very first Great Lakes Mega Meet and sometime in the past my twenty year-old self just about died of embarrassment!  If anyone had told me sixteen years ago, heck even two years ago, I’d be attending a scrap-book convention, I would have had a look of horror on my face.

I had a preconceived notion that it was something “soccer moms” did when they got old and dorky.  Well, I am approaching mid-life, have always been dorky, not a soccer mom or any kind of mom for that matter, but guess what? I love it.  I love scrap-booking and making cards, I fully admit it.  They make great gifts and give me a creative outlet that I don’t have in my technical job.

I started a year and a half ago with an impulsive decision to make a gift for my Grandmother. I actually thought making her a scrapbook would be cheaper than purchasing a gift (I’ll wait while you finish laughing).  Since that first book, I’ve become addicted and am now venturing into card-making.  I have completed a few books, two for me and two as gifts.  So when the opportunity to attend a “MEGA” convention in Novi popped up, I signed up.

History

According to their website the first Mega Meet was held in 2000 at the Novi Expo Center and moved to Rock Financial Center in 2006.  Scrap-booking seems to be all the rage and this event certainly has grown in a decade.

About the Event

The Scrapbook Mega Meet is held the weekend before Mother’s Day every year in Novi.  The event is over four days, Thursday-Sunday.  This year the Mega Meet took place from May 6-9, 2010.

The main room is like a giant scrapbook store.  There are rows of booths occupied by specialty shops, Michigan and Ohio scrap booking stores, and a few companies such as Tattered Angels and SEI.  I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars at this event.

Several booths also have “make and takes”, these are craft products that an attendant guides you through making hoping you will purchase the products to make more at home.  Be aware that they are not free, but depending on what is made the prices seem somewhat reasonable.  The same can’t be said for the products themselves, maybe I am just used to my limited scrapbook resources (Michaels), but everything seemed quite pricey to me.

Located to the side of the main event hall is an array of tables set aside to crop.  I believe that they cost money to rent, but I did not intend to crop while I was there and did not investigate further.   Concession are also located throughout the hall, with the usual fair one would find at a convention center; pretzels, pop, popcorn, etc.

In a separate section of the facility classes are held on different techniques of scrap-booking every hour to half hour.  Each class is sponsored by a different company and focuses either on a specific technique or product line, ranging in price from $20 to $50.

Personal Experience

My first advice is to pre-register, everyone who pre-registered for the event is allowed to enter the Mega meet at 9am.  Everyone who purchased a ticket that day has to wait in line until 10am.  I pre-registered but had my first class at 9am, when I made my way back to the main event hall, there was a long line to purchase tickets and enter.  When I left the main event hall at 11:15 am to make my second class there was still a line to get in.

I attended two class at $20 each, a Tattered Angels product demonstration class using “Glimmer Mist” and a “learn new layout techniques” class.  The Tattered Angels Glimmer Mist class was my favorite of the two.  I learned how to use a product that I’ve seem at the store but had no idea how to use.  While a little messy in application, I really like the results and plan to continue using it in my projects.  Heck, I even one a full size bottle during the class.  There was a specific focus in the class which I think made it more enjoyable than the other one.

The other class felt rushed and I think had too many things going on.  My guess, they want people to feel they received their money’s worth in product (ie layouts).  Everyone learns to make a layout or some kind of a project in the course and all materials are for the participants to keep.  I walked away with four scrapbook layouts, three sample size bottles of Glimmer Mist, and one large Bottle of Glimmer Mist.  While I did learn new methods to design a layout, I will stick with product lines or one specific technique next year.

This brings me to the Tim Holtz classes, of which there were two each day.  I really wanted to take both the Distress and Adirondacks classes (even at $50 each).  Both sold out within 11 minutes the day registration opened, so next year I will be poised on the computer ready to go the instant registration opens.

One of the things I learned this year in terms of budgeting my time at the event is to spend the morning in the main event hall shopping and doing the “make & takes” and attend classes in the afternoon.  Maneuvering your way through the booths to shop is easier  the earlier you arrive, the volume of people substantially increased toward the afternoon (and I went on a weekday) making the shopping less enjoyable for me as the day went on.  Also, if you have specific companies you want to visit, mark them on the map provided and visit each one first, then proceed to wander down the aisles looking to see who else has interesting items.

Conclusion

All in all, I had an exhausting but wonderful time.  Toward the end I really lost steam, and while I kept to my budget in shopping (I didn’t bring nearly enough money), I really would like to spend more next year.  Looks like I will have to have a savings fund dedicated to this for next year.  I have a feeling I am moving into stamping soon, it seems a natural progression and they are not cheap!

For more information on Scrapbook Mega Meet visit their website at : http://www.megameet.com/

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On The Road Again

This weekend I am heading north to celebrate my best friends birthday.  After seven months of letting me try out the age of 36 she decided to join me (At least until October). Through much effort on her part we are headed to Traverse City for one night sans her three children.  A first since she was first pregnant with the twins two years ago.

I have no idea what we are actually doing once we leave her house on Saturday Morning.  She mentioned the possibility of Tree Climbing, attending the Asparagus Festival, Wine Tasting, and/or going to Sleeping Bear Dunes.  It is only a day and a half and when we are together we tend to think we can accomplish more than reality permits.  My topic on Tuesday will be a surprise for everyone, including myself.  We may accomplish those things or none of them.  I am not opposed to spending the time sipping wine at Stellas and just shopping.

I spent my break at work yesterday examining the state map, looking for places I might stop on the way home.  I’m sure I’ll come across some hidden gems on my travels this weekend.  Enough to fuel my postings for week or two at least, with pictures!

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Penguicon

Are you into science fiction writing? Science Fiction in general? Or open source computing? Well then, Michigan has an event for you, known as Penguicon!

History

The convention is a yearly event held somewhere in southeast Michigan. This year the event took place on April 30- May 2, 2010 at the Marriot in Troy. The first Penguicon convention was held in 2003. The attendance has grown each year prompting the coordinators to move several times to larger hotel venues in places such as Novi, Romulus, Livonia, and Troy.

About the Event

From what I’ve been told Penguicon has a unique Consuite.  As long as you are a registered attendee (don’t forget to wear your badge!) the Consuite is free and full of food, soda, water, and beer (ID’s are checked).  You really don’t need to pay for food as long as you can find something to your liking, although this year I did not partake of the free food as much as in 2009.  The Consuite in 2009 was located in main lobby area and this year it was on the 12th floor.  You can imagine the line for the elevator.  The Consuite in 2009 was wonderfully convenient, but they continuously ran out of food, which may be why it was moved.

The convention organizers book the entire hotel for the weekend.  In 2009 they sold out the rooms; I haven’t heard anything about the 2010 convention yet.  All I know is that I booked my room in October.  There are designated party and quiet floors; I believe attendees are automatically put on a quiet floor unless they contact the designation hotel coordinator to request the party floor.

Volunteers are especially needed for the event and can “earn back” their registration fees by volunteering for a specific number of hours.  A place is also provided for volunteers to “crash” for the night.  So, if you are strapped for cash, volunteering is the best option as long as you don’t mind sleeping on the floor with a bunch of strangers.  This sounds like fun at 22, but not in my opinion at 36.

Penguicon is not what I’d consider “family-friendly”, although there were some small children being carted around by one parent while the other attended sessions and small herds of teenagers roaming the hotel.  Be advised that costumes are common, some rather skimpy.  If you like “people-watching”, there is plenty to be had at this event.  Many of the attendees wear costumes; there are small enclaves of “Furries”, “Steam Punks”, “Storm Troopers”, and of course “Tron Guy”.  Last year Steam Punk was the big thing (from my observations) and I was told the year before there was a large Pirate contingent.

Personal experience

The 2010 Penguicon was my second year attending the convention and I loved it just as much as my first experience but in a different way.  Last year was a bit overwhelming for me and I got caught up in the excitement of the first night by staying up late and attending as many of the room parties as I could.  The next day, (the only full day), I missed several sessions that I wanted to attend by sleeping in and napping.  This year I took a decidedly different approach and went to bed the first night at a reasonable hour.  I spent most of my time this year attending sessions, rather than focusing on gaming or partying.

This year’s convention had even more interesting sessions than last year and it was difficult to decide what to attend when each hour had multiple sessions of interest.  At least I wasn’t asleep in my room this time!

I ended up attending several sessions on the “writing”, “Linux”, and “Science Fiction” tracks.  I learned about Time Travel, Creating Podcasts, How I can Contribute to Open Source without Programming, and many other interesting things.  There are actually several more tracks such as “Anime”, “Gaming”, “Life”, “Music”, “Webcomics”, and much more.

Conclusion

This is my only foray into the world of science fiction conventions, much to my dismay, so I am not able to make comparisons to other conventions in Michigan or otherwise.  Penguicon is very informative and enjoyable and I am looking forward to October when I make my reservations and register for Penguicon in 2011.

For more information visit their Website: http://www.penguicon.org/

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