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The Urban Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor

Now, this is quite embarrassing to admit so please don’t ridicule me, but before this outing I hadn’t been to Ann Arbor since the mid to late 70’s. My uncle went to the University of Michigan and I swear he must’ve been one of the first people to study computer science. I went with my mom and grandma to visit him and we took the train from the Michigan Central Station in Detroit to Ann Arbor. I remember the grand train station in its glory days but the only thing I remember about Ann Arbor was that my uncle had hanging beads for a door and a waterbed. It was the 70’s after all.

So, we went to Ann Arbor for the day and I can safely say that both the husband and I are smitten with the city. We wandered the downtown area, the U of M campus, and went on a hunt for fairy doors.

The fairy door at Selo/Shevel Gallery

What are fairy doors, you ask? Well, they are tiny magical doors just the right size for fairies. (Notice the pennies in the pictures to give you an idea of their size.)

The fairy door at Peaceable Kingdom

The Fairy Doors started appearing in Ann Arbor in the mid 90’s, first at a residential property and then at different shops in the downtown area. Now, we know that the fairies built the doors (wink, wink) but the first person to find the doors was Jonathan Wright. The fairies must really like this man because they choose his house to build their first door.

These doors give the fairies their own access to many places. Some of the doors also have windows where you can see inside the fairy domiciles, but no one has actually spotted a fairy. I imagine them running from fairy door to fairy door under the cover of darkness.

The doors now adorn many shops and businesses in Ann Arbor, including The Ark, the Google offices, and Sweetwaters Cafe. It was a fun little quest to walk around the city looking upward and downward for these miniature doors.

We found the door at The Ark first, not only is there a door, but also a tiny ticket window just for the fairies. We then found the door at the Selo/Shevel Gallery and the door and many windows at Peaceable Kingdom. We didn’t find the fairy door at Sweetwaters, but that is because we didn’t go inside. I have heard fabulous things about Sweetwaters and am kicking myself that we didn’t stop in.

The Ark Fairy DoorThe fairy ticket window at The Ark

So, next time you’re in Ann Arbor keep your eyes peeled for these doors. You can follow this map of the fairy doors or explore on your own.


Adapting To A New Country

Most people have very romantic ideas of moving to another country, especially moving to the UK. They think Big Ben, the Queen, and the English countryside. Ok, so here’s the thing, it’s not easy and it’s not necessarily romantic. It’s hard.

Bath, EnglandThe first 6 months I spent in England was the honeymoon phase. Then reality reared its ugly head. There are some things you expect to be difficult and thats ok. It’s the simple things that throw you for a loop, like communicating. People, just because it’s an English speaking country, it’s still hard.

I remember going to a charity event the first year I was in England with all the girls. There was a photographer who took pictures when you walked in. Easy? No, hard. I wasn’t married yet and the photographer wanted my name, my sur name, which would be last name to us Americans. And I spelled it. It’s long and Polish. It has a Z. And that is where the problems started.

You see, the letter Z is not pronounced “Zee” in the UK, it’s pronounced Zed. I kept on saying, “C as in Charlie, Z as in zebra,” and it got me nowhere. Finally, one of the girls said, “Zed as in zebra.” Gah! If you’re saying zed, why say zebra?

Many years later, when we were getting the house ready to sell, I went to B & Q, which is exactly like Home Depot, down to the orange colored logo. All I wanted to do was buy an empty paint tin can. They wouldn’t sell me one, I could see the empty paint cans behind the counter, but they wouldn’t let me buy one. I walked out of the store, and called my husband on my mobile and said, “I hate this country.”

Because that’s what you do when you live in another country and can’t accomplish the simplest of tasks. You blame the whole country. It’s not fair and it’s not rational, but it’s human.

My husband is going through similar situations here in the U.S. and I feel his pain. He’s English and many people don’t understand him. I know what you’re saying; you think you understand an English accent and my husband must be talking to idiots. You may be right.

My husband, his frustrations, and an innocent tiger.It’s stupid little things like going to the hardware store and asking for something by the wrong name. Or by the right name that no one knows, or for something that may not exist here. Newel cap. That’s what he was looking for and couldn’t find. Later, he was trying to get an insurance quote and none of the representatives called him back. And I hear him, “I hate this country.” And I know what he means.

It’s frustrating because it’s just communication. We’ve been doing it our entire lives and now we have to adapt, change the words we use and how we use them. Adapting isn’t easy, you feel like you’re going to lose a part of yourself. In the end, however, you become better, stronger.

The Detroit People Mover showing its optimism.That said, I still will never say zed if I’m pronouncing the letter Z. However, I still say sur name, telly, aggro, and cheeky. And brilliant is one of my favourite words. Did you see what I did there? I put a “u” in favourite. Kill me now.


The Sweetest Spot In Metro Detroit

Do you have someone in your life that has a sweet tooth? I do, my husband. He has his own place to stash his candy; we call it his “sweetie cupboard.” So, I had to take him to Doc Sweets' in Clawson. His eyes lit up as we walked in and we spent probably 45 minutes in the 5,000 square foot dentists’ nightmare.

Docs' Sweets huge assortment of Jelly Belly'sDoc Sweets' opened up late last year on Rochester Road, just south of 14 mile and it’s the biggest candy store in Michigan. The owner, David Sklena, is the self-appointed “candy man.” The staff were extremely friendly and told us if we couldn’t find something we were looking for to let them know. Apparently, they have a list of customer requests.

Star Trek Pez Collector's Edition, for the trekkie in your life.There are tons of bulk bins in the back, where you can buy your candy by the pound. They have the nostalgic candy that is hard to find and all the sour candy that makes my husbands eyes pop out of his head. Seriously, if you’re looking for candy this is the place to go. They also have sugar free candy. And for the more adventurous, they have chocolate covered insects. Yum!

We spent about $10 for a big ole bag of candy. We’re talking Now and Laters, Bit O' Honeys, Zots, and more. Doc Sweets' has become a monthly trip for us. It keeps the husband happy and supports the local economy. What could be better than that?

What was your favorite candy when you were a kid? I liked the candy buttons, you know, the ones that are stuck on paper. They have those, too!

Doc Sweets'
120 S. Rochester Road
Clawson, MI 48017



The Museum Adventure Pass

Now in its second year, the Museum Adventure Pass offers free admission passes to over 25 Metro Detroit area museums. More than 100,000 people used this program to visit local museums in the first year.

The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) are some of the many museums included in this program.

How does it work? It’s simple.


  • Go to your local library (check to see if your library participates).
  • Check out a museum pass just as you would a book, with a valid library card.
  • The passes are good for either 2 or 4 free admissions, depending on the museum.
  • The pass is good for one week.
  • You don’t need to return the pass to the library
  • The pass is for general admission only, special events or exhibits aren’t included.

See, it’s so easy! So, I’m going to grab that husband of mine and we’re going to hit up as many of these museums as we can over the summer. I’ll then post on each one. We have a planned trip to the library tomorrow, hmm, which one will be first?


Tour the RenCen, it's Free!

My husband and I have a thing for tall buildings. He has a rational fear of them and I, like any good wife would, make him go to the top of them. I’m a bit evil like that. The first time I took him to Chicago we went to the top of the John Hancock. He was white knuckled and dizzy. Since then, he proposed atop the Stratosphere Hotel in Las Vegas, and in Paris we made it to the top of the Montparnasse Tower and to the second stage of the Eiffel Tower.

So, it only seemed natural to go to the top of the RenCen (also known as the GM Renaissance Center). But here’s the thing, all those other places you have to pay to get to the top. However, the RenCen has a free, one-hour tour that ends up in the Coach Insignia Restaurant with breathtaking views of Detroit and Windsor.

GM Renaissance Center
Did you hear that? A free tour! It’s a great opportunity to see the city of Detroit and learn a bit about its history and layout. You’ll also learn about General Motors, the RenCen, and other historical buildings in the city. I’m going to say it again, people, it’s free! And it makes for a nice day out.

The tours run Monday through Friday at 10am, noon, and 2pm and no advance registration is required (groups over 10 will need to call ahead). When we went, there were only two other people on the tour, a young Italian couple. The girl was just as afraid of heights, if not more so, than my husband. Our tour guide, Ann Duncan, took care of them both, she was very personable and she was passionate about Detroit.

A few tidbits that we learned:

  • the RenCen has it’s own zipcode (48243)
  • the GM Wintergarden has free wi-fi
  • that you’ll have to walk around the glass walkway that connects the four towers 8 times to make a mile.

GM WintergardenThe fact that there were only 4 of us on the tour and that we were split between Metro Detroiters and tourists, got me thinking. I made a call to Kim Rusinow, who is the Tour Coordinator for the RenCen. She told me that 45,000 people take the tour a year; and in the height of the season, which begins in April, that they’ll see approximately 600-1200 people a month. She didn’t have an exact number on how many of those are Metro Detroiters or “hometown visitors,” as she put it. Kim did say, however, that they have “hometown visitors” on every tour.

Kim also told me something I didn’t learn on the tour, the Detroit River has it’s own zipcode too (48222). The J.W. Westcott II delivers mail to ships in the Great Lakes.

Summer is upon us, go and take the tour! Take your kids or your parents!

Have you taken the tour? Did you know it existed and that it was free?