26 February 2017

2016 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - Let's Play Doll House

My friend Suzi was visiting from California, so I researched some unusual ways to entertain her. I had heard about the Midwest Miniatures Museum. I am not a dollhouse-er or miniatures collector, but love looking at these little wonders. Seemed like a fun way to spend the afternoon. They were closed for the season, but I was able to set up a special appointment.

So I called my sis and the three of us motored over to the museum located in a white farm house in Hickory Corners, Michigan. It has a separate driveway next to the Gilmore Auto Museum entrance (another fun place to browse, especially for car buffs).

Upon entering there was a small reception area with a gift shop. The hostess that day was Ina Whitney, president of the museum. We have a mutual friend from Ladies' Library, so we had crossed paths a few times recently. It was nice to have someone I knew as our personal tour guide.

Many of the masterpieces here are done by world class miniature artists. Here is Ina next to the Brackenwood Vale by Rik Pierce. This fantasy tree house includes over 3,000 individually placed leaves. Hiding among them are numerous woodland creatures, including a hedgehog family. 

This old farm house has numerous rooms with wonderful dollhouse displays in each one. I cannot describe what a gem each little world is, but I'll show you a few favorites.

The displays here are so diverse. This is a set of six rooms that reflect various aspects of the medical field--a pharmacy, a nursery for newborns, doctor's office, etc.

Other scenarios are just a room or simple scenario. Here is a beach scene in a Frisbee, dining room (from the collection of Francis M. Light), and a greenhouse.
Sizes range from one-inch to one-foot being the largest, down to 1/12-inch to one-foot. Here are two examples of the smallest size. The first is a little cottage in a walnut.

Next appears as though you are looking in a shop window with shelves of fine silver products. There was also a display of handmade miniature clothes for dollhouse size people.
Another display is of the Kellogg Manor house. The "original" was owned by the Kellogg family (yes, of cereal fame) and in real life is currently a local venue for teas, meetings, weddings, and other entertainment.

There were numerous period style rooms...all so elegant.
There were businesses. Here is a used car lot (something for the guys), grocery store, vintage marionette / puppet store, and a quilt shop.

There was a small room set up with Noah's Ark arrangements of various scale sizes.

One of my favorites was a replica of the rooming house that Vincent Van Gogh lived in. You can see his tiny bed, paintings, and vases of sunflowers in the upper left room.

At the end of the tour we browsed the small gift shop. Suzi (a redhead), found a little redheaded lady reclined on a chaise lounge. It looked so like her in appearance and in manner, that she just had to buy it (except she is not a cat lover. Bet she took those off!)

I hope I haven't given too much away here, but these examples just scratch the surface of what little jewels you will find. And the photos absolutely do NOT do the vignettes justice is is FREE, but there is a jar for donations. I left a ten-er and still felt the visit was a bargain. 

Read more about it at:

An aside:
In San Francisco I worked with Mattie Still, an avid dollhouse enthusiast. She had a huge set-up and would decorate it at each holiday with appropriate tiny items. Christmas was especially beautiful. She took me to a dollhouse convention once and I was flabbergasted at the array and intricacies of all the elements available.

Her husband Bob would create custom items for her. One thing he made was an old-fashioned camera and stand from wood and other materials. It looked totally realistic with the "squeeze box" finder and cloth for over the photographers head. What fun!

Another aside:
Some time later I met Ina at a meeting of the Kalamazoo Certified Tourist Ambassadors. After the meeting I was chatting with the speaker who was from the Pure Michigan ad group. I mentioned the museum. Ina was walking by just then so I introduced them. He said that "Mysteries at the Museum" TV show may do a whole program all about Michigan and maybe Ina could come up with a mystery at the Miniatures Museum segment. What fun! Hope that happens!

17 February 2017

2016 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - POPnology

In town we have the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Aerospace and Science Museum (info at: http://www.airzoo.org/index.php?menu_id=7). It is a multi-sensory experience for all ages. It includes displays of 50+ diverse aircraft, wartime memorabilia and history, and learning experiences.

On-going exhibits include an SR-71B Blackbird (fastest plane ever built), space history, 3-D full-motion flight simulators, the Michigan Aviator Hall of Fame, flight related murals and artwork, indoor kid amusement rides such as "hot air balloons," and much, much more. In summer they even offer bi-plane rides over the city of Kalamazoo and learning camps for kids.
POPnology was a traveling exhibit here. It explored how popular culture influenced technology. Mike is a war buff and aircraft "expert." Although these topics do not interest me so much, the POPnology exhibit was fabulous.
It demonstrated how movies, books, television, and art influence our current culture. Objects in our daily lives have been created from ideas made by futurists such Isaac Asimov, Gene Roddenberry, Walt Disney, and even Leonardo Da Vinci.

One display presented a home from the 1950's and estimated how long it took to accomplish everyday tasks such as ironing, researching an Encyclopedia, winding a clock, and recording audio tapes. Then it gave an estimate of how much less time it takes to do the same tasks with today's "tools." I think it was something like four hours to only 40 minutes now.
It compares the concept of the wrist phone seen in Dick Tracy comics that I read as a kid to the Apple iWatch that many wear today. The display walked you though generations of walkie-talkies to brick size cell phones to smart phones and finally all the way to today's iWatch. The Dick Tracy wrist communicator looks uncannily like the iWatch of today.

Robots were another big topic. The Terminator and R2-D2 of movie fame were on display, along with other "famous" humanoid robots.

Yet another area was dedicated to robotics and all the things they can do to aid in manufacturing, medical surgery, and more.
You could also experience high-tech virtual reality glasses. The line was long for that so I didn't get a chance to try. I was a little nervous on that one anyway because I heard you can easily get motion sickness when using them.

Pixel history and technology were traced. You could see the progress from PacMan to Mario Brothers to the big, flashy billboards you see roadside today.

Then we saw an area dealing with 3-D printing. It is amazing all the intricate and useful things that can be made with these latest versions of printers. The possibilities are artistic and endless.

What I mentioned here just scratched the surface of knowledge offered in this diverse and fascinating exhibit. Displays include toys and games, transportation, communication, and inventions and ideas that shape our everyday lives. Lots of color and creativity. Did I mention interactive!? Lots of that, too.

Updated displays are often added. I understand there is now a section on driverless cars and drones, AND the world's first 3-D printed car. So things and ideas that were imagined way-back-when have actually come to fruition in the real world today. See a fusion of fantasy and future. From science fiction to scientific fact.

This exhibit is no longer on display at the Air Zoo, but in 2017 it is showing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, and the Boston Museum of Science. Check it out, if you life nearby.

11 February 2017

2016 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - Culinary 2

The second floor of the building is the Culinary Arts part. Each of the two fully equipped teaching kitchen classrooms has the latest equipment--industrial mixers, stoves (I think it had 16 burners), walk-in fridges, huge stainless steel counters, deep fryers, utensils, and much more.

There is a separate bakery classroom, also fully equipped.

Once again, the emphasis is on sustainable food and healthy, fresh cooking. Attention is given to food allergies also. I'm allergic to an oddball item--mango--so I was glad to see that.

The program extends to community outreach. Their first project was the Healthy Choices Matter food literacy program for children in the Edison neighborhood.

The series is a fun way for kids in learn about food through hands-on activities and career exploration. Topics help increase student knowledge, attitudes, and behavior toward a healthy lifestyle," says KVCC's website. And as we walked down one hallway, we crossed paths with Chef John merrily conducting a tour for elementary students.

Also ... wait for it ... drum roll ... one can earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Sustainable Brewing (like in beer!) here at the Kalsec Center. The program is designed to prepare students for technical and entrepreneurial careers in the brewing industry. This program is in conjunction with Western Michigan University's bachelor degree program and in collaboration with the beer industry. It is the nation's first higher ed program in sustainable brewing. Wahoo, beer lovers!

The brew room is spectacular. Picture steam punk on steroids. The state-of-the-art equipment was purchased through a German company. Students learn their "craft" from start to finish--beer history, brewing, ingredients, marketing, waste water treatment. It is a hands-on experience, including internships.

Ok, now down to the ground floor. There are food intake and storage areas, a culinary library, and a cooking demo room with stadium / theatre style seating.

Next we saw the huge restaurant-style kitchen learning area. Here students apply skills they learned upstairs. It has lots of prep tables, a pizza oven, and every imaginable kitchen gadget, pan, or dinnerware you could think of.

This kitchen accommodates two student run restaurants. "Havirmill'' serves lunch (soups, salads, sandwiches) and "418" (named for the building address) serves an expanded dinner fare. These facilities teach cooking and hospitality skills (management, waiting, hostessing, cashiering, clean-up, etc.) for eventual positions in various food industries.

Alas, these fooderies are not open on a full-time basis, but when class schedule allow (which is much of the school year). We weren't too disappointed because the pre-arranged tour was wonderful, but we look forward to eating at one of these restaurants in the near future.

Check hours before you go or make a reservation (recommended for dinner) at (269) 548-3200. Or check FB at https://www.facebook.com/KVculinarydining/ for info.

We ended our tour in the cafe and all got a taste of some refreshing naturally flavored waters. We had a choice of cucumber, citrus, or mint. I tried a little of each. Um, um, um good!

2016 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - A Culinary School

Another place the LLA ladies visited is the newish Kalamazoo Valley Community College / Bronson Healthy Living Campus. It is made up of three parts. One is the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Building (including a pharmacy). Garden-based therapy and holistic patient care are included in their program. They also partner with nearby Bronson Hospital.

The other two areas are the Food Innovation Center and the Culinary and Allied Health Building. Mike and I visited all three parts of the campus during the March 22, 2016 grand opening open house.

At that time we were particular interested in the culinary side. Our friend and two-time Italy trip tour guide is John Korycki. Chef John was previously top chef at Zazios restaurant in the Kalamazoo Radisson and is now Director of Culinary Education here at this fabulous downtown campus.
The LLA ladies visited two parts of the campus. We met at the Food Innovation Center. This consists of a brand new building set up to explore new, sustainable, and flexible trends in growing methods (wall garden, stacked garden, hydroponics, etc.). The facility includes a greenhouse for year-round growing, outdoor garden plots, and large planters.

There is also a food processing hall (wash and food prep area), a quality assurance testing lab, and classrooms. A goal here is to provide a hub to collect fresh foods from local farms. They may be lightly processed (washed, peeled, chopped, perhaps freezing) and then distributed to area hospitals, schools, and other institutions.
Because of cheaper costs through bulk factory processing, many institutions purchase over-salted foods filled with preservatives and artificial substances. The emphasis here is on sustainable food growing systems and FRESH (not factory processed) foods.

Today we saw some unexpected challenges in the greenhouse. It was filled with wonderfully smelling basil plants, lettuce, and tomatoes, but ..... it had been invaded by a destructive moth. This gave students the "opportunity" to devise an eco-plan to eradicate the pests in a way so not to contaminate the food plants.

The other facility we visited this day was the Culinary and Allied Health Building. This is another brand new 3-story structure.

The top level houses the Nursing and Allied Health program. Among the programs taught here are dental hygienist, respiratory practitioner, medical assistants technology, and emergency response.

There are classrooms and labs. One lab includes an actual emergency ambulance that was lifted up to and installed on the third floor. It houses the original set of medical equipment, adapted to simulate medical emergencies. Operators can even make the vehicle bounce as if going down a bumpy road.

There is a mock bathroom as well. As many accidents happen in bathrooms and it is a confined space to work in, students have the opportunity to experience a rescue in life-like exercises.

The nursing side has rooms that act as surgeries, emergency rooms, labor rooms, hospital wards, etc. In both areas specialized mannequins simulate respiratory or heart problems, child patients, pregnancy, accident victims, and other medical situations.

These rooms are so well-equipped that in case of a widespread real-life emergency (say a plane crash) in the Kalamazoo area, they could actually be used as overflow from nearby Bronson Hospital.