Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Creating pretty pottery at local studio October 26, 2017

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Starting the project.

I’ve been wanting to head back to the local pottery studio to make something artsy. It was meant to be when my friend mentioned she wanted to try her hand at pottery painting. So we picked an afternoon for our outing, choosing to meet at Creative Arts Studio in downtown Royal Oak (I took my niece here for an aunt/niece outing).

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The studio is a welcoming, sunshine-filled location that offers pottery painting, mosaics, glass fusing and more (I’ve only tried the pottery painting). Walk-ins are welcome and you can bring your own drinks and snacks. This studio charges a flat studio fee for adults and children, in addition to the price of the item you choose (ranging from under $5 to over $100).

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There are a lot of pottery pieces available, from vases to serving dishes to seasonal items to tea sets and more! I spent (too much) time wandering the rows of items, picking up one item only to spot another that interested me. Should I paint a coffee mug? Turtle for my great room floor? Horse-shaped bank? Bookends? Maybe a Michigan-shaped platter? I finally made myself focus, settling on a small vase since I’m a lover of flower bouquets placed around my house (hint to future boyfriend), although I mentally logged some other items I want to work on at a later time. The studio was fairly busy, plus a small birthday party group arrived shortly after us, so it was fun to look around at what others were working on. There were some really great ideas and talent in that building!

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My new vase!

The staff was very friendly and helpful. We were directed to shelves of glaze colors. The glaze is food safe on the finished product. I selected a few colors for my vase, then settled at a table with my friend to start the creative process.

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Three coats of each color is required for a deep color upon finish (it’s helpful that there are sample color tiles of the finished, three-coat color). I discovered the only challenge to working at a table with another is you ‘might’ lose track of how many coats you’ve painted while talking. Ha! So one of my colors got an extra coat because I couldn’t remember and decided I’d prefer a darker color rather than lighter.

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You write your name or initials on the bottom of your item and leave it at the studio to be fired. Pick it up in a week and you have a great item to keep or give as a gift!

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5 activities for fun with girlfriends October 23, 2017

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Sometimes simple fun is the best fun!

I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by kind, courageous, fun people, including a wonderful group of women who I call my good friends. I’ve certainly learned over the years that it’s not the quantity of friends but the quality of friendships that help make life meaningful and fun. I love spending time with these friends. And as with most circumstances, it’s not so much what we do, simply that we’re spending time together.

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One thing I look forward to during the cooler months is indoor fun with friends. Our activities of choice change a bit when the weather changes. Makes sense as we want to be outdoors to enjoy beautiful, sunny weather and move indoors when the weather isn’t so beautiful.

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I love spending time with girlfriends, especially lately as I’ve really built some strong bonds with amazing women. We’ve been talking about activities and plans for the winter months. Here are some ideas I’m working to put on our calendars:

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Ceramic/pottery studio: I recently went to a local ceramic studio with a girlfriend and had a blast creating a vase. I love being crafty and artsy so enjoy the opportunity to paint something to take home. It’s a nice time to relax with friends, enjoy girl talk and see what creativity we can spark.

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Painting class: You may think you aren’t an artist and can’t paint, but the popular step by step painting classes are really for anyone. I’ve even seen great pieces by children! These group classes are often by reservation so get a group together, choose the piece to paint and get artsy. It’s fun to compare paintings at the end because no painting looks alike!

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Motivate yourself with others!

Girls night in: Sometimes the best fun is hanging out at someone’s home, with drinks, food, movies, games or whatever, and girl talk! As much as I’m dreading the cold weather, I’m looking forward to inviting some girlfriends over, building a fire (a requirement with my new home!), serving snacks, pouring drinks and enjoying time with friends – perfect indoor fun.

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Fitness class: While not everyone loves to work out, many of my friends are willing to try classes if someone goes with them. And I’m usually ‘that friend’ who is game to try something new! Indoor cycling, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, boxing, water aerobics, whatever. There are SO many choices of fitness classes (almost too many) and it’s always better with a partner or three! I love attending Zumba classes for the great exercise I get while dancing to fun music, however, more so lately, I enjoy seeing the girlfriends I’ve made over the years of attending the same class. I even arrive early for the chance to catch up with them, and we meet for happy hour now too (when we aren’t sweaty!).

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Progressive dinners: These can be fun, simple events if you live in close proximity to your girlfriends. Someone hosts the appetizer course, you all move to another house for the main meal and then move to another home for dessert. Have 2-3 women take on a course so it’s more fun, schedule 1-1.5 hours at each stop, and enjoy!

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What are some fun activities you look forward to with your friends?

 

10 activities for a fun girls night in April 5, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:00 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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I love my girlfriends. I love spending time with them, individually or as a group. I, of course, adore my guy friends too, yet there is something special about being surrounded with strong, funny, smart women. I’m fortunate to have many of these women in my life, women who build each other up, provide support, encouragement and love. These women cheer for me when things are going well, and hug me when things go south.

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I have girlfriends from all walks of life. Some who I’ve known since childhood, others I met in college, and others entered my life in the past few years or even months. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to realize the importance of maintaining strong relationships with many of these friends, and also come to understand that some friendships fade over time and it’s okay to move on. I cherish each as they touch my heart and teach a lesson in their own way.

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I’ve enjoyed many adventures with girlfriends over the years. From international getaways to road trips up north (northern Michigan, for you non-Michiganders!) to visits at the local coffee shops, there is laughter and fun to be found all over. And there’s also lots of fun to be had staying in for the evening. I recently enjoyed a fun night in with a small group of girlfriends, indulging in food, music, facials and girl talk. It was a wonderful night of connecting with friends and the much needed relaxation and laughter recharged my soul.

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Staying in with friends is an easy, cheap opportunity to have fun and connect/catch up. There are so many activities to enjoy so I thought I’d share a few of my favorites. The biggest catch to a relaxing night in – ditch the technology. Leave your phone in your purse and instead tune into your friends. One of my favorite parts of my recent girls night in? Not one of us reached for our phone the entire night, ensuring that we were all tuned in and focused on connecting with each other.

  1. Cook new recipes. Sometimes the hostess will try a new dish or we each bring a dish to share.
  2. Choose a theme. Plan a spa party, fiesta night, ’80s theme. You can plan food, decorations, games and more around the theme.
  3. Wine tasting. Have everyone bring a bottle of wine to sample. You can even make it a theme, such as from certain locations (Michigan, Napa, etc.) or types (white,  Cabernet, Riesling, etc.).
  4. Facials. Who doesn’t love getting pampered??
  5. Games. There’s everything from cards to board games to video games and even ‘made up’ games (and drinking games if it’s that kind of night!).
  6. Movie night. There are some great girls’ movies! You can go ‘old school’ with movies like Dirty Dancing, 16 Candles, Breakfast Club or Pretty In Pink. We also like Sex in the City, any Melissa McCarthy movie, Love Actually or sappy romances such as The Notebook.
  7. Plan an activity. Make cards, a holiday craft or vision board.
  8. Dance party. You all know I’m a big fan of music and breaking into random dance at any moment while I’m at home (or anywhere).
  9. Girl talk! My favorite of girl time is catching up on everyone’s lives. It’s a great time to reconnect. We always touch on topics across the spectrum, from love to career to celebrity crushes to hair styles to family to laundry detergent to recipes to exercise to favorite travel spots to lingerie to…..well, I don’t need to spill it all. You get it. Any topic is up for conversation.
  10. Pillow fight. Okay, I’m just kidding. I know some men reading this are wondering about the pillow fights that girls supposedly have at all sleepovers or gatherings (how did this idea ever start??) so I had to throw it in.
 

Make a vision board for the new year January 18, 2017

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Cheers to a great year!

Week 3 of my best year ever started! So far, it’s been a good year. I kicked off my fitness routine (more to come on that later), biked a few times, met up with friends many times, and got working on some professional projects.

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One of my favorite activities that I like to do to kick off a new year is make a vision board. It’s a fun, simple way to  keep my goals, and dreams, in a visible spot (I usually keep it in my home office but since I’ve been in a temporary apartment while house hunting, I keep my board on top of the microwave and it’s proven to be a great spot. Every time I heat up some tea, food, whatever, I look at my board. It often reminds me of where I want to head and to lose the distractions!).

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Making a vision board is also a perfect excuse to get some friends together (not that we need excuses!). While you can of course make one on your own, I find it fun to get together to share your goals and see the creativity others use when making a board. My friend hosts an annual vision board making party with a bunch of women, food, drinks and craft supplies. It’s a lot of fun! I couldn’t make it a few times in the past so gathered my sisters and other ladies together because I really wanted to make a vision board. Last year, I helped plan a vision board party for my sorority alumnae chapter. And if you want to make it on your own, go for it!

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Remember that nothing on that board has to be perfect, nor is it set in stone. It’s your vision board! Some women get detailed both with their goals and creativity with paper, stickers and images, while others think broader, find what they need and glue it on wherever the whim takes them. And that’s beautiful because…say it with me….it’s your vision board! (Getting the picture that this project is all about you?)

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You need simple supplies to get started:

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Your goals. Some people get detailed (lose 10 pounds, get a puppy, go to Italy, find a new job, etc.). You can do whatever you want. It is after all your vision board! I often set some specific goals but this year I am focusing more on broader goals, with a few details included.

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Poster board. This can be any type of poster board. I usually choose a  standard white board with a little thickness (for easier display) and cut it to 15″ x 20″ size. It keeps it manageable to make and to display.

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Magazines. Use any magazines to find images of your goals, words, letters, whatever you want. If you make your board with a group of people, ask everyone to bring what they can. It’s fun (and easier) to have a variety of choices.

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Craft supplies. Stickers, sparkles, decorative paper and any other fun crafty item you want to include on your board.

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Scissors. For cutting your images and paper.

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Glue sticks. Place your items and stick ’em on!

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You can add any other item to your list. Whatever helps you get started and focused. No one is going to knock on your door to check the status of your projects/goals. The idea is to keep you focused on what you want. As I said, sometimes those goals change and sometimes you simply decide you want to do something else with your year and life. Have fun with this project! It’s your vision board! (okay, I couldn’t resist.)

 

Yoga, good food and great conversations August 27, 2016

My friend recently invited a few women to enjoy a relaxing day of yoga, food and friendship. I’m always up for that type of adventure so looked forward to the outing.

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She invited us to first meet at Namaste Yoga in Royal Oak. Some of the women had not previously practiced yoga so we opted for an essential hatha yoga class, which is gentle and relaxing. I enjoy taking yoga classes and probably should go more often. It’s a nice compliment to the strength training, hiking, biking, Zumba and other cardio that I participate in on a regular basis. Yoga helps me stretch tight muscles, strengthen my core, and relax my mind (or try to relax my mind as I can never quite shut the thoughts off! Can you?).

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yogamatblocksThis was my first visit to Namaste Yoga. It’s a small studio located on Troy Street, a block from the public parking lot adjacent to the farmer’s market building. That day, the meters and pay station were covered in the lot so I took it as a sign I was meant to be there and appreciated the free parking! Linda, the owner, was very welcoming when we arrived. I instantly felt like the entire ambiance of the studio is relaxed and friendly.

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Just past the lobby area is a large studio, with a smaller room attached to that. One of the walls is full of windows so lots of natural light flowed into the room. Some people prefer to practice yoga in a dimly lit setting but I actually liked the natural light. It was a beautiful, cool, sunny summer morning, which makes me appreciate nature even more. So a great setting for grounding myself in yoga! Namaste has yoga mats, blocks, bands, blankets and other accessories if needed. The instructor encouraged all of us to move at our own pace and modify when necessary. The class was a great way to start our morning.

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After yoga we were all hungry! My friend suggested a favorite place of hers – GreenSpace Cafe in Ferndale. I love trying new places so was game. GreenSpace is a plant-based restaurant and bar. Their food contains no GMOs, preser­v­a­tives, processed foods or animal products, and they don’t use microwaves or fry­ers. They even serve “conscious cocktails” made with fruits and greens. The restaurant was founded by a local cardiologist and his family. I was pretty intrigued by this point.

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GreenSpace’s ambiance is natural, chic and relaxed. I’m a sucker for the natural wood/outdoorsy decor so I felt comfortable right away (don’t judge, I like the outdoors!). The cocktail menu was interesting – elderflower, carrot juice, watermelon juice, lemongrass-infused vodka, and lavender syrup are some of the ingredients that make up a fun list of tasty drinks.

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We started with the cheese board and farmer’s board. The ‘cheeses’ are made with cashews prepared several different ways (smoked, etc.). I definitely was curious as to what cashew cheese tasted like and will share that it was all very tasty. I ordered the quinoa lentil burger, which was delicious and filled me up! My friends ordered a variety of dishes – tomatillo gazpacho soup, caesar salad, sandwiches and bowls. We all declared our food choices as successes and decided we would return to try more of the menu!

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I’ve had so much happening in my life the past few months, a divorce, house hunting, work, health appointments and more, that I didn’t realize how much I needed some fun, relaxing girl time until I spread my yoga mat, sat down and looked at the girlfriends surrounding me. As we whispered and giggled before the start of class, I could feel the stress seep out of me. It made me remember that part of life is recognizing and embracing the wonderful, kind, loving people who show up exactly when you need them. I am blessed to have such people in my life and grateful for the opportunities to make memories with them.

 

Identifying the differences in white wines February 19, 2016

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Cheers to good wine!

Michigan residents are fortunate to be able to taste delicious wines made at wineries throughout our great state. Metro Detroit residents can enjoy various opportunities to sample some of these great wines (besides at the wine parties that my husband and I host!). One such location is the Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room in Royal Oak. After driving by this location on numerous occasions, I finally had the opportunity to check it out.

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Michigan By The Bottle opened its first tasting room in Shelby Township and a second location in Royal Oak last year. Now a third is slated to open in Auburn Hills this year. Several Michigan wineries are featured for samplings and many special events are offered throughout the year. The partner wineries represent four major Michigan wine trails and include 2 Lads Winery (Traverse City), Bel Lago Winery (Cedar), Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson), Chateau de Leelanau (Suttons Bay), Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs), Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City), Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson) and Verterra Winery (Leland). I have tasted wines from many of these wineries so I looked forward to checking out some new ones (I heard that the Auburn Hills location will have different partner wineries so that will be cool to have a variety!).

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My friend and I visited earlier this week for a “Blind Tasting” event which focused on learning the difference between pinot grigio/gris and chardonnay wines – without labels to assist you. White wines are my preference (I have a slight allergy to the tannin in red so my cheeks get super bright when drinking red – thus, I usually do so in the privacy of someone’s home!) and while I feel fairly comfortable identifying white wines, I thought this event sounded fun. And it was.

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For $12, we received six pre-selected wines – three chardonnay and three pinot grigio/gris Then we received great instruction on how to tell the difference by using color, smell, and taste. I was impressed by the knowledge and teaching ability of Shannon, the husband in the husband-wife owner team of MBTB. He made the information easy to understand.

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wineglassesHere are a few tips I learned:

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Pinot grigio and pinot gris are the same type of wine – grigio is the Italian version/grape and gris is the French version/grape.

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Swirling the wine in the glass before drinking adds air, which improves aroma and taste. I tested this before/after and it’s true!

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Chardonnay tends to be more yellow in color, while grigio/gris appear more copper-like.

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Pinot grigio/gris wines tend to have a more floral aroma and taste a bit more bitter than a chardonnay.

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Chardonnay can be fermented in oak; a pinto grigio wine almost never is oaked.

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Not all wines age well. Pinot wines usually drop off in flavor/aroma 4-6 years from bottling (I also learned that my favorite wine type, riesling, ages great. Too bad my riesling wines tend to not last too long!).

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Tannin dries the mouth; acidity in a wine adds moisture to the mouth and give you that ‘tang’ up the cheeks.

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I really like Peninsula Cellars’ Chardonnay! In fact, I purchased a bottle to enjoy at home.

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The ambiance of the room was relaxed, a little hip and fun. When we visit wineries in northern Michigan, tastings are free so it’s a bit to swallow paying for a flight of wine samples. However, MBTB is a separate business venture from wineries (a pretty cool business from what I can tell!) so it is worth the fee. There are several options for tasting – small and large flights (samples) and a single ‘big pour’ if know what wine you like and simply want to chill with a glass of wine. There is also a limited ‘snack’ menu of crackers, cheeses, meats, chocolate and more.

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Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Rooms offer various flights for tasting wines, as well as many special events, live music, book clubs, gifts and more. I will definitely go back for another event.

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*This is not a paid endorsement for Michigan By The Bottle. I went and purchased on my own. I enjoyed the event so want to share with my readers.

 

 
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