The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, MI

The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, MI

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Want to escape to the Cotswolds but can’t find room in your budget for a ticket to England? Try taking a tour of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford house! Edsel was the only child of Henry and Clara Ford and a Ford Motor Company executive. He and his wife Eleanor knew that they wanted a house with English architecture, so they traveled to England with architect Albert Kahn, eventually settling on the Cotswolds style. Many components of the house were purchased from English manor houses that had fallen into disrepair while other elements, like ceiling design, were replicas of items they observed in their travels.

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Photos are not allowed on the house tour though I did sneak this one of the living room.

Despite having a large fortune, the house doesn’t feel overdone. That appears to have been by design. Eleanor was intent on creating a home that people could feel comfortable in. She even had her sons share a room so that they could get to know each other better.

The house’s setting on Lake Saint Clair is lovely. Edsel would often commute from their  Grosse Pointe Shores house to the Ford Rouge plant by speedboat. Be sure to allow time in your visit to explore the grounds and outlying buildings.

A highlight for our kids was the playhouse. This was designed by Clara Ford for Edsel and Eleanor’s only daughter Josephine. The playhouse is an entire house scaled for a child, including a functioning kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. Unfortunately, Josephine was a tomboy and didn’t spend much time playing there. I don’t think our kids would have felt the same way!

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Josephine’s playhouse

Know before you go:

  • The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is undergoing renovations and reopens for tours on April 2, 2019.
  • You’ll want to baby-wear on the house tour (it’s not stroller-friendly), but do bring your stroller on the bus from the parking area if you’ll want it while you’re strolling the grounds.
  • We thoroughly enjoyed the general house tour. If you are interested in a specialty tour such as the Behind the Scenes tour or the Architecture tour, be sure to check their website before you go as some of them are only available certain days of the week.
  • The house is decorated for the holidays from late November through early January.
  • The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House is a Blue Star Museum, so admission is free between Memorial Day and Labor Day to active duty military and their families (up to six guests).

Belle Isle Aquarium, MI

Belle Isle Aquarium, MI

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Detroit’s tiny aquarium claims the title of “America’s Oldest Aquarium.” It was designed by Albert Kahn, the “Architect of Detroit” who built the Art Deco Fisher Building downtown as well as the Cotswolds-inspired Edsel & Eleanor Ford house. Having heard that it was small, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect from this aquarium, but the tanks were pristine and the kids genuinely enjoyed our visit. As you might expect, the fish are predominately from the Great Lakes region, with some non-native varieties present.

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In addition to viewing the fish, the aquarium’s building is worth the visit. The gallery is a single level with green glass tiles covering the walls and ceiling to evoke the feeling of being underwater. During Prohibition, the basement was occupied by a speakeasy and later served as a storage area for larger fish, which were visible via closed circuit television.

Know before you go:

  • The aquarium is located at 2 Inselruhe Ave., Detroit, MI 48207 and is open Friday-Sunday from 10-4.
  • Admission is free for all the attractions on Belle Isle but to enter the island, you’ll need to purchase a day pass ($9 at the time of this writing) or an annual pass ($31). That being said, when I’ve visited Belle Isle on Thursdays and Fridays, the booth where they check and sell passes has been unmanned. Drivers with Michigan-registered vehicles can purchase a Recreation Passport for only $11 that allows access to all state parks, including Belle Isle.
  • Go on Friday if you can – we had the place to ourselves!
  • Don’t speed on Belle Isle. The speed limits are low, so it’s easy to do but the state police that patrol it (thankfully) have little else to keep them busy.
  • Accessibility: There is a handicap ramp to the left of the building but when we visited during the week, the door was locked, so I ended up baby-wearing. That might be a good idea regardless, since it’s a small aquarium and probably gets crowded on the weekends.

If you visit when the weather is pleasant, there are several outstanding playgrounds where the kids can burn off some steam. (A favorite is the one outside the nature center at 176 Lakeside Dr., Detroit, MI 48207.) Hopefully you enjoy your visit to “America’s Oldest Aquarium” as much as we did!

Celebrating Tintin: Château de Cheverny

Celebrating Tintin: Château de Cheverny

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a throwback post in honor of Tintin’s 90th birthday! Tintin is standing in a group amongst the main characters of the comics series.

If you are unfamiliar with the Tintin books, the comic strip follows a young reporter around the world as he thwarts nefarious plots. Originally published in Belgium (and hence in French), they are widely available in English. (Here is a helpful overview and recommended reading order of the Tintin books. And the 2011 TinTin cartoon did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of Tintin and weaving elements of many of the books into it too! ) We grew up reading the comics and love(d) them.

We had the opportunity to visit the  gorgeous Château de Cheverny when we went to France in November of 2017, and I may or may not have been particularly excited to visit, given that it was the inspiration for Captain Haddock’s Marlinspike Hall in the Tintin books! (If you “cut off” the two outer sections of the château, you have the Hall.) The château was delightful in its own right, but the Tintin exhibit didn’t hurt.

Our first stop was the hound enclosure; Château de Cheverny is renowned for its feeding of the hounds, which is a display of remarkably disciplined hounds waiting to be fed. It was worth timing your visit for! Our one mistake was not staking out a spot near the front of the big enclosure where the feeding actually takes place, rather than the pen where the hounds start out (if you go, say hi to the hounds then keep walking past them to the empty yard right next to where they’re milling around. That’s where they’ll actually be fed. It’s down the fence to the right in the video.)

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After watching the hounds’ feeding, we strolled the gardens, then went into the Tintin exhibit. If I remember correctly, we had to to purchase tickets that included this option. Lucky for us, kids under 7 are free! They also offer a family option for tickets. Honestly, since adult tickets are under 20€, I didn’t feel like it was exorbitant to begin with, but I’ll take my discounts where I can! Plus parking was free and easy.

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I felt like a child again myself wandering through childhood memories brought to life.

We then toured the château itself, and wandered around more of the grounds and the gardens (simple but gorgeous). We visited on a fall day and loved it, but I can see this being a fabulous place to visit in the spring (when apparently you can take a boat ride).

 

Naturally, the gift shop stocked Tintin books (in French), so we picked one out to bring home as a souvenir. (No, my daughter does not read French at all, but her Mama has dreams! Motivation.)

 

If you’re ever in the Loire valley, we highly recommend making time to visit Château de Cheverny! And Tintin. 😉

(If this post has put you in the mood to “visit” France with your children without leaving your house, check out the France Armchair Travel post.)

Fun with Food: Raising Adventurous Eaters

Fun with Food: Raising Adventurous Eaters

Ah, children and food; every parent’s favorite negotiation. I won’t pretend to have this subject figured out (the more children I have, the more I don’t know), but I do think that our children are growing up to be reasonably adventurous eaters. Whatever credit there is can be attributed to our parents, who didn’t have time for picky eaters, and are adventurous diners themselves. So we Cahoots adults are in turn doing our best to pass those characteristics on to our own children, who vary wildly in personality and preferences (and negotiation tactics and cunning…). Here are 5 techniques we employ to expand our children’s palates, figured out as the Krewe and Crew have expanded.

Tip No. 1: Let them pick a new food

The last time I took my entire Krewe inside the grocery store (honestly, something I usually avoid thanks to pick-up services!!), I let my kiddies pick out new foods to try; something from the produce, something frozen, some Mexican cookies, and something we spied in the canned section. We walked out with dragon fruit, baby lima beans, and pink beans. As soon as we got home they were begging to try the lima beans. So I let them taste them raw (not fans), then I cooked the beans for dinner. This would probably never had happened if I had just tried to serve the lima beans at dinner! But my kiddoes were eager to try out something that was their idea. (For the record, most of my Krewe decided they liked the beans!)

Tip No. 2: Repeated Exposure

At the top of the-not-very-enjoyable-but-pretty-effective list of techniques is repeated exposure. Practically, this means eating at least a bit of everything every time it’s served, regardless of whether you like it or not. I (Melissa) have one broccoli hater. (We took her to France. We ate glorious food. I asked her what her favorite part of French food was. The crunchy baguette sandwiches with rich butter? Chocolat chaud? Flaky croissants? The incredible éclairs? No, no, no, and non. “That there was no broccoli.” Major eye-roll…) Unfortunately for my broccoli-despiser, it’s a favorite green of everyone else in our house! But she knows the rule — she always has to eat one piece. When we were growing up squash was our universally hated vegetable, but my parents stuck to the one piece rule. (I have a grown brother who still hates squash despite eating it all of his life, but the rest of us now like it! I also had a sister who hated potatoes…who recently named potatoes as her desert island food. It works.) That rule may or may not result in my daughter ever liking broccoli, but it at least teaches her that dinner doesn’t revolve around her, and that eating something she doesn’t like won’t kill her.

Tip No. 3: Experiment with Preparation

Last week, to my aforementioned broccoli hater’s dismay, I made Broccoli Cheddar soup. She was dreading supper, but I talked it up as my favorite soup since I was a little girl her age, and she reluctantly tasted it… only to love it! I’m sure it was really the cheese that did it. Which is point number three: experiment with preparation. It will help broaden their palates at least a little.

Tip No. 4: Start young

We don’t have special/different meals for the babies; generally speaking, if it gets cooked everyone eats it. I’ve found it helpful not to assume that there are foods the littlest ones won’t eat, and they’ve often surprised me by what they love and eat thirds of! The sooner they taste variety, the better.

(Rabbit trail: Did you know that the baby “tastes” what you eat when you’re pregnant, and then if you breastfeed the flavors of your food come through in your milk? You can start feeding them a broad range of food before they’re even born, ha!)

Tip No. 5: Start small

Maybe you already have a picky eater who is reluctant to try new foods, and you want to know “Now what??” How about starting with “easy” foods, like an exotic cookie, or new sort of bread, a new fruit, or an ethnic variation of a favorite dish? Ease into a new mindset of trying new things, then slowly expand their palate from there. Start with tip no. 1 of letting them pick the new food to try. Look at recipes and books together about new foods! This is a really fun book to look at different foods and dishes.

So those are our tips and tricks for raising adventurous eaters; do you have any ideas to add?