Thursday, December 27, 2012


I didn't have to leave the comfort of my home to get these great photos. Recently discovered webcams located at my favorite places around Michigan and thought I'd share them with any Great Lakes and Boat Nerds out there. I grabbed these from the Dossin Great Lakes Museum webcam on Belle Isle, an island in the Detroit River. 

Captured this freighter as it passed Belle Isle

The photo below came from the Soo Locks webcam in Sault Ste. Marie, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Then there's the Mackinac Bridge Webcam.

And we can thank for this Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping Online and Vessel Passage Map.

Vivian :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Tourtière: A kind of meat pie traditionally eaten at Christmas in Canada.

This definition is the simple one, truth is recipes for this traditional French Canadian meat pie abound on the internet today, but this dish goes back centuries to the earliest years of French settlement in North America.

Though I don't often bake, I wanted to make tourtière––to sit in my own kitchen and taste what the characters in The Last Lord of Paradise tasted, so I eschewed the internet recipes with frozen pie crust from Kroger in favor of the recipe I found in a great book purchased at Fort Michilimackinac near Mackinaw City, Michigan. (See my post called, My Favorite Place for Michigan History).

It was called History from the Hearth: A Colonial Michilimackinac Cookbook  by Sally Eustice. One of the Fort's historic interpreters, Sally covers not only what the early Michigan French ate, but how it was cooked, the pots, pans, utensils and dishes they used, as well as the problems of cooking in an open hearth. I spied her recipe for Tourtière, it seemed simple enough––Brown some lean ground pork, add onion, and seasonings, put it in your pie shell, place the top crust over it. I gathered my ingredients, mixed them together and into the oven it went. 

While it baked at 350 for an hour, I checked out tourtière on Google. Apparently the recipe I used is the Montreal Tourtière. There is also the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean Tourtière from eastern Quebec, that uses finally chopped pork and potatoes. 

My tourtière was supposed to look like the photo above. Instead it looked like this:

My pie plate was too deep for the amount of dough in the recipe and I stretched it too thin. Perhaps I baked it a bit too long and the crust went too crispy ... Oh well.  My genuine French Canadian tourtière wasn't a total failure. The plain pork and crust took on all the flavors of the onion and spices and it tasted great. The old French were great cooks.  

Will try again sometime. :)


Saturday, November 10, 2012


Fed by Niagara Falls, last of the Great Lakes chain, Lake Ontario carries all the waters of the Great Lakes 193 miles east into the St. Lawrence River. More than seven hundred miles later, all that water ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Smallest of the Lakes, the name Ontarío means “Lake of Shining Waters” in the Huron language. The Canadian Province took it's name from this Lake and over nine million people live along the Canadian shore––almost a quarter of Canada's population. The US shoreline is more rural, except for the city of Rochester, New York.

The first European to explore Lake Ontario was Étienne Brûlé  (another Frenchman with an interesting life if you care to click on his name), though there are claims of Norse artifacts found in the area of Sodus Bay in New York.

When I googled Lake Ontario to research this post, four of the first eleven hits were about fishing. Apparently Lake Ontario was once a prime source of Atlantic Salmon but was fished out by 1900. Now it is well stocked with Chinook "King" Salmon, Coho and Atlantic Salmon, along with other species of fish every year.  Photo Gallery   

I cannot write any piece about Lake Ontario without a mention of the Thousand Islands. And yes that's where the salad dressing got it's name. This archipelago of over 1800 islands begins at the eastern end of Lake Ontario and extends into the St. Lawrence River. These islands of all shapes and sizes brought the wealthiest of New Yorkers and Canadians to build everything from the tiny cottage to castles on their shores. There are so many islands that ships hire local maritime pilots to guide them through the rocks and shoals. 

Aerial view of w:Boldt Castle and some of the w:Thousand Islands in the w:Saint Lawrence River by Teresa Mitchell

From Duluth, Minnesota to Watertown, New York, my series on the Great Lakes has taken us past eight US states and the Province of Ontario.  Hope you all enjoyed it. Your comments are always appreciated.

Vivian :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Hurricane Sandy 
Our thoughts are with the people on the East Coast who were hardest hit by this superstorm.

Never thought I'd see the day when the Great Lakes made the Weather Channel's Tropical Update and Hurricane Central, but Sandy was 900 miles wide. Her swath hit from New York and New Jersey all the way to Chicago and north to the Arctic Circle. Her fringes spawned 74 mph winds kicking  the Great Lakes into waves two stories high that called a halt to shipping for two days.  

11am Update on Post Tropical Cyclone Sandy

Below are some links to Hurricane Sandy's affect on the Great Lakes.  

Lake Michigan waves in Chicago 
Lake Michigan 32 Ft. waves 
Lake Michigan storm surge
Chicago lake front
Great Lakes shipping
Lake Huron shipping
Lake Huron waves Sarnia Ontario

Port Sanilac - Oct 29, 2012 -- Don-Sharon Frisch 
Great slideshow at WNEM Mid Michigan TV
Superstorm Sandy makes its mark on Mid-Michigan 

We live in interesting times. :)


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Throughout most of the 17th century the Iroquois tribes settled along Lakes Erie and Ontario prevented exploration of the the lower lakes. These fierce warriors meant torture and death to any Frenchmen who tried to pass through. Instead explorers used the rivers out of Lake Ontario and portaged into Lake Huron sending new explorations North to Lake Superior. It was not until 1669 that Louis Jolliet explored Lake Erie.

There are thirty one islands in Lake Erie from the island village of Put in Bay Ohio, known as a "party" island for young people, to the Canadian Pelee Island where there is a "fragile and unique ecosystem" with plants rarely found in Canada, and two endangered snakes, to Kelley's Island which offers beaches and hiking and biking and glacial grooves left in the limestone. There are also reports of a Lake Erie Monster seen in its waters. :)

At an average depth of only 62 feet, winds over Lake Erie quickly kick up strong waves and storm surges, leaving the Lake's floor littered with shipwrecks, that are perfectly preserved in the salt free, cold water.

Erie carries the waters of Superior, Michigan, and Huron eastward across three states, and 241 miles later all that water suddenly plunges 173 feet into Lake Ontario, at a place called Niagara Falls. The most powerful waterfalls in North America, Niagara shrouds itself in a perpetual mist and rainbows. Expect a bad hair day if you ever visit them. 

At number six on Travel and Leisure's list of the World's Most-Visited Tourist Attractions, Niagara Falls' annual 22.5 million visitors beats out the Grand Canyon, all the Disney World Parks and even the Eiffel Tower in Paris France for tourists. 

Niagara is a spectacular sight and even the photos below cannot do it justice, so check out this link to a video of the Maid of the Mist––boats that carry tourists to the foot of the Falls. 
Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist  Thanks fiftytwopence.

Photo by Pluma of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side––Horsehoe Falls  


Friday, September 28, 2012


Welcome to Michigan's "Sunrise Side"––The shores of Lake Huron. Much quieter and just a teensy bit nicer than the heavily traveled shores of Lake Michigan––Lake Huron is where you go for true relaxation. Walk its sandy beaches for miles, enjoy a bonfire on the beach, and it begins to feel as if you have its entire 3,827 miles of coastline to yourself.

The residents like it this way, so I'd appreciate you not telling anyone about this gem of a Great Lake, please. : )

The early French explorers called this body of water La Mer Douce or Fresh Water Sea, though it was called "Lac des Hurons" on their early maps. It is 183 miles from the Michigan shore to the Canadian side. Huron carries the waters of Superior and Michigan, from the Straits of Mackinac, 206 miles south, where it suddenly narrows into the St. Clair River at Port Huron Michigan (a great place for ship watching). From there it flows into beautiful Lake St. Clair, then into the Detroit River and on into Lake Erie.

Lake Huron

I could mention where this is. But then everyone would know 

Under the Blue Water Bridge to Canada, ships enter the St. Clair River at Port Huron

Lake St. Clair boat traffic for Detroit's 300th Anniversary July 2001

Sharing the channel on Lake St. Clair

Vivian : )

Friday, September 21, 2012


Once again a Frenchman is credited with discovering a Great Lake. Searching for a "South Sea" to the Far East Jean Nicolet left Quebec in July of 1634 with seven Hurons paddling canoes. Lake Michigan must have seemed like an ocean to Jean, because by the time he arrived in Green Bay Wisconsin that Autumn he was convinced he was about to meet some exotic Far Eastern peoples. Trying to make an impression he dawned flowing robes and announced himself by firing pistols into the air ... but all he did was frighten a few members of the native Indian tribes.

Today, twelve million people live along Lake Michigan's 1600 miles of shoreline. Because of it's many sandy beaches it's often call the nation's "third coast", attracting millions more tourists every summer. 

Noted for vibrant sunsets, spectacular sand dunes, and the City of Chicago––Michigan is perhaps the most well known of the five Great Lakes. Stretching from the Straits of Mackinac at the tip of Michigan's mitten, more than three hundred miles south to Chicago Illinois, it is the only Great Lake contained entirely within US borders. Four states line its shores, including Wisconsin and Indiana.

The ferry boat SS Badger departing Manitowoc Wisconsin for the 118 mile trip to Michigan

Even a colorful character like Jean Nicolet would be awed by the lake he discovered. 


Sunday, August 26, 2012


The Oxford American Dictionaries defines the word "lake" as a large body of water surrounded by land. Obviously the Oxfords have never been to Michigan. I mean there's large bodies of water surrounded by land ... and then there's sweet water seas, as the early French called the Great Lakes. 

The two peninsulas of Michigan, surrounded on three sides by Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron, give the state more coastline than any other in the US, except Alaska.

The Great Lakes system begins with Lake Superior in the far North. Fifty three rivers feed its 31,700 sq. miles of surface water, the combined area of several small US states. Beginning in Duluth Minnesota, Superior ends 350 miles east, at the St. Mary's River, and the City of Sault Ste. Marie MI, where the Soo Locks control more than a twenty foot drop into Lake Huron.

Split Rock Lighthouse, Silver Bay, Minnesota
Duluth Minnesota, photo by Jakes18

Ice on North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota taken by Jeff Gunderson

December, 1999, the motor vessel Oglebay Norton passes safely through the St. Marys River after Coast Guard icebreakers did their job earlier on the river  

A one thousand foot freighter inches into one of the Soo Locks

Since the French sailing ship Le Griffon, vanished in Lake Michigan in 1679, to the seven hundred foot freighter, Edmond Fitzgerald, lost during a storm on Superior in 1975, there are almost five thousand shipwrecks lying at the bottom of the Great Lakes. Shipwreck tours and museums abound in Michigan. 

Just imagine taking on a lake the size of Superior in a canoe, as the early French explorers did.               


Friday, August 10, 2012


The French first settled along the Detroit River in 1701. Sixty years later, Detroit was lost to the British and after the American Revolution it became part of the United States. Immigrants from all over the world flooded the region until French was no longer heard on the streets of Detroit. 

Yet those first French settlers are not gone. Their names dot the street map of modern Detroit––Beaubien, Campau, St. Aubin, St. Antoine, Charlevoix, Dequindre, Navarre, and hundreds more. Their 10th great grandchildren still carry their French names.

On the Canadian side of the Detroit River, many still speak French. According to Wikipedia, River Canard Ontario just south of Windsor, "... is home to one of the last vestiges of the French-speaking inhabitants of the Detroit River Region...",_Ontario

And the Virtual Museum of Canada claims that, "... vestiges of ancient eras remain, echoes of old Détroit that can still be heard in the folklore that was handed down through oral tradition for more than three hundred years." Who Are the Detroit River French?  
Occasionally the strange tales of the old French rise up to the streets of Detroit too, as every spring Detroiters are Chasing the The Nain Rouge From Detroit.
No one ever truly conquers the French. 

Friday, August 3, 2012


The Mackinac Bridge joins Michigans Lower and Upper Peninsula

Everyone has heard of Mackinac Island. Situated between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas, it's been a tourist haunt for over a hundred years, famed for it's Grand Hotel, horse drawn carriages, jetboat ferries and fudge.

But tucked away under the Mackinac Bridge on the lower peninsula is my favorite place to discover Michigan history––Colonial Michilimackinac. According to the Jesuit Relations, the odd name derives from the Mishinimaki or Mishinimakinagog, an Algonquin tribe that first occupied Mackinac Island.  This fort and fur trading post first built around 1715, was reconstructed according to fifty years of archeological evidence.

From colonial women cooking real meals over an open hearth, to Native Americans sitting outside their lodge, to the redcoat explaining why British soldiers were required to have at least two teeth in their mouth, and the fur trapper explaining why beaver pelts were valuable and where the term "mad hatter" came from––Colonial Michilimackinac's historical interpreters are fun and interesting. It's a great time for all ages.

Here's a video from the  
Colonial Michilimackinac website.

My own photos are below, along with a map. 

Michilimackinac was lost to the British in 1761 after the French and Indian War, but life continued on for those settled there. Even after a surprise attack by the local Ojibwe as part of Pontiac's Rebellion in June 1763, marriages went on during the year the Indians held the fort.
Married at Michilimackinac

The British regained Michilimackinac, but in 1781 they removed all its structures to Mackinac Island and burned the remains of the fort. Today Archeologists at Michilimackinac, dig for bits and pieces of French Michigan history.