What a Gorgeous Michigan Weekend! #summertime

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For the last month, I – along with many other Michiganders – have been toeing that line of demarcation between winter and spring. Moaning and groaning and carrying on about the lingering cold weather and even April snow has been a constant theme of every day. Last Sunday I drove to the beach, and I had to put on a parka to go out on the pier. As I drove away, I wondered how many of the tourists had planned on spring-like weather but had been forced to bundle up. So…. we’ve … been … waiting ….

We were set free yesterday! The temps neared 80 degrees. Count – ’em .. not 60 not 70 … but 80 degrees! Okay, it was only 77, but it’s close enough. I had to clean my house because it was disgusting after 6 weeks of focused study on my certification and then vacation. But I did it early and late and hit the road like a Chicago tourist all the damn weekend.

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I got a massage. I ate out for breakfast …. TWICE. I drove up to Saugatuck. I ate out for dinner. And I took a long run on a short pier. I ate tacos and tamales on a picnic table in Coloma. I drove down country roads with country music blaring out of the speakers. I bought delicious morel mushrooms.  Every tree in every orchard is in full bloom. The dandelions dot the landscape with little yellow kisses. Snowbirds are returning from Arizona, Florida and New Orleans with their tans. All the stores and restaurants are opening their doors for the season. As far as I’m concerned, the switch is flipped. It is summertime in Michigan!

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So, we have about 6 months of carefree lovely weather before we start bundling up again. Yeah, it’ll be chilly again yet this spring, and it’ll start cooling down for fall in September. But the snow better be gone for the time being. This year, it has worn out its welcome!

It’s Crunch Time, Folks!

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It just seems like 30 minutes ago I wrote the blog wishing you a happy weekend. It’s now Sunday evening, and I’m getting my meals ready for tomorrow and my exercise plan in place for the week.

This weekend had a singular focus. With the exception of a 3-hour outing to see Mutts Gone Nuts with my friend John and a drive to Fennville to score some cheese from my favorite creamery, I studied, took practice tests and read about project management. I took care of myself, of course. I had to run yesterday, wash some clothes and cook my meals, but there wasn’t a lot else I allowed myself to do. To be honest, it was kind of nice. Other than my butt hurting as I sat for 7 hours taking practice tests, it was quiet.

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They told me I’d be ready for the test when I started scoring 80 percent on my practice exams. I’m at 74. I’m so close I can smell it. If I take one or two this week, I’ll be ready to attempt it next Monday. I have time set aside every day this week to complete some worksheets, read the book and watch some webinars. Surely I can pull my score up by 6 points by next Sunday! SURELY….. PLEASE!!! 

If I had known what I was signing up for, I’m not sure I would have gone for this certification. I’ve always wanted it, and one time I looked at it but didn’t think I had the project management experience required. But I have it now. And when my boss said I should get it, I was thrilled. I took the class in Chicago and was eager to take the test. That first weekend it dawned on me that this was going to be more than “cramming for a weekend”. My heart sank. I whined to Ashok. “Do I really want to do this?” I asked myself. When all was said and done, I decided that the Universe provided this for a reason. So, I shook it off, picked up my lower lip and committed. And here I am… one week away.

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There are two choices here. I could not tell anybody I’m taking the test. If I fail it, I don’t have to lose face. Or I could tell people in the hopes that it will keep me accountable. I understand there is a possibility that I may not pass on the first try, but I’m going to let that go for the much happier dream of passing it right away. But that means that everything but the essentials have to be swept off my plate until it’s over. So, no parties for me this week or next weekend either. It’s crunch time!

And speaking of crunch time….

After frying my brain this morning, I decided to drive out to Fennville to get some cheese. I’m trying to stock my kitchen with healthy yummy foods to take the place of sugar. So far I’m staying satisfied and not really wanting anything sweet. After dinner last night, I had a dessert of sweet potato, butter and chopped mixed nuts. It was delicious! I love Evergreen Lane’s cheese, so I packed up Ashok for a drive.

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It was raining here, but after driving about 15 minutes I noticed white stuff on the ground. “Is that snow?” I said aloud. The trees became more and more coated with ice the farther north I went. There was no precipitation while I was driving, but there had definitely been a serious ice storm. The roads were covered in icy residue, and all of the trees were encased in ice. It was beautiful if it wasn’t mid-April. The temperature hovered around 34 degrees, so it was melting but not very fast.

I guess I’m grateful that spring is not bursting into full bloom while I’m sequestered in my house with my head in a book. It shouldn’t be long though, right? I’d love to put these flannels away for awhile.

I hope y’all have a good week. It seems like it’s cold everywhere, so stay warm. And pray for spring and pray for me to get to 80% soon!

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Coffeehouse #12: Root Cafe in Fennville

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Last weekend while I was driving around Michigan, I noticed a coffeehouse in Fennville that had slipped my mind. When my brother Terry and his family were here we stopped at Root Cafe, but I promptly forgot about it. It is a truly lovely cafe and art shop.

It was late in the afternoon on Sunday, so I opted for their green tea latte, and I splurged on a lemon ginger cupcake. Both were light and hit the mark on providing a little energy for the afternoon. The gentleman that served me was a new employee, and he and his manager were really nice. They said they make everything in the shop except for a few items like the bread which is made at the bakery next door. They try to source as many of their ingredients locally as they can. And that’s a good thing because they are in the middle of a LOT of farmland.

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Fennville is a small town off the beaten path and in the middle of lots and lots of farmland. In fact the only reason I’ve driven through is to go to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery and to eat at Crane’s Restaurant on the grounds of their orchard. I asked them if they have much tourism there, and they said they have some but certainly not like the beach towns nearby. But she assured me that the events they have there are a vital part of the community year round.

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The cafe was beautifully decorated, and there’s a gorgeous antique sofa that I’d love to spend a few hours with. Tables were decoupage newsprint from the local newspaper, and the rest of the furniture looked like antiques. It felt like a comfy, eclectic living room.

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They host a dinner theater right there in the cafe. I looked around and asked “where?” “Well we just move all the chairs and do it right here in the cafe,” she said. How cool is that? I’m going to have to keep my eyes on their event calendar to attend one of those. And the food on the menu looks so good I definitely want to return for a meal. Stay tuned for more info on this place. I am quite sure it will be in my regular rotation – now that I remember it!

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Sunday Night Check-In: Pseudo-Spring

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A week or so ago we had an almost 60-degree day. The rains came, the snow melted, the rivers rose. Ever since then, it shocks me that its cold outside when I go out. I expect it to be warmer even though my weather app says its still in the 30s. In fact, last week, we had four days of sub-freezing temperatures. It is NOT spring by any stretch of the imagination, but my imagination is running wild.

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I ran Friday night after work. It was much colder than I thought. The sun was out, so I ran down to the lighthouse, through downtown and through the lakefront park. It felt so good to kick off the weekend that way. I got home, curled up in bed and continued reading The Great Alone.

I spent a lot of time reading this weekend. After living a couple of winters up here, I could relate to the snow-covered Alaskan scenery. If I really stretched my imagination, I could even imagine the long period of darkness with the cold, brutal winters. I couldn’t relate to the characters. Or maybe I related too well. The alcoholism, codependency and out-of-control rage really got under my skin. And the mother who thought she was some kind of savior for standing by her man while he was beating the crap out of her and scarring her kid made me sick to my stomach. I wanted them all to get eaten by a grizzly bear. But I did finish the book. It was relaxing to be taken away into a fantasy land that is not of my own making.

The Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery….

I hiked the dunes and the Lake Michigan beach yesterday with a friend, and I made a conscious effort to leave my camera behind. I’ve gotten tired of social media. In fact, I’ve even been struggling a bit with blogging. It was time to re-up my membership to my blog site this week, and I seriously debated justing deleting it. But I decided to push through and continue. Maybe I’m just in a slump. If I feel the same way next year, then it may be history.

The time change took a lot out of me, and I didn’t feel like running today. I loaded up Ashok, and we drove to the Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery to pick up some artisan cheese. It was such a nice day, so we did a little exploring at the nationally significant New Richmond Bridge. A little boardwalk and a walking bridge crossed the beautiful Kalamazoo River. We walked around for a bit and enjoyed the sunshine. Ashok even spotted a muskrat which caused a great deal of canine excitement.

I stopped at a couple of coffeehouses today. On the way out, I stopped at the Phoenix Coffeeshop (#11 for my tour) in Benton Harbor. It had closed for a bit last fall but has now reopened under new management. Japhy, the new owner, told me this is actually the third rising of the Phoenix. He didn’t really intend to open a business, but when the old shop closed, he felt it was a big loss for the community. They serve Dagger Mountain coffee and a limited but delicious lunch menu. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee, so he suggested the homemade chai, and I ordered the Power Bowl for lunch.

The chai was phenomenal, and the Power Bowl was a great combo of quinoa, black beans, spice and bell peppers. While I ate, I enjoyed the bookstore atmosphere. Japhy said they are working on their own menu of bakery items, so I look forward to that in the future. I’m glad they reopened. We have a few coffee shops here, but I do like the location of this one, and the light streaming through the windows was really cozy.

The owner Japhy and my Power Bowl!

I will enjoy the longer daylight hours after work. I’ll be starting some trail running soon as part of my training plan, and I look forward to having enough daylight to do it after work. Winter may not be over, but I think the worst of it is behind us. The next few months will gradually bring warmer temperatures, spring flowers and loads of sunshine. I’ve already booked a spring camping trip, and I plan to outline a few backpacking trips real soon. It’s not spring yet, but I’m going to spring forward into the thought anyway.

P.S. I’ll review the other coffeehouse later this week!

 

Hiking in Newaygo and Coffeehouse #8: The Bitter End

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Ahhhhhh…. finally. I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. Today it was warm enough and dry enough to get out for a long hike on the North Country Trail. Yes, I can hike around for a an hour or two with my dog in the snow, but I was looking forward to a day warm enough to get out and hit the trail for a long, long walk. I could hardly wait to get out of bed this morning – even though I was up until midnight last night.

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I picked out a spot on the trail map within a 2 hour driving distance, finished up my coffee, packed my backpack and hit the road. On the way, I listened to an issue of the She Explores podcast on women over fifty. It was very inspiring. I saw myself in several of them, and I was inspired to hear that they continue to be active while they are accepting a different level of intensity as they age.

I didn’t really start hiking until I turned 50, and I only started backpacking in the last few years. I’m not sure how long I will backpack, but I do hope to get a few trips in this year. There’s just something about waking up in the woods that feels wildly spiritual. And my dog loves it. I know that it won’t be too many years until that might be too hard on her, so it makes me want to get out and do it now. I refuse to stop until it’s obvious I must. And I can definitely enjoy day hiking.

I wanted to get my #8 coffeehouse on the way in, so I stopped at The Bitter End Coffeehouse in Grand Rapids. It was tucked away in the cutest little area called the university district. Students probably love its 24/7 hours. It had the look of an English pub. The ambience was dark and masculine, and when I saw the ceiling in all of its original grandeur, I said “Wow” under my breath.

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They had a really nice menu with lots of specialty drinks, so it took me a bit to decide. I’ve been daydreaming about the Kona coffee I had when I was in Hawaii, so I asked for the Kona mocha and walked around while I waited. Unfortunately, I did not realize that the Kona mocha was a frozen drink, so I was a little taken aback when the barista handed it to me. But I promised myself I was going to roll with the agenda on this coffeehouse exploration, so I didn’t make a fuss. I’d already paid for it, and it was my mistake any way. It was very yummy and quite a fancy treat for 9:30 AM.

This coffeehouse roasts their own beans, so I purchased some of their Kona beans to make at home. Recently, I got a KitchenAid Precision Press, and I love the coffee that is coming out of that thing. I love French Press coffee, but I never get the measurements right. This one helps keep it consistent. The sieve is better, too, so I don’t get grounds in my coffee.

I will definitely stop back by The Bitter End when I have time to stay. And, since they are open all the time, it won’t be hard to schedule a visit.

Ashok and I drove up to Newaygo which is a little less than an hour north of Grand Rapids. I’ve been up there hiking before on the North Country Trail but not on this section. I planned on doing around 9-10 miles, so I turned on my Runkeeper app to see if it would track my distance. Some snow and ice remained on the trail, but for the most part, it was dry. It was a nice forested hike, and we walked up and down small inclines, across gravel roads and rested when we wanted.  There were no fancy views or water features, but it was a great way to get a jump start on spring. I look forward to seeing wildflowers soon!

Around the 4-mile mark, we came upon a grassy meadow. It was quite lovely and very different than the habitat we’d been seeing. A sign told us this was a Coastal Plain Marsh, and, apparently it’s quite rare. It has the same plants and trees that inhabit the marshes up on the East coast. They also contain some very rare animals including the Massasauga rattlesnake. These little spots could be the remnants of the preglacial era. What’s more, the sign said there were 40 of these rare eco-systems in Michigan. When I looked it up on the internet, there’s one just down the highway from my home! Put that on the list.

So now I’m curled up on my sofa with one tuckered out dog and two very affectionate kitties. My house is still a mess as I played all weekend. That’s just the way it goes. I enjoyed a great party with friends both Friday and Saturday nights, got my monthly facial yesterday, ran a long run yesterday and enjoyed an adventure today. I’m thinking I’ll crawl up under the covers and go to bed early tonight. I’m sure I’ll hear no complaints from Ashok.

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Coffeehouse #6: Play Date in Muskegon

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Tomorrow it will be 55 degrees and raining. The snow will disappear like whipped cream in my mocha. I decided I’d best pack up my girl and head into the woods before it was all gone. We’ll probably get more, but you never know. Better to strike while the iron is hot, I always say. I had Muskegon on the brain, so we packed up our hiking gear and headed north.

I thought we’d head to the Winter Sports Complex in Muskegon State Park, but then I had second thoughts. Maybe I’d prefer something quieter. I decided on the trails in North Beach Park in Ferrysburg. This lovely little county park had 10 miles of trails complete with stairs and boardwalks up and over the tallest dunes. Fabulous views of frozen Lake Michigan took my breath away, and we hiked for about two hours in the woods. I will definitely return there for trail running in the warmer months.

I knew that I had to visit another coffee shop this weekend, so my google search for “coffee near me” gave me several options. I drove by one, and it looked more like a cafe than a coffee shop, so I took the next one that popped up – Ryke’s Bakery. It didn’t really look like a coffee shop from the outside, but I decided to go in anyway. If I’m going to go on this year-long adventure I need to trust the journey.

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It was a bakery rather than a coffeehouse. But they did feature Kona coffee, and I happen to be in love with Kona coffee ever since I went to Kona. I ordered a cup and told Cassandra about my blog project. “Would you like a tour?” she asked. She told me the building was an old dairy mill. “Those ramps over there,” she said pointing toward the cafe,” are for the horses that came right through here.” She pointed me to some pictures of the old dairy carriages, and I took a look while she was getting Ashley to give me a tour.

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I know it’s a bad picture, but it’s the best I could do!

 

The bakery has been in business in Muskegon since 1937 and has been in its current location since 1967. They have over 60 employees baking, preparing and serving lunch and catering in the local area. Their business was built on their Butter Thins which were displayed in a big cabinet up front, and the recipe has never changed. But they do much more than that now. A night shift bakes and decorates their cupcakes which are delivered to customers all over town.

Ashley, who is fresh back from Disney’s college program in Orlando, has been working with Ryke’s for several years, and she said with a giggle that the best part of her job is getting to bring home cake remnants. She also told me that I just missed the Paczki that they sell on Fat Tuesday. Being a Louisiana girl who is familiar with the King Cake eaten during Carnival Season, I had to know more about this delicacy. This Michigan tradition has roots in Poland. It is pronounced (POONCH-kee), and I could not get it right. I am so sorry that I missed it this year. I will have to remember next year to stop by for one … or maybe two.

Me and my tour guide, Ashley…

Mel came out just as I was leaving. She’s from Memphis, and she wanted me to pronounce ‘bayou’ because she gets teased about the way she pronounces it. We shared memories of our favorite southern town, and then I grabbed some Butter Thins and headed out to the State Park. Note: Since I’m supposed to be writing about coffee, I should say that their coffee was excellent, and I even refilled my cup before I left. Ashok and I promptly ate several of the Butter Thins which were divine.

On the way to the State Park, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the ice fisherman on the lake. I had a chance to talk with Jim, a retired game warden, and his grandson who were headed out for some afternoon fishing on the two feet of ice we had today. They showed me the tool they use for cutting the hole and explained how their little boat opened up into a tent. I am fascinated by this whole ice-fishing business. I gave them the rest of my Butter Thins and wished them luck on their fishing.

On the way home, I spotted a place called Brooklyn’s Beans, Bombers and Bagels. I might as well get #7 while I’m at it! But you’ll have to wait until later this week for the write-up. It deserves its own space. Stay tuned.

All in all, I met some pretty special people today, drank some great coffee and learned a lot about the history and traditions in Muskegon. I would love to go back and experience ice fishing, do some more hiking and trail running up there and grab lunch at Ryke’s. And when I stopped by the Winter Sports Complex, I found out they have an ice skating trail! That would be interesting to try for sure.

I left my house today without a plan. If I’d stuck with my original idea, I would have missed the best parts of today. People really do like to talk about their hobbies and their businesses if I just take the time to listen. Some days it’s better just to let go of the reins and let the road guide you.

How could you let go of the reins and let the journey take you this week?

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Coffeehouse #5: Whistle Stop Grocery

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I have a goal to hit two coffee shops this weekend. If I’m going to hit 57 by next January 15, I better get sipping. One of my local favorites has been closed for the month of January. Since this area is a vacation spot for summer Chicago travelers and a sleepy little rural Michigan area otherwise, January is a popular time for shopkeepers and restaurants to close. I get used to planning an outing and having to punt because the place of interest has a closed sign on its door. Luckily for me, the Whistle Stop Grocery had opened for the season yesterday.

 

The Whistle Stop has been in business for 20 years, so I visited when I lived here before. Back then it didn’t have specialty coffees and wasn’t nearly as nice as it is today. Three years ago, the new owners purchased it and invested in making it a gourmet grocery, bakery and coffee shop all in one. There is no indoor seating with the exception of a small bar, but the outdoor seating is phenomenal. In the summer, I’ve spent many an hour mingling with the tourists on their patio. It was a tad too chilly to sit outside today.

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Emily, the store manager and one of the owners, said this place was really special to her family. She remembers vacationing here as a child and walking down the country roads with her change to buy candy at the Whistle Stop Grocery. She’s thrilled to be part of its transformation from a grocery store to something truly special. All of the food they sell is made on the premises, and they currently employ a bakery chef and pastry maker. I met the barista, Jess, who is also an experienced coffee roaster, and she told me their plan is to have their own roast in the not so distant future. For now, they brew Madcap which you’ll remember from my previous coffeehouse reviews.

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Me and Emily

My mocha was delicious, and I almost got away without buying any of the sweets but was stopped dead in my tracks by the coconut pecan biscotti. I am a devoted biscotti fan, but I’m picky enough that it’s hard to find one that I really like. They are more often than not flavorless or just so hard you have to dunk them to eat them (or break them with a hammer). This one was perfectly crisp and flavorful. I had my choice on whether to eat it out of hand or dunk it in my coffee. I chose to do a bit of both.

 

 

I had hoped my friend Alan who lived near the Whistle Stop could join me this morning, but he was busy being a helpful neighbor to a friend. When I mentioned Alan to Alex, the young man who sold me my coffee, a big smile came across his face, and he assured me that he knew Alan and all of the regulars. In fact, he said the best part about working at the Whistle Stop was the people. In the summer, the crowds swell exponentially, and the grocery just reorganized to handle the growth comfortably. He said it’s really cool when the occasional Chicago celebrity pops in, but he really loves getting to know the local people.

 

I will be back to the Whistle Stop sooner rather than later. It’s one of my favorites in this area. Don’t worry, I won’t count it again. But I think I’d like to check out their own roast when they get that new roaster, and I’d of course like to have some more of that biscotti!

Sunday Night Check-In: Coffeehouse #4

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I spent yesterday working around the house. It was a disaster. A contractor has been remodeling my bathrooms and my closets, and between the snow and construction dust and boots tracking in and out, my house was disgusting. I scrubbed everything and even rearranged the furniture to make my house more livable. It felt so much better that I fell asleep like a baby last night and slept until 7 AM. That is extremely unusual for me.

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DURING….

AFTER….

After shoveling snow all Friday night and then cleaning house all day Saturday, I woke up with a desire to take a ride. I loaded up Ashok and we headed to Holland to check out coffeehouse #4, 205 Coffee Bar. I’ve been following them on Instragram, and it seemed like a really cool place.

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As soon as I walked in the secret door to coffee, the owner Jacqueline greeted me. She had a vision of this space where people could come and hang out, and it has certainly manifested. A beautiful mural on the outside attracts brides and photographers from all walks of life. I didn’t have anyone to take my picture or I would have done it, too, but I guess it gives me a reason to go back.

The bar serves classic coffee drinks, Stovetop coffee and espresso and Kombucha which is made locally from all kinds of wonderful natural flavors. I sampled them all. The lime jalapeno was really interesting, but I loved the strong flavor of the beet brew. She recommended the brown sugar and molasses latte, and I went for it. It was smooth and slightly sweet. It was so good that when I spilled some into my saucer I picked up the saucer and poured it back in my cup. I didn’t want to miss a drop.

The business strategist, David, for Stovetop Roasters was also in the shop, and we chatted for awhile about visiting coffee shops wherever we went, yoga and blogging. He recommended I visit Nashville for the premier coffee shop experience, so I might have to plan a trip. Meanwhile, I’ll definitely make 205 a frequent stop when I’m in the area.

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I had a dog in the car, so I needed to head out to take her for a walk. We drove to Holland State Park in the hopes that we could find a clear enough path for a short walk. It had snowed again last night, so the snow was very deep. We were able to find a path out to the lighthouse and even walked out to edge of the channel to see Lake Michigan. Ducks and gulls swam in the water that surrounded the ice, and the lake looked like the moon to me. Only a few people were out, but we were all enjoying the day and the raw beautiful landscape.

All in all, it was a really good weekend. I got in a run, some snow shoveling which was a rocking upper body workout, and I got to relax and enjoy the snow on Sunday. I love the feeling when my house is clean and put together, so that’s a great way to start the week. I hope you have a great week, and I’ll leave you with some pics from a snowy Michigan weekend in February.

Sunday Night Check-In: Winter Fest

 

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When I lived up here last time, I don’t remember doing much in the wintertime. My ex was a wuss when it came to cold weather, and he thought winter was made for waiting for spring b*tching about the weather. I didn’t know any different. As a southerner, you hunker down and drip your faucets when it gets cold enough for water to freeze. But it’s a lot shorter wait in the south for springtime.

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Last year I walked downtown with Ashok in February and noticed a big festival going on.  (You can read my blog here.) Ice carvers filled the streets, and onlookers drank hot chocolate and shopped. In the middle of the square was a massive ice cube, and they lit a bonfire inside it. The fire burned out and my hot chocolate turned cold before the ice melted. I would never have imagined such a thing.

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So, this year I promised myself I’d get out and experience the winter festivals. I ran a 5K in the Magical Ice Fest in Saint Joseph Saturday morning, and then drove up to the Icebreaker Festival in South Haven. The 5K was really fun. It was cold. I mean, it’s February in Michigan, right? We had snow on the ground, and plenty of it had turned to ice. The announcer told us to watch our footing as there were a couple of slippery places on the course. I looked under my feet, and I was standing on a solid bed of ice. Hmmmmm….

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The race was beautiful and uneventful, and I didn’t even look at my time when I came in. I just enjoyed the day and the event. We got a fabulous big mug instead of a shirt, and I could not wait to get home and fill that baby with hot cocoa. The post-race food was divine. Sliced fruit, homemade chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, marshmallows and popcorn were placed in front of crockpots of melted chocolate for dipping. The South Bend Chocolate Factory provided trays of their finest chocolates. Biggby Coffee provided coffee and hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream for topping. I will definitely sign up for this one again!

After watching some ice carvers, Ashok and I headed up to South Haven for their Icebreaker festival. I’d seen the billboard a hundred times, and I really wanted to go. This was a much bigger festival, and it took awhile to find parking. I finally decided to park down by the lighthouse and walk into town. The lighthouse catwalk was covered in snow and ice, and we walked around with a few other adventurous folks enjoying the scenery and the challenge of standing upright.

It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of people about. The festival featured cardboard sled racing, ice sculptures and a Frozen Fish Fling. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the Frozen Fish Fling, but my phone died before it started. A large crowd gathered round and cheered and jeered as adults and children flung big frozen fish as far as their arm would propel it. Laughter filled the air, and a good time was had by all.

I went to yoga this morning, had lunch at a local deli-bakery, took a nap and then took Ashok out to Grand Mere State Park for a walk in a snowstorm. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. Well, actually it wasn’t all perfect. When I got out of the car yesterday, my beautiful mug fell out and broke into several pieces. I am heartbroken. I guess I’ll just have to do it all again next year.

Y’all have a good week, and quit b*tching about the weather. If you have ice, channel a Michigander and make ice sculptures.

 

 

 

Coffeehouse #3: Sweetland

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Last weekend I ran a 5K with some work friends in Grand Rapids. In case you don’t know, Grand Rapids is the city of cool here in Southwest Michigan. While this area is a beautiful slice of Americana with much to offer for the vacation traveler wanting to slow down, locals desire a little more boil to their simmer. Grand Rapids roils in comparison.

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The 5k was really fun. Runners were encouraged to wear their pajamas but I never noticed that on the website until I got there. There was a festival afterwards featuring local music, food trucks, hot chocolate and, of course, Michigan’s most famous product – microbrews.

Since I was in the land of cool, I knew I must try to check off a coffeehouse. A Google search for “coffee around me” led me to Sweetland. I was a little confused because the reviews and Google told me it was a coffeehouse, but it was a candy shop. My friendly barista Jack told me they had just added the coffee shop to this location to replace the ice cream department. I have to agree that coffee season up here in the land of the frozen north is much longer than ice cream season. Seems like a good move to me.

 

The quaint little section of the family-owned candy shop was brand new and featured tables made from the wood floor of a bowling alley. Everything was sparkly clean, and I was the only walk-up visitor at 4 PM on a Saturday. The drive-thru was hopping. Jack made me a mocha with Madcap coffee. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the last coffeehouse I visited in Niles featured Madcap coffee as well. I must visit one of the Madcap locations since this coffee seems to be the foundation for a number of semi-local coffeehouses.

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A visit to their website tells me that Sweetland Candies has been an integral part of the Grand Rapids community since 1919. I like that they are open to innovative ideas to grow their business, and a lovely little coffeehouse seems like a great modern addition to their portfolio. Chocolate and coffee are delicious together.

The mocha was delightfully classic and not too sweet. I can’t stand mochas with so much chocolate and sugar that it drowns out the taste of the coffee. This one was perfectly balanced. I asked if Madcap provides their recipes, but Jack said they have their own. They had a number of unique flavor combinations, and I’ll have to stop by to try some more in the future.

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If you are in Grand Rapids, I recommend you stop by one of their coffee shop locations. I visited the North Plainfield store. If you stop by, tell Jack hi for me!