The Harvest Coffeehouse in Frankenmuth, Michigan

For the last few months, I have enjoyed the delightful task of driving my wife to Frankenmuth, Michigan so she can meet with the student teacher she supervises. I always said the best job would be driving places and not having to do anything when I get there. I have arrived.

It’s only right that a blog called, “A Coffee State of Mind” would include plenty of posts about coffee.

The ambience of the place where coffee is purchased is almost as important as the taste of the coffee. When I visit a coffeehouse, I usually purchase some kind of mocha. I’m hooked, big time. Today I decided to go into the Harvest Coffeehouse in Frankenmuth. The coffeehouse sits in a prime location, right in the middle of town where folks are walking, enjoying all this famous town has to offer.

No one has to ask for a menu, it’s clearly displayed behind the counter. Most real coffee drinkers know what they want, so looking at the great menu is just part of the experience. In fact, real coffee folks would never let on that they don’t know what to order. And they would certainly never ask, “What is a latte?”

The real test of a coffeehouse is whether you want to stay after you get your coffee. If you feel like rushing out, then you might have good coffee, but you haven’t found a good coffeehouse. I can promise you, at Harvest Coffeehouse, you’ll enjoy both.

I ordered a “Peppermint Paddy.” I always order mochas extra hot, and this one was perfect! It was a delicious balance of espresso, chocolate, and peppermint.

The folks at Harvest Coffeehouse have their own line of coffees and teas. They offer several items for sale, all displayed attractively and within easy reach.

There are many reasons to visit Frankenmuth, Michigan. The Harvest Coffeehouse is a terrific place to stop for a fantastic hot or cold beverage and stay for a while. Of everything I enjoyed about Harvest Coffeehouse, beside my Peppermint Paddy, this was my favorite. Nothing I have ever read explains coffee quite as well as this.

Perfect.

Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 19: Preparations for Christmas

The Christmas Season is a very special time in Maple Valley, as it is in most places, I suppose. Folks are busily decorating their homes and work places, if they have one. The Ya’ll Sit Cafe is usually a centerpiece of Christmas joy, and this year will be no exception. Shorty and Hannah have been working together, so far without too much arguing as in recent years, to be sure the cafe is the place where everyone wants to be, all through the weeks before Christmas.

The Ya’ll Sit Christmas menu features holiday offerings like, Mistletoe Pancakes, Tinsel Tacos, Egg Nog Soup, Bethlehem Burgers, Christmas Star Waffles, and Pinecone Coffee. Hannah makes delicious Christmas cookies she gives to anyone who visits the cafe, whether they order from the menu or not.

The Reverend Shermer of Maple Valley Church has been working on his annual Christmas sermon. He decided to release the title of his homily to the puplic so the excitement will be palpable as the day approaches. He has chosen the title, “Fire the Innkeeper!” which, I assume, has to do with Mary and Joseph not having reservations when they arrived at the hotel where the baby Jesus was to be born.

The Maple Valley Church choir will perform a Christmas musical written entirely by Maple Valley’s own Martha Hilmandy, who has been the church choir director for fifty-two years. The musical is called, “Hey Now, Hit That Gong!” which promises to be delightful. This is Martha’s first composition. All fourteen of the choir members are thrilled to be singing the new music.

The piece begins with the lively theme song. The second song is, “The Sheep Are Out of the Pen,” then, “An Angel is Here,” and next, “Angels Can’t Lie.” The characters Elizabeth and Mary join together and sing, “You’re What?” Then the man playing Joseph sings, “What Do I Do Now?” The entire choir sings, “Things Are Gonna Change,” then, “Hey, Shepherds, Listen!” and the audience will join the choir to sing, “Blessing in a Manger” with all the children standing nearby. The final song is, “There’s Nothing Like Holy Presence.” The musical ends with the reprise of the theme song, “Hey Now, Hit That Gong!” Mayor Alvin Thrashborn was asked to act as the narrator, a task he gladly accepted. At the close of the concert, small candles will be given to everyone, the lights will be turned off, and everyone will again sing “Blessing in a Manger,” to end the evening.

Maple Valley School will present the annual children’s Christmas program. This year, a tuba solo will be played by Gwenneth Wilster, her first public performance. Harry Pristin, the school music teacher, says Gwenneth is doing quite well on the tuba in spite of only playing the instrument for a few months. The students have written their own play called, “I Didn’t Want That For Christmas.” It’s a cute story about three children in a family who all received clothes for Christmas instead of toys.

As with so many things in Maple Valley, Christmas decorations are a source of competition and the contest is well underway. Mayor Thrashborn believes his lofty position in the community requires him to have the most outstanding Christmas light display. He and his wife begin hanging lights around their house in September for Halloween. Instead of re-decorating for Christmas, they add holiday lights to the Halloween lights so there are many more than there would be if the orange lights were removed. Some folks say that’s cheating but Alvin doesn’t care.

Dray and Morella Grimhok are the Christmas display champs of Maple Valley, in spite of everything the mayor believes. People come from miles around to see their house. The small lot is covered with lights and moving characters. On the roof is Santa in his sleigh following leaping reindeer. Hidden loudspeakers let everyone within three miles hear, “HO-HO-HO!!! Merrrrry Chriiistmaaas!!!” non-stop, again and again, from 6 pm until 3 am. Sheriff Terkinberry’s office takes a dozen calls every night from sleepless neighbors. The Grimhoks don’t invite everyone into the house, but friends say every square inch is a Christmas delight.

Christmas shopping is a big deal in Maple Valley. Since everyone already knows everything available in all the shops in town, most folks take the Christmas train to Whistleton to do their shopping. Visitors to Maple Valley trade places with residents to do their shopping. Since they are so excited to be in Maple Valley at Christmas, it’s easy for them to find gifts they believe friends and family will cherish forever. Most of the shops carry souvenir items with pictures of The Old General or drawings of Three Tower Bridge, and mugs with Maple Valley Railroad printed on them. Kwindel’s Antiques started selling Maple Valley Christmas sweaters and sold out the first week.

A Christmas season favorite for everyone in Maple Valley is the Christmas Eve candle walk and carol singing. Everyone gathers around the Christmas tree in the center of town at 8:00 on Christmas Eve. We all carry lighted candles and walk through the streets of Maple Valley singing Christmas carols. Of all the events surrounding Christmas, this one is the most loved. When the singing has ended, everyone goes to the Ya’ll Sit Cafe for Hannah’s hot chocolate.

Christmas is a lovely time in Maple Valley, but this year we are all wondering what happened to Sylvia Meisner. It’s hard to believe we are just days away from Christmas and Sylvia is still not home. Something strange was discovered when volunteers were putting lights on Three Tower Bridge. On the middle tower, about half way up, the letters DSL were found scratched, or gouged, into a wood plank. It’s evident the letters were placed there recently. The sheriff was asked to take a look because it’s near the spot where Sylvia’s car was discovered several months ago. He wrote the letters down. DSL.

The Detroit Model Railroad Club

For many years we had a tradition that took us to Holly, Michigan the day after Thanksgiving. We met with other family members from the Detroit area to visit all the shops along Main Street and Battle Alley. I was always especially excited to visit the Detroit Model Railroad Club in the old Holly Theater. The club owns an incredible O-gauge layout of unbelievable size.

The Detroit Model Railroad Club, or DMRRC, as it is commonly referred to, was organized in 1935. After dismantling and moving layouts several times, the club finally landed in the old theater in 1974. Club members have been working on the layout ever since. As everyone in model railroading knows, a layout is never finished. The DMRRC layout is a great example.

I remember when we first visited the club over thirty years ago, the dispatcher, who ultimately controls where and when the trains are allowed to move, sat in the middle of the layout on a raised platform. The layout control area is now in the balcony, overseeing the entire layout.

The railroad is called The Detroit Union Railroad and includes many towns and villages through which the trains move. The mountainous terrain provides an amazing variation of views as the trains wind along the more the 6,000 feet of track. All of the track has been hand-laid by club members. Each tie is glued in place, each rail is spiked to the ties by hand. Below the layout, in the basement there are miles of wire carrying power to the track and fully operational signals above.

The individual trains are operated remotely by “engineers” carrying radio transmitters. Decoders in the locomotives allow the engineers to control the trains as they move along the rails. The dispatcher speaks to the engineers by radio and the engineers follow orders from the control center to move their trains. Visitors are able to walk along the side of the layout and watch as several trains of varying lengths roll along.

The Detroit Model Railroad Club is an amazing source of inspiration for those of us who have model railroads of our own. Club members patiently working on this beautiful layout for nearly fifty years have provided enjoyment to thousands of people, young and old.

When visitors first enter the club, they are greeted warmly by a member who offers information about the layout and its operations. The first view of the layout is a fascinating view of the city of Dorrance. Trains regularly roll through the city, so it is a great place to get a close-up view of the locomotives and rolling stock.

Many years have passed since our first visit to the Detroit Model Railroad Club. It will continue to be a favorite spot for this old model railroader.