Discover Prompt Day 11: Bite, Bites, Bitten, Biter

I was only bitten seriously by a dog one time. Obviously, the dog wasn’t anything like these two. The only biting they do is on chew toys or each other. No, this dog had a look in his eyes I should have avoided.

I won’t say what kind of dog it was, it really doesn’t matter. Every dog has the ability to bite, some have not been trained well enough to resist the urge. I was at the home of some friends who had two dogs. One was very friendly, the other not so much. I was there all afternoon watching football. I was sitting on the couch, the dog was laying at my feet. Everything was good.

My two hosts left the room and the dog immediately rose and stood right in front of me. I shouldn’t have looked into his eyes. When I did, in a flash all I saw was teeth. I jumped back. Luckily, he didn’t get the end of my nose or lips. I’m sure they would have been torn off. I had holes in the bridge of my nose and my chin. No stitches were needed but I was shaken. Lesson learned.

The ones that hurt the most are puppy bites. The young pups have razor teeth and they can do some real damage. Especially when the owner, like me, teases them with their toys and they sound so cute and tough when they’re learning to growl.

“Who? Me? I never bit anyone! I just lick. I love you!”

Another kind of bite requires great patience many people do not have. One of life’s greatest joys is sitting in a boat on a calm lake, a fishing pole in your hand, a bobber floating on the water, waiting in the silence for a fish to bite. Any fish. Anything with scales, fins, a tail, and a mouth. Oh, and gills. Any time now. Please, something give me just a little bite. Wait. Patience. Quietness. Forget it. They’re not biting.

People can be bitten by lots of things. Some of them don’t hurt at all, but they can be expensive.

Many people are bitten by wanderlust and travel the world over, or the state over, to find that perfect spot that makes them feel what they’re hoping to feel, even though they might not know what they want to feel. Not knowing what you’re looking for is the worst kind of wandering.

Everyone is bitten by the boredom bug at some time or other. Everything gets old and familiar, but old doesn’t have to mean worn out or ready to be discarded. Old can mean experienced, proven, knowledgeable, and wise. Boredom is a choice. Some of the worst decisions made are a result of choosing to be bored.

Without the ability to bite, tasting and enjoying is difficult. Especially when it comes to cinnamon rolls. The best cinnamon rolls are a perfect balance of yeast dough, cinnamon, sugar, butter, maybe some walnut pieces, and best of all, powdered sugar icing.

One of the worst corporate decisions McDonald’s ever made was getting rid of the original delicious, mouth-watering, calorie-exploding, impossible to resist, amazing real cinnamon rolls and replacing them with those little hard cinnamon bites. Dumb mistake. The old cinnamon rolls were the best anywhere! I always ordered EXTRA ICING! Now you’re talking heaven. I actually ordered a cinnamon roll with extra icing and a small fry. I carefully opened the box and the beautiful roll was swimming in icing! I dipped my hot fries in the icing, then ate the cinnamon roll, being careful to savor every single bite. I scraped the box to make sure I enjoyed every last molecule of icing. Those were the good old days!

I was bitten by the love of trains many years ago and have never recovered. Not that I would want to. Watching a train roll by satisfies a little of wanderlust. It’s fun to imagine destinations, even though the train my only go to the next industry location. It’s still fun.

Here’s to being bitten. Not by things that cause physical pain, but by things that inspire living.

Discover Prompts Day 10: Orchestrate

I have loved directing choirs for many years. I was in college the first time I directed, and had no idea what I was doing. I sang in choirs for many years so I just did what I saw others do. It worked, and I was hooked.

In three cities where we lived, I orchestrated community choirs to perform benefit concerts to raise money for needy families during the holidays. It was great fun, and since our church was too small to have a choir, it gave me an opportunity to lead a large group of singers.

In the first town, I had no idea whether I could get enough people to join us. I bought an ad space in the local newspaper announcing the choir project and the response was terrific. We worked for a few months on a musical that was popular at the time, and gave two nights of performances. The community attended and the people were very generous. The next year we performed the same musical again, and the great response was repeated.

There is something wonderful about singing with a big group of people. To me, nothing else can match it. Directing a choir like that is an amazing experience.

The second town where we orchestrated a community choir was very small, but once again, the response was amazing. People from many backgrounds joined together, working hard each week to provide a great performance. The crowd was incredible, the singing was powerful. The results were touching, families were helped. The following year, people once again showed how much they cared about their neighbors in need. The third year, my wife and I had the privilege of performing a benefit concert during the holidays. The response from the community was overwhelming.

In the third town, the church where I was the pastor was much larger, so we had a bigger group to start with. Our invitation to the community was received enthusiastically and we built a large choir. This time, we performed a powerful musical of Southern Gospel orchestration, which is my favorite. What a great time we had! We used that same musical at camp meetings during the summer and the crowds loved it.

Perhaps the most challenging project, which brought amazing results, was coordinating a musical performance composed of people from thirty different churches. The most difficult part was that each group of people had to rehearse by themselves until the day of our performance. The musical we performed was “God With Us”, a powerful and moving orchestration by Don Moen. Everyone worked very hard. We had one rehearsal an hour before the performance. I wish I could adequately describe it. Overwhelming. Magical. Powerful. Incredible. It was one great night I will never forget.

Having the opportunity to direct many choirs over the years has been a tremendous gift. The only musical training I have is 9 1/2 years of piano lessons. So, the singers in the choirs I directed were very patient with me because I obviously didn’t know what I was doing. I just loved singing and getting other people to sing seemed easy.

Here is one secret I always shared with my choirs. If you get the beginning, the key changes, and the end right, the crowd will think you’re fantastic. If you make a mistake, as long as you don’t make a face, no one will ever know.

I was talking about music, but that secret seems like a great plan for living.

Magical Mackinac Island, Michigan

One of our absolute favorite destinations rests between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of our Great State of Michigan. It is Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island is a perfect combination of shopping, eating, walking, bike-riding, sight seeing, and history.

The beauty of the Island is hard to describe, but very difficult to match. Less than a thousand people live on the Island year round, but many hundreds of thousands visit each year. There are no motorized vehicles allowed, so bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and your own legs are your choices.

There are many beautiful privately owned homes on the Island. Some are open as Bed & Breakfasts. Many amazing hotels are available, but booking far in advance is recommended.

We have enjoyed many trips to the Island and wish we could return more often. There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of horses clip-clopping along the street. You won’t really catch a sense of the ambience of the Island unless you spend at least one night. When the last tourist has taken a ferry to the mainland, the feeling on the Island changes. It is truly magical.

Grand Hotel is perhaps the best known destination on Mackinac Island.

We love riding bikes around the Island. The village is usually busy, but when we ride past Mission Point Resort the crowds disappear. The beauty of the lake is indescribable. It is an easy nine-mile ride to complete the trip around Mackinac Island.

When we stay on the Island, I love getting up early in the morning and riding my bike along the quiet streets. The workers are delivering items to stores and restaurants. The horses are moving along slowly, seemingly oblivious to the excitement that will be bursting in just a short time.

This is our favorite spot on Mackinac Island. J.L. Beanery Coffee House. They offer a fantastic menu of sandwiches and soups, and of course a wide variety of coffee drinks. It’ a wonderful place!

Our love of Mackinac Island began nearly fifty years ago when, just two months into our nearly life-long relationship, we spent the weekend with five hundred other teens in a church-sponsored junior-senior celebration. We’ve been going back ever since.

We found this 1968 Mackinac Island bicycle license in an antique store and had to have it. I painted the Round Island Lighthouse on a rock from the shore. These bring back memories of Mackinac Island.

Round Island Lighthouse may be the best known image of Mackinac, after Grand Hotel. Tourists are not allowed to visit the lighthouse, but cannot miss it as they approach Mackinac Island on the ferries.

Whether you visit Mackinac Island for a day, a week, or just a few hours, you will be hooked. Mackinac Island will capture your heart, as it did ours, and will become part of your family forever.

You Can Make Delicious Biscuits

There is a trick to making great biscuits. The care you give the dough makes all the difference in the world. Handle it roughly, you’ll be disappointed. Gentleness will be rewarded the flakiness and great taste.

The ingredients are few and simple:

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (only if you use buttermilk)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cup buttermilk (or plain milk, but leave out the baking soda)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a pastry fork or a regular fork, mix the shortening into the dry ingredients until crumbly.

Add the milk all at once. Mix together. Make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed into the dough. The dough will be sticky.

Put the dough on a floured surface. Sprinkle some extra flour over the top of the dough.

GENTLY kneed the dough, adding just a little extra flour. Fold the dough two or three times, and that’s all. (The more you handle it, the tougher the biscuits will be.)

You can either pat the dough out using your hands, or use a floured rolling pin. The dough should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Use a biscuit cutter, placing the biscuits on a non-greased cookie sheet. (If you don’t have a biscuit cutter, you can drop spoonfuls of dough on the pan, but do this before kneeding or adding extra flour).

Bake the biscuits in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

The recipe can be doubled, tripled, whatever you need!

If you add some sugar, the biscuits are more like shortcake. Delicious!

Of course, biscuits are best with coffee!

Discover Prompt Day 8: It’s a Curve

He hates grocery shopping with his mother. He never tells her she’s weird, but she is. She buys the same stuff every week. He knows what she’s going to buy before she even leaves the house. Bread, milk, eggs, coffee, bran cereal, and worst of all, baloney. When his mother orders the meat she always says, “One pound of baloney, sliced thin. If it’s sliced too thick, it gives my husband gas, and we don’t want that.”

He comes up with a plan he is sure will work. His mom won’t let him stay home, so he’ll say he has to go to the bathroom and he’ll stay in there until she’s done shopping. Brilliant!

“I have to go to the bathroom, mom.”

“Okay, I’ll wait for you right here, dear”, she says.

“No, mom, you go ahead and get the groceries and I’ll meet you at the front”, he answers.

“Oh, no, dear. I’ll wait right here. I love grocery shopping together. You go ahead, I’ll wait right here.” She didn’t get it, and he couldn’t tell her.

Now he’s stuck. He doesn’t have to use the bathroom, but now he has to fake it. He goes in the stall, locks the door, and waits. When it’s been long enough, he tries to open the door. It won’t budge. He bangs on it. Nothing. He takes a pen from his pocket and uses it to force the lock. The pen snaps in half and spills black ink all over his hands. He wipes his hands on his pants, totally forgetting he is still wearing his school clothes.

“Why does this stuff always happen to me?!!” He quietly screams to himself.

“Mom!” He says just loud enough so she might hear him.

“Mom!!” He says just a little bit louder.

“Mommmm!!!” He finally screams in total frustration.

“What is it, dear?” she calls through the door.

“I can’t get the door open! Come in and help me, please!” he yells.

“Oh, no, dear, I can’t come in there. It’s the men’s bathroom” she calls.

“Mom!! There’s no one in here but me!! Please come in and help me!!”

“I’ll get the manager, dear.”

“No! Mom! Just come and help me!!”

“Don’t you worry, dear. I’ll be right back.”

He sits down on the toilet, wondering what he did to deserve this.

Soon he hears someone come in. “Son? Are you in there?”

“Yes, I can’t get the door open”, he answers.

“Your mother tells me you don’t like going grocery shopping. Why is that?” he asks.

“What? Please! Just open the door! It’s locked!

“Oh, it is? I thought you didn’t want to come out” the manager says.

“No! The door won’t open!” he says.

“Well, why didn’t you say that?! I’ll go get something to open it.”

“Finally!” he whispers to himself. As he’s waiting, he can hear the faint sound of sirens. They’re getting closer.

Suddenly, two firemen burst into the bathroom. “Son!! Are you in there?!” One of them yells, even though he’s right outside the stall door.

“Yes, please open the door.”

“Ok, son, you need to calm down. Take a deep breath. Say this with me, I’m going to be alright,” the fireman says.

“Please, just open the door.”

“Why don’t you want to go grocery shopping with your mother, son?”

“What?!! Pleeease!! Just open the door. It’s locked! It won’t open!” he yells.

The fireman answers, “What? It’s locked? Why didn’t you say that. Stand back!”

Soon a motor starts, and sparks begin flying. Suddenly the stall door swings open.

“Thank you! Thank you!” he says, and tries to walk past the firemen.

“Oh, no, son. You’ve been through trauma. We need to take you to the hospital.”

“What?! No! I just want to go home!”

One of the firemen takes him by the arm and lays him down on a stretcher. He is pushed through the store as he continues to yell.

“Mom!! Don’t let them take me!! I’m fine!! I just want to go home!”

He is pushed into a waiting ambulance. The doors are closed and soon they are speeding to the hospital. When they arrive, the doors swing open and he is wheeled into the emergency room.

“This looks serious!” a doctor says. “We’re going to have to operate immediately.”

“Operate?! No! I’m fine! I just want to go home!”

He is wheeled into a bright room. A mask is placed over his face and the room begins to spin.

“Mommm!! Don’t let them…”

“Wake up! Wake up!”

He opens his eyes and is shocked to see his own bedroom.

“You were yelling in your sleep, dear. Get your hands washed, dinner is ready.”

Make Pancakes Like a Chef

Are your pancakes something to be avoided? Do you find them hidden around the house after your family is finished eating? Have you thought about using your pancakes for coasters? Can your pancakes stand on edge? Could they be used for shelf markers at the local library?

You too can make pancakes like a chef in a fancy restaurant.

Great pancakes are easy to make, but if you stumble into just a few common mistakes, your pancakes will be used for shoe leather. Promise.

I have been making pancakes since I was nine years old. That, uh, was a very long time ago. But it seems like yesterday.

There are a couple of secrets. I use the word “secrets” because there are many people who, evidently, have not discovered the simple secrets to making fantastic pancakes.

The first secret, oh, so important, is:

You must have a very HOT griddle!

I turn an electric griddle to 400, as high as it will go. I use the highest flame on our gas stove.

Ok, let’s start at the beginning, now that you know your griddle or pan has to be very, very hot.

1. The recipe is not the most important part! You can make fantastic pancakes using a mix. I use a buttermilk mix to which I only have to add water. Delicious!

2. Secret #2 – Test the griddle! The griddle or pan is not hot enough until drops of water dance on it! Wet your hand, flick the water at the pan. If the drops don’t dance on the griddle, it’s not hot.

3. Secret #3 – DO NOT add the water (or liquid ingredients if using a scratch recipe) to the mix until the griddle is ready!

4. Secret #4 – LUMPS ARE NOT YOUR ENEMY! Lumps are not to be sought out and destroyed! DO NOT beat the crap out of the batter! Using a fork for stirring, add the liquid ingredients, mix it over a few times, make sure there isn’t a bunch of dry mix on the bottom of the bowl. Then leave it alone! Don’t give in to the temptation to stir it again!

5. Secret #5 – After preparing the griddle with cooking spray or butter, use a small ladle or a 1/4 cup measure to pour batter on the HOT griddle. You will want to spray the griddle again after two batches.

6. SECRET #6 – ATTENTION PLEASE!! ATTENTION!! ONLY FLIP THE PANCAKES ONCE!!! ONCE!!! AND DON’T EVER, EVER, EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING THE TOP OF THE PANCAKE WITH YOUR FLIPPER!! Don’t wait until the bubbles pop, or crust forms on the edge, or until a buzzer goes off. With a very hot griddle, you only have to wait a few minutes and side one is done. If they are not dark enough, DON’T FLIP THEM BACK OVER, EVER! Just wait a little longer for the next batch.

Put the finished cakes on a cookie in the oven (already prepared) at 175 degrees.

Put a stack on your plate, add butter, syrup, fruit, yogurt, whipped cream, or anything else you want, and enjoy! Your family is going to think a French chef has come to live with them. They’ll say, “What have you done?! Who made these?!” Of course, the temptation to slap them should be resisted.

That is how you make delicious, non-frisbee, non-shoe leather, non-hockey puck, non-coaster pancakes.

Make sure you have plenty of coffee ready, too.

Ah, yes. Breakfast, the best part of your day, no matter what time it is!

Discover Prompt Day 7: The Desert Below

When I was young, my parents had friends who owned a cottage on beautiful Sanford Lake in Mid-Michigan. The lake provided swimming, boating, sailing, and fishing opportunities for many people in Michigan.

We enjoyed going to the lake and spent many weekends there. I learned how to water-ski on Sanford Lake. I don’t remember exactly where the cottage was, but I remember it being on the east side of the lake, right on the water. The wooden dock stretched out into the water and I loved watching the fish swimming below.

This is how Sanford Lake looks today. A desert, marked by tree stumps of many sizes that were hidden below the surface. They are evidence of water having buried them years before when the lake was created.

On May 19, 2020, torrential rains over many hours caused the water levels to rise in Wixom Lake, several miles to the north, and in Sanford Lake. Wixom Lake was held in place by the Edenville Dam. As the rains continued, the dam failed. A wall of water rushed down the Tittabawassee River, taking trees, boats, docks, and homes with it toward Sanford Lake.

Sanford Lake was a favorite destination for summer and winter sports enthusiasts.

Families were quickly devastated as the water and debris raced toward Sanford Lake. Within hours, the Sanford Dam also failed, releasing the lake from its boundaries, sending it crashing toward the City of Midland.

Two beautiful Michigan lakes were destroyed.

Business and property owners on Wixom and Sanford Lakes and the Tittabawassee River, as well as the residents of Midland, have a very long task ahead of them. I can’t imagine the lakes ever being restored, but then again, the two dams were constructed creating the two lakes. The Edenville Dam was built in 1924. The Sanford Dam was built in 1925. (Wikipedia).

I drove to Sanford and Edenville today. I wanted to see what is left for myself. Memories.

I wish the desert below could have remained covered.

Discover Prompt Day 6: Hands

I never dreamed there would be a time when playing the piano would no longer be a huge part of my life. The time is here. Essential tremors make it very difficult for me to play, especially when it involves people watching and listening.

Nervousness has always been a struggle, something to overcome every time I sat down to play. Essential tremors has nothing to do with nervousness, but any kind of adrenalin, as in playing for a crowd, makes the tremors much worse.

I sought treatment for many years, with little effect. Two neurologists prescribed medications that carry possible seizures as a side effect. Thankfully, I never suffered a seizure. The medication, however, did not bring lasting or significant results and I wasn’t willing to take more massive amounts. I decided, aided by consultation with my primary care physician, it was time to quit.

It has now been five years since I stopped taking medications. Although I can still type with no problem, I have great difficulty doing other simple things. Sometimes just putting a key in a lock is a real challenge. Model Railroading is my hobby and detail work is very important. I have had to find ways to accomplish tasks I want to complete on my railroad layout.

I flew radio-controlled model airplanes for several years and loved it. I can’t do it any longer because of inability to control my fingers on the radio posts. It’s so frustrating to have to give up flying! I’m not willing to risk destroying my planes with stubbornness.

It’s really kind of a crazy sensation. Sometimes my individual fingers shake, as in trying to fly a RC airplane. At other times it’s my entire hand shaking. Sometimes my arm.

I taught myself how to print with my right hand so I could continue to function. Although not as bad as my left, my right hand is trying to catch up.

I spent many years playing the piano, most of the time playing for others who were singing. It’s a real disappointment not being able to do it anymore. I took it for granted for so long, it’s painful not to have it.

I’ve read lots of information about various treatments for Essential Tremors. I went to a university hospital for a screening for deep-brain stimulation but was told I was not a candidate. There are other possibilities I have just begun to investigate. We’ll see.

For now, I’ll play my digital piano with my headphones on so no one can hear what’s actually happening. Sometimes it still sounds pretty good. With a little reverb it sounds like I’m playing in a huge auditorium again. Lots of great memories. I imagine the applause and it makes me feel good. I’m thankful for many good years sitting at the piano.

Discover Prompt Day 5: Aunt Maxye’s Coffee Cake

Aunt Maxye’s coffee cake was a staple at all of our Christmas, Thanksgiving, any excuse at all gatherings. I’ve tasted a lot of cinnamon goodies, nothing beats this coffee cake.

Aunt Maxye was Grandma Ola’s sister. I always loved visiting her house. She had a way of making everyone feel loved. When she kissed a friend of mine who had never met her before, she said, “I’m the kissing aunt.” She had beautiful blonde hair and always wore bright red lipstick. Always smiling, she had a way about her that made everyone feel good.

Aunt Maxye’s coffee cake became Grandma Ola’s coffee cake as children grew and memories became less vivid. My mother made the same recipe and we enjoyed it at every family gathering. I first made the coffee cake myself when I was in the 7th grade. For Home Economics class we all had to make a breakfast for our group. I contributed a homemade coffee cake. It was delicious. I’ve been making them ever since.

My mother told me, “You can make or bake anything you want, but you just have to clean up the mess when you’re done.” I was happy to do it, and quickly became the baker of the house.

My two favorite baking projects were chocolate chip cookies and coffee cake. Any excuse at all was an inspiration for me to start mixing. I still love baking, and our kids often ask for coffee cake.

The recipe is easy. You should try making a coffee cake for yourself.

  • 3 cups floor
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Begin by mixing the topping. Melt the butter, put in a mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Stir by hand, mixing thoroughly. Add flour, mix again. Set the topping aside.

Using a stand or portable mixer, put the shortening and sugar in the bowl and mix until creamed. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add vanilla, mix. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder. Beginning with flour mixture, alternate dry ingredients and milk, mixing thoroughly after each.

In a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, put enough of the cake batter in the pan to cover the entire bottom of the pan, but save enough for another layer. Add about half of the topping mixture. Then spoon the remaining batter over the topping by placing spoonfuls around on the topping and then smoothing with a spatula. Evenly spread the remaining topping over the batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, a few more if needed. A knife inserted in the middle will not come out completely clean even though it is done.

This anytime delight is best enjoyed, obviously, with coffee. I hope you’ll make one soon. Enjoy!