Saturday Snackin’ and Sippin’

I’m convinced coffee is as much feeling as it is taste. Coffee is an experience. Some coffee experiences are better than others. I can’t remember having a cup of coffee that was so bad I couldn’t drink it. There have been lots of cups that were less than hot, making the coffee more difficult to drink, but there is something wrong with wasting coffee. Cold coffee is better than no coffee.

When I was young, after arriving at home from school I went around the house to find the coffee cups my mom left during the day and finished the cold coffee she left.

For a short time when I was in high school, I stayed with an older couple who lived in the town to which my parents were preparing to move. They were kind and loving folks and they made sure I felt right at home. With an in-ground heated pool in the back yard and a pool table in the basement, it was difficult to feel anything less. Because of their religious beliefs, they did not drink coffee. They drank Postum, which is made of roasted grain. It was actually very good and many years later I bought a jar just to try it again.

I obviously prefer real coffee, as opposed to instant. You might argue that instant coffee is real coffee, and I can’t offer a convincing rebuttal. But instant coffee doesn’t provide the aroma that fills the room when coffee is being brewed. Even Keurig coffee cups release a wonderful fragrance. I have, however, had some memorable experiences with instant coffee.

On a vacation, I used instant to fill a thermos with hot coffee every morning before I went fishing on beautiful Houghton Lake, Michigan. That was nearly forty years ago and the memories are still vivid in my mind. Not so much for the fish we caught, but for the thoughts and feelings about the experience I still enjoy. Instant coffee was right in the middle of it.

The company I worked for in my first job supplied instant coffee for employees. I was the janitor, so it was not only my job to set up the coffee stand, but to drink some as well, then clean up at the end of the day. There were also times the boss provided donuts, although not many.

I was privileged to have my grandparents living in the same city where I grew up. Many times after church on Sunday, I went home with them for Sunday dinner. The main entrance to their house was in the kitchen. Every Sunday, rather than changing clothes and returning to the kitchen, my grandparents put the coffee pot on the stove to reheat the breakfast coffee, sat down at the kitchen table, and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee before preparing dinner. I will never forget the sound of them gently stirring cream and sugar into their coffee. It was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. The Pyrex coffee pot in the photos is exactly like the one my grandparents owned.

Here’s a question for you. Have you ever noticed that when you eat a York Peppermint with coffee it tastes like cigarette ashes smell? No kidding!

The snacks enjoyed with coffee are important, but not as much as the coffee. Good coffee doesn’t need help. I have to admit, drinking coffee makes eating snacks more likely, as in, “I don’t really need this but I’m going to eat it anyway, to go with my coffee.”

Biscotti is wonderful. Although, successfully eating biscotti is an art form. If you dip biscotti in your coffee and do not withdraw it at the right moment, it will disintegrate into mush, floating on top of your coffee like debris from a boating accident.

Have you ever heard of Tim Tams? “Tim Tam is a brand of chocolate biscuit introduced by the Austalian biscuit company Arnott’s in 1964.” (Wikipedia) They’re little chocolate covered cookies about one inch by two inches. You first bite both ends off, then hold the biscuit in your coffee and use the Tim Tam like a straw. As soon as coffee hits your lips, pop the biscuit in your mouth. Some people love them. To me, the experience was a little like eating a warm piece of chocolate covered Melba Toast. No offense to Tim Tam lovers.

Honey roasted peanuts are a great snack to eat with coffee. You have to keep an eye on the peanut jar or it will be empty before you finish your coffee.

Chocolate chip cookies. Nothing else needs to be said.

The number one snack to enjoy with coffee has to be Peanut M&Ms. Done. Peanut M&Ms and coffee carried me through an entire master’s degree program which took three years.

Well, there it is. Saturday sippin’ and snackin’.

What kind of snacks do you enjoy with coffee?

The Most Delicious Peppermint Mocha

I really didn’t think it was possible. Honestly. Finding a peppermint mocha, which I absolutely love, that is better than the ones I have so thoroughly enjoyed from Starbucks, was inconceivable. I don’t have any idea how many peppermint mochas I’ve happily sipped since I first tried one. Many Christmases have inspired me to buy them, always extra hot. Extra hot, by the way, at Starbucks is not as extra hot as it used to be. For a time, I ordered mochas at 190 degrees. Really. One time, when I reached the drive-thru window, the barista said, “Here’s your insanely hot mocha.” I loved it. Now, extra hot means the barista pushes a different button on the frother machine that automatically steams the milk just a few seconds longer. Not long enough.

In a recent post I wrote about our experiences in Holly, Michigan. Walking the streets of Holly is like a delightful trip into history. The shops along South Saginaw Street and Battle Alley offer a variety of items with a wide range of prices. My favorite are the antique shops, and there are several. During one of our visits to Holly, I found the best peppermint mocha I have ever tasted.

Coffee is an experience. Peppermint mochas are an elevated experience enhanced by a cozy atmosphere and heightened by the Christmas season. The Battle Alley Coffee Company, situated on the corner of South Saginaw Street and Battle Alley provides both. The shop is an amazing combination of color and comfort. The real test of any coffee shop goes beyond the taste of the brew. The biggest question is, do I want to stay while I enjoy my drink?

The shop invites you to stay for a while and provides several comfortable places to sit and enjoy.

The Battle Alley Coffee Company roasts their own coffee beans. Since the equipment they have in the shop will only roast two pounds at a time, and the demand for their coffee is so high, they do most of their roasting off-site.

Obviously, when you visit the coffee shop it will be decorated differently than when these photos were taken during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Whenever you choose to visit the Battle Alley Coffee Shop, you will enjoy an amazing cup of whatever kind of coffee drink you choose, and will want to stay.

During our visit when I made the grand discovery, I didn’t find the words “peppermint mocha” on the menu above the bar. I asked about a mint drink listed in the coffee section. The barista asked if I wanted the drink to be espresso or coffee-based. When I said I preferred espresso, she asked, “Would you like the mocha to taste like a Peppermint Pattie or an Andes Mint?”

“I’ll take the Peppermint Pattie,” I said.

While she began working on the large peppermint mocha, we wandered around the shop, taking in everything it had to offer. When our drinks were finished, my wife and I sat at a table near the front of the shop. I took the first sip of my peppermint mocha and I couldn’t believe the taste. It was amazing! It was very hot and delicious. I enjoyed every sip, from the first to the last.

When we were finished with our coffee and muffin, I went back to the counter to speak with the owner. I said, “I didn’t think it was possible.”

“Oh, did you spill it?” she asked.

I laughed and said, “No. I didn’t think it was possible to find a peppermint mocha that was better than Starbucks, but that definitely was.”

She thanked me and said, “The secret is, we use four full shots of espresso.”

I told her again how much I enjoyed the peppermint mocha and promised to come back. That will be soon.

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.

Giving Thanks – Day 16: Coffee

I’m thankful for coffee. I love coffee. I always have. I really love hot chocolate, but if I had to choose between one or the other or never have it again, I would choose coffee. I think I was four the first time I had coffee. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I associate different flavors of coffee with places we’ve been. By flavors, I don’t mean Irish coffee, or Vanilla, or Hazelnut. I just mean the different flavors of coffee. One town we lived in had a restaurant called “The Junction.” It was a small cafe and their coffee was like a meal. It was delicious. We sat with friends for hours and just drank the coffee. I discovered they used Bunn coffee machines, so we got one. Not the same. It was good, but it wasn’t The Junction’s coffee.

During visits to Louisianna, in restaurants they ask, “Do you want light or dark coffee?” And they don’t mean with or without cream. They mean light or dark black coffee. They also add chicory which is kind of a bitter taste. It was wonderful. The spoon could almost stand up on its own in the dark coffee.

When we were in Australia, in a restaurant we ordered coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were from another planet. They brought black coffee with a small cup of heavy whipping cream. In Australia one is supposed to order a flat white, a long or short black, or a short macchiato, among others. It was a learning experience for sure, and the coffee was fantastic.

Coffee is serious. Coffee is not something to be messed with. I don’t take trips, no matter how short or long without coffee. Almost every time I go to town, it’s time for coffee.

I think the very best cup of coffee I ever tasted was Kona coffee in Hawaii. It wasn’t just being in Hawaii that made the coffee taste so good. Kona coffee is magical. I can’t begin to describe it adequately. We’ve had Kona since then and it’s good, but not like that first experience.

For consistent taste in coffee, one only has to visit any McDonald’s in the country. Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, all McDonald’s coffee tastes exactly the same. Many years ago, they changed their coffee blend and it’s better. Before, it had kind of a burnt taste. Or maybe the people making it didn’t know what they were doing. No one ever says, “Hey, let’s go get a glass of milk,” or, “Do you want to stop for a tea?” It’s always coffee. Big decisions are made over coffee, not milk or tea, at least not in the US.

I remember metal coffee cans that were opened with a small key that was welded to the bottom of the can. You broke off the key, stuck a little tab through a slot in the key and twisted the key around the top of the can, releasing the most incredible aroma from inside. Perked coffee has always been my favorite, but I have to admit, the new automatic coffee machines are pretty great, especially if I need a coffee quick.

I think our first drip coffee maker was a Bunn we purchased forty years ago. I hoped it would taste like the coffee we had at The Junction. Not quiet, but really good. We’ve had several Mr. Coffee makers, a few percolators, and three or four Keurig’s.

I have to admit the ambience of the place has a lot to do with how good the coffee tastes. You can have a lousy cup of coffee in a great place and it makes the coffee better. You can have a great cup in a cold, drafty, bland place and the coffee loses some of its appeal.

If bad stuff is happening, coffee is a great companion to ease whatever it is. If great stuff is happening, coffee makes it even better. If I’m tired, coffee. If I’m bugged, coffee. If I’m anxious, coffee. (I know what you’re thinking – hey, can’t caffeine make nerves worse? Yeah, I know, whatever.) If I’m happy, coffee. Sad, coffee. By myself, coffee. With family, coffee.

I usually drink coffee black. But sometimes I treat myself to cream and sugar at restaurants.

I’ll let you in on some great places to drink coffee. Zehner’s in Frankenmuth, Michigan. There’s a place on Mackinac Island, Michigan, that was called J.L. Beanery. I think it changed hands and the name was changed. It’s still a great place to drink coffee, right on the water. Culver’s Restaurant usually has great coffee. Tim Horton’s has good coffee. We had breakfast at Omega Ham & Corn Beef Deli in Grand Blanc, Michigan, this morning. Their coffee is fantastic!

Of course, we all know Starbucks captured the market when “Friends” became such a hit on TV. That show started the coffeeshop craze that is still with us.

One more thing. I do drink decaf a lot, but not always. I have some Nescafe Tasters Choice decaf that I sometimes sprinkle on ice cream! It’s amazing!

Coffee. I love it. I’m thankful for a great cup of coffee.

Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery

I have been a fan of Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery for many years. After all, coffee is really my middle name. I don’t use it often on legal documents and such, but it’s always there.

Coffee is one of those important things in life I don’t mess around with too much. It’s either coffee, or a mocha. I don’t venture too far beyond that. I might get a frappuccino once in a while, but that’s as wild as I get. I think of myself as a purist. Yeah, right.

New owners began their quest for coffee and ambience perfection two years ago. The Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery in Caseville, MI, is the excellent destination for everything coffee on the shores of Saginaw Bay. The new beverage menu is colorfully displayed with an incredible number of choices from basic hot or iced coffee, to almost any kind of variation you can imagine. I have always loved Brew Moon for the way the coffee bar is arranged. I am just a few feet from the baristas as they prepare my hot mocha.

The new owners obviously love interacting with visitors. Everyone who enters Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery is greeted as a friend, not just a customer.

In the bright display case there are many delicious items from which to choose to enhance your beverage experience. One of my favorites is the amazing homemade, large, dripping with icing, cinnamon rolls. Oh my word! I haven’t had a cinnamon roll even close to that since another business, which will go nameless, made the catastrophic mistake of removing their lovely, warm, delicious, cinnamon rolls (for which I always ordered extra icing so the roll was actually swimming in it) from their menu. A real blunder. I always felt so sad when my cinnamon roll was gone. No more! Now the Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery cinnamon rolls have taken their place! Yummm!

Not only is the Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery your place for delicious beverages, it is an experience of art waiting to capture your attention. The owners emphasize local and Michigan artists. A terrific decision!

The coffee house has been completely repainted and decorated. The color choices create a feeling of warmth and comfort embracing everyone with an invitation to stay longer. Customers move easily throughout the store without a feeling of being crowded.

I personally love the drawing/painting of the businesses in Caseville. I wish I could include the name of the artist, but I forgot to write it down!

The new Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery is truly a place to experience, not just stop by for a coffee. A coffee beverage, whether it’s dark, light, tall white, latte, mocha, frappuccino, iced, hot (never lukewarm), vanilla, caramel, hazelnut, or any other combination of flavors, is best enjoyed by wonderful ambience. That’s what the owners of Brew Moon have accomplished.

The next time you’re in Caseville, do not leave town without meeting the good folks at Brew Moon Coffee House & Gallery and purchasing your favorite beverage made to perfection. Then stay a while and enjoy everything it means to have a great cup of coffee. You’ll immediately begin anticipating your return visit.

Christmas Is: Hot Chocolate!

Anyone who has read a post or two of mine may know of my life-long fascination with trains real and miniature. I have dreamed of living in the days when steam locomotives carried freight and passengers across the country. I was born just a few years too late.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered 1225, the Berkshire class Baldwin Steam Locomotive owned by the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan.

The beautiful locomotive was destined for the scrap pile many years ago when it was rescued by a group of dreamers who hoped to restore it to steam glory. Although the original rescuers did not see their hopes fulfilled, they were the first step in a long journey that ultimately gave the incredibly restored 1225 to the thousands of steam train fans waiting for a ride, including me. Little did those early dreamers know that one day this special locomotive would be used to provide the train sound track for the popular Christmas movie, “The Polar Express.”

I have enjoyed the incredible thrill of riding the “Polar Express” twice. The first time, our daughter and her two young sons and I took the trip. Several years ago my wife and I rode the train to the small Christmas Village in Ashley, Michigan. What a thrill to feel the power of the huge locomotive pulling us to our destination.

If you have seen The Polar Express, you are very familiar with the scene in the rail car with all the children in their pajamas as the dancing and singing waiters serve piping hot chocolate to all the kids. Christmas is hot chocolate!

Hot chocolate has been part of our family forever, and probably yours too. In the old days real hot chocolate was made by heating milk in a pan on the stove, and then adding chocolate syrup or Nestle’s Quik. My favorite was made by mixing Hershey’s Cocoa powder with sugar, stirring in a little warm milk and then adding it to the pan of steaming hot milk. Delicious!

I remember many Sunday nights after church my grandmother came home with us while our parents went out with friends. We always enjoyed hot chocolate and toast while watching Bonanza! For you young ones, Bonanza was a weekly television series about the Cartwright family, Ben (the father), Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe (played by Michael Landon of Little House on the Prairie fame.)

I am such a fan of hot chocolate, I even enjoy it from vending machines. Now that’s a hard-core hot chocolate lover. I hate to admit this, but I have even ordered hot chocolate at Starbucks! Don’t tell anyone. No one goes to Starbucks for hot chocolate, but I have.

Like all mochas from Starbucks, hot chocolate has to be enjoyed hot-hot. There is no such thing as good tepid hot chocolate. For a while, every time I stopped at Starbucks I ordered my mocha at 190 degrees. Literally! One time the barista handed me my cup and said, “Here’s your insanely hot mocha.” Now the “extra-hot” option is hot enough.

After thirty-one years in my previous career, I returned to university to acquire teacher certification which meant 1 1/2 years of classes including a year of student teaching at a middle school. Upon graduation I continued substitute teaching and returned to school again to complete a Master’s Degree in Educational and Professional Counseling. I had the incredible privilege of being a middle school counselor for five years before retiring for real. I told the principle who hired me I felt like I had been preparing for this position for the last forty years. My wife and I retired from the same school district, and both of us miss our family of colleagues at school.

One of the joys we experienced at school was serving the most amazing hot chocolate I have ever had. Each Christmas our lead secretary prepared for us what actually should be its own food group. This raised the term “hot chocolate” to a whole new level. The ingredients included a bag of dark chocolate chips, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a quart of whipping cream, and two gallons of whole milk. It was my privilege to serve each of our teachers a steaming cup of this tasty drink topped with peppermint marsh mellows. The crock-pot of hot chocolate was heating up in our back office, so it was my responsibility, obviously, to do a taste-check periodically since my office was just a few steps away.

Many years ago, my wife’s mother introduced us to home-made hot chocolate mix which we still use. It’s easy to make and we love it. I pour two packages of Carnation Powdered Milk in a large decorative jar. I then add a little more than half of a large jar of Coffee-Mate, then a bag of Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate mix. I shake it up in the jar until everything is mixed together. We keep a scoop in the jar. Boiling water added to one-third cup of mix (give or take according to taste) will give you a delicious cup of hot chocolate. Dropping a small candy-cane into the cup adds just the right amount of peppermint flavor.

Christmas has a magical way of bringing us back to the simple things that matter. Hot chocolate is one of those things that, if you let it, will help you rekindle what makes Christmas Christmas.

Here’s to another cup of great hot chocolate!

Christmas Is: Baking

Last year I made a terrible horrible mistake. And it seemed like such a good idea. Who doesn’t like Oreo cookies? We don’t have them all the time but when we do they don’t last long. I remember when I was in middle school I had a friend whose name happened to be Dale. I stayed overnight at his house a few times and his mom always placed a bowl of Oreo cookies on the table during breakfast. Breakfast! A bowl of Oreo cookies on the table right next to the box of Cheerios. I couldn’t believe it!

Well, what could be better than Oreo cookies dipped in white chocolate? Let me tell you, I now realize there are lots and lots of things better than Oreos dipped in white chocolate. They were nasty.

In fact, a few days after Christmas, out of sheer boredom and the realization that only two of the thirty-six white chocolate dipped Oreos had been eaten, I stood over the wastebasket with a knife and scraped all the white chocolate off the Oreos. Several of them didn’t survive the surgery and had to be eaten immediately.

For any who are upset already because I called this post “Christmas Is: Baking” instead of something about the spiritual implications of the season, relax.

Christmas is a lot of things to a lot of people, even the ones who despise the whole notion of decorating trees, hanging wreaths and lights, paying huge hangover credit card bills in January, and listening to endless renditions of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer on the radio. Whatever. Christmas is baking.

Think about it. Are there goodies that are baked at your house that you may not have at any other time? Would Christmas be the same to you if they were missing?

When I was growing up my mother made delicious pecan pies I didn’t like. They looked so good and everyone raved about them. It wasn’t until we lived in Texas many years later I suddenly discovered the delicious wonder that is pecan pie. It was Christmas, so there was pecan pie.

Coffee cake is another one. Coffee cake is a tradition in our family that began about the time the Lamberts arrived in America from Germany in the 1800s. The Stocktons were already here and when the two met, coffee cake was born and has been with us ever since. My coffee cake is better than my mother used to make, and that’s saying a bunch. If there is no coffee cake, it isn’t Christmas.

Christmas cookies! Hours are spent in the kitchen mixing, shaping, cutting, baking, and decorating amazing Christmas cookies. Frustration rears its ugly head when the cookie cutters have sharp corners that refuse to release the cookie dough and instead tear the creation apart.

I don’t understand the whole fascination with ginger-bread houses. Ginger snaps aren’t a favorite, the taste reminds me of a remedy we were forced to ingest when we didn’t feel well which always lead to losing our cookies, if you know what I mean. Lots of people love to decorate ginger-bread houses which most often end up looking something like an underinflated innertube.

Fruit cake! Has there ever been a more misguided name given to anything that is supposed to be edible? Fruit cake is like the Chia-Pet and Clapper. On December 26th every trace is gone. It’s like what happens to round-the-clock Christmas songs on the radio. At midnight on Christmas all vestiges of the season are replaced with the station’s money maker music. Fruit cake is the boat anchor that has finally made it’s way out of the lake and onto the dessert table. Fruit cake is mystery. No one knows where it comes from, who makes it, what’s in it. But it’s not Christmas if there’s no fruitcake.

Really, Christmas is not pies, coffee cake, decorated cookies, ginger bread houses or fruitcake. Christmas is baking which means there is time in the kitchen with members of the family we might not be with at any other time of the year.

Christmas is baking because we reconnect with so many thoughts and feelings of special things as delicious aromas fill the air.

Christmas is baking. It’s such a simple thing but works wonders of togetherness.

A Week on Mackinac Island, a Boy’s Dream Come True

The closest he had ever been to the Island was the Mackinac Bridge. Twice during family trips to Marquette to visit friends. Twice on the way to Wawa, Ontario for fishing and hunting.

It was actually his father who did all the hunting and most of the fishing. The hunting wasn’t successful and the fishing wasn’t much better. To be honest, there were actually three trips to Wawa. One hunting, and two fishing. The second fishing trip lasted one day. His father, for reasons only a person with concrete for brains would understand, decided it would be a good idea to include the young boy’s mother and little sister on the trip he knew would include blood-sucking black flies and an outdoor toilet. What could go wrong? The family spent one night in the cabin, packed everything up and returned home the following day.

It was the summer of 1964. This time, instead of heading to a cabin in the middle of nowhere with only vampire flies to greet them, the family’s destination was Mackinac Island. The family had a friend who was a Michigan State Trooper, a man the young boy loved and admired. That summer, the Trooper was assigned by the Michigan State Police to be part of the law enforcement staff on Mackinac Island. Not only would the boy’s family be staying on the Island, their accommodations would actually be inside the big fort on top of the hill, Fort Mackinac!

For an entire week, the boy and his older brother were free to roam the Island, and roam they did! The Trooper arranged for the two boys to use bicycles from the police department. One belonged to the Chief of Police! Since the boys had never been to the Island before, everything was new and had to be explored.

Every day there was a different fudge shop to visit. The boys quickly discovered there were samples to be enjoyed. Horses, buggies, wagons, people and bicycles crowded the streets. The shops were endless, lots of great things to want. The boys wandered the Island and loved the long ride around it. At first, it seemed like the bike trip would never end, but just when it seemed like they couldn’t go any farther, they were back in town.

There was an odor in the air that was different, but not unpleasant. Not having been around horses much before, the boy soon discovered the source of the fragrance. The horses didn’t seem to mind, so why should he?

The boy never wanted to go home. There was so much to love about Mackinac Island it seemed to make perfect sense the family should stay forever. There were lots of people working, his father could get a job, maybe driving one of the wagons, or carrying suitcases on a bicycle up to the big hotel on the hill. He remembered seeing a school, so he could just go there.

The day the boy dreaded finally came. His mother packed his suitcase and the family left the fort for the last time. They walked down the long pier toward the waiting ferry. He felt like his heart would break. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving.

During the trip back to Mackinaw City, the boy’s mother said, “What’s the matter? I can read you like a book.”

“I just hate to leave the Island,” the boy said.

“Don’t you know all good things must come to an end?” his mother asked.

Somehow that didn’t make him feel any better.

Life has a way of making good things come back. And Mackinac Island, one of the greatest experiences of the young boy’s life has returned. Many times. Even though he’s much older now, he still feels the same way about the Island. There must be some way he and his wife could live there. Maybe he could drive one of the wagons, or carry suitcases on a bicycle up to the big hotel on the hill. He’s too old to be a Michigan State Trooper now, even though he had a deep desire to be a Trooper that started back in 1964.

A week just isn’t long enough for someone who loves Mackinac Island as much as this boy does. It never gets old. From the very first time he stepped foot on the Island that seemed so much like a dream, the dream stays new. Each time he steps off the ferry again, he is young, excited, and can’t wait to sample the fudge again.

Mackinac Island. Just can’t get enough.

They have great coffee there, too.

Discover Prompts Day 15: The Scent of Lilacs

In my mind, there is nothing more rewarding, after a very long, cold, dreary, mind-numbing, blustery, bone-chilling, limb-freezing, lip-cracking, brainless, heartless, endless, blizzard-loving winter than the scent of lilacs. Lilacs are the gift of spring. Lilacs call to us with welcoming words, “I’ve been waiting for you! You’re finally here! This amazing fragrance is just for you!”

In our area, lilac buds begin to open around the third week of April. It’s a dangerous time for them because the night temperatures can easily dip below freezing and damage the young blossoms. I have tried placing plastic over the bushes to protect them but found the plastic did more damage than the cold. Now I just leave them and hope for the best.

We have four young lilac bushes in our yard. We have taken lilacs with us when we moved in the past, as long as the plants weren’t too big. We were successful with most of them. At our last house we had a beautiful lavender color bush that produced gorgeous blossoms every year. We had moved it from our previous house, but it became so large we had to leave it when we moved again.

When lilacs are young they have to be watered often. It’s important for the small roots to stretch out thoroughly. Soon the plant will thrive and be able to gather enough moisture without constant care. The leaves are beautiful, but nothing matches the beauty and scent of the flowers.

The sad part about the lilac blossom is that they do not last very long. Once the clusters are fully open, the flowers will last about a week, maybe a little longer. We carefully cut some to enjoy indoors.

Our favorite flower colors are white and lavender. There are several different varieties of lilacs, and I can’t name them. I just know the ones we like best, not by the name, but by the appearance of the blossom. There is a variety with a deep lavender and white blossom that does not have the strong fragrance of the lighter lavender and the white. Even the white does not have the rich fragrance of the lavender, but it is still amazing.

Lilac bushes love to spread, and depending on the variety can grow quite tall. If you do not want the bush to spread out, you will want to clip or move the young plants that begin to appear in the ground around the main bush. You can dig out the young shoots and replant them. With plenty of water and good soil, they will develop roots and grow.

Of course, nothing goes better with the incredible scent of lilacs than a delicious cup of coffee. Coffee is the gift of every day like lilacs are the gift of spring.

Ruled by Coffee

So what is this obsession with coffee?  It’s actually my dear wife’s fault.  We started dating on March 5, 1971.  We’ve been together ever since.  It was Mary who helped me see the light, and gently led me to a life of coffee.

I actually had my first cup when I was five.  My mother was an obsessive coffee drinker, and she let me have a little antique cup filled mostly with milk, and a little coffee and sugar.  I was hooked, but it wasn’t until all of those years later that coffee finally took a permanent hold.  As school years progressed, I would come home and find the cups of cold coffee mom left all over the house, and I drank them, dust particles and all.

When Mary and I began dating, coffee became part of our companionship.  Everything went better with coffee.  Oh, I obviously liked it before, but having this new beautiful girl in my life just made coffee taste that much better.  It was just so special having a hot cup, with cream and sugar, with her.  No matter where we’ve been, coffee was part of the journey.

Now, so many years later, coffee is still a part of our home, and always will be.  Coffee answers so many important questions, it’s a wonder why there are actually people who not only don’t drink it, but can’t even stand the smell of it.  What questions?  Easy.  What should I do when I feel depressed?  Drink coffee.  When I’m happy?  Drink coffee.  When I’m bored?  Drink coffee.  When I’m confused?  Drink coffee.  Excited?  Coffee.  Broke? Coffee.  Sick?  Coffee.  Procrastinating? (Pay close attention here, this is a real important one.)  Yes.  Coffee.  Procrastinators, especially, understand the life-giving, redeeming, rescuing, obsolving qualities of coffee.

If you don’t believe me, just take a quick look at the multi-billion dollar coffee industry, just in the U.S. alone!  What are they selling?  It’s not just a drink, it is the coffee experience that no other beverage can provide.  Water sure doesn’t do it, soda can’t, fruit juices, nope, booze doesn’t even come close.  Coffee.  The coffee hounds realized that coffee mesmerizes, hypnotizes, solves, mends, heals, sedates, and fixes.

During the holiday season, it is coffee that makes the twinkling lights brighter, Christmas trees smell fresher, gift buying and present wrapping (ugh) fun!  Christmas would not be Christmas without coffee.  Forget the egg nog and champagne.  Forget the cases of soda.  Just go crank up the percolator, drip, press, osmosis, instant (what??!  No, never instant!) coffee.  Sit back, let the aroma lift you to new heights of joy.  Afterwards, there is only one thing left to say.

Can I have another cup?