Photo of trees, fences, and fields.

The Hidden Gem Guest House in Franklin, TN

Photo of two-story home, trees, drive.

Last weekend, we travelled to Franklin, Tennessee, to see one of our favorite authors, Sean Deitrich, “Sean of the South”, at the beautiful Franklin Theater. The show will be the topic of another blog post. While in Franklin, we stayed at the beautiful New Hidden Gem Guest House.

We have always loved travelling, but accommodations are sometimes unpredictable. This was our first time using Airbnb lodging. What a delightful surprise we experienced when we drove in and found this beautiful home awaiting our arrival.

As we drove up to the house, our hosts, The Byrne’s, were sitting on the front porch welcoming us with a friendly wave. Having received detailed instructions, we took the left drive and continued around the side of the house where our private entrance was located.

The owner left the lock code for the door under the mat. We opened the door easily and were pleased to find a nicely decorated and comfortable space. The vaulted ceiling gave the area a much larger feeling than the actual square footage provided.

The kitchen area included ample cupboard and counter space and a double stainless sink. On the other side was an additional cupboard and counter. A Keurig coffeemaker, toaster, microwave oven, and hotplate was provided. A small refrigerator was under the counter.

Under the television mounted on the wall was a small bar and stool space, perfect for two people.

I am over six feet tall, so the very comfortable queen-size bed gave us three nights of sound, restful sleep.

I didn’t take photos of the bathroom, but the amenities were comfortable and the space was nicely decorated. There was a small vanity, a cupboard over the toilet with extra towels, and a stand up shower. There was a tall curtain that separated the kitchen area from the bathroom. There was plenty of hot water.

Through Airbnb, our host, Chelsea Byrne, communicated necessary details in plenty of time. Check-in and check-out was very easy.

The New Hidden Gem Guest House is located south of Franklin, just north of the Interstate 840 bypass, west of 431 (Lewisburg Pike).

We heartily recommend the New Hidden Gem Guest House, by Airbnb.

Thank you, Byrne Family, for a delightful and comfortable stay!

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.

Cottage Outfitters Expands!

In Caseville, Michigan, there is a shop that is the place to go when you’re in town. Caseville is a popular vacation spot drawing people from all over the Midwest for camping, boating, fishing, swimming and doing all the other things that define a great summer.

Just like many other lakeside towns, Caseville has a few stores that have all of the things you would expect, like Caseville shirts, sweatshirts, coffee mugs, shot glasses, coasters and painted driftwood, all manufactured in foreign countries. There are several good restaurants. My favorite is Walt’s Restaurant where we often go. Their breakfast of eggs, potatoes, bacon, and toast made with homemade bread is unbeatable. Walt’s happens to be right next door to the special place I’m bringing to your attention.

Cottage Outfitters, in my opinion, is the one destination you have to include in your trip to Caseville, no matter how many times you’ve been here before. There is always something new to see.

Owner, Jonathan Bibby, is incredibly gifted at staging in such a way that your attention is captured many times as you walk through the store. Cottage Outfitters offers some beautiful antique furniture pieces, decorative items that will be perfect for your home or cottage, and even has some kitchen items. Homemade edibles like jams and pastries are also available.

Included among the displays at Cottage Outfitters are many items offered on consignment. You will not, however, have the feeling as you walk through the store that you have entered another booth operated by different vendor. Jonathan arranges the entire store masterfully so that all items flow together and make it easy for you to find just the items you’re looking for.

If you’re one of those people who use the term “cozy,” than you will immediately understand what it’s like to visit Cottage Outfitters. Many times I have walked through the store and thought, “I would just like to sit here with a cup of coffee and enjoy the surroundings.” It’s that kind of place.

Especially exciting for fans of Cottage Outfitters is the store has doubled in size. Jonathan Bibby acquired the storefront next to the original store and expanded his floorspace. There is much more to see and a much wider space to enjoy.

Be sure to visit Cottage Outfitters in Caseville, Michigan, during your summer travels. Oh, and be sure to have a cup of coffee in your hand so you can stop and sit for a while.

Discovery Prompts Day 22: Tempo

Nothing is more important to music than tempo. But life has a tempo that we either control ourselves or it will be controlled for us, and we will roll along with it.

One of the hardest things to do is just stop. I’m retired now, but sometimes I feel more time-hassled than I did when I was working. There is this sense of “hurry up and get something done” that is really hard to shut off.

We have had lots of opportunities to enjoy the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the beauty is incredible. I have attempted body-surfing but usually end up being tossed around like a piece of driftwood. That’s what life feels like right now. Instead of a ride, it’s a crash in process. Like a train wreck. It’s really tough to slow the tempo and breathe normally.

Slow down! Turn the news off for a while. Look around and purposely notice some things you haven’t really seen in a while. When was the last time you watched a cloud? When did you last go outside in the middle of the night and look at the stars? Spend an hour and see how many satellites you can count. It’s amazing!

Make tempo work for you instead of against you. Rather than feeling rushed and unnerved, choose slow, steady, in control, confident. It’s your choice. The tempo of your life is set by you. You can constantly feel out of breath, or you can breathe and move as you choose.

Choose a tempo that supports you.

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.

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.

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.

Open Spaces

The old train station above is near our home town. I have spent many hours sitting in the parking lot, watching trains go by. I always have a cup of coffee. Some days I see two or three trains, if I’m lucky. There have been plenty of times when I didn’t see any.

My wife and I actually took line-dancing lessons in the depot several years ago. I don’t know if I can remember enough to do the dances now, but it was sure fun then. The most fun was hearing the rumble of trains rushing past as we danced the hours away.

The old pictures at the top are fascinating. The top left photo shows two sets of track, perpendicular in the foreground. The tracks running left and right (north and south) are no longer there. The east-west track is still operational and trains run past the old station about fifteen times each day.

Why does a train station say “wide open spaces”? Because the track doesn’t end. The destination is the rider’s imagination. The explorer can ride as long as desire remains. There is nothing more wide open.

There is some restlessness in every individual. Some step into discovery, others hide from the unknown. Wide open spaces can build confidence and experience expands trust.

Joke

I’m very new to the WordPress Discover Prompt. In fact, I’m two months late! Day 1 for April 1st was Joke. We’re encouraged to share the most recent joke we heard.

The real joke was that my sister can’t remember jokes. She started in on one two days ago, and before she was three minutes into the story, she had to go back and start again. The story was told on YouTube by a leading actor as a lockdown entertainment.

“A frog went into a bank for a loan. The loan officer, Mr. Pattiwack, was not very helpful and continually refused to give the frog a loan. The frog took a small trinket from his pocket and handed it to Mr. Pattiwack. ‘What is this?’ he asked. ‘It’s collateral for the loan’ said the frog. The loan officer continued to refuse. ‘Mick Jager is my father,’ said the frog. ‘I don’t care who your father is,’ said Mr. Pattiwack. ‘I demand to see the bank manager!’ yelled the frog. The loan officer was exasperated and ushered the frog into the manager’s office.

‘This frog is demanding a loan. All he has to offer for collateral is this ceramic elephant,’ as he handed it to the bank manager. ‘He says his father is Mick Jager, but I told him we didn’t care’ said the loan officer.

The bank manager looked at the trinket, looked at the frog, and then said, “It’s a Knick-knack Pattiwack! Give the frog a loan! His old man’s a Rolling Stone!”

Many years ago I told my grandmother a joke she didn’t get. “What do you call a cow with no legs?” I asked. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Ground beef!” She laughed politely, but the laughter was missing something.

Over a year later, I asked my grandmother again, “What do you call a cow with no legs?” “Hamburger!” she said, and all of a sudden she burst out laughing hysterically. She cried she was laughing so hard. “I didn’t get it. Ground beef! Hamburger! Hahahaha!!!!” We still laugh about that. Grandma has been gone for twenty years.

Someone said laughter is good like medicine. I believe it.

Ice Cream Research

We lived in Texas for several years. While there we were surprised to learn the term “Cokes” refers to any carbonated drink. At a restaurant, the server asked, “What kind of Cokes do you want?” We’ll have Sprite, or Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. Sprite Cokes, Dr. Pepper Cokes, Root Beer Cokes. That was Texas.

There are two things you don’t mess with. One is coffee, the other is ice cream. I have had coffee all over the country, and a few other countries. The coffee in Louisiana is served “dark” or “light”. The dark is heavy enough you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Good stuff. In Australia we asked for coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were crazy. She brought us coffee with a bowl of whipped cream. There, you ask for flat white, long black, short black. Not coffee with cream. Gracious.

Ice cream is a serious matter. So serious, that recently we began doing research. We investigated local Dairy Queen’s to discover whether they were creating a proper Mocha-Chip Blizzard. The first time we asked if they could make a Mocha Blizzard, since it wasn’t on the menu, they said, “Sure!”, like it was a stupid question. We were delighted. When we received the non-turned-upside-down blizzard, we were less-than thrilled. It was vanilla ice cream with little flecks of chocolate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe the chocolate flecks were mocha flavored.

The unset of the research project required us to search out other Dairy Queen’s to discover whether the first Dairy Queen had made a mistake. When we visited another DQ, we asked the same question, and received the same response. We were thrilled to receive a golden-brown swirl of ice cream, standing tall in the cup, about a half-inch above the rim filled with the familiar chocolate flecks. It was delicious! A rich espresso flavor. We knew we were on the right track.

So, that meant we were required, of course, in the interest of proper scientific discovery, to revisit the original DQ, to inquire about their ingredients for what they called the Mocha Chip Blizzard. Obviously, to do a proper statistical investigation, to find whether the null hypothesis was true with regard to the number of chocolate flecks that were in each blizzard, we would have to completely melt the blizzard, count the chocolate flecks, then do the same with a Mocha Chip Blizzard from the first DQ. We decided our research would not reach to that depth. Taste preference would be enough.

At great risk, we took one of our grandsons with us, back to the original Dairy Queen, for the final test. We ordered two Mocha Chip Blizzards, and an Oreo Reeses-Pieces Blizzard for our grandson. When we arrived at the drive-thru window, I asked how their Mocha Chip Blizzard was made. The server said, “With Tiramasu Sauce and Chocolate Chips.”

Once again, we were disappointed. There was no noticeable espresso or tiramisu flavor. Only the familiar chocolate flecks.

At long-last, our ice cream research was complete. The second Dairy Queen served a proper Mocha Chip Blizzard, with a deep and wonderful coffee flavor, enhanced by the chocolate flecks. The original DQ needs to work on what they refer to as a Mocha Chip Blizzard. Like I said, don’t mess with ice cream.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.