Scandal at Maple Valley – Episode 28: Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns

Another Founders’ Day celebration has come and gone. Except for a few minor problems including a bunch of chickens escaping from a farm float during the parade and running through the streets of Maple Valley, it was a great success.

The special guest band for the main event was Hank Rider and the Saddlehorns. It’s incredible that two years in a row, Maple Valley has been able to bring in a famous country show. And just like last year, when Hank Rider sang the smash country chart topper “The Old Man”, everyone in the crowd knew the words. Tears were even seen on a few faces.

The Old Man

“I quit my job and hit the road, I married my guitar
Tired of my dead end life, it was time to be a star.
I couldn’t wait to hear the crowds all screamin’ out my name.
What happened next was all my fault, there was no one else to blame.

The first time I was on the stage there was no one in the room
‘Cept one old man way in the back, standin’ with a broom.
Well I sang my heart out anyway without a single cheer,
And when I was done the old man came and handed me a beer.

He said, ‘Son, don’t let it bother you that no one heard your songs,
I can see this kind of life just ain’t where you belong.
Pack your stuff, forget all this, today it’s not too late
To go back home where you belong before you share my fate.

I was a singer just like you, playin’ every night,
Twenty years of drivin’ hard and livin’ in the lights.
Then an old man came and talked to me just like I am to you
And tears rolled from these tired eyes ’cause every word was true.

He said he had a little boy he left for wealth and fame,
I didn’t care about what he said until he spoke his name.
Memories came flooding back, the name he breathed was mine,
I knew I was that little boy the old man left behind.

He said, ‘Son, I’m sorry for leaving you alone
If I could go and change it now you know I’d stay at home.
I never even thought how much my choice would cost,
But nothing I have ever done was worth the life I lost.’

I left the road and headed home to bury my guitar,
Dreams of fame and fortune didn’t get me very far.
When I arrived my little boy was standing at the door,
I knew then, and I know now, he’s what life is for.”

In other news, disturbing signs have been showing up around town. They read, “Recall Sheriff Pete Terkinberry.” Other signs are also appearing that read, “Elect Quintin O’Dillmotte, Sheriff of Kertok County”.

Sheriff Pete stepped into the Ya’ll Sit Cafe, as he does every morning, and Shorty called out from the kitchen, “Hey, Sheriff! What’s going on?! You don’t want to be sheriff anymore, or what?”

“Shorty, what are you talking about?!” Pete yelled back.

“Haven’t you seen the signs around town? Quintin wants to replace you. He says you should be recalled!” came the voice from the kitchen.

“Quintin O’Dillmotte couldn’t be sheriff of a playground!” the sheriff yelled, wishing he hadn’t. He looked around the cafe and several customers were staring at him.

Pete left the Ya’ll Sit without his coffee.


The Port Austin Farmer’s Market

It’s a rite of summer on the tip of the thumb. Everyone in this area knows about the Pt. Austin Farmer’s Market, open every Saturday during summer.

The market is a shopper’s delight. Scores of tents sit side by side in several sections. Each one is filled with items for sale. Most offer homemade goodies of one kind or another. Some edible, some wearable, some hangable, some playable. My favorites are the edibles.

I enjoyed one of these delicious peaches. Fantastic. I almost bought a bag of chocolate chip cookies but decided we had enough sweet stuff already.

One of the fun things about the Port Austin Farmer’s Market is the entertainment. Last Saturday, there was a three-member band doing cover songs of many popular artists. They were actually pretty good. In recent years we heard a drum corps from one of Michigan’s outstanding universities.

Port Austin is a beautiful town. The pier that provides safety from the waves of Lake Huron for boats of varying sizes, is also a place for visitors to walk. There are several great restaurants in Port Austin offering everything from breakfast items, to pizza, to steak.

Last Saturday was the first time we have visited the farmer’s market in a few years. I’m happy we decided to go. It was great to visit the Port Austin Farmer’s Market again. It was well worth the time, especially because I ended the day with an extra-hot mocha from Green Clean Bean. As always, Whiskey was there to great me with a wagging tail.

Altered Designs in Holly, Michigan

It’s always beautiful in Holly, no matter the weather. But when it’s sunny and 72 degrees like it was today, that’s hard to beat!

Holly, Michigan is the home of Altered Designs, our favorite place to shop in town.

Many people who visit Altered Designs comment on how friendly everyone is. All guests are greeted warmly and immediately sense the welcome is genuine.

Holly Harrington-Herrick and her team at Altered Designs do an incredible job arranging items throughout the store. A person could visit every week and still have the feeling they have walked in the first time. Inspiring that kind of interest is not an easy task. The folks at Altered Designs are particularly gifted at doing just that.

There is an unmistakable warmth at Altered Designs that encourages folks to slow down just a bit. Breathe deeply, take shorter steps, and take the time to see with new eyes.

One of the most commonly spoken phrases in a retail space is, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” At AD, when help is offered to guests, I think a more likely response could be, “Right now I’m just enjoying this.”

I absolutely love the copper wire tree artwork. It’s difficult to describe the beauty of these pieces. Bundles of copper wire are twisted and shaped into amazing treescapes. The frames are handmade for each individual piece. There are just two photos here, but many incredible copper wire creations are available. The artwork will capture your attention and you’ll immediately begin thinking where in your home you should place it.

Many artisans make up the family at Altered Designs. Visitors will never, however, have the feeling of moving from one “vendor booth” to another. We are happy to be a part of the artisan group at Altered Designs with our “Up North Flannels”.

Altered Designs has an ideal location in Holly, 101 South Saginaw Street, on the south-east corner of South Saginaw Street and East Maple Street.

Of course, whenever we go to Holly, we start our morning with breakfast at the Bittersweet Cafe. The cafe is right across the street from Altered Designs. With delicious food, great coffee, and a very cozy place to enjoy a meal while shopping in Holly, Bittersweet Cafe is a favorite.

When you have an opportunity to visit Holly, make your first destination Altered Designs. Then be sure to include the Bittersweet Cafe. Holly will become a frequent choice in your travel plans.

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.

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.

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.

The Up North Experience

People who live in the great state of Michigan actually argue over what it means to be up north. Most particularly, where up north actually begins. To some, it begins after travelers cross the beautiful Mackinac Bridge and begin to explore St. Ignace, Escanaba, and all points in the Upper Peninsula.

To many, up north means the beautiful region of Houghton and Higgins Lake. The fishing at Houghton Lake is unsurpassed. The beautiful blue water of Higgins Lake is known around the world. But still, there are many who say this very popular area is not truly up north.

Oddly enough, there are many who live in the southern areas of Michigan who consider the middle “thumb” region of the state to be up north. There are small lake areas south of where we live in the lower thumb that are favorite destinations of those seeking to go up north.

Up north is a state of mind. It involves a million different experiences all inspiring their own memories, each with a special feeling folks try to recreate by returning up north, wherever that may be. And that is the beautiful thing about going up north. You can have it wherever you are. Up north is yours to enjoy, whether it is in Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Otter Lake, Bay City, Mio, East Tawas, Clare, Gaylord, Ossineke, East Jordan, Brutus, Onaway, Rudyard, Brimley, Eckerman, or Au Train.

My wife has captured a little bit of up north with her Up North Flannels. A few years ago, while we enjoyed a trip to visit family in Tennessee, she purchased a flannel shirt that had been re-purposed and re-tagged. An idea was born. Why not do the same thing in our area and call the shirts Up North Flannels? She began by designing her own label, then started searching for used plaid flannel shirts.

Over the last three years her hobby has continued. Although two shops where she had a display of shirts have closed, she has two other stores specializing in home decor that also sell Up North Flannels.

We visit community thrift and other stores that sell used items. My wife has become very good at hunting and knows just where to find the shirts. Sometimes she finds just one or two, sometimes a bag full. We bring the shirts home where she washes and irons them. She then uses the iron to place her special Up North label. I get to help by sewing the label to the shirt. We have quite a production line going and we make a good team.

We recently have had great fun participating in a local Farmer’s Market. Our tent is surrounded by those who actually farm the items they sell but they have graciously allowed us to join them. Last week we decided to include home made cinnamon rolls which my wife named “Dale’s Delicious Delectable 3D” cinnamon rolls.

An Up North state of mind is a lot like A Coffee State of Mind. I don’t have to be enjoying a cup of coffee to have that state of mind. I can think about a delicious cup of steaming hot coffee and have the mind to enjoy the thought. I can think about the wonderful experience of being up north without actually being there and enjoy the state of mind all the same.

We all need to find that kind of thinking. Whether it’s enjoying traveling, spending time with family and friends, taking a walk, or listening to birds singing, our thoughts can take us there. If we stop for a moment and purposely think about the things we enjoy, we return to that state of mind.

It’s definitely time for more coffee. Literal coffee, not thought coffee.

Breakfast Sandwich for Dinner

My lovely wife has discovered how to make amazing breakfast sandwiches that we enjoy any time. Actually, our son first made them for us and she watched very carefully. They are delicious!

A sausage patty, English muffin, fried egg and a slice of your favorite cheese make the magic happen.

There are sausage patties that taste great but stay around all day. I like them but not all day. The ones my wife uses are frozen, a dozen in a package. We keep them in the freezer and just use two at a time.

The patties only take about three minutes per side, so while my wife is frying them, I toast the English muffins. They don’t require butter, but if you want to use butter, go for it!

When the English muffins pop from the toaster, we put a slice of cheese on them. When the egg is fried to perfection, we add the sausage patty and the egg.

Combine the sandwich with some fruit and a big mug of your favorite coffee and you have a breakfast sandwich that is delicious at any time. Maybe even late at night while you’re binge-watching your favorite series.