Archive for Michigan

Where Have All The Cherries Gone? (and Apples … and Peaches …)

Posted in Local News with tags , on September 19, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Northern Michigan calls itself the Cherry Capital of the World and supplies most of the country’s tart cherries, but the state experienced a huge crop loss in 2012. This has been the worst year in recorded history for Michigan fruit. Statewide, more that 90 percent of the tart cherry crop was lost when freezing weather followed an unusually warm spring.

Northern Michigan is considered by many an ideal place for growing fruit. Located on the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole, the surrounding Great Lakes and rolling hills help create a temperate climate.

Cherry trees remain dormant throughout winter until a spring warming wakes them up. That happened much earlier this year. Temperatures in March shattered records across the country, reaching the mid-80’s in Michigan that month – that’s nearly 14 degrees Fahrenheit above the state average. That pushed the trees to a development stage about 5.5 weeks ahead of normal. When temperatures dropped again, the trees’ early buds were vulnerable.  From late March through May, there were 15 to 20 nights in which temperatures fell below freezing. The cold snaps killed not only cherries, but also juice grapes, peaches and apples. Losses across the state are estimated at $210 million.

Each fall, thousands of people visit the local cider mills and orchards to drink cider, eat freshly baked donuts and pick apples. But this year, there is one thing missing: crops. Michigan will only produce about 3 million bushels of apples this year, compared to the 20 to 23 million produced during a normal season, according to the Michigan Apple Committee.

To survive the season, local orchards are cutting hours, planting different crops, and ordering apples from out-of-state farms for making cider. Pumpkins are being sold in place of apples. Many orchards have “Petting Zoos” with lambs, goats and other small animals to the delight of many children. Donuts and hot chocolate replace the cider and donuts.

Many of the growers have been in the business for several generations. Despite their historic losses, there is a common sentiment among the growers; this year’s crop devastation was out of their hands and the growing conditions eventually will improve. These orchards and farms did not become a fourth or fifth generation by not being able to survive a few bad years here in Michigan. They have learned to make the best of the situation.

Oktoberfest ala Frankenmuth

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on September 14, 2012 by Pat Hansen

In 1990, in honor of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Frankenmuth initiated an Oktoberfest.

In 1996, Lord Mayor Christian Ude of Germany officially sanctioned the Frankenmuth Oktoberfest celebration, making it the only city outside Munich to receive such an honor.  In homage, Munich-based brewer Hofbrauhaus became the festival’s official sponsor, making this the first city in the U.S. to import this German beer.

Dubbed Michigan’s Little Bavaria, the city is as head-to-toe German as an American city can get, from its cuckoo-clock store to the Harvey Kern Community Pavilion, a scaled-down version of an authentic German beer hall. The German band performs annually and authentic German fare is served daily.

A German dinner buffet is offered for $11.00 per person. It features typical German fare such as Black Forest Ham, Bratwurst with Sauerkraut, Jaeger Meatballs, German Potato Salad, Buttered Spatzle and Sweet and Sour Cabbage.

American Fare is also available with Chicken Tenders, Pizza, Hotdogs and French Fires for the kids

This year, the Oktoberfest runs from Thursday, September 20th, through Saturday, September 23rd.

Daily Admission: Thursday, September 20th through Saturday, September 21st is $8.00.  Sunday is Free; Kids (12 & under) Free

Gates Open:        Thursday 3 pm – 10 pm

                 Friday & Saturday 12 pm – Midnight

                 Sunday 12 pm – 6 pm

Free parking for the Oktoberfest is located on the festival grounds as you arrive at Heritage Park.  Heritage Park is located on the banks of the Cass River, behind the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth. This tourist driven town is the perfect compliment to the festival – offering an array of activities to occupy your time before and after the festival. You will enjoy more than two miles of hands-on demonstrations, unique shops, wonderful food and hospitality you won’t find anywhere else.

Directions from the Detroit area:

Take I-75 North to exit 136 for Frankenmuth/Birch Run

Turn right onto M-54 S/M-83 (N Birch Run Rd)

Turn left onto M-83 (N Gera Rd) and continue north until you enter Frankenmuth

Turn right onto E Jefferson St and then take the 2nd left onto Weiss St

Frankenmuth’s Oktoberfest is located at 601 Weiss St, Frankenmuth, MI 48734

Apple Season Approaches at Ashton Orchards

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , , on August 2, 2012 by Pat Hansen

The long, hot summer has not deterred Ashton Orchards from opening again on August 9, 2012. This family run business has been around for many years. This year, however, due to the hot, dry conditions, they will not have a peach crop. Their apple crop is thriving, as is their corn and tomato crop. Once again this year, they will feature a wide selection of baked goods. Their baked goods are all made on site and rival the best bakeries in the Detroit area.

The baked goods include:

  • Apple pies
  • Apple strudel
  • 4 different breads
  • Cookies
  • Coffee cakes
  • Apple cider and cinnamon donuts

Their caramel apples, with and without nuts or sprinkles are the best anywhere. They are usually sold out of these by the end of the weekend.

They also feature jams, jellies and applesauce.

There will be several varieties of cooking and baking apples available, as well as delicious varieties of eating apples.

Ashton Orchards is located at:

3925 Seymour Lake Rd

Ortonville, MI



Mon –  Sat 10:00-6:00

Sun 10:00-4:00

Buy Michigan Now!

Posted in Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on July 26, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Entering its fourth year in downtown Northville, the 2012 Buy Michigan Now Festival is a weekend celebration of the state’s annual Buy Michigan Week. It includes sidewalk sales, street vendors, live music and children’s activities, all highlighting Michigan-based businesses and Michigan-made products. It’s a fun-fest with a cause.

Over 70 vendors will have displays showcasing their  products which include food from Hiller’s Market, candy, clothing, art, jewelry, photography, nuts, granola, salsa and teas to name a few.

This year’s festival is scheduled to take place on:

  • Friday, August 3rd12 PM to 9 PM
  • Saturday, August 4th10 AM to 9 PM
  • Sunday, August 5th – 11 AM to 5 PM

Admission is free as is most parking. Main and Center Streets are closed in the middle of downtown to make it easy to shop and dine, while enjoying live entertainment from some of Michigan’s finest performers.

Parking on downtown streets is limited to two hours. While some parking lots are limited to three hours, there are plenty FREE all day parking spaces available. Visitors whose stay will exceed three hours are encouraged to utilize the long-term parking areas accessible off Cady Street.

Located on the western outskirts of the Detroit Metro area, Northville is about 30 minutes from downtown Detroit. The major thoroughfares of I-275 and M-14 are nearby, making access easy.

Michigan Strawberry Season!

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on June 14, 2012 by Pat Hansen

It’s strawberry season again in Michigan. It is several weeks earlier than last year so we are updating our Blog to inform you that it could be a shorter season this year and might be over by the end of June, according to Middleton Berry Farm in Ortonville, MI.

The regular hours for this week (weather permitting) are Monday through Saturday mornings, 7:30 – 11:30. There is a possibility of some evening picking times this week, depending on how many strawberries are ripe each day, how many people come in the morning to pick them, and the weather conditions.  As always, they recommend you call their HOTLINE (248-628-1819) before driving out.

  • They do not sell any pre-picked strawberries.
  • Their strawberries are $1.62 per lb.
  • Save 50 cents for each box of berries that are picked in a previously used Middleton berry box.
  • All children are to be under the direct supervision of the adult they came with at all times, including in the field and with the animals.  They ask that there be at least one adult for every 2 children.
  • They are located at 4888 Oakwood Rd – 5 miles east of Ortonville, MI, between M-15 and M-24.
  • The farm is open from June – October (hours vary) and they accept cash, checks, VISA and MasterCard. They provide containers for all their crops

One of the best ever strawberry shortcake recipes is from Martha Stewart’s cookbook. The recipe is as follows:


  • 1-3/4 pounds (6cups) strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
  • 1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter; cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss strawberries with ¾ cup sugar; let sit to bring out their juices. Note: If strawberries are sweet, use less sugar.
  2. In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, ½ cup sugar; and the salt until combined. Add butter; and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal but with some pea-size bits of butter remaining, 10 to 12 times. In a small bowl, whisk together ½ cup cream and the eggs; pour over flour mixture and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25 to 30 times.
  3. Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack down dough, invert and tap out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 biscuits. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool about 15 minutes.
  4. Beat remaining 1-1/2 cups of cream and 2 tablespoons sugar with the vanilla until soft peaks form.
  5. Slice biscuits in half horizontally when cool. Spoon strawberries and their liquid over bottom halves. Spoon whipped cream on strawberries and replace top halves of biscuits.

It’s hard to surpass good strawberry shortcake as the ideal summer dessert, made even better with Michigan berries. Enjoy!

Amazing Michigan

Posted in Lifestyle with tags , , , on June 8, 2012 by Pat Hansen

The Michigan State Motto is, “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you”.  You don’t have to drive far to see the beauty of Michigan. In Oakland County alone, there are 358 lakes and 13 county parks. Every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the traffic going north on I-75 is steady, and at times   a standstill. This lends testimony to the fact that we Michiganders love our lakes, county and state parks, campgrounds, resorts and cottages.

One of the most scenic routes, M-119, starts at an intersection with US 31 in Harbor Springs. From Harbor Springs on, M-119 is the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Heritage Route. The roadway meanders through oaks, maples, birch and cedars along an old Ottawa Trail. Occasionally, you can catch glimmers of Lake Michigan through the trees, but the dense foliage lends beauty to the winding road. Along this area of the route, the highway narrows in width and continues through the forest without a center-line most of the remainder of the way. The road continues through the community of Good Hart up the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Community of Cross Village. There it ends at the intersection between Lake Shore Drive and State Road in the middle of town.

A highlight of historic Cross Village is the Legs Inn. It is a stone and log structure built on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. The fantasy-like atmosphere of this medieval looking stone, timber and driftwood landmark was created by a Polish immigrant, Stanley Smolak. He fell in love with northern Michigan and its people, many of them Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and decided to settle in Cross Village in 1921.

A blend of Old World European and Indian cultures creates a memorable atmosphere at The Legs Inn. The entry foyer, tavern, game and dining rooms are all filled with an intriguing collection of nature and hand carved furniture such as whimsical creations made of tree stumps, twisted limbs and roots, driftwood sculptures and massive fieldstone fireplaces. The grounds consist of beautifully manicured gardens. If you are there at sunset, you may be lucky enough to get outside seating and watch a captivating sunset over Lake Michigan.

The Legs Inn was identified by The Detroit Free Press as one of fourteen Great Michigan Eats in the State of Michigan. It is the only restaurant in the Lower Peninsula, north of Traverse City, receiving such a distinction.

While Authentic Polish cuisine is their specialty, delicious American entrees, including local fresh Whitefish are also served. The Smolak family, now in their third generation, is dedicated to making your visit to Legs Inn an unforgettable experience, which will have you returning often with family and friends. This amazing restaurant, along with the spectacular route 119 leading to it, has been acknowledged and praised by major magazines, TV broadcasters, newspapers, travel related web sites, tour guides and guests from across the country and around the world.

Location: 6425 N. Lake Shore Drive

PO Box 157

Cross village, MI  49723

P: (231) 526 – 2281

Legs Inn – Michigan

Spring is Here … Well, Almost

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , , on March 13, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Here in Michigan, we have had spring teaser days, on and off, for almost three weeks. The forecast for this week promises to bring even warmer days. We know winter isn’t over until mid to late April in the lower part of Michigan so we try to enjoy the balmy spring weather whenever we can. Yesterday was a beautiful day, and better yet, it was Sunday, so many of us could get outside and enjoy the day.

The signs of spring were apparent. Mallard ducks were out on Quarton Lake in Birmingham. The weeping willow trees were yellow against the bright blue sky. Dog walkers and walkers alike were out everywhere. Parks and playgrounds were filled with children and their parents or nannies. Outdoor tables at restaurants were occupied with customers wanting to savor the first real taste of spring. Ice cream store owners enjoyed a briskly, successful day.

On the way back home I encountered 40 cyclists, paired in twos, racing down Cranbrook Road. This took a bit of patience on the part of drivers trying to get by them on a narrow road. It also brought to mind how vigilant we need to be when the warm weather arrives.

Along the east side of Lahser Road, near Quarton Road, there were two geese headed to an open ditch at the side of the road. Soon we will see them, with their offspring, swimming in the ponded water. Again, we will need to exercise caution as the geese and their goslings will wander across the road. I also spotted a red winged blackbird perched atop the marsh grass, undoubtedly, its nest was underway.

The birds have returned and soon their songs will fill the air. The birds are busy gathering materials for building their nests. Their nests will not only be in trees, but also on ledges, in chimneys, on balconies and occasionally on the ground.

Last year I had the thrill of watching a pair of mourning doves build a nest in a floral arrangement on a side wall of my porch. It was exciting to see the eggs hatch and the adult birds feed the little ones. It wasn’t long before the little ones left the nest. I hope they return this year. I have cleaned the area where the nest was, as suggested on an online bird site. The site stated that birds will return as long as the old nest has been removed and the site is clean.

It is likely the snow and cold will return again, but at least we know that spring is not far behind, and warm, sunny days are ahead.

March is the Time for Making Maple Syrup

Posted in Dining with Pat, Lifestyle with tags , , , on March 7, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Making maple syrup is a traditional right of spring, signaling the end of winter. Several species of maple trees grow in Michigan.  Although all produce sap suitable for the production of maple syrup; two species, sugar maple and black maple are the source of sap for most commercial maple syrup production.  Sap suitable for conversion into syrup may also be obtained from red and silver maples, although such sap usually has a lower sugar content.

Equipment Necessary

Maple syrup can be produced with a minimum of equipment, but a few standard items increase the efficiency of the operation and the quality of the product:

  1. A drill with a 7/16 or 1/2 inch bit for drilling tap-holes in trees.
  2. A metal or plastic collection spout for each tap-hole.
  3. A collection container (bucket or plastic bag) or tubing line for each tap-hole.
  4. A large pan and a heat source for boiling down the sap.  The size needed will depend on how much sap you intend to handle.
  5. A large-scale thermometer, calibrated at least 15 degrees above the boiling point of water.
  6. Wool, Orlon or other filters for filtering finished syrup while hot.
  7. Storage containers for the finished syrup.

Tapping the Tree

To obtain the earliest runs of sap, tapping should be completed by the first week in March in Michigan. Minimal trunk diameter for trees suitable for tapping is 10 inches at 4 feet above the ground.

To tap a tree, select a spot on the trunk of the tree 2 to 4 feet above the ground in an area that appears to contain sound wood.  At this point, drill a hole approximately 2 to 2.5 inches deep into the wood. Then insert a collection spout and tap lightly into the tree and attach a bucket or plastic bag or a tubing line to the spout.  Open buckets used for sap collection should be covered to keep out rainwater, debris, insects and other foreign materials.

Collecting the Sap

Sap flow in maple trees will not occur every day throughout the tapping season.  It occurs when a rapid warming trend in early morning follows a cool (below freezing) night.

To collect the sap from the tree, simply hang a bucket on the tap and watch the first few drips fall into the bucket.  This should happen quickly, though there will be little drips that won’t amount to much at first.  Place a lid over the bucket and let the sap continue to drip.

After a day or two, you can check to see just how far your sap collection has come. If you are satisfied with the progress, you can drain this bucket into a larger vat to take inside to start the syrup making process.  Do not store the sap as it can spoil.

Turning Sap into Syrup

When you have a large quantity of sap, it’s time to cook it up to make the syrup. This is done by boiling the sap in a large pan on the stove as long as you have a vent fan and a dehumidifier on hand. When you boil sap, it can produce considerable moisture in the air. Professionals prefer to use outdoor gas ranges with large metal pans in order to avoid the moisture build up in their homes. There is also a hobby-sized evaporator available.

Boil the sap until it becomes thicker as the water boils off. You will need to continue to add sap to the pan, never letting the level get below 1-1/2 inches from the bottom of the pan.

As the sap is boiling, you need to skim off any foam that might be on the top. Using a candy thermometer, boil the sap until it is 7 degrees above the boiling temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Once you have reached this level, let the syrup completely cool. The sugar sand and other matter will settle to the bottom, allowing you to pour off the good syrup into a glass bottle.  Let it cool and you are ready to serve homemade maple syrup.

If you plan to can the syrup, make sure to can the syrup at 180 degrees Fahrenheit and pour into sterilized glass containers to prevent spoilage and contamination by bacteria.

If you feel that making your own maple syrup is a task too daunting to undertake, you can visit the Bloomfield Hills, E. L. Johnson Nature Center on March 17, 2012 and participate in tapping the trees, collecting the sap and visiting the sugar shack to watch the boiling process that produces pure maple syrup. Then, you can visit the log home for a taste of nature’s sweetener!

E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at: 3325 Franklin Rd, Bloomfield Hills, MI Phone: (248) 341-6485.  Website:

Meet at the Visitor Center for a guided tour.  Tours are conducted on March 17, 2012 and are scheduled every 20 minutes and last approximately one hour. Pre-registration is suggested to reserve a specific time. Tours start at Noon and run to 4:00 pm.

Dining with Pat – Venison

Posted in Dining with Pat with tags , , on November 9, 2011 by Pat Hansen

The deer hunting season is almost upon us and thousands of deer hunters will be heading up north to their favorite campsite destination, hoping to bag an eight or more point buck.  If you are lucky enough to be a recipient of a hunter’s bounty and are willing to try a recipe for venison, the following is a delicious feast.

Venison, the edible flesh of deer, is virtually a no-fat meat; therefore, it requires tenderizing. Tenderizing can be done the day before cooking the venison by placing the venison steaks in a marinade of your favorite oil, vinegar and spices.


  • 6 venison steaks, tenderized, about ½ pound each
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 4 cups pf stewed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the flour, salt, pepper and paprika. Dredge the venison steaks in the seasoned flour mixture, coating both sides. Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil, and brown both sides of the steaks. Don’t crowd the steaks when browning . . . it’s best to brown one or two at a time.

Place the browned venison steaks in a large, lidded baking dish and add the remaining ingredients, placing some of the tomatoes under the steaks. Cover the dish and place in the oven, baking for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is “falling-apart” tender. Serve over garlic mashed potatoes or hot buttered noodles. You will enjoy this one!

Woodward Dream Cruise 2011

Posted in Lifestyle with tags , , , , on August 19, 2011 by Kevin Fox

It’s that time again – time to wax up the car, grab a cooler full of cold drinks, snacks, your favorite lawn chairs and head out to Woodward Avenue, Detroit Michigan.  The celebration of Detroit Iron is in full swing

The official Cruise takes place Saturday, August 20, but the cruisers have been out in full force since Monday.  This year is the 17th rendition of this annual meeting of car fans who grew up cruising from the Totem Pole restaurant in Royal Oak to Ted’s in Bloomfield.  Saturday’s cruise extends from 8-Mile Road, at the Ferndale-Detroit border, north to Pontiac. The official hours are 9:00 am to 9:00 pm.

The cruise is best experienced from a vantage point somewhere along the 16 mile route.  Pick a shady spot, sit back and enjoy the classic cars.  Joining the cruise is not the best way to see the cars.  During the day on Saturday, Woodward Ave becomes a parking lot, gridlocked through Royal Oak and Birmingham.  Joining this mess is a great way to the see the same cars for an hour or two as you creep along at 3 miles per hour.

Here are a few ways to experience the Cruise without contributing to the traffic snarl:

    • If you want to drive the length of the Cruise, do it very early on Saturday.  There will be plenty of cars to see parked along Woodward or driving slowly in the 2 curb lanes
    • Drive to one of the event locations (via roads that aren’t named Woodward), park in one of the designated areas and mingle among the cruisers
    • Hop on your bike and ride among the cars and spectators. This is one time 2 wheels beat 4 wheels
    • Grab a spot along Woodward in a city not named Royal Oak or Birmingham.  At either end of the cruise, there are lots of spots to sit, many of them shaded.  The traffic is much lighter yet there are still plenty of cars to see

      The Woodward Dream Cruise is a great family outing that can be enjoyed for a couple of hours or all day.  For more information check out the official Woodward Dream Cruise website here:

Final thoughts:  Don’t forget your camera and don’t drink and drive.

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