Happy Birthday Michigan!

On January 26, 1837 the state of Michigan became the 26th state in the United States of America.

That makes the state 182.

I have only lived here four months but I have found so much that is interesting and I can hardly wait until spring to begin exploring.

  • With 3,200 miles of shoreline Michigan claims more lighthouses than any other state.
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Big Sable Point Light

  • Michigan touches four out of the five great lakes, more than any other state: Huron, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

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  • The legendary children’s story of Paul Bunyan is believed to be based on a French-Canadian lumberjack Fabian Fournier,  who moved to Michigan after the Civil War to take advantage of the high-paying logging industry.  While Minnesota also claims Bunyan as theirs, two towns in Michigan make that claim.  Ossineke has a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox.

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  • The Cross in the Woods Catholic shrine in Indian River has a 55′ foot cross carved from one redwood tree.  Raised in 1954, a sculpture of the crucified Christ was added to the cross in 1959.  My husband and I visited this shrine several years ago when vacationing in Michigan but I am looking forward to seeing it again come spring.

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  • Mackinaw Island is high on my list of places to visit. The island sits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.  Since I’m a history nut I want to visit Fort Mackinac which was founded in 1780.  Another fort, Fort Holmes, was built during the wall of 1812 and has been reconstructed.  No cars are allowed on the island so that should make travel interesting.
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Mode of transportation on this island

  • Mackinaw Bridge is one my husband and I crossed on our first visit here.  It is a little scary if you are afraid of heights.  The towers reach 554 feet above the surface water.   Five miles long it is the longest suspension bridge in the Americans.  Known as “Big Mac” it  links Michigan’s Lower and Upper peninsulas. When we planned our trip in Michigan a few years ago it included crossing this brige to the upper peninsula.  I was fine until I read how high the bridge was.  Then panic set in because I have a terrible fear of heights.  When we drive through a mountainous area, I often have to close my eyes to avoid a complete panic attack.  Caught between my fear of heights and my desire to see the upper peninsula, I started my day with my devotion before we headed to the car for the trip.  What a pleasant surprise as I read the devotion for that day.  So thankful that God cares even about our silly fears.  The devotion from the book of Habakkuk that day said:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places

I was now calm and ready to go.  My husband has no fear of heights and was not concerned about driving across the bridge.  However, when we were about half way across the bridge I looked at him and he looked terrified too.  It is a beautiful sight – but I’m not sure my husband is ready to drive over it again.  We shall see.

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There’s so much more to see, learn and explore.  But for now, Happy Birthday Michigan!

Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

After visiting Flint, Michigan on a recent trip, my husband and I traveled on to one of the most interesting little towns – Frankenmuth.  Known as “Little Bavaria” the sign welcoming us gave a feel for what was to come as we explored the town.  Its Bavarian-style architecture highlights its German roots.

 

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On of the first things we saw on entering the town was Bronner’s Christmas  Wonderland.  They claim to be the world’s largest Christmas store.  Larger than two and a half football fields the enormous building contains over 50,000 gifts and trimmings for Christmas.   It was a little overwhelming!

 

Since we have just downsized in moving to a smaller place we were able to resist buying anything here.  The Cheese Haus, however, was a different story.  We love cheese and this store is certainly a cheese lover’s fantasy.

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The store carries over 120 different kinds of cheese, including chocolate cheese.

 

I was not brave enough to try that chocolate cheese but could not resist buying a block of Colby cheese.

Looking forward to some authentic German food we stopped at the Bavarian Inn Lodge for lunch.

 

Nestled along the Cass River the Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, four indoor pools, three whirlpools, two water slides, a miniature golf course, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants – all under one roof.

Sadly the line waiting to eat when we arrived was very long and the wait would have been 30 to 45 minutes.  Since we were both very hungry and being diabetic could not really wait that long we looked for another  spot for lunch.

While certainly not as fancy as the Inn, we found a small wine bar and charcuterie called Prost!

Prost is one of the most important Oktoberfest words.  It is a German cheer to good food, great wine and the warm conversation and laughter among family and friends.  And here I got my German food fix.

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Charcuterie (pronounced “shar/kew/tree”) describes any kind of cured meat, but is typically associated with specialty and gourmet meats.  The term “charcuterie board” often refers to an assortment of meats that are paired with different accompaniments, such as toast, fruit, cheese, and sauces.  The menu at Prost! offered lots of choices but I zeroed in on the  bratwurst with sauerkraut and lots of mustard on the side.

By this time evening was approaching and reluctantly we headed home.  There is so much more to see in this charming town.

  • Bavarian Belle Riverboat
  • Ultimate Mirror Maze
  • Silent Night Chapel
  • Rose Garden

And the list goes on.  So come spring we will be heading to Frankenmuth for a much longer stay.

 

 

 

 

I Got My German Food Fix!

After moving to Michigan in October we have tried to do some sightseeing.  However, cold weather is limiting that right now.  Last weekend we had a beautiful sunshiny day so we took off on another adventure.  We had no definite destination – just heading east and seeing what the day brought.

Our first stop was in Flint, Michigan.  While living in Illinois we had watched the news report of the water tragedy in that city.  The city water was full of lead which was poisoning the residents and there were legal battles over who was at fault.  Watching the news of that city and trying to imagine how you would function when you could not use the water in your own home, I never dreamt that I would some day visit the city.

But  I discovered there is a lot of interesting history in both the city of Flint and its county of Genesee.

The county’s name comes from Genesee County in the state of New York.  It means “beautiful valley.”  The county’s first white settler, Jacob Smith, opened a trading post on the Flint River in 1819.  In 1829 the federal government began building a military road connecting Detroit to Saginaw Bay.  Saginaw Bay is located in Lake Huron forming the space between Michigan’s Thumb region and the rest of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The construction site where the wooden bridge was built over the Flint River became the city of Flint.

I have always associated the automobile industry with Detroit, but was surprised to find much of the history took place in Flint.  One of Flint’s citizens, Willam Durant, began building carriages.  His company, Durant-Dort, manufactured 50,000 vehicles annually.  As carriages began to give way to cars, he invested in the Buick Motor Company.  He had the vision of creating holding companies that would manufacture different lines of cars.  He joined with Louis Chevrolet and formed General Motors with a car designed by Chevrolet.  The city of Flint began rapidly growing with the automobile boom and was known as “Vehicle City.”

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Sadly, the automotive industry in Flint has taken a big blow and the city does not have  the booming economy it once had.  Work continues on the water situation and the city just recently reported that:

Overall, to date, service lines to 7,831 homes have been identified as lead and/or galvanized and have been replaced, including 1,603 homes found this year. The efforts are a part of Mayor Karen Weaver’s plan to determine if water service lines are made of copper, and replace service lines made of lead and galvanized steel. Mayor Weaver is determined to restore safe, clean drinking water to Flint residents.

The goal is to have all of Flint’s lead-tainted service lines replaced by the end of 2019. More information about the FAST Start initiative can be found on the City of Flint website – http://www.cityofflint.com

Still, there are several areas of interest we want to check out.  One fast trip through did not give us much time.  We will have to come back to see:

Longway Planetarium – Michigan’s largest planetarium

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The Buick Gallery and Research Center

 

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Oh you are wondering about my German Food Fix.  Well, after Flint we ventured on to Frankenmuth, Michigan a little town known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” where I enjoyed a delicious German meal.

But that will wait for my next post.

 

 

 

Michigan’s Lighthouses

I have always loved lighthouses.  When my husband and I took vacations to the east coast we always visited the lighthouses.

Recently moving to Michigan I was so happy to find out the state, with 3,288 miles of shoreline, is home to more lighthouses than any other state in the USA.  Although Old Man Winter is showing up this week with a snow storm and we will not be able to do much traveling right now, come spring I’m heading out to check out these lighthouses.  As the maps below show that will probably keep me busy for a long, long time.

In the meantime, thought you might enjoy some interesting facts about lighthouses:

  • A person who likes lighthouses is said to be a pharophisle.  (Not really sure about that one – the word is not in the dictionary but there are plenty of lighthouse lovers who insist this is a word.  Collins English Dictionary says it is a word “pending investigation”.)
  • The United States has more lighthouses than any other country – 37 states have lighthouses.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the USA is Cape Hatteras Light on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  It stands 193 feet tall.
  • The tallest lighthouse in the world is in Saudi Arabia.  Jeddah Light is 436 feet tall.
  • The east coast of the USA has 391 lighthousesas opposed to only 94 on the west coast.
  • A lighthouse keeper was sometimes called a “wickie” because in the days before electricity the oil lamps were used for a light.  The lighthouse keeper was responsible for keeping the wicks trimmed and the light burning.

I think one reason I love lighthouses so much is the very idea of their existence.  They were created to serve as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas.  As a girl I loved the song “Jesus is The Lighthouse.”  The Bible also talks quite a bit about Christians being lights in the world.

Here’s the song sung by the Heritage Singers.  Note that it is from 1976 – but I hope you will take time to listen to it.

And you can bet come spring I’ll be posting about the lighthouses of Michigan.

 

Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

What an Artist!!!

It’s Fall!  My favorite time of year.  This year I am experiencing Fall in a new home in a new town in a new state.  Talk about change!

And I think I have moved to the perfect location to see all the beauty that God creates for us in the Fall.  Let’s hear it for Michigan!  These were just some of the views my husband and I saw on our drive through the country yesterday.

One of my favorite trees is the white birch tree.  The bark is so beautiful even in winter when the leaves are all gone.   In our home in Illinois we had three white birch trees and two paper birch trees.  I really hated leaving them when we moved.

But on our drive yesterday we discovered Michigan has a lot of white birch trees and they are at the height of their Fall beauty.

Spring is wonderful when the first blades of grass and flowers peek through and the leaves begin to appear on the trees.  Summer is gorgeous with all the various flowers in bloom.  Even Winter has its beauty with the fresh fallen snow.  But I think Fall is when God shows off!

I understand the science behind the change in the leave colors.  But I think of the Mind that designed such a process that brings such beauty to the world.

…the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

Though I am probably taking this Bible verse out of context, I loved to think as we drove by all the beautiful trees they were praising God with their spectacular colors.

Yes, God is an artist and Fall is when He shows off His talent!

Thank you God for the beautiful display you give us every year!

 

From Corn Fields to Mint Farms

Growing up in Illinois I am used to seeing acres and acres of corn fields any time I drive though the countryside.   Although Iowa is the top corn-producing state in the country, Illinois is a close second.  Some of the top-producing counties are in Illinois.

Seventy-five percent of Illinois’ total land area is devoted to farmland and much of that is in corn.  That’s a lot of corn!

The corn grown in Illinois is not the corn you buy at the store and put on your plate with lots of butter and salt.  That is sweet corn bred for its sugar content which is what makes it so tasty!  One of my favorite sweet corns is called “peaches and cream.”  It is a hybrid and combines white and yellow kernels.  Oh!  What a treat it is!  I usually buy several dozen ears in the early summer and put in the freezer so we can enjoy it all year long.  Nothing is greater than sitting down at the dining room table in the middle of a snow storm with a plate of steaming hot peaches and cream corn waiting to be enjoyed.

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The corn grown in Illinois is field corn that is bred for starch.  This corn is used in food products like cornmeal, corn chips and corn syrup.  It is also used in making ethanol and polymers.  However, primarily it is grown for animal feed.

How do you tell the difference?  Sweet corn is shorter, has larger tassels visible, and is often a lighter green.  Field corn is taller, has smaller visible tassels, and is darker green. Sweet corn is harvested in mid-summer while field corn is harvested in the fall after the plant starts to die and the corn kernels become very dry.

Corn is seen in the field that belonged to the Gibson family farm businesses which was auctioned off by a court appointed receiver in Morocco

I love taking road trips through the countryside in the fall to watch the farmers as they harvest the field corn.  Although my husband enjoys it also, all the dust that it produces is a little hard on his allergies.

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Growing up watching the corn as it grows in the field from the small plants in the spring to the tall stalks in the fall and watching the harvest, I never thought much about it until I moved to Virginia.  I married a young man in the Marine Corps who was stationed at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia just outside Washington DC.  As we explored Virginia that summer I enjoyed the mountains and the many historical sites, but I began missing all those acres and acres of corn.  When fall came I think I was as much homesick for the corn harvest as I was for my family.  As we headed back to Illinois after my husband’s discharge from the Marine Corps, I could not wait to see the corn fields.  Living a few years later as a missionary in the Philippines I once again longed for my corn fields.  Somehow home is associated in my mind with corn fields.

Now I am moving to Michigan.  While Michigan also grows corn, the area where I am moving is noted for its mint farms.  Driving around the area I did see a few fields of corn but nothing of the acres and acres of corn here in Illinois.  St Johns, Michigan calls itself “Mint City” and Clinton County, where St Johns is located, ranks first in Michigan in regards to total mint production.  In August every year the city holds a Mint Festival celebrating its history in mint farming.

I did some checking to see exactly what Michigan agriculture has to offer.  I found Michigan is:

  • #1 producers of tart cherries in USA
  • 6th producer of dairy milk
  • #1 producer of potatoes for potato chips
  • supplies the eggs for all the McDonald’s east of the Mississippi River
  • sells over 2 million Christmas trees every year

(these facts are taken from:the “Pure Michigan website: https://www.michigan.org/article/trip-idea/michigan-agriculture-facts-might-not-have-known)

So – I’m taking a last trip through the countryside to see my corn fields.  I imagine next fall I’ll be asking my husband for us to take a road trip south to see the farmers harvesting the corn.