Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cider Mill

I was able to spend this morning with my lovely friend, Angie, and she pointed out that I had not posted a blog in much too long and she has missed reading them.  Isn't she sweet???  So, I decided that it was about time to write about one of my favorite seasonal traditions:  Visiting Cider Mills!!!

The truth is that cider mill season is pretty much over.  Most Cider Mills close their doors Thanksgiving weekend, which means that Mick and I finally made it to one on one of the very last days that we could.  I am a little disappointed in that the leaves have been off of the trees for a few weeks now, and it is starting to feel a bit more wintery than fallish, but even though the scenery outside is lacking, the cider and doughnuts are as good as ever!

I have very definite ideas on what makes a good cider mill, a good cider mill.  (Shocker, huh?)

1.  A Little History and Few Gimmicks.  Okay, so really a cider mill is kind of a big gimmick, given that you can almost certainly make apple cider in an easier, modern, and possibly more sanitary way.  That aside, there is something very nice about visiting a place that has been doing things the same way (relatively speaking) since the 1800's or early 1900's. We decided to visit the Dexter Cider Mill, which has been in operation since 1886.  They use a wood press to make the cider and the doughnuts are served just as they should be... hot!  When we got there, we also found out that it has been featured on the Food Network.  I tried to find a clip, but could not, so if you should come across it, send it my way!

By few gimmicks, I mean, I think that a cider mill should primarily be a cider mill.  There is a trend among newer cider mills to throw in a petting zoo, corn maze, hay ride, clowns...whatever. Technically, those are still cider mills, given that they have cider and doughnuts, but really they strike me as more of an... attraction?  I can't find the right word.  It is just not the same, somehow.  I know that parents feel pressure to constantly entertain their kids, but there is something valuable in teaching them that the trip and a yummy doughnut are a special treat.

2.  Creaky floors, Creepy store.  A great cider mill should have wooden floors and look like a ghost will materialize at any moment. And there is nothing wrong with a little messy. The Dexter Cider Mill also has the added bonus of a really lovely atmosphere to enjoy your purchases.  Just down the stairs...


The cider mill set up tables all around the Huron River. Again, I wish that we had the chance to come earlier in the fall.  Imagine that river with all of the fall colors around it!  (And kayakers floating by.)
3One kind of doughnut. Plain.  Yep, there is no better pairing for cider than a plain, cider mill doughnut.  Cinnamon/ sugar is also permissible, but nothing more.  Most real cider mills will only offer the one (possibly two) types.  The have a very specific size and texture.  The outside should definitely be a little crispy.  The telltale sign of good cider mill doughnut is this:

If your bag isn't a little greasy, it means that A)  The doughnuts may be a little old, or B) They were made off site.  (And that is NOT a real cider mill!)  The woman that sold these to us said, "These should still be hot.  I just made them!"  Thank you nice lady!  And when you open that greasy bag...

VOILA!  There they are in all of their perfection.  Mmmm

4.  An authentic cider mill might have cider that is... well... read for yourself: 

Okay, you might be thinking that this is gross, but have you ever eaten Feta?  You have had an un-pasturized product.  Pasturized is preferable, but to me, this could  just be another small indication that the cider production is still as close to original as possible.  And for the record, I have never heard of anyone getting sick from apple cider.

For those of you that have never had the cider and doughnut experience, you may be wondering why this is a pairing at all.  Let me assure you that a hot, crispy, plain doughnut dunked in cider is just divine!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Practice Makes Perfect

This past week it was brought to my attention that not everyone knows how to post a comment on a blog.  Well, the truth is.. neither did I.  I think that Wordpress was much easier, but it seems a bit much to switch back from Blogger.
Anyway, I think that I figured it out:

Under the comment box, there is a drop down menu titled "Comment As:"
If you click on "Name/URL", you will then be able to enter your Name  (so I know who you are.)  Ignore the box titled URL (unless you have one) and click "Continue".

You will then be able to leave your comment and I will know who left it.  Have fun!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Running Down A Dream

Do you know this song?  It is a Tom Petty classic, and from what I remember, the anthem of our High School Cross Country team.  In fact, I remember going to a Tom Petty concert with my high school friends, Jackie and Rebecca, in celebration of this fact.  (Where Jackie naively admitted that she didn't know that Tom Petty sang about drugs... Oh Jackie...) I always thought that a more appropriate song was the cheesy 80's song, Break My Stride:  "Ain't nothin' gonna to break my stride, Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh-no, I got to keep on movin', Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride, I'm running and I won't touch ground, Oh-no, I got to keep on movin'"

When I think about my happiest moments from the age of 14 on, many of them have been tied to running.  There was the beginning when I joined the cross country team, just praying to make a friend or two before that dreaded first day of school (I was PAINFULLY shy!!!)  Fortunately, they cross country team more than produced.

There was every 6.2 mile Turkey Trot that I ran with my friends on Thanksgiving morning for 10 years in a row. I felt rather entitled to a third helping of just about everything at dinner.  Pure bliss!

Then of course, there was the first marathon at Disney.  Jackie and I had joined the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training program, where low and behold, we "ran" into our old high school teammate, Julie.  I know that there is no way that I could have had that amazing experience without those girls.  My time wasn't that great:  5 hours, 22 minutes, but it still felt like the biggest thing that I had done in life. I had actually finished a marathon!
Interestingly, a couple of years ago I found an old yearbook from my junior year in which Jackie and Julie jokingly wrote that we should do the Disney marathon someday.  Rather strange given that we did not see Julie again until we all happened to show up for that first Team in Training meeting.  Creepy, no?

I think that one of the more amazing running experiences that I had ever had was my second marathon in Detroit. Just prior to the marathon, I read an article in the Detroit Free Press about a woman that was raising money for MS and hoped to qualify for the Boston marathon in the Detroit.  Wouldn't you know that it was a girl named Lindsey that I ran with in high school.  I happened to see Lindsey at the expo the day before the big race, which was awesome, but didn't expect to see her again.

The next day, I lined up for the marathon and decided to start off with the 3:40 pacing group.  It wasn't that I thought that I had any chance to qualify for Boston, but I just wanted to see how long I could hang on with them.  I found out.  10 miles, then they were gone!  I actually ran behind Lindsey for most of those 10 miles, but I didn't say anything to her because I knew that unlike me she was serious about qualifying.  I just did not want to be a distraction.

At mile 22 or 23 (I can't remember), I was struggling a bit.  Up ahead, I saw someone that looked rather familiar.  It was Lindsey... and she was struggling as well.  For some reason, her back began to have spasms and she was forced to slow down.  When I managed to catch up to her, we chatted and wound up finishing the race together. She absolutely pushed me, and I still can't believe that she finished that race.  I could see that she was in pain the entire time and she actually collapsed at the finish line. She didn't hit her goal, but she officially became my running hero that day.  (And she pushed me to a 4hour 12 minute finish.  Much better!)  Isn't it amazing that just about 10 years after graduation, we found ourselves running like teammates once again?  Runners have a strange bond.

So, after all that, you must think that I love running, right???  Wrong.  (What I actually love is pie.)

I would consider myself a regular runner until about the time that I moved to Springfield, just after that marathon. Coincidentally this is also when I moved away from my running buddies.  I think that was the point when I realized that running for me, was not a love of the sport... It was very much a social thing.  The thought had honestly never occurred to me that without my running buddies, the sport did not hold much for me.

Sure, at first in Springfield, I ran with our neighbors Paul and Gary every morning.  We would meet at 8 am, then sit on one of our porches, and eat homemade baked goods afterward. That lasted for about a month and a half.  Then Paul moved, and the running stopped.  I did one here or there with friends/ squirrels, but nothing regularly.  I just didn't find myself motivated without someone expecting me to meet them for a run.

The last year has been stressful, with re-locating back to Michigan and running has been out of the question. Shockingly, given that there is no Andy's Frozen Custard in Michigan, I have also packed on a bit of weight.  Not enough where I am out of a healthy range by any means, but let's just say that my clothes do not fit me the way that they used to (and I don't make quite enough for a fabulous new wardrobe).  My options are: slim down or get a second job.

I tried to motivate myself to start again.  I got the Nike timing chip and even told friends that I was thinking of doing the next Detroit marathon.  Not enough.  Then I went to the doctor and  found out that my blood pressure is slightly high.   What the what!  (Again, not a dangerous range or anything, but still... I am too young to have a high anything.) It is time to do something.

So, last week I decided to take dramatic action and signed up for a beginners running class.  Yes, I know, I know.  I am technically not a beginner.  That being said, I really do feel like I am.  I am starting over with the intention of fostering a new appreciation of running.  What I hope to walk away with is an actual love of the sport itself.  I just need a coach and a group to get me started.

Running and I have been in a relationship for 17 years now.  It is time that I learn to learn to love it.  The fact is that I have always felt great and a huge boost of self confidence when I have achieved a running goal.  It is not a sport that is dependent on someone passing you the ball, so to speak.  It is completely, 100% self motivated.  If I succeed, it is because I made it happen.  Needless to say, when I succeed in running, I tend to succeed in other areas of my life as well.

So here is my strategy:  No big races.  No stressing about times.  No obsessing over goals.  In fact, if anyone asks if I "am a runner" the answer will be "no" for a while, because it is not about that. For the time being, I am going to try to live in the moment and just enjoy going for a short run.  The other stuff can, and will, come later.  Running isn't social quite yet, but it may be again in the future...  I just have to catch up to my friends first.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What A Difference a Year Makes

I realized that as of today, it has been a year since we left Missouri.  On one hand, it seems that it could not possibly be a year because the memories that I have of our time there are much too vivid.  On the other hand, I think of everything that has happened since we left, and it seems much longer:
-  We had to move in with my parents while waiting to purchase our condo
- Eventually, we did get into our place
- I began a career at Make A Wish
- My Dad. Enough said
- We have met some new friends and are adjusting to the decidedly more intense atmosphere in Ann Arbor
- My job moved from Ann Arbor to Detroit  (kicking off an hour commute and a ridiculously hefty gas bill)
- Relationships have changed, formed and deteriorated or developed
- Most unbelievably:  7 babies have been born to our friends/ coworkers in Springfield since we left!
On and on and on....

  When we left Michigan 2 years ago it kicked off  a consequential period of growth for me.  It was my first time leaving my comfort zone, and I was... anxious.  Never had I imagined that the experience would be turn out to be so rewarding, and such a learning experience.  And never had I imagined that returning to Michigan, my so called "comfort zone" would cause me to develop and change further.

I feel that I left Missouri with not only friendships, but having learned truths about myself and life lessons.  With both moves, I have learned:

- That non-profit work suits me, but more importantly, I value being appreciated as a person as much as an employee in the workplace.
- That I don't have to apologize for my interests or beliefs (because someone out there shares them or at least finds them amusing.)
- That being too PC can be negative, unproductive and stand in the way of breaking down barriers
- That I value relationships that are first and foremost, genuine.  It is okay to let go when they are not.
- That I am an INFJ and should embrace it.
- That I should not compare myself to those around me, but learn from them.
- That creativity always matters

 I miss Missouri terribly and I cannot wait to visit.  Perhaps I will pick up a few more lessons while I am there.  I know that I still have much to learn...

Monday, March 15, 2010

I Don't Have A Clever Title For This One

You may remember the saga of my Dad from last year.  Long story short, he wound up in the ICU on 3 separate occasions in a 3 month period due to pneumonia complicated by Post Polio Syndrome. He was also placed on a ventilator on all 3 of those occasions (and thanks to the negligence of a certain nurse he even had some experience taking himself OFF of a ventilator. No, you did not read that incorrectly.)

This past October, he found himself back at Henry Ford Hospital when he had a heart attack, though not in the ICU.  It came as a bit of a shock because we had allowed ourselves to think that something serious enough to hospitalize him would most likely be lung based.  This past Wednesday, my Dad went to the hospital again complaining of chest pains. Oddly enough, the test results showed no evidence of a heart attack and he was released later that day.

While he may have been sent home, my Mom had been noticing that he wasn't being himself and hadn't been for a couple of weeks. Skipping over a few details here...   he was admitted to the hospital yet again on Friday and by that afternoon he was not really responding to us.  By 2am they had decided to put him on a ventilator again. Oh we go again.

While eventually he had developed a small case of pneumonia, the issue that placed him in the ICU is that his body was not ridding itself of carbon dioxide the way that it should.  This is a direct result of the Post Polio. The ventilator became necessary because his CO2 levels were getting dangerously high, and nothing else that they tried would work.  Trust me, everything was tried including us taking turns standing over him and yelling  "DAD!  BREATH! TAKE DEEP BREATHS!"  Needless to say, while he generally did not respond to any of us, the one time he did was when my Mom was encouraging him.

The reason that the ventilator was so scary is that every time a person is intubated, they become more dependent on the ventilator.  Because my Dad's respiratory system is approximately 50% paralyzed from Polio, this is especially a concern.  As you might imagine, we do not want my Dad to be placed on a ventilator (or feeding tube) permanently. Having him placed on it was both devastating and comforting in an odd way.

My Dad had expressed to my Mom his extreme distaste for being intubated many times and when they allowed him to come-to after the intubation, he managed to scrawl out a note to my Mom that simply said:  "You're putting me on right?"   Last night he wrote me a note that said "Being able to talk is terrible" but then continued to pen a series of scenarios that could happen on the season finale of Desperate Housewives.  At that moment, something told me that he would be okay, but I don't think that any of us were ready to relax until he was breathing on his own.

This morning, they extubated my Dad and he is doing great so far!  He even passed his swallowing test on the first try (which was another concern.)

So, onward and upward.  Cheers to happiness, health, happier blog posts and to next weekend actually being a weekend!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lent Me A Hand

I do not believe in New Years Resolutions.  Rather, I do not believe in them for me because I find that I rarely stick to them for more than a week.  Besides, as a practicing Catholic I have a much more effective tool when it comes to self-improvement:  Lent.

For some reason (and I am guessing that it is because the fear of God is added into the mix) I do much better at Lenten sacrifices. In the past, I have done things such as giving up meat (pre-vegetarian days) and sweets. I also have done things that would make a positive impact in my life such as adding a weekly mass in addition to Sunday.   I even took on my most challenging, yet rewarding conquest:  Resolving to say nothing but positive things about others....for 40 matter how much they might annoy me.  The reason that I chose this is because I think that every so often I find myself indulging in conversation that is non-productive and contributes to a negative environment.  I don't think of myself as a gossip by any means, but I think that we are all a little guilty of venting from time to time. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt:  "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. "  It was a challenge that I feel made me a better person.  It was also a challenge that stretched my vocabulary as I found that I was apt to use a little creative wording from time to time. (Hey, I'm only human.)

So here I am wondering what to do/ give up for Lent this year.  I am open to repeats. Any suggestionss???

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Before getting to the topic of this post, I would like to thank Erin Nelson for helping me with it.  Erin is someone that I have had the pleasure of meeting since moving to Ann Arbor.  Our guys are in the same program at U of M and we have all had the chance to hang out together on a couple of occasions.  Last Friday, we met up with them at the Jolly Pumpkin and I found out that we both have blogs (and knit!).  I mentioned a small problem that I was having and she solved it in about 2 seconds flat!

You see, my friend Ashley had an inventive notion.  After reading my entry about Hostess Donettes, she crafted the idea of issuing each other random topics as a way to keep up on our blogs and to stimulate a little creative thinking.  The idea is that we will do this twice a month and that we are required to post within 3 days of receiving our topic.  I am now posting approximately 1 and a half weeks after so I automatically get an "F" Given the topic that I was assigned, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that I get a Zzzzz
My word is:  NAP

Quite honestly, I have been stuck.  It is strange to think that I could have an absolute writers block when the topic is about something that I love and adore so very much, but outside of stating my desire for a good nap, I had: nada.  When I mentioned this to Erin she quickly replied that I should think outside the box and perhaps I could even write about the places that I would like to nap.  Erin, you are brilliant!  Here it goes...

1.  A Beach
Okay, this is where everyone wants to nap, is it not?  I am not a beach person by any means.  I am a sunscreen addict that would never go anywhere near a bathing suit, but the idea of laying in a hammock while the waves crash nearby is just too dreamy. 
I have an alarm clock that has a series of relaxing sounds designed to provide a source of white noise.  Even though there are 6 different options, the only one that Mick and I can agree on is the ocean feature.  I don't like the options that sound like inclement weather and he doesn't like the "Outdoor" option because there are grasshoppers in the background. ("Bugs of Death," he calls them) and he doesn't like the Rainforest feature either ("Birds of Death").  In any case, I sleep on an imaginary beach every night.  I would just like to do it in the sun for once. 

2. Mexican Pavilion  in EPCOT 
If you have been to Disney World and gone on the "El Rio Del Tiempo" boat experience, you know that this is one trippy ride.  I don't really know why I have always been a little obsessed with this outdated and rather non-sensical attraction.  You board your boat under a starry sky near a volcano gently float under Mayan ruins where... well... just watch the video:
Yes, I know that it makes no sense but something makes me want to grab a pillow and a blanket. 
Honorable mention:  The Jungle Cruise at night or on the couch in the lobby of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

3.  A Park 
Simple, I know, but I would be too self conscious to lay out in a public place.  I think that I will jazz it up by saying a National Park.

4.  Under the Eiffel Tower
It was beautiful when I went there, but under the advice of the guy that worked at the crepe stand near the tower, I would not bring my wallet with me when doing this. 

5. Dalkey, Ireland   
This is a suburb of Dublin that we went to in 2006.  It was, in a word: Enchanting. I would like to sleep in a garden of an estate on the Irish Sea. We later found out that Bono lives there.  Needless to say, I would like to sleep in the garden of Bono's estate on the Irish Sea.

6. Niagara Falls and Niagara on the Lake
A few years ago, we went to a wonderful town about 10 miles down the road from Niagara Falls on the Canadian side.  It is called "Niagara on the Lake"   The town boasts historic B& B's world class theaters and wineries galore.  It is just a beautiful environment. 
I would also like to nap at Niagara Falls, but preferably not on the side with all of the wax museums.  

7. My couch or my bed
After everything that we went through in order to get into our home, I don't know that there are many places that I would rather sleep! 

So there you have it, Miss Ashley.  I am sorry for the delay and next time, I will stick to the 3 day rule.  Thanks again for helping me out Erin, and for everyone else... where would YOU like to nap?