Monday, August 13, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 19 – Mackinac Island

Warning - Long post with lots of pics.

Wednesday was devoted to the must anticipated trip over to Mackinac Island via a 45 minute ferry ride on The Star Line’s “Straits of Mackinaw.”  We had purchased rides on the 15 minute fast ferry but it couldn’t hold everyone in line and we didn’t want to wait 30 minutes for the next one.  The one we missed and the one we took.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 18 – St Ignace, Bridge, and Fish

It’s cooler over here on the water than the Leelanau Peninsula and I awoke to 60F temps but at 95% humidity, I opted to stay inside for my morning coffee and computering.

One of my goals while along the Great Lakes is to try the various types of lake fish and after two unimpressive restaurant meals, I decided to try cooking some myself.  So after a little research and reading reviews (how did we live without the web), we decided to head across the Mackinac Bridge to Massey’s Fish Company in St. Ignace (ig-nis).

The company is owned by a couple where he is the fisherman and she is the sales person – mostly to restaurants with a small retail outlet.  Smoke from the fish smoker was billowing as we pulled up.

Note:  being the camera clutz that I am, I have my camera shooting very cool (blueish) pictures and I can’t edit all of it out so please overlook the varying photo colors.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 16 & 17 – Moving On & Mackinaw Area

A/C Update – Saturday was our first hot day and, while it got into the high 70’s at the front of the coach, we made it fine on the 91 degree day and it helped that it got a little cloudy late afternoon.  Using the portable fan to blow cool air into the bedroom worked well and while we usually have the bedroom cooler, I still slept under the covers.  It’s good to know we can survive a day in the 90’s as I think we may see more on our way back south.

Sunday was moving day and our 120 mile driving route was pretty simple – MI-22 back the Traverse City, US-31 to I-75 for one exit, then US-23 to the campground.  Except for a few repaired sections, US-31 was in bad shape and the coach rattle most of the way over here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 14 & 15 – Cider & Wine Tasting & Boone’s

For our next to last day in the Suttons Bay, we decided it was time to hit the wine/cider trail and sample some of the local offerings before the weekenders poured into the area.  This area is a major grower of cherries and apples, as well as some grapes.  We began at Tandem Ciders about 10 minutes from the campground and drove past many apple orchards on the way there.

They had a nice tasting room with two nice young ladies doing the pouring at $1.50 for a 3oz sample- we tried eight and the ones in this area are very different from those we’ve tried other places in that most are very dry.  We began with the driest and worked our way to sweeter where I found the ones I preferred although they were not really sweet.  I guess it’s like wine where you start out with a sweet white and work your way to dry red.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 12 & 13 – Sleeping Bear Dunes & Pegtown

Today was primarily devoted to checking out the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore but the first order of business was breakfast along the way at PegTown Station  located in small, unincorporated Maple City, MI.  It has a population of 207 and per Wikipedia – “Maple City had its beginnings in 1866 when William Parks and J. T. Sturtevant built a shoe peg factory on land containing several hundred acres of maple timber, and the community that grew up around it was at first known as "Peg Town."  

The restaurant was pretty full the entire time we were there and when I asked the server what brought people to Maple City she answered “We do, our food is fantastic” meaning the restaurant.  Bev and Pat both ordered the breakfast sandwich and I ordered the corned beef hash plus we shared a very good cinnamon bun to start.

Friday, August 3, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 10 & 11 – Checking The Area & Suttons Bay

On Monday, we decided to drive around the upper part of Leelanau Peninsula but before we left, six year old Sophia from next door knocked on the door to ask if Teddy Bear could come out and play – I thought that was so cute.

Today’s trip was to just get a feel for the area and see where we might want to re-visit, especially for the shoppers.  We went up the west side of the peninsula and passed through the towns of Lake Leelaneau, Leland, and North Port before stopping at The Leelenau State Park.  The park is located at the very top of the peninsula and is the site of a light house constructed in 1858.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 8 & 9 – Farmers Market and Moving Day

We awoke to a beautiful Saturday morning and after breakfast, we made the 15 minute drive into downtown Muskeegon, where I dropped the girls off at the farmers market, which looked to be really bustling.  I didn’t take any shots but here are some from the web that Bev advises were accurate except she said it was so crowded it was hard to move around.

Monday, July 30, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 6&7 – Muskegon Area

On our first full day in the Muskegon area, we drove north to check out the Silver Lake Dunes, a couple of wineries, and have lunch.  Silver Dunes State Park, which is popular with off-roaders and tourists taking mutli- passenger dune tours, lies between Silver Lake and Lake Michigan.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Day 5 – Muskegon

The guys showed up at 8am to look at our coach water leak and couldn’t find anything obvious but fixed several possibilities so I’m hopeful all is good.  After they finished we headed north on IN-13, US-131, MI-89, MI-40, and US-31 and while none of the roads were great none were really bad either.  Most were paved-over concrete roads with joint cracks in the asphalt that were readily felt by the high pressure RV tires.  Traffic was moderate until we got on US-31 which is obviously a main artery along Michigan’s west coast.

We pulled into Duck Creek RV Resort mid afternoon, got set up, relaxed and decided to order pizza delivery for supper.  Based upon Bev’s research, she chose Bernie O’s in north Muskegon and we ordered a 10” Twist and a 16” Mack the Stack.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 3 & 4 – Shipshewana, IN

I was prepared for 90+ degree weather here but a cold front moved through and the highs were around 80F, which I much preferred.  Since this stop was primarily for my girls to hit the shopping trail, we began the day with them heading for a few places within walking distance.

It is obvious that all of the RV factories and large Amish community bring in lots of tourists, like us, and there are many places to drop your cash and so we went to one for lunch – the Blue Gate Restaurant and Bakery  In addition to the restaurant, there is a bakery, a theater, and buggy rides from this location.  The restaurant offers three dining options – buffet, family style, and order from the menu and we chose buffet.  As they are the primary place to eat in town, they are pretty busy most of the time but this day wasn’t too bad.

Monday, July 23, 2018

2018 Summer RV Trip – Days 1 & 2 – Roads and Campgrounds

We’re finally back on the road with a plan of getting somewhere to beat the summer heat at home so we headed north to the coastal areas of Michigan and Wisconsin with other stops along the way.

We started out on Sunday morning, leaving Cindy in charge of the home place and drove north on I-75 to our first night’s stop near Cincinnati, OH.  During previous travels, I’ve often commented about the good roads in Tennessee but I couldn’t say this about the stretch of road north of Knoxville.  Once we got into Kentucky, the road surface improved quite a bit and stayed that way until north of Lexington where it was mostly good with a few rough patches.  We also experienced very heavy traffic (lots of semis) between Clinton, TN and the top of Jellico Mountain and we ran for many miles at about 30 mph.

We pulled into Indian Springs Campground near I-275 west of Cincinnati about 3:30 and were assigned site 12 which was a pull thru that was long enough to leave the car attached.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A Food Trip To Germany Without Leaving Home

Before coming to our place for her summer visit, Kathy paid a visit to her brother’s house in Napierville, IL which is about 20 minutes from our new favorite sausage maker – The Wurst Kitchen in Aurora, Il, so she and Wende, who drove up to get her, graciously agreed to bring me a small order to tide us over until we got up that way in August.

Their white brats (fine ground veal) are pre-cooked and require only a warm up and crust (for us) from the grill.  To go with them, we nuked to just warm some real deal homemade kraut from the nearby Mennonite farmers market.

A couple of things to note about this kraut are the ingredients of only salt and cabbage and that it is not swimming in liquid – the maker knows what they are doing.  They lightly canned it but it tasted more like right from the crock than cooked but you can also buy it raw.

After grilling the brats, they were topped with the kraut and sided with some Inglehoffer Stone Ground Mustard.

I considered having another side dish and glad I passed so I could fill up on this.  In addition to being huge, the brats were moist, creamy, and lightly seasoned and the kraut was the best I’ve had in a long time, like grandma made and like I ate in Germany.  All I was missing to believe I was at a Bavarian Biergarten was a good German beer to wash it all down. 

Bev ate hers a little more traditionally by adding the brat to a bun before topping with mustard and kraut plus a piece of hot pepper cheese and she also thought it was delicious.  She recently had her ancestry checked and she has a little German heritage and it may be driving her desire to have sausages (usually with peppers and onions) about once a week.  If she suddenly decides she likes beer, I’ll know the German is coming through stronger.

Several packages of the white brats will be on the list for our August stop in Aurora and we picked up six more quarts of kraut which should last us through the winter and if not we'll get even more next year.

Follow up on previous post - This just shows how food habits may follow us through life.  Three folks commented that they have never had a grilled cheese with mayo on it, while I don't believe I've ever had one without it - come to think of it most of my sandwiches include mayo, just as mom made them - Hellmann's most of my life but now Duke's.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


7/11/18 Meal Date

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Not Your Mama’s Grilled Cheese

I’ve never met a grilled cheese sandwich that I didn’t enjoy, even the most basic made with just a slice of American cheese and some mayo and I guess it’s because bread fried in butter taste pretty darned good by itself.   I’ve also had the other direction with a hamburger between two grilled cheeses...

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Kids Annual Summer Visit – Part 3

Following are some shots of our visitors, beginning with the Roden’s who got the tall gene from their dad’s family.  L-R it's 17 year old Jennafer, 15 year old Lauren, 47 year old Kathy, and almost 19 year old Katelyn.

The other half of our visitor group L-R was 18 year old granddaughter Reece, friend Trinity, friend Grace, and 16 year old granddaughter Riley.

The Roden’s again just before they hit the road for the drive to the Atlanta airport.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Kids Annual Summer Visit – Part 2

Continuing with our visit by family, daughter Wende came down from Oak Ridge a couple of times and brought along the newest grandkid, seven month old Eliza and of course she was a hit with her older cousins.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Kids Annual Summer Visit - Part 1

Daughter, Kathy, and her three girls (Katelyn, Jennafer, and Lauren) came in from San Antonio, TX for their annual visit to the lake.  Joining them were Reece and Riley Walker (Rhett’s daughters) and two of their friends for a total of eight visitors and adding in Beverly, that is nine females and me – Cindy and Pat were traveling or it would have been 11 to 1 – as my Dad would say “sounds about even according to players.” J

Other than visiting, their primary purpose for coming to Almost Heaven South was to play on the lake, especially pulling a tube with the jet ski, and Bev and my main function was to provide food for the throng.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

I plan to take a moment from our 4th of July activities to remember the real meaning of this day and thank those brave souls who sacrificed everything so that we could live free and celebrate this Independence Day.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Southern Fried Supper

Last week, we made a trip to the Englewood Mennonite Farmers Market to pick up corn and potatoes for our Low Country Boil and as you might imagine, we loaded up for our personal use as well.  For tonight’s meal, the veggies all came from the market and to make it truly southern, all but the tomatoes were fried with the following menu:

- Sliced okra, rolled in cornmeal and flour, and fried in Crisco – a must.
- Bi-color corn, cut from the cob, and cooked in butter.
- New potatoes, washed, parboiled, and browned in butter
- Sliced vine ripened tomatoes
- Cottage cheese for those who wanted it
- S&P on everything as the only spices

It was all outstanding and Cindy, who had not had anything but the tomatoes before tonight, raved about it – I did my raving by quietly getting seconds J  The fresh corn was very sweet, the potatoes were extra creamy, the okra was tender, and the tomatoes were as good as they can be so we ate all of everything but the potatoes – no dessert required tonight.  I know all of this fried food should not be eaten often, but you really should become a Southener and give this meal a try.

No pics but as you might guess, the next morning the leftover potatoes were added to some fried onions and peppers then topped with some hot pepper cheese and a couple of fried eggs for a delicious breakfast.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


6/24/18 Meal Date

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

RV Travel – Toqua Campground Rally – Part 3

On Wednesday, we drove down to Calhoun’s At The Marina for their buffet lunch followed by the clubs annual business meeting.  I’ve found this restaurant to be hit-and-miss over the years but I believe their buffet is always very good.  Here are a couple of shots from the web of the back and the front and our group arriving.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

RV Travel – Toqua Campground Rally – Part 2

We began our first full rally day with an early lunch at Donna’s Old Town Café about 10 miles down the road in Madisonville where I went with the buffet and thought the fried chicken and the fish were both very good.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

RV Travel – Toqua Campground Rally – Part 1

As the Wagon Master (trip coordinator) for our Tennessee Travelers FMCA Chapter, I’m always well pleased when one of our members volunteers to host a rally (Rally Master) and when the Lusk’s volunteered for June, I jumped at the offer.  After a little discussion we thought that Toqua Campground in Vonore, TN would be a good location as the attendees would be there for the short drive to our annual meeting on Wednesday.  The Lusk’s are very familiar with the area so many good events had been planned.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father’s Day

Here’s hoping all you Dad’s out there have a terrific day.

 According to their local newspaper and Wikipedia - "After Anna Jarvis' successful promotion of Mother's Day in Grafton, West Virginia, the first observance of a "Father's Day" was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia, in the Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church.  Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father, when in December 1907, the Monongah Mining Disaster in nearby Monongah killed 361 men, 250 of them fathers, leaving around a thousand fatherless children. Clayton suggested that her pastor Robert Thomas Webb honor all those fathers."

Fairmont is my hometown and if I ever knew this I had forgotten.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Air Fryer And English

I’ve posted before that I am not a fan of specialty kitchen gadgets and as I walked into the room recently there was a commercial on TV for an air fryer so I watched a couple of minutes.  Then, I went online to do a little research on them and discovered they work by having a fan circulate hot air around the food. 

I, then, realized I already have two of them on hand – a full-convection kitchen oven and a full-convection toaster oven, so no air fryer needed - $100+ saved.

Also, I continue to be concerned about the degradation of the English language and it’s no wonder we have communication issues as the meaning of words keeps changing (and this doesn't even count the new text shorthand).  In my younger days when mom said we were having fried potatoes, I knew they would be cooked in a pan (usually cast iron) with some type of fat (usually bacon) and I never had to ask if they were to be cooked in the oven or in the air fryer.  Per Webster – fried: to cook in a pan or on a griddle over heat especially with the use of fat.

So when you read about a dish coming from Almost Heaven South, you can usually assume the following:

Fried – in a pan with fat
Baked – in an oven
Nuked – in a microwave
Griddled – on the flat griddle
Grilled – over an open flame device (gas, charcoal, wood)

But wait, there are obviously some exceptions such as a grilled cheese sandwich which is cooked on the griddle or in a skillet and to make it more confusing, as a kid, we called them toasted cheese sandwiches even though they were cooked in a pan and not the toaster.  So if everyone will just start calling them fried cheese sandwiches I think all will be fine.  Hopefully this brought a little grin to your face.J

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Mediterranean Salmon & Fresh Veggies

Even though I haven’t been gardening lately, we are still spoiled when it comes to vegetables and will try to find good fresh ones, so today we made the 60 mile round trip to the farmers market run by the Englewood Mennonite Community and we came home with a car load.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Snapper Veracruz & Grilled Tuna

It was time for fish and while freezer diving, I found a piece of tuna for Cindy and a package of snapper for the rest of us, both from our trip to the Florida panhandle last winter.

For the snapper, I used the following Bobby Flay recipe for Snapper Veracruz and followed it as written except we only had three pieces of fish and I cooked the sauce to nearly done before grilling the fish.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

While many have served, thankfully, our family has not lost anyone to a war, but many have and I am thankful for those sacrifices that have protected this great country in which we have the privilege of living.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Reece Graduates – Three Down

This past week, we made the six hour drive down to Sumter, SC to attend the high school graduation of Reece Walker, our son Rhett’s middle child.  There were two events involved with the first one being an awards ceremony where Reece received several honors but a very special one – a four year ROTC scholarship to the University of Tennessee.  After spending most of her life in a military family, she has decided she wants to be a physical therapist in the US Army.

Needless to say, her parents were beyond happy with the size of that check.

The next night was the actual graduation ceremony and here she is with her mom’s parents – didn’t get any with us.

I believe her dad is very pleased that she wants to follow in his footsteps with a hitch in the army and also attend is alma mater for college plus it will be good for her to have us only 40 miles away from UT.

We are now one third of the way through the grands graduations and the next one will be in Texas in 2019.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/20 - 5/23/18 Trip Dates

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Another Bratwurst Meal – Yeah I Know

Bev has been doing some serious freezer diving lately and came up with another package of brats and this time from Kamps Meat Market in OKC, OK.  She suggested our usual of brats with peppers and onions on a roll but I wanted to do something a little different so I made a dish that included some potatoes and cheese as follows:

4 bratwurst links (six would have been better)
5 medium red potatoes – par boiled and medium dice
1 green bell pepper, ¾” squares
1 ripe bell pepper (we used red), ¾” squares
1 large onion or two medium, 3/8” slice and halved
8 cheese slices (5 hot pepper jack and 3 American for us)
Lawrey’s Season Salt (to taste) & pepper

1. Simmer the brats in water seasoned with Lawrey’s and black pepper for about 25 minutes, cool a little, then slice into ½” thick rounds.
2. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil, heat to shimmering, add potatoes, and cook until browned on several sides.
3. Remove potatoes to a dish, add brats and brown on both flat sides.  Remove and add to potatoes.
4. Add peppers and onions to skillet along with more oil as needed.  Cook until just getting soft and return potatoes and brats to pan along with cheese – stir well.
5. Cook for a few minutes until cheese is completely melted, vegetables are cooked as desired, and everything is evenly distributed.
6. Plate and enjoy

I thought this meal was delicious especially for a quick throw together.  It could have used two more brats and, of course, you can use your favorite cheeses – I just used what we had on hand that would melt easily.  And to make it even better, the leftovers were reheated and topped with eggs for breakfast.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/17/18 Meal Date

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sprouts, Taters, & Steak

Bev had some Brussels sprouts that she wanted to grill along with some par boiled potatoes and we opted to side them with a piece of beef.  While we have a couple of pans for grilling smaller food pieces, they were not quite large enough for this as I wanted them in a single layer.  So I went looking through our collection of flat pans and discovered a pizza pan that we only used a time or two and should have been trashed.  The reason we rarely used it was because it was full of holes and very difficult to slide off a pizza.

However, it worked great for this application and has now been repurposed as a grill pan and being aluminum, it distributes the heat pretty well and the oil dripping trough the holes created some nice flavor enhancing flare-ups – here it is in action.

We also grilled up a piece of beef steak that had been marinating in The Best Steak Marinade In Existence most of the day.

These two components made up our entire dinner and with protein, starch, and green vegetable, it was pretty well balanced.  We have realized lately that rather than having several dishes, we like to have just one or two we really want then we fill up of them – we had nothing but chicken wings one night and only salmon for another meal.

And while the food was good, this post is not about food but rather about finding a new role for an unused kitchen device – perhaps you also have a couple of these around and I have to believe this isn’t our only one.

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them and the blue words are links.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by Almost Heaven South.


5/17/18 Meal Date