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Discovering the D – a visit to Detroit Zoo and Royal Oak

Discovering the D – a visit to Detroit Zoo and Royal Oak

–by Jennifer Ruple

It would be next to impossible to experience all that neighboring Detroit has to offer in a single day; however, it’s entirely possible to take in one of the city’s eclectic suburbs within that time frame.

A colorful water tower marks the Detroit Zoo’s location.

A colorful water tower marks the Detroit Zoo’s location.

Royal Oak, Mich. is filled with trendy eateries, breweries, record stores and boutiques, and is also home to the Detroit Zoo, which is where I suggest you begin your day trip.

A boardwalk meanders through a pond filled with waterlilies at the  Detroit Zoo.

A boardwalk meanders through a pond filled with waterlilies at the
Detroit Zoo.

Pack your sunglasses and walking shoes – there are 125 acres to explore and 2,400 animals to view at the Detroit Zoo. A must-see is the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the largest facility for penguins in the world. While making your way to view the penguins, you’ll be treated to a 360-degree 4-D experience inspired by Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and heroic crossing of the Drake Passage complete with sea mist and blasts of arctic air. Once you’re in, you can watch more than 80 cute, frolicking penguins overhead from the tunnels at the underwater gallery.

Treat yourself to an award-winning dessert at Taste Love Cupcakes.

Treat yourself to an award-winning dessert at Taste Love Cupcakes.

Try to resist the urge to eat at the zoo though, even if the sweet treats are calling your name, because nearby downtown Royal Oak has a myriad of eateries, particularly along Main Street, to enjoy a relaxing late lunch or early dinner. Check out Ale Mary’s Beer Hall which offers an extensive bottle and tap craft beer selection and beer-eccentric cuisine. Or, opt for some Mexican fare next door at Mesa Tacos and Tequila. Afterwards, explore the shops in the vicinity. Don’t miss Burn Rubber, a hip and trendy sneaker and clothing boutique, which carries the latest in gym shoes and accessories. Satisfy your sweet tooth next door at Taste Love Cupcakes. A 2012 winner of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and a three-year in a row winner of Hour Magazine’s Best of Detroit contest, the bakery has a gourmet flavor for everyone. Try a sweet potato cupcake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting or a cookies and cream cupcake with buttercream frosting.

If you’re in the mood for a little sole searching, check out Burn Rubber.

If you’re in the mood for a little sole searching, check out Burn Rubber.

If you happen to be in town over a weekend, stop by the Royal Oak Farmers Market for a sack of fresh, seasonal produce. The indoor market, located at 316 East 11 Mile Road, was established in 1925 and is one of the oldest markets in the region. Market hours are Fridays (May-Christmas) and Saturdays (year-round) from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. The venue becomes an Antique and Flea Market on Sundays year-round from 8-3 p.m.

Enjoy lunch and the view of Main Street from the patio at Ale Mary’s Beer Hall.

Enjoy lunch and the view of Main Street from the patio at Ale Mary’s Beer Hall.

There are so many wonderful neighborhoods to explore in and around Detroit, and they’re all just an hour or two away. So don’t delay, make plans soon to enjoy a day in the D!

Experience small-town lake living in Marblehead

Experience small-town lake living in Marblehead

By Jennifer Ruple

A true perquisite of living in Northwest Ohio is our close proximity to Great Lakes – we’ve got five of them to explore after all. Think sandy beaches, lighthouses, water sports, seafood restaurants and spectacular sunsets – all of this can be yours for the day after a one-hour drive east to Marblehead, Ohio.

The Erie Social Shuffleboard Club and Bar

The Erie Social Shuffleboard Club and
Bar

Marblehead lies along SR 163, and an easy out and back trip along this route will give you access to all of the town’s amenities.

The iconic Marblehead Lighthouse

The iconic Marblehead Lighthouse

Just prior to arriving, stop in Port Clinton and grab a cup of joe and a quick breakfast at Coffee Express. Located on W. Second Street, this eatery is popular for its muffins and quiche – try Blueberry Cream Cheese and Raspberry White Chocolate muffins and Farmer’s Quiche loaded with ham, cheeses and veggies. Once in Marblehead, visit East Harbor State Park and feel the sand between your toes as you stroll along the shores of Lake Erie. The park also includes picnic areas, beaches for sunning and swimming, and several miles of trails for hiking or running.

The tasting room at Rocky Point Winery in Marblehead

The tasting room at Rocky Point
Winery in Marblehead

When you’re finished beaching it, it’s time to get social and try your hand at shuffleboard – yes, it’s back! The one-year-old venue, The Erie Social, is Lake Erie’s first indoor shuffleboard club and bar. Delightfully decorated with a vintage meets industrial vibe, the club features regulation size shuffleboard courts and tables, old English style dart boards, board games and a full service bar. While there, order some lunch at the adjacent Sandwich Shoppe which serves fresh deli sandwiches like The Catawba – roasted turkey, Fuji apples, crème Brie on cranberry walnut bread and The Freighter – roast beef, red onion, sharp cheddar, arugula, and chipotle mayo on rosemary ciabatta bread. All sandwiches come with your choice of Chardonnay Potato Salad or Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad Next along the road through Marblehead, peruse the many gift shops, antiques stores and art galleries including Ferguson Gallery, which carries unique paintings, art glass, antiques and jewelry, and Christi’s Just for Ewe gift shop known for its fun clothing, jewelry and accessories. The shop also carries nautical-inspired decor, children’s toys, gifts for babies, and their famous handmade fudge.

Coffee Express in Port Clinton

Coffee Express in Port Clinton

Waves crashing along the Lake Erie shoreline

Waves crashing along the Lake Erie
shoreline

When it’s time for a little wine tasting, head to nearby Rocky Point Winery, located in the historic Marblehead Schoolhouse. Owned and operated by Chris and Kim Redfern, this charming winery recently celebrated its first birthday and features native Midwest wines, small plates and a cozy atmosphere for hanging out with friends. Just upstairs from the winery is the Red Fern Inn, which offers four unique rooms for rent, perfect for a romantic evening away. And finally, round out your day with a visit to the iconic lighthouse at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park where you can relax for a moment by water’s edge and watch the waves break on the rocky shoreline.

Plates and Places

Plates and Places

Talk Derby to me

By Jennifer Ruple

It has been dubbed the most exciting two minutes in sports, and it happens every year on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The Kentucky Derby is horseracing’s most beloved event and is steeped in 142 years of tradition. Handsome horses, colorful silks, fancy hats, bourbon, roses and mouthwatering southern food – all create the Derby experience. But you don’t have to make the trip to Louisville to enjoy the race. Celebrate the occasion at home in true Derby style with these essentials:

A “Run for the Roses” centerpiece in a silver trophy bowl.

A “Run for the Roses” centerpiece in a
silver trophy bowl.

The Hat – is the pièce de résistance to your party attire, and the bigger it is the better. Create your own from a simple beach bonnet. Adorn with a big, colorful ribbon and attach large silk flowers with a hot glue gun. The Décor – take your cue from the Derby’s moniker, Run for the Roses. Arrange red roses in silver trophy or julep cups.

The Race – so you think you’ve got what it takes to pick the winner, visit kentuckyderby.com to place your bet from home.

The Beverage – the Mint Julep is the iconic drink of the Kentucky Derby, consisting of bourbon and a simple mint syrup served over ice. For those who are not bourbon drinkers, try my fruity, vodka-based Mint Rulep below.

The Fare – think Southern-inspired foods like country ham and biscuits, beef brisket, Kentucky Hot Browns and bourbon-chocolate pecan pie. Here are a few of my favorite recipes for Derby day

Derby glasses are ready to be filled with cocktails.

Derby glasses are ready to be filled with cocktails.

The Mint Rulep
Mix up a pitcher or two an hour or so ahead of time, chill and you’ll be ready to pour when guests arrive.

1 cup vodka
1 ½ cups pomegranate juice
1 ½ cups ruby red grapefruit juice
3 cups cranberry juice
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

In a large pitcher, combine vodka and juices. Serve in individual glasses over ice. Garnish with mint sprigs.

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Cookie Bars are a decadent dessert.

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Cookie Bars
are a decadent dessert.

Chocolate-Bourbon Pecan Cookie Bars
The quintessential dessert of the Kentucky Derby is Derby-Pie®. Here’s a twist on tradition – these cookie bars have the same principle ingredients as the pie– bourbon, chocolate, nuts and brown sugar, only they’re easier to eat while juggling your tip sheet and Mint Julep.

For the cookie base:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the topping:
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup semi-sweet morsels

Heat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper, and butter the paper and sides of pan.
Cream together butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in egg yolk and vanilla. Sift together flour and salt and stir into butter mixture. Press dough into prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cookie base is lightly golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before topping.
Whisk together eggs, brown sugar and bourbon. Whisk in flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in pecans and semi-sweet morsels. Spread topping evenly over the cookie base.
Bake for 20 minutes, until topping is deep golden brown. Cool before cutting into bars.

Derby glasses are ready to be filled with cocktails.

Equestrian-themed wine adds to the Derby ambiance.

Hot Browns Hors d’oeuvres
The classic Hot Brown sandwich, originally created by the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Ky., is an open-faced sandwich topped with a cheesy sauce. Here’s a quick and easy appetizer version of it.

1 cup roasted turkey breast, diced
1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
24 mini phyllo tart shells
2 pieces crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
Gruyere cheese, shredded
Paprika
Parsley for garnish

Heat oven to 350 F. In each tart shell, layer turkey, tomatoes, cheese and bacon, sprinkle with paprika. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned and tart is crispy. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com.

Discover the small town charm of Tecumseh

Discover the small town charm of Tecumseh

By Jennifer Ruple

Need an excuse to break up with your weekend routine? Head 40 miles northwest of Toledo to the quaint town of Tecumseh, Michigan. The town’s hub is easily accessible–it’s situated right on M-50 or Chicago Boulevard as it is known locally. There you’ll find charming eateries; boutiques; antiques shops; a winery, brewery, bakery, and ice cream parlor; and a history museum all within walking distance of each other plus hiking and outdoor adventure nearby.

The Boulevard Market offers artisan cheeses, handmade chocolates and boutique wines

The Boulevard Market offers artisan cheeses, handmade chocolates and boutique wines

 

Upon arrival, visit Lev’s Bakery, a Tecumseh institution. Rumor has it that their doughnuts and soft, German pretzels (only available on Saturdays) are all the rage, but get there early in the day to indulge as they sell out quickly. A stroll along the boulevard provides a healthy dose of shopping opportunities. Visit Antiques & Vintage on the Boulevard and Hathaway Antique Emporium to scout out treasures from the past. For gift giving, peruse the floral arrangements, candles, linens and home décor pieces at the DG II gift shop. Into hobbies? Browse the thousands of plastic kits, train sets, die cast cars, and accessories offered at J-Bar Hobbies.

Antiques shops are abundant in Tecumseh.

Antiques shops are abundant in Tecumseh.

The sign at The Boulevard Market says it all – wine, chocolate, cheese. Owners John and Erika Aylward craft their own cheeses with fresh local milk and create chocolates using Sicilian chocolate-making techniques. The market also carries specialty foods and offers the best selection of boutique wines in the area. If you feel like staying in Tecumseh longer than just the day, reservations and $89 will get you an overnight stay in one of the three hotel rooms located on the second floor of the market. Speaking of wine, Tecumseh boasts not one but two wineries. Pentamere Winery is an urban venue and tasting room right in the heart of downtown, and J. Trees Cellars is an industrial/farmhouse-style tasting room housed in the historic Hayden-Ford Mill, a short drive from downtown.

L-R Baylee Baker and Marissa Shoemaker will scoop your favorite flavor at The Spotted Cow.

L-R Baylee Baker and Marissa Shoemaker will scoop your favorite flavor at The Spotted Cow.

When you are ready for a bite to eat, the options are abundant. Enjoy a relaxing lunch of farm-totable fare at Evans Street Station. Check into The Dog House for an all-beef hot dog embellished with one of their creative combos like the Junkyard Dog and the Frito Pie Dog, or design your own. Sample the many craft beer varieties along with a cheeseburger and tots at Tecumseh Brewery. For soups, salads and sandwiches with a side of espresso, look no further than The Daily Grind.

After lunch, visit the Tecumseh Area Historical Museum, located in a former church, and learn how the community has developed since it was first settled in Lenawee County in 1824.

Visit the Tecumseh Area Historical Museum for a lesson of the past.

Visit the Tecumseh Area Historical Museum for a lesson of the past.

Up for a little outdoor recreation? Drive a half mile or so east of downtown on M-50. Indian Crossing Trails Park is a 130-acre park with several walking paths. The one-mile main trail winds along River Raisin. For a bit of adventure, visit the adjacent Satterthwaite Park where kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and row boats can be rented from the Tecumseh Paddling Company beginning on weekends in May.

With so much to offer, Tecumseh’s inviting personality and close proximity to the Toledo area will beckon you to make a return trip, or two.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com.

Discovering Santa Fe, The City Different

Discovering Santa Fe, The City Different

By Jennifer Ruple

It’s spring break season and time to escape our chilly Midwestern temperatures. If you’re looking for a getaway that is rich in art, culture and adventure, look no further than Santa Fe, New Mexico, aka The City Different. Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, Santa Fe is over 400 years old and is the oldest capital city in the country. The city boasts 325 days of sunshine a year, majestic 360° mountain views and a captivating blend of Spanish and Native American cultures that is reflected in everything from its food and fashion to its art and architecture. A certain spirituality exists throughout the region as the area is dotted with centuries old adobe structures and churches that are filled with religious folk art and stories of the past.

A 19th century church in Santa Fe is dedicated to San Isidro the ploughman, patron saint of farmers and protector of crops.

A 19th century church in Santa Fe is dedicated to San Isidro the ploughman, patron saint of farmers and protector of crops.

Santa Fe’s mild spring temperatures will beckon you to spend time outdoors and enjoy the city on foot. For starters, head to the historic Plaza district, the city’s heart and soul, where shopping and eating are abundant and designer cowboy boots call your name. Dozens of distinctive boutiques, galleries, cafés and museums will entertain you for hours. For a lesson in area history, visit The Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied government building built in the early 1600s. Spanning an entire block of the Plaza, the Palace is also a hub for local Native American artists to sell their handcrafted jewelry. For turquoise aficionados, it doesn’t get better than this.

Handcrafted Native American jewelry is display outside of The Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe.

Handcrafted Native American jewelry
is display outside of The Palace of
the Governors in Santa Fe.

Santa Fe enjoys its distinction of being the third largest art market in the country and hosts world renowned events like the Traditional Spanish Market and the Indian Market which are held in the summer months. A trek up and down Canyon Road will reveal historic adobe architecture, fine restaurants and over 100 galleries showcasing contemporary and old-world arts.

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, you’ll find no shortage of eateries in Santa Fe to help you sample the best of New Mexican cuisine. A notable culinary feature of the state is its ability to smother almost anything in red or green chile – if you ask for Christmas, you’ll get both red and green. Yes, please.

The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is located at the Railyard.

The Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is located at the Railyard.

Enjoy the outdoor patio and a cheeseburger topped with green chile at The Shed off of the Plaza, warm sopaipillas with honey butter at Tomasita’s in the Railyard, or venture offthe-beaten path and savor the El Salvadoran Pupusas at Tune-Up Café. And for the best barbecue and live music in town, an evening at The Cowgirl is a must.

My husband, Indiana Jones, braves the Box Canyon trail ahead of me at Ghost Ranch

My husband, Indiana Jones, braves the
Box Canyon trail ahead of me at Ghost
Ranch

If you happen to be in town on a Saturday morning, visit the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market in the bustling Railyard district featuring fresh baked breads, artisanal cheeses, locally grown produce and handcrafted items. Arrive early so you don’t miss out on the breakfast burritos ladled with, of course, red or green chile. Pack in some adventure with a day trip to Ghost Ranch retreat in Abiquiu, about an hour’s drive from Santa Fe. A day pass will give you access to miles of hiking trails with glorious mountain scenery. Horseback trail rides are available for all skill levels – the Sunset Ride will take you to where artist Georgia O’Keeffe found her inspiration, completed several paintings and owned a home. All of these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico. There’s so much to experience that you’ll want to return again and again. I know the feeling well as I just made reservations for a seventh trip there.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com.

Exploring Detroit’s Eastern Market and West Village

Exploring Detroit’s Eastern Market and West Village

Experience the hustle and bustle of a big-city market neighborhood when you take a daytrip to Detroit’s Eastern Market–just a little over an hour’s drive north on I-75.

Detroit’s Eastern Market is open Saturdays year round.

Detroit’s Eastern Market is open
Saturdays year round.

Grab a slice for lunch at Supino Pizzeria

Grab a slice for lunch at Supino Pizzeria

The wall of wine at Cost Plus Wine Warehouse.

The wall of wine at Cost Plus Wine Warehouse.

If you’re searching for an endless array of produce and locally made products, this is certainly the place. The largest historic market in the country, Eastern Market consists of five sheds or large buildings that are heated during the winter months. In addition to the fresh produce vendors, the market offers art, jewelry and Michiganmade products. During peak months, especially during the Michigan harvest, more than 150 vendors fill the corridors. The market is open every Saturday year round from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free parking exists all around the area making it convenient to visit the market as well as its 100 surrounding shops, restaurants, cafes, and meat and seafood markets. Check out the floor to ceiling display of wine at Cost Plus Wine Warehouse, and lose yourself while perusing the thousands of specialty foods at DeVries & Co. 1887.

Entrepreneur Lisa Ludwinski created Sister Pie in 2012.

Entrepreneur Lisa Ludwinski created
Sister Pie in 2012.

Savory and sweet baked goods at Sister Pie in Detroit’s West Village.

Savory and sweet baked goods at Sister Pie in Detroit’s
West Village.

For a late lunch or early supper, stop in for a slice or two at Supino Pizzeria. No utensils are needed as patrons simply fold their slices in half. The line is usually out the door by noon, and seating is sparse, but don’t let that discourage you because the fourcheese pizza is worth the shoulder-toshoulder crowd. While in the vicinity, head to Sister Pie, a charming and eclectic bakery located at the corner of Kercheval and Parker streets in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood. In business since Thanksgiving 2012 and in its current location for only eight months, the bakery has a huge clientele and fan base through its Facebook and Instagram accounts. In fact, it was Instagram that led me to discover the business. Lisa Ludwinski, the bakery’s owner attributes her success to “Lots and lots of work. You have to be willing to do it every day of your life.” Sister Pie’s menu changes seasonally offering unique combinations of ingredients in their pies and baked goods such as Salted Maple Pie, Chocolate Peppermint Meringue Pie, Cheesy Kale Scones and Roasted Potato, Caramelized Onion and White Bean hand pies. “Pie speaks to everyone. We took traditional mixtures and added our own personality,” said Ludwinski. Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com.

Plates and Places

Plates and Places

Ring in the Season with Holiday Events

The time we spend with our loved ones during the holidays creates traditions and cherished memories that will last a lifetime. Why not take a break from shopping, wrapping and baking to partake in a couple of these annual area gems with family and friends?

Holidays in the Manor House December 5-13, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
plates and places dec_4476

For over 40 years, community volunteers have decorated the iconic Georgian-Colonial home at Wildwood Metropark for the holidays, each room featuring a unique theme. After your tour, warm up at Metroparks Hall with hot or cold beverages, cookies, hot dogs and family-friendly activities.
Wildwood Preserve Metropark 5100 W. Central Ave., Toledo, Ohio Admission: Free metroparkstoledo.com

Wolcott House Holiday Tours Nov. 14 – Dec. 30, Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
wolcott house cmyk
Presented by the Maumee Valley Historical Society, docents lead tours of the six-building Wolcott Heritage Center and explain the Wells-Wolcott legacy and pioneering traditions of an early nineteenth to early twentieth century village.
1035 River Rd., Maumee, Ohio Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors and $2.50 students wolcotthouse.org

38th Annual Colonial Christmas Saturday, Dec. 5, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
plates and places dec_4360
Presented by the Historical Society of Bedford, this primitive country craft show includes holiday décor, candles, evergreen wreaths, handmade rugs and antiques. Homemade soups, sandwiches, and apple cobbler are available for purchase.
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church 1690 W. Sterns Rd., Temperance, Mich. $1 donation is appreciated

The Lights Before Christmas November 13 – January 3
Toledo Zoo Lights - Casey Cook
Celebrate the 30th anniversary of Toledo Zoo’s well-loved event. Enjoy the lights while strolling the grounds – plus ice carvings, carolers, model trains, a visit with Santa and a ride down the ice slide.
(Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day) Sunday – Thursday: 3 – 8 p.m. (Zoo closes at 9 p.m.) Friday – Saturday: 3 – 9 p.m. (Zoo closes at 10 p.m.) Toledo Zoo 2 Hippo Way, Toledo, Ohio For rates, visit toledozoo.org.

Tours de Noel in The Old West End Sunday, December 6, 12 – 7 p.m.
HouseTours
Tour five beautifully decorated historic homes; shop at a holiday gift boutique, enjoy a Tony Packo’s lunch at First Congregational Church and experience the gazebo and tree lighting at Old West End Common’s Park.
For tickets and more information, call 419/244- 4921 or visit womenoftheoldwestendinc.com

Christmas at the Cabin December 12-13, 1-6 p.m.
plates and places dec_4367
Holiday tours of the beautifully decorated historic cabin which was once home to poet Ina Duley Ogdon. The event, presented by the Century House Preservationists, features re-enactors, the River Raisin Sweet Adeline Chorus, refreshments and a visit from Santa.
6829 Summerfield Rd., Bedford Twp., Mich. $5 donation is appreciated

Set the Harvest Table

Set the Harvest Table

As the leaves transition to shades of crimson, amber and maize, it’s time to prepare your home for the holidays. Although it may be tempting to fast forward straight to Christmas décor, a holiday in which we give thanks and celebrate the season’s bounty deserves its own day in the spotlight. Here are some ways to make your Thanksgiving dining table a showstopper:

Sunflowers dress up a woven wine jug on the buffet.

Sunflowers dress up a woven wine jug on the buffet.

• Start with a neutral or solid color runner or table cover, then pile on the pumpkins, plates and glassware. The neutral background will help to avoid a busy look. Use white plates and serving pieces to allow your beloved family recipes to take center stage.

• Play with color. Reds, golds and browns are fall’s quintessential colors – give them an update by mixing in a complementary hue such as turquoise, green or purple. Using colored goblets, chargers or napkins is a good way to incorporate the additional color.

• Get personal. Pull those heirloom pieces out of storage and put them on display. Nothing evokes family memories like grandma’s china, vintage linens or wedding-gift crystal.

Vary heights of objects in your centerpiece to create a soft flow.

Vary heights of objects in your centerpiece to create a soft flow.

• Look to nature for inspiration. Include a little of the outdoors into your centerpiece. Branches, bittersweet, berries, pinecones and leaves will bring an earthiness to your table. Faux versions are just as beautiful and will last throughout the whole season, not to mention can be stored for years to come.

• Generate movement by varying the heights of objects in your display. Stay away from any items that block guests from seeing each other across the table.

• Get creative with place cards. A myriad of premade tags and cards are available at craft stores and are ready to personalize. Dress up your linens with extra silk flowers or branches by wrapping the stems around napkins.

The addition of green complements traditional fall colors.

The addition of green complements traditional fall colors.

• And finally, set the mood – dim the chandelier and light some candles. The soft glow will create a warm and calming atmosphere for a relaxing meal, one where your guests will want to linger a little longer and savor the occasion.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com.

Follow the trail to award-winning wines

Follow the trail to award-winning wines
From left: Susan Serafin, event coordinator for the Pioneer Wine Trail, and Maria Measel, Nathan Sparks and Dan Measel of Pentamere Winery are happy to share their wines and stories with visitors.

From left: Susan Serafin, event coordinator for the Pioneer Wine Trail, and Maria Measel, Nathan Sparks and Dan Measel of Pentamere Winery are happy to share their wines and stories with visitors.

There’s no need to travel to Napa for great tasting wines, just head across the border to Southeast Michigan’s wine region and hit the Pioneer Wine Trail.

The café at Sandhill Crane Vineyards offers a variety of sandwiches, salads  and appetizers to complement its wines.

The café at Sandhill Crane Vineyards offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and appetizers to complement its
wines.

The trail, made up of a cluster of eight wineries, stretches north from Adrian to Haslett, a suburb of Lansing. There’s no real start or finish to the trail though – you can begin your tour at either end or right in the middle. And traveling between wineries is half the fun. Along the way, you’ll encounter rolling hills, antique shops, quaint boutiques, and cozy bed and breakfast inns in case you’d like to stay a night or two.

Cherry Creek Winery, in an old schoolhouse, is in close proximity to Michigan International Speedway.

Cherry Creek Winery, in an old schoolhouse, is in close proximity to Michigan International Speedway.

Having visited several of the wineries along the trail, I can vouch for the fact that each one has a vibe all its own – much like the wines they produce. For example, the Flying Otter Winery is an off-the-beaten path, mostly outdoor setting with beautiful views of the vineyards while Pentamere Winery is an urban venue and tasting room right in the heart of downtown Tecumseh – they’ve got some great wine-related gifts too. Thanks for the cellar tour, Dan Measel.
grapes-plentiful-1024x685

Here are highlights from a few more locations we visited: Housed in the historic Hayden-Ford Mill, also in Tecumseh, is J. Trees Cellars, an industrial-farmhouse style tasting room designed with old barn wood, metal chairs and factory pendant lighting.
Pioneer 3

Cherry Creek Cellars is located in a historic 1870s’ brick schoolhouse near Michigan International Speedway where visitors can sample wines like Raceway Red at the knotty pine bar.
PioneerWineTrail_Rackcard_2

Wander through the rows of maturing grapes then grab some lunch at the cozy café before or after wine tasting at Sandhill Crane Vineyards.

The Pioneer Wine Trail also hosts many events throughout the year including The Big Grape Bus Tour on Oct. 31, when participants will travel to each winery by motor coach and experience wine and food pairings. While each winery along the trail is unique, they all have one thing in common – friendly and knowledgeable proprietors who are happy to share their stories and award winning wines with you.

Jennifer Ruple is the author of the blog somedaycowgirl.blogspot.com

Pioneer Wine Trail Locations
www.pioneerwinetrail.com

Burgdorf’s Winery
5635 Shoeman Rd., Haslett, Mich.

Chateau Aeronautique Winery
1849 Rives-Eaton Rd., Jackson, Mich.

Cherry Creek Cellars
11000 Silver Lake Hwy., Brooklyn, Mich.
2199 North Concord Rd., Albion, Mich.

Flying Otter Winery
3402 Chase Rd., Adrian, Mich.

J. Trees Cellars
703 E. Chicago Blvd., Tecumseh, Mich.

Lone Oak Vineyard Estate
8400 Ann Arbor Rd., Grass Lake, Mich.

Pentamere Winery
131 E. Chicago Blvd., Tecumseh, Mich.

Sandhill Crane Vineyards
4724 Walz Rd., Jackson, Mich.
3685 Central Dexter, Mich. (fall only)

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