We can all agree that 2020 has been a year we’d all like to put behind us. I especially needed time to reflect and focus on what is most important to me. I needed my family — all together.
Luckily we were able to get away for our annual trip. My family celebrates Christmas in October with what we call our “gift of memory” for our children and grandchildren. Instead of trying to find time during the busy holiday season to exchange presents for a few hours, Dave and I have our entire family under one roof for quality time – yes, a whole weekend.
Dave and I only have a few rules for the weekend (yes, we are selfish) All of our meals are shared together at one table. We always find a house with a table long enough to seat everyone. We love the chatter, the teasing, listening to stories, and the plans for the day. Dave and I sit at one end of the table and just smile as we fill up with more memories.
This year we went to Hamilton, Mich., and stayed in a beautiful home in the country. The foliage was outstanding; sun-kissed fall leaves alive with color.
Michigan is gorgeous this time of year, and many orchards were still opened selling the last of their fruit harvest. The apples and pumpkins were still plentiful.
We did find many cafes opened in both South Haven and Saugatuck, although many with a limited menu. We also found the wineries and tasting rooms were opened with the proper social distancing and masking.
Wendy Markland, my daughter-in-law, and I ventured out for a wine tasting at Fenn Valley Vineyards. The wines there were terrific. This is the only vineyard that offers small shopping carts to purchase wines after tasting; and, they are necessary.
We filled our cart and ventured off to Cogdale Vineyards. It was quite the drive because the tasting room was set in the middle of their vast vineyard. The wines are excellent, but they go a step further; each month, they designate a charity to receive $.25 of every bottle sold. October and November, the charity is Hospice.
We sat outside in rocking chairs, soaking up the sun, and tasting some incredible wines. It was a great afternoon.
Sunday morning, we take everyone out for either lunch or breakfast before saying our goodbyes. Our kids all love Crane’s Pie Pantry and Restaurant. The smell of homemade bread, pies, and the food reminded me of my Grandma’s kitchen. Bread, cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies,apple cider donuts are all made here daily, not to mention pies made with the fruit picked from their orchards.
The menu was a limited lunch menu. Quite a few of the kids ordered the homemade pretzel bread with warm cheese. The Crane’s burger was another popular item that was ordered, made with house horseradish-cider cheese, bacon lettuce, and tomato. The bacon lettuce and tomato on grilled grain bread was fabulous as well.
One interesting sandwich came to the table – grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich on apple butter bread. That looked really good.
The soups are all homemade daily, and the cold apple cider flowed freely. Several of us ordered the Brix sodas, cherry, orange or root beer.
Several ordered desserts, including homemade pies like the warm apple pie with ice cream or the hot fudge sundae. Several ordered the cider donuts and cinnamon sugar donuts.
The bakery was open with many family members taking home cinnamon rolls, donuts, and pies. The pies can be purchased fresh or frozen for the trip home.
There are several orchards available for picking fruit. They also have hayrides, the cow train, and corn mazes; many fun things for the kids.
Crane’s Pie Pantry and Restaurant is at 6054 124th Ave. (M-89), Fennville, Mich. Make sure you check out their website or Facebook for times and menus.
After the kids left, Dave and I ventured into South Haven for some site seeing and to check into our hotel on the harbor. The next morning we started the day with a cup of coffee from Café Julia’s at the Pavillion.
The coffee is terrific. The lattes are the best and such a unique selection – pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice, caramel mocha,and more.
The menu is limited as is the seating both indoors and out. The Lady Bird is one of their signature sandwiches with a chicken salad with red grapes and toasted almonds with lettuce on multigrain bread.
Vegetarian? Vegan? They have unique items for you. The bakery goods were delicious, warm, gooey, and very fresh.
Café Julia’s is at 561 Huron St., South Haven,Mich.
Christmas in October is over, but the family is already planning for 2021. Try it – a weekend of family, food, fun and games. Not to forget six pounds of bacon, three dozen eggs, and a platter of pancakes.
Memories — the best gift anyone can give.