Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A "Wooly" Expedition!

In my travels, I sometimes have visited fiber crafts shops, and noticed what seemed to be incredibly high prices for the woolen items they were selling, that were made in the "old fashioned" way, rather than at a big manufacturing plant.  Well, after touring the Zeilinger Wool Company ( ) in Frankenmuth, Michigan, I am surprised that such items don't cost even more!  I had no idea all the labor intense procedures that these handcrafted items required.   I took this photograph of a poster hanging on the wall at the Zeilinger Wool Company, that illustrates where the process starts---with the shearing of the sheep.  In addition, Zeilingers will process goat hair (mohair), rabbit hair (angora), llama, alpaca, dog hair, and other exotic animal fibers.  Although I do not know what the "politics" of the 4 generations of the Abraham/Zeilinger families are, that have operated the mill since 1910, I think it would be cool if they processed some wool from an animal known for its highly-prized "long wooled" fleece---the Romney ram.  Then they could make it into "Mittens" to give to U.S. Presidential Candidate, "Mitt" Romney!
My earliest experiences with caring for 100% wool clothing items was seeing them shrink to half their size when I unknowingly put them in the regular washer/dryer, with the rest of the laundry I was washing.  Our guide pointed out that this machine is a steamer, where they can put the newly woven yarn, and "preshrink" it BEFORE it is made into a garment.  This reduces the amount of shrinkage the finished garment is subject to.

The Zeilinger Wool Company is set up to give tours of their mill operations to both individuals and motorcoach groups.    The trailer outside with their name on it is a reminder to mention that they also travel to various craft fairs/fiber fairs around the area to showcase their products and services.  For example, there is mention on their website of the upcoming North Michigan Lamb and Wool Festival, in West Branch, Michigan,  on September 29th and 30th, 2012. 

Each of these giant bags of wool has a customer's name on it, and their brochure promises that the customer WILL receive their own wool back.  They also note that the quality of the order will improve if the customer removes as much chaff, burrs, and vegetable matter as possible, before sending it to Zeilingers.  Another reason for removing such debris is shipping costs.  Sending a 100 pound bag of wool to Zeilingers can cost from $100 - $400 in shipping costs alone!  And that is just to GET it to the processor!  Then you have to figure $7.90 per pound for medium/coarse fibers to $8.85 per pound for raw mohair, alpaca, llama, dog hair, or other exotic fibers. 

Once the wool is cleaned, it is put onto machines that process it into roving and yarn.  Rovings are a form of wool that can be put on a spinning wheel, to make yarn for knitting or weaving.

This customer wanted their wool made into socks.

And here is the machine that makes those wool socks!

Considering all these fibers have been through (and the many hours of labor involved!) to make it to this point of being a pair of socks for sale in a shop in Michigan, $15.00 seems like a bargain!

Zeilingers also lets guests tour the large room where their quilting is done.  They can custom make large mattress pads, comforters, pillows, and other bedding accessories in this room, each filled with wool batting processed on site.

Zeilingers also has a service that will renew, recard, or renovate your USED woolen comforter or mattress pad. 

This machine illustrates a yarn-making process that is more advanced than a single spinning wheel, but yet not of the scale of today's large, industrialized woolen mills.

Although this old-fashioned spinning wheel was only for display purposes, it is a reminder of how far we have come in the manufacturing of textiles from the time the first settlers came to the United States.  It is also a reminder to me of the passage in Matthew 6:28 that says "And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or SPIN.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"  Based on all the fashion magazines and television advertisements, however, it appears that people will continue to be mindful of what they are wearing.  One thing is for certain---from now on, when I am wearing a garment made of wool, I am going to have a MUCH greater appreciation of what it took to manufacture this all-natural textile, and I will be giving thanks to the animals God created to provide the raw materials to make it possible!  If you would like to find out more about the Zeilinger Wool Company tours, and many other attractions in the Frankenmuth area, just log on to   .  Miles of smiles!  Tricia

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Breakfast at Battle Creek

 Since the early days of my nutrition training at the University of Arkansas, the name "Kellogg" has been in the forefront, in terms of leading the food science industry in the use of nutrition labeling of food products, nutrition research, and nutrition education.  So when I had the opportunity to be traveling through Michigan a while back, I made it a point to arrange my trip so that I could have breakfast in the city known as the "Breakfast Capital of the World".  ( )   On the automobile trip to get to Battle Creek from Arkansas, I had plenty of opportunities to see "future Kelloggs products" (such as wheat, barley, rice, oats, etc) growing in the fields.  But of course, the easiest food crop to recognize is corn---mile after mile after mile---of corn fields!  My mind begin to give the tall stalks human characteristics:  Were they dreaming of growing up to be corn flakes? or perhaps, high fructose corn syrup? or perhaps, biofuel to run the automobiles produced nearby? or perhaps, gracing a dinner table as "corn on the cob"? or put into a can, to be served years later?
 Once you arrive in Battle Creek, you will see there are lots of  names on their map that include the word "Kellogg".  While making the long drive to this city, I listened  to an audio book called Road to Wellville, written in 1993 by T.C. Boyle (It was also been made into a movie in 1994).  Although the book is fictional, its characters bear the names of familiar folks of early Battle Creek Sanitarium patients and staff.  Listening to the stories made the drive go by faster, and provided many a chuckle along the way!
 Thankfully, the world headquarters of the Kellogg Company are still located in Battle Creek, Michigan, where flaked cereal was invented (by accident!) in 1894
 Flaked cereal was the result of work being done at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, by two brothers:  Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, and Will Keith (W.K.) Kellogg.  One day, after cooking wheat at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the men were called away.  Since the wheat was rather stale when they returned, the brothers decided to see what would happen when cooked wheat was forced through the kitchen's dough rollers.  Instead of the usual long sheet of dough, each wheat berry was flattened into a small, thick flake.  When the flakes were baked, they became crisp and light, creating an easy to prepare breakfast, when milk was added.  The ready-to-eat cereal was formed!
 John Harvey Kellogg was a medical doctor, and was the Superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium (nicknamed "The San").  The San offered its rich and famous patients a regimen of exercise and fresh air, plus a strict diet that prohibited caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and meat.  Younger brother, W.K. Kellogg, was the business manager of the facility and in charge of the small business to produce cereal for former San patients.  However, W.K. Kellogg had dreams of his own, and after developing the process for flaking corn in 1898, he went on to found the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, to mass-produce and market, Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes.  The company was renamed Kellogg Company in 1922.
 The Great Depression saw the demise of the Battle Creek Sanitarium.  Its site was later purchased by the U.S. Army in 1942.  The hospital specialized in neurosurgery, plastic surgery and the fitting of artificial limbs.  Approximately 100,000 military patients were treated there during the next eleven years.
 This photo shows the relationship of the 14-story "Tower" to the original buildings of the Sanitarium. 
 One of the patients treated at this hospital was Senator Bob Dole.  That is one of the reasons, the current facility goes by the name "Hart-Dole-Nouye Federal Center".
 These massive columns support the front facade of the current Federal Center.  You might think of them as "bars", because as soon as I stepped onto the porch of the facility, I was greeted by a very polite security guard, who told me they were very cautious of visitors getting too close to this federally-protected building. 
 The security guard allowed me to take a few photographs of the covered porch, and even told me what some of the buildings were, that I could see from the porch, that were part of downtown Battle Creek.
 You won't see any advertisements about this building saying that it can be rented out for weddings or similar private functions---in spite of the lovely architecture!
 This "gazebo-type" structure forms a picturesque "bridge" between the old and the new parts of the facility.
 I am thankful that this historic landmark has not been torn down, and that it can serve as a reminder to us Americans, of the pioneers who helped make it possible for food production/processing in the United States, to keep pace with this country's ever-increasing population.  There is this verse in Genesis 1:29---  "Then God said, 'I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.'  "  I am thankful to God, to farmers, and to food industry pioneers, who help bring "miles of breakfast smiles" to people around the world!  Tricia
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Take a Bavarian Expedition!

 If you would like to experience the culture of Bavaria, WITHOUT having to get a passport, make your way to the quaint village of Frankenmuth, Michigan ( )
 The Frankenmuth Visitor's Center, surrounded on one side by this lovely fountain and plaza, and on the other side by the Cass River, is a great place to begin your exploration.  There you will find maps, brochures, coupons, calendar of events, and general information that will make your visit to "Little Bavaria" one you will never forget.
 There are numerous shops to provide "retail therapy", with an abundance of German-themed gifts and souvenirs.
 I was fortunate during my visit to get to take a cruise on the Bavarian Belle, as it navigated the lovely Cass River that runs through the town. 
 This is a modern version of a covered bridge, built using the time-honored tradition of wooden trusses and lattice work,  by a family of craftsman skilled in this style of construction.
 The Harrey Kern Community Pavilion, shown in this photo, is a scaled-down version of an authentic German beer hall.  The Community Hall, along with the Heritage Park surrounding the building, are the site of the annual Oktoberfest ( ) that is scheduled for September 20 - 23, 2012.  The Frankenmuth Oktoberfest celebration is the only Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany that is officially sanctioned by the City of Munich.  The Munich Oktoberfest (September 22 - October 7, 2012) is known as the largest Volksfest (People's Fair) in the world.  It was started in October, 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Bavaria.  The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates, to celebrate the happy royal event.
 There are German bands, German food and beverages, wiener-dog races, and polka dancing. 
 At this colorful riverside park, a visitor can take an electric boat ride down the Cass River, or simply sit and enjoy the views.
 The Frankenmuth River Place has over 40 unique shops to browse through.
 No Bavarian expedition would be complete with out a cuckoo shop, and Frankenmuth is no exception.  The store had hundreds of varieties of clocks to choose from, many of them making the traditional cuckoo sound, that can be understood in any language.
 All over town, you will see men wearing the traditional German attire of lederhosen.
 I had the delightful culinary experience of having lunch in the famous Bavarian Inn, in this German-themed dining room.
 In other parts of the Bavarian Inn, there are areas where children can be a part of creative activities, and grown-ups (or children) can roll their very own pretzel.
 Hand-dipped chocolates, made by a cute girl in a dirndl, give a new visual image to the phrase "German Chocolate".
 These chocolate "mice" at the Bavarian Inn candy shop are ready to find a new home with a hungry tourist who is captivated by their cuteness!
 I was delighted to see that every table in the Bavarian Inn Restaurant had these prayers from the Psalms to say not only before the meal, but after, as well!
 This spirit of gratitude to God is easy to understand when one learns that the history of Frankenmuth, is identical to the history of the St. Lorenz Evangelical Lutheran Church, shown in this photo.  In 1845, Lutherans from Bavaria, set sail for the United States of America, to demonstrate "wie gut und schoen es ist bei Jesu sein" ("how wonderful it is to live with Jesus").
 The stained glass windows in the St. Lorenz  church depict important aspects of Christian history, as well as the history of Frankenmuth.  A complete explanation of all the windows is written out in a brochure provided by the church, or also on their website,
 With such a strong Christian heritage, it is not surprising that the world's largest Christmas store is located in Frankenmuth.  At Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, there is every kind of Christmas decoration imaginable.  They are famous for their staff of artists who will personalize the ornament you purchase, while you watch or continue shopping. 
 All of Frankenmuth is very "motorcoach" friendly.  For example, at Bronner's, there is a massive covered pavilion where motorcoaches (and private cars as well) can unload/load their passengers.  The group  I was with also used this area for a group photo of us with our newly-acquired Bronner's Christmas treasures.  To start planning your visit to this fairytale-like community, log on to  .  Wishing you miles of Bavarian smiles!  Tricia
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Saturday, August 18, 2012


 Dow Gardens  ( were initially developed by Herbert H. Dow, founder of Dow Chemical Company, on the estate he shared with his wife, Grace, and their family.  Since the 1899 development by Herbert H. Dow of an 8 acre plot of land, the facility has grown to encompass 110 acres of stunning garden landscapes that are nestled within the city limits of Midland, Michigan. 
 This rose garden is an example of Herbert Dow's original philosophy to "never reveal the gardens' whole beauty at first glance."
 There is an interactive Children's Garden where local families can learn the basics of home gardening for the purpose of food production.  These homemade scarecrows  illustrate the creativity the kiddies can imagine and construct, to scare away any crows that might be trying to "harvest" the children's crops.
 In addition to the areas devoted to home gardening, flowers, and ornamental grasses, there are spectacular displays of trees.  I especially enjoyed seeing the white bark of this species, contrasting against the vibrant green of the lawn. 
 Herbert Dow was an early "recycler".  Some of the original bridges in the garden that date back to the last century, were made from "clunkers".  These were the leftover, nonburnable pieces of coal that had to be removed from the numerous coal-fired furnaces, used in the early days of the Dow Chemical Company.  The black stones used to make this bridge are an example of the "clunkers". 
 Decades later, Alden B. Dow, the famous architect son of Herbert and Grace, added many architectural elements to the Gardens.  This Sun Bridge is an example of his design.  His intent was for the reflection of the bridge, to unite with the real bridge, to form an image in the eye of the viewer of a round sun, with rays projecting off of it.  I see it, do you?!
 With all the water features in the garden, there is plenty of work to be done, keeping them clean.  On the very hot day that I visited, these workers may have had the "coolest" task of any that we saw!
 These unusual stepping stones lead to the area showcasing Summer Annuals. 
 Since the originator of the gardens was named "Herb", it is only fitting that there is a special section growing plants to be used for food preparation, that,  of course, is called the "Herb Garden"!  This photo is also a reminder to mention that motorized chairs can be arranged for guests who need them.
 This gorgeous weeping willow tree reminded me of a parasol, spreading out to to provide cover  for any who seek  shelter under its branches.  In fact, our guide told us that people are ENCOURAGED to get off the marked paths, and onto the grass.  Likewise, they are allowed to bring a picnic with them to enjoy some "al fresco" dining!
 There were so many visual delights in the garden, it was hard to pick which ones to share in this blog.  I liked this photograph, because it illustrates how it is obvious that the large boulders were artistically placed to provide a pleasing reflection in the water.  I guess it could be like the ink blot images, used by psychiatrists to see what is on the mind of their patients.  I see a row of vertebrae, making up a spine, laying on its side.  What do you see?
 Alden Dow designed some Chinese red, multilevel bridges.  Two of his "signature" colors are the combination of the complementary colors of red and green.  Our guide told us this related to his being raised around the apple orchard of his father, where bright red apples contrasted against bright green tree leaves. 
 Speaking of red, the Dow Gardens are a popular spot for outings of various  "Red Hat Society" groups.  If some of the ladies are not able to walk for extended periods, an electric cart can be arranged for their visit. 
 This is what I would call a real "Bench Mark".  There were benches throughout the gardens, but this design is one I had never seen before.  It was beautiful!
 Herbert Dow met his future bride, Grace Ball,  in the 1890's, when she was a teacher at the Post Street School, shown in this photo.  They became friends through their mutual participation in the Midland Temperance Society.  Some historians think that one reason that Herbert Dow originally invested in this particular piece of property, was its proximity to the Post Street School, and the nearby pine forest where he and Grace "courted".
 But Dow Gardens is just one of MANY legacies of the Dow family in Midland, Michigan.  Another is the Midland Center for the Arts ( ), shown in this photo.  Besides the bright red, sculptural format used for their sign, I was so impressed by the MILES of red and white flowers, adjacent to the curb, that lined BOTH sides of the main thoroughfare in Midland. 
 The overlapping metal circles that cover the front of this Alden B. Dow-designed building, are once again an eye puzzle, to see what image your brain will perceive. 
 My favorite section  of the art gallery was the "Abstracting the Concrete" photography exhibit by Bill Jackson Photography.  However, since guests were asked not to photograph that section, I photographed other  examples from the Art Gallery, such as these unusual sculptures. 
 There are several different group venues inside the Midland Center: A 1,500-seat auditorium, a 400-seat theatre, conference rooms, and dining rooms.  Once again, Alden B. Dow used his signature red and green color combination to furnish the spaces.
 In addition, the Midland Center contains a historical museum, as well as the Alden B. Dow Museum of Science and Art, shown in this photo.  Both spaces have numerous interactive exhibits that children will love.  And of course, both Dow Gardens and the Midland Center for the Arts have gift shops, stocked with lovely and unique items of all types.  The Dow family has certainly lived up to the original meaning of "dower", which means a gift (as in "dowry" and "endowed")  I was reminded of one translation of the verse I Peter 4:10 that says "As each one has been endowed with a gift, use it to minister to one another".  I am thankful I was able to enjoy the many gifts that the Dow family endowed to the city of Midland, Michigan.  If you would like to learn more about these attractions, and many others close by, just click on, to start enjoying miles of (enDOWed) smiles!   Tricia
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