Calling all Foodies: The Latin House

If your palate is nudging you to try something new, check out The Latin House in Grand Rapids, Michigan! Here diners can enjoy a quiet, intimate setting and sample traditional meals from Colombia, Peru, and Argentina!

My little brother, Jake, and family were visiting from Florida a few weeks ago. His wife, Ren, is a Spanish teacher who grew up enjoying many of these dishes and often visited Argentina through cultural exchange and graduate programs. She was our guide as we browsed the many delicious options on the menu.

MK ordered red beans and yuca. We all sampled fried yuca, which tasted similar to a thick French fry. I added some red beans to my rice. I was amazed at the amount of savory flavor packed into the small dish.

We also shared an order of tostones (fried plantain).

Ren ordered Pechuga Gaucho, an Argentinian dish, chicken coated with Panko and served with ham, provolone and fries

My nephew ordered Arroz Con Pollo, a Colombian dish, chicken, vegetables, and fried rice, served with fries (Luckily, he is not a big eater. The next day, my son, George, and I fought over the left overs! This is probably my favorite way to eat fried rice.)

Several of us enjoyed Lomo Saltado, a Peruvian dish, steak topped with a special sauce, served with rice and fries. The surprise hit for this dish was the tomatoes, marinated in a delicious sauce, a perfect compliment to the skirt steak. (I enjoyed a couple bites before remembering to take a picture.)

I look forward to trying the Churrasco next time!

The Latin House

3363 Remembrance Rd. NW

Grand Rapids, MI

Open Wednesday-Sunday

NOTE: At the time of our visit, they did not have a sign (look for street numbers). The Latin House offers seating for approximately 25.

Thanks for reading!

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A Grand Weekend

Last month, I tagged along with Chad while he attended a work conference on Mackinac Island. This lovely historic landmark encourages visitors to slow down and relax. Visitors travel the island with bikes, horses, or on foot, no cars allowed. Horse drawn taxis wait near the ferry to slowly take travelers to their destination.

We had the opportunity to stay at the Grand Hotel. While my husband would rather enjoy a bonfire by a hunting shack, he was so moved by the bright florals and broad stripes in this Victorian Hotel that upon entering our room, he said, “It looks like a clown threw up in here!” 🙂

I have fond memories staying at the Grand Hotel on one special occasion as a child. My parents attended a work conference the same weekend as my sister’s birthday. She was surprised with birthday cake in the Grand dining room, and Gordon MacRae sang Happy Birthday to her. From that moment on, I wanted to celebrate a birthday in the same way!! For years, as a child, I believed my parents’ white lie that we couldn’t go to Mackinac in May because the Straits were still frozen over. In reality, my parents always worked the weekend of my birthday as it was Hillsdale College’s Commencement.

My favorite activity on the island is renting a bike and enjoying the 8.2 mile trip round. Other pleasant activities include browsing the many shops on Main Street, sampling the island’s famous fudge, and watching the sunset on the world’s largest porch at the Grand Hotel.

Planked Whitefish at The Village Inn (just off the Main Street through town)

Enjoying the beautiful views from The Yacht Club

An evening at the Pink Pony

No trip to Mackinac is complete without a visit to the local fishery just outside Mackinac City to bring home whitefish.

Thanks for reading!

Kilkenny Corkers in Concert

This past weekend, Kilkenny Corkers opened for the Irish band, One for the Foxes. Thank you to the audience members who shared video clips. Below is a montage, something from Paula, Maggie, and Colleen.

Found this YouTube video from One for the Foxes:

Live performances provide a glimpse into the “heart and soul” of music, difficult to capture in studio recording. I hope you have time to relax at an outdoor concert this summer and support this craft.

Best of luck, One for the Foxes, on your summer tour!!!

Thanks for reading!

The Long Weekend Road Trip: The Mighty Mac

“Well, in the Straits of Mackinac,

There’s about as much water as you ever saw.

Folks that lived there tried and tried,

But they couldn’t get across to the other side.”


“Couldn’t get across without a boat or a plane.

Couldn’t take a bus or a trolley or a train.

Couldn’t swim across, it was cold as a fridge!

So they thought they better build themselves a bridge.”


“Oh, the Mackinac Bridge,

She’s a mighty fine bridge.

Five hundred feet high,

And five miles long…” 
(lyrics by K. Donahue)

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I’m sitting on a beach in St. Ignace, MI, enjoying the beautiful Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw). We decided to enjoy a quiet weekend in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Even though we are amid one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year, the U.P. rarely feels crowded.

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We attended Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola, founded in the late 1600’s, read about the life’s work of Father Marquette, and visited his grave site. Later, we climbed Castle Rock (less than 200 stairs, one of the best views in the U.P.). Also, we enjoyed a northern treat, fresh whitefish! Diners had many choices: fish tacos, dip, smoked, fried, broiled…

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However, the main purpose of this adventure was to join the annual Labor Day walk across The Mackinac Bridge, The Mighty Mac. The walk began at 7:00 am on the St. Ignace side. The bridge closed to public vehicles from 6:30-noon, but shuttle service was available, beginning at 4:30 am. The yearly walk attracted around 80,000 participants, including visitors from around the globe!

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At five miles long, this free event offered the perfect nudge to stay in shape and enjoy a rare view of the Straits. Catering to most activity levels, runners won a lucky spot through a lottery, power walkers weaved through the crowds, retirees enjoyed a leisure stroll, and beginners celebrated a major milestone in their fitness journey. Think about adding this adventure to your bucket list!

Fun Facts about the Mackinac Bridge (mackinacbridge.org):

  • Construction began in 1954
  • Opened in 1957
  • 5 miles long
  • 552 ft high
  • Maximum water depth: 295 ft
  • Currently, the third largest suspension bridge in the world

Thanks for reading!

Nature for Every Season

I recently finished a fascinating book about Mozart, his pet starling (an influential muse for the musical genius), and the connection to nature. I was struck by what the author termed “wild summons.” Nature takes so many forms: The pull of the mountains, a wooded trail by the lake, the challenge of the rapids…perhaps even less obvious things, a cherished pet, personal journal, songs, or that place offering calm. A special place that often “summons” me is Frederick Meijer Gardens.

Frederick Meijer Gardens, located in Grand Rapids, MI, remains a crown jewel in West Michigan. Whether you want to explore outside among the peaceful Japanese Gardens, or intricate bonsai display, or take a walk back in time, viewing the 1930s farm, these grounds offer something for everyone.

In fact, FMG’s indoor garden area makes for a fun outing, too. March’s butterfly exhibit remains a traditional break from the cold weather (the tropical conservatory hovers in the 80s.) Also, the Christmas Around the World exhibit offers a festive way to get in the holiday spirit.

However, of all the activities found at this beautiful place, the Summer Concert Series remains a favorite venue! We usually pack a picnic, a few chairs, and sip a glass of wine or beer from the bar. The concerts are open seating on a grassy hillside. This year, we enjoyed Joan Baez with Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls.

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Ever consider a membership? Members have the opportunity to order pre-sale discounted tickets for the Summer Concert Series. Check it out! meijergardens.org

Thanks for reading!

Memories, Tales, and Finding Yourself

I am so thankful that Chad’s relatives take the time to write down their stories and share with the family. Aunt Carol is one of those women who appreciates the memories and the importance of preserving family history. In her words below, she remembers a much simpler time on Grandma and Grandpa Ruzgis’ farm:

Some of my best memories of Gramma R was how generous and hard working this amazing lady was, although we didn’t think of that then. I don’t ever remember her complaining, although she had a lot to complain about. When I would stay with her, she would let me sleep in bed with her, she and Grampa R were always up around 4 AM to milk cows. I got to sleep in. I loved it when they called for the ‘cows to come home’ late in the afternoon for 2nd milking… come boss, come boss…

They raised most of their own food… apples, vegetables and potatoes. After milking the cows, the milk was separated (milk from cream) in the separator room. One of my favorite cows was named “Daisy,” (all of the cows had names). They did not have a tractor when I was young, but farmed with big work horses. There was a hen house, the chickens roamed free around the farm. It was frightening when someone yelled ‘chicken hawk’, everyone ran. I didn’t know what Chicken Hawk was, and I didn’t stick around to find out; I immediately hid in the house. A time I didn’t like was when they butchered the pigs. I’ll never forget the scream. They would slit the throat of the hog and drain the blood for blood sausage. Uck! A delicacy was the head cheese they made from some unknown part of the pig.

When we visited the farm, most slept upstairs. There was no inside bathroom facilities, we always had a pot we carried upstairs, then emptied in the morning. I remember my mom and aunts sleeping in the front bedroom, giggling all night long.

I loved going on grocery shopping trips with Gramma R in Scottville. She always bought me candy. I yearned for a used Brownie Kodak Camera I saw in a store window. She bought it for me after a lot of whining on my part.. We often stopped at Johnny’s Tavern in Custer. Gramma R would drink a glass or 2 of beer. Mom, and usually Aunt Rae and/or Aunt Phyllis were with us (someone had to drive). Johnny eventually built a larger bar and roller rink on the north side of US 10 farther to the west, but still in Custer. Gramma always wore a babushka on her head. I wish I had one of her babushkas, and I wish I had her old crocheted sweater vest, it was dark green with some orange trim. Always worn to town or church.

Gramma & Grampa R’s English was very broken and both were difficult to understand. They called me Kedala instead of Carol. It was so exciting when the cousins (Joyce, Janice & JoLynn) came over and we’d play in the woods & creek across from the farm. Karen & Ron Evanauskis were occasional visitors too with their parents, Johnny & Doris. On holidays, Gramma R would make her kuguli, yummy! She let me drink coffee brewed on the wood stove, and she always let me add lots of sugar. Unfortunately, I still do.

Grampa Ruzigs had asthma very bad. At night, he used to sit in the dark at the kitchen table and snuff some black stuff off the top of the can lid. He wasn’t very patient with us young kids, thought we were too noisy. Mike & Jerry used to give him a lot of grief. He was a very hard worker, never drove, always walked or hitchhiked to work in Ludington. Life was very difficult in those days. I wonder what kind of person he and Gramma would be today. I can’t imagine leaving your home and family and coming to a strange country where you could not even speak the language. Especially difficult when they had to leave a daughter behind in Lithuania, always planning to send for her, but the money was never there. Gramma never spoke of her.

I was thinking about the fall/winter holidays coming up and all the opportunities for family time. These large, delicious meals and gatherings are the perfect opportunity to hear old stories and learn about those people who still live through you. Thanks for reading!