Southwest Michigan Spark-January 2023

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Expert Advice

Funeral Services

Q: How did the Langeland Family get started?

A: Langelands began serving the Kalamazoo community in 1934. Times were tough then, but Langelands treated everyone like family regardless of the services chosen. Our reputation grew from there, and now moving into our fourth generation, it is still our mission to serve your family with compassion, honor, and respect. This is our life’s work: taking care of you and your family with service second to none.

Langeland Family Funeral Homes

“Quiet dignity with compassion” has meant so much for many people... for many years. 4 locations to serve you 269-343-1508 •

Health Food

Q: What’s NEW for the NEW Year at Sawall’s?



A: Assisted living is essentially the same environment as living at home. In order to maintain a similar lifestyle, private apartments are offered with minimal care and assistance when needed. If cognitive issues and memory loss hits the point where one is having difficulty functioning in the outside world, the switch to memory care is advised. Memory care is structured specifically to those who suffer from dementia or memory loss. Depending on the severity, the environment is adjusted to fit ones needs; bringing the care to them.

Friendship Village

“Where Connections Matter” 1400 North Drake, Kalamazoo 269-381-0560


A: Since the first week of January, our total amount of snowfall has been significant. Since the weight of snow and ice is substantial, we recommend removing as much of the snow and ice as possible. However, safety should be your foremost concern. Emergency room personnel can tell you many stories of unfortunate homeowners injured while climbing a ladder or getting onto their roofs to remove snow and ice. Therefore, we recommend purchasing a ‘snow rake’, a long handled shoveling device, designed to pull snow and ice off the roof while you stand safely on the ground. Please be aware, however, since a snow rake is made from aluminum, you must kept it away from any electrical power lines on your roof.

Sherriff-Goslin Roofing Co. Since 1906 342-0153 800-950-1906

Hearing Health

Q: How long can I ignore my hearing loss?

Mark Sawall Owner

A: WE ARE CELEBRATING OUR 87th YEAR! Sawall’s has been through a lot over the last eight decades & five generations and this last year without exception has amazed me. THANK YOU to all our loyal employees and customers for all you goodwill during 2021. From the Sawall Family to all of you and the Kalamazoo Community... THANK YOU for your kindness and friendship and thank you for supporting local small businesses everywhere. Mon-Sat. 8am-9pm, Sun. 10am-6pm

Sawall Health Foods

Oakwood Plaza • 2965 Oakland Dr. at Whites Rd. • 343-3619 •

Q: My agent at the time did not discuss enrolling in a Medicare Prescription drug plan. Now I am stuck with a horrible penalty. Is there someway I can get a plan that will help me avoid that Penalty??

A: Yes, I believe we can help you with this. We would look at the medications you take and see if we can work around the penalty. Call me at 269-323-7888 to discuss or arrange an appointment to go over your meds and the plans that might work for you.

Charley Endres, CPIA Endres Insurance Agency

6660 S. Westnedge Ave., Portage • 269-323-7888

Audiologist, Kim Kragt, M.A., CCC-A

A. The answer is don’t ignore it! Untreated hearing loss leads to you gradually omitting things from your life that once was enjoyable. You might find yourself avoiding social gatherings, meetings, or events to stay home and watch TV because you can turn up the volume and hear “just fine.” You may have even convinced yourself that no one can hear in those situations anyway. This can lead to social isolation, depression, and frustration with yourself and those around you. If we’ve learned anything from the last few years, it’s that we need social contact. Schedule a hearing test with an audiologist.

Constance Brown Hearing Centers

1634 Gull Road, Ste 201 Kalamazoo, MI 49048 (269) 343-2601

4855 W. Centre Avenue Portage, MI 49024 (269) 372-2709

Q: Should we be concerned about the amount of snow and ice accumulating on our roof?
Justin Reynolds Manager Member Home Builders Association of Greater Kalamazoo Charley Endres
Q: When should I make the transition from assisted living to memory care?
Tod Langeland

Michigan’s Own Grace Gilbert, The Bearded Lady

While heading up to Bellaire a few weeks ago, we stopped at the Kalkaska County Library right along 131 to use the restroom.

Once inside, I was reminded of one of Kalkaska’s most interesting and unique, former residents; Grace Gilbert, the bearded lady with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circuses. I asked the librarian a few questions and she excitedly pulled out a large book of prominent Kalkaska County citizens. I read the one page story and as I was finishing, she said, “You should talk to Ken at the grocery store. He is our local historian and could tell you much more.”

As I was on my way out, the door opened and the librarian said, “Well look who just walked in. It’s Ken.” I asked him where Grace Gilbert lived, He asked me to come over to the window and pointed across the street, and explained, she lived a couple houses down on 4th Street.

Grace Gilbert was born on February 2nd in 1876 on a small

farm near Nettle Lake, Ohio. She was the youngest of four children and the only one in the family to be born covered in a layer of silken hair. By the time Gilbert was 18 months old, a newspaper article reported that the hair on her head was a foot long and that she had three to four-inch-long whiskers on her face. By the time she was 18 she was being exhibited full-time as a bearded lady.


In 1901, her family moved to Kalkaska and she signed her first contract with the Ringling Bros. Circus in 1901. At the time, her beard measured more than 18 inches in length.

Grace became a big circus attraction and traveled the world. In 1910, Grace married Giles Calvin and announced her retirement soon after the wedding. Farm life was tough, compared to the money she made in the circus and by 1916, Grace was again exhibiting in Coney Island.

While in Kalkaska, Grace wore a veil as many pregnant women at the time, believed their babies could be “marked ” should the mother be traumatized by seeing a person such as Grace. Shortly after returning home for the season in January of 1924, Grace suddenly fell ill. She complained of “throat pain’ but her condition quickly grew much more serious. Within just a few hours Grace Gilbert – The Bearded Lady – was dead at age 47.

I have always been fascinated by unusual stories and a few years ago, while staying with friends in the area, we visited Grace Gilbert’s grave site, located just north of town at the Maple Grove Cemetery.

JANUARY 2023 3 SPARK To advertise in upcoming SPARK publications, contact: Steve Ellis, 269.720.8157, Lee Dean: Same Melody, Very Different Lyrics .............................................. 4 Spark Recipe: Cornish Comforts.........................5 Langeland Honors Hospice Caregivers............6 Wednesday Warriors ..............................................7 Volunteer: Diana Godish ......................................9 Cover Story: Lana Hoffman ...............................10 Nature: The Best of Winter .................................12 Business Profile: Pita Way.....................................13 Spark Movie Reviews...........................................14 Healthy Living ........................................................15 Spark Book Reviews .............................................16 History: Wallace S. White.....................................17 Tales from the Road.............................................18 SPARK accepts advertising to defray the cost of production and distribution, and appreciates the support of its advertisers. The publication does not specifically endorse advertisers or their products or services. Spark is a publication of Ellis Strategies, LLC. No part of this publication may be reprinted or otherwise reproduced without written permission from the publisher. Editor and Publisher: Steve Ellis Graphic & Page Development: CRE8 Design, Kalamazoo Content/Photography: Lauren Ellis Writers and Contributors Include: Area Agency on Aging, Steve Ellis, Lee Dean, Laura Kurella, Richard Martinovich Dave Person, Kalamazoo Nature Center, Kalamazoo Public Library, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Portage Public Library, Senior Services of Southwest Michigan, YMCA INDEX JANUARY 2023 ON THE COVER: 20,000 readers, 650 locations and online at Like us on Facebook at
Lana Hoffman. Photo provided by Lana Hoffman.

Same Melody, Very Different Lyrics

My spirit animal is going to making an appearance in Kalamazoo.

That great contributor to American musical culture, the one and only Weird Al Yankovic, is coming to the State Theater. I won’t be there because the cheap seats are $130, and out of my price range. No matter: the man has given me so much because he is a practitioner of a particular art form I dearly love: the song parody.

I can blame my father for this. He would often take the words of a wellknown song and replace them with his own twisted take. Unfortunately, many of his alterations are unfit to publish in this fine family publication. This clever swerve away from a rhyming word, based on The Man On The Flying Trapeze will suffice:

He floats through the air

With the greatest of class He misses the rope And he lands on his ear

Being an impressionable young lad, I

decided to try my hand at song parody. My first creation, based on Hank Williams, was “Your cheatin’ fart will smell on you.” Dad liked it. Mom not so much. She couldn’t appreciate that great art could come from a nineyear-old mind.

We had more lyrical misadventures in high school, courtesy of a subgenre of popular music called “the misheard lyric.” This mutation was bound to happen in a musical style where enunciation wasn’t a major priority. Clear diction was for fans of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, not for us. That’s why Creedence Clearwater Revival’s There’s a bad moon on the rise turned into There’s a bathroom on the right.

A few years later, still in my howling at the moon stage, my pals and I composed a couplet to describe a friend who would show up when we had ample supplies of suds but would never bring any of his own. We sang it to the tune of Close to You by the Carpenters.

Why does Joe suddenly appear Every time we have beer?

My efforts have improved with age. Lately my creaky joints have prompted me to work on a new version of

the Joni Mitchell/Judy Collins classic Both Sides Now.

I feel the pain in both knees now I climbed the stairs, I don’t know how

But soon I have to go back down I really hope that I Don’t fall

When Rod Stewart had a hit with Young Turks, he was 36. He exulted in the line, Young hearts run free tonight. Now he’s about to turn 78, and the chorus could sound very different.

Old men must pee tonight Time’s not on my side Why must the bathroom be so very far away

When I have to get up three times a night

During the worst of the pandemic, a friend suggested that an appropriate Covid anthem would be The Year of the Mask, sung to the tune of Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat. Someone needs to get on that one.

The award for greatest song parody, hands down, belongs to a co-worker who brilliantly came up with this gem, based on Young Girl, by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap:

Young girl, get out of my life

I heard the door slam

Here comes my wife

Better run, girl

She’s got a gun, girl

There is a limit to the appropriateness of song parodies, as I learned from the man who planted the seed. One day on the elementary school playground, a friend regaled me with his version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. His reworked version was likely something he learned from an older relative who was in the military.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord

He is driving down the alley in a pink and yellow Ford

One hand is on the throttle and the other on a bottle

And he ain’t gonna drive no more.

I was ready to impress my father with this fine piece of music but only got as far as the end of the second line when he roared, “STOP!”

You’d better believe I stopped. A person’s behavior will radically change when challenged by someone much larger and angrier than you are.

“Don’t you EVER make fun of that song!” he said, still roaring. Papa Lion had spoken.

I wonder if that ever happened to Weird Al when he was a kid.


Cornish Comforts

Return strained liquid to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add saffron and the cubed potatoes and carrots. Simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the egg noodles according to package directions and clean chicken meat from bones, if desired, reserving meat.

Finish straining remaining solids, pressing through a large strainer. Add strained liquid to the pot and discard strainer contents or reserve for other use. (Sometimes I puree the parsnip, turnip, onion, celery, and garlic and return it to the soup pot.)

Once the carrots and potatoes are tender, the soup is ready to serve.

To serve, place some prepared noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl, add some pieces of chicken meat then ladle with soup and vegetables from the pot.

Heavenly Rosemary & Garlic Cornish Game Hens

4 Cornish game hens

salt and pepper to taste

1 lemon, quartered

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use

Approximate servings per recipe: 8

Mom’s Marvelous Chicken Vegetable Soup (Adapted)

2 quarts low sodium chicken broth

2 to 3 Cornish Game Hens (or 1 whole fryer)

1 large sweet onion

1 turnip

2 small parsnips

6 ounce can tomato paste

6 leafy stalks celery hearts

1 bundle flat leaf Italian parsley

Approximate servings per recipe: 8

4 whole cloves 4 whole black peppercorns 2 bay leaves 2 small cloves garlic, peeled 1-pound carrots, peeled and cubed 3 Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 gram saffron 1 bag thin egg noodles

In a large stockpot, heat broth to boiling. Add chicken, onion, turnip, parsnips, celery, parsley, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic. Bring to a boil and simmer for one hour. Remove from heat. Carefully remove all solids from the pan then strain the liquid.

24 cloves garlic

1/3 cup white wine

1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth

4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rub hens with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper then place 1 lemon wedge and 1 sprig rosemary in the cavity of each hen. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange garlic cloves around hens. Roast in a preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pour over hens. Continue roasting about 25 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Spoon sauce and garlic around hens. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, if desired, and serve.

Laura Kurella is an award-winning food columnist, recipe developer, and home cook who loves life in Michigan. She welcomes your comments at


Langeland Family Funeral Homes Honors Hospice Caregivers

On October 19, 2022 Langeland Family Funeral Homes honored the Hospice Caregiver Award Winners from September 2021 – August 2022. These Hospice Caregivers – Nurses, Certified Nurse Assistants, Chaplains, and others who work in Hospice are eligible to be nominated to receive the Langeland Hospice Caregiver of the month award. They each receive the Crystal Heart award and a gift card as special recognition of the selfless and amazing job they perform to support those who are dying and their loved ones. During the Hospice Caregiver Awards Banquet the monthly winners are individually recognized for their service and then the selection is made of the Hospice Caregiver of the Year.

This year Nikki Warner a Certified Nurse Assistant for Centrica Care Navigators was selected as the Langeland 2022 Hospice Caregiver of the Year. Nikki originally received the monthly Hospice Caregiver Award for January 2022. Nikki has worked in hospice for five years. She is dedicated to her job and was so surprised to receive the yearly award for 2022. Nikki says she wants to do the best for her clients, she treats them like she is caring for her own family. She also feels that so many in her profession – CNA’s, nurses, chaplains, and others are so deserving of this recognition she has a hard time receiving it for herself. “I just do my job and I love what I do”.

Nikki shared a special story from her numerous

special memories with her patients. Nikki cared for one man for three years. He had dementia and continued to decline over the years which she cared for him. He has a special place in her heart. He taught her about the Pink Panther movies, asking her, “Does your Dog bit?” She was confused at first because she did not bring her dog to the appointment, this then became a special joke between them. His wife would introduce Nikki as, “Your Girlfriend is here” and he called Nikki “Nikki Canna” – because her nametag said Nikki CNA. Karen Rich, who initially nominated Nikki, wrote; “As a hospice caregiver, Nikki has a heart the size of Texas and a disposition that brings out the smiles and humor in what is often a dismal situation.” These special relationships Nikki

develops with her patients make her service so much more than a job.

Nikki attended the banquet with her parents Larry and Marie Warner and her co-worker Dion Platz-Marcum. She lives in Portage with her goldfish (who is in a pond outside) and her two dogs. Nikki unwinds from the stress of being a caregiver with her hobbies – hunting, fishing and keeping in touch with family and friends on “Talk Tuesdays” and going to the Barn Theatre on Friday nights.

Langeland Family Funeral Homes is so thankful to Nikki and all the Hospice Caregivers who give so much of themselves to make sure those who are suffering have the support and guidance they need.



Beavers and turtles and trails, oh my

I’ll bet you have a favorite place, memory, ice cream flavor. If I had to pick, one of my favorite preserves is Spirit Springs Sanctuary. The name hints at the tranquility of the place: a lake in the woods with rolling hills and a little history. The previous owners kept the land free of development, as a quiet retreat. In 2010 it became a preserve of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Tucked into the corner of Cass County, this was new territory for the Wednesday Warriors, and we started scheduling workdays to bring the land back to the old ways. Our visionary leader, Nate, gave us bite-sized assignments at first, like clearing out the multiflora rose between the trail and the pond. As the years went by, we learned more and cleared more and more areas of invasive non-natives, ex-

ploring the oak uplands, the buttonbush lowlands, the beaver remodeling project. The native plants started to come back as we made space for them, and we even brought in some plants rescued from nearby sites.

We got to see the place in all seasons. Kids of all ages like to count how many turtles can bask on a single log. Winter lets us get into the wetlands, and this winter we are honing our botanical chops, learning to identify trees and shrubs without the leaves. It helps that we now have apps for that, but we have to get used to looking closely at the tiny details of buds and leaf scars.

As we look around, we can definitely see what we’ve accomplished, and what’s still ahead to do. We invite you to join us on one of our workdays to see our preserves up close and personal. No tools or skills required, just an interest in the outdoors

and the chance to make a difference. Email to get on our mailing list or check out the website for details. Attendance is week-by-week as your schedule permits.

If you’re not the dirt-under-your-nails type, you’re still invited to come visit one of the preserves that are open to the public, including Spirit Springs. There’s parking, well-marked trails (thanks to guess who), and directions on the website swmlc. org. We hope you can get outdoors and catch the spirit.

Kristi Chapman, volunteer, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy


Although Diana Godish grew up on the east coast, she calls herself a Hoosier because she spent the majority of her life in Muncie, Indiana, where she and her husband worked and raised a family. Diana moved to Kalamazoo in 2016 to be near her daughter’s family after her husband passed. She is no stranger to Michigan having attended Hope College where she earned a bachelor’s degree and then went to Penn State for a graduate degree in zoology.

While not an accountant, Diana volunteered as an AARP Tax Aide helping seniors file taxes for nearly a decade in Muncie. She also volunteered at Second Harvest—a huge food bank based in Muncie that served eight counties.

No doubt, Diana’s most challenging and life-changing volunteer experience was working with inmates in one of Indiana’s maximum security prisons. Those inmates, some serving life sentences, are often characterized as the “worst of the worst.”’ Yet, through working with these prisoners, Diana truly saw the good within them; it strengthened her faith in humanity.

Once Diana relocated to Kalamazoo, she knew she could not just sit—she says she’s always needed to stay busy and engaged. Though a bit of an introvert, she enjoys getting to know and help people. She continues her volunteer AARP Tax Aide work in this area—and during the tax season, helps six to eight

senior filers each day that she works.

Likewise, her work with incarcerated inmates continues as she gives her time to a Grand Rapids-based ministry called Reach the Forgotten. Diana writes uplifting letters to jailed individuals.

Diana has also found herself working with local non-profits including Loaves & Fishes and Meals on Wheels at Milestone Senior Services. In Kalamazoo, she delivers meals one day a week to seniors at an apartment complex where she delights in getting to

know the people she serves. Diane volunteers with Meals on Wheels through AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP program.

Perhaps one of Diana’s most far reaching and impactful volunteer projects is called Clean Water for the World which began in the garage of a fellow church member. This parishioner, Jerry Bohl, an engineer, learned of the critical need for safe drinking water and created a portable water purification system that incorporates a purification filter and UV light to kill bacteria and viruses. It provides five gallons of clean water per minute for a village of 600 people and operates by either electricity or solar power. Diana has worked with assembly teams to build these units for worldwide distribution at no cost primarily throughout Central America and the Caribbean. She now takes comfort and satisfaction knowing these ingenious devices make such a profound difference in the lives of so many.

Milestone Senior Services (previously known as Senior Services of Southwest Michigan) is an AmeriCorps Seniors grantee. AmeriCorps Seniors empowers people age 55 and older to serve their communities. RSVP helps people find a volunteer opportunity that fits their passion. There are currently opportunities in Kalamazoo County and a few in Calhoun County. Volunteers are needed with Meals on Wheels, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Telephone Reassurance for Seniors, Milestone Home Repair, and more. Regular, flexible schedules available. Contact RSVP at 269382-0515 or apply to volunteer at

“For all she’s given, she’s received far more”– Diana Godish

Soon after Lana Hoffman arrived in Kalamazoo 22 years ago hoping to establish herself as a schoolteacher, it became obvious there were other paths in store for her.

Call it what you will — luck, fate, or just being in the right place at the

right time — it’s been a good ride for Hoffman, owner of Lana’s Boutique stores in downtown Kalamazoo and St. Joseph and a songstress who specializes in old-time jazz and classic country.

That’s not to say talent didn’t have a lot to do with it.

As the proprietor of high-end bou-


tiques — starting with a store near the Western Michigan University campus in 2003 and blossoming into similar shops in Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, Saugatuck and even a pop-up trailer before she downsized to the two businesses she has now — Hoffman says she has been able to meet the needs of people shopping for upscale contemporary apparel.

And as a singer, she has soothed the soul of many a listener, whether in concert or at area eating and drinking establishments.

Her degrees in education and marketing from Quincy University in Illinois help explain the teaching career, however abbreviated, and the entrepreneurship, but how did the singing — what she describes as her real passion — come to be?

Growing up in southern Illinois, “I always sang,” says Hoffman, 49, but “I never had any formal training.”

When she moved to Kalamazoo in 2000, Hoffman hoped to get a fulltime job in public education, but after teaching in private schools and subbing for a couple of years, she changed directions and opened her first boutique.

She also filled in the gaps in her time by performing with the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre. In 2003, she was cast as country-music icon Patsy Cline in the Civic’s A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline

“That opened me up to a lot of musicians and to perform on stage,” she says. “That was my springboard here in Kalamazoo.”


Except for reprising her role as Patsy Cline for the Farmers Alley Theatre’s version of “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline” in 2010, Hoffman eventually moved from country to jazz “and I have done that ever since,” she says. She sings with a variety of local bands, ensembles, orchestras and individual musicians, as well as her own Lana Hoffman Jazz Trio. She also teams with violinist Barry Ross and pianist Terry Lower to play concert halls under the name BLT Jazz Trio.

“There are so many great musicians around here,” she says, mentioning Lower, Ross, Matthew Fries, Dave Proulx, Larry Ochiltree and Denis Shebukhov as just a few of those with whom she has collaborated.

Among her favorite jazz singers are the late Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson, she says. Lately, she has returned to her country roots with a different style of musicians, a band called “Chick & the Boomers” which performs country classics from the likes of Cline, Johnny Cash, Meryl Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Buck Owens.

Hoffman says she performs three or four times a week in the summer, which includes festivals, before the schedule slows to a more leisurely pace in the fall.

Not so long ago, the outlook dimmed for Hoffman and others who cater to the public.

“Covid was really horrible,” she says of the pandemic that in early 2020 closed down not only her stores, but the venues where she sang, such as The Union, a popular downtown nightspot.

While The Union closed permanently, “there are a lot of places now that are opening back up,” she says.

Among the places where she frequently sings are The Dock at Bayview on Gull Lake, Paw Paw’s Amore’ and Lucky Girl, Clara’s on the River in Battle Creek and the Liquid Note jazz club in Otsego.

Oh, and for those who know Hoffman as “the cat lady,” there’s that, too.

She and her husband, Fred, have 12 cats — make that 13, she says, including the elderly cat with several health issues that was abandoned in her neighborhood recently — and she has helped more than 400 others from the Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement shelter find new homes.

Back when she still had the campus store, she says, “I would go down to the pound (Animal Services shelter)

to volunteer. I’d go there and get attached to them. I was walking out of there (some days) with a handful of kittens.”

Although she no longer takes shelter cats to her own home, finding adoptive homes for them, primarily through her Facebook page, and taking donations for the shelter is

still one of her passions — along with selling clothing that her customers value, and using her voice for the pleasure of her appreciative audiences.

Like the cats she helps rescue, Lana Hoffman has found a home in Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo is all the better for it.


Let the Nature Center Help You Make The Best of Winter

If you don’t already know, find out exactly why Michigan is proudly dubbed “a Water-Winter Wonderland.” True, some winter days roar like a lion, while others are simply majestic and some as kind as a lamb. But across the mitten state, folks stay resilient as they improvise, adapt and take action to enjoy what others may deem the most dreadful time of year. No matter the climate, KNC’s trails await. Once dressed appropriately, you can strap on a pair of snowshoes, cross country skis or winter cleats for an exhilarating meditation on nature. As you navigate the terrain of prairie, forest or marsh, it’s easy to pay close attention to surrounding sights, smells, textures and sounds. While on snowshoes you can connect with nature while enjoying one of the oldest forms of transportation.

The earliest snowshoes are believed to have been created entirely of wood around 4000 B.C. and were worn by First People who crossed the Bering land bridge from Asia into North America. The Athabascan Tribe of the Northwest and, closer to home, the Algonquins of the Great Lakes region experimented and perfected the iconic rawhide lacing.

thing comprised of high-tech materials. What hasn’t changed -- and is still highly recommended -- is the need for walking sticks known as trekking polls for balance and stabilization.

14-plus miles of trails. Although KNC does not rent equipment, the Trailhead Gifts and Books shop inside the Visitor Center has traction walking cleats and hiking sticks for sale. To put that equipment to good use, KNC provides further incentive for trekkers with its Hiking Spree program. Hikers can earn special medallions for their hiking sticks, which KNC awards with each new trail hiked.

The look and materials have evolved over millennia, and what once resembled a wooden tennis racket with a fin has morphed into some-

According to the Washington Post, snowshoe use spiked by 12-percent during the pandemic, as the sales of snowshoes quadrupled. It’s no wonder, as the age-old winter sport allows ample room for social distancing with the double advantage of providing solace and exercise in the great outdoors.

KNC’s 16 trails offer varying degrees of difficulty, with some suited for beginners and others for experienced hikers and snowshoers. (Trail signs clearly mark the levels of difficulty.) Whatever your choice for trailblazing, be sure and pack a camera to capture the snow-blanketed prairies, rolling hills and clear rush of icy streams that thread through the

For those who prefer to stay indoors during frigid winter months, KNC offers yoga sessions to boost health and well-being. Mindful Yoga is led by KNC’s Alicia Swift, KNC’s membership manager and registered yoga instructor. While the sessions are held inside KNC’s Visitor Center, Swift said, “They’re a great way to observe all the nature that’s right outside our windows. Yoga is a low-impact exercise that combines relaxation, breathing, balance and concentration.”

Register in advance of the January 11, and February 8 sessions to reserve your spot. “No experience necessary,” Swift said. “With yoga, you participate at your own level.” Whether you choose an indoor or outdoor activity -- or both -- the message is clear: don’t be afraid to get out and enjoy nature at your own pace.


Pita Way

Can’t get away to the balmy Mediterranean this winter, then get away to Pita Way in Portage for some “Mediterranean eats,” and let their authentic food from the region warm you up!

There are plenty of fast-food Mexican, Chinese, burger and pizza chains across the country, but Pita Way is a unique concept: Mediterranean fast food.

Many of us have had gyros; rotisserie-cooked meat wrapped in pita bread, or bought hummus for a party dip, or sampled falafel; the tasty fried balls made of chickpeas. Pita Way has all of those Mediterranean standards and much more.

Mediterranean food has become increasingly popular, as the Mediterranean diet has routinely been touted as the healthiest, with its emphasis on vegetables, and lean meats.

Pita Way opened in Clarkston, Michigan in 2010 and has expanded to fifteen locations within Michigan. The Portage restaurant on Westnedge is the

rst Pita Way in West Michigan. The menu was developed by Middle Eastern master chefs and stays true to the ingredients, spices, and preparation found in the finest Mediterranean cuisine.

Pita Way has also added their own twists like a “Sandweech,” a rollup with meat and veggies packed into a pita. Or their Quesopita, a Mediterranean version of a quesadilla – a pita folded and toasted with cheese!

Start with a Pita Way Bowl and lay a “base” with rice (the yellow rice is fabulous!), hummus or salad, and “fill it” with choice of meats; white meat or dark meat chicken, gyro or falafel, and then “finish it” with a choice of over 15 toppings that include pita chips, chickpeas, tomatoes, tabbouleh, cucumbers, tourshi (pickled vegetables!). Throw on some feta cheese or cheddar, and add some sauces; Pita Way White Sauce or Spicy Hummus (the garlic sauce is heavenly!) and you have a tasty, healthy Mediterranean feast! For dessert is Baklava, a Mediterranean filo pastry favorite, and a new deliciously decadent Baklava cheesecake!

Westnedge Avenue
Portage 269-233-5150

Pickup on South Street

Director Samuel Fuller’s classic Pickup on South Street (1953) partakes in the standard tropes and conventional characteristics of any well-crafted noir—the femme fatale character, a crime, hard-boiled repartee full of punchy one-liners, the badgering cop determined to get his man, and the twisty plot filled with backstabbing, betrayal and moral ambiguity. Pickup on South Street also adds a bit of anti-Communism to its storyline about a good-for-nothing, lifelong pickpocket named Skip, who upon his release from jail, dives right back into the only career he’s ever known. But when Skip unknowingly lifts the purse of Candy, an unwitting courier for a communist sympathizer, he ends up with far more than just a few dollars. Tracked by both the Feds and the communists for a piece of microfilm he now possesses, Skip too must contend with Candy’s budding romantic advances, and whether her interest is genuine, or just another grift. – Submitted by Ryan Gage

Happening (2021)

Set in France in 1963, Happening tells the story of Anne (Anamaria Vartolomei), a bright young woman at the top of her class who suddenly finds her options and aspirations cut dramatically short by a pregnancy in the wake of a one-night stand. Anne immedi-

Movie Reviews

ately finds herself isolated in a society intolerant of and unwilling to address the topic of abortion. Facing expulsion from school and medical professionals that actively and surreptitiously undermine her personal desires, Anne resigns herself to the harrowing realities necessary to ensure her autonomy. Based on Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux’s 2001 autobiographical novel of the same name, Happening is masterfully adapted by director Audrey Diwan who pulls no punches in portraying a world openly hostile to young women, and one that despite being far-removed from our own time and place, is all too familiar. – Submitted by Patrick Jouppi

The White Lotus (Season One)

Throughout season one, the vacationing characters at the heavenly island resort The White Lotus, discover that paradise can be truly lost when confronted with harsh, and sometimes deadly realities. The HBO Max show was one of the better dramas last year, featuring a quirky mix of dark comedy and biting satire. Over the course of several days, an ensemble cast of great actors face forbidding, unexpected, existential realities that plague both the hotel staff and its whiny, privileged guests. The perfectly paced unraveling of each character’s story cuts away at the superficiality of the lives of the pampered and rich, revealing fleshed out and dimensional people with complicated backstories. – Submitted by Ryan Gage

Reviews submitted by Ryan Gage. These great titles and others are available at the Kalamazoo Public Library.


Winter Wonderland

It Can Be What We Make of It

Winter in Michigan. It can be a beautiful thing. In this part of the state especially, the scenery we take in from our cars, neighborhood walks, hikes in the trails (and for those in good fortune) the window views from inside a warm home lets us see many things: the magic of the snowfall, the glistening iced tree twigs, and the darkness of a night sky the latter of which can instill gratefulness, provide comfort, inspire us to action, bring us a sense of peace – or…. simply be enchanting.

But let’s be honest. Winter Wonderland has its limits. And as picturesque as it can be, living it day in and day out can take a toll on our better dispositions. How do we take care of our body, mind and spirit during the coldest, darkest, and dreariest month of the year? Here are a few of my go-to’s:


Well summarized in an on-line article posted on, staying hydrated in winter is just as important as in summer time. Author Kraig Becker tells us that dehydration is less noticeable in winter. We should be drinking fluids throughout the day to stay warm, to maintain our weight, and to boost our immune system.


Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. The whole slowing down in winter thing is a natural inclination. If our body is telling us it needs to rest, we should give in to the call to hibernate and let ourselves get the sleep we need to help with our ability to learn, stay healthy, and be safe.


Winter is a great time to learn about a new topic or take on a new hobby. There seems to be a stronger sense of focus this time of year that lets us hone in and absorb new information. Take that art class you’ve been pushing off. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take piano lessons? Or, maybe you finally ask someone to teach you how to play Euchre!


There’s something special about getting an unexpected phone call or invitation to hang out doing this, that, and the other thing! Pick up a pen and write to someone you haven’t heard from. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with. Even better, plan a little gathering. You don’t have to break out the china or have the house in perfect order. Reconnecting can be great therapy. Call on those people that leave you feeling happier. (Card games, by the way, are a great tie-in with connecting with friends. And in the game of life and beating the winter blues, we should get bonus points for combining the two!)

Of course, no one knows better than you about what helps to deal with the downside of Michigan winter. The point in all of this, is to say: We can make the best of what Mother Nature deals us by listening to our bodies when they’re telling us to rest, feeding our minds with new challenges to meet the inclination for discovery, and by hanging out with folks who lift our hearts and validate us for who we are and who we’re striving to be. Happy Winter Wonderland. (And don’t forget your water bottle!)

Vicky Kettner is the Association Director of Marketing, Community Relations, and Member Engagement for the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo.


Book Reviews

Book Reviews by the Portage District Library staff

This Time Tomorrow Emma Straub

This Time Tomorrow is a thoughtful and sensitive story about connection, especially between a father and daughter. On the morning of her 40th birthday, Alice wakes up in her childhood home to find that it’s her 16th birthday. She gets to relive this special day and spend time with her dad, young and spry again, but can she change the course of their future? Can she prevent his body from shutting down in 24 years? This Time Tomorrow explores the relationship between father and daughter and the butterfly effect of our actions. It’s gentle and sweet, even with its sadder themes.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race Walter Isaacson

In his new offering, Isaacson tells the story of the discovery and development of CRISPR gene-editing technology from the vantage of Jennifer Doudna, the UC Berkeley biochemist. Doudna shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with French researcher Emmanuelle Charpentier for their work on the structure and function of this molecular system. But Isaacson also pays tribute to the many others who, in their own way, contributed to

the understanding and development of gene editing. He doesn’t stop there. Isaacson also discusses a host of unresolved moral and ethical issues that Doudna’s scientific work has raised. The Code Breaker is highly accessible to non-scientists. As with artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and other digital technologies, the public should draw ethical lines. That’s the best way to ensure that the world maximizes the potential for these remarkable innovations to improve the human condition.

Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution R. F. Kuang

This historical fantasy follows Robin Swift. Robin enrolls in Oxford University’s Babel, the Royal Institute of Translation, to train in multiple languages and silver working, a form of magic that uses silver bars to translate lost meanings. While taking classes and being recruited into the secret Hermes Society, Robin starts to question loyalty, British imperialism, identity, and the necessity of violence in revolution.

Known for The Poppy War Trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s epic stand-alone Babel is genuine in its prose, character, and careful plotting; Robin’s coming-of-age will satisfy typical fantasy readers and political theorists alike.

All these titles are available at the Portage District Library. For more information about programs and services available at PDL, go to


Wallace S. White: Photographer and Bandleader

Much of what we know about Kalamazoo’s outward appearance during the mid to late nineteenth century—its buildings, events, and citizens—can be attributed to Kalamazoo Public Library’s impressive collection of historic photographs.

Hundreds of images that date from the 1860s provide valuable insight into local life during Kalamazoo’s formative years. The man behind the camera for many of these photographs was one of Kalamazoo’s most noteworthy early photographers, Wallace S. White.

During the 1850s and 1860s, Kalamazoo became home to several prominent photographers and daguerreotypists. Among these early photographic pioneers were Schuyler C. Baldwin, Cullen C. Packard, William Glover, and others. By the late 1860s, a second wave of local image-makers had begun to document the region and its citizenry. A leader among this group was Wallace S. White.

Born in 1842 and raised in Otsego, Wallace White came to Kalamazoo in 1868 and began

his career as a partner in the photographic supply firm of White & Lindsey. In 1873, White purchased Schuyler Baldwin’s old gallery on Main Street and opened his own photo studio, where he quickly gained a solid reputation for superior architectural images and portraiture.

Much like Baldwin, it was White’s ability to capture images of the Kalamazoo community itself that continues to provide us with compelling views of what the village looked like in its infancy. From the busy dirt streets and plank

parades; horses, wagons, carriages, parks, and buildings all provide valuable clues about life as it was a century-and-a-half ago.

In addition to his career as a photographer, Wallace White had an active interest in music. Military bands were exceedingly popular throughout America during the late nineteenth century, and White played an active part in the movement, not only as a performer and bandleader, but also as a musical instrument dealer.

During the late 1880s, it seems that Kalamazoo found itself without a proper local community band. That’s when White formed his own 15-piece military band and began participating in parades and other social events around town and in other nearby communities. Initially directed by White himself, the aggregation had a rough time at first, and was often ridiculed as White’s “four tune” band. But time and practice paid off, and White’s Military Band eventually developed an enthusiastic local following.

sidewalks to attractive storefronts, local scenery, and social activity, White’s images provide a visual record of the community’s early architecture and a rare glimpse of everyday life. Cigar dealers, clothiers, grocers, and other merchants greet their customers with product-filled storefronts. Marching bands perform during festive

White’s Band performed often for local events and parades until about 1909. By then, White was working as an assembler at the Kalamazoo Loose Leaf Binder Company, where he remained until shortly before his death in 1921 at the age of 79. The library’s extensive collection of Wallace White’s photographs, including a collection of White’s original glass negatives, remains an essential part of KPL’s Local History collection.

More at


A few months ago, Jackie and I ventured to Traverse City for the Iceman bike race. After a day of bike riding, Traverse City was the perfect place to relax and explore. To our surprise, the town was bustling this time of year. We stayed at the iconic Park Place Hotel. The original building was built in 1873. The current 10-story hotel was built in 1930 and has been renovated over the years, but retains its original charm. Our eighth floor, corner room with large windows, gave us a great view of the lake and downtown. The Beacon Lounge located on the 10th floor, offers live entertainment and a wonderful night view of the city.

After considering several restaurant choices, we chose the historic Sleder’s Family Tavern. Sleder’s is the oldest continually operated restaurant in the state of Michigan. The tavern opened in 1882 and is packed with old photographs and large taxidermy mounts. A popular right of passage at the tavern is to “Kiss the Moose,” the large moose head hanging towards the back of the restaurant. The Sleder Burger did not disappoint - a ½-pound ground chuck burger was served with fries and homemade coleslaw.

Tales road


~ traverse city, mich. ~

We headed back to Front Street (the main street through town) and watched a popular, first-run movie at the State Theatre- “Ticket to Paradise, a romantic comedy, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. I recalled seeing “Yours Mine and Ours” with Lucille Ball at the theatre back in 1968. The theatre has been restored to its original glory and is part of the Traverse City Film Festival. The tickets and snacks were surprisingly reasonably priced. A sign in the lobby proudly proclaims: “Voted the #1 Theatre in America!” I’ll give a nod to that!

on Cass Street. A brightly colored breakfast spot that has been around for years and never disappoints. They have another location east of downtown and one in Grand Rapids.

Tattoria Stellla’s Restaurant, the Left Foot Charley Winery, Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery, Earthen Ales Brewery and The Underground Cheese Company are just a few of the popular eating and drinking establishments.

On the premises, is The Grand Traverse Commons Recreation and Natural Area - 140-acre park with miles of unpaved trails around wooded hillsides, streams, meadows, and wetlands. We always do a short hike after a visit to the bakery and enjoy seeing the latest graffiti adorning the covered old water cistern at the top of the hill.

The Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails (TART) is one of the best urban trail systems in the state with eight, multi-use trails and a crosstown bike trail that we have ridden on previous trips.

Downtown still has the fun look and feel as it did back when we were kids, although most of the stores have changed. The town is full of great restaurants, cool stores and microbreweries. Outdoor clothing and gear stores are plentiful. Cherry Republic is a fun experience and we enjoyed some free samples. We noticed many bellying up to the bar to sample their unique spirits.

Traverse City is also blessed with great bookstores. Horizon Books and Brilliant Books on Front Street are well worth a stop. For used and rare books, check out Landmark Books in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.

We enjoyed breakfast down the way from our hotel at the Omelette Shoppe

One of our favorite spots in TC is The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, located on the historic Traverse City State Hospital Grounds. The hospital once housed over 3000 residents. Dozens of buildings sat empty for years until a local developer restored the grounds and several of the buildingsrepurposing them into condos, restaurants, bakeries and other unique retail stores.

If you have not been to Traverse City lately, it is well worth the four-hour trek. You will be thrilled with all that the town has to offer.

Next door is My Secret Stash with two floors, chock-full of funky gift items and a large selection of Michigan inspired art and home accessories.


Kalamazoo Direct To You”

From 1900-1952, the Kalamazoo Stove Company manufactured several million stoves and furnaces. The company’s peak year was in 1937, when they built over 100, 000 stoves. Pictured is a 1933 catalog cover, left, along with several full color photographs of their gorgeous stoves.

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