Are you suffering from brain fatigue? Is your noggin filled to overflowing with complicated thoughts about all the issues swirling around us? If so, it might be a good time to take a break and think about nothing in particular. 


Like, what is in store for us next winter? Luckily, there is an early prognostication available. “The Farmer's Almanac declared the Upper Midwest a hibernation zone. People should expect a glacial, snow-filled winter. In addition to the snow, residents will need to bundle up as some areas could see record-cold temperatures.” 


How much snow is expected? says our region should experience “above normal snowfall.” Add in a polar vortex predicted by and it looks like this could be an interesting winter for northern Michigan. See all the maps and a cool video at:


Winter may be ahead, but summer is now. A  Michigan food that's a summer staple is also the oldest dish in our state's culinary history – smoked whitefish. “ Indigenous tribes of the Upper Peninsula have been drying locally-sourced fish over fires since at least the 18th Century. Later in the 19th century, Norwegian immigrants  picked up the tradition.” 


We like our whitefish. “Michiganders enjoy smoked fish by itself, on bread, as a pâté spread, or even as a dip. The popular cuisine is most commonly found during the summer months in the Upper Peninsula and, of course at the shanty community of Fishtown in Leland.” (


If fish is not one of your favorites, perhaps another “taste treat” will be more appealing to you – Brach’s new Tailgate Candy Corn. “Hot-dog-flavored candy corn  can be found inside. The new mix includes hamburger, fruit punch, vanilla ice cream and popcorn flavored candy corn.”


There is a target market for this product. “The candy corn maker is pitching its latest creation to football fans as the NFL and NCAA seasons near.” (


Candy corn is one of those things you either love or hate. Another food category also falls into that scenario – presweetened breakfast cereals. A company is banking on nostalgia as relaunches some products.  “General Mills is bringing back four cereals that have not been sold for over a decade -- Frute Brute Monster Cereal, Franken Berry, Count Chocula, and Boo-Berry. Known by an older generation as the Monster Cereals, these four flavors were first introduced by the cereal maker in 1971.”  Look for these on store shelves this fall. (


When the sugar high from all that candy corn and cereal wears off, you'll probably be ready for a nap. If so, here's a question for you. While you're sleeping, what are the spiders in your house doing? 


According to scientists, spiders actually sleep. “Researchers trained cameras on baby jumping spiders at night to find out. The footage showed patterns that looked a lot like sleep cycles: The spiders’ legs twitched and parts of their eyes flickered. The researchers described this pattern as a 'REM sleep-like state.' In humans, REM, or rapid eye movement, is an active phase of sleep when parts of the brain light up with activity and is closely linked with dreaming.” The next question might be, what the heck are those spiders dreaming about? (


Another insect common in the summer will be returning to Michigan yards very soon – cicadas. “The annual appearance of the bug-eyed, big-winged insect called a cicada is synonymous with summertime, as is their distinctly noisy buzz that fills the air this time of year.”


You'll probably hear them before you see them. “So how does an insect that’s smaller than your thumb make such an enormous sound? The answer is in special organs called tymbals, which sit on either side of a cicada’s abdomen and can be vibrated through muscle contractions to produce sound. Many cicadas’ tymbals firing at the same time can create a noise reaching nearly one-hundred decibels: equal to using a lawnmower, snowmobile, or a motorcycle.” (


Finally, as you nap with the spiders or listen to the hum of the cicadas, you may want to fantasize about owning a little vacation cottage shaped like a mushroom. Do I have a deal for you. There's just such a place in Charlevoix and it's on the market for a mere $4.5 million. You can take a virtual tour and see forty-nine photos of the house at:


“The three-story Thatch House is about 4,000 square feet. There are six bedrooms and six and a half baths. The sale comes with the 2,000-square-foot guest house behind it which has a loft, suite and bathroom. Everything has been custom made or imported. The furniture was very thought out. There’s also in-floor heating throughout the property so in the winter, it’s great, too.” 


I don't know about you, but the Mushroom House may be too swanky for my sensibilities. The artistic significance would be wasted on me.  When I think of mushrooms, cheese and pepperoni are usually involved. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and