Past Issues

Issue 1 | 10.18.2018 | Holland, MI

Juan Rodriguez of Tamales Plus with tamalera. See Food: Tamal Magic At Tamales Plus. Photo by Kathleen Schenck.

Tamal Magic at Tamales Plus

By Kathleen Schenck

Oct. 18, 2018

“We began in the church,” says Martha Rodriguez, Tamales Plus co-owner and back of the house guru—where the tamal magic happens. Martha and her husband, Juan Rodriguez, just opened Tamales Plus at 816 Lincoln Ave. on Holland’s south side. By selling tamales at their former church in California, they knew they had a sought-after product. Lucky for Hollanders, they moved to town over a decade ago and brought with them their love of serving people really good food.

“The way we cook at home is exactly the way we cook here. Nothing changes,” says Juan as he rings up a customer. Locals have noticed. On a Tuesday, Tamales Plus has a steady stream of lunchtime customers walking into the clean, simple space. It’s difficult to see the building’s party store past, with photo descriptions of dishes taped to the windows and the welcoming smile of front of the house host, Juan. The specials board lists Tacos Dorados with beans and rice, $6.99. Juan explains these are fried tacos with potatoes and carrots and your choice of homemade pico de gallo, different salsas depending on the day (today was a tomatillo-based salsa verde), or curtido, which is a slightly fermented Salvadoran relish similar to a vinaigrette cole slaw.

But tamales can be so labor-intensive, it is a treat to be able to enjoy them, no assembly required. From the choices of pork, chicken, or jalapeño cheese, I order two jalapeño cheese tamales with beans and rice ($7.99). Tamales Plus pickles the jalapeños themselves, “so they stay a little crunchy” explains Juan. Most tamales are cooked with lard, but Tamales Plus uses vegetable oil for its vegan and vegetarian tamales. (And for dessert tamales, butter.) The red rice, or Mexican rice, is also homemade “in small batches” he says, with peas and corn. It is first fried in oil, then cooked in water with bouillon and achiote, an earthy, red spice. Rice can all too often be overlooked by both chef and diner, but this rich, flavorful rice you will want to eat by the bowlful. It is true comfort food.

The tamales are the stars of the show, though, fresh with just the right texture. Wrapped in the traditional corn husks, the masa is not at all dried out or mushy. The corn notes are strongest, but then the cheese and yes, the whole jalapeño, still a little crunchy. The tamales are not too spicy— with a sliver of carrot tucked alongside the jalapeño to curb the heat— but have enough of a kick to make things interesting.

Martha explains that quality food takes time: “I don’t like to use shortcuts.” She suggests if you wish to place a large order of tamales, best to do so a week in advance.

As a couple in a nearby booth finish their meal and stand to leave, the woman smiles at her dining companion, “So good.”

Tamales Plus
816 Lincoln Ave.
Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Closed Sundays and Mondays


Mark Harrell with guitar. Photo by Reka Jellema.

If Holland Had A Voice

By Reka Jellema

Oct. 18, 2018

“If Holland had a voice? I think it would be kind of angry,” says local musician and songwriter, Mark Harrell. “I think it’s pretty divided.”

And it’s hard to reach across divides. Whether the dissonance is racial, socioeconomic, or cultural, Harrell adds, “it’s a tough town to voice your opinion…I think music is a good way to do that.”

On the corner of River Avenue and 10th Street in downtown Holland, Michigan, Harrell steps around a couple of teens in worn jean jackets kissing in the cold. Who knows? One day the two of them may find themselves living in a song written by Harrell, who is known in the local music scene for his character-driven and emotionally-nuanced songs. He slides into the roles of the characters found in his songs, and describes his music as lyrically-driven alternative folk.

Harrell is at work putting together another collection of songs following his CD “Blue Birds.” He is also looking to put together a tour of the Midwest and beyond. While firmly rooted in his hometown of Holland, he wants to be the real deal, like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Gregory Alan Isakov, two of his songwriting influences.

As we enter through the back door of the Park Theatre, he fesses up to his lifelong love of a sad song. He leads the way into the dark venue where for the past three and a half years he has performed songs for Hollanders. He walks around the theatre, flicking switches and toying with the light board. Bottles sparkle in the bar as lights turn on, but Harrell is clear-eyed and walks past without a look. Four years have passed since last he drank alcohol, but his songs often refer to a battle with booze.

Harrell is grateful to be writing, singing, playing and recording, especially since he never thought he would be here at the age of 27. Not here as in Holland, Michigan. Not here as in the Park Theatre on a Thursday night in October of 2018. Here as in alive and wearing a cap and tenderly holding a bruised and scuffed guitar, four years away from his last drink. “To be honest, I really thought I wouldn’t even make it to this age because I was such a bad drinker.”

Struggles with drink, addiction, and depression have put the fine lines around the eyes of the songs that he writes. “Raw” is the way he describes his writing. In his song “Blue Birds” the lyrics reflect this truth, fictionally, as he steps into the hard-lived life of a 60-year-old character: “I’m going out for a drink/But this time it might be my last/Washing memories down the sink/Pouring my thoughts in a glass.”

Performing is his new addiction. He recalls three and a half years ago at the Park Theatre when he first performed live on a stage with lights so bright he couldn’t see the audience. He described it as both terrifying and electric. “It’s something I’d never felt before,” he says. “It’s different from…better than any other drink or drug I’ve ever done. That’s why I’m still doing it.”

Strumming his latest guitar, a used Ibanez AVD6, he offers to preview one of his newest songs. Anyone who listens to Harrell’s songs knows just how lived-in and weathered the characters he writes about appear to be. The woman in this new song is no exception: “She keeps counting the days/Till she runs away/She’s saving money and the bruises he gave her/Once she’s had enough/She will gas up the truck/And head out to the postcard on her mirror.”

Bandmate and fan Joshua Rabine-Johnson says Harrell’s songs offer the listener a whole range of human experience. “They are all pieces of Mark, a reflection of how he sees the world,” Rabine-Johnson says of the characters created by Harrell. The experiences lived in the songs are so relatable, personal and touching that Rabine-Johnson knew he had to meet their creator the first time he heard Harrell play at the Park Theatre’s Open Mic Night. “They make me wonder what would it be like if I was this person,” he says.

For Harrell, Holland is home, always has been. “It’s my friends. It’s the beach. It’s knowing the streets. It’s the dunes.” When he and a friend hitchhiked to California for a few months, it was the topography that he missed, the slope of the dunes. “I missed them so much,” he says. “I saw so many other different things, but no other place had dunes quite like Michigan.”

What does Holland have to offer a guy like him—songwriter, storyteller, performer, and a man with an ear for melancholia? It’s one thing to have your friends show up for a gig and sing along. But cultivating a broader fan base is no cakewalk. Holland, however, is a sucker for a hometown kid, and Harrell gives the city a lot of credit for showing up.

“There’s thirty-odd thousand people who live here. That’s a lot of ears,” Harrell says. “If you can make people in your hometown listen to your music and like it, you can do it anywhere else,” he says, looking off at the soft blue lights of the stage.

Harrell’s music can be found on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and at

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Minifig display at Herrick Library. Photo by Reka Jellema.

Top 5 Things To Do With Your Kids This Fall

By Melanie Scholten

Oct. 18, 2018

  1. Herrick Library’s new Lego Lab! Stocked with shelf upon shelf, bucket upon bucket of thousands of Legos, this dedicated library nook is a 7-year-old’s dream come true! The new lab was donated by Polly Kinnee in memory of her son Zach and is located on the lower level next to the café. Guests can make their own creation using colorful bricks, windshields, wings, dinosaurs, wheels and hundreds of minifigs or grab a set of instructions and create a Lego masterpiece. Free. More info at
  2. Spark!Lab Smithsonian at Holland Museum. Wait, a museum exhibit that says “Please touch”? Believe it! The Holland Museum was awarded a prestigious two-year license for this hands-on space and opened its lab on August 2. Designed for ages 6-12, the creative center encourages kids to explore the invention process by tinkering with various engineering concepts. Three to four different activities are rotated every few months. Admission fee. More info at
  3. The Outdoor Discovery Center. The De Witt Birds of Prey Exhibit is just two years old and it’s worth the walk to the back of the property to see their 12 different species of hawks, owls, falcons and eagles. All of the birds housed at the facility were injured and unable to return to the wild. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to experience what a massive bald eagle eats for lunch. Free. More info at
  4. Holland Playland. Since my son’s favorite play area at Westshore Mall was dismantled several years ago, Central Wesleyan Church saw the opportunity to create an indoor play space where kids can run and crawl even in the worst Michigan weather. Now in its second season, Holland Playland consists of tubes and tunnels and towers for kids 2-11 years old plus a separate area for those 6 months to 2 years old. Parents can buy lunch and snacks at the café and nearby rooms can be reserved for special occasions or family groups. Free. More info at
  5. New events at Dutch Village. As part of their 60th Anniversary season, Dutch Village has expanded their season with a number of new events. Sadly, you missed the Pirate Pillage and the Knights of the Realm weekends but you can still catch Heroes Weekend October 20-21 and Boo Fest October 27-28. Heroes Weekend is a celebration of the heroes in life, especially the first responders we rely on: Police, Fire and EMS personnel. They and their families will enjoy free admission for the weekend. And because Halloween is so close, kids in First Responder and Superhero costumes get in free! On Oct. 27 and 28 say “Boo to Hunger” with Community Action House. Chili Cook-off and Beer Pairing and Furry Friends Costume Contest on Saturday. Scavenger Hunt and Individual and Family Costume Contest on Sunday. The entry fee for the contests is a food donation for CAH’s Thanksgiving Baskets. More info at

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Madam puppy dog astrologer, Sylvia. Photo by Michael Tuccini.

Sylvia Reads The Stars

Oct. 18-25, 2018

Libra Sep 23 – Oct 23

If you’re wondering whether or not to pick that thing up on the side of the road, do it.

Scorpio Oct 23 – Nov 22

If someone in your life is bringing things home from a garage sale this week, give them a break.

Sagittarius Nov 22 – Dec 23

Who needs stuff when you could run a marathon or solve world hunger? You do you, Sag.

Capricorn Dec 23 – Jan 20

Take a long lunch and climb some dunes with your dog.

Aquarius Jan 20 – Feb 18

Do that thing you do so well, Aquarius, and introduce an old friend to a new one this week.

Pisces Feb 18 – Mar 20

Bundle up but don’t hibernate, Pisces. Dust off those board games and think about hosting a wee soirée.

Aries Mar 20 – Apr 20

It’s time for a fall bonfire. You’re easily hurt when people don’t acknowledge your accomplishments, so make sure you invite them over, cuz this sucker’s gonna be HUGE.

Taurus Apr 20 – May 21

This is the week to go garage saling. Go early. Go alone. And bring plenty of cash.

Gemini May 21 – Jun 21

Hey, town crier! Social media is not the place for your excellent communication skills this week. Give the people what they want: the dulcimer tones of your voice.

Cancer Jun 21 – Jul 23

In order to get a hug, you’ve got to give a hug. Abrazos, Cancerian. No one understands this need better than you.

Leo Jul 23 – Aug 23

We need you to shine like the sun more than ever, Leo. This week is suddenly cold and windy in West Michigan, and your ability to remind people of their strength and grace is second to none.

Virgo Aug 23 – Sep 23

You’re glad the spotlight is no longer on you since blowing out all those candles last month. But we still need you to show up with those patented organizational skills and helpful spirit to help us de-clutter our souls. And basements.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Submissions? Contact us at

Aerial and autumnal view of Maplewood neighborhood in Holland, Michigan. Photo credit Aaron Jones.

Top 5 Things To Do This Week 

By Reka Jellema

Oct. 18, 2018

1. Color Tour Blazing beeches and mellowing maples are calling on the country roads of Ottawa and Allegan counties. Shoot, just driving or walking past Centennial Park is a treat this time of year. Put your phones down, turn off that Pokémon game and gawk at the local color.

2. Fellinlove Farm Have you been hankering to try goat yoga? Feel like holding a bunny? Want to pet some Great Pyrenees dogs? Take a peek into the deep of the koi pond? Get your hands dirty and help clean up the barn? Hang out with ponies and horses, a host of friendly barn cats nudging up against your legs? Take a trip to Fellinlove Farm, 6364 144th Ave. The farm is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the quality of life for all who visit. The cost is free with a $5 donation suggested. Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Please call or text 616-283-7555 to schedule a visit.

3. Visit Crane’s Restaurant and Pie Pantry  Don’t let October pass without stopping in at Crane’s In The City, 11 E. 8th St., for a hot, seasonal slice of apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

4. Go See A Flick HW’s movie picks of the week include “Neither Wolf, Nor Dog” playing at 7:30 p.m. nightly through October 20 at the Knickerbocker Theatre, 86 E. 8th St. The film “dives into the heart of the contemporary Native American landscape” when a white author is asked to assist a Lakota elder write a book about his perspective on Native American life, past and present. Actor-director Bradley Cooper’s remake of “A Star is Born” is playing at Goodrich Holland 7, 500 S. Waverly Rd and at AMC Star Holland 8, 12270 James St. In this remake of a remake of a remake, Cooper’s country-rock legend, the self-destructive and charming Jackson Maine, discovers and falls for Ally, played by a believable and relatable Lady Gaga. Yes, it is as good as the buzz says it is! Please check the theaters for daily show times.

5. Check Out Herrick District Library Want to learn more about yourself, your family, and your story? Herrick Library, 300 S. River, is holding a genealogy workshop for beginners at 2 p.m. and at 7 p.m. in the main floor meeting room this Wednesday, Oct. 17. For many other events and free resources offered by the library, go to Remember, Herrick has two locations. Its other locale is on Holland’s north side at 155 Riley St.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Submissions? Contact us at

Tortilla Española. Photo credit Joy Huang.

Tortilla Española

Por Melissa Conde Ellsworth

Oct. 18, 2018

Tortilla. Tortilla española. Tortilla mexicana. “ ¿Qué es la diferencia?”, me preguntan mis estudiantes. Cuando les cuento que la tortilla española es bien diferente que la tortilla mexicana y lleva huevos y patatas en vez de maíz o harina, me miran con curiosidad. La primera vez que demonstré como hacer una tortilla a mis estudiantes creyó una apertura a las delicias españolas. Cómo me insisten mis estudiantes que les haga otra tortilla, tu familia, amigos o colegas también te insistirán.

¡Espero que la disfruten tanto como mis estudiantes!

Buen provecho,

Maestra Melissa

Los ingredientes:

2 libras de patatas

1 cebolla grande

8-10 huevos

Aceite de oliva



Preparación de la tortilla de patatas:

  1. Pelamos las patatas, las lavamos para quitar restos de suciedad y muy importante, las secamos.
  2. Cortamos en láminas semifinas, a mí no me gusta que se deshagan sino que al freírlas se tuesten un poco. Las colocamos en un bol grande, donde luego vamos a mezclar con el huevo y añadimos sal al gusto. Removemos bien y reservamos.
  3. Elegimos nuestra sartén (10”) más grande y antiadherente. La ponemos al fuego y añadimos un buen aceite de oliva virgen extra.
  4. Introducimos las patatas cortadas y ya saladas y dejamos que se cocinen durante aproximadamente veinte minutos a fuego bajo.
  5. El tema del grosor de las patatas también va a gustos. Hay quien prefiere cortarlas a trozos muy pequeños, en láminas muy finas que casi se rompan al freír y o más bien grandes.
  6. Mientras se están friendo las patatas, en el bol donde luego vamos a echar las patatas batimos los huevos, reservamos.
  7. Pelamos la cebolla y cortamos lo más fino posible.
  8. En otra sartén calentamos aceite de oliva y añadimos los trozos de cebolla.
  9. Pochamos hasta que tenga un color dorado, que tenga un punto de caramelización pero sin llegar a quemarse. La cebolla se hará antes que las patatas, así que escurrimos y añadimos al bol con el huevo batido.

Preparación final de la tortilla de patatas con cebolla

  1. Quitamos con una espumadera de la sartén, dejando las patatas con el menor resto de aceite posible, bien escurridas.
  2. Si no queremos nada de aceite extra podemos emplear un colador grande. Las dejamos escurrir y luego las introducimos al bol con la cebolla y el huevo.
  3. Reposamos la futura tortilla durante 15 minutos para que se junten bien todos los sabores.
  4. En la misma sartén en la que hemos frito las patatas y una vez retirado el aceite. Cocinamos la mezcla que tenemos en reposo. A mí me gusta poco hecha, que al partirla con el tenedor salga un poco de huevo líquido.
  5. Para este tipo de tortilla sólo necesitamos 4 minutos a fuego medio-alto por cada lado. Depende de lo cuajada que queramos que quede la tortilla.
  6. Para darle la vuelta yo empleo un plato llano grande que tengo para las ensaladas. Pero se puede usar una tapadera de borde liso, incluso ahora he visto que venden tapaderas especiales para dar la vuelta a la tortilla.
  7. Emplead el método más cómodo y que más fácil os sea para que no se os desparrame, con cuidado. No desesperéis si no os sale, en ese caso tendréis una tortilla más cuajada, pero igual de rica.

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