Crop Retreat Review February 24 - 26, 2006 by Debbie Schroeder

“Are you nuts? Why are you going to Michigan in the winter?” my friends asked. “Duh, for scrapbooking.” was my reply. Sure I would be leaving the tepid winter of Southern California to venture to Michigan where the average winter temp was something like negative freezing not including the wind chill factor but it was for a good cause – to scrapbook and relax. It was the perfect opportunity for me to be pampered and be a guest instead of being in charge. So where does a scrapbook cruise organizer go when she wants to scrapbook and be pampered? A land based scrapbook retreat, of course!

My friend, Rebecca Ludens the scrapbooking guide for, who also happens to be one of the instructors for Scrapbook Cruises, invited me to be her guest on the retreat. A chance to actually work on my lo’s and let someone else run the show, you bet I said, yes and booked my flight the minute I got off the phone.

Where exactly was I headed? Somewhere in Michigan – never having been to the Midwest all I knew was that I was flying into the airport closest to Rebecca and we would drive to the retreat, a 2 hour drive from Kalamazoo airport. The retreat was founded by four scrapbookers – Holly, Lisa, Phyllis, and Dawn - who know what scrapbookers want and expect in a retreat. And believe me, it shows in all the details.

Your stay can begin as early as 3pm on Friday. Your weekend hosts – the gals rotate working weekends – will greet you and escort you to your room, the cropping area and give you a tour of the facilities. The facilities include 4 bedrooms of various sizes: in "the Country Peddler Room you’ll enjoy stepping back in time in this 2-bed bedroom that reminds you of Grandma’s country house.; the Eqyptian Room is fun and fanciful, with wall hangings from the Luxor in Las Vegas, this 3-bed bedroom is cozy and comfy; the Angel Room is adorned with angel prints and decorations, this is the largest of the guest rooms. You will enjoy sharing this delightful 4-bed bedroom with friends; and the Garden Room which is fresh as spring, and just as perky! Three single beds afford comfortable sleeping in this bright, pretty as a picture, room."

There are 2 full bathrooms for guests: one upstairs and one downstairs in the cropping area. Both bathrooms are generous stocked with toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, body exfoliation cleanser, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, Q tips, cotton balls, even tampons and sanitary pads. Plenty of clean towels are provided. And the bathrooms are cleaned constantly yet you never see a hostess cleaning but each time you go in one, all the dirty towels have been removed. It’s like the cleaning fairies have come. Now, if I could only make sure they come live at my house...

The bathrooms aren’t the only area of the house that is well stocked. The cropping room is to put it in one word, HUGE! Weekends are limited to 12 scrapbookers. As such each scrapbooker gets their own 8 foot table, light, drink holder and wastebasket – not a dinky little thing but a good sized office wastebasket. Tables are generously spaced in the room so no knocking elbows with your neighbor or having to pole vault over their cropping tote to get by their table. There’s an easy 6 feet of clearance around all the tables, leaving you plenty of room to park your tote, spread out your stuff and walk around without tripping.

Forgot your punches? No worries, there’s an assortment of punches of all sizes and shapes available for your use. Feel like stamping on your pages – check out the large selection of stamps and ink pads. Need some inspiration? A collection of the latest scrapbooking magazines and idea books are readily accessible. Not big on your handwriting and prefer to computer journal? No worries – you’ll have free use of a computer and printer. Color copies cost extra but black and white copies are free. This was a big plus for me because I’m all about computer journaling. It was great to finish a page in it’s entirety – I tend to have half done pages, lots of layouts just waiting to be journaled. But with having the computer easily available I could complete my layout, photos, journaling and all. There’s a small selection of cardstock, vellum and embellishments, just enough to tide you over in case you need something but not overwhelming to cause you to put aside your scrapbooking to shop. These are just a few of the many items located in the cropping area. This review can’t do the cropping room justice because there’s too many items to list.

By 7pm a hot, home cooked, tasty, and more than generous portion sized meal is provided complete with desert. During my stay the dinner consisted of chicken breast cooked in an orange cranberry sauce accompanied with rice pilaf and garlic roasted cauliflower. Now cauliflower isn’t my vegetable of choice and normally I would hide those under something but the ladies can even make cauliflower taste good. Desert was homemade ice cream puffs with hot fudge sundae topped with whipped cream. The menu does change so if you are a tried and true cauliflower hater, don’t worry, more than likely you’ll get something else for your stay.

After dinner you can stroll or roll as you’ll be filled to the brim, down to the cropping room to continue working on your layouts. Or if you want a break from scrapbooking, sit in either of the two living areas and relax. For those who want to take relaxing to the ultimate level, a licensed masseuse provides on site massages for $1 a minute with a 15 minute minimum. For those who feel that 15 minutes isn’t enough, you can opt for the 60 minute package for only $50. Not only is this a bargain and worth every penny but the masseuse includes a hot stone treatment with every massage. Here in California, a hot stone massage is $150 - $170.

And if you weren’t full from dinner, the ladies come by at 11pm with a homemade snack. If homemade snacks aren’t your thing you’re welcome to sample the variety of bagged snack items such as potato chips, Dorito Chips, and pretzels that are cheerfully displayed in a large wicker basket on the other snack table. This snack table contains 5 cannisters of goodies such as gummie bears, m&ms, etc. A full stocked fridge and I do mean fully stocked since every shelf was full, of every imaginable soda to wash down your snack. Along with coffee, tea, hot chocolate and a water dispenser. Feel like a fudge pop or ice cream sandwich? Simply open the freezer.

Whether you attend in the summer or winter you won’t freeze in your room. Rooms are maintained at a comfortable temperature so much so that a Southern California girl like me could tolerate a Michigan winter. Beds during the winter are complete with electric blankets. During the summer each room has their own fan. Having your own bed is a big plus especially a real bed vs. a pull out sofa or bunkbed, which makes a difference in a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast begins at 9am – should you decide to wake up earlier or want to eat earlier, a continental breakfast is available. I’d skip the continental breakfast and wait for the served breakfast because why have cereal when you can have a cooked hot meal? Breakfast on Saturday morning consisted of a crossisant breakfast sandwich, pumpkin streusel cake, and ???

After a hearty breakfast it’s back down to the crop room to get to work on more layouts. Next thing you know it’s 11am and the gals are back with midmorning snack. Lunch is served at 1pm. Saturday lunch was a puff pastry of shaved turkey, a bowl of bowtie pasta soup garnished with a homemade daisy shaped crouton, and Snicker’s salad. Snicker’s salad for those of you who have yet to have the pleasure consists of sliced apple pieces, bits of Snickers, all tossed in Cool Whip.

If you haven’t gone into a diabetic coma by now or needed a nap from all the food, you have time to work on your books before the next feeding at 4pm. Afternoon snack was parmesan bread bundles and skewers of olives, pepperonis, and cheese. Dinner on Saturday night was pork tenderloin, mashed garlic potatoes, asparagus, and a generous salad of greens, eggs, and tomatoes. Topping off dinner was a Tiramisu cheesecake. Snack that evening was a big pot chocolate fondue. Strawberries, bananas, graham cracker sticks, marshmallows, pineapple, and angel food cake pieces were provided to dip into the fondue pot.

After a restful sleep Saturday night, sure 4 hours is all I need, had me up early for Sunday, regretfully my last day. Breakfast on Sunday was a large egg encased in spicy breakfast sausage, dipped in bread crumbs and deep fried, a raspberry coffee cake, and yogurt topped with granola and raspberry puree. Then it was back to the crop room to finish my last layout of the weekend.

Despite what seemed like nonstop eating, with proper pre planning I managed to complete 25 pages without needing a nap and still fitting in my clothes! Was it worth it? Would I do it again? In a New York minute! Thank goodness I live way out in California or else I would have to come up every weekend. What a wonderful way to spend a weekend – it had all the components I love: scrapbooking and eating, plus a massage for good measure. Now to check my schedule and see when I can go back…