Summer Lovin’

Despite the weather being cooler than we’d like, our summer has progressed so smoothly, so easily this year that I can hardly believe we’re over halfway through August. By this point, we’ve usually had so many visitors that we feel like we run a bed-and-breakfast. This year, although we scheduled the normal full summer of visitors, we had a few cancellations so that the recent visit from my sister, mom, and nephews counts as the sum of our guests.

My sister and her boys – taken on our last trip to Ohio, because I wasn’t so quick with the camera while they were here, apparently!
Steph and boys

As we near the end of our fifth northern Michigan summer, we’re pretty good at playing tour guides. I think every trip the boys have come we’ve taken them to new places. Not all new places, but at least one new place each time. And this trip, we even found ourselves in a new place.

We spent the afternoon everyone arrived at the conservancy Tony and I recently discovered north of Elk Rapids. After a long day driving, it was nice to unwind on an empty beach. The boys – all three of them (I’m counting Petey) – splashed heartily in the water, while us sensible adults stayed nearer the shore, with gentle waves lapping at our ankles. On second thought, I think the boys had it right.

Again, slacking with the camera. This one is from our last trip there, though conditions were much the same.
Wilcox-Palmer-Shah Preserve beach

Friday afternoon we headed for the open water on Lake Michigan, along with everyone else in northern Michigan. The beach we had initially chosen was busier than we had ever seen it, so we relocated to another beach. It too was far busier than we’d seen it, so we decided just to park and walk in. Even when the parking lots are full, the expanse of beach available offers more than enough space to spread out. We strolled along the sand, built sand castles that washed away in errant waves, and played frisbee – all on a mostly isolated stretch of coast.


When the heat finally began to ebb out of the day, we headed to the dune climb, where I did actually take my camera out and play photographer for a bit.

The boys wanted to climb the 150-foot tall pile of sand, so I invited Petey to join us, and on the off-chance asked Mom if she wanted to give it a go. In short:

Three cheers for Mom! Your hard work is paying dividends!

Saturday morning, we all woke early to catch the ferry over to South Manitou Island. When Tony and I went last year, the ride was bumpy and splashy. This trip could not have been much different.

After the incredibly smooth boat ride to the island, we claimed a picnic table for a bite of lunch. Then, we set out for the four-mile round-trip hike to the Francisco Morazan shipwreck.


Only, the signpost about a tenth of a mile in said that the shipwreck was 2.8-miles away. I covered the sign, and we didn’t tell the boys that we had just added 1.6-miles to their legs 😉

The hungry mosquitoes (have you gathered that this a theme this year?) were about the only complaint on the entire journey. Well, aside from some tired feet. But we arrived back in plenty of time to play in the cool lake, which is the best antidote I’ve found for poor, sore paws.

South Manitou Island Lighthouse from water

We rounded out their trip with more beach time, ice cream, and pizza – the perfect Michigan vacation trio. The only thing I don’t understand is why the adults don’t want to join the boys for their visit in the winter…

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Returning to Ohio

In my last blog, I mentioned our trip to Ohio with the promise (threat) of more details. I won’t go into too many, but I wanted to share one of my favorite things from time there. As luck would have it, Tony and I were away down south while two of my nephews were on spring break from school. My sister didn’t have to work one day, so my mom threw together a trip to the Newport Aquarium.

There’s just something special about multi-generational gatherings. All the kids got to spend some quality time with an aunt (or two in Addi’s case), a mom (except Addi – who we borrowed from my brother for the day) and a grandma. Either we’re teaching them something constructive about women working together, or we’re teaching them that girls have more fun. Either way, I’m proud of our efforts 😉

The last time I went to this aquarium was when I was teaching high school science in Kentucky. Another teacher and I arranged a field trip there, which wouldn’t have been particularly memorable to me except for sitting on a bus chock full of freshmen who we had packed up immediately following lunch and then got trapped in the chaos of a bad interstate wreck. We sat in traffic (which I know is better than the fate of those involved in the crash 😦 ) for about six hours. With freshmen. Who had just eaten/drank and couldn’t exit the bus. !

This time the aquarium was just good fun with no traffic mishaps to mar the day. Like watching an animated film, trips to the aquarium or zoo are just better with little ones. They are brimming with wonder and silliness, and you can’t help but get pulled into their mindset. Don’t believe me? Check out our good times. (And in case you don’t read to the bottom, thanks Mom and Steph for a terrific day! Love you both tons!)

If you just want to see some of the cool things we admired, here’s another set. I warn you, though, they are not nearly as cute as those above 😉

A Southern Respite

At the very end of February, Tony and I packed a few things in a carry-on bag and hopped a jet (okay, two) down to visit some friends in Orlando. We had no plans; we were just getting out of Dodge for the weekend. I could chronicle the things we did, but it would quickly become embarrassing, because the vast majority of the list would consist of things like “ate donuts again” and “had another large high fat, high sugar frappucino.” So instead, just a smattering of my favorite things…aside from all the food.

Color. Sure, we’re getting more and more sun (thank you time change!), but still our world Up North is mostly black and white, with occasionally cheerful blue skies. Our friends’ neighborhood was lined with live oaks draped in Spanish moss, and dotted with vibrant flowers. And the grass – Florida’s crab grass (St. Augustine grass?) is so springy! I forgot that stepping on it feels a bit like wearing moon shoes. Or how I imagine that feels.


Ease of walking. We took a few walks around the neighborhood – in the same clothes we were wearing inside the house (which included flip flops!). This is a big deal, because our walks for the past few months have involved artfully layering so that you’re both warm and comfortable.

Conversation. I think I actually came home a little hoarse. When we weren’t eating, we were pretty much chatting or sleeping, with the balance tipped far toward “chatting.” One day of our trip, Jed ended up having to work 15 hours (not hyperbole), so we hung out with his girlfriend Victoria all day…which could easily have been awkward. Thankfully, she’s more adept at socializing than Tony and I, so we had a great time.


And then she paid Jed back by leaving him on his own with us for a day while she worked. I’m not sure who came out ahead, but I do know there was a trip to a flower garden, plus donuts and coffee, so I think it was me.
Orlando-9

Live oaks and Spanish moss. I realize that these are practically on the list twice, but look at them. Why aren’t all trees this magnificent and cloaked with these beards?
Orlando-10

Astonishment. The day Jed had to work included him filming the City of Orlando’s Blues-B-Q (still not sure why they didn’t just go with the easier-to-say “Blues and BBQ”) event, to which he acquired VIP passes for us. It was attended by a large crowd (not my favorite), but a friendly crowd (makes up for the size almost entirely). Denise Lasalle, a 75-year old woman recognized as a “Queen of the Blues” performed a few songs/acts, which I had thought were one-offs, but in my attempts to find some video of the night, I have since learned are not. If you can youtube, and are not at work (because, seriously, NSFW) go ahead and have a listen. If you’re in a hurry, just skip ahead to about 7:50. And since I cannot top that, I’ll leave you here where I’ll pick you up next time. Stay classy 🙂

And a Happy New Year

We’ve been Away, visiting friends and family down in Ohio. It was a lovely trip, which I will catch you up on later (because you know I’ve got photos of all those dear people to share!), but at least now you understand my blogging absence.

We returned home last night, and brought two of our nephews back up with us. They’re hardy; despite the single digits and below zero wind chills, we’ve played in the snow, built a quinzhee that all four of us fit in, gone sledding, and imbibed hot cocoa. It might not sound like the best way to ring in the new year, but it is. 🙂

May 2014 greet you kindly and treat you even better!

There And Back Again

On Sunday Tony and I dropped Petey off at Bokhara, a pet resort, where I cried. He trotted right in – greeting all the smells and newness cheerfully – but we had just gotten him eight days previously from a shelter, and it was difficult (for me, not for happy-go-lucky him) to leave him in a kennel. He proudly chomped on his new stuffed penguin, and we stowed our emotions as we left town, winging our way to Atlanta to visit work colleagues/friends in the office.

travel

We stayed with our friend, with whom we also work, which is just about the perfect arrangement. He (and his family) are supremely gracious about the intrusion, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the companionship, accommodations, and shared rides to/fro the office.

Fall color there is waning, but it still paints quite a lovely picture from the twelfth floor. Being in the office isn’t quite as good as working from my couch at home, but the view sure doesn’t hurt, even with my back to the window.

From getting some excellent news in the office (We’re going to be official employees starting in the new year instead of on contractor status!) to easy trips through the airport, travel could not have gone much better. The TSA agents in both Atlanta and Traverse City were friendly, and so were all the staff at airport restaurants where we grabbed quick bites.

If I’m honest, I actually enjoyed the Detroit airport. Evidence of smart design abounds, plus there are gorgeous Christmas trees (backed by super-quiet red, Christmas-y trams), and a trippy lightshow between concourses.

As well as everything went, nothing compared to coming home. The lady at Bokhara brought Petey out to us – sans leash – and he mauled us with wiggly, excited kisses. After he settled down just a bit, Petey snuggled up with her (a heartwarming sight that ensures his future stays there), and then we said goodbye.

Rocky was more glad to see the pup than the cats are, but we’re all settling back in nicely. It’s good to be home 🙂