While I Was Out

Tony and I made our yearly holiday trip to Ohio at the end of December. Work was quiet, so we took a bit of an extended trip, staying from the 23rd through the first day of the New Year. We didn’t have much snow on the ground here in northern Michigan, but it simply didn’t feel Christmas-y in Ohio.

Old resting tree, on Christmas Day
resting tree

Inside, things were much more festive. And no matter what’s going on with the weather outside, being around such a loving family makes Christmas Christmas-y. Knowing me as you do, you know that I’m sparing you the family Christmas slideshow. These are just a few of my favorites. I know Casey is making a funny face holding Haylon. But I’ll always have the memory of what it looks like when Haylon tries to pick Casey’s nose 🙂 And I love my parents’ faces. They don’t look their prettiest, but I can see Mom’s reaction to Dad tearing up at the photo of his farm I made. I love that. It makes me tear up. The photo of me and my niece Addi isn’t going to win me any modeling contracts, but my heart swells anyway.

After Christmas, Tony and I squeezed in a few visits with friends. We also squeezed in a bout of stomach flu, but no one wants to hear about that. Even if you think you do, trust me on this.

frozen creek

Luckily, we managed to contain the fun to the two of us, and were pretty much better by the time we needed to hit the road for home. Now that we’ve been back for a week, with much of it near or below 0F, I feel like maybe the November-esque weather of Ohio wasn’t so bad 😉

An Ohio Whirlwind

Tony and I returned from a whirlwind of a trip to Ohio just a couple days ago. We left Michigan on Thursday afternoon, and arrived in eastern Ohio some twelve hours later – more than 90 minutes longer than expected. Not an easy journey thanks to never-ending construction on I-75.

I was the photographer for my cousin’s wedding – something I had committed to last year, and then immediately began second-guessing myself. Tony stepped in as my second shooter and assistant, and while I have barely peeked at his shots, I cannot thank him enough for his help. He claims to be antisocial, but he was so gracious and thoughtful the whole evening. It really helped with my stress and made things go more smoothly for me 🙂

We left the Wheeling area Saturday around lunch, and headed to visit our more immediate family in southwestern Ohio. Though they are 500 miles south of us, their fall is further along than ours, I suspect thanks to a dry season and some serious wind.

Berries and Quarry

I had looked forward to kind of an extended fall, but instead I got a preview of what November will soon bring us. Regardless of the bare trees, the leaves on the ground provided ample beauty – enough to make it so that Mom and I didn’t regret our now-traditional hike back to the “falls” at Fallsville.
Dry Falls at Fallsville

Fallsville Basin-2

We didn’t get to see much of Tony’s siblings, but I managed a fun dinner with my sister’s family, and lunch at school with one of my nephews. And since my brother lives in between our parents’ houses, we squeezed in a visit to catch up with him.

My roots, where my dad and brother go to work each day
Farm Country Heartland

The whole trip, I looked and looked for farm country photo opportunities – something to memorialize the area in which I was raised. I took and trashed a few photos, but got lucky our last night in Ohio with a surprise storm. This isn’t my parents’ farm, but it’s one I see every time I’m in the area, so it still says “home” to me.

Farm Country Storm Front

Fall Storm Front Over Farmland-2

It’s been fun catching back up with all of you! I’ll be checking in on your blogs and such over the coming days…in between the hundreds of photos from Monica and Chad’s wedding 🙂

Oh! And there’s a chance that we’ll be getting a contingency offer on our house – I’ll keep you posted!

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.

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?

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 🙂

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.


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 🙂

Fudgies Head North

In no particular hurry last Monday, we tossed some hiking clothes and toiletries into our suitcases and departed for a quick trip to the U.P. sometime around 11:00am – which just happened to coincide perfectly with a Petoskey lunch at Polish Kitchen. Since Polish food (at least what we ordered) is sleepy comfort food, and because it takes only the barest of excuses, we wandered across the street to grab coffee before climbing back aboard for our northerly voyage.

shaggy manesOur route took us up the coast, along Michigan’s locally-famed Tunnel of Trees. A gorgeous drive at any time of year, it’s particularly pretty in fall. Because it’s perched directly above the lake, the color comes late to the Tunnel, but gold is creeping into the leaves. Even if it weren’t one doesn’t need fall color to enjoy the sweeping views high above Lake Michigan.

As we neared the Tip of the Mitt (for those of you from afar: that’s the top of Michigan’s lower peninsula, which is sort of shaped like a mitten), we hopped out to stretch our legs (and perhaps find an appropriate repository for the processed coffee) at Wilderness State Park. Sure, there’s a lovely beach there, but did you see those mushrooms? 😉

We made another stop on the south side of the Mackinac Bridge in Mackinaw City. Aside from the bridge and Fort Michilimackinac, Mackinaw City basically consists of hotels, flavored popcorn, and fudge. We left the hotels and popcorn behind (though I can attest that the Oreo popcorn is far better than it looks), but did pick up some fudge.

Mackinac Bridge – can be embiggened
Mackinac Bridge - storm front

Meg giving a clinic on how never to grow up 🙂

Views while crossing the bridge. Just pretend that those spots from my polarizing filter aren’t visible in the upward looking shot.

We were officially in the U.P., but still had many miles to go. Even on the deserted northern Michigan highways, we expected to be driving for two more hours, which is just too much in one go when you’re transporting a badly jet-lagged friend. (If you didn’t catch yesterday’s blog, Meg flew in from Maui the previous night.) So once more, we hopped out of the car at a pretty place and played for a few minutes before finishing up our driving for the evening.

Cut River Bridge. A trail goes all the way down to the lake, but we stayed up top.

Autumn color is (or at least was a week ago) exploding in the central part of the U.P. Unrelated outbursts about trees and hillsides and the general fall beauty that enveloped us amusingly punctuated our conversations. Soon enough, we were in Wetmore – practically to our destination – and since the evening was fading, we stopped once more to take advantage of the remaining light.

Alger Falls
Alger Falls

It’s at this point that we learned an interesting thing. You see, the tiny Mackinac Island reportedly exports over 10,000-lbs of fudge a day (it’s not open to tourists year-round). We’re just not that into fudge, so I didn’t understand this, but I know it’s a thing because locals often call tourists fudgies…which according to Urban Dictionary are tourists

to the northern lower, or eastern upper peninsula of Michigan, especially the Mackinac area. Often these tourist are from lower parts of Michigan, and are usually on vacation “up north”. The name “fudgie” comes from the fact that many of these tourist like to spend lots of time in the many fudge shops in northern Michigan.

I just didn’t know of any. Until Meg joined us. That skinny lady in the above photos ate half a pound of fudge in the two hours it took us to get to Munising! I’ll leave you to decide whether her 2:00am bedtime was a result of the jet-lag or the sugar overload.

Post sunset lavender, seen from a few steps west of our bay-facing room
Sunset Motel sunset