We are winter hikers; we wait all year to get back out there in the cold and snow. There is just something so invigorating about being in a winter wood, the chill temps, the quiet. On New Years Day, I walked the woods alone; Wyatt had fallen asleep in the car on the way to the trail, and Billy offered to stay back so that I could wander. The only sounds I heard were those of the birds, tweeting and chirping, birds of all kinds. Robins and cardinals and blue jays, various woodpeckers – a chipmunk ran in front of me, scampering into the undergrowth. I had my eyes scanning the trees, looking for the long – eared owl that has been spotted there, but didn’t see it unfortunately. When I headed back to the car, Billy told me that he had been watching all the birds as well, from his warm cozy seat. They were simply everywhere.
We took two more hikes that week, one at our favorite trail system, just to get outside and stretch our legs, get some fresh air. The woods were quiet that day, we didn’t see a single soul, nor see any signs of life at all. The birds and the animals must have been huddled up against the cold, wondering just what we were thinking, hiking around out there.
We also trekked out to Belle Isle one morning, and took a walk around the half frozen pond. It was like being in the Arctic, but not as cold and minus the polar bears. Although I did spy some tracks in the snow on the ice; can anyone identify them? I am thinking maybe fox, but identifying tracks is something I haven’t mastered.
It was a beautiful walk, almost magical near the marshy spots and the cattails.
And what better way to end a cold walk in the snow and ice than with hot chocolate and car snacks?
Wyatt and I met my SIL Chrissy and my niece L. at the orchard yesterday, and I am so glad that we went. I was very nervous, it was 8 days post surgery and it would be our first outing too. I am glad I felt brave enough to say yes, because we had fun, despite the slightly damp day.
Chrissy and L. met us at the orchard at 11:30, and Chrissy masked up and headed into the store to grab out bags for picking while I stood between the cars and watched both kids. Then we headed back to the orchard, where they had row after row of apple varieties to choose from. Our little caravan of two headed all the way to the end before turning around and deciding we wanted to head for the honey crisp first. We parked and we put a blanket down as our base and went up and down the rows plucking the apples from the branches. The kids thought it was super fun! When we finished that area, we wandered over to the golden delicious and braeburn section, and added more apples to our bag.
Our bags were filling up and getting heavy, but we were not ready to call it quits yet. We had one more small section we wanted to check out, the winesap apples. I have to be honest, I am not certain what these apples are like but we liked the name. Wyatt was super tired by this point so I stuck him in the back of the Subaru to hang out with while Chrissy and L. explored the field across the way, looking at the pumpkins, looking so autumnal sprawled out in the dew among their vines. L. came bouncing back, filled with excitement and wanting to show me the baby pumpkin that she saw so Chrissy stayed with Wyatt while I followed L. across the little bridge to the pumpkins. And we saw some enormous pumpkins as well as some teeny baby pumpkins. I guess fall has arrived, at least to our part of Michigan! I joked with Chrissy too, that she looked like a character from a Jane Austen novel walking through the fields..
By this point all of our feet were soaking wet and squishy, so it was time to call it a day. I would have loved to have had a picnic among the trees for Chrissy’s birthday (did I mention it was her birthday?) but it was too gross. We loaded the kids up and headed back to the front, making a little stop at the pick your own flowers field, where we realized we had no way to cut a bouquet. I never realized that one day I would be standing in a damp field lamenting that I didn’t have a pocket knife, but there I was. (and I came home and added a pink Opinel to my Christmas list..I will never go without flowers again! Lol)
All in all, we had a great time. I am so glad that we went, despite my anxiety, because I really think being with family, a change of scenery, and the fresh air did Wyatt and I both a world of good. I am so happy that we were able to share in Chrissy’s day! And look at this happy face!
Way back in December, I spur of the moment booked a mini-trip to celebrate Wyatt’s fifth birthday. We always go hiking for his birthday and visit a new nature center, it is a tradition – so for number 5 we decided to take the tradition out on the road. We head out west, to the west side of the state, at least once a year and so that is where we chose to roam this time.
We left early Sunday morning, and pulled into Saugatuck Brewery right around lunchtime, which was perfect timing. We had planned to eat lunch then hit the antique store that was right there as well, before heading to our airbnb. My brother has been telling me to eat at the Saugatuck Brewery for years and I finally made it, and now all I can think about is the macaroni and cheese I had! It was so good, rich and creamy and cheesy! I will dream about that macaroni until I get there again. Mr. Big Shot also loved his lunch, and ate like a machine! Billy and I also enjoyed two of their brews while we were at it; I had the Kolsch, he had the IPA, and we both thought they were pretty darn good!
After eating we explored the antique store, where I found a bunch of things I wanted but that would not fit into our car this time around – a vintage oak filing cabinet, a drafting table from 1953… but I had to leave them behind for someone else. I also found a great copy of Little House in the Big Woods but didn’t pick it up. By the time we were done prowling the store, it was time to check in to our house!
I had booked the most charming house in Holland, and I was so excited to get there and see it in person! We stayed at Cobblestone Cottage and it was a great experience! So clean, my number one requirement for staying anywhere! It was adorable and the kitchen was a dream. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about staying in the area. We bummed around a little, letting Wyatt get some energy out, including playing the piano which he loved, then just did a little exploring the neighborhood.
The next morning was Wyatt’s birthday and we were really looking forward to getting outside together. The day was so perfect, sunny and warm, but first – presents! He loved all of his new things, but really loved the board game we gave to him, and wanted to play it immediately – Hoot Owl Hoot! It is so cute and teaches cooperation as there are no winners or losers, you play as a team. I thought it was a great game for a first board game!
After a quick round we headed off to find doughnuts and then to hit the trails at the Outdoor Discovery Center. Which was amazing!! They had so many different trails to wander along, and really great learning experiences and stops along the way – a Birds of Prey Center, a replication of an Anishinaabe Summer Camp, two great play areas, and the Nature Center itself. You could easily spend hours there with your child. And we did spend quite a bit of time there!
By the time we left Wyatt was exhausted so we headed back to our house for a bit. We lunched on pepperoni rolls that we picked up from the best bakery ever and watched a little tv, relaxing while Wyatt napped. When he got up, we shopped around downtown and had ice cream for dinner. Because I am that kind of mom.
We were leaving pretty early Tuesday morning, planning on getting in another hike closer to home, but still hit the bakery, drove to the beach and looked at Lake Michigan, and then did some additional shopping before leaving. And I even bought myself a few things! A boy scout mug and an old field guide for trees, that had a beautiful inscription in it.
It was the perfect low-key kind of trip we all needed. One to reconnect, disconnect, and just relax and be together. We loved the area, and even half-joked about moving out that way – I mean, we already have a punch card for the bakery, so we might as well! I am so glad that we went on this trip – the only thing that would have made it more perfect would have been to stay longer!
On Saturday one of my childhood dreams came true! I have always loved the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade and have all these memories of watching it with my brother, and now my own family. So when we got the opportunity to tour the Detroit Parade Company as part of a group that Wyatt belongs to, I quickly RSVPd. At the start it was more exciting for me, but I knew once we got there that Wyatt would love it too! Billy who is not a parade lover, even enjoyed himself!
We were greeted by larger than life Sesame Street characters – including two of Wyatt’s favorites, Cookie Monster and Elmo!
We learned that the Parade has been running continuously from the 1920s, except for the two years we were in WWII, when there was a shortage of materials. The warehouse itself was used to make Howitzers, which was weird to think about as we walked around! There is a permanent staff of 14 people, and then 2000 volunteers!
We walked through the construction areas first, that were reserved for sculpture and carpentry, before we got to the giant floats. And they were huge! Seriously so big. I think we were all a little in awe of the craftsmanship and size and scale of the floats that we saw.
Two of our favorites – The “Up North” float, and the Detroit Zoo! We also saw the brand new Ford Motor Company float which is amazing, but we are not allowed to talk about it or post photos. They want a big reveal at the parade! That one was Billy’s favorite of the day too. It was pretty cool!!
The big heads are always so fun during the parade! There is a Bob Seger one, which makes sense! But then someone had a sense of humor because the Henry Ford head was next to Walter Reuther. LOL. Our tour guide and full time staff member told us that the laundry for the parade takes until April to get finished!! Yikes!!!
We also really loved this dinosaur float!! It is retired unfortunately, so we won’t see it again, but I loved being able to see all the details up close! So fun. Also pictured is part of the Wayne State University float. And then of course my boy who was getting a little sleepy!
We finished up at Santa’s sleigh, which really put me in the Christmas spirit! I guess Santa no longer gets out of the sleigh as he gets mobbed, but gets out onto a platform and the mayor climbs up to him.
This was definitely something that we probably will never have the chance to do again, and it was such a good time. I learned a lot, and saw a lot, including the smile on my kiddo’s face during this whole event. I can’t wait for the parade now to see these things in action!
July, you are not my favorite month. I am not a fan of being hot and sticky and sweaty and Michigan summers are hot and sweaty and humid. Our family tends to shy away from the sunlight like vampires, hiding out in the air conditioning during the day, and then emerging in the evening as it cools off. None of us are summer lovers, in this house. But July, you have your own beauty and charm, and this year, I will embrace you more. You are a month of sunshine, and bright colors and flowers. Insects and birds are cheerily going about their business, flowers riot through gardens. There is a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables at the farm markets, bursting with flavor, and more bright colors. That is probably my favorite thing about you July, your vibrancy.
This month is a busy one too. We have so many fun things planned, in our own ways, of course. The fourth of July and family picnics. The lavender festival, the Detroit Kite Festival on Belle Isle. Bastille Day, watching the Tour de France together. Music concerts at the zoo. And three whole date nights for Billy and I, three weeks in a row! A dinner and tiki bar with new friends, a party with old coworkers, and then finally a date night at the zoo actually. I also see many more family dinners – my brother and I are trying to make them as weekly as possible. Iced tea parties with my boy once a week as well. Fresh salads, fresh fruits, simple easy meals. Trips to the library always feel so summery to me too.
As for me, I am going to a mom’s retreat in Texas at the end of the month, just my stepsister and I. I have to admit, I am super nervous. Beyond nervous and anxious. I have never been away from Wyatt more than 8 hours and now I will be gone for three nights. But I am doing it. I am teaching Wyatt to not let fear rule his life, and that begins with me. I have to do things that maybe I am scared to do, to show him that it is ok. I am also excited to go as well. I have always wanted to go to Texas, my whole life, and now I am. There is a chance to see some of my old college friends who moved to Austin as well, which would be a great big bonus. And this is a retreat for moms of kids with special needs like my kiddo, and the event coordinators have so many activities planned if we want to do them – or we can do whatever we want. Two and half days where I can do whatever I choose. So, this is going to be fun. I will get to hang out with my stepsister too, and really get to know her better, as we met when we were older. I am looking forward to that. It is a chance for me to grow, and it is good to push ourselves to that growth. Or that is what I keep telling myself!
I think this month too, I will revisit old children’s classic books, and just books that I loved as a child. I am also doing the Paris in July challenge, so that is on my mind too, all the fun reads and things I can for that. It has also been one year since I decided to start phasing out plastic, with Plastic Free July, and I signed up for a challenge for that as well, to keep me motivated and give me some new ideas. I need a push to get on that again, and the challenge will do well for that!
Friday was World Giraffe Day and also summer solstice, celebrating the longest necked animal on the longest day (or night depending on your hemisphere) of the year.
Wyatt loves giraffes. They are his favorite (coincidentally, his favorite colors are also orange and yellow..) We were already planning on celebrating solstice in our own small way, by eating summery fruits like strawberries and getting together with some friends, but when I read about Giraffe day, I decided to make a whole day of it. Billy even took the day off from work so that he could celebrate with us all day as well!
We headed out early, basically waking up and packing up our “adventure backpack” as we call it and hitting the road, zoo bound. The giraffe festivities at the zoo were starting at 10, but I like to get to the zoo, or anywhere, right when they open as I have found places are less crowded earlier. We found the parking lot empty and the zoo almost to ourselves when we got there, and since we had time before the giraffe day things we visited some of the new exhibits, like the red panda’s new enclosure, with its rope swinging bridge, which puts zoogoers closer to the treetops where the red panda’s hang out, and the arctic exhibit which is usually jam packed. We had both exhibits to ourselves, which was kind of neat, especially the arctic exhibit. I finally got a chance to view the artwork that is inside! We were able to get very close to the glass as well with our kiddo, so close that a passing seal startled him a little! Most of the seals at the Detroit Zoo have cataracts and would not be able to survive in the wild and it is amazing how they still can perform their water acrobatics and swim and dive with limited vision. Nature is so cool.
After checking out the most popular attractions, we went to our other favorites, the wolves and the bears, who were all out and up front and center that early in the morning. I have actually never seen either the wolves or bears so close to visitor areas, we were able to get great views of them. By the time we were done, it was time to head over to the giraffes, our whole reason for going!
The zoo had volunteers standing by to answer questions, as well as information tables and signs laid out everywhere. We saw the skull of a giraffe, and signed the card for Kuvali, the mom giraffe at the zoo. We have a family of giraffes, Kuvali, Jabari (dad), and Mpenzi, their son at our zoo, and they were showing off in the yard, playing and posing for photos.
Wyatt and I had been doing some reading in preparation for World Giraffe Day, to expand our (my) knowledge of giraffes, and I learned quite a few crazy things! We learned that the collective noun for giraffes is a tower, which makes sense, and that giraffes actually have the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a human. Giraffes also have blue-black tongues to protect the tongue from sunburns, and fight by swinging their necks around, which I never want to see.
Sadly, these gentle, quiet, beautiful creatures have become endangered. According to bornfree.uk, giraffe numbers plummeted by a staggering 40% in the last three decades, and less than 100,000 remain today. I hate hearing about all of our animals slowly disappearing; it is hard to imagine a world where these magnificent beasts no longer roam. To read more about their plight and what you can do, visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation here. I have already signed up to make a monthly donation and “adopted” a giraffe, but there are other ways to help, which can be as easy as just making people aware that these amazing animals are in danger.
April was for the most part, a cold and rainy month. But it is a new month, and a new moon, so here is to hoping that April Showers do bring May flowers, because I am so ready for those lovely colors to be popping up everywhere!
Last weekend was the last weekend in April, and we spent the majority of it outside. The first nice weather really this spring and we were making the most of it. Saturday we spent messing about in our small garden, trying to get things ready for planting, and admiring our new blueberry bushes and cherry tree that we planted. Midway through the day we took a break to drive into the city for a bike garage sale at Back Alley Bikes, which is a non-profit that works on bikes with kids and volunteers fix up bikes that people donate which they then sell cheaply to raise money for their mission. They also will give a free bike to any kid over the age of 5! The last Saturday of the month they have a garage sale where they sell off some of their fixed up bikes and my husband who is a bike nut wanted to go take a look at the bikes. So we did, although I was not really super interested as I am not a great bicyclist. So, it was to my surprise that I fell totally in love with an old bike from the 70s, a Sears and Roebuck Free Spirit, red. My husband had attached our bike rack just in case, so we paid our $50 and headed home. It was getting a little cold and dark by this time so I didn’t get a chance to try it out, but I am looking forward to giving it a whirl. Although, that might be a while…
Sunday we got up early and decided to visit Belle Isle. The sun was shining, and everything was almost technicolor in it’s beauty. We drove around, then got out to look at the conservatory, the gardens, and the koi pond (which freaked me out- did I mention I am weirdly afraid of fish?) I took a billion photos, one of which the Belle Isle Conservatory actually shared on their own Instagram page, which was pretty cool!
These were all taken around the koi pond. In all the times we have visited, we have never walked around in here!
After we had explored to our heart’s content, enjoying the beautiful tulips everywhere, we got back into our car to visit my mom for her birthday. We had a lovely visit complete with ice cream cake, and then as we were getting in the car to go home, I had a bit of an accident. I was putting stuff in the back of the Jeep, and when I shut the back hatch door, which swings up, I forgot the bike rack was still attached. And slammed it down on top of my head. It was instant searing pain, and an instant enormous goose egg on my forehead that my husband wouldn’t even let me look at. We went to the ER where they decided I was ok, but told me as I left that it was going to get really ugly…and they were so so so right. Even as I sit here now typing this 6 days later, I still have two black eyes, a bump on my head, and bruising down my cheeks to my mouth. I spent most of my week laying as low as I could, taking care of Wyatt but not doing much else. For a few days I couldn’t even really read due to swelling, although ice packs every twenty minutes one day took care of most of that. (thank goodness for moms who will take care of your kiddo so you can put ice on your eyes) I’m feeling and looking a lot better, but it was not an experience I ever want to repeat again! So a little PSA for you all: when you take the bike off the bike rack of your car, take the bike rack off too, if you are not someone who uses it a lot!
How about you all? How did you spend your last days in April?
Last week was my son’s spring break from preschool, and for the first time in a very long time, Wyatt and I found ourselves looking at a week that didn’t have any doctor’s appointments, therapy (usually three times a week), school, or even work for me, as my boss (and cousin lol) was on a family trip for their spring break. I had planned at first to work on some potty training for my little CP warrior since we had all week to do it, uninterrupted. But, this kid works so hard, you guys. So hard all the time. So, I changed my mind. I was taking advantage of this wonderful gift of time, and letting Wyatt just be a kid.
We spent a lot of time outside – the weather was amazing, spring making its way to the Mitten state, finally! We took lots of walks, had picnics in the yard, ate lots of ice cream, practiced pedaling on the tricycle, and just lots of “play momma, play”.
We also went on a “zoofari” together. We picked three animals to go find at the zoo and then went and found them! He picked the zebra and giraffe, I picked the otters, one of my favorites – although Wyatt picked my other favorite, the zebras! He loves the giraffes, and I found out last night that his cousin does too!
We planted a few seeds for our garden – moon and star watermelon, cinnamon basil, and lettuce. We were also really excited to find a new friend, a neighborhood groundhog that we have named Stan. He lives under these steps of a church, and is always just hanging out on his porch. We would go check on him everyday, of course hanging back to not disturb him or interfere with him.
I even managed to get some adult time in! I had book club with my buddies, and then Billy and I reconnected with a friend who we were so close with for years and years, and then kind of fell out of touch for a bit. We met for dinner and it was like time had never passed since our last visit together.
It was a very full and wonderful week, full of lots of good times, laughter, friends, and just all those moments that make up life, everyday.
In July, we went to a kite festival on Belle Isle in Detroit. We had gone the year before and it was such an amazing sight, all the multi-colored kites flying through the sky. This year was a little different. No kites. No wind. It was a still, hot, humid day. If the kites could have sailed through the moisture in the air, kite day would have been hopping! Despite the gross weather, we set up shop under a tree and hung out for a bit, listening to music, snacking, and basically just enjoying the day and some family time.
I remembered not to touch the fuzzy caterpillar! And I loved our shade tree – doesn’t it look like a woman, arms outstretched, head back, dancing in joy? I could be a little fanciful I guess.
Billy took a little walk, investigating the the food trucks that were lining the street. Wyatt and I stayed in the shade, waiting to see what Billy had found. Billy bought Wyatt his own snack, but somehow that little hand kept sneaking over and eating our chips and guacamole…. He of course was welcome to them, it had just never crossed our mind he would want it!
A short little outing, but we enjoyed some good tunes and family time. We are looking forward to next year – and hopefully a cooler, breezier day!
I have always wanted to go to the wineries on Mission Point. I finally got the chance to, albeit with a preschooler in tow. We didn’t get to do as much wine tasting as we would have (my 3 year old niece, my brother and sister-in-law were with us too), but my SIL and I decided that a girls trip there is an absolute must in our future! We at least got some good ideas of where we wanted to go.
We did get to do some cool stuff, besides gawking at the beautiful scenery that surrounded us. First we headed to the end of the peninsula to the lighthouse. I think this one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! The history, the water, the trees and the forest surrounding it – I could easily imagine being a lighthouse keeper there, in the middle of winter, with my snowy owl visitors from the Arctic.
After traipsing about with the other tourists, we headed toward Brys Estate Vineyards and their Secret Garden. It was the perfect place to go with our littles. A big beautiful garden for the kids to explore, pick blueberries, cut lavender, and enjoy the riot of color and flowers.
We walked around the garden for quite a while, until the rain that had threatened all day began in earnest. Chrissy and I took a moment to run into the store and look around while the guys loaded up the kids. If you do go to the Secret Garden and you have the chance to buy their lavender shortbread, do it!! It was delicious!! I wish I had bought more while I was there, since the whole car wanted to devour mine, including the kiddos. I of course shared but had I known I would have bought more. Chrissy and I also took advantage of the rain and the kids sleepiness to enjoy a record breaking for time wine tasting at Brys Vineyards, up the hill from the gardens. The ones we tried were delicious! I particularly enjoyed their deep reds. Yum!
By this point it was time to meet the rest of our family in Leland (Fishtown) one of our favorite parts of the whole trip every year. I love touring through the stores, and I of course love the Dam Candy Store. I also pop into the book store every year to make a purchase, of course. A few years ago there was a campaign to Save Fishtown! And I am glad they were able to. My husband has gone backpacking on Manitou Island, about three hours by ferry boat from Fishtown, and it would not be the same without the gray, weather beaten shacks turned stores that remain of the old fishing village.
Afterwards we headed back to the cabin, and laid low for the rest of the night. We sat by the lake and took turns with our kids, drinking wine under the stars. It was a wild night, with high winds, which I loved because then I could wear my new thrifted sweater that I got for the trip. I can’t wait for autumn to arrive so I can wear it more frequently!
The next day was our day to go home! Vacation flies by so swiftly. We said goodbye to our lake, with the clearest, calmest water that it had had the entire time we were there. We packed up, headed out, and made our first stop at a nearby small town, Frankfort, which my brother had told us had a beautiful beach. He was so right. We stretched our legs and took in some beauty before we had to get in the car for the long haul home. We then detoured across the fingertips of Michigan to Hartwick Pines, a state forest. I went there once when I was a kid and loved it, being surrounded by the old growth woods. There is something about trees and me. I love to stand silently in a wood, with tall pines and trees all around. The woods speak to my soul. I loved it there. I want to go back one day again, and spend a little bit more time there. Billy had to pull me away from the large windows, there were just so many birds!!! Evening Grosbeaks, Red-Breasted Grosbeaks, Hummingbirds everywhere. I could have sat there for hours. The visit newly invigorated our desire to start visiting as many National Parks as we can (a desire that is also being fueled right now by the book I am reading, Dear Bob and Sue).
All in all, it was a pretty great trip. I can’t wait to see what next summer ‘s adventures up north brings!