Monday, November 14, 2011

An Afternoon at the Park

A few weeks ago (we are still catching up) I had promised Eleanor that we might go to the park to swing. I may have promised her this for over a week. Finally the mom guilt (One of us could die and her only memory of me is of a lie or, I would be tormented by swings forever etc... etc...) made me jump up, borrow Angela's sweet stroller and take them down. Clayton was at class so it was just the three of us. I had a hard time controlling my picture taking. The lighting was beautiful, the kids were beyond cute and Eleanor was displaying some sweet sassy attitude. The "I'm a hip toddler" variety. Not the new attitude of destruction, mayhem and feistiness that has sprung up as of yesterday. I would blog about that, but I'm pretty sure that in the time I took to write it out she would start the basement on fire or wreck the car. Yes, today she got super-mad at me that I wouldn't let her drive the car. I know, I am the meanest mom ever! What? Oh, yes. The park.

Here's sweet Winston. He loved being out even though I kept him strapped in the stroller for most of the outing.
So happy.
The walk to the park is facing west, so E had to don her shades.
She was so deliriously happy. Look at her running off in the sunlight, you can almost hear her shrieking. (She was totally shrieking, "I'm wunning! I'm wunning!)
In the skylight bubble.
And up close and personal.
Going down the big slides by herself. The playground is so much more fun, now that she is brave enough to do everything.
Remember when she wasn't? Same playground, only a year and a half later.
I asked her to stop so I could take her picture. This is what she gave me. I didn't think she was familiar with Rodin, but who knows what they really teach in Nursery.
"Eleanor, look at mommy and smile." Nope. I got about eight shots of this.
Winston, however, was all attention and ready for whatever I asked of him. "Winston, be adorable." "Sure mom!"
Strapped back in and ready to leave, I didn't want the magic to end.
He finds her karate funny. Darn cuties.
I really need to take them out more, and the grocery store totally doesn't count. If we can all shake our colds and if winter wants to take a leave of absence this year, that would be terrific.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Michigan's Upper Peninsula Part 2

Where were we? Oh yes, we just saw the super-dull locks in Sault Ste. Marie and decided to make our way off to see the Pictured Rocks on the shores of Lake Superior. We drove and drove and it was a bit farther than I thought, but we finally got to Munising where we stopped to get some meat Pasties.(Pronounced pass-tees.) These are basically a miner's meal. A hearty meat and vegetable dish that you can eat like a sandwich. We went to a place that is reputed to have the best ones... AND? Eh. I liked them ok, as they are a big wad of dough wrapped around the meat and vegetable stuffing. I like anything with dough, but like most food up north, they were using canned vegetables. They are quite filling though. We weren't hungry for about another 8 hours I think. Anyhow, enough of me complaining about food. If I want to be able to say that I have a healthy relationship with food, I need to stop talking about how it keeps letting me down, like a bad boyfriend or something. Back on topic.

We went to Castle Rock overlook to see, well, Castle Rock. It was a really pretty drive there and the view is spectacular. They built a large deck right up to and a touch over the edge of the cliff. Eleanor was having a great time walking up to and onto the deck until she noticed that she could see the ground beneath the deck through the slats. There was anywhere from a few inches to a few feet between the deck and the ground below. Once she realized that, she was freaked out. How funny! The random things you don't think about, except, I do think about that. Boring story at the end of this post explaining why*.
Here I am holding my sweetie. The only way she would experience this. Clayton and I took turns as Win was asleep in the car.
Up close you can see her adorable face. Funny story, we got all the way to St. Ignace only to find that we didn't have any shoes for Eleanor. We had thrown her in barefoot I guess. Luckily, she takes her shoes off so often that there was a pair of church shoes under the front seat.
This is Castle Rock.
A closer view. You are a couple hundred feet up, but it's hard to get a feel for the scale until you are there.
Here is a picture of a tour boat passing by to give you a little scale.I had great plans to take us to more of the Pictured Rocks only to have freaking Nigel, our GPS voice take us on a major road to a different spot. So we missed a huge chunk of what I wanted us to see. Like everything between Munising and Grand Marais. It took so long to get to Grand Marais (since we went down, across and back up instead of just across) that the sun was starting to go down when we got there. However, it was so pretty there that I took a few quick pictures.
Sailboats in Grand Marais Harbor.
From there I wanted us to see the Sable Dunes that are East of Grand Marais and Sable Falls, but we got on yet another incorrect road. Durn Nigel. We ended up driving on a road that seemed right but was super wrong. By the time we knew for sure that it was wrong, we just wanted to call it a day and get back to the hotel. Well, then Nigel took us on about 30 miles of twisty dirt roads through a dense, dark forest in a now dark and nearly moonless night. Luckily, both kids fell asleep. It's kind of sad when two fairly travel-savvy adults can get lost with a detailed atlas of Michigan, three guide books and a GPS. Well, I guess we never were officially lost, but we didn't get to see the waterfalls I wanted us to. And no, I don't imagine we will ever get back up there. Oh well. I hear they are pretty. Along our crazy drive I made Clayton stop when I could see Lake Superior.
Here is the view just a few feet away from the car.
Look! I'm at Lake Superior! It's mega-cold water!
P.S. Both of these shots were taken at the same time, one with a flash and one without. Weird.
Back at the hotel we got to relax again. By the time we got back to St. Ignace we were starving. I went and spent a goodly sum on treats at a local gas station and also procured some dreamy McDonald's for our nearly midnight snack. (I'm kidding, you know. McD's is never dreamy.) Winston eats the same thing for every meal, so he was happy.
You may remember this shot from my hair cutting post, but here is our sweetie boy again. I love his dimple. This is the next day as we were packing up.
We checked out and went exploring the little coastal area right out our hotel front door. Eleanor fed the birds our left over french fries. Winston enjoyed the fresh air and walking around. This is the view of Lake Huron looking South-East.
Eleanor enjoyed sitting on several different rocks. This may be because a week or two earlier we took family pictures in which we tried to convince her that sitting on rocks was the coolest thing ever. She didn't buy it then (lots of running away) but maybe she's had a change of heart. That wont help our family photos but, eh, what are you going to do?
Clayton and Eleanor.
Very touching.
And here is the view looking North-West.
Hello bubbles.
We crossed the bridge and stopped at the park on the Mackinaw City side. Eleanor immediately got out her "binoculars" to enjoy the sights. Thank you Dora the Explorer.
Ok, so I guess Mackinac Bridge is pretty long.
Our family!
The boys!
This is an action shot of a robbery in progress. Notice Winston's little bare foot and what is in Eleanor's right hand? I love how she is running, laughing and looking back to get their reactions. Winston, as always, was pretty chill about it all. He's used to her taking his stuff.
My sweeties. (Socks recovered, back on.)
Me and Winston, smooshing my glasses around my face. He is making the funniest face here too. I suppose he was over the tourist bit.
On the drive home we took Highway 119 along the western side of Michigan, the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. (Does that make sense?) There is a stretch between Cross Village and Harbor Springs that is called the Tunnel of Trees. It was very pretty, but I didn't get any truly great pictures, but if you are up in that area, I would say it is worth the drive. Twisty and slow, but very lovely. Here is one shot.
And that concludes our trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was a nice get away even if my lofty plans all came to nothing. The leaves were changing and so most of the driving had insanely gorgeous views the entire time. Michigan is so pretty, but Clayton and I grew up in Washington State, Idaho and Utah. I would rank those as a few of the more spectacularly pretty states as well, so it's hard to "wow" us. Still, I'm glad we took the time to check out more of Michigan while we are still here!

* Afore mentioned boring story: For years and years I was terrified to walk over grates. You know, like drainage grates, subway grates... they are everywhere in big cities. Why? When I was 16 and at a Youth City Council camp at Cedar City's college campus my friends and I got to attend a dance at the Institute building. High school girls at a college dance? Hello! I had on shorts so I had to change for dress code. I ran back to the dorms where we were staying, as it was less than half a mile on a small campus I went by myself. It was dark, but I was anxious to get back to the possibilities of cute college boys. As I was running back (and I was booking it) I saw a shortcut though an open garage. I ran quickly though it and noticed too late that the entire floor was a giant grate, with openings big enough for your leg to fall through, but small enough for a car to drive on. I got about two steps from the other side before my leg fell through. No serious injuries, just a lot of bruising a scraping, but it started a phobia that I can't quite shake. Rationally I know that almost any grate is structurally sound to walk on, but it still gives me the heebie-jeebies. Maybe poor Eleanor inherited it. Sorry E. Now when we go to the local library she always stops once we enter- as the foyer has a weird floor pattern that looks like decking. Every time I have to stomp on it and show her that it's safe to walk on. Poor little cutie.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Michigan's Upper Peninsula Part 1

Finally, I am catching up a little! Here is our trip up north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula or the UP. I would wager that a lot of people don't even know there is a second "piece" of Michigan at all. I was curious as to why we have this entire section of our state that is actually connected to Wisconsin instead of us. In 1836 Michigan agreed to trade the "Toledo Strip" for the entire UP. There is a little more to it than that, but trust me, it's pretty yawn inducing. I did find it interesting that people from the UP are nicknamed Yoopers and that they call people who live in the mitten section of Michigan "trolls". Because we live under the bridge. Ha ha.

Anyhow, it's insanely lovely up there, and I've always wanted to see the Mackinac bridge (pronounced Mackinaw, there are about four different spellings for this same word), so we decided to make the trip up. It's just under 4 hours from East Lansing to the bridge. We went the first weekend in October which was General Conference weekend, the first time in ages that I didn't have church calling responsibilities and Clayton didn't have massive school work, so we were both stoked to have a mini-break. Road Trip!

Here is our cutie in the car. She and Winston were both champs. We essentially spent three days driving around and she couldn't have behaved better.
Starting across the bridge.
Did you know the bridge is 5 miles across? It's the largest suspension bridge (from shore to shore, not the central span) in the Western Hemisphere, 3rd worldwide. If you count the length of the central span it is 12th worldwide and 3rd in the US. Whatever the numbers, it's impressive to see, although we found it a bit underwhelming to drive across. Here is Clayton driving us across. We doubted it was really 5 miles, as it seems much much shorter, but we checked our mileage coming back across and sure enough, 5 miles it is.
Yeah, it kind of looks like any other bridge when you are on it. The pictures I took of the views turned out muddy and blurry (Shooting through car windows, you know.), but the views of either side are gorgeous.
We had a great hotel in St. Ignace (pronounced Saint Ig-nus) that was right on Lake Huron. Eleanor liked the "secret room" of the window well.
I love any picture of her and Lamb.
See the lake? It's right there! Just a few yards past our car! There is also a fire pit where they roast marshmallows each night. Fun! (We never made it for that, but still, it's a cool feature.)
Here are the grounds looking up from our room. We were lucky to hit the lull between summer season and hunting season. With the hotel being so vacant we got a great room.
As if it wasn't cool enough, there was a playground right outside our door. I mean, come on!
Here is a shot of part of the town of St. Ignace. It was very quaint. We were very excited to find a good place to eat dinner, thinking that the fish here should be fantastic. (It should!) Um.... not so much. I have to say, as much as we love Michigan, this is still my biggest complaint. Great restaurants are hard to come by. We ate at a place that smelled great outside so we each ordered the local catch done a different way. Cue trombone sound: Wom-womp. It was sub-par at best. It was akin to cafeteria food. Canned vegetables, gravy etc... It's kind of sad when you would've wished you ate at McDonald's instead, but hey, no biggie. At least it's lovely to look at, and we got fudge and taffy at a shop on our way back to the hotel, so the UP earned a few points there.
I made Clayton take us to see this side of the bridge one more time before we settled down for the night. It really is so pretty. To the right of the bridge is Lake Michigan, on the other side is the start of Lake Huron
Another shot.
And looking towards the right. Win was asleep in the car, so I just took some shots while they waited for me. I made them promise we would take family shots with the bridge on our way home.
As you can see, it was pretty dark and a bit overcast at this point.
Back at the hotel we chilled, licked Winston a bit and then E and I went swimming in the indoor pool!
Eleanor has always been our fish baby. I plan to start her in some Mom/Tot classes at the start of next year.
She had the time of her life playing on these steps for about an hour. We also enjoyed the hot-tub (it wasn't much hotter than the pool, so I felt ok about letting her get in) and she kept cracking me up by saying "Ohhh, dis is niiiiiice."
The next morning, er... so maybe it was closer to noon, we made our way out for breakfast in St. Ignace. Again, "eh" on the food. Sadly we found that the UP is like a concentrated section of what is wrong with food in Michigan. If it's ok below the bridge, it's probably awful up north. Do I sound bitter? Sorry, I just hate wasting money like that. Eating out is such a treat that it is a crying shame when it isn't awesome.
We made our way north past Castle Rock and found one of the many Paul Bunyan statues that dot the Northern Mid-West. Everyone claims that their nook of the woods was where the origin of the tales started. We didn't climb the Castle Rock overlook, too high with two small children made a few things a no-go. But Paul and Babe were neat to see.
We drove up to Ste. Sault Marie (pronounced Soo Sain-Marie) to see the locks. Clayton Eleanor and Win were happy to stretch their legs.
Hello cutie.
As you can see, it was an insanely gorgeous day. As you can also see, the locks are bohhh-wing.
That big white building is a ship in the lock. I guess the lock was either filling up or draining out, but we were too distracted by the paint drying to tell. However, we weren't too disappointed, as now when we play Ticket To Ride (possibly my favorite board game ever, well, past Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit) we can now act like pompous jerks whenever someone gets that card. What's that? We already do act like pompous blowhards about traveling? Oh. Hmm. Sorry about that. Well, not really.
My boys. I do like saying that. So that is the exciting first half of our UP adventures! Get excited for round two, coming soon!

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