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Monday, September 7, 2015

Goodbye, summer.

On the porch.

Although the autumnal equinox isn't until mid-September, Labor Day is typically considered the end of summer, so it's only appropriate that we bid a fond farewell to long sunny days, pool trips and ice cream runs with a look back at our vacation.

In mid-August, we traveled once again to northern Michigan to visit with our cousins, Nick and Noreen.

It's nice having Lake Michigan all to oneself.

By a long shot, Lauren's favorite part of the trip was swimming. Noreen took us to beaches on both Torch Lake and Lake Michigan. Doesn't it look like Lauren has Lake Michigan all to herself? The water was so blue and clear - it was definitely a big step up from the northern Atlantic coast beaches that we've visited in the past!



Lauren hasn't done much natural water swimming in her lifetime, but as you can see, she took to it right away.

Relaxing with Dad.

Hunting for seashells.

I don't know how she did it, but she kept finding these teeny-tiny seashells on the lake bed. We took home a whole collection of them.

As we were sitting there enjoying the day, I was lamenting that I have only one photo of Lauren playing in the sand and building sandcastles when she was little. And then this happened:


Making sandcastles.

Later in the day, we traveled a few towns over to attend the Bellaire Rubber Ducky Festival.

Bellaire, MI Rubber Ducky Festival.


Ducks on a truck.

The town had a big rubber duck themed parade followed by the crown jewel of the event - the rubber duck race!

Dump the ducks!

Once the backhoe made it's way to the bridge, the operator kept teasing the crowd by dipping the bucket and then pulling it back, which then incited everyone to start chanting "Dump the ducks!" over and over again.

And their off!

And there they go! I think the winning duck got the purchaser a few of hundred ducks, I mean, *bucks.*

Ferry to Mackinac Island.

The next day, we took a ferry ride to visit Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island.

Horsedrawn carriage.

Walking the streets of Mackinac Island.

There are no motor vehicles permitted on the island, so the only modes of transportation are horse drawn carriage or bicycle. There were bikes everywhere!

Mackinac Bridge.

There's Mackinac Bridge looking very small in the distance.

Light houses.

And here behind the seagull you can see the two lighthouses near the island.

Grand dames.

Mackinac Island is famous for it's gorgeous Victorian architecture.


This was the entrance of a private residence called "Boardwalk Cottage." It was right on the beach.


After dinner each evening, we'd go for a walk and explore Nick and Noreen's beautiful property (and for me, take a lot of photos).

Look up.

Fields of gold.

On the run.

Lauren always likes to run way ahead of us old folk.

On the way home, we decided to stay a night in Toledo, Ohio and then head to Cedar Point the next day.

 Toledo Zoo aquarium.

The Toledo Zoo was recently ranked as the #1 zoo in the U.S., and although there was a little bit of ballot stuffing on the behalf of the Toledoans during the vote, it is indeed a great zoo. Earlier this year, they added a brand new aquarium which has dozens of huge tanks full of sea life.

Toledo Zoo - Polar bear exhibit.

 Howdy hippo.

Both their polar bear and hippo exhibits got you right up close to the action.

 Hippo fight!

Okay, maybe a little too close - hippo fight!

 Stalking the elephant.

 Yes elephant, I am stalking you.


And I don't think anything could surpass their gift shop. Ten year old girl problems...

 Fifth Third Field, Home of the Toledo Mud Hens.

We had originally planned to take in a Toledo Mud Hens game (the Detroit Tigers minor league team and home town team of M*A*S*H's Max Klinger), but we got delayed by some traffic coming into Toledo which then set us behind schedule. So instead, we decided to just drive into the city to check out the field and shop in the official store, The Swamp Shop.

 Mud Hens in neon.


The are several manholes surrounding the field, and each has a different Mud Hens graphic.

 Mud Hens unis.

We loved The Swamp Shop. Mark and I each got a t-shirt and Lauren got a duck bill whistle!

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos to share from our Cedar Point trip, so instead I will end with some family photos.

 Me and Mark.

Family portrait.


Many thanks to Nick and Noreen for ending our summer on such an awesome note! Now we just have to see Michigan in spring and winter (Okay, maybe not

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hello, summer.

 Peach coneflowers.

Ugh - I can't believe it's August already. I don't feel like I've gotten a chance to get acquainted with Summer 2015, and it's practically putting on its coat and heading towards the door. Mark's garden was especially beautiful this year, so while I haven't been motivated to pick up my camera otherwise, I made sure to capture at least some of the flowers. I think the peach cone flowers above were new additions this year.

Bee balm.


Stargazer lilies.


Hello, Mr. Cardinal.

And sometimes I like to pretend I'm a wildlife photographer. I noticed this male cardinal just having a grand old time flying about the lower part of the yard, so I stalked him until I got this shot. It wasn't the one that I wanted though. The little stinker refused to land on the fence post, so I had to settle for him perching on the fence itself.

Hummingbird in flight.

One of the things that I look forward to every summer is seeing the hummingbirds. This year, we had at least two or three visiting the bee balm at any giving time. I've tried in the past to get a photo of one, but it's difficult because they get easily spooked by the giant black thing known as my camera. This one is a little out of focus, but it's progress!

One ticked off hummingbird.

This one cracks me up - that is one ticked off hummingbird!  One moment, he would be busy feeding on the flowers oblivious to my presence, but as soon as he figured out I was there, he would zoom away, only to come back a minute or so later. We repeated this exercise at least ten times, so at this point, he had to be fed up with me bothering him.

Hangin' in the coop.

Now here are three ladies who are never shy around the camera! Pepsi, Poppy and Blossom have adapted well to their new coop. No eggs yet, but hopefully sometime this fall we will have that news to report!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fun on the Fourth.

Patriotic cookies.

We had a wonderful 4th of July this year. The weather was perfect, the food was perfect and oh heck, the people were perfect too.

Red, white and blue M&M cookies.

I'm very proud of the red, white and blue M&M cookies that I baked, so they deserve two photos. I think this recipe is going to be my go-to chocolate cookie recipe.

Patriotic shed.

Even our shed was decked out in red, white and blue.

Of course, our day wouldn't be complete without the annual fireworks display, courtesy of Uncle Craig. For some reason, the fireworks always bring the crazy.

Scott and Melissa

Our friends brought champagne poppers. No one was supervising the two Laurens, so they decided it would be fun to shoot them at people. Here is the result.

 Lauren x2 throwing snaps at Melissa.

 Here they are throwing snaps at Mel C while she danced.

  Melissa and Beth

Thankfully, she survived the onslaught of explosives.

Wacthing fireworks.

And the Laurens settled down to watch the fireworks.

 Cookie with the girls.

Unlike big brother Marcus, who is terrified by them, Cookie isn't phased one bit by fireworks, so she sat and enjoyed the show too.

Craig before.

Look at Craig in action - he's a master!

Craig after.

On second thought...



We've been doing this for at least five years now, and until this year, I could never get any decent photos of the fireworks. 

 Mark playing with sparklers.

 Pappy with sparklers.

Then we ended the night with sparkler fun!