August Recap

September 5, 2011 07:05 by ehouston

For all of you that have been wondering…I know, there’s only about 3 people out there that actually read what I have to say…I have not given up on the blog/blogs.  In fact, I have thought of lots of great things to talk to you about over the last few weeks.  Unfortunately other circumstances have gotten in the way of me letting you know what is going on in my little world.  I was doing pretty good there the beginning of August.  Letting you know about the laundry room project I was still tweaking and the garden that became overrun by squash plants and a mole.  Then, “POOF”, nothing!

Mid-August I took my son up to visit my family in Michigan.  Earlier in the year I discovered that my seldom used credit card had an accumulation of points that were in danger of expiring.  After looking through the catalog of available items for purchase I decided just to check on airline tickets.  Sure enough, I had points for a ticket and some to spare!  Lucky for us the Little Guy was still under two at the time of our flights so he got to go for free.  Yeah!  The plan was to spend just over a week visiting mainly with my aging Nonna and then make the rounds to see my other family in the area as their schedules permitted.  I had blog posts all ready to go and figured at some point during this time I could hop onto a computer and make those posts live.  Just days before leaving I got word that we would be heading out of town the morning after arrival in Detroit, to spend a couple of nights at the family cottage up on the northwest coast of the state.  This meant spotty cell reception and no computer access.  Prior to leaving I attempted logging on to the blogs, but was not granted access on my (supposedly) smart phone.  Later I realized I just needed to change a setting- duh!

So, as you can imagine, once we were on the road to our little slice of heaven and it appeared I was not going to be able to continue my blog work, I decided to let it ride.  I mean, what was I gonna do?  Ruin my whole trip  with worry?  Nope, not me.  I laid back and let it all sink in. 

The Little Guy just loved the beach at Lake Michigan.


Noticing the sand.


Creating marks in the sand.


Hands in the sand.


What are the big boys doing?  (Rock Throwing 101)


Looking for the perfect specimen.


Look Mom, Rock…Rock…Rock…Rock…


The first pitch.


Admiring his work.


Once he understood the fun of rock throwing, the plan for a beachside family photo was over.  No matter how crazy (and I think they were doing quite a good job!) everyone acted about looking at the camera, the Little Guy was only interested in rocks!


Lucky for him, there were plenty to scope out along the beach out front and in the rock garden next to the back deck.   


Little Cousin Gloria loved not being the baby of the group for a change.  After a couple of relaxing days and nights in northern Michigan we headed back down toward Detroit for the rest of the week. 

We enjoyed a trip to the zoo, where the Little Guy got to see lots of exotic animals in the flesh.  He was both excited and confused by the whole situation.  We decided he must have been experiencing some confusion about what he was seeing since some of the habitats allowed the animals to stay pretty far back from the crowds walking by.  We think he may have thought what he was seeing was not even real.  He did seem to really enjoy the giraffes, the polar bear exhibit, the butterfly house…


…and of course the train ride around the zoo.  Later that weekend my Aunt treated us to a very tasty Mediterranean BBQ and we got to visit again with extended family.


The Little Guy and Cousin Kaitlynn in my Aunt’s lovely backyard garden.  He was beside himself with all the attention!


Greeting the little boy from next door with fists full of marigolds.

Before leaving town we did glimpse a bit of the 2011 Dream Cruise that just happened to be going on the weekend after we arrived and we did our annual stroll through downtown Royal Oak.  There are so many cute shops there, but we just hit a few…Gayle’s Chocolates and Scout were top on the list.  While we were just walking around we saw two $100K Porsches just parked on the street like they were old station wagons, along with lots of really cool oldies that were in for the cruise. 


I can never get enough of that place.

This time my Aunt and Uncle decided to take us on a stroll through downtown Ferndale, which is going through a revitalization and we saw some really neat shops.  Our favorite was the Rust Belt Market, a kind of booth style open market that caters to more of an “Etsy” type handmade crowd than your typical “granny arts and crafts” followers.  I found a ton of things I wanted to take home, but had to be realistic with our already 46 pound bag.  I did manage to smuggle some really nicely scented handmade soap home from one vendor, but had to forgo many, many other items for the sake of bag space and weight.  Just down the block we stepped into a little shop called NAKA and I found a neat pair of very simple Petoskey stone sphere earrings that I could not resist.  All in all, the shopping was good, not overwhelming (as in I wanted everything and was sad that I could not buy it all), I managed to get a couple of nice items to bring home and had some eye candy inspiration while we were at it.

We also hit up the local park a couple of times in an attempt to get out some energy.  It’s nice to be able to walk three blocks, on sidewalks, to a public play area. 


Over the bridge (and the Moon!) with Great Uncle Kurt.


The first time in a tube slide and he was completely hooked.


Grande Nonna helped ease the transition, smacked him on the butt and sent him up the ladder again.  She raised five kids- this woman knows how to wear them out!

I just wish we had that sort of set up in our neighborhood here at home.  Soooo nice!

Lucky for us our flight home was on Monday evening.  I say lucky not because that day was special, or that the Little Guy was exceptionally good (he was okay- fidgety, but not too bad to ride with), but because the next day everything on the East Coast shut down due to an EARTHQUAKE of all things!  Yep, that’s right, I experienced my first earthquake.  The funny part was that it happened while I was chatting on the phone with a friend.  At the same time we both mentioned something about our washing machines running off balance as we realized what we were experiencing was NOT laundry related.  It was weird, scary, exhilarating and surreal….I could go on and on.  But, I didn’t have much time to think about what had happened because I was on a mission starting that day.  I had a mountain of dirty clothes to get through, a house to clean and a birthday party to plan.  But wait!  It gets better!

Then we had a HURRICANE!!!!

I don’t know what is going on around here, but we had been assured numerous times that the weather in Richmond, VA was very similar to Nashville, TN in that it is very mild.  Well, between the record breaking blizzards in the winter of ‘09 to ‘10, to the record breaking drought in the summer of 2010, we are NOT buying it any more!  Now we are experiencing earthquakes and hurricanes- what the what? 

This place is nuts!  But, at least we had a good visit out of state.  ;o)

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Traveling : And Away We Go!

August 14, 2011 11:50 by ehouston

I always love to find out I have points from…well, whatever!  And, what I love is to find out that I actually have enough to get something goooooooood.  Like, plane tickets!  This year marks the second in a row where I was able to score a free flight and I am using it to visit family up in Michigan.  Yeah!!  It also marks the last time I will be able to fly my son for free.  :o(   This is sad to me on so many levels, but I won’t take you down that road with me today.

Instead I will just make you jealous that I get to see this…


Sorry, I could not help myself.

Have a great rest of the week!

Kitsch Krafts

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An Unexpected Reminder of Home.

November 22, 2008 15:50 by ehouston

Among the many adventures I had today one involved finally getting over to The Hill Center in Green Hills to browse several shops I have been wanting to see.  One is the Anthropologie shop that opened up more than a year ago.  My love affair with this store started by catalog years ago, moved to the online shop and has now culminated in a drive to visit, in person, the wares that I drool over from afar.  So, whenever I am near a brick and mortar I try to make the time for a quick stop.  Today I walked into what seemed like a little itty-bitty version of what I have seen in MI and NC, but the further you walked in the more nooks and crannies you could find.  I really liked the styling they have going on this season.  Like so many things right now it had a very woodsy, 1970's vibe happening.  Of course I instantly fell in love with nearly everything I saw immediately upon entering the doors.  Then, my eye wandered to a nice little wooden box with some unassuming cards.  A closer inspection revealed that they were Gwen Frostic prints in a box set put together for the store.  I was amazed, tickled and my heart warmed a little when I saw this. 

The reason for the warm feeling is that Gwen Frostic prints come from the little town that I was born in way up in northern Michigan.  She created simple, but elegant drawings of the surrounding wildlife and then made prints of them for everything from wall art to mini purse-sized calendars.  Although she passed away years ago her little shop is still turning out these sweet little cards and all the other wares.  You can even take a tour if you want when you come through town. 

My favorite fat little racoon.  This is a rubber stamp you can buy.

Another cute stamp...the Bunny's Behind.

(Check out the site for more, and better, images of her prints.)

These cards have been a staple in my family for years. I can remember my mom buying just the right print and writing warm holiday wishes, or the sincerest of sympathy notes on Gwen's cards.  In fact, earlier this year my aunt that still lives in the area sent me a quick note on the cute little Racoon print card.  I am glad to see these cards are out there and the company is having success in a wider market, but no matter what big city these cards are sold in they will always say home, in a little tiny town, to me.

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The Longest, Hardest Week....

September 19, 2008 13:28 by ehouston

  What is it about the week after a vacation?  No matter how relaxing the vacation was, the week after seems to bring you back to soul-crushing reality so fast that you seriously start to rethink your path in life.  Then, finally the week settles down and you realize things are not so bad, you simply miss that little piece of heaven you were just immersed in the week before.  I have to say, that this has probably been one of the worst versions of that "week after" a vacation I have ever experienced.  It started with meetings, continued with more meetings and speaking engagements and ended with me sucking down a bottle of wine (or is that whine?) with my significant other by 5:00 PM on Friday.  Don't get me wrong, the week in St. Maarten that ended in 8 hours of flying in circles over a lightning storm at the Miami airport, only to miss our connector flight and end up spending an extra night of vacation at a hotel by the airport (which always sounds like "in a van down by the river" to me)-not so good.  The evening ended with eating almost everything on the room service menu at 12:00 am, that wasn't so great either.  There was also the extra day in Mexico because our flight was canceled early on our last morning, which we did not find out about until we showed up to check in for our flight.  That was also the moment in which the customer service lady boldly asked, "Didn't you know?".  My husband and I deliriously looked at each other and simultaneously thought, "Of course we knew the flight was canceled, we always get up in the morning, pack our bags, load up our golf clubs, lug them through a resort, pay an extravagant price to be taxied up the coast and then wait in line for 45 minutes when we know our flight was canceled.  Doesn't everyone do this on their vacation?"  Even those chaotic vacation endings did not take away from the fun we had experienced the week before or compare to the feeling of sadness I had this past week back at work.  All this to say, we had the most glorious week of do-nothing-unless-you-wanted-to vacation time at our family lake cottage that we could ever imagine and I sorely miss it!  So, the complaining will end now and the reminiscing will begin.

I will start by saying that any time you tell your co-workers you are going on vacation, etc, etc they inevitably ask, "So where are you headed off to?" and when you tell them Michigan their expression is priceless.  So, I had a lot of fun with that up until we left and I will further explain that my family has owned a cottage on a small lake right next to Lake Michigan since the early 1950's.  It is somewhat dated, wood paneled, funky, full of hand-me-down furniture and wonderful memories.  I will never be able to completely explain the feeling of anticipation I get when driving down the bumpy dirt road through the woods to discover the little gray, shake shingled cottage on the lake.  Or, the way the musty, sandy, watery scent of good times past forms a comforting embrace as you push open the back door that is never locked.  Only to walk across the kitchen, the dining area and out onto the little deck and gaze across the mirror-like surface of one of the clearest, prettiest lakes you can imagine. 


I realized the picture I blogged just before our trip does not do this place any justice.  Especially after I was able to capture the sunset from our first night (pictured above).  The week we vacationed was the end of the summer and outside of this little lake world the bay cities were slowly closing down for the winter.  It was nice to walk the streets in brisk, but comfortable weather and to miss the crowds completely.  To peruse the tiny, kitschy shops with their T-shirts and good luck Petoskey stones.  Things have changed so much, not only since I lived there, but since all those summers while I was growing up, spent making the long drive to the cottage and then back home.  A lot of the same families are still living in the area, but there is also a new crowd, a younger crowd, that like me, have some kind of connection to this place that is almost ingrained, or instinctual.  We are drawn to this place and have to find a way back a often as possible. 

Even though the shops were bundling up and getting ready to hunker down for the long winter, my absolutely favorite place was still in full swing.  That place is the tiny little small town bakery.  I remember going there as a very young child with my dad when he would drag me in to town to buy supplies at the little hardware store on Main St.  If I was good, which meant, I was patient while he placed his orders, or sifted through the itty-bitty drawers of nuts and bolts, he would take me to get a treat at the bakery.  I remember taking my time, looking through the glass case at every type of donut, smashing my face and greasy little kid fingers on the glass before finally making my selection.  And, every time I would come back to the same thing...the nutty crescents.  Cake donuts, glazed and then rolled in finely chopped peanuts.  Dunkin Donuts has a version, but the treats at this little, family-owned shop have always been far superior.  I was so scared that when I arrived they would no longer have my favorite donut and this trip would end in terrible tragedy (Yes, they are that delicious!).  It had been six years since I had been there and you just never know with little coastal beach towns what will still be there and what will have completely changed.  The last time I had saddled up to a stool at the curving, diner style bar was when I took my ailing father for what I believe was his last trip to the cottage before passing.  I remember talking with him on the way and reminiscing about all the fun times he had experienced here as a child with his parents, and as the head of our household.  I also clearly remember us both agreeing in unison that the bakery was our first stop when we finally decided to head in to town.  The reason the choice was unanimous was because we both had a secret love of those delightful peanutty donuts.

Well, after ten years of marriage (celebrated the week of our vacation) I managed to get the Mr. up to the cottage for his first trip and after six long years I was able to satisfy my donut fix.  It may seem silly, but some cravings just never go away and for some of us, no matter how many times we move, or places we live there is always some far off place, seemingly insignificant to everyone else that calls to us as home.


Our little cottage in Heaven....

and the view from the front porch....


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