Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a Backyard Oasis

I have this big, lovely backyard that sort of overwhelms me. Previous owners have planted all kinds of lovely flowering shrubbery. I love it but don't really know how to take care of it. What's a weed, what needs to go? What are proper pruning procedures? Grape vines are currently taking over the lilac bush. Sigh. There's a rose bush that only flowers once a season which annoys me and I'm trying to dig it out (not going so well...). There's also a big tree that shades most of the yard (what kind? how the heck should I know?!?), and I've planted a small vegetable garden. 

Just outside the back door, there's a small covered patio, and we have a table and chairs on it, but the area is not big enough to hold a table large enough for all 6 of us. We also have a hot tub, a couple play houses, an Intex pool, and a small swing set (Meijer clearance - $42!!). Our garage butts up against the yard, but is not actually in it. So we can get into the side door of the garage from the backyard, but it's outside of the fenced in area. Our garage, by the way, has never housed a car since we've lived here. It's full of the rest of our junk. Outdoor storage buildings are nice for keeping that stuff - yard tools, snow shovels, camping gear, etc. Then we'd actually be able to use our garage for the reason God intended. Which would be to park out cars, in case you were unsure of God's intentions.

The problem is, I feel like our yard has so much potential but I don't have the vision to see how it could be, nor the practical skills to get it to that point. Plus, even though I have no idea what kind of tree presides over our backyard, I do know it's not a money tree. Window shopping online is a fun way to find inspiration.

I would like a bigger patio so that we could eat lots of summer meals al fresco. I picture it surrounded by either metal tiki torches or glass tiki torches, and covered by some kind of romantic canopy, preferably bordered with little white lights. Also, I'd love some kind of comfy place for me to relax with a book and a tall glass of sweet tea...perhaps a nice cushioned chaise lounge. Chris would love a hammock.  Yes, napping outside sounds pretty nice. I'd also love a bigger, fenced in vegetable garden and more flowers. And maybe a trampoline. 
Little by little, we'll get it together. 

What do you dream of for your outdoor space?

This post is brought to you by your friends at

And the Saga Continues: The Not So Summery Summer Vacation Part II: Michigan's U.P.

After oohing and awing over Tahquamenon Falls last week, we survived the night in our Norman Bates-ish motel, took a swim in the indoor pool (which, let's be honest, smelled more than a little funky) before breakfast, and hightailed it out of there to points further north. 

Our first stop was Oswald's Bear Ranch, which is an outdoor attraction that we wanted to get to before it started pouring rain. Oswald's is a family-run place that takes in rescued bear cubs and raises them. It's sort of like a zoo for bears, but although they are fenced in, the bears are living in a very natural habitat with tons of space to move around. It costs $15 per car to get in, and then visitors are free to walk around and look at the bears. You can buy a bag of apples ($2) and toss them over the fence for the bears. It's very safe, which I mention because we once went to a gator place in Florida where my kids could have easily walked up to a cyclone fence and stuck their fingers in the mouths of any number of snoozing gators. So no, in case you were wondering, you can't stick your hand through the fence and pet the bears. You can, however, hold, pet, and get your picture taken with a bear cub. The charge is $5 per family for them to take 5 pictures with your camera. Scan through your pictures while you're there, because they will happily take some more if the first 5 didn't come out. Our weather predictions were correct, and it started raining hard just as we were finishing at Oswald's. They had several signs up asking visitors to post pictures on Facebook, so I may as well direct you over to their Facebook page.

Next on our U.P. itinerary was the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum and Whitefish Point Lighthouse. I was looking forward to the museum, but I was also excited that the kids would see their first real glimpse of Lake Superior, because I'm a dork and that's the kind of think that excites me. In case you were unaware, Lake Superior is the largest, deepest, and coldest body of fresh water in the world. The museum consists of several buildings and you have to go outside to get from one to another, so we were not quite saved from the rain. First we watched a rather depressing but interesting film about the Edmund Fitzgerald, a ship that was lost to Lake Superior, along with its entire crew, in the 1970's. Then we explored shipwreck artifacts in the main museum, went to a gift shop, a snack shop (good fudge, cruddy soft pretzels, nothing but coffee to drink), went to a building with Coast Guard stuff, and walked through the lighthouse keeper's quarters. We paid extra for Bethany and I to climb the 90-something steps to the top of the lighthouse. I had to sign a release, visitors are not allowed to climb without proper footwear (no flip flops), and a guide accompanies climbers to the top. A measly 90-whatever steps was a small price to pay for the spectacular views. Right on museum grounds there is beach access. I'm glad I got in a few pictures during a lull in the rain, but it was definitely not a good day to hang out on the shore of Lake Superior and play on the beach.

We then headed south, across the Mackinac Bridge and back to the Lower Peninsula. Back in Rogers City, the endless rain and cold prevented us from doing all the things we wanted to do for the next couple days, like going to the beach and visiting cousin Joe's farm. We did drive to a nearby town to pay a visit to Chris's great aunt and uncle, and of course no visit to a rural Michigan town would be complete without shopping at the local resale shop. Oh wait, you don't do that when you're on vacation? We have a very large Salvation Army not five minutes from our house, so it's not like resale shops are a novelty, but for some reason my kids cannot wait to go thrifting when we're away from home. 

Rogers City's claim to fame
I'm betting there's a good chance most of you don't know that Rogers City is home to the largest limestone quarry in the world. Well now you do, and I'm sure your life is more complete for knowing.

We did lots of driving this trip and my kids were such troopers. The day we left Connor started complaining he didn't feel well, and since he doesn't complain much we knew he really felt sick. (Sure enough he has strep throat). Even so, the 6-hour ride home was a breeze...except for the darn rain

We can't wait to visit Aunt Donna again. Thanks again for your hospitality, Aunt Donna!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post - Bethany Interviews Her Great-Great Aunt Theresa

At Aunt Theresa's house, Grand Lake, MI
While we were Up North last week, we went to visit my mother-in-law's 80-something year old Aunt Theresa, her father's sister and the last remaining sibling in his family. I suggested that Bethany get together some questions so she could interview Aunt Theresa. So she did...then she wrote this and published it on her blog. I think Aunt Theresa had a lot of interesting things to say, and that Bethany did a good job writing about it, and thought I'd share it here.

What I think is great about Aunt Theresa

Aunt Theresa seems very nice, young, and energetic. I liked her immediately. She is a great woman, I'm glad to have her as one of my awesome family members.

Theresa and the Wild Cat

When Aunt Theresa was around the age 11 wild cats were killing and eating farm animals and everyone in the town was trying to kill every one of them.  Aunt Theresa was  riding her horse one day and of course she had her rifle with her. Her horse started backing up and acting skittish. When she looked up she saw a wild cat in a tree and in a blink of an eye she popped him like a weasel. Then she went home and told her father, they went to get the wild cat. There was a bounty on wild cats because of all the trouble they had caused the farmers. Theresa and her Dad took the dead wild cat to town to collect the bounty. Instead of Theresa getting the money, her father bought her brand new shells for her 22 rifle.

Tomboy Theresa
Aunt Theresa never had a baby doll in her life, I thought what a childhood and that means if she didn't have a baby doll she must be a heck of a tomboy(which she was). Her favorite thing to do was horse back riding, but she loved to play every kind of ball. She was an excellent ice skater.

Theresa and Rose

 My Aunt Rose and Theresa are both sisters. Rose was Theresa's older sister. Rose was the oldest and Theresa was the baby sister. According to Aunt Theresa,even though they looked alike, they couldn't have been more different. Rose was as much as a lady as Theresa was a tomboy. For this reason the sisters didn't always see eye to eye.

Theresa and the one room school house

Theresa didn't have a school like we do now, she had a one room school house. In one school, one room, and one teacher. I bet it was pretty hard  with kindergarten to 8th grade in a one room school house.  In Theresa's school house there were 24 students in her class. Theresa's favorite subjects in school were art and reading(I like both of those subjects too). The future has changed a lot ever since I've heard these stories.

Theresa and the Artist

Theresa one day saw a boy in art class doing some outstanding art! When Theresa and the boy grew up and the boy told her that he is an illustrator for Disney and right now he still is!

When you listen to your family history always remember to listen, because their can be some interesting details!

Sookie's Back: The Return of True Blood

True Blood: The Complete First Season (HBO Series) [Blu-ray]
Just when I was beginning to forget that the big black box hanging on my family room wall played things other than Disney Channel, Cartoon Network, Sprout, and Nick Jr., one of my favorite shows returned. Last night I tried (and more or less succeeded) to enjoy the season premier of True Blood, despite a raging headache and an insomnia-stricken 2-year old. Oh Sookie, I've missed you.

I think I should have watched the final episode from last season right before watching the season premier, because I must admit I was a little bit lost. I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't watched it yet, but it definitely had a lot going on. Lots of fodder for this season. I'm intrigued by Sookie's new found knowledge of her fairy heritage, by Bill's new role in the vampire kingdom, Lafayette's involvement in the witchy group, Tara's new life in New Orleans, and of course - what is going to happen to Sookie and Jason?!?!? 

For those who are so curious they just can't wait until next Sunday, episode 2 is already available on HBO On Demand. I'm not quite sure why HBO opted to offer up the next episode early, and I haven't decided whether I'm going to take advantage. I like looking forward to my show on Sunday nights. I wish they would have just done a two-hour premier instead.

I'm also a fan of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and I've read most of them. So sometimes the differing story lines trip me up while I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on.

Are you a Sookie fan? What did you think of the season premier? Have you read the books too?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Review of Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

I love a book with a beautiful back drop, and Silver Girl by bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand definitely has that. The book takes places during a summer on Nantucket. I've never been there, but I've been to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard, and I've no doubt whatsoever that I would fall in love with Nantucket in a nanosecond.

Silver Girl: A NovelMain characters and best friends Meredith Delinn and Connie Flute haven't been on the best of terms for quite some time, but when Meredith finds herself in a desperate situation, the two ladies find that their friendship has never truly died. Connie, who is going through a rough time of her own, agrees to bring Meredith along on her annual summer retreat on Nantucket. Together they spend the summer months healing, growing, and deciding on new and exciting directions for each of their lives.

Silver Girl has suspense, drama, and romance, as well as a lovely story of a friendship almost as old as Meredith and Connie. There is a lot of background information included, which I find really satisfying. I enjoyed the book, and found myself wishing that my best friend had a stunning ocean front cottage in a remote corner of Nantucket. If you're looking for an easy to read summer book, try Silver Girl.

** Disclaimer ** I received a copy of Silver Girl for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine, and I was given no other compensation in return for my review.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Prefense Hand Sanitizer: Review and GIVEAWAY!

Prefense Foaming Hand Sanitizer
Prefense Hand and Face Sanitizing Wipes
Prefense Hand Wipes
I was recently given the opportunity to try and review Prefense, a silica based and alcohol free hand sanitizer. I was interested in trying this product because I have heard horrible stories about children dying after using alcohol-based hand sanitizer and then licking (ewwww!?!?) their hands. From what I've heard, Canada has banned alcohol-based hand sanitizer in schools for this reason. So I was excited to discover a safer option for those times when getting to a sink and using soap and water just isn't convenient or possible.

I received a 1.5 ounce bottle of Prefense, which is the perfect size to toss in a purse or diaper bag. It says on the bottle that it contains 120 sprays, but actually it is a pump bottle, not a spray bottle. It comes out kind of like a foaming hand soap. Also, it is labeled as having a fresh citrus scent, and it is a very light scent, not over powering in the least. Prefense absorbs quickly and neatly. There is no sticky residual feeling. Best of all, I feel safe letting my kids use it.

Here are some facts you should know about Prefense:
  • 1 application protects through 10 hand washings without reapplication
  • Prefense is effective for 24+ hours
  • Prefense is safe for adults and children - non-toxic and alcohol-free!
  • The water based silica complex moisturizes hands
  • Since only 1 dose is needed each day, Prefense costs only 6 cents per day 
  • Sanitizes skin and nails on contact
  • Adheres to skin, forming a proactive antibacterial barrier, wet or dry
  • Tested against strains of Staphyloccoccus aureus, including drug resistant MRSA strains
  • Stops skin to skin transfer of germs
  • Regular application provides continual antibacterial protection
  • Prefense is colorless and will not stain skin or clothing
  • Non-flammable
For more information, you can find Prefense on Facebook, and on Twitter. To purchase Prefense at a discounted rate (compared to other retailers), please visit their website, or Amazon.

Now here is the fun part. Prefense is giving away a big 8 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer to one lucky MichiGal reader! That's enough hand sanitizer to last a single user almost 2 years! This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below, about anything at all. Please be sure to include your email address. If you win, I can't contact you without it.

Additional entries are available if you do any of the following. Please be sure to leave a SEPARATE comment with your email address for EACH entry.
That's a possible 5 entries! If you already follow MichiGal on Facebook or Twitter, just mention that in a comment and it will count as an entry. You have until July 8 to enter.  A winner will be randomly selected on July 9. Good luck!

*Disclaimer*   I was given a bottle of Prefense for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own, and I received no other compensation for this post.

The Not So Summery Summer Vacation, Part I: Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls
Late last night the kids and I returned from our Up North excursion. There were a few disappointments, namely it was cold and rainy every single day, and I didn't get to binge on fresh fish, fried to delicious perfection. But nonetheless we had a really great time visiting Aunt Donna.

Lower Tahquamenon Falls
The highlight of the trip, for me, was visiting Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula with my kids. I loved seeing the falls when I was a kid, and I wanted to share them with my babes, plus I have this thing for waterfalls which I'm pretty sure I've mentioned once or twice. And that was the one and only day we lucked out with the weather, as it was raining all morning, but by the time we got there in the late afternoon the rain had temporarily ceased.

Getting to Tahquamenon Falls was a bit confusing and involved some wrong turns and driving here, there and everywhere; I wish I could offer some tips but we just put the nearest town (Paradise) in the GPS and hoped to see lots of signs. Eventually we found it, but I would suggest researching directions before heading to the falls. Duh.

Lower Tahquamenon Falls
There are two separate state parks, one for Lower Tahquamenon Falls and one for Upper Tahquamenon Falls. You have to pay $10 for a yearly State Park pass (it goes on your windshield and is good at every Michigan state park), which Michigan drivers can opt into when renewing their license plates as well. This year the passes are the same price at the State Parks, but starting next year they'll cost $15 if purchased at a park instead of through Secretary of State. Both parks have nice paved paths (good for strollers and wheelchairs), lots of easily accessible viewing areas and benches, restrooms with real toilets, gift shops and concessions. You do have to walk a little bit to see the falls, but it is a nice and easy walk.
Upper Tahquamenon Falls

Upper Tahquamenon Falls
There is a hiking trail between the upper and the lower falls, I believe the sign said it was 8 miles long and medium difficulty. It was pretty rugged looking and not suitable for a stroller (at all). So instead we drove from the lower to the upper falls. At the lower falls you can rent a little row boat to get up close to the falls, but being that we had a wild 2-year old with us, we opted out.  It looked like fun and maybe we'll get to do it when the kids are older. At the upper falls there are a couple look-out areas which involve lots of steps, and the one we went to had awesome views, but you can get a gorgeous look at the falls even if you don't feel like (or are unable to) climbing up and down a million steps.

First we went to Lower Tahquamenon Falls, where we were devoured by blood-sucking mosquitoes, and then gouged at the gift shop for a $7 can of insect repellent. So learn from my mistake and bring bug spray from home, and cover yourself with it before heading down the path to the falls.

We stayed overnight in nearby Newberry, self-proclaimed "Moose capital of Michigan." Unfortunately we did not see any moose. Boo. Our motel was really inexpensive, but I cannot in good conscience recommend it. There was a slightly grimy indoor pool, which we did use, and the room was fine for one night. I have a feeling the other accommodations in the area were not much better. Don't expect chain anything in the U.P. The hotels, motels, restaurants and stores are about 95% of the mom and pop variety. You can drive for a long time without seeing anything but trees, so if you're hungry you might want to stop at the first place you see because it might be awhile before you pass another place.

I loved re-visiting a place I last went to over 20 years ago. It felt the same, somehow. Stay tuned for my next installment of the Not So Summery Summer Vacation.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Father's Day I'm Leaving My Husband

Our first full week of summer break has come to an end. I'm not feeling my summer groove yet. So far, in fact, it's been sort of anti-climactic. We're unorganized and the house is a mess. We've had a good week...lunch outside at the Beach Grill, meeting friends at Jungle Java, the kids saw Mr. Popper's Penguins...but pretty much everything just feels haphazard and thrown together and not as perfect as I want it to be.  

Father's Day morning the kids and I are hitting the road with my mother-in-law and heading up north for a few days. We have a bunch of awesome stuff planned, so I'm hoping everything pans out and it finally starts to feel like summer vacation. Yes we're leaving Chris on Father's Day, but honestly we didn't realize that when we made the plans weeks ago. And don't feel too bad for him. We celebrated early with dinner at his mom's, and the kids and I are going to serve him breakfast in bed before we leave. He'll be having Sunday dinner with his dad. Plus, be honest now, doesn't having the house to yourself for five days and four nights sound positively decadent? So he's making out like a bandit. We did offer to postpone our departure until Monday when we realized we're leaving on Father's Day, but Chris did his best to refrain from jumping up and down in glee and very calmly told us it was no big deal, he'll manage just fine.

Happy Father's Day, Chris. I hope you enjoy the peace and quiet, I vaguely remember what it's like. (you're welcome)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thursday Thankful Round-Up

It's time to share all of my thankfuls for the week, and I just realized I haven't done any since last Thursday. Shame on me! So here are some I can remember from the last few days:
  • My friend's wedding went very smoothly last Friday. The weather was pleasant (it rained on and off but never when we needed to be getting in or out of a car), it was fun getting my hair and make-up done, Lucy did a great job as flower girl, and it was all in all a really lovely day.
  • My mom and Chris's mom helped so much to ensure the wedding day went smoothly for me. Taking kids to school, picking them up, taking Lucy to get her hair done and delivering her to church, picking up my van from Julie's house, entertaining Lucy during the would have been impossibly tricky without their help. And oh yeah, a special shout-out to Chris's step-dad who picked Lucy up from the reception (which was way out of his way) at 10:00 before she fell asleep right there in the banquet room.
  • Summer vacation is finally here!
  • Chris and I made a little extra money giving blood in the name of medical science.
  • Someone from Chrysler picked up my van yesterday and dropped off a brand spanking new version of it, fully loaded, for me to drive for one to three weeks while they run some tests on my van. And they're even paying me, plus returning my van with a full tank of gas (and we don't have to fill the tank on the loaner!).
  • I got a product in the mail to review and to host a giveaway, which should be happening sometime in the next week.
  • The kids have had a tent made out of blankets and sheets and pillows in the family room all day, and three of them are now sleeping in it. 
  • Movie night with the kids - Harriet the Spy (we just finished reading the book). Mommy fell asleep while all 4 of them made it through the whole thing, but it was still fun.
  • Words With Friends and Word Feud...because I'm all about procrastination worthy time wasters
  • My rose bush is in full bloom and it looks so pretty. And it will keep blooming all summer and early fall. The last two years we still had roses at Thanksgiving.
What about you? What are you thankful for this week?

Anything For a Buck

While perusing Craigslist last week, I came upon an ad placed by a medical research company looking for poor unsuspecting fools people to give blood in exchange for payment. It directed me to a website to visit and register, and being that the office is right in my very own city, I thought, "eh, what the heck." I submitted my information and while I was out one day last week someone from their office called. Luckily (I guess?) Chris was home because a) he actually answers phone calls from those outside of his sacred circle of trust while I most definitely do not,and b) our voice mail gets checked probably an average of twice a year. He set up an appointment for both of us to go in so we could double our money. 

We met at the office on Monday afternoon with all of the kids. I went in first. They led me to a room and told me to lie down on the table and that was just not happening. I need to be sitting up for a blood draw. They didn't have any of those nifty chairs with the shelf to lay your arm on, so my only choice was to sit up on a table with nothing to lean against. I figured I've had my blood drawn often enough and this should be quick, so no big deal. 

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that the chick who was about to stick me with a needle had no idea what the heck she was doing. She kept asking her two co-workers questions that it seemed to me she should have known the answers to. She had to re-tie the rubber band around my arm repeatedly because she didn't know where it was supposed to go. I was starting to get nervous. I have the biggest, juiciest vein on my left arm that medical professionals love because it is so easy to get to. Well this clueless broad missed  my perfect vein. That's pretty much when I started to feel sick. My arm was bleeding for about 10 minutes and I began to feel dangerously close to passing out. I started sweating profusely, my hands started to feel numb, and I fought the urge to tell them "never mind" and hightail it out of there. Someone brought me a juice box and I persevered until the clueless one's slightly more experienced colleague stuck me the second time. Now I know they told Chris when he made the appointment they would be taking three tubes of blood, but instead it turned out to be seven.

I stumbled back to the waiting room and let Chris take his turn in the torture chamber. They stuck him three times and ended up taking blood out of his hand. We got our checks immediately, and I'm glad to have the extra money, but next time they call me the answer is going to be a firm "no." Chris said he'll do it again. He's masochistic like that.

What outlandish things have you done to make money?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So What Wednesday

I'm linking up with Life After I Dew this week for So What Wednesday.

Here's what I'm saying SO WHAT to this week:

  • SO WHAT if my kids pretty much alternate between wearing pajamas and bathing suits all day long unless we leave the house? It's summer vacation!
  • SO WHAT if my dog ate pizza for breakfast when we ran out of dog food? She loved it, and she does eat strictly dog food 99% of the time (I swear!).
  • SO WHAT if I fall asleep on the couch almost every single night? I do (usually) eventually end up in my bed at some point in the middle of the night.
  • SO WHAT if I embarrassed Bethany in front of her friend yesterday? I do feel kind of bad but I did not yell and the child needs to learn to listen! And I think she's getting to that age where anything I do or say in front of her friends is going to mortify her. Ah, fun times.
  • SO WHAT if I will not step foot in a swimming pool unless the water is a good 95 degrees OR the outside temperature is a good 95 degrees? I'm very sensitive to the cold! (or I'm just a big wimp...)
  • SO WHAT if my kids ate nachos and cheese for dinner when I was way past overdue for a grocery store visit a few days ago? I cut up some apples too, so it wasn't a total nutritional waste of a meal!
  • SO WHAT if I would rather text then call? I've never been big on phone conversations so texting is like a dream come true for me, right up there with caller I.D.
What about you? What are you saying SO WHAT to this week?