Is there anything better than reading about someone else’s vacation? Nope? NOPE! Sit on down, lets do it.
Prior to the Great Summer Vacation Trip of 2014, my entire family descended upon Chicago like locusts.
Ok fine, just my parents and my nephew. My brother couldn’t get away for the week so his son got an entire week of being spoiled rotten by his grandparents and aunt/uncle (that would be me and B) before we gave him back to his parental units. And it wasn’t locust-like since they were invited, but nonetheless, they all arrived in Chicago. After finishing up the work week, vacation officially kicked off and we all headed down to the Chicago Yacht Club to check out the boats & do boat-things, like play my favorite game “Yachter/Not-A-Yachter” which involves watching girls in stillettos try to walk around the docks to catch themselves a sailor-man. Every year like clockwork……
(We take water safety seriously and although there were a few mix-ups that led to no life jacket on the dock (but child firmly in someone’s arms) we have been really pleased with the Stohlquist Infant jacket for our under 30 lb girl- she doesn’t mind wearing it and it is easy to get on/off. Amazon affiliate link, but we bought ours on sale at a sailing event. It has a handle/hook for scooping out of the water, a neck support, crotch strap and a buckle across the front to help stop unintintentional unzipping, although some of Amazon’s photos seem to show an older model w/out the front buckle.)
Saturday morning B and Dad took off sailing the Mackinac Race and my Mom and I quickly shelved all ideas of the zoo and other fun activities when we realized how much we had to do before we took off. We were renting a house for the week and while we had plenty of plans of eating out, we wanted a few casual meals in, so we made many pans of lasagna and cinnamon rolls and stocked up on snack food and things you want at vacation spots, like coffee and booze. Sunday morning dawned way to early and after playing Stuff Tetris packing the car (when did our spacious SUV become so small? why did the sailors have such large bags of clothing for us to bring? why can’t our cooler hold 5 Pyrex 9×11 pans and yet takes up this much space in the car?) we hit the road. Now, when you travel with a 5 year old and an 18 month old, a car trip is a bit of an adventure but with a few stops along the way and a lot of this really terrible CD of kids songs, we pulled into Harbor Springs, Michigan and promptly went out for pizza at Turkey’s with the kids and our friends who were also renting the house with us. Turkey’s is a Habor Springs staple, and it is perfectly fine, but I think part of its glowing reviews is the nostalgia – it is the place where kids are sent to eat out alone for the first time, crumpled $20 in their pocket and all the freedom in the world. So expect your food to be perfectly fine, but most likely it isn’t going to blow your hair back or anything. After dinner there was Yummies because, hello, vacation = ice cream.
Sometime early Monday morning the sailors made it onto Mackinac Island so obviously we decided to decend upon them (unlike-locusts) and we took the ferry over to Mackinac Island and enjoyed the day. The race weekends are a total frenzy over there so we didn’t really see a whole lot and we stuck to the little downtown shopping area/grassy knoll where we watched the horses go by, ran around in the grass and enjoyed the sunshine.
Drinks were had by various members of the party at the Pink Pony & Horns. My favorite store was Poppins, a boutique full of whimsy items that were wholly unnecessary but fun to browse through. Then we meandered and sat on the boat and took in the scenery before a BBQ followed by a ferry ride home. Gracie didn’t nap the entire day and was zonked by the end of it and the pans of lasagna waiting at the house were much needed.
Tuesday we kicked the day off with cinnamon rolls and then spent time walking around downtown Harbor Springs, which is adorable and fantastic and about the point in time when I realized, hey, I have no pants. Seriously, not a single pair of pants made it into my suitcase. How this happened I haven’t a clue, but alas, my shirts felt very lonely and I became irritated at the thought of nothing but the 2 skirts and dress that I brought and began searching for a pair of pants in each of the adorable but low-inventory boutiques in town. Yay? Through much trial and tribulation I found acceptable (i.e. non-$220) options at Craig Ryan and Dressed L’esprit, settling on a pair of white jeans from the latter. Luckily we had laundry facilities in the rental house so I was able to wash as needed (and lets be honest, they needed it). We had lunch at the Pointer Room on the pier, which has great views and some amazing chowder. Later we stopped in for coffee at the Stained Cup, which I ended up visiting every day for coffee, bagels, or sandwiches to take back to the house – a really nice little spot and much friendlier than the more entrenched Hollywood Market, who seems to be in the business of selling coffee to locals and locals only. (Seriously, I tried to order a pastry with my coffee there and was ignored- twice- before I gave up and walked down to the Stained Cup for something to go with my coffee). That night we were down in numbers as the boat was being delivered from the Island to Harbor Springs, we ended up back at Turkey’s, where I enjoyed a calzone filled to the brim with fresh garlic.
Later in the evening, after the little kids were in bed under the watchful eye of the older kids (aka the babysitters), the non-boat delivering adults headed down to the Pier for the always famous Hummer – the tastiest cocktail in the United States.
Harbor Springs has a very cute farmers market so we started there on Wednesday morning, and my child promptly helped herself to a few blueberries at the first stand. As I apologized she ate some more, so then I guilty bought the pint and tried to figure out how to explain to her that no, you cannot just eat the display fruit. My nephew participated in the kid’s scavenger hunt (earning him some Michigan cherries) and Gracie jammed out to the band in between blueberry eating breaks.
By Wednesday afternoon the boat and all of the adults were back in the greater Harbor Springs area. We spent time down at the dock and around the boat, had a casual lunch at the house and let the weary water travelers rest. The house had a great front porch (and a baby gate) so we spent a lot of time just enjoying the view, books, and company. Wednesday evening the older kids babysat while the adults had a fancy crew dinner down at the Pointer Room, where planked whitefish is the speciality and Hummers were consumed by everyone.
On Thursday the Harbor Springs regatta began so we lost the sailors to that while we continued the time honored vacation tradition of relaxing. At one point my Mom and I took Gracie and Z to the park- the park which I thought was right by the beach but is actually on the beach much to my sand-hating disdain- and we stumbled upon the craziest car either of us had ever seen. Filed under “yer doin’ it wrong”.
We eventually picked up sandwiches from the Stained Cup, and that night, after walking around and hanging out with all of the other regatta participants down at the dock, we had a chicken dish and biscuits back at the house, along with wine and good conversation on the front porch.
Friday morning rolled around and we decided we’d walked the streets of Harbor Springs more than enough so meandered over to Petoskey which was holding its annual sidewalk sale extravaganza. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was really fun- after almost buying a new Dash & Albert rug a few times I held off, bought a baby gift and had fun poking around the downtown area before enjoying a casual lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, where we all had a chance to cool down and rest our feet, with an end note of delicious baked goods. We made our way back to the house to rest up before the annual Ugotta Regatta party down at the boat shop, which is the social event of the summer (or at least to us!). The party is casual- after all, the participants show up in their race gear- but there are hotdogs and bratwurst and a band and activities for the kids. Gracie had fun playing with her friends and she even had her first bratwurst (devoured it). She loved all the little toys and activities set out for the wee ones, although I was mean and wouldn’t let her open a bottle of colored “scented” bubbles – seemed like a bad idea.
By Saturday I suspect we were getting a little vacation weary, (and it was rainy and cool) and we spent the morning in, coloring and lounging around the house. There was ice cream (vacation!) and walking around and in the evening we headed down to the pier for dinner in the casual dining room, The Chart Room, which serves my favorite Dijon chicken and spaetzle and I highly recommend it to anyone. My Great Aunt was able to come join us and it was a lovely evening of catching up. The dining room of the restaurant was filled with all the families Gracie and Z had been playing with all week and they spent a lot of time waving and going outside to play with various subsets of kids/adults while they waited for food. It was the perfect end to the trip and it even included a few Hummers.
By Sunday most of the vacationer-s had gone, save Gracie, B and myself (B had one more day of sailing). Gracie and I met up with some Chicago friends and we headed up to Pond Hill Farm and let the kids check out the animals, steering clear of the biting pig (SERIOUSLY, WHY?) and spending a lot of time with the ducks, goats and tire swing.
The chickens and geese were only moderately amusing, and rather than stick around for a wine tasting we opted to drive over to Legs Inn for some famous Polish food. The setting has to be seen to be believed and the food was amazing. Gracie enjoyed her non-Polish french fries immensely. After that we drove the Tunnel of Trees back to Harbor Springs where Gracie took a car nap and I sat in the car and watched the boats come in and chatted with B as they cleaned up/packed up after racing. And then, just like that, we hit the road home…but this year no one got a speeding ticket on the way home and we took a pit stop in Grand Rapids to visit friends with a new baby and let Gracie stretch her legs while we got in some snuggles. By 11 pm we had picked up the dog, and were home, with a hallway of laundry and an air conditioner working in overdrive to cool the house down….
B and I are both big readers (we have…4 full sized bookshelves plus Gracie’s in our home, and boxes more books in the basement…) and when I was pregnant we hoped our child loved books as much as we do. We read to Gracie from day one (although in the early foggy days, I remember having a panic attack THAT I HADN’T READ TO HER IN A FEW DAYS, TERRIBLE MOM, SHE WON’T DEVELOP PROPERLY….) and now, at 17 months, she loves books something fierce. She can easily entertain herself for up to 20 to 25 minutes “reading” her books. She has a group of select favorites she often brings to us to read outloud (Doggies, Dear Zoo, Baby Beep Beep, Is Your Mama a Llama, Sheep Share) and I’m always working on growing her collection. (Heads up, Amazon links are affiliate)
Right now she has a huge plethora of board books, so I’m trying to buy some longer stories in anticipation of growing into the books a little bit more. Some recent additions:
One by Kathryn Otoshi
My friend Meghan recommended this book to me and I love it. The actual storyline is a little over Gracie’s head right now, but she likes colors and numbers so she sits and listens. This book, with colors and numbers as the characters, is about bullying and the power of a group sticking up for someone. I know it sounds deep, but honestly, it is just a great story about feelings and being nice to others, sticking up when you see bad behavior and treating everyone with kindness. It doesn’t hurt that it is really well written. A must for any kid in today’s “modern” word where bullying might be an issue. She has a few more books that I’m ordering soon with equally good messages about acceptance, individuality and being nice.
Flora & the Flamingo by Molly Idle
This book doesn’t have any words, and although being a more grown up “hardback” it is a lift-the-flap book, so we keep this up high and get it down for parent-Gracie reading time (since it is printed on “regular” paper rather than sturdy board). It is a really neat story of a Flora, wearing a bathing costume and flippers, and the flamingo doing a little ballet. The story is easy enough to follow along – very sweet- and the pictures are gorgeous. Recommend if you have a kiddo that loves pink, ballet, or lift-the-flap books.
Steam Train, Dream Train by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Confession: we don’t actually own this book. But I keep giving it to people for baby gifts or first birthday presents and I’m baffled as to why I haven’t also bought a copy for us yet. Happening soon! A really neat going to bed book about a train filled with animals (a tiny bit reminiscent of the train in Dumbo without circus cruelty or what not) with fantastic pictures. Gracie is really into animals and animal sounds so I think this would be a hit. I don’t think any parent can have enough books encourgaing wee ones to go to bed either.
In non-Gracie books, last year I bought my superhero obsessed nephew a Superman book aimed at the youngest superhero loving crowd. I’ve been told he wants to read it every night before bed. It gives the basic overview of the origins and story of Superman with really great illustrations. (The author has a few other books about other superheroes too). So if you have a superhero crazy kid who isn’t quite ready for the real-deal, I highly recommend Superman: The Story of the Man of Steel.
Speaking of books and gifts, growing up my Mom had a basket of Christmas books she pulled out every December. My brother and I loved reading them (Polar Express was the front runner for most years) and I would love to have the same basket for Gracie and our family. That said, if you buy all the books you want for just December in one fell swoop, you are talking about big bucks. I’ve been trying to order a book every month or so, so come December I’ll have a nice little pile to wrap up and make part of our advent calendar. In future years the books will just go in the Christmas book pile (and I don’t have to buy all the books this year) – I’m not crafy enough to re-wrap every year for a Christmas countdown ala Pinterest- but I am happy I’m collecting them for years to come. Last year we grabbed a board book version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and Olivia Helps with Christmas. Last month I ordered The Christmas Wish. The pictures in it are truly gorgeous. I’ve really enjoyed this guide to helping me find some good Christmas stories. Next up I’m ordering Polar Express & Room for a Little One.
I know Christmas planning this far in advance is a little….Type A….but it is nice to have at least something checked off the list come December. Besides, throwing in a book (Christmas or otherwise) with my Amazon orders has a two fold effect: sometimes I see the price of it all together and go “eh, I don’t really need any of this” thus saving me money, and when I do throw it into the package I have a little bit of knowledge delivered to our door. I recently read the terrible statistic that less than half of America’s children under the age of 5 are read to on a daily basis and I’m determined to make sure books are a huge part of our life. No better way to foster creativity and imagination!
Yesterday I rolled down my window to yell at a pedestrian who made a rude gesture towards me after I almost hit her while she jaywalked in front of me.* Normally I just get on with myself, but seriously? SERIOUSLY? I was pulling out of a parking garage where you are forced to turn right or left (you can’t go straight) and as I pulled out, turning, she stepped in front me. I swerved, she stepped back up on the curb and rolled her eyes and gestured rudely towards me. As I rolled down the window she yelled “Oh so you are going to yell at me now?”
“THERE IS A CROSSWALK ON THE CORNER FOR A REASON” is pretty much all I managed to get out, along with something about having a right of way.
If a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, even when I havea green light, I wait. It is the law, and they have the right of way. But I am sick of people just walking into active roadways and expecting cars, sometimes traveling at a high rate of speed ,to just stop. That isn’t how the world works. Go use a crosswalk, I’ll stop for you every time. You know why there isn’t a crosswalk right where that lady decided to cross the street? Because there is A PARKING GARAGE OF EXITING CARS RIGHT THERE.
Oh and bicycles, I always treat you like a car and am respectful of your space and I check my mirrors before exiting so I don’t door you, but how about you live up to your end of the deal and follow the rules of the road? This means stopping at stop signs and red lights. You don’t get to complain about drivers not treating you like a car (which they are obliged to do) if you don’t follow the same principles of stop/go/right of way.
* I do not condone yelling at strangers.
* * *
Gracie loves the car carts at our local grocery store, and since they keep her happy and occupied (wheel spinning, beep-beeping) I oblige. The problem being the car carts are really hard to steer and wider at the base than a typical grocery cart which means I clip a lot of corners. I’m slowly getting better, but damn if I’m not apologizing for half of my trip. The car carts are also quite heavy so stopping when someone exits an aisle and there is a traffic jam isn’t always feasible. But who has the right of way in the grocery store? The people coming out of the aisles, or the people cruising the main, perpindicular thoroughfares? I always wonder. And try to halt as necessary to prevent cart crashing. And a side note: I love when we pass other kids in car carts and the kids do some sort of secrete handshake headnod thing, like “YEAAAHHHH CAR CART RIDING”. Oh to be a kid again.
(I have a really cute photo of Gracie in the car cart, but I can’t seem to locate it. Blog fail.)
Thus concludes my deep thoughts. As you were.
I recently declared, that in addition to making lots of salad dressing from scratch (a completely easy task) I’m calling this the Summer of Slaw. Not your typical sad, soggy, mayo-filled slaw in a ramekin served on the side of your meal at a ho-hum establishment, but delicious non-mayo slaw filled with crunchy veggies and tangy flavors. I’ve realized I have lived a long slaw-less life (I don’t care much for mayo when it is served outside of potato/egg/tuna/chicken salad) and I’m out to remedy this situation. Slaw, as it turns out, is delicious.
My first introdction to Good Slaw is what B and I call “Taco Topper”. It started with the awesome cilantro slaw recipe found in Cooking Light’s delicious Ancho Chicken Tacos (h/t/ to Kate for the thumbs up on the recipe) and evolved from there. And by “evolved” I mean I add a lot more cilantro than the recipe calls for along with a generas handful of shredded carrots if I’m feeling sassy. We eat tacos about once a week (chicken, fish, meatless, on flour tortillas, corn tortillas and any other way you can shake up tacos) and Taco Topper is our new-found lettuce replacement. Crunchy! Flavorful! So damn good!
Around the same time (I think?) that I discovered Taco Topper I made a Smitten Kitchen recipe deep from her archives, for what she calls Green Onion Slaw. I’m sad this recipe doesn’t have its very own page on her website and instead shares the glory with Tequila Lime Chicken, which I have never made because the slaw is where it is at. This one is spiicy and we love it, even with its two tablespoons of mayonaaise. I assure you that you will not notice the mayo. You’ll be too busy fanning your mouth and scooping more slaw in. You can blame the heat on the serranos.
Anyway, with two recipes down and a few delicious slaws eaten at various events and restaurants, I’ve realized I really love coleslaw, just not cabbage/mayo/salt/pepper coleslaw. This weekend we are hosting a birthday dinner, so in addition to barbeque ribs and baked beans I’m making cabbage slaw with “tangy mustard seed dressing” and I’m already excited for it. I’m an addict and I can admit it. I have a list of slaw recipes ready to try and the only thing between me and crunchy glory is how long it takes my husband to say “You know I’m not really a fan of coleslaw….” or something similar. (He has used this tactic to crush my plans to regularly eat chicken pot pie, anything with mustard and roasted brussels sprouts…and by regularly I mean at least once a week)
Anyway, uh, if you have any good slaw recipes you know where to send them. Over and out, off to buy cabbage and vinegar.