Monday, June 30, 2014

A Shining Light

You might remember during Maine week I alluded to the fact that while Maine had a lot of lighthouses, Michigan holds the title as most in the nation with over 115 different lighthouse.  This makes complete sense when you think about it since besides Alaska, Michigan has the most miles of shoreline (over 3300)  (Note - this is shoreline as opposed to coastline, meaning it includes fresh bodies of water, ie four of the five Great Lakes in Michigan's case).  Also, lighthouses tend to be used in smaller areas where it is necessary for boats to operate closer to shore, which isn't always the case when dealing with coastline.  (Feel better, Amber, now that you know for sure? ;-) )

So, all that being the case, I knew we HAD to check out at least one lighthouse this week.  So I started my research, and super bonus, the oldest standing lighthouse in the state (it's the 2nd oldest ever built, the first was just down the river a bit and was destroyed) happens to be The Fort Gratiot Lighthouse not too far from us in Port Huron.  We headed there this morning and had the best time!  We took the full tour, learned all about the building, maintenance and upkeep of the lighthouse and then actually got to climb all 94 steps to the top.  The kids had so much fun and I was so proud of them (when you see the pictures of the stairs you'll understand why)  They asked good questions on the tour and were super brave!  Afterwards, we went down to the Beach and took a stroll through one of the four of the Great Lakes that touches Michigan, Lake Huron. (I think we're going to make it to three of them by the end of the week!)  They gathered some fun rocks, we had lunch in a nearby park, played for awhile and then headed home before the heat made it too miserable.  I think the pictures can tell it better than I can - they had a blast!

Tonight we had a Kellogg's feast for dinner.  The company, based in Battle Creek, is probably best known for its cereals and other breakfast items.  Check out all our options from tonight below.  (I'm really trying to stick to this "show" thing this week :-p)

I mentioned yesterday that a trip to the Dairy Farm was on the agenda, but that has been post-poned 'til later in the week because we received a phone call this morning from the library (one of our very favorite places in Michigan!) saying that Mikayla had won the summer reading prize this week!  So we headed over to pick it up.  After quick baths to get rid of some of the sand, we settled in to partake in one of my absolute favorite Michigan activities - Tigers baseball!  (Extra special side note - the game tonight was commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tigers winning the World Series in 1984 - very cool!).  It was the perfect way to hang out tonight.

Tomorrow we're probably going to be leaving Michigan for the day, but fear not, I think I have a tie in!  We're going to be meeting up with my Mom and Shell for a day at the beach on Lake Erie - which of course touches Michigan as well.  Alright, I may be reaching, we're mostly just glad to have the chance to catch up with my Mom and spend some time with her before her birthday!  Stay away rain!  And I'm thinking those pasties will make the perfect dinner and maybe tomorrow we'll make it to the Dairy Farm then.  Should be fun no matter what!  So until then...

Michigan Fun Fact of the Day:  Food for thought - the very interesting discussion at our dinner table the past two nights have included conversations on Henry Ford and his contributions to the auto industry (and how that is important to Michigan), Motown and the Mackinaw Bridge - all Michigan treasures!

Our breakfast selections for the week!

Ready to go tour!

Squishin' in

Our tour guide, Gene, showing us how they used to rescue people

At the door of the lighthouse, ready to go in

In the "doghouse" this is the first room of the lighthouse

The different kinds of lights used to illuminate the light over the years

Ready to climb

And they're off

Stopping at level one

View from the top!

They made it

Lake Huron

We did it!

View of the stairs from the bottom up

They were so proud of themselves

Dipping their piggies in Lake Huron

Lunch break

The dare devil at the playground

(It took everything I had to let him do this)

She was climbing too

Needed frosty's on the way home for sure

Our loot from our trip

Working on the "We've Been There" state

Hmmm, think it's safe to say we all get stickers this week

Thanks to Miss Morgan who hooked us up with mail from Bad Axe

Our dinner choices

Not just waffles anymore!

Happy Birthday Pop-Tarts!

Picking up her prize box from the library

She is super excited - as was her brother who she promised to share with :)

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Smitten with the Mitten

One of my very favorite things about Michigan is all the little towns that are quaint, quirky and always active with fun events.  In addition to our favorite hometown of Farmington Hills, some nearby favorites include Plymouth (we love their street festivals, especially the Ice Carving one in January and the Halloween one in October), Birmingham (they have an awesome Farmer's Market and the coolest playground with a turf hill!) Northville (love "Tunes on Tuesday" during the summer with the kids and they have awesome parades - ask my parents who went to the 4th of July one with us a couple of years ago or the kids who went to their light up parade at Christmas time a few years back) and Lake Orion (Dragon boats!).  But those are just the tip of the iceberg as I know Grant and I both try really hard to find things 'nearby' to expose the kids to, and honestly, living here it has been fairly easy.  I feel like we get the best of both worlds - we have the quaint towns like these or a decent sized city in Ann Arbor or a really big city and all that it can open up in Detroit.

So this morning we decided to head out and explore one of our other favorites - Royal Oak.  About a twenty minute drive it's home to The Detroit Zoo and our favorite pottery place.  There is always something going on in Royal Oak and it has tons of fun shops, restaurants and things to see.  If it had been a little closer to Grant's office we may have ended up there actually.  (Though love the Hills and our location, don't misunderstand!)  But this time we check out the Royal Oak Farmers Market - someplace new in Michigan to see!  We had so much fun since on Sunday's the farmer's market pairs with tons of flea market dealers.  Grant found a game that is a cross between scrabble and boggle (best way I can describe it), Noah got his hands on the neatest Michigan light switch place and I found authentic Michigan pasties!!!!  (So excited, it was worth me finding them from a place that specializes in them as opposed to trying to make them myself this week.  More on this later in the week, though)  We had a lot of fun, strolled around Royal Oak for a bit and then headed back here before the rains came.

This afternoon the kiddos and Grant made use of one of our favorite nearby Michigan activities - the Sprayground at Heritage Park.  This huge park (and Nature Center) is only about a mile and a half from our house and we are there quite a bit as it has a really nice playground, the Sprayground, hiking trails, our favorite sledding hill in the winter, concerts during the summer - it's kind of fabulous.

Tonight we squeezed one more Michigan piece of fun after dinner by watching Toy Story.  Don't worry - I haven't lost it completely, I have a legitimate tie in!  The voice of spaceman Buzz Lightyear is none other than Michigan's own Tim Allen!  Though not Michigan born (he actually hails from Colorado), he spent most of his life in none other than one of my faves from above - Birmingham!  He is well known for his role on "Home Improvement"  which is actually set outside of Detroit (and where he makes many references to the area!) and perhaps even more relevant, he provides the voice work for Michigan's huge promotional "Pure Michigan"  campaign.  (Seriously, I live in the state and can't go a day without hearing that goofy music and his voice telling me about some Michigan point of interest!)  Anyway, seemed more than appropriate tonight, along with a glass of Faygo red pop.  (I'm a bigger fan of Rock 'N Rye myself, but there is no shortage of flavors to choose from)

Keeping my fingers crossed that the rains stay away tomorrow as I'm planning on taking the kiddos to explore Michigan's oldest lighthouse.  Plus dinner's either going to be those awesome pasties or a tribute to one of Michigan's most iconic brands - Kellogg's!  (Leggo my eggo!)  And if they play their cards right a trip to Guernsey Farms Dairy may be in the works.  Ah I love showing them Michigan!  So until then...

Michigan Fun Fact of the Day:  Did you know Gerber baby food originated and is based in Michigan?  According to wikipedia:  "Gerber was founded in 1927 in Fremont, Michigan by Daniel Frank Gerber, owner of the Fremont Canning Company, which produced canned fruit and vegetables. At the suggestion of a pediatrician, Gerber's wife Dorothy Gerber began making hand-strained food for their seven-month-old daughter, Sally. Recognising a business opportunity, Gerber began making baby food. By 1928 he had developed five products for the market: beef vegetable soup and strained peas, prunes, carrots, and spinach. Six months later, Gerber's baby foods were distributed nationwide." 

At the fountain in Royal Oak

Finding treasures at the Farmer's Market

His switch plate says "Michigan turns me on, Ohio State turns me off"

Found traditional pasties!

Hey Papa - have you seen these???

Yep, you really do peel them.  I am told the outside is like frozen jello and ice cream on the inside

Made plans to hook up the Bean

Faygo - a Michigan original

Toy Story


Getting into some tasty Kellogg's treats for with the movie

Saturday, June 28, 2014

We do believe in Fairies!

So have you missed us?  Were you afraid we were never coming back?  Have you been anxiously awaiting the latest update from the Gatchel crew?

Well fear not - we're back!  Actually, after having a FABULOUS time in Ohio with their aunts, the kiddos have been back since Wednesday.  But we've spent the past couple of days winding down from their trip and gearing up for the next week which is huge around here because, starting today, it's MICHIGAN WEEK!

You can only imagine that I've been looking forward to this for quite some time.  But don't expect a lot of lengthy blogging from me about Michigan as it is my intention to 'show' you Michigan (along with the kids) this week, not teach it.  If I mention something you want to know more about, by all means speak up, I've got PLENTY of Michigan research done.  I have spent a ton of time planning this out so we can see, do and experience as much as possible.

Since Noah (with Grant) is off at a birthday party this morning I thought Kayla and I would get a jump on a Michigan experience I had hand-picked for her.  My research caused me to stumble across the fact that there are Fairy Doors in Ann Arbor.  (For more info on who is behind the fairy doors, where they are, etc - check this out)  I knew we HAD to do this.  I wanted to make a stop in Ann Arbor anyway (um hello, how could we not pay homage to the most incredible University in the whole world?) and so this sealed the deal.  And I knew Noah would go along with us if he had to, but it was so fun making this a Mom and Daughter day.  I even made us fairy crowns!  

What a way to start off Michigan week!  I absolutely adore the city of Ann Arbor anyway (we hit the Farmer's Market and of course, campus, while we were there as well) and we had the best time.  If you go to the site, the Bean and I tracked down 7 of the 9 doors (#9 and #10 were a little far.  She really wanted to do #9, but halfway there decided it was more than she was up for.  And honestly, the girl walked EVERYWHERE without a complaint and pure joy and excitement.)  Too much fun!  

Stay tuned, lots going on, but until then...

Getting ready to go


Ready to head out

We made it to Ann Arbor!

Our first door! (At the Michigan Theater)

She wanted to leave something, so I pulled a flower off the pen I had in my purse - she was thrilled

Found another one!

Walking down the street we found a whole Fairy Village!

The door at Red Shoes

We liked this one

We were walking down the road and came across this one - not even on the map!  They're everywhere!!!

At Sweetwater's

We of course had to stop for a treat (she got their in shop made Ginger Ale - it was incredible)

Another door!

At "The Ark"

Found the one at "Found Gallery"

Um, hello, must take picture of the future alum!

My fairy was in need of sustenance, so a stop at Noodles & Company was in order

Don't worry - I didn't let her step on the M!  But we did make a trip down the Diag!