Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Great Lake Kite Festival

Calosoma Scrutator Beetle

Sunday, April 13, 2014

4th Annual E.U.P. Homeschool Fine Arts Festival

          On Friday, April 11, Autumn and Alaina participated in the 4th Annual E.U.P. Homeschool Fine Arts Festival. The evening started at 6:30p.m. with finger foods, socializing, and looking at all of the different art and school project submissions. Autumn submitted a sketchbook that she put a ton of effort into and a crocheted scarf, and Alaina submitted six of her ballerina drawings and a crocheted scarf. There were paintings, clay sculptures, reports, lapbooks, knit and crocheted items, hand sewn dresses, and all sorts of interesting things to looks at.

          At 7:30p.m. the talent portion of the evening began. Alaina and Autumn recited "The Nations of the World." Alaina had been practicing it about ten times a day for two weeks straight, and she got up on stage and totally nailed it. The sad part is that I didn't get to video tape her because I was busy throwing blow up globes into the audience for the crowd to bop around while the girls sang. It was really cute, (but the audience got a little noisier than I had anticipated...I think that idea destroyed any hopes of a "sophisticated" evening...what was I thinking??)

          Autumn recited "The Porcupine" by Roald Dahl. Steve and Alaina both played little parts in it, and she had the whole audience laughing. I was really proud of her performance. Well, I was proud of EVERY kid that got up on that stage. I was shaking with nerves for all of them just sitting in the audience. Other talents that were shared were karate, dance, tumbling, piano, singing, reciting bible verses, acting in skits, playing was an inspiring night, and a long night. The last performance was around 9:20p.m!

Here is Autumn reciting her poem:

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Our Weekend: April 5-6, 2014

            This Saturday we went skiing in Canada at Hiawatha. It was a bit windy in spots, but the sun was out and the tracks were fast because of the icy snow we received the day before. We managed to ski the entire Pinder system and still have time to take off our skis and explore a bit near the waterfall, which was still frozen.

            When we got back into the states we did something very naughty. We were all extremely hungry and so we decided to eat at West Pier. The girls both had bacon cheeseburgers, and Steve and I had the double cheeseburger.  These burgers are enormous, and considering we haven't purchased or cooked meat in months it was a very naughty thing to do.We also went for the fries and onion rings...  I still feel guilty about it (but they were really good).

            On Sunday we went to church, and when we got home the girls immediately put on their snow gear and went out to play in the woods. A little while later they were joined by two of their neighbor friends, who invited them to go snow tubing on the lake. Their dad had hooked up tubes to his snowmobile and was pulling them all the way around the lake, which he said was getting pretty slushy. This was definitely the highlight of their weekend.

           With temperatures predicted to be up into the 40's all week, the snow is going to melt fast. This could very well be the last weekend we ski this year. :(

Here Comes the Sun: Our Weekend, March 29-30, 2014

The Snowman that Shoveled our Driveway : April 4, 2014

Soon the Ice Will Be Gone: April 2, 2014

Friday, April 4, 2014

April Fools Day: 2014

        Steve woke the girls up early this morning upon their request. When I woke up I discovered it was because they had tricks to prep. The first one they got me with was the good old "liquid soap on the bedroom door handle" trick...Yuck! It was immediately followed by the "rubber band around the handle of the sink sprayer" trick. I got soaked while trying to make my morning cup of tea. Later in the bathroom, and for every bathroom break after, I discovered messages written to me on the toilet paper roll. Those girls were pretty sneaky!

        We got Steve tonight at supper time with a trick we had prepped yesterday. We had dyed homemade butter mint dough green and then shaped it into little pea sized balls and let it dry over night.We thought for some powdered sugar, coconut oil, mint oil, and green dye they looked pretty realistic! "Eat your vegetables!"

Monday, March 31, 2014

Our Weekend: March 28-30, 2014

          This weekend our family had such a good time. The sun was out, the temperatures were in the 30's to 40's, and we were outside for most of it. Friday night we all watched the movie "Matilda," to celebrate Alaina's completion of her first big chapter book read mostly by herself..."Matilda" by Roald Dahl. It was soooo funny, and the first movie we have all seen in a long time that made us genuinely laugh out loud.

          On Saturday we had waffles for breakfast and then drove over to Hiawatha Ski Trails (successfully this time....Steve asked if I could drive), and we skied A LOT! It was great, except for the fact that on the downhills the sunny areas were "sticky." That meant we would get going really fast where it was shady, and then hit a sunny patch and it would grab our skies and cause crashes. I caught a few on was a great learning experience about how to handle those conditions. Autumn decided to crouch down low, Alaina and I decided to snow plow, and Steve decided that next time we should all skate ski :)

          After skiing we attended the girl's Jackrabbit banquet. It was really fancy. The meal was served in three courses. The first was bread, salad, spaghetti and meatballs. The second was chicken, potatoes, and roasted vegetables. The final course was a crepe filled with ice cream, coffee, and tea. It was all delicious, but way too much! The entire time there were speakers and awards and door prize drawings and pictures and videos on display, Steve won a skiing water bottle pack, Autumn won a pair  of boot cleats, and I won some grip wax. The girls also received their medals and ribbons and certificates and did some craft projects. It was really enjoyable.

        On Sunday we went to church and had lunch at coffee hour afterwards. It was Spring Break this week for the public schools, so there weren't as many church members in attendance. That meant lots of super yummy food to sample. When we got home Alaina and I relaxed on the porch for a half an hour with Willow. We sunned ourselves and took a mini cat nap. Then, we all put on our lightened snow gear and went to the sledding hill. We made snowmen and rolled giant snowballs off the "cliffs." Steve went for a bike ride down the main road on his mountain bike. When we finally came back inside there was reading, and eating and relaxing.

       What  a wonderful weekend, and we all are getting the sense that Spring is on its way for sure, so we are inspired to keep our focus this coming week on enjoying the snow before it all melts .

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Sun Comes Out On Sunday, March 23, 2014

          This morning we slept in, and when we awoke we were glad to see a beautiful sunny sky. We attended church, and when we got home Steve decided that he would attempt to go for a really slow run. So we decided to accompany him around the blocks. The girls brought their kick-sled along and took turns pushing it. Steve said his chest still really hurt, but that his knee was o.k.
          When we got home our neighbor Brenda brought over the most amazing homemade bread and jelly. Everyone immediately dove right in because it was still warm, and there is nothing better than bread fresh from the oven.Isn't it beautiful....
            We spent the rest of the day catching up on housework, playing our guitars, reading, playing on the internet, and just relaxing. Normally we would have been out skiing on such a sunny day, but since our skis are still in Canada it forced us to do something different and take it easy. And, maybe that is exactly what we all needed anyways.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Steve's Car Accident

         Most of us are familiar with the saying "when it rains it pours." However, for Northern Michigan purposes I would like to describe my feelings about today this way: "When it blows."

        In other words, it seems as though we are having a month of bad luck, because today Steve got into a really bad car accident. Last night he announced a surprise that we would be going into Canada to do an all day ski at Hiawatha Trail System. However, this morning when we woke up we saw that it looked cold and dreary and windy. But, when Steve got home from his morning run he was still optimistic about us all going. "It won't be that bad in the woods...come on guys, in a few weeks we won't be able to ski anymore!"

     Even though we knew he had been planning on spending the whole day skiing with us and we were excited about skiing, for some reason the girls and I didn't want to go. We weren't buying that the weather would improve. Since we are able to view the weather conditions at our house almost every day and tend to notice patterns, we felt confident in our decision to stay home, believing that the wind would only increase as the day went on.

     So, Steve packed up his ski gear, and asked one more time if we were sure, (making us feel really guilty), and then headed out the door.

    First, he stopped at Soo Fireplace, because he needed to pick-up our repaired glass fireplace door. The week before we left for Florida we were re-stocking the fire when a funny shaped log turned as I placed it into the firebox,  and it somehow managed to crack the glass. It was a bit of a fiasco because we had to get the fire put out and toss burning logs into the snow. But, we ordered a new piece of glass and it had finally come in and was ready for us to install so we could stop freezing around here! Steve and I were REALLY excited to get it!

     Then, Steve crossed the border into Canada and began the quick drive to the ski trails. About 5 minutes before he got there, at a big intersection, as he was going through a green light, he was struck by a Ford Escape on his right front end. The Ford had blown right through a red light. Steve thinks he was traveling about 30mph and that the other car was probably going 50mph. The impact spun him around and totaled the car. It tore our ski box and roof racks off the top of the car. And, our new fireplace door that he had just picked up was smashed :(

     Steve didn't take a ride in the ambulance because he didn't know if our insurance would cover it, but the driver of the other car was taken away on a stretcher. Of course, Steve immediately called me and asked to come pick him up. The girls and I rushed around grabbing bridge toll, birth certificates, blankets etc. and then started the drive in. By this time the wind had really picked up, but I didn't know the roads would be as treacherous as we found them to be. Had I known, I would have left the girls with a neighbor. There were sections of 6 Mile rd. where I couldn't see for 20 seconds at a time, and we were terrified that WE would get into an accident on our way to pick up Steve. (Later on we found out that there were lots of accidents today and many roads were closed for periods of time because of the white-outs and drifting snow).

      When we arrived on the corner where the accident occurred we found Steve waiting with a police officer. He was still shaking; partially from adrenaline and partially from being cold. Our ski box was tossed up into the snow bank, and Steve had removed the girls car seats and any other necessities from the car. The car had already been towed away, and the tow truck company would have to come back and pick up our ski box and roof racks. Steve and I thanked the police officer and then drove down to the tow truck company and took a quick gander at our newly deceased car. Then we drove to the States, and Steve went to the E.R., because by this time he was complaining that his chest was really hurting him.

     It turns out he is pretty lucky, because chest x-rays show only deep bruising and no broken ribs. He also really bruised his knee when it jammed into the dashboard. I am sure he will wake up even more sore tomorrow, but we are all thankful that he probably won't suffer any long lasting effects from the accident. Let's hope the other driver has a similar outcome. 

     The car Steve was driving didn't have full insurance coverage on it, but the police officer reassured him that most likely the other driver's insurance will cover the car, and possibly even the belongings that were in it.

     So, I don't know if it was our intuition about the weather that saved the girls and I from also experiencing this accident, but we are thankful that we weren't in the car as well. We are also just feeling really sorry for "Daddy." Not only did he not get to ski, but he lost a lot more. He lost his work commuter car, his new fireplace door, and a way to transport our skis :(

     Let's hope these "bad winds" we seem to be experiencing this month shift soon and start blowing some better luck our way! Maybe our family is just in need of some good lessons on perspective, patience and thankfulness?

     With spring coming up Steve and I were talking about things we are looking forward to doing on the lake... like sailing. So, this week I think I will meditate a bit on these quotes to help us weather these storms of life:

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." - Louisa May Alcott

"We cannot control the wind, but we can direct the sail."

"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor."

(Autumn took this little snippet of video on our treacherous drive back home)...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring Has Sprung....A Leak!

     My calendar cheerfully announces that tomorrow is the first day of spring! My calendar is hopelessly optimistic. The bright cheery flowers blooming on it's glossy March page seem to mock me. I am starting to resent my calendar. It's always telling me what to know "spring forward," "fall backwards," "go to the dentist". In fact, I think it's kind of bossy if you ask me.Where was this calendar of mine printed anyways?....Hawaii???!!!
      If my calendar could take into account weather conditions (like the fact that heavy, wet snow was falling all day today, and we still have snow banks as high as our mailbox) then the "First Day of Spring" might not officially show up on it's pages until May. And, out of sympathy, it's bright flower picture would be replaced by something less insensitive, like comics,... for to survive these final days of our northern Michigan winter it is necessary to have a VERY good sense of humor:


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pressure Tank Breaks But Leads To Thanks, March 15-16th 2014

               Saturday morning was the girls last Jackrabbit session for the winter. It was Family Fun Day. We skied the Pinder, Sugar Bush, Mockingbird, and White Pine extensions at Hiawatha. The club had a bonfire going on the trail system as well as hotdogs and cookies and hot cocoa. It was really cold and a bit windy, but the sun was brilliant and made up for it.
               After skiing we headed to the Norris Center locker room so we could all quickly take showers, because we still had no running water. Then, it was off to the Family Fun Fair put on by CEF at Sault Middle School. We were amazed at how fun this was! They had a clown tying balloons, face painting, popcorn, crafts, and all sorts of carnival games and prizes. The girls were glad they went.
               We didn't go to church on Sunday because Steve desperately wanted Uncle Ben to help him under the house, and Ben was planning on leaving in the afternoon. When he came over they pulled out the pressure tank and the pipes and pressure switch that were connected to it. But, while they were wrenching on them trying to remove a pipe they wound up breaking the pressure tank. Fortunately, Aunt Amanda was up visiting and happened to be in town. So, Steve called the hardware store and ordered a new tank and Aunt Amanda delivered it. Uncle Ben stayed a bit longer, but then he had to head home, and the system was still not put back together. Plus, the main line still needed to be thawed using an ingenious idea we copied from YouTube (I will share the video at the end).
                Uncle Ben left his coveralls for us, and Steve asked if I could venture under the house with him and help. I really didn't want to, but I donned the Dickies and grabbed a headlamp and headed for the crawlspace unwillingly. My reasons for not being excited : First, it was really cold out. Second, I had never been under the house and was scared of it because there is literally only about a foot of head space (which means you have to army crawl in nasty powdery sand under cobwebby pipes all the way to the other side of the house). Third, I didn't think I would be much help. But, I mustered up my courage and crawled under there because I knew Steve had been suffering under there trying to figure out our problem all week.
                It was worse than I could have imagined. Immediately I wanted a breathing mask because the sandy dust was horrible, and I quickly understood why Steve had kept saying he didn't think he could fix the problem....there was no room to move. I wasn't much help, so I immediately climbed back out and went walking down our road in search of a neighbor who might know something about fitting pipes back together when you can't get any leverage.
             I happened to run into our neighbors John and Chris, who informed me that they had just had a pipe freeze under their house that morning, and that they could always help if we needed it. At that same moment, another neighbor named Steve, was out walking his dog and stopped by our house to welcome us back from our trip. The girls told him that Mom and Dad were under the house. About 15 minutes after I crawled back under the house to keep Steve company  I was pleasantly surprised to see John crawl up to us, and then a few minutes after that Steve crawling in with bright lights.
               To make a long story short, we wound up with one more neighbor under our house, named Dave. Steve said that they all had to push and pull on the pipe to get it fitted on to the other one, and that he couldn't have done it without their help. After, some issues getting the water running at proper flow, and then finally figuring out that the Culligan filter was completely clogged, we happily left the water running in our house all night. We all were never so happy to have good neighbors.....and water.
                Now flushing our toilets seems like a luxury, and don't get me started on showers! Laundry took me an entire day of work to catch back up on and the house is slowly working its way back to its former cleaner self. No more dishes stacking up. The whole week we had been filling up plastic jugs at our neighbor Roger's house and hauling them back over to our house. We just couldn't believe the amount of water we were using to perform the necessary tasks of keeping our toilets flushed etc. Next time we have a water outage we are going to use a bucket for bathroom needs! Also, we are going to swallow our pride and ask for help much sooner!
                It was going to cost $500 to have a plumber come out and do the job we needed, and even though we didn't save as much money as we had hoped, because we had to buy a new pressure tank, (and even though it was a huge hassle), we all learned a lot and feel closer to our neighbors and Uncle Ben because of it. So, in the end we have decided that it is better to get messy and tackle issues on our own than to get ripped off.

               So, in closing,  here is the YouTube video we watched in order to learn a method to thaw our main water line. I think Steve said he thawed 25 feet, and it took him at least a few hours. So, it works, and it is definitely the way we would do it if this ever happens again (which I hope it never does).

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Singing The Vacation Blues

          It has been two days since our family arrived home from a long vacation in Florida, and I feel as though we are all experiencing a bit of "vacation blues." It is really hard to jump back into the old routine... After vacation everything seems to be a bit less appealing. 

          I guess it doesn't help that upon our arrival home we discovered that our water wasn't running in the house. After some investigation under the house and an expensive visit from the "well pump man," we have discovered that the pipe between our well and our water tank has frozen. Yes, the pipe that is buried deep under the ground in the perma-frost. It was hard enough returning to ice, cold, and plenty of snow after days of sun and swimming, but this makes it even harder. Laundry is piling up, washing dishes and flushing toilets is a chore, and the thought of paying a plumber to unfreeze pipes is more frightening than the cost of Disney tickets!

          My Dad came along on our vacation and I am sure he is also suffering a similar depression from the new snow they just received downstate. 

          Each time we go to Florida we begin to appreciate the benefits of living in a warmer climate year round...the roads are smooth, the cars stay clean, and the people can exercise and keep their bodies lean. There is nothing to shovel, and little to rake, and no one goes to the tanning parlor to fake and bake. Sure there are more people and gators and sharks, and it's probably not safe to go walking in parks when it's dark....but someday I just might get sick of this cold, and grow some wings and let them unfold, I'll migrate to the south with the rest of that old flock, I'll become a snowbird...wouldn't that be a shock!

         Well, it would be a shock, because as unhappy as we are right now, in a few weeks spring will hopefully arrive, and we will quickly forget this painful winter, and be happy again to live in such a beautiful and amazing area. I love the weather in Florida, but I am not sure I could give up Michigan for it.

         In the meantime I will just watch our vacation video a little every day and reminisce until these vacation blues go away:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

           Early this morning the girls and I  read a really great graphic novel called "Bluffton," by Matt Phelan. It is a work of historical fiction about Buster Keaton. We immediately became more interested at the beginning when we found out that the story was set in Muskegon, Michigan.

           After finishing the book the girls wanted to see Buster Keaton in some of his performances. So, we found a nice documentary on YouTube, as well one of his more popular films titled "The General." They both got to watch these films while walking/running on the treadmill, (because it was too windy and cold for much outdoor recreation.) The film actually fit perfectly into our studies because we recently finished reading about the Civil War.

              Then, we had a brief surprise visit from our neighbor, Brenda, who brought over some homemade salsa. I immediately tried some, and it is delicious! Later on I had it with rice and black beans and it is a perfect pairing. Here is the recipe:

Zucchini Salsa

10 cups zucchini, peeled and shredded
4 onions chopped
2 green peppers chopped
2 red peppers chopped
1/4 cup pickling salt
1 tablespoon pickling salt
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 cups white vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon pepper
5 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces tomato paste


1. Day one: in a large bowl combine; Zucchini, onions, green pepper and the salt. Mix together, cover, and let stand overnight.

2. Day two: Rinse and drain mixture, put into a large pot, then add mustard, garlic, cumin, vinegar, brown sugar, pepper flakes, salt, cornstarch, nutmeg, pepper, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour into sterilized jars and seal. HOT WATER BATH FOR 10 MINUTES.

        After this, Autumn worked on her math on Khan Academy for 2 hours...she had a few issues with box and whisker plots. Meow! Alaina practiced addition and subtraction in a math workbook for an hour, and then she worked on her handwriting and spelling  in her workbook for another hour. She was a super worker today with a great attitude.

         When the mail lady came (something the girls anticipate each day) we all were excited to receive a letter and a package with more letters inside from our friends the Huebschmans, who are living in Germany. Autumn was especially excited when she saw that her postcard from Kenzie had a piece of the Berlin Wall attached to it! We had just read about that! Both of the girls jumped up and down when they saw that there was also chocolate in their package. Ritter-Sport. The chocolate factory is located in Waldenbuch, which I guess is really close to where our friends live in Stuttgart. "Why can't we live close to a chocolate factory?" they both whined. It is AMAZING chocolate, and seems to come in an endless variety of flavors! My favorite thing about it is that the square brick is divided into little squares that help assist in my efforts to not eat the whole thing in one go.

       So, with all of this excitement,  we immediately sat down and started working on writing letters to return to our friends. We wish we had more time to write in the day, and need to put that up higher on our list of priorities...Autumn has been talking about organizing a family newspaper to send to family and friends and pen-pals. I think that would be a really fun project for each month.

      While I prepared for Steve to get home from work (i.e. cleaning up all the messes of the day), I had the brilliant idea to have Alaina work on a crochet project while listening to "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," by Roald Dahl. She was delighted with this idea, and happily worked away on her first ever scarf.Autumn decided to use her free time to listen to an audiobook as well, "Matilda," by Roald Dahl, while she worked on an embroidery project. She learned to do a chain-stitch and a back-stitch. Even though Alaina had to call me into her room every 10 minutes to fix a mistake, I still enjoyed the hour of free time, and the quiet time it provided Steve when he arrived in the door.

We had "Dad's Famous Pancakes," for supper with lots of different toppings. Yes, Pancakes.

      Afterwards, while experimenting with an upcoming camera project we are interested in learning about, we were reminded of Uncle Craig's long exposure pictures where he uses lights to make "light grafitti." After a lot of fiddling with camera settings we finally got some pictures to turn out...and we had a lot of fun in the process.

Alaina and Autumn both went to bed listening to the ends of their audiobooks.

Jackrabbits Time Trial, 2014