Sep 13

Our big Summer vacation was a trip down to Tennessee to spend a week with Grandpa Harrie. It was the first time in Tennessee for Declan and Owen. Everybody had a great time. Amazingly, nothing got broken in Grandpa’s house!

Family in Tennessee

We made sure to get a picture with Grandpa before the week was over. Amazing that everybody smiled!

Owen's Power Dance at Grandpa's

Owen and Declan spent a lot of time doing dances like this. They were having fun!

We didn’t go on the trip with any plans as to what we would do while we were there. That’s pretty typical for us. Trying to stick to a schedule just seems like work. Where’s the vacation in that?

Grandpa’s house is a short walk away from a place called the Custard Cabin. It’s pretty good stuff. Since the weather was extremely hot while we were there we thought it would be great to walk up there in the evening when it started to cool off.

Walking the Custard Cabin 1

There's a big valley followed by a big hill in the road out of the neighborhood.

Walking to Custard Cabin 2

Walk up the big hill, turn left, and just a short way up the main road is that big cone calling you toward it.

Declan and Owen's Custard

They have a table just the right size for Declan and Owen out on the porch.

Kieran's Custard

Kieran sat with us at the porch counter.

One day we stopped at a road side stand selling peaches. The peaches were very good, but the reason I mention it is that the woman running the stand asked us “Have you been to the tree house?” Huh? What tree house? She told us there was a local minister that was building a huge tree house because God told him to. She said it’s open for people to climb though for no charge. When we got back to Grandpa’s house we looked it up on the Internet. It looked really impressive so we decided to check it out the next day. It’s called The Minister’s Tree House. Here are some pictures.

Minister's Tree House - The Chapel

There's a chapel inside where they hold church services some Sundays.

Minister's Tree House - The Main Stairway

This is the main stairway that spirals all the way up to the top. That's 10 levels up. Other stairs are located on various levels.

Minister's Tree House - The Walkway

Most of the structure has walkways around the various levels like this one.

Minister's Tree House - Looking Down at Owen & Mom

Declan and I were not all the way to the top, but we were looking down at Owen and his Mom.

Minister's Tree House - Family at the Top

If you look real close you can see Linda, Kieran, Declan, and Owen looking out from the top floor window.

Minister's Tree House - Closeup on Family at the Top

Add a little zoom and you can see them all looking down at me.

Minister's Tree House - View Through the Trees

I tried to capture the whole thing, but it's hard to see it through the trees from this side.

Minister's Tree House - View From The Front

When you go around to the front (or is it the back) you can stand back and really get blown away by the size of this tree house.

If you get the chance to visit Crossville, it’s worth a stop at the tree house. You’ll be impressed.

They recently opened a brand new public library in Crossville. We like libraries so, of course, we had to check it out. It’s a really nice place.

Crossville Library

The new Crossville Public Library

You can sit out on that balcony and read in a rocking chair. At least if it’s cooler than it was when we were there. The children’s department has a round area where they’ve setup former carousel animals and carts and things that the kids thought was great.

Crossville Library Carousel Declan

Declan on the carousel pig

Crossville Library Carousel Owen

Owen on the carousel horse

Cumberland Mountain State Park isn’t too far from Grandpa’s house so we decided to go hiking one day.

Cumberland Mountain State Park Byrd Lake

This is the lake created by the bridge/dam in the park.

Cumberland Mountain State Park Bridge

This is the bridge/dam that creates the lake.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking 1

Setting out on our hike.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking 2

The boys stopping at the stream on the trail.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking Cable Bridge

There's a cable bridge at the far end of the trail that we hiked. The twins were a little freaked out by this.

Cumberland Mountain State Park - Hiking Rock Outcropping

There were several of these large overhanging rock formations along the trail. The Tennessee rocks are just amazing.

We have cousins that live closer to Nashville and we decided that we needed to get over to visit them on this trip. We spent the day with them and their new baby. It’s the third girl for them.

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Linda and Makenzie

Linda got her baby fix with Makenzie

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Kieran and Makenzie

Kieran wanted to hold Makenzie as much as possible

Visiting Sarah and Justin - Proud Parents

Had to get a shot of the proud parents with the new little one

We had a lot of fun on our trip. The drive there and back got a little long at times, but everybody survived. Grandpa was happy to have us and it sure was nice getting to see him for an extended time. Hopefully t won’t be so long before the next trip!

Aug 21

Going through the checkout lane today we spotted individual 20 ounce bottles of Mountain Dew Throwback.  When the inevitable “Can we get some?!” was uttered, I decided it might be fun to do a little taste test.  So we got a bottle of the throwback formula and a bottle of the current day formula.

Two Dews

Original Recipe Throwback on the left. Current day recipe on the right.

The label on the throwback bottle is certainly more interesting than the new one.  The main difference between the two drinks is how they’re sweetened.  The current day recipe uses high fructose corn syrup, the ubiquitous, highly processed goo that seems to be everywhere today.  The throwback recipe uses sugar.  Imagine that!

All three boys took part in the test along with me.  Everybody got a couple of ounces of each of the drinks placed in front of them.  I probably shouldn’t have told them which was which, but they knew.  In the picture the throwback is in the red cup.  The modern formula is in whatever the other cup is.

Taste Testers Are Ready

Owen, Declan, and Kieran are ready for the taste test

Everybody drank the throwback first.  The feeling among the boys was that the throwback was sweeter.  It was their unanimous choice.  I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two.  After the first couple of drinks I just sensed no difference.  After another try of each I finally noticed a subtle difference.  For me, as soon as I swallowed the current formula the flavor was pretty much done.  With the throwback formula it seemed that the flavor stayed with me longer.  The sugar must do a better job of coating the tongue.  That’s my theory.

The Dews Appear the Same

Can you tell which Mountain Dew is which?

So  there you have it.  The four of us all felt that Mountain Dew Throwback is better than the modern formula.  However, I still prefer Diet Mountain Dew to both of them.

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Aug 21

On July 31st we headed over to Northville.  The occasion was an engagement party for my cousin Carissa.  I’ve sent the pictures I took of the happy couple and the games that were played during the party off to them.  What I’d like to share here is a couple of pictures of the younger cousins.

Lots of Cousins

Lauren and Kieran are the oldest in the back. Megan, Owen, Declan, Rachael, and Logan are on the bench.

Cousins Getting Squirmy

I tried to get a couple of pictures. By this one the squirmies had already begun

It was fun watching them play together.  If you are in the Northville area and you need a park for an outdoor party, you should look into ITC Community Sports Park.  It’s a Novi park with a Northville address.  I’m confused.

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Aug 04

We’ve had an ice cream maker for quite a while.  It’s pretty easy to use.  You keep the cold portion of it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.  Then you mix up the ingredients, pour them into the machine, and turn it on.  It churns the mix into a sort of soft serve consistency.  Then you put it into the freezer to set for a couple hours before eating.

That cold part has sat unused in our freezer for quite a long time.  Recently it finally came out.  Declan and Owen were excited to help make the ice cream!  Linda helped them mix up a vanilla ice cream base.  Then while it was churning, they both got to add a little packet of mini M&Ms to it.  It was pretty yummy.

Owen Making Ice Cream

Owen adds his M&Ms to the mix

Declan Making Ice Cream

Declan adds his M&Ms to the mix

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Jun 24

Last Saturday, the day before Father’s Day, Linda worked all day.  So the boys and I went into Dexter to visit her in the late afternoon.  We finally got a chance to visit Warrior Creek Park which is right behind the Dexter District Library.  After that we went to the Dexter Pub for a Father’s Day dinner, just a little early.  A nice day in a nice place with the family!

Declan Sticking it to the Creek

Declan spent most of his time in the park trying to throw sticks into Mill Creek

Kieran & Owen on the Playground

Kieran and Owen preferred to play on the playground equipment

Declan's Feather

Declan was excited to find a feather

Dexter District Library From the Park

This is the Dexter District Library from the park

Mill Creek Winding Through Dexter

Mill Creek winds through the park behind the Dexter library

Owen's Puppet Show

Owen put on a brief puppet show for Declan and I at the library

Twin Trouble

Owen and Declan hamming it up in the park

Ground Hog

Linda spotted this little critter walking along the woods in the park. I think it's a ground hog.

Kieran Airborn

Kieran jumping off the swing - caught in midair

Jun 12

Declan and Owen are getting into riding bikes.  They’re using training wheels, but they’re really getting around.  They can even use the brakes before they go into the street at the bottom of our driveway hill.

Declan On His Bike

Declan is on Kieran's old bike

Owen On His Bike

Owen is on the new bike we got this year

Both Boys Riding Away

Declan and Owen are leaving the photographer in the dust

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May 29

Linda wanted to get a picture of the two kinds of flowers that are blooming out front.  She captured a little more than that.  Hmmmm…

Front Flowers

Two kinds of flowers and two boys

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May 18

So you remember those garden beds?  Yeah, they’re not done yet.  However, when she realized she was actually going to have a garden this year Linda placed an order from the Burpee catalog her Mom gave her.  She ordered eggplant, squash, a couple varieties of tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and sunflowers.

She also got this nifty seed starter thingy.  It came with soil tablets.  Put one in each of the little compartments, add water, and like magic it expands to fill the compartment.  Actually, that’s a little weird.  Anyway, Declan and Owen were eager to help get the seeds into the wonder soil.

Since these pictures were taken, the plants have been growing like crazy.  In fact, if the weather and my schedule don’t let me get those garden beds finished soon, the plants may just take over the house.  Yikes.

Starting Garden Plants 1

Starting Garden Plants 2

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May 17

You have to love a small town.  We were in Reed City, our favorite small town, and we were invited by the town undertaker to bring the kids out to his farm to see the animals.  Since it’s a small town, Grandpa knew where the Pruitts live.  So off we went.

The Pruitts of Pruitt Livingston Funeral Home have quite an operation.  What started with a single cow has turned into a herd of them.  They also have a donkey and a couple of horses.  The kids loved the animals.  They got to pet a few of them including the bull.  They fed them some treats too.

You never know what’ll happen in a small town.

Kieran Feeding a Cow

Kieran is reaching out to give her a treat

Kieran and Declan in a trough

They're standing in the only spot that isn't muddy on that side of the fence

Kieran Feeding the Bull

The bull only nibbled on his hand a little bit

The Pruitt Bull

That's Mrs. Pruitt with her bull

Some of the Herd

That's not a barn for the cows. They're outside all the time.

Feeding the Horses 1

The boys gave treats to the horses and donkey too

Feeding the Horses 2

Mrs. Pruitt is telling us something about her horse

Just Stick Your Hand Out There

All of the boys were a little reluctant to stick their hands out toward those big mouths, but the took a chance

May 17

Declan and Owen had to pack their backpacks for a trip to Grandpa’s house in Reed City.  So why not take pictures?

They Look Like They Like Each Other

They're ready to hit the road and they might get along during the trip

Backpacks for a Trip to Grandmas

Declan and Owen with their brother and backpacks packed for a trip to Grandpas

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