Jun 30

Earlier this month Linda and I had a weekend away to celebrate her birthday.  (Thanks, Beth!)  We went to the little town of Saugatuck, Michigan.  It’s the first time we have even been there.

We spent two nights at the Twin Gables Inn.  The room was very nice and the people were friendly.  It’s a bed and breakfast inn and the breakfast was good both days.  We didn’t start our days hungry.

Saugatuck is known for it’s art.  It’s a small town, but the amount of art is large.  We checked out a lot of it.  There were galleries dedicated to single artists, art co-ops with their local members work on display, larger stores with art from different areas of the country, and one that we decided was of the “starving artist” variety.

Downtown is meant for tourists.  In addition to the art galleries there is an eclectic collection of shops.  We had a look at a lot of them.  Some of it was practical, some of it was not.  Taking it all in made for a fun weekend together.

Do you know what a chain ferry is?  I didn’t.  According to the information we saw in town, the only operating chain ferry in the country is in Saugatuck.  There’s a chain stretched across the Kalamazoo river in downtown.  When the ferry is at either side, the chain is laying on the bottom of the river so boats can pass over it.  When somebody turns the crank on the ferry, it is pulled long that chain to the other side of the river.  We didn’t ride it, but it’s fun to watch.  Especially when they are cranking fast and furious to try and get out of the way of busy river traffic.

We took our bikes along with us.  Saturday morning we wanted to put them to use.  So we rode around the lake and over the river to Mount Baldhead.  Since this is Michigan, it isn’t really a mountain.  It’s 282 wooden steps that you can climb to a very scenic spot overlooking town.  The chain ferry would have gotten us their quicker, but we had bikes so we rode.  Once you get to the top you can go down the sand dunes on the other side and arrive at Oval Beach on Lake Michigan.  We didn’t want to do that because it would have involved going back up those dunes.  They’re pretty steep.  However, we found a hiking trail along the top and headed out along it.  It ends at a very nice overlook on Oval Beach and the big lake.  The lake breeze is always great.

Here are some pictures from our mountain adventure.

Steps Going Up

This is the 282 steps of Mt. Baldhead from the bottom.

On The Trail

Heading out along the hiking trail


See the snake we encountered along the trail?

Oval Beach Overlook

After about a half-mile we came to the end of the trail and a beautiful view of Lake Michigan.

Linda On The Trail


Brian On The Trail

This strange tree was along the trail.

Linda With Saugatuck in the Background

Linda with Saugatuck behind her.

Stairs From The Top

This is the view looking down the stairs. It’s a long way down.

Mt. Baldhead From Town

This is what Mt. Baldhead looks like from across the river in town.

If you get the chance to visit Saugatuck, I’d recommend it.  It’s perfect for a weekend trip.

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Oct 24

Owen has a stuffed kitty named Candy Corn.  He decided one day that it was soon to be Candy Corn’s birthday.  When he mentioned that he needed a birthday present Linda suggested they could make some treats.

Out came the playdough!  I think the results were very impressive.  Owen was thrilled with the results as well as the time with mom.

Candy Corn's Birthday Treats

Candy corn, and fishies for a kitty's treats. Plus a bowl to put them in.

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Aug 09

Linda returned home on July 15th and noticed this turtle walking on our driveway.  So the whole family had to check it out.  After we all had a look we put him in a box and walked him over to the pond across the street.  When we released him there he scurried into the water pretty quickly.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 1

When most of us saw him he was partway under the car in the driveway.

Baby Turtle in our Driveway 2

He looks a little disgusted doesn't he?

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May 26

On Easter while Linda had the boys in a photo taking mood and me with the camera she wanted pictures with each of them.

Mom and Kieran

She almost couldn't convince Kieran to pose

Mom and Owen

Owen knows how to strike a pose

Mom and Declan

Declan's always ready for a picture

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May 25

Easter was not a huge to do this year.  Just a very nice meal enjoyed by a happy family.  That’s enough isn’t it?

Easter Dinner

Owen appears to be very happy about the dinner Mom made for Easter

Here’s the centerpiece Linda created for the dining room.

Easter Centerpiece

Candles, flowers, and eggs - the colored and the peanut butter kind

It’s not often that all of us guys put on something that isn’t a t-shirt.  So when it happens there must be a picture.

All Dressed Up For Easter

Family photo from Easter 2011

Thanks to this picture I finally replaced the old banner image for this site.  This one is much better.  Hope you had a nice Easter.

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Oct 02

We took a little vacation to Ludington over the Labor Day weekend. Linda and I used to visit Ludington quite a bit. Even after Kieran was born we went a number of times. We even camped in the state park back then. However, we haven’t been back to Ludington for a stay since we became a family of five. It was nice to be back!

We surrounded our one night in Ludington with nights in Reed City. So we headed up to Reed City on Friday night. We had dinner at home and then hit the road. We thought maybe Declan and Owen would sleep in the car if we got a later start. That didn’t work all that well, but it was worth a try. Saturday we got ourselves over to Wrights Bake Shop for breakfast. We got enough to take with us for the next day too. It’s always great to visit Wrights!

We made the hour drive to Ludington and got there around lunch time.  What to do for lunch?!  Linda got a brilliant idea.  She suggested we got to Bortell’s.  If you ever go to Ludington during the Summer you must eat at Bortells.  We were introduced to it by the proprietors of Bed and Breakfast at Ludington where we used to stay.  It’s a little way out of town, but quite popular.  They do seafood.  You pick what you want from their display case, then they take it out and fry it up right in front of you.  Oh it is good!

Bortells Fisheries

Bortells is on South Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan outside Ludington. There isn't much parking in the lot.

Bortells Street Parking

Because Bortells is so popular, there are usually cars parked along the road.

Bortells Outdoor Seating

There is no inside seating at Bortells. If you want to sit down and eat, there are picnic tables outside.

Bortells Food

We got two orders of whitefish, an order of shrimp, an order of fried mushrooms, and an order of fries. Yum!

Bortells Fish Sign

Something's fishy

Since there are five of us these days, our favorite B&B isn’t as good an option any more.  So we opted to rent a cottage for the night.  The Lakeview Cottages owners were nice enough to rent to us for a single night at the last minute.  It was the end of the season so they helped us out.  Our cottage (#3) was nice.  It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside it’s good.  The kids weren’t sure about the lack of TV, but that’s just fine for Linda and I.  It does have Wifi which works for the two of us.

Lakeview Cottages Sign

Our cottage was actually the back portion of this corner building.

Kids at Lakeview Cottage #3

Here are the boys outside our cottage door.

After we got our stuff unloaded we walked a couple of blocks down to Stearns Park.  That’s the city’s lakefront park.  The wind was pretty strong, and it had been for a while.  It had blown lots of sand off the beach across the parking lot into the grassy part of the park.  It was also causing big waves that were crashing up over the north breakwater.  We thought it was crazy that there were actually people out on the breakwater while those waves were present.  Our common sense was right.  On Monday, after we’d returned home, a tourist was out on the breakwater and a big wave swept him right off into the lake and he drowned.  You should never underestimate the power of the lake!

Waves Over the Ludington North Breakwater

The waves are crashing over the breakwater and common sense is apparently absent.

Stearns Park Sky

I thought the sky was amazing.

Stearns Park Sand

Just a small sample of the sand blown off the beach. The city spent the next week putting it back.

After we walked the length of the park we were at Ludington Avenue.  So we headed up the street and checked out some of the shops.  It didn’t take long for the kids to get bored with that.  We had dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Company.  A walk in the dark back to our cottage was fun.  When the kids weren’t being raucous we could hear Lake Michigan a couple of blocks away.

Sunday was Big Sable Point day.  We had the Wrights goodies that we brought with us for breakfast, picked up some lunch at Subway, and then drove out to Ludington State Park.  We parked at the Lake Michigan beach and started our walk to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse.  To get to the light you either have to walk along the beach or a state park road.  You cannot drive out to it.  The walk along the beach is much more fun so we do that.  On the way out there was much “I cannot walk one more step” heard from the children.  It got better once we walked far enough for the top of the lighthouse to come into view.

Walk to Big Sable Point 1

Kieran and Mom had lots to talk about on the way to the lighthouse. You can just see the top of it over the grass.

Walk to Big Sable Point 2

A little further down the beach, now it looks like a lighthouse.

Walk to Big Sable Point 3

Now the color bands are more visible. The kids were getting more excited at this point.

Walk to Big Sable Point 4

The fog signal is visible on the left now.

Walk to Big Sable Point 5

Keepers quarters starting to rise out of the grass.

Looking Up Big Sable Point Lighthouse

This view gives quite a different perspective. I didn't realize somebody was looking down at me until after I took the picture.

Bottom of the Big Sable Stairs

We paid the keepers and climbed those stairs to the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse - At the Top

Hold on to your hats! It's windy up at the top of the lighthouse.

Lake View From Big Sable Lighthouse

Looking toward the lake from the top of the lighthouse. The replica fog signal structure doesn't actually have a fog signal in it.

Behind the Big Sable Lighthouse

This is the view behind the lighthouse from up top.

Big Sable Keepers Quarters From Above

Looking down at the Keepers Quarters from the top of the lighthouse.

Looking Back Where We Came From Atop Lighthouse

This is the view back in the direction we came from.

Ludington State Park Beach Near Lighthouse

Looking down the beach we walk to get to the lighthouse.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse Lunch

We sat down for lunch in the shadow of the tower, but the shadow moved.

Big Sable Lighthouse in the Sun's Glow

From the shadow of the tower the sun cast a bright glow from behind the top of the tower.

Big Sable Point Outhouse

There's no bathroom in the Keeper's Quarters, but there is a very fancy outhouse.

Big Sable Big Tree Stump

This huge tree stump is between the lighthouse and the outhouse

Freighter and Sail Boats

As we started to walk back from Big Sable Lighthouse I spotted this out on the lake.

Playing in the Sand

On the way back from the lighthouse everybody eventually removed their shoes and walked close along the water.

Lake Michigan Sand Play

Just can't resist the sand.

Our Beach Walking Kite

One of us was holding this kite for our walk out and back to the lighthouse. There's no better place to fly a kite.

It was a beautiful day to walk along the water.  The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or cold.

We made it back to Reed City for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa who came up that day.  After a nice evening with them the kids slept well.  The fresh air and walking helps with that.  Monday it was time to head home.  It was a short vacation, but a great end to the Summer.

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 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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Jul 21

Just a couple of quick pictures.  I took the camera outside to get a picture of the current state of the garden.  As I went out I spotted the rose plant near the front door.  So I thought I’d try to take one of those “closeup” pictures.  I’m not sure the focus is right.


My first attempt at a flower closeup

After a couple of tries in the front I went around back to get the garden.  I even got the gardener as a bonus!

Gardener and Her Garden

Linda tends her garden

Since this picture was taken, the cages have gone around the tomato plants to keep them from falling over.  It’s looking pretty good!

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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

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