Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

We are on vacation...up north. Up north - where all is calm and relaxing. The beach is perfect, the pace is slow, the ice cream is to die for.

There are no stop lights in the whole county. Fast food restaurants do not exist. The stores are quaint and lovable. The roads are lined with grape vine fields and cherry trees. Every few miles there is a road side stand selling cherries and raspberries with a little box to put your money in.

This place is summer to me. I've been coming here each summer since 1987. 24 years...the land stays the same while I age.

Today we got to witness the quirky fun parade in town that almost seems to have a cult following. As I walked to the grocery store at 8 am I noticed that chairs were already put out to hold a spot for the 3 pm parade. You would think that would be a symbol for a do not miss event and that is miss it would be unpatriotic. It would be a slap in the face of the county of Leelanau. For this parade truly highlights all things that matter...

Like the snow plow...

And the septic company...

And the Fishtown Tap Dancing School and Bait Shop...

We were so fortunate to get a performance right in front of us. Which got this reaction from my very hard to please father...who wasn't quite sure what to make of it all...

The kids had to work for their candy this year since they were neck and neck with a whole slew of kids who were decked out in red, white, and blue. The competitors were aggressive and started the 2010 "war of the Toostie Roll". Just look at them with their acquired yellow cups...vultures.

Elise had a good time. She clapped for both the democrats and the republicans, danced to the kazoo band, and had a Disney flashback when the Huntington Bank mascot walked by.

So, the 4th of July 2010 was perfect. A day at the beach, a great cheesy parade, and a hefty dose of ice cream. Tomorrow is road side cherry stand day!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Shirtless Spaghetti Night

Straight from the chair to the tub!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Last evening Maria lost her front tooth. Both of them have been loose for awhile since she was reluctant to hurry them along. Since losing the first one, the other one has migrated to the middle. She looks hilarious!! I think the tooth fairy is going to make a repeat visit soon!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Elise the Artist

~Picasso in Training~

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Recipe Time

We've been working around the house - trying to catch up on 14 months of clutter and neglect.

So, until our project "Home Recovery" is complete, I'm going to side track you with a yummy recipe you should try. I cooked it the other night and it was the best grilled chicken I've ever made.


2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tb. liquid smoke
2 Tb. spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons garlic powder
4 chicken breasts

I pounded the chicken breasts flat and cut them into several pieces each. Then I marinaded the chicken with the above ingredients for 4 hours in the fridge. I popped them onto a hot grill until they were cooked. Serious yum. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Disney Cruise

The Disney Cruise - fun, but short. And that was just fine since we had just hit 5 days of Disney pretty hard and had a 19 month old with us. We were ready for relaxing, having some fun in the sun, and to continue our pigging out. I think we accomplished 2 out of 3.

The room was awesome. It had much more room than I ever imagined with 2 bathrooms (one with a toilet and sink, and another with a bathtub and sink), lots of storage space, and a nice veranda with chairs and a table. Our room guy came twice a day to clean, leave chocolates, make towels into animals, and turn down our beds. They say a cruise is the only vacation where the women doesn't have to work and I just about believe it.

The food was very good. We didn't stuff ourselves too crazy.

The kids loved the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab. We dropped them off many times to play, do activites, and see characters. Elise went to Flounder's Nursery - a day care for children 3 and under. She was so busy there, she never took a nap.

The best part of the cruise was Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. We spent the whole there. First we all went swimming at the family beach.

Here is the Black Pearl from the Pirates in the Caribbean movie. Very cool details are on it - every window is the mouth of a face.

The pools on the ship were a lot of fun. Maria loved the Mickey Pool, and Elise had a great time at the splash area.
We can't wait to go back. Just gotta save up some money for it...we seem to be out!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

More Disney

I love watching the kids grow through our Disney trips. Each time, they are interested in different things and want to try new stuff.

This year for Luke, it was the year of the dinosaur. He tried the scariest (so I've heard) ride called Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. Cross that off the list.

He also enjoyed the Boneyard there and would have stayed there digging for fossils all day if I had let him.

Luke also got up the nerve for the Tower of Terror (once). He questioned us for hours afterward about The Twilight Zone.

Luke's all-time classic favorites are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Thunder Mountain Railroad. He is a roller coaster kid!

Maria got real brave this time and went on Thunder Mountain Railroad. After the first ride, I wasn't sure she'd do it again, but she ended up riding it 6 times.

One thing Maria wouldn't go on was Toy Story Mania, which is one of my favorites. She does not like the 3-D stuff, and when stuff explodes in her face, she is not happy.

Elise got to try Peter Pan, It's a Small World, Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Winnie the Pooh, and Aladdin's Magic Carpet ride. She rode the Triceratops Twirl at Animal Kingdom and saw lots of shows. The rest of her time was spent in the stroller.

New for Chris this year was Splash Mountain. He said it was stinky. I was thrilled I got out of it.

New for me this year was the Primeval Whirl. It was a crazy doomsday spinning roller coaster. Too fun!

The most special new thing we did this year was take the kids to the barber shop on Main Street. Elise got her first haircut there. They distracted her with stickers and toys and chopped away those long bangs. She got a sassy new look along with a cute set of mouse ears!

The barber shop also has some fun hair paint. Luke and Maria wanted in on the action. Luke's was pretty cool, but Maria's was over the top (as per her request.) This stuff takes a long time to dry, and an even longer time to wash out. So it was a one time thing for us...I think.

(Luke is thinking, "Can we go ride Space Mountain now??)

Maria getting her pixie dust.

By the end of the day, Maria had her hair gooed up and her face painted. She was the epitome of Disney Flair.
So, that is it for the parks! On to the cruise...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

I could not think of a better place to celebrate Mother's Day than at Disney World. It beats Chuck E. Cheese big time (for those of you who have been reading since last Mother's Day.)

We started the day at Hollywood Studios (my least favorite of the 4 theme parks.) Knowing it would be a short day there (because of our lack of interest) I planned for a big time dinner - The Hoop-Dee-Doo.

We took a bus from the theme park to Fort Wilderness, a campground in Disney World. That place is so huge, we had to take an internal bus to get to the other side of it for dinner. We got there right on time and checked in.

Luke was in a mood, but after some lizard chasing while we waited for the restaurant to open, he perked up slightly. He was not about to be entertained, and certainly intended to be a sour-puss.

He had no power. The performers of the dinner show had us laughing so hard we were nearly in tears. I had no idea the song "The Hokey Pokey" could be so funny.

We were sitting right up next to the stage which made us in the direct line of fire for heckling. Luke got the worst of it. One lady took a real liking to Luke and that got to be a hilarious tangent for the show.

He didn't realize he had received one of these:

So the entertainment was great, but how was the food? Awesome~! All of my favorites - fried chicken, BBQ ribs, baked beans, cornbread, salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. All served on metal plates (great for babies who love to toss their dishes!)

Sangria and beer were included in the price. That's a Disney-unusual. But of course, this dinner didn't come cheap, as you can imagine. It takes 2 sit down dinner credits if using the dining plan. We charged our bill to our credit card and it put us out about $180 with tip. You're damn right I'm drinking sangria.

Hands-down this was our favorite memory from our trip. I would do it again in a heart beat. In fact, I am making ribs for dinner tonight, per Luke's request. I think a family hokey pokey is in order!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eating at Disney

I love eating at Disney. But I hate paying Disney prices. You really don't go there on vacation to save money you suck it up and charge it to the room.

Or you can get the Disney Dining Plan. I have a love/hate relationship with this though. Essentially, you pay upfront for your food, and get a set amount of meals with it. For us, it was $40 a day for a grown up and $10 for a kid. That got us one snack (pretty much anything under $5), one counter service meal (usually between $10 - $15), and one sit down meal (these can run anywhere from $15 - $40.) If you use it well, you can save a lot of money.

The one thing I hate about the sit down meals (whether using the dining plan or paying out of pocket) is that you have to make your reservations months in advance (180 days at the earliest.) So, you really have to know which park you are going to be at on which day. And then you have to guess about when people in your family are going to be hungry, not taking a nap, and not outrageously cranky.

This trip went pretty we for us with meals. No one went hungry, and only one time did the food go to waste.

Here were my favorites on this trip:

Boma - This was at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We ate here for dinner and for breakfast. Lots of yummy African type food, but normal enough for the kids to eat. It's a buffet, so for us that meant Chris and I practically eating separately since either he or myself had to run up for food for the kids. The desserts were delish - especially those zebra domes!

Liberty Tree Tavern - This is in the Magic Kingdom and was hands down our favorite meal. For one, it was served family style so we didn't have to keep running up to a buffet. But, mostly we loved it for the food - Thanksgiving Dinner! We had rolls with honey butter, salad, turkey, ham, roast beef, stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and chesse, green beans, and the apple crisp with ice cream. Perfect!

The Crystal Palace and Askerhaus were places that Maria went to "on dates" with Chris and I. The Crystal Palace, in Magic Kingdom is always Chris' favorite. The characters from Winnie the Pooh come around to visit each table and the food is always classic and delicious.

I took Maria to Askerhaus for breakfast (which I enjoyed much more than a dinner there previously.) There the princess characters come around to chat and take pictures. I fell in love with the potato casserole.

Now, here is the biggest disappointment for us: Le Cellier at Epcot. This is the most sought after reservation in all of Epcot, if not all of Disney. I was thrilled to have landed one here. This meal was the one I anticipated the most. What could be better than pretzel bread, cheese soup, and steak?

To be fair, most of the problems here were our fault. We had a cranky baby and an even crankier Luke. No one was really hungry. Most of our food had to be boxed up to go so we could get our circus show out of there. We skipped dessert (which I was really looking forward to - maple creme brulee.) The server was excellent though. But the food was nothing that really made us feel like we need to go back.

Tomorrow, I will highlight the most incredible dining "experience" we had all week.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I am a Disney addict. I spent almost a year planning out this trip and the minute I got home, I got on the computer to check out prices for the next time. I'm insane - I know.

Each time we go it is different. (Our spoiled children have been there 4 times in 3 years.) We try new places to eat. We ride different rides and see different shows. We now know the things we avoid to streamline our days.

So, for the next few times I write, I am going to review our trip. That will help me decompress...and get me excited for next time.

This year, with all of the military discounts going on, we decided to splurge and stay at a deluxe resort. We picked The Animal Kingdom Lodge (over the one I wanted which was The Wilderness Lodge...maybe next time!)

For previous trips we've stayed at a value resort (All-Star Movies) and a moderate (Port Orleans Riverside). Being at a deluxe was a big step up! Inside halls, elevators, a great pool, a fitness center, a balcony, and a total luxurious feel. It was very nice.

The lobby was impressive. African music was playing and the smell of a nice wood burning fire filled the large room. We found a hidden Mickey on one of the chandeliers. Can you find it?

Here is the view out of our window. It was very relaxing to sit on the balcony and watch all of the animals doing their thing!

We'd love to stay here again someday. But there are so many other great places to stay! Plus, there is one downside to this resort - it is very far away from all of the parks (except Animal Kingdom) so traveling on buses to get everywhere seemed to take a long time.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 427 - The Big Day

Today is the big day. Chris is driving his last few hours as I write this. Pretty soon, all will be right with the world again...well, at least some things.

This has been quite the weird week. Chris' Dad was in the hospital all week. I'm so glad that Chris was there to help with that. His Dad is home now, and hopefully is getting back up to speed.

Then there is me. I've had blood drawn this week for my mysterious ailments. My hands are in so much pain I can't even open a bottle of water. Today is day 5 of that. It makes me a little nervous to be leaving on a vacation knowing that I'm not right, but Disney is now or never. It will be a good distraction, and maybe even a cure.

Then there is the issue of my new glasses. On Monday when I picked them up and put them on and could tell right away that they weren't right. The nice lady at the office said to give my eyes some time to adjust. After a few hours, I called again...and said again that I'm not sure that they are right. She said to give it a couple of days. So today, day 4, I still couldn't see. I called again and insisted that I come in to get rechecked. Another nice lady put me on hold, checked my file, and told me that yes, there was a mistake and they would reorder my glasses in the right prescription. After fuming about that for a bit, I decided to cancel the order, return the original ones and get my $400 back. My eyes are happy back in my old glasses.

Chris is getting here just in time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 421 - Cinnamon Rolls and Toilet Seats

The other night I made cinnamon rolls. I still haven't decided if it was worth all of the fuss. I got the dough to rise and I had fun making them. But, my taste expectations were higher. Maybe it was the frosting. (I only used powered sugar and milk, even though I had a whole box of cream cheese in the fridge begging to be a part of it all.)

But, it was a good first try. And cost wise, it was pretty cheap. I got 3 pans made for about $2.50. However, the kids didn't eat them up like they do the Pillsbury ones...and those take only 15 minutes start to finish...hmmm...

In other news, this seems to be the year of the toilet. You already know that I am close to being certified as a professional plunger. Well, now I can add "toilet seat changer" to my list of reluctant accomplishments. It took me longer than expected, because "lefty loosy, righty tighty means crazy things when you are upside down hugging a toilet. Oh well, I did it. We are now, for the moment, up to 3 working toilets.

And we are also in the final countdown.

6 days until Chris gets home.
7 days until we leave for vacation.

That means I only have to take out the trash one more time!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 417 - My Day Off

Today is Monday! No kids! Did I sit around watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. Ha!

I kicked butt today though.

After doing a sort through all of the baby's clothes and Maria's old clothes (which meant emptying numerous bins and drawers) I ended up with a huge pile of clothes tagged and boxed for the garage sale, a huge pile for the donation center, and nice organized drawers full of size 18 - 24 month clothes. I rewarded myself with a nice uninterrupted shower. (I get one a week.)

Then I went to Walmart (grrr) to order some cheap prescription sunglasses.
Then I went to Panera Bread - bean soup.
Then I went to Kohl's. How does that place make any $? I spent $25 and saved $50. Weird.
Then I went to Target and found a fun white flowing skirt...perfect for a tropical cruise!
Then I went to Payless to take back a pair of shoes for the baby's (fat) feet.
Then I went to the grocery store and the pharmacy. Gotta have food and pills!
Then I mowed (most of) the grass. I didn't have time for the back yard, but the front looks good.
Then I picked up the kids from the bus stop and day care.
Then I cooked steak and rice for dinner. (The kids ate it all up!)
Then I took everyone out for a mile walk.
Then I did the dishes, cleaned up the toys, gave the baby a bath, read everyone's library books and reading homework, made sure everyone brushed their teeth, sang lullabies, read bedtime stories, gave back scratches, and tucked everyone in.
Then for some crazy reason...I decided to start making cinnamon rolls from scratch.

So, that was my day off. I think I might have worn myself out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 412 - I Love Mondays

I love Mondays. All of the kids are at daycare/school and I get to have some free time. This week I went on Luke's field trip with his class. After that I had lunch and got a pedicure with my friend Melissa.

I love Tuesdays. Most of all because L O S T is on. What am I going to do without that show?

I love Wednesdays. The cleaning lady comes and helps my house become sanitary again. But the best thing is being able to pound tennis balls for an hour at the gym.

The rest of the days are just so-so.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 408 - The Last Visit

Chris flew in yesterday morning for his last visit. We went out for breakfast, worked around the house, went grocery shopping, and then decided we wanted to go out to a fancy dinner.

We took Luke and Maria to the gym for a Kid's Night Out, and had our neighbor come over to watch the baby.

Table for 2 please.

Candle on the table, river flowing right outside the window - a perfect setting.

2 glasses of wine for me - $14... I could buy at least 2 bottles of wine for that...

The food was yummy - I ate it all. Creme brulee for dessert - one of my favs.

Our next fancy 2 weeks at DisneyWorld. We are THAT close!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 406 - Cloud Lifting

The countdown is in motion. The light is at the end of the tunnel. Some of the funk that surrounded me has left, but there are still anxieties that I need to work out (i.e. moving.)

I think the weather has been helping. We are getting outside more and maybe the Vitamin D I missed out on all winter is perking me up. The sunless tanning lotion is erasing that pasty, "I've been locked away with 3 kids for 13 months" kind of look.

Chris is coming home tomorrow for his last visit. The next time he comes home, it will be for good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 400 - 400 Already?

I hate to admit this, but today was a wonderful day. I'll tell you why in a minute. But, first I need to try to explain why this whole Marine thing is ending up longer than 400 days. Last year during March and April, Chris was on a different set of orders from the Marine Corps. His real activation started May 1, which is why we have a little ways to go yet. I just wanted everyone to know that in case I get accused of not being able to count or something.

OK, back to the good day.

It started with a miracle. Last night I was blessed with 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. (First time in nearly 2 years!) How can you not wake up happy when that is so rare??

Next, I got a good workout in and discovered that another pound had left my body. I'm getting there.

I got a lot of little things done today that I had been putting off, like making an eye appointment, ordering the swimsuit I wanted, and washing the juice dribbles of the dining room wall.

I made a dinner that everyone ate - meatloaf, beer bread, green beans, and strawberries. Maria cleared her plate - unbelievable.

In the evening our favorite neighbor girl came over to play with the kids which occupied them while I cleaned up after dinner. Not too long after that her mom came along with a bottle of wine. We played some fierce rounds of Bananagrams, cause we're cool like that.

2 more days of spring break. I'm almost sad that it is ending.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day 399 - Spring Break

Spring break this year is 12 days. I think "they" are trying to kill me! These kids need to be in school learning (i.e. out of my hair!)

We killed many days at Grandma's and Grandpa's where we met up with Chris. We kept them busy with fishing, wii time, a (short) trip to a museum, playing outside, eating out, and all of the fun Easter stuff like the egg hunt and decorating eggs.

sick Elise

lego addict Luke

fancy girl Maria

Today, Elise went to day care so I took Luke and Maria to a place for big kid fun. For $25 bucks each we got 5 hours of go-karts, bumper cars, laser tag, frog hopper rides, and got to eat as much food as we could at an awesome buffet.

The kids and I had the most fun with the laser tag. For the first round, we were all on the same team and slowly figured out how to play. Eventually we got the hang of it. In later rounds the kids and I were on different teams making it a fierce competition. It is 5 minutes of total adrenaline.

The best thing about today was seeing Luke smile. Those are few and far between, but he had an awesome time today, even though it was just with mom.