Category Archives: Nature

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camping 2016


Just returned from a weekend away with my dear friend, Jen. We traveled to the thumb of Michigan this year (our 12th year of doing a camping trip together), which is a place neither of us had ever been. It was lovely there. Really pretty. The campground at Port Crescent was nice. The small towns we visited (Port Austin and Caseville) were both so quaint with that wonderful old town feeling – cute shops, farm markets, etc. It was a wonderful trip and it flew by too quickly.

Before I left for this getaway, I had been feeling very antsy, kind of stuck when it came to my writing, spending too much time online and not enough time getting progress made on editing the novella. This weekend was exactly what I needed to recharge and reset my brain. A little fresh air is so good for that.

There was one point when Jen was out swimming and jumping some big 2-3 ft waves that I just stayed on the shore wading in the waves. Wading is one of my favorite things to do – just listening to the sounds of the water, the smell of fresh air, the beauty of the lake, while the water splashes over my feet and ankles again and again. My mind started wandering to Simon and Maggie in Hello, Forever when they travel to California to visit Simon’s parents. There is a scene where he is teaching her to surf and I just stood there in the cool lake water thinking about those scenes, about the sheer power of the ocean and the waves. I ended up pulling my phone out of my back pocket and typing up some lines I had for the book while I stood in the lake just hoping a wave didn’t knock me off balance and make me drop my phone in the water. ;) It didn’t! hehe!

Getting away from the usual routine and even just taking a little time for yourself is so healthy and restorative, and I’m thankful that Jake doesn’t mind me doing this every year. I’m blessed to have such a supportive husband.

While I was glad to get away for the weekend, I’m so looking forward to another camping trip later this summer with Jake and the kids, Mom + Dad O, and possibly more family. It’s been far too long since we took the kids camping and I’m excited to show them a few of my favorite campgrounds that Jen and I have visited over the years.

a gentle breeze


photos taken April 2014. Look at my little girl. She’s grown so much in two years!

I’m antsy. I can’t seem to shake it. Maybe it’s because the book is coming out a month from TODAY! Maybe it’s the fact that we are in a bit of a transition with Jake starting his new job. Maybe I’m just letting the every day stuff worry me too much or I’m sitting at the computer too much and not getting enough fresh air. I have no idea. I get this way every once in a while, and I hate it. But since I know this about myself, I know to relax and get a change of scenery.

It is a beautiful day here in Michigan, so I went outside and sat on the back porch for like half an hour. Chloe came outside and sat with me and was making videos on her phone (one of her favorite things to do). The sun was warm and there was a light breeze gently blowing my hair, which is one of my absolute favorite things. When I was a teenager, I would sit on the hill behind our house listening to music on my headphones, and I loved it when there was a gentle breeze. It calmed me and, for whatever reason, always made me feel pretty. Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s how I always felt and still do when the wind blows through my hair.

Sitting on our little back porch today for those thirty minutes, I closed my eyes and felt the breeze and prayed for God to calm my crazy, chaotic emotions. I wasn’t instantly calm or anything, but it did help. And even though I had no makeup on, my hair was still slightly damp from my shower, and I was wearing comfy clothes and slippers, that gentle breeze God sent my way made me feel pretty. He knows me well.

When I went looking for a picture to share with this post, I came across the above photo of me and Chloe from 2014 sitting in the exact same spot we sat today. The flowers are blooming right now, just like they were then. And I’m pretty sure we were looking at her iPod videos that day, too. ;)

flashback friday


Glanced back to some pictures from this week in 2009 and found this adorable gem (above). It was at a time when we had one working vehicle and we had to go pick Jake up from work after school. I took a few pictures of the kids climbing around in the back of the van and on top of the seats while we waited for Jake and caught this sweet one of Chloe. She was 6. Such a cutie pie.

Jake drove on the way home that day, so I took a bunch of pictures out the windows of the fall colors as we drove along the Thornapple River and went the country route instead of the main highway.



I love fall! Hope you have a wonderful weekend and are able to get out and enjoy the beauty of this season. I have a feeling I will be outside plenty as we are painting our house right now. ;)

all the green

When we’re deep in the midst of winter, and I’m longing for the snow to melt and warmer weather to come, this is the blog post I’m going to look back on.

Green. So much green everywhere.

I’ll browse through these photos and remember these moments when everything was so alive. I’ll remember walking through the peaceful paths, birds in flight, critters scurrying about, thanking God for the all of the beauty.

I’ll remember that it will be green again and look forward to more adventures in our beautiful state.

Enjoy these lovely locations captured in the Porcupine Mountains on my annual camping trip with my friend Jen. :)














around the campsite


This was the first year that I didn’t take a picture of the Mackinac Bridge. No idea why. I took this one (above) out the window as we were crossing. Look at the color of that water. Our Great Lakes are so gorgeous. This is the Straits of Mackinac that connect Lake Michigan to Lake Huron.

OUR CAMPSITE. Here’s our campsite once we got it all set up. Jen owns all the camping supplies because she camps a lot more than I do. After ten summers of camping together, I pretty much know everything she’s got and where she keeps it. She’s super organized and always thinks of everything. The screened in tent was something she bought a few years ago and it’s been great to be able to sit under there to eat, to protect our food from the bugs (Except this year! We were killing flies left and right!), and to keep us dry if it rains, which it did.

OUR CAMPFIRE. In the background, you can see our neighbors under their screened tent. You can also see the fence and the little electric box, where I charged my phone. If you read the tales I shared the other day about our trip, this is the spot where the line of baby raccoons came parading out to their mama, who was under the neighbor’s tent. Eeeek!

Love me some burnt marshmallows. Mmmmm.

OUR RESTROOMS. These are the lovely temporary restrooms that were set up in the campsite next to ours in place of the modern bath facilities, which had been demolished and were in the process of being rebuilt. I actually just received an email the other day from the DNR informing me that there was construction happening on the bathroom building and about the temporary restrooms, but it said “for your upcoming camping trip on July 16th” and I received the email a week after that. Duh! We had to laugh at the title “Royal Restrooms”. They might be perfect for a wedding or smaller event, but when you’ve got so many campers using them daily, week after week, and often overflowing the toilets (gross!), well, it’s far from a regal experience.

OUR MEALS. I didn’t photograph all of our meals. Gasp. We always bring along marinated chicken, veggies, and Jen added salmon into the mix the past couple years that her parents caught fishing. We cook the meat/fish and veggies in a tin foil packet over the fire. So good. Jen also has a small Coleman grill that we use to heat water for coffee/tea. This year, she invested in a griddle for the grill, so she cooked up some pancakes and sausage, which was so yummy. If you follow me on instagram, you will have seen that our sausage had a mind of its own. See that HERE. When we are out and about for the day, we make sandwiches and take a small cooler with us. And hobo pies are a favorite. We had pizza hobos the first night and hobos with pie filling the last night (I had apple! Yum!).

On the last night, we had a bit of a rain storm blow through. We sat under the screen tent while it passed. We ended up playing Uno by flashlight. And we might have taken pictures of Jen making scary faces with the flashlight pointed under her chin, which made me laugh hysterically, but I won’t share those here. ;)

More pictures to come of all the sights and the beautiful sunsets we saw.

camping in the Porkies


Peace and quiet. I was in dire need of time away from my computer. The days were flying by in a blur of book marketing with the tiniest bit of writing thrown in. :( I needed to clear my mind and regroup and renew and come back rested and ready to tackle this book.

The moment we crossed the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula felt almost like instant calm and peacefulness. There’s something about the U.P. Like stepping back in time to a slower pace. The towns are smaller. There’s so much green up there. The air seems cleaner. Jen and I both took a deep breath and sighed, like “Aaah. We’re back.”

Jen and I have known each other since we were six. We met in first grade and have been friends ever since. This is our 11th summer of going on a girls getaway together and our 10th summer camping. We’ve got it down to a science by now. We set up camp in record time, both knowing which camp duties are ours, and we just get it done.

I’ve never been much of an outdoorsy girl, but I’m thankful every year for our camping trip. It gets me outside in the woods, hiking, enjoying the beautiful world God created. Michigan is a gorgeous state and I’m very happy its home.

This year, we chose Porcupine Mountain State Park, the Porkies as they are called. I’ll share pictures over the next week or so as I go through them all, but today I wanted to share a few stories and tips from our trip.

LAKE OF THE CLOUDS
This was the closest sight to our campground (Union Bay) and was something people online highly recommended. It was gorgeous there. We visited in the morning when it was overcast and hazy and the clouds were hanging low over the hills. Just beautiful. We decided to go back again the next day when it was bright and sunny and we were so glad we did. Everything was so lush and green. I actually used my big camera and had fun playing around with it after not having shot with it for a while. Here’s the side by side of both of our visits to the lake.

WILDLIFE
We read that there were black bears in the Porkies, so we were a little concerned about that. The woman at the visitor center told us not to worry about them. Jen was like, “OK. But say we are walking along and we come across one. What should we do?” We wanted to make sure we didn’t do the wrong thing in that situation. She said just to make noise and they would run away, and she advised us never to run. We came across people with bells on their backpacks. I said I was just gonna start whooping and hollering if we saw one, but I didn’t have to make a fool of myself ’cause we never encountered a bear.

We did, however, encounter these funny little squirrels that look almost like a chipmunk but with a long body. Someone said they were red squirrels. Never saw that kind before.

We also had to deal with some annoying rascals at our campsite. Our neighbors informed us that they had seen a couple raccoons by the fence that ran along the back of our campsites earlier that day. While sitting by the fire that night, Jen spotted movement out of the corner of her eye and turned the flashlight on it. Then the next day, while it was still light out, a coon just came out and walked along the fence. We scared it back into the bushes. Then a little later, I thought I spotted some movement under the picnic table in the neighbors’ screened in tent. I assumed it was their dog, but then I noticed their dog was lying on the ground by their camper. The raccoon was under there, scrounging around for food. Just as we told the neighbors, about 5 or 6 baby raccoons came out of the brush toward their mama. It was creepy. The neighbor guys scared them back into the bushes. So weird seeing this long line of raccoon babies parade across the yard. I only wish I’d had my phone on me so I could video it, but my phone was actually sitting on top of the electric box right next to the neighbors screen tent, so the baby raccoons would have had to pick up my phone and take a selfie for me to capture it.

And how can I mention “wildlife” and not mention the mosquitos. They were thick this year. And we also had to deal with these nasty little biting flies, which were the most annoying thing ever. I hate bugs. So much. But we kept a constant spray of Deep Woods Off going and did our best to kill the mosquitos and flies that got inside the tent. In the end, I came home with several bites – a few on my legs, and several on my right arm. Why the right arm? Who knows. I think we came out of it OK for the amount of bugs we encountered.

STARS
The U.P. is the best place to see the stars. Like all of them. There are no big nearby cities lighting the sky. It’s dark dark dark, which makes it possible to see so many stars and the Milky Way and satellites and shooting stars so clearly. Jen saw a couple shooting stars on the first night and I was so bummed I missed them. But on the last night, as we were about to hit the hay, I looked up and said, “OK, God, give us a big shooting star,” and just as the word “star” left my lips, a big one shot across the sky and we both saw it. It was so awesome. Thanks, God!

SUMMIT PEAK
Another sight we hit was Summit Peak. This one was about 20 minutes from camp. The path was woodsy and on quite a bit of an incline at times. We were happy to reach the overlook, which sits at the bottom of the long flight of stairs leading to the top. We took a break there and caught our breath (Must get my butt out and run. I’m so out of shape right now. ugh!), then headed up the stairs. I don’t know how many steps there were. Hundreds, I think. Once you make it to the top, there is a large wooden tower with four flights of stairs that lead you to the highest point in the park. The view up there is beautiful. You can see out to Lake Superior and all around.

Jen is not a fan of heights. At all. But she braved the tower and I was so proud of her for that. For whatever reason, we always end up doing things that involve heights and she always pushes through her fear. She’s awesome.

PRESQUE ISLE RIVER PARK
Had to see all the waterfalls. Love waterfalls, and Michigan has so many in the U.P. The weather was beautiful, but muggy the day we went here, and there are a lot of steps and trails to get you to the falls.

While I was sweating my butt of, my leg muscles throbbing, my chest burning, I kept thinking about how much it hurt, but how it would be worth it in the end to reach our goal. So true in so many areas of life. Hard work and determination will be rewarded in the end. And you will get through all the pain and struggles and look back and see everything it took to get to your reward. :)

UNION BAY CAMPGROUND. NOTICE!
If you are staying at Union Bay this summer, be prepared to wait in line for the bathroom. The modern bath facilities were demolished this year and there are two port-o-potty trailers, “royal restrooms” as the name plastered across the side of them says, set up in its place. We were “lucky” enough to get campsite #74, which just happened to be right next to these restrooms with their lovely aroma. One of the trailers contains 3 restrooms, each with a toilet, sink, and shower. The other has 2 restrooms/showers, which are handicap accessible. FIVE restrooms total for the entire campground! Considering just how many tent campers there were when we were there, five restrooms is not enough. Especially since they all have showers in them and often they would be filled with people getting cleaned up, so those people who just had to use the restroom had to wait a while or walk to the far end of the campground to the disgusting vault toilets – those lovely toilet seats over a hole in the ground. One more trailer with just toilets would have helped so much. Anyway … just thought I’d share that if anyone is headed to the Porkies this summer. ;)

FINAL THOUGHTS
By the end of the trip, I was tired and ready to go home, but my soul felt peaceful. We talked about the trip on our drive home, what our favorite part was. I really loved Lake of the Clouds, but I felt that it was a great trip overall. I loved everything we saw and, while it wasn’t my favorite campground of all the ones we’ve stayed at, it was quiet with good neighbors. Another successful year.

hello, monday


• Beautiful sunrise on my Friday walk with Mom.

• Chinese food for dinner.

• Friends episodes on Netflix.

• Chloe’s gymnastics meet. Her team placed 2nd overall. She got 3rd place on beam. I also posted a little video over on my Instagram of my girl in action if you want to check that out.

• Dinner at Arby’s after the meet. We used to have an Arby’s here in town, but it went out of business several years ago. We miss it, so it’s like a special treat when we eat there now. Chloe got one of their Andes mint shakes and she let me have a taste. Oh my goodness. Best shake ever!

• Grocery run with my girl. I normally leave the store so exasperated when I take the kids, but she was actually very helpful and her begging and whining was at a minimum.

• Edited the book.

I’ve been carrying my advanced copy around everywhere I go, marking it up wherever I find typos and errors. When I’m waiting for the kids, I edit. When I’m at home on the couch, I edit. When I should be sleeping, I edit. Last night, I was up far too late writing a few scenes to fill in some places that needed work. It’s getting so close to being ready for the final book formatting. Eeek! Can’t wait to share it with you all.

Hope you all had a nice weekend. I’m ready for another one. This weekend went by too fast. ;)

one sunset


Last night’s sky. These were taken almost exactly 5 minutes apart starting at 6:35 pm. The progression of the change in clouds and colors was so amazing. I couldn’t believe it. It was like a completely different sunset every few minutes.

And I needed that. I want winter to be over very badly. Overcast and gloomy and snowy, well … I’m over it. And last night, it was like God was giving me so much beauty all at once. I couldn’t even handle it. I was kind of giddy about it.

An author I follow posted a question yesterday on her Facebook asking what 5 things (besides your people) bring you the most joy in life. Beautiful sunsets were right up there on my list.

I had just hit “post” commenting on her question and I noticed the sky. I pulled my phone camera out for that first shot thinking it was a pretty sky. I think that’s exactly what I posted along with that photo on Instagram. Then five minutes later, I glanced up again and quickly snapped a few more pictures, thinking, “Wow! I thought it looked pretty before.” And then … well, God was just showing off. ;)

And I felt like it was all for me, because He knows how much I love His beautiful sunsets and He loves me that much.

i love camping



As much as I hate winter here in Michigan, I love the other three seasons in our beautiful state. Fall is by far my favorite, then Spring, then Summer. We like to get out and walk or, in recent years, go for a run. Lake Michigan is an hour from where we live. It’s beautiful and, if you love the great outdoors, it’s the perfect state.

Over the years, I’ve discovered a love for camping. People who knew me when I was younger are shocked to learn this. I hated getting dirty and having to go without makeup. I hated bugs and, heaven forbid, having to sleep on the ground. I’m so glad I grew up a bit and no longer feel that way, because sleeping in the middle of the woods with the sounds of the breeze in the trees and waves from a lake lapping against the beach is so relaxing and just good for the soul. There’s so much noise these days. Everywhere. Coming at you from all sides. Being outdoors, sitting by the fire, roasting marshmallows (so many marshmallows that I need a bag for myself!), looking up at the stars … it clears the mind. And it’s awesome!

Every summer since 2005, I’ve gone camping with my friend Jen, who I’ve known since we were 6! It’s become a wonderful tradition in our friendship. Just us, hanging out, relaxing, catching up, seeing the sights around Michigan, always near one of the Great Lakes, checking out a different campground around the state every year.

Michigan really is so beautiful. Here are some of my favorite photos of camping adventures over the years with Jen, as well as a family camping trip when the kids were little, and a girls camping trip with my college roommate, Julie, and her daughter. Most I’ve shared on the blog before, but a few are never before seen here.




I always try to get at least one “selfie” on our camping trips. I think they were still referred to as “self portraits” when I started taking these. ;)

We look pretty much the same as we did ten years ago. That’s a good thing, right? :)

There will be one more GIVEAWAY in tomorrow’s post. CLICK HERE to see all the GIVEAWAYS on one page. Like I mentioned last week, meeting people and making friends through this blog has been an unexpected gift, which is why I wanted to do these giveaways. I really want to give back to you. So, whether you’re my friend or family and have known me for years, or if you just found my blog today, please ENTER!

I WANT TO GIVE YOU STUFF!

Enter by Thursday at midnight EST. Winners will be announced on Friday!

See ya’ tomorrow!

10 YEARS!

You’re here! I’m so excited! On February 26, 2005, I started this blog, and for the next two weeks, I will be looking back at the past TEN YEARS of blogging!

Ten years has gone by in the blink of an eye. At least, it seems so at times. I’ve been browsing back through old posts and, while the style of my photos (lots of borders and filters in the early days) has changed, the core of the posts has not. It started with a few posts about my kids and that’s pretty much the same today. I wrote about things we did, places we traveled, movies I loved, following my love of photography into a business, family, friends, parties, scrapbooking, memories, happy times, sad times, publishing my novel. So much of our life.

Ten years is a really long time.

So, for the next TEN DAYS, I will be looking back, sharing old photos and favorite posts, and there will be GIVEAWAYS!!!

GIVEAWAY INFO: There are four ways to enter through the giveaway box below and each will get you five entries in the drawing.

• The first option is the only one you HAVE to do in order to be entered. I’ll ask one question in every day’s giveaway. You just have to enter your name and email address, give a brief response to the question, and you’re in the drawing.

If you want more chances to win, you can …
• Join my mailing list (if you already have, enter your email address so I can verify)
• Tweet about the giveaway and copy/paste the link from Twitter
• SHARE about the giveaway and the BLOG-IVERSARY on your own blog, Facebook*, Pinterest, etc. and link to that as well.

All giveaways will end on my actual BLOG-IVERSARY, next Thursday, February 26th, so the giveaways will all be OPEN until then.
The winners will be announced in a blog post on FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27th!

* Note: If you share on a private Facebook account and we aren’t “friends”, make sure you change the audience of that one post to “public” so I can see it. ;)

TODAY’S GIVEAWAY!

I’ve got a paperback copy of my first young adult novel ready to sign. The Truth About Drew was published last May.
It’s a sweet, uplifting, heart-warming story full of friendship and family with a journey to faith and a mystery surrounding a boy and his notebook.
Enter below. Tell a friend! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you have any questions at all about the giveaway, feel free to ask.

SEE YA BACK HERE TOMORROW!

AJAXed with AWP