Category Archives: Michigan

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budding photographer

Earlier this month, we went camping as a family for the first time since 2007. The last time we went, the kids were little (Zach was 6 and Chloe was 4). Not sure why we never went again. We took other vacations instead over the years. But in June, I asked the kids to make a list of some things they would like to do this summer. Two of the things on Zach’s list were to go camping and to go to the U.P. again. I asked what he thought about combining the two and camping in the U.P. He was OK with that idea and so the planning began. We decided to ask Jake’s Mom and stepdad if they would like to join us and it was a really great time together.

I will share more pictures of the trip later, but I found these two today while looking through the ones that Chloe took. I gave her my backup camera from when I used to photograph weddings, showed her a couple of settings she could play around with, and told her to have at it. She was so excited to be using the big camera, and I love seeing all the things she pointed her lens at. A lot of little detail shots – just like her mama. And she’s got such a good eye.

I love these two pictures taken on our first night of camping at Muskallonge Lake State Park north of Newberry in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a favorite campground that Jen and I discovered a few years ago, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to take my family there. So glad I was finally able to. The lake is so pretty, sometimes so still that it reflects like a mirror, sometimes with these pretty ripples like the night these were taken. And the sunsets there are always so beautiful.

Here’s our little photographer. I took the one on the left of her that night while we were photographing the sunset. The other is one she took of herself when we were visiting Fayette, the old ghost town near Manistique.

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.

hello, monday

• Had a lovely visit at Mom and Dad O’s on the east side of the state a couple weekends ago. Lots of yummy food and I even spent some time in the mornings working on my NaNoWriMo novel. Morning writing is so unlike me (except for blog posts). I’ve always been an evening writer, but I made myself do it so I could keep up with my word count and the ideas flowed even though I’m so not a morning person. ;)

• It was sort of Friend Week for me last week. I got to visit Heidi and help her design her annual Christmas card. It’s our annual tradition now for me to take their family picture and help design the card. Always a fun time chatting and picking photos and laughing at all the ones where they’re making funny faces or their eyes are closed. I also had dinner with my friend, Jen, and lots of catching up time over coffee (tea for her) at Starbucks afterward. Time with friends always makes it a good week.

• The painting is done. For this year anyway. I finished all but a couple small sections on the way back of the house that need to be reached by climbing on the roof. They aren’t really visible from the ground anyway, so they will be finished in the spring. So our house is all one color finally, and we finished just in time …

• It’s our first Monday with snow. We had the first big snowfall over the weekend. Not sure how much snow there was. At least 6-8 inches piled on top of my car.

• Chloe’s first gymnastics meet of the season was early Sunday morning. We drove through mostly clear roads to get there and had a nice lunch at Cracker Barrel afterwards to celebrate her 3rd place medal on bars and also the completion of painting the house. :)

• I was happy to see The Truth About Drew had the #1 Best Seller banner again this week. I ran a Kindle Countdown Deal throughout the week and it did really well. It’s always fun to see that little orange banner pop up.

• It’s a short school/work week for Thanksgiving. Looking forward to family time and putting up the tree.

• My newsletter is going out later this week. If you haven’t signed up yet, click HERE. There will be a little Black Friday info inside. Stay tuned!

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. :)

hello, monday

Summer is flying by and I thought since I haven’t really posted much lately, I would share some photos from the past month as a summary of what’s been going on. I’ll start with the weekend just before the kids left for camp. We went to the drive-in theater and watched Minions and Jurassic World. I love watching movies out under the stars. Always a fun experience. Loved Jurassic World, by the way. Jurassic Park is the movie Jake and I were watching when he first realized that he liked me as more than a friend, so it’s fun and fitting that Jurassic World came out this year to remind us of that and help us celebrate twenty years of marriage. :)

We celebrated my birthday that Sunday at my parents’ farm with burgers and chicken on the grill and a couple games of Sequence. Then on Monday, Jake and I took the kids to church to head out on their first church camp adventure. Chloe immediately loved it, but it took Zach a few days to really warm up to the experience. He’s very much a homebody, but in the end, he had a good time. The most important thing is that the kids were learning about God and spending time praying and singing to Him. One thing I am VERY grateful for is those who gave of their time and talents to photograph the kids week at camp. They weren’t allowed to bring cell phones/ipods/etc., which are the only cameras my kids have. So I’m so glad they had photographers there and that they shared all of the wonderful pictures with us parents. So many wonderful memories captured. What I wouldn’t give to have hundreds of pictures of my own years at church camp. :)

Chloe made some very special new friends in her cabin at camp. She became very close with one in particular, one who happens to live in Florida for the majority of the year with her mom and the summer months with her dad here in Michigan. The girls got to spend a fun couple days together before she flew back to Florida. Chloe was very sad to see her go, but is already looking forward to her visit in December around the holidays. It’s so sweet to see such a bond form based on their common belief in God.

As I mentioned before, while the kids were gone at camp, Jake and I had a little “reno-cation”. We replaced the old nasty bathtub and surround. This isn’t a great picture. Need to get my big camera out and snap a few, but this is after the caulk had dried and the fixtures were put back in and the pretty curtain and rug were put in place. I LOVE IT! There is still painting to do, but it’s done for the most part. Hard work, but so worth it.

The Saturday after camp, Chloe woke with a high fever. She was achy and could barely move. We gave her medicine and lots of fluids. We hoped it was a 24 hour thing, but it was not. So she had to miss a family get-together in Ohio on Sunday with my mom’s side of the family. :( Jake stayed home with her so I could go. Zach and I rode down with my Mom and we enjoyed a nice afternoon with my aunts and uncle and cousins and friends. I love the top left photo below of my mom and aunts laughing. Such fun we all have together. :)

Chloe ended up being sick for several days, so I finally took her to the doctor to check for strep throat, which she did not have. It was just a nasty virus that held on for a week. Thankfully, by the weekend she was feeling much better and seemed back to her normal self. I always feel so helpless when the kids are sick.

Shortly after we woke on Saturday, our power suddenly went out. There had been storms the night before, but all that was long gone, so we weren’t sure what was happening. Turns out some nearby power lines were down so they had to cut power to work on them. We went out to the farm to help Mom with some things she needed done around the house and to stay cool on the very hot and muggy day. Zach got to run the weed whacker for the first time, only it ended up breaking shortly after he started. Oops! We enjoyed corn on the cob (my first this summer!) that the Amish kids from across the road brought over. It was SO good. I wanted to keep eating it all day. ;)

Jake’s sister, who lives a few blocks from us, texted to let us know the power was back on and we were home in the air conditioning by dinner time.

On Sunday afternoon, Chloe and I went to Holland State Park to the beach for the day. It was another very hot and muggy day, and the lake felt so cool and refreshing. It was actually our first time at the big lake this summer, which is sad really. But we spontaneously decided this would be the day. It was a nice few hours together, although Chloe can’t stand to sit still on the blanket for more than ten minutes. She was in the water most of the time. I spent ten or fifteen minutes laying in the sun at a time, but it was just too hot and I was in the water most of the time, too. The beach and water were packed with people enjoying Lake Michigan.

It’s been a good month so far (except for Chloe’s sickness). Looking forward to a couple fun things coming up, including an upcoming sale on Goodbye, Magnolia, which I will be sure to let you all know about, as well as a very special book announcement. :)

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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. :)

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. ;)

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

Ahhh, lovely blooms of spring. This was actually taken five years ago, but the trees are beginning to blossom around town. I love it.

• Went shopping on Friday with Mom and Chloe. Kohl’s is always the best when Mom’s got a 30% off coupon. Plus, you earn all the Kohl’s cash to use later. Chloe had some money burning a hole in her pocket and she picked up some cute summer dresses.

• Jake was on Skype this weekend with some crafting friends. One guy is Australian, so I had to “suffer” listening to that glorious accent for a couple hours one night. It was such a hardship, I tell ya. ;)

• We had a 4.2 earthquake on Saturday. In Michigan. So weird. It originated in Galesburg, which is about 45 minutes south of us. Jake and the kids were outside, and I was on our front porch moving boxes and stuff, so we didn’t feel it. I did feel kind of off balance at one point, but I thought that was just because I hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Could have been the shaking and I just didn’t notice it. Who knows.

• Chloe spent the night at her BFF’s. Those girls love hanging out together.

• Spent lots of time working on eBook formatting. I thought I had the final versions ready, but there were some glitches, so I fixed those. And now I think the eBooks are ready. Two weeks! Can’t believe it!

• Saw today that William and Kate named their little baby girl, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. So sweet. I was hoping Diana’s name would make it in there somewhere. A nice tribute to the grandmother she never got to know.

• Had a nice walk with my mom this morning. We’re getting back to it. I’m thinking more and more about getting the FitBit so I can better track my daily steps. I’ve heard such good things about them.

• Looking forward to a nice Mothers Day weekend ahead with family.

• Hope you had a happy Star Wars day. May the 4th be with you! ;)

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!


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

See ya’ tomorrow!

AJAXed with AWP