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My dad wanted to go to Mackinac Island for his 72nd birthday.  He had been to the island multiple times in his younger years but hadn’t been back in ages.  So we packed up the car and headed north!  It takes about 5 hours to drive to St. Ignace, MI.  From there, you have to catch a ferry to the island.  There are no cars allowed on Mackinac Island — so you have to walk or bike everywhere… or travel by horse carriage. It’s a unique experience and the definition of quaint.

We stayed at the Lilac Tree Suites & Spa, which was right downtown. In a perfect world we would have stayed at the Grand Hotel, but prices were astronomical given that it was Labor Day Weekend. The Lilac Tree Suits & Spa was lovely though — great location, clean, and we had a great balcony which overlooked Main St.

Upon arrival on Saturday, we unpacked, settled in, and then headed to the Pink Pony for lunch/dinner. The food was decent but we were all starving! Afterward we stopped at Murdick’s for some fudge (when in Rome…) and another shop for some ice cream.  Not a bad first day!

On Sunday, we took a horse carriage tour of the island.  It’s a must-do if you are visiting because aside from bicycles, it’s the only way you’d be able to see so much of the island — and learn about its history.  The tour was fun, informative, and lasted about 1.5 hours.

After our tour concluded, we spent a few hours at the Grand Hotel. It is spectacular. If you aren’t staying there, you have to pay $10 per person to walk in the door — but it’s worth it! The hotel decor is beautiful and the whole place is very FANCY! We had lunch there, visited their ice cream shop (Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor!), sat on the enormous porch and had a drink, and soaked up all of the stunning scenery. 10/10, would recommend!

We walked back downtown after our time at the Grand Hotel.  It’s easy to walk back because it’s all downhill — BLESS. We walked around, visited nearly every souvenir shop, and stopped for some popcorn as a snack (still full from lunch at the Grand Hotel!).

We left to head home the next day.  We were originally planning on staying one more day, but the weather forecast was dismal and to be honest, we kind of ran out of things to do.  It’s a tiny island and you really can see it all in a day!

Other stray observations:

  • The no-cars thing is pretty great. Everything is easier and less hectic.
  • Horses horses everywhere! And as a result, horse poop everywhere!  The smell lingers in the air 24/7, but you get used to it.
  • There’s a Starbucks on the island.  I both love and hate this fact.
  • I don’t understand how people can spend a week on the island — what on earth do you do?! Well, maybe the more outdoorsy people like to kayak/bike/etc?
  • FUDGE.  Endless fudge shops!  Not complainin’ though.
  • We used Shepler’s Ferry to get to/from the island and were really happy with their service.  Clean boats, good system, no problems.
  • Mackinac Island is a must-visit because it’s beautiful and so unique.  Pure Michigan indeed.

I only drink Starbucks on vacation — so here’s my requisite strawberry refresher!  And Big Boys still exist!
On the ferry!
Denny on our balcony!
Pink fudge shops are the cutest fudge shops.
The Pink Pony
View from our balcony.
Darren and Paul, our horses for the day. They were very good boys.
Cute lil’ post office.
Maybe I should take the Michigan bar exam?
Wouldn’t be a tourist area without a rock shop!
Arch Rock
The dining room of the Grand Hotel.
Cute Momma.
Isn’t this decor dreamy?
A random empty room that, of course, is beautiful.
Cute parents.
You know I HAD TO HAVE that hat.
I appreciate their dedication to maintaining an old school letter board.
Important to coordinate your outfit with the room you’re in.
I now want a horse.
The weather turned sad on Monday.
Manistique, MI mural.  Try to say that three times over.
Small towns are the cutest.
’til next time, Michigan.

August is over in a flash! It’s an odd month — with the first half being full summer and the last half starting to look and feel and smell like fall. Here are my photos from the month.

Winnebago County Fair!
Summer slowly turns to fall.
I filled up one entire side of my refrigerator with kitschy travel magnets! Time to fill up the other side! Oh, and lots of Sadie photos here cause, duh.
My buffalo wing Christmas ornament.  And one last Fat Elvis sundae of the season.
Sadie schmoo!
I get a participation trophy for the sports-themed United Way kickoff ;-)
The perks of having an office with a door: you can lay down on the ground when a migraine strikes. BLESS.
New baking chips!
Sadie and an accidental-but-kinda-cool photo.
35th birthday! I painted my nails to look like those pink and white circus animal cookies.
Had a nice night with family!
More Sadie!  And the killer patio at Fletch’s.
A final farewell to the Magnet!
Farmers Market flowers!
A rare rainy day.
Gus and Gracie turned 8 on the 30th!
And a killer sunrise to end the month.  My dad took this photo.  He said that he ran out to take a photo because he knew I’d love the sky.  He knows and loves me so well.

See ya in September!

I never in my life thought that I’d visit Cleveland because… why would I?  It was just never a destination that made any sort of Bucket List.  But guess what?  We went to Cleveland!

We had a day on our vacation to fill — and didn’t want to spend all that time at Niagara Falls because we covered what we wanted to see the day before.  We thought about going to Buffalo but there wasn’t much there that appealed to us.  But Cleveland… Cleveland has the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the house from A Christmas Story… and it was only about 3 hours from Niagara Falls!  Done and donnnnne!

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was easy to find and the parking was smooth.  The facility itself was amazing — we spent almost 3 hours there and I don’t think that was enough time.  There’s also a cute little cafe on the ground level floor and they had a killer gift shop.  Two-thumbs up, A+, would recommend!

It RAINED like crazy when we were there.  We were so thankful that we saw what we wanted to see of Niagara Falls the day before — in the beautiful, sunny weather.

We drove around Cleveland so I could see the world’s biggest rubber stamp and the Greetings From Cleveland mural.  Then we went to the house from A Christmas Story.  It has been converted into a museum and you can take a tour of the house!  We didn’t do that because this trip was so last-minute, but I got some pics of the house.  There is also a beautiful and enormous gift shop across the street.  The whole area is really nice and it makes you feel like you’re in the movie.  Loved it.

It was then time to drive back to Niagara Falls (*sad trombones*).  The next day we drove the half-hour to Buffalo and flew back to Wisconsin.  I bought a buffalo wing Christmas ornament at the airport because… of course I did.

This vacation was 90% great and 10% getting on each other’s last NERVE.  But that’s any family vacation, right? (Though honestly, it wasn’t a vacation… it was a trip!)  I’m very fortunate that I a) get along with and genuinely like Denny and Jeanne and b) still have them here with me.  Time and health are fleeting and that fact is not lost on me.  Here’s to many more family trips!

The Def Leppard section… one of my favorite 80s bands!
Taylorrrr!  And my Cinnabon.  I hadn’t had a Cinnabon since about 1995.  It was just as warm and ooey gooey as I remembered it to be.
There was a gigantic truck parked on the sidewalk in front of this mural… so I couldn’t get the whole thing in one shot.  Oh well!
My ridiculous AND awesome buffalo wing Christmas ornament.

The third leg of our August vacation was Niagara Falls.  It’s a MUST-SEE, right?!  RIGHT.  But I cannot impress upon you enough:  see the falls from the Canadian side and skip right over the American side.  More on that in a bit.

We drove from Cooperstown to Niagara, which took about 4.5 hours.  We arrived in Niagara early afternoon and were immediately disappointed.  Niagara Falls, NY is sad, blighted, and just plain creepy.  We chose to stay at a Hampton Inn because Hamptons are predictable and clean — and this one was no different.  We couldn’t check in upon arrival (we were early) and we didn’t want to leave the car full of luggage parked anywhere (fun fact: Niagara Falls, NY has a very high rate of violent crime).

So what did we do?  We were grumpy, hungry, a little sad that Niagara Falls, NY was so dismal, and we had time to kill.  My mom and I visited the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land.  Then my dad drove us to the parking lot of Niagara Falls State Park.  Mom and I got out and walked around and saw the falls.  I was underwhelmed.  I mean, any gigantic waterfall is cool and impressive but I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about.  Our moods were not improving and it was turning out to be the worst day of our trip.

We were finally able to check in and drop our luggage off around 4pm.  It was a beautiful, hot, sunny day and I pretty much demanded that we drive over the Rainbow Bridge to Canada.  I had read that the view of the falls was 10x better from the Canadian side — and we had hours of daylight left in the day.  So we went to Canada, lost our tempers about 10 times trying to find parking, and made our way to the pedestrian walkway along the falls.

Then I saw it: the biggest and most magical rainbow of my life — and a BEAUTIFUL view of Horseshoe Falls.  My mood instantly turned to giddy. Now, it is not surprising that I saw this rainbow.  I’m not trying to make this out to be some rare occurrence.  Cause mist + sunshine = RAINBOW TIME.  I took approximately 500 photos and was on cloud nine.  Niagara Falls truly is a beautiful sight to see and I’m so happy that we brought our Passports so we could see it from the Canadian side.

The Canadian side, it must be noted, is generally nicer more aesthetically pleasing.  Beautiful flower beds, luxury hotels, better restaurants, and view of the falls that is 1000x better than what you’ll see from the United States.  I cannot recommend driving or walking over the bridge to Canada enough!

We also visited one of the gift shops and found Smarties!  Tim Horton’s!  And Hudson Bay goods! Our short time spent in Canada lifted all of our moods.

We quickly realized that we had one more day left on the trip, but we saw all there was to see of the falls.  What were we going to do?  The thought of spending any more time in Niagara wasn’t appealing in the slightest.  So we looked at the map and say, “let’s go to Cleveland!”  More on that in another post.

Other stray observations:

  • Does anyone know why there are so many Indian tourists in and around Niagara Falls?  We saw about 25 Indian restaurants and there were just so many Indians at the Falls.  I’m just curious why this is the case!
  • I cannot stress this enough:  the American side and view of the falls is TRASH.  Bring your Passport and go to Canada.  Stay at a Canadian hotel.  Spend all your time in Canada.  You will not regret it.
  • We did not go on one of the tourist boats (US’s Maid of the Mist or Canada’s Hornblower) but if I were ever to visit again, it would be on my to-do list!  We didn’t have time at the end of our day and weren’t wearing appropriate clothing to get soaking wet, so we passed.
  • If you are into murals, visit Niagara Falls, NY’s “Art Alley”!

We stopped for gas/bathroom break on our way to Niagara Falls and the rest stop area had this cute little produce stand.  I loved the almost-rainbow order.
TimBits!  And Twist of the Mist!  I’m drawn to soft-serve like a moth to a flame.
Rainbow piano!
American side. Cool but not THAT cool, right?
American view of Horseshoe falls. Meh. Very MISTY.
It is 1000x better from Canada, RIGHT?!
Happy American tourists.
Cute parents.
Bridge ‘n’ balls.
We did not fall in love with Niagara, NY.  Sorry not sorry.
One last Tim Horton’s donut.

In early August, my parents and I took a family vacation to New York state.  Why?  Because my dad wanted to go to the Antique Boat Show in Clayton, NY.  He’s wanted to go for years and mom and I just couldn’t avoid it any longer!  (Love you, Denny!)  So we went.  And saw ALL THE BOATS.

We flew into Syracuse, NY, picked up our rental car, and headed off to Clayton.  Clayton is a tiny town situated on the St. Lawrence River.  Clayton doesn’t seem to have much going on except the Antique Boat Museum and being very close to Canada (eh!).  Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel, the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel — which was lovely.  We had a very late lunch and battled our extreme fatigue after being awake since 3am on our day of travel.  We walked around bustling downtown Clayton for a bit after lunch and then called it a day.

The next day, Saturday, we had a mediocre breakfast at our hotel (the theme of the entire trip was mediocre-at-best food throughout) and then headed to the Antique Boat Show. My dad was in HEAVEN, my mom and I were BORED. That about sums it up!  But really, Denny saw all the boats he could ever dream of and seemed to have a lovely day.  My mom and I sat on a picnic bench and people-watched and enjoyed the beautiful weather. We chatted with a guy named “Uncle Russ” – an older guy from Long Island (great accent to match).  I loved Uncle Russ.  He was sassy (“you know, Wisconsin really isn’t on my bucket list”), gave some great life advice (“be careful, not all the monkeys are in the zoo”), and encouraged me to travel even more than I already do. Big fan of Uncle Russ.

That evening we had another mediocre meal at O’Brien’s, which was across the street from our hotel.  We tried to have dinner at a few other places but they were booked solid because, you know, this boat show is kind of a big deal.  After dinner we stopped at Castle Ice Cream for — you guessed it — a mediocre soft-serve cone!  I’m not sure how they did it, but the cone was too creamy and very disappointing.

But all nay-saying aside, Clayton was very cute, the weather was beautiful, and Denny got to cross an item off of his Bucket List.  It was a win-win-win!

On Sunday we checked out of our hotel in Clayton and hit the road for Cooperstown, which was about 3 hours away.  We decided to stop at a Tim Horton’s on the way and it was, quite honestly, the best culinary experience of the trip.  Canada is home to Tim Horton’s, but you can find them scattered about the east coast of the US as well.  It’s like a Dunkin Donuts but BETTER.  The coffee was great (not as bitter as Starbucks, not as chemical-tasting as Dunks).  The donuts were adorable and delicious.  And the Tim Horton’s employee that helped us was so friendly.  It was an A++ experience.

We arrived in Cooperstown around noon and headed straight for the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.  Let me tell you, all of Cooperstown is adorable.  It’s pure Americana.  I’m not big into baseball but I fell in love with all things Cooperstown.  The Baseball HOF and Museum has been on my mom’s Bucket List for years and we finally got her there!  She loved every minute of her time in the HOF and Museum and it was precious.

We grabbed some mid-afternoon snacks at Hardball (read: mozzarella logs and pretzels!), I had the BEST soft-serve twist cone of my life at a little shop down the street from the HOF, and then we headed to our hotel to check in.  We stayed at the Otesaga, which appeared to be the nicest hotel in the area.  It had a Greenbrier vibe and also reminded me a bit of the resort in Dirty Dancing.  I’m not a huge fan of the old, stuffy, fancy-pants hotels but my parents loved it.  We had dinner at the Hawkeye Grill in the hotel.  And take a guess… it was… mediocre!  After dinner we headed back downtown for one last visit to the HOF.

The next morning we had breakfast at the Glimmerglass room of the hotel (great name, huh?) and the breakfast was AWESOME.  Enormous buffet of everything you could imagine and it was all delicious.  Hallelujah, a great meal!  The blueberry pancakes were my favorite (clearly I broke my low-carb streak on this vacation)!  We packed up the car and headed to Niagara Falls!

JB was in no mood for photos at the start of our trip!  To be fair, we had all been awake since 3am and were a little grumps.
View from lunch.
A vacation must = ice cream or soft-serve twist cones.
I loved these. Duh.
This cute lil’ thing was shut down due to an impending lawsuit.  DRAMA!
Momma + Me
View from our hotel room.  This was a rare occasion of landing an AMAZING room.  Usually we get the view of the parking lot or roof, but not this time!  I gasped with delight when I realized that this would be our view for two days — completed with an open-air balcony with chairs!
The next morning brought the BOATS!  So many boats!
We bored.  Denny thrilled.
It rained a little bit, the sun peeked out, and I ran outside because I just knew a rainbow would form.
Chinless Chester, as we affectionately named the painting in our hotel room.
Best. Twist. Cone. Of. My. Life. I’ll dream about it forever.
I told you this place was cuuuuute.
Happy, happy Momma.
The front lawn of the Otesaga.
Guardian of the Distilled Water (for Denny’s CPAP machine) – and duh, I needed a photo of the Rainbow Motel sign.  But like 99% of motels these days, it looked sketchy to the max.
Denny thought the donuts were a little small.  How American of us, right?  WHY ISN’T THE JUNK FOOD BIGGER?!
Truly in love with Tim Horton’s.  Also in love with this cute roadside ice cream stand.  Which Denny drove out of his way to so that I could get a photo.  He’s the best.
Isn’t this the cutest house you’ve ever seen?  I didn’t need to say a word.  I just gasped… and Denny turned the car around so I could get a photo.  Boonville, NY!