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Halloween 2017: a photo essay

Calvin drew and carved this pumpkin all by himself!


Fall at home

Next to "Michigan strawberries" (that being the middle half of June), fall is my favorite season. It's another one of the reasons that I love our state so very much, because not much beats the richness of colored leaves reflected in lake water, and we have a lot of colored leaves, and a lot of lakes. 

Fall in our house is many things. It is Jon's birthday month. It is the month of Halloween, my second favorite holiday. It is a month of putting gardens to bed, and switching meals from simply grilled to oven savory. We live our seasons as fully as we can. We eschew the air conditioning in summer, and only reluctantly shut the house to fall cold snaps and the blustery weather that follows. We eat foods that are in season, or at least seasonally in style, switching to fall squash when the summer squash is done. 

Fall is also tailgates, and the first days of indoor homeschool group and a new semester of classes there. It is always magical to me how, as the earth cools and the frigid winds come, our homes and our lives get warmer in color, in cooking, and in habit. And just as I love the shedding of layers in spring, I love the adding of them in the fall. 

The everything there is a season.


Pools, gardens, ducks, and lions (a circuitous journey to Stratford)

We are just back from our final summer trip, and the last of our traditional it-isn't-summer-without-it trips: Stratford. Only this year it was a little different. Jon was headed in that direction to present his company's summer lecture series in a few different towns, and rather than have him go and come and go again, we tagged along with him for his week of work preceding our weekend theater tickets. This was a new thing for us, and one which required a lot of planning and a little getting used to. Let's just say that to make a tagalong trip successful, one really only need add pools.

Yes, throughout the week, while Jon was busy presenting to adoring masses of piano teachers (autographs are a common request, I kid you not), Calvin and I were busy becoming hotel pool connoisseurs. This was where the planning came in, because we had to make sure that the hotels Jon booked had pools to begin with, then we had to organize our time so that Calvin and I could take advantage of said pools while Jon worked, keeping in mind check-out times. It ended up with Calvin and I showering, throwing things in suitcases, and dashing out of hotel rooms just before the noon bell chimed, only to spend the next hour lounging in the lobby on our suitcases, eating lunches packed from the family cooler. It was a nifty system, once we got the hang of it, which was, oh, about Jon's last day of presentations.

So pool connoisseurs we have become, but we also made good use of travel time between cities, for though Jon was working, we ended up spending his family time in the afternoons, sight-seeing on the road, and reserving the evenings and nights (and mornings, of course) for work. Like I said, we really got our stuff together by about the last day, but we had a good time doing it, and we saw a lot of things—cities, and pools, and gardens, and shacks, and pools, and rain showers, and sunshine, and did I mention pools? All on our way to one of our favorite summer destinations: Stratford.

There were a lot of stops, and there are a lot of pictures (many from the phone this time, too, because so often I found myself in a place where I never expected to want pictures, then was glad to have the phone—which is good, because that's why we got it).

Day one is always the worst: the most driving combined with the most eagerness and the most impatience. That, and we got a little lost in Windsor when the money exchange was closed (how on earth do they expect people to spend money in their nightclub dives without a money exchange???), but we got it together eventually, then rewarded ourselves with root beer floats at a rest area (note to U.S. road commission: get A&Ws in the rest areas stat).

Day two saw a lot more action. Pool notes first: pool number one was warm and was a great size, but it was in the hotel basement and felt a little secluded. 

After swimming all morning we did our first shower-and-pack dash, then ate lunch and read in the lobby. It was actually kind of relaxing. Toronto was less so, but since we've become regular visitors to Chicago, we didn't find the city as taxing as some might. We found the CN Tower almost as underwhelming as the beer at the Steam Whistle Brewing, but enjoyed the trains at the Toronto Railway Museum.

Day three. The pool was actually pretty great, except that two hours of the morning it was being used for swim aerobics and water workouts for the (elderly? geriatric? local old folks?). We were still welcome to partake of the pool's wateryness, but there wasn't any room for us to swim, so instead we hung out in the deep end, getting a kick out of the collected grumpiness that filled the rest of the pool.

The afternoon was more successful. After our lunch/reading time in the hotel lobby, we all stopped at the Royal Botanical Gardens where we found bees, chipmunks, and a long dead and burried horse, but not as many flowers as one might expect. We stopped at three of their garden sites and their quaint tea house before heading to our final pre-Stratford stop, London (where our hotel looked delightfully like a castle).

Day four. The best pool yet, in part because it was really three pools in a fun atrium setting, but also because we stayed two nights there, so we had two full mornings to swim. Plus the hotel, in addition to being awesome because it looked like a castle, had a fascinating interior, including putt putt golf.

An added benefit of our castle hotel was its downtown London location, which allowed us to go for afternoon and evening walks between rainshowers. 

Day five: probably our best day outside of Stratford. On day five we enjoyed the castle hotel pool one last time before shoving off for the Fanshawe Pioneer Village. This is a quaint collection of old buildings (and some replicas), assembled roughly in the order of a timeline, yet somehow also in the shape of a town. We started off at a mid-1800s log cabin and moved through several other buildings from that era before entering the late 1800s, then the early 1900s. Along the way we saw demonstrations of varying sorts—blacksmith, wood working, sheep, an osprey, even a groundhog (okay, those last three weren't exactly demonstrations). We also met a period actor who was delighted to know that we were enjoying ourselves, even as frequenter visitors of Greenfield Village, and we got to see real live Indian Runner Ducks. We had a great time. I have only one warning: don't bother with the food.

Day five was also Jon's first day of actual vacation, and the day that we finally arrived in Stratford. It's hard for me to explain or describe our love affair with this town. The natives there are short of friendly, everything is overpriced, and getting service anywhere is difficult. But over the years we've come to look forward to our time there, staying in the family-owned motel with the perfectly quaint breakfasts, going for walks along the man-made "Avon" and talking to all the entitled water fowl, eating hand-dipped soft serve like you've never had anywhere else at Jenn & Larry's, and, of course, taking in the expertly produced plays (this year? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and As You Like It).

can you spot the two baby bunnies in the open grass?

wine sippy cups at intermission...


Tawas with friends

We go camping with good friends every summer. Since we do this every summer, I know I've gone on about it before, explaining how this is one of my best friends from my elementary school years, who happened to have a baby only two days before I had mine, and how we found each other when said kids were not quite two, and have reforged a magnificent friendship since then that has spilled over to our husbands and children.

Since I know I've gone on and on before about that, I won't do it again here. Nor will I go on and on about how much fun the kids have, and how great it is to get away and experience the great outdoors and the wonders of campfire smoke in the eyes while trying to make s'mores, or popcorn, or dinner, or the fire itself.

I also won't make this yet another post about hiking and wildlife, since we all know how much I can go on and on about that, or birds, since everyone excepting me is probably birded out for the year. 

And since that leaves very little to talk about, here is a photo essay of our annual camping trip, spent this year in Tawas State Park.


[a very splendorous place unnamed]

We are just back from our (almost) annual summer trip to [a park that shall go unnamed]. Almost, because we were frightened off last year by the promise of grizzly weather, and unnamed because in the five years since we started camping there it has become so popular that it is now nearly impossible to book sites without babysitting the bookings on the freezing January midnights when they become available for reservation. We may actually have to try that this year.

It is because of this popularity that we found ourselves camping in what I consider to be the earlier—the iffier, the chillier—side of the summer. But, while we did spend a full 36 hours huddled against high winds whipping bitingly out of the north, the majority of our trip was sunny and completely enjoyable. There's a part of me that lives for sweaty summer days, but the low-seventies were perfectly pleasant with the sun, and the icy early-summer water didn't deter the boys from swimming. Not much, at least.

There was hiking—almost mosquito free thanks to a dry summer and chilly weather. There were ice cream afternoons in town, fried perch at our favorite hole-in-the-wall bar, and putt putt on our way out of town. There were fires, and s'mores, and whittling, and doing dishes with the good old camping 2-pan system. There was snuggling up together in the tent to read at night, the lantern swaying as we were buffeted by an insistent wind. There was sand construction, and rock hunting and skipping. There were pancakes on the camp stove, popcorn over the fire, and a nip of Scotch under the stars after lights went out in the tent. 

And on our very last morning, as we enjoyed a final coffee by the lake, Calvin playing with a new friend soon to be left behind, we saw an eagle tracing overlapping circles in the air, gracing our final moments with a natural splendor. 

Until next year, [very splendorous place that shall go unnamed].