Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.

Sunday in Michigan: Fall

October 29th, 2017

The colors, the crisp air, the light… fall is a fabulous season. And life is a series of memories, and bonding with your family. With fall schools are back in session and cooler temperatures are moving in, meaning Fall is the perfect time to browse a local bookstore, indulge your taste buds at a cupcake shop, explore an aquarium or even a day trip to a pumpkin patch.

Whatever you decide to do, it’s all about being together because you want to. Fall fun is about creating heartfelt memories to reflect upon in years to come. Build some memories this week.


Sunday in Michigan: Hackley and Hume

June 18th, 2017

Visiting the Muskegon area? Be sure to tour the city’s historic waterways, squares, mansions and museums. The City of Muskegon has always been linked to the fresh waters that inspired its growth and have maintained its quality of life. During the lumbering era, pine logs traveled these waters to market, and Muskegon boasted more millionaires than any other town in America.

Lumber partners Hackley and Hume were two of these millionaires that built their fortune in Muskegon. The families built their home side-by-side while sharing a massive City Barn located between the houses. Serving as an architectural bridge between the two houses, the barn housed horses, equipment, and their coachmen, who each had living quarters on the second floor.

City Barn

Architectural details of barn bridging the two homes

Hume House

Hume’s coachman’s quarters. Thomas earned $40 a month and Hackley’s coachman making $25 a month. Historians believe the difference may be because Hume had 7 children and therefore his coachman had extra responsibilities.

Built between 1887 – 1889 the Hackley House is a unique example of Victorian architecture and of late nineteenth century interior decorative arts. I have toured many historic homes and each one has something unique to offer. The Hackley House had exquisite examples of ornate Victorian woodworking, stenciled ceilings and a radiator food warmer in the dining room. I’d never seen one of those anywhere! The entryway of the Hackley House has five carved heads, representing the five races of man.

Hackley parlor

Hackley spared no expense impressing guests with stained glass windows. All are still original to the home.

The entryway of the Hackley House has five carved heads, representing the five races of man. This one represents the Native American.

This radiator-style, cast iron food warmer is not the one in the Hackley dining room, but very similar. It had shelves and allowed courses to stay warm during the meal.

Each of the Hackley fireplaces had ornate tiles fitting to that room.

Carved bat along Hackley staircase

Notice the hand stenciled border and ceiling work. Beautiful

This Hackley fireplace was unique because it was built with split flume in order that he could put a stained glass window above mantle.

The interior design of the Hume House is more open and modern than the Hackley House. Filled with spacious living areas and nine family bedrooms decorated with simple patterns, David S. Hopkins designed the house for comfort and a large family. The Hume family expanded the house after the turn of the century creating a beautiful library, a large dining room with geometric tile flooring, and a sleeping porch off daughter Helen’s room with a terne metal floor.

Hume massive front door and delightful tour guide.

Hume’s windows were less ornate

The Hume house was a typical family home.

Following our tour of the historic homes, we visited the Muskegon Museum of Art to view the North American Indian photography of Edward Curtis. The event celebrates the artistic genius and lasting cultural legacy of Edward Curtis, an early-1900s photographer who followed his dream and sacrificed everything for his art, died in obscurity, but left behind one of the greatest artistic collaborations and photographic achievements in history. In addition to the iconic photographs, the exhibition included all 20 bound volumes of the western Indian tribes, historic objects from Curtis’s life and work, and examples of cultural artifacts represented in the photographs. To view Curtis’ extraordinary body of work, click on the link below: https://edwardcurtis.com/?gclid=CPeax7n5wtQCFYSPswodcvsMZQ

Vacations are never complete without a sightseeing tour! Thank you, Tara, for suggesting these ideas for our outing.

Sunday in Michigan: Michigan Heritage Park

June 11th, 2017

Hands-on experiences await you along the trail of Michigan’s history! Michigan’s Heritage Park in Whitehall is a perfect family activity, promising outdoor adventure for all ages. A short stroll covers 10,000 years of Michigan History in a natural woodland setting.

While visiting with my family, I learned about military and civilian life at the time of the Civil War during this special weekend at Michigan’s Heritage Park.

Along the trail we experienced daily life in a Native American Wigwam Village (1650) and interacted with a fur trader (1760) stocking her shelves in the Fur Trade Post. In the Settlers Cabin (1830), we learned about the life of early settlers, but didn’t help with daily chores. We visited with Civil War Soldiers (1861 to 1865) in their winter camp and heard about the dangers in camp. We drew the line at stretching out on a bunk in the Lumber Shanty (1880), but not before learning what “small game in the bunk” means. Afterwards we continued the stroll to find out what it took to put dinner on the table in the Farmhouse (1900) and learn what the Civilian Conservation Corps (1933) did in Michigan.

Civil War Calvary

1630s Indian Wigwam Village

1830s Settles Cabin

1830s Settles Cabin

1830s Settles Cabin

Village Singers

1860s Civil War Camp

1860s Civil War Camp

1880 Lumbar Shanty

1900s Farmhouse

1900s Farmhouse

1900s Outhouse

1900s Kitchen

CCC Tent

Civil War Demonstrations

Trying out the atlatl

Develop a passion for learning together and you will develop a history working together successfully.


Sunday in Michigan

October 9th, 2016

Treat yourself to a day of old-fashioned family fun by attending a Fall festival, such as an apple butter festival, like I did! Visitors to the Fenner Nature Center could help stir the giant copper kettle of spicy apple butter, crank the cider press, taste different apple varieties, donuts, talk with various craftsmen and listen to live folk music while walking the trails.

apple-butter-fest-29 apple-butter-fest-28 apple-butter-fest-33 apple-butter-fest-34 apple-butter-fest-48 apple-butter-fest-49 apple-butter-fest-50 apple-butter-fest-52 apple-butter-fest-54 apple-butter-fest-2 apple-butter-fest-56 apple-butter-fest-57

The Fenner Nature Center is a Lansing nature center encompassing 134 acres. The property includes over four miles of trails uses year round and a visitor center. Inside the Visitor Center is a collection of live native reptiles and amphibians, with songbirds, deer and wild turkeys seen through the large picture windows.

With no admission fee, the Apple Butter Festival had activities for fall-enthusiasts of all ages! This is the perfect day or weekend experience for everyone from grandma to the kids.



Sunday in Michigan

July 24th, 2016

Sundays have always been cherished days in my family. It’s the day we sit down to a large dinner after church and either take a nice drive into the country or take naps, rent movies and play games before another week begins. It’s a precious time, a day to look forward to and enjoy whether with your family or on your own.

When you spend your Sunday doing what you want, you set a tone for the upcoming week. You began it on your terms…you can conquer the week on your terms. I’m fortunate to be spending this Sunday with my family in Michigan just talking and enjoying each other’s company. It’s been a great visit and as I prepare to begin my next assignment I’m comforted in knowing I have such a wonderful family supporting me wherever I go.

How you spend your Sunday is up to you. Sometimes, commitments and scheduled events take your time, by chance or by choice. But, if you find that you have time on your hands, consider making Sunday your family day and create memories of a Sunday well spent.

Sunday in Michigan

March 13th, 2016

Ahh … Mud Season in the Upper Peninsula is yet another tourist season that often goes without notice and varies in intensity. I’m quickly learning it’s a time of year when the simple task of making it to, and from, work a challenge. There was a time when I used to snicker at the sight of those jacked-up, four-wheel-drive truck with tires taller than me. I’ve stopped laughing now that I know those are the ONLY vehicles that can safely navigate some of these monstrous mud holes. If any of you reading this have experienced “Mud Season” on a dirt road, you know what I mean.

For those of my friends living in Florida, Mud Season is a period in the north that takes place in late winter/early spring when dirt paths such as roads, ski hills and hiking trails become VERY muddy from melting snow and rain.

Still not sure what I’m talking about? Mud season occurs only in places where the ground freezes deeply in winter, is covered by snow, and thaws in spring. Dirt roads and paths become muddy because the deeply frozen ground thaws from the surface down as the air temperature warms above freezing which has happened early this year. The snow has melted away but the frozen lower layers of ground prevent water from percolating into the soil so the surface layers of soil become saturated with water and turn to mud. Very thick, slippery, nasty mud.

Mud season’s also characterized by giant puddles along paved roads, from large piles of snow melting, that have no place to drain off to. Lots of puddle dodging on the way to work. Don’t bother washing your car, it’s only going to be covered in mud by the next puddle.

Every Spring is probably a little different. Last year it came later and the mud wasn’t as severe in the area. This year it’s early and Yoopers are struggling to keep their sanity. Some say the severity of Mud Season depends on how deep the frost permeates the ground in winter. Others claim it’s related to the amount of rain we receive in the early Spring. Personally, I think it depends on how quickly the sub-surface defrosts… Who knows? I just know we transitioned from below zero temperatures to mid-50’s very quickly. Voila – mud!

Nonetheless, those that live in this region wouldn’t trade the joys of Upper Peninsula living for anything. I think take some even take perverse pride in their “fifth season.” Yoopers are a hardy folk!

Mud season 1 mud season 2


Sunday in Michigan

March 6th, 2016

In case this winter has you feeling blue, let me share something enchanting. I drove downstate (across the Mackinac) to visit family this weekend and to witness the phenomenon of Michigan’s blue ice that’s drawing spectators from near and far. If you are driving over the Mackinac Bridge on Lake Michigan during the day, you can’t help but notice the ice on the lake is a distinctive color right now: blue.

I couldn’t help but linger on this pale blue ice. The nearly neon chunks are piling up on Lake Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge and beaches and are especially mesmerizing against the muted tones of the snow and winter sky.

While Ice and snow usually appear white, locals say that the unusual color is a common phenomenon in the area when the ice gets dammed up with large sheets of ice crashing crazily against each other along the shores. The ice crystals are coarser and the ice has fewer bubbles, light waves are able to travel deeper into the ice giving it the blue hue.

Blue Ice 1 Blue Ice 2

Fascinating, isn’t it?!

Sunday in Michigan

February 28th, 2016

Adventure and exploration of new experiences have been the mainstay of my Sunday series. With that in mind, today I want you to consider my sister Tara’s rollicking “Misadventures in Maple Syrup Making.”

Have you ever seen those miniscule bottles of real maple syrup on sale for $10 and thought, “Is it really worth that much?”  Well, let me assure you, it is worth every penny.  Making maple syrup — real, from the tree, maple syrup — is a wild ride where you lose all sense of time and proportion trying to tame tree juice into liquid gold.  I say this while drinking my new nectar, maple water — the beast itself, totally addictive.

My husband and I purchased a lovely piece of acreage with some large sugar maple trees and wanted to try our hand at tapping. How hard could it be? I bought my husband the equipment for Christmas, so we would be ready to make our own syrup when the time was right.  We were maple-tapping virgins ready to try.

And try we did last weekend, when the temperature in our area spiked to a wonderfully balmy 50 degrees.  The lows at night were still freezing, making it perfect tapping weather.  The tapping itself went well. The instant the whirring drill bit pulled free from the trunk of a maple tree behind our house a splendid stream of sap began oozing. We ended up with at least 10 gallons over two days!  We read up on how to make the syrup and got started.  That is when things took a detour…

This was a joke, because it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce a single gallon of syrup; one or two drops of lost liquid wouldn’t yield enough for even one flapjack serving because maple sap is mostly water.  Instructions said we needed to boil the water for many hours. If you don’t boil it soon enough the sap ferments, so you want to get to it in a timely manner.  It said it was best to leave it overnight since it would take all night and then it would be ready for the next phase.  So, we poured at least a gallon into our biggest pot, set it to boil and went to bed.  Can you see where this is going?  A few hours later, a uniquely sweet yet acrid, smoky smell woke us up.  Yep, the maple sap had boiled away to the sugar, which boiled until it charred.  I am still cleaning that pot.

Try number two…  In our infinite wisdom we decided we should try a smaller amount, with a smaller pot, to see if I could make a small batch before we spent any more time on this project.  It didn’t take too long and it boiled down to a golden nectar.  But there was so little of it, it went right past syrup and went to that “soft ball” stage.  We had a coating of maple-flavored candy too hard for syrup and too soft for caramel.  It tasted good though!

With that little success under our belts, we bought a 5-gallon stock pot for round 3.  We started early in the day, in the kitchen, with our stock pot full of sap and our minds full of syrup — I mean hope.  It boiled away all day long.  No burning or smoking this time!  Just a wonderfully humid steam rolling off while we waited.  I breathed better in the house that day than I have since moving to Michigan.  Then, that night, my husband felt a drop of water hit his head.  He looked up, and we found out why you do most of the boiling process outside.  Drops of water above the pot.  Drops of water covering the whole ceiling in the kitchen.  In the dining area.  Down the hallway.  Oh yes.  We had to mop the ceiling with a towel. 

We turned on some ceiling fans and went back to boiling.  It reduced to a golden color and I put the candy thermometer in.  You have to reach 219 degrees, according to everything I have read.  If you’ve ever made candy, you know how frustrating it can be to wait while the temperature hovers a few degrees below where you need it to be, seemingly forever.  Then, it will suddenly spike and you have to make sure it doesn’t go over, because sugar changes consistency fast over small degrees.  I got it off at what appeared to be 219 degrees and we bottled a whole pint of syrup.  Whew.  What a lot of work! But we had it.

We checked it later and found that it had gone past syrup stage after all and become caramel-like again.  But, by then, we weren’t letting that stand.  It was war and we were going to win at this syrup thing! “Must beat the sap!”  I found out that you can add distilled water to syrup if it goes past the right stage and re-boil it up to the correct one.  I did that, but took it off a little below the mark.  And, finally, we had our very own, hard won, natural maple syrup!

So next time you see that price tag on those little bottles, remember this story.  WORTH.  EVERY.  PENNY.

Okay, you can stop laughing now.  I heard a story today about a couple who also tried to make maple syrup themselves.  They didn’t know to use screens over the pots when boiling over an open fire and ended up with ash in the syrup AND burned it. They wrote it tasted like sweet ashes — and still made their kids try it on their pancakes.  Kid you not. You can’t make this stuff up.

Have a deliciously sweet weekend!

Tara's first maple syrup

Tara’s first maple syrup

Sunday in Michigan

February 21st, 2016

This weekend I went to see the movie Risen, the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, and his aide Lucius, are tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

For more than 80 years, stories of Jesus have been the topic of movies. Many featured not only Jesus, but Moses, Sampson, David, etc, but this film is quite different in that it has a more historical feel to it. Sticking to the basics of what is known from the Bible and other Jewish and Roman historical accounts of the event, Risen lacks computer graphics, as well as the pious and pretentious nature of the recent films Noah and Exodus. Although the message of the Gospel is clearly stated, it doesn’t come off as proselytizing. In many ways, the central character is an everyman because it is fairly easy to place yourself in his sandals and imagine what it must have been like to have been in charge of guarding Christ’s tomb and then having to answer for the disappearance.

Unlike other films where the focus is either directly on Jesus, the focus of this film is primarily on the delicate political landscape between the Jews and Romans and the protagonist Clavius, portrayed by Joseph Fiennes. Risen uses the indirect approach to discover why Jesus’ was so special to his followers (and it still to this day). Although this film is about the mystery surrounding the resurrection of Jesus in the background, the foreground is a personal journey thus making it more of a historic film than a “preachy Christian” one. Therefore, most anyone who enjoys Roman or Jewish history will find something of interest in this film. The relationship between the Romans and Jewish leadership is handled very well. It shows the game the Romans had to play with the Jews in order to keep peace in Jerusalem, especially because Caesar is arriving soon and Pilate needs to show him that he has the Jews under control.

The person of Jesus is also handled better than any other film I have seen. I’ve always found it weird that in most historic/Biblical films most of the characters speak with a British or European accent, not so in Risen. Cliff Curtis connects with the audience as down to earth in his appearance and mannerisms. He embodies unconditional love.

Risen is a little slow, and handles character development very well. I really appreciate the development of Clavius, but also Pilate and Lucius as well. To an extent, we also see some development in some of Jesus’ disciples as well. At the end of the movie, the characters in the story felt like real people, and that is a remarkable achievement in this movie.

The problem with most Biblical history-based movies is they fall short in at least one of the major category: writing, acting, directing or production. Remember “The Bible” mini-series? Whew! I promise Risen is very different, hitting on all cylinders.

I greatly enjoyed this film and hope you do too. It’s rated “PG-13” for some disturbing images and has a running time of 1 hour & 47 minutes. http://www.risen-movie.com/



Sunday in Michigan

February 14th, 2016

Polar plunge temperatures kept me from attending a bar stool race. Instead I rented “The Walk.” Set in 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to illegally walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Fast forward to 2015 when Robert Zemeckis directs a 3D version of the feat, titled “The Walk” which was previously told in the Oscar winning documentary “Man on a Wire” in 2008.

This movie is a straight by-the-book telling of a very simple story: Ever since he was a boy, Philippe has always been fascinated by the art of tightrope walking. After mastering the art of tightrope walking, Philippe outgrew his small time antics and set his mind on achieve the impossible. Philippe dangerously, and illegally, set his high-wire to walk the massive distance between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This was Philippe Petit’s ultimate dream.

Right from the start, Philippe Petit’s character tells the viewer his own story, with a forced French accent, from his early days as a kid in France and up to a very detailed telling of the event itself. If you’ve seen the documentary or know the story, you won’t find any surprises. His story is benign and could be categorized as something between a comedy and a family movie.

Still, there is nothing special about this movie. I expect a lot more from a director like Robert Zemeckis, who is behind some of the most enjoyable films in history. He’s after all at the heart of “Back to the Future”, though Michael J. Fox should get plenty of credit, and Tom Hanks made “Forrest Gump”. Zemeckis also gave us “The Polar Express”, and now he’s directed one of the most uninspiring films ever made about a bored Paris street performer.

And the narrative style grew old very early on in the movie. The Walk is basically a heist movie, and the heist set up takes up 75% of the film. I could have certainly used less time “in his training” phase, and I’d rather have the actors speak plain English, rather than hearing Philippe’s constant request to speak English for practice since “I’m going to America” line.

Perhaps if I’d seen “The Walk” in 3D I would have been absorbed by the visuals and able to get past the horrible accents and poorly developed characters. “Avatar” soared, even with some of the fantastic creations who came to life, though I knew they were not real at all. I connected with the soul in beings that couldn’t be more different from us, and here I couldn’t seem to penetrate the dullness that surrounds the acting and the story of an egotist and his stunt.

All in all, my feelings on this film were summed up during a moment when Jean-Pierre, one of Philippe’s helpers, asks Annie as she’s peering through a pair of binoculars up at the Towers, “Does he even know you’re here?” Which, I suppose, is better than what I was asking myself, “Why are you still here watching?” Rent “Man on a Wire” for the real story.

Sunday in Michigan

January 31st, 2016

“Everyone deserves a defense. Everyone matters.” James B. Donovan

This weekend I decided to catch up on rental movies. On my way to the video store I was cold, so it seemed fitting to rent “Bridge of Spies” that was set during the Cold War. If you pay to rent this film, you won’t be disappointed.

In Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg once again masterfully goes to the historical drama with a righteous man’s theme. This time insurance lawyer James B. Donovan is recruited by his firm to defend an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Able (Mark Rylance), in order to show the world the American justice system is democratic. Donovan becomes instrumental in unofficially negotiating on behalf of the US government in East Berlin. The deal is nearly jeopardized by Donovan’s childlike humanity.

The story is “inspired by true events” with the outline of the exchange of Able for U-2 downed pilot Gary Powers historically accurate. As usual, Spielberg recreates the times with the atmosphere, cars, and film noir aspect of a spy thriller in the figurative and literal Cold War. He once said, “I always wanted to tell the stories that really interested me in my personal life which are stories about things that actually happened.” He does just that and does it well.

Tom Hanks is solid and believable as the fish-out-of-water insurance lawyer, with a large spoonful of patriotic American sugar as Donovan trumpets about the importance of the constitution over the lynch-mob mentality of the general public. Alan Alda, great to see again on the big screen, channels his best exasperation as Donovan’s boss, looking for a clean and quick conviction. But it’s Mark Rylance who stands out as the shining star of the film. His salubrious and calm turn as the cornered spy just reeks of class. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, but they didn’t show him justice.

The cinematography is superb with some gorgeous tracking shots and framed scenes. Most outstanding of all is the scene depicting the traumatic construction of the Berlin wall with long tracking shots in greys and blues delivering a truly breathtaking piece of cinema. They captured the dreary shades that I saw in 1987 East Berlin perfectly.

The only issue I had was the soundtrack. Music is used sparingly and surprisingly ineffectively by composer Thomas Newman. Mr. Newman’s work isn’t bad, but his soundtrack was unremarkable, and doesn’t give certain scenes that little extra punch we expect during the climax of Spielberg movies. This is the first Spielberg film in 30 years in which he didn’t use John Williams, and it’s too bad.

“Bridge of Spies” is more about smart people in conversation with each other, knowing that if they made the wrong decision it was going to be the end of the world, than it is about entertainment.

It’s easy for me to recommend to anyone who missed it at the theaters. It’s gripping from beginning to end. I sat silent save for the odd laugh where some appropriate humor is weaved into the story.

PS: Can you believe they still have a video store in Ironwood? Didn’t those disappear years ago everywhere else? No Redbox here. LOL




Sunday in Michigan

January 17th, 2016

Indianhead Mountain Resort overlooks the Ottawa National Forest, an area known for its natural beauty and wildlife. The family friendly ski resort in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula offers 220 acres of terrain served by nine lifts and tows. One trail, Voyagers’ Highway, is over 40 acres in area, larger than many Midwest ski areas. Combined with sister property, Blackjack Resort, they offer 52 trails, 11 lifts and restaurants over 390 acres with downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing or snowshoeing to choose from. http://www.indianheadmtn.com/

I decided to snowshoe close to home given the artic “feels like” temperature of -19 F. Indianhead Resort seemed the perfect choice. They have a total of 55 inches of snow, 22 inches of that has been new snow over the past 7 days just waiting for avid outdoors sports enthusiasts to enjoy.

Their health club offers visitors use of a pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness area and racquetball courts. Weather permitting, Indianhead also offers guided moonlight snowshoeing and bon fires on Saturday nights.

jacuzzi pool

When snowshoeing the following are some thoughts to keep in mind: remember to lift those knees, and shorten your stride. Snowshoes aren’t designed to completely float above the snow, so you actually sink a little bit with each step. That’s not so terrible. However, if hiking in deep Upper Peninsula light, fluffy snow, you find yourself sinking much deeper! Today’s learned lesson was to rent a larger size snowshoe for this situation to improve my floatation. Also tread lightly and pace myself.

I enjoyed the natural, unspoiled beauty at Indianhead, however this hike was intense. I wasn’t expecting to earn my pool time by breaking the trail in snow up to my knees. Nonetheless, snowshoeing is a fun winter fitness option that can change in intensity from a slow walk to a much more intense activity by using poles, going uphill, or by going through deeper and softer snow.

I’m learning. One step at a time. Why not get out and try it for yourself? There’s plenty of snow for us all to enjoy!

PS: Sunday morning temperature in Ironwood -11, feels like -29. The average yearly snowfall in this area is 204 inches.

Sunday in Michigan

January 10th, 2016

I can still remember that day. If you asked me, I thought the world was coming to a bitter cold end. Well, at least my world. It was a very humid and hot summer afternoon when I left West Palm Beach for Marquette. Not unusual for February in south Florida. It was quite a coincidence actually; since this was the type of severe winter weather I should have to been used to since growing up in North Dakota. After all here I was on my way to work in Munising. In February. During a record-breaking blizzard. And now, I’m in Ironwood watching both the snow and temperature drop while I type.

It was a mere two months ago when I told my friends and family I would be returning to Ironwood for the worst winter months. At first, some of them didn’t believe me. I admit to thinking, “What kind of sick joke is this God?” But, after a few days everyone realized I was serious.

Joke, or God’s perfect plan, I’m delighting in seeing how the snow is totally covering all the dirt and grime and making everything untainted and white. The landscape is utterly breathtaking, transformed and even thrilling.  Those who live in southern Florida probably have little idea of what I am describing, but I hope that you try. (Head over to the notoriously cold Town Center Mall without a jacket)

Snow seldom falls in Florida.  The mean temperature of Orlando in the winter time is 60 degrees Fahrenheit, thus they should never see snow. However, snow occasionally does come to the “Happiest Place on Earth” when the temperature drops low enough. Everything in the south stops when a flake drops slowly from the sky. Not so much in the Upper Peninsula.

This winter, I get the chance to watch the snow when it falls and blankets the ground and streets. I mean REALLY see the snow, up close and personal. And I’m going to try to remember to give thanks for this wonderful gift of winter bringing sub-zero temperatures and icy winds along with it. The dark, frigid days make it tough to stay positive as I curl up on the couch watching rental movies.

So please, let me encourage you that even in our most stressful moments, a fresh, fluffy snowfall maintains an almost supernatural power to calm us down — mind, body and soul. It’s magical.



Ironwood visitors cernter 1 Ironwood visitors cernter 4

Sunday in Michigan

January 3rd, 2016

Imagine snuggling up in a blanket and listening to the sleigh bells ring as you ride a horse-drawn sleigh through a wonderland of snow. Sound like your cup of tea? Me, too, giddy up!

One of the most delightful experiences I expect to have this winter was on the Barber Road Stables Sleigh Ride. I was able to sit back and relax as the antique horse drawn sleigh glided over a trail on a peaceful, quiet journey through snow-covered pine trees. http://www.barberroadstables.com

Offering year-round sleigh rides for over ten years, Bob and Jo at Barber Road Stables provide a spectacular old-fashioned experience in the Bessemer area woods. You can hop aboard an antique handcrafted two-person sleigh or 10-person 1800’s surrey pulled by a team of black Percheron mares named Laverne & Shirley.

No matter the season, a journey over quiet country roads on a two horse open sleigh or wagon is sure to be enchanting. What a wonderful way to spend some time outdoors!

Percheron Lavern and Shirley

Laverne and Shirley

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Dog Stryker led the way

Dog Stryker led the way

Owners Bob and Jo with Laverne

Owners Bob and Jo with Laverne

Me and friend Joe

Me and friend Joe

Sunday in Michigan

December 27th, 2015

In the changing of the season from fall to winter, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is magnificently transformed. The landscape becomes a snow-sculpted wonderland, with frozen waterfalls and noble pines.

Today, I excitedly shoveled the driveway and pulled out my winter hiking gear to suit up for the first hike of winter. This is winter in earnest. In some places the snow was at least over a foot deep. The snow is fun. It’s cold, but there’s an absolute stillness in the air and a refreshing solitude of the woods that’s exhilarating and pushed me further up the trail towards the roar of Bond Falls.

As I hiked, I wondered, what is it about waterfalls that’s so magnetic? Perhaps the idea that every time you visit them, they are different, transformed by seasons and unceasing motion into something new.

In winter, Bond Falls hold a different allure from my fall visit. From half-frozen crystalline plunge-pools to gossamer cascades it was easy to find a few meditative moments of peace on the frozen trail before continuing my Sunday drive to the Porkies.

Bond Falls 1 Bond Falls 5 Bond Falls 2 Bond Falls 12 (2) Bond Falls 13 Bond Falls 15 (2) Bond Falls 16 Bond Falls 18

Now that the snow has finally fallen in the Porcupine Mountains, I decided to take a peek at Lake of the Clouds. While Lake of the Clouds was a fall favorite, it still looks simply picturesque when frozen over and flanked by frosted pine trees. I’ll be strapping on my snowshoes and returning to hike into view the many frozen waterfalls during this winter.

Lake of the Clouds 1 Lake of the Clouds 2

So, pack a thermos of hot tea or cocoa, watch your step on slick trails, and celebrate winter’s frozen splendor with a winter hike.

To read about my fall visit to Bond Falls:

Sunday in Michigan

To read about my fall visit to Lake of the Clouds:

Sunday in Michigan


Sunday in Michigan

December 13th, 2015

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:11

What is Christmas? If Advent is about waiting, anticipating, yearning, what is Christmas? Advent says the Baby is coming, but He isn’t here yet. During Advent Hope is on its way, but the yearning is still very real. Christmas is the response to that yearning.

To me, Christmas is the blessing of being with family, remembering, giving, and God’s promise fulfilled. Its joy, excitement, hope and delicious goodies. Christmas is remembering the love Jesus asked us to have for everyone. Christmas is giving. Sometimes we give things, and other times we offer the gift of service.

Christmas breads and carmel corns

Christmas breads and carmel corns

Christmas brittle and bon bons

Christmas brittle and bon bons

Christmas candies and peppermint bark

Christmas candies and peppermint bark

What Christmas isn’t is a date on the calendar. Sometimes the Christmas Spirit moves and all the waiting for the joy and hope is over. The time can come when family is together reading the Christmas story, goodies on the table, gifts under the tree and God’s love in the air. What a joyous, blessing of Christmas I celebrated with my brother’s family before returning to Ironwood this weekend. We found that this Christmas was right on time.

What is Christmas? It’s when we celebrate merrily with family and friends the gift our Heavenly Father gave to each of us: the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

P.S. Thank you to each member of my family for making this a memorable Christmas. Also, posts may be sporadic until I am able to obtain Wi-Fi at my new Ironwood home.

Sunday in Michigan

December 6th, 2015

Today’s post is dedicated to my sister Tara who suggested this adventure, but was unfortunately unable to join in the fun.

It’s that time of year again when friends and family think about Christmases past. Mom and I took it one step further by stepping back in time in one of Michigan’s most unique Christmas celebrations. Had we been able to participate in the entire weekend, we would have experienced bagpipers, a reindeer meet and greet and carolers elegantly dressed in Victorian style attire. The entire Old Christmas Weekend is filled with lovely events including Festival of Trees and guided tours of the historic Dempsey Manor. We simply enjoyed the magical experience of the beautifully decorated downtown.  http://www.visitmanistee.com/local-events/sleighbell-festival#.VmOEkzZdHIU

Manistee Carriage Ride 1 Manistee Carriage Ride 2 Manistee Christmas Elf 2 Manistee Christmas Window 2 Manistee Historical Museum 2

The Lumberjack Luncheon was first on the list for two hungry ladies. Held at the First Congregational Church they delivered enough stew over biscuits and pie to feed a lot of hungry lumberjacks (and ladies). We left very satisfied. The church itself was originally built in 1862 and a beautiful building.

Manistee First Congregational Church Clock Tower

Manistee First Congregational Church Clock Tower

Manistee First Congregational Church

Manistee First Congregational Church

Manistee First Congregational Church parlor

Manistee First Congregational Church parlor

Manistee First Congregational Church kitchen

Manistee First Congregational Church kitchen

Manistee First Congregational Church Lumberjack Luncheon Stew with Mom

Manistee First Congregational Church Lumberjack Luncheon Stew with Mom

Wanting to honor the area’s German heritage, we toured the Manistee Historical Museum with exhibits of traditions, decorations, dollhouses, miniatures, toys, trains and enjoyed the Liliputian Christmas displays. The building has remained as it was in 1905 and houses one of the most extensive collections of Victorian antiques and photographs in Michigan. www.manisteemuseum.org

At Manistee Historical Museum

Mom inside a dollhouse at the museum

Mom inside a dollhouse at the museum

The museum houses an extensive train collection

The museum houses an extensive train collection

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum.

Christmas at the museum.

Christmas at the museum

Christmas at the museum

My mother played an organ like this at her grandparent's house.

My mother played an organ like this at her grandparent’s house.

While exploring the museum’s second floor we came across a musical player Mom recognized from her childhood. Turns our her grandfather had one just like it and she’d not seen one since. That was a fun find.

Music box like my great-grandfather's was found in this museum.

Music box like my great-grandfather’s was found in this museum.

It was the Pennsylvania Dutch tree that had us in stiches. The story goes that when the Germans came over they brought with them their Christmas customs and decorated trees. But they also wouldn’t think of cutting down a fresh tree year after year. So the first year the evergreen was beautiful and green. At the end of the season they would shake it to remove any needles that hadn’t dropped and store it. The following year(s) the skeleton would be pulled out and each branch painstakingly wrapped in cotton. Now we know why we want to stretch every penny! We’re mostly Scotch with a dab of Pennsylvania Dutch. That explains so much! LOL

Christmas tree wrapped in cotton in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition

Christmas tree wrapped in cotton in the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition

A short distance from the Museum stand the historic Ramsdell Theater where we strolled among creatively decorated Christmas trees, wreaths, tabletop items and other seasonal decor designed by local holiday enthusiasts. Visitors could bid on these lovely holiday treasures, decorated by area schools, community organizations and businesses. People were encouraged to vote on their favorite trees by leaving canned goods at the base of the tree, with all food to be donated to the local food pantry at the end of the weekend. www.ramsdelltheatre.org

Manistee Ramsdell Theater

Before starting south, we enjoyed a guided tour of the historic 1894 Lumber Baron Mansion, which now houses the Dempsey Manor Bed and Breakfast Inn and Victorian Tea Room.  It houses marvelous Neo-French Renaissance architecture, exquisite period furniture, artwork and decorative items owned by the current owner, Emmy winning James Colburn. www.dempseymanorbandb.com

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Dempsey Manor Christmas

Then some Christmas magic happened. When I parked the car in Tara’s driveway I noticed a candycane hanging from my keys. I didn’t put it there and I didn’t notice it there when I put the keys in the ignition. I went so as to accuse Mom of pulling a trick on me and she swears she didn’t place it there. Surely, one of us would have noticed it while driving 60 miles. We smiled at the Christmas “miracle” and took it into my sister as a magical gift.

However you celebrate, keep in mind Christmas is about sharing and spending time with family and friends. A little smile. A word of cheer. A bit of love from someone near. Or a bit of Christmas magic, it’s about creating happy memories with those you love. Merry Christmas!

Manistee Historical Museum 7 (2)

Sunday in Michigan

November 29th, 2015

Now that the Thanksgiving turkey is only a memory, the wreaths, ribbons and lights have been hung to signal its Christmas in Petoskey. To prove it, Santa Claus guided his sleigh through the streets during this weekend’s Downtown Petoskey Holiday parade. Hundreds of us lined the streets in the bitter cold to cheer the merry man along his way. Along with Santa there were marching bands, floats and plenty of holiday cheer to go with the coffee.

Small-town Christmas parades bring traditions that radiate a sense of community. I wish I had known this tradition in advance and brought a toy with me as members of the U.S. Marine Corps. were collecting new, unwrapped toys as part of the northern Michigan Toys for Tots program. Also a local grocery store collecting food and toiletry items needed to benefit families in northern Michigan who are unable to meet basic needs this season. That’s a wonderful way for people to give back to the community while becoming involved in the holiday parade.

And for many, it’s not just about the parade. I looked around to see people catching up with old friends and neighbors. It’s a chance for many spectators to reconnect with those they don’t get to see throughout the year while having fun. It was a great morning in Petoskey.

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May you find true holiday spirit wherever you are!

Tamara's Journeys

Journeys as great as the destinations.