There’s No Crying in Baseball!

My mom, my big brother and I are die hard baseball fans. Kevin knew that I would just love going to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. So after I left Niagara Falls, I headed that way.

My tour of Niagara Falls had ended about an hour and a half later than I’d expected it to, so I got a late start on the long drive to Cooperstown. This time of year and in that part of the country it gets dark earlier and earlier. By the time I turned off Interstate 90 to the back roads it was pretty dark. The hotel I’d booked was about 5 miles outside of Cooperstown, but I had no idea that meant it was in the middle of NOWHERE!!!  I finally found the hotel in the pitch black and checked in at about 8:30pm. Thankfully so, since the desk actually closed at 9pm. And how fortunate was I that they had discounted Hall of Fame tickets available!

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The next morning I awoke and looked out the back window. The hotel was right on Otsego Lake and I had a beautiful view.

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Then I walked down to take a look at the lake itself. A gorgeous morning!

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The lake was pristine and clear. And cold!!!!

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I walked out front to take a picture of the hotel. I looked across the street and was startled by something I saw in the window. Upon closer inspection, I laughed.

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I made the short drive into Cooperstown and since it was early, I searched for breakfast. I found this fantastic little diner and had a delicious breakfast of corned beef hash!

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By the time I finished breakfast, it was past 9am and the museum was open for business! I was ready for a nice day of baseball education.

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 Of course I had to find all the Cubs displays. Let me just say there’s far too much Yankees stuff and not near enough recognition of MY team!

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I found the women’s baseball section. It was fascinating to read about and see all the women who have been part of the AAGPBL. Gosh, I would have LOVED to have played baseball!!!

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Next,  I went into the room celebrating baseball in the movies and saw memorabilia and movie clips from my favorite baseball movies of all time: A League of Their Own, Field of Dreams, and Bull Durham.

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Finally, I visited the Walk of Fame and saw the plaques for all my beloved Cubbies in the Hall of Fame.

bbSatisfied with my four hour visit, I headed out of town. On the way out, I passed by Otsego Lake and couldn’t resist one more shot. So peaceful.

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The Gremlin on My Shoulder

This morning I woke up sad. And scared.

I’m sad because my Amazing Adventure comes to an end this weekend.

I’m sad because I’m done driving to new and exciting places.  The beauty of this country and all its natural wonders is spectacular and breathtaking. There are so many places I still would love to see.

I’m sad because I have enjoyed the hours of solitude driving in the car with my thoughts to myself, with the miles of road ahead of me and the ever-changing landscape surrounding me.

I’m sad because I’ve loved writing about my adventures, incorporating the pictures of my experiences and sharing them with all of you.

I’m sad it’s over. I would like to continue on and on, because as long as I’m on the road, I don’t have to face the reality of my life.

Because I’m scared.

At first thought, I’m scared of deciding where I want to live. Then I’m scared of finding a place to live and finding a job.

But truly, I think most of all, I’m scared that, back in the reality of my everyday life, I will not be able to  sustain the changes I’ve made over this summer. I feel like a completely different person. I may look the same to you all when I return (although my hair is shaggy and I’ve put on some lbs), but inside I feel completely different. Which is a WONDERFUL thing – I have shed layers of unhappiness and old beliefs and habits and feel like the true Alise. But I’m scared of being completely different in the same environment once I return to Louisville. And I’m afraid to trust myself to maintain this new, authentic “me.”

Today I received an email from a friend I visited last week. She told me something that five other friends along the way this summer have also told me. She said “I’ve always looked up to you.” An incredible compliment – but one that I still, even after all my self realizations, have a hard time believing and accepting. Despite realizing all summer that I am all I need, that I am completely self sustaining and wonderful and fun to be around and happy and strong and worthy. But it’s been easy for me to do on this trip, when I”m traveling around with no responsibilities or decisions to make other than where I’m headed next. But, once I return to Louisville, in my old environment, and have to start to make some life choices, I’m afraid to trust in the new “me.”  Because I’ve spent my entire life telling myself that I can’t, that I’m not worthy, that I’m not enough, and boy those old habits and patterns are hard to break.  I said to a friend earlier today that I feel like I have this nasty little gremlin on my shoulder, who has re-appeared and is still whispering the same old shit into my ear, and I feel like I must find a way to throw it off my shoulder once and for all. And it’s so hard because it has always, always been there.

My dear friend Leah gave me a lovely book right before I left – I Can Do It, by Louise Hay. It’s a fantastic book of life changing affirmations, and I’ve been listening to the CD at various times along my trip. It occurs to me that I should listen to it some more on my way back to the ‘Ville. I’m determined to find the trust and confidence in myself – and believe it, and live it – for the first time in my life.

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Honeymoon Capital of the World

My Amazing Adventure was going to end after I finished my visit in Detroit. At least that was the plan. But….while I was at my mom’s, my big brother Kevin was there and asked “where are you going after you leave here?” I took out my huge map and said “Well, I’ll visit you and Karen in Grand Rapids, then go to Ann Arbor, and end in Detroit.” He looked at the map to the only big blank space on it and said “What the heck? How come you’re not going to anyplace in the Northeast????” I had no reply. At least no reply that was going to satisfy him!

Kevin proceeded to write down his suggestions for the continuation of my trip. I was actually excited about it, since I had been a bit sad that my adventure was about to come to an end. I was ahead of schedule anyway – now I had an excuse to keep going!

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So, on Sunday I left Detroit and headed east! It was a drizzly dreary day as I drove through Cleveland, Erie, and finally Buffalo, NY. And when in Buffalo, I guess one may as well try some buffalo wings, which I did at the restaurant that supposedly invented them.

IMG_4935A dear friend had suggested that I try a boat tour of Niagara Falls, so I took her advice and booked a tour for the following day. I spent the night in Buffalo and headed for Niagara Falls the next morning. I arrived in plenty of time (yes, I still have the early habit) so I stopped at a little place for breakfast. Ladies and Gentlemen, this was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had on my adventure. It was also the cheapest by FAR. I had two eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, toast and coffee for $3.75.  Holy Moly!

IMG_4939Fully fueled for the day, I drove to the tour pick-up spot. At 10:35, the bus pulled up and I, along with several other couples, loaded ourselves on. It was captained by a very unique guide, Chuck. Chuck was 61 years old, in incredible shape, with a LONG pony tail down his back. Chuck had clearly been doing this for many years. He let us know that he was going to give us the tour of our lives, and that he was watching out for us and was not ABOUT to let us get ripped off by all the tourist traps along the way. Our adventure began.

Chuck was like a Mother Hen, directing us here and there. Our first stop was the Cave of the Winds. Chuck took care of the paperwork, issued us our tickets, and ushered us into the room where we were given our designer sandals for the day. He even gave me the insider tip to twist the straps so the sandals would fit tight.

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From there, he sent us down the elevators, where we traveled 175 feet below and were given lovely yellow ponchos. We got into line for the incredibly awesome deluge at the base of the American Falls! WOW!

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Next, Chuck took us to Three Sisters Islands, where we got off the bus and took a little walk to all three for views of the rapids in the Niagara River right before Horseshoe Falls

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Next was a stop for lunch, and then, what we’d all been waiting for…MAID OF THE MIST BOAT TRIP!!!

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Chuck found a parking place where there was none to be found. This guy knew everything! He then quickly ushered us through the ticket booth to the distribution of the BLUE ponchos.Then, he left us in line for the boat with strict instructions to find a spot on the CANADIAN side of the boat on the upper deck when we boarded. He assured us this was the best spot of all. We all heeded his advice and upon boarding rushed to the spot. The boat departed and the voyage was spectacular! I was SOAKED!!!

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Chuck met us as we all got off the boat and took us to the top of the observation deck for some classic Falls pictures.

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Pretty flowers also along the way. Who doesn’t like pretty flowers???

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What a fantastic day, and I’m so grateful that I took the tour. I have found on my adventure this summer that tours are the BEST way to see the sights, and they are worth every penny. Plus, I got to meet some fantastic folks along the way. And the nicest part of the day didn’t have anything to do with the beauty of the Falls. One of the couples on the tour who sat right behind me on the bus were from Cincinnati of all places! At the end of the day, as we all departed, the man from Cincy turned to me and said “It was so nice to meet you. Every time I looked at you today you were smiling.”

Another reinforcement!

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A Couple of Days in The D

detroit 2My friend Dana helped me set up my blog. Later that evening, over a beautiful dinner and spectacular bourbon, Dana and her husband Brian shared how they had bought and were renovating a house in Detroit. Dana said that I MUST visit them there along the way. While I was in Ann Arbor, I messaged her with not much hope, since I would be leaving Ann Arbor over the Labor Day weekend and didn’t expect that she’d be up in Michigan at that time. Imagine my surprise when she said yes, absolutely, and in fact she was turning 40 and was having a celebration that weekend in Detroit. Perfect timing!

I’d made the drive to Ann Arbor to Detroit many times in the years that I’d lived in Ann Arbor – playing in the Michigan Opera Theater orchestra. I’d never spent any real time there though. Detroit is quite a broken city – it’s bankrupt to the tune of 18 BILLION dollars and there are over 50,000  (yes, that number is correct) abandoned, broken down, and decrepit houses everywhere. But there is an effort to try to bring it back to life. Foreclosed and abandoned homes are auctioned off – you can buy a house for around $1000 – with the hope that the re-investment in the economy will help to bring the city back to life.  Dana and Brian are part of that effort, and I give them HUGE props for this.

IMG_4901I arrived at their house around 5:30pm on Friday, just in time to assist with the final preparations for Dana’s party. The backyard was tented, there were pretty white lights strung along the tent and a little firepit was loaded and ready to go. I met Brian’s sister and her partner and started the celebrations with a nice glass of Russell’s Reserve Rye. Let the party begin!

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DSC03266The weather was perfect outside and Dana and Brian’s friends were wonderful. I lasted until about 11pm when I collapsed into a sleepy tipsy heap in my sleeping bag.

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IMG_4895Saturday morning I woke to the smell of coffee and wandered into the kitchen to find it full of party guests. After breakfast and party clean-up, Brian took us on a little tour of the area. It was heartbreaking to see such beautiful houses, some of which would be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in another city, just empty and abandoned. We also found some interesting urban artwork and graffiti along the way.

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IMG_4920After we returned from the tour, we headed out in caravan to the Detroit Eastern Market. I have never been to a market so HUGE! Produce, restaurants, food trucks, music, and more. It was incredible!

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DSC03277This young lady had her boom box playing accompaniment while she played the melody to True Colors. She was fantastically talented. Perhaps the blue violin had something to do with it!

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DSC03279That evening we had plans to go to Bakers Keyboard Lounge, the world’s oldest operating jazz club, about 10 minutes down the road. This is a really neat little spot, and Dana and Brian said the food was fabulous. I tried the fried chicken, with mac and cheese and greens. The best fried chicken I’ve EVER had . I’m pretty sure I licked my plate clean.

IMG_4926The highlight of the evening, however, was the music. Allan Barnes and his group played. Allan is a fantastic saxophone/flute player, and completing his group was a trumpet, bass, guitar, piano and drums. All of them were top notch musicians. Enjoy a bit.

 After a couple of sets and some great food, we headed out to a tiny neighborhood bar until the wee hours of the morning to shoot a few games of pool with a few beers. So pleased that I was able to celebrate along with Dana and her friends!

Next….an unplanned coda to my trip!

Tree Town!

I lived in Ann Arbor a total of eight years,  two of those at University of Michigan completing my Master degree in horn. I’d been looking forward to spending a few days with my friend Dean, whom I’d always known as a music theorist but had moved over to the Women’s Studies faculty at the University of Michigan.

I drove into Ann Arbor late Tuesday afternoon and down the familiar streets – I couldn’t resist turning onto Fountain Street to see where I lived for several years. Still even the same color!

DSC03254Dean had recently bought a fantastic old three-story Victorian house on Washington Street in Ann Arbor. She’d been renovating it and had just moved in a few days before my arrival. I turned onto Washington street and parked in front of her house. I heard rumbles of thunder quickly approaching as she answered the door, looking the same as she had 20 years ago but with a super cute short haircut. I received the grand tour of her house and its impeccably tasteful renovations. One of the most fascinating features were her screened skylights that open remotely – and then automatically close at the first drop of rain! The kitchen was stunning, with a gorgeous marble slab island and matching countertop. During the tour, I was introduced to her two kitties, Phoebe and Millie. Well….let me rephrase. I met Phoebe in the flesh (uh, fur) and was introduced to the lump under the covers of Dean’s bed – Millie apparently. The poor thing was having a difficult time with the move to the new house. Although I was convinced that my overwhelming kitty magnetism would draw her out and win her over, she resisted.

After the tour and introductions (and a pretty fierce thunderstorm), we walked to the downtown area in search of dinner. I was shocked to see the Blind Pig still standing, and bummed to see that Del Rio’s (a great burger/bar spot) had gone away. However,  just a bit further down Washington Street we saw an inviting spot, the Ann Arbor Brewing Company. We walked in and took a seat. I looked over the beers and selected a very interesting porter. It was indeed very smoky.

IMG_4863After a delicious dinner – I had a tasty burger on a pretzel bun and sweet potato fries – we set off on a little walk through her neighborhood. The weather was perfect – warm but with a lovely breeze. We talked and talked while we walked to our destination. Dean was catsitting for her friend Erik, so we stopped by and I was treated to another kitty fix, this time courtesy of Sebastian, a handsome and very friendly cat.

IMG_4867Wednesday morning we hung around the house. The cable/internet serviceman was there so we relaxed while he did his work. Well, I relaxed while Dean made me some strong French Press coffee and a lovely breakfast.

IMG_4869Later that afternoon we headed to the neighboring town of Dexter to Dean’s old house to pack up some remaining items and do some cleaning. After that we made our way to the old Bill Knapps where Zingerman’s had opened a great sit down restaurant, Zingerman’s Roadhouse. It was only Wednesday night but the place was PACKED! I chose the fried chicken while Dean opted for a lovely beet salad and some yummy sweet potato fries. The chicken was out of this world.

IMG_4866Thursday morning Dean had some things to attend to around the house, so I offered to tackle the yardwork. It’s one of my favorite things to do and I find it very gratifying. It was sunny but cool and not at all humid. I mowed the fairly long grass, and then took out the weedeater and went to town on the edging of the sidewalks and all along the side and back of the house. Finally, I brought out a broom and dustpan and tidied up my mess. I was pretty proud of my work and Dean was ecstatic! Our chores completed, Dean made us a tasty light lunch with ingredients taken from her garden.

IMG_4870After one more stop to the Dexter house for some final packing up, we braved the hoards of students returning to town and stopped in The Jolly Pumpkin for dinner. (It’s actually more spooky than jolly!). Anyway, it was a fun place, and I had a delicious chocolate stout and you guessed it, a burger!

The next morning Dean made sure that I was well-fed before I hit the road. Fresh green beans from her garden, potatoes, greens, and eggs made up a spectacular frittata.

IMG_4880Oh, and Millie did grace me with her presence a couple of times, but Phoebe – she’s my bud!

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Lake Michigan & Grand Traverse Bay!

I had one day to fill after I left Kevin and Karen’s before heading to Ann Arbor.  I have always loved the Traverse City area so I eagerly made plans to spend a day there. Monday morning Kevin headed back to Chicago way before Karen and I were up. Karen and I had some coffee and then I said goodbye and headed out the door. It was a cloudy cool morning, and there was a strong chance of thunderstorms all along Lake Michigan that day. But, I was determined to have a wonderful day, no matter what the weather!

I started up 31 North, and it was my plan to stop at as many points of access for Lake Michigan before stopping at Sleeping Bear Dunes for a visit. At my first view of Lake Michigan, I saw and heard the thunderstorms looming off to the west. I snapped a few pictures before getting back to the safety of my car, whereupon the skies opened up and it poured.

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The picture in my head of a perfect summer day at Sleeping Bear Dunes seemed in jeapordy, but I reminded myself not to let the weather affect my positive attitude! As I drove closer to the dunes, I noticed that the skies became a bit brighter. I stopped at another nice little spot with a historic lighthouse that unfortunately was closed, but had a nice view of the beach.

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I also saw this early sign of Fall along the way. Sigh….I know many of you love Fall, but I’m always sad to see Summer go.

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Finally, I pulled into Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.

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My plan at Sleeping Bear Dunes was to drive the Scenic Loop and then drive the additional mile to do the traditional “Dune Climb.” I drove the loop and came to one of the most famous spots. I walked out and saw these signs in front of me.

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This sand dune was the GRANDADDY of them all. I saw about three folks who had just finished climbing up this mammoth 450 foot dune. They were soaked with sweat and their faces were red. And all of them proudly proclaiming the time it took them to scale up. I overheard someone say that one of them, a young girl, had climbed it in 11 minutes. Uh…wow! I looked down the massive dune, looked at the folks at the top, took off my sandals and said, “Ok folks, see you later!”

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It is crazy getting down this dune. You really have to keep your weight back or you will pitch forward and tumble head over heels to the bottom. I kind of turned myself a bit sideways and made it all the way to the bottom in about 3 minutes. I snapped some pictures at the bottom, but it really doesn’t give you an idea of the how high it really looks from all the way at the bottom. I found some pictures online that really illustrates the scale of the hill.

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I found it impossible to stand upright and climb. I had to lean over, almost in a crawl, and use my hands. It was exhausting from the start, but here’s how I did it. I took 30 steps, then rested. I repeated that all the way to the top. It took me 20 minutes to climb. I think this woud be an ideal crossfit challenge workout. And Erin Stimac would like to use a weighted vest!

After the climb, the more sedate Dune Climb a mile down the road held no more appeal to me, so I headed out of the park. After a few miles I saw the perfect stop and rewarded myself for my workout on the dune.

ice creamI continued north and in no time made it to the quaint little town of Leland. I parked my car in the waterfront Fishtown area and wandered into a few cute little shops and then down to the waterfront.

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The afternoon was waning, but I had one more stop to make. Many years ago, my brother Kevin had taken the family on a weekend trip around this area. We’d stayed at the Chateau Grand Traverse Inn within the Chateau Grand Traverse Winery on the peninsula in the middle of Grand Traverse Bay. It’s a magnificent winery, and I wanted to go and pick up a few bottles to bring back with me. I made the easy drive up the peninsula and made it to the winery around 5pm.

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I elected for a little tasting of 6 delightful wines before making my decision, and walked up to the checkout. The girl at the register and I started chatting.  I said I’d been there about 8 years ago and she asked what brought me back. I told her my story about my adventure around the country, and how I’d found a couple of cities along the way to where I was considering relocating. When I came to Montana, she told m that she’d lived for years in Missoula, one of my spots! She shared with me what it was like to live there, the culture, the weather, etc.  Amazing what can happen when you start opening up yourself to others. I left the winery with a big smile on my face. Oh, and with some nice wine.

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Traverse City, my destination for the night, was only a short 10 minute drive from the winery. I arrived to my motel, which was right across the street from the Bay, checked in, and found my room. I walked right past a group of three women, relaxing outside their room on comfy chairs, drinking beer and laughing and having a wonderful time. I greeted them with a jolly “what a great start to the weekend!” before I realized it was Monday evening! They laughed and so did I, as I admitted that I have no idea what day of the week it is anymore.

I unloaded my belongings into my room and took a quick shower, washing away the sweat and sand that I’d collected on my climb at the Dunes. I dressed and headed out to The Filling Station, about two miles down the road. The Filling Station is in a historic railroad depot, and it was filled inside and out with a lively evening crowd. I walked in, ordered a beer and a lovely pizza at the bar, got my drink, and relaxed. I was also treated to a live little Celtic combo, playing some really fine tunes. The pizza arrived shortly thereafter and I pretty much demolished it, having worked up quite an appetite from my day at the Dunes and subsequent shopping.

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The next morning, I made my final stop in the area. I made the short drive down to Interlochen, MI, home of Interlochen Arts Academy, where I’d spent the summer before my graduate studies at University of Michigan. Unfortunately gates were up at the entrances prohibiting me from wandering around, but it was a nice memory!

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Next stop: Ann Arbor. GO BLUE!

Anchor and Refuel!

Isn’t it convenient that my mom lives along the route of my journey? I posted on FB that I had made it to my mom’s house, and a former coworker commented that she was glad to see that I was” back in the harbor”.  I replied that I wasn’t quite done with my journey yet, and she accurately assessed that I was just at the harbor to anchor and refuel. So true. I was exhausted by 9 weeks of traveling and needed to just hang out with my mom for a few days with no decisions to make and really nothing pressing to do.

Naperville is a quick three hour trip from Iowa City, and I made the drive following alongside a line of thunderstorms that stayed conveniently to the south of me. I arrived at my mom’s around 12:30 and walked in the door, scaring the living daylights out of her because she thought I would be there the following Tuesday! Hah! She gave me the biggest best hug and we spent the afternoon catching up and looking at pictures of my trip. That evening Mama asked about dinner – if I wanted to go out or if i wanted her to cook something.  I said I while I was home I wanted to cook.  Being on the road for nine weeks had kept me from one of my favorite activities, and I just wanted to grill. Mama was only too happy to oblige!

The next morning I slept in, and then enjoyed a peaceful morning cup of coffee on the patio with the company of birds and the resident chipmunks

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I’d missed cooking, and specifically cooking BREAKFAST. So enjoy pictures of all the breakfasts I enjoyed while I was at my mom’s.

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IMG_4815Later that afternoon, Mama and I drove to downtown Naperville . I had entertained thoughts of going to Centennial Beach as it was quite warm out but it was already closed for the season…and it’s not even Labor Day.

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IMG_4797Thursday morning I woke to the sound of thunderstorms. It was so nice to listen to them in a sleepy haze. I had a relaxing morning and then drove to the neighboring town of Batavia and met up with my new friends Anna and Paul, whom I’d met at Glacier National Park. We had the most lovely lunch at a great little Italian spot (mmm, pistachio gelato!) and afterwards, after the skies had conveniently lightened, walked along Batavia’s Riverwalk on the Fox River. Batavia is a lovely little town, with a history of windmills, and we passed several old windmills as we viewed the wildlife along the river.

Thursday evening I was thrilled to get a visit from my little sister, who looked fitter than ever, tan from her summer of running races. Friday was a nice lazy day, relaxing and watchinga  Cubs game.

Saturday I woke and headed towards Grand Rapids to my brother and sister-in-law’s house. After a short three hour drive, I pulled up to Kevin and Karen’s house to see them out front working on the yard. After our hellos, Karen mentioned she had to complete her ALS Ice Bucket challenge – perfect since I needed to do mine as well – and it was blazing hot! Kevin was only too happy to help us out by dumping ice water on our heads. After he was done mowing the back yard, we all headed out for a short ride to the Bostwick Lake Inn, where all three of us selected the fried perch for dinner on the most perfect evening on the Inn’s back patio. After dinner, we visited a local ice cream stand for some dessert, and came home to see a lovely cloud formation just off to the west.

IMG_4826Sunday morning, Kevin prepared a simple yet delicious breakfast variation of an egg mcmuffin, after which we headed to Grand Rapids. After parking at what looked to me to be a deserted warehouse, we walked inside the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, bustling with activity, filled with all varieties of little stores. Our first stop, right inside the entrance, was a fantastic Bloody Mary Bar. Kevin treated me and Karen, and we sipped them while we meandered around the market. One of the highlights of the market was this fabulous fishmonger. Here’s one of his beauties:

IMG_4828From that little shop we shared some of the best clam chowder I’ve ever tasted. Karen and I wandered around for a bit and then finally found Kevin at a wonderful cheese counter where he must have sampled a half dozen varieties of blue cheese. The remainder of the lazy afternoon was spent watching baseball and reading the paper on the warm deck while Kevin smoked a great-smelling cigar. Every time I visit them in Grand Rapids, I marvel and the beautiful, perfectly-proportioned tree in their back yard. At this point in the summer it looked just stunning to me.

DSC03192When it came time for dinner, Kevin lifted the cover off the grill to find this little guy enjoying a little late afternoon nap on the propane tank:

DSC03197Dinner that night was a lovely grilled salmon and some tasty grilled veggies. The night’s sky was perfectly clear, so Karen and I walked out onto the deck and viewed the stars. I saw a display of at least 7-10 shooting stars. Had to get to bed early because the next morning I was heading north to Traverse City!