Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Harvest day!

Below you'll see the last of the carrots we grew in a deep flower pot on our front sidewalk, some of the tomatoes I'm growing next to the black-eyed Susans and daylilies in our front yard, and the first of our potato crop.

Yes, I said "potato crop."

We tried out the "potato condo" approach with a couple eyes cut from a grocery store potato, and I can't wait until Liza gets home from school so we can find out how many more potatoes are hiding in the little container we used.

On the first day of school, my daughter gave to me ...

... time to take a long shower, vacuum all the carpets, wash the kitchen floor, finish canning barbecue sauce, clean up the kitchen, clean up the house, harvest a bunch of vegetables, and go out to fancy lunch with a friend.

But enough about me - the first day of school is about the kid, right?

Liza was sort of nervous about going in to school today, despite the fact that she's in the same school building, has met her teacher multiple times and thinks he's really cool, had a chance to set up her desk, and met (and held) Murray the classroom pet lizard.  Heck, on open house day we even found out her desk is right NEXT to Murray - and the unnamed hermit crabs - which is the coolest thing ever if you're in first grade (and aren't squicked out by lizards), according to Liza.


And yet still with the anxiety and the not sleeping and the waking me up five times last night and the not wanting to get out of bed this morning.  Hooray for acting like a normal kid on the night before a big event!  No tears, and she walked down to the bus stop and got on the bus like a trooper.

She'll be home in about an hour, and I can't wait to hear how it went.  She might not get around to talking about it until 8pm, but it'll come out eventually :)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's a good day when you can quote Zoolander

Billy Zane: Hey, Derek, back on top, man.
Derek Zoolander: Thanks, Billy. You rock.
Billy Zane: No, you rock. When you gonna drop Magnum on us, buddy?
Derek Zoolander: Not yet. You gotta tame the beast before you let it out of its cage. 

Liza took care of Magnum on our trip to Cedar Point last week.
It's one of the two roller coasters she was tall enough to ride but was scared to try.  Can't imagine why ...

We did Millennium Force, too, thus completing all the coasters she's tall enough to ride.

Having completed Magnum and Millennium, we decided to work on our own version of Blue Steel.

I think we pulled if off pretty well, don't you?

(yes, we both got our hair cut short, yes, we picked matching purple shirts on purpose, and no, she's not really that tall, she's standing on a stool so we could get the shot without me being all hunched over and weirder looking than normal)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Why you should go to Mackinac Island on vacation, even if you don't stay in the Grand Hotel

The hotel may have geraniums, but the rest of the island has hollyhocks (and lilacs in the spring) and gorgeous gardens planted in front yards and tucked away next to stables.

They've got a giant rock with a hole in it.

They've got lots of rocks, as a matter of fact.  So many that tourists have taken to leaving behind cairns just about everywhere, on land and off shore.

Bring some water shoes (the shore's mostly smooth stones, but they still hurt to walk on barefoot) so you can wade around in the absurdly clear water.  You probably don't want to swim, though - the lake never gets that warm.

You don't have to fight your way through crowds to get to the water, either, like you do in traditional beach towns.

They don't allow motorized vehicles on the island, so even the delivery trucks are pretty quiet.

Two butterfly houses.  'Nuff said.

Hiking up to the fort is good exercise, and they stuck a nice restaurant up there to give the non-history-fans something to look forward to.

There's another fort that hardly anybody visits that doesn't have a restaurant, but it's cool anyway.

It's almost always windy somewhere on the island, so it's always Kite Time.

Did I mention the cairns?

No cars = lots of bikes available to rent, even tandem ones set up for a little stoker.

The clouds make it all scenic and stuff.

Did I mention it's a bit windy?

It's an island and there's no bridge, so you have to take a ferry (or a small private plane) to get to there.

Well, there is a bridge, but it doesn't go to the island, it goes to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  But it's all scenic and stuff, too.

So basically, you go to Mackinac Island to enjoy a slower pace of life with scenic vistas, cool breezy weather, and places of historic interest.  And rocks.  And fudge.  And letterboxing, but that's a post in itself.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I am now one step closer to dying happy

So here it is: the hotel I've been waiting to stay in since 1970-something.

This is the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI.

It's all old and fancy and stuff, with eccentricities and a dress code.

It's so fancy, even your luggage gets to ride in a carriage from the dock to the hotel.

Even the retired ashtrays are fancy.

There's plenty to do - you can kick back on the world's longest porch.

Or splash around in a pool that was once used by Esther Williams.

You can engage in civilized sports, like croquet and bocce.

If you have lots of time, you can try to count how many geraniums are planted at the hotel.

You can play "spot-the-geraniums" everywhere you go, since they're on everything - posters, napkins, hand soap, even the furniture.

Not pictured: Eating a ridiculously expensive breakfast while practicing our best manners and being called "Princess" and "Milady."  Being carded - seriously - to prove we're guests and don't have to pay $10 to enter the hotel.  Listening to the harpist in the lobby while playing Oven Break on the iPod.  Taking the stairs rather than the elevator because we though it looked more elegant.  Trying to refrain from taking ALL of the geranium-scented bath products in our room to send to my mother.  Watching the hotel photographer taking shots each night on the porch, and being glad we raised our own photographer and brought her with us.

Jason was stuck in a conference room all day, but ironically he probably enjoyed more of the hotel amenities (especially breakfast and lunch) than Liza and I did.  We girls spent most of our time out and about, not learning about "lean innovation" and networking over lunch at the Jockey Club.  But everything we did do at the hotel more than lived up to my hopes and expectations. It was fancy, and sorta stuffy, and hilarious, and awesome.  I'd go back again in a heartbeat ... especially if Jason has another conference there someday!

A brief interruption

Because this is the coolest machine ever:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mackinaw-some! (groan)

When Jason learned he had an opportunity to take a seminar held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, he realized it was a great chance to learn some stuff while giving me a special treat.  Staying at The Grand, you see, has been a pipe dream of mine since my parents brought me to Mackinac Island as a wee thing.  At something like $400 a night, it was going to stay that way ... until the wonder of corporate training dropped a boon on our doorstep.

Liza wasn't sure how much of a boon it was during the car ride up there, though.

We were doubly lucky to have access to a cabin in Mackinaw City that belong's to Jason's sister's husband's family (that makes them, what? my in-laws-squared?).  While we waited for the family to return to the cabin, we killed some time at the ferry dock checking things out in advance of our voyage.  Meanwhile, Jason made a cool discovery ... you don't see to many DeLoreans sitting in parking lots, even in Cleveland.

That afternoon we met with the Hathaways, and Liza especially enjoyed playing on their Lake Huron beach with the youngest of the grandchildren visiting this week.

One branch of the family brought their pet lizard with them - guess it's hard to find a lizard-sitter for weeks at a time - and it was really friendly to everyone but me.  Apparently I'm evil, as far as lizards are concerned.

After dinner we went out to the cabin the Hathaways loaned us, just in time for the sunset.

Liza wasn't about to let a little thing like fading light keep her from checking out the beach.

Meanwhile I was taking advantage of the view from the living room.

The next morning we did some serious shell-hunting (better selection that at our beach on Lake Erie).

We braved the chilly - but very shallow - and super-clear waters of Lake Michigan.

Liza added onto the existing complex of sand castles and giant beach holes with her walled, moated, humpbacked island of awesomeness.

I supervised.
This is my kind of beach - empty, shallow, and cold enough to wear a sweatshirt over my swimsuit.  Perfect!

By lunchtime we were ready to pack up and head for the island, which I'll have to post about tomorrow, as it's getting to be bedtime now.  In the meantime, thanks again to the Hathaways for their stupendous hospitality to virtual strangers.  You guys rock!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"DC" stands for "Da Capitol"

It was about 900,000F and sunny with a chance of thunderstorms - perfect day to go to Washington, DC with Liza for the first time!

It was nice of the President to hop in his helicopter to fly by and wave to us.

 Strangely enough, while the (air conditioned) museums were busy, the outside attractions weren't packed at all.

They check your camera and won't let you leave the park until you take this shot.

Look, Liza!  There's the Lincoln Memorial, and the reflecting ... er, mud pit.

Best landscaping choice ever: the Department of Agriculture beds are planted with edibles, including okra and purple kale.

Look, Mom!  It's a big version of the one they made on Mythbusters!

Not the best self-portrait ever (how could it be, when I'm not in a bathroom?), but not bad for taking it via the skin of SkyLab.

Orville and Wilbur kind of creeped her out.

"Mom, the planes aren't shiny enough." "That's because we're looking at military planes, and sparkly planes would get shot at."  "Now THIS is a proper plane."

"Look, honey!  That's where they make laws for our country that don't actually fix the problems we have!"

The Hope Diamond has a new (temporary) setting that's just stunning.

Personally, I preferred this heart-shaped cut ... check out the refracted light hearts on the display base.

Psychedelic salt structure.

Coolest. Crystal. Ever.

The METRO is hot, smelly, and not all that cheap ... but at least it looks all cool and futuristic and stuff.