Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ice cream ball

Hey kids!

Well, we're in the thick of summer and since we got home from vacation, I just haven't felt much like blogging. I have things to write about but the mere act of sitting down and writing them just seems so unappealing! Sorry to disappoint the 12 of you who actually read this!

I'll do one today for ya, though it's mainly photos. That's how lazy I am.

A couple years ago, my parents bought Logan an ice cream ball. Whenever I mention it, no one knows what I'm talking about. Follow this link to see what it's all about.

Anyway, we've only used it a couple times. It's an interesting concept and all, but frankly, it's kind of a pain in the butt.

You put ice and rock salt in one side of the ball

and ice cream ingredients in the other side (cream, sugar, vanilla, whatever. It comes with a book of recipes or you can get creative. This time we did basic vanilla with a splash of chocolate sauce.)

Then, you "play with" the ball for a while and it is supposed to make ice cream. After 10 minutes, you are supposed to open the ball, scrape the forming ice cream off the sides and mix it up, and empty out the melted water and add more ice and salt.

So, we mixed it up and set out to play with it.

The thing is, it's really hard to play with. It's not bouncy or anything. It's HARD and it's got a design on it that makes it hurt if it's rolled to you too quickly. Logan and I both hurt our hands on it. Plus, when it's full, it's heavy. Like seven pounds. You can't kick it. You can basically roll it or shake it. AND you have to keep it in motion or the ice cream won't form.

Logan put it down the slide a few times.

We opened it (made a huge mess when it splashed) and scraped it after about 10 minutes and then refilled the ice and salt and took it back outside. We were pretty much over it by then. The kids stopped paying attention so I was stuck shaking it.

The booklet said 5-10 minutes more would make ice cream. So, we gave it 10 minutes and opened it up. It was a thin shake consistency with really hard ice cream frozen to the sides.

I gave up, scraped and mixed as best as I could, and then put it in cups with straws for the boys and gave it to them as shakes.

Logan didn't like it. Jordan ended up drinking them both.

So, in my opinion, ice cream ball = FAIL. Sorry, Mom and Dad. It seems like a good idea but just doesn't work very well.

The funny thing is, I have seen places market these for CAMPING! I couldn't imagine taking all the ice and stuff necessary to a campground and then rolling the ball around in the nasty black campground dirt and then trying to figure out how to clean it sufficiently afterward. No way, Jose!

I don't know, maybe since it's heavy I should mix it up and then do some sort of a medicine ball-style workout with it and see if that makes ice cream!

Of course, using a workout to make ice cream just seems wrong, doesn't it?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mackinac Island

The second part of our vacation was staying at a hotel in Mackinaw City and spending a day on Mackinac Island. (And yes, they're spelled differently, but both pronounced "Mack-i-naW." Something to do with the Indian vs. French vs. English spellings, pronunciations and alterations of the original word for the area.)

We packed up camp and drove to Mackinaw City. We got to the Comfort Suites at noon but were told our room wouldn't be ready until 4. What?! We ended up paying a little extra and upgrading to a suite so we could get in right away, which was cool because the boys had THEIR OWN ROOM! No bed-sharing with kids! Yeah! Logan got a queen to himself, we set up Jordan's Pack n' Play next to it, and Hubby and I had a King in the other room. Luxury! :)

I should mention here, I was nervous that this trip would throw off the carefully-cultivated sleep routine Jordan was into. We have had SO MANY sleep issues with him, and I was afraid we'd go back to that, but he slept LIKE A CHAMP! I mean, even camping, I could just open the tent and put him in the Pack N' Play and tell him to take a nap and he WOULD. He'd just lay down and take a nap. Ditto for bedtime and it worked at the hotel, too. AWESOME!

So, yeah, the hotel. They had towels on the bed folded like swans. How cute.

And we had a balcony that was off the side of the hotel, but we could see the lake across the road and watch ferries take off for the island.

The hotel was also an indoor waterpark, which we thought the boys would love, but Logan was TERRIFIED of it. I mean, I have never seen this child so afraid of something, EVER. He was hysterical. We didn't even get to use it, that's how afraid he was. To his credit, he kept trying to get over it. He'd say he wanted to go in there, but once we walked in, he'd go into a major panic and start crying and screaming and run away. It was the huge bucket that tipped at intervals and splashed everything. He was afraid of the one at a different waterpark we went to a couple years ago, too, but it seems to have escalated in his mind to not just fear but terror. We tried to be understanding, but it was difficult, and it was disappointing because we wanted to use the pools and stuff and just COULDN'T.

Oh well, such is the life of a parent!

We walked around Mackinaw City and had some dinner and went back to the hotel, and the next morning, when we were due to go to Mackinac Island, dawned with a rainstorm. We kind of took our time getting ready and eating breakfast, and it was barely sprinkling when we made our way to the ferry dock. It was done when we got there and Logan was SHINING with excitement to ride the boat to the island.

One of the ferries.

The ferry arrived and we boarded. I provided lollipops for everyone, just to make the trip more special (well, and to keep the baby occupied so he'd sit still!) and we sat back for a smooth 16-minute ride to the island.

Mackinac Island is a cool place, though it's really, really touristy. If you can get past the fudge shops, insanely huge summer homes for insanely rich people and overpriced admission to everything, there's a lot of history there and it's a pretty place. There are NO CARS allowed there, based on an 1898 law (though I did glimpse an ambulance and I'm sure there are fire trucks stashed somewhere too) so everyone gets around in horse-drawn carriages or on bike. Very quaint!

I took my new bike with a baby seat on it for Jordan, and we rented a bike with a tagalong for Hubby and Logan. I'd never heard of a tagalong before, but it's pretty cool. It's an attachment that goes on an adult bike and kind of makes it like a tandem, but the child rider doesn't HAVE TO pedal, and the tagalong is lower to the ground so the kid can reach. It worked out perfectly for us.

Hubby and Logan on the bike + tagalong

At the Devil's Kitchen rock formation

Me riding (Photos taken by me. Not easy!)

Poor Jordan had a great view of my butt the whole time.

The weather was still quite cloudy and hazy so I wasn't able to get great photos while on the island. What would have been amazing views of the Straits of Mackinac, the Mackinac Bridge, Fort Mackinac and more were just basically gray and foggy. In fact, the sun didn't come out until about an hour before we left the island! Still, it was warm enough and we didn't get wet so we were just thrilled that the rain had gone away and allowed us to enjoy the island.

We got there and locked up my bike and walked around town for a short time until we were ready for lunch, because we didn't want to waste any of our rented bike time eating. We grabbed some quick burgers (everything costs a load there!) and then got set up to ride bikes.

We rented the bike and tagalong for 4 hours and set off. We started out on the road that goes all the way around the edge of the island (beautiful, by the way. Hubby and I ran the 8-mile perimeter of the island in a race in 2006) and then we cut inland, explored an old fort and cemeteries and rock formations and looked at the horses and magnificent homes. We returned to town and headed in the opposite direction, this time going all the way around the island. We rode for most of the four hours and everyone did great. Jordan got a little cranky because he was tired and ready for a nap, plus his helmet kept hitting the back of the baby seat and would slip over his eyes, but Hubby adjusted it and eventually Jordan succumbed to sleep.

Here are a few photos of our island tour.

Jordan at British Landing

The Battlefield

My men on Fort Holmes ruins

Two of the many, many horses on the island

The Grand Hotel (This photo doesn't do it justice. It's magnificent. I was lucky enough to stay there once with my mom when she attended a convention there. I was about 16 at the time. I actually got to just read on the enormous porch, lay by the pool, etc. This place costs like $400 a night and has a formal dress code to even BE in the lobby. It's really amazing. I wish I had photos from when we went there.)

Of course, we visited Arch Rock, one of the most famous sites on the island. Someone had thrown toilet paper all over the rock and trees and it had rained so there were soggy bits of white mess all over. I was not happy. Why are people such IDIOTS?!

Arch Rock from above

Me and Jordan by the arch

Viewing the shoreline from the platform by Arch Rock

Arch Rock from below

Mackinac Bridge in the distance

Jordan zonked

After we returned the bikes, we poked around in a few shops, got the boys each a T-shirt and I bought a book, "Somewhere in Time." It was made into a movie, I think in the 80s, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and they filmed it at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. It's a great movie and the book got off to a slow start but eventually drew me in and I enjoyed it.

We ended with some Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream.

Then, we took the boat back to the mainland.

Round Island Lighthouse

Mackinac Bridge from boat

We got pizza for dinner and that was that. The next morning we packed up and headed home.

So, it was a great vacation. True to Johns family form, we started out camping and ended with a hotel and something kind of touristy. That's what we do most of the time. We enjoy ending our camping trips with a little luxury!

If you live anywhere nearby, a trip to the Mackinac area, including Wilderness State Park and the island, is well worth the drive. There is a lot to see if you cross the bridge into the Upper Peninsula, too, like Tahquamenon Falls, Lake Superior, the Soo Locks and Whitefish Point, where the Edmund Fitzgerald sank.

I feel pretty lucky to have grown up in Michigan. It's sure a beautiful state with so much to see, it's no wonder we rarely leave here when we go on vacation.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Well, we're home from a very nice vacation to upper lower Michigan.

If you're not familiar, Michigan is made of two separate peninsulas connected by the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge. We live in the lower peninsula, and started our vacation with three nights of camping at Wilderness State Park along Lake Michigan in the northern part of the lower peninsula, not far from the bridge.

Last year was the first time we visited Wilderness. It was the first place Jordan ever camped. He was 4 months old at the time. We really liked the park and it was an easy decision to go back there this year, and this time Jordan was actually old enough to enjoy the experience as well.

As soon as we arrived and chose a campsite, we set up and headed right down to the beach. Both boys plunged directly into the lake.

Logan splashed around and had a blast.

Jordan lost his footing and fell in, which made him cry.

Then we found this pretty little stream up the beach a short way. It was an outlet for a pond at the park, and the stream ran right behind our campsite. Jordan really loved playing in this ice-cold, shallow stream. There was even a nice log he could climb on.

We followed it in a little way and found a tiny waterfall where he played with rocks and frogs.

The boys got good and sandy, too.

Back at camp, we found we had set up next to some people with kids. The little boy was Logan's age, and soon we discovered there were a few boys right around Logan's age and they ALL had red bikes! Logan had his training wheels on when we got to the campground, but he had been wanting them off, so Hubby took the tools along and ended up taking them off.

It was so cool for Logan that there were all these little boys to play with. The paranoid mom in me was going crazy because they would disappear for a half hour at a time, riding bikes, playing on the swings and visiting each other's campsites. It was adorable to see all these five-year-old boys on red bikes, running in a pack.

They rode around the campground and through the woods, played soccer, frisbee and catch and crossed the stream behind our camp on logs. Precious. They were all nice boys, too, for which I was grateful. Logan had a great time with Cole, the "boy next door," and he plans to send him an e-mail. Awwwwww!

Jordan had a great time running up and down the small hill behind our camp, kicking around soccer balls, picking up sticks and (sigh) playing "bartender." For some reason, he was fascinated with our six-pack of empty beer bottles. He kept lining them up on the bench. Logan got in on the action, too.

I swear he's just trying to make a sound by blowing on the bottle in this photo.

Sunsets on Lake Michigan are incredible, and we enjoyed them very much. It's so neat, because people actually bring their camp chairs out to the beach and sit there quietly watching as if it's a movie. One night we watched and people actually applauded when the sun dipped below the horizon. What a moment!

Here are a few sunset shots.

Me and Logan at sunset. Pardon my camp hair and makeup-free face. At least I look happy!

The rest of the time, we were just... campin'! Enjoying spectacular campfires and each other's company. It was very nice and relaxing and fun. I adore my husband and both my boys so much, and getting to spend quality time with them like that is priceless.

I'm such a lucky girl!