Yeah, I said it.

I'm not waivering.  Anyone who thinks of Michigan as only Detroit is uneducated.  And, they're missing out on an incredible place.

Sure, our economy stinks, but there's so much more to life than money.  We visited the norther lower peninsula last weekend and fell in love with it all over again.  This time, we went to Petoskey.

While shopping, we saw this:
There are no other states with endless freshwater shorelines.
I mean, have you ever seen a dog's face say, BLISS? Eyes closed, ears flapping in the wind.... 
He really appreciated this trip...
This was a view from our afternoon walk.
And where else can you find Cherry Peach Pumpkin Chili?
Anyone who complains about Michigan needs to simply open their eyes and look around.  Sure, we have some problem areas, but the beauty here is phenomenal.

I've said it before, but I'll always be a Michigan girl.
When we brought Mojo into our home, we planned it so that we wouldn't have to leave him in a kennel while we were on vacation.  After all, Ella and I do so much travelling on our own while Greg builds his practice.  There are times, however, when we all have to leave town.  We always prefer to bring Mojo along, but it's so hard to find a place for him. 

Well, we found one, and it's just as lovely for us as it is for him.

Morning walks were bliss as we stepped outside and heard nothing but nature sounds.  No cars, no planes, no lawnmowers...

We found this meadow and Mojo just bounded through it with joy.
We found evidence of moms and babies that had been there before. But Mojo just wanted to run.
It's like he was experiencing total freedom. He wasn't worried about mailboxes or passing cars. . . just exploring.
And, when he wasn't conquering the wild woods, he was protecting the front porch....
Or the street below from the window seat in our room.
So, not only did we find a place that welcomes Mojo, it's in one of my favorite parts of Michigan. 

And, here's what I didn't tell you (yet!)....if you're visiting the Petoskey area, you must check out Grace Grange B&B.  It's a quaint log cabin miles from the city (but only 10 minutes away!) and is a working horse farm.  Horses and dogs are welcome!  And, kids too (not always the case at B&Bs).   Our hostess, Pamela, had such a kind, gentle spirit and was so welcoming.  And, her breakfasts were phenomenal.   Extremely reasonable and serene....we'll be back.  In fact, we're spending Thanksgiving up there!  The four of us, that is.

Please check out Grace Grange!  Click here for more information or email me!
On vacation, my dad took Ella and I out to dinner at a local family resort (local to him!).  It's a family resort that has been around for 102 years! If you want to eat dinner there, you call and ask them what's on the menu.  There's one entree per day.  Everyone gets the same thing.  The food is good, but the whole place is enchanting in a Grizzly Adams (rustic) meets Dirty Dancing  (not the dancing part, just the resort!) sort of way.

Welcome to the Fireside Inn...
The dining room is cute and everyone is treated like family.  If you stay in the cabins, breakfast and dinner are included.  We even toured a few of the cabins ~ rustic, but cute.
My dad loves the "Fireside Room", but Ella and I call it the "Dead Animal Room".  You would not believe the number of dead animals in this room. I have never been surrounded by so much wildlife.  Ewwwww.....
But, I am a fan of porches and this place has one heck of a porch!  Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the view from this porch.
The view from the porch is Grand Lake and it's facing West - the sunset side.  If you've never seen Grand Lake, it's iridescent green from all the limestone in the area. Beautiful!

There are tennis courts and cabins and it's dog friendly!

We'll be back, for sure.
We like to go a lot of places, but there's one place we love.  I know, you're getting tired of hearing about it....but I just can't stop writing about it! Is it our family history there or is it just a really cool place to visit?

I don't know.

But, this I do know:

It has awesome ice cream!
Ella can find it on a map of Lake Huron!
You can actually walk off into the sunset.
It's on one of the clearest great lakes.
And Ella has announced that she's getting married there ~ at the 'old lighthouse.'
Our family place is definitely Presque Isle, Michigan, and we love it.
I was either 7 or 8 when I saw the world premiere of the movie Somewhere in Time at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.  My dad was often at the Grand Hotel for work and saw the movie being filmed.  I was on the island often as a kid, and the movie was a big deal to my family.

So, while on vacation this last week, I thought I'd let Ella in on the deal.  We planned a day on Mackinac Island and I told her about the movie.  We watched it the day before and she loved it. It was so rewarding to see her appreciate the film and its location.

Ella has been to Mackinac Island, but she was only 2 or 3 and has no memory of it.  This time, she was loving every minute, from the ferry ride...
to the 'Somewhere in Time' experience.

We saw the shop where Christopher Reeve's character purchased coins and Ella jumped up and down with excitement.
As we walked up the hill toward the Grand Hotel, Ella was in awe. I used to spend many Wednesdays on the island when my dad was there for work in the summer.  I'd just wander around and explore.  I had forgotton how 'grand' the Grand was...until I saw Ella's eyes when she saw it.
We toured the hotel and saw the Somewhere in time memorabilia.
Totally worth the $15 to tour the Grand...just for the joy in my kid's face.
We went everywhere we were allowed to go...even up near the top.  We looked for Jane Seymour's character's room (117) and it wasn't there.  This comes up at least once a day...even one week later.
What a blast...seeing your own past through your child's eyes. 
And now, we have another Somewhere in Time fan in the family.
I have to be honest. I'm not always a big fan of the town I live in.  I often feel like an outsider here, and I have heard many other 'transplants' say the same thing.  It's a hard community to break into.

The negatives are that it's a very homogenous community.  There is little diversity in culture, religious beliefs, skin color, political beliefs and workplace gender. 

However, there are some good things.  We have beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan just a few miles from our house, lots of hiking and biking trails, and it's generally safe. The town has a couple very wealthy benefactors and they are generous.  Our sidewalks are heated in the winter and we have a bustling downtown.

Greg and I ventured downtown when Ella was at her grandparents' and we had a blast.  It gave me hope for this little sheltered town. 

It just so happened that it was sidewalk sales days, so the main street was closed off and people were starting to fill the streets.

We stopped at the running store...
Checked out some street performers (they perform every Thursday).
And just enjoyed the stroll....

When we arrived, everything was just getting started.  We headed into one of our favorite places (a LEED Certified hotel & bistro) for a drink and appetizers.
By the time we were done the streets were so crowded and my arms heavy with bags (we started a little early holiday shopping) I couldn't get my camera out.

I loved the energy, though.  People hanging out together and enjoying summer in our quaint little downtown.  Sometimes, I kinda like it here. 
On our anniversary, Greg and I went to the hopping town of Fennville.  Ok, so it's not hopping, but we had one of the best dinners we've had since moving to this area  (7 years ago!), and we'll be back.  The place is called Salt of the Earth.

We sat down at our table and were immediately relaxed.  It's a casual atmosphere with pure class.  The service was outstanding, from start to finish, and you could tell that everyone was a team. I'm not sure I've ever seen a restaurant run this way (and I've worked at a few!).

So, to start with the menu. . . Gordon Ramsey would love this menu - it's one page, simple with something for everyone.  Jamie Oliver would also love this menu.  The dishes are made with sustainable, local products.  WE loved this menu!
We always like to try a few things and split them when we go someplace new.  So, we ordered an appetizer (or 'shared plate') - the pierogi.  I forgot to get my camera out soon enough and just caught the last few bites.  Pierogi can sometimes be heavy (they are usually a crust of flour, egg and water stuffed with potato!) but these were so light and flavorful.
I told Greg to pick an entree, because I saw something on the menu I couldn't live without. He chose the trout.  it was a hard decision, but I MADE the waitress tell us if she could only pick one item for her last meal what would it be?  The Greg chose that. Beautiful presenation and delicious.
I saw someone else eating a pizza and new I had to have one, so I ordered mine with fresh tomatoes and garlicky spinach.  Wow.  That's all I can say. Wow.
And then, as you leave, you walk by this beautiful rack of baked breads.  One for us and one for my inlaws and we were out the door.
But that wasn't the end of it.  We kept glowing over the meal and telling everyone (and now I'm telling you!) about it.  And... for the record, the pizza is just as good the next day, hot or cold (believe me, I have personal knowledge of this).
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Last year, at the suggestion of my dad, Ella and I entered a photography contest.  To our surprise, we each won.  She won the kid's category and I won an honorable mention and a calendar spot.

So, today we're heading up north to do it again.  This year, the theme is "Treasures of the Jordan" (it's for the Jordan River Watershed).  All entries must be marked with where your pictures were taken.
Last year I entered with little hope of winning.  I did it to participate with Ella, and it was fun.  This year, I don't have much more confidence, but it will be fun to see what happens.

I love having a map with places to explore. It does make it mysterious.  What will we find?

This year, I have a new camera too. Ella can use my 'point and shoot' camera and I can take some time to set up my shots. 

I'm not a big contest - enterer (yeah-not a word, I know).  By nature, I'm not competitive. I never really loved team sports and really only ever did well at individual activities.  I'm ok kicking the heck out of myself, but not someone else.  Even last year, when my photo had a ribbon on it at the award ceremony, I looked around and couldn't believe the competition. 

It was pure luck that one of my photos was chosen - yes, it was a good photo, but there were so many good photos.  There must have been something in my picture that spoke to the judge - maybe it reminded him of his mom baking cupcakes as a kid or something....I don't know.  I do know that there were a lot of talented photographers with pictures entered, and they deserved it just as much as I did.

I also felt bad, because my dad had been the reigning champ in the contest...until we came along. Oops.  Sorry, Dad!  He was gracious about it, but I could see him rolling his eyes (jokingly) through the email he wrote informing us we had winning photos.  I know he was happy for us, but disappointed all the same.

I'm just not that into winning.  Sure, the check was great, but it also meant I had to be the center of attention for about 30 seconds. Eek!

But, I'm jumping ahead.  This year, I'm just going to take pictures and enjoy it.  Whatever happens, happens. 
When I first went to my dad's quiet house in northern Michigan, I thought, "How can I capture this feeling at my own house?" One of my favorite things to do at my dad's is just sit on the front porch and listen to the sounds of the woods.

I came home from that trip and told Greg about it.  He suggested making our sorely neglected front porch into a place to hang out.  I agreed, thinking it wouldn't have quite the same effect.

He painted the trim and we cleaned it up.  We added a couple of wicker chairs and a genuine antique front-porch swing that my dad had given me a few birthdays before. I ran to Tuesday Morning and picked up some cheap cushions. Voila! It looked inviting and peaceful....
It has become a major hangout for us. Ella and I eat popsycles on hot summer days there...Greg and I wait for trick-or-treaters on Halloween there...It's nice just to sit there and read after dinner.  We're not in the woods, and the sounds are different than at my dad's.  At home, we hear birds....and cars, and air conditioners, and kids... but that's ok, because it's home...our home.

I'm grateful for this small space in our home.  It helps me escape a little, without really leaving the people I love.

OK, now these people really know how to create paradise in their backyard--
I know it's a little difficult to see, but we found this house on a busy road near my inlaws' house.  Not only is there a desert island with a BAR, but there are fountains, umbrellas and even a PONTOON boat....  There are no (real) palm trees or exotic animals, no crystal blue waves with dolphins playing in the water, no tropical weather...but it's paradise just the same.

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    My name is Kristen Porter ~ I am a corporate attorney by day, and a writer/artist/renaissance-woman wanna-be by night. 

    This is my summary of life and attempt to capture small moments forever while appreciating their impermanence.  Those small moments are what make life so wonderful!

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