Do you live in a small town?

For those of us who live in cities, or in my case a suburb of a large city, visiting a small town may be as close as we get to experience the delights that they have to offer.

My husband and I recently took a trip to the delightful town of Petoskey, Michigan where our oldest daughter, Brittney moved along with her husband and daughter.

The town of Petoskey is located at the “top of the mitt” as locals like to say.  

I had been fortunate to have visited this picturesque downtown that sits on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, 1 1/2 years ago – long before we had any idea that my daughter and her family would end up there.

This time, my husband came with me and we looked forward to spending time with family as well as exploring Petoskey, which is consistently ranked as one of the “10 Best Downtowns To Visit” in America.

Like many small towns, many residents are within walking distance of the downtown area.  So, on a brisk November’s day, we set off on foot toward the downtown area.

Signs of fall could be seen all around, from the bright red berries of Ilex decidua Possumhaw to…

fallen apples filling the stomachs of squirrels and autumn leaves being raked up by homeowners.

As we walked I could see gardens getting ready for a long winter’s sleep, although some plants were still in flower.

Dried hydrangea flowers decorated many gardens, which added stark beauty.  I would love to use these dried flowers for floral arrangements in my home.
Did I mention that number one on my list of plants that I wish I could grow in my desert garden is hydrangea?

Landscapes were filled with leafless shrubs and trees along with evergreen plants.

I think that large leafless trees have a beauty all their own, don’t you?

What’s a small town without a gazebo in the local park?

Or a general store?

Yes, those are live greens, which they use to decorate with.

The arrival of the Christmas season is a big deal in many small towns and Petoskey is no exception.  

Fall-themed window displays were soon to give way to those filled with Christmas greenery and decorations.

The merchants were also transforming the interior of their stores.

Yes, that is a mannequin dressed in all her Christmas finery.  As you may have guessed this was the local florist and home decor store.

These stainless steel Christmas tree containers outside of this store were also pretty cool.  

Being a horticulturist, it is physically impossible for me to simply pass by any garden-themed store, so I went in.

Christmas trees decorated in different themes were displayed throughout the store.  I suspect that they offer tree decorating services.

While I am not personally a fan of artificial flowers, I really liked how they worked on this tree.  Of course, that could be due to the fact that they were decorated with one of my favorite flowers.

Fairy or miniature gardens are pretty popular in this area as I saw several displays throughout the stores we visited.

If I lived in area that experienced cold, long winters, I might be more likely to grow plants indoors.  
However, I am not very attentive to my indoor plants, so they usually die.  Perhaps, it’s a good thing that I live in a place where I can garden outdoors year round, thereby saving defenseless indoor plants 😉

 A large display of artificial flowers and succulents, perfect for brightening up the indoors through the winter.

Shopping with my daughter and granddaughter – can life get any better?

Next stop was the local bookstore, so of course I had to check out the gardening section.

Not surprisingly, there weren’t books on drought tolerant gardening in this region where water is plentiful.

Our next stop was to visit one of my favorite stores from my previous visit to Petoskey, ‘American Spoon‘ is a local company who sells fruit preserves and condiments from produce grown in Michigan.

I think that this was my husband’s favorite shop that we visited because there were ‘samples’.  I tried several different kinds of preserves and decided on getting my favorite, sour cherry preserves and vanilla bourbon pear conserve.

We also tried roasted pumpkin seed salsa – it was delicious, so I had to buy a jar of that too.

As I mentioned earlier, the Christmas season is celebrated throughout the gaslight district of downtown Petoskey.
What was striking to me was that the towns gaslights and stores were decorated with live evergreen wreaths and garlands – not the artificial ones that are commonplace throughout the desert Southwest.

On the first Friday of December the town hosts an Holiday Open House when streets shut down and Santa arrives to light the town Christmas tree.  Merchants vie to win the Holiday Window Contest and townspeople celebrate the first Friday of the season along with carolers and the local high school’s drum band.

I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse of a small town.  Wherever I travel, I love to explore new places and experience and observe the local traditions, gardening practices, plants, people and of course the food!

Our next visit to this small town will be in June, when the days are long and warmer.  We’ll bring the kids with us next time and explore further out to some of the other surrounding towns and take a trip to Mackinac Island, which is just over an hour away 🙂

**Have you ever lived in a small town?  What did you like about it?**

Every year, I always look forward to Christmas.  It begins in late October when I start shopping for the perfect gift for those on my list.

I am blessed to have my entire family living within 20 minutes from me (with the exception of my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy).  However, it didn’t use to be that way.  My family used to all live in California, therefore, we spent much of the holidays on the road. 

It’s because of this that I am so thankful that they are all nearby now and our holiday celebrations are even more special.

Here is a glimpse of how we spent our time together.

It all begins early in the week with my annual Christmas cookie baking day.  All the old and young kids in the family are invited, ranging from ages 20 on down to 3 years old.

My neice Sofie, my daughter Brittney and granddaughter Lily.

The kids look forward to it every year and so do I, although it is rather a chaotic few hours.

This year, my 4-year old, twin nephews came for the first time.  They really enjoyed cutting out the cookies.  We have a standing rule that the kids can eat one cookie and then we save the rest for eating on Christmas day.

The twins were really helpful until they ate their one cookie at which time, they lost interest and decided to play.  So their dad, my brother Scott, stepped in and helped decorate the others.

We had a large variety of sprinkles and frosting and the kids had fun coming up with creative ways to decorate their cookies.

My nephew Oliver, makes very unique Christmas cookies including his ‘zombie’ gingerbread man.

 A few days later, we opened our gifts on Christmas eve.  It never ceases to amaze me how helpful my kids are with helping me get everything ready just before it is time to open gifts 😉

We had a somewhat traditional Southwestern Christmas dinner of tamales, chips & homemade salsa with Mexican rice.

Gracie was thrilled with her Barnes & Noble gift card.

Christmas Day found us gathered at Double S Farms, where my mother, sister and her family live.

Because our extended family is so large, we draw names each year so that each person give one gift to one person.  

This year, we picked both of the twins which made it especially fun to pick out a gift for them.

They have begun to move past Thomas the Train and onto Disney Cars – so their new ‘Cars’ race track was pretty popular.

While we all give my mother gifts each year, my siblings and I get together each Christmas to give her a gift on behalf of my dad who is no longer with us.  

Over the past years we have given her an apricot tree, perfume and a homemade cookbook.  

This year, we made her an apron with the handprints from all of her grand and great-grandkids.

After the gifts have been opened, we all participate in another Christmas tradition which is a ‘treasure hunt’.

My mother leaves clues around the house and garden, which lead us on a merry hunt.  Both adults and kids get into the fun.

The hunt can lead us to clues hiding in the vegetable garden…

On to a nativity…

To leftover pumpkins…

And even the family dog has a clue tied up in her collar.

Special gifts from my mother to all of us await us at the end of the treasure hunt.

Dinner is simple, but delicious, and usually features lasagna from Costco.  For dessert, are the cookies that the kids made and decorated earlier in the week.

As evening arrives the last and perhaps the most important tradition of our Christmas celebration begins.

The kids dress up as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  This year, Lily got to be Mary and my nephew, Oliver was Joseph.  The twins were the shepherds.

While walking through a dark house, carrying candles, Mary and Joseph search for room to rest for the night.  Sadly, no one has room, including the inn keeper.

But, he does have room in his stable, so we all proceed to the ‘stable’ in the backyard.

There is baby Jesus with Mary, Joseph and the shepherds gathered around.

My mother then reads the Christmas story and we all sing ‘Silent Night’.

Both the adults and kids look forward to this tradition, called ‘Las Posadas’ every year.

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season and are ready for a happy New Year!


This coming year will bring a new member to our family.  Our daughter, Rachele, is expecting her first child in January.  She is currently stationed at a Navy base in California.

She is being closely monitored by her doctor because her baby is underweight according to the ultrasound, but developmentally, he looks good.

In the meantime, I have my packing list ready because once I get the call that she is in labor, I will be too excited and nervous to remember everything I need to bring.  

It will take us 7 hours to get there and I hope we make before our grandson is born!