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“What did you do over the summer?”  It is a frequently asked question as kids get ready to head back to school.  

For some of you, this may be a bit early to ask this question, but my kids started school a couple of weeks ago, so I am in a sort of retrospective mood, looking back at our summer fun.

Much of our summer vacation was spent in Michigan.

Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would be headed to Michigan, the next summer, I’d ask you “Why?”

However, that was before my daughter, and her family moved from Arizona to Michigan, which I wrote about in an earlier post.

So, my husband and I found ourselves on an airplane along with our three youngest kids headed to Petoskey, Michigan, which is located “on the tip of the mitt” as Michiganders like to say.

This was to be our kids first trip to Michigan, and they were understandably excited.

Enjoying a tea party.

Our trip was split into two parts: the first in my daughter’s rental house and the second part, in their new home.

‘Welcome Summer’ festival with the local high school’s steel drum band.


Victorian homes line the streets in my daughter’s neighborhood.


While waiting for escrow to close on their new home, we spent time playing games, walking down to the historic downtown area, enjoying local festivals and of course, eating ice-cream at the local parlor.


This is the type of small town, where life moves at a slower pace, and we enjoyed escaping the demands of our busy lives at home.


I kept busy with my daughter’s lone basil plant, moving it into the sun and out of the shade throughout the days, as their rental house was shaded by a lot of trees.  The basil was to be planted in the new home’s garden.


Petoskey is located on Little Traverse Bay, which opens out into Lake Michigan.  It is a popular tourist destination throughout the summer months, and we had fun exploring our daughter’s new town.  

Because they lived on the shore, a few of our days were spent on the beach wading in the water and searching for ‘Petoskey’ stones.


‘Petoskey stones,’ are found along the beaches in this area.  You’ll find them in gift shops throughout all of Michigan.  The stones contain the fossilized remains of ancient coral, who lived over 350 million years ago.


So, we went on our own search for Petoskey stones.  

My son-in-law is the geology professor at the local college in the area and gave me some pointers on how to identify these unique stones from the others.


You see, the fossilized coral isn’t obvious in unpolished rocks until they get wet.  So, we would look for some likely stones and then dip them into the lake to see what we had.


I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun it was to search for rocks and I even found a few small Petoskey stones of my own.


Along the shore of the lake were large lilac shrubs and their intoxicating fragrance perfumed the air.  


My daughter had some in her rental house, so we picked some and used them to decorate the dinner table.


Finally, moving day arrived, and not a moment too soon as a new baby was set to arrive five weeks later.

While my daughter and I spent time checking out the inside of their new home, we were equally as excited to look at the outside.  

Bearded iris, peonies, and daisies were the primary plants in the landscape.

More daisies, bearded iris along with hydrangea and purple coneflower.
Part of the front yard.

A weed-filled raised bed – home of the future vegetable garden.

A fire pit, perfect for roasting s’mores.
The view, off to the side of the backyard, looks out onto a farm and its planted fields.
Enormous maple trees mark the end of their property.  How big were they? That tiny spot of pink is my 4-year-old granddaughter.

Stepping into the woods, surrounding their backyard, you can see their white shed.

Lovely forget-me-nots are growing underneath the trees, all part of their property.
It was so fun exploring their new surroundings.


Before moving day, we spent some time in the garden, pulling out unwanted plants and adding new ones, such as this lavender.

The kids all helped.


The one plant that my son-in-law wanted was an apple tree.  So, in went a ‘Red Delicious’ apple tree.  The kids all had a great time helping while learning about how to plant a tree.


The soil around their house was extremely rocky.  A good-sized Petoskey stone was found on their property.  You can see the how different they look when wet.


After a few days of hard work, moving my daughter and her family into their new house, we all decided to take a well-deserved day off and visit Mackinac Island, which is only a short distance away.


I had visited this lovely place two years ago, but it was the first time for everyone else.



I had told the kids that there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island (except for a couple of emergency vehicles), but I don’t think it sunk in until we were greeted by views like these.


Exploring the history and beauty of the island took much of the day.

Smelling the lilacs.


We just happened to arrive during the Lilac Festival and the lilacs lining the streets were in full bloom.


A fairy garden in an old wagon.

A pair of unique planters for succulents.


The gardens in Mackinac Island are truly stunning.


Posing for a picture on the island with the Mackinac Bridge, connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.

My son-in-law, the geologist, looking at rocks along the shore of the island.


I love visiting this island, and it was so nice sharing it with my family.

As our trip to Michigan was drawing to a close, we visited Mission Point Lighthouse, just outside of Traverse City.


It was a brisk, stormy day, which simply made it more fun.


The kids climbed were able to climb to the top of the lighthouse, before heading to the beach.

As the last day of our vacation arrived, we asked the kids to choose what they wanted to do.


It was unanimous – go to the beach and swim!

We had a fun-filled vacation, exploring a new area while spending time doing activities together as a family.  

**What did you do for summer fun this year?  

We have had a busy start to our upper midwest road trip.  


Our journey started with a 4 hour delay in our layover in Denver.  Thankfully, it is a nice airport.


We arrive in Grand Rapids and got straight to our hotel and collapsed.


This morning started out with blue skies, dotted with puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.


The hotel shuttle took us to the airport to get our rental car and the driver asked us where we were from.  We said Arizona and he got very excited.  It turns out that he and his wife are planning on retiring in a few years and want to live in Chandler.  So, he was happy to find people who actually knew about the area.  He asked us if we would send him a copy of the local paper and told us to use his tip for the postage.


As we do on every road trip, as soon as we get the rental car, we head to the store to get some snacks and supplies.


Our first ‘official’ photo of our trip.
Our plan for the day was to head up to Traverse City by way of Manistee, Michigan.  But, our road trips have always been full of unexpected detours. 



As we were driving down the highway, we saw signs for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  Well, needless to say, we took a U-turn and drove into the parking lot.  


Walking up the gardens, you see the large greenhouse dominating the entry.

Gardens in cold climates often have impressive collections of plants that would not survive the cold winters and as a result, a large amount of their collections are grown in greenhouses.

We were able to enter the garden without having to pay an entry fee because this garden had reciprocal membership privileges with the Desert Botanical Garden, of which we are members.

Near the main entry were entrances to different parts of the greenhouse including there arid garden.

I stepped inside to see what types of arid-adapted plants they had.


These are the largest golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) I have ever seen.

Many of the plants I was quite familiar with and a few are growing in my Arizona garden.  You can see a fan in the photo, above, which I am sure they use to keep the humidity levels down.

I did not spend more then a couple of minutes in the arid garden because I wanted to see some plants that were different from home, so I decided to explore more of the garden.

Bachelor’s Button

During my previous travels to the midwest, I have become more familiar with the plants that are grown here.  However, many can be grown in my desert garden including bachelor’s button which I’ve grown as a companion plant in my vegetable garden.


There was so much to see in the garden.  I headed to the Children’s Garden, the Michigan Farm Garden and passed by the Horse Garden.


No matter where you live, vegetable gardening is much the same with the planting calendar being the main difference.  


Lilacs were in full bloom and perfumed the air with their fragrance.


As I was walking from the Children’s Garden to the Michigan Farm Garden, I was startled to see the trees part where a HUGE horse stood, which is part of the Horse Garden.  

*To get an idea of how big it really is, to the left of the horse is a navy blue stroller that you can barely see.


I loved the farm garden which depicted a typical Michigan farm of the 1920’s.

While the day was beautiful, it was windy.  As I was walking, I heard a young boy say to his dad, “It’s windy today?  Do you see a funnel cloud?”
Definitely not something you hear in Arizona.


There was so much to see in the gardens and I took over 200 photos, which I will include in a separate post.

After we left the gardens, we stopped by Robinette’s Apple Haus, which is a family-owned orchard that grows 21 different varieties of apples along with other types of fruit.


They are really into apples 😉

After leaving Grand Rapids, we headed north up the west coast of Michigan toward Manistee.

Before exploring the historic downtown of Manistee, it was time for lunch.

I decided to try a traditional Michigan salad with dried cherries, blue cheese, red onions and bacon with cherry vinaigrette.  It was good!



I love the character of old buildings, don’t you?

A small garden was located in the downtown area with various garden sayings.  This one was my favorite.


Paralleling the main street was the Riverwalk, which was beautiful.  It was nice seeing the drawbridge opening for a large sailboat.

I am always on the lookout for interesting container plantings.  But, I was really excited to see this zebrine plant for a different reason.  Back in college as a horticulture student, we had to dissect zebrine plants all the time because they showed up so well under a microscope.  I know that sounds weird, but I’m a plant lady 😉


While I am not a big shopper normally, I do enjoy shopping when on our road trips.  I also love mittens – a lot.  These were so cute, but I have no need for them.  Fingerless mittens are warm enough for Arizona winters.


After we left Manistee, we drove north toward Traverse City and stopped by the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

We parked right by the beach and heard the waves and wind.


As a Southern California native, I found myself frequently referring to Lake Michigan as the ocean.  It is hard to imagine that this is a lake and not an ocean.


The lighthouse is only open on the weekends, so this was as close as we could get, but it was worth it.

Our day ended with dinner in Traverse City where we had some local options for soda flavors…


Have you ever tried ‘Local Northwoods Soda’ or ‘Wild Bill’s Root Beer’?

Tomorrow we are off to explore Traverse City, Petosky and more adventures…