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Vacations are a time that I love to spend with my family doing things that we don’t normally have time for with the busyness of school and work that predominates throughout much of the year. This summer, we spent a couple of weeks in Michigan visiting my oldest daughter and her family. In planning our trip, we list what we want to do and number one on the list for our summer adventures was going to a farm and picking our own strawberries and cherries.

So, on a sunny Tuesday morning, we headed out along a back country road and visited Kiteley Farm ready to pick strawberries. 

I must admit that I have never picked strawberries, other than in my own garden, and couldn’t wait to experience to harvest them myself. Initially, my 15-year-old son couldn’t figure out why we were going to pick them when it was easier to buy them in the supermarket. But, I told him to just wait and see – I promised him that he would change his mind afterward.

 

We were given instructions on where the strawberry fields were located and grabbed our boxes, ready to fill them up with sweet, delicious strawberries.

The entry to the farm is flanked by blue bachelor’s button and the orange flowers of honeysuckle.

 

The strawberry field was very large and we all got started, hunting underneath the leaves for glimpses of bright red fruit.

It’s no surprise that the strawberries that you buy at the store are often large and not particularly sweet, which aids in transporting them to the store without getting bruised. However, berries at pick-your-own farms are smaller and incredibly sweet. 

My granddaughter Lily got right into picking strawberries.

The edge of the field was shaded by tall trees and we discovered that the berries were larger in this part of the field.

The key to finding the best berries is to look at the lowest berry which is usually the ripest.

After about an hour, we had 11 pounds of strawberries. Not bad for amateur strawberry pickers.

Next, it was time to pick cherries. Michigan has a large percentage of the cherry growing market and because cherries don’t grow in my neck of the woods, I always take advantage of being able to pick them whenever I visit in July.

There are several farms where you can go and pick your own cherries and all you have to pay for is the fruit you pick.

The trees were heavily laden with bright red cherries, which were easier to pick than strawberries as we didn’t have to bend over.

Lily was just as good at picking cherries as she was with strawberries.

At the end of a busy morning, we had plenty of fruit and I was excited to take them back and make sweet things with them.

For me, the best part of that morning was when my son said, “That was so fun. We need to do it again next year.” 

Don’t they look delicious? And perfect for…

…strawberry shortcake!

*You don’t have to grow fruit (or vegetables) in your own garden to be able to enjoy the experience of picking your own produce. No matter where you live, there is likely a farm nearby where you can experience the fun of picking your own!

 

Petoskey, Michigan Lighthouse

While spring break is a time where masses of people escape the cold for warmer climates (like Arizona), we decided to do the exact opposite.  We flew out of warm, sunny Phoenix and headed to cold and snowy Michigan.

Now before you start to question my sanity, I have an excellent reason for bundling up and bracing myself for the cold, windy weather.  My daughter and her family call Michigan their home now, and since then, we try to make it out at least twice a year, and spring break just happened to be the best time to do it.

I always look forward to visits to their town of Petoskey, which sits on the shore of Little Traverse Bay.  It is a popular summer destination, and I spent several weeks here last year helping my daughter move into her new house and add new plants to her garden.

It is always fun pulling out my warm weather gear, which seldom gets used at home.  I knit these fingerless mittens a few years ago and rarely have a chance to wear them.

As a Southern California native and Arizona resident, I must admit that I have relatively little experience with cold weather so, it has been fun exploring the landscape and seeing the effects of winter.  Seeing the bay frozen in time where we waded in with our feet last June was exciting.

At the beginning of our week, the temperatures were in the mid 20’s with a brisk wind, and we were excited to see an unexpected snow shower.

I realize that many of you who have lived in areas with cold winters may be rolling your eyes at this point, but for someone who has always lived where winters are mild, the weather has been a novelty.

However, the novelty quickly wore off this morning when I stepped outside, and it was a frigid 16 degrees, and I learned why people start their cars a few minutes before they get in to let them heat up inside.  But, I braved the few steps from the house to the car, and we were off to my granddaughter Lily’s preschool class where I was to give a presentation on the desert and Arizona.

I brought photographs of the animals, cactuses, and flowers of the desert.  The kids were a great audience and seemed especially impressed with the following pictures:

  • The height of a saguaro cactus with people standing at its base 
  • A bird poking its head out of a hole in the saguaro
  • Cactus flowers
  • Aesop – our desert tortoise

I was struck by how different the desert is from the Michigan landscape and felt honored to expand their horizons.

On the way back from pre-school, we were tasked with bringing the classroom pet, ‘Snowball’ the guinea pig home where he will stay with Lily for spring break.  Doing little tasks such as this bring back happy memories of when our kids were little.

We will be home soon, and spring is a busy time for me.  I have new plants coming in the mail (straight from the grower) for me to test in my Arizona garden, I’ll be showcasing two new plants from the folks at Monrovia, and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be traveling again – this time to Savannah, Georgia for a fun project that I’m excited to share with you soon.

*What are you doing for spring break?

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?**

Does the arrival of fall have you outdoors viewing colorful foliage while outfitted in boots and a scarf?


Probably not if you live in the desert Southwest.  However, my mind has been focused on these things as my daughter and her family are settling into their new home in Michigan.

Collecting colorful leaves to send to Grandma (me) in Arizona. 

Back in early September, I shared with you that my oldest daughter and her family were moving to the tip of Michigan to a town called Petoskey.  Since then, they have been exploring their new home and the large number of differences betwen their new home town compared to the Arizona one that they left.


Their first few days, while waiting for the moving truck with their furniture to arrive, was spent at the beach.


Being a few blocks away from water is definitely a new, yet welcome experience.  


Lake Michigan is beautiful!

Flynn, enjoying the lush green grass.

One block from their home is the Winter Park, where residents go to sled down hills and ice skate on the outdoor rink.


My granddaughter, Lily, found some nice flowers still growing there in early September.
Wherever Lily goes, her favorite pal, Tigger, isn’t too far away 😉


Now that October has arrived, there is a nip in the air and fall clothes are making an appearance.

Lily was very excited to wear her new scarf that her other grandma had knitted for her.


With cooler weather, rain often follows, so shopping for rain boots was necessary.

In fact, shopping for a whole lot of cold-weather clothes is important for these Arizona natives.  My daughter has received lots of helpful advice from fellow preschool moms on what type of clothes to get.


Exploring the town of Petoskey has been a fun adventure as well including the college where my son-in-law now teaches at.


On a recent outing, they went up the ski lift where they could see the turning leaves at the top of the hill.  Instead of taking the ski lift back down, they hiked down the hill.

Enjoying donuts at the local donut shop.

Like most young kids, Lily has embraced her new surroundings, enjoying every new adventure.


My mother recently visited them and helped to decorate their new home.  Of course, Lily’s favorite part when great-grandma made her a ‘My Little Pony’ blanket.

Lily modeling her ‘My Little Pony’ Halloween outfit.

We do miss them, but we stay in almost constant contact via texts, phone calls, Facebook and Skype, which helps us stay involved in their lives.

Lily’s preschool class watching the local high school band practice (Lily is 3rd from the left, wearing a navy blue jacket, standing next to the teacher.

Lily recently started preschool and loves it.  She has two best friends and looks forward to going each day.

The preschool is just down the road from the local high school and recently heard the high school band practicing, so they took an impromptu field trip down the street where they could sit and watch them practice.

View down the street from their house.

Next month, my husband and I will fly out to visit for a few days.  I am already counting down the weeks.

Petoskey is a picturesque, small town that is well worth visiting – I was fortunate enough to visit in summer of 2014, long before we knew that my daughter and her family would end up there.


It will be cold in November when we visit, but nowhere near the frigid temps that they will experience in winter – last winter it got down to -35 degrees.

I must admit that I have been living vicariously through my daughter as she is undergoing new experiences of living in a more temperate climate than this California native and now Arizona resident has ever had.

Thank you for allowing me to share the latest chapter in our family’s life 🙂

Goodbyes are always hard.


Today, I had to say goodbye to both my daughter and granddaughter as they start their new lives in Michigan along with my son-in-law.



My daughter is an Arizona native and this is the beginning of a wonderful adventure for her and her young family.


The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, saying goodbye to her students at the local  high school where she is was a history teacher.

So why are they moving to Michigan – a place that my daughter has never visited before?

My son-in-law was hired as a professor at Northern Central Michigan College in Petoskey, which sits near the top of the ‘mitten’ of Michigan.

He had to leave quickly to get settled in before the new semester began, leaving my daughter to get everything packed up.


Moving day was exciting for my granddaughter, Lily who watched as the movers took everything that was near and dear to her and put it in a big truck.

After standing for awhile, she pulled out a chair to sit and watch all the activity until it was time to load up the chair she was sitting on.


Her grandpa and I did our best to keep her occupied with all of the changes going on.

The best part of this entire process was that they moved in with us for several days while my daughter finished her last week teaching.


We helped Lily keep in touch with her dad by texting him pictures that she drew for him.

With all the changes, Lily very well for a 3-year old girl whose world is going through a momentous change.  

Our last week together was spent reading favorite books together, including “Goodnight Moon”, which I always read to her before her nap.  I gave her new one to take to Michigan.



A date at our favorite McDonald’s was a must-do before they left.

This morning, we got up early and drove to them to the Phoenix airport for their flight.  This was to be Lily’s first time on an airplane and she was excited.


This was the moment that I dreaded…saying goodbye to my daughter and Lily.

I realize that I have been incredibly blessed to have always had them living close by.


From being there the day Lily was born 3 1/2 years ago, seeing her take her first steps, wiping away her tears and enjoying her sunny presence twice a week when I would babysit her – there will be a hole that is hard to fill.


Lily has also been my gardening buddy.


From helping take care of the herb container we made for her mom…


To watching her collect wildflowers for her ‘flower collection’ that she keeps in her jewelry box – I will miss her love for flowers.


So, how am I doing after bidding goodbye to my oldest daughter and Lily?

After hugging them “goodbye” at the airport, I was doing pretty good – in fact I was rather proud of myself…no tears were shed.

That is until we were shopping at Costco a short time later and I saw a grandmother with her granddaughter and I completely broke down, making a spectable of myself.  Shoppers were probably wondering what it was at the meat counter that was making me so sad.

I regained control of myself, but then we passed by the bank that my daughter used to work at years ago and the tears started up again.

And then we passed by Lily’s favorite McDonald’s on our way home – and so it goes…

So, while my mother and grandmother’s heart is sad, it is also happy for them and their new adventure in beautiful Michigan.


As I mentioned before, they are moving the picturesque town of Petoskey.

Coincidentally, I visited Petoskey just last year along with my mother on one of our annual road trips.


It sits right on the water’s edge of Lake Michigan.


The gardens are beautiful and I look forward to visiting them as often as I can – hopefully this fall.

There will be new adventures to be had discovering this new area.  I can hardly wait to help them create their new Michigan garden in the future.


As I write this, I am looking at Lily’s little work space next to my desk.


On it is her latest coloring page alongside her much-loved crayons.  She would often sit next to me and “work with Grandma” while I wrote garden articles or worked on my latest landscape design.


I’ll put them away for awhile where they will wait for her to come back and visit – hopefully at Christmas.
Thank you for spending a few moments out of your day allowing me to share what’s on my heart.  I already feel better 🙂

**How about you?  Do your family members live close by or far away?  How often are you able to visit?

We are officially halfway through our road trip through the upper midwest. (Feel free to read about days one, two and three). 


When we go on our road trips, not all of our destinations are necessarily known to draw tourists.  Sometimes we have to spend the night in an area just because it is on the way to our next destination.  


It is during these times that we get acquainted with small towns.  I have never lived in a small town – I have lived in suburbs my entire life.


That was where we found ourselves last night – in a small town halfway through the lower part of the  Upper Peninsula of Michigan.



The only restaurant in town was Bob’s Big Boy and we were greeted by a giant moose dressed as Bob.  The food was good and it reminded me of eating at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants as a child in California.

For some reason, there was a moose dressed in another outfit in front of our hotel as well.


This is the view from our hotel this morning.  It was cloudy and cold at 41 degrees.  

We dressed warmly and left on our way toward Wisconsin and further adventures.


This is the view that we saw from the car 90-percent of the time as we drove through the Upper Peninsula, which is sparsely populated.

As we were driving, I saw a young bear cub romping toward the trees and the beach – pretty cool!


We crossed into Wisconsin and stopped by a small restaurant that is a favorite among locals.  As we stepped out of our car, we noticed that the temperature was 40 degrees warmer (81 degrees) then where we had left from that morning. 


The food was good, but basic.  Bratwursts, hot dogs and burgers made up the menu.  You could tell that the restaurant was very popular with newspaper articles posted on the walls, t-shirts for sale and a lot of customers.


When in Wisconsin, you shop for cheese.  My husband loves cheese, so I made sure to buy some for him.


There were many types of cheese and while my husband likes trying out unique flavors, I figured that he wasn’t up to having chocolate cheese fudge.

I did end up buying garlic cheddar, smoked cheddar and chipotle cheddar cheeses.

An piece of a tree trunk makes a nice planter for annual flowers at the entrance to the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

As we entered Green Bay, Wisconsin, we decided to visit the local botanical garden.


As my loved ones know, when I am in a garden, I tend to walk off and disappear as I take pictures of plants.  Thankfully, my husband and my mother are understanding about this tendency.

Curve your garden paths to add interest and a bit of mystery as to what is around the bend.

As a horticulturist and garden writer, I have a large photo library of plants.  Some of the writing I do is not limited to the southwest, but for all regions of the United States.  So, I like to take opportunities when I travel to take photos of plants that I will use later.

Newly-opened pink roses bloom next to dark-colored buds that have yet to open.

I have a list of plants that I would love to have in my garden – but that do not grow in my desert climate.

Red Peonies

One of those plants on my list are peonies.  

I love their full, ruffled flowers borne above bright-green foliage.

Did I mention that they are also wonderfully fragrant?

Lavender Peonies

The Green Bay Botanical Gardens were filled with flowering peonies in a myriad of different colors.

Maroon Peonies

I have photographed peonies on previous trips, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see so many different-colored peonies in one place.


Peonies bloom once a year in late spring into early summer depending on the variety and climate.

They die back to the ground in winter.


While peonies will grow in most climates, but they need cold temperatures in winter, so they do not grow well in zones 9 and above.

Bleeding Hearts ‘Alba’

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are another flowering plant that I would grow, if I could.  They love cool, shady gardens.  Their flowers resemble a ‘bleeding heart’, hence their common name.

Available in both pink and white forms, this flowering perennial is just lovely.

White Bleeding Hearts


Do you have a bird bath in your garden?  I like the simplicity of this stone one.


When visiting botanical gardens, I am always getting new ideas for the garden.  

While I have seen trellises created from branches before, I think this is the best one I have seen.  The branches are large enough to be able to provide support for climbing plants.  Rebar posts are used to anchor the trellis.

I think that I may have to make some for my own garden.

False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Blue-flowering plants help to visually cool the garden, which can be welcome during the warm summer months.

Blue Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sylvatica)

Blue flowering plants look great when paired with white, pink or pale yellow plants.

Willow Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

From a design standpoint, I like how a strip of blue phlox was planted to divide two separate plantings – don’t you?

Wild Red Columbine (Columbine canadensis)

Wild red columbine was planted throughout the garden, in order to attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, which is the only hummingbird species found in Wisconsin.
As I got ready to leave the garden, I spotted this guy working very hard cutting back the weeds/grass with a brush cutter.  The slope was steep and it was a hot day – it made me glad that my garden doesn’t have steep slopes.

*After leaving the gardens, we drove through the city of Green Bay.  Now, if you haven’t heard of the fervent fan base of the Green Bay Packers football team, than you must have your head buried in the sand.

Packer Stadium

Spend just a few minutes in the city and it is obvious that they love their football team.

How do I know this?


Across the street from the stadium are homes that back up to the street.  Without exception, every house has some sort of Packer decoration.


From a decorated gate, a raised deck encircled with etched glass with the Packer emblem and a giant football statue – the neighborhood has it all.


You can even buy cheese in your favorite Packer shape.

*I hope you are enjoying reading about our road trip adventures.  Thank you to those of you who have commented!

Tomorrow, we are off to more road trip adventures!

Day 2 of our road trip was filled with quite a few firsts for me.


My mother and I are on our fourth annual road trip and this time we are exploring the upper midwest. You can read about day 1 here if you like.


Today, we woke up in beautiful Traverse City, with is located along the western side of Michigan.  It is a very popular location for visitors and it was easy to see why.


Our first stop was to visit the local farmers market in the historic downtown areas.



Whenever I travel, I like to to take time to talk to the local farmers about their produce and talk about the similarities and differences of growing the same types of vegetables.


Asparagus is really big in this part of Michigan.  There are signs for it everywhere along the roadways.  In the farmers market, just about everyone had some for sale.

Too bad, I don’t like asparagus 😉


A variety of herbs and vegetable transplants were available for sale.  I just love the color of purple basil – I have some growing in my herb container at home.


I love baked goods a lot!


Cherries are grown in the area and you can find cherries in just about everything including salsa.


There were quite a few planted containers filled with flowers ready for eager homeowners.


I really like herb planters like this one.

After the farmers market, we headed up toward the Old Mission Peninsula, which is a small finger of land that extends up from Traverse City.  Our destination was to see the Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula.

What we hadn’t prepared for was the beautiful scenery along the drive.  Orchards were filled with cherry trees, one type of fruit tree that does not grow in my desert climate.

Along the way, we spotted numerous vineyards.


The lilacs are in bloom everywhere and this vineyard was flanked by a huge lilac bush.




It’s hard to believe that this barren vine will soon be covered with leaves and sweet grapes.



Then we saw this sign, which led to one of my ‘firsts’.


The sign led us to Peninsula Cellars Winery, whose store is housed in an old, historic schoolhouse.


The inside of the old school was very charming.

I have never been much of a wine drinker.  The few times I have tried it, I didn’t really enjoy the taste.

But, I figured if I could do a bourbon taste test on our last trip, I would participate in a wine tasting for the first time.


I tasted four different wines and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked two of them very much.


Many of their wines had a school-themed name due to the old school building.  Their ‘Detention’ wine was a popular choice.
*Note: I have never gotten a detention at school.

I came away from my first wine tasting with a new appreciation for wine and a bottle of my favorite to share with my husband when I get home 🙂

As we got back on the road toward the Mission Point Lighthouse, we were told to stop by the old general store.


The Old Mission General Store is one of those places found out in the middle of the country.  You can see the lake behind it.


The store had a collection of the old and the new – but mostly old.


Barrels filled with salted peanuts and a variety of old-fashioned candies would make excite any child.

Old-fashioned sodas were offered alongside more current soda choices.  


A unique collection of foods were offered in the deli case.  I’m not sure what the reddish item was on the left and I’m still not sure what ‘blind robin’ is.  But, fishing is big here, so I’m assuming it is a type of fish?

The back was filled with an assortment of things including rabbit skins, wooden hand toys and coon hats.


After we left the general store, we continue our journey to the lighthouse.





The Mission Point Lighthouse is located at the very tip of the Old Mission Peninsula.


The area has many trees and it is so green and beautiful.  We parked and started to walk toward the lighthouse and the shore, which we could barely see through the trees.


This lighthouse guided ships from 1870 to 1933.  We entered the lighthouse to see the exhibits and to embark on another ‘first’ for me.



I decided to climb up to the top of the lighthouse – something I have never done before.


There weren’t too many steps to the top, only 35 of them, but they were steep and the last part were ladder steps.




The 360 view was just beautiful!




Climbing back down, I decided to checkout the outside.




A cherry tree was in full bloom in the backyard with the lake in the background.




To be honest, there are a lot of lighthouses along the Michigan coast.  We don’t have time to see all of those along our route, so we had to choose a few to see.  It was the picture of the side of the Mission Point Lighthouse, which made me want to visit this one.  I am so glad we did.




We headed back down the peninsula and on the way, drove by this small painted shack where Michigan maple syrup was for sale.


Payment was done through the honor system where you inserted your money into a modified PVC pipe.  My mother bought a bottle.

Along this small peninsula, we passed an interesting marker…


I thought that we were pretty far north, but it turns out that we were only halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

See, you never know what you will learn on a road trip.


After our journey to Old Mission Peninsula, the rest of our day was spent touring the historic downtown area of Traverse City and later we drove up to the quaint town of Petoskey where we did some shopping.


All of the planters in the downtown areas were newly planted with colorful flowers.

While I saw some very creative containers filled with a variety of flowering plants, I was struck by the simplicity of this window box planted with a single row of orange marigolds.  The vibrant orange of this flower stands on its own.


One of my favorite shops we visited was called the “American Spoon”, which sells all types of preserves.

I love to make peach, plum and strawberry jam as well as applesauce from the fruit from both my garden and my mother’s – so I was anxious to go inside and taste the different types of jams and jellies they had.


While I did taste some delicious fruit preserves, there was also a large selection of salsas, including  pumpkin seed salsa and cherry salsa.
I must admit that I didn’t try any – I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to my salsa.  But, I realize that I am probably missing out some new flavors that I may love.


Don’t these tomato preserves look delicious?


I came away from the store with cherry preserves, which I will use on my daily English muffin.  I also bought some tart dried cherries which I will sprinkle on my salads.
Did I mention that cherries are very popular here?  They are growing everywhere you see.




In addition to cherries and asparagus, fudge is also offered everywhere.


I haven’t had any yet, because I am waiting until tomorrow when we travel to Mackinac Island.


I can’t wait!


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…

I love to travel.


A lot.


For the past few years, I leave my husband and kids behind and embark on a road trip along with my mother where we explore a different region of the United States.


We fly into one city, rent a car and several days (and states later) fly out of a different city.

I must admit that I love planning our trips and I have a binder filled with our itinerary and places of interest.

We named our first road trip “The Midwest”, which began along the west coast of Michigan.  We ended up in Springfield, Missouri with stops in Indiana Amish country and visits to historical Abraham Lincoln sites in Illinois along the way.

What I love about these trips are meeting the people and learning the regional differences in food and culture.  For example, who knew that a ‘regular’ ice-cream cone is 3 scoops?  
My favorite memory from this trip was walking into our bed & breakfast in Amish country to find the owner entertaining three elderly Amish women who were watching the royal wedding on television.

You can read my blog posts from our first trip here.


Our second trip took us to the Northeast.  We began in Columbus, Ohio (where I visited an old friend) and ended in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Along the way we drove through West Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Vermont.

Memories that stand out for this road trip are visits to my grandfather’s grave outside of Pittsburgh and seeing the graves of my third-great grandparents.  Seeing Niagara Falls in person was breath-taking and I enjoyed walking through some small towns in upstate New York.  Vermont is a great place to visit and lots of good food – cheese, ice-cream and maple syrup.

You can read my blog posts from our second road trip here.


Last year, our annual road trip found us in the South.  Our journey began in Savannah, Georgia and ended in Louisville, Kentucky.  Stops along the way included Charleston – South Carolina, Asheville – North Carolina and Tennessee.

The special memories that stand out were seeing the colorful window boxes along the historical streets of Charleston and the fabulous kitchen gardens of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Visiting plantations in Georgia and touring the thoroughbred horse farms in Kentucky was so interesting.

We visited a bourbon distillery Kentucky and had a tasting (I learned that I don’t like bourbon) and later visited the first KFC, which has a museum where it all started.

You can read my blog posts from our third road trip here.

I am so excited for our next journey!  

Are you curious to know where we are going?


We have named this road trip “Upper Midwest”.

Our journey begins in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will end up in Minneapolis, Minnesota several days later.

For those of you who have followed me for awhile, you know that I like to blog from the road and this trip will be no different.  

**Any suggestions of what to see and do along the way would be appreciated!


For more links to previous travel blog posts to places like the Caribbean, California, the East Coast, Florida as well as popular Arizona travel spots – click here.