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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?

“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?  

Summer is a season filled with warm weather (or hot if you live in the desert) and brightly colored blossoms.


While I usually enjoy the view of my summer garden from the comfort of my air-conditioned house, this year I’ve experienced a twist in my summer gardening experience.  


I have spent time gardening this summer in an entirely different state.


It all started back in 2007 when my daughter, Brittney, met a handsome geologist and got married.  Fast forward to 2015 and that same geologist finished his Ph.D. and got a job offer in Michigan.  So, they packed up and moved to the picturesque town of Petoskey, which is located at the ‘top of the mitt’ as Michiganders like to say.


In June, they bought their first home, and I was on hand to help them with their new garden.  Now, to be honest, my oldest daughter has never shown any particular interest in gardening to this point in her life, despite my best efforts.  But, that was before she had her very own house and garden.


These next few posts will highlight our garden adventures, including me learning some new things about gardening in a climate where temperatures dip to -20 degrees in winter.

Planting roses for my daughter.

Whether you live in the desert southwest, Michigan or anyplace where you have a small area in which to garden – many of the same gardening guidelines apply, and I invite you to join me on a summer gardening adventure where I promise, you’ll learn a few helpful tips for your garden.


Some of you may remember me sharing about my oldest daughter moving to a small town in Michigan back in early September – “Goodbye Arizona, Hello Michigan”



It was so hard to see them go, but at the same time, I was excited for their new future as they left to join my son-in-law who just started a new job as a professor at a college in Petoskey, Michigan.

The very next day, as my husband and I booked a flight for Michigan in November.  I must admit that planning a trip within a few months of their leaving helped me to deal their absence more easily.

As November approached, I began to count down the days until we would see them again.


Our flight left on an early Friday morning and would take us to the city of Grand Rapids.


From there, we rented a car for the 3-hour drive up to Petoskey, which is located at the “tip of the mitt” as the locals like to say.

Along the way, we spotted a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant.  Now this is a place where both my husband and I spent a lot of time (separately) visiting while children growing up in Arizona and California.  Sadly, they have all but disappeared in those states, but they are still quite popular in Michigan.

So, we stopped off for dinner where we both enjoyed our favorite meals from our past.


As we sat eating our dinner, snow began to fall.  It was at this point that the fact that we weren’t local was painfully obvious as we couldn’t stop looking and talking about the snow.

We pulled into Petoskey just before 8:00 pm and Brittney, Lily & Jeff were waiting outside for us, bundled in their jackets.

It was so wonderful to be close enough to hug them all again and I could hardly wait for the next day to begin.


Our first stop was at Meijier’s, which is very large grocery store chain in the Midwest.  Lily was excited to share her coffee drink with me.  She said that it was better than Starbucks because they put sprinkles on their drinks.

We then bought some groceries.  My job was to make her a birthday cake and we also took her birthday shopping.



Next, we drove to Northern Central Michigan College, where my son-in-law now teaches.  Lily loves to visit her dad at work.



It was so nice seeing his office, classroom and how happy he was after working so many years for his PhD.

Whenever we are traveling, I love to eat at restaurants that are different than what are at home.  We ate dinner at a local pizza and sandwich restaurant where I was introduced to ‘grinders’.


Grinders are basically Italian subs that are often served alongside pizza.  All I can say, is that were delicious!

The next morning, we were awakened early by the appearance of our granddaughter Lily, by our bedside who then got into bed with us and snuggled for a half hour before we all woke up.  I must confess, that was one of my favorite moments of our entire trip.


Little Traverse Bay.


The next morning, we decided to set out for the picturesque downtown area of Petoskey, which is consistently rated in the “Top 10 Best Small Towns of America”.  



While the walk was a short one (3 blocks), we found time to pick dandelions and blow the seeds.




The downtown area is quaint and filled with a variety of shops, restaurants and other businesses. We passed the local park with its gazebo, a lovely church with its tall steeple and gas lights and shop windows being decorated with garlands made of fresh evergreens.
You can read more about our visit to the downtown area in my previous post “A Small Town Visit and Holiday Traditions”. 





After doing some Christmas shopping the local bookstore, general store and fudge shop, we made our way back home.



While Lily took her nap, my husband and I took a mini-road trip to visit the other small towns close by before getting ready for our ‘big date’.



We had a date with our very sweet granddaughter, Lily, while her parents went on their own grown-up date.

Our restaurant of choice was ‘Roast & Toast’, which I had eaten at the year before on a prior visit to Petoskey.  Lily thought that the cups and plates stuck to the outside of the window were pretty cool – the purple coffee cup was her favorite 😉



Lily was a delightful dinner partner.





We had a table located in a little alcove.


It turned out that the seat was perfect for lying on while eating your dinner.

*Believe it or not, I had no problem with Lily lying down eating her dinner.  In fact, I thought it was rather cute.  But, I would NEVER allow my own kids to do that, which let me to an epiphany that many grandparents experience – your standards you set for your children vs. your grandchildren are completely different, which makes it much easier to be a grandparent than a parent!


The downtown area came alive in the evening with the gas light lit up with their festive greenery and Christmas lights.



The next day, we spent some time at home.  I found myself enjoying the view from the living room windows, where the you could just see Little Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan out of the window through the trees.



Wildlife was abundant around the house including brightly colored blue jays, cardinals, black & brown squirrels and deer.



Of course, Flynn, their dog was there to chase those wild animals away 😉



Lily and I spent time playin with her new ‘My Little Pony’ toy, that squirted out play-doh.



Her papa showed his love for Lily by playing dolls with her for over an hour at the kitchen table.

It was so nice to completely unplug from our busy lives and just sit back and enjoy the simple pleasures.  I helped my daughter with her first knitting project and even found myself coloring a page in her new ‘adult’ coloring book, which was surprisingly enjoyable and relaxing.

After cooking dinner for the family, I set to work making Lily’s birthday cake with her help.


She wanted an orange cake with hot pink frosting and sprinkles.



And that is exactly what she got.

After we left the next day for our trip home, I reflected on how fortunate we were to have been able to spend time with our daughter and her precious family.  Thankfully, we only have to wait a few more weeks until Christmas until they come to our house for a long visit!

**Thank you for allowing me to share a glimpse with ou into an important part of my life 🙂