Wednesday, September 30, 2009
This past weekend was my 10 year USAFA class reunion. What a great time! Unlike most colleges in which a reunion consists of a fancy dinner, a USAFA reunion consists of an entire weekend jam packed with events . . . maximizing contact time as usual. The weekend started with a Thursday night jaunt to one of my old 'college' hangouts, Jack Quinns in downtown COS. Jan was gracious enough to Elizabeth-sit for the evening and Cathy and I had a fun night out on the town. I have not been to Jack Quinns in years and to have about 300 of my classmates and their spouses in the place all at once was a lot of fun. Cathy and I both lost our voices after about three hours of conversation and standing in a bar for hours at a time at 7 months pregnant did me in. We retired at 11 pm when the party was probably just getting going! It was so much fun to have Cathy out for the weekend and be able to attend all the events with my best friend!
The events that followed included a Friday evening formal dinner and Saturday tailgate and football game (Cathy got us matching gold sweaters to wear . . . big hit among those in the know). Well, there were a ton of additional events but these were the ones we chose to attend. The dinner was fun as I got to introduce Jan to some long lost friends and reconnect with many people. I really enjoyed the tailgate and football game as I got to sit with my dear friends Amy and Rich (and Hayden and Benjamin) and Amy's mom and dad. Considering the fact that I'm not the biggest football fan in the world (as my family knows) I spent the majority of the game socializing and playing with Hayden and Ben. It was much more interesting to me to watch how little boys play as I will have my own eye opening experience in a few months.
Elizabeth and Daddy had a fun time on Saturday while Cathy and I were at the football game. Elizabeth is at such a fun age right now. She is really starting to figure things out and has an amazing personality. One of the great things about our neighborhood is that we have four parks within a 1/4 mile of our house, the closest one being right behind our house. Elizabeth loves going to the little park, big park, Elizabeth park etc. Her modes of transportation include the fast buggy, slow buggy, wagon or Elizabeth walk. Her favorite park is the Elizabeth park. Recently she has figured out the climbing wall and will climb up and go down the slide over and over again. She is getting really good at it. One of her favorite characters is Curious George and sometimes she pretends that she is a monkey or will say something like "build sandcastles like Curious George" or "go on an airplane ride like curious George". Her imagination is beautiful.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The cottage is looking great, my parents are doing a wonderful job with the old shack. As usual, the fleet of boats continues to grow. This year the new addition to the fleet was a 2nd wave runner. My parents also brought their jet boat down from Traverse City for Kate, Elizabeth and I to use. I am quite certain that this makes the largest Flats fleet on record: The main boat - 21ft center console, the jet boat, 2 jet skis, the 11ft whaler, Prindle 16 catamaran, 6 kayaks, and of course the leaky aluminum boat under the cottage.
Of course before we could get into the swing of things Kate needed her fix of Boat Knots from the Riverside Grocery. Boat knots are basically pizza dough cut into strips and rolled up almost like mini cinnamon rolls but with your choice of toppings rolled inside. Our favorites are the Aloha Knots which are the pizza dough rolled up with ham and pineapple inside. They are baked up and served hot with a pizza sauce dip and drizzled with garlic butter and covered in Parmesan cheese. They are absolutely heavenly! After arriving on a Friday night, our plan was to head over to the riverside late in the morning for lunch because Kate just couldn't wait to get to have them boat knots again... Unfortunately it was poring rain but I couldn't keep my preganant wife hungry so I donned the foul weather gear and life jacket and took off on the jet ski for the ~8 mile round trip to the Riverside.
Despite the full covering of Gore-Tex I came home soaked, but Kate's Boat Knots made it just fine! And they were delicious!Elizabeth did a great job wearing her life jacket everywhere we went and fortunately without protest. She loved going for boat rides but wasn't so sure in the beginning about going fast. She doesn't like the wind and the noise from the engine but by the end of our vacation she didn't mind it a bit.Grandpa and Uncle Casey did a little "fish habitat improvement" prior to our arrival to ensure there was a sufficiently deep fishing hole for Elizabeth to fish in right off the dock. Of course she got into the fish in no time at all catching her very first fish, a nice little lake perch with grandpa. Grandpa also taught Elizabeth about fishing with bait, and more specifically worms. The funniest part was, "what does the worm say when you put it on the hook?" Elizabeth's response: "Ouch!"Kate, Elizabeth, my Mom and I drove up to Rogers City Michigan to visit my Grandmother. It was so great to see her and to see how wonderfully she is doing. We had a nice dinner with Grandma and Aunt Carla at Karsten's Dairy. Elizabeth especially like the meat loaf. Of course we couldn't resist snapping off a few pictures in the back yard.
Lake Huron is just down the street from my grandmother, literally a couple hundred yards away. Elizabeth, Grandma, and Aunt Carla ventured down to the lake to play with Elizabeth while kate and I were visiting with Grandma for a few minutes. Of course Elizabeth has to get her feet wet in pretty much every body of water she comes across, everything from mud puddles to even inland seas like Lake Huron.
After a great visit with Elizabeth's Great Grandma and Aunt Carla it was time to head over to Traverse City to see my Grandfather and Uncle Casey. Casey had just graduated from his nursing program and he and Jennifer finally were able to take their official RN exam with the state of Michigan. They had to wait for 2 days to get the results but fortunately the news was all good. They both passed. It was also my mother's birthday! So of course had to celebrate! We had Grandpa out to the house, and our good family friends Lee and Shirley came over and a wonderful time was had by all!
Grandpa is doing great too, he is very active visiting many of Traverse City's fine culinary establishments and has a new favorite past time, the Opera. Kate and I were able to take him to one our favorite breakfast joints, an amazing little French place called Patisserie Amie. Its a quaint little place with only about 5 tables but the food is nothing short of amazing!
Elizabeth did her share of fine dining as well, Uncle Casey was jealous of all of the great food that she we eating and decided so see if she would share... Apparently the food was pretty darn good because she wasn't giving any of it up. It's wonderful to get back to Traverse City in the summertime. Its truly an amazing place. There is so much to do and precious few nice days to do it in. We did manage to stop by my long time favorite restaurant in TC - good ol' "Don's Drive In" for some of the best greasy burgers and fries around and easily the best chocolate malt I've ever had.
The scenery in northern Michigan is pretty fantastic too this time of year. Its lush with greens and of course there is water just about everywhere you go. We took advantage of the natural beauty and took some fun shots of the family out in the front yard.
We also headed down to the beach at the end of the street for an afternoon dip. We are all familiar with the saying "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink..." Well this isn't really the case in TC, the water is so clean that drinking it isn't really an issue - especially thanks to the zebra muscle invasion, but in a mild summer like it was this year a more appropriate saying would be "water, water everywhere and its all too freezing cold to swim in!" Despite the cold water, I sure miss having Lake Michigan within walking distance.
Elizabeth didn't seem to mind the cold though, as long as the sun was high in the sky and she has a great time making sand castles with grandma and grandpa.
Before heading back to the flats we decided to spend an extra day in TC and go canoeing with Casey and Jennifer. After a nice breakfast with Grandpa we headed out to the Boardman River, dropped a car off at the pickup location and then launched the canoes. We had a great day on the river and a nice lunch on a little island halfway down the river. Casey and Jennifer managed to tip their canoe and go for brief swim just before lunch. After lunch it was our turn. A low hanging branch clothes-lined kate picking her up out of the canoe and setting her gently down in the river on her tush. It all happened in seemingly slow motion but there was nothing either of us could really do about it. I somehow managed to stay dry in the canoe... don't ask how, its still a bit of a mystery.
The Boardman river is of particular interest to the fly fishers among us as it is the origin of the Adams fly. I did get a chance during lunch to do a little fishing an was pleasantly surprised to catch a nice little brown.
After a great stay in Traverse City and some wonderful visits with my Grandparents it was time to head back down to the flats. We decided to try our luck with putting Elizabeth in a Kayak to see how she would do.
We picked out the one we thought would work best for her - one that was stable but also one that you sit down in a little bit instead of one you sit on top of. We equipped her with some Cheerios, sunglasses and a hat and went out looking for duckies. She loved it! This is a wonderfully unique place around the cottage with hundreds of square miles of wetlands which is home to a huge variety of interesting creatures like cormorants, blue herons, coots, mallards, muskrats, turtles, frogs, carp, gar pike, swans, geese, swallows, an assortment of snakes, and even foxes who have been consistent residents at the cottage. Exploring by Kayak offers a fantastic opportunity to explore and sneak up on these critters. Elizabeth especially liked feeding the ducks with her cheerios!
One fun treat at the flats this year was my parents jet boat. They brought it down just for us so that we could get around easily. Because the area is a large wetland river delta there are miles of cuts through the marsh, shallow bays and a number of fun places to go. A jet craft of some sort (jef ski, wave runner, or jet boat) is one of the most fun ways to get around.
So kate and Elizabeth and I would hop on the jet boat and my parents would take the wave runners and off we all went! Elizabeth wasn't so sure at first but it didn't take long before she really began to have a lot of fun in the boat!
We also took a fun little day trip to the Detroit Zoo. We got up early, zipped back to the mainland in the jet boat, jumped in the car and after a short drive we were at the zoo. They have a fun butterfly pavilion there and some nice large spaces for the animals to live in.
Our favorite exhibit had to be the polar bears! They have a nice pool that they can swim in and a glass tunnel in the pool that people can walk through. When we were there the bears were sitting on top of the tunnel playing offering a unique perspective of the polar bears! Elizabeth loved it!On the way back to the island we stopped for some Famous Dave's BBQ. It was delicious and cheap - our kind of meal! What a fun filled day with Elizabeth!
We also had a couple of opportunities for some great water skiing.While we mentioned how great the Riverside is for Boat Knots and Pizza, we never mentioned just how great their ice cream are too. Whenever we would go there for lunch we would also be sure to indulge just a little more and have a delicious ice cream cone - the have some fantastic hard ice cream and since everyone was having a cone, Elizabeth decided that she just had to have one too!
I took Elizabeth in and asked if they had a kiddie cone and it turns out that they had a little itty bitty baby cone just perfect for Elizabeth and it was only 75 cents! So I let her pick out her own flavor which turned out to be the pink one, and we went outside to eat it. after about 5 minutes her cone was gone and surprisingly more of it was eaten than melted and smeared all over her face and lifejacket! Then, in the cutest little voice we hear "More ice cream cone?" And who could resist a face like this one? So we go in and get another baby cone for her and this one is devoured in no time too. Watching her finish the cone was quite amusing, you could see the gears turning in her head as Kate and I were still working on our cones. Now with cone #2 eaten she looks at Kate and says "More ice cream cone?" while pointing at the remainder of Kate's cone. After a few licks from her cone she comes over to me and.... you guessed it, "More ice cream cone?" It was quite a spectacle. Our dear friend Cathy also made it down for a couple of days at the flats!
Fortunately her arrival was much less exciting than last year! Kate and Kathy got to catch up on things, do a little bit of Kayaking, sailing, and jet boating! One day we decided to head over to a fine establishment on Harsen's Island, Browns, for the Pickerel Plate and some cheese burgers. Browns is kinda like Michigan's version of a biker bar only instead of bikes, its boats. It was extremely windy that day but decent enough to make it there safely without overdoing it in the waves for Kate. By the time we got there we were soaked but the food was absolutely fantastic.
Cathy and I had a couple of great sails while she was there. Cathy also tried out water skiing for the first time and did great! We'll have to get her out there again next year. We also took the ferry over to Harsen's Island one day when it was too windy and rough for Kate to go boating. We had a great breakfast at the Riverside of breakfast pizza and cinnamon rolls. Elizabeth had french toast which she refers to as pancakes (anything that gets dipped in syrup is a pancake) and even found a nice park to play. Cathy, Elizabeth and I nearly got sick riding the merry go round - it was fun at first but then I felt sick most of the rest of the day. No wonder they've taken them out of most playgrounds! Elizabeth really liked the airplane that she could ride in with daddy.
We had a great trip yet again this year! Elizabeth had a terrific time too! So much to do and so many things to explore! Her vocabulary also seemed to double in those two weeks, it was so exciting to see her grow.
We are already looking forward to next year's trip!