Suttons Bay

Over the July 4th Holiday our family took a mini vacation to Suttons Bay, Michigan. It is one of the small towns along the infamous M22– a 116 mile stretch of highway along the beautiful Lake Michigan coastline in the upper lower peninsula.

Located in gorgeous Leelanau county, famous for its 27 wineries, Suttons Bay is 20 miles North of Traverse City and is a small quaint waterfront town with specialty shops, eateries and it’s own beach.

I was able to snag a cute little 2-bedroom apartment for us that allowed dogs. It was located above an art gallery right on the main street. We arrived in the early evening and after getting settled in, we explored the town, ate a delicious meal outside at the historic V.I.Grill and then capped off the night with amazing ice cream from 22 Scoops!

The next day, July 2nd, was my husband’s birthday. Lucky dog– his birthday always coincides with the national holiday and we frequently do a little get away given the extra time off of work.

For that day we decided to check out Torch Lake. If you’re not familiar, this long inland lake is known as the “Caribbean of the Midwest”. Although it is quite deep in areas, it boasts an enormous sandbar where the water is only about 3′ deep — a haven for boaters and partiers! And in these shallow areas the water sparkles under the sun, even the deeper lake is a gorgeous blue!

While the main beach/park was closed, we found a small little outlet to swim. It was extremely refreshing after the 90° heat wave we were experiencing.

Afterward, B and I toasted his birthday with margaritas and we all enjoyed a Mexican dinner in Traverse City.

The last couple of days we did a bit of local shopping, drove along M22 to explore the other waterfront towns around us, visited the Grand Traverse Bay Lighthouse, went to the local Suttons Bay beach and ended each night with a giant scoop of ice cream from 22 Scoops!

Niagara Falls

Just prior to my oral surgery, mentioned in my last post, “Catching Up“, my family went on a mini weekend vacation to Niagara Falls. Originally we were thinking of doing a big vacation to California, but because I had no idea of how the recuperation would go and my husband’s work travel schedule, we had to nix it for now. So we settled on a long weekend over the July 4th holiday to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

Continue reading “Niagara Falls”

Belle Isle Park

Situated between the US and Canada, located within the Detroit River, is the recently renovated, island park named Belle Isle. It is currently managed as a state park by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) through a 30-year lease from the city of Detroit. At nearly 1000 acres, it is the largest city-owned park in the United States!

Belle Isle Conservatory
Belle Isle Conservatory

Today, the Island is home to an Aquarium, a Conservatory, a Nature Zoo, the James Scott Memorial Fountain, the world’s only marble lighthouse, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, a Coast Guard Station, a municipal golf course, and numerous monuments.

Belle Isle Aquarium
Aquarium Entrance

Frederick Law Olmsted, the “father of American Landscape Architecture” created the original design for the park in the 1880’s. Unfortunately, due to creative differences, only some of his plans were executed before his resignation. The aquarium and conservatory were both designed by famous Detroit architect Albert Kahn in the early 1900’s. The Memorial Fountain was completed in 1925 and designed by Cass Gilbert , another leading American architect of the time.

While researching the park, I came across an interesting bit of automotive history:

In 1908, a young gentleman stopped to help a stranded driver on the Belle Isle bridge. As he was cranking the starter on her Cadillac, the car kicked back, breaking his jaw. He passed away due to complications from the trauma. His death was the impetus for the creation of the automatic self-starter customary on all vehicles today.

We visited the park over the summer spending most of our time in the beautiful Conservatory. Here you can see some of the unique plants and trees found inside.

Cranbrook Home & Gardens

One of the many outings our family enjoys during the summer months is to visit the nearby Cranbrook House and Gardens in Bloomfield Hills. Cranbrook is the oldest Metropolitan Detroit historic manor dating back over 100 years. It was built by Ellen and George Booth. Ellen was the eldest daughter of James Scripts, founder of the Detroit News and George was the owner of a successful iron-working company in Windsor, Ontario. The couple wed in 1887 and initially lived in the city of Detroit. The following year, George joined his father-in-law as an executive in the Scripps family publishing empire which did business throughout the entire Mid-west.

Rear View of Cranbrook House

Over time the couple accumulated much wealth by investing in other Michigan-run newspapers. Together with his brothers, George went on to establish the Booth Publishing Company, the most extensive and profitable in Michigan history. The Booths longed for a large country estate to raise their five children and in 1907 they broke ground on the 174-acre property in Bloomfield Hills. Booths’ long-term friend and noted Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, designed the English Arts and Crafts Style estate. Even after the Booths moved in, building continued adding many terraces, wings, outbuildings, gardens, and walking paths until the early 1920’s.

Backyard View of Cranbrook House
Backyard View of Cranbrook House

Viewing Pond
Viewing Pond Behind House

Booth personally commissioned tapestries, wood carvings, furniture, metalwork, glass work, fine bindings and other decorative items from leading American and European artisans and crafts firms for the house. He also acquired several important works of art by old masters for the residence.

Once their home was complete, they turned their attention to giving back to the community and established the Brookside School for children, the Cranbrook School for boys, the Kingswood School for girls, Christ Church Cranbrook, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

Together these make up one of the most exclusive and beautiful educational campus’ in the Midwest. For more information regarding the house click here: Cranbrook House and Gardens. For information regarding the schools click here: Cranbrook School.

Drone View of Cranbrook Christ Church
Drone View of Cranbrook Christ Church

Lower Manhattan

As promised, back to New York City…

The second day of our New York vacation, we decided to visit Lower Manhattan and take in all the relevant sites. It was a nice change from the super crowded streets of Times Square. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze coming off the Hudson – it was the perfect afternoon.

The first stop was the Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, all the tickets for the interior were sold out and it didn’t make any sense to pay for a boat ride to the base where the view would be terrible, so we opted for a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

The ferry didn’t come close enough to Lady Liberty and all my pictures were fuzzy at best. A bit disappointing, but the views of the harbor and city were spectacular on the way back.

New York Harbor
View from Staten Island Ferry

After the relaxing, albeit chilly, boat ride, we wandered all over Lower Manhattan. One of very first unique buildings you come across is the national landmark, Fraunces Tavern, in operation since 1762!

Fraunces Tavern
George Washington Bids Farewell

Following the evacuation of British troops from New York in late November 1783, George Washington bid farewell to his officers on December 4th from the building’s Long Room. We stepped inside for a quick look around and it was as if we stepped back in time! I only wished we could have pulled up a large over-stuffed leather chair to the roaring fireplace, swig back a brandy and smoke a cigar… maybe next time.

I know it’s a bit cliche and an extremely touristy thing to do, but I really wanted to see the famous Bull Statue of Wall Street. The stock market is another passion of mine. I have been the family money manager for the past five years and have been overseeing our multiple retirement accounts. I must toot my own horn, for being self-taught, I’m not doing too shabby; and the expensive management fees are averted (except for my weekly Starbucks binges – after all, a girl’s got to have her Bucks!)

For some reason, we ended up walking in circles trying to locate that damn bull! The boys wanted to give up, but I pressed on. In the process we discovered some other great sites along the way; like the beautiful Episcopal church. Established in 1696, Trinity Episcopal Church stands out like a beacon smack at the end of Wall Street, against its contemporary neighbors.

We also stumbled upon the famous Delmonico’s restaurant. Established in 1837, it is the birthplace of the widely imitated Delmonico steak and is credited with being the first American restaurant to allow patrons to order from a menu à la carte and the first to employ a separate wine list. I think they were on to something!

Once we saw the New York Stock Exchange, I knew we were close! We asked a young man in a suit that looked like he might work on Wall Street if he could point us in the right direction. We finally found the statue about a block ahead surrounded by tourists. I eventually needled my way in there and B got the shot. Whewww… Now we could carry on.

The last and most important stop in lower Manhattan was visiting the 9/11 memorial. We spent quite a bit of time there, each one in our own thoughts, taking in the true magnitude of what happened on that day. It’s the “Where-were-you-when-Kennedy-was-shot” equivalent for my generation. And I’ll remember that day with clarity for the rest of my life. Seeing the space in person is truly something every American should do. It will have a profound affect on you.

This post is dedicated to all of those who lost their lives on the fateful day. May you find peace. God Bless.

Times Square, NYC

My family and I just returned from a five-day vacation in New York City.  While my husband and I had both been there on separate occasions, it was the boys first time. Since our last year’s family vacation was to the beautiful, relaxing Dominican Republic, we wanted to change it up this year with more sightseeing and activities.

Westin

We stayed on the 15th floor of the Westin Hotel in the heart of Times Square, Manhattan.  When we arrived our room wasn’t quite ready, so we checked in, stashed our bags, freshened up and ventured out for lunch.

Right around the corner we found John’s Pizzeria.  It looked like any other place from the outside but once inside we discovered it was a huge, two-story renovated church with a beautiful octagonal stained-glass ceiling.

The highly aclaimed thin-crust New York pizza was delicious! In fact, the pizzeria has been voted one of New York City’s best!

Once we got inside our room, I opted to rest while the boys took the subway to SoHo for a little watch shopping. Weeks earlier, the boys had selected G-Shock watches as their New York souvenirs and had been feverishly researching the details online. We decided it was best to get their watches on the first day rather than listen to them whine all week!

Times Square

In the evening, we headed out to explore Times Square and eat dinner. It was crowded, but being a Thursday, it wasn’t unbearable and the weather was also cooperating.

The massive high-tech LED billboards were amazing to see in person. According to a recent 2015 article from Investopedia, 360,000 people pass through Times Square every day, not including those in cars.

The Times Square Alliance estimates that between 40 and 50 million tourists visit the square each year. If you add in views from movies and television, Times Square receives more than 150 million “impressions” every year! So what exactly does it cost to advertise here? Between $1.1 million and $4 million per year! That’s over four times the cost per impression of Google Ads, but about one fourth the cost of a Super Bowl Ad. Like the old adage goes, “It’s all relative!”

We saw a few other interesting “sights” while walking around. (I think the man’s face in the photo to the left says it all!) But hey, it is New York after all, you never know what you’re going to see! I would have much rather seen the Naked Cowboy but I was out of luck.

We settled on Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, got back to our hotel around midnight, and quickly fell asleep. Tomorrow would be another adventure in the Big Apple…