Category Archives: summer

Childhood Cravings

I was grocery shopping recently and had a craving for a childhood snack — graham crackers with frosting on them.  I purchased the box of crackers and grabbed what I thought was standard chocolate frosting.  Imagine my delight when I popped open that little container and discovered chocolate mint — double yum!

That got me to thinking about some of the simple things from my childhood that kids today don’t have the opportunity to experience.   Back when I was a child life was more simple.  Summer was spent playing outside.  There weren’t any arranged play-dates set up by parents, we weren’t in day care centers, and our parents did not have us participating in scheduled activities.  childhood - chinese jump rope

We got up in the morning and walked or rode our bike to a friend’s house, rang the doorbell and asked if they could come out and play.  When was the last time a child did that?  Today’s children probably wouldn’t know how.   We didn’t have video games, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other technology that kids today rely on.  So what did we do with our time?  We had fun!

A field behind the house could be trampled down into “rooms” in which we could roll out our baby carriages and play house.  We would lay on our backs and look at the clouds, making determinations on what they looked like.  We played Ring-Around-The-Rosie, Duck-Duck-Goose, Mother May I, Red Rover Red Rover, Tag, Kick-the-Can, and hide-and-go-seek.

We only had three TV channels, and cartoons were a Saturday morning specialty.  Every kid sat in front of the TV watching their favorites.  Between Saturdays we had our comic books to read.   My girlfriend and I would put our comic books into the saddle baskets of our bikes, then read our comic books as we rode our bikes down the street no-handed….and we weren’t even wearing helmets!

childhood - jacksWe would sit on the porch playing jacks.  At one time I was able to handle pick-ups of 20 jacks at a time.  We played a lot.  Do kids play jacks anymore?  Are they even available to purchase?  Ours were tiny metal jacks with a small red ball.    What about hula hoops and pogo sticks?  With a swing of the hips your hula hoop could be forced up to the neck or down to the knees and back to the waste.  Regular jump rope, Chinese jump rope, and hop scotch kept us busy.

I lived in a small town.  We would ride our bikes downtown and go to the library and the dime store.  I did a lot of reading.  Nancy Drew was my favorite, and so was Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie as I got older.   We bought pop in glass bottles out of a vending machine.  Everyone chewed Bazooka bubble gum, and we all loved the little tiny comics that came inside.  Gum wrappers were used to make chains…what we did with those chains I don’t remember.

We looked for 4-leaf clovers.  Flower petals were pulled off one-by-one saying “he loves me, he loves me not.”  Dandelions were held under the chin to see if your chin shone yellow, but I don’t remember why.  If we found a dandelion gone to seed, a “wisher,” we were thrilled….but our father wasn’t if he saw us blowing those seeds out into the lawn.

childhood - pogo stickBack then most people did not have air conditioning.  Windows were open, fans were used.  One strong childhood summer memory does not involve me but my father.  He would mow the lawn and then afterward watch the ball game on TV.  One of my favorite scents and sounds of summer is the combination of fresh mowed grass and a baseball ball game on the TV or radio.

What are some of your childhood memories?  No matter how old or young you are, if you are an adult I am sure things have changed since your childhood.   Do you have childhood cravings?  Do you wish your children and/or grandchildren could experience life as it once was, not as it is now?

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Filed under Activities, backyard, children, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, Family, flowers, freindship, friends, friendship, home, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, play, reality, summer, time

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Caffeine Addicted Ants

Saturday morning I was standing at my kitchen counter when a small ant walked by…just one, strolling along nice as you please.  Well he was, until I ended his tiny little life.  I wondered where he came from but didn’t give it much thought and went on with my day.

That evening I saw three ants on the counter.  What the heck!  I don’t have any open food, nothing to attract them.  Just who do they think they are invading my kitchen, and for what purpose?  It isn’t as if I have a feast laid out for the taking.  More like starvation mode when it comes to open food availability.  Yet there they were.  Were, as in past tense, I ended their lives abruptly.

Easter Sunday and the troops have gathered.  A little march of several ants daintily prancing across the back edge of my counter.  Time for major action.  I get out the bottle of Clorox Cleanup, their lives and trails are about to come to a chemically abrupt halt.  I plan to start my cleanup where I saw them.  They’re gone!  Where did they go?  Did they some how have a sixth sense about what my plans were and went into hiding?

Not to be deterred I started at that end of the counter and began my chemically enhanced assault on their chosen trail.   I began a clean and search mission to determine what was attracting them.  My first thought was the catch trays on the toaster.  Nope, no ants there, but they are now clean and empty.  They weren’t attempting to invade my candy dish of Werther’s Originals, nor were they near my dish of York Peppermint Patties.  These ants obviously don’t have a sweet tooth.

I’m working my way across the counter, moving things, spraying with Clorox Clean-up and wiping everything down.  The smell of the bleach in the product should help to deter the ants, at least for a small while.   I haven’t seen a single one as I’m cleaning.  Where did they go?

Then I move the coffee maker to spray the counter underneath it.  Wow!  Numerous ants under the machine happily milling around.  When I had a pot of coffee run over there must have been some on the bottom of the machine when I moved it back into place, and it had created a dried puddle of coffee on the counter.  That is where the ants were congregated.

I would have never suspected ants to be congregated in mass proportions under a coffee machine.  Is it the coffee they are attracted to, or the caffeine?  They were not inside the coffee grounds, only under the machine.  How were they consuming or transporting that sticky residue?  Does the caffeine give them a nice burst of energy like it does some humans?  One thing I do not want is ants operating on high energy in my house. Ant drinking coffee

Those ants experienced a very sudden chemical bomb delivered via spray bottle filled with Clorox Clean-up.  If anyone feels sympathy for them, it was a very quick death so suffering would have been minimal and death instantaneous.  In fact the ants died much faster than the removal of the stain.  As difficult as it was to clean up, I can’t imagine how those ants were getting any benefit from it.

The good news is I have not seen a single ant since Easter morning.  Either I have killed them all off (as if I really believe that), or they no longer have a purpose in traversing my counter.  Of course they could be lying in wait, hoping for another coffee run-over.

Summer hasn’t even started yet, so I doubt I will be lucky enough not to see those pesky little critters again.  When I do the first place I will check is the coffee maker, chemical bomb in hand, ready to inflict mass destruction on their invasive little bodies.   I think a killer instinct in me has emerged.

 

 

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Filed under bugs, Cleaning, death, Discoveries, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, spring, summer

Being Obstinate

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Float Down Photo Copyright Grace Grogan

I am by nature a fairly easy going person, except when you challenge what I think is right, at which point I can become very obstinate.  This is the case with an article I just submitted to our local paper, The Times Herald.  St. Clair County has an “unofficial” yearly event called Float Down, which will take place this Sunday.

This is an event where people disembark from Lakeside Beach in Port Huron using rafts, floats, etc. and take with them beverages, snacks, and more for the 7 mile float down the St. Clair River to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  This is an all-day event, the river is rapid, and even though the event is “unofficial” shipping traffic is generally slowed and/or stopped for several hours that day for safety reasons and the Coast Guard is on hand to carry out any necessary rescues.

0510 Port Huron Float Down - South of the Bridges-1

Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

There are over 5,000+ participants in the float down, and it grows larger and larger every year.  In my opinion the participation increases because of the publicity it gets…not so much the positive publicity, but the negative.  The U.S. Coast Guard encourages people not to participate because it is a safety risk.  The officials of Marysville where the float ends keep trying to make it difficult for people to exit at their city by closing down roads and making it difficult for people got get picked up and exit the area quickly after floating.  Last year because they closed the road where people exit some floaters were stranded near a local restaurant until 10:00 pm.

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Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

This is where my good-natured, always balanced Libra personality takes a turn and I become obstinate.  I am an opinion columnist for our local paper so I just submitted a column about the negative attitude of the City of Marysville’s mayor.  I said I hope all 5,000+ float all the way to Chrysler Beach just because of the mayor’s attitude.   I think the City’s negative attitude is why the float down has grown so large in the past few years.  Who doesn’t want to participate in an event that has a bit of controversy and provides a unique chance at one day of fun per year?  I know I do.  I may be babysitting my granddaughter this year so my daughter can float, but in a future year I will participate in a float down.  The Mayor of Marysville’s attitude has guaranteed that!

 

 

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Filed under Blue Water Area, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, Family, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, play, summer

What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, play, summer, travel, vacation

Doing the Michigan Dance

Yes, this past couple weeks we have been going through the steps of what I am going to term the Michigan Dance.  What is it?  If you live here you should know, it is the back and forth, two steps forward, one step back, motion of our weather.

We have had a bitter, cold winter with plenty of snow.  Then 2-3 weeks ago the weather warmed up.  The sun was shinning, people started getting out and riding bikes, walking paths, cleaning yards and other spring activities.  Our grass has turned green and the trees and bushes have started to bud out.  Spring has arrived — or has it?

Weather - sunburn and frostbite in same weekA couple days ago the temperature dropped, winds picked up, and it was cold again.  Not freezing, but cold enough that some people went back to wearing winter coats.  This morning when I got up there was a skiff of snow on the ground.  Not massive proportions, and I assume by midday it will all be gone, but the point is, it is there.  We are on the one-step back motion of the Michigan Dance.

I am tired of winter, tired of the cold.  I want spring to hit us full-force and move into a heat-blasting summer.  I want to move this Michigan Dance from a slow moving waltz to a fast-paced polka and spin forward around the dance floor several times in a row.  Is that too much to ask?

What am I thinking….I live in Michigan.  Nothing is predictable, especially the weather.  Two steps forward, one step back.

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Filed under spring, summer, Weather