February 13, 2019

Valentine From Mom

It's been a little bit of a tough winter for me. Some of you know, but I lost my mom last fall. She had a terminal cancer so we expected death, but not like that. The year before her death, she was in and out of the hospital several times then had a stroke in August. A month later she passed away from an unknown reason.

I knew she would die. I knew she would die sooner rather than later. Given all of her illness that last year, I suspected we would loose her sooner than anticipated. The night before she passed though, I had her out to dinner and had a lovely night with her. I would not guess that by 2:00 the next day she would be dead. That was the difficult part.

My birthday passed, then the holidays and finally her birthday. It likely did not help that we had little to no sun in January either. I thought I did well, but still felt her loss deeply.

I can't be the only person who has lost a parent, that talks to that parent. In fact, in mentioning that, I found out that most people talk to their deceased parent. I talk to her mainly when it is quiet, and when I am alone. Like when I talk a walk at night or when driving alone in the car. 

In the last couple days though, there have been several times where I just wanted to pick up the phone and talk to mom. I wanted to share a little story about my daughter or share my son's latest accomplishment.

So this weekend when I had to go to Port Huron for Boy Scouts, I went to where her childhood house on the river used to be. My grandpa was the commercial fisherman/bait guy where the Port Huron Coast Guard station now sits. There is a small park there, across the street from my great-grandma's house, so I walked for a bit to talk to her. I walked and told her everything.

 I still had several hours to kill before getting my son and his friends, so I went in search of rocks. Thanks to my grandfather, I am a rock-hound. Much to the dismay of my husband and children, I can easily spend hours siting and sifting through rocks on the beach. Taking the opportunity to walk along the beach, without anyone else sounded divine.

I stopped at three beaches between Port Huron and Fort Gratiot. The first one is across the street of my childhood home, and the other two were ones I have visited many times when I was a child. There was still a small ice shelf on the beach, but the sun was peeking from behind the clouds and there was little wind, making it a nice winter day.

I know what to expect in searching those beaches. Horn coral, small petosky stones, chain coral, favosite fragments, red jasper, unakite, perhaps some beach glass and maybe a puddingstone. For the first time ever I even found a puddingstone!

I was almost out of time when I visited the last beach. Although I had already found several nice Petosky stones, I asked my mom if she would help me find a really nice (big) Petoskey or puddingstone. That's when it happened. I looked down and found a tiny puddingstone with a small red jasper heart. 

I could not believe the little beauty staring back at me. I immediately picked it up and thought perhaps someone had painted the heart on a tone and left it to be found. I was right. I was painted by God and left for me to find. It was a sign from my mom that she was listening and was sending her love to me.

February 3, 2019

Free Fishing Weekend and Ann Arbor Ice Fishing Derby's

Photo courtesy of the Scheel family
I don't know why this has been top of mind this year. Maybe it is the lakes being mostly frozen...  Perhaps it is my desire to learn new skills or filling my bucket list. At any rate, I really want to try ice fishing. I don't want a new hobby or anything, I just want to try it once. It's a good thing that Michigan offers a free fishing weekend free fishing weekend this month! Now I can try ice fishing.

On February 16-17, Michigan has their free fishing weekend. Families can certainly find friends to take them out, however sometimes pre-planned programs are the best way to try out ice fishing. The closest free fishing weekend events are an Ice Fishing Derby at  Seven Lakes State Park (14390 Fish Lake Road, Holly) on February 16, 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. There will be loaner equipment available, as well as refreshments, prizes and a warm fire!

I also found an Ice Fishing for Beginners program at Kensington on February 16, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Come test the waters and take advantage of Free Fishing Weekend on the beautiful Kent Lake. The program will begin indoors at the Nature Center to learn about the basics of ice fishing which will include various aspects of ice safety, proper technique for drilling your hole in the ice, and how to attract the fish. Participants will then head outside and hit the ice so you can try it yourself. If possible, bring your own ice fishing rod (inexpensive and available at many sporting stores). Dress to be outside, waterproof boots are highly recommended. If you want to have a seat while waiting for your big catch, a 5 gallon bucket is a great choice. Bait will be provided. Ages 6 and older. The cost is $5 and please preregister, (810) 227-8917.

If that weekend is not convenient for your desire to try ice fishing, Independence Lake will be holding their annual Ice Fishing Derby. The  annual Washtenaw County Parks & Recreation program is being held February 10 from 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. on February 10. Participants can catch and release Northern Pike, Bass and Crappie. Gift cards and other prizes will be given to contest winners. You will however need to bring your own bait. The cost for the event is $10 for kids (12 & under)/ and $15 for adults which includes lunch. There is a discount for pre-registration.

The whole family will enjoy the outing, so bundle up and get pumped to try your hand at ice fishing. You can find alternative February free fishing weekend options for ice fishing at the DNR website.

Photo courtesy of Scheel family.

February 1, 2019

Visiting the Sugarbush: Maple Syrup Events for the Family

I love real maple syrup. It's yummy on pancakes and waffles and even used as an ice cream topping! I even love making homemade maple syrup with the family, it's easy to do and yields wonderful results. If you don't want to make your own though, in Washtenaw County and close to Ann Arbor, there are several places where families can go to learn about maple syrup, it's history and how to make your own maple syrup!

March 23: Visit Belleville for Maple Sugaring Through the Ages (10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m.) at the
Oakwoods Metropark Nature Center (17845 Savage Road, Belleville, MI 48111). Learn about the methods used to collect maple sap and how the maple tree sustained early Americans. Preregister at (734) 782-3956.

Starting February 24 on weekends at the  Hudson Mills Activity Center (8801 N. Territorial Rd., Dexter) families can Journey to the Sugar Bush on a guided tour traveling back in time to experience how maple syrup has been made over the years. While you are there, enjoy an all you can eat pancake and sausage breakfast served from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. The guided tour (10:00, 11:00 a.m. and noon and by appointment) is $5/Adult or $3/Children  Breakfast (additional):  $6/Adults or $4/Children.  Please pre-register at (734) 426-8211

Starting February 23, Arbor families can take a short drive to visit learn "Maples Sweet Story" at Kensington Metropark (2240 W. Buno Rd., Milford). Tours are given every half hour from noon until 3:00 p.m. where families can learn about maple sugaring. Stop in for a hot breakfast from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Farmhouse Grille, and then head on a guided tour to the sugar bush to see the maple sugaring process, including tapping trees and boiling down the sap. You might even see some Native American re-enactors telling the tale of the sugarbush!  For more information call 800-477-3178800-477-3178. A Metroparks vehicle entry permit is required to enter any Metropark in addition to a small fee of $3/adults and $1/seniors and children 3 to 12 years; kids under 3 are free.

Real maple syrup is very much worth the effort and worth checking out, so if your children would enjoy trying something a little different, be sure to check out the full list of Metroparks Maple Syrup programs and events around Ann Arbor in the coming month! Or if you feel up to the challenge try your hand at making maple syrup with your family, it's really easy to do.