Backyard Tourist: Windmill Island, Holland, Mi

Such a fun morning being tourists in our backyard. Windmill Island is free for residents of the @cityofholland and it's a hidden gem. Beautiful gardens, parks, tours of the mill, horses! We will be back again and again.

It’s the first Monday of Summer Vacation and I’ve decided to take a relaxed approach to how we fill our days. The months are going to fly, this I already know, with sleep-away camps and sports camps and a few camping trips already planned, we’re going to arrive at the beginning of the next school year as if we left for a walk across the State and only ended up rounding our city block.

The kids wanted to roller blade and I wanted caffeine so we geared up and headed downtown to JP’s Coffee for my must-have and then meandered down to the Window on the Waterfront for theirs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It’s gorgeous with plenty of wildlife to watch and the end of the Spring flowers to see. We saw a family of swans, muskrats eating and swimming, and lots of birds and bugs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

As we were leaving I remembered Windmill Island is close to the park and, if I was right, it’s free for residents of the City of Holland. I wanted to check it out.

Backyard Tourists

TRUE! Free all day long for us, every day they’re open (save for the week of Tulip Time). I was super excited.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It was fabulous.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

There’s so much to see and do, and with this being free to Residents, it’s like our own personal oasis. The carousel ride is free, the park is updated and multi-aged friendly. There are picnic tables literally every where. Water you can kayak in (bring your own), all kinds of flowers to meander through, it’s stunning. There’s even yard games for the kids to play and music is often wafting in the background. A small cafe and gift shop and tons of opportunities to learn more about the Netherlands. There’s horses on the island you can watch or bing an apple to treat. They’re nice, and they’re used to people. You can bike around the island as well (bring your own, or bike TO the island from your home).

Backyard Tourists

We enjoyed a lively and informative tour of the working Mill and even met the Miller in house.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

You can buy the flour milled right here in Holland on Windmill Island, too. We tried but they were sold out today.

Did you know that they used to use the blades of the windmill as a local billboard to communicate? And during the wars they had signals to the town about where the troops were. Fascinating. The entire mechanism of the mill is crazy complicated and our Miller is the only female certified Miller by whatever association based in the Netherlands – it’s very prestigious. And she’s going for her Masters. Or something. On the tour we took there were folks from Germany! They’re touring the great lakes and made a stop in Holland to see the Windmill.

People, if Germans travel to see this gem and it’s in our backyard for free … I’m telling you. Geek out and get out. I can’t wait to go back.

It was a great (and mostly free) day. (I spent $2 on my cup of coffee. šŸ˜‰ )

Backyard Tourists

Adventures: This one in Florida

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We ran away to sunshine and spanish moss over winter break last month with our kids. Everything in me inhales deeper at the base of a live oak trunk with it’s arms swaying above me dressed in spanish moss and salty air.

I. Love. Florida.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Our destination was Amelia Island and we stayed at the Omni Plantation Resort.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to find an incredible deal on priceline.com for the rooms and a rental car, and bought our plane tickets through a deal site that kicks back to our tuition bill, which is always helpful. When we checked in to the hotel we had no idea that it would be this amazing. I had researched and googled and planned an itinerary but seeing it in person and getting an ocean front room was another story entirely.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

In my “House Keeping” series I talked about budgets (you can read that here) and one of the things I don’t think I mentioned was that we set aside a bit of each paycheck for vacations. It’s a separate savings account and the amount we budget for just gets automatically deducted from our paycheck and directly deposited each time we get paid. Lickety split. This is how I budget, actually, I have separate accounts for a number of different things.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

I would absolutely go back to Amelia Island. It’s just inside of the Florida state line from Georgia so the southern charm is heavy. The history of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach was rich and fun to explore.

A few things I really wanted to do were unavailable when we got there – but here’s our tips for a weekend getaway:

We flew into Jacksonville which is about 35-45 minutes away from the hotel we stayed at. So renting a car was the best option for us to get from the airport to the hotel. It was also nice to have a way to get around outside of the resort, where food was cheaper and being a tourist was more available. Inside the resort is beautiful, and I would recommend renting a golf cart (if you rent at the end of the day you get to keep it overnight for the cost of 2 hours, win!) to really be able to see the vastness of the estate. It is amazing, full of beautiful pockets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, beaches and pools. Plus restaurants, shopping villages, a spa and more.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Definitely look for shark teeth on the beach, we came home with 3. We think. They might be shark teeth or they might be suspiciously shaped shells. Either way, the hunt was fun. This is the beach our hotel was sitting on. Gorgeous.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We had our own pool at the complex we stayed in but the main hotel had a larger, warmer pool that we spent most of our lounge time at.

The hotel also has a great calendar of events, some of them free to guests. We took advantage of all the things that sounded fun to us. A fire one night with s’mores, a tour of their apiary and Seelings Project with the head Sous Chef for the property, partaking in the donut wall for the holiday weekend.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Food:

Resort food is very expensive, but buying 4 adult meals every meal is too. We tried to eat at great local places that wouldn’t break the bank and we tried a couple of the restaurants in the resort as well. I think our favorite was The Patio Place on Sunday morning. A local brunch spot with good coffee, savory crepes, and amazing atmosphere.

The cheapest meal we ate was a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars on Saturday night. It was magnificent.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We walked around the historic part of Old Town after breakfast, just taking in the shops and scenery. We like to find a local book store every where we travel so we waited for their shop to open so we could browse.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Fort Clinch State Park:

For the next few hours we explored Fort Clinch State Park but we didn’t pay the entry fee for the actual fort. We walked to the beach and saw the fort from the outside, watched the tide change, looked for shells and watched fishermen. We also spent some time exploring the woods and climbing trees before we took a small hike to look for alligators.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

The hike we did was The Willow Pond Trail and we spotted 5 alligators. Which means I think there were probably like 12. And you know, they’re just laying in wait in the water about 5 feet from my sandaled toes.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Oliver was very interested in keeping us all safe. šŸ˜‰

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

There’s only one in the photo above, can you spot him?

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And there are 4 in this above photo. Probably more that we didn’t see. Tricky!

After some more time at the pool and our only “resort” experience with poolside pina coladas (omg, so yummy) we decided to try to rent bikes and see more of the complex. When we got to rental place we noticed that it would actually be cheaper to rent a golf cart than to rent 4 bikes – and because we were so close to closing time, the 2 hour minimum rental for a golf cart turned into an overnight rental as long as we had it back by the time they opened the following morning (which was 9 am).

If you know my son, you know that this spoke his love language more than anything else all weekend.

BEHOLD!

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to see so much more this way – it was one of our highlights.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Monday morning we had the golf cart back by 9 am, grabbed breakfast at the resorts “market style” morning deli for the second time, went to the beach one last time, checked out the nature center and helped the kids shop for their souvenirs with their money.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We checked out at 11, drove back to their airport, and came home.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

A perfect amount of time for a getaway in the sun in the middle of February in Michigan.

Until the next adventure.

šŸ˜‰

Adventures: This one in Arizona

December 2015 we surprised the kids with a trip to Arizona. This was a working trip for Aaron but with both of his brothers and both of mine living in the Grand Canyon state it was a nice trip to tag along with.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

We did plenty of hiking, a day trip to Sedona, sightseeing, off-roading, and visiting close by parks and state parks.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

I’m feeling a little but of the wanderlust this season … ready for another adventure. A flight, an open road, a few minutes beneath the sun. With our kids being the ages they are (12 and 8) we’re starting to think about some different destinations. Where have you been (with or without kids) and what should we do/see/experience? I grew up globe trotting so over-seas itineraries don’t bother me at all. I have my eye on London, but weirdly also Ireland and Sweden. Or closer to home trips are fine too. I’m not really bothered by distance or lack thereof. Let’s just get going.

Where have you been?

Fall Camping

We took advantage of a school break to have one more camping adventure of the year in Northern Michigan. We stayed at Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes and ventured to Frankfort, Beulah, Traverse City, Empire and Glen Arbor for a color tour/food/things to do/and to listen to podcasts before bed.

Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

We hiked to the beach, made a teepee with fallen trees, cooked over the fire, drank lots of tea and hot chocolate, hung around in hammocks, played soccer and read. It was chilly and a bit rainy one of the days but we stayed warm and dry.

Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

We saw a fox! Lots of deer and squirrels and every brilliant fall color.

Resources and places to visit:

**Take the M22 drive
**Stop for coffee and bagels at Leelanau Coffee Roasters in Glen Arbor
**Make a special stop for the kids in your car at The Cherry Republic (they do pop tastings!)
**Grab a hot chocolate to walk around with or sit and stay and enjoy a beer at Brew in Traverse City
**Once you’ve satisfied your craving, head to Brilliant Books for some inspiration and to catch up on your favorite authors
**If you’re hungry make a special trip to Harvest (in Traverse) or Stormcloud (in Frankfort)
**If you just want a snack and a glass of wine with a view or you want to wrap up the wine trail with a memorable tradition – head to Brys Estate Winery for a glass of wine and a cheese board on their deck
**Then sneak down to their Secret Garden with your kids (or friends) and giggle with delight (maybe nightcap it with some apple cider)
**For a memorable afternoon with friends or older kids who love outdoor activities, make a stop at Hop Lot for a fire and games (their tacos are not to be argued with, either)
**A weekend for just the two of you? Make it special with dinner at 9 Bean Rows
**Have the kids along? There’s still something for you at their bakery to take home – 9 Bean Rows Bakery

I love Michigan and traditions. When the two meet, fall in love and make out passionately in the back of my car? We make memories.

Washington, 2016

This past summer we took off for the PNW taking a week to road trip west, a month to stay in one place, and a week to road trip back east to the midwest. So far, here’s what I’ve documented: Day 1, South Dakota, Custer State Park, etc, Mt Rushmore and the Black Hills, Montana, Day 6, 7 and 8, as well as a few posts about our time in Washington: Home and Like you, Like me.

I haven’t been able to write about our time away yet, I thought it was because there was so much to tell you, to unpack, but I think it’s because I wasn’t ready to share it. It took an entire year of planning to even get there and the year it took was a hard one. There was so much good but so much hard good and getting to the end of the plan and experiencing it first hand was spiritual for me. I needed this summer, those people, my people. I needed that place and the space to unwind, to spread out without anyone watching me. I needed to be a in place where I could blend in and not stand out, where I didn’t recognize faces and wasn’t recognizable. Even though I looked like everyone else, even though I was among people who would know me, who could really see me.

First morning in Washington, Home.

First morning in Washington, Home.

I ran away, to some extent. Far away. The farthest I could go for as long as I could go. I was trying to leave a few things behind and pick up a few more along the way. I had ideas and all kinds of expectations that quickly went to the wayside.

We got to our rental house and unpacked and then I made dinner.

Cooking

Cooking

Cooking

Furiously chopping and pouring, simmering and steaming. The little kitchen didn’t have a chance. I’d like to think of it as a yoga for the mind. I worked so much out in that little kitchen. Without modern tools to help along the way, every batch of cookies or bread I made, I did by hand. No power tools. Just me and a whisk, a wooden spoon. And I counted the minutes it took to knead a loaf of bread and I let the sweat drip down my face as I knit my entire back in knots over countless batches of cookie dough. I let the kids think it was the onions that made me cry, even though the tears didn’t stop well past the chopping.

Home

I accomplished the things I thought I wanted to. I saw and introduced and explored the landscape of my heart and I walked those roads, up and down, back and forth. Disappearing into the pines, letting the rains baptize me in the moment. I was there for guts and glory and I wasn’t going anywhere until I undid myself.

2016-06-23 07.28.48

2016-06-23 07.33.57

Just as soon as we arrived, we quickly began a routine of picking berries with my Aunt. Not just any berries. PNW berries from the very capital of the entire world of berry producing soil. Whatcom County. And it was berry season. And I had arrived.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

A month in Washington

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

There was a romance in those fields. Heavy, ripe fruit bending it’s branches. You would touch them and they’d fall into your hands. It never took more than half an hour to fill alllllll our bowls and buckets and we’d laugh and eat so many that our tummies would hurt and we’d guess how long it would take for us to run out and return to the rows.

We’d go in the middle of the day, at the end of the day, just before sunset, at dusk. We’d go mid morning and quick before dinner, right after dessert, and before the movie started. We went and went and went. Back to the field, back to the rows, back to the fertile soil.

Picking blueberries

Picking blueberries

And it became a rhythm for me, a meditation of our time spent there. A place to go, a reason to return. To the fields. To the dirt by the mountains kissed by the misty rain under the sun and the wide open sky and where I found myself. Where I found myself dancing and laughing and eating and being merry and in love and in communion and in relationship and together, with my family.

Picking blueberries

Like I had never not been there in the first place. Like I was always where I belonged. Like I had never left.

Like I never would.