Monday, July 28, 2014

Week 20: Vacation!

Last week I went with some of my family on our annual trip "Up North" in Michigan to my favorite place, Ludington.  Ludington is on the west coast of Michigan, right on Lake Michigan, and is a really fun and beautiful town.  My family has been vacationing there since I was around seven years old, and it's a tradition that we love to keep!

My maternal grandfather spent his teen years in Ludington while his father worked for the CCCs helping to build the beautiful beach house at Ludington State Park.  As a result, when he was grown with kids of his own, my grandpa took my mom and her siblings to Ludington for a few visits, and my mom and her sister took up the tradition as adults as well.  We rent a cabin north of Ludington on Hamlin Lake, which is connected to Lake Michigan by the Au Sable River.  It's heaven on earth there, my friends!

I spent the week sleeping, sitting on the front porch reading, laying on the beach reading, laying in the hammock reading, hiking (too hard to read and hike), swimming in the pool with my nieces and nephew (also a difficult place to read), eating ice cream, playing games (charades, Yahtzee!, Cabby, Golf - the card game), kayaking, sitting by a campfire, eating s'mores, playing shuffleboard, walking out to the Ludington Lighthouse, watching sunsets...  Heaven.  Here are some photos from the week:

Kayaking with my nieces & nephew & sis
My favorite flavor ice cream at House of
Flavors (best ice cream place) - Eskimo Kisses 
On a sunset beat ride with my Aunt, Uncle, and Fam
(pictured with my nieces)
My lone peanut - on my last leg playing Cabby!
Big waves!! (...Come at a cost...high winds...) 
My nephew hiding from the wind with me on the beach
Changing of the flags from yellow to red....
A bit of a crazy day at the beach!
Skyline Trail at Ludington State Park
More ice cream...
"What?" :D
Carved on a tree on one of the State Park trails
Our favorite tree on the trails -
perfect sitting spot for a rest!
View on the State Park trails - gorgeous!!
S'mores + campfire + ghost stories = magical!
(My uncle's friend tells the best ghost stories!!!)
Hanging in my sister's hammock and
comfortable with my favorite view!
The view from the front porch
of our cabin
My uncle and cousin got some lanterns
that we released one night - it was pretty!
Swimmin' in the pool
(doesn't it look so refreshing?!) 
Sunset on Lake Michigan near the lighthouse

Can you tell why this is my favorite week of the year??  It relaxes me and brings me great peace.  It renews me!  I feel ready for what comes next after spending time there.  Sigh.  I miss it already!

Now it's back to work!!  Six more weeks...

Friday, July 18, 2014

Weeks 17, 18, & 19: The Saline Celtic Festival and after

I apologize for the unexpected leave of absence!  My life for the last few weeks has been consumed almost entirely by the Saline Celtic Festival.  So much so that it has taken me several days after the festival was over before I could even find the time or energy to blog about it!  

Despite the craziness that the Festival brings to my life, I truly love being a part of it.  This year marks my seventh as the Wee Folks Island Chair, where I plan activities for the young visitors to the festival.  Over my seven years with the festival, I have tried to keep things fresh and keep the kids (and their parents!) coming back.  I always have a few crafts and a few different athletic events, and this year I think I hit a sweet spot with the activities! In an effort to keep this post from becoming too long, I thought I'd blog about the crafting activities here and the athletic and other activities on my other blog. (Click link here)

I made this directional sign for the
Island this year and it makes me happy!

Here are the crafts that I offered on the "Island" (it's actually a peninsula, but looks like an island and you have to cross a bridge to get to it):
View of the Island's Activities with my back to the river -
all of the crafts happen in the big white tent
Shield Painting - This has been a craft we've done as long as I've been a part of the festival. We cut shields out of cardboard before the festival (we have an awesome friend to the festival who cut all of them this year over the winter!!), poke a couple of holes, and tie a string through for a handle.  Then the kids can paint designs on them, hang them to dry, and then go fight dragons!  This is a constant favorite.
Sword Painting - Similar to shield painting!  Last year was my first year doing these - I thought that the shields seemed incomplete and we needed swords!  I have multiple colors of masking tape that they can wrap around the handle, and they paint the rest.  Also very popular.
Shields, Swords, and Fairy Doors drying
Fairy Doors - This was a new project I decided to do this year.  I cut a sheet of 4' x 8' masonite (wall paneling, actually) into 4" x 6" rectangles, and got sparkly paint, puff paint, and little jewels and buttons and things for kids to attach.  They turned out really great!!

Jeweled Crowns - The crowns have also been around since I took over the Island, but I made a few changes this year.  Traditionally we've used boxwood garland for the crown, with ribbon roses wrapped around them, fabric ribbons down the back, and pony beads tied to the end of the ribbon.  When it comes down to it, all of those elements cost a lot of $$$!  So this year I used pipe cleaners for the crown, curling gift ribbon down the back, and got some awesome jewel beads from The Scrapbox in Ann Arbor (an AWESOME store!) - I still had some pony beads left from previous years, so used those, too.  The crowns turned out looking really nice, and I was able to spend the money I saved on other parts of the festival.  Plus, the kids loved the jewels!  You can see the crowns (made with boxwood garland left from past years) on my adorable nieces here:

I hope you were able to check out the athletics and other activities on my Robot Tuesdays blog!  I'm really proud of the fact that we can offer such a variety of fun and free activities for kids.  The Celtic Festival was actually voted the best Family-Friendly Festival in Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor Family magazine!  My kind co-chairs attributed some of the credit for this to my work on the Island, and I'd be happy if that was the case!  

I had an awesome opportunity this year to display some of my work at the Merchandise Tent out in the main part of the festival.  It was great to have it out there!  I also got to hang out there Friday and Saturday night (when my stuff was all done and packed up!) and watch the bands and the people.  It was lot of fun!
My paintings & photos
I found a 4-leaf clover right in front of my artwork!! :D
View from the Merchandise Tent on Friday night -
it was a beautiful evening!
I went back to the Island on Friday night to
check on things before heading home and saw
this beautiful view of the full moon through
the clouds (plus the castle entrance)!
This week has been spent catching up on sleep, sketching, cleaning (who had time in the run-up to the festival?!?), planning, and preparing for a vacation next week!  I wanted to wrap up here with a quick note on being a part of community events.  People have asked me why, if it wears me out so much, I keep doing the festival year after year.  A big part of that is that it's a creative outlet for me.  I have a lot of fun planning new activities and seeing them executed and the kids enjoying them!  Another big reason, though, is how much I love working with people in my community.  Saline is a unique small city, close to big activity, but far enough away at the same time.  The people I work with on the festival are an amazing and energetic group, who never cease to amaze me with their ideas and passion for bringing it to pass.  We've had bumps in the road over the years, and have all fought to keep the festival running (despite some hesitation on the part of the City Council in years past), and every year is better and better.  It's a rush to bring a festival of this size to fruition each year!  I encourage anyone who is able to find ways to get involved in local events, or even to come up with your own ideas and see what you can make happen!