Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 4 of 4 – St. Joseph, Michigan

We pried our hands from the keys to our suite in Saugatuck and headed out this morning after breakfast. We weren’t entirely sure where we were going, but we knew we didn’t want to head straight home. We don’t get to the west side of the state very much and wanted to take advantage of the sunny (yet cool) day we had.

South Haven Pier

South Haven wasn’t very far from Saugatuck so we drove there to check out yet another yarn shop which turned out not to be open until later that day and Shannon didn’t want to take the time to wait. While we were there we swung by the beach and lighthouse. Surprisingly there were several others there bundling up that planned on walking out to the beach to see the tiny red lighthouse. With the blustery winds near the water, Shannon and I decided to sit this one out. Before you say we’re wimpy, keep reading.

On a side note, there was a great deal of work being done near the pier and beach area. From the looks of it, it’s going to be very nice when completed.

St. Joseph Magical Ice Carving Festival – 6th Annual

From South Haven, it was just a short jaunt to St. Joseph and there we struck proverbial gold! Before we even headed into town, we stopped off at the North Pier to see the lighthouses. The sun came out in full force and Shannon and I couldn’t resist taking a walk up the frozen sand dunes to snap off a few shots of the lighthouse. Once we headed out, despite the snow and the wind, the sunshine made our walk far more tolerable. We were rewarded with some great pics. We slipped our way across the ice that leads out to the lighthouse, but at one point it was way too slippery to head out any further.

At times the waves crashed up on the pier and even along the snow/sand mounds. As you can see the ice coated the railings which made it virtually impossible to tread out any further to get a closer look at the light.

From the pier we headed into town and we had no idea the 6th Annual Magical Ice Carving Festival was underway. We spent about an hour our so being fascinated by the craftsmen/women who were hard at work shaping blocks of ice into creatures ranging from a dragon fly, to dragons. They even had a putt-putt course constructed of ice sculptures for kids to play. It was such a beautiful day and such a beautiful setting. This was certainly a fitting way to end our weekend getaway. What made it even ‘cooler’ was it was unplanned and unexpected. You would have thought we knew what we were doing! It turned out to not only be a wonderful 20th Anniversary, but a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

20 Years in Retrospecct

I had a wonderful time with my sweet bride on this weekend getaway. It’s difficult to believe we have been together for 20 years. She officially has been living with me longer than she had with her parents. See our children grow so quickly, and seeing how much God has blessed us is truly humbling and gratifying. It truly has been only by God’s Divine Grace and Favor that we have enjoyed the life we have. Keeping God first has been and will always be the key to longevity in a marriage. When God is first in both of your lives He gives you the center, and from there, despite life’s challenges, God grants you His Grace to see them through.

Below are a few of the pictures we took at the festival…

Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 3 of 4 – Shopping and Dinner in Saugatuck

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Our evening was winding down nicely. We drove through downtown Saugatuck and amidst the flurries and increased weekend traffic the little town was awakening ever so slightly. Shannon wanted to visit a few of the clothing shops, most of which had a 50% off sale trying to clear out the winter merchandise. But, even at 50% off some of the items this exclusive town is known for were still priced beyond our modest budget. Definitely not a town to shop for bargains. She was able to get a deal on some bags and some slippers.

From there we headed to what we had hoped would be a relaxing dinner at The Butler. Everything was enjoyable – the fireside, the view of the bay, the ambiance, and even the clam chowder soup was delicious. I ordered pan-fried walleye, and Shan ordered Crab Mushroom Chicken. My entree was excellent with a side of the Butler fries. Shannon’s entree on the other hand arrived pink in the center, which of course is not good for chicken. She returned the entree to the kitchen to cook it further. When it arrived the second time, it was only slightly better. She picked at it and we left feeling a bit cheated by the whole experience. The bill was roughly $40. I wouldn’t recommend this restaurant to anyone unless they order something like the Butler Burger for which they’re known. Our server Patti was very delightful, but very over extended due to the proximity off the tables in our section being so far from the kitchen. We may try the restaurant again, but will certainly avoid the chicken entrees.

After dinner we drove all through Douglas and the outskirts of Saugatuck doing some sightseeing and getting a lay of the land. On our way back into Saugatuck for the night, we snapped the above picture at the Lake Street entrance to Saugatuck.

 

Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 3 of 4 – Trip to Holland

Lizzie Ann’s Wool Co. – Holland 

After our eventful, but relaxing morning we headed to Holland to one of Shannon’s yarn shops Lizzie Ann’s Wool Co. Shannon had previously been to this shop, but when she walked in, she was reminded why she had forgotten the place. It may well appeal to the locals, but she said, if a store like Thread Bear Fiber Studio in Lansing was closer, they would put Lizzie Ann’s out of business. They were nice “enough,” but the overall substance of the store was lacking. The pricing, in Shannon’s estimation was over-priced. Again, using Shannon’s 5 Point Knitting Needle Scale here’s the low-down…

  • Yarn Selection = 3
  • Accessories/Notions = 3
  • Patterns/Books = 3
  • Service = 4
  • Organization = 4
  • Location = 5
  • Would Shannon Return = NO 

  • JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar – Holland, Michigan

    While Shannon shopped at Lizzie Ann’s, I strolled over to a local coffee house called JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar. Based on Shan’s review of Lizzie Ann’s, it appears my trip to JP’s was much more…delightsome shall we say. As I stepped in the place was hopping, even at 3:00 p.m. There were wall-to-wall coffee drinkers, wi-fi scrounges, and baristas everywhere. A very hip and happenin’ place. A very energetic vibe, the kind you’d expect at a successful coffee house. Nothing like the lethargic generics at Starbucks! The baristas were all chatty and helpful. My Vanilla Latte was the best I’ve had in a long time.

    While I waited for my drink, there was a video playing of a barista competition where they were literally making art out of the foam and froth atop the various lattes. There were leafy floral patterns, hearts, and swirls of all types. I was fascinated as the barista, like an artist would carefully and cleverly pour the froth, swirl, and voila! A masterpiece in your mug so fantastic one would hesitate to drink it. Surely a snap shot taken by your camera phone, uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, and Flikr would be in order before the sip!

    Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 3 of 4 – Breaking the Ice

    We started our day off with a small breakfast as provided by Bayside Inn. It was comprised of a variey homemade coffee cake, banana bread, a variety of fruit, cereals, and a breakfast quiche. I broke in my antique coffee pot with some coffee I bought the other day from Uncommon Grounds Roasters here in Saugatuck. I would certainly not stay at Bayside Inn for the breakfast.

    After breakfast I spent sometime catching up on my blog and Shannon spent time knitting, and re-knitting a shrug she’s making for her sister. I know, not much of an adventure, but when you’re used to going all the time, doing leisurely things like this are a luxury. I’ve kept up with some of my emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. but being away physically has been just what we’ve needed to re-spark, refresh, and rejuvenate.

    The Carol Ann Ice Breaker in Action

    Carol Ann Ice Cutter - Holland, MI (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE)

    The wasn’t a total wash however, because during our relaxation time a drama on the river outside our suite began to unfold. To our delight and amazement, a couple of ice-cutters were docked just next door to our inn. The Carol Ann (Holland, MI) began cutting through the ice flows like butter until she reached a fairly large flow that required several full-steam stabs to get it to break. Below is a video account of one of the stabs.

    Honestly, I can’t think of a cooler (no pun intended) way to spend the morning than watching these guys trudge head long into huge ice flows. Even Shannon was having a blast watching the drama unfold. This may be a common occurance here in Saugatuck, but for us it was a real treat.

    Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 2 of 4 – Bayside Inn Suite Nine

    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE - NOTE Our Suite Location

    After our marathon day, it was nice to settle into our cozy and comfortable room at the Bayside Inn of Saugatuck. For a detail of the layout of our suite click the LINK.

    A Brief Review

    This suite is also a bed and breakfast. We got an extremely competitive rate on the room due to the season. Granted, there wasn’t much going on around Saugatuck, Douglas, and even Holland, but that’s part of the reason we came up here. There was just enough stores and restaurants open to make it a relaxing weekend.

    Our Suite (No. 9) was huge being more long than wide roughly 16′ x 40′. Overall the decor was fairly modern, but the kitchen was dates as was the bathroom. The bedroom was on the small side, but the large living, sitting, and dining area more than made up for the lack of bedroom size.

    Cleanliness was decent. We weren’t thrilled about finding a baby’s diaper in the bathroom trash. Fortunately, it was just a wet diaper. The linens were clean, but could have been more generous in the quantity. The kitchen was clean, but the cupboards were a bit dated. There was not a dishwasher or garbage disposal, but it did include a full-sized fridge and microwave. There was a hair dryer, ironing board w/iron, a 27″ flat screen TV with DVD and cable, and the best part, a gas fireplace that added warmth and ambiance.

    The big question? Would we ever stay here again – A resounding YES! Our particular suite was great for a couple, but a family would have a difficult time managing with one bathroom, one bedroom, no dishwasher, etc. While the couch does fold out to a queen size bed making it possible for a small family to stay here, I’d still spring for a 2-room suite for the overall enjoyment of everyone…especially Mom and Dad!

    Our 20th Anniversary Celebration Day 2 of 4

    CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

    After a relaxing morning of room-service breakfast we headed toward Saugatuck. I swung by Biggby Coffee and tried one of their “skinny” Teddy Bear coffee drinks and it was superb! That fueled me for the drive west and about an hour and half later we drove into Saugatuck and were greeted by one of their more notable landmarks the “Peterson Mill.” I snapped a few shots off of the mill and the surrounding frozen water. 

    Blue Star Antique Pavilion 

    We drove through the small water town and since it was only 11 a.m. we decided to seek out some antique shops I had looked up online. Fortunately for us, we started with the best the area had to offer in our opinion – Blue Star Antique Pavilion located at 2945 Blue Star Highway Douglas, MI. Their website is http://www.bluestarantiquepavilion.com/ 

    This place is so filled with treasures, the hardest part about shopping here is knowing where to begin and how to fit it all in. We shopped for 2 ½ hours and spent about $130. We purchased a silver chafing dish, several Zane Grey books, a 1969 Farmer’s Almanac, a small jewelry dish, and a set of (4) 24kt. gold leafed bowls, and (2) plates to match. The best treasure of all was stainless steel Sunbeam Coffee Percolator for $20! This was a treasure for a variety of reasons, not the least of which that it was made in America, coffee strength selector dial, and extremely quiet percolation. This little pot buries the “made in China” models I’ve had in the past for quality, speed, and yes, price. Judging by the cord configuration this model is circa 1970…hmmm not bad for 40 years old! 

    We will definitely make this a regular place to visit if we are ever in the area. For any antique enthusiast, this store is a MUST! The staff were friendly and accommodating and overall we felt the pricing was within reason. 5 out of 5 ‘Stars’ for us! 

    Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters 

    Another Saugatuck MUST for coffee lovers (and tea) is Uncommon Grounds Coffee Roasters. You are greeted by the intoxicating aroma of not just fresh ground coffee, but fresh ROASTED coffee! Roasts varying from their House Roast, to Guatemalan, Columbian, Kenyan, Fog Cutter, and their Coffee Lover’s which after being given a complimentary taste I had to buy a pound! 

    Land Sharks of Saugatuck 

    We hit the 50% Off Winter Sale at Saugatuck’s Land Sharks. I bought a pair of Keen’s, my favorite shoe maker of all time. And a pair of Patagonia’s which made me feel guilty for cheating on my Keen’s! For less than $150 I upgraded my casual/outdoor shoes. I even got the approval of my cousin Matt Bowen who also is a Keen Enthusiast! 

      

    Kilwin’s of Saugatuck 

    No anniversary celebration is complete with CHOCOLATE! Kilwin’s more than fits the bill here. At first we were disappointed as we drove into town to see their former location boarded up. As we drove further into town we were relieved to find their new location just before the 4-way light. Shan picked out a few of her fav’s as did I. I had a hard time making up my mind, but came up with quite an assortment including several truffles of dark and milk chocolate. 

    Pizza Mambo 

    After settling into our suite for the night, the last thing we felt like was heading back out into the cold. We googled pizza places in Saugatuck and were pleasantly surprised by Pizza Mambo’s. We ordered 2 salads; 1 Caprese and 1 Antipasto. For pizza we ordered a 12” medium with mushrooms, onions, bacon, and green peppers. 

    Awesome is a way overly used word to describe things, but in terms of pizza and salad this raised the bar. The pizza was thin-crusted and used provolone instead of mozzarella. What a change from the blasé typical pizzas. The show stoppers were the European-style Caprese and Antipasto. Fresh Mozzarella, Basil and Sliced Tomato, drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar adorned the Caprese. Prosciutto, Salami, Sausage, Smoked Provolone, Parmegiano Reggiano, House Marinated Olives & Giardiniera on a bed of Romaine. Served with Grilled Italian Bread was enough to share for the Antipasto! Is your mouth-watering yet? Definitely a ‘do-again’ is in order for this place. Delivered for $38, but gourmet all the way. Incidentally, delivery is the only way to go with this place as it is entirely too small to eat-in. 

    I will be doing a separate blog entry for our suite at the Bayside Inn of Saugatuck.

    Our 20th Anniversary Weekend Getaway Day 1 of 4

    Thursday February 11, 2010Day 1 of 4

    As promised here are the details of day number 1 of 4 of our anniversary. Fortunately for me, my work day was cut short so i was able to slip out and get some much needed prep work done on one of my favorite travel tactics called the “boondoggle.” This is my attempt at adding a bonus day to weekend getaways or vacations. Basically, an unexpected bonus day of travel in which to lengthen the experience as much as possible.

    Lexington – Lansing

    When I found out we were cutting out of work early I began to scour the internet for a cool place to spend the night before our official weekend was to begin. My favorite travel site is Kayak.com the best for comparing prices of various websites – be it for hotels, car rentals, or flights, it saves time, and if you’re saavy money too! Now, don’t be fooled however. There are times, more often than not, if you call the hotels directly you can actually get a better deal – in my case this was a move with exponential benefits. With Lansing being on the way to our final destination of Saugatuck, I searched for hotels in the area and stumbled upon a recently updated hotel Lexington Lansing. Originally, their price was the same as what was listed on the internet. I inquired about an upgrade which would have been one of two suites they have available. The price was $150 without the suite. With the suite, it was $280! I started back-peddling and said I would stick to the $150 room, which was nice enough. It was a king, non-smoking, and included continental breakfast. As the woman starting putting my information in, she asked what my occassion for traveling was. I indicated to her this was for my 20th anniversary and she said there may be a special. Sure enough there was!

    For $165/nt. I was upgraded to the Empress Suite. This included a full breakfast voucher, a 2 room/bathroom suite with king-sized bed, 2 flat screen TV’s, cookies and milk before bed, and chocolate covered strawberries, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice! As you can see, calling the hotel directly brought great dividends. See a personalized video tour by Shannon and myself below…

    Thread Bear Fiber Studio and Yarn Shop

    A passion for Shannon is knitting. A past time for me is finding these knitting and yarn stores. Our weekend getaways often include trips to yarn stores and coffee shops. If the 2 ever meet in the middle, surely the planets must be aligned and a lottery win somewhere in the near future…just kidding. I don’t believe in either! But knowing how much Shannon enjoys knitting, I find it rewarding to locate these shops online and take her to them.  Many of the shops are located in the heart of the towns and cities we enjoy traveling in, so in addition to yarn stores, coffee shops surface as do shoe stores (a personal favorite of mine…more like an obsession I guess). Lansing coffee shops and shoe stores didn’t surface this time, but getting around the outskirts of the city was fun especially in this college town.

    Thread Bear is located at 319 S. Waverly Rd. in Lansing. Be warned however, if you plug the address into your GPS, you may still have to pay close attention to where the store is located. We drove right past the store without realizing it. The plaza’s sign indicating what stores it contained was missing several panels including Thread Bear’s sign. We did find it, much to Shannon’s delight, and my relief!

    Shannon’s Ratings are as follows on 5 Knitting Needle Scale (1 = BAD and 5 = EXCELLENT)

    • Yarn Selection = 5
    • Accessories/Notions = 2
    • Patterns/Books = 5
    • Service = 5
    • Organization = 4
    • Location = 2
    • Would Shannon Return = YES

    Rae’s Yarn Boutique

    We should have stopped at Rae’s Yarn Boutique before going to Thread Bear as it was right on the way. This shop is what my Italian friend calls a “patuzzo.” Which being translated is a speck or a small place. We would call it a hole in the wall. While small in size, they did not lack substance.

    Shannon was a little shocked that the owner, Renee or Rae was so young and so introverted. Yarn stores are specialty shops by nature and usually the owners typify some flamboyance and are outgoing. Shannon was pleased overall with the store.

    • Yarn Selection = 3
    • Accessories/Notions = 4
    • Patterns/Books = 2
    • Service = 4
    • Organization = 2
    • Location = 4
    • Would Shannon Return = YES

    Rae’s Yarn Boutique is located at 2004 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing. Don’t blink otherwise you’ll miss it.