Tuesday, December 11, 2018


We had such a fun baking extravaganza this weekend!  My mom, a cousin from Indianapolis, two cousins from Ann Arbor, the kids and I all baked up a storm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

We made most of the family's traditional cookies; many of which my great-great grandparents brought with them when they emigrated from Germany. I have clear memories of making many of these with my mom and grandma when I was a little girl, though as a kid I was blissfully unaware of just how much work went into some of them.  
Some of the recipes are amazing. A couple are so old they still call for baker's ammonia, and others just seem like they would have taken an incredible amount of work. The springerles, for example, need to be beaten for 30 minutes. I can't even imagine doing that before the invention of the electric mixer. Even with a hand crank mixer - doing it for 30 minutes would get really old really fast. I guess that's what kids were for, and why these cookies must have been such a special treat. They definitely weren't something mom was just going whip up.

I'm listing what we made here so I'll remember who liked what.  The only bad thing about them is that we're enjoying them so much there may not be any left for Christmas!
Springerle - molded (and then dried overnight) traditionally flavored with anise; we also made lavender

Nuremburger - slightly citrus flavored rolled and cut cookie, decorated with sugar (the kids' favorite to decorate)

Chocolate nuts - meringue-based drop cookie made with chocolate and hazelnuts (my mom's favorite)

Zitronenherzen - lemon flavored, heart-shaped, glazed cookie made with almond flour (my son's favorite)

Zimtsterne - cinnamon flavored, star-shaped, meringue based cookie made with ground almonds and hazelnuts, topped with meringue
Mandelberg - meringue based, drop cookie made with slivered almonds (my daughter's favorite)

Scottish shortbread - baked in a ceramic mold as well as cut out; not German, but still a long-time family favorite  (Liz and Allen's favorite)

Friday, December 7, 2018

One Guess

One guess what's on my agenda for this weekend!

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Best Pancakes Ever!

Often in the fall, when the hotels close for the winter, they donate their leftover food to the school. Our school cook is amazing, but there are certain things she can't use. If containers have been opened or she can't be certain about expiration dates, she isn't allowed to serve the food. But if the items are still good, they are often shared with community members. 

I love it when she gets five pound containers of sour cream. (A container spoils before the cook can use the whole thing.) What could Liz possibly want with five pounds of sour cream, you ask. Why make pancakes, of course. And not just any pancakes mind you, sour cream pancakes - the best pancakes in the world!

They're literally the most delicious pancakes I've ever tasted; light, fluffy and super easy to make. The original recipe can be found here, but it doesn't make enough for a family of four. I double the recipe and it's just perfect.

 Sour Cream Pancakes
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 whole large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • butter for frying
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Set aside.In a separate small bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, stir together the sour cream with the dry ingredients until just barely combined (don't over mix.) Finally, whisk in the egg mixture until just combined.

Heat a griddle over medium-low heat and melt some butter in the pan. Drop batter by 1/4 cup scoops  onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles start to form on the surface and edges are starting to brown. Flip to the other side and cook for another minute or two. Don't worry if the pancakes seem off they will be a little on the soft side. Serve them with softened butter and syrup. Be prepared to get requests for these!

Monday, November 26, 2018

New Toy

Allen got me a Silhouette Cameo cutting machine for our anniversary and yesterday I finally felt confident enough, and had enough time, to play with it. (You know me, I had to read the manual and watch about 15 YouTube videos before I dove in.)

S and K each chose a design and now have brand new, customized shirts made with heat transfer vinyl. This thing is going to be so much fun. One guess which shirt is for the 12 year-old girl and which one is for the 14 year-old boy...

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Those may just look like random trash bags to you, but to me they look like a job well done. Yesterday, the kids and I spent several hours cleaning out their bedrooms. We were ruthless. Too small? No longer played with? Not particularly important? It all went into a bag. The bags (and boxes) above, are the donate pile. Next time I head to the mainland, those eight kitchen trash bags and three boxes full of toys, books, stuffed animals and clothes will go with me and get dropped off at Goodwill.

These five bags are the trash pile. If I learned anything yesterday, it's that both of my children are in desperate need trash cans for their bedrooms. 

It just feels so good to have crossed that job off the list.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Usually creepy crawly things don't really bother me. Often I pick them up and investigate them, but there was something about this bug that made me keep my distance.

Maybe it was because the thing was gigantic - over three inches long. (Those paper clips a the jumbo sized ones, not the typical-sized paper clip.) Then again, it could have been those huge eyes. I swear the thing moved its head and watched my hand every time I opened its box. It also could have been its giant arm-like legs.  It held them open - like it was just waiting for an opportunity to latch onto my finger.

Two of my students knew what it was,  "It's a toe biter. We see them sometimes in the Grand Pool. Well, not ones thaaaat big."

I refused to touch it, and I'm glad I did (I wouldn't let the kids touch it either.) Apparently there are five species of these giant water bugs that can be found in Michigan and they do bite. They inject toxic saliva that liquefies the tissues of their prey and causes paralysis. I kills the prey but we're so big, their bites just hurt like there's no tomorrow. Check this video out if you're curious.  (Skip ahead to about 13 min 30 seconds if you just want to see him get bitten.) And for the record - ours was every bit as big as that one.

I still haven't figured out what this thing was doing walking along the sidewalk near the high school entrance to our building in November. I'm really hoping we don't find any more, and I think I need to exchange the flip flops I usually wear when the kids and I explore in the summer time for a pair of closed-toe water shoes...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

So Glad

So glad I dove, head first, into yard work last weekend. 

It looks like we may end up with five to eight inches of snow this weekend. So thankful to have this off of my "To Do" list - cleaning up in the spring is so much easier when I do a clean up in the fall.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Mackinac Blue

Back in 2012 I dreamed of painting my laundry room a lovely shade of blue.  Specifically, Grand Hotel Mackinac Blue. (Yup - it's a real paint color.)  I love it so much. Now that my eyes are more attuned to the color, I'm noticing it all over the island...

It really is a lovely color...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Not Much of a View

Several tourists giggled and pointed as I pushed my packages and milk up Fort Hill after school today. (How else was I supposed to get it all home?) The lack of view was worth it though because right now I am enjoying a delicious, sugar-free hazelnut steamer. 

This little gizmo makes frothing one up super easy and it's been a great way to get the kids drinking more milk.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Great Pumpkin

We had a visitor yesterday. He left the perfect pumpkin in our front yard. It's beautiful; huge, round and the most perfect shade of orange you've ever seen. The photo just doesn't do it justice.

A year or two ago S and K asked the gentleman who grows pumpkins near the Big Barns if they could have one. He had already promised all of them that year, but ever since, he has made sure they were on his list. He's been so sweet. Now, whenever they see him in town they yell,  "Hi Pumpkin Man."

I think it makes him smile. I hope it does, because he sure puts a smile the faces of two kiddos.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Mackinac Problems

On my way to school this morning my pant leg got caught in my bike chain; like pulled in between the chain and the guard. Sigh. 

Any suggestions on getting oil out of fabric?

Monday, October 15, 2018


We came into school on Friday morning to find this little guy hopping down the hallway. He probably thinks the Three Rs are reading, writing and reptiles...

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Proud Mama Moment

Last spring, with the help of a poet, the Island kids wrote Mackinac-inspired poetry. Next, artists came to school to work with the kids to create art to "visually express the theme of their poems." Finally, the poems and artwork were displayed together in a juried show.

I actually didn't know about the "juried" part until we got to the opening reception and they started announcing winners. (We were in Seattle last June and missed the show.) You can imagine my surprise when the judge announcing the Best in Show winner said this, 

"This poem and painting beautifully captures the unique experience of visiting Fort Mackinac. Every time I visit Fort Mackinac I am overwhelmed by the vibrant colors and our State's history. 'The Fort' poem and painting immediately put me there and it honestly warmed my heart."

K couldn't believe she'd won the whole thing - Best in Show! She was on cloud beamed as the reporter from the Town Crier interviewed her. In case you didn't make it to the show (at the Center for the Arts at Mission Point) here is K's poem:

One of the best parts is, that lovely paining will be coming to our house soon. I have just the spot to hang it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Homemade Ghostbusters Proton Pack

A couple of people have asked me how I made the proton pack I wore for Halloween a couple of years ago. I don't have pictures of the process,  but I can explain where I got the parts and how I put it together.

First of all, and probably most importantly, I started looking for parts early. I knew I wanted to be Holtzman  but there was no way I was going to spend $700 on a pre-made pack. My budget was more like $50.00... So I started scrounging every time I stopped at Goodwill.

Most of the parts were items I picked up at thrift shops for next to nothing. In fact, the most expensive part of the whole thing was the spray paint!

(Click to make the image larger.)

I used an acrylic tray as the base of the pack, rather than the military frame that lots of people use. The ALICE frame was running between $25.00 and $50.00, so when I saw the tray for $1.00 it was an easy decision.  My husband cut some slits into the top of it for me so I could thread through straps I took from an old backpack.

Most of the other parts ran around the same price - except for the spray paint and the lights. (Everything is better with lights, right?) The best part was finding the light saber on the shelf at The Salvation Army for $1.99. After cutting down the end and drilling holes, a coat of paint, and some added lights - it was close to perfect.

After scrounging all the parts I used E6000 glue to hold everything together. Best. Glue. Ever. It stinks to high heaven, but it's flexible and is great for holding things together that need a little give.

To be honest, there was some sewing involved since I did add the orange and gray ribbon to the jump suit. It was actually cheaper to buy a pre-made jumpsuit on Amazon than it would have been to buy the fabric and a pattern to make one. It may not be screen accurate, but it was prefect for Halloween.

Friday, September 28, 2018


It hit me the other day that I never really posted about the solar eclipse last summer. My super fantastic husband arranged for us to drive down into totality, rather than view the partial eclipse Mackinac Island was going to get.

He did a ton of research and found this lovely little park in Murphysboro, Illinois.   It was perfect - quaint and quiet. We started to worry early in the day as we watched thunderheads building nearby, but Mother Nature cooperated and we weren't disappointed. Right on time, the moon showed up and treated us to this:

It's not my picture (none of mine turned out nearly as well,) but it was taken from Murphysboro.  Pictures, even this one, just don't do totality justice. It was such an incredible sight. I never really understood eclipse chasers - until I experienced totality myself.

Before totality, we had a wonderful time playing around with eclipse viewing methods:

through the trees, 

through our hands,

and of course, through our eclipse viewers. 

As silly as it may sound, the two and a half minutes of totality we experienced that day was probably the most incredible thing I've ever seen with my own eyes. Really. The 13 hour drive back to Michigan was completely worth it. It was so amazing, we're already planning for the next total solar eclipse  to hit the United States. Did you know another one was coming? It doesn't cross coast to coast, but it still hits a number of states.

And, ever so conveniently, my husband's parent's backyard is smack dab right in totality.   One guess where we'll be on April 8, 2025.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On the Mend

Things have been quiet around our house this week ever since my daughter got her tonsils and her adenoids removed. She's been a trooper through the whole thing. (She was even willing to get her IV before she was sedated.) Her trusty friend, Wonker, has been at her side the whole time, which I think helped. Her lovely volleyball teammates gave her a giant adorable octopus, but he was too big to go with us.

She asked her doctor if she would save her tonsils. "I don't want to keep them," K said. "I just want to see what they look like." (She is so my daughter.)

After a quick discussion, K and her doctor agreed she could bring a camera to surgery; that way the doctor could get pictures of the the tonsils for her since medical waste wasn't allowed to leave the O.R. with a patient. K's surgeon's sense of humor was clearly evident when we got home and peeked at the pictures. (Remember, we gave the doctor our consent to take photos in the operating room.)

Stop now if you don't want to see K's tonsils...

Everyone at the hospital was wonderful. I appreciated how they were willing to work with our scheduling constraints - given that we needed to be released in time to catch a ferry boat home. 

It amazes me that back in my dad's day a tonsillectomy meant a three day stay in the hospital; and here she was, in and out in under seven hours. K is on the mend and getting lots of ice cream and Jello. (Not a big fan of the Boost.) She's still uncomfortable, but each day is getting a little better...

Saturday, September 22, 2018


The Ashtabula had a little trouble yesterday as she made her way past the Island.  It was super windy and apparently the wind and waves pushed her a little too close to Round Island - where she ran aground.

If you click on the picture up above to enlarge it, you can see that she is listing ever so slightly to her starboard side. Probably not a very pleasant day for her crew. Luckily, as of this morning, she was free.

photo via US Goast Guard Sector Sault Ste. Marie

Monday, September 10, 2018


My students love this video and have been having trouble finding it to watch. I hope posting it here will make it easy for them to find. 

For everyone else - enjoy this catchy little ear worm - sorry if it makes you feel old. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is so 1980s, PEMDAS is the way to go these days...

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Henry the Pony, a resident of  The Little Barn, stopped by the Mackinac Island School yesterday to help us celebrate the first day of school. My students (six fifth graders and seven sixth graders) loved visiting with Henry.  Such a Mackinac way to kick off a new school year...

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Excursion: Birch Lodge & Motel

A couple of weekends ago we took a quick trip up to Trout Lake. The Birch Lodge and Motel was the perfect spot to spend a quiet weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Mackinac Island. 

The lodge, motel and grounds were lovely, but we spent most of our time out in the canoe.

There were turtles to catch (which were later released,)

and fish to be caught. Allen caught lots and lots of Bluegill, Sunfish and a few other species. Believe it or not, one of the Bluegill he caught qualified him for a Master Angler Award; it was 10 1/2 inches long (about 26.6 cm.) The little Walleye above went back into the lake.

I managed to drag them all blueberry picking as well, but of course, I was too busy picking to get any pictures! After cleaning I managed to stash 3 1/2 pounds (about 1.5 kg) of wild Michigan blueberries in the freezer for jam.Now that were back home I need to get to work - I've got all a freezer  full of raspberries waiting, too.

Friday, August 17, 2018


I have been having so much fun with "The Girls" lately. Their antics just make me giggle. At about 6:45 this morning they were making huge amounts of noise, which is unusual, so I went out the the coop to investigate. (I was already up.) When I opened the coop it was clear they were not happy. The older birds, who roost up on a higher bar, were grouching loudly at the younger hens who were down on the floor. They roost on a lower bar and can easily hop down.

As I looked around I quickly saw what had gotten into the coop overnight and was making them so upset; every single one of them was up in arms over a tiny little cricket! I'm fairly certain they were arguing over who was going to eat it for breakfast. Just imagine seagulls fighting over a french fry and you can picture what they were like.

Many of the chicks we got this spring have come into lay (actively laying eggs.)  I love checking the nesting boxes every day to look for eggs. We're getting some every day - and they're getting bigger. When hens first start laying often the eggs are quite small, sometimes without a yolk.

Just look at those beauties. I'm thinking quiche for dinner...