Layers keep this girl trekking in a cold spring

Just two weekends ago, I was in a blizzard and ice storm, driving south from Charlevoix to Chelsea. While visiting mom, I trekked through lakeshore snow and admired the snow boulders in Lake Michigan. In the North Point Nature Preserve, I mushed through slush and mud and jumped over puddles. Today will reach a high of 70 — whoo-hoo!

When winter lingers, it can be tough to get outdoors. Putting on the layers. Again. And again. And again. I truly believe, though, that if you have the right layers, you can enjoy nature in any weather.

A few key all-season wearables:

  • A light-weight Merino wool buff. This keeps my neck warm in the winter and protects it from pests in the summer. I also use it for an ear warmer sometimes.
  • A wick-away first layer. In the chilliest days of winter, I wear my Merino 250 wool, a mid-weight Smartwool long-sleeve next to my skin. Other times, I’ll wear it as my second layer over another wick-away shirt, which I can remove if I get too warm. Honestly, this is me to a T. I wear these shirts year-round. I also like the light 150 layer, though my favorite is the 250 weight.
  • Wool socks. Keep your feet dry through the seasons. Wet feet and sweaty feet can make for a miserable hike.
  • Waterproof hiking shoes. You never know when you’re going to run into muck in the woods or at parks. My favorites are Oboz and Merrill. Hubby loves his Keens. REI is my resource for boots and socks.
  • Sunglasses. Protect your eyes! Even the haze can affect your eyesight. I now have bigger frames since my eyes are more sensitive. Plus, they really help keep the bugs away as I trek on warmer days. I prefer Smith brand, though I currently have Malibu Jims. Costly, but I need the heavy duty eyewear and protection.

I’ll keep adding to my list of suggested wearables. My goal is to keep my blog posts somewhat brief. šŸ™‚ A comfy body makes for a happy adventurer.

Sayonara!

Yesterday, we said goodbye to our third exchange student. Nana was visiting us from Shimizu, Japan, over our spring break, along with two other students and a chaperone. Her visit was in conjunction with a program in our community called the Chelsea-Shimizu Sister Cities exchange program. Last June, my daughter traveled to Shimizu and visited Hiroshima and Sapporo to experience world history, and Japanese culture and community.



Our week was filled with local adventure, including the tradition of painting our town rock, disc golf at Hudson Mills metro park in Dexter and touring the Big House at the University of Michigan. Hosting an exchange student for a week was easy-breezy and so much fun! We hosted a student from the Netherlands for a full school year and a student from Peru for five months.

What I’ve learned from these cultural connections is how brave the teenagers are to travel to a foreign country and immerse in a culture that is completely unknown to them. Nana was eager to try everything — food and experiences. Though we had very little knowledge of her language and she had only slightly more of our language, we communicated. Google Translate was our friend this week, no doubt. Even so, being open, flexible and, most importantly, joyful during the week sharing experiences resulted in a lifetime connection.

Reflecting on our other experiences, I am grateful our family is still connected to our Dutch “daughter.” We are not connected to our Peruvian student, which I regret. I think of her and hope she is living a full, happy life. Each experience was truly unique. I am grateful to the students for being so brave and giving my family the opportunity to grow and learn from them.

Mutual rescue, mutual unconditional love

This sweet doggy is 10 today. Moose came into our lives after our previous rescue dog, Libby, passed away from old age. Never in doubt that we would rescue another dog, we kept our eyes out for adoption day opportunities. We found Moose at an adoption Moosie - 10 years oldevent in downtown Pinckney. She was the only rust haired puppy in a litter of mutts, most of which resembled German Shepherds. (We learned mamma was likely a party girl with two suitors.) Her given name of Ginger was apropos, of course. There was something about her sweet eyes and shaky little body that drew us in. She was petrified. We decided to give her a big name of Moose, named for the tiny village amid the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a favorite family destination. Truthfully, we call her Moosie 99% of the time.

Ten years later, and she still has some anxiety around people coming into our home, though she is deeply loyal, loving, vocal, and protective. She loves kids and popcorn. She has no fear of hiking in below freezing temperatures, but has a hard time walking in the heat. Tug of war is her game of choice.

A morning hike after breakfast and a birthday treat from The Brown Basset Baker started her day. Another treat later today, some tug of war, of course, and an off leash run around the yard will wrap up her birthday fun.

Ice is not nice, but nature’s setting prevails

I left my hiking boots in Holland (MI) this weekend, so I had to resort to an old pair that took a beating during my plantar fasciitis days. A bit discouraged, I almost skipped my planned hike. Fortunately, I was determined to walk Moose this morning. The sun was vibrantly beckoning, the morning wIcy trailas a toasty 23 degrees requiring less layers and the doggy and I needed exercise after an indulgent weekend. (Who can resist homemade bread???) We went to our easy access trail system at the Discovery Center and found ourselves the only adventurers this morning. Quickly heading to the Lowland trail, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the trail of ice. Not discouraged, I headed to another trail entry… and another. Unfortunately, the ice was prevalent. Determined to never have another injury in my life, I realized today was not going to be a trail day after all. The lower lip started to fatten and a frown started settling in, but damn that sun was bright and the air’s purity quickly flipped that hint of a frown.

I’ve learned a trick over the years: when I feel discouraged or sad for whatever reason, I quickly say, “I am grateful.” I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful I can walk. I am grateful for nature that surrounds me. I am grateful. Moose and I walked the ice-free drive through the park and basked in the sun’s glow as it shimmered through the trees. I am grateful.

Going to the gym

Years ago, I committed to the gym with a zealous passion. Aerobics, Zumba, strength and spin classes, pilates and floor routines were tackled with verve. One solid year. I enjoyed the vibe, the social interactions and the variety. And then I was done. I thought, “What the heck?” I could be inhaling fresh air and feeling that soulful deep cleanse after a hike in the woods. Bye bye gym, back to nature. For me, being outside is the best mental and physical workout. While I greatly admire those who commit to early morning swims and spins within four walls, I have not missed the gym at all. So last night, when I stumbled upon an outdoor gym at a park near my daughter’s evening activity, I thought, “Hey, now this I can do.” After squats, arm presses and some rowing, I walked through crunchy snow toward the sunset. Thanks, Hamburg Township!

Cheesy Quest

When New Year’s resolutions are made, the resolutions do not usually involve giant bowls of gooey cheese and pasta. Of course, I am going to eat well in 2019; I love my morning oatmeal, daily greens, not-too-heavy dinners and weekly salmon dishes. Healthy eating comes easy to me. There is always dark chocolate involved and often a splash (okay, a glass or two) of wine and *healthy* chips that make me human. I have resolved to ensure I am doing strength training, yoga and cardio two days each, in addition to my nature hikes. My 50-year-old bones need the weight bearing exercise, stretching and movement.

lola rose - montreal - mac and cheese
Cheesy-spicy goodness at Lola Rosa in Montreal

Back in the day, my older daughter can attest to nights of Kraft mac and cheese and Tuna Helper with the “cheesy” (was it really cheese?) macaroni — quick dinners on a budget for this newly divorced mom, working long hours and juggling activities. (Julia was also tormented by too many nights of chicken tenderloins, so I’ve been told.) Those days are long gone. Heck, her younger sister by 8 years does not even like cheese — or meat.

My renewed interest in macaroni and cheese began during the week my dad died in September. My sister and I craved mac and cheese. I finally appeased that desire for warm, gooey mac and cheese (real cheese!) at Lola Rosa on Milton in MontrĆ©al. My friend Amanda invited me to piggyback on her work trip the weekend of my 50th birthday in October. My hubby Kris so nicely bought me a ticket with his frequent flier miles, so the few days away were a real affordable treat. I walked miles and miles in MontrĆ©al and stopped at Lola Rosa for a late lunch. Friends who frequent the historic city thanks to two children at McGill recommended it to me. When I saw a baked mac and cheese on the menu, I sat back and settled in. Twenty minutes later, the most heavenly dish was presented to me. Baked with aged cheddar, Havarti, JalapeƱos, and spinach, the mac was complemented with a fresh side salad. This was my first-ever mac and cheese with JalapeƱos and I’m never going back. To. Die. For. A slight crunch from the slow bake was followed by the perfect pairing of decadent sink-your-teeth-in cheesy pasta and minced spicy pepper.

With memories of Lola Rosa on the mind, when offered a Make Your Own mac and cheese at Bridge Street Tap Room in Charlevoix over the Christmas holidays, I was lured again into ordering the decadent dish. I had a support team this time with Kris and Michael, my brother-in-law. While Bridge Street’s mac and cheese is a regular on the menu, the Make Your Own is every Wednesday night. The options had me at Gouda and JalapeƱos. Cooked to gooey perfection in a four-cheese sauce (Gouda… and, ah, three other cheeses), the mac I custom ordered featured slices of JalapeƱos, slivers of red onions and mushrooms. Proteins and other veggies are options, too. The hefty bowl arrived, and I was happy to share the load. To. Die. For. Hooked.

So, along with my renewed health resolutions, I am going to indulge in every mac and cheese JalapeƱo dish I find in 2019. Guilt free. Fabulously committed to my New Year’s resolutions.

Deep breaths

There’s something about hiking in the woods on a just-below freezing fall morning. TLight through the fall treeshe wool layers go on and the cozy hat and mittens are a must, but after a few brisk moves, the chill is utterly refreshing and the bod is toasty. Moose and I were in need of a good hour hike and Mill Lake always delivers. Sun beams sprinkled the trail today with dancing light bursting through the trees dressed in late season foliage. The breathtaking beauty required a few moments of gratitude and deep breaths of fresh air at one of my favorite stops along the lake loop on the Oak Woods trail.

The Mill Lake loop is a favorite four-season hike just minutes from downtown Chelsea. I highly recommend it after you explore the Discovery Center trails and feel confident in your whereabouts. I like to park off Mclure to hop on the trail. Let intuition guide you; just keep following the trail closest to the lake. (If you start walking away from the lake… alert, alert!) To make the loop, hike on the Lakeview trail, portions of the Waterloo-Pinckney trail system, Oak Woods trail and through Mill Lake campground. Once out of the campground, walk a brief moment on Mclure to complete the loop back to the boat launch lot. The instinctive loop is counterclockwise, though the reverse is a fun outing as well. Just stick to the trails closest to the lake. Get outside and take a hike!