"Vacation, all I ever wanted...Vacation, had to get a way!" The Go-Go's certainly had that right when they sang their hit song. But, this vacation was certainly not meant to be spent alone! The long, hot summer, for me, ended in a wonderful family vacation, and that is no exaggeration when I say family. It began in Northern Michigan at Elk Lake with Peter's side of the family celebrating Peter's mother, Lynn's, 90th Birthday and ended with a spectacular performance of the US Navy's Blue Angels at Chicago's Navy Pier. And, in between, a nostalgic visit to Lake Wisconsin where I spent my childhood summers not to mention a buying trip for garden statuary to sell at my booths in upcoming fairs. There is no escaping all things gardening in my life at or away from Blooming Hill.
Brothers, sisters, mothers, aunts and cousins of all sorts made close encounters of the "relative" kind perfectly delightful, too fast and even a bit bittersweet as we always had to say good-by too soon. However, each leg of the trip would bring us to yet another part of the family. The picture above is of all the Rinek cousins (the offspring of Peter, his three brothers and his sister) as well as a few of their childrens' own children with the Grand Dame and family matriarch, our beloved "Nana" Lynn in the middle of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Kevin is second from the left in the back row and loving every minute of being with his cousins. The water in Northern Michigan, whether it's Lake Michigan or a smaller inland one, here at Elk Lake, is Carribean blue and clear...a wonderful place to swim and ski and just be a human fish with your cousins at your side. Or, above and below Kevin as the case may be...
|Kevin and way too many cousins to mention by name all vying for a spot on the raft after spending the day water skiing and tubing.|
Kevin with cousins Brian Merk on top and lucky Scott Merk manning the bottom of the water totem pole. It's good to be young, strong and very good "natured!" Evening in Northern Michigan is serene and glorious at the same time for fish and human alike.
|Pictured are Bob and Marcy Rinek, Amy Merk, Nancy Rinek, me,and Marty Merk. Bob and Amy are Peter's brother and sister.|
|One of the "Brewmeisters" at Shorts Brewery explaining the process of brewing beer to visitors.|
There is always time to visit something or another when you are with family. Heck, that's what family
vacations are all about! In our case, a few of us Rinek's decided to visit a brewery! How about that?! Clearly, we were not the only people in Northern Michigan that day who were interested in being educated about the agriculture and industry of beer at this small independent brewery that produces unique beers and ales.
|Peter demonstrating how happy he is that he doesn't have to prune all of these cherry trees!|
During the trip and while still in Michigan, Peter and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary, spending the day driving through the Northern Michigan countryside and taking in the sights of the endless cherry tree orchards as well as seeing the sun-drenched fields of sunflowers that line the roads. Did you know that Michigan is the highest producing state in the USA, when it comes to cherries? I also found out that not only are sunflowers good for people and also used in some animal feeds, their oil can be found in some plastics and sunflower seeds can be processed and produce hydrogen for fuel!
And, for good measure, because we just can't seem to stay away from any kind of yard work, a big pine tree fell down over the road of the driveway to the house. Peter, worked with brother Mitch, nephew Andy and brother-in-law Marty to remove this behemoth out of the way because it was time to go!
Over the Mackinac Bridge and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we began the next stage of our week long family vacation traveling through the Hiawatha National Forest which takes up about the whole of the U.P. Pine trees, Queen Ann's Lace and Wild Chicory all share a panoramic view of the Great Lakes while growing out of the sand dunes along the roadsides. There are sporadic homes, hotels, camp-sites and fast-food places here, but mainly the scenic beauty of the wilderness is the main attraction to me, as I'm sure it is to everyone else who visits the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
|Peter driving the boat. My sister Chris is spotting while Kevin skis on Lake Wisconsin in Merrimac.|
Finally, after 10 hours of driving, we made it down to south-central Wisconsin, just south of the Dells, where I spent my summers as a child with my family and often with aunts, uncles and cousins, too. My Swedish grandmother, Helga Ivarson, who also had a cottage here that now belongs to a few of my cousins, used to say, "The sun always shines in Merrimac Wisconsin!" and she was right about that. This place holds many fond memories and happy occasions for me. My parents' A-Frame cottage has been torn down and replaced by Chris and her husband, Jim, with a new vacation home that they may even call a permanent home one day. But, to me, I'll always see my mother bringing home her auction finds there--once she drove a tractor she had purchased, home. She turned it off and it never started up again despite days of my father trying to repair it for her. I can picture my dad tinkering away on the old speed boat down at the dock, also long gone, so we could get out on the water to ski the day away. Thankfully, Owl's Head Hill still stands proudly on the road welcoming me back and asking why have I been away so long....
|Me, Kevin and my sister, Chris, on the ferry.|
All too soon, we bid farewell to Merrimac and headed south again, via the free ferry (the last of the free ferry's in the USA) and headed south toward Chicago. For as long as I can remember, the ferry has always been one of my favorite things in life. Although there are other ways and roads to go, this way always promised an ice cream cone while waiting for the ferry to come to shore and then, a complimentary boat ride in one of the most scenic places I know.
The third and final stage or our trip led us to Chicago to see my brother Bob, his family and cousins from my dad's side of the family. But, not before a stop or two at antique shops along the way. Chris joined us and when you travel with her, antiquing is the name of the game. Kevin found this old sword but we talked him out of it. Not a good thing for a dorm room!
|Me, Chris and our aunt, Betty Jo Ivarson.|
|Kevin, with a few third cousins--Billy, Joey and Wayne Ivarson and his cousin, Jennifer Ivarson.|
My Aunt Jo, her 3 sons and their families came for dinner one evening and we all had fun catching up as well as reminiscing about growing up Ivarson's. Although my side of the family has only produced Kevin and his only first cousin Jennifer, my brother's daughter, like the Rinek side of the family, our children grow older and we get older, too while cousins thankfully expand the family ties.
Of course, all things gardening, even on vacation, are always on my mind and I was able to visit the Orlandi Statuary Factory, located on the outskirts of Chicago to pick up a few things for future fairs I will be in. Orlandi offers a unique collection of garden accessories made from Fiber Stone, a mixture of cast stone applied to a backing of fiberglass. Chris came along, too and, always a cautious person, she rearranged the wrapped urns and statues in the back of the truck before leaving the factory. Here are a few of my favorites with retail prices included, just in case you see something for your home and garden that you can't live without for the fall and holiday season:
|Astor Planter 15" high -$79.00|
|Praying Angel, 21" high - $79.00|
|Shell Planter, 17"x10"x9" - $58.00|
|Cherub with Roses, 22" high - $89.00|
|Boboli Garden Pot (large), 24"x24"x20" - $159.00||. Medium and small sizes also available.|
|Gliding Angel, 21"x12"x34", $175.00 (wall mount)|
These are just a few of the wonderfully intricate and unique pieces I have available to sell. This statuary is perfect for both outdoor and indoor use--wherever you may want to display it because it is light, safe and far less fragile than regular concrete. I think the angels, especially, could be wonderful used as a buffet or table centerpiece during the holidays or near the Christmas Tree for added effect and decoration. The pots and urns are useful and beautiful year-round.
|A glimpse of the John Hancock Building as the Blue Angels fly by.|
|Colorful plantings everywhere on the Pier for people to enjoy.|
|Bob, Jennifer, Joanne, Peter and Kevin at Navy Pier.|
Finally, what you all have been waiting for, I'm sure, since at least the middle of this blog. Yes, Nick (faithful blog follower). I'm getting to the end very soon, now. Peter, Kevin and I spent the last day of our family vacation with my brother Bob, sister-in-law Joanne and niece Jennifer. The day was sunny, the food delicious, the scenery beautiful, the crowds friendly (as they always are in Chicago) and, above all, the entertainment was exciting and patriotic. Both Peter and I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago but never had been to this air show, or any air show for that matter, so this was a fun and interesting day for us "gardening types."
So, now you've seen it and lived it. I know...I know...You're thinking, "Too much information!" You are probably just as exhausted as I am here, somewhere in Ohio taking a break at a rest stop on our way headed home to Blooming Hill and dreaming about family near and far, cherries, sunflowers, planes, trains and automobiles, not to mention beautiful garden statuary and all we had done and seen. Our gardens are patiently waiting back home and, oops! Don't forget to pick up Tucker at the kennel! Maybe I'll just stay on vacation a little bit longer.