Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Welcome to the Island of Happy Days

That perfectly describes our little anniversary trip to Stout's Island Lodge, in Wisconsin.

We boarded the 'ferry' (a big pontoon boat) in the middle of the afternoon and motored across Red Cedar Lake to the boathouse.  Pulling up to the spot, you know you are being transported to a place far from your everyday routine.

We climbed the hill and walked across the lawn, stepping over the engraved plaque in the ground telling you that you have reached the Island of Happy Days.

Originally built in 1903

as a retreat for the wealthy Stout family and servants, they would pack up and spend the three months of summer on this beautiful island, as a retreat from bustling Chicago.  Besides the vast main lodge, which houses the dining room, sitting area, offices, banquet areas, and many private rooms, there are many cabins dotting the island, that were built for the man's children and then their own families as they grew older.

Walking the ancient floor, you can almost hear the footsteps of happy children bounding in from outdoor pursuits.  The vast lawn on the south side of the island is a croquet court, sitting in the adirondack chairs you can almost see women in white dresses and big hats knocking the balls through the wickets as the breeze from the lake blew their skirts about their legs.

The main island has a walking path around the perimeter, you can take a small bridge to the island next to it for a lovely walk down to the very tip.

 The only structure on that island is a small cabin, complete with fireplace and wicker chairs.

We spent our first night in a gorgeous, newer room in the Shore Lodge.  This was my favorite part of that room (oh how I want something like this in my own home someday....):

It was a large, expansive room with a huge comfy bed, fireplace, shelves full of books, wonderful sitting spots for cuddling in with one of those books,  a small area with a mini fridge and coffee maker, and lots of windows to take in the view of the lake.  Heaven.  We were lulled to sleep that evening with all of the windows open, and the sound of the lake gently lapping the shore.

But the next morning, we were awoken at 7 am by the sounds of construction in the room underneath us.  Many of you know that we have been dealing with the giant construction project in the field across from our house all summer, so that is NOT what we wanted to hear on our little get away.

We stopped at the office on our way to breakfast, and they apologized profusely.  Many of the rooms on the island are privately owned, so the staff does not always know when they will be doing construction- they kindly agreed to move us to another spot.  (This whole area pictured below is actually part of our rooms!)

Moving to the Main Lodge was a great idea,

and our room had all of the charm of bygone days with some modern conveniences.

We now had our own private deck,

a full kitchen,

and lots of little spots to quietly read or pass the time.  I only wish we had had a full week to really enjoy this space!

Since it rained the entire full day we were there, we did get to enjoy much of what our new space had to offer.

We had no internet connection, I had no phone service, and we didn't watch television.  In our busy lives, I personally think it is so important to disconnect every now and then.  We enjoyed the island so much, even in the rain!

On the night of our anniversary, we enjoyed a delicious gourmet meal and then headed back to our rooms.  I had brought photos from our entire 32 year relationship;  from first dates, to honeymoon photos, to Charlie as a baby.  I had started a scrapbook I had hoped to finish for our twentieth anniversary, then I thought maybe for our twenty fifth, but that didn't happen.  It's okay, we loved going through the pictures just as much.  Oh my handsome husband, he still makes my heart skip a beat!

The next day dawned bright and sunny, the grounds were vibrant and full of flowers.

Several varieties of hydrangeas could be found everywhere.

Here is the bell tower, I am guessing the original purpose was to call everyone in for meals when the Stout family lived here.

The architecture of the building was modeled after Adirondack lodges.

 Mike relaxing outside the boathouse, protected from the rain.

The second level of the boathouse had a pool table, comfy chairs, and jigsaw puzzles always in progress.  When the sun shines, there are water bikes, canoes, kayaks, and fishing poles.  There is always something to do if you aren't one to sit and relax!

You can read more about this fabulous place here:  http://stoutsislandlodge.com/

The next morning dawned bright blue and sunny, with wispy white clouds stretching across the sky.

It was a little chilly, but perfect for a walk on the island connected to the main island by a little bridge.

The iron work was home to many spiderwebs, it was almost like a mini art show!

We found signs of visiting beaver,

and peeks of autumn color.

It was so quiet and peaceful, I felt all of life's stresses just melt away.

Here is the boathouse we could spy through the trees,

we knew shortly we would have to board the ferry to head back to reality.  But we took our time, and shared the camera, and took in all of the fresh air and quiet that we could hold.

It reminded me of times Mike and I took motorcycle rides to quiet places when we first dated, minus all of the nervousness of a new relationship!

While we were only able to get away for a two night stay, it was the perfect outing for this time in our lives.  And I can see why the family called it their "Island of Happy Days".  Get there if you can!

(This post was just my way of sharing a wonderful place, I was not reimbursed for telling you about Stout's Island Lodge.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

silver bells

A quarter of a century ago, I took Mike's hand at the end of the aisle at St. Phillips church in Bemidji, and a few moments later we both said "I do."  I loved this picture, taken as we were leaving the church, holding hands. I think it absolutely exemplified the feeling of that entire magical day. (My grandmother was a little appalled, since this is the picture we sent to the paper.  Certainly not a typical wedding picture for that era!)

Mike took my hand as we got off of the airplane in Hawaii for our honeymoon, my first airplane ride.  He held my hand through the roller coaster years of infertility.  We held hands as we left the bank, having just signed the documents for the loan that would start our business.  He held my hand through hours of labor before our sweet Charlie was born. Through all of the ups and downs of life, he has always held my hand.

I can't begin to thank him for being my partner in life, hand in hand we head towards our next 25 years!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

eleven years

We will never forget.

Monday, September 10, 2012

wild about vines

While I didn't get to spend much time in my garden this summer, things seemed to grow without much attention from me other than watering. I did faithfully apply my favorite plant food; fish goo (as I like to call it) once a month.

But my vines, all of my lovely vines! I planted two types of morning glories on a trellis along with a black eyed susan vine and some malabar spinach. Only one of the morning glories grew proficiently, but all summer I had intense vines with no flowers.  It is only in the last week or so that I have had blooms (which makes sense since I haven't fed them since the beginning of July). I just recently learned that feeding vining plants will produce lots of vine and very little flower. Lesson learned!

I planted a lovely variety of black eyed susan vine on a trellis right across from my favorite spot to sit in the backyard (not far from some anemic tomatoes and listless basil...). It has finally been rewarding me with oodles of blossoms. Isn't it pretty???? My favorite plant this year, I need to make sure to plant it again next year.

And my scarlet runner bean vine is threatening to take over the entire garden. It has already devoured a window box, I don't have the heart to chop it back.

It is producing lots of beans, which I need to harvest before they get too big, but I have learned I can pick the big ones and dry them, once the pods rattle in the shells I can use them in soup this winter. Bonus Plant!

I have read that hummingbirds and bees love the blossoms. I am not sure if I have had hummingbird visitors or not, they were probably scared off by all of the construction across the street this summer.

Now to make notes on all of these things so I make smart purchasing and planting decisions next spring!

Did you have a favorite plant in  your garden this year?

Friday, September 7, 2012

anticipating autumn

This morning, half awake, I reached down to the end of the bed for the blanket.  It cooled off so much last night, that the soft bamboo sheet wasn't warm enough.

When I finally made it downstairs, I propped open the kitchen door to catch the crisp breeze.  I heard geese flying over the house, and looking outside I could see low gray tinged clouds over the top of the school across the street.

The first morning it has really felt like fall is here.  I bypassed my skirt and sandals for long pants and  tennis shoes, and it felt so good to throw another layer on over my t-shirt.

As I type this, the Cretin marching band is practicing in the field across the street, and I can hear leaves skittering down the sidewalk.  The lawns are brown, as we have had little rain in the last few weeks.  My garden mums are nearly ready to burst into bloom, and I am thinking I may need to start looking for some pumpkins and gourds for the window boxes (here are some of last year's finds).

I have never wanted autumn to arrive so much as I have this year.  It was a rather crummy summer around here, and I am so glad to say goodbye to it.  I eagerly anticipate fall cooking, wool sweaters, and cool afternoons enjoyed with hot cups of tea.

What do you most look forward to in the fall?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

time flies, high school edition

The sounds of the first day of school have started filling the neighborhood.  A bright yellow bus sits idling across the street from our house, the driver checking his map.  It is sticky warm out, with no breeze stirring the leaves. Charlie was up at 6, this will probably be the only day it won't be extremely hard to get him out of bed.  He asked for a big cup of coffee, and made sure to check Twitter and Facebook before he headed out the door.

I am just so amazed at the passage of time, I ran across this post from his first day of middle school and I had to share : http://ohfercute.blogspot.com/2009/09/time-flies-first-day-of-school-edition.html .

And now here is my freshman (it was the most smile I could coax out of him today, he was appalled that I wanted to take his picture):

His face freshly shaven (ARGH!),  his deep voice said goodbye as he walked away down the sidewalk to his bus stop.  Today I am mailing in his registration for Driver's Ed.

HOW. IN. THE. WORLD. did this happen so very fast?

Maybe today I will hide on the couch and watch old movies of him when he was little.

Wait, they are all on VHS.  Perhaps I better get them converted to another media type?

Did you have to say a big goodbye to your children this morning?  Or did you have to do the BIG goodbye for a year at college?

I think we all deserve a nice glass of wine today (or whatever your beverage of choice is). Good job moms!  (and dads!)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A New Year !

Not really, but to me September has always felt more like the beginning of a new year than January has.

I am back and ready to share again-thanks to all of you who have been checking on me this summer, here is a lovely chrysanthemum for you!

A very quick back update:  My doctor and surgeon have figured out the medications I should take to reduce my back pain, and I had facet injections in July that have worked wonders.  As long as the injections help me, I won't need to have fusion surgery.  Huzzah!  I started physical therapy a couple of weeks ago with a handsome young therapist and I even made it to the fair (albeit for an abbreviated adventure this year).  There are still many things I have restrictions on, but I can move, and do things in small bits, so I am very happy!  Thanks to everyone for your well wishes throughout the summer.

The Fair buses have been rumbling by our house on the hour for ten days now, soon to be replaced by school buses on Tuesday.  Charlie has an uphill two block walk to his bus stop this year, I think on icy January days he may need to borrow my cleats!

He starts high school  (WHAT????) and will be attending Highland Park High School, he is more than excited and cannot wait for the first day.  They had freshman orientation last week and he was reunited with friends from his grade school days.  He is thrilled to be out of uniforms (me, not so much) and has decided not to pack a lunch until he sees "what everyone else does".  I have a feeling that may be a familiar theme this year.  I just hope he remembers to shave for that first day....

I am very excited to be 'back' and can't wait to share stories and recipes and photos with you.

(they really are non-stop begonias)

Happy September!


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