Summer Is Coming!

Greetings faithful followers!

We’ve had enough warm weather to start me thinking about some of my favorite summer trips. One of our “must do” trips every year is Mackinaw Island. It has a little bit of everything! Bridges and birds, flowers and butterfly’s, boats and bikes, carriage rides and stables, beautiful churches and scenery. I’ve put together a couple of collages to share some of our excursions to Mackinaw. (The beautiful model is my oldest grandaughter!)

 

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I hope that if you haven’t had a chance to visit this Michigan treasure, to think about scheduling a trip this summer!

On another note, this will be the last post on Sweet and Simple Inspirations for awhile. Jen and I are working on another project that will be fun and exciting and we will tell you all about it when we return. So don’t give up on us and stay tuned while we are under a bit of construction!

under constructionSee you all soon!

Jules and Jen

Pure Michigan

Good evening readers!

I’ve been sorting through pictures and thought I would share with you some of my summer wanderings. We live in such a beautiful state. This year I found a couple of new places to explore!

kitch-iti-kipi springs                                                                                       Charlevoix, MI                                             Michigan Wildlive                                                                                   upper peninsula

There you go! A little sampling of our great state!

Peace,

Julie

Rocks and Black Walnuts!

Good evening readers!

A week or so ago I shared the story of my rock picking adventure. My co-worker Jeannine says that I am a woman of adventure. I do like to do things, there is no doubt about that, but sometimes my adventures get a little carried away.

I know my title seems a little strange. My point is, sometimes I think certain objects are out to get me……black walnuts and big rocks!!

When my daughter in Georgia got married a few years ago, we were checking in and I spotted these strange looking things on the ground. Now why I got out of the truck and picked it up is beyond me. Typically I would be too lazy to move. But, get out I did and not only picked it up, but started trying to peel it open to see what it was! My husband saw me and shouted, “what are you doing?!” Hey, I just wanted to see what it was. Little did I know that it was a black walnut, which he informed me is what stain is made of and won’t come off. I didn’t believe him. So I scrubbed and scrubbed, and I finally had to admit he was right! My daughter was getting married in two days and I had black stain on my palms, fingers and under my fingernails. I tried many many things and finally ended up soaking them in pure bleach which removed most of it!

Fast forward a year later. I love going for walks in the resort town where I work. I was walking along one day, enjoying the sunshine when all of a sudden….boom….I found myself flying through the air and landing on my bad knee of course! I figured I must have tripped on something and kept going. On the walk home I just happened to look down at where I fell and what did I see????? You guessed it…a black walnut. That sucker had sent me flying!! In case you are as innocent as I was….here is what a black walnut looks like.

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This past weekend we spent the weekend in London, Kentucky with our friends DeWayne and Terri Spaw. They are very good tour guides and we’ve seen things that you just don’t know are there when you just travel south on 75. So we were going to see “Chain Rock.” Rocks????…I love rocks!!!! Let’s go see this thing! This was the view from the top before we hit the trail.

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It was a warm sunny day, I had capris, tank top and sandals on. Hey, we were going to look at a rock. What he neglected to tell me was that in order to see this rock you had to hike about 3/8 of a mile down steps, slopes, rocks, over roots, etc. Yeah…the sandals were working really well. I was getting a little behind and told them to go ahead. I was doing great until I came to this big round rock. And I mean BIG. I looked at it wondering why my husband wouldn’t have waited to help me over it. I started climbing and realized my sandals were causing me big problems. I decided to kick them off and go barefeet. Well, the first one went sliding down the rock and down the hill. If you’ve seen the movie Wild, where she loses a shoe, that’s exactly what was going through my mind!!

 

I left it and figured the guys had long enough arms to reach it. I move on to the REALLY BIG rock. I slowly made my way to the top, feeling safe and sound. DeWayne was brave enough to climb out to the end of the chained rock. I stayed where I was until it was time to go. You can see the chain that holds the rock! It is protecting the city of Pineville from destruction!!! Also you can see the surface of the rock I slipped on….not a lot of grippers there!

 

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Still in my bare feet. My husband said to follow him, but it didn’t look safe. So I decided to go my own way. Mistake!! I’m still not quite sure how it happened but I ended up on my stomach sliding down, desperately trying to grip something with my hands. I had no idea where I would end up if I didn’t stop. Somehow my foot must have caught something, because suddenly I stopped! Whew! (Reminded me of the time I slipped into the Tahquamenon River, but that is another story for another day!) THIS time I listened to my husband and followed him down to the bottom.

Needless to say I had bruises and scrapes, and bumps, but nothing serious. I’m still paying for it, but I’m ok! Now seriously…something I LOVE so much (rocks) would do this to me?!?! I’ve now decided to stick with the small rocks I can hold in my hand from now on. But hey, it was an adventure, and like Jeannine said….I’m a woman of adventure!

If you ever get a chance to visit “Chain Rock” I would advise you wear the proper clothing, shoes etc. and be careful! It was an awesome view!

Till next time!

Julie

 

The Time Is Now

Jules and I have been trying to plan a girls getaway with our Mom for years! We have never been away together, just the three of us, so this summer we finally did it!  Better late than never!  It was everything we hoped it would be, full of shopping, good food, fun and laughs.

It wasn’t easy to get away, with trying to coordinate schedules, childcare, a dog sitter and spending time researching the perfect destination, but it was worth it to see this smile on my Mom’s face!

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That strange man behind us is not a creeper, he is our brother who joined us on one night to celebrate my Mom’s birthday!  We decided on Mackinac Island as our destination.  As “Michiganders”, we have been there many times, but it never gets old and I always seem to see or learn something new each time I go, not to mention the scenery is stunning and the homemade fudge sold all over the island is worth every decadent calorie!

This post is a little photo heavy, but for those readers who have never been to Mackinac Island, I wanted to give you a glimpse of what a neat place it is!

The Mackinac Bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas

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The Grand Hotel

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Arch Rock

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There is a beautiful butterfly garden on the island.

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A little selfie fun on the boat ride to Mackinac Island!

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So blessed!

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I saw a saying recently on-line that said if you are waiting to find the “perfect” time to do something, it will never happen.  There will always be barriers to finding the “perfect” time or a reason why something won’t work.  We waited a lot of years to go on this trip with our Mom and I wish we would have done it long ago.  It was such a special, memorable time and I can’t wait for our next outing!

So if you have been thinking about doing something special with someone you love, whether it be just a girls weekend, a getaway with your Mister or a family vacation, NOW is the time.  We would love to hear about your adventures in the comments below.

~Blessings,

Jen

 

Angels Around Us

For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. Luke 4:10

Our family spent the 4th of July holiday at one of our country’s famous landmarks, Thomas Jefferson’s home Monticello.  Monticello sits tucked away majestically at the top of a high hill in Charlotesville, Virginia.  This is one of my favorite areas to visit as the scenery is lush, green and stunning and the opportunity to learn about one of our country’s founding fathers is not to be missed.

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As wonderful as our visit was to Monticello, what happened after we left was the real miracle of the day.  We stayed until it closed at 6:00 and then started out on the trip back to Washington DC about 3 hours away.  About 20 mins. in to our trip we decided to stop for dinner, which was when the Mister realized his wallet was missing.  After tearing apart the car and searching high and low, it was nowhere to be found.  He thought maybe he left it on a bench he was sitting on right before we left.  He had taken it out to give Oldest some money for the gift shop and that is the last time he remembered having it.

We realized we needed to quickly head back to Monticello in the hopes that maybe a cleaning crew or someone would still be around.  I tried calling and only reached a voicemail.  It is distressing enough to lose your wallet, but the Mister had some very important ID cards in his wallet which added to the stress. The whole 20 minute drive back to Monticello, I silently prayed that the wallet might be where we left it or a good samaritan found his wallet and turned it in.

We rushed back and to our disappointment discovered the entrance at the bottom of the drive was blocked with orange cones.  Desperate to get the wallet back, the Mister drove around the cones (you didn’t hear it from me!) and we drove up to a large white gate which was closed and locked.  There was a man and a woman standing near the gate looking at us.

The Mister suggested I ask if they worked there although they did not look like they did as they were dressed in casual street clothes.  When I inquired as to whether they worked there, the man said the woman did.  We explained our dilemma and she said we could try calling security to see if they found the wallet during their check of the premises upon closing.  She then proceeded to point out a sign on the gate with a phone number on it.  We would never have noticed the sign with the tiny phone number printed on it if she hadn’t pointed it out to us.

We called the line for the security officer and Praise God, they had his wallet!  Someone had found it and turned it in.  As I was talking to the security officer, out of the corner of my eye I saw the man and the woman linger by the fence for a bit then climb over it and head up the path to Monticello and disappear.  When the security officer opened the gate to have us drive up to get the Mister’s wallet about 3 mins. later they were nowhere to be seen.  With the wallet safely tucked in the Mister’s pocket and thankful hearts, we headed back home.

Later, as I was re-telling the story to my Mom, it struck me as very odd that those two people happened to be standing at the gate right when we pulled up.  The whole place was deserted, not a soul around except that man and woman.  My Mom and I read an awesome series by Karen Kingsbury called “Angels Walking” and it made me stop and wonder if that man and woman might indeed have been angels!  We never would have found that phone number if the woman hadn’t pointed it out and right after they helped us they just climbed over the gate, walked up the path and were gone.

I will never know for sure whether it was just two helpful people or God’s guardian angels sent to assist a family desperate to recover a lost wallet.  Some people might call it a coincidence or “luck”, but I know it was an answered prayer.  So many amazing miracles are all around us every day, we just have to keep our eyes open to look at them.  One thing I do know for sure is that God is always with us, watching over us, caring for us and loving us and I find such comfort in that knowledge.

How about you?  We would love to hear any “angel stories” you might have.

~Blessings,

Jen

Lessons I Learned On Vacation Part 2: People Are People

Lessons I Learned From Vacation Part 2: People Are People

I want to apologize for another posting lapse.  We really aren’t forgetting about this blog and you our readers, it seems life has just taken over these past few weeks.  I recently returned to full-time work and am adjusting to this change of schedule.  Thank you for your patience with us!

On our trip to Europe this year, we had the opportunity to visit a few different countries and we learned many new things about the culture in each place.  For a girl who doesn’t like change or the unknown, this was quite a challenge for me.  From navigating our way through winding roads and tiny German villages to riding the metro or trains in Paris and Venice, it kept us constantly challenged in just figuring things out.

In each country we made an attempt to speak the language and honor the customs of the area.  At one point though after visiting a few countries back to back, I struggled with what I was even saying in attempting a hello at the bakery one morning-bonjour, hallo, ciao?  Sometimes I just reverted to a good old nod and smile which is a universal language!

Which leads me to the Lesson # 2 of our vacation.  As we traveled and experienced so many new sights, sounds and tastes,  I sometimes found myself just overwhelmed with the language barrier and the extreme foreignness of our surroundings.  It was during these moments that I took a breath, looked around and realized it wasn’t all that different from what I know.  People are people no matter what the language, food or customs.  They are all beloved sons and daughters of our Creator and that was very familiar to me.  I saw people smiling and frowning, annoyed and joyous in every country.  Some looked like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders, some like they didn’t have a care in the world.  I heard kids whining to their parents in French, Italian, German and English!  So when I felt overwhelmed I reminded myself of these things and found comfort  and familiarity in the “normal people behaviors” I saw all around me.  It is wonderful that God created us all so uniquely, but yet with many commonalities.

When we find ourselves judging other cultures or ways different from ours, it is good to step back and remember that we are not all that different.  Most people love and want to be loved, feel sad, happy and a myriad of other emotions.  They love their families, friends, children and most love gelato!  I know we do!  It is finding this common ground that we begin to build bridges of respect and understanding of each other ,which leads to peace and harmony.

Here are a few photos of people being people from our  vacation!

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Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful sunny day in a garden. (Luxembourg Gardens, Paris)

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This group of fine Frenchman freed us from a broken parking garage!

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Do you think this woman finds joy in handing out chocolate samples from the giant chocolate fountain behind her?


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This is the Mister and me-who can resist a cut-out board!

IMG_2002A stranger helping my daughter with the last step of a steep climb on Mount Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain peak.

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Here is the view of the top of this mountain-hands down the most beautiful place I have ever seen!

Blessings,

Jen