“X” is For Xenomania-ABC Words

X is often one of my more difficult letters to represent when we are designing an ABC Adventure.  I was so excited when I realized there are over 400 “X” words to explore!  I was even more excited to find the word “Xenomania” as one of them.

Xenomania is found in the Urban dictionary.  It is defined as “a passion for all things foreign and the customs associated.”  This seemed really fitting to begin a new year.

Since our mission for this year is to stretch ourselves, we will soon be setting out on our Pacific Island Adventure.

We also needed an “X”, to represent our purpose.

Travel opens our minds to the differences between people. What better way for us to discover the Southern Hemisphere than to allow ourselves a full immersion in cultures and customs!  We are excited to share the journey with you.   In the coming days we will be exploring new foods, seeing new sights and fully embracing all things foreign.  We plan to become “Xenomaniacs”!   Tomorrow I will share the Bucket List of goals we have created for this trip.

“G” is For Getaway-ABC Relationships

It’s snowing in our part of the world.  Winter is my least favorite time of year.  This sounds like the perfect time for us to “get away”.

  • Where should we go?  Somewhere warm.
  • What do we want to see?  Something exotic and culturally different.

These were the criteria we used for planning our next adventure.

The ability to get away and travel has been hard for the past couple of years.  With the shutdowns caused by a Pandemic, the regulations around Covid and the subsequent supply chain and employee shortages, it has seemed easier to just stay home.

We love to travel.  Even during our early marriage, when we had no money, we  prioritized getting away.  For nearly each of the 40 years we have been married, we have traveled “somewhere”.

It has always been Alan’s desire to visit New Zealand and Australia.  It was suppose to be his retirement gift, but that was two years ago, before the world shut down.

Now that things are opening up again, I have begun to dream.

When I found a super deal on a Pacific Island Cruise, I knew immediately that we would be booking it. At 29 days, this would be our longest cruise to date. We added on an extra couple of weeks of land exploration and suddenly realized we would be going on a two month journey.  This was the longest we have ever been away from home and our family.

There were times that we questioned our own sanity about getting on a cruise ship (these saw some of the greatest challenges during the outbreak) but as the snow began to pile up, we grew more and more excited to travel to somewhere warm and exotic.  Part of the travel experience is taking risks and overcoming challenges.

Vacations are a way to reset.  Did you know there is actually a National “Plan For Vacation Day?”  It is January 28th.  It is humorous to me to realize that vacations are so important that there has been a full day set aside, to do nothing but plan for them!  This trip has taken me six months to prepare for!

Vacations are so important that Alan and I prioritize them as part of our life.  This is a big reason we became ABC Explorers.

Maybe your vacation will be to stay close to home, or perhaps you will visit someplace far away.  Maybe you will camp, or travel by train.   One thing is for sure, travel will have an impact on you.  Here are a few things we have found to be true through our experiences:

  1. Getting away breaks up the monotony of our days.  Routine can lead to predictable (and boring) results and relationships.  “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (the same is true for Jill).
  2. Travel gives us something to dream about, to aspire to save for.  It gives purpose to earning money.
  3. Travel creates stories.
  4. Travel helps us to bond with family and form lasting memories.  When days are busy with school activities, work responsibilities and day to day chores, there is little time to really “see” each other or to spend quality time together.
  5. Traveling is a great way to make new friends.  Travelers often have a lot in common.  The bonus is you then have an excuse for visiting new people and places.
  6. Travel gives you photos. Photos capture a tiny bit of life.  They allow you to revisit your memories over and over.  Remember, without a photo, it never happened!
  7. Travel allows us to be creative in “how” we experience the world…we can sail, fly, or ride a train.  You can go by tuk tuk or ride an elephant.  You could choose to visit art galleries or hike a mountain.  Our journey is really only limited by our imaginations.
  8. Travel allows us broad introspection as we experience different cultures and traditions. We are more open to the differences in people as we understand the world which they live in.
  9. Many parts of the world are impoverished, yet I have often found the people to be extremely welcoming and happy. We can return from a vacation with a great appreciation for what we have.
  10. History, geography and anthropology come to life as one travels.
  11. Travel allows the mind, body and soul to rest.  Working can be very stressful.  Sometimes we don’t even realize how much pressure we are under.  Stress leads to illness.  Sometimes you just need a moment to let some steam off.
  12. Travel can allow you experiences you could never get at home.  I do not live by oceans.  I do not have penguins or elephants nearby.  I do not have mountains to ski or climb.  The USA is a young country, there are few monuments or buildings which date back to the period of the Roman’s or earlier.
  13. Travel allows us to learn new languages. Communication is universal, language is our only barrier.  There may be great humor and humbling moments in learning to ask where a bathroom is.
  14. You don’t have to go far to “get away”.  In fact there is always plenty to do, see and discover, even in your own back yard.  Much of the time, this is an unexplored place.
  15. Life is short.  We have known so many elderly people who wish they had seen and experienced more.  They waited too long until they “had time”, then found they were unable to travel due to illness (or the loss of a partner).  There are only two things guaranteed in this life…taxes and death.  Travel while you can.

So what is stopping you from designing your next adventure?  Isn’t time to “Get Away”?

Continue checking back often as we get ready to set sail on our Pacific Island Adventure!



“A” is For Art at the Airport-ABC Air Travel

Airports are busy places.  Often we rush around and miss much of what is offered there.

Have you ever been stuck at an airport and/or had a long layover and wondered how to pass time?   Why not design a self paced art tour while you are waiting?

This was how we created our next ABC Adventure.   Our mission would be to see as many art installations as we could, while traveling through airports. We wondered if we could complete an entire alphabet. The next time we find ourselves with some time, it will be a great excuse to walk around and get some exercise.  On this day we passed 2 hours walking from terminal to terminal at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

In our quest to complete the alphabet, we have found paintings, sculptures, fiber art and so much more.  Airport art rivals that of any gallery.  The long walls, high ceilings and open spaces lend themselves to bigger installations of art.

The next time you are stuck in an airport, take a look around.  Can you complete a full ABC adventure with art as your theme?

As we try to complete the alphabet tour, we will continue to add photos as we travel and the airport locations which we find them, so be sure to check back often.

A is For

Adler Planetarium Exhibit (Chicago O’hare Airport)

The Adler Planetarium has an exhibit in the Pedestrian Walkway on the way to the CTA O’Hare Blue Line Station. The Exhibit features many posters such as the one above offering views of beautiful constellations in the night skies.

After School Matters Benches (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Located throughout the Terminal 1/2 Bridge and Terminal 5, the After School Matters Benches depict various designs. All benches are hand painted by teen apprentice artists in the After School Matters art program. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.


B is For

Beacons by Steven Heyman

A large square “Blue Beacon” and a large circular “Orange Beacon” suspended above the “Meet and Greet” area in the lower level of Terminal 5. Illuminated with fluorescent lamps, they measure 16′ x 16′ x 4′. The artwork was commissioned in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program.

Boeing Mosaic

This mosaic piece, created by After School Matters teen apprentice artists, celebrates aircraft manufacturer Boeing’s 100th anniversary in 2016. The piece hangs in Terminal 3, in the hallway between the Rotunda and H1. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens innovative out-of-school activities through science, sports, technology,creative writing and the nationally recognized gallery program.


C is For

Chicago Sister City Flags (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Representing the nations of Chicago’s Sister Cities, the flags are presented with help from Chicago Sister Cities International. Public art in and around Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport; January 2020.

City Windows by Qiao Xiaoguang (Chicago O’hare Airport)

Created using ancient Chinese paper cutting techniques, City Windows depicts iconic sites from Beijing and Chicago. The piece commemorates the friendship and cooperation between China and Chicago. It is located near Terminal 1 Gate B19.


D is For


E is For

The Evolution of O’Hare (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

This gallery of aerial photos offers travelers a look at how the O’Hare airfield has evolved since it opened in 1945. A timeline of historical events accompanies each photo. The gallery can be found in the Terminal 3 L Stinger (Gates L20-24).


F is For

G is For

H is For

Here and There by Mitchell Egly (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

Created as a part of the City of Chicago’s 50 x 50 Neighborhood Arts Project and initiated during the Year of Public Art, Here and There is a visual representation of the many neighborhoods that comprise the 41st Ward, the Ward O’Hare is within. This piece was sponsored by by 41st Ward Alderman Napolitano’s office. It is located within the airport’s Bus Shuttle Center.


I is For

I’ve Known Rivers by Alejandro Ramero and Gallery 37  (Chicago O’Hare)

A 208-foot long mural painted in acrylics, that brings to life the words and spirit of the Langston Hughes poem of the same name. The mural, created by teen apprentice artists from After School Matters, is located in the CTA Pedway. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.


J is For

Jet Trails by Guy Kemper (Chicago O’Hare)

This sculpture measures 50 feet in length and 12 feet in height and consists of hand-blown painted glass in cool shades of blue, green and violet. The sculpture is suspended onto the window mullions directly across from Security Checkpoint 3 in Terminal 1 (past security).

K is For

L is For

M is For

N is For

O is For

On The Wings of Water (Chicago O’Hare)

A 35,000-piece Venetian glass and tile mosaic shows how air travel and water link cultures across continents and between cities, towns, and rural areas. It was completed with the help of After School Matters student artists and can be found in the Rotunda between Terminals 2 and 3 (past security). After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM.


P is For

Palimpsest by Nick Cave (Chicago O’Hare)

A dimensional tapestry constructed of hand-strung, beaded shoelaces woven with memory-steeped iconography and patterns through a nylon fishing net base layer. The piece represents a travel to understanding, the web of humanity, and future memories. Its colors come directly from Chicago’s unique skyline and is a continuation of the greeting a visitor takes in through their airplane’s window as they begin their decent for landing. It is located within the airport’s Multi Modal Facility.


Q is For


R is For

The Runners by Theodoros Papagiannis (Chicago O’Hare)

The Runners, a 16-foot sculpture, is located along the I-190 south side embankment and can be seen by motorists and CTA Blue Line riders exiting the airport. Donated by the Athens Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and supported by Chicago’s large Greek-American community, the sculpture depicts five runners emerging from antiquity into the modern world. A maquette of this same piece is located within Terminal 5, behind the Arrivals Level information desk.

S is For

77 Neighborhoods (Chicago O’Hare)

This photo exhibit, located in the Terminal 5 corridor approaching the US Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Services area, showcases architecture, life, and popular scenes from across Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.

Skies The Limit (Chicago O’Hare)

A multi-sensory sculpture which extends above the walkway connecting concourse B and C in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.  The artist, Michael Hayden was commissioned by the airport in 1987 to design the 744 foot-long, neon kinetic sculpture which changes color in time to music.

Sister Cities by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Inspired by Chicago’s numerous Sister Cities, the mural depicts scenes from cities across the globe. Teen apprentice artists from After School Matters created the piece. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. It is located in the hallway between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Student Frontiers by After School Matters (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2016. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA Pedway.


T is For

Treasury of Petra by Sonia Twal (Chicago O’Hare)

A limestone and marble mosaic donated to the City of Chicago from its sister city Amman, Jordan.  It can be found in Terminal 5 near Gate M14. The mosaic was inspired by the carved rock and stone facade of the red-rose city of Petra in the southern Jordanian desert. The limestone and marble used in Twal’s representation were obtained from the Petra region.

U is For

V is For

W is For

X is For

Y is For

Youth in the Loop by After School (Chicago O’Hare)

Teen apprentice artists participating in After School Matters programs created this mural in 2015. After School Matters is a non-profit organization that offers Chicago teens high quality, hands-on, project-based apprenticeship programs in a variety of content areas, including the arts, communications and leadership, sports, and STEM. This mural is located in the CTA pedway.

Z is For

ABC World Travel-A List of Countries to Explore

We are on a mission to see the world.  This category will link to many topics about individual countries, which we have alphabetized below because that is how we roll.

If a topic is highlighted it means we have visited the location and you can find the stories within the blog.  You may also use the search bar to find our adventures.


General World Tour

A is for Africa, American Samoa, Antigua, Australia and Austria

B is for Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Belgium, Belize and Brazil

C is for Canada, Chili, China, Costa Rica and Cuba

D is for Denmark, Dominica and Dominican Republic

E is for Egypt and England

F is for Fiji, Finland, France and French Polynesia

G is for Germany, Greece, Grenada, Grenadines and Guatemala

H is for Holland and Hungary

I is for Iceland, India, Ireland and Italy

J is for Jamaica and Japan


L is for Laos

M is for Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Monaco and Morocco

N is for  Nevis, New Zealand and Norway

O is for Oman

P is for Panama, Peru,  Philippines, Poland and Portugal

Q is for Qatar

R is for Russia

S is for Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Seychelles, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland

T is for Thailand and Turkey

U is for USA

V is for Vietnam

W is for Wales


Y is for Yemen

Z is for Zambia, Zimbabwe


“W” is For Word of the Year

Welcome to a brand new year! I know it is cliche’ to say that today offers a fresh start and a clean slate.  I often think of my life as a book which I am continuously writing.  Today is the beginning of a brand new chapter, which is yet to be defined.  The pages are still blank.  This optimistic view is the way I think about the beginning of most years.

But, I am also realist. Yesterdays challenges soon begin to spill into today. Too many things pull at our attention, the chapters of our story become mundane, or they continue to be written in the same manner. Time, left with no direction, will fall through our hands and before we know it, years have passed and we remain stuck in the same patterns of behavior.

Today is a good day for reflection. How is your story of life unfolding so far?  Are you longing for adventure, wishing you had more money or time?  Are you in a good relationship?   Would you like to learn a new language or change careers?  Do you dream of losing weight or stopping smoking?

The New Year always seems hopeful.  Most people make resolutions at the beginning of each year;  to lose weight, to give up bad habits, to learn something new and to spend more time doing things they love, seem to be the most common.   By the end of the second week of a new year, most resolutions have already been forgotten as we slide back into old routines.

By the end of the year, when we realize we have not met our goals (again),  we think back to our resolutions and feel like failures, yet every year we return to the same pattern of goal setting.  This self deprecating behavior has a negative influence on our psyche.

What if a small shift in attitude could redirect how you experience your days? What if we no longer set resolutions? How freeing would that simple act be?

Years ago our family gave up this New Year tradition, instead we began choosing a single word on New Year’s Eve. This word would still be reflective of the things we wanted to change, the growth we aspired to and the direction we hoped to go.

The word would touch all areas of our lives (relationships, personal growth, goals etc). Our word could be carried with us throughout the year.  We could interpret the word in any way which made sense to us.  By choosing just one word (or a few), we could focus on change. Anytime we honored our word, we would succeed.

The word of the year is a positive, inspirational and hopeful message, that change is possible. These little words simply focus our intentions, inviting more of what you need or what you hope to achieve.  They can reflect your ambitions, give you purpose, set goals and more.  These little words define and lead you to your best self.

I see the word as a kind of compass for the coming year.

For example a resolution might be to lose weight but our word choice instead became “healthy”.  How much more positive it became as we shifted our focus just a little.  With this tiny word in front of us,  we could give ourselves credit for every action we took throughout the year towards healthy living.  Maybe we drank an extra glass of water, or took a walk, or went to bed at a reasonable hour, or chose to skip dessert.

When we offered ourselves this positive feedback, we wanted to continue.  Perhaps the next day we did a little more, perhaps in a week we noticed we had lost a pound or two.  The goals were being met, but there was no pressure…just a little word reminding us of our intentions.

Intentional living is the underlying mission of this site.  Living your best life will always be the goal, it does not require a single day to begin, however New Year’s Day is the perfect time for change.  If you are reading this today and it doesn’t happen to be New Years Day, then just jump in.  Small incremental changes, lead to lasting results.


How to choose your word

1. Ask yourself questions.  What is it you want to change, learn or discover?  What would you do differently than last year?  Is there something you want to continue doing?  What do you want more of in life?  What do you want less of?  What is holding you back?  (Think of an opposite word.  For example fear becomes brave.)

2. Brainstorm.  Jot down as many words as come to mind.  These should be positive and affirming.  Think about where you want to direct your life this year.  It is okay if you have several or many words at this point. If you are stuck, there is a list of over 450 words below.

3. Narrow your list down.  If you are left with more than one word, consider breaking the year down into quarters or in half. You could even choose a different word each month!

Keep your word visible

Keep your word in front of you and make sure you can see it every day.  Make a cute graphic and put it on your phone.  Write it out in big letters and post it on a wall.  Put your word next to a place you use routinely…the coffee maker, a mirror or the back door.  Write it on a small pebble or piece of paper and carry it around in your pocket.  Make a plan(s)to bump into your word frequently.  Each time you do, it will remind you to live your word.

Put your word into affirmations.  Affirmations are powerful messages.  They are written, spoken or meditated upon in the first person.  For example, my word in 2019 was “expand”.  Every decision I made in that year, I asked myself if I was expanding.  This year in particular was a year of mental growth, as I immersed myself in learning.  I was focused on learning to:  garden, preserve food, write and improve my photography.  Here are a few of my affirmations:

” I am expanding my knowledge.”

“My relationships with people are expanding”.

“As I expand, I feel connected.”



As with all our word games, there are no rules, except those we define for ourselves.  If you want to choose a new word each month, go ahead and do so.  If you want to use more than one word at a time, that is okay too.

Our words

Here are the words I have chosen for the past few years:

2019 Expand

2020  Embrace

2021 Adapt

2022 Revive

After years of being stuck at home, not seeing family, missing celebrations, struggling with shortages of every kind and numerous challenges we have developed a bit of negativity about how the years are unfolding.  We have been very blessed in this life so we have decided it was time to find the silver lining in the moments.   We have worked hard throughout our lives and now have the means to travel and rest in our retirement.  We are surrounded by good people.  Our 2023 word gives us an opportunity to reflect on all the many, many things we still have to be thankful for.

Our word for this year is “Appreciate”.  We move forward into the unknown with an appreciation for all which we have, all which we create and an abundance of joy.

What word will you choose this year?


450+ Word of the Year Ideas

  • Absolve
  • Abundance
  • Abundant
  • Accept
  • Acceptance
  • Achieve
  • Act
  • Action
  • Adapt
  • Add
  • Advance
  • Adventure
  • Affect
  • Affluence
  • Alert
  • Align
  • Alignment
  • Alive
  • Allow
  • Amaze
  • Amazing
  • Ambition
  • Amplify
  • Anchor
  • Appreciate
  • Articulate
  • Ascend
  • Aspire
  • Attention
  • Awake
  • Awaken
  • Aware
  • Awareness
  • Awe
  • Awesome
  • Bad ass
  • Balance
  • Balanced
  • Be
  • Beautiful
  • Beauty
  • Become
  • Begin
  • Behold
  • Believe
  • Belong
  • Best
  • Better
  • Big
  • Birth
  • Bliss
  • Bloom
  • Bold
  • Boss
  • Bounce
  • Boundaries
  • Boundless
  • Bounty
  • Brave
  • Breath
  • Breathe
  • Bridge
  • Bright
  • Brother
  • Build
  • Calm
  • Capable
  • Captivating
  • Capture
  • Care
  • Caring
  • Celebrate
  • Center
  • Centered
  • Challenge
  • Change
  • Charisma
  • Chase
  • Cheer
  • Cheerful
  • Cleanse
  • Clear
  • Comfort
  • Commit
  • Committed
  • Communicate
  • Communication
  • Community
  • Compassion
  • Complete
  • Completion
  • Compose
  • Compromise
  • Confidence
  • Connect
  • Connection
  • Conquer
  • Conscious
  • Considerate
  • Consistency
  • Consistent
  • Contemplation
  • Contribute
  • Courage
  • Create
  • Creation
  • Creative
  • Creativity
  • Cultivate
  • Daughter
  • Declutter
  • Decrease
  • Dedicate
  • Dedication
  • Deliberate
  • Delight
  • Depth
  • Determination
  • Determined
  • Devote
  • Diligence
  • Direction
  • Discipline
  • Discover
  • Dream
  • Ease
  • Ecstasy
  • Education
  • Elevate
  • Elevation
  • Embody
  • Embrace
  • Emerge
  • Empathy
  • Empire
  • Empower
  • Encourage
  • Energize
  • Energy
  • Engage
  • Enhance
  • Enjoy
  • Enjoyment
  • Enlighten
  • Enlightenment
  • Enough
  • Enrapture
  • Enthuse
  • Enthusiasm
  • Enthusiastic
  • Environment
  • Epitome
  • Escalate
  • Examine
  • Excite
  • Excitement
  • Expand
  • Expansion
  • Experience
  • Exploration
  • Explore
  • Extraordinary
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Fast
  • Father
  • Favorite
  • Fearless
  • Finish
  • Fitness
  • Flourish
  • Flow
  • Fly
  • Focus
  • Force
  • Forgive
  • Forgiveness
  • Forward
  • Foster
  • Foundation
  • Free
  • Freedom
  • Friend
  • Friends
  • Fulfill
  • Fulfilling
  • Fun
  • Future
  • Gain
  • Generosity
  • Generous
  • Gentle
  • Gently
  • Give
  • Giving
  • Glisten
  • Glorious
  • Glow
  • Glow-up
  • Go
  • Goals
  • Grace
  • Gracious
  • Gratitude
  • Grounded
  • Grow
  • Growth
  • Habit
  • Happiness
  • Happy
  • Harmony
  • Heal
  • Health
  • Healthy
  • Help
  • Helpful
  • Heart
  • Here
  • Higher
  • Hold
  • Home
  • Honest
  • Honesty
  • Hope
  • Humble
  • Humility
  • Hustle
  • Ignite
  • Imagination
  • Imagine
  • Immerse
  • Improve
  • Improvement
  • Increase
  • Indulge
  • Infinity
  • Influence
  • Innovation
  • Insight
  • Inspiration
  • Inspire
  • Integrity
  • Intent
  • Intention
  • Intentional
  • Intimacy
  • Intimate
  • Intuition
  • Invest
  • Journey
  • Joy
  • Jump
  • Kind
  • Kindness
  • Laugh
  • Laughter
  • Lead
  • Leader
  • Leadership
  • Learn
  • Less
  • Liberate
  • Life
  • Light
  • Limitless
  • Listen
  • Live
  • Love
  • Luxury
  • Magic
  • Magical
  • Manifest
  • Maximize
  • Meaning
  • Meditate
  • Memories
  • Metamorphosis
  • Mindful
  • Mindfulness
  • Mindset
  • Minimize
  • Moment
  • Moments
  • Monetize
  • Money
  • More
  • Mother
  • Move
  • New
  • Nature
  • Nirvana
  • No
  • Nourish
  • Now
  • Nurture
  • Observe
  • Open
  • Optimistic
  • Organize
  • Overcome
  • Pardon
  • Partner
  • Passion
  • Patience
  • Pause
  • Peace
  • Permission
  • Persevere
  • Persist
  • Perspective
  • Play
  • Playful
  • Pleasure
  • Positivity
  • Possibilities
  • Possibility
  • Possible
  • Power
  • Powerful
  • Practice
  • Pray
  • Presence
  • Present
  • Prime
  • Prioritize
  • Priority
  • Process
  • Probable
  • Progress
  • Progression
  • Prosper
  • Purpose
  • Question
  • Quiet
  • Radiant
  • Re-brand
  • Receive
  • Reclaim
  • Reflect
  • Reflection
  • Relax
  • Release
  • Renew
  • Renewal
  • Reset
  • Resolve
  • Respect
  • Rest
  • Retreat
  • Revive
  • Rich
  • Rise
  • Rise
  • Romance
  • Satisfaction
  • Satisfy
  • Seek
  • Self
  • Self-care
  • Selfish
  • Self-love
  • Self-worth
  • Serene
  • Serenity
  • Service
  • Share
  • Shift
  • Shine
  • Siblings
  • Simple
  • Simplicity
  • Simplify
  • Sister
  • Sisterhood
  • Slow
  • Small
  • Smile
  • Soar
  • Son
  • Soul
  • Soulful
  • Space
  • Spark
  • Sparkle
  • Speak
  • Spirit
  • Steady
  • Still
  • Stillness
  • Strength
  • Strengthen
  • Stretch
  • Strive
  • Strong
  • Succeed
  • Success
  • Successful
  • Support
  • Surrender
  • Surround
  • Surroundings
  • Survive
  • Sympathy
  • Teach
  • Tempest
  • Think
  • This
  • Thoughtful
  • Thoughtfulness
  • Thrill
  • Thrilling
  • Thrive
  • Today
  • Touch
  • Transcend
  • Transform
  • Transformation
  • Transparent
  • Travel
  • Treasure
  • Trust
  • Truth
  • Try
  • Unchained
  • Understand
  • Unleash
  • Unique
  • Unlimited
  • Unstoppable
  • Value
  • Vibrant
  • Vision
  • Visionary
  • Vitality
  • Voice
  • Vulnerability
  • Vulnerable
  • Wake
  • Wander
  • Wealth
  • Wealthy
  • Wellness
  • Whole
  • Wholehearted
  • Why
  • Wild
  • Win
  • Winning
  • Wisdom
  • Wise
  • Wish
  • Wonder
  • Work
  • Worth
  • Worthy
  • Wow
  • Yes
  • Zenith





ABC Adventure-“Island Princess”- ABC’s of Cruising

This ABC Exploration Guide is specific to the Island Princess cruise ship.  Use the following list to create your own adventure.  Below you will find an alphabetized list of all the spaces on board.  Within each space there are numerous activities which may be being held.  Can you complete an entire alphabet as you discover what your ship has to offer?   If an item is highlighted it will link to another article.


Amuleto (Deck 14)


Balcony Stateroom

Bar & Grill (Deck 15)

Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse (Deck 7)

Beauty Salon (Deck 14)

Bordeaux Dining Room (Deck 5)


Camp Discovery Youth Center (Deck 12)

Captain’s Circle Loyalty (Deck 5)

Card Room

Center Court (Deck 16)

Churchill’s Cigar Lounge (Deck 7)

Conservatory (Deck 15)

Crooner’s Bar (Deck 7)




Explorer’s Lounge (Deck 6)


Fine Arts Gallery (Deck 7)

Fitness Center (Deck 6)

Future Cruise Planning/Sales (Deck 8)


Good Spirits at Sea (Deck 5)

Guest Services (Deck 5)


Horizon Court Buffet (Deck 14)


Interior Stateroom

Internet Cafe (Deck 8)





Lawn Court (Deck 15)

Library (Deck 8)

Lido Bar (Deck 14)

Lido Pool & Hot tubs (Deck 14)

Lotus Bar (Deck 14)

Lotus Pool & Hot Tubs (Deck 14)

Lotus Spa (Deck 14)


Medical Center (Deck 4)

Mini Suite

Movies Under the Starts (Deck 15)



Ocean View Room



Photo Gallery (Deck 6)

Princess Casino & Bar (Deck 6)

Princess Links

Princess Pizzaria (Deck 14)

Princess Plaza (Piazza)-Deck 5

Princess Theater (Deck 7)


Providence Dining Room (Deck 6)



Sabatini’s Italian Trattoriea (Deck 7)

Sanctuary (Deck 15)

Shopping Concierge (Deck 6)

Shore Excursion Desk (Deck 8)

Shuffleboard (Deck 16)

Splash Pool (Deck 16)


Swirls Ice Cream (Deck 14)


The Beach House Teen Lounge (Deck 14)

The Shop’s of Princess-Calypso Cove/Essence/Facets/Meridian Bay,  (Deck 6)

Treatment Rooms (Deck 14)




Water Shuttle Embarkation (Deck 4)

Wedding Chapel (Deck 7)

Wheelhouse Bar (Deck 7)



Youth Center (Deck 14)



“A” is for Arranging Your Best Cruise Vacation-ABC Cruising


When we choose a cruise, we always ask ourselves what we want to experience.

  • Is our goal to set foot upon each continent?
  • Is it to immerse in a single country, or do we want to experience many different ones?
  • Is it the ship itself that we want to experience, or the itinerary?
  • Do we want restful days at sea, or an action filled schedule?
  • Are we willing to take a repositioning cruise to complete any of our goals?
  • How long do we want to be away?
  • What time of year do we want to travel?
  • Is this the best season for the areas we hope to see?
  • Where does the ship depart from and return to?
  • Will we need additional travel days to get there?  Do we need to schedule transfers from a plane to the ship?

What does the ship have to offer?

  • What is the brand of the cruiseline?  Is it known to be a party ship, or luxury liner?  How old/young is the average passenger?
  • How old or young is the ship?  Has it been refurbished?
  • What are the reviews for the ship?
  • How many passengers does the ship hold?
  • Are kids likely to be on the ship?
  • Are there adult only areas?
  • How many pools are there?
  • What activities are available on board?  Are there water slides, golfing, go carts or wave pools on board?   Which of these (if any) are important to me?
  • If the weather is bad, what indoor activities are available?  Are there classes and cultural immersion opportunities?  Are there shops available?  Is there a movie theater?
  • What kinds of entertainment will be available?  Are there Broadway style performances, pianists, comedians, magicians?
  • Are there areas for quiet activities, such as a library?
  • Is internet available?
  • Is the dining schedule rigid or relaxed?  What options for meals do I have?
  • What kinds of rooms are available?

Money matters.

  • What is included in the cost? What is not?  Often alcohol, specialty coffee, specialty dining, internet and shore excursions will cost extra.
  • Are gratuities included?  Most cruise lines add $12-$15 per day and there is often an 18% gratuity for drinks.
  • Are there packages available?
  • What discounts/promotions are available?

Have a great vacation!





ABC List-Pre Cruise Preparations

A is for

Arranging your best cruise vacation


B Is for

Best time to cruise


C is for

Choosing a cabin


D is for

Dining options


E is for

Embarkation Day


F is for

Favorite cruise essentials


G is for

Getting your monies worth


H is for

Health & safety


I is for

insuring your trip

J is for


K is for

Kits to create


L is for

Life on-board


M is for

Motion sickness and how to avoid it


N is for

Not included


O is for

On-board credits


P is for

Passports and paperwork


Q is for


R is for

Rules and regulations


S is for

Sea Days


T is for

Trip Insurance


U is for



V is for

Visas and Vaccinations


W is for

Wi Fi


X is for



Y is for


Z is for

ABC Adventure-Airports-An Alphabet List of Ways to Pass The Time


Admire the art



Chat with friends/family

Check Social Media

Check the Weather

Clean out your purse/wallet


Do some work



Edit Photos


Explore the airport


Freshen Up


Get your shoes shined

Go on a restaurant tour…get a drink at one, appetizer at another, main course at another and dessert at the final one.

Grab a drink






Laze around in a lounge

Learn a new language

Listen to music or a podcast


Make time for a mani pedi or massage



Organize your playlist


People watch

Plan your trip

Play games on a phone




Ride the transport between terminals






Update your photo album

Upgrade your ticket


Visit the chapel


Watch a movie

Watch planes

Write in a journal


“T” is for Tips and Tricks-ABC’s of Airline Travel

Here is a list of our best tips for airline travel:

  • When booking your flight, allow enough time between connecting flights. We usually strive for 1 ½ hours.  Generally this allows for minor delays.   If we are traveling internationally, these layovers may involve clearing customs and security.  In this case we allow between 2-2 1/2 hours layover because we must claim our bags and go through the security check all over again.   In either case, we look to see how many more “chances” there will be to catch another flight, if for some reason our connecting flight gets cancelled or delayed.
  • Choose your seat. I prefer knowing where I am going to sit.  I want to be with my family if possible.  My husband has very long legs, so he must always have an aisle seat.  If we can upgrade to gain a for a few more inches of legspace, we often do so.  Websites such as seat guru can often tell you the advantages and disadvantages to choosing certain seats.  Surprises such as finding you are sitting next to a bathroom, or that the seats don’t recline, can make travelling a very unpleasant experience.
  • Download airline/airport apps. These can help you see gate changes and flight delays.  The airport apps often offer layouts for each terminal.  Knowing where you are going if you are rushing can save precious minutes.
  • Purchase or borrow luggage which can be pulled or pushed. Carrying heavy bags when you are also having to run for a flight is never easy.  A backpack is also a good option.
  • Check size and weight restrictions of luggage before flying. Realizing you are 1 lb over the limit and getting charged an extra $50-$100 because of it is a sure fire way to start off on the wrong foot.  The same is true for oversize luggage. Many airlines have overall dimensions of luggage.  This is the length x width x depth.
  • Know how many pieces and what constitutes a personal item. Carry on luggage may be subjected size and weight restrictions.  Again, this helps to avoid those extra charges.   Some international flights are very specific about what constitutes a personal item.  Small commuter planes often don’t have the ability to store even regular size carry ons (see gate checking luggage).
  • Place a contact sheet and itinerary page inside each suitcase and carry on. This is usually the last thing I pack so that if the case is opened, it will be the first thing someone sees.   If my luggage is lost, this simple piece of paper will help reconnect me with my bags.
  • Label all luggage on the outside. Use a luggage tag, or one of the tie on pieces located at the check in desk.  For safety, your personal information should be covered (the tie on tags fold and tuck).  If you are shopping for luggage tags, look for the kind with a security flap.
  • Pack all prescriptions in original containers. Always carry your prescription medication in your carry on.  If this is not possible, make sure to have a few extra days of the medication in the carry on.
  • Pack your carry on as if you might need to gate check your case. Full flights often run out of overhead storage.  When this happens, the remaining passengers will be asked to gate check their luggage.  Always remove your id & passports and anything else of importance if you are asked to gate check.  Gate checked luggage is different than normal checked baggage.  The carry on items will be tagged and stored in a special location on the plane.  Ground crew will deliver the luggage to the walkway once the plane lands.  Unfortunately gate checked luggage is not tagged to move on to your next destination, so if there are challenges with the machines/people who are unloading it, it can make you late to catch your next flight since you must wait for this luggage.  This is what happened to about half the plane on our last flight, after the hydraulics broke on the lift which bring the bags up.  I have never seen so many angry people.
  • Having a foldable shopping bag packed on top of your luggage or in a side pocket is helpful. This can be a store bought pouch or a paper shopping bag.   If you are forced to gate check your carry on, this bag allows you to transfer your most needed items quickly, just remember this is going to go under the seat in front of you, so take only your essentials. *Always keep cash, ID, passports and prescriptions with you.
  • Before leaving for the airport, think about how you will dress.  Dress for speed. No underwire bras (they set off the alarm and almost guarantee a pat down).  Easy to remove jackets or cardigans are easier than those which need pulling over your head.  Slip off shoes ae easier than lace ups (remember to wear footies if you are not wearing socks, you don’t want to stand in that line barefoot…yuck).  *Always wear shoes you can run in…you never know when those gate changes are going to happen or when your flights make a connection very close.  If you want high heels or flip flops, carry them in the carry on and change once you reach your gate.
  • Dress in layers. Planes can be too hot and too cold.  Extra clothing can always double as a pillow.
  • Speaking of pillows, they do not count as luggage.  If you find you don’t have enough space in your carry on, you can put a coat, clothing or other soft items in a zippered pillow case.  This will serve multiple functions as you travel.
  • Arrive 2-3 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. In large international airports, you may need every minute of this time to clear security.  Smaller airports may only need 1-1 1/2 hours.   If you find yourself with extra time, go shopping, get a bite to eat, look at art or hang out in a lounge but don’t stress yourself by arriving at the airport late.
  • If you are parking a car, write down your parking space number and/or take a photo with your cell phone.  You will thank me when you return.
  • Always carry some cash. If you become stranded at an airport or while en-route, there is never a guarantee that ATM’s and/or online credit card systems will be functioning. Depending on how far I am traveling, how many overlays I have and where I am going,  I usually carry enough to pay for a meal, a car rental and a hotel room.  (Generally about $50-$250).  There is a limit to how much cash can be carried (usually $10,000) , so make sure to declare it, especially if you are transiting between countries.  When declaring your cash, be sure to include travelers checks and cashiers checks.
  • Carry some food and snacks. If a flight is cancelled, you may find yourself overnighting in an airport.  Stores may be closed.  If a flight is delayed and sitting at a gate or on the tarmac, there will be no food/drink service.
  • Pack a USB charger. Our phones carry the equivalent of a computer these days.  They replace cameras, MP3 players and books.  They carry our calendars, address books, maps and more.  Having them functioning at all times can prevent a lot of stress. There are many ways to use up your battery on a cell phone…photos, reading,  listening to music and/or watching movies.  Having a USB charger allows you to recharge while waiting for a flight and/or if your flight is delayed.  The charger can often be used on the plane too.  Just toss one in the carry on, you will be happy you did!
  • Check in online when possible. This helps to prevent standing in line.
  • Pack liquids and gels in a see through quart sized zip lock bag. Place the bag towards the top of your carry on case or in an outside pocket for easy removal.  You will be asked to remove these if you do not have Global Entry.
  • Pack electronics toward the top of your carry on. You will be asked to remove these if you don’t have Global Entry.
  • Choose the furthest left queue in the security line, it is generally less busy.
  • Remove jewelry, belts and jackets before you get in line, or while standing in line. Don’t be “that” person who slows the process by not being ready to move through security.   All of these items can be placed inside luggage if you have room.  Otherwise follow the steps below:
  • Remove your passport and boarding pass (these are carried through the scanner).
  • Place jackets and coats in the first bin.
  • Place electronics (laptop, Ipads, Kindles etc) in  a separate bin.
  • Place shoes and wallet/purse and jewelry together in the last bin, that way you will never forget to pick up your wallet and valuables.
  • Send your luggage through the scanner.
  • Once past security, purchase or fill a water bottle. Hydration is the best way to combat jet lag and helps to prevent airborne illnesses.
  • Consider purchasing coffee or tea before boarding the plane. The water on the plane has been stored in large containers which are never cleaned.  This is the wate tea and coffee are made with.
  • Listen for announcements. It is easy to pass the time by plugging into headphones but miss the announcement of a gate change and you can be left running.
  • Watch for changes around the waiting area. Did everyone suddenly leave?  You better check the departure board.


When you have done all that you can to prepare, you can sit back knowing that you are ready for “almost” anything.  Enjoy your stress free vacation

“L” is For Lightweight Luggage-Packing Tips and Tricks

Don’ t waste your weight limits by owning heavy suitcases!  On a recent trip, I weighed our cases before I even began packing.  They weighed over 13 pounds and this was before I had even added one pair of socks!

With average weight restrictions on most flights being only 50 pounds, I was frustrated with giving up over 20% of the maximum allowance to the suitcase.  But where to begin looking for a new case?

There are so many options when it comes to luggage.  Since we would be making a substantial financial investment in them, I wanted to give some thought to what we needed.

My body is aging and lifting cases has become more difficult over the years.   I want to be able to move the cases easily.  I was looking for a case which could be pushed or pulled.  My last wish was for adjustable handles, since there is a significant height difference between my husband and I.

We knew we would be taking these cases around the world.  I needed them to be sturdy but as light as possible since we might be away for long trips, which might require a lot of clothing.

There were many things which distracted me while I was shopping, such as built in power banks, but sticking to my original wishes, I realized these would just  weigh the bag down.

A little research and a shopping trip later, we ended up with these great bags from Travel Pro.   With over 8,000 reviews, customers consistently expressed how happy they were with the cases.  Many had completed hundreds of trips and still saw the bags outperforming others.  I was sold.

The Travelpro Maxlight 5 is regularly featured on many travel blogs (which is how I had found it).There are 4 different size options ranging from carry on to 29″.  There is also an underseat tote.

We chose the 26″ for our needs.  This large suitcase weighs just 7.5 pounds!  This gave me an additional 5+ pounds of wiggle room, compared to our older luggage.

With 10 choices of colors, the most difficult decision was which one to choose. In the end, we defaulted to our trustworthy black.  Although we loved many of the color choices, we worried that some of the lighter ones might show the dirt (even though they are stain restistant), we just wanted low maintenance.  We also knew that we would eventually tire of the colored cases,  or they would become obsolete in time.  Since we expect to keep these for a while, we stuck with the tried and true.

There were additional features which attracted us to this luggage such as:

  • spinner wheels- so we don’t have to pull the case.
  • multiple locking positions on the handle-adjusts for tall/short people.
  • a water and stain resistant exterior- which is handy if the case sits outside in inclement weather (as ours did on our 2021 trip to England).
  • side handles AND top handles-for easy grabbing in every direction off of those overfull baggage carousels.
  • an expanding zipper- which adds an additional 2 inches of depth to the case.  Great when you buy too many souvenirs.
  • many zippered sections-to tuck in those odd items.
  • a separate lid pocket-great for separating and organizing.
  • patterned interior-this was especially helpful with the small tote.  No more caverns of dark fabric when reaching into a deep bag.
  • interior straps-to keep the contents snug.



Airline Travel Tips & Tricks

There are many things about airline travel which can make your journey just a little easier.  We have organized these tips and tricks alphabetically.  If it is highlighted it will link to a supporting story.  Check back often as we add to our growing list of tips & tricks.


Airline Lounges



Boarding Passes



Connecting Flights



Delayed Flight Benefits



Emergency Travel Budget



Flight Apps



Global Entry






Inflight entertainment











Meal Orders in Advance



Noise Cancelling Headphones





Priority Pass





Reward Members






Tips & Tricks

TSA Approved Snacks

Transport Services



Understanding Airline Rules





Water and Liquids




X is for Xing

Because the ABC game is part Scavenger Hunt, we make up our own rules as we go along.  On our ABC Adventure to Grayling, Gaylord and Petoskey, we were nearing the completion of our alphabet.  As usual, we didn’t have an X.  We racked our brains for the X words we knew.  Often we resort to using the X in words like eXcite or eXcellent.  Today, in the pouring rain, we saw a sign, which matched our letter.

An ABC Adventure doesn’t have to be difficult, our only rules (for ourselves) are to have fun, to discover and to explore the world purposefully.

As I watched my husband get drenched to get this photo, I was having fun.  It makes me laugh to think of the antics we get up to.

I “discovered” we were under surveillance because there was a security camera on the caboose parked alongside this railroad crossing.  I wonder if it left them scratching their heads to observe us.

I had found the caboose, now turned restaurant, in my online study of the area. We were trying to purposefully explore, but sadly the restaurant had been closed.

All was not lost though, we decided to eXclaim that we were declaring this our “X”.  Thus Xing it off our list!

“Q” is for Quirky-Our ABC Adventure-Charlevoix

Have you ever dreamed of walking through Hobbiton featured in the Lord of the Rings?

Believe it or not, you don’t need to travel to New Zealand to find Hobbit houses, the USA has our own charming town which attracts tourists from around the world.

Charlevoix is a tiny Northern Michigan town located just 4 hours north of Detroit.

Self taught builder, Earl Young built the eleven homes during the depression era, these buildings are creatively known as Gnome Homes, Mushroom Houses, or Hobbit Houses and they stand ready to transport you to middle earth.

Earl Young’s houses feature his signature designs which include wide, wavy eaves, exposed rafter tails; cedar-shake roofs; and a horizontal emphasis in design.

As an architect, Young fashioned his structures, using indigenous materials. His works are made mostly of stone, using limestone, fieldstone, and boulders that he found throughout Northern Michigan.

In all, Earl Young designed 30 unique homes over a 54 year period, 28 buildings are still standing in Charlevoix and in recent years, visitors have been drawn to the area to take a tour of the unique structures.

The self guided tour allows for easy viewing of the homes and parking is readily available on the street.

It was in this way that we set off on our own Hobbit inspired adventure.

One of the first “mushroom houses” we came upon is called the Thatch House – Formerly called Sunset Villa (pictured above).  With its distinctive oversized thatched roof and lovely stonework, you can’t miss the impressive structure, located at 304 Park Avenue.

Thatched cottages are not common in the USA but with our roots in England, they are very familiar to us.  There is a certain comfort which comes with seeing this particular home, which reminds me so much of the English cottages, on a grander scale.

The home was significantly remodeled in 2015, to reflect a more “mushroom” like character but it was originally built by Mr. Young in 1918.  The new rendering was first drawn on a napkin.  When a passerby exclaimed, “wow that looks like a mushroom”, the new owner realized the mission had been achieved. The massive home now boasts 6 bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths as well as a media room. It is used as a vacation rental and is often the setting for weddings.

Located next to the the Thatch House is the Half House.

Half House-Charlevoix, Michigan

This lovely little home appears to have been cut in half. It is said that this home was built by the imaginative Earl Young as a wedding gift for his daughter. Can you imagine receiving such a charming gift?  Built in 1947, the half house remains the same as it was in its original design.


Earl Young’s Original Home

Although this house isn’t as impressive as the remodeled mushroom, it is a very large home.  Viewing the house from the back reveals terraced steps which lead down from the hill above.  The layers of stone have been carefully set to blend seamlessly with the landscape.  This house is located at 306 Park Avenue.

The eleven mushroom houses can be found along a triangular block in the Park Avenue area consisting of Grant Street, Clinton Street and Park Avenue.  This is a self guided walking tour.  Parking is available along any street.  The homes are now private residences, so care should be taken to respect the privacy of the owners but it is a great way to pass an hour or so.

I will leave the remaining homes for you to discover, but I’m guessing it will be easy to see why we chose “Q” as our letter to represent these “Quirky” homes.

Walking tour of the Mushroom Houses


“O” is for Opportunities at Ostego Lake

On an ABC Adventure, it can be hard to represent each letter.  Such was the case with our letter “O”.

As we traveled through Northern Michigan,  on our 2 day adventure, we realized that we were passing through the county of Ostego.  Like with many of our challenging letter, we had left the “opportunity” to discover something new “open”.   It meant we just needed to be “observant” as we traveled, always looking for words which we could add to our list.

This is how we came upon the county of Ostego, which is where the town of Gaylord lies.  Gaylord had been one of our destinations.   With much Native American influence in this area, I researched the word Ostego.  There are actually a great many interpretations of origin.  One shows it meaning a “place of the rock”another means, “clear waters”.  The county is nestled in a glacial valley, filled with over 300 lakes, making both descriptions seem accurate.

Either way, we knew it would be worth a moment of our time as we  pulled into the Otsego State Park and just enjoyed a few minutes of exploration around the pristine beach along Ostego Lake.  It was the perfect excuse to get “outside” and breath.  It had been another “outstanding” moment along our path of discovery.

“N” is for a Nourishing Nature Preserve

Never mind that nature and north both begin with the letter N, it seems our brains were not allowing us to play with words on our Northern Michigan road trip.  Except for the letter N, we had completed the entire alphabet as we had traveled along on our two day adventure.  There was a sense of pressure to find our final letter before arriving home.  I can’t imagine how many opportunities we had already missed.

Then we saw it!  The “nature” preserve was tucked off to the side.  It was pouring with rain.  We could have easily talked ourselves into bypassing the opportunity.  Instead we turned down a miles long, dead straight dirt road.  The tunnel of trees created a canopy over the car as we ventured toward our unknown destination.  Along the way the magic of Michigan was present everywhere.

The greens  of the forest were almost ethereal from the rain. A magical mist floated among the branches.  As the woods wrapped us in their embrace, this peaceful location seemed untouched and unspoiled by man. Deer quietly stepped in front of the car, unafraid as if they had never known the fear of encroachment.  We continued driving. The deeper we went, the more isolated it became. Suddenly the road ended and we were left to explore the most amazing beach, free of everything except beauty.  We had been nourished.

“L” is for Logging Camp and Lumber-Grayling, Michigan

While on a whirlwind tour of Northern Michigan, we stopped at the Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, Michigan.  The White Pines, which once covered all of the state, have been protected within the 49 acres of the park.  It is one of the last stands of old growth trees in the USA.  Walking along the 1.5 miles of paths which meander among the towering trees it is easy to understand how logging became such an important part of Michigan history.

Nestled in the center of the forest is a replicated logging camp, now turned museum.  Built in the 1930’s the replicated logging camp represents life from the 1890’s. Here we were able to view  the equipment, tools, a  bunkhouse, food preparation area and an old sawmill.


The State Park is open year round.  The logging museum is open

  • April 30 – May 27: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • May 28 – September 4: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • September 5 – October 30: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Hartwick Pines State Park       4175 Hartwick Road    Grayling, MI 49738

“K” is for Kalkaska-Exploring Northern Michigan

It was pouring with rain the day we traveled through Kalkaska.  I needed a K for our alphabet tour as we made our way through several Northern Michigan towns, on a two day adventure.  As soon as I saw the giant 17 foot long fish, located near the old railroad depot now turned Nature Museum, I knew that I needed  this picture.  Truth be told, unless you count the gas station and convenience stores there weren’t many other options for exciting photos of this tiny town.

Taking this picture made me smile as imagined what people were thinking as they saw me standing in the pouring rain, holding a letter for no apparent reason.  It was likely the most entertainment in the town in a while. Curiosity generally gets people talking.  It is often the way we often start discussions about our ABC adventures. Although Kalkaska attracts many visitors, most people were smarter than us on this day and didn’t get out of their cars.

With a population of just over 2,000, Kalkaska is the kind of small town most people just drive through unless you know someone or are coming to explore the great natural beauty which surrounds the town.   Still, rain or shine, Alan and I don’t miss opportunities and now I have a picture with a giant fish to prove it!

These kinds of oversized oddeties exist all across the USA, there quirkiness is worth capturing as part of the fabric of our country.  Even though they seem out of place, there is often more than meets the eye and such was true for the giant fish which was dedicated in 1966.  It has become an icon to welcome people to the area.

The Kalkaska County website boasts that there are “561 square miles with 80 inland lakes and 275 miles of streams and rivers.  Kalkaska is well known for its wide open spaces and of course for its trout fishing.  It is so celebrated there is a festival which honors the Brook Trout, which also happens to be the state fish of Michigan.  The National Trout Festival is held the last week of April annually.  Earnest Hemmingway also frequented the area and I would have never realized that unless I had stopped to read the historical information located near the the giant fish.

Summer and fall are not the only time people come to play. With an annual average of 126 inches of snow per year, winter is also popular giving way to activities such as skiing, sled dog racing and snowmobiling.   It is no wonder that this area is described as natures playground.

Like the stories still to be told of the area, I hope the giant fish, which catches travelers and reels them in, holding them spellbound to enjoy the unspoilt beauty will be here for many generations.  If you find yourself wanting to slow down and take in a little more of the area, try Trout Town Tavern for fish and chips or smoked trout pate’ and be sure to grab a picture, you may only pass this way once!


J is for Java-Playing With Words

When we are on an ABC adventure, there are certain letters which always give us challenge. J is one of those letters.  Coffee is often a part of many of our adventures but we are always challenging ourselves to find new ways to describe it.  Java and Joe are both J themed words we can substitute and on this adventure it was our excuse to check out a great little drive through called Cuppa “Joe”.

Thank goodness for the Ethiopian goat herder,  who  realized how energized his goats became after eating the berries from a certain tree.  He noted that the goats wouldn’t sleep at night after consuming the berries. The story goes that the goat herder took the berries to the monks, who steeped them in water, noting that drinking the elixir allowed them to remain awake during evening prayers. News of the magic potion spread around the world.

Thomas Jefferson once said “Coffee-the favorite drink of the civilized world.”   Beans are now grown worldwide and is second only to crude oil, as the most sought after commodity in the world!

It matters not what you choose to call your coffee but if you need it to get started and want to make great use of your letter “J” , you could call it  java, joe, jitter juice or jamocha all will be as satisfying and a perfect excuse to take a break.

I is for Ice Cream

Ice cream means summer to us.  We literally count the season by how many weeks the ice cream shops are open! This favorite confection was once limited to the elite.  Currently the price of a cone from an ice cream shop is running around $5 per cone,  which does start to crimp the budget if we are eating it almost daily (which Alan does through the season).  Thankfully I can find ice cream on sale pretty regularly for about $2.50 per half gallon, which can sustain him for a week, so he never feels deprived.

Ice cream hasn’t always been so readily available.  The origins of ice cream are debatable, Romans and Chinese Royalty are both referenced.  Imagine that the earliest version of this treat would have some poor soul being sent off on an expedition to travel through the desert then climb the highest mountains to collect glacial ice, which was sweetened by fruits!  It is not hard to imagine then that this treat was limited to royalty.

It would take until the 1700’s before being brought to the United States.  American Colonists would be the first to call it “Iced Cream”, which would later be shortened to the phrase we know today.  With the introduction of mechanical refrigeration sometime around 1897 the product could be sold in a commercial setting.  It would take another 7 years before the ice cream cone would debut at the St. Louis World Fair, finally making the treat portable.

Today there are so many flavors to choose from.  We could probably spend hours at an ice cream counter trying to figure out what we want…hard or soft, what flavor, toppings or not, cake cone, sugar cone or cup.  The options are endless.

One thing is for certain, with an ice cream shop in nearly every town we visit, we never deprive ourselves of this sweet treat.  Life is simply too short to miss an opportunity for these tiny blissful moments.  Even though ice cream is easily accessible these days, there is still associated with special occasions and if living itself isn’t reason to celebrate, then I don’t know what is…eat the ice cream and imagine yourself a royal!

“H” is for Harbor Springs, Michigan


Sometimes it is just important to get off the beaten path, which is how we discovered the quaint town of Harbor Springs.  I would like to say we took the road less traveled, but the popular scenic corridor along Highway 119 is located just north of Petoskey, Michigan and the pull of nature and beauty is great.

The waterfront community sits in a sheltered location on the North shore of Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

Harbor Springs lies just 7 miles off US 31, yet feels like a step back in time as travelers seek the views of Lake Michigan and the many activities offered during all four seasons.  There is also an abundance of culinary and cultural attractions available in this area.

With a population of just 1200 people, some might be tempted to roll right through the sleepy little village of Harbor Springs. The tiny downtown area seems to have stood still in time but closer inspection reveals a thriving art community.  Benches scattered throughout town invite you to slow down and savor the moment.


The real treat is tucked quietly behind the main road, it is almost hidden and if you don’t allow yourself time to wander, you might just miss it.  A short walk reveals a beautiful waterfront area, complete with two beaches, a green space, picnic facilities and a dock to walk on.  Luxurious homes and huge yachts reveal there is more to this town than meets the eye.


“G” is for “Gorgeous Gardens”-Gaylord, Michigan


Flowers and gardens are often part of our ABC Adventures.  As I researched things to do in the Gaylord area, I was more than just a little curious about the description of the Demonstration Gardens, since it had been described as having been created from a waste area.    I wondered if it would be worth a visit.  We had already explored the little town of Gaylord for our “G” but we had a little time available and the gardens are free, so we decided to add a little detour.  We asked several locals, but no one seemed to have heard of them.  Thank goodness for google maps.

We found the park at the edge of a very industrial area.  Concrete and asphalt seemed to be more abundant that flowers.   The small sign located at the edge of this area offered little inspiration for the beauty which lay beyond.  We followed a path which passed under an arch of orange berries, inviting us into the gardens.  This turned out to be a best kept secret type of adventure and I hope the locals will one day realize what a gem they have.


The three acre garden was developed to heal the land and “educate the public on the importance of native plants for preserving water quality and supporting ecosystems”.  Since replanting with natives was something I have been trying to do in my own gardens, we decided it was worth a few minutes exploration.

The city began removing refuse from an old dump site in 1997.  Over the years, the area was replaced with plants native to Michigan.  Native plants tend to need less care.  Their roots can grow up to several feet as they reach deep for water and nutrients.  Some people call them weeds but seeing a native garden in a structured format we are reminded how very beautiful these plants can be.  Native plants will always attract butterflies and wildlife as they work to create a full circle of life.

Visiting in the fall and toward the end of the day, we had the place to ourselves as we meandered through each of the 11 gardens.  With hoses strewn across the paths instead of in-ground sprinklers, in many ways it was like visiting a neighbors garden.  Unlike touring a Botanical Garden, the structure is loose but great care has actually been taken.  From songbirds, to hummingbirds, to butterflies many of the gardens have been planted specifically to support a particular type of wildlife.


Other gardens such as the herb garden and the Seed to Harvest garden have been planted to support a youth education program and grow foods for the less fortunate.  This area also features a home compost demonstration site geared toward educating people on how they can compost kitchen scraps and yard trimmings in their own backyard.  We had arrived at the end of the harvest season, so didn’t see a lot of the food which had been grown but the tender loving care given to each garden is apparent.

Some areas such as the Children’s Garden are planted to invite you to play in a riot of colors, smells and textures meant to stimulate the senses.  We embraced our youth as we hid from each other in the arborvitae maze.


We notice a stage set along a forest edge, we can only imagine the family memories waiting to made in this special place.  What a great setting for a picnic.

With the sun beginning to set, our adventure comes to a close.  As we head towards the car, we reflect on the beauty we had seen in the Demonstration Gardens.  This had been a terrific way to end the day.  The colors, patterns and variety had indeed made us pause and  play.

As I hold my husbands hand I  also reflect on taking time to do this activity, it would have been easy to skip it.  I am filled with “gratitude” for this man.  We have been married 38 years, marriage can grow very routine over time.  I marvel that Alan is so willing to play the alphabet game, to continue to explore and discover together.  I hope  there are still many memories to make.  We have both come to realize that every day can be an adventure, if we choose to make it that way.

Today we had gained a greater appreciation for what others call weeds.  I guess it is all in the way you look at the world. Marriage and relationships are like gardens, they must be nurtured and tended.  Some will see weeds, others will find beauty, it is all perspective.

Holding hands, we pass under the berry arch on our way back to the car.  We are once again thrown into the reality of urbanization but like these gardens, I realize it is up to us to always strive to remove the toxins from our lives and replace them with beauty.  We need only to plant the seeds.



The gardens may be found at:

Corner of Cross St. and Livingston Blvd.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Gaylord, MI 49735                                                                                                                                                                             (989) 732-4021

“F” is for “Finding a Fabulous Farm Market”-Petoskey, Michigan


Farmer’s Markets have always called to me.  I am not sure if it is the bright colors of the produce, the smell of earth, or the gratitude I have, knowing what it takes to get this food to a table.  Perhaps it is genetic, stemming from the deep farming roots which run through my father’s side of the family.

I don’t know why specifically I seek these attractions out, I just know that I could spend hours lost in the discovery of everything which a Farmer’s Market offers.  Fresh produce, herbs, flowers, jars of homemade produce, all seem to ground me a little, to the earth which they are grown.   It was no surprise then, that while researching things to do in the Petoskey area, I was drawn to “Bill’s Farm Market”.  It had been rated 17 of the top 37 things to see/do in this location. Sometimes small towns are limited in what they offer, so I didn’t have high expectations but we were determined to fulfill our alphabet goal on this trip, so we selected the “Farm Market” as our letter “F”.

Driving along the quiet lane, the popular city soon turned into the rolling fields of farmland, which surround the area. It was easy to imagine that we might have taken a wrong turn.  With just a touch of fall chill in the air, the fields glistened under the morning dew. Here, there was no traffic.  It was so peaceful and was proving to be a beautiful drive, along a yet another road we wouldn’t normally travel if it wasn’t for an ABC Adventure.

Still, I couldn’t imagine how this site had gained so much popularity, every review on a popular travel site had sung the praises, still I was a skeptic.  Surely this market, located nearly 8 miles away from any town, didn’t attract nearly the population which went out of the way to rave about it.  As we crested the final half mile, traffic came to a standstill.

F-TrafficI have been to many Farm Markets over the years.  I never imagined that we would find a traffic back up, waiting to enter the popular location, especially on a Monday!  I was like a child heading to an amusement park as we waited for a parking space to free up. This place promised to be something extraordinary! 

I had read that the high hoop tunnel, holding the market was directly attached to the farmhouse. “Bill” had taken it over in 1982.  He and his brother Don still reside in the home where they had been raised.  In fact, the farm has been in the family for over 100 years!


F-Flowers 003The market bustles with activity from June through December.  It quietly moves through the seasons as it offers over 20 varieties of fresh flowers, 10 kinds of herbs and too many varieties of foods to mention, all grown in front of the house and in the beautiful valley which wraps around like an embrace, dotted only by cows quietly grazing on the hills.





On this August day, the smell of fresh peaches mingles with the cow manure, drawing throngs of people into the covered high tunnel. I am transformed to student, determined to learn the secret of the super sized produce filling the bins.





I stand transfixed, marveling at the 20 varieties of fresh flowers recently picked from the farm.  Cow poop and clean air, I am told are the magic which makes this happen. Soon the fields will be full of pumpkins and gourds as the season moves into fall. 







F-Flowers 002

Perhaps we will take a fall drive to see the pumpkins and gourds which will soon fill the fields. A hay ride might just be the way to pass a few hours.   Or maybe, as the snow begins to turn this setting into a Currier and Ives postcard, we will return for a Christmas tree, wreath or sleigh ride.






F-FieldsWith a final glance out over the valley, which surrounds the farm, I imagine the snow beginning to fall here this winter, transforming the scene to a Currier and Ives postcard.   Each season offers its own unique adventure of food, flowers, hay rides, sleigh rides, wreathes and trees. For now, I will simply revel in  the beauty of this location, content to have discovered this fabulous place.

As I file my letter “F” away, this adventure now complete, “We will be back”, I whisper, to no one in particular.


Bill’s Farm Market  4450 East Mitchell Rd., Petoskey, MI 49770  (231)-347-6735

“D” is for “Discovering Delectible Delights” in “Delicious” Tiny “Doughnut” Bites-Traverse City, Michigan

Sometimes we don’t know where to begin an ABC adventure, so we will start by letting our fingers do the walking through a Google search.  This will often turn up a location to explore, or a great restaurant or shop to visit.  Such was how we “discovered” the “doughnut” shop in Traverse City, MI.  But which letter to assign to it?  Peace, Love and Little Donuts could give us a P, if we went with the name of the location, an E if we threw it together with all the other wonderful places we would eat along our 400 mile mini vacation, or a D for doughnuts.  We would photograph all three and decide later where this fit in with our overall journey. Whatever letter we chose, tiny doughnuts just sounded like a fun way to start a day! D-Donuts

Food is always a big part of our trips.  We couldn’t imagine how we had never heard of this tiny shop, after all, we live here!  We were very surprised to find that this hole in the wall business, is a franchise and there are actually two of them in the state of Michigan!  The other location is in Portage.

Because education is such a part of all of our adventures, we diligently read the story of how this franchise had first begun.  Like many small business owners, success had been by accident.  It started with the purchase of a doughnut maker, which led to making the tiny treats for a hockey tournament.  The size of the doughnuts had been an accident, after a piece of equipment failed to produce full sized doughnuts.  The event had begun, so they were out of time.  Choosing to go with what they had, they decorated the mini doughnuts. The bite size was such a hit, that the idea for a small business had been born.  The shops are now spread across 14 states!


E-Our order


Alan was skeptical, feeling the doughnuts couldn’t be that good if we didn’t already know about them…the line out the door on a Sunday morning, at 9am, told a different story!  As I joined others, drooling over the 60+ options, I realized it would be hard to choose just one or two of the delectable delights. There are all manner of flavors to discover.  We needed to narrow it down to a dozen.  We each chose our favorites, Peanut Nutter and Salted Pretzel for me and Chocolate Chip and Oreo Cookie for Alan.  The rest, we agreed to split, so we could sample more.  With an employee dedicated to the frier, the doughnuts churned out almost as fast as they were ordered. A second team decorated them.     For less than $20, we left the shop to find a beach to “devour” our “delights”.  We headed to one of our favorites, Byrant Park.  The doughnuts were still warm!


D-DelectibleD-Delicious 2D-Decadent








After working our way through about 6 of the doughnuts, our favorite flavors remained our favorites, but we mutually agreed that the “drizzled”  Strawberry Shortcake doughnut was our combined favorite.










D-donut sign


We were quickly getting full.  I dared not start counting calories at this early stage of our trip.  I remembered a great sign hung in the shop.  Perhaps this was why it had been there!  All in all, we enjoyed this little shop.  We will be back to devour more of these “decadent” little treats!





Peace, Love and Little Donuts 441 E. Front Street, Traverse City, MI 49686  231-421-5255

“C” is For a “Calming Chapel in the Woods”-Grayling, Michigan

Chapel in the Woods

Hartwick Pines State Park is the only place in Michigan which still holds the towering White Pines, which once covered the entire state and built the wealth of countless lumber barons.  Today, there are just 49 acres of the  trees, in the entire state!  This area, was the third city along our 48 hour Michigan tour, which is why we dedicated the third letter of the alphabet, “C”,  to discovering the tiny “chapel” which sits in the middle of the forest.






The chapel quietly appears after a short walk through the towering pines. I was so excited to see this cabin-like structure, which was a big reason we had gone so far out of our way to include Grayling in our adventure.  The chapel was intended to be a place of spiritual reflection and meditation for “all who walk the trails of Hartwick Pines”.  The first thing I noticed was the beautiful curved glass, which makes up the window and forms a “cross”.








A brief history informed me that this is actually a fairly new structure, having been built and dedicated in 1953.







Making our way to the entrance of the church, the light filters through the window.  I imagine how spectacular this space might be in the morning, as the sun rises and floods the tiny chapel. I think of the married lives which might have begun here.  I can visualize the light washing over people, flooding them with warmth.   For now, the sun has already moved beyond the window so there is just enough light to see the pews.  I take my place amongst one of the tiny benches, which line both side of the chapel.  The chapel only holds 18 people.  I am the only person here at the moment, Alan waits outside as I spend a moment in silent meditation.



A plaque positioned under the window reads:

Our Heavenly Father, Creator of all that is nature,
We humbly come to you in the midst of nature’s splendor,
To thank you that as Americans we are free
To worship as we please, work as we please,
And move about as we please to enjoy all that is nature:
Its mountains, its hills, its valleys, its lakes,
Its streams, and the living things that dwell therein;
We pray unto You that someday the world may be at peace
And all men be free to enjoy nature’s abundance.
We ask you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
That we be guided to protect this priceless heritage
Which we, in America, are privileged to enjoy. Amen.



Following the Covid outbreak, which has so divided this country, what a year (or two) it has been.  Uttering this small prayer of hope,  instantly fills me with a sense of “calm”.  I step from the chapel feeling just a bit lighter, as I return to the forest for the remainder of our walk in the woods.