Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Follow Your Heart Summer Love - YA Book Review

image credit
When I was a kid, I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. I even tried writing some of my own, but you have no idea how complicated it can be to organize the story. "If you choose this, turn to page 7. Oh wait, I had you turn to page 7 for something else. How about page 30? Already taken. How about page 72?) I don't remember what the Choose Your Own Adventure books that I read were about, but I'm pretty sure they weren't about finding a boyfriend!!

Alas, that's what the Follow Your Heart book Summer Love is all about. I was a little skeptical of this book. The cover says, "With 11 guys to choose from, who will be your perfect match?" Ugh.

So I basically chose all the options that lead me away from the guys. Go talk to a guy or continue reading The Metamorphosis? I'll keep Kafka as the only guy in my life, thank you very much. Talk to the cute lifeguard or go eat a lobster roll? Uh, LOBSTER ROLL TRUMPS ALL.

I really expected to end up with a guy despite all of my choices, but the book surprised me! There is a "happy ending" where you decide you don't need a guy in your life, that figuring out who you are is more important. Hooray!

Also, the book is obsessed with practicing good sunscreen protocol. The characters are constantly reapplying sunscreen, so kudos to author Jill Santopolo for getting that PSA in.

I get that lots of teenage girls out there are boy crazy and will probably have fun imagining themselves as the "you" in this book, even if that character is the sort of person who looks good in a red polka dot bikini and wears waterproof mascara to the beach, but whatever. I do hope that at least a few girls end up with my happy ending and realize that there are more productive ways to spend a summer than prancing around in bikinis looking for boys.

Follow Your Heart Summer Love is published by Speak and hits bookstore shelves on May 1, 2014. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - April 28

We entertained on Saturday night, and I feel like most of our grocery bill went toward buying food for our mini dinner party. Thankfully, we did already have meat in the freezer and other important staples (bacon). So I think we'll fare okay for the rest of the week:

Sunday: Popeye Turkey Burgers with sweet corn on the cob

Monday: leftover pizza (more on this later!!)

Tuesday: grilled cheese and soup

Wednesday: on our own

Thursday: on our own

Friday: turkey meatballs and pasta

Saturday: bacon egg cups

Friday, April 25, 2014

What I Thought Was True - YA Book Review

image credit
It took me longer than anticipated to get through Huntley Fitzpatrick's new YA novel What I Thought Was True, and it wasn't just because the book is 407 pages long. Perhaps it was because the main character, Gwen, was just so much of a GIRL sometimes that it got kind of annoying. Perhaps it was also because, yet again, I was reading a book geared toward 14-year-olds that contained bad language, underage drinking, smoking, and teenage sex.


There were a few good messages that I was able to glean from this book. (Will teenagers have the same takeaway? I don't know.) The first is that sometimes your plans don't always jive with what other people want for you, and you really have to figure out what you want for yourself. For example, one character, Nic, really REALLY wants to attend the Coast Guard Academy, but that means putting off his relationship with girlfriend Vickie for another eight years, and Vickie doesn't want to wait that long to get married and start a family on the island.

Gwen's little brother is special-needs, and with both parents working minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet, Gwen believes that her parents are counting on her to take care of her brother, even though Gwen hopes to one day be far away from the island. As Gwen says on page 393, "...what you've always had doesn't mean that's what you'll always get. That what you've always wanted isn't what you'll always want."

The second lesson is that most times, like 99.9% of times, sex complicates things. So maybe you shouldn't start your romantic relationship in that way. Or maybe immature teenagers just shouldn't be doing it! HEY-O!

Apparently, Gwen is quite the island harlot, although I had a lot of trouble figuring out the timeline of her past conquests because the flashbacks were not very helpful in placing things in order. There's a line in the book where Gwen's love interest (and former "just sex" partner) Cassidy says something about eventually having sex with Gwen (again) when he has more than just the one condom he's kept in his wallet since he was 16. (Side note, DON'T KEEP CONDOMS IN YOUR WALLET. Geesh, what are they teaching kids these days?????) And then Gwen wonders why he didn't use that condom back when she basically forced herself on him: "what exactly he's been waiting for".

Oh, gee, Gwen. I don't know. Maybe he was waiting for the right person and the right relationship and the right time within that solid relationship instead of just using it and giving it away?

(Ugh, my stream-of-consciousness writing is starting to remind me of Gwen in this book.)

I guess what I've also learned from reading this book is that I wish there were more YA novels about teenage girls who aren't always pretty (even when they're supposed to be outcasts) and where one of the main plots doesn't revolve around an angsty romantic relationship or obsessing over dumb boys, in general. Real teenage girls are about so much more.

Aren't they?

Also, this book is basically Pretty in Pink and there's no sex in that movie (not sure about the underage drinking), so just watch that and enjoy!

What I Thought Was True is published by Dial and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TBT - Party

This week's Throwback Thursday scrapbook layout is very timely because it has to do with my brother- and sister-in-law.

I made this scrapbook layout in 2009 using a sketch from my Classy Coordinates scrapbook kit. I LOVE this sketch and ended up using it on another layout that I made around this same time. I should really break it out again for some future layouts.

If you've been following along with the blog, you'll know that I tend to like things grouped and grid-style. I'm also big on squares and rectangles, so this sketch really appealed to me aesthetically.

Anyway, these pictures are from my bro- and sis-in-law's engagement party.

And here is a picture of the two of them from last week when my brother-in-law came home after being away on a Navy ship for a year. Welcome home, Pat!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Around the Mission - St. Ignace, MI

Here are a few layouts I made showing some of the sites in St. Ignace, Michigan. We stayed here during last year's vacation to Mackinac Island.

On our last evening in Michigan, my mom and I took a little walk along the St. Ignace Waterfront Huron Boardwalk and visited a few local museums and historic sites, including the Father Marquette Mission and Museum of Ojibwa Culture and the Wawatam Dock and Lighthouse.

These sites are great if you're a history buff, want to learn more about the town you're staying in, or just need an inexpensive and interesting way to kill some time. I highly recommend the boardwalk if the weather is nice. It's a good place to go for a little after-dinner walk or a morning run.

For such a small town, St. Ignace has a lot going on. It's a town that really tries to get its residents and visitors together. There are lots of upcoming events, so if you're planning on visiting this area this summer, take a look at the calendar and see if your visit coincides with any of the events.

And don't forget, every Saturday night from July 12 through September 6, there are fireworks!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - April 21

Hope everyone had a good Easter! We were gone over the weekend, so the grocery shopping trip was a quick one. We're mainly eating stuff that we already have in the fridge/pantry. Here is what we're eating this week:

Sunday: Easter dinner

Monday: chicken tenders and fries

Tuesday: pasta and salad

Wednesday: gluten-free waffles

Thursday: tuna sandwiches and fries

Friday: grilled cheese and chips

Saturday: pizza party!

Friday, April 18, 2014

I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson - Book Review

image credit
Recently, I received a free copy of the book I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson. As someone who understands how dangerous sugar can be in one's diet, I was eager to check out the book and the 108 included recipes.

In this book, Wilson lays out an eight-week plan for eliminating sugar from your diet. You don't eliminate all sugar right away. It's a gradual process of cutting back on sugar, and then taking it completely out of your diet and getting your "sweet" fix in other ways. By the end of the eight weeks, hopefully, you'll be so used to not eating sugar that you won't want to eat any sugar.

The book offers a list of pantry staples and kitchen supplies that will help you on your journey. I like that the food staples are all things that can be used in multiple recipes instead of stuff you'll spend a lot of money on and then only use once.

There are also 108 sugar-free recipes, from breakfasts and desserts to sugar-free food for kids. Wilson writes that these recipes just so happen to be grain- and gluten-free because Wilson thinks starches from grain can feed the sugar addiction. But even so, if you're already on a gluten-free diet, make sure that any ingredient you buy says "gluten-free" on the label. Especially when it comes to things like nuts, certain brands are manufactured on the same equipment as wheat products.

Cutting out sugar is a daunting task because you'd be surprised at just how many things contain sugar! Even a "healthy" snack can contain a candy bar-and-soda's worth of sugar. It's almost impossible to eat sugar in moderation because sugar (in one form or another) is in everything we eat. The biggest problem is the power wielded by the sugar industry, and I'm glad that Wilson addresses the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) debate in this book. Basically, it's just as bad as sugar. But it's also cheap and overabundant thanks to the U.S. government subsidizing corn producers, so now HFCS is in everything we eat. Great!

Bacon and Egg Cupcakes
I haven't attempted the eight-week sugar detox diet yet, but I am all about lowering the amount of sugar we eat. I've written about this before. And I am more than willing to add some of these sugar-free recipes into our regular rotation. Pumpkin Pie "Oatmeal" or Poached Eggs for breakfast? How about a Chocolate Chip and Mint Whip beverage or Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa? I'm kind of excited to use the food processor I got for Christmas (and haven't used yet) to make some of the pesto recipes in this cookbook.

There's a lot of great information in this book, and most of the recipes seem easy to make and good substitutes for full-sugar things you really love. If you're trying to get rid of all sugar from your diet or even if you just want to start slow and cut down on your sugar intake, I Quit Sugar is an excellent resource!

You can also find more recipes and resources at the I Quit Sugar website!

I Quit Sugar is published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wonder Women by Kate Harris - Book Review

If you're a woman, you're probably familiar with the idea of "having it all" and "doing it all". How do you find the balance between working, having kids, and taking care of yourself? This is what the book Wonder Women discusses. The book is part of the Barna Frames series of books that offer big ideas in small books, perfect for your fast-paced life.

The Barna Group did research to find out how women felt about their commitments to church, family, career, and community. What the researchers found was that most women are generally satisfied overall but are dissatisfied with life's little details. This is distressing, especially because Jesus says that we are made to live life to the full (John 10:10), but most women do not feel full or whole. Only 24% of women under 40 with no kids feel they are making the right choices in life.

This book caught my eye because as a working woman I find it difficult to achieve a work-life balance, which is one reason we don't have a kid yet. I was hoping this book would offer some insight, especially from a Christian perspective on this very common struggle.

This book is more than just careers and kids, though. It touches on main areas of women's lives, including church and friendship, two areas that unfortunately take a backseat in most women's lives to be replaced by other time-consuming things such as family and work. I find that really sad because it means that just over half of all women don't feel they have a strong support network and 35% of women say they feel lonely. Even the church doesn't offer women enough support, which is troubling.

The statistics in this book are eye-opening not only for what the research shows but for helping women see that they're not alone in the way they feel. 

There were two things that stood out to me. The first was the idea that we all have constraints, but you have to be creative and work around them so that they free you and not hinder you.

The second was the statement that God always make provisions for things He calls you to pursue. Going back to the "am I making right choices" question, this left me wondering if the things I wanted to pursue but was having trouble making work were not things God was calling me to do.

I liked that there are questions in the beginning of the book for you to answer before you read the book, and then questions at the end of the book to help you think about what you read in the context of your own life. Hopefully, this book can provide a starting point for changing the conversation in society and the church.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ask Me Blog Tour & Book Review


Life would be pretty hard if you were a teenage oracle forced to truthfully answer every question you heard whether or not it was directed at you. Add to that the murder of one of your classmates, and things will get even more complicated for you.

That's the premise of the new YA novel Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley.

Aria just wants to be a normal 16-year-old, but she's inherited her family's gift of prophecy, which makes her an outcast in her Florida high school. When her classmate Jade is murdered, the questions of what happened and why cause Aria to get a glimpse of how Jade died but not a clear picture of who did it.

There are two suspects: Will, Jade's on-again/off-again boyfriend, and Alex, the guy Jade had gone out with the night before she died. Both boys mysteriously befriend Aria and warn her to stay away from the other, leaving Aria to wonder which boy to trust.

Honestly, I kind of figured out who the culprit was halfway through the book, but because it seemed kind of easy, I kept waiting for a more complex explanation. There really wasn't one. I also had a hard time understanding why Will and Alex both suddenly took an interest in the school "freak". It just seemed to come out of nowhere.

But, I still found the story entertaining and thrilling, and I really liked that the chapter beginnings including song lyrics. Music is a big part of the book because Aria always has her MP3 player on to block out people's conversations and questions. I'm looking forward to making an "Ask Me" playlist and listening to what Aria listened to.

Ask Me is published by Soho Teen and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy for my honest review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Call to Action - Book Review

I recently read Jimmy Carter's new book A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. Well, I did more than just read it. I purchased the book and had Jimmy Carter himself sign it at a book signing in New York!

The book signing was quite the experience. I lined up outside the Barnes & Noble about two hours before the book signing was supposed to start. Good thing I did because I was part of the first group to be let inside the store for the signing! By the time I left the store, there were TONS more people standing outside waiting to get in.
I had this idea that I'd be able to shake Jimmy Carter's hand and speak with him for a few minutes. I wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his book Our Endangered Values. But that was not to be. Secret Service was there, and we were not to touch Mr. Carter nor could we hand him the book. I had to hand the book to someone who handed it to someone else who handed it to Jimmy Carter who signed it and handed it to someone else who handed it to someone else who handed it back to me. Our hands had to be out of our pockets the whole time we walked in front of the former president, and I had to drink from my water bottle in front of Secret Service to prove that it was really water and not ... something else.
It was still cool, though, and I did get to thank Mr. Carter for being there, and he looked at me and said, "You're welcome".
As for the book, I REALLY enjoyed Our Endangered Values, but this new one wasn't at the same level. It was still interesting to read, but I thought it could have been organized a bit better. It was very stream-of-consciousness, and when you're 89, I don't really think your stream is super together. Carter tells many personal stories in this book, but oftentimes I wasn't sure why he was telling them or what point he was trying to make in terms of the theme of the chapter.
I did bookmark a lot of pages because the book tackles an interesting topic. Basically, Jimmy Carter thinks there are two reasons why there is such a high rate of abuse, violence, and lack of equality toward women and girls. The first reason is religion and men who hold religious power misinterpreting religious texts to "perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms" (2). The second reason is an acceptance of violence in society, from war to the death penalty.
There are many world leaders who are trying to combat this problem, and Carter's own Carter Center is also working to fix this issue that confronts women in both third-world and developed countries. The book gives examples of what the Carter Center and others are doing to successfully change cultural attitudes.
The book is definitely one to check out, though you should know that there are chapters on female genital mutilation, and if you don't want to read about that because it is kind of gruesome, then maybe you'll want to pass on this book or at least skip that chapter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - April 14

We have sort of a wacky week this week, so there really is much of a Meal Plan to share with you. I do have to say Happy Birthday to my husband! He turns 31 today!

Friday, April 11, 2014

National Cheese Fondue Day with Emmi Roth USA

me enjoying fondue at The Melting Pot in 2009
Did you know that today is National Cheese Fondue Day? WELL IT IS!!!

I love fondue, but it's not always easy (or in the budget) to go out and eat at The Melting Pot all the time. So hosting a fondue party at your house is a much more budget-friendly solution. You don't even have to whip up your own cheese or chocolate. Just use pre-made mixes from Emmi Roth USA.

I got the chance to review the Emmi Fondue Original for free in anticipation of National Cheese Fondue Day. I was also given some tips to help you dip like a pro.

But first, a little tip of my own: don't have a fondue set? Just use your crockpot!

We own fondue sticks, but no fondue pot, so I just broke out my 2-quart crockpot to heat up the mix. And it worked GREAT! It's also perfect to safely keep the mix warm while you're enjoying your fondue. No flames or weird fuel source. Just keep the crockpot plugged in. Of course, it helps if you've got a plug near your table or eating surface.

One more thing before we get to the other fondue tips. What did I think of the Emmi cheese fondue? Well, along with cheese, some of the other ingredients are wine and brandy, and boy oh boy could I taste the alcohol. It was actually really gross. When I eat melted cheese, I only want to taste cheese.

Emmi makes a traditional cheese blend without any alcohol and its chocolate fondue mix doesn't contain alcohol, so those varieties might be better. Of course, if you don't mind the taste of wine or brandy, then this might not be an issue for you. These are all available in Emmi's e-shop and select retailers.

And now for the fon-DO's of fondue:

Be a Delightful Dipper:
  • Be sure your food is secured to your fondue fork or skewer before dipping to avoid losing it in the cheese.
  • If you missed the first step and drop your dipper into the fondue, Swiss tradition says a woman must kiss the person next to her, and a man must buy a round of drinks for everyone. You could also just politely remove it to ensure the pot remains clean for all.
  • Perfect your twirling and swirling. It is polite to make one to two small swirls before removing your food.
  • Resist the urge to double dip. Food that has been bitten should never return to the communal pot.
  • Be a little adventurous by tasting everything you are served (the exception to the rule is a dietary restriction, in which case you may politely decline).
  • Sample before salting. Fondue is already seasoned with spices and wine, so it might be perfect just the way it is. If you do add salt, make sure you do it after you’ve dipped. 

Tasting Notes
  • Wait your turn. Allow one person to dip at a time and proceed in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion around the table.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Dip larger pieces and then cut them into smaller bits on your own plate.
  • A moment on the lips is frowned upon. Your fondue fork or skewer should never directly touch your mouth. Transfer your food to your plate before indulging.
  • Let it cool. Never blow on freshly dipped hot food. Avoid splatters and allow your food to cool slightly on your plate.

The New Way to Fondue
  • Fondue is a fun party meal for special occasions, but also a great weeknight meal for the family. Not to mention it will get your kids to eat their vegetables.
  • It’s great to pay homage to this Swiss dining tradition, but be creative with using the cheese sauce as a dip or in a macaroni and cheese.
  • Feel free to add your own twist with a few dashes of hot sauce or some prepared taco meat.
Hope you enjoy your fondue party! Be sure to invite me, okay?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Help Me Solve These Cooking Conundrums!

Hey blog readers! I've got two questions for you involving cooking techniques and tools. Hopefully, someone out there can help me out!

1. Cooking Meat in a Skillet
The other week I made this yummy parmesan-crusted pork recipe, but I had some issues getting it to become yummy. The pork had to be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop. No big deal, right?

Well, for me, cooking meat on the stovetop, unless it's ground meat, is always a challenge. The outside of the meat starts burning before the inside is even cooked through!

For this reason, I always chop up my chicken breasts before cooking them in a skillet, or I buy thin-sliced chicken breasts or chicken tenders.

But I don't think I should have to do that! Other people surely don't have this problem or the recipes wouldn't ask you to cook meat on the stovetop!

So what am I doing wrong? I placed four pork chops in the skillet at the same time. Should I have only done two at a time?

2. Metal Beaters that Rust
I didn't have this problem until we moved to our new home a few years ago. So, maybe this is a hard water issue, but I've been through two electric beaters already and had to get rid of the beaters because they got rusty!!

This happened after running the beaters through the dishwasher and after letting the beaters soak in water for a bit to make it easier to clean off caked-on batter.

I'm a little concerned about this because I would really like for this not to happen if I purchase a KitchenAid stand mixer. Is the only option just to handwash the beaters myself? In that case, I'd probably need two sets in order to make sure that one is strictly gluten-free. (Cleaning dishes in the dishwasher is a better way to clear away contaminants as opposed to handwashing in the sink.)

Has this problem happened to anyone else or is it just me? None of our utensils ever get this way, so I'm really not sure why it's just the beaters. Maybe it's the brand? Chefmate and Oster. Perhaps not so great?

Thanks for your help!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Painted Entryway with Sherwin Williams Paint

The first project of 2014 was to makeover our entryway, and I finally got all the old wallpaper off and the walls painted. So, the project is halfway done! Here are after pictures with the overhead light on and in somewhat natural light:

The paint I used was Sherwin Williams SuperPaint. The color was Buff from the HGTV Home collection. When I asked about using the HGTV paint, the guy (who hadn't even offered it as an option for paint type) told me that it wasn't that good. So, basically, Sherwin Williams partnered with HGTV to make sub-par products. Ohhhhhhhkay.

I went with the SuperPaint because it was the cheapest of the Sherwin Williams interior paints, and with my 30% off coupon, I basically got it for the same price of Behr paint at Home Depot ($35/gallon). Why didn't I just use Behr paint like I have in the past? Well, I was just too lazy to go and have the HGTV color matched at Home Depot. And I had the Sherwin Williams coupon, so I figured, let's give this a try.

The SuperPaint is a paint and primer, but because I had removed wallpaper, I primed the wall anyway. When it came to using the SuperPaint, I thought it was great! Not a heavy scent and it provided good coverage with just one coat.

Now that the entryway is painted, I still need to cover up those side windows and purchase a little table and some decorative accents. (I would also like a new light fixture.) Here are a few things I saw on Pinterest that I would like to copy:





Monday, April 7, 2014

Meal Plan Monday - April 7

I'm very pleased with this week's Meal Plan because we are using up a lot of stuff that we already had in the fridge, freezer, and pantry. That meant I didn't have to purchase much at the grocery store! So, here's what we were able to scrounge up:

Sunday: shepherd's pie with ground turkey instead of beef

Monday: Annie's gluten-free mac and cheese

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: sloppy joe's and fries

Thursday: tilapia and rice

Friday: chicken quesadillas

Saturday: pasta and salad

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Other Way Around - YA Book Review

image credit
Andrew, the main character of Sashi Kaufman's The Other Way Around, isn't the best student, and his mom is the headmistress at his school, which makes things kind of awkward. His mom can't understand why her son is having so much trouble, but she's also very preoccupied with her job and doesn't take the time to find out why. And Andrew can't turn to his dad because his dad is off being an unsuccessful writer.

When Andrew has finally had enough, he runs away. The plan is to take the bus to his grandma's house, but that plan backfires, and Andrew finds himself riding in the back of a camper van with a group of street-performing Freegans.

Andrew doesn't know where they're going or when he'll go home, but he does know that he's finally discovering how to live life on his terms.

If you run away from home, it's not guaranteed that you'll have the same roadtrip experience as Andrew, so it's probably not recommended. But what is recommended, for everyone, is understanding that not all kids fit a specific mold. Recognizing each kid's specific strengths is so important in helping them understand how to use those strengths and determine who they want to be.

The Other Way Around is published by Carolrhoda Lab and is available to purchase now. I received a free review copy for my honest review.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

TBT - Farmer's Market

I've got another old scrapbook layout to share with you this Throwback Thursday. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the simplicity of my layout "Farmer's Market". I'm pretty sure I used a sketch or scraplifted the design from someone, but it's been so long, I can't remember!

I used Basic Grey products on this layout. Literally, I just used a sheet of solid cardstock and some extra Basic Grey chipboard embellishments along with some Basic Grey chipboard letters.

And that's it!

These pictures were taken in 2009 (I think) at the Union Square Farmer's Market in New York. I stopped by there one Friday afternoon on my way to a Shecky's Girl's Night Out event after work got out early for our summer Fridays.

I love farmer's markets (good ones, that is), and it was nice to spend time outside checking out local wares. I even bought a vegetable peeler, which I eventually threw away because I cut myself while using it and it drew blood!! Kind of scary.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Castle Rock

When researching last year's Mackinac Island trip, I looked up several tourist attractions off the island so that we would have enough stuff to do on our third and final day in Michigan. Castle Rock is a tourist spot that looks really cool in pictures, but it is a little cheesy in person.

Still, it was near our hotel in St. Ignace, and for $1, we had a good time!

Castle Rock is a lookout point that is almost 200 feet high. You have to climb 170 steps in order to get to the top. Looking out, you get a view of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island, and the surrounding areas. We had really good weather for it, and on a good day, the view is 20 miles.

PLUS, you get to take your picture in front of Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox. Pretty snazzy, huh? There is also a gift shop, of course! Don't forget to stop back in the gift shop on your way out so you can get your "I Climbed Castle Rock" sticker!

Pets on leashes are welcome, and as long as everyone in your family is able to walk up all those steps, this is an easy family friendly activity.

Driving up I-75, it was a little difficult to find the parking lot for Castle Rock. That was mainly due to the fact that our GPS lady was going CRAZY and trying to tell us to turn back on the highway going the opposite way. (I REALLY dislike GPS lady, sometimes. She was in rare form on this vacation.) DO NOT follow your GPS lady's directions. You will see Castle Rock and the parking lot as you approach it. You'll probably annoy anyone driving behind you with your erratic driving and slowing down, but they'll get over it, and eventually you'll be 200 feet in the air looking down at the highway and enjoying being so far away from it.