It’s been a while since I posted a travel post, and this is the perfect time to throw out another awesome destination! It’s finally December, my favorite month of the year. Christmas, lights, holiday music, garland, ornaments, hot chocolate, giving, and cheer. It’s my favorite. That means it’s perfect to introduce the perfect Christmas store!
Bronners is the Christmas Wonderland that each of us needs in our lives. The store, located in Frankenmuth, Michigan, is over 2 acres big with almost any Christmas item you can think of. The ornament section is beyond unbelievable. If you can think it, they have it. Inside is nothing but Christmas, from their products to the decorations lining the walls near the ceiling. There is no way, if you love Christmas, that you can leave that store emptyhanded. Trust me.
Growing up, my family always went down with my dad’s parents at least once a year. I say down because it was about 2 hours south of where I grew up. These were trips that I’ll always remember. We’d go shopping and then go out for lunch at the Bavarian Inn or Zenders. They have awesome chicken. We also found that going mid-summer was the best time for us as the store was far less crowded than it was nearer to Christmas.
Even the grounds are decorated and lit up at night for people to drive their cars around to see it all. I haven’t been able to see this since I was in middle or high school, but it’s on my to-do list again. If you’re in the area after dark, you should check this out.
For more information, please check out the site below. Also, you can sign up for their catalogue (which of course I’ve done). And PS they’re doing Facebook live visits with Santa, so check out the website for more details on this!
Welcome to one of my favorite places on Earth: Shipshewana, Indiana! You’ve probably never heard of it, and that’s okay. It’s a small town in northern Indiana with some of the best shopping and food imaginable!
What I would say is the biggest attraction to Shipshewana is the Flea Market. Rows upon rows of vendors with some unique items all for a fair and cheap price! It’s fun to see the popular items that change year after year as so many people will sell those. There are staples that my family checks out every year, and new vendors we find along the way. One of our favorites is the Spice Guy. I’m not sure what his shop is called at the moment, but that’s our family nickname for him. He’s got a multitude of variety in large containers. If you love to cook, he’s a must see.
It doesn’t matter who you are, there’s something for everyone! There’s booths with clothes, dresses, purses, tools, wooden crafts, guitars for kids, movies, books, flowers, and so much more! And let’s not forget the food vendors. There are lots of those too. Depending on how fast or slow you go through, it could take all day to explore!
The flea market itself is open with individual booths being covered by buildings, tarps, or nothing but open air. In rainy weather this can be an issue, but we’ve rarely ran into this situation. For us, it’s almost always been sunny and HOT. Very hot.
Also, unless specified as a special weekend event, the flea market is only open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays weekly and runs throughout the summer. You never know what you’re going to find. It changes year to year!
Right behind the flea market (or in front depending on which way you’re facing) is Yoder’s Meat & Cheese Co. Let me tell you, they have the BEST cheese ever! It’s also a great price. Plus, the variety of cheese they have makes me a happy person: they have samples I can try! (or so they did before this year, and I’m unsure if the pandemic has affected this or not)
My dad would say the best part are their pickles. They’re huge and whole. He likes to buy them by the 5 gallon bucket.
Now, for my second favorite place of all (and reason for going) is The Blue Gate Restaurant. Their family style chicken dinner is AMAZING!!! It’s now a buffet style meal, and you can’t go wrong with all you can eat of the best food around. Plus THE PIES!!! Yummy!! There’s always new flavors as well as the staples. Come with an empty stomach because you’re going to want all the room you can get for this food. They also have little bread loaves you can spread peanut butter and/or apple butter over. Their peanut butter and apple butter are both homemade and you can even buy them in the Blue Gate’s store. The store also sells pies, candy, mugs, knickknacks, Christmas ornaments, and soooooo much more food. I can’t name it all. And outside they have small ponds with fish (the kids in our family always find this facsinating)
Across the street and all throughout town are stores with furniture, decorations, and food! These stores are open during the week and after the flea market closes so there’s always something to do on days the flea market is closed.
The Shipshewana area is celebrated for being home to the third largest Amish community in the United States, for having the Midwest’s largest flea market, and for its reputation of hand-crafted wares.
While you’re planning your future family trips, make sure Shipshewana is on that list. You’ll never regret it. I wasn’t able to go this year when some of my family visited because I had car trouble on the way, but I can’t wait for my trip next year! (Pictures taken by my mom)
Up in northern Michigan is a hidden treasure! Back in July, I went home to see my family, and we took a morning and explored the gorgeousness that is Iargo Springs. If you’re heading up to the Northeastern Lower Peninsula, check it out! It’s not something you will want to miss.
There are several natural springs in the area, and some waterfalls, that feed the local pond and river. It’s also a great place (as is Lumberman’s Monument up the road) to learn about and see the evidence of the logging done in the area long ago. It’s quite an interesting history as they’d roll the logs into the river and run them downstream.
If steps aren’t your thing, you might want to stay at the top as there are over 300 stairs. Going down isn’t so bad, but coming up is more challenging. However, there are plenty of areas with benches to sit and rest and enjoy the natural view and the peace that this area provides.
From the USDA Forest Service site:
“Lying off of River Road National Scenic Byway, Iargo Springs provides a panoramic view of the Au Sable River. Used as a drinking water source since pre-settlement times, dams were constructed on the springs by early loggers before the turn of the century. The dams were useful in diverting water to the logging camps nearby. Most of Cooke Pond was dry land then.”
Whew, that’s a big question! It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post, and sooooo much has happened, both personally and with writing. Yesterday marked one year that I’ve been at my new apartment, and Gunney and I couldn’t be happier about that move. We’ve enjoyed sitting out on the back deck most of the summer, both writing and reading, or just eating dinner. The view is great with all of the greenery from the trees and bushes, so much so it’s hard to see the apartments and road behind them. It helps me feel like I’m less in the city. It’s also much quieter.
Because of Covid, I’m now working from home, and it’s been great! I love it, and so does Gunney since I can give him love and attention every day. However, this year’s goals of getting out and being social more are not happening, and I have to make a conscious effort to reach out to people. That’s been a tough one for some reason.
However, besides working from home, not much else has changed for me. I’m still writing like crazy (probably too much) and working on book stuff. I’ve taken up crocheting more again, making book cozies. Lots of books have been published and written, and next year is going to be awesome! I have huge plans for the First Blood world, as well as adding a new series into the mix and another sci-fi book. Yeah, because I’m not crazy to try this and never plan too much into my schedule…
So, in closing, here’s what’s upcoming for the rest of the year:
*Fourth Bunker (Released in August)
*Negative Energy (Releasing Sept 12)
*The Diner anthology ~ Black Cat’s Curse (Releases Oct 23)
*Something in the Shadows anthology ~ Whispered Summons (Releases Oct 28)
*Christmas Book (Currently unnamed, Sometime in November)
West Virginia, USA is one of my favorite states of all time, and I will always consider it home. I lived there for a year and a few days (not even a week), but it made the biggest impact on me. It’s beautiful. Seriously, one of the most beautiful states I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few. When they say Wild And Wonderful, they mean it!
If you’ve read my Series, The Weregal Chronicles, then you already know that this series is set in West Virginia. Cooper’s Rock State Park and areas round about it were the basis for me setting the books in this area. After I moved away, I was missing the state and my friends, so there was no other choice but to set the book there. What better place is there for rogue tiger shifters to hide???
This map, taken from the Cooper’s Rock State Forest website, shows exactly where it is. If you see south of Morgantown the city of Fairmont, that’s where I lived. I miss those windy mountain turns and the forests and rock outcroppings beside the road. However, I don’t miss the fact that most West Virginians don’t know how to drive in the snow like I do since I’m from the North.
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A few years ago, I was able to go back to West Virginia on my way to Virginia (yes, they are two separate states), and my best friend, Evie, and I explored Cooper’s Rock and went “Weregal Hunting”. It was awesome! We didn’t find any weregals, but we did find a few areas that they could’ve hidden, and a possible passage to Fairimorr. ;)
If you love nature, you don’t want to miss this state forest, especially if you’re passing through. The views are amazing and the rock formations are stunning. You can stare from the top down, which is fun if you aren’t scared of heights as several places don’t have a barrier to keep you from the edge. Staring up at how large those formations are really puts their height into perspective. I can’t wait to go back and visit the area again. If you make it to Cooper’s Rock, keep an eye out for weregals, and let me know if you spot one!
Also, it’s a great place for a picnic, but if you plan to do some hiking, make sure to wear long pants, appropriate foot gear, and watch out for snakes in the warmer months. There are several trails to follow, and you can easily spend a full day adventuring. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!
I’ve been wanting to add more topics to my blog, and this begins one of those topics! I love to travel, but I don’t get to do a lot of it…yet. While thinking about this topic, I realized there’s so many fun and interesting places that I’ve been that most of my readers have either never heard of or haven’t had a chance to go, so this is me traveling again via the internet! There are also so many other places I want to visit, and if you happen to live in the area I discuss, feel free to comment on the posts! I’m excited to do these, and I hope you get a better flavor of what I’m like.
Today’s Journey: Hale, MI
That little red dot is Hale.
On today’s trip around the world, we’re starting off a little closer to home. My home, to be exact, or rather, the home of my childhood and young adult years. I grew up in a little town in the northeastern lower peninsula named Hale. (For those who may not know, Michigan has two peninsulas, the Lower and Upper.) Both peninsulas are beautiful! What I love most about Hale is that it’s surrounded by forests, lakes, and farms.
Google maps screenshot of downtown Hale!
Before moving to Madison, WI, I’d lived in a few bigger cities, but nothing prepared me for Madison’s size and living here. It’s honestly a breath of fresh air to go home where life moves a bit slower and you can avoid and weekend traffic by taking the back dirt roads. Seriously, traffic in Michigan moves in two directions on summer and holiday weekends: North on Friday night and South on Sunday. If you want to avoid the rush, go the opposite direction. Once Hale started getting busy, we always took the back roads where we needed to go.
One of my favorite things to do was to walk in my grandpa’s woods. I’d also play with my sisters and cousins in them. We’d get lost, get our feet wet, and give a pint of blood each to Michigan’s state bird: the mosquito. Because of this, I’ve grown to love nature so much. My goal is to eventually own a house out in the middle of the woods. Living in the city is killing me slowly. It’s also why you’ll find that so many of my stories’ settings are rural and in forests. If I could spend my time anywhere, it would be the forest, first and foremost.
If you’re ever in the area and feel like stopping by Hale to check it out, here’s a few things to note:
*You’ll need to purchase a Kocher’s doughnut
*Grab an ice cream cone at The Victorian Cafe
*Attempt to run up all the stares at Iargo Springs (not far out of town and totally worth it)
*While you’re at Iargo, check out Lumberman’s monument just up the road
*Buy some bacon from Alward’s Market
*There are about 60 lakes in the vicinity, so take a swim or go kayaking!
*Visit my dad and sister at Bernard Building Center (Bonus points if you let Tasha design your kitchen/bath)
*Finally, check out the small town restaurants. You won’t want to miss them!