Monthly Archives: August 2013

A bewitching history and future travel stop in Salem

After taking a history course in college, Witches, heretics and religion, my interest was piqued for a trip to Salem. Although it was a short period of time, the Salem witch trials caused such a stir that it has created a tourist destination and something the world still talks about and studies nearly 400 years later.

Salem Witch Musem

Salem Witch Musem

On a recent vacation to Massachusetts, we had a day trip to Salem, which started with the Salem Witch Museum. A bit hokey for the cultured tourist, this exhibit takes you through lighted displays and storytelling to give you a sense of what happened in the 1600s in Salem. It was presented clearly so my kids were able to get the full picture without asking a million questions.

After the show portion, we were taken into a second area where we were walked through the history of witchcraft, from pagans to witch stereotypes to the Wiccan religion.

After the museum, we walked through Salem, which also is famous for being the home of the Parker Brothers, creators of Monopoly and many other board games. The Salem Museum, which is free, is a small museum that has displays about the witch trials, a town fire in the 1800s and a special exhibit on Monopoly.IMG_9973

We also walked through the cemetery, which has gravesites that are several hundred years old, as well as an area dedicated to the victims of the witch trials. We stopped at a statue of Samantha from Bewitched, which was filmed in Salem.

IMG_9983After investigating the witch hysteria, we walked to the water and the pier and had a great lunch with lobster rolls and clam chowder. We walked through a few shops, which were bustling with tourists. The city itself is much more than its witch history and is a great place to stroll, eat and shop.

Disclosure: Family trip, no compensation received. These opinions are my own.

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Bringing an old deck back to life

My husband and I have argued about our deck for years. The original owner of the house built it himself. It’s one of the things that made us fall in love with the house – a multilevel deck, brick paver patio and partially surrounded an above ground pool.

Deck before

Deck before

We should’ve heard warning bells when the owner had it inspected before we moved in and had to rebuild the steps because they weren’t spaced properly. A few years later, we found that he didn’t anchor the posts properly, either, and the deck started to shift with the freeze/thaw cycle. A couple of times, we had handymen in to cut and repair the posts to make the deck level again. It’s currently a bit uneven and sloping towards the pool.

Before giving up and taking a chainsaw to the whole thing, I set out this summer to stain it to see if it was still tolerable. My husband, who travels a lot and took the first staining job several years ago, thought I was crazy and wanted no part of it.

After I bought a couple of gallons of stain, I saw a commercial on TV for Behr’s DeckOver. The commercial reeled me in, and I returned the stain and came home with the DeckOver. The advertising says the thick paint/stain would bring new life to an old deck, help seal up smaller cracks and give the deck a slip-resistant finish. When I was having my color added to the base, the guy at the store told me that the paint also would reduce the heat of the deck by a bit.

Deck After DeckOver

Deck After DeckOver

I started with the upper portion of the deck because it is the smallest and it’s the part that we look at the most, right off of the kitchen. I used a power washer to clean the deck and take some of the current stain off, although there wasn’t much left of it.

Twelve gallons later, we have most of the deck covered, with two coats on the walking parts (the instructions recommend two coats on all but we’re lazy like that and the railings took forever). I’ve been taking the job slowly, doing parts here and there on evenings and free weekends. My husband joined in a few times when he was in town, and the kids tried a few swipes of the paintbrush before getting bored and heading off to other pursuits.

Deck After DeckOver

Deck After DeckOver

We still have some of the bottom portions to do, along with the lattice that surrounds the deck to hide the underside. I’m considering investing in a paint sprayer for the lattice after having painted a few smaller pieces that make up our deck gates.

Ideally, I’d rather have a stain to have the wood grain show through. However, in the shape that our deck is in, this product is ideal to seal up some of the cracks and provide a surface that is perfect to surround our pool. The slip-resistant finish is so much better than slippery wood and has reduced slip and falls from our kids and their friends. I’ve recommended it to my mother and some neighbors who need to paint their front porch decking and steps. The finish, which feels almost like a fine grit sandpaper, is great for stairs, especially in a wet Michigan summer or icy Michigan winter.

If you’re looking to revive a deck or have a deck or stairs area that has heavy traffic, I highly recommend Behr’s new product. We’re falling in love with our deck again just in time to enjoy it during the summer.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated in any way. This is my personal opinion of Behr DeckOver.

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A short journey to Quebec takes you a world away

I’ve always wanted to visit Quebec, and mostly Montreal. People talk of the city as a “little Paris” and the European vibe it offers. If you drive there, even renting a car from the airport, you’ll have a quick lesson in French. The signs for compass points are in French, as are the stop signs and other navigation signs.

It is the law in the province of Quebec to speak French first, so most will greet you with a bonjour, and then a hello if you give them a puzzled look. We only ran into one gentlemen who was appalled that we did not speak French. When I told him I had taken Spanish in school, he said he thought maybe that was a good choice for living in the U.S.

The plane ride from Detroit was short, just over an hour. Our first stop was the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal. We had a tour of the city, old and new, stopping by the beautiful Notre Dame Basilica and wandering through the Just for Laughs festival, which was taking place that week. We were treated to a Montreal bagel hot out of the oven and were taken up to the top of a hill to view the city below. Bikers are everywhere in the city and you can rent bikes at several stations throughout the city.

Montreal has an underground city, but we found it a bit difficult to navigate and directions were not clearly marked. We tried to walk through it from our hotel to another section of the city but came up to ground level a few times and back down in our attempts. We ended up giving up and walking at street level. However, I can see how that would be a huge bonus in the cold winter months.

Our next part of the trip took us to the Fairmont Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains. A beautiful ski village, Tremblant is also bustling in the summer with many visitors, shops and outdoor activities. Activity passes are available for gondola rides, mountain cart rides and countless kids’ activities. I took a gondola ride to the top and opted for the birds of prey show. In addition to the hawks, owl and eagle, we were treated to Mother Nature’s own show when a deer wandered near us. The views to the village are gorgeous.

The resort has several small pools – a regular pool, therapy pool (a little warmer) a cold pool and a hot tub. I had a Swedish massage at the spa, which took away my knots from traveling. Down the mountain, the resort has a beach area, which you can pay to enter or access with an activity card. No transportation is provided and it is a good yet healthy walk, especially up part of the mountain on the way back.

We used the resort’s complimentary bikes to take a ride through the many paved trails. Living in a very flat part of Michigan, the hills were a welcome yet challenging pace but we were rewarded with fantastic views of the river and several deer.

Our last stop in Quebec was the Fairmont Chateau Montebello, a huge log cabin structure that used to be a private club. The walking paths are along the water’s edge, the outdoor pool is clean and warm and the indoor pool is huge. I did not go for a ride but the horses looked happy and healthy as they were readied for the days’ activities.

The breakfast buffet at all three resorts were similar, and I had my fill of maple crepes at each. Alas, we didn’t leave any time for the famous Canadian poutine, but we’ll have to venture back again for that experience. Also, the hotels have a dog on staff! At most locations, you can sign out the dog for a walk or just give him or her some pets in the lobby.

Disclosure: This was a work trip for my husband and I was along for the ride. These opinions are my own and are in no way compensated.

Categories: Family Friendly Resorts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bay Harbor brings style to resorts in Michigan

Not much can beat a warm summer day in northern Michigan. And a stay at Bay Harbor makes it even better. In late June, my family and I stayed at the Inn at Bay Harbor for a few days. The weather was perfect, the resort pleasant and the views spectacular.

We used the complimentary bikes one day and rode on the path towards Petoskey. The bike path was in perfect condition with lots of bike and walking traffic. It was shaded so although it was a very warm day, we had the cool breezes of shade on our side. A few openings in the trees provided spectacular views of Lake Michigan.

Downtown Petoskey is just a short drive away, with all of the walkable shopping and cute parks and restaurants for whatever strikes your fancy. We stopped for a music performance in a park, and the kids had fun exploring a toy store and a garden store with fairy gardens on display.

We had a couple of fantastic meals at the South American Grille and Wine Bar. A local Northern Michigan seasonal salad really hit the spot.

The kids had a blast at the pool, which is placed near gorgeous views of the bay. We took a break to walk the shore and find Petoskey stones, of which we found several. We wandered down to the volleyball net and had a short family game.

The rooms are nice and comfortable, with a bedroom, living room with a murphy bed and kitchenette, creating the perfect space for a family vacation. A small balcony overlooking the lake is a great way to end the day.

At dusk, we headed to the fire near the lake and made s’mores and my husband and son played catch on the lawn. Just a few days at Bay Harbor and we were well-rested and recharged.

Disclosure: My husband traveled here on a work trip. My kids and I were along for the ride. This review is my own opinion and is not compensated.


Categories: Family Friendly Resorts, Travel with kids | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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