Saturday, August 15, 2009


Just when you think that you know everything about your spouse, they can completely surprise you. Take for instance, the recent revelation that Mick has never been to a Michigan staple: Frankenmuth.

Most Michiganders have been taken, willingly or unwillingly, to Frankenmuth at least once in their life. It is known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria" and boasts a German heritage, chicken dinners and a lot of souvenirs. It also features the Cheese Haus and Bronners, the worlds largest CHRISTmas store. (they really put an emphasis on the CHRIST!)

Mick and I are probably not going to be able to take a real vacation in the next 4 years, which is an easy trade-off for what Mick is going to accomplish. (Go Mick Go!) However, we have been feeling a little cramped and thought that a night away might be just the thing. So, the first weekend in August, we decided to go! At first we wanted to go to one of our favorite vacation spots: Niagara on the Lake. Unfortunately, our passports, birth certs, etc. are in the POD, which made Canada a no-no. I had just been up-North for the WAM so we decided to look for alternatives to that idea. Introducing Mick to the cheesiness that is Frankenmuth was just too tempting. To build the excitement, I began to speak in a German accent to Mick. "Ve go to ze Frankenmoot ya?"

The first challenge was determining where to stay for the night. We settled on the traditional Bavarian Inn. This lovely establishment is where you would typically stay if you had a car full of kids and wanted to occupy them for a weekend. It has 5 pools, an arcade and a putt-putt course. We wanted to stay there because if you are going to do Frankenmuth, you should probably do it right. My favorite part of the inn were 3 special television channnels featuring a Terry Bradshaw special about the Inn, a German music program that was filmed there, and a cheese-making channel.
This is the outside of the inn:

Every room at the inn is dedicated to a local family that lives in Frankenmuth. Below, we see what is clearly a recent photo of the Claremunt family. See Wendy there with the large blond hair? She is the pride of the family as she was in the Frankenmuth beauty queen court in the 80's!

Below is the view from the balcony of our room. Pretty, no?

There are several kitchsy little shops and tourist traps in Frankenmuth, but we fell in love with this one in particular. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we found it. While I may be fawning over the fact that it has 50 kinds of cheese, this establishments real claim to fame is that it hosts Michigan's Largest Meat Display. Well, as you can imagine, that got me rather excited!

Now on to the main event: The "World Famous Chicken Dinners!" If you are going to have a chicken dinner, you really have two options: The Bavarian Inn Restaurant, or Zhenders. I have been told to avoid
Freeway Fritz by all means. Bavarian Inn and Zhenders are directly across the street from one another and are owned by the same family. Being that we were staying at the Bavarian Inn, we decided to have dinner at Zhenders.

Zhenders atmosphere is a little brighter than BI and strives for an all- American theme. They also had a vegetarian menu which was a bonus for me. I got tortellini Alfredo which was actually quite delicious and Mick got the "family style" chicken dinner for himself. The waitress assured him that he would be receiving all of the sides even though he was the only one eating the chicken dinner. Sides included: Bread and preserves, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, buttered noodles (my favorite), green beans, pickles and dessert. Mick is pictured below with some of his dinner as well as his favorit part of the dinner: His own personal bowl of gravy.

This photo shows my reaction to the smorgasboard and the personal bowl of gravy:

After dinner, you just want to move. We made it as far as across the street where we promptly fell onto a bench just in time to watch the glockenspiel tell the story of the Pied Piper. I suppose that I had forgotten what a sick little story that is! That jerk lured all of the children from a town away with the exception of the blind kid and the "crippled" kid. How un-PC!

The next morning, we were going to head to Bronners, but we found out that Vinnie was in the hospital again. Amy told us that he was sleeping, so we decided that we would stop for breakfast and then drive to see him instead. He hadn't slept all night, so we had time before we should be there. I knew just the place: Tony's

If you are a trucker that has driven through Michigan, or a hunter on your way up North, or merely a fat-ass that enjoys a good side of bacon, then Tony's is for you. (Pardon my use of the term "fat-ass" This is not in my normal vocabulary, but as you will see, the term seems quite appropriate in this instance.) Tony's is also great for the outlet mall shopper that really wants to fuel up before hitting Birch Run Outlets directly across the street.

Tony's is quite literally known for large quantities of food. They do not boast quality, they boast quantity. And it is always packed! I decided to take Mick there, but did not tell him what the restaurant was known for. Little did he know that his side of bacon would consist of over a pound of bacon.

Here we see my half-order of french toast. Yes, that is a half order. 6 slices of Texas toast with homemade strawberry sauce. I must say that it was actually quite good!

I think that the way that we feel about Frankenmuth is really best summed up by this fantastic promotional photo:

As for Vinnie, they discovered that his poor levels and fever were due to the Parvo virus. He is out of the hospital and feeling great. When we showed up at the hospital, Uncle Mickey was the star as Vinnie grabbed him and they played video games for a couple of hours:

All in all, it was a great weekend. If we can sum it up in one word, it would be:
p.s. Thanks to Nhung for lending us her camera cord!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

PODsitively crazy!

Okay, so you may have noticed that I have been slacking on the entries a bit. My, you are observant! (And correct!)

Here is the deal: My life is in a POD. You know...those nifty moving/ storage systems that allow you to cram all of your stuff into a cube and choose a date and location for their delivery? Well, unfortunately my poor dear husband packed everything we own into one of them thinking that we would snatch a house and move in quickly somewhere. We have snatched up a condo, but it will not be available to move in to until September 1st - 14th. (We don't know the exact date yet.)

The POD contains things such as important legal documents, my cookbooks, and much of my wardrobe. It also contains: our camera cord. I have been hesitant to post anything on here without visual aids, because I would certainly hate to bore you, but I am afraid that we are all going to have to use our imaginations here. That cord is packed away and it isn't coming back for a long, long time. (Oh dear, I miss my cookbooks!)

So, yes, this post will be mostly about work, but that has been my life lately:

No, silly! Not the 80's group! The Make A Wish- "Wish A Mile" bike ride!

I first got to witness part of this last year when I happened to be in town the day that my brother in law, Steve pedaled his way across the finish line. I knew that it was 300 miles over the course of 3 days. The ride starts in Traverse City (top of the mitten) and runs all the way down to Chelsea (near Ann Arbor) While I cannot comprehend what it feels like to bike that, I knew that it was a big deal and I was incredibly proud of him. Steve had witnessed Vinnie receiving his wish and decided to give back.

This year, Steve decided that not only would he participate again, but that he would raise enough money to grant one full wish for another child. ($8,000. Yes, it costs that much!) He also decided that he would train harder and make both that and the fundraising a year-round effort.

I of course, now work for Make A Wish and teamed up with my co-worker Angie to volunteer to host a break stop every day. Amy and the kids followed along the tour driving from city to city and waiting for Steve to pedal in every day.

Let me paint a picture of the WAM experience: WAM is quite literally, a traveling city. It is amazing, and I have never seen anything quite like it. There are over 750 riders that need to be cared for over a 72 hour period and everything must be provided for them.

First, riders show up to the Chelsea fairgrounds, where they will eventually finish the race. Riders are given jersey's for the three days, and volunteers are given t-shirts. Everyone also receives a bracelet with the name of a wish child that they will be riding for, or keeping in mind as they volunteer.

The riders park their cars and there are 6 HUGE semi's waiting to carry the luggage and bikes. (Keep in mind that riders like my brother in law that have family going along don't even utilize this.) There are shuttle buses, after shuttle buses that they board and they are driven to Traverse City. Volunteers like me are given vans with all of our supplies in them and we drive separately.

Once there, volunteers decorate their vans and riders set up campsites or mattresses in a school gym, and we eat dinner. Lights out at 10:00. There is another semi available titled "Rubber Duckies" which is actually a really nice shower truck. (Hooray for no community showers!)

I am brushing over a lot of it, but let me tell you that there are some amazing people that do WAM every year. I think that my two favorites are the gentleman that does WAM on a unicycle, and the most inspirational rider of all: Kevin.

I am not sure of his condition, but Kevin only has the use of one arm and one leg. In order to bike, he has to create a sort of rocking motion with his body... and he does... for the entire 300 miles. Let me tell you, it makes someone like me, with four working limbs feel pretty lazy when you see Kevin take on some of the steepest hills I have ever seen. Go Kevin!

So now to the saga of Steve, Amy Erin and Vinnie:
Day One: Steve starts out great. All of a sudden, his spoke breaks and his gears stop working properly. He finishes anyway, but quickly hands over his bike to one of the "bike doctors" that travel along with the WAM.

Amy, noticing that Vinnie is looking a little pale, takes him to the hospital in Big Rapids, where it is quickly determined that he needs a blood transfusion asap. Unfortunately, in Northern Michigan, asap means that you have to wait for the blood to be shipped up to you. In this case, Vinnie had to wait for the blood to come from Grand Rapids, meaning that his transfusion would last until about 2 am. He is understandibly upset because he had plans to go with Erin and all of his WAM friends into the pool back at the hotel. He had even gotten a new watergun for the occasion. The hospital was also ill-equipped to deal with this type of situation. Poor kid! Fortunately, our Uncle Dale and Aunt Kitty were there to keep him entertained.

Later that evening, the bike doctor confirms that Steve's bike is toast. There is a crack in the frame and despite his training for the entire year, Steve cannot go on.

Day Two:
Vinnie's levels go up, but not enough. His doctor back at home determines that he needs to drive back so that he can receive another transfusion and so that his regular doctors can keep an eye on him. Vinnie does the most self-less thing and tells Steve to go to the "Wammy" awards that evening. We knew that Steve and his team were really looking forward to it and Vin thought that he should go. With a lot of tears in their eyes, Amy and Vinnie head back to the hospital in Detroit while Steve stays on.

The Wammy awards do turn out to be something incredibly special and we all got to see a three year old little girl named Amanda receive her wish to meet Elmo. If you haven't seen the video, I highly recommend it:
We also found out that the bike ride had raised $1.5 million! Not too shabby!

Our CEO knew that Vinnie was watching the awards from his hospital room and gave Vinnie a shoutout, which was pretty cool. Steve won an award for raising so much money, and his team: Team Nicholas, won the top fundraising award for a small team. When they went up to accept the award, the team captain (Nicholas' Dad) told everyone how much they loved Vinnie and that they were riding for him. More tears!

Last Day:
Everyone is in a great mood on the last day. The break stop that Angie and I ran, was quite frankly, the best. It also turned into a bit of a dance party. (Or...was I the only one dancing???) Anyway, it was great.

At the end of the day, we pulled into the celebration at the end known as "Heroes Hurrah" This is where the finish line was, and Steve borrowed a bike to ride the last two miles with his team. Riders and Volunteers alike are ushered into the "Wish Barn" where that aforementioned child that you are keeping in mind, is waiting for you to give you a medal!

My wish child was named Alexandra and she was adorable! I went to shake her hand and she pushed it aside to give me a great big hug. While we were waiting in line to go on stage, she gave us more hugs and couldn't stop bouncing around because she was so excited to be there! It was awesome!

Heroes Hurrah also included a kids area, and more importantly, FOOD! Everyone, and I mean everyone is invited to eat at Heroes Hurrah and the food is EXCELLENT! It is all donated by Carraba's (like Zio's to you Springfieldians) and it was the best thing that I could have tasted after the 3 days.

So that is WAM. It was so well-organized and the mere logistics of it will leave you awe-struck!

As for Vinnie, it has been determined that whatever is causing his levels to drop is viral in nature. He has been in the hospital one more time, but is home for now. We are hoping that it stays that way.

Next up in this month in review:

-Mick and I go to Frankenmuth
- Something very funny happens that I cannot put on this blog (Consider it an incentive to call me. Definitely worth it.)
- The condo saga

Stay tuned!