A blog about us (The Kladders) & Grand Rapids, MI. 


Quick Kladder Update, August

Our big summer trips are done for the season and since we returned from the U.P. earlier this month, we've been enjoying the continued awesome weather closer to home. Outside of not having central air conditioning (by the power of fans we are surviving), it's been what I like to call: relaxation-station! Grilling out with friends, walks to Wilcox Park, biking around Reeds Lake and leisure time on the couch watching the Olympics. Sometimes I feel bad eating snacks on the couch while viewing perfect human specimens at the top of their physical game... but then again, you can't eat a gold medal. 

At the end of July Jeff's sister Stephanie married her long time partner in crime Micheal. The ceremony was held downtown at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church followed by their reception at Cascade Country Club. The ceremony was a full family affair with everyone playing a part including Jeff's older brother filling the role of pastor, sister in laws as matron of honor and bridesmaids, and Jeff and his younger brother reading scripture during the service. And of course, all of Stephanie's nieces playing the role of flower girl. Stephanie was the last of the Kladder siblings to get hitched which means the crew is now complete! 

We're still taking full advantage of our proximity and membership to Fredrick Meijer Gardens by enjoying another concert and visiting with family in from out of town. Last week Jeff and I joined friends Kevin and Ashley and listened to the sweet tunes of WAR and Los Lonely Boys. It was a solid concert and surprisingly, I knew way more Los Lonely Boys songs than I thought! As always, the venue was awesome, the night was hot and the music was great. 

Two Friday's back we headed out to Muskegon to party with some of Jeff's clients for their annual summer luau. They roasted a full pig and I was in BBQ heaven - I LOVE pulled pork. For me, it's kryptonite. The lawyers all made jokes that they are Jeff's favorite firm and while I can't speak for him, after this party they most certainly are my favorite! And this Friday I get to counter Jeff's work party with one of my own as we join one of my video vendors for their annual shindig on the Thornapple River. Jeff and my 'work-worlds' typically stay separate so it's fun when our paths cross, especially in this type of fun atmosphere. 

Last weekend Saturday we visited John Ball Zoo with family. Nat is still too young to tell us her favorite exhibit but it's likely her favorite non animal part was Grandma feeding her ice cream at the outdoor cafe. Me? I like the bears. Tigers are cool too, but I'm a huge fan of the bears. 

Also on Saturday we partied on Rosewood for our annual Neighborhood Block party. With our street in complete shambles right now (a dirty-muddy mess as they replace the water mains and repave) we set up in a neighbors backyard for some good ole fashion family fun. Our two year anniversary in our house is this coming December, but it feels like we've lived on this street forever. I don't remember what it feels like to live downtown, which makes me a little bit sad - I love downtown. But I'm so glad we landed in the spot we did. We're surrounded by a great neighborhood and community and it feels SO good. 



Eastern Europe Travel: Budapest, Hungary

The following entry is part of the 4 city tour from our 2016 Eastern European trip which included Krakow, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Enjoy! 

Our first day in Budapest was WARM! 95 degrees, clear blue skies and sweat running down our backs for days! Spending our first full day in the city at the Szechenyi Thermal Bath and Swimming Pools was exactly what we needed and for me was definitely one of the highlights of our visit to Budapest.

And what... a... riot! The bath was something like out of a movie: people everywhere having drinks, watching football on the big screen, laying in the sun and playing in the whirlpool. There were indoor pools and thermal tubs for lounging and outside there were three larger pools (both cold and hot) where we spent an entire afternoon just relaxing. 

After the pool (and a few cocktails) we were ready for some quick nourishment and stopped at a small vendor just outside the pool entrance in the park where they served Langos - a Hungarian food specialty of deep fried flat bread traditionally served with garlic sauce and cheese. It is the savory version of an elephant ear and is incredible! When in Hungary, eat a lango. 

In addition to the lango, the local cuisine also includes Hungarian Goulash and Soup - both of which we all enjoyed multiple times. The goulash in Hungary is NOT your momma's goulash. Forget about Hamburger Helper and think more sweet paprika stew with cubed steak. As soon as we got home I searched for and made a crockpot version of their goulash and was unfortunately thoroughly disappointed - it just wasn't the same. 

We also did a bit of shopping while in the city and visited the Great Market Hall where we found two enormous floors of vendors selling textiles, souvenirs and fresh food. Had we not already eaten breakfast, we would have stopped for a bite because everything looked delicious. We did a bit more shopping outside of the market too and found some really great original pieces by local artists and designers. I found a fun poster that's now up on our wall at home. 

Just near the Great Market Hall is the Liberty Bridge that crosses the Danube River. We stopped for a couple photos and kept walking along the river and passed the Szechenyi Chain Bridge (an iconic 1800s suspension bridge) and even further, the Hungarian Parliament Building. The parliament building is the largest building in Hungary and the tallest in Budapest and is quite the sight. We spent some time walking around the giant building and watching the changing of the guard which was more like a dance than anything else. And in true tourist form, we took a selfie with one of the guards. We were all embarrassed of ourselves. 

As previously mentioned in the other Eastern Europe travel blogs, the Eruo 2016 was in full swing while we were in town. After dinner our second evening in town we grabbed a few beers from a vendor and joined the locals to watch watch football on a giant screen in one of the many green parks downtown. It was a little taste of local life and fun to be a part of an atmosphere we don't get here in the U.S. 

Similar to the other three cities on our trip, Budapest also had a great Jewish Quarter which is also where our AirBnB was located. Within a one block radius we could find coffee shops, ruin bars that opened once it got dark, shops and street markets, and there were even a few hostels just near our place. There was plenty of action and a fun neighborhood to explore. 

Our final day in Budapest was a bit of a surprise... for the first time we flew Air Berlin and were disappointed when at the last minute they cancelled our flight home. A few phone calls later and we were rebooked on the same flight the following day leaving us another full day in the city. Our disappointment was soon replaced by one of the most relaxed and romantic days we'd experienced on our trip yet. 

After a very late night (our driver was originally scheduled for a 3am pick up time) of phone calls to rebook flights, reserve our apartment for an additional night, calling our families to ask for free grandparent childcare for one more day, and informing our offices... needless to say, we slept in the next morning! But our final (bonus) day in the city did not go to waste! Having already toured most of the city, we decided to take our own ruin pub crawl. 

Ruin Pubs are very common in Budapest and usually consist of vacant lots with tarps for roofs and/or shipping containers where they serve food and drink. And the best part? Because it was middle of the afternoon on a Monday, we had no problem getting service! 

On our final-final evening in the grand city that is Budapest, we chose a formal dinner aboard a river boat docked on the Danube. Our meal overlooked the Buda Castle opposite the river of us as the sun set over the city. We rehashed memories from the days before and cheers'd to another successful european holiday together. 



Ontonagon, Michigan - Summer Family Trip 2016

It's that time of year again when the Smith Family heads north... passed the Mighty Mac, passed Pictured Rocks, passed Tahquamenon Falls, passed Northern Michigan University... and straight on till morning... about 8 hours in the car from Grand Rapids. 

Since before I can remember my family has spent a week each summer in our states great Upper Peninsula just outside Ontonagon. We stay in the family cabin which is very rustic (without running water or electricity - yup, there's an outhouse!), cook with a propane stove, drink beer (lots of it) chilled in a cooler of ice and wash our hair in the river. Our phones are off, computers left at home and there's no need to look in a mirror because no one cares what you look like. 

And with the cabin comes great traditions. My favorite (and I think it's Jeff's favorite too because we love all activities) is kayaking the Ontonagon River. The river is a stones throw from the cabin's front porch which makes for easy logistics and also a great view while drinking coffee in the morning.

This year we 'put-in' in front of the cabin and paddled to Victoria Dam - about a 6 hour run. It's about 1/3 rapids and heavy paddling, 1/3 lazy river and 1/3 paddling across Lake Victoria. Along the way we make multiple stops to refill beverages, reapply bug spray/sunscreen and take in the scenery that very few people get to enjoy. 

After kayaking we joined the rest of our group (Natalie stayed with my Mom and Dad and a few other friends during the day) at Henry's for the all you can eat buffet. It was a well deserved reward after our 6 hours of paddling. I usually go light on the main dishes and heavy on the desserts. Momma's got a sweet tooth! 

This year we also spent a day on Lake Superior at Sally's beach house; Sally is an old friend of my Dads - one of many he's made on his trips over the years. This year the lake was warm and the day was beautiful! We barbecued ribs, kayaked the sunset, played bags and caught up with old friends. 

On Thursday night we hosted the locals for the annual Low-Country-Boil - a tradition my Dad started after his long work assignment in Savannah, GA where he learned all about how to best cook fresh seafood. Ever since, we've cooked up Costco sized boxes of crab legs and shrimp to share with friends. It's an evening where everyone leaves happy and full! 

Other activities over the week include four-wheeling day trips for sightseeing, working on the new camp together as a family (it's getting so close!) and we always make time for a drink Stubbs Bar. This year we got out the selfie stick and were thoroughly made fun of by the Yoopers. I think everyone had a good time! 

Read more about our family trips to Ontonagon here: