Family Camping Trip 2018 - Ontonagon, Michigan

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In the U.P. a cabin is called a camp, a term that describes not so much a place but rather a way of life. Camp life is simple. There is no electricity, no running water, no cell service and it takes upwards of 45 mins to get there from the nearest town, Ontonagon, MI. There are flashlights and coolers filled with ice. Lots of bug spray. Piles of firewood and an outhouse. 

At Camp Whiskey Hallow, the camp my Dad and brother built with and for family and friends, time is spent hanging out on the porch, fishing, watching meteor showers at night, reading a good book, snacking, drinking (lots of canned beer) and taking late night saunas. There's kayaking, 4-wheeling and this funny little ATV that goes on land and in water called an Argo. It's the bumpiest ride in the world. 

Our daily schedule revolves around two things. First, preparing and eating meals. There are usually two meals a day: breakfast and dinner that are separated by heavy snacks in between. Breakfast is always huge. We're talking waffles, French toast, eggs Benedict with slices of Spam because we're classy like that. And if you pay close attention the breakfast almost always includes remnants from dinner the night prior.

Dinner can be anything from burgers and brats on the grill with homemade fries to the annual Low Country Boil which is seafood galore! This year Jason and my sister-in-law Rachel prepared a slow roasted corned beef roast, something I've never had, and it was quite tasty. 

The second thing that drives our days is my Dad's list of projects. Camp is his forever project and there is always something to be done. Whether it's chopping wood for the sauna or grading the trail, he's good at putting us all to work. This year's big project was finishing the wood siding on the gable above the porch roof. It ended up taking longer than expected and filled two full afternoons. Jeff doesn't mind the work - it's good break from his usual work at the office - but I personally had a hard time sitting still with my air-cast boot! I ended up reading most of the time while the kids napped, or didn't nap because of the nail gun against the side of the cabin wall while the guys worked. But alas, the gents got the job done and were rewarded with more Bud Light and a steak dinner.

In other parts of the week we spent time on Lake Superior with friends. The water was certainly colder than  Lake Bella Vista back at home, but the temps were in the 80s and the chill down was welcomed. And besides, the kids don't care how cold the water is. The beaches there are lovely and includes lots of privacy. It's peaceful. It's pretty bizarre to look down the beach in either direction and be the only folks in sight. And not many boats either. 

Twice we stopped by our favorite bar in town: Stubbs. I should probably mention there are only two bars in Ontonagon, Stubbs and The Shamrock.  Stubbs has walls filled with 'stuff.' Taxidermy, neon signs, old photos, hornets nests (common decor in those parts), fishing poles... plenty to keep the kids busy with discovering new treasures. They pour stiff drinks, make a mean frozen pizza and it's a great place to run into old friends. 

Visiting Ontonagon is a Smith Family tradition and one we continue to honor. Family vacations are tough to come by these days and we're grateful for the time spent together last week. 

To read more about our camping trips to the U.P. check out the Ontonagon Travel Series



Kladder Update: Camping, Concerts & Member-Member

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We’ve got some good news and then we’ve got some bad news. The Good: The Kladder House now has central air conditioning and as a result I’ve become a nicer person! You think I’m kidding – you try putting on skinny jeans in a house without AC. It’ll get to you after a few sweaty attempts. 

The Bad: I have a stress fracture in my right heel after jumping into the shallow end of a pool. I have no one to blame but my own self and I totally regret it. I’ve got this cool new boot that’s making things slower, harder and less fun. However, I will prevail! This week Jeff and I took the kids for a spin around Reeds Lake on our bikes (without my cool boot – I just taped it up really tight in my tennis shoe) and I was able to pedal without pain. Discovering this has me feeling hopeful after a few weeks of watching the fun from our couch. I might not be up to power walking status just yet but the ability to pedal means I might be ready to get back to spin class.

Despite my bum foot, we’ve still fit plenty of fun into the last two weeks including a weekend of camping. Last Friday we packed up the car and headed to South Haven, Michigan with our house church group - 10 adults and 12 kids total. We rented cabins at Yogi Bears Jellystone Camp Ground which turned out to be quite glamorous including AC, microwaves, mini fridges and some cabins even had their own bathrooms. We built campfires, made hobo pies, roasted s'mores, played yard games, swam, went for a wagon ride around the park and because it was 'Chocolate Week' at the campground some of the kids even did a chocolate slip n' slide. Thankfully Natalie hates being messy and opted for the playground instead. I can't say Thomas would have made the same decision had he been given the chance. 

That Saturday we packed up the crew and headed into downtown South Haven to walk the pier and see the lighthouse. I hobbled along with my foot because sitting on a park bench waiting for everyone to return sounded boring. I survived. We later rewarded ourselves with ice cream at Sherman's Dairy Bar.  Compared to our usual Hudsonville hand dipped cone at Jersey Junction, Sherman's was super creamy and almost gooey. They had a ton of flavors to chose from and the kids all loved it. 

We returned Sunday just in time to unpack and head back out with friends to see The Temptations and The Four Tops at Fredrick Meijer Gardens. It was the perfect night for an outdoor concert and the show was excellent! They all had matching sequined suits, choreographed dance moves and a full supporting jazz band. It was probably one of the best performances we've seen at FMGs. 

Alternatively, this past Monday we found ourselves back at FMGs for Dispatch and the weather was anything but perfect. We got absolutely drenched! And for completely different reasons than the week before, it too made the list as one of the best shows we've seen at the Gardens. We all reached the point of not caring about the rain anymore finding ourselves fully immersed in the experience. It was glorious! 

The kids are doing great. Thomas has now reached the age where he's quick enough to at least tag along with Natalie as she floats from place to place. It's not uncommon these days for Jeff and me to find ourselves sitting quietly in the living room and realize the kids have gone upstairs to play alone together. The other day Thomas said, 'doggy' which was a first and I was pumped! Never mind that he was referring to a horse. Natalie is very excited to start preschool this Fall and asks about it almost daily. She's still hard to convince to wear anything but dresses and last week she told me that she is, "going to change the world." So confidence isn't really an issue with her.

Last weekend we partied out at Watermark for the annual Mens Member-Member Tournament. While Jeff and his partner didn't score well, two of our very good friends Nate and Marcus came in second overall which made more a fun night of celebration. This year the Womens Association Board hosted an afternoon ladies happy hour which was a fun addition to the weekend of festivities. 

Summer is flying by and this boot isn't helping! Hoping to get off the sidelines and back in the game next month as we look forward to spending time with family up north and a trip out to the West Coast just the two of us. Enjoy the rest of your July and see you in August! 


  • The Dailey Method is offering a FREE Planks in the Park class on August 1st. If you've been wanting to see what they're all about this is a good sneak peek. Sign up HERE



Kladder Update: 4th of July Fun & Family

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Our return from Disney World two weeks ago has been a whirlwind of one fun thing after another including lots of golf, BBQ parties and entirely way too much time in the pool.  

Our life in Michigan welcomed us back with open arms and (oh-em-gee) RIBS! at the annual Scholten Rib Party which is a tradition that's lived on since Jeff and his friends graduated high school. It's a staple of our summer and is something we look forward to every year. Not only are the ribs fantastic thanks to the hard work of Mr. Scholten, but it's a chance for us to see friends (and their kids - some of which we met for the first time this year!) who've since moved outside of Grand Rapids. 

That same weekend we finally found time to enjoy the pool at Watermark. How we made it to July without even considering it an option impresses even me - I mean... come on with this weather just screams 'go to the pool!!" The Watermark pool has a fantastic kiddie pool with zero entry on one side, a slide on the other and water buckets that pour over your head. Thomas keeps busy walking along the edge of the pool while Natalie likes to float in the deep end with Jeff with the occasional trip down the slide. It's a man on man defense for sure. 

And then began the week long celebration of our beautiful nation, America! We began in Rockford with the Kladder family for the annual Lake Bella Vista party. This year we had 36 people which is an additional 20 to our family of 16. It was a full house including a yard full of tents for the overflow - not actually sure the neighborhood association allows tents but maybe rules don't count on a holiday? We grilled burgers and brats, took the kids water tubing, lounged in the cove on our larger than life floatie and played our usual bags tournament. The party was capped off by the Lake Bella Vista fireworks. Each year we load onto the boats and head out to the middle of the lake to get the best view. Post Disney, all fireworks to Natalie are now Tinker Bell... we saw LOTS of Tinker Bells and she was thrilled. 

Then we packed up and headed south to meet my family for the Annual Schoolcraft 4th of July Parade. It's about as traditional as small town parades get consisting of tractors, horses, a couple marching bands, small businesses handing out dum-dums, beauty queens waving (a Natalie favorite) and folks running for city council passing out ink pens. Friends of ours live on the parade route which makes for the perfect place to watch from. Thomas found a shady spot next to his buddy Anna and snacked on crackers. Our apologies go out to Anna for the mess he made in her wagon and our advice for next time is to eat your crackers faster - you're lucky he didn't get a finger. 

After the parade we strollered over to the local American Legion for the BBQ Chicken Dinner fundraiser. They had live music and a blow up obstacle course for the kids as well. Nat about burned her feet off on the molten-lava-hot plastic and abandoned ship directly after this picture. 

The rest of our time has been spent on the golf course and hanging out in our friends pools - remind me to send you guys fruit baskets at the end of the summer. And by fruit baskets I mean bottles of wine and liquor. We appreciate you, your cocktails with fresh rosemary and your magical pool cleaning robots. 


  • GT's Kombucha - I'm 100% on the Kombucha bandwagon. No clue if it works but it's certainly giving me the whole 'feel good' it brags about. I also really like the taste. Right now the Gingerade is on sale at Costco! 
  • The movie Blade Runner. Jeff and I watched it last week and I LOVED it. If you find yourself home some night with 2.5 hours to spare, we recommend it. 
  • Outside Coffee Co. - Joined a friend there for coffee last Friday morning and thought it was adorable. I noticed they took a little long to make the coffee to order but their whole food truck in a patio atmosphere is really unique. Check them out. 
  • Attitude baby bath products! I was recently introduced to Attitude care line of baby products now sold at Meijer and love it. They have shampoo and body wash, bubbles and even diaper cream. It's all natural, worry free and smells great. They also have household cleaning products.