Our Snowy Grand Canyon Day

It looks like we have a theme here. When we started to plan our trip to Arizona we thought that the entire state would be much warmer than New England, however as we learned in Sedona, it’s snowy in northern Arizona in the winter. The altitude at the south rim of the Grand Canyon is 6500 feet above sea level, higher than Mount Washington which at 6288 is the highest peak in the Northeastern US. Who knew? We do now!

To make our way to the Grand Canyon from Sedona, we drove through a winter wonderland of snow.

IMG_0226Oak Creek Canyon

After leaving our hotel we turned toward Sedona by mistake on our way out to the highway. We were thoroughly enjoying the scenery and didn’t realize our mistake until we reached the town of Sedona. The drive back to route 17 toward Flagstaff was about 15 miles, so, rather than backtracking we took the scenic route through Oak Creek Canyon and we were so glad that we did. It was breathtaking, and while we didn’t use it, we had four wheel drive if we needed it.

Anyway, two and a half hours after leaving Sedona we made it to Grand Canyon!

IMG_0230… looking over the south rim of the Grand Canyon!

This moment had been on my bucket list for years. I have very fond memories of seeing it with my family as a child and I’d always wanted for Michael and our kids to experience it, so I was kind of overwhelmed. I barely looked at the view myself because I was having a great time watching their reactions.

IMG_0238Good thing I took lots of pictures! The views are amazing from every possible vantage point. In case you missed it, I posted photos of nothing but views of the Grand Canyon on Wordless Wednesday last week. You can see them here.


Just above is the exterior of the main visitor center at Grand Canyon Village in the south rim. I didn’t take photos inside but it was beautiful with engaging exhibits about many different aspects of the history, wildlife and geology of the canyon.

The south rim and north rim of the canyon are very different. While it’s less than twenty miles straight across, the trip to the north rim from the south rim is over 200 miles each way. The north rim is closed in the winter and sounds much less developed then the main viewing area of the south rim, which has a village that includes ten hotels, several visitor centers and museums, restaurants and a post office.

DSC04998After seeing the canyon and looking around the visitor center, we had lunch at the El Tovar Hotel. This is one of a few remaining Fred Harvey Hotels and it’s an interesting stop. It was built to be one of the most elegant hotels in the west in the early 1900s. Fred Harvey was a British immigrant who built many restaurants and several grand hotels on the rail lines and on Route 66. El Tovar was designed by well known architect Mary Colter who also designed grand hotels in Winslow, AZ and several other cities across the southwest. We’ll run into Fred and Mary again soon in Winslow. We grew quite fond of them and appreciated their very cozy and elegant design style!


One of the wonderful aspects of traveling in the winter is the lack of crowds. While the lodge and dining room were pleasantly busy, we were seated right away. IMG_0250The El Tovar dining room was lovely. At $400/night per room, we weren’t staying there, but lunch was as reasonably priced as many of the other stops on our trip. The food was good, not spectacular, but very good, and the service was great. After a few days on the road white linen tablecloths and napkins were a treat.

IMG_0254These beautiful stained glass chandeliers were too.

IMG_0261I would have loved to have gone up to see the mezzanine… the view of the canyon must be awesome up there!

IMG_0263The front porch looks like an inviting place to sit on a warmer day.

The hotel had the look, feel and smell (in a good way) of a huge log cabin. It should probably be a post of it’s own.

This is a garden blog, not a hotel blog, but hmm….


IMG_0287This photo (complete with window reflection) was taken inside the Yavapai Geology Museum. This was our “homeschooling for ten days” moment of the day.. I should probably call it the “un-schooling” moment because I worked very hard to let the kids experience it on their own terms without intervening too much, so that they would really get it, and they did.  The geological miracle of the canyon is crystal clear after spending a half hour there. I should have taken more photos but I was busy looking around and learning.

We also visited the Hopi Lodge, which is a recreated Hopi house thats used as a gift shop. The visitor center right behind Hopi Lodge had an interesting exhibit about life as a resident of Grand Canyon Village. Apparently a few thousand people live there in a housing complex that’s tucked away out of view. There’s even a school and a health clinic. I think that it would be an interesting place to live as a park service family.

DSC04961Here’s our official Grand Canyon family portrait.

Before I close I’ll summarize a little bit about the logistics of our visit to the Grand Canyon.

  1. The literature says “stay in the park”… my mom intuition said “stay where it’s less expensive and there’s an indoor pool.” So, we did that… the Grand Canyon Holiday Inn Express worked well for us. It was clean, cozy and included a very extensive continental breakfast. Other family restaurants were within walking distance.
  2. Don’t be afraid of winter, just dress for it, then embrace the experience!
  3. We had one beautiful afternoon to spend there, which was pushing it a bit, but it was enough time. We weren’t hiking into the canyon and some of the roads were closed due to snow so we enjoyed our experience immensely and then felt ready to move on. I think that the time frame needed to see everything varies with each visitor and their interests and abilities.
  4. At any time of the year be sure to monitor the weather conditions before you go. We stayed in Sedona for an extra night because the roads were still snowy and the canyon was full of clouds. The NPS website (click here) has an accurate forecast, park alerts and a webcam that you can check to make sure your visit will be the best it can be
  5. Even if you’re not concerned about the weather, the NPS website is a great starting point for planning your visit to the Grand Canyon.
  6. Enjoy every minute!

Coming Soon: Winslow Arizona and starting onion seeds!

Stay warm!




First Stop-Snowy Sedona!

We “just got back” from our family trip to Arizona and as I tried to figure out what to share here on The Salem Garden I decided to talk about it one stop at a time. We were a family of seven out on the open road, just like the old days! It was fun to travel with young adult children and our baby is almost eleven so she was able to keep up with everything everyone else wanted to do.  There were views and gardens, wildlife, great food and lots and lots (and lots) of quality family time.

We landed in Phoenix at dusk, picked up our SUV and drove two hours north to Sedona in the dark, hitting some pretty slick snow and ice on the way.

We weren’t really thinking too much about encountering snow and ice in Arizona before we left Boston. Fortunately we were prepared with winter clothes but I don’t think we were truly in the winter mindset. We learned quickly that Arizona has winter too, especially northern Arizona.

After a quick night of rest we woke up in the morning to this…


…absolutely incredible, classic Arizona! The snow clouds were still lingering but it was amazing!

My New England kids thought we had landed on the moon!

IMG_0105Yes, there was snow, but it seemed different on a cactus…

IMG_0103or frosting a red mountain.

IMG_0169We couldn’t get over the beauty of this place. This is the view of the town of Sedona looking down from the Airport Mesa.

DSC04861Even the most commercial area of downtown Sedona was surrounded by mountains.

One of the things that makes Sedona special are vortexes of energy. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it’s believed to be a place where energy that’s released from the earth provides healing and strength. There are very specific spots called vortexes where the energy is concentrated.

DSC04868We hiked to the Cathedral Rock Vortex.

My middle daughter and I felt the energy… she and I are very open to energy of all kinds.

Even though they didn’t admit it, I think the rest of the family did too.

IMG_0163The energy radiated from the earth and we looked up at this…

IMG_0140The scenery was so stunning that it was very easy and yet difficult to capture in photographs.

IMG_0210Here’s the view from our hotel.

A note about the hotel (actually motel) … we stayed at the Wildflower Inn and found it to be simple, clean and very affordable. A continental breakfast was included and you could sit and enjoy this beautiful view. While Sedona is known for it’s spas and luxurious places to stay, we feel that we had the full Sedona experience without paying lots of money for our hotel.

At this point in the trip we were busy with things like teaching the children to look at each of us as Michael and I both took their picture simultaneously, everywhere we went…

IMG_0130Look at Dad… please…IMG_0131Now look at Mom… smile and say “Arizona”!

They’ll get it eventually, you’ll see…

To wrap up this post… the big things about Sedona are:

  1. The view is beautiful at all times. I’ve never seen anyplace quite like it.
  2. The energy is different… it’s positive and healing and strong.
  3. The vibe is incredibly positive. It’s hard to explain but we felt it everywhere we went.
  4. It’s a wonderful first stop on a tour of Arizona.

I’m ready to retire to Sedona… I think the kids are too.

We’re still working on our canoe/lake/East Coast Dad…

Next Stop, the Grand Canyon, via Oak Creek Canyon… it was a wild ride~



There’s No Place Like Salem Willows On the 4th!

We had our annual 4th of July visit and trek through the Willows neighborhood this morning. The decorations, the people and the party are all awesome! It’s so much fun because the whole neighborhood and lots of us from the rest of the city come out to enjoy the parade, the scenery and each other. We met our good friends, took a walk and had a relaxing pizza lunch under the willow trees. Tonight we’ll all head back downtown for the fireworks. Check out the great houses, beautiful views and happy people….
























We love our 4th of July celebration here in Salem, Massachusetts!

Happy Independence Day!

Enjoy everything!


Things That Work For Me-The Flylady

I haven’t done a “Things That Work For Me” Post in a while, but I woke up (at 4am, but that’s another post) thinking about the Flylady and my need to start following her again. Have you heard of her? The “Flylady” at Flylady.net is a woman named Marla Cilley and she’s quite amazing. She and her website have helped me through many a rough day, week, month and year. Basically if your subscribe to her free service she sends you e-mails, lots of e-mails. As you read them and follow the plan that she’s laid out, your home and your personal life will get into order a little bit at a time. It starts with the most simple basics like shining your sink and putting on your shoes.   As you adapt the routine that she gives you to your needs and lifestyle you’ll find that your space will slowly start to become de-cluttered and cleaner. Then you’ll be able to find things when you need them, and before you know it your laundry will be caught up and  your family will be eating healthy, nutritious food. You might even end up following a calendar. The very end result is that you’ll have much more time to do the things you love (like get out to the garden!) and you and the people who live with you will be transformed into healthier and happier creatures. Fly stands for “finally loving yourself.” You may think that you love yourself but how you take care of yourself and your environment says a lot about where you truly are. Truth be told I’ve been kind of “off the wagon” lately. The challenge of working, raising a large family and being involved in the community activities that I enjoy has taken a toll on me. The good thing is, the Flylady is always there. I can start reading the e-mails, feeling the love and encouragement and getting back on track whenever I’m ready. She is really the secret to our success as a family. Starting today I’m going back to reading and implementing the basics so that we can all breathe a little bit easier.  If you feel the need to get organized, live in a happy, clean home and love yourself and your space, go check out the website, then let me know how it goes. I’ll be your biggest cheerleader, next to the Flylady herself!

Project 365: August 5 2007 - tangible FLYLady
Project 365: August 5 2007 – tangible FLYLady (Photo credit: Quack the Wooley Duck)

Recent Holiday Moments

Hello out there! I miss you!!  Just like everyone else, I’ve been so busy with Christmas and lots and lots of people in my house that I haven’t had a chance to post anything. Where did a week go?  It’s still the holidays around here… Michael is home from work, the kids are  home from school, we’re eating and visiting and avoiding most of the every day routine.  I thought I’d just check in and post a few photos from the past few weeks.

Uncle Mark was here a few weeks ago… he’s a fun uncle. My kids think he’s part jungle gym. I’m always a little bit worried for his back and my lamps when he’s around.


These two were dancing angels on Sunday morning then became soldiers, gumdrops and polichinelles in the afternoon. They are busy, busy girls!


My Magi’s Assistant (I love the hat)…


Prepping for the Christmas pageant… our church has a wonderful collection of costumes, so much glitter and gold.


Our beautiful church during the pageant. I love this place.


Winter at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. We had never been there and really enjoyed a walk one day.  I suspect that you’ll be seeing more Arboretum photos in the future.


Is this not the most patient sixteen year old sister in the world? Really. I think she was trying to read something.


Probably the biggest gift hit this year… he loves it!!


Yes, that is the computer and I in the sunroom/office! It still needs furniture and shades and decorations, but it’s almost there. I love, love, love it!!


I won this, along with a basket of other baking goodies from Amy at A Healthy Life for Me. We kind of like to bake around here so it was a great surprise!


We made Linzer cookies for the first time (very fun and surprisingly easy)… along with Gingerbread and Christmas Tree sugar cookies…


Life has been sweet…

Hope it’s been for you too.

Love,  Michele

Family meals inspire cook to do the same for his young twins : Stltoday

I love this post by Pat Eby for the St Louis Post Dispatch and thought it would make a great share for today.  In our family the center point is our dinner together, it’s that simple. We come and go at this time of year but I strive for us to eat together as much as possible for all of the reasons that are mentioned.  Enjoy everything!  Michele

Family meals inspire cook to do the same for his young twins : Stltoday.

Potato Day!!!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived!

Yesterday we harvested our pot of potatoes!

We had a few friends visiting after school who helped out.

Here comes the wheelbarrow.

The team lifted up the pot and dumped it in!


We found  the pottery and rocks that we’d put in for drainage.

And here they go, a treasure hunt for potatoes…the kids loved this!

We were all quite surprised to find potatoes in there!

Everyone found a few..

Here’s our little harvest. Next summer we’re planning to plant several pots, start toward the bottom third of each pot and gradually add soil as the plants grow. We did a little bit of that but probably not enough.  For this year, we were just excited to see that we grew potatoes!

 After we’d removed potatoes and pottery the girls spent about twenty minutes digging around in the dirt and admiring the amazing bugs that they found. That made my day!

This is what gardening with children is all about!

A Few Minutes on the Friendship

Here’s a little inside look at our favorite ship in Salem!  You can read all about her here.  There are wonderful ranger guided tours, but, since we have our own ranger we like to stop in and look around once in awhile.

The rigging is amazing. The ship’s crew spends countless hours working on this.CargoImagine sleeping here..More cargo and maybe a sail?Counter space and a cute pie..The view from the deck

Another outside view, looking forward (I believe there’s a nautical term for “forward”)…

The captains quarters was closed for repair. I’ll try to get some shots there sometime soon. I could have taken a photo of the steering wheel ..I think that there may also be a nautical term for “steering wheel”, please feel free to chime in and correct me…

Sometimes I can’t believe that this is where we live, work and play.  What a lucky family I have.

Enjoy everything!



Here’s my guy, Winnie, also known as Winnie the Wonderdog and Winnie the Pooh and my sixth child..

He really is kind of a Winston.

We adopted Winnie four years ago when my oldest son was thirteen.  He begged and begged for a dog. I had never had a dog, so I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea.  My husband had grown up with a few very special family dogs. He loves dogs but he was well aware of the commitment that we’d be making. I really didn’t get it.  One day when Will asked me for the 557th time if he could put an ad on Craigslist I was in the middle of something and said “okay”…

The ad read:

“Family looking for a hypoallergenic dog who wouldn’t mind living with five kids, two cats, a bunny, two parakeets, and a flock of chickens”.

In my mind, this seemed very safe. What was the chance of someone answering this ad?  Of course, I was proven wrong. A very nice lady answered almost immediately. Her family had a four year old cock-a-poo that needed a home. Her sons were away at college, she worked all day, and her husband had some health concerns, making daytime walks very difficult. Would we want to meet Winnie?  We researched the breed and talked with Michael. Of course the kids were thrilled, especially after they saw his photo. Michael and I agreed to go by ourselves to meet Winnie on a Saturday. I remember that first meeting well. We rang the doorbell and immediately heard a very deep, loud bark. I looked at Michael with a raised eyebrow and said “I don’t know about this”… but we went in and had a visit. The visit turned into a walk around the block, the walk around the block turned into a weekend visit at our house and the weekend visit never ended. He stayed, and we’ve never looked back. Winnie became the center of our family.

The mix of poodle and cocker spaniel really works. He is cute and cuddly and very, very  intelligent. He’s eight now so he’s a little more relaxed than when he first arrived. One of the things that amazes me the most is that he never lived with children and had very limited exposure to them yet he has adapted remarkably well.  He’s great with kids and extremely tolerant of anything that comes his way.

Things like this

and this

oh wait, that’s Maddie, the cat. She’s his nemisis.  She eats his food and he just deals with it. He hadn’t had experience with cats either. Maddie is in charge. She jumps out at him when he walks by. Poor Winnie, I don’t know how he does it sometimes.

But, he does. He loves us all unconditionally.  He guards the front door with his life.. it’s his job!

Winnie needs lots of love, care and exercise. He gets that with us!

He brings us together, helps us to work together and entertains us daily.

Everyone should fall in love with a dog at least once. I’m so glad we did!

Where I’ve Been

Watching kids swim..eating great dinners by the lake shore…and enjoying the best cup of coffee ever!Visiting some of my favorite gardens..in the world.do you see a resemblance to the Salem Garden?  This is one of our inspiration spots.Enjoying moments of  complete peace and tranquility…and watching the clouds and airplanes.

There’s no place like Camp Calumet!

Where have you been?