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Author: Mark

Horse Quilt Creation

When it comes to horses, I’ve always been a fan. I guess you could say that everyone has their animal to adore and this is mine. Every year, I like to go to Mackinac Island for the Festival of the Horse. It’s a fun time and I like the feel of the island so it’s a great excuse to get away.

This year, I was particularly blown away by what I can do with my sewing machine. I’ve become great at a lot of sewing related projects. I thought that I would turn my love of horses into a fun passion project. I’ve been slaving by my sewing machine, but I’ve finally done it. I’ve created a beautiful horse quilt.

When the nights get chilly, I like to bring out a blanket to keep me warm. I love to have my beautiful sewing creations on display, so this year I thought I’d bring my quilt along. Not only will it keep me warm, but it will show my love of the festival. To me, this is a win-win type of situation.

You probably don’t even know how much time I put into this quilt. Quilting is even more specialized than many sewing projects. You are working with small squares. The small portions of fabric though can be chosen with a lot of meaning. I wanted to have mine completely with horse fabric from all over. I would order in bits of fabric from stores online as well.

Compiling the fabric was quite a hunt for me. It took me a while to get everything that I needed. I had to go to lots of fabric stores in my city. It was an exhaustive search. The ladies in a few of them started to recognize me. I would tell them about my project. It was an exciting time.

Ultimately, I enjoy my hunts a great deal. They give me a treasure at the end to work with as well. I found that I wasn’t particular about a color scheme, so my blanket is really a mixture of everything in terms of chromatics. This makes it rich and lively though, so I am not complaining.

When I set about on this adventure, I wasn’t quite sure where it would lead me. I just was feeling creative and wanting to explore where this would take me. I’m glad though that I gave it a good shot. It led me to a place where I had a sense of pride in my accomplishment.

It’s good to explore your hobbies a little further and take it to the next level, I concluded. With this stamina, I hope to continue my momentum and go forward to new pursuits. I hope everyone at the festival likes my blanket. I worked really hard on it, so it would be nice to get a few compliments. I don’t think I’d use it as a picnic blanket though. It’s a bit too precious for that.

How a Horse Saved My Life

Based on the title, I bet you’re thinking this is an action-packed tale and that Skye is basically Lassie with horseshoes. Sorry to disappoint you but it isn’t quite like that. I had gotten married incredibly young—right out of high school. It was about as bad a decision as I could have made. My high school sweetheart turned into a real sour pickle and it took me a long time to get myself together enough to walk away. I didn’t want to be 23 and already a divorced waitress! With the support of my parents, I decided to enroll in veterinary school. That turned out to not be my thing, either, and my world started to get very dark indeed. However, one good thing did come of it—I met a farrier who knew of a stable that was looking to hire people. He thought of me and so he gave them my contact information. Shortly after, I got my job at the stables, helping to muck stalls and groom the horses.

That’s how I met Skye. Her owner was paying the boarding fees and I never actually saw anybody come in to check up on her. I couldn’t really complain too much even though I felt bad for the gorgeous dappled-gray girl. It meant that I got to spend a lot of time with her. There was no neglect there—we made sure of that at the barn—but there was definitely no love either. I always tried to give extra attention to the horses whose owners weren’t there every day but Skye was special. She clearly looked forward to seeing me every morning. I got the OK from the owner to ride her when I took people out on the trail. She was always calm, gentle, and proud on the trail—she looked like a queen leading a parade. I would go in her stall or hang out with her in the field every free moment I had. I would tell her all about my life, about my failed marriage, and all the trouble my ex-husband (we decided a good nickname for him was Pie, as in Cow Pie) seemed bent on causing. I told Skye things that I had never told anybody else. For her part, Skye was a great listener! I swear she even would make noise or nuzzle me at the right times as if she understood me. At some point, I started to feel better. As much as I knew she looked forward to seeing me, I looked forward to seeing her also. She became my reason to get up in the morning and get myself out of bed. I didn’t realize how badly I had needed that in my life.

At some point, I was given Skye’s historyand found out why nobody ever came to see her: the owner had given the horse to his little girl as a Christmas gift but it turned out she didn’t want a gray horse, she’d wanted Black Beauty. I don’t know—my world isn’t like that at all. I would have been ecstatic as a kid to get ANY kind of horse. Eventually even the owner got tired of paying the boarding fees and put up a notice that Skye was for sale. I couldn’t afford what he was asking, but the barn owners by then loved me and knew how I felt about my friend. They offered to buy her and let me pay her off in installments, which of course I happily accepted. They also gave me a “raise” which, by an amazing coincidence, was the same as her boarding fees.

Some people might think that I saved Skye—who knows what would have happened to her without any attention or love there at the stable, or what her fate would have been if I hadn’t taken over as her owner—but I know the truth. That horse saved me.

Heating Bill Got You Down?

Do you open your utility bill and cringe? I do. I am so concerned about the cost of energy from an environmental point of view and also for my own budget. So what can you do? I can tell you right now that you can take control of your environment and save yourself some money. Just think of all the things you can do with the excess. I can go back to Mackinac Island, my favorite haunt. I have a travel bug when it comes to this scenic place. It is a great place to ride horses, even a carriage (no cars allowed on the island), participate in water recreation, and eat great local food. I am going to do something about the high cost of heating my home right now. You may have your own methods and I have mine. The first thing I do is wear proper clothing. You can’t expect to beat the cold in shorts and a tank top. I wear sweats and change from work attire as soon as I get home. I do not turn the heater on. If it is freezing out and you must, do not leave it on all day. You will have a whopper of a bill.

You can have a few throw blankets around the house. Put one on the sofa and one on your bed. If they are wool, they really work, plus they are so cozy. I also wear comfy lined slippers, drink hot chocolate at night, and use a space heater. They don’t cost much, are portable and light weight, and they will surely save you enough money to offset their cost in a few months. You can get the size you need according to the space to be heated. They work fast so you can turn them on only when you are home. I have three to meet my winter needs. One is a small countertop size that fits on my desk next to the laptop. It warms my hands and face. Next I keep a larger one in the living room when I have guests. I can move it to the kitchen whenever I want. Usually the oven takes care of this room as I prepare dinner. The last one goes in the bedroom and stays on while I sleep. It keeps me toasty warm. I have set it to automatically shut off after four hours or you may dry the room out. I can breathe better without it on all night. I can take it to the bathroom in the morning to heat up this tiny room as I get dressed and ready to go out.

A space heater is a godsend if you are sensitive to cold and don’t have, or want to use, your central heating system. Just look at the last couple of winter time bills and it will be easy to decide. I want to cut those bills in half. I am getting there each month.

Avoiding Winter Skin Damage

I am outside a lot riding my horse and I am not going to give up this practice just because it is cold. I don’t want to become a prisoner of my own home. Sure, the indoor heating is nice, but it dries out my skin so badly. I spend a fortune on lotions and creams. Come summer I switch to sunscreen and moisturizer alone. Meanwhile I am fighting the effects of the dry air caused by the heating system. I don’t want to get wrinkled because of this so I am opting for the best humidifier I can find. They are not air purifiers. That is a different gadget. So is a dehumidifier which pulls moisture out of the air when it is humid. A humidifier plain and simple emits moisture by contrast. If your sinuses hurt, you may need this wonderful appliance. It helps most everyone.

I am buying a medium size unit so it covers the entire house and I don’t need to put one in every room as I do with a space heater. You fill the tank with water (you can get them up to a gallon) and watch this marvel work. Your skin should feel better in a day or two. You can use lighter weight creams as a result and the wrinkles will be kept at bay. I love to give out advice on practical issues, especially if I can attest to the efficacy of what I suggest. I use the humidifier for at least a couple of hours each day. Most of the time this is enough. The device is energy efficient and saves money on utilities, which is characteristic of new models these days of anything from a toaster oven to a blender. It is always about the environment and saving our dwindling resources. I am not a nut about ecology, but frankly, if they wanted to do away with cars and have people ride horses, I would be the first. I could adapt in a second. Did I mention that I already have a divine equine creature?

My friends have been commenting that my face looks nice. They say my skin texture is smooth and silky. I credit my trusty humidifier for this effect. If it breaks down, I am in trouble; but it won’t happen as I got a top appliance. I suggest that anyone with a similar problem gives it a try. You will be pleasantly surprised. Speaking of saving money, you won’t have to buy all those creams. Even if you aren’t on a budget, why not save if you can in principal. I hear that you can get a used humidifier that is only a year old at some hardware and appliance stores. This is recycling in an area that you would not expect. If new is the only type you want there are many brands like Crane, Vornado, Dyson, Aircare, and more. Some are ultrasonic and some have an evaporative console. It is all about price.

Biking Around Mackinac

I love my mountain bike. I can hit the trails at home or I can take it with me to Mackinac Island on one of my seasonal visits. I love the scenery and the views of the lake. You can’t beat the verdant greenery and the quaint architecture. No wonder it is a major Michigan tourist attraction. I prefer biking to a boat ride any day, but the latter is most common. You can’t drive a car so you better think about your method of transportation. For me it is the bike. You can take it anywhere there is a road or some kind of access. I like dirt trails as much as paved. I want to explore the island and each time I go, I find something different. It is fun to go with a friend with whom you can share meals, long talks, walks, and adventure. People ask me, where are you going on vacation this summer and I inevitably answer, Mackinac Island.

You can take your bike on the ferry or you can rent one when you get there. It is easy as so many shops sell and rent them out. Biking as you can imagine is super popular given that no cars are allowed. If you are not a bike aficionado, you will soon be after a day outside in the sunshine. I can spend hours touring the island, stopping only for a rest at lunch. I either take something with me or try a local café. I don’t mind playing tourist so I attend yacht races and festivals—anything special that is scheduled. It all makes for great picture taking. Check out my account on Instagram. It is loaded with images of this magical place. Island life is unique and only a few of us get to try it. I have been going since I was a child. In fact, I learned to ride horses here. It inspired me to get my own as an adult.

A mountain bike is an all-around good choice but you can rent any kind you are used to and like. I want something reliable, easy to fix, and comfortable. The seat is the most important culprit in making you sore. I don’t want anything to cut into my day and prompt me to stop riding and go back to the hotel. I do like to walk around so it wouldn’t be a tragedy. There is a lot to see on the island. You can wander the residential neighborhoods, stroll the main streets in town, and chat with the locals. We all share a love of the island.

While biking in town, I discovered the most wonderful candy store. I stopped to check out the fudge, my favorite sugary confection. They had at least thirty kinds. It was tough, but I settled only for rock road. It was a great snack and I didn’t mind the calories as I had burned up a couple hundred already that morning.

Accommodations on Mackinac Island

When I go to Mackinac Island in the summer, I usually am at a cottage with a couple of friends.It keeps my vacation spending to a minimum. Everyone is looking for something different when they go on vacation.This post is for those of you interested in places to stay around the island.

If you are like me and want to save some money, or if you like having lots of space, you can rent a cottage. Like any other vacation spot, prices depend on the size of the place and its proximity to desirable locations. The closer to the beach or downtown you get, the more you are going to shell out. The same goes for amenities. You can try big websites like or Airbnb. We haven’t had much luck there, so for someplace as small as Mackinac I don’t really suggest it. Instead, try a specialty realtor. My friends and I usually take a look on Mackinac Resorts to see what’s available. They have a good selection there on everything from rental condos and cottages to more traditional rooms or bed and breakfasts. We have also stayed in St. Ignace and taken the ferry over to the island when we want to go there. Plus then you have somewhere for your car. It can be cheaper that way but it really depends on the place you stay.

Of course, there are also hotels on the island. My very favorite is the Grand Hotel. It has the longest front porch in the world. It’s just gorgeous. The hotel is an integral part of Mackinac Island and is a great home base when there is a festival. When there’s nothing on the schedule for the island, there is still plenty to do at there. Personally, I like to grab some ice cream at Sadie’s and enjoy the views! They also host an afternoon tea and dancing nightly. A lot of the charm in Mackinac is that timeless, classic feel. The Grand Hotel is a big part of that. With nearly 400 rooms, you may go there every year and never stay in the same one twice!Another option, downtown this time, is the Hotel Iroquois. It is much smaller than the Grand Hotel and just as beautiful! I like it there as well because they have some great lighthouse views. If thoseare too fancy for you, there are plenty of other inns and hotels on the island. You have to book it kind of early because there are only like three rooms, but the Village Inn is a pretty great place to stay. You’re right there in downtown and you are above a nice place to eat. We have stayed there a time or two and it has worked out well. I don’t even usually miss the air conditioner. The Pontiac Lodge is another good option and it is larger. Plus some of the rooms have jacuzzi tubs!

I’m no travel agent, so I’ll stop there. But if you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them. My budget kind of dictates where I stay but I certainly love exploring the island so I can always try to check out anything you are interested in the next time I am there.

Bicycle Maintenance Tips

How I love Mackinac Island. I call it my stomping ground. I have been going there since I was a kid with my family. I never miss the Festival of the Horse. Imagine a place where cars never replaced the horse and carriage. I love the pairing of the rhythm of horse-clops and the waves. It is a magical place for sure and you don’t have to go far—say to Hawaii or Tahiti. It is right here in the US. In addition to the carriages that are coveted by the tourists, you can also ride a bike. It is the most common mode of transportation. If go roam far afield, you must know how to take care of it in preparation for long rides, and what to do if you have a flat. Keeping a bicycle in tip-top shade means oiling the chain, securing any lose parts, testing the brakes, and using an air compressor to maintain the proper air pressure. Bike tires are easy to inflate at home or on the road.

I know all this because I found myself in a flat tire dilemma one lazy afternoon as I was hitting the local bike trails without advanced preparation. I did not have my air compressor with me so I just had to wait for help, which took what seemed like a very long hour. One after another, cyclists rode by and didn’t stop. I was about to start shouting. I suppose it was because they were in a hurry or thought I was just resting. I wished that I had a “help” sign. Finally, a kind soul with an air compressor saved the day. I will try to remember to bring it along next time. I lost some time but not enough to deter me from continuing on my chosen path. I love being outdoors. My preference is to be on horseback, but a bike is a close second. I own a horse and tend to its needs myself. I take better care of it apparently than my bike. I have learned my lesson. As much as I ride my bike, I have never had a mishap. You start assuming that nothing will ever happen. Don’t kid yourself.

On a bike, you are mobile and can see the glorious scenery of Mackinac Island. People call it the jewel of the Great Lakes for good reason. It is a very special place. The vistas are incredible. Then you can stop for a bite in a local café or to shop in the many quaint stores. At night, the island is transformed as people come out to enjoy the happening music and to patronize the lively bar scene. If you are in the area and want a terrific vacation, join me on Mackinac Island. There is something for everyone. They celebrate Halloween with glee, have yacht races, a lilac festival, and Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race. Come join the fun.

Cougar Sighting!

I work in a barn because I like to be near horses. I have my own and love riding with a passion. I learned to ride on Mackinac Island when I was a child and my attachment to horses has never left me. Sometimes unexpected things happen at the barn. Animals get lose, strangers wander in, food is missing. I can’t imagine what else goes on when I am not there. Recently, we had some cougar sighting scares. These are dangerous animals. You don’t want them around your pets and never want to approach them. The owners of the barn are concerned and have checked their gun safe. Yes, there is a rifle inside. They check it for its working condition and whether or not it is loaded. The safe is in the barn so we are ready for a cougar invasion. I know how to shoot so I could be the one to save the animals from attack.

Guns should not be lying about so I was glad that the rifle was secure. The safe operates with a combination lock and I know the numbers. I could open the safe in a jiffy. I am responsible about weapons so I never take chances. I would prefer that the owner do the dirty deed of shooting the cougar should it invade our private space. Sometimes the sightings are far away but these animals are known to travel great distances and they are not afraid of people. They have even been seen in suburbs where kids play in the street. More than one local family has a gun safe like these.

If the cougar wanders at night, it is important to keep the barn door closed to deter entry. I certainly would not want to meet this creature of the wild face to face. I worry about the animals and would feel terrible if they were approached or attacked. They get very frightened and can’t eat for days after they see an alien in their midst. I would be destroyed if anything happened to my horse. All you can do, however, is secure your premises including your yard and keep a rifle on hand if you are really concerned. Listen to the sightings—it could be a cougar or a mountain lion—and create a plan. Don’t worry about deer. They are often spotted in the hills and sometimes they come down into residential areas adjacent to the mountains. They are not dangerous and you would feel bad if you made the mistake of hunting this delicate animal.

I don’t believe in hunting for its own sake but if you are threatened, you or your property, I can see that it is justified. This is a personal decision you must make. If you grow up with guns as I have, and you know how to use them, it may be an easier choice. The problem is that there are so many reported accidents. You need to teach your family about gun safety and the important role of a gun safe.

Getting to Mackinac and Getting Around Without a Car

I know. It’s weird for people to even contemplate: there’s no driving! Seriously?!? Yup. Seriously. There is no driving. There is no motorized anything, to be completely clear (except maybe motorized scooters and snowmobiles in winter; you can call their police department and ask if you have specific questions about what’s ‘street legal’ there.) They passed the law originally to keep cars off the island so they didn’t scare the horses and the law just stayed on the books. Without access to a car, you have to think a bit more about logistics, so I want to give you some tips on how to do it.

The first two questions you probably have are related: how do you get there and what do you do with your car if you can’t bring it to the island? You have two options to get to the island itself: either by ferry or by plane. There are two ferry companies, Sheplers and Star Line. They have parking lots and you can make arrangements with them if you are going to be more than a few days on the island. I recommend leaving your car and taking a cab or getting a ride to the ferry terminal from someone not going on the trip with you. Then you don’t have to worry about parking. Ferries vary from about 15 minutes to a half hour depending on the type of ferry and where you leave from—either St. Ignace or Mackinaw City. If you don’t like boats, there’s also flying. Great Lakes Air runs a 6 seater back and forth for a decent price and it is not a very long trip.  You can also stay at a hotel nearby one of the ferries or the airport and make arrangements for your vehicle there. You can either take a shuttle or taxi to your chosen mode of transportation from there.

If you’re going there in the winter, however, you do have one more option: the ice bridge. I’ve never done this because I have a thing against walking across that much ice, but in winter the ferries have to stop when the water freezes. Once it is frozen solid enough, you can actually walk/cross-country ski/snowmobile your way from St. Ignace to the island. People usually line the path with their old Christmas trees. This isn’t entirely safe, so I’m not endorsing this as a mode of transportation but I wanted to mention it because it is an option.

I am sure you have one other question, though: once you get to the island, how do you get around? Well, there are horse drawn taxis at the Mackinac Island side of the ferry terminals and airport that can take you wherever you want to go. They will have either have room for your luggage or you can make arrangements for it to follow you on. Many of the hotels on the island will pick up your bags for you—you should inquire about that when you make reservations. Once you are on the island itself, there is my favorite mode of transportation: horseback riding and carriage rides. You can also rent or bring your own bicycle. There’s always walking. The Island is only about 4 square miles (about 8 miles around) so it isn’t like anywhere on the island is all that far from anywhere else. Once you get there, you won’t even miss your car. I promise.

One Summer Was All it Took


When my sister and I were still in elementary school, my parents took us to Mackinac Island on vacation. They rented a cottage for a weeknear the end of the summer. It was the best time of my life. I think it helped that it was the first time my parents let us actually do anything on our own—since there are no cars on the island, my parents were not as afraid for us to ride our bikes around. My sister and I took full advantage of our parents’ change in policy and explored the island every free moment we could.My parents also took us horseback riding for the first time on that trip, and I totally fell in love. I was in that horrendously awkward period where my body was starting to rebel and change and I was acting like a teenager even though I didn’t have the age to back it up (I think they call that a tween now). I caught on right away and it made me a lot more comfortable in my own skin. When you have something you are good at, you get more confidence. Of course, I also met my first crush there and had my first kiss. That helped my confidence too!

It isn’t any wonder that I cried when we left the Island to get ready to go back to school and our regular lives. I didn’t want to go back to my regular life. I wanted to stay on Mackinac, with my bike, riding horses and swimming at the beach. I think I started crying on the ferry and didn’t stop the entire way home. I have no idea how my parents didn’t throw me out the window of the car on that drive back. Even though over a decade has passed since that time, I smile when I think about that summer. It was the happiest I have ever been.

When I got engaged, it was the first place I thought of. I imaged myself traveling by horse-drawn carriage to the Grand Hotel where my handsome groom and all our friends would be waiting on the front porch for me. I was devastated when I found out how much my fairytale wedding would cost.At that age, I didn’t have much in the way of savings. I got a job and thought my fiancé and I were putting all the money in the bank to at least honeymoon on Mackinac and get our lives started, but it turned out that he was pissing it all away on dumb stuff instead. I should have taken that as the warning sign it was, I know, but I didn’t.

Now that I am older and pretty much only have to think about myself, I scrimp and save all year so that I can be on Mackinac at some point every summer. Now I have made some friends there and we try to rent a cottage together; not ideal but it helps keep the costs down. We take turns buying food, cooking, and cleaning the place. It is always just as magical as I remember. I want to be able to buy my own summer place there one day and I really want to be able to bring Skye with me when I go. Big dreams, I know, but if you don’t have dreams, what do you have? I know if I keep my head down and work hard, I will get there one day.

Mackinac Festival of the Horse

Mackinac Island is a gorgeous island just off the coast of UP (that’s upper peninsula for those of you not in the know) Michigan, in the waters of Lake Huron. Way back in 1898, they passed a law on Mackinac Island that banned “horseless carriages,” as to not scare the horses. It essentially prevented people from bringing their cars—or any other form of motor transportation—to the island. They created the perfect ‘turn of the century’ world where the “Horse is King!” That certainly is my kind of place! In the summer, it is very easy to get around the island. You can ride in a horse drawn carriage, rent a buggy, or ride a bicycle. Walking is also another option for most people. The island itself isn’t very big and it is very safe, especially when the last ferry has left with the day trippers. In case you are wondering, emergency vehicles, motorized wheelchairs, and snowmobiles in winter (when most of the horses are sent to warmer climates) are permitted on the island.

The Festival of the Horse was a natural way to capitalize on the perfect equestrian environment they have on Mackinac Island. It is a chance for them to celebrate all things horse. In previous years, they have had a horse and carriage parade. People and their horses get all dressed up for the occasion and it looked pretty amazing. Most of the people who are in the parade are locals, but I would imagine that anybody who was able to bring (and board) their horse on the island could participate. They usually have a good representation of different breeds and colors of horses, and go into more detail with that at a breed show where you can learn more about the different types of horses on the island. Another bright spot in the festival is the musical freestyling. If you haven’t seen someone do musical freestyling on a horse, you should go look it up online. It is pretty darn cool. I am pretty good at riding a horse but there is no way I could get Skye to dance like that. It’s just so cool though. At past festivals, they have also displayed antique wagons and buggies—not hard when it’s basically all you’ve ever had on the island, right? There are also informational sessions during the weekend, which I am sure my parents would love. They talk about the history of horses on the island and the different breeds there, where the horses go in the winter and things like that (they are snowbirds—snowhorses? mostly. They tend to be shipped to the mainland or to warmer climes during the offseason).

Of course, I happen to be from Michigan and love horses, so I could be biased when I say this is one of the best festivals around. But I don’t think so. Hopefully we will all be able to meet up at the next festival!