Category: Families   view all recent posts
August 22, 2014filed in Children, Families

Cottage Life

Each year around this time, I find myself reflecting on the good times my family has enjoyed together over the summer months. My memories invariably center around the days we spend at the cottage, where we feel closest as a family. 
There are no phones or computers at the cottage. There are no distractions or demands at the cottage. There is only us and the beautiful quiet. 
The kids spend long days reading, swimming, fishing, and kayaking. Forgotten toys are rediscovered and board games take center stage on the living room table once again. 
And there is just more of everything that is good in life. More time, more laughs, more snuggles, more naps. 
Wherever you find yourself in the coming weeks, I hope you enjoy every delicious golden summer moment. 
That is exactly what I plan to do, too. 
A child enjoys quiet playtime at a lakeside cottage in Michigan

A child swims in a lake in Michigan

A Michigan lakeside cottage is the perfect place to relax and dip your feet in the water

Children read and play in a Michigan cottage

Three children play in a Michigan lake

Two children paddle a kayak in a Michigan lake

A majestic swan swims in a Michigan lake

A chocolate labrador dog relaxes on the deck of a boat on a Michigan lake

Two girls fish from the dock of a Michigan lakeside cottage

A father and daughter snuggle on a boat

Add a CommentSend an EmailPost on FacebookTweet on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
July 15, 2014filed in Children, Families, Travel

A Visit to the Present, Past and (oh, my!) the Future

When I heard the news that my nephew was marrying his college sweetheart, I was delighted. After all, it's not every day that someone so close to me falls in love and decides to take the plunge. That in itself is exciting. Then I learned that the ceremony was to take place in Charlottesville, home of their alma mater, the University of Virginia. Lovely! But perhaps most exciting of all? He and his fiancee asked two of my daughters to participate as members of the wedding party. My girls were simply over the moon about it. 
This is the story of my family's happy travels to Charlottesville in the present, past and future. 
In June, the time finally came. The wedding was just days away, and we set off for "C'ville" as the locals call it. The wedding was simply lovely, the setting on UVA's campus was stunning, and Tom, my daughters and I felt honored to be a part of the day.
The central grounds at UVA were the perfect backdrop for some post-ceremony snapshots.

With the excitement of the wedding day behind us, we decided to enjoy more of what this beautiful part of the country has to offer. Of course, no trip to the homeland of Thomas Jefferson would be complete without a visit to, well, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello
This trip to the past starts at the pleasantly designed visitor and education center. A video presentation brings the former president to life and provides background on some of the things you will see on a visit to his home and the area surrounding it. A life-size bronze sculpture of the man himself waits with you at the stop for the tram that will take you to his front door.
We enjoyed the sights at Thomas Jeffersons' Monticello visitor center and garden.

We toured the inside of his home (no photographs allowed!), including the dining room where he entertained many famous guests (a dumb waiter built into the side of the fireplace hauled up bottle after bottle of wine from the cellar) and his chambers (he had his bed built into the center of the room between his private quarters and his study so he could easily get up and off to work in the morning). 
As interesting as the inside of Monticello is, the outside is just as much so. We took our time touring the large, well-tended and charmingly rustic garden that grows along one complete side of the property. Walking along row after row of crops, we marveled at the relaxation among the order, the calm of the space amongst so many daily visitors and wondered aloud to one another, "who in the world eats all the food that is grown here?" 
A favorite part of the day at Monticello for my girls was exploring the hands-on activities tucked away in a shady spot near the main home. Who wouldn't enjoy trying the art of writing with a quill pen and ink?
The Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center offers fun experiences for Monticello visitors of all ages.

Here is one of my girls trying out the camera obscura, a device that led to the invention of photography.
The camera obscura is a popular attraction at the Monticello Mountaintop Hands-on Activity Center.

Visiting Monticello was a perfectly lovely and relaxed way to spend a day together as a family. 
I stated up front that this is a story of the present, past and future for my family. 
Remember the wedding? (Present.) 
Remember Monticello? (Past.) 
So what's the story about the future? 
A new fan of UVA and Charlottesville, VA is born.

We had such a lovely time in Charlottesville that all three of my girls have declared their intention to attend college there. Oh, my! I'm not quite ready for that just yet!
Add a CommentSend an EmailPost on FacebookTweet on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
November 30, 2013filed in Newborns, Babies, Children, Families


With holidays on the minds of so many, I thought today would be a great day to roundup the 5 professional tips & tricks for creating amazing photo greeting cards that I shared last year on the CHP Facebook page. With preparation and a few simple steps you can create a beautiful card for your family this year. 
Don't be afraid to snuggle up and get close. Getting close allows more natural expressions to shine through and creates a beautiful tight composition to your image.
Get close for a great family photo this holiday season

Pick a spot in your house with lots of indirect natural light from a window or doorway. Using flattering soft light creates gorgeous pictures!
Use indirect natural light at home for a fantastic family portrait

Taking a group photo of the kids can be rather crazy and produce less than great results. Why not take great photos of each one them individually? This not only can be more successful but also shows each child's unique personality.
Make your DIY photo session easier by using individual photos of the kids

One of the most common questions I'm asked is "what should we wear for out photo shoot?" I recommend wearing items that complement each other but don't match exactly. Try to have everyone in the same tonality. I encourage you to have different outfits and textures, but keep within 2 or 3 common colors. Most of all, wear what you love because it shows in your expression! 
Dress everyone in clothes that go together; matching is not necessary

You've gotten all the great family shots that you need for your card, now comes the really fun part: designing and printing. I recommend Minted for those who enjoy choosing a layout themselves and ordering online. Prefer personal service? Adele at The Write Touch will expertly guide you through the process of selecting and printing beautiful custom photo cards. No time to wait for custom-printed cards? See the fine folks at Huron Camera to get professional-quality prints made, then simply pop them into store-purchased holiday cards designed for this purpose (available at most department and stationary stores). Huron Camera prints photo cards too, and is a great option for keeping your printing business local.
Tips for printing your holiday cards with the pros

Voila! Your holiday cards are now ready to go forth and spread holiday cheer to family and friends.
Add a CommentSend an EmailPost on FacebookTweet on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
November 1, 2013filed in Children, Families


Threatening skies didn't dampen the annual trick-or-treating tradition in the Village of Dexter.
Village of Dexter, Halloween, Trick or Treat, Skeleton, Autumn, Fall, Jack-o-Lanterns

Welcoming porch lights, candlelit jack-o-lanterns, and festive orange string lights turned the village's historic downtown into a charmingly spooky meeting place for neighbors, residents, and visitors eager to collect treats and admire one another's costumes.

The cleverest disguise of the night was the walkabout refrigerator costume.

The costume's young creator got it right down to the last detail. Look closely at his face. It's bone chillingly good!

And did you know the Harlem Globe Trotters were in town last night? And that they were being followed closely by the undead?

Here's hoping yours was a wonderful Halloween too!

Add a CommentSend an EmailPost on FacebookTweet on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
October 22, 2013filed in Babies, Children, Families, Travel


This past weekend, my family and I enjoyed our traditional autumn getaway to South Haven, Michigan. Situated on the shore of Lake Michigan just a couple hours west of our home in Dexter, Michigan, South Haven is particularly gorgeous at this time of year. We always look forward to revisiting our favorite spots and discovering new sights along the way. Here are 4 must-visit places that top our list. 
STOP #1: Gene the Pumpkin Man 
A trip to South Haven would not be complete without a stop in Kalamazoo along the way to visit Gene the Pumpkin Man. Gene's 130 acre farm has been in his family since 1885, and according to the eye-catching sign on his barn, he's been in the pumpkin business for 56 years.

Gene is a very kind soul. Over the years he and his family have given freely to others in need by providing food and shelter and looking after people who just needed an extra hand. It's that sort of hospitality and giving spirit that bring customers back year after year. I met someone there that has purchased pumpkins from Gene for the last 42 years! 
Add us to the list of loyal Gene the Pumpkin Man customers. It is such a sweet place!

STOP #2: Crane Orchards 
There is a ton of fall fun to be had on the rambling farm property of Crane Orchards in Fennville, Michigan

Crane's has a huge fruit farm with U-pick apples, a great restaurant with every variety of pie you can imagine, and a wonderful corn maze that we love to wander through.

You can test your knowledge of corn trivia with ten numbered stations throughout the maze. Did you know corn silk makes the perfect material for a DIY mustache disguise?

STOP #3: Fall Festival at Stokes Homestead Farm Market 
New to our autumn weekend tradition this year was the Fall Festival at Stokes Homestead Farm Market in Grand Junction, Michigan. We found lots more fun for the kids there - pumpkin painting, a donut toss competition, mining for jewels, and even a spooky nighttime Halloween hay ride through the apple orchard.

STOP #4: South Haven Farm Market 
This is my favorite farmer's market of them all. At the South Haven Farmers Market, local farmers come together right in downtown South Haven to offer everything from apples to homemade maple syrup. What a treat for the eyes to walk through this market on a chilly fall morning!

Our girls' favorite is Happy Jack's Kettle corn. They enjoy watching him make the irresistibly salty and sweet treat right in front of us. We always stock up on Happy Jack's when we're in town.

Our annual family road trip is something we look forward to each fall. What are your family's must-visit places at this time of year? Please share in the comments!  
Add a CommentSend an EmailPost on FacebookTweet on TwitterPin on Pinterest
Posted by Cheryl Hall. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and
page 1 of 2|Older Posts
Join Our ListSubscribe
Friend UsFacebook
Tweet With UsTwitter
Pin With UsPinterest
Subscribe to OurRSS Feed