Birthday weekend in Caseville and 4th of July celebrations

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Our tent set up. We borrowed and used cheap tents for a while but finally invested in a good one last year!

Is it just me, or does the 4th of July seem like it happened weeks ago? It hasn’t even been a full week! We went camping at the end of June to celebrate my birthday, and it feels like it never happened. Once we come back and get into a routine, it’s like we never left. I feel that way about summer in general–we wait so long for it to return, but once it’s here, it’s like it’s always been summer. Then it flies by, and we’re back to waiting ;).

One nice thing about blogging is having a record of things I’ve done. Let’s try to remember the past couple weeks, shall we?

I was actually in New Orleans on a work trip toward the end of the month. Once I came back, I had a couple days at home, then we were off again–so that’s why I didn’t really get back into my usual routine.

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Coffee is a priority, even while camping!

We took off on a Thursday night and camped for three nights at Sleeper State Park in Caseville (Michigan). We stayed there last year and really liked it, plus it was one of the few places with any availability when I was booking. The State Parks really filled up fast this year!

We got there kind of late on Thursday. I hate setting up in the dark, but it was nice waking up there on Friday. We spent some time checking out the shops in Caseville before hitting the beach.

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Used book scores!
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Shortly before I got one of the worst sunburns I’ve had in a long time.

Caseville is a small town, but they have a really nice beach. They also have a brewery! My husband isn’t a huge beer guy, but since it was my birthday, he couldn’t say no ;).

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Thumb Brewery in Caseville. I tried their IPA, gose, and a lavender lemon ale that was super refreshing.
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Honestly, most of the weekend was spent eating chips.

We had a fire later at night (my favorite part about camping!), although it was mostly so we could cook dinner. It was in the 90s all weekend! I’m not trying to go too far into “glamping” territory, but thank goodness we had a couple of small fans for our tent or we would have roasted.

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Repping my favorite podcast.

On Saturday, we drove over to Port Austin and spent some time at their Farmer’s Market. We bought incredibly delicious homemade pickles and potato chips (honestly, probably the best salt and vinegar chips I’ve ever had!). The pickles did not last long. After the market, we grabbed a couple of drinks to cool off before heading back to the beach.

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Hers and his (mango habanero margarita and electric lemonade).

On Sunday, we headed home, with a brief detour at a flea market and stop at one of my favorite restaurants, D’Angelo’s. It’s a pizza place with a vegan menu, and their burgers are delicious.

The fun didn’t stop there, though! We took off a couple extra days to recoup, plus we had the 4th of July holiday, so we spent a few more days eating all the things and getting all the sun.

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Belle Isle beach in Detroit.
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I wasn’t ready to quit the bonfires!

On Wednesday, my sister and brother-in-law had us all over for the 4th of July.

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I wish I got a better picture of my husband’s awesome shirt.

It was also a belated birthday celebration.

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I have to share the cute wrapping paper on the present from my parents! I love it.

My mom got me the best gift! Everything was Golden Girls themed. I couldn’t stop laughing.

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Golden Girls Funko Pops, hot sauce, umbrella, and Mad Libs!

I actually tried to buy those Pops recently, but my husband told me not to. He said we had too many, which is honestly a valid reason, hah! Still, I kept stalking them on Amazon and almost threw them into my cart multiple times. Little did I know, he was in on it and was trying to keep me from buying them!

To continue the festivities, my sister also got me the most amazing vegan cake! It was a funfetti-style cake topped with vanilla and birthday cake flavored macarons. It was SO GOOD. My terrible picture doesn’t do it justice!

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Amazing vegan cake from For the Love of Sugar in Detroit.

Whew! We packed a lot into a few days. It was a great trip and birthday, and I’m looking forward to camping more this summer. Hope you had a great 4th of July, too!

Tell me: How did you celebrate the 4th? Do you like camping?

PS: Want more Golden Girls? Revisit this Saturday Six post: Thank You for Being a Friend.

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Colorado Vacation (Part 2): Estes Park and Denver

Miss Part 1 about our stay at the Stanley Hotel? Catch up here.

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Rocky Mountain National Park

When we had first arrived in Denver on Thursday, we made it a priority to get (second) breakfast before heading up to Estes Park. I’d heard good things about Snooze, a local brunch chain. We typically try to avoid chains, but it seemed to be frequently recommended, so we decided to check it out. I’m so glad we did! The food was awesome. I’m vegan and my husband isn’t, so it can be hard to find breakfast options that we both enjoy when traveling. In Colorado, we ate awesome breakfasts during our entire trip. Since breakfast is probably my favorite meal, I was more than satisfied.

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Veggie hash with soyrizo, green chili, and avocado at Snooze

The day of the concert, we spent the day exploring the Rocky Mountain National Park. It was maybe in the high 30s and relatively sunny. Considering it was January, there wasn’t much snow. Some of the shadier areas felt cool, but overall, we were pretty comfortable hiking around.

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Gazing out at the mountains
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Insane beauty

Several roads were closed for the season (I guess I didn’t realize that January was offseason), but there was still enough open to spend the day at the park. We’d drive a bit, get out, take pictures, walk around, and repeat. At one point we encountered a busier area with folks sledding, which looked like a blast.

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The pictures don’t do it justice. Everything was so gorgeous. We kept stopping just to take it all in. We both took a crazy amount of pictures on our phones, as well as almost three rolls of film.

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Frozen lake – people were playing ice hockey on it, but I was too nervous to walk out on it

There were several rockier areas where you could climb up, but I’m a baby when it comes to that stuff. My husband is pretty fearless, so I’d just sit and panic and take his picture.

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My mountain man

The morning after the concert, I was moving a little slowly. Let’s just say we may have had a few too many Redrum Ales at the show. Once I finally got dressed, we went to breakfast at the Notchtop Bakery and Cafe and took some time to explore Estes Park before heading back to Denver. Estes Park was a really cute town and I’d love to go back (when it’s a little warmer and I’m less hungover). It seems like it’d be beautiful in the fall!

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Veggie burrito with tofu at the Notchtop Cafe

Saturday was mostly a travel day, as we drove back to Denver, returned our car at the airport, and then made our way to the hotel. We did ride a train for the first time, from the airport to downtown.

Around 5 pm or so, we finally made it to our room at the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver. I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Curtis, but when I discovered they had themed rooms, we decided to go all out with this trip. What would be a better complement to a stay at the Stanley than a night in a Ghostbusters-themed room on the 13th floor of the hotel?

I’ll tell you: nothing.

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Photo via the Curtis Hotel

We LOVED this room. All of the details were so fun, from the gigantic Vigo poster in the bathroom to the framed photo of Sigourney Weaver on the desk. This was a big splurge for us compared to the hotels we usually book, so we decided to just pick up some takeout and stay in all night. Totally worth it. We grabbed some subs from our favorite west coast chain, Cheba Hut, and headed back to the room.

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We don’t have these in the Midwest!

Another reason we didn’t mind staying in was that we had a late flight on Sunday, so we knew we’d have time to explore. Once we checked out on Sunday morning, we walked over to City O’ City, a vegetarian restaurant. There was a bit of a wait, but we didn’t mind–we stood outside, taking advantage of the sunshine.

My meal was phenomenal. I got the fried “chicken” (cauliflower) and waffles, with a bloody mary on the side. When we left, I noticed the dessert case and had to grab something to go … any time I get the option for a vegan Hostess-style cupcake, I have to take it.

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Fried “chicken” (cauliflower) and waffles at City O’ City

We wandered around the 16th Street Mall for a while and picked up some souvenirs. Eventually, we stopped at a bar for a drink–I had a raspberry sour porter that was really good–and then got ready to head to the airport.

We had a late flight and didn’t get home until closer to 1 am, with both of us having to work in the morning. Totally worth it, though.

All in all, we loved Colorado and can’t wait to go back!

Tell me: Have you been to Colorado? Where did you stay? What did you eat?

Colorado Vacation (Part 1): The Stanley Hotel

Additional lodging at the Stanley with the mountains in the background
Additional lodging at the Stanley

At the start of the year, my husband and I headed out west for a quick trip to Colorado.

The impetus for the trip was seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Murder by Death.


They’ve been playing a show at the historic Stanley Hotel for the past few years, and I’ve always wanted to attend. This was the fifth anniversary for the shows, as well as my husband’s and my 15-year anniversary (since we started dating), so it seemed like the perfect time to finally pull the trigger and go!

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Concert poster

This was a bucket list trip. We’d be staying at the Stanley Hotel! When telling people about the trip, I was actually surprised how many people hadn’t heard of the Stanley–and of the weird looks they gave me when I told them it was haunted (this is probably a good time to tell you that I love Halloween).

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The twins from The Shining

I actually didn’t know until planning this trip that Kubrick’s The Shining was not actually filmed at the Stanley. The association between the hotel and the book was a stay at the hotel where Stephen King and his wife were the only guests. King had terrible nightmares, and upon waking, he felt inspired to write the story. King actually hated Kubrick’s interpretation of the book and filmed his own made-for-TV version that was shot at the Stanley. I haven’t had any luck tracking this version down, but I’d love to watch it!

Although the popularity of the book and subsequent film made the Stanley a popular tourist destination, it was already developing its own creepy history.

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Me in front of the Stanley

Freelan Oscar Stanley–inventor (with his twin brother) of the Stanley Steamer–built the hotel , which opened in 1909. It became quite the destination, with families staying for full summers and events regularly taking place. It languished by the ’70s, but the release of the The Shining and the spread of ghost stories made the hotel a hot spot once again.

There’s an episode of the podcast Lore that talks more about the hotel’s haunted history–check it out if you’re interested! Here’s also a short article covering more of the details. The most haunted rooms are supposedly the fourth floor and room 217 (where King stayed).  Guests have reported hearing children laughing, having their luggage unpacked (honestly, I wouldn’t mind that one), and even seeing figures.

We flew into Denver and, after a quick bite, drove the ~90 min up to Estes Park. We stayed at the Stanley for two nights. I was so excited once we saw the white hotel start to peek out against the mountains. The Stanley is just a few minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and the scenery alone was absolutely gorgeous.

The Historic Stanley Hotel with blue sky in background
The Historic Stanley Hotel

Coming in early January, we weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise, but we lucked out! We left sub zero windchills in Michigan and met 40-50 degree weather in Colorado. We took advantage and walked the hotel grounds after checking into our room.

The first night, we did a ghost tour of the hotel. The Stanley offers two tours: one is a historic tour, and the other is the night spirits tour. If you’ve ever done a ghost tour, this met the traditional mold–flashlights turning on and off, divining rods, and a few creepy stories. Most of the tour was spent in the hotel’s concert hall, which is supposedly one of the most haunted spots on the grounds.

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Obligatory creepy hallway picture

Our guide shared a bit about some of the spirits haunting the building: Paul, a former employee and guard; Eddie, a former convict who was later employed by the hotel as part of a program to help transition inmates back into the career force; Lucy, a teenage runaway; and three children. None died on the property, but the theory is that they returned to a place they bonded with in life.

Nothing particularly eventful happened on our tour, but the guide told some good stories and shared pictures from other tours where people captured images of ghostly figures in period clothing. Even though she showed us photos, I’m what I’d call a hopeful skeptic. I am open to the idea of the existence of the supernatural, but until I actually experience something, I find it hard to believe. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the stories or that I won’t keep trying! (Although if I did ever experience anything, I’d probably run out of the room screaming.)

Even though we didn’t meet a ghost (friendly or otherwise), I’d definitely recommend the tour! It’s about $25 a person and lasts 90 minutes, and you get to go in a neat cavern beneath the hotel (where there’s reportedly a ghost cat!).

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Sadly, no ghosts popped up behind me in the mirror

The next day, we headed out to explore the Rocky Mountains (I’ll cover that in another post) before the concert. The concert is a formal affair in homage of the last shot of The Shining film, which shows Jack Torrance in a group picture taken at the hotel several decades earlier. Everyone was decked out in their finest twenties apparel–it was a really good time. We got dressed up and headed down to the hotel restaurant for dinner before the show. One cool thing about the hotel (aside from its history, hauntings, and insane whiskey bar) is that it offers two themed beers brewed by Estes Park Brewery: The Shining Pale Ale and the Redrum Red Ale. Both were good, but I preferred the Red. I also had an insanely delicious cocktail called the “Lucky Lucy” that contained bourbon, cognac, lemon, grapefruit, and agave syrup. I’m not a cocktail person, but this was so good I had a second (and felt pretty good the rest of the night).

The Shining Ale and Redrum Ale
The Shining Ale and Redrum Ale

The concert was amazing. I’ve seen Murder by Death several times, from outdoor festivals to an old lagering cavern in Kentucky. The first time I saw them, they were opening for My Chemical Romance in a tiny basement venue in Detroit (to give you an idea of how long ago that was!). They always put on a great show, and if you haven’t heard them, I suggest you check them out (don’t be scared off by the name!).

Murder by Death performing
Murder by Death!

One creepy thing did happen during our stay: my husband experienced sleep paralysis one night, which he’s never had before or since. He said it felt like something was holding him down. He eventually fell back asleep. Ghost? Or simply a dream that felt real?

All in all, it was a ton of fun, and I’d highly recommend a stay at The Stanley! It was definitely a bucket list trip.

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This turned into an extremely long post, so thanks for hanging in there! I’ll cover the rest in a future post!

Tell me: Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever stayed at a haunted hotel?