Category Archives: vacation

(belated) Anniversary getaway in snapshots

2 weeks ago, Joel and I were able to get away for 4 days and 3 nights to celebrate 5 years of marriage (a belated celebration trip!).  We wanted to have some adventures, spend lots of time outside, spend lots of time resting, and most of all, give each other undivided attention.  Mission: Accomplished.  Here’s our stay in Mesick, MI and in Ludington, MI in pictures:

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A family friend’s cabin in the middle of Manistee National Forest

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You can see the canoes we’re about to board in the background – no pictures of this adventure though, I was too nervous to take our camera! 5 year anniversary trip 028

Hiking through Manistee National Forest and crossing a huge, beautiful suspension bridge

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Joel being silly #1: finding a jeweled something-or-other mushroom (of course…)

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Joel being silly #2: Making my belly and me pose behind a tree 🙂

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Joel being silly #3: Trying to climb 2 trees at once…

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SO THANKFUL for our fun and relaxing stay at the cabin! Can’t wait to go back

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Beautiful beach and view of Lake MI from Ludington

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Spending the afternoon soaking in the sun, people-watching, and reading

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Eating out at Jameston Brewing Company (if only I had the nerve to post ALL pictures we took trying to get our heads and the name of the restaurant in the same shot…….this was pretty much as good as it got…)

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Pier and lighthouse on the beach

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 And returning home to be greeted by this lovely Pink family:5 year anniversary trip 072Thanks, Jane and Sarah for making us smile when we returned!

What has been your favorite place to retreat to lately?!


Southern Thanksgiving: The kiddos and half the fam

Last post: Just random pictures of the kids having fun together and some family pictures 🙂

Half of the Merkle tribe was back in Bluffton celebrating with my parents – and the other 10 of us in ‘Bama

Great picture everyone! Wait, where’s Andre? Mylin and Sully are watching him 🙂

Andre’s back…but my eyes and Mylin’s focus have disappeared!

So, I am still learning how to get the pictures organized just right…but they are still really cute to look at, right?!

Thanks, Adam and Jill, for the fun, food, fellowship, faith, and family time. And alliteration 😉

We love you guys!

Southern Thanksgiving: The bay

On Thanksgiving day we were blessed with gorgeous mid 70 degree weather – perfect for a trip to the bay

We went to Mobile Bay which is off of Gulf Shores which comes from the ocean…so technically we were playing in ocean water…


We fished, walked, kayaked, got really wet, and enjoyed soaking in those sunrays!

This was hands-down the best moments of our entire trip (except that Jill and Andre weren’t able to be with us…)

Thank you, God, for creating beauty like this that we get to just enjoy!!!!!!!


Southern Thanksgiving: Pecan Pie

Our first morning in Daphne, Jill asked me if I wanted to pecan picking

Always up for an adventure – I said ‘yes’!

She took me to Hudson’s school where the playgroud was sprinkled with pecan trees – ending their fruitful season

We had fun watching the kids play and filling up bags with a few pounds of pecans

Once back home Jill cracked and shelled them

And made a pecan pie for Thanksgiving – Joel’s favorite – which Jill remembered and planned for especially for him – what a sweet sister in law!

He devoured it of course 🙂  And Mylin loved it too!

But I didn’t capture a picture of her with the pie – but I did with the caramel filled apple spiced cidar cookies 🙂

Yay for family picking, preparing, and baking fun together!

What’s your favorite dish to bake together as a family?!

Southern Thanksgiving: Birthday Parties, Face Painting and Crafts

From December through February all our ‘Bama nieces and nephews celebrate birthdays, this year turning:





Since we won’t be able to celebrate with them on their fun days, we brought our presents down with us and had a big celebration bash!

Most of the gifts are Melissa and Doug – a new found favorite of ours

Jill homeschools Maddie and has begun teaching a business class for their co-op

Maddie has chosen to start a face-painting business and we obliged to be some of her practice faces 🙂

She is an excellent artist!

I always love to bake with our nieces and nephews when I get a chance – and I brought some fun recipes to do with them this time

Cosi and I made Rolo Stuffed Cookies

Maddie and I made Pumpkin French Toast

Hudson and I made Caramel Stuffed Apple Cidar Cookies

We were too busy baking and munching to take pictures 🙂

BUT we did get pictures of a fun sticker project we did with them (all materials found in the Target $1 aisle!)

Ok, seriously, guys.

I have the BEST husband ever

And not only is he the best husband ever…but before that and still to this day he is the BEST UNCLE ever!!!!!

(Sorry brothers…you do have a lot to live up to as uncles with this guy in the running…)

Southern Thanksgiving: Nashville

We embarked on a family vacation last weekend to two southern destinations:

1. Nashville, Tennessee

2. Daphne, Alabama

We spent a day and a half in Nashville relaxing, walking, and eating

Then 3 days in Daphne with my brother, Adam, and his lovely family, celebrating Thanksgiving

I hope you enjoy the next several posts of stories and pictures as much as we did the experiences!

A photobook of our day in Nashville last week:

We loved the sites, sounds, food, and family time!

Nashville is a place that Joel and I definitely want to go back to again – as a family and just as a couple – there is so much to explore and experience!

Have you ever been to Nashville? What was your favorite experience? What would you recommend experiencing?!

4th Anniversary Celebration!

On Wednesday night, May 9th (our actual anniversary), we began our celebration with a hurried lunch of Mylin going to grandma’s, Joel going to his parents to eat lunch, and Rachel going to a work meeting and baby appointment – Happy Anniversary! 🙂
When Rachel got home, she tried to take a nap while Joel mowed, but ended up talking on the phone the whole time… (Thanks, Joy!)
We then got ready and went to look at a new vehicle (post to come in future) and eat at TWFable
We went to bed early that night and slept in on Thursday morning – that was a lovely way to begin a great day!
We got up to Autum Ridge Golf Course and hit the greens by 9am

(yes his ball is still on the tee – this was a practice swing – I didn’t want to distract him during his real one!)
This was something fun we haven’t done since we dated
We had such a fun time riding around and golfing (Joel) and eating chocolate (Rachel)
DEFINITELY a repeat date – why have we waited years and years to do this again?!?!

This series of pictures describes a story told by Joel:

Can you tell by his posture that the awesome putt position didn’t pay off?! He was bummed but we had fun taking the pictures – little did we know a couple was sitting on their deck watching the whole ‘show’ 🙂

After we had a couples massage that was ridiculously awesome…we went out to eat at Cork and Cleavers – a place neither of us had ever been to
At one point in the evening Joel flashed me a great grin that had me almost spitting water out of my nose because I noticed something in his teeth…

Thanks for re-enacting the smile for me, Handsome! 🙂

After a few anniversary shots by our photographer waitress – we headed to a local hotel to relax for the rest of the evening

While Rachel got ridiculously homesick for Mylin, we both survived until Friday morning when we hurried home to get her and enjoy the rest of our long weekend together!

Thank you, God, for the gift of marriage and how you have blessed us these last 4 years!!!