Category Archives: Lake Life

McHenry County College Goes Dutch

The Dutch are here!

Last week I wrote about the visiting Dutch scholar I’m hosting for the rest of the month. Through our exchange program, I’ll be visiting the Netherlands in May, but for now, my guest, Noemi, and the other six visitors are here, and they’ve been having a lot of fun so far.

They all arrived on Saturday morning, and four of us hosts went to O’Hare to pick them up. They got through customs easily, with the exception of Jacqueline, who declared the dog biscuits she’d brought as a gift for her host’s dog.


From Left: Anja, Noëmi, Rianne, Esther, and my fellow host, Lori–Rianne holds Jacqueline’s sign as we wait for her to get through customs

Once we got the whole group, the four above, Jacqueline, Patrick, and Frank, we headed back to Crystal Lake and our respective homes so our guests could relax for a bit and get over their jet-lag. Noëmi and I spent our evening eating pizza and talking about our respective colleges while Roo showed Noëmi every single toy she had, and Noëmi politely told her that she wasn’t interested in Roo’s sharpened bones. No, dank je.

On Sunday a group of us walked around Crystal Lake for a bit of fresh air and exercise…


Lori explains that Crystal Lake was almost the site of the Olympic rowing competition

…and then that evening, Noëmi and I headed to her house for a potluck party at Lori’s with everyone. But, before we left for the potluck — like, minutes before — as I picked up the casserole dish that was housing my homemade macaroni and cheese that I was bringing to the potluck, this happened:

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Oh, sad, sad macaroni and cheese.

Yes, as the hot dish hit my fingers through the dish cloth I was using as a hot-mitt, I shifted my fingers quickly and dropped the casserole. The dish shattered, and macaroni and cheese was ruined on the floor, and Roo was very anxious to help me clean up.

So, we brought beer to the potluck instead, which was appreciated in a different way, and everyone had a great time.

Monday, Noëmi got to observe her first English class here at the college, and Anja joined her. It was my friend Robert’s class, and he was starting a new topic for a research paper, so Noëmi and Anja got to see how he introduced new materials and explained an assignment.

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

Anja, Robert, and Noëmi

The visitors all got to take a tour of the campus, and had lunch with our president, Dr. Clint Gabbard, as well, but they wanted to do a bit of exploring in downtown Crystal Lake, so Lori and I took them for a coffee and a walk-around to some of the shops.

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop

Rianne, Noëmi, Anja, and Lori at the cupcake shop



Even more books!

Even more books!




Chocolate frogs at Riverside Candy Shop


They appreciated the candy shop, but were tired by this time they were a bit worn down, so Noëmi and I headed home to rest. She is a fan of The Walking Dead, and since Season 6 was only just released this past weekend on the Netherlands’ Netflix, she hasn’t had a chance to watch it. So she told her boyfriend, Dave, to watch it back home without her and she and I would watch it this week to catch us up before the Season 7 premiere this Sunday. Needless to say, Monday evening was spent watching a bunch of The Walking Dead. Since I am kind of a fan of the show, and a good host, I felt obligated to watch them with her.

Tuesday, the group went on a neighborhood tour of Chicago led by my colleague and Instructor of Sociology, Mark. Noëmi took a lot of pictures, but I headed to the city myself for my Tuesday afternoon class. No pictures of my class were taken, but check out Noëmi’s blog for some of her Chicago pics.

The group before they left for the city

The group before they left for the city. Roo tried to sneak on the bus, but she was discovered and kicked off. 

On Wednesday, Noëmi got to observe two more classes…

Noëmi in Anne's class

Noëmi in Anne’s class on Wednesday


Noëmi chats with Anja and Robert on Monday; Noëmi visits Ted’s class

…and then, yesterday afternoon, the college hosted an open house to meet all of the visitors. And there was ice cream.



Ron, Anja, and Mike


Frank has got Timothy, Amy, and Tim on the edges of their seats!


Noëmi and Juletta


Lindsay and Patrick, exchanging pictures


Lisa and Eli welcome Jacqueline to the U.S.A.!

Last night after a full day, Noëmi and I went home to cook some chili for dinner, and then watched the presidential debate with Trevor.

Today, I’m bringing her into the city with me for my Thursday night graduate class, and first we’ll stop by Millennium Park to see the Bean. We’ll have more pictures, so check in later on this week to get updates!

Goede nacht, Dutch readers!

Coming Soon:

An explanation of why this macaroni and cheese is on the floor:


and other great information about what Noëmi and the other Dutch visitors have been doing this week–come back tomorrow!

The Dutch Are Coming!

For years, my college has been a member of the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP), which is the organization we partner with for our study abroad programs (for our students to study overseas) and scholar exchange programs (for our faculty to visit colleges and universities in Europe, the U.K., and China for professional development).

Usually, our college has the budget to fund one or two faculty in a two-way exchange — where one McHenry County College faculty member hosts an international faculty member for two weeks, and then the MCC faculty member travels to the host’s country to stay with her for two weeks. A couple of our faculty members had applied for the program last autumn, had been accepted, and they were all set.

But, as many of you know, the Illinois budget crisis forced a lot of colleges to cut programming, cut jobs, and to enact their own internal budget freezes, which affected travel. A number of colleges in Illinois that had planned to participate in this year’s scholar exchange with the Netherlands had to pull out of the program, leaving about thirty Dutch professors in need of places to stay. Our Chair of International Studies and ICISP liaison got approval for an unlimited number of our college employees to be hosts in a one-way capacity — to host a Dutch professor but not to travel to Holland — and one additional two-way participant.

And guess who applied and was accepted to host and to travel?

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yep! This weirdo is going to Holland!

Yahoo! So this month I’m hosting a professor of English from the Netherlands named Noëmi, and in May, just after my spring semester ends, I’ll go to stay with her for a couple of weeks!


Noëmi (pronounced no-Amy) teaches English at Summa College in Eindhoven. She has two cats, she ran a 10K last weekend, she and her partner are buying their first house and moving next month, and she is smart and super cool.

This is Noemi!

This is Noëmi!

There are seven Dutch professors visiting my college, and others coming and staying with hosts from other Chicagoland colleges. Our liaison put together a schedule for everyone to show them off to the community, and I’ve worked on getting Noëmi into as many of my English department colleague’s classrooms as possible. She’s also going to come with me to classes at UIC, Trevor and I are taking her to see a David Sedaris reading here in Crystal Lake, we’re bringing her with us on our annual Power Family Sonny Acres trip, and I’m going to get us tickets for a play in the city. I have about one million other things I want her to do but I’m worried I’ll overwhelm her, so the rest of the trip we might play by ear. I guess she’ll have to sleep at some point, right?

I’ve been trying to prep everything in the house so we’re all ready for her arrival tomorrow (tomorrow! OMG!), though Roo has been zero help and instead of straightening or going grocery shopping for me, she’s been staring out the window, yawning, and scratching. Useless.

Hi, I'm Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

Hi, I’m Roo. Do you need me to do NOTHING AT ALL? Okay.

A few of us are going to pick up the visitors at O’Hare tomorrow, and they will be greeted with signs and probably some donuts. Trevor is out of town until Sunday for a photo shoot in Dallas, so she will have to be okay with a me-and-Roo welcome committee. I’m going to remind Roo not to jump on her, not to jab her fat head into Noëmi’s torso, and not to leave her shiv-bones around where we can step on them. We’ll see how it goes; I have low expectations.

I’ll be updating the blog throughout her visit, so you can see what hijinks we get up to, and if I’m lucky, I’ll convince her to write a guest post for the blog. Fingers crossed!


First run sign with a failed border





The Scary Truth About Sisters in Horror Films — Bitch Flicks

This guest post written by Laura Power appears as part of our theme week on Sisterhood. Female siblings have been a go-to in horror films since horror films themselves. Sisters have been used as minor characters to fill in a cast: Daisy and Violet, the conjoined twins, and Elvira and Jenny Lee, the “Pinhead” twins,…

via The Scary Truth About Sisters in Horror Films — Bitch Flicks


Pontooning Powers

At the start of the summer, we got a boat — a big deal for us — and we’ve tried to put it to as much use as possible these past few months. We’ve been doing a pretty darn good job, although we’ve done a bit of traveling and have had a little weird weather. Even Roo is getting in on the action, equipped with an pretty cool life jacket we got her (Trevor refused to get a pink one with little anchors all over it, citing “safety” and other blah blah blahs, so she’s got a super boring yellow one with a “high safety rating.” blah.)

And I don’t really have a lot to say about our pontooning adventures; they’re pretty low-key (although last weekend while hanging out with my friend Lisa and her family we went over a big wave and the front end dipped into the lake and we thought we were going to sink and possibly perish, but, of course, we did not). But here are some stories of the floatings we’ve had so far.

The Power family came out for the weekend in July, and we even got Rachel to come up from Florida. Florida! Along with the human Power family, we welcomed a new canine member of the family to the boat: Cheekah, a little gray Chihuahua who, unfortunately, didn’t get to meet Roo, but they probably would have been best friends and moved to New York together to get jobs as fashion magazine interns. Or as circus performers. Or pasta makers.

Fran and Cheekah

Fran and Cheekah, queens of the pontoon

During the Power Family Weekend, we also discovered that I’m no good at taking selfies. Now, this is something I’ve known, personally, for a long time. I really don’t take selfies unless I’m making a silly face to text to Trevor, and I pretty much look silly in 99% of the selfies I take. And sometimes, I’m not even present in the picture at all:

1/3 of my face made it into this one! Success!

1/3 of my face made it into this one! And everyone else looks fantastic! Success!

But being on our boat makes me take selfies. I don’t know what it is: the fresh lake air, the wind whipping through my hair, the afternoon boat beer…It’s a mystery. But I think I’m getting better at them.

Pretty good, right?

Pretty good, right?

I'm 100% happy with this one -- my entire head is in it, along with some of my neck!

I’m 100% happy with this one — my entire face is in it, along with some of my neck!

We had a great weekend all around, and it was so good to see Rachel. She left us on Monday to drive up to Door County to visit Grandma Madel, but we got to see her for dinner on her way back down and before she left for home. Hopefully Trevor and I will visit her in November for Thanksgiving like we did last year. Maybe this year we can convince her to help us steal a shuttle and take a quick trip to the moon. Or whatever; we can also just eat some space ice-cream. Or regular ice cream, I’m not picky.

Last weekend my friend Lisa, her husband James, and two of their three kids came over for some ‘toon time (yeah, I just used the phrase “‘toon time,” judge me if you will). We had a great time swimming around and eating snacks for a few hours.

Lisa Eli and Violet

Lisa and her two fish-monkeys

And Trevor might have asked for some help driving the boat.

Eli and TrevorViolet and Trevor

And he also made some a new friend (a friend who was wearing a matching outfit, so…destiny.):

Walking on Oak Street

Trevor and Eli: co-captains and new best friends

On Sunday, it was just Trevor, Roo, and me, and we tried out our new tube. Trevor got it primarily so Roo could take breaks while swimming, since Roo’s “swimming” technique involves a lot of water eating. Lifting her up into the tube is easier than lifting her up into the boat, and if she’s in the tube while we’re swimming, she’s a bit calmer than if she was watching us from the boat. A bit.

How cute are these two? CUTE!

She looks calm, right? Well. Trevor does, at least.

And those are our pontooning tales! Are they everything you’d hoped they would be? Even better?! Good.

Trevor will be doing a lot of traveling in late August and September for work; he’s going to Florida and then to China (China!? I know, right?!), and while he’s gone I’m hosting my amazing book club babes for a nautical book club adventure and some of my high school girlfriends for a Labor Day ladies’ pontooning party. So our adventures are not yet over, although, they will likely be just as “exciting” as these were. I’ll keep you up-to-date.




The Gang Gets a Boat

Trevor and I moved out to Camp Crystal Lake three years ago — June 20, 2013 to be exact. Our first summer (a half-summer, really) we spent settling into the house and the neighborhood; the second and third, I’ve written about before, and this, our fourth summer, can now be called the Summer of the Boat! Because we got a boat! (I am not subtle, no.)

We’ve been talking about getting a boat since we moved in. That’s a big part of why we moved out here: we wanted a little lake house with a fireplace and a yard for Roo. And we use the heck out of our fireplace and pot-bellied stoves, and Roo uses the heck out of the yard (for running a course around at 1,000MPH, and also for her…other business…). But we’d not used our proximity to the lake to its full potential. Yes, we swim (even Roo, though she tries to drink all the water as she swims, which is weird and kind of gross) and we float around in tubes and on noodles. But we wanted to really use the lake. Like, use it up.

And how better to do that than with a boat? (A: there is no better way.)

So, after years of research (yes, I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but in this case I’m telling the truth [and if you know Trevor at all, then you know how truthful this is]), we got a 20 foot pontoon boat from a dealership in Volo, near the Chain O’Lakes.

As soon as we boarded, we knew it was the boat for us.

T in Captain's Seat

This feels right.

It even came with a bird. We couldn’t convince her to stay with us, though. She mentioned something about moving out West to San Diego. She has some friends out there with a nest-building business; she’s going to do inside sales for them. It sounded nice.

We almost convinced this bird to come with us, but she wanted a nice nest in San Diego instead.

Good luck, bird.

After doing the paperwork and getting the necessary registration and city stickers, we had five days until the boat would be delivered, and we needed a dock to park her. Our beach association has a pier, but boat owners are responsible for building and installing their own docks, so Trevor set to work to figure out how to do it.

He called his dad, the trusty and skilled carpenter, John Power, and secured his availability for the build and install. There was a yet-to-be-installed dock sitting on our beach, so Trevor took a look at that to get an idea of what he needed. He examined, measured, took pictures, drew schematics, and then bought his lumber (pressurized pine) and supplies (poles and augers to be screwed into the sandy lake bottom). And he and John set to work.

The Dock BuildingThere were two sections, each measuring ten feet: one that had an angled end and clipped directly to the pier, and a second section that connected to the first. The first day they measured, cut, and assembled; the second day they measured, cut, and assembled some more, and then they installed the dock in the water. They had to get it in before the boat was delivered at 3 p.m. on May 21, and they got it done with an hour to spare.

They are, in no uncertain terms, my heroes.

These men built and installed this dock.

These men built and installed this dock.

Power DockWith the dock good to go, we were ready for our boat, and it arrived right on time. We met Vince, our delivery guy, at the park district’s boat put-in area, and he unloaded it onto the lake. We picked John up at our dock and then drove around for a while so Vince could show us the ropes.

T Watches the Put In

Trevor and the very helpful Vince

Man and His Boat

A man and his boat

John, finally getting to relax after we worked him like a maniac for three days

John, finally getting to relax after we worked him like a maniac for three days

We could have driven around forever, but Vince wanted to go home so we unloaded him, and John finally had enough of us and headed back to Elgin and Fran. We tooled around for a bit longer, then finally headed in so Trevor could get some rest.

On Sunday we had perfect boat weather. My brother, Greg, was visiting a friend in our neighborhood, so he stopped by and we all went out in the morning. We included Roo, whose last adventures on a pontoon boat were two years ago in Door County — we tried to get her to swim, but she didn’t like it, and then she got very nervous to see everyone else swimming while she was on the boat. Trevor and I hoped she’d be better this second time, because it won’t be as fun this summer if she’s not hanging out with us. And she did very well — she only jumped on the bench once, she sniffed everything, she did a lot of looking out into the lake, and she split her time between the sun and the shade. I think she’s going to be just fine.

Roo Watches Water

Roo checks everything out

Roo and Engine

I’m going to teach her how to climb that ladder

T and Greg

Trevor and Greg

L and T on Boat

This is where I’m going to be all summer

T and Roo

They look very serious for people sitting on a pontoon boat — PONTOOOOOON

So now we’re boat people! I got us matching Camp Crystal Lake t-shirts at the Walker Stalker Convention this weekend (a post on that is forthcoming)…

Yes, we will wear these at the same time

Yes, we will wear these at the same time

…and we’re going to name the boat ( we have a short-list of choices, and we’ll let you know that soon enough [I wanted to name it the Mrs. Voorhees, but Trevor vetoed me]).

Now, the only thing left is to hold the lake’s biggest dance party!