Lake Erie. Snow. Westlake.

"Let's go to the beach!"

That sentiment is one thing in the summertime but quite another in the dead of a Midwest winter. Jacki went along with my unconventional idea, even though she really should have had a thicker coat and hat and gloves. It has been a warmer than usual winter but this day was cold and appropriate for the time of year.

When my daughter has an unexpected day off work, we might be found exploring a new village or castle or lake or mountain...whatever happens to be within a couple hours' drive and on her (or my) list of places to see. The morning began with baking half a dozen loaves of sourdough bread at home, then we headed north toward Westlake.

First, lunch at First Watch, our new favorite place to eat breakfast, thanks to a recommendation from a friend who enjoys some of the same things we do. I love discoveries like this!

They serve breakfast or lunch from 7:00 - 2:30 and we chose breakfast. This is my portion. Who puts a lettuce salad tossed with a lite oil dressing on the same plate with thick slices of wheat toast and a generous bacon, avocado omelet? They have some unusual ideas, but the fresh ingredients are sure to please and the combination of foods really did meld quite nicely.

The cafe is in Crocker Park, a lifestyle center in the Westlake area, about 15 miles west of Cleveland. Another happy discovery! It is a cute walk-from-shop-to-shop village with the convenience of a Barnes and Noble, free parking, lots of dining choices, and plenty of popular stores in which to spend a few hours. We like it because the guys can settle in at the bookstore while Jacki and I shop. This is to say we are already planning to bring them up here soon.

From here we intended to walk or drive through historic downtown Westlake. The only problem was, there didn't seem to be such a place after all. Try as we might, using smart phones and GPS, we never found anything like the historic downtown we expected. There were, on the other hand, many large and gorgeous, well-kept homes along the way and we enjoyed those views.

This is when I suggested we go to the beach. I knew Lake Erie was nearby. When we looked that up we found Huntington Beach was only a few miles northwest of our location. That address was programmed into the GPS and off we went to see what we could find.

It was, of course, a blustery day and quite chilly, but in those blue blue skies, the pure white snow, and the cold grey waters of the lake, I found an exhilarating beauty.

We wanted to get to the actual beach, but as you can see, this proved a precarious undertaking. I don't think I've ever taken stairs as cautiously as I did on these snow and ice-covered treads. Think clinging to the rail with both hands and bent over in concentration and you have a fairly good idea of how I looked as I descended. Jacki is younger and less worried about a tumble, I suppose, because she casually used only one hand! Most of the spots that look bare had ice to add a touch of peril to our descent.

We made it to the beach without falling! This may be a lake but it really does look and act like an ocean...

A sandy beach under a cold blanket of snow in the middle of winter.

Off in the distance is the Cleveland skyline.

Berry branches and tiny rays of sunshine.

We both agree that we will put this beach on our list for summertime. It is not nearly as far as a trip to the closest ocean shore - 2 hours versus 10 hours - but has a similar look and feel. There are warnings of riptides posted on the shore, so I doubt if swimming is an option, but that is perfectly fine by me. If I can catch an early morning sunrise or sit a spell on a sandy beach, I'll be quite pleased.

It was another day of pleasant discoveries with my Jacquelyn and I am thankful for the moments we get to share together, whether at home or abroad.