Category Archives: Michigan

Sharing the Process

_MG_1661With every passing year I feel like I am becoming a bit wiser.  The process of aging is really a process of knowing yourself on a deeper level, I suppose.  I have become more in-tune with my strengths and weaknesses.  One of my personality traits that I am constantly working on is my type-A need for perfection.  There are pluses and minuses to this type of personality (+high productivity, -easily stressed and a need for perfectionism).  I’ve become more balanced since having kids, but I still have this need to present things in a perfect light.  For example on my blog here; I love showing off the finished product but I am not very good at showing the process.  The process isn’t always pretty but it is where so much of the important stuff happens.  I love to pull these moves: “Oh look, a completed Alabama Chanin dress/ handknit sweater/ renovated kitchen” without sharing the struggles and mistakes that came along the way.  This year I am challenging myself to start sharing the journey…the WHOLE journey…with all of you.  I’ll never be someone that airs my dirty laundry and child-raising fiasco’s (thank goodness…there are certain things I believe should be kept private!) but I do look forward to sharing things as they unfold.

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_MG_1691Coming up in the next few months I am looking forward to sharing more about the Alabama Chanin sew-a-long that I’ve organized.  It has grown beyond my wildest dreams and we now have 19 women from across the country (and one from Australia!) signed up to participate.  We’ve chosen some amazing recipients and placed the order for their garments.  This project is breathing new life into my craft practice.  I’m crackling with inspiration and ideas!  Secondly, I can’t wait to share some behind-the-scenes peeks into the process of writing my third book, Icy Creamy Healthy Sweet, which comes out this April.  This book is so darn pretty that it makes me a bit weepy- we’re talking hard cover and full page pictures for every recipe, plus a designer with incredible vision and talent (thank you Toni!).  I thought I’d share a bit about how I landed with Roost, the process of pitching the book, and also how I developed and tested the recipes, and photographed and wrote the book.  Wait until you see my homemade “studio set.”  Ha- it’s pretty hilarious!  Is there anything else you’d like me to share about this process….or about any other subjects?

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_MG_1729It felt appropriate to accompany this post with pictures from Detroit, where I spent a day exploring with my mom over the holiday break.  If there ever was a city that knows about “the journey” it is Detroit.  There are so many amazing things happening in this city- yet so much more to be done.  The people of Detroit have quite a journey ahead of them- yet they seem ready to embrace it with full hearts, and they are not afraid of sharing the process that it will take to get there.  Pretty inspirational, if you ask me.

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_MG_1667Mini Detroit Guide (as seen here):

Eastern Market: farmer’s market full of local produce, food trucks, and prepared foods, and the street art surrounding the market is off the hook!

Germack Coffee Roasting Co.: for an exceptional cup of coffee as well as roasted nuts and seeds for sale, right across the street from Eastern Market.

Will Leather Goods: an amazing store with beautifully made leather goods, plus a coffee bar.  Even if you aren’t in the market for leather goods, you’ll enjoy wandering this gorgeous space.

Selden Standard: craft cocktails and local food, the best meal I had while I was in Michigan over the break, hands down, and great decor to boot.

Avalon: a favorite bakery

Belle Isle: a 982-acre island park created as a place for Detroit residents to enjoy nature, walking paths, shoreline, an aquarium and a greenhouse.

If you are interested in a very hip, indie guide to the city, I’d suggest the Wild Sam Guide, which we purchased at The Detroit Mercantile Co.– a super cool indie shop.

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Vik Turns 3!

_MG_7204My baby turned three this past week.  WHAT?  Three years old, I can hardly believe it.  He is such a little man, probably due to the fact that he is constantly trying to keep up with his older brother.  He is such an incredibly calm spirit with a determination and grit that is well beyond his years, and for such a young boy he is so very self assured.  He amazes me every single day and it is a privilege to be his mama.  It was such a joy to shower him with love for his birthday!

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_MG_6978I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating…we are so lucky to spend out summers on this little lane of ours.  We’ve known all the families on the lane for twenty years now, and many of them have been here for generations before us.  They all look forward to Vik’s party every summer, and I love knowing that he’ll grow up celebrating with this wonderful group of people.  We kept the party centered around old-fashion fun: sack races, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, Simon Says, clothespin in the bottle drop, face painting and of course, a pinata.  We made finger sandwiches, cut up a few big watermelons, and made mini-chocolate cupcakes.  Everyone had a blast, Vik especially.  Happy birthday my sweet boy…we love you so!

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Sleeping Bear Dunes

_MG_6709Yesterday we took a day-trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.  This is an annual trip for my kids, and I’ve been going here for the past 25 years.  As a young girl, my brother and I would partake in the junior ranger program every summer, and back then the park felt like an undiscovered treasure.  This year’s trip was rather heartbreaking.  There was so much traffic and so many people.  I could see the devastating effect that the crowds are having on the dunes.  It is such a fragile ecosystem.

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_MG_6743Acts I witnessed in the span of 20 minutes: a lady putting out her cigarette butts in the sand and leaving them there, a family leaving their trash laying around after a picnic, a young boy pulling out tufts of dune grass (their root system is what anchors the grass and keeps it the dunes from eroding), and of course selfie sticks galore (no one seemed to be breathing in the beauty, rather everyone was on their phones).  The trip, despite the beauty that is still there, left me feeling distraught over the future of my beloved Northern Michigan.  I wonder where the line is between inviting people to witness these national natural treasures, and closing them to the public in order to protect the fragile ecosystems.  As Northern Michigan becomes more popular, Walmarts are popping up on what used to be farmland, the traffic in and out of Traverse seems never-ending…  I’m not sure what to do with these feelings, besides using them as a springboard for important environmental conversations with my boys.  My greatest fear is that when my kids are grown there will be nothing left here to show them.

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Up North

_MG_6516The beauty of a Northern Michigan summer never fails to leave me speechless.  It’s the kind of beauty that catches you by surprise.  Turn a corner and there is a field of sweet peas growing with wild abandon by the side of the road, take another turn and there are cherry orchards for as far as the eye can see.  And of course the view that wins all the prizes, the turquoise shimmering lake.  It is there to greet us every morning as we wake up, and late into the evening when the sun sets and lights its waters on fire.

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_MG_6626But what I love the most about our summers here, without a doubt, is the carefree fun that my boys get to experience.  It is childhood at its best, and there is nothing like it in the entire world I swear.  Yesterday we played baseball in the yard with our neighbors, and threw rocks into the lake for our family dog to chase.  We walked down the lane to pick our neighbor’s raspberries, and came home to bake muffins.  We visited the cherry orchard and picked buckets full of dark sweet cherries, and stopped by the farmers market on the way home to stock up on veggies, raw honey, blueberries and strawberries.  We scooted into town for the weekly “stroll” and popped into the little toy store to do some browsing.  We said hello to neighbors that we have shared summers with for 20 years.  We finished the night with vanilla ice cream topped with farm fresh strawberries and cherries.  Life is good.  It is beautiful and good, but in the midst of all this good there has been sorrow, and our family needs prayers right now more than ever.  Again, these are not my stories to tell and I always honor my family’s privacy, but I will say that my younger brother and my mom need lots of love sent their way this summer.  I’m keeping the faith that there is healing to be had in a place as magical as this.  Wishing you all a gorgeous summer weekend.  xo

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Vik Turns 2!

_MG_2646Here’s the thing about Vik- we could have simply given him a lollypop and called it a day, and he would have been pleased as punch (I mean, do you see that smile?).  But really, where’s the fun in that!?  This past week we threw a blow-out birthday bash here at the cottage in what is now becoming an annual event.  The neighborhood kids began asking us about the party the very first week we arrived- I guess it made quite an impression last time around!

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_MG_2617And so we made sure to really outdo ourselves this time around- with a big ole’ monkey pinata, finger sandwiches, lots of tiny homemade chocolate cupcakes, party games, and face painting.  Our poor kids- one day when they are forced to have a small, reserved party they are going to be all, “Is this what you call a party?”  Indeed, we have spoiled them rotten.  But you only turn two once, so why not live it up!

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_MG_2573In addition to the splendor of Northern Michigan that I am always raving about, we are so blessed to have grown up spending summers on this particular lane in this particular small lake town.  Our lane is a tiny unpaved road, with about 12 cottages- and up until a couple years ago when a new family bought a place here- we were still considered the “new kids on the block.”  And that’s after 20 years of having a place here!!  Most of the cottages on our lane have been in the same family for three- four generations.  That means that everyone here grew up spending summers together, as did their parents, and grandparents.  I get a bit misty eyed when I see the new generation of kids- mine included- running wild through the yards, popping into different houses to play, sharing snacks, and learning to water ski.  It’s my greatest hope that they all grow up together- spending summers at their grandparents, and year after year, helping my precious little Vik ring in a new year in style.

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More Than Just Cherries

_MG_2002There are t-shirts and bumper stickers for sale all over Northern Michigan with the slogan “Traverse City: More Than Just Cherries.”  This makes me laugh every time….a city so tied to its cherries that it needs a slogan to try and break away.  But it’s true, there is so much more to Traverse City than just cherries.  That being said, the cherries are pretty darn great!

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_MG_1929We’re big fans of King Orchards, a family owned and operated orchard in Central Lake, Michigan, just a short drive from the cottage.  They offer a variety of u-pick fruits as well as a farmstand with every variety of cherry product you can imagine.  This year we stocked up on buckets of sweet black cherries, apricots and raspberries.  Perhaps the most exciting thing of all was the cherry pitter, which the boys helped operate, and which led to many cherry based desserts including clafoutis and cherry crumble.  And let’s be honest, it also led to cherries being eaten by the fist-full.  Luckily, a quick dunk in the lake is all that was needed to scrub the boys of their cherry stains.

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Up North Day Tripping

u pick flower farmIs July flying by at warp speed, or is it just me?  We’re certainly making the most of our time, savoring every sweet moment of summer.  Looking at these pictures it seems as though we have covered quite a bit of ground in the past week, although it doesn’t feel like we’ve been rushing around.  Just the opposite, in fact.  Plenty of relaxing and downtime mixed in with fabulous day trips.  I stand by this fact wholeheartedly: there is no better place to day trip than Northern Michigan!

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_MG_2228My mom and I took a day to tour the Traverse City area, starting with the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in the morning, stopping in The Village at Grand Traverse Commons for coffee and treats, and eventually winding around to the most amazing organic tea farm, Light of Day Organics.  We tasted a flight of teas and wandered the tranquil property feeling as though we had found the very best secret garden in the whole world.  A garden bursting with healing herbs, fruits and tea plants.

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_MG_2247From there, we traveled along the winding country roads until we reached Leland and Suttons Bay, two charming towns with fabulous shops and eateries.  There was a vintage car show in town and I believe I found my next summer cruiser (perhaps better suited for a time when we don’t require two ginormous car seats).

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_MG_2281While trying to find an herb farm we only knew by memory, we happened upon Tandem Cider, a hard cider operation with the loveliest of gardens.  We stopped for a glass and a wander through the gardens before continuing on, and my mom and I remarked that “this is the thing about Up North- you never know what little gems you’re going to stumble upon.”

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_MG_2301Oh but the icing on the cake…the very best part of the day?  We happened upon a u-cut flower farm on the way to Suttons Bay, Omena Cut Flowers U-Pick Flower Farm.  It was the most magical place, rows of gorgeous flowers for sale by the stem, and a charming farmstand offering mason jars and scissors.  As we were finishing up with our bouquet, we had the pleasure of meeting the owner, Carolyn and we were able to learn about her farm, and her passion for providing people with the experience of cutting their own flowers.  She had so many great things to say about Suttons Bay, including a glowing report of the local school system, where she sent her kids from pre-k through to high school.  As if our gorgeous day trip wasn’t enough to convince me of a Northern Michigan move, the idea of a fabulous school system and a flower farm right down the road has me sold!

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Mackinac Island

_MG_2125This past week, we packed up the boys and squeezed into the car (there wasn’t an empty seat to be had) and made our pilgrimage to Mackinac Island.  It’s a bit of a drive, and then a ferry ride on top of that, and I’ll admit that when we finally got to the island and landed in the touristy town, I was feeling a bit exhausted and skeptical.  But after an evening stroll exploring the quiet residential streets, a bike ride around the Island’s perimeter, and a horse-and-buggy ride taking in the historical sites, I was sold (though I still find the town completely overwhelming- think fudge shops and cheesy t-shirt stalls aplenty).

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_MG_2076We stayed at Hotel Iroquois, a beautiful inn on the main strip.  The rooms were charmingly old-fashion, and the staff was friendly.  The dining area had a large lawn, which allowed us to enjoy a meal or two while the kids ran free.  And the kids were endlessly entertained by the stream of horse-drawn carriages that passed by our window (there are no cars allowed on the island!).

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_MG_2060We only stayed one-night, and that felt perfect.  This is going to sound loony- but I get a little anxious about staying in a place where the food choices are either fried or fudge.  If I can’t get a nice salad or smoothie somewhere, I just can’t stay for long.  But an overnight- that I can do.   Once I got the kids down for bed, I lit out for an evening walk where I wandered through the quiet residential streets, away from the crowds.  I was completely charmed by the homes, and the gorgeous landscaping.  The next morning on our carriage ride, the driver told us that all the horse-manure (and there is a TON) gets added to the soil, which explains why the gardens on the island are so beautiful.

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_MG_2185We didn’t get a chance to tour the Grand Hotel, but I did manage to walk by at sunset.  It is truly a grand building, and a bit Gatsby-like with everyone dressed in the mandatory formal wear.

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_MG_2106The next morning, we biked the perimeter of the island with the boys.  There’s a great variety of bike rental options on the island, and we had a great set-up for Vijay and Vik.  The 7 mile loop around the island is gorgeous- unfortunately I had my hands full and didn’t manage many pictures (besides these from my phone).

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2014-07-20_0002The bike path is lined with wild flowers leading to the beach, and shady forested patches.  It was such a peaceful respite from the busy town.  We followed our ride with a horse-drawn carriage tour, a total meltdown, a long ferry ride and a very trying car ride home.  I’m so glad we did it, but I’m so glad we’re back!

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Grass River Nature Preserve

_MG_1759On good boating days there is nothing we love more than piling in the ski boat and making the short, 15 minute ride to Grass River.  We kill the wake and drift slowly down the river, keeping our eyes peeled for all the creatures that call this magical place home.  On our first trip to the nature preserve we saw two loons no more than 15 feet from the boat, a pair of swans with a trail of fluffy little babes, and a turtle sunning himself on a log.  My dad bought the boys little fishing nets and they troll off the bow of the boat for minnows, surprising us all by catching a few every now and then.  Blind luck, I suppose!

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_MG_1766Spending our summers in Northern Michigan is one of the biggest gifts I am able to give my children.  It is that quintessential summer of running wild and free, catching frogs and minnows, biking up and down the dirt road with a whole pack of kids, coming home only for a quick bite to eat then back out to play and explore.  My kids get “unsupervised” play here, and by that I mean I don’t have to watch their every move.  On the rare occasion a car comes down, it is traveling no more than 5 miles an hour, and from the kitchen, I can look out and see them at play.  Every now and then I have to intervene and wipe away a tear, or mediate a dispute over scooters, but other than that, the kids get to PLAY and learn to work things out with both older and younger playmates.  I think it is the best thing ever.

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_MG_1763On rainy days, we can still head to Grass River and spend time in the nature center visiting the rescue snake, and playing around with the pelts and bones they have collected over time.  It is a very cool place, and if you’re in the area with young kids who are nature lovers, it is an absolute must.  As we’re here enjoying all of this I can’t help but wonder if I would be as enamored with the area if we lived here year round.  I wonder what the winters would be like, and if eventually, it would feel just like any other place.  Would it lose its summertime magic?  I’d love to hear from any Northern Michigan readers- what is year-round life like here?  I’m really feeling a pull.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes

IMG_4815Ahhh…Northern Michigan.  It’s like a breath of fresh air every summer.  The very freshest air you can imagine.  Our days at the cottage are filled with equal parts relaxation and adventure.  There is a great big yard where the kids can play, soccer nets and a basketball hoop, a beach where they can dig in the sand and a sweet little town just a scooter’s ride down the lane.  There is a living room filled with blocks and trucks, and piles of kids books for rainy day reading.  And, most importantly, there is Grammy and Papa, uncles and friends.  Oh yes, and the adventures- first on our itinerary was Sleeping Bear Dunes, the most gorgeous of National Parks just an hours ride from the cottage.

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IMG_2170We spent the day exploring the dunes, running through the sand and dune grass, and enjoying the sweeping views.  Oh yes, and digging, of course.

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IMG_2228One of my favorite views is of the DH Day Farm, which shines a pristine white against the rolling hills of grass.  You can see the farm from the top of the Dune Climb- it’s the only piece of civilization you can see, other than that it is all sand and sparkling water.

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IMG_4888There is always so much I want to share about Northern Michigan- last year I put together a guide, this year I think I’ll just share the highlights of our time here and I’ll make sure to provide details and links in case you ever fancy a visit.  When I mention I spend my summers here, people in New England kind of give me a funny look like, “How could that possibly compare to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Cape Cod, Newport…”  And yet I can think of no place in the world I would rather be.

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