Subtle Changes

_MG_3739In the past week there has been a shift and I can feel summer waning.  The nights are cooler, the sun sets earlier, and the first golden leaves have already drifted off our trees in the backyard.  We had our first preschool event, which gave me so much to look forward to in the coming year.  I think we’ve found a community of supportive, amazing, caring people that will nurture Vijay in his very first out-of-home experience.  We’re pretty jazzed.  I think we’re all ready for a bit of structure and routine to our weeks.

_MG_3722It was a strange summer weather wise, wasn’t it?  It took quite a long time to warm up, and even in the middle of summer we never experienced the kind of heat that we’re used to (both in Michigan and Providence).  On one hand I’m thankful since our home has no air conditioning which makes hot nights super uncomfortable.  But on the other hand, I think I’ve only submerged myself in the pool a handful of times since it is always so chilly.  What does this mean for the garden?  Basically, it means that nothing really went as planned!  But would you look at that harvest above- the colors are so vibrant and gorgeous they almost make me forget that most of my tomatoes are sitting green and heavy on the vine.  As before, I took notes throughout the growing season, and I’m glad I did since there were quite a few duds this year, namely the carrot and radish varieties I chose, which were both bitter tasting.  But this is why gardening is so intriguing.  You put your trust in this tiny seed, nurture it and water it, and then wait to see what it produces.  And the results will never be the same thanks to all the variables.  If things feel quiet around here, just know that I’m digging around in the dirt, taking time to do some deep thinking about our family’s future, and spending the last few warm days at the pool with the kiddos.  It’s going to be alright.

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Summer Meltdown

_MG_3170This past week I’ve been in mourning.  We came back “home” to Providence and I was hit with the realization that I didn’t want to be here.  I left my heart in Michigan, so to speak, and the transition back here has been difficult.  The first night home was filled with the loudness of city life- neighbors yelling, cars revving, sirens blaring- and I didn’t sleep a wink, missing that country darkness and quiet.  Slowly, slowly I am finding my feet again, readjusting to life here in Providence.  Luckily, the kids are so happy-go-lucky that the transition hasn’t been hard on the at all- they loved our time in Michigan for all that it was, and they were happy to be back home to their pool and their friends.  Oh to be a kid again- it was all so simple!

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_MG_3231As always, my garden and farmers market bring me joy, especially now that they have reached their summer peak.  The garden is bursting with 10-foot-tall sunflowers, in every variety imaginable.  I planted some in my plot this year, and I absolutely love the pop of color among the greens and tomatoes.  The boys come along to help, still wearing their wet bathing suits from the pool.  We have to peel the suits off every night, managing only because we promise they can put them back on first thing in the morning.  What are we going to do when the pool closes?  There will surely be tears!

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_MG_3223Last night, as we walked to the garden, sitting in front of the school (where my community garden is) there was a large group of men, sitting around drinking and smoking pot, the ground around them strewn with litter and broken bottles.  This is my garden.  This is the public school where our kids would attend if we stay here.  I went into the garden, chaining the lock behind us, feeling worried as I turned my back to water and weed.  This is Providence…and we’re back.  At this moment, there is not much more to say.

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A Summery Quilt

IMG_5483Each night, once the kids are tucked away, completely exhausted after another day of swimming, scooting, boating and running wild and free, I pick up my latest project, alternating between knitting and sewing.  I just finished hand-sewing the binding on this quilt and I am quite pleased with the way it turned out.  It’s perfectly girly (made with Posy by Aneela Hoey fabric), which will please my niece, and I hope it drapes nicely over the foot of her bed, as that’s the size I was going for.  My mom stumbled across this amazing field of sunflowers, and it seemed the perfect backdrop to show off the quilt.  Our summer in Northern Michigan is drawing to a close- I can hardly believe how fast it flew by, and I am already mourning heavily the fact that we won’t see our cottage again for another year. We’ll just have to squeeze every last ounce of fun and adventure out of this weekend and let our memories carry us through til next year.

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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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A Dress for the Fourth

_MG_1085This great wide blogging world is such an amazing place.  Every now and then you meet a blogger that you really connect with, and it is exciting to watch their lives unfold through their words and pictures.  Erin of Reading My Tea Leaves is one of those people.  We’ve only met once, years ago, but we’ve maintained an online friendship and I’d like to think that we’ve supported each other and cheered each other on through the years.  She recently gave birth to a beautiful little girl, Faye, and to celebrate I made a little summer dress and knitted wrap.  I was so excited to send them along their merry way a few weeks ago, and I was absolutely tickled when Erin posted pictures of her Fourth of July weekend- and there was Faye, looking resplendent in her little dress.  It’s worth noting for all you knitters out there that the wrap, Petite Artichaut, is quite a beautiful, though challenging knit. There are hardly two rows alike, so it really demands your attention, but it is amazing to watch it come together- like a tiny piece of origami.  The result is a delicate, heirloom-worthy knit.

_MG_1075We’re in Michigan now for the month, and I can’t wait to share some of the beauty with you.  Last year I wrote an in-depth guide to “My Michigan” and if you’re going to be in the area, you should check it out!  I hope you had a beautiful long weekend celebrating our great country…isn’t it nice to be in the swing of summer now!?

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Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 11.42.24 AM*there’s little Faye, by the seashore, in her dress (iphone pics courtesy of Erin)