Monday, June 2, 2014

Party On...

In celebration of my "new home" - the BLOG CABIN - in Northwest Michigan, I decided to host a big party (also, it was my 45th birthday). Those who know me know that I don't do things small. So - I planned a big foodie shindig...a campfire seafood boil! The big concern was A) I have never cooked anything besides hotdogs and marshmallows over a fire and B) I have never cooked a seafood boil (on my own).

Thank goodness for Google!

First, I enlisted the help of a dear friend who had crafted campfire tripods before - using three metal fence posts, a few pieces of chain, s-hooks and cook pots! Genius! And, living on a nearly 4 acre partially-wooded parcel just north of Lake Ann, I had plenty of aged logs and branches to fuel the fires.

Shopping for the dinner was challenging, yet fun. When all was said and done, my freezers and fridges were full of 11 lbs of crawfish, 7 lbs of shrimp, 12 lbs of mussels, 10 lbs of potatoes, 5 lbs of onions, 3 lbs of mushrooms, celery, garlic, a dozen lemons, 5 packs of boil mix, 3 pans of cornbread, 3 baguette loaves, homemade guacamole and pico de gallo with Michigan-made chips, Greek orzo salad, apple crisp, s'more fixin's (including my new secret ingredient, windmill cookies in place of graham crackers) and probably more, that I can't think of at the moment. Oh, and LOTS and LOTS of Michigan beer, wine and spirits.

Thankfully -- my mom, aunt and uncle were on hand to help get the food out, the boil boiling, and keep things moving smoothly while I was greeting guests (from near and far) and giving house tours.

Not only did I fill up my wine rack(s) with some great Michigan wines (including a 2002 Pinot Noir from Willow Vineyards) and bouquets and bouquets of fresh picked lilacs, but I was treated to some other great housewarming gifts that will be enjoyed for days/weeks/months/years to come!

The weather was perfect too (even though the mosquitos were plentiful) but it was the greatest night and I am so thankful for those who came to welcome me to the neighborhood!

Now...onto planning the next party...Saturday, August 16 - in celebration of PROMOTE MICHIGAN's 10th Anniversary!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Living the Dream...

Two major "new" things happened this directly tied to the other. For seven or eight years now, I've been dreaming of moving to the Traverse City area. As a long-time visitor to the region, I'd made friends with countless people who enjoyed many of the things that I did -- eating, drinking, socializing and enjoying the agricultural and natural wonders of the area.

Before long, I found my visits north were more frequent...and they were lasting longer. I began spending a almost a week in Empire over Memorial Weekend in May, to welcome the summer season and five days over Thanksgiving to say goodbye to fall. On the trips home to Plainwell, which began later and later in the day as years went on, I longed to be back in this area where there was just "something" inviting and welcoming that I wanted to experience more and more.

In 2009, as Mollie was heading into her senior year - I made plans to move to Traverse City after her graduation. Caleb was planning to move to his dad's for his high school years, and with my statewide work schedule, I would still be able to make it back for his football games and other important school functions. Less than a week after Mollie's graduation (and two weeks after an amazing Memorial Weekend in Glen Arbor with the kids and their friends), I broke my ankle (a triple fracture) and was laid up all summer long. Moving was off the table.

As the year continued on, Caleb returned to high school and I decided it just wasn't fair to him to leave. So I set my sights on 2014 and went about my days parenting, working, traveling and yet, still dreaming about the move north.

In January, I began my online search for a place to rent. My timeline was any time after May and before September. In February, while searching CraigsList, I found the perfect home! Ironically, it was a place I was familiar with -- from the outside at least. I had driven past this beautiful log home many times over the past several months while visiting friends in the Lake Ann area and staying at nearby Sleeping Bear Resort. It had been for sale and every time I passed by, I thought (or said to anyone who was with me in the car at the time) "I wonder if they'd consider renting." Turns out, they were!

I sent a message as fast as I could and in a couple days heard back from Lakeview Property Management. I filled out the application loaded with references of my most connected TC area friends and a letter sharing my "dream" of living in the area and having a home large enough to entertain family and friends (both from the area and those from downstate). Without even having been inside the house, I knew it would be my new home. Luckily, I was able to arrange a viewing with a friend who was in the area -- who at least confirmed the house was not only suitable but "pretty big for one person." PERFECT...just what I was hoping for!

I was working at the Grand Rapids Boat Show on February 18 when I got the call that the house would be mine (it was between me and one other candidate)! How soon could I move? I immediately sent word to my Plainwell landlord, gave my 30 days and started making plans for move day: Friday, March 21.

Thus...we come to the two "new" things for March.

First - was driving a U-Haul. Not just any truck but a 26-footer (which ironically wasn't big enough for all my stuff...which I don't understand, given I was moving from an 1100sf house to a 2500sf house with a barn). Thankfully, I had the help of a dear friend and my kids and a few of their friends to pack this truck from top to bottom, side to side, front to back (along with a couple personal vehicles). A handful of lesser wanted/needed items were left on the curb for pickers to grab. Loading started around 8:45am and by 11:45am we were headed out. By 3:00pm we rolled into the driveway in Traverse City (defined by the actual address, but locals consider it Lake Ann). By 7:00pm, we were on our way to Hoftbrau in Interlochen for a well deserved dinner (and drink, for those of us over the age of 21).

In less than 12 hours, we had completely moved me from my hometown of Plainwell -- where I was the third of four generations to graduate from Plainwell High School (on my dad's side) and where I had lived all but two-and-a-half years of my life (and those years were 1.5 in Schoolcraft and 1 in Otsego).

So, my second "new" thing for March is living north of the Allegan County line. Three hours north of where I had always called home (it will still always be my hometown of course)...where I lived for the last eight years, just two blocks from where I grew up (from age 6 to 21). Away from my kids, my parents, my siblings and my family. I was off to live my dream and thankfully I had the love and support from my family and friends to make it happen. Of course, now I have this amazing 3-level log home on four acres just 15 miles from Lake Michigan, 15 miles from downtown Traverse City, less than 15 miles from Interlochen and about 20 miles from Glen Arbor. I think I'll see a few more visitors here than I did at my home in Plainwell. At least, that's what I'm counting on.

One of the reasons I was drawn to this area of Michigan was the sense of community it provided. Drop in participatory dinners, community gatherings, drinks on the deck (or by the fire pit or at the beach or on the boat), nearby wineries and breweries, hiking trails, spectacular sunsets over Lake Michigan, bocce ball, world-class festivals, amazing vistas around nearly every turn or over every hill. While I've spent a great deal of time visiting this area over the past 20 years, I'm looking forward to discovering new places, visiting restaurants that have been on my long-time bucket list, checking out the dozen new wineries that have popped up in recent years and making new friends.

Living the dream? You bet...and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello - and bring along some Michigan wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider...and help me toast my new home!

For more photos: