Monday, September 24, 2012

Michigan Road Trip: Benzonia and Traverse City

Day two of our Michigan road trip came with gray skies and a steady drizzle of rain. We headed north on US 31 towards Benzonia, a sleepy little town on the northern coast of Lake Michigan. Despite the rain, the scenery was beautiful - rolling hills and lots of trees the entire way. Northern Michigan is quite beautiful.


We kept ourselves entertained on the 2.5 hour drive by memorizing Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" and taking goofy pictures with the camera's auto timer. Chris doesn't think that last one is very believable because I was looking at the camera. Whoops... now everyone knows that we weren't really involved in a roadside accident.

Our sole destination in Benzonia was Gwen Frostic Studios, the home and workspace of Michigan print maker Gwen Frostic. Frostic has been one of my favorite artists for years and her work, which is heavily influenced Michigan wildlife, never ceases to inspire me. If you're not familiar with her work, I suggest taking a moment to peruse her website.

Although Frostic passed away in 2001, her 1960s home studio is still in operation and is open to the public. A team of artisans use Frostic's original linocuts and woodblocks to reproduce prints, and you can watch them in action from the main floor. After we wandered around the studio space for a while, we picked out a 2013 calendar and a sweet little Michigan print -- perfect tokens of our trip.

Traverse City is a short thirty minute trip from Benzonia, so we were there in no time. We decided to start this city off right with a trip to the Grand Traverse Pie Company for a slice of Michigan cherry pie.

I had a slice of the original cherry and Mr. Christopher ordered the blueberry crumble. Both were absolutely delicious. Totally worthy of those crazy-eyes, too.

After getting our sugar fix, we decided to walk around downtown to take in the sites and do some shopping. Our favorite store was Cherry Republic. It's a fun little foodie stop that sells everything cherry and nothing else. Chocolate dipped cherries, cherry salsa, cherry cola, cherry pancake mix. The best part? You can sample every single one of their products. We also visited The Village boutiques at Grand Traverse Commons, an old state mental hospital that has been converted into shops, restaurants and town houses. The shops were okay and the history of the building was interesting, but we were both a little disappointed. I think it was because we were both hoping to see a ghost.

We caught a late lunch at North Peak Brewing Company (which I found thanks to this post by Cal.) I wish I would have snapped a few more pictures because this place was pretty awesome. Their branding and menu design was enough to make me love the place, and the food was delish. Wonton wrapped mozzarella sticks with sundried tomato, garlic, and a creamy pesto dipping sauce? Oh yes.

On our way out of Traverse City headed towards Mackinac Island, we came across the World's Largest Cherry Pie in Charlevoix. We drove right by it and had to turn the car around in the rain to snap a few pictures with the historically huge pie pan and custom-built oven. It was awesome. The perfect ending to our Northwestern Michigan visit. Onward to Mackinac! 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Autumn!

Original photo by Andreas Levers

Today marks the first official day of autumn - hooray! I'm normally sad to see summer go, but this summer has been so full of adventures that I'm fully ready to welcome the golden afternoons of fall (although I'm not too thrilled about the frosty mornings...)

Bring on the sweaters, corn mazes, vibrant leaves and everything pumpkin!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Michigan Road Trip: Holland and Grand Rapids

Now that I've had a little recovery time from moving, I'm finally getting around to sharing some photos of the Michigan Road Trip Chris and I took three weeks ago. I'll be breaking down our little adventure into four posts to cover the legs of our journey around the outer mitt of Michigan. Today's post covers our stops at Holland and Grand Rapids.

Holland was the fist little town on our list, a quick two hour drive from home. The town is known for it's Dutch heritage and annual spring Tulip Time Festival. We decided to visit Windmill Island Park first, one of Holland's main attractions.

We listened to an antique Amsterdam street organ, visited the Dutch cottage shops, took a tour through the five-story 18th century windmill (it still grinds flour, which you can buy in the gift shop) and watched the traditional Dutch dancing that happens hourly at the base of the windmill.

Apparently, Holland school children learn these dances at a very young age and perform them in festivals and parades every year until they graduate high school. We were expecting to see a large group of dancers, but instead found four high school girls in folk costumes, who clomped around in wooden shoes for about 20 minutes. I'll be real: it was awkward. The girls knew it, too, although the older couple sitting next to us loved it.

After Windmill Island Park, we made our way over to Nelis Dutch Village, which is described as a "Dutch amusement park" on the village's website. The village was built in the late 1950s, and the quirky park doesn't seem like much has changed.

We visited the Dutch barn petting zoo, toured a typical 1800s Dutch home, sampled tasty cheeses in the Cheese Shop, and wandered around the museum buildings. The park also had several demonstrations, including wooden shoe carving, candlestick making, Delftware pottery glazing, and traditional dutch dancing (which, because of our last experience, we avoided.) Chris was also publicly tried as a witch in the Weighhouse. He was found to be innocent, if you're curious, and has the certificate to prove it.

Can I be honest? Holland in general was really disappointing, especially for the amount of money we spent on the park and village admission. If you're ever planning a trip to Holland, I would recommend going in the spring for the Tulip festival, when a lot more events are going on. Otherwise, it's just not worth it.

Other Holland attractions we didn't make it to: Veldheer De Klomp wooden shoe factory, Holland State Park and beach, and the Big Red Lighthouse.

Grand Rapids was our next stop on the map. The city is only about 30 minutes from Holland, so it was an easy drive over. We decided to skip out on the GRAM and UICA art museums this time around, since we plan on returning in October for ArtPrize, and headed straight to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

How had we not visited this place before?! It was one of my highlights of the trip, for sure. Exotic plants and interesting sculptures in a beautiful setting... we spent almost all of our afternoon here, wandering around the greenhouse and acres of gardens.

The whole place reminded us of a zoo, only instead of looking at animals we were viewing artwork. We also had our own little Five For Fighting concert as we strolled the grounds... he was practicing for his set that evening (accompanied by the GR Symphony, no less) as part of garden's Summer Concert Series. We'll definitely be returning for a concert or two next summer. 

By the time we were done with the gardens (and we didn't even see everything!) it was pretty late. We finished our day with dinner at Marie Catribs, ice cream at Jersey Junction and a stroll around the Gaslight District before checking in to our hotel. We didn't get a chance to take in a lot that Grand Rapids had to offer, like the Public Museum or the Meyer May house, but the city is pretty close to home so we can visit those another time. If you are visiting the GR area, though, we highly recommend a stop at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Next up: day two's adventures in Benzonia and Traverse City. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Goodbye, Lake House

You guys. Things have been a little crazy lately. The house we've been renting for two years sold while we were on vacation... not exactly not the best news to come home to.

So we've moved. Our renter's contract has a 30 day notice clause, so we technically could have stayed at the house until October, but because our rent and utilities are due on the tenth of every month, we made the most of the timing and decided to be out by the tenth.

I swung by yesterday to pick up the mail and just had to snap a quick photo with my phone. Despite all of its flaws (notice the upside down sconce? haha...) I think I'm really going to miss this house and all the memories it holds. The beautiful lakeside view. The hours of snuggling on the couch and watching Netflix. The swans. The friends that visited. The birthdays and holidays we celebrated together. It was the first house that Chris and I made our home, so it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Instead of signing a six/twelve month lease when we're so close to buying a home, we're living with Chris' parents for a few months to save money and search for a house of our own. Honestly, I was a little embarrassed to be moving back in with his parents at first, but I now realize that it's totally a blessing. It will take some getting used to, but in the long run it will help us out -- not to mention the fact that my in-laws are some of the best people I know. Once the chaos of moving has settled down and we've unpacked a little more, I'll have to do a little home tour in remembrance (you know, after I've shared the vacation photos that have been sitting on my desktop for weeks now...)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Years


Today Mr. Ross and I celebrated two years of marriage. Best two years ever.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy September!

Original photo by His&Hers

September! My favorite month of all the months. Ever. The lingering days of summer, the beginning of fall, apple picking, my wedding anniversary, sweaters, my birthday, Renegade Chicago, the return of Starbuck's pumpkin spice latte... so, so, so many good things happen in September. Fist pump.