Supporting Small and Local

For a year now I have been trying to find a way to source a majority of our groceries from small, local farmers. It has actually been harder than I thought, honestly. We do not live in a “food desert” but my area is much more urban than rural, and we have to drive a ways to find a farm. And then to try to make a list of which ones have what, and of those, make sure they are organic and humane, then finally, where are they, in relation to me and to each other? However, brilliant people eons ago solved this problem for me, I just needed to take advantage of it. Instead of running all over the map sourcing these ingredients, farmers make it easy on us by bringing it in to farmer’s markets, a resource I have neglected for far too long. Before Wyatt, we used to go all the time – for some reason we stopped going regularly. But last Saturday, we were up early and my kiddo is full of beans in the morning so we just threw on some clothes and left the house, in search of adventure and good food.

We found both! Eastern Market downtown is a huge farmer’s market, that has everything from flowers to meat to baked goods to produce to cheese and eggs. We happily wandered the sheds in search of what we wanted, and bought quite a few other things not on our list as well. We spent thirty dollars, and left with a giant bag filled to the top with fresh veggies (it’s a little early for fruit really here), including a huge bunch of radishes still all covered in dirt. I love radishes, and we eat them a lot, especially in our spring green quinoa bowls which we enjoy at least once a week. So that was an exciting find. We also bought a jar of fresh honey, handmade spinach basil ravioli, a small bag of mushrooms, a loaf of olive bread and a giant loaf of farm table bread, microgreens and pea shoots, asparagus, and some other assorted veggies that I can’t seem to remember.

I was entranced by the mushroom stall, as you can see. I have never seen that many different kinds of mushrooms all at once, and there were quite a few I had never heard of. We didn’t buy morels but they are on our list for next time!

We spotted this beauty too, also home grown in the D….

Since we were already out and on this mission we decided to head to Calder’s Dairy as well, to round out our day. It was a bit of a drive, and not well planned out to go from Eastern Market down to Calder’s Dairy, but it was a beautiful day and we had no other plans, so why not? At Calder’s we bought eggs, milk, butter, and ice cream, and oooed and ahhed over the cute little babies there! Calves and ducklings and goslings were everywhere! I wanted to take a few ducklings home but unfortunately my city frowns on raising any fowl so no chickens or ducks for me, although I would love a few of each!

When we got home I had a better idea of how to do this in the future, and next time I will have a plan. It was a little impulsive, fly by the seat of our pants but it was a fact finding mission and adventure this time. I did have to buy other groceries still but we had a chunk taken care of, and I felt good about where most of our food came from. I had to make our dinner plan around what I had bought, rather than the other way around, which was a little challenging, but it was doable. We just had different sorts of dinners! We had scrambled eggs on toasted olive bread sprinkled with microgreens and steamed asparagus on the side, spring quinoa bowls, the spinach basil ravioli, a pizza from the local Italian bakery that we baked ourselves (I bought this a different day but stuck to my mission), and then we ate out one day at my mom’s special request to eat at a particular restaurant. So, we got three meals out of our expedition and that was without a plan. We are going back next Saturday and you can be sure that I will have a rough dinner plan mapped out in my head and a mental list of ingredients. I am looking forward to doing this as often as we can this summer, and then to start preserving for the winter as well! It also forces us to live seasonally, which is better for the quality of our food as well as our environment.

I would love to hear your favorite farmer’s market style meals! I need ideas!

Hello June!

Wow, how is it June already? It seems like the year is flying by!

June is the month of the Strawberry Moon, and I am so excited to begin this month! This month I think we want to really soak up the month, as I am not sure where April and May went to so fast!

Summer begins in June, and it always brings to mind that freedom and joy felt when you are a child, and the whole summer is stretched out before you like a blank canvas. Mornings of sleeping in, lazy days reading under a tree, chasing fireflies and playing tag, trips to the cool library on those really hot days, visits to the zoo and beaches and walks through shady woods. Peeking under rocks for bugs and just laying back in the grass, staring up at the clouds. Playing with friends and cousins and backyard cookouts and pool play dates. Summertime feels like freedom, and we lose that feeling so much as an adult, with all of our responsibilities of work, whether it is a work out of the home job or stay at home. But if there is one thing I have learned in the past few months, it is that time is short. We all only have so many summers and while we do have to take care of lives, and can’t live with the utter carefreeness of a child all of the time, we can incorporate some of that spirit into our everyday. Stop and take half an hour or an hour on a busy day to just be. To enjoy and savor your life. Make days just for playtime and family and fun days out. Try and make the most of these days. The other day my husband came home from work and although it was dinner time and we had lots of things we could have and should have been doing, instead we hopped in the car, stopped at a bakery for pizza rolls, and headed off to the marsh for a sunset. A spur of the moment dinner picnic. It was good for the soul.

This summer, we are planning on many trips to the library, little morning hikes, and lots of evening front porch sitting. We are enjoying gardening and the farmer’s markets that are popping up, and we are looking forward to many backyard bbqs and fires, chilled white wine, iced lavendar coffee, and of course, lots and lots of ice cream! Mint chocolate chip for Wyatt and Billy, chocolate for me. Wyatt also started adaptive swimming lessons which are fun, he loves being in the water. He also really loves to splash! I think the two of us are going to the zoo, and to a few farms around here together, and we are planning on going strawberry picking with my brother and his family, including Wyatt’s cousin L. But we are also seeking out just those quiet moments too, sitting in the grass on a blanket surrounded by books and cookies and lemonade. Iced tea parties and poetry. Lounging about in our pajamas on a lazy morning, eating pancakes and listening to music. (My son loves Down by the Bay and will sing along, quite loudly…) Dancing around the house to Prince and Van Morrison and Tom Petty and Eric Church. Spontaneous trips for ice cream for dinner.

We had our first outdoor evening, soaking up the beautiful weather, warm and breezy, at my brother’s house the other night and it was perfect. Birds singing their evening song, burger and hot dogs, chips, cold beers, and bubbles for the kids to play with. I am looking forward to many more this summer!

What do you love about summer? Do you have any favorite memories from when you were a kid?

A Wee Road Trip

On a whim, spur of the moment, fly by the seat of our pants type situation our family took a trip to the western side of Michigan over Mother’s Day weekend. My husband very nonchalantly said to me one day that he would like to see the tulips in Holland, MI , and I was like, well let’s go! We had originally planned to go to Mackinaw for that weekend, so he already had the time off – we just switched our destination at the last minute. And I was really glad that we did! I love northern Michigan but that weekend would have been absolutely freezing – we were cold in Sauguatuck and Holland, but nothing like it would have been in Mackinac.

It was not easy finding reservations at the last minute, especially ones that were not $400 a night. We ended up staying outside of Holland, for which I was grateful, as it was nice to visit the tulip festival and have a place to retreat that was less crazy, especially with our four year old in tow. The hotel we stayed at was one of a few that are out that way that I have always wanted to stay at – the Saugatuck Retro Resort, which is a restored and renovated motor lodge from 1966. The decor is mid-century modern, which I love, and it was super clean. I am one of those weirdos about rooms and cleanliness and this place passed my inspection. I have a love apparently lately for vintage style travel and the Saugatuck Retro Resort did not disappoint. I only wish we could have been there later in the season as the motel offered a communal fire pit and a great looking pool, as well as grills for guest use. Definitely a place to remember for the future.

We left early, stopping only for road provisions at Avalon Bakery in Detroit for croissants and cookies and headed out west, destination Windmill Island in Holland. I was there once as a very little girl but I didn’t remember it. It was insanely beautiful that day, with a super blue sky and a riot of tulips everywhere. I didn’t expect all the people there who came strictly to take photos in the tulip gardens, decked out in particular outfits to strike a pose, although I could see why they would! Some people were very respectful of the flowers, while others tromped all over them trying to get the perfect picture, which was sad. One woman was screeching at her kids and changing her lenses repeatedly trying to get her shot, all while squashing tulips beneath her Hunters -it was pretty sad. For the most part though, people were there to enjoy the scenery and take in the tulips. We walked around, visited the windmill, and poked around the tiny Dutch village replica, where I bought Wyatt a teeny pair of wooden clogs and a wooden duck call. (he loves ducks..)

The Visitors Center told me that there were 4 million tulips planted around the city, which was mind-blowing! That is a ton of tulips. But the results were majestic. They lined every street along the curb, and great fields were planted in open spaces. It was certainly a visual treat. Our motelier told us that it is the biggest tourist event in Michigan, which I was not aware of. I haven’t checked this fact, but I could believe it by the sheer number of people who were there. It is just a small time frame in the spring, during the peak of tulip season, but they definitely make the most of it. We took in the sights and then left the city for a little family time away from the biggest crowds.

We wound up in Saugatuck, which is where we were staying anyway. In search of coffee, we bumbled into a newish looking brewery that was a hop, skip, and jump from our motel, thanks to Google literally giving us the closest place that coffee could be found. The Guardian Brewery was new and bright and clean, and the coffee was delicious, probably because they use it to make a coffee porter. And of course, while we were there, we sampled their menu, both food and beer! I had the asparagus and wild rice salad, which was so good, Billy had a grilled ham and cheese, and since they did not have chicken tenders for my picky eater, he had chips and guacamole, that we of course helped him eat. Everything was absolutely delicious. It was a bit of an early bird dinner/late lunch, which put us at a weird schedule, so we went back to our room and let Wyatt decompress and be a kid for a bit, before hopping back in the car and tooling around town, looking about. We had a lovely evening, sitting outside the motel later, in the gloaming, as my dad would say. The motel was empty at the point except for us, so we had the place to ourselves, so we let Wyatt use his duck call. It was just nice to sit out there with our tea and each other’s company.

The next morning we stayed off the beaten path, and had breakfast at a local diner called Vicki’s, where Wyatt proceeded to eat two orders of bacon and a little bit of pancakes. After filling up on toast and scrambled eggs and bacon, we went to the DeGraaf Nature Center and spent a good few hours there, watching birds and hiking around. We are big nature center people, and they had a wonderful one. Wyatt enjoyed all the animals that lived there, especially the two screech owls who talked to us. He wasn’t so sure about the giant rabbit though lol. He is such a bird kid already! He can imitate bird calls almost perfectly, it kind of amazes me honestly. We saw 6 new birds to check off our list, and the pretty white trilliums that bloom in the woods in the spring. We also spotted fiddlehead ferns near a small stream as well! I love their spiral shape as they grow. They also had a small trail of rocks, as I called it, and I was tickled to see that there was a stone called a puddingstone! I am not sure why, but I really liked its name. It just made me smile.

Wyatt was so ready to go back to the room for a bit and get his wiggles out and watch some well-deserved Daniel Tiger, so we went back there for a bit. We spent the rest of the night shopping our way through Saugatuck’s downtown, where I could have probably bought a billion things, but I ended up buying only a book of poems written by a local poet and writer. For dinner we went to The Butler, a tradition for us. It is situated right on the water, and this time, it had special meaning for me. My aunt, who passed away in February, loved this restaurant and would drive all the way across the state to eat there, and then come home after. I think it was more for the experience of it, to just take a road trip, eat, and come home, but it was something she did. It was a moody evening, raining but very peaceful, and we raised a glass to her memory.

The next morning was mother’s day morning, and when we drove into town for breakfast we saw all the ladies dressed up, surrounded by their families, going to their breakfasts. We didn’t have reservations anywhere of course, so we found an awesome little bakery by the water where we literally got the best cup of coffee we had all weekend, and bagels. We had a water view and the place to ourselves and I couldn’t have asked for anything more but that perfect moment with my two guys.

The Tin Can Tourists

On Friday, the Tin Can Tourists rolled into town, with their kitschy quirky vintage charm and reminders of how good life can be. I guess that is a debatable statement depending on who you are – at least for me, it would be a very good life, to tool around in my awesome vintage camper!

It’s the 100 year anniversary of the Tin Can Tourists, a vagabond group of campers that started, well, in 1919, in Florida. This group has a strict code of guiding principles, that begins with clean camps and includes friendliness, decent behavior, and just plain good wholesome fun- a set of principles I can get behind!

These fun, candy colored campers came in all shapes and sizes, and the owners were on hand to answer any questions and allowed entry into their homes away from home. It had rained buckets just an hour before, so you could only stand on the rugs just inside the doorway, understandably, which was more than enough to be able to take in the whole glorious picture. They were all outfitted with the coolest of decor, all old vintage woods, antiques, but also outfitted with the latest appliances like microwaves and some of them even had bathrooms – with tubs! I can definitely see my little family touring the National Parks in one of these babies!

That last one was designed by an airline designer – I can totally see it!

I loved hearing all the stories. One woman, in her senior years, told us of how she found her adorable camper while on a walk with her dog. It was parked on the street with a for sale sign in the window, and she poked around, looking underneath and even through the windows. She liked what she saw, knocked on the door, and told them it was sold, and that she would be right back with the money and a truck to tow it away. She said when she told her son, he was like “oh mom, what did you do now” with a laugh. She was a pretty cool lady and she was so friendly and open. I meant to get a photo of her vest, which was turquoise and covered in National Park patches. She told us that she and her cousin have been bopping out exploring for the past few years – what a great time they must have, and stories they must have.

This one was our favorite. Not as eye catching on the outside as some, but the front window made all the difference. It felt so big and open and airy, so much light. If I were buying right now, this is the kind I would want. The owner was also very friendly and told us this is the way to travel – and agreed the window is amazing. She talked to us while the wind whipped around us, eating her dinner out of an aluminum container, her dogs contentedly hanging out in their pen. Plus, how cute is that gnome! I love gnomes…

We could have stayed all night, talking to some of the owners. They were all so welcoming and I am sure have some amazing stories to share. They are having a rally in Camp Dearborn soon, and then beginning a caravan (like in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape!) through Michigan before heading out to other parts of the U.S. this summer. It’s been 100 years for the club, and also 100 years for Michigan State Parks, so double celebration! Check out their website for more upcoming events, if you are interested, perhaps they will be showing up in your town soon! They also have a ton of information about vintage campers, campgrounds, and their own history, plus some amazing photos.

Like I said, we could have stayed all night talking, but our stomachs were rumbling so we headed across the street to the Little Crepe and Pierogi place and pigged out on pierogis. Well, some of us did. One of us just looked out the window, maybe dreaming of the open road and some good, clean fun.

Earth Day Reads

We are all about nature at our house. We love to be in it, we love to celebrate it, we love to read about it. It is very important to me that Wyatt loves the earth and the outdoors as much as we do, and by exposing him to it through being outside, cherishing all our creatures great and small, and learning by reading as well, we can nourish that ingrained sense of love toward our world and all of its inhabitants. I have a few books that I have put aside just for Earth Day next week – some are old favorites, some are new to us. And here they are, one for each day next week and then a bonus one for fun!

The Earth Book – This one has been in rotation here for a while! Wyatt loves it, so do I. It’s a quick easy read, and has great colorful illustrations.

Me… Jane– This is a great read for kids, to introduce them to Jane Goodall- and to show them that a dream you have as a kid can become reality! We read this one together surrounded by every monkey toy that Wyatt has.

Blackout – This one is a favorite of mine. It is about a citywide blackout that causes families to leave their technology behind and venture out into the community. I love it to pieces and is a good book to use to talk about energy conservation and time without tech.

Fancy Nancy Every Day is Earth Day – It is important to me to make Wyatt aware that our choices for a better planet are an every day thing, not just on earth day!

Biscuit’s Earth Day Celebration – I thought this was a cute look at a few things kids can do to participate in keeping our planet alive and healthy.

It’s Earth Day! – I love Mercer Mayer! Little Critter was a favorite of mine as a kid and I can’t wait to read this one with Wyatt. This is a new one to both of us!

The Lorax – No list about Earth Day books would be complete without the Lorax…I think we might make some truffula trees even!

Bug Hotel – My son loves bugs. We bought a bug house last year but this year I want to really expand on it and do a few other things as well.

And a few books for you!

Two books that I love, and one that is on my list! Meadowland and John Lewis Stempel started a whole new way of how I look at the world around me. The Nature Fix took that a few more steps. I highly recommend them both. And Common Ground just intrigues me! I have it on hold at the library and it’s a waiting game.. (If you like nature narratives I read about one a month, check back for more!)

What about you? Do you have any good earth day/environmental reading suggestions? I would love to hear them!

A Bird’s Eye View

2019-03-25Saturday was a warm, bright, sunny day – the perfect spring day really.

Good thing we waited until Sunday when it was chilly, cloudy and gray for our family hike! Lol. Oh well. We dressed warmly and headed out – we usually try not to let weather stop us, unless it is extreme weather, of course.

So we headed out, braving the overcast skies and the cold air. We had a purpose to our walk this time too – to try out our new Kelty Kid’s hiking backpack carrier. We didn’t have a ton of time either, which ended up being perfect because we found a new cool place to hike when we want just a short little saunter in the outdoors. It is close to our home, and in a wetland area, which we normally don’t hike in for some reason, even though we live in the Great Lakes State!

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The trail was short but we saw so much during our adventure! We heard the whistle of the red-winged blackbirds, back in town after their winter away; we saw sparrows and chickadees, flickering about, singing and chittering to us from their perches high up in the still bare branches. We saw a plethora of waterfowl, from swans to mallards to ring-neck ducks to buffleheads (I love that name!) We even saw a beaver quickly duck under the surface of the water just a few feet in front of us! This was pretty cool, since beaver have just really recently returned to our area after 150 years – a very good sign regarding the ecological state of our waterways!

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As I said, we had a mission Sunday, to try out the Kelty. I was so impatient to get out and get going honestly, the excitement to see how it was going to work for our family was making me antsy! For us, it is not just a convenience but world-changing. As Wyatt has cerebral palsy, and is making progress every day with his walking, but we still need a way to get outdoors and take longer hikes right now. In our lives before becoming parents, this was something Billy and I did regularly and for vacations. Trips to walk the Appalachian Trail, trails “Up North” in Michigan, those are fun good times to us. It is so important for us to continue this, and share this passion with our son. We have so many national parks we want to visit – we just need to be creative! As Wyatt is getting longer and bigger (not necessarily heavier lol!) carrying him just in our arms isn’t cutting it. And honestly, it’s not cutting it for him anymore either. He needs to be able to experience the woods and trees and the birds and everything a little differently too – this way, in the pack, he can see looking straight ahead of him, see as we see, a whole new perspective! He can also reach up and out to touch things, learning and experiencing the outdoors in a new way.  He even got to use his own binoculars to look for birds! We loved it, and so did he!! He had such a great time, riding around on his dad’s back. He didn’t want to get out honestly, and wanted us to keep going! And we would have had we had the time. However, much longer adventures are now in our future!

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As we walked, I could swear I heard the hooting of an owl somewhere, although Billy missed it so I could have imagined it. I didn’t imagine however, the Bald Eagle that soared overhead. They really are such majestic creatures. It was a perfect ending to our walk, one that signifies more freedom for our family, with a visit from a Bald Eagle.

A bit of green, a bit of grey

On the weekend, we usually head for the wild. Or as wild as we can get near Detroit. Lol. The woods call our name and we go. This past weekend however we took a detour and it was a lovely one.

Saturday was a gorgeous sunny day, spring was in the air and all was merry and cheerful. Detroit’s Pewabic Pottery was having a Celtic Celebration, and I couldn’t wait to go. I love the work that comes out of Pewabic, and my family ancestry is very Irish. They had advertised dancing, things for the kids to do, and best of all, live music. I grew up spinning around the living room in my mom’s arms to the songs of the Irish Rovers and I play them now for my son. So I was super excited for him to hear some Irish music live. I knew he would really love it, that and the dancing, all that lively jumping up and down.

We got there at the start of the event since Pewabic is not a large building really, and full of breakables and we had the boyo with us. I wanted to ensure that we were not swallowed by a crowd, plus I didn’t want to chance breaking anything by accident. It was nice as we were among the first to arrive, and we were able to listen to the music and do some coloring without much crowding. Although, Wyatt was more interested in his pretzel than coloring, so Billy colored instead. Lol. Wyatt did love the music as predicted, and loved The Rattling Bog the very best, just like I do.

Oh that fireplace! If only…maybe one day? So many beautiful items were on display, so much fantastic artistry. I ended up buying the bunny pictured alone, although I am going back for more very soon. I love rabbits. The tile I bought was by a Canadian artist named Mary Philpott, and is in the style of the British Arts and Crafts movement. I am in love with it! You can check out more of her work here.

Sunday was about Billy. Kind of. He wanted to go to an RV and Camper show, which I wasn’t super excited to do. But you know how you do, you do things your spouse wants and vice versa, right? Plus, he threw in that it was in the same city as a coffeehouse that I have wanted to go to for twenty whole years! So, off we went. I didn’t hate the RV thing – but I did think once you saw a few of them, why look at them all? We are considering getting one so we can start doing longer trips with the kiddo on vacation. As a kid with cerebral palsy, he has a lot of equipment that goes with us on trips, and a small RV might just be the ticket. Plus…I have turned into a weird germophobe along the way. I love staying in hotels but I am always a bit skeptical about their cleanliness, which I am sure is warranted in some cases, but not all! I guess I just need to bring my own bed with me places now. LOL.

So this coffeehouse – Billy went to it twenty years ago when he was doing travel computer training, when we were first married. Only an hour away, and we never made it back there – until last weekend! This magic place is called The Raven Cafe, in Port Huron, and is so very Edgar Allen Poe. I loved it! It was worth the wait. The coffee was hot and black and delicious, and our food was pretty darn good too! Wyatt wasn’t as impressed, and began to finger paint on the mirror next to us with his cheese sauce. (we of course cleaned it up and stopped him! we are not those parents..lol) If you ever are in the area and get the chance to stop in, I recommend it. The service was friendly, the coffee perfect, and the tables named for poets! It was the perfect day for it as well, cloudy, rainy, a bit gloomy, and the cafe was all warm woods the color of honey and just warmth and coziness. The website describes itself as “Part Hogwarts and part Cheers, the Raven is a unique place. When you step through the doors, you’ll get the distinct feeling you’re walking into a story.” And this is a very apt description, and I agree. I can’t wait to go back again.

 

So our weekend had a bit of glee with a side of gloom, and I loved them both!