Spreading their wings

My summer is coming to an end as I find myself back at work, beginning to prepare for the upcoming school year. Reflecting on this past month, I can’t help but think that this summer marked something special on my journey as a mother. It was one of those barely perceivable shifts, the kind that…

My summer is coming to an end as I find myself back at work, beginning to prepare for the upcoming school year. Reflecting on this past month, I can’t help but think that this summer marked something special on my journey as a mother. It was one of those barely perceivable shifts, the kind that can pass you right by while your busy driving the kids to soccer, making school lunches and trying to get everyone out the door in the morning. Perhaps that’s why it took a break to notice what was happening all around us. July in Northern Michigan offers that break. There is no where to be, no schedule, no busy calendar of events. The days role out with a gentle rhythm of play, whether it be board games, boat rides or backyard badminton. The shift that I noticed is one that has left me incredibly emotional, prone to pouring over family photo albums and remembering when my boys were just wee babies. This summer was the summer they spread their wings. They have a newfound independence and confidence that comes from a combination of age and an incredible year of school under their belts. I watched my son ride his two-wheel bike down the lane by himself. I said goodbye as the boys ran out of the house and over to their friend’s house. I buckled them in and waved goodbye as they drove away, off for a day’s adventure with my younger brother. I beamed with pride as they explored new hobbies with passion, Vik falling especially hard for the sport of golf and Vijay displaying bravery with his tubing skills. My boys still need me, of course. There are meals to make, and scraped knees to bandage, clothes to wash and sandy bodies to scrub clean. And luckily each night they still love nothing more than snuggling close together while we read. But things are changing, as they do every single day in this journey we call motherhood. I remember when I used to long for a moment when a little body wasn’t needing my attention, and now I find myself practically tackling them with hugs and cuddles at every turn. I also remember feeling particularly crabby when older mother’s told me wistfully how fast the time flies (this was when the days seemed to drag and the nights were sleepless and there were endless diapers to change). And yet they were right. They were so very right.  Vik turned five while we were in Michigan and we celebrated with a big party, attended by all of the friends my boys have grown up with in the summers. I am so incredibly thankful for the gift of Northern Michigan, and for our time there every summer. I find it hard to put into words how restful, restorative and magical our time at the lake is for our whole family. It is a chance for my children to grow closer to their grandparents, aunts and uncles. It is a time for us all to have a break from work, camp, school and the general busyness of our “real life.” Mostly it is a chance to be together, in a setting that is too beautiful for words. And for those of you that have followed this unfolding story I wanted to let you know that my mom is doing so well. She is back to having a sparkle in her eye and a spring in her step. She is back to gardening and drawing, hiking and biking, and generally living her life with joy. It is nothing short of a miracle, friends. This coming year promises so much more growth. There will be a busy school year with new teachers and friends. There’s always so much to learn, and such room to grow. I plan to head into this year with the intention of enjoying it all; the busy moments, and the quiet ones. I plan to hold tight to my dear, sweet boys while at the same time watching with awe as they spread their wings.

Cottage Living

This past month has been one of healing and rest, family-time, quiet moments and great adventures. There is no place in the world like Northern Michigan. We are so blessed to spend the month of July with my parents at our cottage. My husband comes for the first week, heads off to India for work,…

Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis18 This past month has been one of healing and rest, family-time, quiet moments and great adventures. There is no place in the world like Northern Michigan. We are so blessed to spend the month of July with my parents at our cottage. My husband comes for the first week, heads off to India for work, and then returns for the last week. It’s a pretty sweet deal. I’d love to share with you some of the beautiful moments that unfolded over the past month. Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis14Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis8 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis10 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis17 Our cottage sits on the shore of Torch Lake, on an unpaved road near the teeny town of Alden. We’ve been lucky enough to call this ours for the past 25 years, and most of the families on our lane have had their cottages for generations. A few of our neighbors are now on their fourth generation of ownership. It is extraordinary to watch our children now play together as we once did- picking wild black raspberries, running down the lane from house to house, whooping wildly while playing king-of-the-raft, sunset games of badminton and late night s’more roasting. Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis7 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis15 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis4 In all honesty, I hardly took any pictures this year. I was too busy sailing, paddle boarding, reading, boating, hiking and enjoying the time with my kiddos. I wish I had captured the joy on Vijay’s face the first time he popped up on water skis. And I wish I had a picture of Vik, sound asleep on a windy sail across the lake, the waves soothing him to sleep. I especially wished I had captured the many moments my boys shared with their grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends. These precious moments will have to live in my memory.Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis27 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis12 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis22 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis23 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis24 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis25 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis26 I did take quite a few pictures on the roadtrip my mom and I took one day through Old Mission Peninsula. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for exploring all the little farmstands and antique shops that dot the peninsula. We stumbled upon a lavender farm, a u-pick flower farm, countless gorgeous barns, adorable farmstands, a stunning field of sunflowers, and off-the-beaten path antique shops. I came home with a stunning bouquet of snapdragon and a few new graniteware items to add to my prop collection. And the prices (especially compared to Brimfield)- SUCH a steal!!thrifted finds Northern Michigan, thrifting Northern Michigan, u-pick We ended our day in Traverse City, grabbing a late coffee at the new and incredibly hip BLK \ MRKT and savoring one of the best meals I’ve ever had at Alliance. We also popped into Wood + Cloth and Darling Botanical, all housed under one roof in the Warehouse District of Traverse City. I also made a stop into my all-time favorite antique shop, Wilson Antiques. Wood + Cloth Darling Botanical Darling Botanical1 Darling Botanical3 Darling Botanical2 MRKTAlliance, Traverse CityIn all, a gorgeous roadtrip and the icing on the cake of a gorgeous month. Well, to be honest, the real icing was celebrating Vik’s FOURTH birthday (my baby is four, what happened??!!). It’s really the highlight of the summer- a celebration with friends and plenty of old-fashioned games (pin the tail on the donkey, drop the cloths pin in the bottle, sack races, face painting and hot potato). Vik's 4 birthdayVik's 4 birthday1Vik's 4 birthday2 I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the sun setting over a vast field of sunflowers, and our nightly sunset show…because, you know, Michigan likes to show-off every now and then! Sunflower fields, C Chitnis1 Sunflower fields, C Chitnis Sunflower fields, C Chitnis2 Northern Michigan, C. Chitnis9

Vik Turns 3!

My 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…

_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

Yesterday 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. …

_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

The 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…

_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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A Summery Quilt

Each 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…

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!

Here’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…

_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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Up North Day Tripping

Is 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. …

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

This 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…

_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

On 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…

_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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