Saturday, November 1, 2014

Family Day on Mackinac Island

Earlier this summer my mom purchased a few tickets on UpNorthLive for the ferry ride to Mackinac Island. Because trying to find a weekend where five adults are all simultaneously free from any other plans is quite a challenge we couldn't find a weekend all summer that would work for everyone to go. Finally, last Sunday morning arrived and we all piled in my dad's truck and hit the road. Fortunately it's only about a two hour drive to Mackinaw City, so we didn't have to get up too early.

Mackinac Island has never been my favorite place to visit, but I promised my parents (and myself) that I would try my hardest not to complain or act unhappy to be there. I'm sure that sounds silly that I have to tell myself those things, but I can be annoyingly cranky for myself and definitely for others. I love my family and have always been grateful that spending time with them has never been a chore or something I dread. I always want to be able to appreciate the time we spend together and wouldn't want to ruin a good day with a negative attitude. And guess what? It was such a good day.

None of us had ever been to the island this late in the year so we were all pretty excited to see what it had to offer in October. Last weekend was actually the very last one of tourist season on Mackinac. If you've experienced the island before this is definitely the best weekend to go for a visit. In the middle of summer it can be super hot and smelly and packed with people (which is basically what has fueled my dislike for the place).

Last Sunday was slower and felt more secluded. Half the restaurants were already closed and the other half closed later that day. All the shops had sales going on, so it made for the opportune time to check out the cute stores and get some great deals. I even bought some books because, you know, I need more books. They were 30% off and I can't resist a sale, especially when it comes to books (God help me).

I felt like we were in on some sort of secret being able to witness all these people packing up and saying goodbye to their friends. There I was waiting in line for coffee and people are shouting their farewells and sharing hugs. Friendships truly do change with the season. I like being a witness to other people's lives.

It was a gorgeous day. The past month has been on/off rain and cloudy skies with increasingly colder temperatures, but last Sunday was actually pleasant on the weather front. It was windy and chilly but not in a miserable way; plus the sun brightened the skies and warmed you right up. 

Another plus about making the trip in October is the colors. Everything in nature takes on a whole new dynamic in the fall. When you looked over a hill all you could see were rows of trees in reds and greens and yellows and orange. The island was so peaceful and we were able to walk around relatively undisturbed. Usually navigating the paths between the carriage tours, the horse poop, and the crowds of people on bicycles trumps being able to stay next to the people you're there with and often hinders conversation flow. Now that I've discovered the joy of the end of season emptiness I never want to visit at any other time. So much beauty all for us. I can't wait to visit the island again during future fall excursions. 

We left the island at five (right when the last shops were closing and it was all starting to get a bit depressing). I didn't even realized how tired, or hungry, I was until we got back in the car and started to head home. After much deliberating we decided to stop in Charlevoix for dinner at the Bridge Street Tap Room. My dad and brother had seen the restaurant mentioned in a local magazine and it looked like a cool place to try while we were passing through. I ordered a pumpkin chai beer (which was excellent and subtle) as well as a grilled mac and cheese (which was literally mouthwatering). If you're in the area I would definitely recommend checking it out.

So there ends another great, fun-filled family adventure. I hope you all have days like that with people you love!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Boot-iful Desires

Fall officially welcomes boot season. To celebrate I thought I'd share a few of my favorite boots that I've seen on the internet lately. Shoes can really make or break an outfit and finding the right shoes can make all the difference. The best shoes are versatile, unique, and well made so they'll hold up through multiple seasons (also comfortable because if they hurt you're less likely to wear them).

Frye Patty Leather Riding Bootie

Royal Rush Wrap Boots from Free People

Leather Bootie with Sole Detail from Zara

I love trends as much as the next fashion obsessed woman, but I view shoes as an investment. I value a shoe based on what I've liked over multiple years rather than what's on point for that season. If you prefer a chunky heal commit to it and let everyone know that's part of your personal style. Do however, let shoes surprise you. I've tried on shoes I thought I would hate and absolutely loved them and vice versa. You might think a certain shape or design will or won't look good, but you won't be certain until you try them on. Another point to remember is that you can find quality, stylish shoes on any budget. A shoe doesn't have to cost over $100 in order for it to be worth purchasing. Pay more attention to fabrics and stitching.

WELLYPRINT Women's Print Rain Boots Wellies from Joules

NAYA Harlin Hidden Wedge Boot from Free People

Early Bird Ankle Boots from ASOS

I'm not saying you have to follow the same rules as I do or that you can't buy anything that might go out of style, I'm just sharing my philosophy for buying shoes on a budget. If you have more money to spend or prefer to buy several new pairs of shoes every season then you do your thing and don't listen to a word I'm saying. Besides I haven't tried any of these shoes on or seen them in person, so I'm in no way endorsing these as the best boots on the market. All of these boots were chosen based on esthetics, but if anyone owns or has tried on any of the boots listed above, please let me know what you think of them! Are they worth purchasing?


Sunday, October 12, 2014

It Feels Like The First Time

You know when you hear a record and it's like the first time you're hearing those songs? Maybe you've heard the same song ten times before, but you never really felt anything until that moment? That happened to me recently.

When I was in Kalamazoo for my great grandma's birthday party my dad, brother, and I went to the local record store, Green Light Records. I wasn't there for anything in particular and was just browsing the shelves when I happened upon The Gaslight Anthem section. Gaslight was a band that I became interested in around Freshman year of college (right around The '59 Sound). I was discovering all this new music at the time and really expanding my tastes, so it wasn't long before they got lost in the pile.

I remember trying to keep up with the band, listening to their newest records as they were released and playing some of my old favorites every now and then. American Slang passed me by quickly and I just wasn't interested in that kind of music at the time. Then came Handwritten in 2012. I remember the release mostly because a couple of tumblr blogs I followed were run by really cool chicks from the UK who loved the band. They made me want to love the band again too, and I really tried to become captivated with Gaslight's sound again. Anyway, after listening to 45 and Handwritten a few times I once again gave up. I liked the songs, but just couldn't seem to connect to the album.

That's why I found it so strange that once I put my hands on Handwritten in the record store, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I knew that I liked a few songs on their newest album Get Hurt and it would have made much more sense for me to buy that record. Even the guy at the counter commented about not getting the newest album. It's hard to explain, but something about it just felt right. It's like the album came back into my life to help me. To create this perfect moment. To remind me that there are other people out there who love music the same way I do.

The Handwritten vinyl has this great packaging; the liner folds out and the lyrics are on the inside. Plus the record itself is blue vinyl. It's the type of quality that sets the record apart and something I was disappointed in when I purchased the Get Hurt record. Yes what I really care about is the music, but quality packaging should be a priority as well. While I sat listening, I discovered this note by Nick Hornby printed on the inside cover. His words are a reminder that although The Gaslight Anthem's sound might be clearly influenced by bands of the past, they are a talented composition of all those influences.

"And the second is this: you think, write, play and sing as though you have a right to stand at the head of a long line of cool people - you recognize that The Clash and Little Richard got here first, but they're not around any more, so you're going to carry on the tradition, and you're going to do it in your own voice, and with as much conviction and authenticity and truth as you can muster. And if you can pull that off, you'll be amazed at how fresh you can sound."

The picture is kind of small but you can read the whole thing here.
"And the Gaslight Anthem sound fresh. Anyone who has ever been frustrated by anything - a girl, a boy, a job, a self (especially that) - can listen to this music and feel understood and energized."

As the record begins to spin there's this moment of anticipation before 45 starts playing that just sucks me in every time. The Gaslight Anthem has this raw vintage rock sound that begs to be played on vinyl, or blasting from a car radio on a dark night drive. There's something magical and transformative about their music. Sometimes I imagine myself going back in time. Other times I just picture a different life in the here and now. I picture myself lying under the stars on a warm summer night next to this guy that loves me, someone who understands how music can make you feel so many things at once. I'm sure that sounds crazy, but it gives me hope that maybe there is someone out there waiting to share those moments with me.

I love this acoustic version of Mae.

I know that The Gaslight Anthem isn't for everyone and that's okay. You don't always have to like everything all the time. Like I said, when the album was first released I didn't even like it all that much. You never know what might make you feel differently in a week, a month, or a few years. When I listen to Handwritten now I feel this part of me connect, like something latching into place. It's like the music is there to keep me going. Part of me wants to scream along, sing those words with every bit that I have, but part of me just needs to lie there listening. It's like needing a good cry, or going for a run, or just listening to the songs on repeat until something inside of you is finally healed. Often you don't even know what it is inside of you that needs fixing, but there's a realization that this music is what you needed all along.

Part of me feels like the record is meant for some angsty teenager, but I'm just a hopelessly lost human being. One who is floating around in her mid-twenties desperately trying to find the door that will let her out of this mess and onto something better. God knows I've never been good with directions. Too often I get stuck running in circles, getting no where fast, just going over the same thoughts again and again.

Maybe all of this sounds silly to you. Maybe I'm weird for thinking music can hold this much power. But for me music is like a religion. It's the one thing I have total faith in. It gives me hope, it keeps me going, it's there when life is good and when it's bad. Sometimes it's the only thing that makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like I have a future and a purpose. It's records like Handwritten that reinforce my faith in something bigger.

And I'm not saying all music has to have meaning. Like all forms of art, sometimes it's just there for you to appreciate. There doesn't have to be a story behind it. There's no need to analyze every detail until you can figure out what the song is about. A song can have however much meaning you want it to have.

Just take a moment to listen, feel your heart beating, and remind yourself that you are alive.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

What I'm Excited For In October

Hey guys!

Fall is my favorite time of year. The weather is the perfect compromise between hot and cold; it's not too cloudy, but not overly sunny either. Nature looks beautiful this time of year and my walks outside are filled with a whole array of colors. Don't get me wrong, I love the lush green colors of summer, but they can't beat the deep reds, rich oranges, and brilliant golds you find in autumn.

Fall is also my favorite time in fashion. Boots, sweaters, skirts with cute tights, beanies, scarves and it's the best time of year to wear jeans.

Apples/Farmer's Market/Apple Cider

New Books. I already got my hands on a copy of Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham, but I can't wait for Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, to come out on October 28th.

Fall TV shows. I've been loving Forever and How To Get Away With Murder so far.

Harvest Chai and hot coffee. The change in season means the end of my iced coffee consumption. Back to the hot drinks with rising steam and instant warmth.

Pumpkin Donuts. I'm not really a donut girl, but I do love pumpkin flavored ones.

HOCKEY! The season starts this week and I can't wait to root for my boys again. Go Wings!

What are your favorite parts of fall? What are you looking forward to in October?


Friday, October 3, 2014

New Fall Outfit Preview

After not buying any new clothing for a long time, I decided to finally purchase a few pieces to update my old wardrobe. Now that my weight has been in a better place for over a year, I feel much more comfortable putting money towards clothes. Of course it also helps that I now have a source of income too.

I was going to do a collective haul/outfit post, but unfortunately my new skirt has a pull. Major sad face!

I bought this really cute outfit from LOFT when I was in Illinois visiting family a few weekends back and I was planning on wearing it for my great grandma's birthday party last Saturday. Unfortunately when I took the skirt out to put it on Saturday morning I noticed this big thread pulled out in the front. I swear it wasn't there when I bought the skirt (I would have definitely noticed when I tried it on), so I don't know if it just got snagged on another piece in the bag or something got caught on it while I was still in the store. Either way I'm majorly bummed and now I have to figure out how to return/exchange the skirt without having a LOFT store near by.

I also picked up this sweater from LOFT, while the shirt and pants are from American Eagle.

It feels like a long time has passed since I felt proud of my wardrobe and personal style. I can't wait to keep building and developing a collection of clothes that better reflect who I am and what I love. Hopefully I have more to show you later after I get stuff with the skirt figured out.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Celebrating 100

I spent this weekend in Kalamazoo with my family celebrating my great grandmother's 100th birthday. Her birthday was on Wednesday, but we had a party for her on Saturday. It's not every day someone you know turns 100. It's kind of amazing to think about all she's been through and experienced within her life. I feel so blessed to still have her around. My great grandma is one of the strongest, most generous, inspiring women I know. I only hope to be half the woman she is.

She's been in a rehab facility for most of the summer (after having a fall), but she made it home on Thursday. My mom said she even noticed major improvements just over the couple of days that she's been back home. It's amazing how much our recovery depends on our comfort levels and surroundings.

An older(ish) photo of my mom and grandma. This was either Easter or someone's birthday.

My mom took the week off and drove down with my grandpa on Wednesday, then my dad, brother, and I drove down Saturday morning. Getting up at 5:30am wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, but there was no way I'd miss celebrating with my grandma. After being able to spend more time with her while I was in college, I miss having her near by. I used to love going over to my aunt's house and sitting down next to my grandma to drink coffee and chat about life. After 100 years she has plenty of stories to tell and opinions to share (and she was never afraid to share them).

Many people mentioned what a great cook my grandma has always been. She always took the time to make home made meals for people passing through and she never let you go without something to eat. Even when I'd come over to take care of her while my aunt was away, she'd never let me go too long without eating something. She always puts other people before herself.

A few Christmases ago I started helping my grandma make all the cookies for the holiday. For most of my life she's been a making lemon star cookies, date cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, toffee bars, peanut brittle every Christmas. Of course she never goes by an actual recipe, so helping her bake was a bit of a challenge, but we managed. My cookies never turned out quite like hers, but I hope someday I'll get the hang of it.

Looking at pictures over the years brought up so many fond memories of going to visit my grandma's old house on the lake. My grandma moved in with my aunt (who had been living with her at the lake for some time) to a new house closer to town back in 2003. I was so sad when they sold that house because it used to be one of my favorite places to visit. The house was right next to this little corner store and my grandma would always give my brother and I money to go over and get candy whenever we came to visit.

This was probably taken right before they left the lake house.

The house had this amazing bathroom with a slanted ceiling and this crazy green long shag carpet. I used to love going in there to sit after people would take their showers and it would be all warm and cozy. There was also a three (four?) seasons room where we'd always sit and play Trouble or cards. In the summer we'd go swimming or take the paddle boat out. Plenty of fun was had all around.

Just two out of the many, many dance concert pictures taken together over the years.

My great grandma has this whole history all her own and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. She's been to all my dance concerts, showing her love and support over the years. We've celebrated birthdays and Christmases and graduations together. I've been lucky enough to create memories with her in multiple states around the country. There's no one else in the world quite like my great grandma. I have always looked up to her and appreciated her words of wisdom. I hope that we have many more days to spend together.

It was also really great to see extended family that I haven't seen in a long time. Including my long lost cousin who I haven't properly spent time with in over 3 year (if not more). We need to figure out some time to get together.