Spires in the Outfield- A trip to Grand Traverse Commons

It’s a Saturday morning in April, and while it’s a beautiful sunny day here in northern Michigan. It is still early spring so it’s still not quite beach weather yet. If it were, I might grab a coffee and a book and head down to the bay for a little while. Instead, there’s an indoor farmer’s market at the commons that I have decided to check out.

If you’re not familiar with the commons, it is the area of town that was historically the grounds of the Traverse City State Hospital. You may hear it referred to as The Mercado, The Old State Hospital, Building 50, or more formally as The Village at Grand Traverse Commons. I’ve heard it referred to most (by locals) as The Commons.

When you’re driving north into Traverse City on US Route 31, (when you are near Meijers grocery store) if you look up you’ll see the red spires peeking out over the fields and above the treeline. Today,the tall pointed peaks stand out against the bright blue sky pointing the way. To get there, continue past the intersection at Fourteenth Street and turn left onto W. Eleventh street.

Red Spires at Grand Traverse Commons

Just past the State of Michigan Offices, go straight through the four way stop and up toward The Commons. You can go straight up to Building 50 and park around the circle drive, or you can turn left and go around back. I parked in the front and entered through this door to the center of the Mercado.

Front entrance to The Mercado at Grand Traverse Commons

Center Entrance off the Front Entrance

Back entrance to The Mercado

Back Entrance to the Left End of The Mercado Hallway

Around the back, you’ll find more parking as well as some other businesses that have established themselves in what appear to be the restored out-buildings from when the original hospital flourished. There are two entrances to the Mercado from here, one at each end, and these are more difficult to see especially if you don’t know where you’re going. The key is to look for the red signs. They are painted the same red color as the spires.

The Mercado is an indoor marketplace that now inhabits the restored lower level of the main building. Partly underground, with it’s pale yellow brick walls, it feels a little bit like a secret underground tunnel. But the sun shines in brightly through the windows and creates an ambiance that is warm and refreshing at the same time.

IMG_2895-001

Inside view of The Mercado at the Commons

As soon as my eyes adjusted to the lighting (after coming in from the bright sunshine), I was drawn to some fresh greens and couldn’t help but to stop for a photo.  Believe it or not, Continue reading

Chocolate Puddles in Leelanau County

Chocolate meditation? I think I could get into that. I have practiced meditation most of my life. Ever since I can remember, I’ve also been totally into chocolate; although I never thought to marry the two. It sounds like a brilliant idea.

“On any given day you’ll find chocolate-makers in deep chocolate meditation”, says the website of a local chocolate shop, Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate.

Here, in a little village in northern Michigan, apparently, “on any given day”, you can walk into Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate and witness this! So today I drove over there to see it for myself.

Google map to Grocer's Daughter

Google map to Grocer’s Daughter

By the time I got to the lakeshore, out of Traverse City, and into Empire, I was in a full blown snow storm. It’s almost April and there was blowing sleet and snow.  When I stepped inside the happy little green building on the side of the hill, I quickly forgot about the weather outside. Inside it was warm and welcoming. And it smelled amazing.

Grocer's Daughter Chocolate storefront

Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate is a local foodie favorite. And to some degree, it’s still a relatively un-discovered gem. While they haven’t (yet) won nationally acclaimed awards like Moomer’s Homemade Ice Cream has, they have become a ‘must do’ on the annual bucket list for many summer visitors. For some, it’s right up there with climbing the dunes, tubing the Platte River and a day trip to Leland.

The bright green building sits on the edge of an empire, just around the corner from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitors Center in Empire, Michigan. When you pull up outside, you get a sense of its charm, but until you enter through the door, you couldn’t possibly imagine how special this place is.

Inside Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate shop, the warm, natural colors and it’s simple decor are comfortable but not pretentious.  Wooden crates and baskets filled with different chocolate creations line the walls. Continue reading

The new Red Door in Lake Ann

Red Door Coffee House Lake Ann Michigan

Historically, a red door on the front of a building has meant many different things. From welcoming visitors to signifying status. A red door has even signified a safe house in the underground railroad in the time of the U.S. Civil War.

In my research, I found a site with a nice summary of the variety of meanings from over the years. According to American Red Door, in early American tradition, a red door became a symbol to weary horse and buggy travelers that a home was a safe place to rest.

Have you seen the new red door in downtown LA?

Picture8

In downtown Lake Ann.  In Michigan, that is.

And what this particular red door represents is a good cup of coffee and a cool place to hang out. (You’ll have to leave your horse and buggy outside though.) Right next to the Almira Township Hall, and across from the Lake Ann Post Office, you’ll find it.

You’ll begin to relax as soon as you pass through that red door.  The welcoming eclectic decor is highlighted by the corrugated steel ceiling original to the building (when it was the village fire house). The walls are covered with work by local artists that are available to purchase.  There are cozy sitting areas as well as dining tables. It would be a great place to bring your laptop and get some work done. All in all, The Red Door Coffee House is a good representation of the best of northern Michigan.

Red Door Coffee House Lake Ann Michigan

The business was opened in 2014 by long time Lake Ann residents and entrepreneurs, Gary and Lori Florip and their daughter and son-in-law, Greta and Travis Kemp. They also have an office on-site for their real estate business, Lakeview Realty.  So if you’re in the market for a new house, or looking for someone to manage your property, they can help you with that too. Continue reading

As good as it looks! Pizza from Pegtown

Large pepperoni pizza please.

A few minutes later, this was on the table. I mean, just look at that crust!

Pizza at Pegtown Station Maple City

The texture was crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Just how I want my pizza!

Best crust pizza Leelenau CountyI know this may seem weird, but I had to show you the bottom of the slice. It was perfectly coated in corn meal (which is one true measure of a good crust if you ask my husband).

So the place is Maple City, formerly known as Pegtown.  Right on the corner across from the Post Office and Gabe’s Country Market you’ll find Pegtown Station. Continue reading

A Taste of Detroit on M22

market22 on Little Traverse Lake Leelanau County from the road

Right across from Little Traverse Lake on M-22 north of Maple City in Leelanau County, I found a little piece​ of t​​​he big D.  From the antique truck at the edge of the driveway to one of the best square pizza’s I’ve had in a long time, this little market is a nostalgic reflection of the best that Michigan has to offer.

Market 22 sits across from Little Traverse Lake in Leelanau County

Market 22 sits across from Little Traverse Lake

Market 22 was carefully crafted out of an antique barn on the side of a road near Glen Lake, Michigan.  The interior is warm and inviting with an eclectic mix of re-purposed woods and chalkboard menu signs.

market22 on Little Traverse Lake Leelanau County cool decor

The first (chalkboard) sign I noticed after stepping inside the warm inviting space, said “Featuring Detroit Style Pizza in the true automotive blue steel pans”.  When I asked what was a Detroit style pizza, the answer was, “like Buddy’s“.  Ah, yes,  I know Buddy’s Pizza.  Continue reading

I’ve been Chasing Rainbows-You’re in for a Rare Treat!

There are many great things about Traverse City.  One of them is that you can be downtown, and in just ten short minutes you can be out in beautiful rural farmlands.

There are small hobby farms and micro farms that supply local foods, as well as larger production farms. The main crops grown in the area are apples, grapes and cherries (Traverse City is known as the Cherry Capital of the World).

You’ll find locally sourced foods on the menu in restaurants all around the area.  This local emphasis is a contributing factor in the growing reputation of Traverse City being a Foodie Town.

I visited a farm today that offers a commodity you probably won’t want to eat.  This Iris Farm is open to the public when the flowers are in bloom.  They also grow Day Lilly’s.

To get there from downtown Traverse City, you head west on M-72 about ten minutes. The Iris Farm is on the right. And when it’s in bloom, you can’t miss it.

Out in the Iris field Traverse City Michigan

Out in the Iris field

Continue reading

Spring Blossoms Overnight in Leelanau

Spring is here! I went driving around Leelanau County today and this is what I saw.

Forsythia.​​  I love forsythia.  Being one of the first plants to wake up in the spring, it is a bright light after many months of darkness in northern Michigan.  The yellow is a perfect yellow and the flowers are so simple.  If you cut it early, before it blooms outside,you can force it to bloom indoors.  Just bring a branch in the house and put it in a vase of water.

Forsythia in Leelanau County

Apple Blossoms​. The apple blossom is Michigan’s state flower. With an average apple harvest of 19.7 million bushels a year, Michigan is the third largest apple producing state in the United States.

Apple blossoms in Leelanau County

Continue reading

In Search of Marsh Marigolds

One of my all time favorite flowers blooms only in the very early spring. They can be found in swampy areas around the Grand Traverse region. Marsh Marigolds grow in wetlands and pop with the brightest of bright yellows.

Just when you think you can’t take the dullness of winter any longer, the marigolds bloom.  A true sign of hope and better things (and weather) yet to come.  If you live in a northern climate, you know what I mean.

This year with our record snow fall- it has been a true test for northern Michiganders. According to mlive.com and the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a total of 266 inches of snow fell on these woods in Maple City this winter. And I know from the experience, not a lot of sunshine made it through all those snow clouds. Having lived through it, all I can say on this cloudy spring day is, “Thank God for Marsh Marigolds”.

They’re like a cool drink of water on a hot summer day.  Although in this case, a better analogy might be like a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter day. But the glow of these flowers remind me more of the sun than hot cocoa.

Walt Whitman once said, “Some people are so much sunshine to the square inch.”  I say, “marsh marigolds are so much sunshine to the square inch”.

Marsh marigolds on the side of the road

Marsh Marigolds Caltha Palustris.

 

To me, they are hard to miss. But most people never see them. When you’re driving down the road- look through the woods for patches of bright yellow in low lying areas.

Marsh Marigolds Michigan

If they are there, and you’re looking for them, you’ll see them. The contrast of yellow and green stands out against the dull grays and browns of the northern Michigan post winter landscape.

Marsh Marigolds on the side of the road in Leelanau County

Marsh marigolds in Leelanau County

If only I had a pair of rubber waders in the car so I could get even closer! This is the best I can do with the camera I have and without getting soaked.

Marsh marigolds Leelanau County up close and personal

Aren’t they lovely? Tell me, where have you spotted marsh marigolds?

 

Springtime on Spider Lake

Pussy Willow just starting to pop on Spider lake

Spring brings such wonder if you look close enough.​ A few days ago, this was a pussy willow bud just opening up.  Today it is bright yellow and upon closer look it is quite beautiful.    Don’t you think?

Pussy Willow just starting to pop on Spider lake

There are other signs of spring out in the woods today too.

Lone daffodil in the woods

Lone daffodil in the woods

Lying in wait on Spider Lake

Lying in wait on the shores of Spider Lake

We rented a cottage on Vacation Rentals By Owner.com. It was a very nice cottage.  The owners were very friendly and accommodating.  It was a great area to get out and walk. Even this time of year.

View from Cottage on Spider Lake in early spring

View from Cottage on Spider Lake

 

Sleepy road on Spider Lake in early spring

Moss on a log

mossy stumps in the swamp on Spider Lake

Lichen on tree at Spider Lake

birdhouse on tree on Spider lake

Panorama of Spider Lake