Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City
Man, talk about a weekend you really don't want to end. Going back to the real world is always rough after a few days off, but I was kind of riding the struggle bus all last week.

Of course, I can't say that's a surprise--after all, Brad and I did get to visit northern Michigan and the U.P. for the first time ever (finally!). This was our first "real" vacation together in I don't know how long, so we wanted to make sure we went someplace completely new to us. After tossing around a few ideas, we finally decided on Mackinac Island.

Of course, I couldn't concentrate on anything else for two days leading up to our trip because I GOT REALLY EXCITED.

When choosing a place to stay, we received lots of feedback from friends--on the island, in the city, up in the U.P.--it all sounded fantastic. We ended up booking a place in Mackinaw City, and to my surprise, this "city" ended up being an adorable beach town! We got in around lunchtime on Saturday, so we had plenty of time to explore the area before taking the ferry to the island the next day.

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City 

Our first stop: Darrows! We chose this lunch spot based on an overwhelming number of high ratings on alllll the travel apps. Happily, it did not disappoint. The restaurant was busy, but we got a table right away. I ordered the special, an honest-to-goodness real pasty, and swapped half for part of Brad's open-faced turkey and gravy sandwich. Sooooo good.

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

I'd never eaten a "real" pasty before (unless you count the packaged kind at Kroger--I don't), and I think we chose the perfect place to give it a try (Darrow's is also known for its handmade pies, so the pasty crust was without a doubt divine).

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

Next, we wandered downtown and happened upon the USCGC Mackinaw. Brad was practically magnetized to this museum vessel, so we trekked through the shipyard to climb on board.

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw CityNorthern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw CityNorthern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

Commissioned in 1944, the Icebreaker Mackinaw played a huge role in World War II by breaking through ice on the Great Lakes to make way for transportation of war materials. Our self-guided tour started on deck, followed by tunneling through the ship's living quarters, offices, and engine room. I was a little nervous by all the steep staircases (really, they were ladders with chains for railings), but climbing down backwards, holding on tight, and saying a few prayers got me through. ;)

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

After leaving the museum, we strolled back downtown to shop for souvenirs and taffy, then made a detour for all-you-can-eat fish and shrimp (nom) at Tugboat's Grub & Pub. In need of some exercise after a huge (and delicious) meal, we took our bikes out to enjoy the sunset at Michilimackinac State Park, then snapped photos of the sky, the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, and the "Mighty Mac."

Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City
Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City
Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City
Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City
Northern Michigan Weekend: Exploring Mackinaw City

After dark, we wheeled over to Mackinaw Crossings for ice cream at Kilwins (I know, eat all the food) and music (Mackinaw Crossings features live bands and laser shows nightly during the summer!). Not a bad way to start off our weekend, I've gotta say.

How many of you have spent time in Mackinaw City? I'd love to hear about your favorite activities and places to visit!

Stay tuned for a recount of our day on Mackinac Island!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.
A couple of months ago, I put together a list of some favorite Michigan-made and Michigan-themed gift ideas (see it here!). Among several awesome products and local brands, one particular Grand Haven-based Etsy shop caught my attention. Carrying a beautiful line of Michigan-made jewelry, men's accessories, and stationery, sprouts. | .roots. captures the spirit of lake life with pieces that are not only great for gift-giving, but also for special keepsakes you'll want to treat yourself to. Intrigued by this Michigan shop, I chatted with artist and shop owner, Rose Kren, about her artistic background, creative process, business story, and favorite things to do around Michigan.

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

About Rose: In Her Own Words
"Well, I'm a woman newly 30, and kind of loving it . . . My husband and I were head over heels for each other when we were 18 and 22 and tied the knot, happy ever since. We have two dogs that are really our kids, we're those people. We live in Grand Haven, Michigan in a beach town. A real tourist trap in the summer, but we love it."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

The Beginning Of ".sprouts. | .roots."
“The name '.sprouts.' came to me when I first started the company in 2009 . . . I wanted something fresh, something with a new beginning sound."

"Once we started incorporating mens' accessories . . . my husband suggested '.roots.' I really liked the manly sound of it . . . the earthy quality it contained, and so it was.


Falling In Love With Bead Making And Metalsmithing
"One day, walking downtown with my husband, I walked into a bead store. The walls were filled with colors of beads from stones to glass. It was breath taking as a color savant! They offered to help me create something and I talked with the [employees] for a long while. . . I was hired the day after my interview with no knowledge of beading, but a sincere background in art and design. They taught me the basics of what I know and have built off of now. I learned lamp working there (glass bead making) and began instructing a class on it after a couple of years. The same is true of metalsmithing."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Pursuing Dreams
“My husband [Thom] and I run this little shop all on our own. It was a big deal to quit my day job, but .sprouts. was taking over my life and I was working 24/7. I had to either take a leap of faith and become self employed or quit .sprouts. all together . . . So, I quit the bead store in May of 2013.

Working Alongside Her Husband
“I began instructing him, much like I had my students at the bead shop. He was one of the quickest learners I've ever had, and very proficient. I couldn't have been more lucky! After that winter he dabbled the next year in part time work and working with me. Once fall of 2014 came around, we were full time .sprouts. | .roots. employees.”

The Creation Process
"Thom's the carver, I'm the solderer and the sander. We both work on final touches and shipping. It's kind of our own mini assembly line."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

On Success And Work/Life Balance
"The hardest part about being a successful shop on a market place as large as Etsy is you never know how busy you're going to be. There was a weekend where we were featured on the front page of Etsy and in their weekend email. I woke up to over 200 emails and sales by the minute were flooding in. Keep in mind, everything here is custom made and made to order for the most part. We made over $5,000 in two days and had no lives for one month. But we also bought a Subaru, cash. You just never know what you're going to get."

Favorite Products
"Our best selling products of last year [were from] our Michigan line of jewelry. This year our Textured Wave necklaces and rings and our dog tags are beating those stats! We're pretty excited about that because it's reaching out to totally different audiences."

My personal favorite items . . . are our Reticulated Mountain jewelry. I've never seen anything like it anywhere and I love the mountains. [I have family] in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. I've only the best memories of mountain biking and hiking out there."

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Where You Can Find Her Work (Outside Of Etsy)
"We have numerous wholesalers in the U.S.: Oregon, Martha's Vineyard, the UP, and 10 others scattered across Michigan. We do make sure none of our stores are within a 45 minute drive of one another so [they're] exclusive. One of our biggest Michigan wholesalers is Frederik Meijer Gardens."

Future Plans
"I'd like to see us grow in our brick and mortar shops and taking on a few other artists to sell their designs under our shop as well. To really collaborate with other artists and see their artwork flourish. I'd love to have a storefront at some point. I've done customer service my whole life, and really miss the literal face to face interaction with customers."

Enjoying Grand Haven
"OH my! Grand Haven is GORGEOUS! . . .  If there's a week to visit, it's Coast Guard Week. Over 300,000 extra people visit the town for fireworks, parades, and a carnival! We're normally a small town. The city is quaint, and kind. We have brick sidewalks downtown and small shops where the owners know you. The beach is our life, we're all beach people. Lake Michigan is just gorgeous year-round. We also have the largest musical fountain in the world right on the water. I think it's a must see."

Other Favorite Places + Her Michigan Bucket List
"I love Traverse City . . . it's just gorgeous. The water is a whole different shade of blue. I also love kayaking down the Manistee River. It moves slowly at some places, more rapid in others. My husband and I just renovated an old pop up and are planning on taking a tour of Michigan this summer with our kayaks. I want to see Pictured Rocks so badly!"

Wading In Big Shoes-Michigan Artist Spotlight: Rose Kren of .sprouts. | .roots.

Thanks so much to Rose for sharing a sneak peek behind the scenes of .sprouts. | .roots.! Which pieces do you love? Check out Rose and Thom's shop here and comment below with your favorites!

*All photos in this post courtesy of Rose Kren and .sprouts. | .roots.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sprucing Things Up With UncommonGoods

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
This year for our anniversary, Brad and I decided to forego our traditional long-weekend trip and stay home to take care of the massive DIY project that is our house. I know, I know . . . maybe that sounds super-lame, but I was actually really excited at the prospect of crossing some things off our list that we haven't had time for lately due to our busy schedules.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we've had more than enough outdoor projects to keep us preoccupied, but I've really been itching to personalize the inside of our house. In particular, this means incorporating more Michigan and Detroit-themed items, something we've I've spent lots of time daydreaming about while browsing gift shops, antique shops, online shops . . . you name it.

Interestingly enough, in the midst of a mini “I-don't-know-what-else-we-can-do-to-make-our-home-feel-more-Michigan-y” brain drain, I was contacted by UncommonGoods about trying some items from their anniversary (view here) and wedding (view here) collections. Founded in 1999, this Brooklyn, New York-based company features unique and handmade items that are perfect for gift-giving or decorating (great for wedding season and my own current interior design dilemmas). Browsing the site, I was thrilled to see tons of Michigan-themed and Michigan-created products that conveyed the special/quirky/cool vibe we'd been looking for. Excited to find something that would fit into our new design challenge, I sat down with Brad and we set forth to pick out a belated anniversary treat for our home.

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
We ended up finding the perfect coffee table adornment from the personalized wedding collection--a set of customized marble coasters, based on a real (old) topographical map of Detroit! Designed to focus on a map of whichever address you choose, these coasters provide a perfect memento of a first home or other special location. Since we wanted a little piece of downtown and the river, we requested that the coasters and caption focus on the area around The Spirit of Detroit . . . and I think the end result looks awesome! Definitely a nice addition to our Michigan-inspired abode. :) This set would also be a great gift to take to a summer wedding or bridal shower--just customize with the couple's home address, and voila! A conversation-starter for sure, and special enough to be kept around for years.

(Find more personalized wedding gifts here, or browse UncommonGoods for personalized anniversary gifts here).

Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods
Wading In Big Shoes: Personalized Address Coasters From UncommonGoods

How would you personalize this set for yourself or a friend? Would you choose your home or another special place? Let me know in the comments! :)
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