Vacation is truly one of the best words in the dictionary! Don’t you think?
Just the thought of vacation gives me the warm fuzzies! Especially if I’m going “home”. Home to me is Michigan, specifically, Northern Michigan. Always has been, always will be.
Where do you call home? Is it where you grew up or where you are now? Or maybe someplace you have a treasured memory about?
Of course, my real home (where I live now) is in North Carolina. But Michigan will always hold my heart. That’s why every year when vacation time comes, I head home.
This year I opted to rent a cottage instead of staying in a hotel. BEST. DECISION. EVER!
Way back in January, I started looking online and stumble upon Torch Lake Dream Cottage on HomeAway and was instantly smitten!
Thanks to my beloved Dad, I have many fond memories of the Torch Lake area and just knew that this nearly 100-year-old cottage was where I wanted to stay this year. I promptly booked it for a week in May and started planning the rest of my vacation.
Fast Forward to March
My breast cancer diagnosis on March 6, totally disrupted everything. Still, I had my Northern Michigan vacation to look forward to in May…or at least I thought I did.
In brief, after 2 lumpectomies and the removal of 3 lymph nodes followed by another biopsy, I was told I had to let my breast tissue heal prior to starting radiation.
All the while I was calculating about when my radiation would start and end AND would it still allow me to be able to take my vacation as scheduled.
As things turned out, the answer was NO. I was heartbroken. My plans to go home were dashed. Once radiation was scheduled I knew there was no way I could go on vacation that week.
Sadly, I emailed the owners of the Torch Lake Dream Cottage and shared with them my dilemma. Thankfully, I was still within the timeframe to cancel without penalty. They were very kind and suggested that I book later in the season when I would be up to traveling.
I was excited to see that they still had some time available in mid-September! My vacation plans weren’t dashed after all! They were just delayed!
All the rest of the spring and throughout the summer just knowing I was going home gave me great comfort. I knew I needed this time away to regroup my thoughts and regenerate my inner being.
Plus, I’m exceptionally lucky because Mr. Man understood my need to take this journey by myself and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you, Patrick.
One of my favorite parts of going home is staying with my Aunt and Uncle (my Dad’s youngest brother). Since they live in the town where I grew up in Southern Michigan, it doubles the enjoyment! The 12-hour drive up always seems to go quickly for me…Yay for audiobooks!
Thanks to the fall colors, the scenery was like a watercolor painting!
My Aunt and Uncle are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They always make me feel at home. Just knowing I will get to spend time with them warms my heart.
On Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed a delicious corn and sausage roast at the conservation club. The weather was gorgeous both nights so we relaxed around their fire pit sharing stories and laughter until late in the night!
Their good friend was also visiting that weekend. She and I commented that it was like staying in a 5-star bed and breakfast since we were treated so well!
I was eager to share with them the details and plans regarding our tree farm. I value their opinion and was pleased to get input on many things.
While in town, I also took time to visit a dear friend’s, Mother. It was lovely seeing her again as well. The years just melted away as we chatted that afternoon.
I had originally hoped to see my oldest and dearest friend during this visit but, a skunk had other plans when it sprayed her dog! YUCK! So needless to say, we weren’t able to meet this trip, but there’s still next year!
I always enjoy attending church with my Aunt and Uncle when I’m home! However, Sunday is also a little bittersweet, since I know that after church it’s time to think about heading out. But, not before a hearty breakfast followed by lots of hugs and love.
I will admit that I’ve cried many times over the years after pulling out of their driveway as I don’t do well with goodbyes. Thankfully, I carry their love in my heart so they are never far from me.
Heading Up North
How do you know when you are officially up north? There are no road markers saying you’ve arrived…but I know I’m there when I start to see lots of white birch trees! I think that’s why I love decorating with them! It reminds me of home.
The four-hour ride from my Aunt and Uncles to Elk Rapids is a pretty one! Whether you travel up along the Lake Michigan shoreline or up the middle of the state it’s beautiful. This year I opted to do the latter.
There were even more vibrant Fall colors visible the further north I got, making the drive even more lovely.
I arrived at the Torch Lake Dream Cottage in the late afternoon. I felt right at home just walking up to this quaint little cottage.
When I opened the screen door to go inside, I was instantly taken back to my Gram’s home on the lake in Southern Michigan. Thirty years vanished in that brief moment as the sights and smells greeted my senses.
I felt a great calmness wash over me during that moment. It was like my entire being relaxed.
I quickly unloaded my luggage and settled into the cottage opting for the larger of the two bedrooms that looked out over the lake. I was pleased with the little kitchen area that had everything I would need for the week other than groceries.
There was a large screen TV in the living room and an absolutely gorgeous stone fireplace to use if I wanted to. Once I was unpacked I headed down to the lake!
Walking down the pier out over the lake and looking into the clear cold water reminded me of so many summers all those years ago. Breathing in the fresh air and taking in the beauty around me, I committed all this to memory so that I might draw on it later.
Some of My Favorite Things
I’m such a creature of habit, so I already knew all the places that I wanted to go to! I don’t know about you, but I like to drive places and eat things! 😉
So I knew right off there were four restaurants that I definitely wanted to go to. Not only do these all have wonderful menu options, 2 of them hold very special memories of my Dad.
Don’s Drive-In was a staple to visit all those years ago. And thank goodness it’s still around. Who doesn’t love a 50’s style diner with the boomerang printed table tops and milkshakes you have to eat with a spoon?! This Traverse City icon is definitely always on my vacation agenda.
Schelde’s Grille & Spirits is another favorite of mine and it too holds special memories of eating there with my Dad. Hands down, this place has the VERY BEST broasted chicken I’ve ever eaten. Shhhh…I ate there twice this trip and had the broasted chicken both times.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a visit home without eating at the Grand Traverse Pie Company in Traverse City. They have pie and so much more! Their beef pasties are super yummy! If you aren’t familiar with what a pastie is, Google it, then try them if you get a chance, my friend. I promise you will not be disappointed!
The Bluebird Cafe in Leland, MI is also one of my favorite restaurants to visit. This pleasant cafe has lots to choose from on its menu but one of my favorites is their cherry pie al mode! This amazing little fish town is so warm and welcoming. They have some amazing beaches that feature views of Michigan’s famous Sleeping Bear Dunes!
See what I mean, I’m totally a creature of habit…and yes, in case you’re wondering, I always get the same ice cream flavor, butter pecan, thank you very much!
Truly, I’m not a boring person!
Lovely Elk Rapids
I can honestly say I know why my Dad opted to retire to this special place. In my humble opinion, Elk Rapids epitomizes what a small town should be. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming.
The downtown is filled with a wonderful mix of little shops with something for everyone. It’s close proximity to Traverse City is an added bonus. This gorgeous port town is nestled on the shore of the Grand Traverse Bay making the views phenomenal!
Torch Lake Dream Cottage is less than 15 minutes from Elk Rapids which allowed me to visit the town daily. One of the routes into town took me past my Dad’s old home on Birch Lake. Driving by it brought back many memories.
I was pleased to see that the hollyhocks along the wall of the drugstore downtown were still blooming! My Dad would take me by them to show me how beautiful they were.
I guess that is why I love to visit this place, there are memories of my Dad around every corner! Even though he’s been gone for more than 17 years, I still feel connected to him in this town.
Every night, I would drive into Elk Rapids to watch the sunset over the Grand Traverse Bay. Many memories came back to me as I walked along the shore while God painted the sky around me each night with a unique sunset.
Of course, I visited many of my other favorite places and I also found some new ones. I even had a shop owner recognize me from last year! I guess this is why I love visiting small towns, people truly do remember you!
Oh, That Amazing Cottage
One thing that absolutely sold me on renting this cottage was the covered porch I saw in the photos online. This cottage is literally only about 25 feet from Torch Lake! Um, yes, please! I pictured myself sitting at the picnic table working on a blog post the first time I saw those photos!
Every morning I popped out of bed about 15 minutes before sunrise so that I could make my coffee and head out to the porch to watch the sun come up over the lake.
The sunrise each morning did not disappoint. Sitting on that covered porch watching the sun start its march upwards was something I will never forget. The peacefulness that surrounded me was exactly what I needed.
After the sun was up, I would grab another cup of coffee or some juice and start working on the blog for several hours. Talk about an office with a view! It was so pleasant sitting there while a gentle breeze played a tune on the wind chimes and ducks glided by on the lake.
Each night after watching the sunset in Elk Rapids, I would head back to the cottage feeling very fulfilled from a lovely day enjoying all the sites that are so dear to me.
About 10 p.m. I would head out to the Adirondack chairs down by the lake so that I could stargaze.
That first night as I looked up to the crystal clear sky, I said to the heavens, “Daddy, if you know I’m here to see you, please show me a sign”. Right after whispering this into the crisp night air I saw the most brilliant shooting star overhead!
Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I felt surrounded by my Dad’s love. He knew I was there. That’s what this vacation was all about, connecting somehow to my Dad just one more time.
Each night, I would stargaze and each night I saw several shooting stars in that crystal clear northern sky. Thanks, Daddy.
All Good Things Must Come to an End
The drive from Elk Rapids home was right at 14 hours. Again, thanks to audio books it went quickly.
It’s amazing how fast a week can go by. I’m so happy to have been able to go home to visit so many of my favorite places. Whether it was a day trip to Mackinaw City and a drive over the Mackinac Bridge to see Castle Rock to antique shopping in the small towns, this trip was perfect.
I found many antique and vintage farmhouse style pieces to incorporate into my decor. Each is truly a treasure to me. I look forward to decorating with these once we build our new home up at the tree farm.
On my way back this year, I’m sorry to say, it didn’t work out to stop in to see my cousin and her family and my Aunt and Uncle (my Dad’s middle brother). Hopefully next year we can get together! I so enjoy spending time with them and it was sad not seeing them this trip.
This past year has been a very challenging one for me so I can honestly say this vacation was exactly what I needed. I came home with a renewed sense of well being and of determination. I am thankful beyond words for this blessing.
Also, I would like to take a moment to thank you, my reader, for making this blog possible. I appreciate you reading not only my DIY posts but these more personal posts as well.
I’m looking forward to creating many new DIY projects to share with you in the coming months! Please email me any suggestions you might have for projects that you would like me to try! I love a good challenge!
So what’s next on the blog?
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you know I’ve been working on a HUGE project. I will break down how I went from nasty 21-year old carpet to a stunning painted floor! I hope you will join me then!