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Fuel Your Heart with a Taste of Northern Michigan

We first crossed paths with Jen Kuhar years ago, shortly before we moved to Traverse City, through an introduction from a mutual friend. Ironically, Jen and her husband Brent had just moved downstate from Traverse City as we were preparing to head Up North. Years passed by, and this summer we had the opportunity to reconnect with Jen through Instagram. Jen has an awesome food blog called MixMyTable where she shares delicious recipes and amazing food photography. And, as you’ll learn in today’s post, she has an enduring love for all things northern Michigan. We hope you enjoy Jen’s post as much as we did, and make sure to follow Jen on Instagram for more inspiration from her.

“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau

Each season in Northern Michigan is incredibly special for its own unique reasons, but summer is truly magical. I think of windswept hair, sandy toes and skipping rocks with bubbly in hand. As a Michigan native and having lived in Traverse City for a stint, I have a connection to this corner of the world that speaks to my soul. Spending time along the shores of Lake Michigan has brought about much solitude, inspiration and healing in past years. It has also been the place where my now husband and I created a friendship that carried itself into marriage. I can recall countless adventures filled with nature’s beauty and culinary delights here. It was the connection with nature and community of authentic friendship that fueled my heart then and still fills my cup today.

Here is where my soul connects to nature

Fast forward six years, our now family of four, plus a furry four-legged pal, live back in Detroit. However, we sail north on I-75 at every chance we get. This past August we had the opportunity to stay at a quaint cottage on Crystal Lake just south of the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

We were eager to share a piece of our hearts with our daughters in all of our favorite places.

The days were filled with simple mornings on the dock, with coffee in hand, heart fueling moments at various stops along M-22, great eats and always finished with a cozy bonfire.

Misty mornings on Crystal Lake

Following wherever our adventures takes us

Cozy bonfires at the cottage

Heart Fueling Moments in Northern Michigan

Sandwiches and Bare Feet on the Shores of Good Harbor

I grew up collecting & skipping rocks along the Great Lakes and so it was a magical opportunity when I could do the same with my girls. Good Harbor Bay Beach is a wonderful place to simply roam the water’s edge and take in the beauty around you.

Roaming the water’s edge in Good Harbor

A cool and windy summer day did not keep us from having an impromptu beach picnic. A stop into Glen Arbor’s Riverfront Deli to outfit us with all of our delicious picnic eats did just the trick. So, with the car parked, tailgate open, limited technology and the best possible scenery before our eyes, we all were present with one another and happy to simply just be.

Riverfront Deli in Glen Arbor gets us beach picnic ready

A beach tailgate picnic

Delicious Riverfront Deli sandwiches

It’s incredible how nature’s beauty can simply melt all the worries of the world away and with each exhale, leave you feeling a little lighter. My heart was filled with gratitude as I watched the kids running near the water’s edge and rock hunting for “treasures.” They were genuinely happy and thrilled by each discovery. A good reminder that sometimes it really is the most simple things that can bring us joy; even for our little pal, Stella.

Hunting for treasures

Reflections & Gratitude give light to inspiration

If you’ve visited Sleeping Bear Dunes and have hiked to Pyramid Point, you’ll know that the lookout is worth each and every step. It had been six years since we’ve been able to see that view and it still takes our breath away.

Perspective certainly changes with life experiences and walking this path with children in tow this time around caused me to reflect, not for the numerous times we had to stop along the way, but rather, for the simple realization of how far we’ve come. I was inspired to reflect and celebrate all that we have been given and the great things we’ve accomplished. It’s these moments of reflection that help to keep us honest and embrace the notion of gratitude. After that much needed break and self reflection, we made it to the top to let our gaze rest out onto the horizon while soaking in nature’s perfection. Insert a few exhales….this is the scene I imagine most when practicing savasana and I’m grateful to have another snapshot tucked away in my mind for some time to come.

A perfect place to practice gratitude

Sweet Hidden Gem along M-22

After some hard work, everyone deserves a little reward in my opinion. And so heading south back to Crystal Lake brought us to the Grocer’s Daughter in Empire for a tasty treat. Part of my love for Northern Michigan are the hidden gems you find along your adventures and The Grocer’s Daughter is no exception. Who would have thought a little tiny chocolate shop in Empire would create incredible award winning truffles for all the senses? When you walk inside you are welcomed by the smell of intense craft dark chocolate and the gorgeous display of bite-sized indulgence. Let’s just say this was not the last visit to the shop while on vacation.

Grocer’s Daughter in Empire

Chocolate truffles for all the senses

Around the table

A vacation for us would not be complete without gathering around the table with family and friends. When you think about the way we give and share love, most often it is through food as it’s a common language shared amongst all. I love the experience of gathering, be it formal or casual, when the clock does not matter, only the sounds of glasses clinking, laughter, and conversation. As a food blogger and home chef, I am inspired by local seasonal foods to cook with and there is certainly no shortage in Northern Michigan.

Sleeping Bear Orchards farmer’s stand

Bushels of fresh Michigan peaches

A quick stop at Sleeping Bear Orchards roadside farm stand was a fun excursion showcasing bushels of fresh tomatoes, freshly picked blackberries and ripe, juicy peaches. Of course I had to have some of each. Maybe feeling a little inspired by sweets, I envisioned a delicious peach cake for a twist on my grandmother’s perfect plum cake recipe which I had been wanting to bake for some time. And so with nature’s best on a rainy afternoon, we had some fun in the kitchen as a family and served each slice perfectly paired with Mawby’s Leland Rose Bubbly for the adults and homemade whipped cream for the kids. A perfect sweet ending for a seasonal treat.

Leaving behind vacation mode can be hard but here I am reminded to never stop exploring. Each time I visit this area, I am always discovering something new. The world really is out there waiting to fill your cup with wonderful lessons, inspiration and ways to make you smile if you let it.

They say it is through the repeated patterns in nature that it reminds us of things being constant over time; thereby, teaching us to be optimistic and remain open to the unknown.

Perhaps this is why I every time I am able be in wide open spaces, no matter what the season, my soul feels rejuvenated, restored and ready to embrace new. And so while we wave goodbye to summer, we welcome fall and all the new adventures before us. Remember to practice gratitude and self love as a way to give birth to imagination. Inspire. Create. Be grateful. Be you.