Michigan!

I’m a person who naturally resists the importance of having goals, but secretly really likes to make goals. And lists. Lists of goals. Goals to make more lists.

A consistent, long-running goal of mine is to MAKE THE TIME TO GO SEE PEOPLE I CARE ABOUT. It’s also one I consistently feel like I fall short on. I’ll concede that it’s partly the house—giving up a sunny summer weekend translates to at least a few days when I can’t be scraping or caulking or painting or carpenter-ing or whatever it is, and that’s difficult for me wrap my mind around. The bigger reason, more likely, is that this is kind of a new-ish thing in my life, and I haven’t figured it out yet. This thing where the majority of my friends live in places that are different from where I live, and I won’t just see them again in the fall or on that vacation my family takes every year together, you know? You have to start working for it a little. And work is hard. Not working is easier than working. So the work of setting aside some time, planning it out, making reservations, and getting on a plane or a bus or a train doesn’t get done. And then you don’t see so-and-so until somebody dies.

So. I try to remind myself that blocking out some time and skipping town for a few days is REALLY FINE. EVERYTHING WILL BE OK. THE JOB WILL NOT IMPLODE. THE HOUSE WILL NOT COLLAPSE. THE PROJECT WILL WAIT. And hopefully when I’m back I’m actually excited to get going again…because isn’t that kind of the best feeling? I had hoped to do more of this kind of thing this summer, but ya know. Time moves fast and projects are intense and I turned around and it was August.

SO! Realizing the end of summer was approaching and I’d neglected this goal completely, I got my shit together and planned a little bop to Michigan! My super cool Chicago-based aunt and uncle, Janis and Tom, have a weekend-ish place in Sawyer, a short drive from Lake Michigan. It’s such a special place. I grew up going there every now and then, back when they owned the adjacent property and a different house which they renovated about 5 times over. At some point when I was a kid, they purchased this adjacent woodsy/prairie lot with a cute little house on it, which they renovated into a cozy guest cottage. We’d stay there as kids, making a short walk through the woods between the two houses to hang out with my cousins Tatum and Reese around the pool or get in a little gardening time with Tom. Then more recently, they sold the original house and undertook a massive renovation of the cute little guest cottage, and the result is this gorgeous place that feels at once familiar and completely brand new. Janis and Tom mostly designed the house themselves—a habit of theirs when it’s come to their own properties over the years, each somehow more beautiful than the last—which is honestly a little too impressive.

In the background of this, they also focused on stewarding the several-acre prairie, working with experts on native ecology to remove overgrown trees, do controlled burns to eliminate invasive species, and re-seed with this incredible array of native plants and flowers, which in turn has attracted an incredible array of native birds and insects. And THEN, they went and mowed paths through the prairie and created a damn sculpture park with their art collection. Tom is a collector and art dealer and Janis is a collector and an artist. So. You know. Very good taste. Lots of weird creative energy. Personal sculpture park. As one does.

The property has a few little outbuildings on it, including the cutest little boathouse thing there ever was! There’s pretty much just a mini-fridge of beer and some chairs…what else do you need?

Hi Phoebe! Such a pretty girl.

THE DEER! It’s like 16 feet tall. It’s so fucking cool.

This space used to be where my parents slept when we went to visit! It’s really weird seeing a recognizable view out the window but be in a completely different space. The collection of antique Mexican pottery is so beautiful. I love how Janis and Tom balance old and new—their spaces always feel modern but there’s barely ever anything actually new in them. My grandparents had that wild chandelier removed from their house during redecorating in the 70s—only for Janis to hang it up here 40-some years later.

Janis and I are a lot alike.

Anyway, it was a few wonderful days of hanging out, cooking, going to the beach on Lake Michigan that I love so much, exploring Sawyer, wandering the prairie, trying to infuse a watermelon with a bottle of tequila…you know, good clean family fun! I got to take my two “little” cousins (now fully grown adults!) to their first drive-in movie, and sing camp songs around a campfire with Janis and Tom for the first time in roughly 2 decades.

That kind of shit is good for your soul, I’m telling you.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! I was EFFICIENT. Also on my list of people to visit were my friends Kim and Scott, who ALSO HAVE A HOUSE NEARBY! So after a few days with Janis and Tom, I threw my bindle over my shoulder and headed over to Tree House. They actually hung out with Janis a while ago when they started looking for houses in the area, which I think is kind of adorable. “Hey Aunt Janis, can I invite my blog friends over to your house even though you don’t know them at all and I won’t be there? Great thanks!”

OMG YOU GUYS, MY HEART.

MY OVARIES.

ALL THESE VARGOS.

My two cute sweet blog friends up and made a baby since last time I saw them, and…well. Lucy is the cutest most charming little baby in the world. I got to nibble those toes! I don’t even consider myself a “baby person” but I ADORE THIS BABY.

Also, seeing Kim and Scott in these new roles as parents of a human being is just so beyond heartwarming. They’ve always been the best couple but now they’re the best parents too, and that is one lucky duck of a kid.

Of course, my other favorite Vargo (all of them are my favorite Vargo) is CC, short for Chocolate Chunk because look at her. I packed in as much CC cuddle time as possible during my short stay, during which she convinced me she was allowed to be on the bed when, in fact, she is not allowed to be on the bed. Sorry Kim and Scott!!!

(I’m not sorry)

We went to the dunes! Which was cool and also my feet melted to the sand!

GIMME DAT BABY!

Even though we both have blogs about the same kind of stuff, it was fun to get a glimpse into how the Yellow Brick Home blog-sausage is made! Kim and Scott work their asses off–not just on the renovations (impeccable, every time) but also on creating really well-produced blog content, and they do it in this hyper-organized, thorough, kind, supportive, cooperative, adult kind of way that’s…well damn. It’s serious work but not too serious, and honestly it’s inspiring to watch. They’re the kinds of friends that make me want to be better.

Kim and Scott did a little video recording during my visit, which they then cut into these cute little videos! You can check out our day of bopping around here, and a little Q+A we put together here!

Because I am seemly incapable of leaving anywhere empty-handed, I MAY have done a little thrifting. Now I will show you my items.

First up is this little piece of pottery. It’s by SØHOLM, a mid-century Danish ceramics maker. Usually with vintage ceramics I prefer one-of-a-kind amateur studio pottery (the more its taste can be questioned, the better), but hey! It fits in well.

Also, I got these primitive wooden tools. I think the one on the left is a kind of masher, and the one on the right is a butter paddle? I kind of just started buying things like these a while ago because they’re usually just a few bucks and I think they’re so simple and pretty…a little oil and bam, collection!

Someday I’ll figure out what to do with them. Stop rushing me!!!

Also I found this sweet pair of 20s/30s bathroom sconces, which for $12 for the pair just seemed dumb to pass up. It’s the kind of thing that isn’t that special, but if you wait until you NEED them, you’re at the mercy of resources that you KNOW will have them, and then you pay way more. YES in fact I DID buy two similar sconces not that long ago for the same reason. Anyone need a vintage bathroom renovated? (Oh right, I have 4 on the docket, never mind.)

Oh ALSO I picked up another yellowware bowl. I will not be stopped.

Thank you for having me, loved ones!


39 Comments

  1. DREAMZ. Pure vacation dreams with some of my most favorite humans/creatures. <3

  2. What a wonderful post. We can all use reminders of what matters, and with the beautiful photos, and your words, I laughed, I smiled, I teared and it made my day. Thanks Daniel.

  3. Don’t stop believing. (bet you sang that)
    Awesome photos!

  4. The wooden tool on the right is used for making jam! It’s a pestle, and goes into a strainer to mash up cooked fruit, like so: https://amzn.to/2CoTsr4
    I love these well-worn vintage tools!

  5. YAY visiting all the people. I think I Facebook messaged you yesterday about how exciting it was to see/hear you in person (not actually in person, but whatever) on those vlogs instead of just reading your posts. Now reading more about your visit with your aunt/uncle – I love it! As somebody with a background in historic preservation and an avid interest in all things conservation, I am so glad they are doing so much great work as stewards on their property. Those are the kind of people we need millions more of. It just makes me so happy to read about people doing that sort of thing. And their dining room with that to die for table and the wall of amazing plates?? Pretty much my dream dining room. My jaw literally dropped when I saw that picture. Just gorgeous.

    Glad you got a chance to get away and thank you so much for sharing it all with us!

  6. I had watched the vlogs just last night… it was cool to see the three of you together and the q/a was hysterical… (what WAS up with that fire?)

    its VERY clear where you get your decorating/renovating genes… what a gorgeous property .. and that house and the boathouse… sigh

    as someone who has had one week off in 8 years (well one other week but it was all packing and moving so doesnt count as vacay) i hear you… something to put on my lists (of lists of todos, and goals, and projects, and things to return….. have you discovered TODOIST?)

  7. How about the butterfly in that first photo!!! A monarch?
    Why is it not surprising that your relatives are very cool and have great taste? I love the idea of a sculpture garden in a prairie.
    Thank you for taking us along on your trip.

    • Yes, monarch! I guess the monarch population has really suffered, so seeing hundreds of them happily populating the prairie was very cool!

  8. Good for you! Absolutely gorgeous photos.

  9. I really want to know where you went thrifting in Michigan. We drive from Detroit to Chicago and back a couple times every year, and new Western Michigan spots to hunt for treasure are welcome!

    • I don’t remember any of the names of the places! They were all little antique/consignment kinds of places in the Sawyer/Lakeside areas!

  10. Dear, your deer is a moose. Hence the height. Glad you got away.

    • I am a Michigander myself and after thinking it over, am amazed there could be moose so far south, and surviving the recent heat. The one in your photo looks about three or four months old, a few hundred pounds. Momma should be nearby.

  11. That house made me want to move to Michigan. Thanks for the reminder to take time with people and for ourselves!

  12. You convinced me. I need a vacation….people to love on , puppies and kitties to cuddle, baby toes to nibble, bonfires, wildlife, sunsets over water, flea markets…..yep, need a vacation.

  13. I don’t quite know how but I’m convincing myself that I too must be related to Tom and Janice because that property is amazing. As soon as I concoct the family tree I am dropping in.

    Thanks for sharing this reminder that to leave the nest is sometimes best.

  14. Guys, the deer moose thing is a sculpture in the sculpture garden he talked about, right???

  15. Those sconces are amazing and I would be happy to take them off your hands if you need. Got a bathroom from the 1920s (in Chicago!) that would love some vintage sconces. Alternatively, I’ll take info on where you found them!

    • Haha, need is a strong word! I found them at this flea market thing…I guess it stretches for miles through Indiana (and michigan? I think?) so it was just a crapshoot! Similar ones should be available at salvage places, Etsy, Ebay…they’re out there!

  16. Always love your posts!

  17. Um. Your aunt and uncles place is AMAMZING!!! What a friggin dream.
    I have a question though! When you go out of town and go thrifting, are you hitting up Goodwills or antique malls? I just did a massive road trip and was so over whelmed I did zero shopping any advice I would love

  18. Thanks for sharing your inspirational getaway.

  19. Chocolate Chunk…..best name eva!!

  20. Do you think growing up with your aunt and uncle doing all that renovating is what I stalled your renovation gene?

  21. Love!!!!! Your aunt and uncle created a butterfly habitat with milkweed everywhere, all different varieties! That is the coolestl thing I have ever seen on your site! Let us all take a moment to reflect on how cool that is! I want them to be my aunt and uncle. I bet that whole meadow is crawling with little striped monarch caterpillars as I write, getting ready for their journey to Mexico. It’s so rare now to see that much milkweed in one place — I am in awe.

  22. thanks for a great post. love your finds

  23. Wow, you come from a very impressive gene pool! I love your aunt and uncle’s place. Awesome taste apparently runs in your family!

  24. The wooden tools are terrific. The “masher” that you mention is actually a potato masher and makes the best ever mashed potatoes. I grew up with that, and they don’t make them any more. Give it a try!

  25. You don’t need to “do” anything with those beautiful tools. Other than putting in your damn kitchen to showcase them :)

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