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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

Summertime at the lake is dreamy to say the least. The weather can turn from bright and sunny to dark and stormy without any warning. The lake itself is also an ever-changing vignette with the play of light, waves, and wildlife all making a distinct mark on its beauty and allure. With August firmly supplanted as ‘late summer’ here in mid-Michigan, the month of July is now a treasure trove of memories tucked away. With family visiting, impromptu Tuesday night dinner parties with our neighbors, day trips, and my attempt of learning to water ski and wake surf has all made the entire month a non-stop fun and exciting couple of weeks.

On day trips with friends, we explored the quiet countryside of Clare County. There is a large population of Amish people that make their home here. The Amish general store is chock full of everything and anything you can imagine. Need a new handle for that axe?, a mini cast iron skillet?, muck boots?, handcrafted farm sets for your kids?, jingle bells for your horse?, yep, you can find it here. I can spend a good hour looking at everything for sale and I always find something I could use or need for the new house.

Most recently, a jaunt to the alpaca farm was a favorite outing – Living the Good Life Alpaca Acres is a home to more than 30 alpacas and other assorted farm animals. Their gift shop is filled with items created from the alpaca wool they shear such as hats, mittens, scarves, wraps, dryer balls, and the warmest, softest socks I’ve ever purchased. The proprietors have eight female alpacas ready to give birth too. And a fun fact, (maybe not for the alpaca) is that the gestation period is 11.5 months! Also, alpacas are always born in the morning. It was a fascinating excursion and what was even more astonishing – they also poop in a giant litter box!

From alpacas to pottery, on another spree, we discovered Earthshine Pottery – an artist’s gallery of handmade pottery that just opened this summer. The owners, Susan and Bob, were so gracious and lovely and their work is top-notch, organic and simply dazzling. I absolutely love pottery, the way it feels in your hand, how specific glazes sparkle or stay muted and moody, the natural designs shaped by hand – and the longevity of the art form bowls me over – (no pun intended). I purchased two pieces that I am gaga over, and I am excited to go back to see what is new on the shelves of the gallery.

As summer slowly edges along toward fall, at the end of the day, Marc and I sit out on the screened porch and have that quiet time to talk about our day, the upcoming weekend’s plan. We enjoy our dinners along with the sounds of nature with chirping crickets, croaking frogs, and that wild and mysterious call of the loons. This summer we are fortunate to welcome a baby loon on the lake and are thrilled to watch its growth. At bedtime, my brain recycles the day, my eyes close, and I wade into a dreamy sleep nestled into our home in the woods.

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

The July 4th holiday was a whirlwind of family, fun, food, some frivolity and most importantly, we planned a very special day to celebrate the life of Beth Ann Eesley. Marc’s sister passed in November of last year in Chicago and during COVID-19 we had no way or opportunity to grieve properly with our loved ones.

On Saturday, July 3rd, our family and friends gathered together to remember, to mourn, to celebrate life, to be together, and to give us all the opportunity to reflect on the loss of someone we loved so dearly. The day itself was picture perfect, the blue sky and white wispy clouds filtered the bright sunshine and gentle breezes swirled around us. Even the butterflies flitted all about and danced in the air.

As family and friends arrived at the lake, the weight and gravity of the event had slowly lifted and sadness melted into a warm embrace. Marc welcomed everyone and spoke from the heart about losing his only sibling – the tears flowed. Marc’s Mom also spoke about the loss of her only daughter and adjacent was a beautiful collage of photos highlighting Beth throughout her life.

Dear friends and close cousins stood and spoke about Beth and her one-of-a-kind style and bravado. A longtime family friend read a poem called The Dash by Linda Ellis. The ‘dash’ represents the time between someone’s birth and their passing. Everything we do during the time of our dash is what matters, what people will remember, what will remain in our hearts. It was a poignant and beautiful remembrance and the feeling of loss – albeit strong and painful – it was the coming together of family that softened the hurt.

Later that day, family stayed on and mused around the fire pit, the little kids had fun fishing from the dock, we glided around Windover Lake on the pontoon and just held on to every moment that made the day so special and cathartic.

The cottage and our new home were filled to the brim with guests over the holiday and we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Having just moved in on June 14th, we kicked into high gear with entertaining, cooking, happy hours, card games, ATV rides, walks in the woods, … you name it – we did it! And, we are happy to report that the house we built served everyone quite well. Our dream of building a comfortable home where our family and friends are always welcomed has come true.

The other night, the lake looked like a mirror, everything reflected so beautifully. I’ve always said one of the great parts of living here is the lake – it looks different every day and each day I awake and anticipate what it wants to show me – it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Manuel Ramos

It has been a week – officially – that we’ve moved into our new home. Last week, we had a whirlwind of activity as final finishes were put into place and our screened porch was built in five days flat.

I’ll admit, there was much stress and anxiety as we approached the finish line. With guests scheduled to arrive on Friday to stay throughout the weekend, we JUST needed to get this house done. We broke ground on July 20, 2020 and here we are 11 months later and I’m sitting at my new kitchen island writing this blog post.

And just two hours before our guests from the Hamptons arrived, the dust literally settled and we had a fully enclosed porch and we scrambled to be ready to have dinner prepped, and cocktails ready.

The day started at a frenetic pace, the punch list included a dentist appointment, a Home Depot run, and a full-on grocery store marathon. Our local Meijer was more crowded than I’ve ever seen or experienced it. With my freshly sanitized cart I raced around the 180,000 sq. ft. store to acquire everything on my list. Meijer – my favorite place to shop for produce and fresh fruit – is just 35 miles away but a million miles away from the green grocery I used to visit in my former Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene. Yes, I miss and don’t miss – I know it is confusing to me too – the daily run after work to the produce market to fulfill my menu du jour to make dinner. On any given weeknight, Marc and I would gather our reusable bags and hit the butchershop & specialty store – Greene Grape Provisions. We would chat up the lead butcher, Lena, and she would take care of us and always share what was new and special.

If I needed, ginger, lemongrass, San Marino crushed tomatoes, cooking wine, nuts, and/or spices…our green grocer, Fresh Garden Market, and the friendly faces behind the counter knew what I was cooking. I once asked for Gochujang and I was directed to the Korean chili sauce and confirmed that I must be making Bo Ssam. That was my New York experience and it confirmed to me that cooking, preparing, and enjoying food was a universal language and experience in that community.

Here in Michigan, some ingredients are hard to find without traveling far and wide. And, I’ve had to learn to plan dinners and ideas of what I want to cook much farther in advance. It just requires me to be better prepared and to think days ahead. It’s all a good learning experience and I’m getting used to a new routine of buying ‘fresh for five’ days at a time. Organic spinach, heirloom carrots, baby bok choy, asparagus and fresh lettuces are always on the ‘buy list’ and I supplement as the season dictates. Soon, farmer’s markets will be open and I will buy ‘fresh picked’ produce and I'll be cooking according to the farmer’s latest crop.

My new kitchen is testing me in new ways too. New appliances have their own set of protocols and learning curves. I stocked my new refrigerator to the coolest of rafters and my shopping spree was fully accommodated by the new KitchenAid 48” unit. My range top – well, it is a beast! When I turn those 22,000 BTU burners on – there is no joking around. This BlueStar range top is in it to WIN it. No longer do I wait to heat pans to the right temperature – and then heat the oil, then add the protein. This range top cracks a whip and I need to be ready immediately. The BlueStar range outperforms any cooking range I’ve ever worked on. It is screaming hot and ready to cook! It is a marvel with lots of power and I need to step up my game to get in line with its performance.

This past weekend, cooking was at the forefront of our entertaining. Friday night, I made a richly satisfying madras chicken curry with basmati rice perfumed with clove, galangal, star anise and cinnamon. I used my cast iron Dutch oven to do most of the heavy lifting. Along with our first guests a wonderful housewarming gift arrived courtesy of them – a state of the art Zojirushi bread maker. Red wine had been uncorked to breathe and chilled cocktails were standing by – the rest of the weekend was a blend of sunset pontoon rides, quiet mornings with brunch on the porch, and a late night dinner of skirt steak, grilled corn on the cob and a Aji Verde that rocked our socks off with its spicy and herbaceous punch of flavor.

Our first week in our new home and we are nesting just like a pair of birds, ensuring our soon-to-arrive brood of more family members will be comfortable, sated, and well-fed. We are thrilled to wake up and gaze out the windows unto Windover Lake as the sun rises. The lake always looks so fresh and different each day. Just like us, it welcomes the day in its own way with a glimmer of hope for the new day and ripple of dappled sunlight.

A Robin's nest found on our lawn - it looks expertly built!

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