Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

When life brings you lemons… count your blessings February 27, 2015

Filed under: Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 12:51 pm
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Don't worry about a thingYou may be wondering where I’ve been the past few weeks. I haven’t given up on blogging, nor forgotten about this blog and my faithful followers. Unfortunately Michigan’s winter got the best of me and I slipped and fell on an icy/snowy sidewalk. In my haste to protect my leg (with the titanium rod), I landed on my left wrist. And I clearly don’t do anything half-way…I broke it, resulting in surgery to insert a plate and screws. Yes, ouch. Needless to say, it’s been slow-moving for me as I adjust to a few weeks of limitations. Thankfully, I am right-handed but it’s still challenging, especially typing one-handed! So that explains my absence and I hope you accept my apologies and have patience. Because I have a lot of adventures to share and stories to write!

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I admit I have experienced many frustrations during this recovery. You may have noticed I like to be fairly independent so asking for assistance isn’t always easy (my husband has been an amazing help and support through this, anticipating what I may need before I ask!). I admittedly feel ashamed at moments for feeling frustrated. Because you and I know life can be so much worse than a broken wrist that brings short-term inconveniences. I know, however, I am an imperfect human. But in moments of sadness, frustration or pain, I take a deep breath and stop to count my blessings.

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Cheer the little victories. We take a lot for granted at some point in our lives. Even seemingly easy activities like folding laundry and drying your hair become challenging with one hand! I learned to wash my hair, under the bathtub faucet. I made dinner. I removed an old shower curtain (although Justin put the new one on!). I went to the grocery store by myself.

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Cheery get well from friends!

Be thankful for the family and friends who support you. I learned a good lesson about people during chemo….sometimes the people you think will support you don’t show up while the people you don’t expect do. While this surgery wasn’t a life-threatening procedure, I have been so touched by those who have called, text, visited, sent flowers and more. Of course, who doesn’t love to be thought of with kindness and caring? Everyone leads a busy life nowadays, yet I agree more and more with my mom that it becomes a lame excuse and you should never too busy for those you care about.

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Recognize those in need. I am struck multiple times per day by how fortunate I am to be alive and fairly healthy, especially post-cancer. I have my two legs, which is not common with bone cancer. I say a prayer of thanks daily for my health and physical abilities, but there are additional moments that make me pause. There are many people worse off than me, this I recognize daily. This surgery recovery, despite a the pain and huge inconvenience,  is thankfully short-term. I think of the soldiers injured in battle, accident victims, cancer survivors and so many others facing long-term worse case scenarios. I am blessed to be raised by parents who believed in helping others. I try to help others every day, whether through kindness, donations, volunteering and more. We all have much to be grateful for so should all find time.

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Remember that the ability to love, laugh and appreciate life makes everything okay. It’s true that laughter is the best medicine. And feeling loved. I can’t tell you how much better I’ve felt the past few days after relaxing with my husband on the couch, laughing with my best friend during her visit, feeling hugs from my family, getting help from  my nieces and nephew (I made my 7-year-old niece’s day by asking her to zip my jacket!), phone calls with friends, getting a text from so many friends checking in on me. Of course the distractions deflect the pain and frustrations post-surgery but the love easily helps with the healing. Today I looked out the window and thought what a beautiful day – for despite the frigid temps and snow, the sun was shining brightly and two squirrels were chasing each other up and down a tree (their antics were quite amusing!).

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What blessings do you count? What makes you feel better during tough moments?

 

Tips for bringing your yoga practice home February 1, 2015

yogamatblocksOne of my (many) health goals this year is to practice yoga more regularly. I love how relaxed it makes me feel, not to mention the fabulous stretches so many poses provide to my body. Yoga exercises focus on working both sides of the body to achieve equal balance, strength and flexibility. My excuse is usually that it’s tough to get to a studio on a regular basis due to work and other commitments. Plus, I already pay for the gym and weekly Zumba classes so sometimes my budget feels a little stretched.  But those are really just excuses because there is another place I’m at daily with plenty of space for yoga – home!

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I’ve participated in enough yoga classes to be familiar with many poses so when I need to stretch or focus on relaxing breaths, I will spend a few moments in various poses. However, to really get a good, relaxing workout in, I feel more comfortable following a video. There are many great videos to purchase for your video player and also to download to your laptop, tablet or mobile device. Some are even free (look on YouTube too). Many of these have specific focus, such as for beginners, arthritis, weight loss and pregnancy. I like videos with varying lengths so I don’t feel anxious if 30 minutes isn’t in my time bank that particular day. Currently, I really like the Core Fusion video that offers five 10-minute segments. This option allows me to fit in a yoga practice with whatever time I have available. And I often find myself feeling so good after a 10-minute segment that I flow into another segment.

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To get started, define a space that allows you freedom to move and focus. This doesn’t have to be the same space every time. For instance, some days I practice in my living room; if my husband is hanging out there, I’ll move to the bedroom. Just make certain you have room to move easily forward, backward, left and right.

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Wherever you plant yourself in your house, remove distractions! Turn off the phone, shut down your laptop or tablet (unless you’re using it for the video!), close the blinds if necessary. Allow yourself the time to focus on you and your body and mind.

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A yoga mat helps provide stability, traction and cushion during your practice. You can find a good yoga mat at many local stores, including Target, REI, and Dunham’s. Most yoga studios also sell mats. Of course you can also use a large bath towel. While most people practice yoga barefoot, you can also purchase socks with rubber grips on the soles to help prevent slipping (just don’t wear shoes). There are also gloves available to help with traction. There are various accessories you can use to help you during poses. I use a yoga block with poses that require more bend than my left knee can do. A strap also can help you get a deeper stretch (you can use a bathrobe tie or belt).

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Wear comfortable clothes. Nothing too loose so it doesn’t get in the way but you don’t need fancy, expensive yoga pants or shirts. As long as the clothing allows you to move easily, it will work. I sometimes even wear my flannel pajama bottoms with a t-shirt!

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I’ve been trying to stay focused on my breaths as yoga teaches you do. Just remember not to hold your breath during poses! Try to take one to two breaths between postures to remind you to relax and quiet your mind.

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Practice at your physical (and mental) level. Hopefully your video shows modifications if needed. The Core Fusion video, for example, has an instructor doing modifications to various poses throughout every segment. Since I have a rod in my femur, I can’t always do the full positions or transition as fluidly. Watching someone demonstrate the modifications makes me more comfortable following along and also helps me stay focused, rather than me pondering how to make the position work for me.

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My greatest challenge is staying focused on what I’m doing in that moment (yoga), not what I should or need to be doing (laundry, write another blog, make a grocery list, etc.). I admit it’s tough to clear my brain, which is why it helps to take those breaths between poses to remind myself to focus on the present moment.

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The most important tip I can give you is to just get started! Even if you only devote 10 minutes one day and 20 minutes the next time, yoga is a process and personal accomplishment, not a competition. Be patient and proud of yourself.

 

Why charm bracelets capture my attention January 20, 2015

Filed under: Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 2:19 pm
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charmbraceletI’m a sucker for sentimental, romance, and anything that invokes positive emotions and memories. That may be why charm bracelets have always had an appeal to me. There are so many styles of bracelets and thousands of charms available. Each charm can hold a special meaning to the wearer, and even the purchaser if it’s a gift.

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One of my favorite bracelets was given to me by my two older nieces. The bracelet is more than 10 years old so they were little girls when I received it. The original charms they gave me were my initial H, “Aunt,” and a horse. Over time, I received several more charms from them and other family members. It’s a pretty bracelet, but it’s special because I still recall how excited they were when I opened the gift, how they had to point out each charm and why it was perfect for me. I still wear this bracelet, especially when I need a bit of luck and love surrounding me.

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PandorabraceletMy husband once again spoiled me with the purchase of a Pandora bracelet a few months ago as a present for opening my Etsy store, Be Happy Designs. We chose the first charms together – a horse for my love of the animal, a horseshoe for good luck and a beautiful silver flower with a blue sapphire representing my birthday and our anniversary month. For Christmas, my brother-in-law added a pretty charm with a blue butterfly (these always signify new life to me). I love these charms as they each mean something special to me. Pandora makes lots of other pretty charms that I know will add memories to my bracelet over time.

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Alex and Ani’s bangles are very popular now. I originally discovered this company because I wanted the Alpha Chi Omega bracelet to represent the sorority that brought me many fabulous girlfriends, fun times and happy memories. I’m still an active part of the local alumnae chapter so this present from my mom definitely is special.

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banglebraceletsI used to think I had to wait for others to buy me charms for birthdays or Christmas but then realized that was silly. Why wait when there are some cool charms?! I recently discovered Alex and Ani made a bracelet for the Kentucky Derby so I had to have it – love that it’s now part of my collection!

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I love wearing my charm bracelets and love when people ask me about each charm because every one has a story or memory it invokes. And I love seeing others’ bracelets. You can definitely learn facts about others by simply asking about their charms. Maybe that’s why I like this jewelry so much – another opportunity to engage with others in a happy way. And in today’s world, that’s always a positive thing!

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Do you have a charm bracelet? What is your favorite charm and why?

 

 

Pottery painting brightens the day with my niece January 11, 2015

The artist at work!

The artist at work!

I take my role as an aunt very seriously. I want to be someone my nieces and nephew can always turn to for advice, hugs, adventure, love and support. So it’s important to me to build a good relationship with each of them, which includes quality time together. My recent “quality time” outing was with my seven-year-old niece. I love this age – old enough to have long conversations, young enough to jump into your arms for hugs and kisses, still innocent enough to ask great questions, and still at an age where the world is a big, wonderful place that hasn’t jaded you yet.

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I wanted to do something different with my niece so I picked her up early one morning and we headed to a local pottery studio. I love painting pottery. I don’t consider myself super-talented when it comes to painting but I feel like you can’t really mess up painting ceramics! Ok, I suppose you can, yet I give myself lots of creative freedom when painting a bowl, vase or mug (and you should too!).

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I chose Creative Arts Studio in Royal Oak for our adventure. It’s relatively close to my house and I was there years ago with a group of girlfriends.  The studio has greatly expanded their offerings to now include, not just pottery painting, but also mosaics, canvas painting, jewelry making, wheel throwing and more. You can also host birthday and other parties there.

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The finished product!

The finished product!

Walk-ins are welcome for pottery painting so I was happy that the studio was relatively quiet when my niece and I arrived. We perused the many items available to paint, from bowls to platters to frames to coin banks and more! She finally settled on a cereal bowl. There are plenty of colors to choose from and since she couldn’t decide on just one color, we chose several – blue for the inside, orange on the outside and yellow for the rim. Then we needed to add polka dots, of course! To get the bold colors she chose, we had to paint three coats of each color. I decided not to paint my own item but focus on helping her. Turned out to be a good ideas as her hand got “super tired” after two coats so I finished each color (we are a team in this family!).

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It took approximately an hour to paint the bowl, with lots of great conversation between us. I knew the outing was a success when she smiled brightly at me, announcing, “This is so fun!” And what started as her bowl soon became a bowl that her sister and brother would “probably be able to use…sometimes.” I love that she has a homemade keepsake from our outing.

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We had to leave the bowl at the studio to be fired. It was ready one week later and turned out beautiful. It is food-safe. My niece is so proud of her finished product and I’m so happy for the time with her.

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Creative Arts Studio is located on Fourth Street in Royal Oak. Walk-ins are welcome for pottery painting. It’s an affordable, fun outing – you pay a flat studio fee ($6 for ages under 12; $8 for older) plus the cost of your item. Contact the studio for more information and for information on other activities/projects.

 

New year, new outlook January 4, 2015

2015 goals in wood type

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This new year is kind of a big deal for me. I’m glad to see 2014 fade away as it had more challenges in my personal life than I preferred. So I have expectations and hopes that 2015 will be filled with more happiness, less stress, less tears and more fun.

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I will also celebrate the start of a new decade as I turn 40 in the later part of the year. It’s a big age for me for several reasons. When I was younger, I thought it was old and now I’m on the cusp of it! When I was diagnosed with cancer at 21, that age seemed so far away that it feels truly good to still be here, alive and (thank God) healthy. I feel like 40 is an age that one really reflects on what they’ve accomplished in life. I honestly feel like I’m falling a little short of my goals for life so this year will be a time to determine what needs to be achieved, what needs to be scrapped and what should be refocused.

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happyquoteFocus on happiness. It’s easy to all too often get stuck on what you don’t have, or, worse, what others have that you really want. Having a positive outlook on life and appreciating what/who I have has typically been my attitude. I admit I’ve let outside forces creep into that attitude, and I don’t like it. So I’m putting positive vibes back into the universe as I commit to more smiling, laughing and saying thank you to God this year.

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Buy new house. My husband and I are committed to selling our two homes this year (we each brought one to the marriage and it’s been challenging to coordinate selling both) and buying a new home that is “just ours” – a place to create new memories of our relationship and combined family/friends. This is one goal that excites me quite a bit. Mostly because we’re doing it together.

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Strengthen my relationship with husband. We’ve had many challenges in our short marriage, but ultimately we love each other and want this relationship to work. We both are committed to trying harder to understand each other’s needs and wants, relax more together, prioritize our relationship, seek out new adventures, and (maybe most important t. me) hug and kiss more (he gives great hugs).

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Focus on my writing. In that category falls this blog, where I plan to post more frequently and update the look and other items (stay tuned for my new ideas!). I also want to finally finish my book that’s been in progress for a while now. I’ve been researching publishing options but admit that’s probably been a distraction to making myself sit and get the story out of my head.

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Less technology, more connecting with friends. I hope to continue to build strong relationships with some close friends this year; seems like we all rely more on Facebook and texting to communicate and stay up-to-date with others’ lives. I’ve been scaling back my time on social media (although sometimes challenging since my job requires some use) and trying to use the good ol’ fashion telephone to chat with friends….hoping to take it even further with more in person visits this year. Friendship is one of those areas where quality definitely is better than quantity. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to stay connected with friends who didn’t reciprocate much so acknowledge it’s time to appreciate the memories and focus on those who want to keep our friendship strong.  I also hope that as I get more involved in hiking, yoga and other interests that I’ll meet new girlfriends who share these common interests.

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Live healthier. I want to ring in my 40th birthday at my healthiest, including a few pounds lighter and more toned. I’m still addicted to Zumba (great cardio workout!) and have been focused on lifting weights to tone my muscles and strengthen my bones. I also plan to try new recipes to eat less processed foods. Living healthier also means limiting my Dr. Pepper and Starbucks intake (a challenge indeed!). While I value modern medicine, I am checking into more natural ways to feel healthier/better and lighten my mood.

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Paintcreek_HHGGet outdoors much more often. Lots of studies show that fresh air and connecting with nature bring many positive outcomes, including lower blood pressure, more happiness and less stress. I love being in the outdoors, especially when the sun is shining and temps are mild. My head always feels clearer after a bike ride, hike or walk around the block. Camping trips are also on our docket for the summer (seriously, very little beats camping in Michigan’s state parks in the summer).

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Be more spiritual. As an adult, I’ve admittedly never been a regular church-goer but always find such peace and comfort sitting in our beautiful sanctuary. My soul truly feels better after attending a church service so why would I not want to do that more often?! Spirituality doesn’t always have to focus on religion and I hope to focus more on finding inner peace and better understanding of myself.

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Have you set goals for the new year? What would you like to accomplish?

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Photo credit: © Marekuliasz | Dreamstime.com

 

Year-end donations help charities provide important programs December 28, 2014

Filed under: Life Lessons — hmh912 @ 3:39 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My parents raised my sisters and me to appreciate what we have and understand how fortunate we were to have a nice home, soft beds, clothes, access to good education, full stomachs and people who loved us. Thanks to their direction, I’m a firm believer that if you’re able to, you should give back to those less fortunate and your community. And, frankly, we’re all able to in some way, whether through time or money. I love to volunteer at local organizations, especially those that touched my life. Cancer organizations are an obvious choice; however, I also love to help at our church, schools, and any animal-related organization. My husband and I plan to spend more of our time volunteering in the community in the new year.

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We also feel great gratitude that we both have good paying jobs that allow us to save money each paycheck. With that in mind, we donate financially to local charities throughout the year. There are so many charities to consider. I listed a few that I’m involved with or are familiar with. Now is a perfect time to donate money as you’re still able to get a tax-donation for 2014!

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CampCaseytrailer_frontCamp Casey – I know I’ve shared information on this great organization a few times this year. Camp Casey provides a horseback riding experience to children with cancer and sickle-cell anemia through several different programs. The most popular, and my favorite, are Horsey House Calls, which bring a horse to the home of a child, whether in the suburbs, city or country. We provide rides, pizza, crafts and great fun! This nonprofit is run very efficiently.

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Imerman Angels – I love the mission of this organization that connects a cancer survivor (mentor angel) with someone in treatment or recently completed with treatment. I remember going through treatment and wishing to meet a young adult bone cancer survivor to give me advice and support.

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Wounded Warriors Project – This organization serves to honor and support our veterans and service members who were injured during their service to our country. Several programs are offered at no charge to these ‘warriors’ and their families, focusing on mind, body, financial and engagement.

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Michigan WWII Legacy Memorial – My husband and I walk by the sign for this future memorial quite often as it’s near our home. It will serve as Michigan’s official tribute to our state’s contributions during this war. I think it will be amazing to have such a special place to visit close to home once it’s built. The planners are accepting donations to help with the construction and maintenance – you can make a general donation or purchase a brick to honor someone.

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dino_1Cranbrook Institute of Science, Greenfield Village and other cultural institutions – You may think that admission fees cover the costs of maintaining and operating these amazing cultural institutions that showcase history, art, education and science, but there are still gaps in finances. Particularly for special programs, such as exhibits, research, and educational opportunities.

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Horses Haven – This volunteer-run organization provides a home for neglected or forgotten horses and donkeys. While they try to adopt out as many horses as possible, many are permanent residents at the farm. Raising horses isn’t cheap so all donations help support these amazing, sweet animals. You can also sponsor a horse for a low monthly fee, which includes visits with your new friend.

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What charities do you support?

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Don’t forget to make your financial donation by Dec. 31 to get the tax benefits…..so many people and animals will benefit from your generosity.

 

Northern Michigan wines add great flavor to holiday parties December 20, 2014

homeworkwine With Christmas and New Year’s quickly approaching, it’s a great time to stock up on wine so you can grab a bottle to take to family dinners and parties, or have available at home to serve during evenings with friends (or just for you!).

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We’re lucky to live in a state that is home to many wineries that produce great wines. We’re also fortunate to have great friends who live in Traverse City near many of Michigan’s wineries. Because we often miss them not being close, we try to go north a few times a year. This also provides opportunity to pop into our favorite wineries to taste and purchase!

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While red wine is a preferred choice for many of our friends, I admit to not being a fan of dry reds. I also have a mild allergic reaction when drinking red wine (I get really, really hot and my skin flares up with red patches. Not pretty so I rarely drink red wine in public!). But we have tasted many different red wines to find a few that we enjoy and can serve at home.

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Longview, located in Cedar on Leelanau Peninsula produces a few of our favorite wines. Their Rustic Red is a very smooth wine that is “rich with ripe berry and cherry flavors and hints of spicy clove.” The winery suggests serving it slightly chilled for the best burst of flavors. I enjoy a glass of Chateau Fontaine’s Big Paw Red because it’s not too dry and not too sweet. It incorporates three hybrid grapes for a great flavor. Peninsula Cellar’s Homework is a big favorite of my older sister and some friends. It’s actually considered a rose’ with a little sweet taste of strawberry, watermelon and raspberry flavors. Delicious!

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Longview also makes one of our favorite white wines, Rustic White. This light wine is “loaded with tropical fruit flavors,” yet it’s not too sweet. We get positive reviews every time we serve this wine so Longview is a definite stop when we’re in Traverse City! They also produce a very good Chardonnay that is fermented in stainless steel rather than oak.

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longviewwineIf you like a sweeter white wine like me, try a Riesling. This type of wine is typically sweeter and filled with various fruit flavors, such as peach, citrus, pineapple and apricot. Riesling has its roots from Germany and balances acidity and sweetness for a crisp taste that pairs well with a variety of foods. Riesling wines are usually categorized as sweet, semi-sweet or dry.

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Chateau Grand Traverse’s Late Harvest Riesling has long been my favorite sweet Riesling. It is definitely a sweeter wine, yet oh so good! The winery describes it as “dazzling fruit and crisp citrus flavors balanced with a naturally sweet finish.” It certainly dazzles my taste buds when I drink a glass!

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Ranked up there with it is Black Star Farm’s Arcturos Riesling. The winery describes it as “vibrantly alive, fresh, and highlighted with a balanced sweetness” with “aromas of fresh fruit followed by concentrated flavors of apples, apricots and peaches complemented by honey undertones.” In fact, this light, sweet wine won the first wine tasting party my husband and I hosted with friends.

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We recently discovered Left Foot Charley’s The Missing Spire Riesling wine – it’s a medium sweet late harvest that is loaded with flavors that are delicious on your tongue (this winery also makes great hard cider).

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If you want to try delicious fruit wines, check out Chateau Fontaine’s Cherry Wine, Longview’s Cherry Mead (Honey Wine) and Black Star Farm’s Pear wine. All of these have a light, sweet taste…and the cherry wine pairs perfectly with dark chocolate!

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There are so many more wineries in Michigan that offer excellent choices to drink. These are just a few of my favorites. Whatever you choose, enjoy (and drink responsibly!).

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What are some of your favorite wines?

 

 
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