Blog Crush

I’m not a huge blog reader.  I mean, I read blogs, I just don’t devote much of my day, really my week to keeping up on all the fantastic blogs that are out there.  But there are a few blogs, I swoon over.  These are blogs that as soon as they show up on Instagram or Twitter with a new post, I have read it within 3 minutes– because I love them that much.  Every word they say is riveting, their style inspiring or their food styling exquisite. And so I would like to feature some of my favorite blogs, in varying categories, that I obsess over.  They are blogs that inspire me, which in the end inspire this blog.  They are worth sharing with, drooling over and crushing on.

Local Milk

local milk // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowThis girl, Beth Kirby, she can cook.  And not only that, the way she writes about her experiences and ideas about food is enticing and captivating.  I love reading her posts almost as much as I love looking at her food pornography photography.  Each recipe is very unique.  You can tell Beth loves the craft of cooking and developing recipes.  I especially appreciate her baked goods.  I made her Chocolate Lavender Cake with Earl Grey Buttercream Frosting for a friend’s birthday, and it was probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever made.  Beth also helps coordinate regular Kinfolk events, that are truly beautiful, as well as teach food styling workshops in exotic places all over the planet.  Local Milk also has a fantastic instagram feed (well all of these blogs do).  You can follow it here.

Sprouted Kitchen

sprouted kitchen // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowBeautiful, fresh creations is all you see on Sprouted Kitchen.  This vegan, health conscious, food blog (written and photographed by Sara and Hugh Forte) is constantly creating drool worthy recipes that the vegan and carnivore alike would die for.  You can tell a lot of thought goes into these recipes, the colors, the textures, the flavor sensations, and the photography is beautiful.  My favorite part is, these are recipes that I will use regularly, not just something to save for a special occasion.  The icing on the cake, they have a new, beautiful baby.  Can’t resist tiny baby photos.  Follow this blog and eat a little healthier.  Their fantastic Instagram feed is here.


mothermag // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowMothermag is my new favorite thing.  It is the best motherhood blog, the most resourceful, classy and cultured.  I love this blog because it laughs at the stigma that moms are out-of-fashion, out-of-shape losers who have lost their life and identity in their children, not by saying it explicitly, but just by being awesome.  They have amazing fashion tips, breastfeeding advice, mom horoscopes, and regular interactions with pop culture.  This blog only started this year,  a collaboration of a bunch of amazing parenting bloggers, and has really been kicking it.  If you’re a mother, go here.  If you’re want to be a mother, go here.  You can follow them on Instagram here.


bleubirdAnother fantastic parenting blog, James Kicinski McCoy (also a collaborator for Mothermag) and her family are so– I hate to use such a cheap word, so I’ll put a profanity in front of it to make it seem more obtuse– damn cute! They just are.  Her and her four children are gorgeous, have great style and have a lot of fun.  James not only writes this blog, she is a product designer and photographer on top of homeschooling her four children with her husband.  She is an inspiring woman with great fashion sense and really great taste in children’s toys.  Bleubird also features some great recipes– one I’m meaning try is this gluten free, vegan donut recipe.  So whether you’re looking for some fashion advice or want to see some cute– I said it again– little people, this blog is the place for you.  You can follow Bleubird on Instagram here.

Wide Eyed Legless

wide eyed legless // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowSigh. I hesitated to share this one with you.  Not because this blog isn’t really fantastic, but because I want it all to myself.  Wide Eyed Legless (Madelynn Hackwith Furlong) has completely revolutionized my sense of style.  I mean of what style I have.  Wide Eyed Legless consistently curates a minimalist, monochromatic look that is refreshing and freeing. My favorite part about this blog is Madelynn’s posts about defining one’s style.  They are so practical and clear in helping you discover what your own style is and sticking with it.  After I started following this blog in February, I purged my closet, removing the clutter, and have stuck only to basics in neutral colors– mainly white and black– and have  embraced a minimalist approach to my look.  I even follow Madelynn’s own beauty secret for her hair, not washing it.  Pretty much, if I could afford her wardrobe, I would just copy everything she wears and maybe be her best friend.  Ok, this is getting weird, isn’t it?

All awkwardness aside, I highly recommend this blog and Madelynn’s Instagram feed is my favorite.  Such simple and refreshing images are the only thing that are featured.  Check it out.

A Merry Mishap

a merry mishap // BLOG CRUSHES // Keeping WillowI have been a little obsessed with interior spaces lately.  In particular modern, fresh and clean feeling spaces.  I am just a better person when I am in a well curated space.  And I’m obsessed with the color white (enough with the obsessions Stacy!).  Everything must be white! Except the couch, because there’s Willow. And the rug.  Ok, it’s really me, I spill on everything.  But I wish it were all white. A Merry Mishap, written and curated by this classy gal– and mother– Jennifer, is constantly filling my mind with more ideas for a more open and minimalist space. With a keen sense of Nordic taste, each post delivers.  Check out her feed on Instagram and keep on pinning these beautiful images.

In the end, if you don’t care at all about minimalism or adorable children (really?), that’s fine.  What I hope to display is what kinds of things move me and move me forward as I continue to press on in this whole blogging thing.  So follow some blogs, cook some great food, cloud your Instagram feed with even more people you don’t know, and get to know me and my taste a little bit more.  Happy reading!



The Little Fleet | impressive all-ages bar in Traverse City

On our trip up to Traverse City last weekend, we stumbled upon a tiny bar that not only had an impeccable design, carefully curated beer and cocktail menu, a refreshing ambiance, and variety of delicious food just steps away, but was also incredibly friendly to families and non-alcohol drinkers alike. And we fell head over heals. Listen, I like Grand Rapids.  It is a quickly evolving city that has grown on me since my teenage years.  But the bar scene is one that thinks it’s to cool for school -or school aged children that is.

This isn’t my first rant about this issue.  If you’ve read my post, “The Death of Cool”, you’ll know how frustrated I am that my family can’t find a decent place to get a drink and a high chair in the same establishment without venturing onto the “Champs-Elyse” of Grand Rapids, with it’s never-ending array of chain restaurant establishments (I’m talking about 28th street, and I’m being sarcastic). But when we walked into Traverse City’s, The Little Fleet and saw sidewalk chalk all over the floor, table tennis and yes, a high chair, we were sold.  But listen, the family friendlyness of this establishment is just the tip of the iceberg.  All family friendlyness aside, this place is so awesome.  Bars everywhere, you have a lot to learn from The Little Fleet.

The Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping Willow The first thing you’ll notice when you walk onto the property of The Little Fleet is a caravan of food trucks.  When you read the menus, you will find these trucks are targeting foodies who care about food as much as we do.  The Little Fleet rents out, what would be a parking lot space, to various food trucks, from brunch, to ribs, to ice cream.  If you want something to eat, you grab some food from one of the various trucks, bring it into the bar, sit down with your beer in the lovely outdoor garden area or inside the gorgeous building, which used to be a beer and wine store we frequented.  We are breakfast people so we decided on the brunch truck, Toasted.  A yogurt and fruit cup for Willow, brunch bowl for me and a brunch burger (sub burger for extra cheesy potato patty) for Jazz.

The Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe second thing you’ll notice about The Little Fleet is the ambiance.  A light, wood paneled ceiling, minimalist and tasteful decor, open garage doors to let the beautiful TC air in, and a stellar bar.  When I talked to bar owner, Gary Jonas, he didn’t think that a bar needed to be dark and dingy.  When the Jonas family (yep, they have two kids) opened two bars in NYC, they played with this open, family friendly concept.  The result, they found, created a community of sorts that was refreshing.  While they have received some complaints about their openness to children, they have pressed on trusting that what they are doing best suits the majority of their clientele.  And I think they’re right.  The atmosphere Jonas created here makes it feel like you’re sitting on the porch with friends, enjoying a conversation and a drink (well, a really amazing porch and one of your friends just happens to be a mixologist).

The Little Fleet offers weekly events including Bluegrass Fridays, a Gypsy market on Sundays and a class for kids, ages 1-3, on Mondays with singing and dancing (seriously, how much cooler can this place get).  You can have a beer, a cup of Higher Grounds Coffee, an ice cream cone or a sippy cup.  The Little Fleet takes the scene out of the bar and makes it something normal and extraordinary.

The Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | family friendly bar in Traverse City | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | family friendly bar in Traverse City | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe third thing you’ll notice about The Little Fleet is the choice drink menu.  While they have a nice beer selection, I was most impressed by their selection of craft liquor and their signature cocktail menu. The liquor collection is stocked with hard-to-find craft and local liquor. The Little Fleet makes all of the mixers for their cocktails, from the simple syrup to the bitters, from scratch.  I could smell someone mulling mint while my friend Fernando mixed us up a couple cocktails.  The cocktail menu was simple, about 6 items, but every recipe was a tried and true, one-of-a-kind creation.  I had an American Rye Whiskey combination of secret ingredients (they wouldn’t tell me what) that blew my mind. Jazz had a ginger beer, vodka dream that was indescribably delicious.  I’m telling you, the caliber of these drinks far surpassed anything we’ve had in Grand Rapids, and they were cheap.  What would have cost us $9-10 in GR cost $6-7.  We will always make a stop at this quaint little bar every time we make a trip up north.

The Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping Willow

Fernando, getting it done.

The Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowThe Little Fleet | Traverse City family friendly bar | Keeping WillowWhether you’re a family of foodies, friends who want a laid back atmosphere (where you can actually hear each others conversations) or a cocktail aficionado, The Little Fleet is the place for you.  The staff was warm and welcoming.  Having a child running around was welcomed rather than a nuisance.  As millennials transition into parenthood, I believe this is the direction bars in the future will be going.  And it’s a really good direction.  Grand Rapids, you better change your ideas of what a good bar is -because the times they are a changing.


Let’s Talk About tUnE-yArD’s New Album “Nikki Nack”

A little over a week ago, the band tUnE-yARdS released their third album titled Nikki Nack. It was brought to my attention on my way home from the grocery store while listening to NPR, which resulted in a driveway moment.  NPR was doing a first listen feature of “Nikki Nack”, and I was awe inspired by the rhythms and vocal energy that this new album was producing, not to mention the fact that tUnE-yArDs is a one woman band (with a little help, from bass player, Nate). So I dove in and have been listening continuously and just can’t help but talk about it. 

The genius behind this machine is Merrill Garbus, a New England native, Oakland based musician who started her career out with just her ukulele and her voice.  In order to stand out above the rest, Garbus started using a loop station and a drum machine, using her voice and ukulele to make live loops to play along with during her show, giving a fuller band sound. The end result: tUnE-yArDs.  What I interpret as a fusion of indie electronic music, soulful Motown and folky mountain music, tUnE-yArDs produces fun and dancable music with lyrics that are both imaginative and thought provoking. Merrill Garbus and her tUnE-yArDs project makes Justin Timberlake’s R&B flare seem like an ignition spark, while still remaining indie hip and unique.

When I first listened to Nikki Nack, what first stood out to me were the irregular and engaging rhythms she uses in most of her tracks.  Manipulating time signature and dynamics, listening to this album is kind of like eating a Gobstopper, the color variance is always changing.  The music is so very interesting, always keeping you guessing.  I’ve had many moments of, “holy crap, how did she do that?”  There are layers upon beautiful layers of catchy melodies and complex harmonies.  She uses her voice as just another instrument, looping it to make unique electronic sounding patterns.

On her track “Real Thing” (maybe my favorite song), the lyric “Oh my god I use my lungs” stood out to me, because that is an undeniable reality on this album.  Merrill Garbus can sing her way out of just about any sticky situation.  In an era where the trend for many off-the-grid female vocalists is to manipulate the vowels and tonality of their voice, and keep a soft and quiet dynamic (i.e. Feist, Regina Spektor, St. Vincent, all artists I love), Merril Garbus let’s it all hang out with her bluesy and bold voice.  I admire this so much in her singing and I hope this is a trend that catches on amongst other artists.

Amongst her danceable beats and uplifting melodies, the lyrics to her songs can be cynical, subversive and sometimes depressing, just the way I like them.  This tension that Garbus plays with is moving and introspective, bursting with creativity.  I encourage you to take a listen to this album and let steep a while.  As a female musician, tUnE-yArDs is a truly inspiring project and this recent album is giving me the itch to make more music.

If you want to see tUnE-yArDs in concert, they are touring this summer with Arcade Fire.  You can buy tickets here.

You can hear the entire album, “Nikki Nack”, on Spotify here.

To purchase on iTunes click here

Check out tUnE-yArDs recent music video, “Water Fountain”

Happy listening!




Meet Jay and Cari // Owners of Local Bike Coop, The Spoke Folks

Meet Jay and Cari Niewiek, some of the most kind, innovated, talented, generous and all out cool people I know. They are bike commuters. They are business owners. They are good friends.  They are the Spoke Folks.spoke folks

The Spoke Folks is a cooperative bicycle shop focused on empowering and educating all levels of cyclists in the Grand Rapids area, started by my good friends, the Niewieks.  This Saturday, May 3rd, The Spoke Folks, Brewery Vivant and New Belgium Brewery are putting on an event –Kickstand Kickoff | 2014– that you are going to want to attend.  So here I am telling you about it by telling you more about it and interviewing the people who started The Spoke Folks.

I met Jay and Cari 5 years ago playing Settlers of Catan with good friends, over good beer and nachos, when they were living in a small community house in Eastown with other fantastic people (actually, I could write a blog post about ever person who lived there, they are all so awesome).  We have been good friends ever since.  So good, that they both stood up in our wedding.  spoke folks 5

I could give a long winded account as to the ways they are amazing friends and rock stars of the human race, but today, we are talking about bikes.

Ever since I’ve known Jay, he has been talking about starting a bike coop.  And then one day, in 2012, they took the plunge.  Jay and Cari found a cute little spot on Logan St SW and next thing we know, Jay quits his day job.  I asked Jay some questions to fill is on who the Spoke Folks are and what his passion, this bike coop, is all about.

Interview with Jay Niewiek // Co-owner and Shop Keeper at the Spoke Folks

Q: First, what is this Kickstand Kickoff you are throwing, on May 3rd –this coming Saturday, from 10 am -6pm, wink wink- and why should I go (besides the fact that I’m performing at it-shameless plug)?

A: The Kickstand Kickoff is a family friendly, festival style, celebration of bicycles (and outdoors, summer, beer, good food, music, family, friends, fun, etc, etc, etc.)  There is going to live musical performances, awesome games and classes for all ages, tons of Vivant and New Belgium beer on tap and good food.  If you think any of these things even remotely sound like things that you enjoy, you should come.  This isn’t a party for people that obsess about the Tour de France or an opportunity to show off how much you’ve been training all winter.  It’s an opportunity to just hang out and have fun with bicycle related things like we all used to do as kids.

Q: Why do you guys like bikes so much?  I mean, what’s so great about bike commuting anyway?

A: It’s hard to answer this question because there are so many reasons to ride a bike.  For me personally, I love the freedom it gives me to slow down and feel like a kid.  Every aspect of my life I feel like I’m frantically just trying to keep up.  My phone is always ringing, texted, reminding me of my next appointment, telling me I have another email, or that someone just “liked” some snarky comment I made on Facebook.  Incorporating biking into my lifestyle -mainly through commuting- allows me to get away from all of that and take a break from the chaos that is my life.

Also, physically commuting by bike allows my body to move and means I don’t have to go to the gym.  Our bodies were designed to move and be active.  As a culture though, we live very sedentary lives and then have to awkwardly force physical activity into our day by going to the gym.  Bicycle commuting is a way I’m trying to honor the way our bodies were designed and live an active lifestyle.

 It occurs to me more and more that I don’t think of myself as a cyclist.  I’m someone who loves being outdoors, enjoying time with friends, laughing, staying out of traffic, hearing birds, going on adventures, exploring, taking care of the planet, saving money, eating too much food without feeling guilty, etc, etc, etc.  That’s why I like riding bikes so much.

spoke folks4

 Q: What is a coop (short for cooperative) and why did you choose this business model for your shop?

A: There are a lot of ways a cooperative can be run.  We are a consumer cooperative.  What that means is that we have intentionally set up our space to meet the needs of the customer and intentionally ask our potential consumers what they want so that we can meet those needs.

We are also a non-profit so we do what we do to have an impact within our community, not to get rich.

 What this all boils down to is that we are in the business of meeting your needs and supporting you as a cyclist.   We don’t try to sell you things you don’t need.  We don’t charge you more than what you should pay.  It just sounds like good business to me.

Q: If I show up at the Spoke Folks and I know absolutely nothing about bikes what can I expect to happen?

A: Our hope is that you will feel right at home.   We want to be a place that is not intimidating, free of judgment, and welcoming to all cyclists of all mechanical and educational levels.

 At our shop, you’ll find that we have all the tools and supplies you’ll need to work on your bike.  Additionally, you’ll find that we have friendly, inviting volunteers that can help you with whatever bicycle related project you are working on.

 If you’re new to this whole bicycle thing, we’ll help you understand what tools might be good to bring with you when riding, what things to be paying attention to on your bike, & what you should be regularly maintaining.  We invite questions and assume that if you already knew this stuff, you probably wouldn’t need a space like The Spoke Folks (except maybe for the tools).

 We also offer classes and general tips on bikes to help educate you on all the non-mechanical aspects of riding your bike as well.  These classes cover topics like how to ride in the road, what the traffic laws for cyclists are, and how to prepare for all forms of weather.

spoke folks 1 spoke folks 3

 Q: What is your biggest pet peeve about car commuters?  What is your biggest pet peeve about bike commuters?

A: It’s actually the same pet peeve for both.  SHARE THE ROAD WELL!  Too often I see either cyclists or motorists navigating traffic like they have something to prove.  We get it, that’s your lane of traffic (again I’m saying this to both cyclists and motorists).  So share!  I’m not trying to get everyone out of his or her car and onto a bike.   I also don’t think that a bike is the right form of transportation for every occasion.  I just want there to be options for different modes of transportation and for that to be ok.  So again, don’t be a dick, SHARE!

 Q: What do you consider to be your dream bike and if you could ride it anywhere, where would it be?

A: This is hard because it’s generally just whatever bike I’m on.  However, generally by favorite biking is with cargo bikes.  These are bikes specifically built to carry large amounts of cargo (see where they got the name!).  I think these bikes are just hilarious and tons of fun to ride.  The adventure of seeing how much you can load onto your bike and then still ride it somewhere makes me feel like a kid every time.

 Q:  Jay, you ride this amazingly cool Xtracycle that can carry an absurdly large amount of weight.  What is the craziest thing you have ever carried on your bike?

A: I’ve carried a large number of absurd things on my Xtracycle.  Trips have included a quarter keg and a second bicycle (that was at the same time),  a friend for a birthday bar crawl, a projector and projector screen along with my computer (along with snacks for the meeting), and a 50lb box of parts just last week.  If you want more photos of crazy things people have taken on their Xtracycle, just google image search Xtracycle.

Q: So, how can I become a member and why is membership worth my while?

A: We would love for you to become a member!  Membership is only $50 for a year and is a great option for people that ride their bikes a decent amount and just want this community resource in their back pocket to help keep them moving.  It’s also just a great way to support us as a community resource, even if you aren’t sure that you’ll use it all that much.

 We get that for some people, our membership option isn’t quite right for them.  We won’t turn you away. We also have a daily $5 fee if you aren’t a member so you can still use this resource and check us out before you commit.

spoke folks 2

Thank you so much Jay for your words and friendship and love of everything Bicycles.  The Spoke Folks is located at 221 Logan St SW in Grand Rapids.  Their summer hours are Tuesdays 12-9 pm, Wednesdays & Fridays 12-5 pm and Saturdays 10am-7pm, but you can keep up to date with the hours on their websites calendar.

Happy riding everyone.  WEAR A HELMUT! Hope to see you all out at the Spoke Folks this Saturday.



mix tape // grieving + gleaming

A week from yesterday my grandmother passed away from ALS.  I have taken the past week to grieve and be with my family.  I made this playlist as a means of grieving but also as an admission to the gift it was to be so close to my grandmother.  To have put on her makeup for her when she couldn’t, days before she passed.  To have smiled and laughed and chatted when it was so very difficult for her to do so.

It’s a feeling that is perfectly synonamous with this time of year.  The reality that the ground is covered with dirty snow and it’s been blasted cold since what seems like eternity coupled with the joy of knowing spring is close at hand.  But even if you’re not feeling any of these things, it’s still good music, so give it a listen.

grieving + gleaming
listen here

Sea of Voices  | Porter Robinson [Worlds]

Calling Card  | Neko Case [The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You]

Lost it to Trying  | Son Lux [Alternate Worlds]

Morning  | Beck [Morning Phase]

Old Yes  | Black Moth Super Rainbow [Extra Flavor]

O I Long to Feel Your Arm Around Me  | Father John Misty [Fear Fun]

You Changed My Life  | Austra [Olympia]



Creative Commons License
Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.