The November List – 2016

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Welp, another month has passed and I never did get to my dahlia post. Perhaps soon. Perhaps never. But now it’s time for the List…

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1) The autumn spectacle of changing leaves continued throughout the entire month of November. Swoon.

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2) The amount of leaves on our lawn was a different kind of spectacle and very daunting. So daunting that I let my husband and kids do most of the clean-up this year.

My excuse (besides too cold and too many leaves) was that I injured my rib cage (or something) from coughing so hard during my most recent cold. And raking made it worse (it did!). And it’s only now starting to feel better after several weeks.

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3)  This is my most used emoji. What does that say about me? Should I be concerned?

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4) I voted! Although, Michigan?!?! I can’t.

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5) Shortly after the election, my sister-in-law told me about a women’s (although I think there was a guy there? whatevs) meeting of the minds at The Red Hook cafe in Detroit’s West Village. Cute place.

And the room was filled with such intelligent and thoughtful women who are trying to change the world for the good of humanity and yes, there is hope. Albeit a small sliver of. See #3.

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6)  Thanksgiving dinner was held at our house this year. My husband’s family (his sister’s family and his mom) joined us for the holiday and luckily for me it was a potluck, so I didn’t have to do much except clean and make mashed potatoes, an apple pie and cranberry sauce.

Aaaaand I bought the turkey from the Yacht Club. I know, so lame, but I was nervous about messing it up. I’ve cooked probably five (?) turkeys in my lifetime and they were all okay, nothing bad happened, but better safe than sorry.

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7) Speaking of pie, it’s officially pie season (although summertime has it’s own pie season I suppose?). So it’s official the second pie season of the year and surprisingly I haven’t had too much of it yet, mainly because it is such a pain to make. Peeling and cutting all those freaking apples! Rolling out the dough that doesn’t want to roll out! But it tastes so good.

I haven’t had sweet potato pie yet – my holiday favorite – but I am planning on making one for next week’s book group. The recipe I use includes bourbon and coconut milk, and is finished with a maple pecan crumble on top. I die.

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8) The day after Thanksgiving, Grosse Pointe puts on a small Santa parade. We walked down to Kercheval and sat on the bleachers placed along the Hill. I loved the marching bands. And the fact that we saw a bunch of people we knew.

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9) Soooo….I started a new part time job (gah!) at one of the schools here. I’ve been so spoiled accustomed to working whenever I want (an hour here an hour there, or late at night when the kids are asleep) that having an actual schedule threw me off my game a little.

I will miss Googling “Victoria Beckham hair” grocery shopping without kids and watching Project Runway having everything in its place (counters and floors clear, laundry done, etc), but I enjoy the job and I’m slowly figuring out some rhythm to my work week. It’s a historical campus – the office is really beautiful AND I have a view of Lake St. Clair. Pretty sweet.

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10) I just this week pulled the last of my kale, one of the first plants I planted in the spring. Certainly was a great year for flowers and vegetables. And I covered my raised bed with straw, because Tom from The Garden told me to. Something to do with keeping the nutrients in the soil or some such.

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11)  Speaking of The Garden, we are full speed ahead with our root cellar construction. Thank you to all who have helped by donating to the cause! A hoop house is going on top, hopefully soon before the nasty weather kicks in.

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12)  The Garden itself is looking rather dormant, but is still beautiful in its own way. A few plants are hung on until just recently – scallions, parsley and kale. There’s still a lot to do in terms of getting all the beds ready for winter. If  you are in the area and want to help, come on down! Bring gloves and a parka. Brrrrr!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around town and in our house, too. We haven’t gotten our tree yet, but we (me and the girls) are super excited to do that in the next couple of days. Wishing everyone a Very Happy Holiday Season!!

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The October List – 2016

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October was a typical autumn month, although sometimes the weather felt more like winter. The leaves are spectacular this year. Definitely showier than last year’s foliage. Wish I had more than just two photos to show you.

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1) Marais is an upscale French restaurant here in town. It’s been applauded in the culinary world, but I find the menu lackluster. Plus, I’m still bitter that the first time we went there, we were not told about the cheese plate! People! They do have a great bar menu (burgers are super), so we continue to pop in for that.

They recently started what they call Marais Cafe, which simply means their bar/lounge area is turned into a breakfast spot. It is divine. The pastries are superb and I am a croissant snob (hands down the best croissants I’ve ever had were in Germany, not France, surprising, no?).

It will cost you a pretty penny. Is $3.00 for a plain croissant worth the money? Absolutely, especially when it’s served on fine china. And anything that can transport me back to Europe I will pay top dollar for.

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2) The first time I shot a gun was on Thanksgiving break in Victoria, Texas, where I spent the holiday with my friend John and his family (I was going to college in Oklahoma at the time). I don’t remember it much, except that I only fired the gun a couple times for practice and didn’t fire at all on the duck hunt (but someone did, because I remember them cleaning and eating a duck later that evening).

Mid month I was invited to a charity clay shoot held in Metamora, about an hour drive from Grosse Pointe. The guns were intimidating – it took a long time for me to settle in to any sort of comfort – weapons put me on edge. I did hit a few targets (yay!) and since I wore the dorky shoulder pad every time, did not get bruised or sore like some of the gals.

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Even though my skills were less than amateur, somehow our team managed to pull off a second place win! It was a really fun time for a very great cause (Cure Epilepsy).

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3) I received my last flower share from our flower farm, Detroit Abloom. What a great program and if you live in the area, you will want to get in on it next year. October was the month that our dahlias decided to burst into full bloom.

I helped Nancy and Julia harvest a couple of times. One week we had so many flowers, we were selling them by the bucket and donating others. Colors range from purple to orange to yellow to pink to white and many flowers showcase several different shades/colors. My favorites are the pale pink and white ones.

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4)  I’ve been wanting to take a photo of this mural/art installation on Jefferson Avenue for the longest time and I finally did.

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5.  One of the moms from school works for the company that sells Brillo Sweep & Mop and gave one to me to try out. I am OCD when it comes to cleaning and I was skeptical, as I’ve had many battles with the Swifter which I vowed never to use again.

There was slight confusion when putting the mop together, but I eventually I figured it out and clicked it into place. I can be very aggressive with cleaning tools and I was impressed that the little pad that attaches to the mop did not fly off, nor did the mop buckle under all my vigor.

The only thing I don’t like is the smell of the pads (similar to Swifter’s – chemically smelling), but I may use them occasionally and you don’t have to use their pads – you can use a cloth or whatever. Bottom line: I’ll still need to get down on my knees for tough spots, but it’s a great product for a quick floor refresher and I will continue to use. Thanks, Kristine!

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6.  Ever since “Downton Abbey” went off the air, I’ve been looking for a replacement show (haven’t we all?). I discovered “Gran Hotel,” which I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix because it’s only available through November 15th – nooooo! I’m not going to get through them all and may have to start subscribing to Hulu, just to watch the end.

The show is hardly deep or fleshed out and the budget clearly does not rival that of “Downton Abbey,” but the Castilian Spanish (gracias = grrrrathiath) is charming and romantic, and the characters are likeable, even the villains. Someone gets slapped in every episode and it seems like someone dies or gets close to death in every episode. Such a great bad show!

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7.  I turned 44 this month (waaaaaaah!). A small group of friends celebrated with me (and another gal who shared a bday close to mine) at the Country Club of Detroit in a private room upstairs. The food was delicious (the cheese platter with honeycomb fresh from their hives omg), the champagne glasses were overflowing and the cake was GORgeous.

My friendships here are still in the baby stages and I miss my San Francisco friends beyond anything I can describe, but the people here appear to have an abundance of generosity that is genuine and natural (all the gals – not just the birthday dinner ones!). The GP crowd is a tough one to break into and as much as I love to play the outsider and make fun of their idiosyncrasies, I am so grateful for and often humbled by them.

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8)  On my birthday, Tom and I visited one of the local schools to talk about The Garden Detroit. I was soooo nervous! But the kids were sweet and receptive and funny, and I ended up having a great time. Pistachio the possum (who Tom rescued and has since been returned to the wild) was a big hit. And the kids sang Happy Birthday to me before I left. Awww.

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9.  When my husband got back from his guy weekend in Kentucky, we celebrated my bday at Republic Tavern, a newish spot in downtown Detroit. I decided to try an actual cocktail vs my usual champagne appertif, and it was soooo good. I almost stuck with it through the rest of the meal, but did switch to red wine, thankfully (cocktail went down way too fast).

The food was just okay. Actually the appetizers were really good, but the entrees were okay/as expected. We would go back.

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10.  Couples bowling started up again at the Yacht Club. For some reason I think it is hyseterical that we drink Moet while we bowl. Only in Grosse Pointe…

img_1558-786x102411. Halloween was fun this year because the little one is a year older and can stay up just a bit later, which makes all the difference. Also, it wasn’t freezing cold or raining, which helped a ton. As is the annual tradition, we wet to a friends’ house for a potluck and then headed out on the streets around 6pm.

One of our friends is really into Halloween decorations. He makes them as in creates from scratch with plastic molds and fabric and paint, etc. Impressive.

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12.  Sam at our 5-year-old’s tea party. Because he’s such a good boy.

And that’s a wrap! I have been so sick with a nasty cold for over a week and I am ready to feel normal again. I hope all of you are in better shape! Have a great November!

PS – my numbers aren’t consistent (some have dots, some have the half circle parenthesis thingy) which is a huge pet peeve, but it’s a long story and a WordPress logistics issue (I continue to use the old editing system, though they try to get me to switch all the timme), and I at least got the text to where it is justified vs indented, so I am leaving it at that.

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Tomatoes!

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The Garden Detroit (the nonprofit where I volunteer) had a stellar tomato season. Most of Michigan, I imagine, had a great tomato season, as it was a hot, hot summer.

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Planting seedlings at the Newport garden.

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Young plants at The Garden.

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Mature plants (though not at full height).

We did get some wonky fruit due to the drought and over-watering (some done by us but also mother nature, the few times that it did pour), but overall, our plants were happy and lush.

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We grow only heirloom tomatoes at The Garden and we had thirty (? I can’t remember, but it sounds right) different varieties. Red, orange, yellow, striped. All so lovely.

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Tomatoes are fun to pick, as they are relatively easy to find and when ripe and the girls enjoyed helping me harvest them on a couple of occasions.

Once while they were with me, I spotted a humongous tomato, which I ate (no one else in the family likes raw tomatoes) over the course of several days. Best BLT ever.

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I have tons of tomato sauce and soup in the freezer. Of all my batches, only one tomato soup batch was thrown out, mainly due to my frustration. I probably could have saved it, but it would have taken some effort (too watery and flavor lacking).

I also made several jars of tomato compote, which is my favorite way to eat them. Slow roasted with garlic and swimming in olive oil.

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My own tomato plants (which were gifted to me by The Garden and planted as seedlings) didn’t do as well as those at the Garden, I’m guessing due to lack of sun.

Also, the squirrel population in our yard is ridiculous and most of the time, if I waited until the tomatoes were ripe, they would disappear. I found many a tomato in random parts of the backyard, half eaten (if you’re going to steal them, could you at least eat the whole thing!?).

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Using green tomatoes was a first for me. I have yet to try them fried, which I may do as I still have a handful of green tomatoes on the counter. I did make a green tomato sauce with bacon and onions and garlic, which turned out surprisingly good.

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Tomatillos are also something I have never cooked with before. Their husks look like lace when they are dried out – so beautiful. I asked around and went online and meshed two separate salsa verde / chicken enchilada recipes.

I roasted the tomatillos with onion, garlic and jalapenos and then blended. Baked with chicken, onions and cheese. They were divine. My husband and I both were wowed by the simplicity and goodness of this dish. So glad I have a jar in the freezer! Yum!

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We began taking the plants down last week. I went through and pulled off any salvageable tomato – the above photo is our very last harvest at our Newport location.

I am already excited to start planting for next year!

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The September List – 2016

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I’ve stopped pretending it’s summer. Yesterday I found my first red leaf nestled on our boxwood and early this morning, our first big rain storm of the season began. I put on a sweater for the first time today since early spring AND there’s a pot roast in the oven. I’m all in. Albeit reluctantly.

Soooo many things to talk about, I’m breaking my  rule of 12, exceeding the list by two.

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1)  My husband and I just got back from a wedding in Lake Tahoe. The girls did yoga on Nevada Beach the Friday before the wedding, and that same day the rehearsal dinner was held on Pope Beach. It’s not that I’d forgotten how beautiful it is up there, but it was nice to be reminded.

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2)  In my haste to get things off my plate, including my last blog post of vacation photos, I forgot some of my favorite ones. Here they are. That’s my cousin holding the corn and the sweet baby girl, also a cousin.

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3)  After being in the Detroit area for two and a half years, I made it to the DAC for the first time. The building is a work of art and the new deck offers sweeping views of the city.

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4)  Our girls (finally!) started school after Labor Day. The oldest has always and will always love school (thank you Jesus), but our kindergartner has threatened more than once to “sit on the couch all day and not go to school and not get up, never ever.” There were many tears the first week, but they seem to be gone for the most part and some days she actually wants to be the first one at school!

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5)  To celebrate the joyous occasion, a friend had a mom’s back-to-school evening, complete with a ridiculous amount of champagne and homemade margaritas and treats, including the fanciest donuts you’ve ever seen from Donut Bar, a gourmet donut shop in Southfield. Gotta love Grosse Pointe’s “go big or go home” motto when it comes to gatherings. Works for me.

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6)  I attended our second grader’s parent information night held shortly after school began. This note was waiting for me (husband couldn’t come – no sitter). After searching the room for a checkerboard with turtles on it, the teacher told me that Checkers is the name of the class turtle. OH.

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The parents were also given tiles 1 through 10 and had to complete this worksheet. OMG so stressful!

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7)  I’ve been so excited to introduce the girls to the Star Wars movies, starting with episode four (of course). It kind of bums me out that so many kids in our eldest’s class have already seen it and therefore have ruined some of the plot but we didn’t think the girls were ready for it until now. It wasn’t as thrilling for them as it was for me (and there was a lot of – mom, is he bad? mom, is she bad? mom, what is that?) when I first saw it as a kid but….they enjoyed it at least.

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8)  A couple days after Shirley’s passing, a flower appeared along our front walkway that I did not plant or see before (bad photo, taken well after the flower’s prime). A coincidence if you want to call it that.

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But then last week… the rose plant I bought from Trader Joe’s at the beginning of summer that stopped blooming over two months ago AND that I had neglected and hadn’t thrown out due to laziness, started growing again, producing the prettiest lavender-pink blossoms. I’m sure I’ll continue to be surprised by my garden over the years, and each time I will see it as a reminder of Shirley’s promise to live on in those she loves.

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9)  The dahlias I planted many moons ago (gifts from The Garden Detroit’s flower farm) bloomed this month. My favorite variety, Cafe au Lait, began to open a couple days ago and I was so worried that the wind and rain from today’s storm would damage the petals, but so far so good.

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10)  Our youngest turned five! She requested yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting and I found a great recipe online from Smitten Kitchen that turned out great!

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11)  I went for my biannual mammogram this month, which is never fun. But I do love seeing this sweet prayer request table in the clinic’s lobby. I jotted down a request this time, too.

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12)  My former co-worker Jill happened to be in town the day I got back from Tahoe. She quit her lucrative advertising job and is driving all over the country in her (very fancy) RV with her dog Juno. You can read about her adventures here. It was so nice to catch up with someone from my SF life. I think the last time I ran into her was something like 12 years ago at a bar in the Mission? It’s been a long time, anyway.

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13)  My husband and I, along with eight of our friends (four couples) redeemed our tickets to the Great Escape Room in Royal Oak this month. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but the experience was pretty close to the description on the website – “Locked in a room with no way out, you must search for hidden compartments, secret passageways, and clues to plot your Great Escape. It is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game.”

You have an hour to escape and I thought (considering that the puzzles were hard!! and I’m a puzzle person!) we did super awesome, but we didn’t make it out in time. We solved all but the final puzzle, which I’m certain given a few more minutes, we would have done. It was fun and different. Highly recommend. I do not recommend stuffing 10 people into an 8-person limo.

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14)  A thank-you to my mother-in-law, who let me come over one afternoon to divide her hostas and take the extras home. So many! When I moved here, I was so-so about hostas, but they are one of the only plants that love our shady backyard and that thrive with very little care. And they’ve grown on me – I quite like them now.

Happy Autumn, everyone!!

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Upstate New York – Favorite Photos

School is in full swing and it’s officially Fall, but I am still in Summer mode. I am trying to catch up with all these little things that, if I don’t do now, will never get underway. This blog, the girls’ blog (a private one that I share with family), photo albums, cabinet organization (right?), closet organization, school paper organization, etcetera. Super dumb stuff, but necessary because given my OCD tendencies, it serves me best to just plow through and get it done. Otherwise = mental.

So…instead of going on and on about how awesome our family vaca was (which I’ve already mentioned several times), here are some of my favorite shots from our trip.

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Bull Calf

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This little guy gets his own post because he’s just so darn cute!

My cousin Darryl bought him from another cousin of ours, Travis, who also runs a dairy farm. One of my favorite things to do on the farm as a kid (I spent a lot of time at Aunt Betty’s in the summertime) was to visit the calves every day. They are timid, but also very curious, which makes for a very sweet combination.

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