The March List – HAWAII – 2017

Woo-hoo, it’s a bonus list for the month of March! There are so many things to tell you about our Hawaii trip that I had to make a separate list for it. For this visit, we also brought my mother-in-law, a world-traveler who has never been to Hawaii. It was fun deciding what parts of the island to show her. If only we had more time…

1) Of course my all-time favorite thing about Hawaii is seeing family. My Grandma (above) is 94 and the oldest member of our Hawaii clan (can I just say how much I love that she is holding a corn dog in this photo!?).

My mom and Auntie organized a family gathering while we were there, which is not an easy feat given how many of us there are. So many reminders that day of how very blessed I am to call these good people family and friends.

2) Whenever there’s a gathering, there’s always dessert and Auntie is an expert. She made one of my all-time favorites – haupia sweet potato pie – which is a layering of macadamia nut shortbread, Japanese purple sweet potato and haupia (made with coconut milk, cornstarch and sugar). The best.

The kids helped her make brownies, which looked so pretty in the muffin wrappers. She also made halo-halo, a Filipino fruity concoction and baklava, which was so ono (delicious) per usual. As they say in Hawaii…”broke da mouth!”.

3) One of the stops we made was to Punchbowl National Cemetery, which I hadn’t been to since probably high-school, maybe college. It was beautiful, with huge Chinese banyon trees and flush gravestones. Loved seeing all the mid-century modern architectural details, which Hawaii has a lot of.

And possibly what may be the prettiest bathroom building I ever did see.

4) Speaking of, I did make a conscious effort this time to take photos of more interesting buildings. Ala Moana shopping center, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (a Waikiki icon), and downtown Honolulu.

5) The most beautiful building we saw was the interior of the Bishop Museum, another place I haven’t been to since probably middle school or high school. Walking into the building is definitely a “wow” moment. I tried to take photos of it, but could not do it justice, so here’s a pic from their official website.

It was built with lava rock and koa wood, and my husband read somewhere that the building itself is worth more than the historical artifacts the building houses. Not surprised.

6) We went to several beaches. Family-friendly ones (not too many rocks, no big waves) mostly, since the girls are still small and learning how to swim. I hadn’t been to Lanikai Beach since… guessed it, high school or college, but I’d recently seen a photo my girlfriend took of her son there and it looked sooo pretty.

There are no bathrooms or parking lots (street parking only, which is difficult), but we made a pit stop beforehand and got there early enough to snag an awesome parking spot. After a short walk down an alleyway, the beach appeared and it was so much prettier than the picture.

White, sandy beaches as far as the eye can see and a couple small islands a kayak ride away (we didn’t go out to them, but many people did). The water was turquoise in the sun and the weather was perfect that day – hot with just enough trade winds to cool you down but not make you cold.

7) We went to Chinatown on Sunday, our first full day in Hawaii. So great to have my Mom come along as well (she hasn’t been out of the house lately, as she helps take care of Grandma).

I love all the shops with interesting medicinal herbs and candies and roots and vegetables. My mom almost bought some sugar cane for the girls to try, but decided not to. I remember tasting sugar cane a few times when I was little. It’s sweet, but such a concentrated sweet and also slightly bitter, if I remember correctly. The more you chew it, though, the better it tastes.

We had lunch at Long Life Noodle. Pepper steak, walnut shrimp (one of my favorites that is so bad for you! Battered deep friend shrimp tossed with mayonnaise and condensed milk. I mean, super gross. And fried, candied walnuts. The combo of flavors is to die for), noodles, beef broccoli and orange chicken. I love good Chinese food so much!

8) Even if you’ve only been reading bits and pieces of my blog, you probably already know I’m a huge fan of the pot sticker, gyoza, mandu, etc. You say dumpling, I say yes. My husband and I escaped for dinner one night to a new (new to us) restaurant, again in Chinatown called Lucky Belly.

They had a tasting dumpling special, so obviously I got that. One was lobster, one was ox tail and the other was….I don’t know, probably traditional pork. Since Grosse Pointe has turned me into a cocktail drinker, I ordered a vodka gimlet, heavy on the lime. Perfect with the flavorful dumplings.

9) My eight-year-old brought her piano books with her and actually did practice a few times. It was very touching to see her play on the now very, very old and wonky sounding antique German piano that I learned how to play on.

I found a place here in Detroit that restores old pianos and I looked into the cost off bringing it over, but it would be upwards of $20,000 to repair, so sadly that will not be happening. Glad my mom still has it, though, and that it’s still somewhat usable.

10) I love going through the photo albums at my mom’s house. I came across these gems. We don’t have very many photos of all four of us together. Now that I’m thinking about it, probably less than 10, maybe less than five? I especially love the vintage Hawaiian one. My Dad’s mixed patterns. Wonder what Tim Gunn would say about that.

11) Almost forgot to mention the miso butterfish. Another one of my faves and one fish dish besides fish and chips that the girls will eat! It’s really simple to make, though I’ve never made it myself. You can’t get butterfish in Grosse Pointe that I’m aware of, but I think it should work with cod. If I ever make  it and it turns out, I’ll share the recipe!

12) On the morning of our flight home, my mom showed the girls how to pick stephanotis blossoms and leaves and red ginger flowers for lei-making. My mom helped our little one string a lei while Auntie braided the other one’s hair. It was a sweet moment that I’m glad they had before they were whisked off for a long day of travel and our busy lives back home.

Such a great trip. Can’t wait for the next one.






The March List – 2017

April is here and has brought with it some beautiful Spring weather! I put away all our snow gear, so if we get another snowstorm before the start of summer, you know who to blame. Half of March was spent with family in Hawaii, and the other half was filled with these things…

1) Our dog Sam had surgery to get rid of cancer in his jaw bone. Half of his lower jaw is now completely gone, and as a result of surgery (Can’t remember specifics. Fatty tissue something or other), his left eye has rolled back into his head. So although he now looks super crazy, he’s still our good, sweet boy and we love him.

Recovery was hard, as he had to learn how to eat and drink with half a jaw and we are still changing towels under his water dish once a day (I’m guessing this will go on for the rest of his life). But at least he’s back to dry food in a bowl, because the hand-feeding took half and hour and the wet food would fly everywhere and fall out of his mouth and then he’d step in it and oh my goodness.

2) The girls made Get Well Soon cards for Sam and we taped them to his little display board by his food and water dishes. Translation: I want you to stay alive when you’re 100.

3) Last month I told you I made simple syrup for the first time. One of my favorite drinks to make with it is tequila, simple syrup, juice of one lime and a splash of Contreau. At the end of March, I made a batch of jalapeno syrup, which is delicious in a vodka gimlet.

4) When we were eating dinner one day, my husband spotted a large bird in the backyard. It stayed mostly motionless on the same branch for many minutes. We couldn’t figure out if it was a hawk or an owl or possibly an eagle (which we’ve seen in our backyard before just once) and we couldn’t get a closer look without scaring it, but the consensus after looking in the girls’ bird book is that it was a red-tailed hawk.

5) My mom bought us a new hallway light fixture from West Elm for Christmas, and we finally put it up this month.

6) Since I started the new job in November, I haven’t been at The Garden much, so it was really nice to see everyone and help out for a couple of hours at Detroit Abloom on volunteer day. Some friends from Wayne State came out to help do a big clean-up and we also weeded and lavender beds. Good for the soul on all accounts.

7) Speaking of the job, it is winding down, which is only to say that I have about two months left. The school auction is quickly approaching and one of the things our department had to do this month was narrow down the night’s menu. We went to a restaurant in St. Clair Shores called The Waves, that apparently used to have Hawaiian Don Ho-like music every weekend. I would have loved that.

8) Our book group book for the month was The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeny. It was such a great read. I loved that although it was lined with humor and mainly a light read, there were also heartfelt moments and most importantly, the prose was so well-written, so it felt like a good literary read. I highly recommend!

9) I’m now reading Tana French’s third novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series, Faithful Place, which also had really good prose, especially given the genre. Although the subject matter is dark and it is suspenseful, it’s not super creepy or too heavy/hard to handle. I also highly recommend!

10) Two days before we left for Spring Break, I went to the DAC (Detroit Athletic Club) with a couple gals in celebration of one of their birthdays. We got pedicures and massages and drank champagne. It was divine. Afterwards we met up with the guys for dinner. Their coffee service was so nice and came with a monogrammed teapot and fresh whipped cream. Yum.

Burma Superstar’s Sesame Chicken via Foodspotting

11) I have been jonesing for Asian food ever since we left Hawaii. It’s like I got my fix and now I need more. I want Eliza’s pot stickers! I want Burma Superstar’s sesame chicken! Usually when I get like this, a helping of Trader Joe’s pot stickers with some extremely spicy chili oil/vinegar/soy sauce/onion dipping sauce will do the trick, but I can’t seem to shake the craving this time.

12) When we drove to the airport on our way to Hawaii, it was snowing. So wonderful to go from that to seeing sun every day, not to mention family and friends.

So excited for this new month of Spring and all the beauty it will bring. Happy April!



How to Open a Coconut (Hawaiian Style)

If you’ve ever tried to open a coconut, you know it’s not an easy task. I remember when I first moved to San Francisco, I found a coconut in one of the small markets and was so excited that I bought it and took it home to eat.

After a couple tries with my chef knife and several more tries with a hammer, it did crack open, but when I finally managed to pick out all the shell from the meat, it was old, and kind of stale. Operation Open Coconut = Fail. Had this story taken place in Hawaii, the end result would have been completely different.

As it happens, our family spent the last 10 days visiting my family in Hawaii. We just got back yesterday and I am running on four hours of sleep (maybe) and the girls, who were miraculously able to sleep 10 hours straight last night, are going completely insanely bananas today of all days, please God make it stop. But I digress.

Growing up on Oahu, I had the luxury of eating fresh coconut all the time. Not only that, but I also had a Grandpa, Grandma, mom and auntie who would do all the work for me. #notspoiled

I’ve watched it go down millions of times, but it’s always good to get a refresher and during our recent trip, Auntie gathered us around and demonstrated the fine art of coconut cracking.

Before she got started, she recalled that Grandpa used to hold the coconut in one hand and whack it with a machete with the other hand, the way you take a nut out of an avocado. Oh my word. I remember his efficiency, but I don’t remember that specifically. Recommended for experienced coconut crackers only!

First, pick your coconuts. This is a key step. The best ones are somewhere between young and mature. How to know which is which? Zero idea. But who cares when you can just ask the man at Tamashiro Market to pick some out for you. Next, go outside. Could you do this in your kitchen? Sure, but why create extra work. Place the coconut on a newspaper for quick clean-up.

Grab your machete that’s been in your family for over 40 years and cut off any husk that’s sticking off the end of the coconut, allowing you to peel away the rest of the husk (which takes some effort).

After most of the husk is peeled, it’s easy to spot the line that runs around the coconut, separating it into almost even halves. This line usually intersects with the three eyes of the coconut. Interestingly, you want to cut the coconut across the main line or width-wise, rather than along the line or lengh-wise. I wasn’t paying attention at this point, because I was more interested in taking photos, so I have no idea why you do this.

If you’re like Grandpa or Grandma, you can tell which of the eyes is the weakest, in which case, you get a screwdriver and poke it and drain the coconut with very little spillage. If you’re like the rest of us, you skip that part and go straight to the whacking. Let out an “ahhh!” while you do it for effect. Plus, it just feels like the right thing to do.

As soon as the coconut splits (it should be a clean split, although not completely cut through, if you’ve done it correctly), hold it over a bowl to catch the water, which you will later freeze into ice cubes and use to add a touch of the tropics to your nightly vodka gimlet. After the water is drained, give it another good whack and voila. Two perfect halves.

Ask your mom with arthritic hands to cut the coconut up into small pieces. #sorry!! #harderthanitlooks Eat immediately. Or use in one of your favorite desserts. May I suggest a contemporary version of the traditional Filipino halo halo (which Auntie made) or haupia sweet potato pie (which Auntie also made), or use as a topping for yogurt (which I did do every day).

Finally, take a bunch of pictures of your freshly opened coconut because have you ever seen anything so magnificently white?

I love anything and everything coconut-related. Except maybe shaved ice, which tastes more like suntan lotion than coconut. But my favorite is a young-almost-mature coconut, freshly cut, preferably by a loved one, making it all the more delicious.




The February List – 2017


Hello, friends! I’ve not wanted to make a monthly list as much as I don’t want to make one now. Super busy at work, doggie troubles and so much to do before going on vacation in just shy of three weeks. But the list must go on.

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1) Food is always a good place to start and I am sooooo happy to report that I’ve mastered the recipe for Thai curry. Taking a virtual bow. I followed a recipe from my cookbook Simple Thai Food and tweaked it a few times (less fish sauce, less chicken stock, more curry paste, even more curry paste) to get it the way I like it.

It’s not San Francisco Thai restaurant quality, but it does beat out the local options we have here so I’ll take it. But it is a pain to make so there’s that.


2)  I keep finding Ken’s head in strange places. Here he is, under the kitchen table. I’ve found his body behind the dollhouse in my littlest’s room and his head was behind the dresser in her room the other day. You tell me.

paczki3)  Why is it that only this year I am hearing about paczki? Does everyone but me know what that is? It’s not something I ever had in Hawaii or California, but apparently you eat it around Mardi Gras and it has some kind of jelly-filled center, which sounds very unappealing to me, but I still feel like I need to try one just because.


In Hawaii we have malasadas, which I believe to be the most superior version of fried dough. I will confirm, once I’ve tried a paczki.


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4)  In December I met up with Kacy Johnson who is doing a fantastic portrait project, written up in Vanity Fair Italia and Huffington Post, called FEMALE, where she takes shots of women’s backs. I was her first Detroit photoshoot and she published the photo this month.

She had just moved from San Francisco to her home studio in Detroit, so we had that in common and she really was just a lovely person and as sweet as can be. Her dog Caju (cashew in Portuguese) kept us entertained. The shoot took all of two minutes. I thought it was a great experience. If you are in the Detroit area, she is still looking for subjects, no prerequisites, and I urge you to give her a call to participate.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset5)  Our big girl turned eight this month. We celebrated over the weekend on the most beautiful February day ever, thanks to global warming. It was nice to be outside for most of the day. I raked a bunch of leaves and dug up some plants and the girls played with the the new archery birthday gift from Grandma.


She chose to go to the Red Crown for dinner because she loves getting their milkshakes and burgers. I’m surprised more places around here don’t serve milkshakes.


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6)  As an early birthday present, my mother-in-law and I took the girls to see The Lion King at the Detroit Opera House. I’d never been inside the building and of course it was so beautiful and the play was so fun.


7)  We met up with our bowling group one evening at Marais. The idea was to eat in the bar area, but it was packed on this particular Friday night and there wasn’t room for all eight of us. I could go on and on about the horrible service, but I will just say that it took forever and a day to get us seated (there were about three other tables?) and we waited over an hour for food.

My small side order of french fries came out first and everyone was SO hungry by this point (10 o’clock?) that I passed it around we each had a few. However, the seafood platter was worth the wait. So fresh, so good. And by the time I had several bites of crab, shrimp and lobster in my belly, they were forgiven. But only just, so I hope they figure things out soon.

recipe-simple-syrup8) Speaking of margaritas (my friend across the table at Marais was drinking them that night), I finally made my own simple syrup! The thought of doing it was way more annoying than actually doing it, which was of course one of the easiest things I’ve ever made. It’s basically boiling water. I added ginger to the mix, to give it some zing, but I should have grated it more or left it in longer, because I can’t quite taste it.

I’ve had about five homemade vodka gimlets since then, some good some bad, and last night I made a margarita-ish version with tequila and Contreau. Perfection.

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9)  Speaking of vodka gimlets, I had one on my Valentine’s Day date at Chartreuse, still one of our favorites. The appetizers were delectable, the entree was…as expected and the desserts, exquisite. They added basil syrup to their vanilla pudding, an addition we didn’t love, but it was still so good. I’d go back just for the pudding.

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10)  I barely had time for the Garden this month, but I did manage to go down there for a couple hours one afternoon to help plant onion seeds. I enjoyed the short time I spent planting and hope that after things calm down at work, I can make it out there more often. #therapy


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11)  Our work team went on a field trip to scout potential event spaces for our live auction. One spot was a renovated (still in process) old factory building in Corktown and another was a design space called dPOP! in the historic Chrysler House downtown (Quicken Loans building now). One of the rooms is an actual bank vault, where we’re thinking about doing a wine tasting/happy hour event. Pretty cool.


12) Woo-hoo! Made it to the end of the list in record time! I leave you with this photo of my mom’s rose plant. I think it was taken last month or even earlier, but I’ve been thinking about Hawaii a lot because we are going for spring break – yippee!

Happy March, everyone!




Women’s March – Detroit


Borrowed sign from a fellow marcher. Wish I’d thought of it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was reluctant at first to attend the March. I didn’t know what to expect/I don’t like the unknown, I don’t like crowds and I don’t like negative/angry energy.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I knew I needed to go. For my girls, for my conscience. On top of that, I knew a handful of friends traveling to DC. The least I could do is drive 30 minutes to my local March. I reached out to my sister-in-law and asked if she was going and we made plans to meet up for coffee beforehand.


I left the house around 8:30am. It was a beautiful foggy morning.


I really hate driving on the freeway, so if I can ever avoid it, I do. I took Jefferson into Detroit and then some weird backroad route via my GPS. There weren’t a lot of cars on the road yet. I wish I’d stopped to take more photos of the city that morning.


After coffee at Shinola, we walked to Wayne State, where the march was set to begin. A bunch of people on the street were headed the same way.

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Not too long after we arrived, a full crowd had assembled in the square. A young gal heard us lamenting that we regretted not making signs, and she handed my sister-in-law an extra one she’d made that said, “keep your tiny hands off my rights.”  Soon one of the organizers made an announcement over the loud speaker and we began to march per her instructions.


I was impressed with the overall vibe of the March. People were laughing, enjoying others’ signage, smiling at each other, being courteous. Not once did it get ugly or violent in any way. There were mostly women, but there were also men, kids, babies, dogs.

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People honked and waved as they drove past. People in shops came out to watch and some cheered us on through their windows. You can barely see, but this is a shot of two folks in a window clanking cowbells.


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We marched for about an hour, following a U-shaped route around the campus.

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We passed the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library.

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And ended up back in the courtyard, where upbeat girl-power music was playing and people were dancing.

An estimated 4000 people showed up to the Detroit March. I wonder what that number would have been if all the people who were hesitant to show up didn’t show up. I wonder what it would have been like if all the people who wanted to show up did show up.

I marched in remembrance of the women who marched before me. I marched for little girls who will soon become women. I marched for my gay, lesbian and transgender friends. I marched for immigrants. I marched for the environment. I marched for science.

The challenge for a lot of us is going to be continuing to fight for our freedoms – calling senators/representatives (which I hate, hate doing), attending more marches and protests, donating to equal rights organizations, etc. If we believe that change needs to happen, we need to be part of the change.

Dan Rather, who has surprisingly emerged as one of the leaders of democracy on social media, says it perfectly: “Democracy is much more than just the right to vote. It is the duty to participate….you can’t forsake your voice and then complain about not being heard.”


The January List – 2017

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Happy 2017! Although if you’ve been keeping up with the national news, not so happy for a lot of us. Anyhoo… we’ve had a warm-ish January with almost no snow.

It finally snowed again last night and has been lightly snowing on and off all day. Like I always say, if it’s going to be cold, let’s get some snow up in here. It makes the cold bearable.


1)  I was so happy to attend the Women’s March Detroit on the 21st. I was considering not going, but ultimately needed to do it for my kids.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anyone in town who was going, so I checked in with my sister-in-law, who wanted to go. It was such a positive and invigorating experience and I felt very proud to be there. I took a bunch of pictures and will share them all in the next post.

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2)  After the March, we went to The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown for lunch. I have been dying to go – Detroit Abloom sells our flowers there and I’d just heard it was a cool spot. It’s smaller than I pictured, but it was packed with plenty of goods, all made in Michigan. I had a salad and a yogurt cup with chia, and also picked up a jar of marinara. Love Ouizi’s murals. If you don’t know her work, give her a Google.

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3)  Our sweet boy turned 11 on the 6th. The girls made cards for him and we sang Happy Birthday and gave him a Kong toy filled with peanut butter, carrots and celery.


4)  And then….this weekend we found out he has a tumor in his mouth, which had to be operated on right away, which happened to be yesterday. We are still awaiting biopsy results, but it doesn’t look good.

He is never allowed on the couch, but after some begging from me (and the dog), my husband agreed to let him rest off his surgery on the couch, where he is now with our little one, who is also resting after 24 hours of the stomach flu, oh my gosh.

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5)  My husband went to a sausage-making party (indeed) at the beginning of the month and came home with a ton of deliciousness, some of which I sauteed with marinara sauce and a heavy dose of cream because cream. I did pour the concoction over zucchini noodles, so there.


6)  Winter sunrises are always the prettiest. Or maybe it’s because I’m up too late in the summers to see them? I can never capture their magnificence on film, but here they are, anyway, to give you an idea.

7)  I started yoga again. Ouchy.


8)  For Martin Luther King Jr day, the girls and I talked about acceptance, appearances and kindness. We did an art project together inspired by quotes from Dr. King. I haven’t been very good at things like this (projects in general) lately, but it was really fun and they really got the point of it.

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9)  The Garden Detroit held a board meeting this month at Tom and Nancy’s house. We’re never all in the same space that often, so it’s always nice when we are. At the end of the meeting, we started talking about moringa trees, which got us talking about moringa seeds and then Nancy brought some out for all of us to try.

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I do not recommend eating moringa seeds. The taste is a heavy sweetness paired with a very tannic bitterness. Kind of like eating mud mixed with corn syrup mixed with gasoline mixed with dog food? And the aftertaste stays with you for a loooong time. They are supposed to be incredibly healthy for you, loaded with vitamins A and C, iron, protein, calcium and potassium. Pretty impressive, but still.

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10)  I have been wanting to check out Wright and Co, a now not-so-new spot in downtown Detroit. We stopped in after dinner with friends one night for drinks and dessert. It was packed. Fun atmosphere, somewhat noisy and the couple plates we tried were yummy.

Detroit’s culinary scene continues to boom. It’s a great time to be here. Oh and haven’t you heard? Detroit was recently named as the number 9th best place to go in 2017 by the New York Times. So come visit! img_3062-768x1024 11)  Work at the school is picking up, as we are gearing up for the annual auction. I went with our team to edmond t. Ahee Jewelers (everyone here just says Ahee) to pick out pieces for the live auction. Besides the beautiful jewelry, there was a treat and coffee station at the back of the store, which apparently is always stocked. Super cute. And tasty.

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12)  I’ve been on a murder mystery kick, as I think I mentioned last month. I asked for recommendations and my friend Deanna said author Tana French, which coincidentally I had written down as a maybe on my book list, so I borrowed “The Likeness” from the library.

It’s the second in her Dublin Murder Squad series, but I was reluctant to read the first, as the subject matter is very dark – dead children, the deep dark woods, etc. I’m halfway through and the writing is really good, especially for a plot-driven genre, and the characters are interesting and complex.

I leave you with a joke that our 5-year-old came up with one morning…
Q: What is a ghost’s favorite body part?
A: Boooobs!

Have a great February, all!