The September List – 2017

Fall weather has finally kicked in, after a four-day heatwave with temps in the high 80s. I loved it. What I usually do to get these lists started is look at the photos I’ve taken for the month. Basically this month I’ve taken photos of flowers, which I’ve already shared with you. Soooo….I’m fresh out of ideas. This should be interesting.

1)  I told you about my new camera, but let’s go into detail. It’s a Sony a6000 with an E 50mm/1.8 oss lens, whatever that means. I trusted my friend’s photographer friend’s recommendation and just went with it. At first, it was very frustrating, not knowing all of the hundreds of different options. And I still don’t know them, but I’ve figured out how to at least take a decent photo with some tweaking of shutter speeds and aperture and all of that.

2)  I also bought the Adobe Elements photo editing program that I’ve been playing around with. It’s definitely more intuitive than Photoshop, but is going to take some figuring out, but I am hopeful.

3)  My dahlia garden is in full bloom, having loved the burst of sunshine we got last week. The best light is early evening, which is when this photo was taken.

4)  One of my last great summer homemade meals was this fettucine dish with peas, spinach, parmesan cheese and cream. The only thing that would have made it better is more cream and bacon.

5)  So now I am in charge of my work’s Instagram account. So I feel like I’m constantly taking and editing photos, which is great but also not great, because it leaves me with less time to take the photos I want to take. Thankfully, the other staff and teachers take loads of photos, so I need to rely on them more for images and just edit them.

6)  Over the summer I made some tweaks to my office, since I was going to be spending a lot more time there due to my increased hours. I took out two of the three desks and replaced one with a standing table. I keep forgetting to take an “After” photo, but here’s the before.

I did a LOT of spraying and wiping and vacuuming, you’d think there was a homeless person was living behind that desk. I managed to get some of the dust out, but since it’s an old building, some of it just will not budge.

7)  I still have a few vegetables in my little raised bed in our backyard. The chard is still looking good and there’s a little bit of kale. And a few carrots are hanging around, but no one cares to pick them because we all know they are super small and somewhat bitter, although very carrot-y tasting.

8)  I planted some of the nasturtium seeds from Shirley’s visitation. One in my stone bunny planter and the others near my vegetables. I’ve never planted them before and they grew easily, even with my neglected care.

9)  I replanted the hydrangea Shirley gifted me and I was SO nervous that it wouldn’t take well to its new and shadier surroundings. But I remember her telling me that one of the ways to learn about plants is to just try it. And if they die, then you try again, so I knew it wouldn’t upset her if moving it turned out to be a mistake.

It dropped a lot of leaves in the first month and for a while I thought I was going go lose the plant, and then in the last month or so, it decided to live, and even blossom. It still looks sparse, and this photo was taken when it was really cold outside, so the leaves are tight and look shriveled, but I’m hoping next year it will come back strong.

10)  My girlfriend hosted her annual mom’s back to school night, complete with champagne, donuts, craft cocktails and other fancy treats. I loved summer so much, but there is a giddy feeling that comes over me when the kids go back to school. Not as giddy as in past years, because this year it also means me heading into work vs. staying in my pjs and working from home, but exciting nonetheless.

11)  Our youngest turned six this month. It was the first birthday where I didn’t make the cake or cupcakes. I didn’t feel in the least bit bad about buying a store-bought cake, but I did sort of like the bragging rights of always making my kids’ cakes. Ah well. Local restaurant Marais did a really nice job on the two cakes (couldn’t decide between coconut and chocolate, so of course had to get both). They were a pretty penny, but so much tastier than another bakery would have done.

12) I can’t believe I made it to number 12! Just finished my third Tana French book, Broken Harbor. It was sooooo good. The ending got a little drawn out, but since the rest of the book was so great, I’m only taking off a half star for that. If you love crime fiction, you must give her a try.

I will close by saying that being a working mom with three jobs (I’m not even kidding, I am still doing payroll for my husband, freelance writing on my day off and on the weekends, and working for the school) is completely nuts. Nevermind that we don’t have a cleaning lady like everyone else in town so add that to the list of thing to do on my “off” hours, which is so dumb b/c I’m never off the clock, really.

However, I remain insanely grateful, even guilty, for being able to do all these great things like buy cakes and drink champagne and work in an office with million-dollar views and complain about cleaning my five bathrooms in my beautiful house that is still standing. Have been thinking a lot about all the tragedy around the world, and it’s even making its way into my dreams. Sending good wishes to all of you this crisp fall day. Happy October!

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Dahlias and Then Some

The dahlias at Detroit Abloom and also my house (yippee!) are exploding with blooms.

I was concerned that the one sunny spot in my backyard wasn’t sunny enough for them, but most of the tubers I planted have survived and are going to produce flowers.

Some, however, got nibbled on by bunnies or aren’t getting enough sun and aren’t going to make it. I haven’t cut the plants down on these because you aren’t supposed to take the tubers out of the ground until late fall, early winter, and if I cut the plant down, I won’t know exactly where to dig, even with a marker.

However, this morning I noticed several evil beetles eating the leaves of my precious Cafe au Lait variety and my heart sank. I killed it of course, but I’m sure another one took its place soon afterwards. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s pretty eaten up. Still so lovely.

I’m obsessed with this variety, because of its pale pink, creamy color. In all their stages, they are stunning. And you never know what you’re going to get color-wise until the bud opens, which is always exciting.

The most perfect Cafe I got was this one (also the close-up first photo). No bugs, beautiful blush color and crazy huge.

Just this week I’ve had five Cafe buds open and I spent a zillion hours photographing them with my new camera. Speaking of new camera, some of these flower photos are slightly out of focus and no, this isn’t on purpose. I’m determined to shoot in manual mode (vs auto), so it’s going to take me a while to figure it all out.

I have at least two purple varieties, one in the front and one in the back. A bunch of the ones I planted were unknowns, as in most cases, when they were digging up tubers at the end of last season, weren’t sure what was what. This year they have a much better labeling system in place, but it IS kind of fun not knowing what you’re going to get.

I can’t remember the variety of the flower in the first photo (Lavender Ruffles?) but the second one is a Vassio Meggos.

I visited Detroit Abloom and the Hoop House (also Detroit Abloom, but a different property) last week with the intention of volunteering, but ended up mostly admiring and taking photos of the flowers.

Their dahlia garden is insane, as you can imagine.

These two are seed dahlias, the bottom photo called Black Beauty.

Aside from the Cafe au Lait, one of my favorites is the cosmos. I love the white ones, and am also a fan of the cupcake cosmos (last photo above).

Other flowers in bloom are Morning Glory,

Japanese anemone,

Zinnias, celosia and a bunch more. There are a few weeks left in our CSA bouquet program. I’m surely going to miss getting mine every week.

The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom is having our annual fundraiser next weekend on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm to 7pm, so if you are in the area, please come by! For details Click Here. And if you can’t come, you can still make a donation online.

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The August List – 2017

I feel like I say this every month, but this has been the busiest month of the year by far.

Not counting the awesome vacation we took to upstate New York, which I failed to post about save for one photo last month. sigh I do hope to post a New York list, but in case I don’t get around to it, know that it was amazing. We swam, we read, we played, we gathered, we had pie on my grandmother’s plates. What could be better.

But I press on. I must not fail “The List,” even if it is fast and furiously put together.

1)  This photo pretty much sums up my August. It’s blurry because top secret holiday catalog information, but welcome to my world. Coffee. Eating meals as I stand and type. And papers everywhere. Apropo because that’s how my brain feels.

After landing a couple of freelance writing gigs, I was asked to take on more responsibility and hours at my job at the school. GAH. I am not complaining. I am grateful. So grateful. BUT. Momma needs a cocktail.

2)  Speaking of cocktails, my friend Renee, cocktail maker extraordinaire, whipped up a version of the to die for concoction we enjoyed at Detroit City Distillery. It consisted of a mixture of mango habanero and lavender simple syrups and couple other secret ingredients and it was soooooo good.

And aren’t we so healthy with our sliced veggies, but this is before I asked her to please go get the Chex Mix already.

3)  We had peaches at The Garden! Last year we were only able to enjoy a handful, as many succumbed to disease or an animal of some sort. This season we had a whole bunch and I made peach cobbler with blueberries. Happy happy.

4)  There was a meet and greet on Belle Isle for the Detroit women who participated in the FEMALE photo project. I’m so very glad I went, as I get so nervous about these things. But it was just lovely.

I think I was the oldest one there which…not that it matters really, but I’m usually NOT the oldest person there, so I took note, but anyway I loved being surrounded by all the positive energy. We’re going to try and make it a monthly or bi-monthly thing. I’m in.

FEMALE photographer and meeting organizer Kacy brought a bunch of rose (too lazy to make accent over the E) single serves she found at Trader Joe’s and guess what? They were pretty stinking great! And I love the can’s shape.

5)  We viewed the eclipse the old fashioned way (thanks to my husband, otherwise we would’ve had nothing) and it was actually pretty cool and very fun.

Noticed all the trippy shadows, but it didn’t cross my mind  to take a photo. I’m so bummed about that, but those make the best memories, right?, where you are just in the moment.

6)  I love all the murals at Eastern Market, especially in early evening when the shops have closed and the sun is going down. I keep meaning go down there one day for the sole purpose of taking photos, but it hasn’t happened.

I did made a quick pit stop at Detroit City Distillery after boxing one night (because now that I am a cocktail snob, I need to only drink very expensive vodka) and got a couple pics.

7)  Our Rose of Sharon plant exploded with blossoms this month, as it always does in late summer. The only way to enjoy it is out my daughter’s bedroom window or by walking to the side of the garage. I could cut off some branches to bring them inside, but they don’t last long in a vase. Beauties.

8)  My dahlias from Detroit Abloom have begun to open and they are gorgeous. I wasn’t sure how they would fare in the backyard because we don’t get much sun, (and admittedly some plants will not produce flowers), but I am pleasantly surprised at how well they are doing.

Also admittedly, I don’t love orange flowers (I’m sorry, nature! I’m working on it!), and a few of the dahlias I have are orange (many of the tubers I planted were marked “unknown” variety, long story).

And yes, they are pretty, too, in their own right, and to spite me they look extra pretty in this photo, but the Cafe au Laits are just magnificent. Wait until you see the latest one (which I picked yesterday, which was technically September, so it doesn’t belong here).

9)  The beekeeper who takes care of the hives at The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom held a fundraiser this month. It was at the Detroit City Distillery warehouse (can’t seem to get away from that place), which is housed in the old Stroh Ice Cream building. Which by the way if you haven’t read “Beer Money” it’s a really interesting read.

It was very loud, so it was hard to hear Brian’s speech, but the parts I did hear were fascinating. Bees are amazing. Please support them in any way you can!

10) I forgot to bring my book one day to the Yacht Club. Luckily, my 3rd grader brought hers and it was not a Rainbow Fairy or Geronimo Stilton, but this one about a boy who rents a room at a house where miniature dragons come to life. I only got a few chapters in (girls still not great swimmers, so I have to keep an eye out) and now the book has been returned to the library, but I do hope to finish it some day, it had potential.

11)  I finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” this week and I highly recommend. Take a little while to get into if you don’t know your Russian political history, but it was intelligent and wonderfully written and the characters are deep and fleshed out. Story line is interesting as well. I wondered how such a long book could be based in one very centralized location, but the author tackles that issue with ease. Bravo.

12)  Woo-hoo! I did it! Number 12. On a more somber note, my heart is with Houston and the surrounding areas and states affected by Harvey. Our girls have been so fortunate, so it is difficult to explain certain things, but we talked about it quite a bit and at my suggestion they made cards for some of the families.

If you have not yet donated, please consider it. There are many local organizations who will make sure your money 100% goes to helping Harvey victims specifically. One being www.legacycollective.org (a sorority sister’s organization).

Over and out, August! Sorry you got the shaft. It’s not you, it’s me. Happy September! Back to school yeesssssss!

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Flowers of Detroit Abloom – Part II

The busier I get, the more I want to get done, even if it has nothing to do with why I’m busy in the first place, if that makes any sense. Clearing my plate, clearing my mind, doing things that I’ve been meaning to do, but haven’t gotten around to yet, like this post.

Detroit Abloom has had such an exciting season this year, its second year. I’ve only been able to volunteer about once a week, compared to 2-3 times a week last year, but I am grateful for the time I do get to spend at the garden.

Some of the new varieties growing this year are lisianthus (upper pic), pink and yellow and straw flowers (just above), whose petals literally feel like straw.

And pink and white calla lilies. Beautiful pops of color in a bed of deep green leaves.

I think we may have had sweet pea flowers last year, but certainly not in the quantities we had this year. This bouquet was made from the last harvest. I was sad to see them go.

The sunflowers are exploding this year.

The prettiest, fluffiest gladiolas in town.

The lavender plants are just stunning in full bloom. And their scent is magnificent.

Butterflies love the liatris.

And the zinnias are always happy and bright.

The most spectacular bloom I’ve seen so far this year has to be this chocolate sunflower. Pretty in a picture, but in person it was just wow.

If I’m at the farm on harvest day, I waste so much time taking photos. It’s hard not to.

And the result of harvest day, beautiful bouquets.

I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying the flowers around your city, town, neighborhood and your own backyard. If you’re curious about flower farming, there may be a farm nearby that you aren’t even aware of. Some online digging will help unearth these hidden gems, where you can volunteer your time, purchase local flowers (or produce) and get to know some wonderful people. Be well, friends!

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The July List – 2017

It’s August tomorrow – whaaaat!? First of all, I am writing this while on vacation in upstate New York, although you would hardly know it was a vacation because I have been working the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there. What I was starting to say is that I’m sitting here after having spent a restless nights’ sleep, a morning berry picking (how many squats did I do looking for those darn raspberries?), an afternoon in the sun and now I’m sipping Prosecco (recommended by the woman at the local liquor shop), which is surprisingly “not too sweet” as I had requested.

Current view.

SO. Please excuse any typos or ramblings or anything that plain just doesn’t make sense because I am running on empty and also relaxed, if one can be both at the same time.

1)  July went by crazy fast. I wouldn’t even know what happened if I didn’t have photos to look at. Fourth of July weekend was really exciting for us this year because it was the first year our littlest was able to stay awake long enough to see the fireworks show. We walked down Lake Shore Boulevard and found a nice spot. I sipped on my homemade craft cocktail, while the girls chased fireflies.

2)  We spent the 4th with family by the pool (not ours). The hammock is always a big hit, although not with me. I’m not a big hammock lover, although I do like the idea of it, but whenever I get in it, I find it uncomfortable and not soothing.

3)  My little vegetable garden that is somewhat neglected did well by way of lettuce, kale and sweet peas (although something ate the bottom of the plant in the second row so they all died. Weird).

My green onions were better than last year, but still very scraggly, and the carrots actually look decent, but we pulled one up and it was so small. Can still eat the greens, though.

4)  The onions at The Garden Detroit, however, are gorgeous. We planted several varieties and they are all delicious.

And I just cannot get enough of our curly kale. My favorite thing is to eat it raw with some cheese (any kind will do, but feta or goat cheese are my favorite kale combos) homemade super-tangy vinaigrette.

5)  The fam stopped at Mike’s on the Water one Saturday afternoon for lunch. I’d been there before, but it has been a couple years. It was packed, so the wait was long. Thankfully there was good people-watching, so I was able to amuse myself. It’s not a place I’d go for the food, but definitely a spot I’d go back to for a casual drink by the water.

6)  Speaking of water, I’ve spent a good chunk of time at the Yacht Club pool, due to swimming lessons (for the girls) and sometimes just to hang out and enjoy the weather.

One Sunday afternoon, I was able to get some significant reading done, while my husband was with the girls in the water. I haven’t been able to really read by the pool in years, so it was amazing. I’m still in a suspense phase, so I was reading “The Widow” by Fiona Barton. I enjoyed it. Good writing, interesting characters and not too creepy.

7)   My book group has taken somewhat of a summer hiatus from committed reading, but we are still getting together once a month, which has been nice. There is always food and wine. Because can you have a book group without food and wine? If you can, I want no part in it.

8) I started doing freelance writing for my first local client (woo-hoo!) Ahee Jewelers, a local shop that has been family run for 70 years. I’m always happy to stop by because it is a beautiful space, not to mention the refreshments table. And no I don’t always take a cookie, but sometimes I do.

9)  On a particularly stressful day, I was at The Garden Detroit headquarters (our Directors’ home) and the flower farm gals let me partake in their succulent jewelry-making. Oh my gosh. You guys, it is just so unique and pretty and so wow. This is the one I made using both dried flowers and tiny succulents. How can your stress level not go down after making something like this, right?

10)  I made my first official Detroit Abloom bouquet this month. The process was at first intimidating, but ultimately fun, as I slowly got the hang of it. Working with flowers is so balancing, I feel.

11)  I won’t even go into my three haircuts I had this month. One of which I did myself because I wanted edgy and got soccer mom and I really, really didn’t want soccer mom, so I had to do edgy myself. I have to say that on my way to get my DIY haircut evened out, I got a compliment from a clerk at Trader Joes (good ole TJs). She loooved my hair. So there.

And no, that’s not me in the photo clearly, but I figured you’d much rather see a picture of my daughter dancing as the sun goes down.

12)  I went to the Detroit City Distillery for the first time as part of a girls’ night out. It had a good vibe and the drinks were delicious. Our bartender was great and made me a drink based on what I told her I liked. It was perfect.

That’s a wrap. Enjoy your August!

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The June List – 2017

Beignets from the truck at Eastern Market. A summertime favorite.

It’s officially summer! I’m so happy for predictably hot weather and al fresca dining and lazy days.

1.  My baking instincts always kick in during the summer. Probably because of all the fresh fruit available, which makes me want to eat shortcakes and scones and pies. A quiche is always a great place to stash all the fresh produce I get from The Garden. Our chard was beautiful this year and I love Deborah Madison’s saffron quiche recipe.

My friend Julia went to the Ann Arbor farmer’s market and brought back a flat of strawberries for me. The girls helped me chop up the berries and I made our first strawberry shortcakes of the season. The Michigan strawberry season is pretty much over now, but that won’t stop me from making more shortcakes over the summer with store-bought organic berries.

And then at the bottom of the freezer I found the last of our New York-picked blueberries, so I made scones and tried a batch with strawberries, which came our really yummy.

2.  At the Garden this month, we had beautiful speckled and romaine lettuces, which have now all gone to seed, though I have a few leaves left in the fridge.

And also garlic scapes, the flower of a garlic plant that you cook and eat pretty much like you do garlic – stir fries, egg scrambles, pizza, whatever. I like them grilled.

3.  In our own little vegetable garden, we enjoyed a few peas and lots of mixed lettuce greens. The kale is still going strong and we’re hoping the carrots will be ready to pick in a couple of weeks. The green onions look very scraggly and sad, but they look a lot better than the ones I planted last year, which ultimately did not make it.

4.  The rhododendrons I cut back too far two years ago are finally coming back! They were beautiful this year and look healthy and happy. Our azaleas were also abundant this year.

5.  I still want to try growing peonies, but there are only a few spots in our yard that are sunny enough and those spots are full now with dahlias from Detroit Abloom.

They are doing well, but the bunnies keep eating the leaves and I’ve run out of netting and truthfully too lazy to go out and get more, so I’m just hoping for the best on the unprotected ones.

Back to peonies. I found some on my walk one morning growing along the side of someone’s house, which I thought was such a waste of beauty because they were tucked in a pedestrian alley that not many people walk along. Maybe the owners come out and pick them to enjoy inside. I hope so because they were gorgeous.

6.  It’s also spider season and we have a contract with a spider spray company, but they haven’t come by this year, so I don’t know what’s up with that. My Dad and his wife were here for a visit this month and we got to talking about brown recluse spiders, so whenever I see one in the house, I’m convinced it’s a brown recluse that is just waiting for an opportunity to bite me.

For sure there is a huge one in our basement, that lives at the bottom of the stairs. I would vacuum it up, but I’m afraid it will A) make a home in the vacuum dust bin and bite me when I go to empty it or B) I won’t be able to catch it and then it will be angry that I tried to catch it, making it vengeful and therefore out to get me.

7.  I’ve been going to weekly classes at Jabs Gym, which I’ve mentioned here before. I’m not a big sweat-er, but I always leave that class a hot sweaty mess.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I recently discovered that I pretty much can’t do jumping jacks anymore without peeing myself. Or jump squats. Or high knees. Getting older is so amazing! Reading glasses, peeing myself in cardio boxing, and finding several white hairs on my head (which I’ve never had except one strange time in my 20s) – all in a matter of weeks!

There’s a motto written on the wall, which I reworded to make my own.

If I take an earlier class, I always stop downstairs at Beyond Juice and treat myself to a Mango Tango smoothie and sometimes their cashew ball cookies.

8.  Anyhoo. Have you seen the curtains in our master bathroom!? If not, here they are in all their handbag glory. Before you start thinking I’ve lost my mind, they were left behind by the previous owners of the house. I used to hate them, but am now quite attached to them.

9.  My friend Kacy invited me to her husband Arlin’s (www.arlingraff.com) mural reveal party in West Village. He’s painted murals around the world, but this is his first Detroit mural.

The painting is really cool and is a lively addition to the small strip of businesses on the street (including the well-known Sister Pie). It sits on the wall of Detroit Body Garage, where I just took a class yesterday. If you are in the area, check it out!

A home in West Village.

10.  The following week I met up with Terra, owner of Detroit Body Garage, to talk about bringing a group of volunteers to the Garden. I walked her back to her apartment and then just took an hour to myself to have coffee and sit, an experience I rarely allow myself anymore.

Red Hook coffee is a cute little shop with great baked goods (I’m picky and most things elsewhere are too sweet) and their coffee is good. I got a lavender syrup shot, which they make in-house, in my macchiato, which was interesting, but I’m a traditionalist when it comes to coffee, so I probably wouldn’t get it again.

Across the street is beautiful mural by Detroit artis Ouizi. It’s a lovely thing to look at when you’re taking a minute for yourself.

11.  Coincidentally, the next day a group of us went to dinner at Craft Work, which is right next door to Red Hook. My husband and I had never been and we enjoyed the ambiance. Food was good, but you had to know what to get, which we didn’t. My appetizers were delicious, but I should have gotten the burger, which I’ve heard is fantastic, instead of the polenta, which was a little tasteless and dry.

12.  In mid June, my husband and I went to a white party fundraiser for an organization that throws celebration-of-life parties for kids who are terminally ill. There were many touching presentations and our table bid on a bunch of things and we came home with this painting, which is a little crazy, but I love it.

Tonight is the local fireworks display. Not sure if the little one will be able to stay up late enough, but we’re going to try. Hope all you good people have a great July 4th holiday and continue to enjoy your summer!

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