The June List – 2020

June was hot and sunny and just as summer should be. Aside from the pandemic still hovering over us and dictating what we can and can’t do.

1) The Yacht Club pool opened for reservations and we decided to check it out. It was actually pretty great. Guaranteed seats, no one sitting too close to you, no pressure to make small talk or socialize. I loved it.

2) You can see my June read in the first pic. It’s another Brad Meltzer book. Not my normal genre, but I’ve now read three of his books in the last few months. I think it’s because I don’t have to think too hard. It’s plot-driven, although it’s not just plot – the characters are decent. It’s like watching an action/suspense movie. I can completely tune out and wind down to it.

Speaking of book, I don’t have a photo (why!?! It was such a beautiful night in a beautiful setting – my girlfriend’s backyard and her new outdoor fireplace), but my book group met for the first time in a long time. I think since February. It was so nice.

3) Happened on the last day of May, but I didn’t post about it….my high school class held a virtual 30TH (!!!!) reunion. Because most people were in Hawaii, we started at 10pm Michigan time (although one of us beamed in from Africa at 5am, so he wins), so I was super sleepy and logged off by midnight, though the gathering was still going strong.

What I can say about my high school friends is probably what most people say about their college friends. It was like picking up a favorite book.

4) I’ve been keeping up my walks (yippee!), although it’s been harder to do so as the weather gets warmer. I could get up an hour earlier to beat the heat, but then I’d have to get up an hour earlier.

I look forward to seeing these peonies every year. They are in an alley of sorts and I’m not sure if anyone tends to them, but they were planted with care for sure and are absolutely beautiful. I love watching them evolve.

5) My podcast pick of the month is hands down Caliphate. It follows journalist “Rukmini Callimachi, who covers terrorism for The New York Times, on her quest to understand ISIS.” At first, I found her voice annoying, but as it quickly became clear how much of an all-around badass she is, I stopped being annoyed and listened in awe instead.

In researching the summary of the podcast just now, I see that she won a Peabody award for it and I’m not surprised.

6) I did another small photo shoot for The Corner Studio. The girls were so sweet and cute and photographing all the outfits made me want to buy all the clothes (I did end up buying some python print leggings and a sweatshirt).

7) I never did share photos I took of the newly renovated Red Crown, a family restaurant in Grosse Pointe Park. I photographed their grand opening (they’d been closed for renovations), but just a couple days later, the state shut down. They are open again, but at half capacity and of course with Covid rules in place.

Covid or no Covid, the space is cool and inviting and the food I sampled from their new menu was yummy, too. I hear they’ve blocked off their parking lot to allow for more outdoor, socially-distanced seating. If you are in the area, stop by!

8) I am still devouring puzzles. This was one of two I did this month. It was the first one that’s somewhat frustrated me. I enjoy a good challenge, but solid colors (or slight variations on one color) is not the kind of challenge I am up for. It completely drove me crazy and I was relived to be done vs. satisfied.

9) On the opposite side of the dining table, my 11-year-old daughter worked on her own puzzle, and this is how she does it. OMG. My husband says she might purposely NOT lay the pieces out because I am so adamant about laying the pieces out, but I’m not so sure. It might just be her. For the longest time she didn’t do the borders first either, but at least she’s taken my advice (whether holeheartedly or reluctantly) on that one.

10) I went to the salon! It was amazing! I had an appointment scheduled in March, just days before they shut down for Covid. I hadn’t cut or colored my hair since October, so it was much needed. My hair has not looked as good since that day because I can never recreate what it is they do to it. Still. Worlds better than it was. Although now with all the sun I’ve had, the caramel is starting to look more tangerine, but I pretend not to notice.

11) After two years of saying that I should get the outdoor bench cushion reupholstered, I got it done. I didn’t take a before photo and I don’t feel like digging around for one, but trust me, this version is a nice improvement. The old cushion was striped with mostly oranges and yellows. It was fine, just outdated. Also, I love ferns so much.

12) I don’t love poetry. As a kid and young adult, I sometimes wrote poems as a creative and mental outlet, but even then I didn’t especially enjoy reading other people’s poems. In spite of that, I picked up a library copy of “The Poems of Octavio Paz” at the suggestion of a friend after a brief Facebook discussion on classic literature.

I wish I could read Spanish – the copy I borrowed showed the Spanish version, followed by the translated version, which I really liked having, even though I can’t understand Spanish), because part of the beauty of poetry is reading the actual words and the placement and flow of the words. But, the translator did quite a good job at relaying the feel of the poems.

Did this awaken a love of poetry I didn’t know I had? No. I still don’t like poetry. However, it broadened my knowledge of a prolific and talented creator, one that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. His poems are thoughtful (meaning it’s apparent how carefully he thought through them – what to say and how to say it) and full and there is a sensuality to even the ones that are not sensual. I found his poems to be….well, poetic. Which many poems in my opinion are not.

As an adult, I don’t always enjoy reading or learning outside of what I find interesting. But it’s a practice that always serves me well when I do it. I hope to continue opening my mind to new and different things outside of my comfort zone. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too. It definitely takes effort, but once you get your feet wet, who knows what you’ll discover about the world or yourself. Here’s to a new month, and hoping it brings some positivity and inspiration to  all.

The May List – 2020

I don’t know why I wait until I’m crazy tired to begin writing these lists. My brain is emotionally and intellectually spent, so it will be interesting to see what I recollect for the May list.

1) I’ve been taking more walks, some of which have turned into walk/runs. I usually take the same paths, more or less. Still making attempts to see the neighborhood  with a different lens.

The walks have helped not only my mental state, as I can more comfortably fit some of my summer clothes. Although I have relented somewhat into trying to conform to my younger body shape and ordered some new (aka not so freaking tight) styles, including a pair of white pull-on jeggings, which are pretty much maternity jeans. Amazing!

2)  The baby robins hatched and fled their nest in our clematis (which is gorgeous this year, by the way). I inadvertently helped them leave one day as I moved in to take a closer look. They peeped at me and all of a sudden one of the squawked and darted out of the nest, fluttering down to the ground.

As soon as that happened, mom and dad rushed in from a tree nearby and there was much fluttering about and then the sibling jumped out and that was that. They hopped about, looking at me like….hi. what now. Ay carumba. I am sorry, little ones! I wish you well.

3)  I was asked to do a photoshoot for one of the high school seniors whose photos I took last year. She and her friend celebrated prom together, so the shoot was for both of them. They were so lovely and ethereal. Raise your hand if you were this beautiful in high school!?! Crickets everywhere.

4)  Aaaaand that shoot got me a few minutes of airtime the local (Detroit) news station, thanks to my girlfriend Kathy, whose reporter friend was looking for feel-good stories. It was a sweet piece about the girls, who were making the most of quarantine and still celebrating pivotal moments (like prom, graduation, etc.).

5)  And after watching myself on television, I realized just how much I missed my hair dresser and dermatologist. Please for the love of the land. The governor says hopefully by July 4th, salons will be open. I have not had a salon visit since OCTOBER. I’ve been growing out my hair and had an appointment scheduled in mid-March, exactly the date they closed. Hot mess.

6)  My podcast this month was The Teacher’s Pet, a podcast released in 2018 about an unsolved disappearance (assumed murder) in Australia. I was telling my girlfriend who is from there (and who subsequently also loves true crime podcasts) how much I enjoyed all the different Australian accents. There is actually a trial going on right now, which may result in a conviction.

I’m going to tune in to more stories from The Australian, if only for more of the accents.

7)  My puzzle this month was sooooo challenging. I didn’t realize how difficult this one would be when I bought it. All the roots and leaves, oh my.

8)  My husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary this month. We ordered out from one of our favorite local spots, Bucci (the artichoke appetizer! The shrimp pasta!) and ate in the dining room while the girls ate in the family room and watched a movie. It was really nice. We talked about making it a regular thing, but we’ve yet to do it again.

9)  Our 11-year-old has been on a baking kick lately and she made yogurt cake that evening, not especially for our anniversary (so she says), but because she just felt like it. We all had some for dessert with homemade whipped cream (which I made) and strawberries and it was delicious.

10)  That day (of our anniversary dinner), I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook page about her having cleaned her chandelier. It looked so nice. So of course I had to also clean mine, which was a painstaking undertaking. But wow, the difference! First pic you can see the few rectangles that I polished compared to the other dusty ones. And yes, I hand massaged ALL of those suckers.

11)  I finished the book “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance. It was good and I especially liked all the statistics he gave, those were interesting. But I read this on the heels of “Educated,” which to me was so much more captivating, in my opinion.

I started “The Kitchen House,” recommended to me by a friend, and I can tell two chapters in that I’m going to really like it. It’s so far about an orphan Irish girl who is brought to a southern plantation to work and live with a group of enslaved people.

12)  Lastly, I’m plain exhausted, can I get an amen. So tired of sheltering in place (I get it, but still). Our state is beginning to open up, but I’m not sure how fast we’ll embrace that as a family. The cultural unrest is unsettling, but the discomfort is needed, I suppose, for actual change. Work is just beyond busy due to the pandemic. It was supposed to be an easy summer. I will need to figure out a plan for the girls, as they are already over it with me and him working all day. I feel for them. And the list goes on and on. It’s all so draining.

I’m counting on June to bring some lightness and relaxation into my life and hopefully yours, too. Sending good wishes to all who are reading!!

The April List – 2020

I’m writing this as we anticipate another freeze tomorrow. My phone’s weather app is telling me it will get down to 28 degrees on Friday night. I think about the momma robin who worked so hard to craft her nest among the clematis vines and hope she will be okay. Not to mention all my perennials that have already started blooming.

1)  Now that the weather is above 45 (at least until tomorrow), I’ve started to take daily or near-daily walks again. Magnola trees are always gorgeous with their fluffy petals, although ironically we always seem to get wind storms in spring, which blow those delicate petals right off.

2)  My garden is popping up, which is always super exciting. Pics above show the difference of one month. Many of these plants came from my neighbor, Shirley, who I think of often. It would be impossible not to, really, with evidence of her presence just over the fence in her still-beautiful garden, as well as in my own yard. Some of her plants have creeped into our garden and I like the connection of her space bridged with ours.

3)  I’ve walked the same streets over and over again for six years now. I’ve been trying to find newness, which is around if one looks hard enough.

4)  I always love looking at all the homes. I’ve been trying to look at them with a fresh perspective to keep my creativity in check. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.

5)  We were gifted this beautiful loaf of bread from a co-worker’s daughter (who also babysat twice before this whole pandemic went down). Everyone seems to be making their own bread lately and why not. I have yet to, but aspire to at some point. I do have flour and yeast, which are getting harder and harder to find.

6)  Not to say that we haven’t been baking. In an Instagram post, I said that I think I’ve eaten more dessert during lockdown that I had all of last year, and I believe it’s true. Cupcakes, muffins, banana bread, pistachio cake, cookies, scones. It’s a big problem. And yet. I continue baking and eating. Because if you have been stuck in your house with the same people since mid March, you deserve many, many treats, this I know to be the honest truth.

7)  We did allow ourselves takeout once this month. HURRAY! It was such an exciting day, I cannot even tell you how happy I was to not have to think about what to make that night. But moving on.

I made ceviche for the first time ever. My friend posted a photo and recipe on Facebook, and I had all of the ingredients, so I gave it a go. It took longer than the recipe said, but it could also be because I didn’t cut the pieces small enough and maybe they weren’t fully soaked by the citrus. It tasted great and I will definitely make it again, next time with less oregano and more hot peppers.

8) The little one turned our guest bedroom into a fort. Which lasted over a week before my OCD brain could not handle it any longer and I took it down (with her blessing). She slept in there one night, too, which was pretty cute.

9) People are getting really casual during this kooky time. Me included, but I’ve always been pretty casual, especially when at home. This local news article made me laugh, which has been hard to do nowadays. Not the make me laugh part, which is always a challenge, but finding humor in a news article.

10) Finished the Bear Brook podcast (while puzzling, of course). It was very well done. Good reporting, likeable narrator, good “characters,” interesting story. If you like true crime, I recommend.

11) I couldn’t focus very well this month, so reading was minimal. I did finish ‘Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and unlike a couple of my friends who didn’t like it at all, I enjoyed it. I felt it was much too long, that she could have said what she wanted to say in half the space, but I felt many of her passages made sense to me and felt empowering, or at least made me take a look at my own life.

12) I am sooooo glad I purchased the spring flower share from Detroit Abloom. It’s the first year they’ve offered it. Usually shares start in June, but they opened up a small amount of shares for spring. How needed are flowers right now? MUCH needed. And they are beautiful. Plus, the pick up location is my porch, and I love seeing them all when they get delivered.

May is already here. There is still so much unknown floating around. But there is also so much hope. It’s spring, after all.

We had a glimpse of warm weather last weekend, so I am looking forward to more of those days. I’ve talked to family and friends I haven’t chatted with (outside of texting or emails) in years, I’ve FaceTimed with people I usually just talk to on the phone. I absolutely LOVE taking my time in the morning to get ready for work. That’s probably been the best benefit of the lockdown. Being able to have coffee in the morning and my own 20 minutes of peace and reflection before calling for the kids to come down for breakfast.

That’s a wrap on the strangest April to date. Sending you love and wishes. Happy May!

The March List – 2020

Oh my gosh, I can’t with the list this month. I mean I had to think about what month we were even in. Where am I and who am I?

But here goes. The March list.

1) Michigan schools shut down officially on March 13, and the Stay at Home order came on March 24, though we were already self-quarantined by then.
2) We’ve been washing fruit with soap. Once I washed an onion with soap. Not a good idea. Too soggy.

3) I made my last Trader Joe’s run the third week of March. We’re now doing delivery only. I’m very sad not to be able to have my affordable Trader Joe’s favorites (coconut smoothies, cheese crackers, organic butter), but grateful that local grocery stores continue to deliver. For now. Everything is wiped down and sanitized.

4) I’m so thankful for our collection of board games. We’ve played multiple games of Scrabble, Monopoly, Sorry, Clue and Dominoes (not really a board game, but it counts). The little one is getting slightly better at losing.

5) And I’m so thankful for my recent jigsaw puzzle order. To decompress, I work on puzzles while listening to podcasts. And if it’s after 5pm, I add a cocktail to the mix.

6) Podcasts I started and completed this month. “S-town” was fantastic. “Cold” and “Up and Vanished” were pretty good, but not fantastic.

7) We haven’t been doing takeout, so I have been cooking, cooking, cooking. Comfort food (noodles, pasta, bread, desserts) is what’s been happening in our house. Now is when I’m supposed to say how grateful I am for being able to cook every day for my family. Namaste.

8)  It’s spring! Birds are making nests in their usual spots (our juniper tree near our front porch and smaller evergreen in our backyard) and buds are showing up. A sign of newness and hope that is so greatly needed.

9)  My husband took down the chain link fence that has hurt my eyes since the day we moved in. Beyond thrilled. Beyond.

10)  I’ve watched some terrible (aka awesome) TV and some great (aka intelligent) TV.  The ABC Murders was a surprising favorite. I love a good British murder mystery, but this one was unexpectedly dark. John Malkovich is so good per usual and the lighting, camera direction, whatever it is called, was artistic and beautiful.

11)  Chores must go on. This one helped me deep clean the bathroom.

12)  A fire in the backyard is a springtime must. We are stressed, anxious, tired, weirded out, uncertain. But there have been small pockets of time where we’ve lived in the present and life was good. Here’s to more of those pockets, for us and for you.

Happy April. Be safe and well.

No School / A Photo Essay

Thursday night as I was reading in bed, my husband says to me, “Michigan schools are closing until April.” Even though I work at a school, it didn’t really register. We were about to go on Spring Break and my mind was already there.

Friday morning, I woke up to text messages and voicemails that we would not have school that day, and we would not be returning until April 6. At the earliest. Right. Husband’s mumbling about a news article now makes sense.

I posted more messages to social media and the school website (as part of my job), made a quick coffee and headed to school early, anticipating I’d need to help craft an all-school email. When I got there, the sun was still rising. My office faces East and connects to what was once I believe a dining area. Golden sunlight shone on the peach walls. The world was waking up, ready for a brand new day.

It’s one thing to walk through empty school halls on a holiday or a weekend. I’ve done it tons of times before. My mom was a school teacher and I often went with her after hours and hung out while she got work done. And of course for this job, when I’m on a deadline or during the summer. I can tell you that it’s a completely different thing to come to school when school is not in session vs. coming to school when kids are supposed to be there, but they’re not.

I’m not panicking quite yet, but I know we as a country and as a world, have a long way to go with this crazy virus. I’m not really sure how I feel about it, I’m riding the waves right now. But here are the photos I took that morning in the few minutes that I wandered the halls alone.

Be well, my friends!


The February List – 2020

Completely forgot about the List until last night as I was taking a moment to do nothing and relax. And then I wasn’t relaxed. So here goes.

1) Over Presidents’ Day weekend, we went with another family to Crystal Mountain, a 4-hour drive north from Grosse Pointe. It was the second time the girls have been skiing and they picked it up again pretty quickly, even though it’s been two years since that first time.

2) I skipped skiing (I really don’t ski. I tried a couple times when we visited my Dad in Europe when I was in middle school and I ended up breaking my leg on the Swiss Alps. There are worse ways and places to break one’s leg, I know) and tried snow shoeing for the first time instead.

The weather and conditions were perfect and I really enjoyed just being out there by myself with nature. I hate being cold, so I don’t take many walks during winter, but snow shoeing takes a lot more effort than walking and the sun was out, so I didn’t feel cold at all.

3) I took some photos for a new local business, The Corner Studio, a new exercise/wellness space on Mack Avenue. They offer a variety of classes for a wide range of levels and ages (there are kids and teen classes also). I did portraits of their instructors and took some shots of their grand opening event.

4) Rarely am I in photos, since I’m usually behind the camera, which is not that big of a deal, except I would like my kids to have more visual memories of me. Plus it’s nice to have photos of oneself, I think. So I snapped this one of me doing me.

5) I finished our latest book group pick, “Something in the Water” by Catherine Steadman. It was a fast-paced thriller that I quite enjoyed. It’s not going to win any literary prizes, but I can see it being a great movie.

6) I started this book by Brad Meltzer. I wanted another book that was engaging, but not too deep. My college girlfriend loves this author and I’d never read anything by him, so I thought I would give it a try. When I chose it, I didn’t realize there was a co-author, so I’m not sure if what I’m reading is a true Brad Meltzer-style book, but I like it so far.

7) I finished the podcast “Catch and Release” by award-winning journalist Ronan Farrow about his investigation of Harry Weinstein. The podcast was completed before Weinstein’s recent conviction.

8) It’s not summer yet, but I still love a good spicy watermelon margarita. Can’t wait til I can sip these outside in my backyard vs. inside by the fire.

9) Started a new 1000-piece puzzle because I’m basically an old person.

Books, podcasts, margaritas and puzzles. If this were my whole life, I’d be all set.

10) Our oldest turned 11 at the end of the month. She requested coconut cupcakes per usual, which I am more than happy to make because they are my favorite as well. She is definitely a tween. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sassy, with no heads up as to which one she’s gonna be at any given time.

11) My mother-in-law’s cat is staying with us for a month. We have a love-hate relationship. Mostly she says give me water, no not that water, different water and pet me now and I wanted to sit where you are sitting can you move and I just ate and have cat food on my mouth can I rub it on your shirt. In the end, I almost always give in, though.

12) Another photoshoot I did this month was for a group of moms whose kids are friends and they are all pregnant again with their second kid. They wanted snowy winter pics and we weren’t sure it was going to happen, but a couple days before the shoot, we got a beautiful dusting of snow. Looking at these photos makes me happy.

I’m counting on no more snow in our near future, but it’s still a possibility, knowing Michigan. I’m ready for warmer days. Writing this as the coronavirus is a growing issue and wondering what the March list will look like and hoping for the best scenario. Be well and have a great month!