The Flowers of Detroit Abloom

If you’re new to the blog, I work with a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization called The Garden Detroit. Last year we had a beautiful garden on several vacant lots, and a seasonal CSA vegetable program. This year we have less manpower and our wooden arbor fell during a winter storm, which really set us back in terms of being able to grow vegetables for a bunch of people.

Harvesting Stock

Because our flower farm project, Detroit Abloom gained a lot of popularity in its first year, coupled with the fact that the lots that project is housed in are actually owned by our organization (no fear of the city taking the land away), we decided to concentrate on that project this season.

One of the CSA bouquets.

Detroit Abloom has CSA bouquet shares, special events, farmers markets and also sells their bouquets at The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. I believe we still have a couple slots left on our second CSA season, so go to www.detroitabloom.com for more information and to sign up if you live in the area!

Julia watering Larkspur and other flowers in the hoop house.

We held a fundraiser last winter and made just enough to install our new hoop house, which the plants are thriving  in.

Cut flowers for CSA bouquets

It’s been amazing to work more with flowers this year. I’m learning so much about cultivation and the different names and features of the flowers from Nancy and Julia, who run the program. It’s difficult to work without stopping to take photos. I have taken hundreds already this season and here are some of my favorites.

Purple stocks – doubles and singles

Doubles, with some singles hiding in back.

Doubles.

Before this year, I didn’t even realize Stock was the name of a flower. If you told me to guess what a Stock flower looked like, I would have zero idea. The gals planted doubles and singles in the same bed (the seeds came all mixed together, if I’m remembering correctly) and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the iris, but our varieties are unusual and stunning. Still not in my top ten, but I have much respect for these elegant flowers.

Sunflowers are just so….sunny and fun and happy.

While sweet peas are wispy and wild and delicate.

Nutmeg the cat roams the hoop house during the day, often taking a rest in the Larkspur.

Chantilly snaps are also lovely, and abundant at our Manistique property.

We’re only a few weeks into our first season and I’ve already seen so much beauty. Can’t wait to see what unfolds over the course of the summer into early fall!

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Lost and Found – Schoolhouse Chair

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A couple months ago while surveying Detroit Abloom (a nonprofit project where I volunteer in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood), I spotted a curious sight.

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Upon closer inspection, a schoolhouse chair had become woven into a tree trunk, becoming one with it. So many metaphors and juxtapositions I could go into but I am lazy, so you can come up with your own.

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I did think it was interesting that I’d been next to that tree so many times before, but never noticed the chair. Maybe because it was the beginning of winter and things were so bare that without all the greenery it was easier to spot. Nature is pretty crazy cool.

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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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Views From the Kayak – Upstate New York

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Last month, our family of four, plus the dog, drove 600 miles from Grosse Pointe to Glenfield, New York. My Dad has a spot on a small no-motors-allowed lake at the tip of the Adirondack Park, where we spent most of our time.

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Some of my favorite times were spent out on the lake on the kayak. In the mornings, the lake is like glass. I got up close to waterlilies and purple pickerel…

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picked wild berries….

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and just enjoyed being alone.

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I almost got caught in a storm once, which was scary, but I made it back to shore in time (and I did get a very good workout that day).

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My sweet buddy Sam got very upset whenever I went out on the kayak. If he wasn’t held back, he would try to swim out to me, which is concerning since he is not as great of a swimmer as he used to be.

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His eyes (or perhaps his smell) are still excellent, though, as he could spot me from far away, and would run to the edge of the dock to await my return.

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