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.

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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 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.

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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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The May List – 2017

May was a whirlwind.  Here’s the list.

1) We have bees at our Garden / Detroit Abloom lots courtesy of our friend Brian over at Bees in the D, and we are super geeked out about them. I have yet to learn how to care for them, but Brian is planning on hosting a workshop soon.

2) This month at Detroit Abloom, our anemones bloomed. I have soooo many favorite flowers, but they are one of my surprise favorites. Surprise because I usually go for pale colors and fluffy things like peonies. Anemones are mysterious and moody, but also bright and happy, depending on the light.

3) In my own garden, the lilac bloomed and they did not disappoint. I got a little carried away (per usual) with the loppers and trimming of the lilac tree as evidenced by the photo above, but there is still plenty of lilac tree left and it was fun to have some inside, even though they only lasted a few days.

4) I often stop to look over the fence into Shirley’s garden. I remember her taking me on a tour of it, telling me the names of all the different plants and pointing out her favorites. It makes me smile to see that her garden still looks so much nicer than mine, even in her absence. Sign of a great gardener. Her plants feel at home. Her garden helper does still comes over on occasion to fertilize or weed (and throw plants over the fence for me) which is nice to see.

5) Can we talk about potato chips for a second? I seriously am obsessed with them. In fact, right now I’m eating some Kettle brand (my favorite) pepperoncini chips (taste is okay, but I prefer plain. Or cheddar) with my sour cream-based ranch dip and I’m scared to look in the bag to see how much is left (not much). I can’t buy them or I’ll eat them but obviously I did both today. Whenever I go to a party and I spy chips (especially with french onion dip), I pretty much stay within a three feet of them at all times. What’s your party food weakness?

6) My husband and I celebrated our 9th anniversary this month. Our five year old presented me with this sweet card the morning of.

7) To celebrate, we went to dinner at a new restaurant (which there are so many of in Detroit nowadays) downtown called Parc Detroit. I’d been wanting to go for some time. It was lively and somewhat loud, but the service was good. The food wasn’t over-the-top delicious, but it was yummy enough. I got some kind of lobster pasta (if there is pasta on the menu, it’s mine. Always.) tossed in cream sauce, and the portion was large enough to allow me to enjoy some the next day for lunch.

8) The school where I work held its auction this month and whew! Glad it is over, but it was fun working on it and seeing it all come together.

I got to wear the 7.5 carat diamond earrings we were auctioning off in the live portion for a hot second. Photos do not do them justice, but trust me, they were fabulous. I mean, here I am at a reception where I know less than half the people there, listening to someone give a speech, and I am beaming. It has to be the earrings. And maybe the champagne.

9) Speaking of alcohol, my girlfriend brought her ….I don’t even know what to call it, cooler purse?…with her to the auction. Because why not. It was filled with simple syrup and juice and mini cans of Sofia by Coppola champagne and after I tried the house white, I stopped making fun of her and asked her to please make me a cocktail.

10) I read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware this month. It’s a fun thriller, I suppose you could call it. Fun because it wasn’t gruesome or morbid or too dark and most of it took place on a luxury yacht. Not very literary, so if you’re looking for a GOOD book, this is not it, but it is a page-turner and something to zone out on. Beach read.

This photo was taken one day when my husband saw that I was frazzled with the girls and took them to his mom’s house for a couple hours. I’d been with them all morning and they were so whiny that day and uncooperative and I was so giddy to have some time alone that I made coffee and one of my favorite snacks and sat on the couch with my book.

11)  Speaking of books, after my yoga class one Friday morning (held at a church) I walk by and see that the gym is filled with tables of books. I cannot walk by a book sale without stopping and I ended up staying there for a whole hour (carrying my yoga mat the entire time. why?) and left with a set of children’s encyclopedias from the 80s ($5.00!) and about eight great (I think. I hope) paperbacks, each for a dollar or less.

12) I almost forgot about one of the best things I did this month, which was to teach my daughter’s class a Hawaiian song (Pearly Shells) and hula moves to go along with it. I was so nervous about learning the song on the ukulele and of course singing and teaching it. Which was just silly because the kids were super attentive and funny and so excited to learn something new and I left with my heart feeling so full.

I hope your May was filled with many memorable moments as well. I leave you with this gem from the Public Safety section of our newspaper. Can’t we all just get along?

Also, I went to Florida for the first time, which I will recap that in another post! Happy Happy June, y’all!

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Women’s March – Detroit

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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