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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The April List – 2016

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Ah, April. It’s such an exciting month here in the Midwest because it means winter is officially over. We didn’t get any snow in April that I can remember? Although the temps did drop down to the 30s many nights. Still, the days are sunnier and warmer, which means it’s time for gardening again, which I couldn’t be more happy about.

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1) Before the fun part of gardening can start, spring clean-up has to happen. Which is raking up all the dead leaves, sticks and other plant debris that remained on the ground after our fall clean up. Since our lawn guys made me cry last year with their disregard for our plants, we opted out of a professional clean up this year. Twenty yard waste bags later, I am nearly done.

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Last week, I worked in the front, where the beds are covered with pachysandra. Trying to get debris out from under those cluster-y little plants is nuts. I tried using a blower and that didn’t work, and you can’t rake through them so it’s all by hand. I think next year I will have the guys do the front only, but…I don’t know….maybe as long as I’m able, I will continue to do it all.

2) Prince. I mean, I have to give a shoutout. “Delirious” is the first song I remember having a strong reaction to (I was 10. It came on the radio and I was blown away by it’s craziness as I danced around the room). Aside from his amazing music and talent, he made it okay to be different. To be yourself. And during my junior high and high school years, it was such an important message to receive. Peace and love.

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3)  This is what happens when you take a break from playing Jr. Monopoly to have snack. I know he couldn’t have been comfortable with all the pieces poking on his belly, but he played it cool. Okay, buddy, it’s your spot. Got it.

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4)  So this tree came down. As in we had it cut down. Will tell you all about it in the next post.

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5)  I tackled the take-down of the ferns on my own and it was quite the struggle. I went to pull up ONE fern that was bugging me and this happens. A full bucket of the subway system of roots that this one fern was connected to. Egads.

I love ferns probably more than most people, but now that I have a bunch of other lovely plants sharing the same space, some of the ferns needed to go. And they keep popping up. It’s an ongoing battle.

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6)  We bought a raised cedar bed, which my husband put together for me. My youngest and I planted lettuce, green onions, and peas from seed, and starter plants of kale. Our dog Sam apparently loves the soil I used because he has been jamming his huge nose into the bed, sometimes coming up with a small mouthful of dirt. And probably our seeds. Waaaah.

I thought all hope was lost, but about three days ago, two tiny lettuce plants showed their faces. I will probably buy more starter plants for the other veggies, but I really hope one of the lettuces makes it. The girls have fun checking on it, as do I.

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7)  Even though he’s eaten most of our seeds, Sam is the BEST gardening companion. Whenever he hears the sliding door open or sees me put on my gardening gloves, he is ready to follow me. Mostly he sniffs around and then plops down exactly where I was going to weed or rake or plant, but I love his quiet company.

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8) I finally found a home for this Moroccan lantern that has been in our basement since we moved. I tried to find a spot for it in the house, but nothing really worked. In SF it lived on top of our bookshelf in the living room, but the ceilings are lower here and it doesn’t look right. Clearly it belongs in the garden (you can also see it in the veggie garden pic).

9) My book club’s April book was Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, same author as “Room” (which I didn’t read. wasn’t sure I could handle it). The story is loosely based on newspaper articles surrounding an unsolved murder in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Her realistic portrayal of what life was like during that time (the small pox epidemic, the influx of Chinese immigrants, treatment of women, squalor, etc) was eye-opening and on occasion, riveting.

We meet tomorrow and I’m wondering if the non-San Francisco gals enjoyed it as much as I did.

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10) I love that this is one of the classes offered at our community center. I’m not making fun of it – I think it’s awesome! I hope a lot of kids take it. And I will totally send my girls in a couple years if it’s still being offered.

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11) My husband and I finally made it back to Chartreuse, our hands down favorite restaurant in the area (the ambiance is fine, but I’m talking food). I say “the area,” but it could rival any spot in San Francisco. The pork belly with saffron polenta was just wow, and the vanilla pudding dessert thing we got (again) was divine. You can taste the freshness in every bite.

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12)  After dinner we went to see the art installation by Daily tous les jour in Cadillac Square. It’s an interactive piece, where each swing dings a musical note, which changes depending on whether people are in sync or not.

Bonus: The Hawaii List
Because I still have Hawaii on the brain, here’s a short bonus Hawaii list:

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1)  You’re probably aware that Hawaii has some of the best sushi on the planet. I’m not a big raw fish eater, but when I do have raw sushi, it needs to be the very best. Also, the shrimp tempura. Light, fluffy and crunchy. Why do so many places have to batter it like it is a corn dog?

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2) Growing up, we never had a dryer. My grandpa refused to buy one because the sun can dry your clothes for free. Plus, environmental reasons – wasting electricity, appliances, etc. Even after he died, my family won’t get one. I respect that, but I do not miss wringing out my clothes (especially jeans, those were the worst) and hanging them on the line.

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3) We saw a couple of these little birds poking around the beach on the North side of the island. I pointed them out to my sister and she told me they are golden-plovers. These crazy birds nest in Alaska, but spend most of their time in Hawaii (three months vs. nine months). They can make the trip in about two days, without resting on the water. Impressive.

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4) Something that grabbed me this trip was the mid-century architecture. I knew it was there, I knew it was 50s, but I really noticed it this time. I only thought to snap photos the day before we left, so I didn’t get great ones. The next time we visit, I’m going to spend a lot more time exploring the architecture.

That is IT, guys! I’m so looking forward to a wonderful May. Enjoy yours!

First Stop, San Francisco

We were only in San Francisco for two and a half days, but we were able to make to several of our favorite spots. I was hoping for sun, but we got the typical cold and fog of early spring (and summer and winter and often fall). I miss seeing the fog, so it was just as well.

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The January List – 2016

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Oh my gosh. It’s mid-February and I am just starting the January list. Here it is…

1) Snow. Eh. It only snowed once, maybe twice last month. It was pretty, it was white, there were some cute bunny tracks and there was a little shoveling involved. Not much to report.

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2)  My Dad and his wife gave us a spiralizer for Christmas. I’m not very big on kitchen contraptions – I use a toaster, blender, mixer and rice cooker – so I wasn’t too sure about using it, but gave it a try with some zucchini, if only to say that I used it.

It was a lot more user-friendly than I expected and quite easy to clean (huge). The “noodles” were fun, but I was not fooled into thinking they were actual pasta noodles. It’s nice because the girls are able to use it and it’s always great when they can help in the kitchen. Although they will still not eat the finished product.

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3) This handsome guy turned 10. Whenever I try any to do any kind of floor workout, he gets all up in my business. Sometimes he brings me toys or licks my feet. Not super productive, but it does make me laugh and I usually do end up taking him for a walk afterwards.

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4) I went to Arizona! My girlfriend and former San Francisco book grouper Kimberly got married – hurray! I was so pleased that I managed to pack lightly and not check any luggage, so when I got to the gate and they told me I had to check my carry-on, I was bummed.

I begged and pleaded and said that I had to go to a wedding right when I landed (which was mostly true), but they stared at me with no pity whatsoever and handed me my luggage tag. Which ended up in my purse. Oopsie.

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5) The wedding was a beautiful traditional church wedding…

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…and the reception was held at the luxury Royal Palms hotel in Scottsdale. SO pretty. Wish I could have stayed there instead of the Marriott!

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It was fun to dress up and I bought a new Halston Heritage dress for the occasion. I’ve been all about 70s glam recently. Love it. Which is very strange because I’ve never cared for it before. Now I lose my mind over it.

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6) I love this rug that I wove on a loom in college (my favorite class!) and I keep trying to find a place for it in the house.

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I tried our entryway (we are still using the old owner’s maroon rug which I am so over), which didn’t look quite right, plus I don’t really want people wiping their shoes on it.

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I tried our downstairs powder room, where it looked pretty good, but it is too slippy for the girls (who use that bathroom a lot), even if we put a rug pad under it. It’s back in the closet for now. :(

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7)  I forgot to ever talk about our buffet we bought for the dining room. My husband and I have significantly different home decor tastes, so it took a while for us to settle on this piece of furniture. I found it online through Cottage Home Furniture in Maine.

They were great to work with. This particular sideboard did not come with glass door, but I special requested and they were happy to oblige. It arrived a couple weeks later than promised, but they were good about keeping me in the loop.

8)  Our book group book this month was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s an end-of-days (of sorts) type setting, but not as dire or creepy as The Road (if you haven’t read it, oh my. Excellent writing but so depressing) and most of the book focuses on the characters.  The writing was great and engaging. I really enjoyed it.

After I posted this, a friend told me that the author wrote the book while in Leelanau, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A big chunk of the book takes place in that area, so I see now where she got her inspiration for that setting.

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9)  I was at Barnes & Nobles looking for a birthday gift and decided to pick up an adult puzzle (vs a kid puzzle, which we have a ton of). I hadn’t done a puzzle in so long and it was fun. The girls tried to get into it, but of course it was hard for them, but they did manage to put some pieces in, which was exciting for them.

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10) Soooo…..I’ve been on a diet. Of sorts. Just trying to get healthy and strong. I am the laziest exerciser you could ever know, so I never have really pushed myself during workouts. But I’m trying now and it’s really hard, but satisfying. I also kind of hate salad, so when I tell you that I’m eating lots of salad, that is huge.

My big indulgence is balsamic reduction. So bad but so good. (In case you weren’t aware, most store-bought balsamic glazes have caramel coloring, which is a possible carcinogen. Normally, I would not allow myself to come close to the stuff, but it makes me eat salad, so I weighed my options. When I run out, I’ll attempt to make my own).

11)  The girls got a bunch of games for Christmas and one of them is Jr. Monopoly. It’s a great game because both the four-year-old and almost seven-year-old can play and I can actually tolerate it, unlike some of the other games they have. Even though I’m always stuck with the car.

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12) One (very, very, very cold!) Saturday, we drove into Detroit and walked along the Riverfront and Hart Plaza and peeked into the Renaissance Center. After our little adventure, we went to Mercury Bar in Corktown for an early dinner.

On our walk back to the car, we saw a huge flock of birds flying across the sky. Most of them landed on one large tree, so I made my husband drive near it so I could take a picture. From far away, the birds looked like leaves.

It was kind of a magical moment. Watching them swoop in front of us out of nowhere and then spotting them on the tree. I hope 2016 brings more bursts of zen like these for all of us (me, you, humanity), which are much needed in the midst or our crazy lives. Enjoy the rest of your February!

The December List – 2016

IMG_3666 (768x1024)Yikes! So late with the list. Here’s what happened in December…

1)  I’ve always been a stickler for waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to put Christmas decorations up. I stuck by the rule this year, but barely (I started pulling out boxes before Thanksgiving was over). I’m beginning to understand the strong desire to decorate early. It’s dreary. The flowers are gone, the sun is gone. Let’s get some holiday up in here.

2)  I did break my “no artificial greenery” rule this year and bought three faux garlands. Two for the stairs and one for the living room mantle. Just didn’t want to deal with all the needles and clean-up.

After lots of online research (reviews) and one bad purchase (Home Depot), I settled on garlands from Ballard Designs. magnolia for the stairs (top photo) and angel pine for the mantle (bottom pic). They were pricey, but worth it in the long run. I went back to their website after Christmas to buy another one because I was so impressed with how great they looked, but alas they are sold out of both.

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3)  This photo doesn’t do it justice, but the “crazy house” (girls’ term, not mine) on Lakeshore was ultra decked out for Christmas this year. Whoa.

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4)  I am single-handedly keeping Trader Joe’s pot sticker business alive. Here’s my stash. The TJ’s brand pork ones are the best, followed by the chicken soup dumplings in close second (the Filipino guy who works there – and the only other Filipino I’ve met here – told me to use them in their ginger-miso soup. SO good).

The butternut squash dumplings sound good in theory but they are a disaster. Skip them. You’re welcome.

5)  Speaking of Asian food, I asked my dry cleaning lady if there was anywhere I could get good Korean food. Turns out there is. Her house. Whaaaat? Yes, you guys. She offered to teach me how to cook all my favorite dishes. Date to be decided, and you know I’ll be posting about it.

6)  On the same day Japan’s supreme court ruled to uphold the law that married women must take their husband’s surname, our six-year-old asked me, “why are girls Miss if they aren’t married and Mrs. if they are and boys only have Mister.” Good. Question. And a reminder that we have a long way to go.

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7)  Have you seen Pantone’s color of the year!? My favorite shade of pink!!! (They actually chose two colors this year. The other one is Serenity, a soft blue.)

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8)  My husband and I attended a Krug champagne tasting dinner at the Yacht Club with two other couples. We found out at the last minute that it was a black tie affair, so I scrambled to buy a dress (and discovered Halston Heritage in the process. Oh my gosh).

The champagne was of course divine, but the food was….just okay. Well, the lobster was amazing, but I ate it in one bite. Same with the trout (although…three bites for that one). There  were healthy portions of duck and venison, but they were too gamey for some of us, and after dinner we drove to a local spot and shared a pizza.

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9)  Made blueberry scones (with the last of our summer blueberries from New York) for Christmas Day and two sweet potato pies for Christmas Eve. I had a mishap with the grater while making scones (P fetched a bandaid for me).

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10)  We only ate one of the pies on Christmas Eve, so I was able to take the other one to Shirley’s (our neighbor and my gardening friend) house the next day. When we got there, she presented the girls with their very own mini fairy garden. Sweetest. Thing. Ever.

In the spring we’ll put it outside, but right now it’s on our kitchen table. Our littlest plays with it every day.

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Just outside Will’s. Pantone color of the year?

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10)  My husband’s nephew works downtown at the new Will Leather Goods store and we finally made it down there to check it out. It’s a beautiful retail space, with most of the products on the main floor and a second floor loft houses their hats. There’s also a cafe inside the shop, which I didn’t try, but the treats looked yummy.

11)  Our book this month for book group was The Turner House, which I was interested to read because the story follows a family from Detroit throughout history. I couldn’t get more than halfway through. It was kind of blah.

Instead, I re-read the first Harry Potter book, which was just as fun the second time around. I spotted the new illustrated version later, and wished I’d read that version instead.

12)  This cheese. Whenever I see the Cypress Grove label, I get excited. One, because not many places carry it and two, their cheeses are fabulous. The company is located several hours north of San Francisco. I always wanted to visit, but never had the chance.

The Farms Market in town carries Purple Haze, which is a goat cheese (they’re all goat) with fennel pollen and lavender. I tried it for the first time this month (I usually get Humbolt Fog, which is divine with figs and pistachios) and it was equally great. So smooth. Just the right amount of lavender. (Also, can you tell I’m starving right now!?! )

December was a great month, but I did get pretty homesick this month for San Francisco, for friends, for family. Tis the season. I’m so looking forward to this New Year and all its possibilities. Wishing you a wonderful January and 2016!

The November List – 2015

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I am scrambling to put things together for the list this month. November came and went in a flash. Here goes….

1)  It seems like as soon as the cold weather came through, we got the decorating bug again. We got dining room furniture (finally!) which took forever to pick out.

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Our table had to be  just the right size and it  had to extend to just the right size for larger gatherings. And it had to not be too formal (my request) or too rustic (husband’s request), but in the end we did go with a distressed one because it fit (lucky me).

My husband got the final say in the chairs (although I picked the color) because we went with my choice for the kitchen/family room (see below) last year.

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They are a bit formal for me BUT I have to say I really, really like them. I almost went with a light plum with the color instead of mustard, but that was more of a risk and I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to decor.

2) We also bought a bar…

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…which we’ve been wanting for a long time. My husband has taken a liking to scotch (which is very Grosse Pointe of him). I love the concept of drinking scotch or whiskey –  the different bottles and the square ice cubes and the cool glassware. But unfortunately I don’t love the taste.

And yes, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. A lot of these photos were taken just today because like I mentioned, I am behind on everything.

3)  Which brings me to my next decorating obsession: trays (see the round one on the bar?).

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I bought a tray for the living room, for the powder room, for the master bathroom. How have I gone my whole life without trays?!

4)  We replaced house number plaque that the former owners put up, with Heath Ceramics house numbers. It was quite the project. The old plaque was stuck there with tons of epoxy, which my husband spent all day taking off with various tools, electric and non. They are gorgeous.

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5)  Now our maroon front door looks extra out of place. Our painter was here yesterday (I know, I know. Separate post) and I asked him what he thought. He said he would definitely paint the sidelights (new vocab word for me) the trim color and not make it the same color as the door. I’d never thought of that and it seems like a great idea to me.

Here’s an example of painted and unpainted (not my house, obviously). What do you think?

Here’s our actual door (I can’t even talk about the doormat/rug right now so don’t ask).

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6)  I’m hosted book group last night and I loved the book, but I can’t tell you what it was because I’m giving it as a Christmas gift. So I give you this book instead.

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it’s the first in a trilogy. I’m on the third one. It’s a great read if you like light fantasy (elements of magic, but not too crazy). I guess you could say it is Harry Potter-esque, but it is also very different. More grown up (which doesn’t necessarily mean better. I did love Harry Potter). The second was just okay, but I am getting into the third book. Hopefully the ending will not disappoint.

7)  We got our first snow of the season on the 21st.

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Our littlest ran outside as soon as it started to fall (if you look closely you can see snowflakes in her hair). It didn’t start sticking until evening and we didn’t get a whole lot, but there was enough to play in for a day or two and make a small snowman.

8)  I finally saw a show at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit.

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Photo via OlympiaEntertainment.com

The girls and I were invited to go see “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with another mom and two other girls. The girls were just adorable and the theatre is beautiful. We had a suite, which was extra awesome.

9)  Earlier this year, I won a blow out party at the salon I go to, Chez Lou Lou (which hands down has given me the best haircuts ever, even compared to the six different hair stylists I had in San Francisco).

IMG_3555 (768x1024)I redeemed the prize this month. A handful of gals and I were treated to champagne, tea/scones and had our hair done. Then we went to the Yacht Club for dinner and walked around their Holiday Mart.

10) Speaking of Holiday Mart, it seems like every time I turn around I see a sign for a different Holiday Mart. The War Memorial, churches, libraries, clubs, you name it. I don’t think I went to (or heard of) one Holiday Mart in San Francisco. You either shop in your neighborhood or online.

11)  We raked leaves for the last time this past weekend (the last week for leaf collection by the city was this week).

IMG_3438 (1024x768)Our birch tree is still dropping leaves (you can see it in the pic), but all our other trees (except the evergreens, of course) are bare.

12)  We had a great thanksgiving with my husband’s side of the family.

FamilyThanksgivingWe started with appetizers and a champagne toast (for my husband’s birthday) at Uncle Jim’s and then went to the Yacht Club for our meal. There were 19 of us! One baby, five kids and 13 adults. It was my first time having Thanksgiving at a restaurant, but it was pretty nice and of course there is no prep or clean up, which is fantastic.

This post had a lot of “stuff” in it. Furniture, accessories, theatre tickets, holiday marts. I am grateful for all of it but I thank my lucky stars even more for the non-material things – a roof over my head, a safe neighborhood, healthy kids, a family who loves me. The list goes on and on.

Enjoy your December and I will see you back here soon with another post about paint!