The July List – 2017

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

Current view.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a wrap. Enjoy your August!

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The Naples Florida List – 2017

Adult vacation – woohoo! The first real one since our honeymoon. When I found out we were able to go, I was beyond excited. An entire weekend of sun and relaxation and friends. I mean, I was giddy.

Plus, I’ve never been to Florida! Which is a big deal because everyone here has been at least once, and many people have homes/condos there, where they escape to during colder months. I remember all my New York relatives driving down to Florida each each, wondering what it was like.

1)  We took a really early flight (woke up at 5:30am), which was harsh, but once we got going, not too bad. Plus, thanks to Delta miles, we flew first class. As soon as we got on the plane, my husband ordered a vodka soda because 1. adult weekend 2. rockstar. That’s my plain hot water next to his big boy drink.

2)  Even though I need to be medicated to fly, I love looking down at the landscape on takeoff and landing. It was neat seeing the little channels/outlets (don’t even school me on the terms, I will not remember) and it reminded me of all the books and movies set in the Florida everglades (which I’d love to explore on another trip).

3)  My girlfriend invited eight of us (including her and husband) to stay at her parents’ condo in Naples. Long story short – water damage, mold – we ended up staying in another condo in that same building, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that we stayed in Naples, in a condo along the beach. The weather was hot hot hot and I welcomed it with arms wide open.

4)  First stop: a leisurely lunch across the street. I can’t remember what I had but I was hungry and finished it and also finished off my friend’s pizza (“are you going to eat that?” classy.), so it must have been delicious.

5)  After that, we hung out on the beach for several hours. The Gulf was probably the warmest water I have been in. I hate being cold and I hate being in cold water, but I love being in warm water, so it was a nice surprise for me because I could get in and enjoy it right away!

6)  I spent some time alone, walking along the shore, looking at and collecting shells for the girls. The sand was powdery white.

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Not my photo – grabbed off Pinterest.

7)  We went to the best Italian restaurant for dinner – Campiello – in the very quaint downtown area. They had homemade pasta, which I of course ordered and loved. I think I was one of the youngest people there which was awesome.

Apparently Naples is pretty fancy and also (and probably also because it’s fancy) there’s a large population of retired folks who have homes there. Also, it was the off-season which meant that many people were not in town. Whatever the reason, I actually felt young, which has not happened in a while.

8)  Naples sunsets are gorgeous.

9)  The next day was my friend’s birthday. The night before, we (by we I mean everyone but me because I was asleep) decorated the condo to surprise her in the morning. It was really cute.

 

9)  The guys went golfing (it was in the 90s – eek! Not sure how they survived, but they did) while the girls went to yoga, then brunch downtown and window shopped and grabbed coffee. It was so nice to be leisurely and not have any plans.

10)  Before pre-dinner cocktails, I popped in to the condo’s free library/book exchange and spent way more time there than I’d planned. I found three books that I had to have. One that I’ve been wanting to read – Dead Wake by Erik Larson about the Lusitania. Love, love, loved his book Devil in the White City. Read it if you haven’t.

Speaking of cocktails, because 1. adult weekend and 2. rockstar, my girlfriend packed a whole suitcase filled with drink supplies. I thought she was joking when she posted something on Instagram, but as it turns out, she bubble wrapped simple syrup, fresh lime juice from Farms Market, and a plethora of other things. Hysterical. But also amazing.

11) On our last full day, we rented a boat and took it I don’t even know where…to a little spot that is usually not as busy as it was (Memorial Day weekend), but we found a spot and docked.

I loved seeing the birds’ nests on the signs as we drove along. Oh and we saw dolphins!! Oh my gosh, it was…so fun to see the pair of them playing. One of the highlights for sure.

I also liked seeing a lot of plant life that was new and different to me. Some of them reminded me of Hawaii plants.

We saw a bunch of pelicans on our boat trip. I so love pelicans. They’re so prehistoric-looking. Kind of goofy up close, but when they are in flight, they look really cool

12)  Seven hours later, we pull up for dinner at a Mexian place called Mr. Tequila. A bunch of people ordered their signature drink, which is a margarita with an upside-down Corona in it. Ay carumba. I did not partake, thankfully.

13)  I was so relaxed and happy that I didn’t even take my mediation on the flight home. Big mistake. The screen showed two minutes to landing and 3000 feet (or something like that), then all of a sudden, lots of turbulence and a quick ascent into the sky and a big turn and more turbulence and I was freaking. OUT.

I know stuff like this happens all the time and of course it was the pilot being safe and not landing in a storm, but still. The only saving grace (besides the fact that we landed with our lives intact) was the phenomenal view of the storm over downtown Detroit. Photos do not capture the powerful beauty of that view. I had to muster all my inner strength to bend down and fish around for my camera and snap a pic. All the while, digging my nails into my husband’s arm.

Except for those last few minutes of the plane ride back, our trip went by in a flash. If your friend ever invites you to Florida, please say yes!

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The December List – 2016

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Looking out at the Detroit River (beyond the tree line)

Happy New Year, all! December had the typical hustle and bustle of the holidays and then some. Here are the highlights…

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1)  Early December brought our first snowstorm of the season. The girls were so excited and played outside all day, and that night we got the call that school was cancelled the next day – yipee!

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2)  Everything looks more beautiful in the snow. When driving through Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmer’s neighborhood, I had to stop and snap a photo of this burned home. It looked so calm and peaceful surrounded by all that clean, white snow.

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3)  I’m a little less thrilled about the shoveling this time around. It wasn’t so bad once I got into it, but it does kind of suck being out there at night, huffing and puffing while you watch your neighbor fire up his blower and finish the job in a third of the time and minutes later, having to move aside as the city plows come through and throw wet, dirty snow on the driveway where you just shoveled.

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2)  I chopped my hair off! Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but was nervous about since I’ve had long hair for the last 15 years.

I scoured online for the perfect cut and made an appointment with my hair stylist. I knew the experience was going to be traumatic, but it was even more so when I realized that I’d been given a mom bob vs the chic cut I had requested! Oh. My. Word.

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What I imagined I’d look like vs. what I actually looked like. Nailed it!

My stylist was really nice to accommodate me the next day and put more layers put in, but there wasn’t a lot she could do because too much length had already been cut to achieve the look I wanted.

I made an appointment at another salon a couple weeks later, and the gal there fixed it up a bit so now at least I look more hip and less like a suburban mom. At least that’s what I tell myself.

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4)  For some reason (well, I suspect the reason, which was also probably the catalyst for my haircut – the cuckoo election! Gah!)  I have been really into murder mysteries lately. I hate gore and anything too psychotic, but I have been devouring the genre (escapism!?). I just finished the Robert Galbraith series (JK Rowling) which fit my mystery bill perfectly (not too icky, not too scary, great characters, good plot) and I just picked up these three titles from the library. Have read about 10 pages of “The Passenger” and am already sucked in.

My book journal (book title, author, number of pages, and a short review) says that I read 15 books in 2016. Not bad, but I hope to have a longer list this year. Some of my favorites this year were “Beer Money” by Francis Stroh, “Before the Fall” by Noah Fawley (so good. Don’t let the premise deter you) and the Robert Galbraith books. Comment with your recommendations!

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5)  Another hot-off-the-presses article from the local paper.

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6)  So I went to an event at the Yacht Club where a male model was walking around with Chanel shoes on a platter.

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7)  After eight years of a silvery Christmas tree, I switched it up and went gold this year. New glittery balls and a new star. Before I moved to Grosse Pointe, I pretty much hated gold anything and now I kind of love it.

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8)  Sometime around Thanksgiving, I brought up a couple boxes of Christmas stuff to sort through. I put a small box of gifted ornaments (ones people have given us over the years) in the dining room cabinet, so the girls wouldn’t go rifling through it after school.

I completely forgot about that box and when it was time to trim the tree, I started panicking that I’d mistakenly donated that box along with some other holiday items at the end of last year.

When I say we turned over the entire house, I mean I spent over a couple frantic hours going through all cabinets, closets, rooms, the space above the garage (okay, my husband did that one), the furnace room, everything. Except the back of the dining room buffet, obviously. After accepting that they were in fact gone, I found the box several days later while looking for a platter. Oopsies.

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9)  We made sugar cookies for Santa, as we always do, but this year I tried a new recipe that included vanilla and almond extracts, and cream of tartar, which I’ve never used before.

The first batch came out very poofy, but they were super delicious, so I will probably go with the same recipe next year and tweak it. The girls didn’t put up a fuss about it (it could have completely given them a meltdown, you just never know with these things), so it was all good.

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9)  I went to our youngest’s class Christmas party, which was also a pajama party. Holy cow, all those kids in their pjs = so much cuteness.

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10)  I made a sweet potato pie for my December book group. I usually don’t add the bourbon, but this time I did and whoa. The girls were so nice and pretended it tasted good but it pretty much tasted like alcohol! Hahahaha. Note to self. But it looked pretty. And the toasted maple pecans were yum.

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11)  The Garden Detroit’s new hoop house is almost complete! We are so excited. Thank you to all of you who have contributed towards the project. We still need about $5k more, so if you are feeling extra giving this season, you can donate through our website!

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12)  We rang in the new year at a friend’s celebration at the Dearborn Inn. A couple hours before we were supposed to head out, I tried my dress on (I haven’t worn it for about a year) and I don’t know if it got stretched out or if a year of yoga shaved some volume off my booty or what, but it was about an inch too long! Luckily the sweet ladies at our dry cleaners were able to fix it in a jiffy.

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We haven’t gone out on New Year’s Eve since before the kids were born, so it was quite a treat. And I haven’t stayed up til 2am since I don’t know how long. It was a fabulous event. Beautiful decor, dinner, dancing, cocktails, friends and lots of laughter. A perfect way to ring in the new year!

I am nervous but also hopeful for what 2017 has in store for us. Ready or not, it’s here and it’s already moving along quickly! Blessings to all of you for a wonderful year!!

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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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The August List – 2016

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August brought more summer heat, but also much-needed rain. It was another busy month, but we got to slow way down for a couple weeks when we took a road trip to upstate New York, where my Dad has a cabin at the tip of the Adirondacks and where many of his/my relatives still live.

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1)  We started a new rewards system for the girls this summer (got idea from a husband’s cousin). Each stick represents a number of plus or minus points, which translates to the same number of minutes, which they can use at the end of the week for app time (kid apps installed on my iphone). The system sort of tapered off during our trip, but we will amp it up again when school starts. It seems to work well.

Note: the fact that we are so strict with our girls regarding screen time is ironic, as my husband and I are tv and phone addicts. But if I recall, Steve Jobs was the same with his kids, so there.

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2)  This is my Instagram suggested viewing. Chickens eating. Lordie.

When I’m on as The Garden Detroit, I try to engage with other users, mainly farmers, who are often animal-lovers and I cannot stop “liking” videos of baby animals (mainly bunnies. or goats.) eating! They pop up with tags like “carrot” or “lettuce” or “eatyourgreens.” So silly.

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3)  Two days before our NY road trip, we went as a family to a Tigers game, our first of the season. It was a picture-perfect day with a beautiful view from our seats.

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4)  My husband and I were able to sneak away one evening for some adult time while we were in New York. We drove to nearby Lowville, to a craft brewery and taproom called BarkEater. Very cozy spot with a great staff (you know you’re in a small town when the server asks what brings you to the area and then “yes of course I know your dad”).

We started out with their tasting flight. I found most of them to be quite good, but ordered a glass of wine, as is my preference (they offer wines from local winery Tug Hill Vineyards), but I should have stuck to the beer. Wine varieties they carried were too sweet.

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5)  It was hot in New York, as it has been in Michigan all summer. On one particularly hot and muggy day, I drove the girls to Mercer’s Dairy for ice cream cones. I hadn’t been there before, but it was a very stressful drive through winding country backroads for 20 minutes until we finally reached the highway an easy 30-minute drive to Boonville.

On the way there, the skies turned heavy and dark, so I quickly ushered the girls inside once we pulled up to the shop. Mercer’s is famous for its wine ice cream, which I totally poo-pooed until I tried it. Surprisingly refreshing and yummy, though I can only speak for the strawberry champagne.

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As soon as we got our scoops, it started pouring rain. But I had to get a photo of a cone with the sign, so I grabbed my daughter’s mint chocolate chip (my scoop was in a cup) and ran outside. I got drenched (and left my daughter a little perplexed “Hey! Mom!”) but I got the shot.

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6) While visiting cousins on Lake Ontario, we (me, cousin Melanie, her daughter, and her new baby girl) took a walk as part of the baby’s naptime routine. It was nice to see all the pretty lake homes and we passed an old barn along the way and one quirky, multi-colored home pictured above (it’s vacant – surprise).

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7)  We also passed this tree, which I was curious about, as I didn’t recognize the fruit/seeds. My cousins told me it was a chestnut tree – who knew!? I’d never seen one before that I can recall. I didn’t realize they had spiky outer shells. Pretty cool.

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8)  While visiting Aunt Betty at Murrock Farms, I asked her about a photo in her living room. It was my grandmother Lucy (and Aunt Betty’s mom). She also showed me two photos of my grandfather Harrison Stackel, who died before I was born. She said they were chauffeur’s license photos (which back then I believe were like driver’s licenses). Such a contrast. As were their personalities, so I hear (I can only vouch for my grandmother, who I dearly loved).

Aunt Betty, by the way, is as amazing as ever at 92. She just finished reading Hillary’s America (no judgement!) and made biscuits that morning, which we ate for snack after a tour of the farm, which she accompanied us on.

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9)  This teepee has been in our seven-year-old’s room, but I set it up outside one day in hopes of giving the girls a new interest in it. When I was a kid, my sister and I looooved small, private spaces and would have been beside ourselves to play in a tee-pee, so I’m disappointed they don’t use it all that much.

I’m thinking it may get more use once both girls can read (and both write complete sentences without help). Not giving up quite yet.

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10)  I took the girls to Detroit’s Avalon Bakery earlier this month. We got sandwiches and sat outside for lunch. The sandwiches were so-so (I am also not a big sandwich person) but the bread there is really delicious and the treats were also very good.

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11)  While on vacation, I missed the Garden’s huge tomato boom. I was lucky to get some before and after my trip, although not in the quantities I would have gotten had I been here. Still, I was able to roast enough for a large jar, have made marinara sauce twice, bruschetta countless times, BLTs and chili. It’s been so awesome to have farm-fresh produce all summer! Sign up with your local CSA program next year, so worth it.

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12) I pass this mural when I come home from working at the Garden. It’s really sweet, I think and I finally stopped to take a closer look and to snap a photo.

So many great photos from our road trip, which I will share soon. The girls start school next week (Michigan is so late! I’ve been seeing back-to-school pics from friends for weeks now) and I am looking forward to that, but not to the end of summer. As the girls get older, summers seem to get more fun because we can do more, whine less and stay out longer. Michigan summer weather certainly helps (I’m often reminded of San Francisco summer weather with photos of friends wearing jackets and scarves, so I am grateful, even with our drought).

Wishes for a lovely September!

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The July List – 2016

IMG_6268 (819x1024)July has come and gone in a flash. I’m still loving the heat, although I do wish it would rain every now and then for the plants. Midwestern summers are the best and I have zero complaints. I love sitting in the backyard as the sun goes down, and when it’s cool enough (and sometimes even when it isn’t), sitting by the fire pit with my husband after the girls go to bed.

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1)  We spent the Fourth poolside with the family, but per usual, I didn’t get in the pool, which I won’t do unless it’s above 88 degrees (or thereabouts).

2)  When I was out jogging at the beginning of the month (not many jogging days for me this month – too lazy hot), I passed three people I knew. Actually they passed me, as they were in their cars, driving. But they all waved or gave a honk. My husband does not love this aspect of small towns, but I do.

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3) In my last post I talked about cooking. I’ve also been on a baking kick, which means we’ve had lots of scones this summer. Usually it’s blueberry, but I’ve also tried raspberry. My first batch of the summer came out picture-perfect, but most of the batch I made for the 4th of July party fell on the floor as I pulled it out from the oven. I was able to salvage a plateful, at least.

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4) I’m still discovering new plants and this one growing on the side of a house in Grosse Pointe Park wowed me. One of my Instagram friends told me the name – trumpet vine – which makes complete sense, as you can see.

5)  The time I made a beautiful salad with greens from the garden and fresh (aka expensive) mozarella cheese, and sprinkled it with fish sauce instead of the balsamic glaze. That first bite was the worst. I was able to wash a lot of it off, but every few bites I’d get a taste of fishiness.

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6)  Found this robin egg completely intact under one of the backyard hedges. Couldn’t tell where it fell from. Such a pretty blue.

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7)  Our little 4 x 4 raised vegetable bed did pretty well! The peas were especially delicious, as was the lettuce and kale. It’s been somewhat neglected, as I’ve spent a lot of time at The Garden Detroit, but it has been a great experience in growing food. Both girls helped care for the plants, and tasted everything, even though they didn’t love all of it. Sam, as it turns out, loves peas.

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8)  My husband and I finally tried the new Eastern Market restaurant La Rondinella. The ambiance was nice and the food was great. Nothing exceptional, but we both enjoyed our meals. We took a short walk after dinner. It was nice to be there without the hustle and bustle of a market day, the only other times I’ve ever been.

We then drove to the Detroit Riverwalk, where we watched kids play in the fountains and people walk or ride by on bicycles. We had such a great time that we went back a couple days later with the girls.

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9)  The Garden has a flower farm called Detroit Abloom. They have weekly CSA flower shares, which I subscribe to. They are always so beautiful and I love not knowing what I’m going to get from one week to the next. The cost comes out to $15.00 per week, which is a fabulous deal. And I’m supporting a local business, which we try to do as much as possible.

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10)  I took the girls to a new-ish spot in Grosse Pointe Park, Sweeties, for ice cream. They also have jars of candy for sale. My ice cream was vegan – made with coconut milk – and way too sweet for me, but the girls’ flavors were yummy.

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11)  This is what our fridge has looked like this month, thanks to my work at the Garden and also our weekly CSA share. Although I must confess, I’m a little burnt out on leafy greens and went several days without any. I think I’m ready to get back on board. Especially after all the ice cream we’ve been eating (but it’s seriously been so hot!!! What else can you do?).

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12)  And lastly, my @thegardendetroit Instagram account hit 1000! Super goofy, but it’s a big deal to me and I couldn’t be happier. Also found yesterday that someone from North Carolina, an Instagram follower and fellow farmer, would like to come by and see our gardens as one of his stops on an upcoming trip. That makes me so happy, too.

I hope your August is filled with many things that make you happy! Until next time.

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