The (Mostly Hawaii) March List – 2018

I would wish you all Happy Spring, but it’s not really spring here, which I am also not happy about. The first half of March was a blur, but the second half slowed down quite a bit as we were in Hawaii for break.

1) The neighborhood pheasant thinks it’s spring, however, and he’s been ’round the house many times already. Every year we wonder if he will be back and every year he comes back, pecking at the mirrored kick plate on our front door, thinking he’s found a friend (or rival, perhaps). He’s a beauty.

Save for the Hawaii trip, March must not have been very exciting because I have close to zero photos on my phone taken in March, unless you are interested in screenshots of hairstyles that I like. Those I have about a million of and of course now you want to see one of them, so here you go.

2) I’m getting my hair cut next week, which is counter intuitive because I’m actually trying to grow it out, but it’s super jacked up for so many reasons, but I think the best thing to do is get a really nice trim and then let it grow out (wow, I am so interesting right now, I can hardly take it).

Also ignore the URL, oh my gosh. I got this photo off Pinterest, I promise (why so pensive, Sienna? Are you trying to read my mind?).

3) I was going to write a separate post about just Hawaii flowers, and another one about Hawaii food, and maybe another one about family and culture, but we all know that is not happening with my current state of affairs (#hotmess), so let’s go ahead and talk about Hawaii right now.

First of all, I love the shock of coming home and realizing that I grew up on a tropical island. I mean, obviously my whole life I knew I was living on an island, but the realization of how different it is than say growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is always kind of a fun awakening, if even for a split second. Like, holy crap! I grew up on a straight up tropical island!! That’s amazing!

Besides the humidity, the plants are a big clue that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Hawaii plants don’t care about boundaries; they will grow and grow wherever they please. And often times the property owners of said plants will just let them. I mean, why fight it, I guess.

4)  Secondly, food. And lots of it. Like endless supplies of it. I imagine the Asian Mom, Auntie, Grandma, is very similar to the Italian Mom, Auntie, Grandma and therefore every day there is something new to eat and not only that but you HAVE to eat it because they made it. Just. For. You. Image result for gritting teeth emoji Oh I do appreciate it, especially the endless supply of fresh coconut that was prepared a week before our arrival and frozen for us in little ziplock bags so I could take one out to thaw every couple of days, but it’s a lot of pressure!

The desserts alone will stress you out. Actual conversation with self after dinner: “Hmmm…I’m not hungry. But maybe I can eat something small for dessert. Should I have the brownies? Or maybe the mochi squares? Or wait, Auntie just made halo-halo and baklava and what about the chiffon cake?” I mean.

The above spread was for a party we had at my Grandma’s home (rehab center). Those noodles bottom right were made by my Auntie. Pancit, a traditional Filipino dish. She makes hers with fishcake and lots of scallions and shitake mushrooms. So good.

5) Speaking of noodles, you can’t really visit Hawaii and not eat noodles. We had spicy miso ramen bowls like we always do, but this trip I went to a new spot called Piggie Smalls and got their garlic noodles with shrimp and it was ah-maz-ing.

I planned on saving half of it to take home with me, but I ate the entire thing.  They look kind of blah in this photo, but they were divine and I should have gone back another time for more.

6) So back to the party for my Grandma. She will be 95 in June (I think?) and just a few months ago she got sick and had to be moved to a home (she’d been living with my mom and Auntie, her daughters). She is well taken care of and mom and Auntie visit her pretty much daily. She mostly remembers people, with a little reminding, but is not nearly as talkative as she was even a year ago.

She is the matriarch right now in our family circle and it is very sweet to see everyone gather around her and treat her with dignity and respect. It’s inspiring and humbling.

7) Hawaii fashion is very casual and pretty much anything goes. For example, here you see an older lady doing some bold pattern mixing. And guess what, she does not give two hoots about your opinion on the matter (which I love).

8) The weather wasn’t great, but we did get to the beach a few times. Our first stop was Sandy Beach, or Sandy’s, as the locals call it. It’s not a swimming spot for the average swimmer – the waves are unpredictable and really strong. A lot of surf/bodysurf competitions are held at this spot.

I took a lot of pictures with my new camera, determined to use it on the manual setting. I never go the light quite right, but it was a huge learning experience and now I know how (after some Googling) how to shoot in bright light with reflections off water and sand.

9) On the way home from Sandy’s, we stopped at the Leonard’s malasada truck (I can’t seem to get off the food topic), which you must do, for the proper live-like-a-local tourist experience (not so much the truck but Leonard’s malasadas in general).

10) I could show you hundreds of flower photos that I took, but here are a few of my favorites. Hibiscus, ginger, bird of paradise.

11)  One afternoon I took the short walk from my mom’s house to The Lady of the Mount monument, where I spent and hour and a half taking photos of all the plants and flowers. No one else was around and it was such a nice “me time” moment.

So many cool plants to photograph, but this one cactus in particular caught my eye. It was subtle, yet flashy, understated, yet vibrant.

12) Another thing I learned during this trip about photography (which I suppose you could turn into some kind of metaphor about life if you were that kind of person and had the time to word it correctly) is that sometimes finding the light means stepping out of it. Capturing shadows, capturing darkness.

Plus, I love a good moody photo. I mean, this double hibiscus is giving it to you right here.

And that’s a wrap. I hope that wherever you are, if spring has not yet arrived at your home, that it will come soon. Wishing you the loveliest April.

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The October List – 2016

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October was a typical autumn month, although sometimes the weather felt more like winter. The leaves are spectacular this year. Definitely showier than last year’s foliage. Wish I had more than just two photos to show you.

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1) Marais is an upscale French restaurant here in town. It’s been applauded in the culinary world, but I find the menu lackluster. Plus, I’m still bitter that the first time we went there, we were not told about the cheese plate! People! They do have a great bar menu (burgers are super), so we continue to pop in for that.

They recently started what they call Marais Cafe, which simply means their bar/lounge area is turned into a breakfast spot. It is divine. The pastries are superb and I am a croissant snob (hands down the best croissants I’ve ever had were in Germany, not France, surprising, no?).

It will cost you a pretty penny. Is $3.00 for a plain croissant worth the money? Absolutely, especially when it’s served on fine china. And anything that can transport me back to Europe I will pay top dollar for.

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2) The first time I shot a gun was on Thanksgiving break in Victoria, Texas, where I spent the holiday with my friend John and his family (I was going to college in Oklahoma at the time). I don’t remember it much, except that I only fired the gun a couple times for practice and didn’t fire at all on the duck hunt (but someone did, because I remember them cleaning and eating a duck later that evening).

Mid month I was invited to a charity clay shoot held in Metamora, about an hour drive from Grosse Pointe. The guns were intimidating – it took a long time for me to settle in to any sort of comfort – weapons put me on edge. I did hit a few targets (yay!) and since I wore the dorky shoulder pad every time, did not get bruised or sore like some of the gals.

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Even though my skills were less than amateur, somehow our team managed to pull off a second place win! It was a really fun time for a very great cause (Cure Epilepsy).

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3) I received my last flower share from our flower farm, Detroit Abloom. What a great program and if you live in the area, you will want to get in on it next year. October was the month that our dahlias decided to burst into full bloom.

I helped Nancy and Julia harvest a couple of times. One week we had so many flowers, we were selling them by the bucket and donating others. Colors range from purple to orange to yellow to pink to white and many flowers showcase several different shades/colors. My favorites are the pale pink and white ones.

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4)  I’ve been wanting to take a photo of this mural/art installation on Jefferson Avenue for the longest time and I finally did.

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5.  One of the moms from school works for the company that sells Brillo Sweep & Mop and gave one to me to try out. I am OCD when it comes to cleaning and I was skeptical, as I’ve had many battles with the Swifter which I vowed never to use again.

There was slight confusion when putting the mop together, but I eventually I figured it out and clicked it into place. I can be very aggressive with cleaning tools and I was impressed that the little pad that attaches to the mop did not fly off, nor did the mop buckle under all my vigor.

The only thing I don’t like is the smell of the pads (similar to Swifter’s – chemically smelling), but I may use them occasionally and you don’t have to use their pads – you can use a cloth or whatever. Bottom line: I’ll still need to get down on my knees for tough spots, but it’s a great product for a quick floor refresher and I will continue to use. Thanks, Kristine!

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6.  Ever since “Downton Abbey” went off the air, I’ve been looking for a replacement show (haven’t we all?). I discovered “Gran Hotel,” which I’ve been binge-watching on Netflix because it’s only available through November 15th – nooooo! I’m not going to get through them all and may have to start subscribing to Hulu, just to watch the end.

The show is hardly deep or fleshed out and the budget clearly does not rival that of “Downton Abbey,” but the Castilian Spanish (gracias = grrrrathiath) is charming and romantic, and the characters are likeable, even the villains. Someone gets slapped in every episode and it seems like someone dies or gets close to death in every episode. Such a great bad show!

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7.  I turned 44 this month (waaaaaaah!). A small group of friends celebrated with me (and another gal who shared a bday close to mine) at the Country Club of Detroit in a private room upstairs. The food was delicious (the cheese platter with honeycomb fresh from their hives omg), the champagne glasses were overflowing and the cake was GORgeous.

My friendships here are still in the baby stages and I miss my San Francisco friends beyond anything I can describe, but the people here appear to have an abundance of generosity that is genuine and natural (all the gals – not just the birthday dinner ones!). The GP crowd is a tough one to break into and as much as I love to play the outsider and make fun of their idiosyncrasies, I am so grateful for and often humbled by them.

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8)  On my birthday, Tom and I visited one of the local schools to talk about The Garden Detroit. I was soooo nervous! But the kids were sweet and receptive and funny, and I ended up having a great time. Pistachio the possum (who Tom rescued and has since been returned to the wild) was a big hit. And the kids sang Happy Birthday to me before I left. Awww.

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9.  When my husband got back from his guy weekend in Kentucky, we celebrated my bday at Republic Tavern, a newish spot in downtown Detroit. I decided to try an actual cocktail vs my usual champagne appertif, and it was soooo good. I almost stuck with it through the rest of the meal, but did switch to red wine, thankfully (cocktail went down way too fast).

The food was just okay. Actually the appetizers were really good, but the entrees were okay/as expected. We would go back.

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10.  Couples bowling started up again at the Yacht Club. For some reason I think it is hyseterical that we drink Moet while we bowl. Only in Grosse Pointe…

img_1558-786x102411. Halloween was fun this year because the little one is a year older and can stay up just a bit later, which makes all the difference. Also, it wasn’t freezing cold or raining, which helped a ton. As is the annual tradition, we wet to a friends’ house for a potluck and then headed out on the streets around 6pm.

One of our friends is really into Halloween decorations. He makes them as in creates from scratch with plastic molds and fabric and paint, etc. Impressive.

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12.  Sam at our 5-year-old’s tea party. Because he’s such a good boy.

And that’s a wrap! I have been so sick with a nasty cold for over a week and I am ready to feel normal again. I hope all of you are in better shape! Have a great November!

PS – my numbers aren’t consistent (some have dots, some have the half circle parenthesis thingy) which is a huge pet peeve, but it’s a long story and a WordPress logistics issue (I continue to use the old editing system, though they try to get me to switch all the timme), and I at least got the text to where it is justified vs indented, so I am leaving it at that.

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Ailanthus Tree – The Take-Down

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Last summer we had weeds. Not just any weeds but weeds that I eventually learned were coming from our super tall ailanthus tree. I did some research and sure enough, this tree is considered an invasive species in many states, including Michigan. One neglected weed grew to over six feet tall within a matter of weeks! Our neighbor pointed it out to me and it was promptly (although not without some difficulty) pulled up by me.

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The tree originates from China and was introduced to the U.S. in the late 1700s. It is called the “Tree of Heaven,” probably for the tall heights it can reach, but when you google it, other common names are “Tree from Hell” and “wonder-weed.”

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One interesting tidbit that I got from the Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop (where I also got the above image), an organization that makes creates art/items out of ailanthus wood, is that these trees started popping up in post-industrial Detroit when home became abandoned. They say “the quantity and height of Tree of Heaven specimen functions as a signifier for how long a place might have been abandoned.”

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I would have loved to chop it down last year, but after receiving quotes from several companies, realized it was something we were going to have to save up for. It was first on my gardening to-do list this year.

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Our backyard doesn’t allow for larger equipment to come in, so the company we used had one guy climb and cut the tree, and then a bunch of other guys on the ground helped guide him and move out the debris. Large pieces came down with a series of ropes (vs. throwing them down on the ground, which did happen with smaller branches).

Considering what a huge tree it was, they were quite fast and efficient.

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The stump was ground with a machine, leaving us with a huge pile of wood chips, which I’ve been dispersing around the garden

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I was thrilled to say goodbye to the tree. We now have a bit more light and hopefully, a lot less weeds this summer.

Alas, our next door neighbor has an ailanthus tree in their yard and you can be sure that I will be keeping my eye out on that side of the yard to make sure it doesn’t start invading our property as well! Happy gardening.

 

Hawaii – Early Mornings

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There’s a six-hour time difference between Michigan to Hawaii. Even though we stopped in San Francisco for a few days, our little one never quite acclimated to the time change. She normally woke up around 4:00am, wide awake and ready to take on the day.

Me, not so much.

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But her early wake-ups did give me the opportunity to go running at Ala Moana beach park before it got too crowded or too hot. Twice I arrived before the sun came up. It was peaceful, seeing the moon quietly hovering over the water and later, exhilarating to watch the changes in the sky as the sun announced daybreak.

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There are surprisingly a lot of people at the beach at this time of day. Mostly senior citizen walking in pairs, but there were one or two boot camp-style exercise groups and people like me, out for a morning run to jumpstart their day. The surfers were up, of course, and the fishermen, doing what they do.

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I spent the early mornings of Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the beach, reflecting on spiritual things, life things and just getting my Zen on.

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If it weren’t for the four-year-old’s internal clock, I wouldn’t have had these great soul-cleansing moments. Usually I’m not very good at going with the flow, but this time I relented and was able to reap all the benefits of giving in to what you can’t control…

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..which is much easier to do in Hawaii while on vacation.

Houseplants

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We finally bought some indoor plants and what a difference they make. Can’t believe it took us a year. I think part of the reason we waited so long is that I am afraid of killing them (haven’t had much luck with indoor plants in the past).

I did research on the easiest houseplants to take care of and then headed to Charvat, a local Grosse Pointe florist. Dave Charvat (an owner, I’m assuming) greeted me and gave me an overview of my options.

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When I first walked in, I spotted a full, grassy plant by the window. A ponytail plant. Of course. Was it easy to take care of? Yes. Check. They don’t have a huge pot selection at Charvat, but I did find a perfect $10 one for it. The plant itself I think was around $35.

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They also had a rubber tree that was the exact size I was looking for, so I grabbed it as well. It looks great in the family room and I love the pot from Modernica.

After a bad purchase from Wayfair (their online dimensions were not accurate), I decided to spend a little more cash for a really nice planter, which I am so much happier with.

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I’ve been really wanting a Fiddle Fig (I love the big, glossy leaves) and thank goodness it made the list. For the longest time, I thought Dave was saying FiddleyFig, which made me think of a leprechan every time he said it, but then later I realized he was saying Fiddle-Leaf Fig.

They didn’t have one in stock, but he offered to get one for me and said it would get there within a week. I think it was about $60 or $75? Somewhere in that range. And another chic planter purchase from Modernica.

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A few weeks later I went back to the store, looking for three plants to use for our dining room table centerpiece. I spotted some aboricolas, which Dave said would grow quite a bit unless I kept cutting them back.

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He re-potted one of the plants so it would be in the same size container as the others. They fit perfectly in our IKEA pots. I am obviously big on the white pots (if it weren’t for my husband, I would have picked a white pot for the family room, too!).

ponytips (768x1024)I told Dave that the tips of our ponytail plant were turning brown. I remember the delivery guy (they offer free delivery, which is so nice) saying that the worst thing I can do is over-water, so I’ve been careful not to overdo it, but maybe I was under-watering?

He said browning tips happens to their plants as well, and they’ve figured out the reason is the chlorine in the water. He said to leave water sitting out for a day and then water the plants, or use filtered water. I trimmed the tips and am hoping they’ll stay healthy.

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My parsley plant, in the meantime, is sadly ready for the compost pile. It was only a couple dollars at Eastern Market, but I so wanted to keep it alive through winter.

We’ve only had the plants for a month and a half, so I am still nervous about keeping them alive, but so far so good. Do you have houseplants? Which is your favorite?

The October List

IMG_8605 IMG_8589 (800x800)1)  Guess what? I found some delicious Asian food! It’s a 30-minute drive to Johnny Noodle King on Detroit’s Fort Street and it was worth it. They mostly have ramen noodles (duh), but a few appetizers, too. I got my favorite – miso ramen with pork belly. YUM. And I will be back.

2)  The 9-minute mile is so last summer. The 12-minute mile (maybe sometimes 13. or 14. or just walking) is way cooler.

3)  Just when I thought I could not make another design decision (spent seriously 20+ hours researching and finally coming to an agreement with my husband about which chairs would work for our kitchen table), I get an email from Fred the appliance guy, asking what color knobs we want for our stove. Put me over the edge.

IMG_8460 (800x800)4)  Sometimes it’s good to look down. (Case in point: this adorable fairy garden I almost missed).

5)  Most squirrels seen in the neighbor’s yard at one time: eight. Yes, there was a huge oak tree out front. And yes, it was super creepy.

6)  Just because it’s your birthday, doesn’t mean your kids are going to be angels all day because please dear God, give me a break already. On my birthday. For the love.

IMG_8619 (640x800)7)  Where can you munch on blackened filet mignon tips with Bearnaise sauce and get your bowling game on? The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, that’s where (okay so we joined a couple’s bowling league, no judgement).

8)  Speaking of the Yacht Club, we totally made fun of the Yacht Club and then about four months later we joined the Yacht Club.

IMG_8654 (721x800)9)  Insect of the month: this moth. I think he was in the process of dying (he was moving slowly and I tried to help him get back up in the air, but no go), but still so beautiful. I spent about one minute online trying to find out what kind of moth, but no luck (it is a moth, right? not a butterfly?).

10)  The previous owner of our house called my husband a couple weeks ago, asking him how we were liking the house and to remind him to change the filter in the hot tub. Nicest. Person. Ever.

11)  I called aforementioned previous owner regarding another matter and I told him we took the wallpaper down (he asked me what we’d done to the house – what could I do?). He said that wallpaper cost something like $100 a roll (according to one online source, for a 16 x 20 room, you need 16-20 rolls. And if you remember, the entire stairway, entryway and hallways were covered). Nervous laughter.

IMG_8446 (729x800)12)  There are drive-through everythings here. Post office boxes, pharmacies, kid drop-offs for school even. At first I was like…”okay, these people are LAY-zee!” And then I started using them and I LOVE them (I’m sure I will love them even more in Winter). Speaking of Winter, is it already here? Brrrrrrr….