The August List

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Our vacation rental on Walloon Lake.

1) Northern Michigan (aka Up North) is to Detroiters, as Tahoe is to San Franciscans. I blame Northern Michigan for my blog lull, by the way. We’ve been back over a week and I still can’t get out of vacation mode.

2) Most gnats inhaled on an evening run: four.

3) Nevermind gnats. Whatup spiders? Unless you spray (which we don’t), they are everywhere. I walk through at least one web per day, usually in the morning before I’ve had coffee (letting the dog out). Creeps me out every time, even though I’m expecting it.

4) The guy at Trader Joe’s asked me if I just moved here (they always check my ID, which still says California). He’s from Santa Rosa. He said, “You know what you won’t be able to find out here….good Chinese food.” Yep.

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American Spoon

5) Speaking of food, the best meal I’ve had since I moved was in Petoskey (Up North territory) at a great spot called American Spoon. As I was enjoying my not-greasy whitefish sandwich and potato salad with snap peas and mint (I miss you, San Francisco!), I fell in love with the paint color. Which miraculously they had on file. Which unfortunately is either a mistake or no longer exists, because I cannot find it anywhere, at least not under the brand name they gave me. Waaaahhhh!

6) Yes, you did just see my kid sitting on a pink potty. In the back of my SUV. In the library parking lot.

7) When school starts in Grosse Pointe, summer is officially o-VER. Pools close, restaurants shorten hours, traffic laws change (no right turn on red). In San Francisco, there is no official end of summer. In fact, summer is just getting started (September and October are two of its most gorgeous months).

8) Finding the perfect paint color for the foyer suddenly seems ridiculous and embarrassing when you are waiting for your Italian sub at Which-Wich and start reading the headlines of the newspaper tacked to the walls. Ugh.

sign9) A lawn sign you will never find in San Francisco (above). For one thing, no one has a lawn in San Francisco, but that’s not really the point. Lawn signs are big here. There’s one in front of our new house right now, actually, that the painters put up.

10) Need to get back on your feet, Detroit? Start charging for stuff! It’s free to park anywhere on Belle Isle and admission to the aquarium and conservatory are free (in SF, prices are $35 and $5, respectively). Residents also get a free ride to the DIA museum (at the SF MOMA, it’s $18). A couple weeks ago I parked at St. John’s for a doctor’s appointment. It’s a huge Detroit hospital, as big as San Francisco General. Free parking. (In SF, you’d pay $6.00 – $12.00 easy for the shortest doctor visit).

11) When the guys at Benjamin Moore say, “Bye, see you soon!” as you’re leaving, it’s time to decide on a paint color already.

12) When you start giving other Benjamin Moore patrons color advice, it’s time to pack it up and go home. (Although she did say the creamy white I suggested was exactly what she was looking for. Boo-yeah.)

 

The July List

My previous list entries were well-received by y’all, so I’ve decided to make it a regular thing. Surely I can learn 12 new things about this town, myself and life every month? I wasn’t sure what to call them. I tried Musings, Discoveries and Observations, What I’ve Learned So Far, etc. They seemed too grandiose. So I’m simply calling it The List. Here we go.

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1) I still heart Detroit.

2) Here, I am Mrs. Martin. I will never get used to the formality. Especially with friend’s kids. My first instinct is to correct them, but instead I giggle nervously (which I’m sure makes a great first impression).

3) I finally found the 2% minority residents. They are getting their smarts on at the Grosse Pointe Park Library. Heck yes.

IMG_6700 (800x549)4) Do not get the onion rings at the Village Grille. Unless you like semi-raw onions covered in corn dog-type batter. Better yet, don’t get anything at the Village Grille.

5) I’ve discovered a way to frequent Morning Glory without having to lower my coffee standards: iced tea. I don’t think I’ve had iced tea since Oklahoma. I’ve forgotten how refreshing it is to sip iced tea on a hot day.

6) Speaking of hot weather, people here don’t realize that San Francisco is not California weather. Stop apologizing for the”mild, wet, etc” Michigan summer. It’s July and I’m not wearing a parka. I’m good.

7) Word gets around. One of my mother-in-law’s friends knew we had put an offer on our house before we even told anyone. Umm….wow. That’s pretty impressive, even for a small town. (Did I say impressive? I meant annoying).

IMG_7611 (800x800)8) Delight Bakery & Cafe has delicious scones. Really, really good. Josef’s was closed a couple weeks ago, which prompted a visit across the street to this small shop. The “cafe” part of the title is a bit misleading, as they don’t serve coffee. If I could grab a cappuccino with my buttery scone, I’d be more inclined to make it a regular stop.

9) Toilet seat covers are non-existent. Even at fancier places. I feel like I’ve been to one nondescript place that did have them (Starbucks?), but that would be the only one I’ve seen. In San Francisco, even the hole in the wall places provided you with bum protection. Glad I’ve been doing my squats.

baseball (800x800)10) My first trip to Tigers Stadium was also the girls’ first baseball game. They may have enjoyed the carousel and peanuts more than the actual game, but watching the little one cheering with the crowd? Presh.

11) Apparently, it’s okay for complete strangers to ask me where I live. As in my address. And if you don’t readily give it up, they will kindly offer their address, as if to say, now it’s your turn. Cases in point:

EXAMPLE ONE:
Trader Joe’s guy (seeing my license): So what made you move out here?
Me: My husband’s from here. Kids.
Trader Joe’s guy: Where are you guys living, here in Grosse Pointe?
Me: Yes.
TJ Guy: Whereabouts?
Me: What?
TJ Guy: What street are you on? We’re over on Charlevoix near Merriweather.

EXAMPLE TWO (Me, on my morning run)
Lady in Car: Hey!
Me: Hi
Lady in Car: Oh, you can keep running. Do you know where Carver street is?
Me: Sorry, I just moved here.
Lady in Car: Oh! Welcome to the neighborhood. What street are you on?
Me: Uhh….
Lady in Car: I’m on Ridgemont. What street are you on?

12) Speaking of street names, how do you pronounce Cadieux? Wrong! It’s CAD-joo. What about Gratiot? Wrong again. GRA-chit. One more try with Vernier? And… wrong. VUR-nur. So much for the French influence.

In Search of Coffee Part I: Josef’s European Pastry Shop

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Josef’s

I love a good cup of coffee. Rephrase. A good cup of espresso. Regular drip coffee makes me too shaky (if you haven’t heard, drip coffee actually has more caffeine than espresso. true story). Specifically, a cappuccino if it’s done right, a dry cappuccino if it’s done mostly right, or a macchiato, if the barista doesn’t know how to make a proper dry cappuccino.

I was pretty spoiled in San Francisco in that regard. The city has an abundance of independent cafes to choose from, many of which are snooty about their bean varieties (which, although annoying, does make for a good brew). It’s unusual for a restaurant not to offer espresso drinks, and you can often get your cappuccino fix at non-coffee establishments. For example, Fraiche, the frozen yogurt shop, offers the highly regarded Blue Bottle coffee (Oakland), along side their organic yogurt, homemade bread and chocolate chip cookies.

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Peet’s in the Village. If only the inside were as inviting. (photo credit: http://www.peets.com)

Finding a perfect cup in the Grosse Pointe/Detroit area wasn’t going to be easy, I knew, from my previous trips here. There used to be a chain in town called Caribou Coffee, which made a decent cappuccino, but it was hit or miss. One of their Grosse Pointe locations was taken over by Peet’s (Berkeley), which I’m sad to say completely turned the cozy cafe (fireplaces, armchairs, community table) into a sterile space with boring furniture (and no fireplace).

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The local Starbucks. (photo credit: http://www.starbuckseverywhere.net)

The other location was taken over by Starbucks. All things said and done, I’d rather not do chains. Although, as mentioned in my Top-Twelve post, I have to admit that the Starbucks in town makes a better cappuccino than any San Francisco Starbucks (confounding!).

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Morning Glory (photo credit: http://www.morningglorygrossepointe.com)

Oh, Morning Glory. How I want to love you… Nestled in a small shopping district called The Hill, this newish (2012?) coffee shop’s interior is inviting and eclectic and fun (and they have a lovely outdoor patio for warmer days). The baristas are really sweet. But… the coffee. As one Yelper reviews, “the latte was drinkable, which makes it good for this part of town (where the options are Starbucks and stay home).” Hysterical and pretty much spot on.

I don’t know where they are getting their coffee beans or what they are doing to them, but the taste is bitter (in a bad way) or burnt and the foam lasts about two seconds. And forget about getting a cup to go, which is served in styrofoam (eeek!), which ruins the flavor even further. To their credit, their blueberry scone was buttery and fresh tasting, and their country eggs (scrambled with cheese and bacon) was excellently cooked (not overdone in the least, which is often the case at a place like this).

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Josef’s (photo credit: http://www.josefspastryshop.com)

One morning while I was driving around with the girls, I spotted Josef’s and made a mental note to check it out. My online searching told me that the shop has been around since 1971 and that the original owner sold the place in 2008 to two brothers from Montreal. I took the girls there on a Friday afternoon. We were the only ones there when we walked in, and the woman behind the counter was warm and friendly. There was a loooong counter filled with pastries, cookies, pies and cakes. I asked if all of them were made in-house. She said yes. All of them? Again, “yes” with a nod and a smile.

josefsThe girls chose a smiley face sugar cookie and a sugar cookie dipped in chocolate and filled with jam. I opted for the almond croissant, telling myself to enjoy it, even if it wasn’t La Boulange. I was thrilled to spot their espresso machine and ordered a cappuccino. It was perfect – success! And the croissant. Delicious. It was flaky and buttery, and the filling had just enough almond flavor not to be overwhelming (and not too sweet, either). It wasn’t La Boulange, it was better. I was so happy, I started chatting with the woman about San Francisco, coffee, the kids (normally you couldn’t pay me to talk to a stranger. Not even a nice one).

So there you have it. The search for a good cup of coffee in Grosse Pointe is over. For now. I’m going to keep checking out places as I see them, but when I’m out and about and need a pick-me-up, I’ll head for Josef’s.

(Coming Soon: Part II of In Search of Coffee, featuring Detroit’s Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company)

 

 

Moving Day

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Friday was moving day. A big, bright orange van with the words, “San Francisco Bay Area” pulled up in front of the apartment a little after 8:30 in the morning. It took them all day to unload (I think they left at 5:30pm-ish).

My husband said the movers (the same crew moved us out of our SF place) kept commenting on how heavy the boxes were. “In my 35 years on the job, never have I…” and so forth. I did most of the packing. Whoops. But absolutely nothing broke. Except when I dropped part of the espresso machine as I was taking it out of the box. Yeah, well.

The first time I walked through the apartment, I was underwhelmed. No closet in the second bedroom (unless you call a 6-inch deep x 4-foot wide space a closet) and a somewhat similar “closet” in the “master” bedroom. The kitchen was tinier than I thought (and most of the counter space was taken up by a behemoth microwave from the ’80s). And there were dead flies all over the attic (which made the baby cry and want to go home).

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Looking at the apartment from the backyard. Second floor.

After my husband arrived (five days after I did), he and Sam the Labrador slept at the apartment, while the girls and I continued to stay with his mom (so much easier to be in a furnished home with a stocked fridge, especially with little ones).

The girls and I still haven’t moved in officially. The fridge and the washing machine are both on the fritz (to be fixed tomorrow). Not to mention the boxes everywhere. But I’m already growing fond of the place. I managed to fit all my cooking stuff (meaning the stuff I didn’t put in storage), save a couple bulky items (slow cooker, mixer), into the tiny kitchen. We figured out solutions for the clothes situation and the attic is a super play area for the girls (and it has air conditioning!).

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Me and Sam in the backyard on moving day.

And the backyard. Oh my gosh. Having the girls be able to go downstairs on their own (carpeted, not scary stairwell inside of the house) is a million times better than our situation in San Francisco. And I can see them from the kitchen window. Dream come true.

A lot of our things we allocated for the apartment didn’t fit into the small space. And I kind of love that.  I loved putting books, artwork, clothes, dishes, back into boxes and labeling them “storage.” I loved the process of “no, we don’t need that.” I feel clean. And I feel like, yes, we can move from a 1700-square foot home to an 800-square foot apartment and live to tell about it. Very excited to move in (tomorrow?) and really get this adventure started.

 

 

Michigan: The First Few Days

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Photo credit: the Husband, who drove 2405 miles across the country with Sam the Labrador. They made it in just 2 1/2 days (because he is amazing!)

The first few days in Grosse Pointe have been very surreal. I’m more exhausted than I’ve been since the girls were babies (both terrible sleepers) and I’m emotionally…..distressed? stunned? drained? I can’t even find the right word. Perhaps emotionally confused.

I knew once I got here, that my body would shut down somewhat from all the packing and adrenaline surges that got me through the San Francisco moving process, but I didn’t realize just how tired I would be. Every day (no matter how much coffee I drink), I’ve fallen asleep at some point – on a chair (while talking to someone), in a car (while kids were being loud) and I’m not the kind of person who can sleep anywhere (quite the opposite).

Since I haven’t been able to sort out my emotions, it’s also been hard for me to write, which is why this entry comes five days after our touchdown in Michigan. I can’t seem to organize my thoughts properly; everything is jumbled.

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Lake Shore Drive (also spelled Lakeshore)

But I press on. I’ve gotten out for a couple runs, which always does wonders for my disposition. I’ve found a perfect 3-mile loop, which includes a few blocks on Lake Shore Drive, which borders the calm and beautiful Lake Saint Clair.

The day we arrived, it was cold and raining. As we pulled into town, there was still evidence of the brutal winter that so many experienced this year. Clumps of snow on the ground, ice in the lake, bare trees and bushes, and dry leaves everywhere.

However. All this…cold weather hanging-on stuff means that I haven’t missed a drop of Spring (thank you, Jesus). My heart needs the full season. New beginnings and such.

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Moran Road, Grosse Pointe Farms.

Yesterday, the girls and I were the only ones at the playground (save for the friends who took us there – friends of my husband’s who are my only friends here) , mostly because it was about 40 degrees out – yikes. But today…today it was sunny and blue skies. The girls played outside while I fixed dinner and kept an eye on them through the kitchen window (we’re at my mother-in-law’s place ’til the moving truck comes). And after dinner, they bundled up and went back out again. Laughing, exploring, not wanting to come back inside. Although this was just a minor portion of my day (there were time outs, tantrums, breaking up of fights, the usual), this is why I came here. And I hope it’s a sign of what’s to come.

The forecast for the weeks ahead show some cold (super cold!) and wet days. But they are dotted between days of sunshine and clear skies. I do believe that Spring has found its way to Grosse Pointe, and I welcome it with arms wide open.

GPrun

 

 

Much Ado About Book Group

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At La Boulange in Hayes Valley. 2014

Here we are. The Readers Respond book group. It was founded in February of  2001 (by a member who moved away a couple years later). My first meeting was May, 2003 (we have records!), making me one of the group’s longest standing members. The book we read was Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (like I said, we have records).

Joining the group was a life-changer for me. I had just gotten out of a terrible relationship, was working for a horrible boss (I still run into people who, when I mention his name, give me a look like they just smelled something rotten) and was pretty much hating life. I’m a super shy person in new situations (INFJ in Meyers-Briggs speak), but out of desperation for something good and true, I decided to check out a book club I found online at SFStation.

Some excerpts from the ad:
“The host moderates the meeting, gives a biographical sketch of the author and prepares a delicious spread of snacks; the other participants bring wine and wisdom.”
“While discussions can be tangential, they are always lively!”
“Must commit to attending and participating at meetings the second Thursday (of the month)…”

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At my wedding. 2008

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about how we’ve managed to stay together for so long. We attribute much of it to our rules (if we have records, you know we have rules) and the fact that we actually uphold them. I think we’ve also just been really lucky (or perhaps serendipitous).

Another beautiful thing about this group is that no subject is off limits (yep, even that one). As a result, we’ve had many a “lively” discussion (as the ad promises) and much, much laughter. We’ve celebrated a multitude of milestones and have gotten each other through disappointments and heartbreak. When one of us moves away, as San Franciscans will often do (to the East Bay, to LA, to Oregon, to Australia, to travel the world), we continue to be in touch.

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Chinatown. 2013

You would think with friendships like this, that a last meeting would leave me in a state of…well, a hot mess. However, much like my last band hurrah, my last book group was not an emotional affair. Sure, we talked about my move and celebrated with some of my absolute favorites – homemade pot stickers, champagne and coconut cupcakes. I was given presents (the book I’ve been wanting! and a trivet of the Golden Gate Bridge) as well as a lovely card. So what gives? Why no tears or gnashing of teeth?

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Parting gifts.

I’m not really the type of person to bottle up feelings. Maybe because this move thing is so monumental, I’m doing that without recognizing it as such. Maybe it’s because I know I’m going to see everyone one more time next week at my going-away shindig. Maybe at said shindig, as I’m sitting at the bar with a drink in hand, I will finally collapse to the floor and “ugly cry” (as my sorority sister Jen would say) for hours on end.

Whatever may happen, I know that, much like finishing the end of a good book, when I turn the final page on my San Francisco life, I’ll have so much joy and fulfillment from the whole experience, any tears shed along the way will have been well worth the ride.