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.)

 

Our New Home!

house.backyardWe closed on our new home yesterday – what a relief. The whole mortgage process was complicated and stressful, but its over. We are now Michigan homeowners!

The house was built in 1960 and is 3248 square feet. Its exterior is traditional Midwestern brick, with painted shutters and a weathervane over the garage. It is located in the city of Grosse Pointe Farms and is walking distance to a small shopping district. It’s also super close to Lake St. Clair, a huge plus for us. We both love being near the water (in fact one of our criteria for moving out of San Francisco was that we had to move somewhere that was close to a large body of water).

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First floor bathroom.

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Family room

photo 1 (600x800)The first time we looked at the place, we crossed it off our list. We had just started looking, and everything was really dated and we thought it would be too much of a headache to redo. The kitchen window overlooked the backyard, but its appliances were over 20 years old (including the trash compactor, which I was baffled by. At first I thought it was a second dishwasher) and the cabinets? Formica. The sponge-effect painted walls, dark first floor bathroom and “heavy” decor (maroon leather couches, lots of flourishes) didn’t exactly help sell the place.

And then there was the wallpaper…

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In dining room, looking through hallway to the living room.

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Looking down to the dining room.

The second time we looked at it, we were further into our house-hunt, and paid more attention to the flow, layout and general well-being of the house. We liked the big, private (fenced in on both sides of house) backyard and nice patio (although it had just been cleaned, so was very slippery that day). My husband loved the big and very clean heated garage. Even though we didn’t love the styling (gold fixtures, ’80s lighting, carpeting selection, etc.), the rooms were decent-sized and the second floor bathroom placement made sense, unlike many other places we’d seen.

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Master

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Guest room.

However, it was a four-bedroom. Which meant that either our guests would have to sleep in one of the girls’ rooms when they came to visit, or that the husband would have to stick his office in the basement (with low ceilings that barely cleared his head). We once again crossed it off the short list.

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Basement

house.basement2We knew we weren’t going to find the perfect home, but we kept hoping something new would come on the market that would have most of what we wanted. So we kept waiting. But both of us kept looking at the house online, and somewhere along the way, we decided to look at it one last time.

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On our third visit, we only saw good things about the house. Both the kitchen and family room (which were connected by an open doorway) had sliding doors to the backyard (which housed a hot tub, which we’re inheriting), the upstairs layout was perfect (master set off from the rest of the rooms, and none of the remaining bedrooms was too large or too small), there were hardwood floors throughout the first floor (except for the kooky family room) and the dining and living rooms had big windows that extended all the way to the floor. Why hadn’t anyone bought this place, it was awesome!!

We put in an offer right away and after a short negotiation, paid just a little under asking. The home inspector who came to look at the house told my husband it was the best house (condition-wise) he had seen in a long time. Two new furnaces, almost brand new roof (it was totally redone a couple years ago), new air conditioning units, a central vacuum and a generator, all in excellent condition.

house.front2We met the sellers at the closing. They were sweet and gracious, offering to give us a walk-through to show us the lay of the land (how to use the generator, for example) and making themselves available if we had any questions. We were thrilled when they told us they were closing on a condo in the next few days and if it all went as planned, they would be out of the house by August 4th, one month earlier than planned.

So we hate the decor. It can be changed. And after meeting the previous owners I realized, they loved the decor. They loved the house. And they took care of it for us for 23 years. And you want to know something funny?…..we have a very small budget for immediate home improvements (and a larger budget for a kitchen remodel, hallelujah). We’ll need to pick and choose which things to do this year and which things can wait. Well, I won’t be mad if the wallpaper isn’t the first thing to go.

The Homes of Grosse Pointe

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Lots of weathervanes, a feature that I love.

The homes of Grosse Pointe are super different than the homes in San Francisco. For all I know the houses here are typical Midwestern homes, but all this is new to me, so nothing here is truly “typical” from my point of view.

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A summer cottage back in the day. Photo credit: GP Historical Society

Initially (and without getting into all the nitty-gritty history, which can be found via the Grosse Pointe Historical Society), Grosse Pointe was first a French colony. After the Civil War, the upper echelon of Detroit started vacationing in Grosse Pointe, taking over farms and building summer homes. In the late 1800s, according to the GP Historical Society, the first year-round residence of Grosse Pointe was established. Huge estates started to pop up all over the Pointes – homes that took up full city blocks and have since been torn down, making room for several more modest homes.

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Typical Grosse Pointe brick home.

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More brick. And those trees!

So, here we are, present day. For sure there is a lot of brick going on. I don’t want to go as far as saying that most homes are brick, because I’m not sure that would be entirely true. Lots of red brick, of course, but also white-washed and sand-blasted brick, both of which I quite like.

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There are also a good handful of farm houses (which I would love, love, love to live in) and craftsman-style homes (also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m not an architect. Some of the terms here I’m using are probably not actually correct architectural terms. And I’m okay with that). A wee handful of stone homes, lots of siding, loads of columns…

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and a bunch of homes built in the 50s and 60s with some midcentury modern homes stuck in there (I used a correct architectural term! I think.).

homes.50smodern (739x800)Typical decoration items are weathervanes, mostly over garages, with mounts ranging from ducks to geese other birds to dogs. There are also many colorful front doors here, a favorite being bright red.

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Shutters are also extremely popular and colorful shutters seem to also be “in” (particularly dark teal-ish and mauve). Other popular decorations are the American flag (don’t see much of that in San Francisco)…

IMG_6944 (636x800)…and stone statues flanking the porch or front door or driveway. For example, two crouching lions or two regal dogs, or perhaps one dog holding a basket in its mouth, etc.

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photo credit: trulia.com

Something I really love here are the trees and plant life. San Francisco had trees and Golden Gate Park was gorgeous, but the trees here are enormous, reaching way up to the sky. And summertime trees are so full (and full of life) and bright. And they are everywhere. On every block. It seems like every house, big or small, has some kind of garden going on. Almost daily I see people working in their yards – weeding, putting mulch down, planting new flowers. It’s nice being part of a community that cares about nature (well, except for the pesticide thing. sigh).

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So there’s your short (and hopefully sweet) tour of the neighborhood. Coming soon in a future post, I’ll take you inside some of the homes we visited (and some we didn’t) on our house hunt. Helloooo, wallpaper!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

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The master bedroom.
Torch Lake, Michigan

This week’s challenge is Room. This photo was taken last summer at my husband’s grandparents’ home, where they had lived since 1971. My husband and I slept in the twin beds that were in the master bedroom, the “butterfly room.” The house was on the market and sold shortly after our trip.

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

 

 

Family + Telling the Girls + Bugs

Family portrait

Spring 2012

I haven’t talked about my family a whole lot yet, but family is pretty much the whole reason for the move. This is probably my favorite photo of my three loves. My husband (who is the most private person I know – bless his heart for not collapsing when I told him about the blog) was being silly with the girls one morning and I captured this sweet moment. Lucy was about six months old and Penny had just turned three.

Speaking of the girls, we finally told them about the move last night. The first words out of Penny’s mouth were, “I’m not really that excited because I don’t like walking in Michigan….they have worms!” Not the response we were expecting, exactly, although it wasn’t entirely out of left field. Last summer when we were there, Penny was freaked out by all the bugs.

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In the backyard. (No bugs.)

To her credit, they were kind of creepy, especially when they crawled up from the dirt and onto the hot stones of Nana’s deck or concrete sidewalks of the neighborhood. They would writhe around, flipping and flopping, and if they couldn’t find their way back to the earth, they would eventually shrivel up and die. There were also lots of beetles and bees and other flying insects. We rarely see bugs here, even in our backyard.

I feel her pain. Bugs make ms jumpy, too. My gross-out Michigan bug moment was during my early evening runs. Every couple of blocks, I would run through a swarm cloud of tiny bugs in a funnel formation (what were they doing? And what kind of bugs were they? I would Google it, but then I’d have to look at buggy photos). Every once in a while I would inhale one. I got to where I could spot them up ahead, and whenever I reached a swarm, I would flail my arms in an attempt to keep any bugs from entering my nose or mouth. Sometimes I’d let out a battle cry while doing it. Preeetty sure the locals could tell I wasn’t from around there.

Penny and I have some manning up to do, for sure (she’s been talking about worms all morning), especially since I plan on composting and planting an edible garden. I’ll let you know how it goes down.