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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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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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.”

Small ailanthus trees in Detroit

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.

 

Found

IMG_2130 (1024x1024)I found this little guy at my Aunt Irene’s pond. The white background highlighted his features beautifully. Reminds me of a southwestern pattern or midcentury modern decor.

I went online and I think it is a hickory tussock caterpillar, which turns into a moth.

A New Tree and a Transplant

IMG_1390 (768x1024)In early Spring, we pulled up a bunch of bushes that were blocking the view from the kitchen window. We finally decided on a serviceberry tree (formal name, amelanchier) to help cover the utility boxes and make them less of a focal point.

Other options were some type of lattice covering (which I’ve never liked, at least not as a focal point) or an evergreen. An evergreen probably made a little more sense in terms of coverage, but we (meaning me, and my husband let me have the final say) really wanted a flowering tree.

IMG_1388 (919x1024)Here are the guys unloading the tree. ..

IMG_1392 (768x1024)…and putting it into place.

IMG_1396 (768x1024)Initially the tree was slightly crooked, so someone came back a week later to straighten it. Two weeks later (today), the tree looks a tad unhappy, with yellowed leaves, many of which have fallen off. One of the landscape owners came by to look at it and assured me it still looks healthy, and that it’s trying to adjust to its new environment. We do have a one-year warranty on the $400 tree, but we would like for it to survive, of course.

IMG_1387 (938x1024)While the guys were here installing the tree, they also transplanted one of our Pieirs japonica trees free of charge. I felt the plant was competing with the rhododendron for sun and space, and I also wanted a plant with more foliage that would cover the drain pipe when looking out from the dining room.

hydrangea (941x978)I bought a $50 hydrangea with light purple flowers (the flower in the photo is faded after weeks of being in bloom) and planted it in the pieirs japonica’s spot. Hydrangeas love water and do well in the shade, so I’m told. This plant should grow to about three feet high and five feet wide.

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before

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after

It’s hard to see in photos, but the Pieirs japonica was moved next to another shorter Pieirs (on the left), that seems to be doing well even in a shadier spot. I’ve been told by several plant people that it’s an old plant, so it is especially vulnerable to being transplanted, but it seems to be doing fine in its new space. I lopped a few hanging branches of the evergreen overhead to give it more sun.

The serviceberry is supposed to produce actual berries in the spring. One of the landscapers told me (after I asked) that the berries aren’t edible (he seemed uncertain), but Mil the gardener says that they are and I’ve found several online sources agreeing with her. I also read that birds often devour the berries as soon as they are ripe, and there are a lot of them around here. Hopefully our tree will survive winter and I will be writing about its beautiful red berries next spring.

Yard Work

IMG_0543 (768x1024)Spring is finally here! It arrived in full force this weekend with sunny skies and highs in the 70s. All of Grosse Pointe celebrated by doing the usual warm weather things like walking the dog, biking to the yogurt shop (TCBY, which sadly is over-sugared and processed. I miss you so much, Fraiche!), hosting a barbecue or doing yard work.

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Kitchen window view BEFORE

On Saturday, we enjoyed mint juleps at a Kentucky Derby party and on Sunday we decided to tackle the backyard. After a trip to Home Depot (many folks here say The Home Depot, which I get is the actual name, but still sounds weird) to get random things like a new hose, garden shears, wood trim, drain cleaner and a dust pan, we started working on Project Bush Removal.

IMG_0559 (890x1024)IMG_0560 (981x1024)The bushes (three of them) to be removed were hiding the ugly utility boxes, but they were also blocking the view from the kitchen window. My husband started digging them out with a shovel and 30 minutes later, was on the phone to a friend, asking to borrow an axe. With both shovel and axe, the plants were removed after a couple hours.

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I had the job of chopping them up and putting them into compost bags.

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Kitchen window view AFTER

Getting rid of them has really opened up the view from the window. We can now see most of the left half of the yard, which will be SO great this summer when I need to sneak a look at the kids (or the dog) without having to walk in the backyard or disturbing them.
IMG_0563 (768x1024)My husband has assigned me the task of figuring out what plant to put in front of the utility eyesore. Our lawn guys were here today doing Spring clean up, so I asked one of the guys for ideas. He suggested dogwood or serviceberry and said it would run about $400 including installation.

Serviceberry Tree. Image from whatgrowsthere.com

My personal favorite that is in full bloom around town is the weeping cherry. Gorgeous pink blossoms and so delicate. I have yet to find out how much those cost or if they are available.

Weeping Cherry. Image via ifinallyhavetime.com

Our next door neighbors are expert gardeners who were on the annual Grosse Pointe Garden Tour last year (which I’ve been told is a pretty big deal). I’m hoping to pick their brains for ideas (maybe after an offering of homemade pie). And my mother-in-law sent me an email saying she has an idea that could work. So many possibilities! What would you suggest?