The September List – 2020

This month, I’m skipping niceties and jumping right into the list…

1) After months of taking care our tomato plants, we finally have something to show for it. Throughout summer we’ve had one or two semi-ripened tomatoes, which tasted…fine. But these were truly ripe. And delicious.

Some pics of the crazy plants, that are full grown and have loads of green tomatoes on them. We almost had a frost last night. Crossing my fingers for a couple more weeks of decent temperatures.

2) My WordPress blog format has defaulted to Block editing, which, if you know WordPress you sympathize and if you don’t, it just means that I now have less control in terms of photo sizing and positioning.

I have zero interest right now in figuring out this new systems, so it is what it is.

3) Our youngest turned nine this month. We celebrated with homemade coconut cake and two of her friends (daughters of two families we have been cohorts with throughout summer). She is creative and silly and fun and cuddly and has big feelings that keep us on our toes.

4) The school where I work opened in-person (with safety measures, knock on wood), which means I am back in the office as of early September. When I went in, this reminder of all that had transpired since the last time I was there was waiting for me.

5) After six years of living in our house, we finally repainted our door! Top = old, bottom = new. What do you think? New door knocker coming soon!

6) This month’s read (for me, not our book group book) was “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” by Heather Morris. Online it is touted as a love story, but I didn’t read it as such. Sure, it involves a ribbon of a story of two people, real people, but it was more a story of raw heartbreak, tenacity, wit, kindness and a little bit of luck. Yes, it’s WWII, yes, it’s hard, but not unbearably so. The author gives the hard parts without overdoing the emotion or dwelling on them.

7) I voted for a presidential election by mail for the first time. Fingers crossed!

8) I haven’t seen any of my flower farm friends all summer. Part Covid, part me having to work over the summer (blessing and a curse). I made it out to see one of them this month on a beautiful fall morning – my friend Julia at Willa Rose Floral. It reminded me that I just need to make time for things, period.

9) We (husband, me) finally began watching Killing Eve, which I’ve been dying to watch since it came out. I kept waiting to catch free episodes of the first two seasons, and just sucked it up and paid the $20 (I know, not a big deal, but still) per season to watch via Amazon Prime. It has everything I love. Espionage, murder, surprise, humor, great characters, foreign countries, strong and complicated women and actor diversity (white, asian, black, etc.)

Has anyone read the books the show is based on? Are they good? I can’t imagine a show being better than a book, but the show is so good, I wonder.

10) September was a getting-back-to-a-real-schedule month, so a lot of the month was spent figuring all that out. Waking up early and going to bed earlier, having to actually get ready for work, homework, virtual piano lessons (ugh. is that even doing anything?), not being able to go on my daily walks (aaaaaaah! I miss that!).

11) My dahlias are hanging on, but again, with this latest cold weather streak, I’m not sure all the buds will end up blooming.

I did get this fantastic bloom, which is still amazing after a week of being cut, which was done several days after it opened on the plant. The petals are the whitest white and super fluffy.

12) I’ve done a lot of reflecting this month. Not soul searching, just thinking. About life and what I want out of it and what and how much I’ve been putting out into the universe.

Even though 2020 has been a hot mess, crazytown, sh*t show of a year, it hasn’t been all bad. It’s given me perspective. And more time with my immediate family. More time to walk and connect with faraway friends on the phone. More reasons to be grateful.

I’m not done reflecting or decision-making. Stay tuned. And have a wonderful October!!

The August List – 2020

August was a beautiful summer month, as it always is in the Midwest and East Coast (because if you read The July List, you know that yes! we made it to upstate New York).

1) Who doesn’t like donuts? No one. A new donut shop opened in Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, just minutes from Grosse Pointe, back in March.

We tried Yellow Light Donuts for the first time this summer and all the flavors are delicious (and they have coconut!!) and the drive-through service is super convenient, especially during Covid (and yes I know it is all caps, but I don’t like calling that much attention to it. Over it.). Biscuit sandwiches are yummy, too. Only drawback – get there on the early side or they may sell out.

2) I never did tell you that we got rid of our hot tub earlier this summer. I loved that hot tub, but it was time. We bought two used chaise lounge chairs from a local mom swap group to put in its place and we’ve used them more than we used the hot tub, so it was a good decision. And the patio looks much nicer, too.

3) We have cucumbers – woo-hoo! I never know what’s going to grow in our backyard. Sometimes things work, but mostly they don’t, because don’t get a whole lot of sun back there. We have a small patch of space where the sun lingers, and that’s where we planted the cucumbers. We also planted tomatoes and we do have some of those, but the fruit has been on the vine for week and weeks and they are all still green.

4) It is dahlia season and the few plants that I have bring me so much joy. The first is my favorite Cafe au Lait and the second and third is uhhh… I think Carribean Fantasy. Can you believe that the second and third photos are the same flower!?! Dahlias seem to change every day, which is one of the reasons why they are so amazing.

5) I read two good books this month. The first, “Still Life” by Louise Penny, was a recommendation from a college friend. His recommendation was actually for her latest book in the Gamache detective series, based in Quebec (Mom – you might actually like this one, it is a murder mystery, yes, but it is “light” like the PBS Mystery shows you used to watch) and when I looked it up, I saw that the book was part of a prolific series. I just put the second one on hold at the library.

The next title is “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” by Liane Moriarty. I love her writing because it is easy and entertaining like beach read, yet is so much deeper. Featuring a hopelessly romantic hypnotist, a ho-hum boyfriend and an obsessed stalker, this book is a page-turner.

6) I have three Podcast recommendations. The first, Undercover, has seven seasons so far. I’ve listened to three and am halfway through season four. The first season gives an inside look on the cult Nxivm (pronounced Nexium). Intriguing. Season two discusses an unsolved case of an airplane bomb that exploded in 1965. Season three is about a series of murders that rocked Toronto’s gay community in the 1970s, with a bonus episode on The Justice Project here in Detroit, and season four is about a nearly-homeless “cat lady” who mysteriously disappeared.

The second podcast, Nice White Parents, is a series about “building a better school system, and what gets in the way.”

The third is Intrigue, Season One (only because that’s the only season I’ve listened to so far) “Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel,” about “death, sex and elite politics in China.”

7) I completed two puzzles this month. I would have done more if not for our 1.5-week road trip. But they each had one missing piece which is soooooooo unsatisfying! The first was a brand new puzzle and I swear I didn’t lose the piece, it was not in the box and I didn’t vacuum it up! URGH.

The second one I brought back from my Dad’s. It also had a missing piece, which was surprising, because usually he labels the box with “missing piece!” if that’s the case. If you wondered where I got my puzzle penchant from, when we arrived at my Dad’s, he had three large boxes filled with 30+ puzzles, all of which they were going to donate after I looked through and decided which ones I wanted to keep.

I pretended like I didn’t want them all and ended up with eight. Or nine. I have to say that this particular one (second pic) was very challenging, as up to this point, I have been used to puzzle pieces that are relatively similar in that they are straight-ish and feature one of five different kinds of pieces or so. This one had the most random shapes and sizes of pieces and it was hard to get into my auto-pilot puzzle zone.

8) Speaking of puzzles, the window in this second photo reminds me of a puzzle.

A I stated last month, we quarantined for two weeks before our road trip to upstate New York, ensuring we were safe to be around my Dad and his wife, Lyn. It’s a truly magical place. A simple cottage on a simple lake, but a beautiful refuge just the same. I didn’t relax nearly enough as I’d hoped or planned, finally allowing myself to ignore texts and emails on the last three days, but it was still a great time of winding down and letting go.

9) I captured some of my favorite cabin details.

10) The girls swam and played vintage board games (at least for a few minutes before they started making up their own questions and rules) and learned how to shoot a bb gun, and we ate well and fished (although we didn’t eat the fish we caught – the were all too small) and drank wine and tequila (me) and bourbon (him).

11) For the soon-to-be (school in Michigan starts after Labor Day) 6th grader’s summer social studies project, we visited Sackett’s Harbor (Google says Sacket’s, but it also says Sackett’s was a previous spelling and that’s the way I know it), which was part of the War of 1812.

We also visited the military cemetery there and saw that most of the headstones were adorned with a coin or coins. None of us (including my cousin-in-law, Jim, retired US Army Major General, who accompanied us on our battleground tour that day) knew exactly what that meant or stood for and I have yet to look it up. He did tell us that all headstones face East, which we didn’t know.

12) Remember my amazing hair from June? I posted a selfie and everything. Well, the summer sun turned my highlights orange and I bought some semi-permanent color from RiteAid and dyed it black (actually a dark, dark super dark brown, my natural color) and two months later it’s still black, even though the box promised it would only last 28 days. OH WELL. So I guess I have black hair now. 2020 keeps on giving.

I wish I had some revelation to share with you that came to me while I was living in the woods. I worry that my kids have turned into dummies over the summer with so much screen time and very little social time and I worry that one of us or someone we love will get Covid in a really bad way and I worry that I worked way too much this summer and wasn’t there for anyone, including myself.

I’m not in the depths of dispair, as Anne of Green Gables liked to say, but I’m tired – as in literally, physically and mentally tired – of being in a state of limbo always and not only that, a state of uncertain limbo.

But we have at least one more month of beautiful weather to enjoy. We are healthy, the kids seem… normal for the most part at least for now, my friends continue to be there for me, my extended family is safe and really what more can one ask for.

Be well, my friends. Wishing you a wonderful September!

The July List (Sort Of) – 2020

So, I didn’t actually forget about the July list. I’ve just been remembering at the most inopportune times. Like now (above is where we’ve spent the last week on vacation. My dad’s place in upstate NY and yes we quarantined first). But no time like the present.

Since I’m over 2020 already and I cannot right now with the usual list, I give you 12 things I am looking forward to after the pandemic, whenever that may be. In no particular order.

1) Dining at a restaurant
Okay, granted, since March, I have enjoyed the outdoor restaurant experience twice. It was not fully relaxing, but it did bring some sense of normalcy. I’m guessing there will not be a lot of restaurant eating for us for the remainder of the year. Definitely not when winter hits and eating outdoors is no longer an option.

2) Sending my kids to someone else’s house to play.
Please God.

3) No more political conversations about masks.
I don’t have them. I just hear them and read them.

4) Sports
For my kids. Not college or professional. I don’t watch those.

5) Large (more than 10 people) social gatherings
Just kidding!

6) Indoor social gatherings
That one is actually true. I love hanging out with a nice group of gals (and guys) by the fire with a cocktail. That I miss.

7) Window shopping
I’m not a big shopping, but I do like popping in to stores every now and then. I miss that.

8) Licking the grocery store produce bags
For the love of the land. I cannot open those things. So now I spray hand sanitizer on them and that works pretty well.

9) Touching all of the things
Such as grocery store produce, door handles, Amazon boxes, etc.

10) Not wearing a mask.

11) Sneezing

12) Singing
I miss karaoke, singing in chapel and I will miss Christmas carols.

Over and out!! Enjoy the last full month of summer!!!

The June List – 2020

June was hot and sunny and just as summer should be. Aside from the pandemic still hovering over us and dictating what we can and can’t do.

1) The Yacht Club pool opened for reservations and we decided to check it out. It was actually pretty great. Guaranteed seats, no one sitting too close to you, no pressure to make small talk or socialize. I loved it.

2) You can see my June read in the first pic. It’s another Brad Meltzer book. Not my normal genre, but I’ve now read three of his books in the last few months. I think it’s because I don’t have to think too hard. It’s plot-driven, although it’s not just plot – the characters are decent. It’s like watching an action/suspense movie. I can completely tune out and wind down to it.

Speaking of book, I don’t have a photo (why!?! It was such a beautiful night in a beautiful setting – my girlfriend’s backyard and her new outdoor fireplace), but my book group met for the first time in a long time. I think since February. It was so nice.

3) Happened on the last day of May, but I didn’t post about it….my high school class held a virtual 30TH (!!!!) reunion. Because most people were in Hawaii, we started at 10pm Michigan time (although one of us beamed in from Africa at 5am, so he wins), so I was super sleepy and logged off by midnight, though the gathering was still going strong.

What I can say about my high school friends is probably what most people say about their college friends. It was like picking up a favorite book.

4) I’ve been keeping up my walks (yippee!), although it’s been harder to do so as the weather gets warmer. I could get up an hour earlier to beat the heat, but then I’d have to get up an hour earlier.

I look forward to seeing these peonies every year. They are in an alley of sorts and I’m not sure if anyone tends to them, but they were planted with care for sure and are absolutely beautiful. I love watching them evolve.

5) My podcast pick of the month is hands down Caliphate. It follows journalist “Rukmini Callimachi, who covers terrorism for The New York Times, on her quest to understand ISIS.” At first, I found her voice annoying, but as it quickly became clear how much of an all-around badass she is, I stopped being annoyed and listened in awe instead.

In researching the summary of the podcast just now, I see that she won a Peabody award for it and I’m not surprised.

6) I did another small photo shoot for The Corner Studio. The girls were so sweet and cute and photographing all the outfits made me want to buy all the clothes (I did end up buying some python print leggings and a sweatshirt).

7) I never did share photos I took of the newly renovated Red Crown, a family restaurant in Grosse Pointe Park. I photographed their grand opening (they’d been closed for renovations), but just a couple days later, the state shut down. They are open again, but at half capacity and of course with Covid rules in place.

Covid or no Covid, the space is cool and inviting and the food I sampled from their new menu was yummy, too. I hear they’ve blocked off their parking lot to allow for more outdoor, socially-distanced seating. If you are in the area, stop by!

8) I am still devouring puzzles. This was one of two I did this month. It was the first one that’s somewhat frustrated me. I enjoy a good challenge, but solid colors (or slight variations on one color) is not the kind of challenge I am up for. It completely drove me crazy and I was relived to be done vs. satisfied.

9) On the opposite side of the dining table, my 11-year-old daughter worked on her own puzzle, and this is how she does it. OMG. My husband says she might purposely NOT lay the pieces out because I am so adamant about laying the pieces out, but I’m not so sure. It might just be her. For the longest time she didn’t do the borders first either, but at least she’s taken my advice (whether holeheartedly or reluctantly) on that one.

10) I went to the salon! It was amazing! I had an appointment scheduled in March, just days before they shut down for Covid. I hadn’t cut or colored my hair since October, so it was much needed. My hair has not looked as good since that day because I can never recreate what it is they do to it. Still. Worlds better than it was. Although now with all the sun I’ve had, the caramel is starting to look more tangerine, but I pretend not to notice.

11) After two years of saying that I should get the outdoor bench cushion reupholstered, I got it done. I didn’t take a before photo and I don’t feel like digging around for one, but trust me, this version is a nice improvement. The old cushion was striped with mostly oranges and yellows. It was fine, just outdated. Also, I love ferns so much.

12) I don’t love poetry. As a kid and young adult, I sometimes wrote poems as a creative and mental outlet, but even then I didn’t especially enjoy reading other people’s poems. In spite of that, I picked up a library copy of “The Poems of Octavio Paz” at the suggestion of a friend after a brief Facebook discussion on classic literature.

I wish I could read Spanish – the copy I borrowed showed the Spanish version, followed by the translated version, which I really liked having, even though I can’t understand Spanish), because part of the beauty of poetry is reading the actual words and the placement and flow of the words. But, the translator did quite a good job at relaying the feel of the poems.

Did this awaken a love of poetry I didn’t know I had? No. I still don’t like poetry. However, it broadened my knowledge of a prolific and talented creator, one that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. His poems are thoughtful (meaning it’s apparent how carefully he thought through them – what to say and how to say it) and full and there is a sensuality to even the ones that are not sensual. I found his poems to be….well, poetic. Which many poems in my opinion are not.

As an adult, I don’t always enjoy reading or learning outside of what I find interesting. But it’s a practice that always serves me well when I do it. I hope to continue opening my mind to new and different things outside of my comfort zone. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too. It definitely takes effort, but once you get your feet wet, who knows what you’ll discover about the world or yourself. Here’s to a new month, and hoping it brings some positivity and inspiration to  all.

The May List – 2020

I don’t know why I wait until I’m crazy tired to begin writing these lists. My brain is emotionally and intellectually spent, so it will be interesting to see what I recollect for the May list.

1) I’ve been taking more walks, some of which have turned into walk/runs. I usually take the same paths, more or less. Still making attempts to see the neighborhood  with a different lens.

The walks have helped not only my mental state, as I can more comfortably fit some of my summer clothes. Although I have relented somewhat into trying to conform to my younger body shape and ordered some new (aka not so freaking tight) styles, including a pair of white pull-on jeggings, which are pretty much maternity jeans. Amazing!

2)  The baby robins hatched and fled their nest in our clematis (which is gorgeous this year, by the way). I inadvertently helped them leave one day as I moved in to take a closer look. They peeped at me and all of a sudden one of the squawked and darted out of the nest, fluttering down to the ground.

As soon as that happened, mom and dad rushed in from a tree nearby and there was much fluttering about and then the sibling jumped out and that was that. They hopped about, looking at me like….hi. what now. Ay carumba. I am sorry, little ones! I wish you well.

3)  I was asked to do a photoshoot for one of the high school seniors whose photos I took last year. She and her friend celebrated prom together, so the shoot was for both of them. They were so lovely and ethereal. Raise your hand if you were this beautiful in high school!?! Crickets everywhere.

4)  Aaaaand that shoot got me a few minutes of airtime the local (Detroit) news station, thanks to my girlfriend Kathy, whose reporter friend was looking for feel-good stories. It was a sweet piece about the girls, who were making the most of quarantine and still celebrating pivotal moments (like prom, graduation, etc.).

5)  And after watching myself on television, I realized just how much I missed my hair dresser and dermatologist. Please for the love of the land. The governor says hopefully by July 4th, salons will be open. I have not had a salon visit since OCTOBER. I’ve been growing out my hair and had an appointment scheduled in mid-March, exactly the date they closed. Hot mess.

6)  My podcast this month was The Teacher’s Pet, a podcast released in 2018 about an unsolved disappearance (assumed murder) in Australia. I was telling my girlfriend who is from there (and who subsequently also loves true crime podcasts) how much I enjoyed all the different Australian accents. There is actually a trial going on right now, which may result in a conviction.

I’m going to tune in to more stories from The Australian, if only for more of the accents.

7)  My puzzle this month was sooooo challenging. I didn’t realize how difficult this one would be when I bought it. All the roots and leaves, oh my.

8)  My husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary this month. We ordered out from one of our favorite local spots, Bucci (the artichoke appetizer! The shrimp pasta!) and ate in the dining room while the girls ate in the family room and watched a movie. It was really nice. We talked about making it a regular thing, but we’ve yet to do it again.

9)  Our 11-year-old has been on a baking kick lately and she made yogurt cake that evening, not especially for our anniversary (so she says), but because she just felt like it. We all had some for dessert with homemade whipped cream (which I made) and strawberries and it was delicious.

10)  That day (of our anniversary dinner), I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook page about her having cleaned her chandelier. It looked so nice. So of course I had to also clean mine, which was a painstaking undertaking. But wow, the difference! First pic you can see the few rectangles that I polished compared to the other dusty ones. And yes, I hand massaged ALL of those suckers.

11)  I finished the book “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance. It was good and I especially liked all the statistics he gave, those were interesting. But I read this on the heels of “Educated,” which to me was so much more captivating, in my opinion.

I started “The Kitchen House,” recommended to me by a friend, and I can tell two chapters in that I’m going to really like it. It’s so far about an orphan Irish girl who is brought to a southern plantation to work and live with a group of enslaved people.

12)  Lastly, I’m plain exhausted, can I get an amen. So tired of sheltering in place (I get it, but still). Our state is beginning to open up, but I’m not sure how fast we’ll embrace that as a family. The cultural unrest is unsettling, but the discomfort is needed, I suppose, for actual change. Work is just beyond busy due to the pandemic. It was supposed to be an easy summer. I will need to figure out a plan for the girls, as they are already over it with me and him working all day. I feel for them. And the list goes on and on. It’s all so draining.

I’m counting on June to bring some lightness and relaxation into my life and hopefully yours, too. Sending good wishes to all who are reading!!

The April List – 2020

I’m writing this as we anticipate another freeze tomorrow. My phone’s weather app is telling me it will get down to 28 degrees on Friday night. I think about the momma robin who worked so hard to craft her nest among the clematis vines and hope she will be okay. Not to mention all my perennials that have already started blooming.

1)  Now that the weather is above 45 (at least until tomorrow), I’ve started to take daily or near-daily walks again. Magnola trees are always gorgeous with their fluffy petals, although ironically we always seem to get wind storms in spring, which blow those delicate petals right off.

2)  My garden is popping up, which is always super exciting. Pics above show the difference of one month. Many of these plants came from my neighbor, Shirley, who I think of often. It would be impossible not to, really, with evidence of her presence just over the fence in her still-beautiful garden, as well as in my own yard. Some of her plants have creeped into our garden and I like the connection of her space bridged with ours.

3)  I’ve walked the same streets over and over again for six years now. I’ve been trying to find newness, which is around if one looks hard enough.

4)  I always love looking at all the homes. I’ve been trying to look at them with a fresh perspective to keep my creativity in check. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does.

5)  We were gifted this beautiful loaf of bread from a co-worker’s daughter (who also babysat twice before this whole pandemic went down). Everyone seems to be making their own bread lately and why not. I have yet to, but aspire to at some point. I do have flour and yeast, which are getting harder and harder to find.

6)  Not to say that we haven’t been baking. In an Instagram post, I said that I think I’ve eaten more dessert during lockdown that I had all of last year, and I believe it’s true. Cupcakes, muffins, banana bread, pistachio cake, cookies, scones. It’s a big problem. And yet. I continue baking and eating. Because if you have been stuck in your house with the same people since mid March, you deserve many, many treats, this I know to be the honest truth.

7)  We did allow ourselves takeout once this month. HURRAY! It was such an exciting day, I cannot even tell you how happy I was to not have to think about what to make that night. But moving on.

I made ceviche for the first time ever. My friend posted a photo and recipe on Facebook, and I had all of the ingredients, so I gave it a go. It took longer than the recipe said, but it could also be because I didn’t cut the pieces small enough and maybe they weren’t fully soaked by the citrus. It tasted great and I will definitely make it again, next time with less oregano and more hot peppers.

8) The little one turned our guest bedroom into a fort. Which lasted over a week before my OCD brain could not handle it any longer and I took it down (with her blessing). She slept in there one night, too, which was pretty cute.

9) People are getting really casual during this kooky time. Me included, but I’ve always been pretty casual, especially when at home. This local news article made me laugh, which has been hard to do nowadays. Not the make me laugh part, which is always a challenge, but finding humor in a news article.

10) Finished the Bear Brook podcast (while puzzling, of course). It was very well done. Good reporting, likeable narrator, good “characters,” interesting story. If you like true crime, I recommend.

11) I couldn’t focus very well this month, so reading was minimal. I did finish ‘Untamed” by Glennon Doyle and unlike a couple of my friends who didn’t like it at all, I enjoyed it. I felt it was much too long, that she could have said what she wanted to say in half the space, but I felt many of her passages made sense to me and felt empowering, or at least made me take a look at my own life.

12) I am sooooo glad I purchased the spring flower share from Detroit Abloom. It’s the first year they’ve offered it. Usually shares start in June, but they opened up a small amount of shares for spring. How needed are flowers right now? MUCH needed. And they are beautiful. Plus, the pick up location is my porch, and I love seeing them all when they get delivered.

May is already here. There is still so much unknown floating around. But there is also so much hope. It’s spring, after all.

We had a glimpse of warm weather last weekend, so I am looking forward to more of those days. I’ve talked to family and friends I haven’t chatted with (outside of texting or emails) in years, I’ve FaceTimed with people I usually just talk to on the phone. I absolutely LOVE taking my time in the morning to get ready for work. That’s probably been the best benefit of the lockdown. Being able to have coffee in the morning and my own 20 minutes of peace and reflection before calling for the kids to come down for breakfast.

That’s a wrap on the strangest April to date. Sending you love and wishes. Happy May!