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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The September List – 2016

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I’ve stopped pretending it’s summer. Yesterday I found my first red leaf nestled on our boxwood and early this morning, our first big rain storm of the season began. I put on a sweater for the first time today since early spring AND there’s a pot roast in the oven. I’m all in. Albeit reluctantly.

Soooo many things to talk about, I’m breaking my  rule of 12, exceeding the list by two.

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1)  My husband and I just got back from a wedding in Lake Tahoe. The girls did yoga on Nevada Beach the Friday before the wedding, and that same day the rehearsal dinner was held on Pope Beach. It’s not that I’d forgotten how beautiful it is up there, but it was nice to be reminded.

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2)  In my haste to get things off my plate, including my last blog post of vacation photos, I forgot some of my favorite ones. Here they are. That’s my cousin holding the corn and the sweet baby girl, also a cousin.

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3)  After being in the Detroit area for two and a half years, I made it to the DAC for the first time. The building is a work of art and the new deck offers sweeping views of the city.

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4)  Our girls (finally!) started school after Labor Day. The oldest has always and will always love school (thank you Jesus), but our kindergartner has threatened more than once to “sit on the couch all day and not go to school and not get up, never ever.” There were many tears the first week, but they seem to be gone for the most part and some days she actually wants to be the first one at school!

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5)  To celebrate the joyous occasion, a friend had a mom’s back-to-school evening, complete with a ridiculous amount of champagne and homemade margaritas and treats, including the fanciest donuts you’ve ever seen from Donut Bar, a gourmet donut shop in Southfield. Gotta love Grosse Pointe’s “go big or go home” motto when it comes to gatherings. Works for me.

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6)  I attended our second grader’s parent information night held shortly after school began. This note was waiting for me (husband couldn’t come – no sitter). After searching the room for a checkerboard with turtles on it, the teacher told me that Checkers is the name of the class turtle. OH.

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The parents were also given tiles 1 through 10 and had to complete this worksheet. OMG so stressful!

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7)  I’ve been so excited to introduce the girls to the Star Wars movies, starting with episode four (of course). It kind of bums me out that so many kids in our eldest’s class have already seen it and therefore have ruined some of the plot but we didn’t think the girls were ready for it until now. It wasn’t as thrilling for them as it was for me (and there was a lot of – mom, is he bad? mom, is she bad? mom, what is that?) when I first saw it as a kid but….they enjoyed it at least.

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8)  A couple days after Shirley’s passing, a flower appeared along our front walkway that I did not plant or see before (bad photo, taken well after the flower’s prime). A coincidence if you want to call it that.

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But then last week… the rose plant I bought from Trader Joe’s at the beginning of summer that stopped blooming over two months ago AND that I had neglected and hadn’t thrown out due to laziness, started growing again, producing the prettiest lavender-pink blossoms. I’m sure I’ll continue to be surprised by my garden over the years, and each time I will see it as a reminder of Shirley’s promise to live on in those she loves.

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9)  The dahlias I planted many moons ago (gifts from The Garden Detroit’s flower farm) bloomed this month. My favorite variety, Cafe au Lait, began to open a couple days ago and I was so worried that the wind and rain from today’s storm would damage the petals, but so far so good.

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10)  Our youngest turned five! She requested yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting and I found a great recipe online from Smitten Kitchen that turned out great!

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11)  I went for my biannual mammogram this month, which is never fun. But I do love seeing this sweet prayer request table in the clinic’s lobby. I jotted down a request this time, too.

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12)  My former co-worker Jill happened to be in town the day I got back from Tahoe. She quit her lucrative advertising job and is driving all over the country in her (very fancy) RV with her dog Juno. You can read about her adventures here. It was so nice to catch up with someone from my SF life. I think the last time I ran into her was something like 12 years ago at a bar in the Mission? It’s been a long time, anyway.

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13)  My husband and I, along with eight of our friends (four couples) redeemed our tickets to the Great Escape Room in Royal Oak this month. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but the experience was pretty close to the description on the website – “Locked in a room with no way out, you must search for hidden compartments, secret passageways, and clues to plot your Great Escape. It is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game.”

You have an hour to escape and I thought (considering that the puzzles were hard!! and I’m a puzzle person!) we did super awesome, but we didn’t make it out in time. We solved all but the final puzzle, which I’m certain given a few more minutes, we would have done. It was fun and different. Highly recommend. I do not recommend stuffing 10 people into an 8-person limo.

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14)  A thank-you to my mother-in-law, who let me come over one afternoon to divide her hostas and take the extras home. So many! When I moved here, I was so-so about hostas, but they are one of the only plants that love our shady backyard and that thrive with very little care. And they’ve grown on me – I quite like them now.

Happy Autumn, everyone!!

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The August List – 2016

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August brought more summer heat, but also much-needed rain. It was another busy month, but we got to slow way down for a couple weeks when we took a road trip to upstate New York, where my Dad has a cabin at the tip of the Adirondacks and where many of his/my relatives still live.

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1)  We started a new rewards system for the girls this summer (got idea from a husband’s cousin). Each stick represents a number of plus or minus points, which translates to the same number of minutes, which they can use at the end of the week for app time (kid apps installed on my iphone). The system sort of tapered off during our trip, but we will amp it up again when school starts. It seems to work well.

Note: the fact that we are so strict with our girls regarding screen time is ironic, as my husband and I are tv and phone addicts. But if I recall, Steve Jobs was the same with his kids, so there.

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2)  This is my Instagram suggested viewing. Chickens eating. Lordie.

When I’m on as The Garden Detroit, I try to engage with other users, mainly farmers, who are often animal-lovers and I cannot stop “liking” videos of baby animals (mainly bunnies. or goats.) eating! They pop up with tags like “carrot” or “lettuce” or “eatyourgreens.” So silly.

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3)  Two days before our NY road trip, we went as a family to a Tigers game, our first of the season. It was a picture-perfect day with a beautiful view from our seats.

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4)  My husband and I were able to sneak away one evening for some adult time while we were in New York. We drove to nearby Lowville, to a craft brewery and taproom called BarkEater. Very cozy spot with a great staff (you know you’re in a small town when the server asks what brings you to the area and then “yes of course I know your dad”).

We started out with their tasting flight. I found most of them to be quite good, but ordered a glass of wine, as is my preference (they offer wines from local winery Tug Hill Vineyards), but I should have stuck to the beer. Wine varieties they carried were too sweet.

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5)  It was hot in New York, as it has been in Michigan all summer. On one particularly hot and muggy day, I drove the girls to Mercer’s Dairy for ice cream cones. I hadn’t been there before, but it was a very stressful drive through winding country backroads for 20 minutes until we finally reached the highway an easy 30-minute drive to Boonville.

On the way there, the skies turned heavy and dark, so I quickly ushered the girls inside once we pulled up to the shop. Mercer’s is famous for its wine ice cream, which I totally poo-pooed until I tried it. Surprisingly refreshing and yummy, though I can only speak for the strawberry champagne.

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As soon as we got our scoops, it started pouring rain. But I had to get a photo of a cone with the sign, so I grabbed my daughter’s mint chocolate chip (my scoop was in a cup) and ran outside. I got drenched (and left my daughter a little perplexed “Hey! Mom!”) but I got the shot.

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6) While visiting cousins on Lake Ontario, we (me, cousin Melanie, her daughter, and her new baby girl) took a walk as part of the baby’s naptime routine. It was nice to see all the pretty lake homes and we passed an old barn along the way and one quirky, multi-colored home pictured above (it’s vacant – surprise).

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7)  We also passed this tree, which I was curious about, as I didn’t recognize the fruit/seeds. My cousins told me it was a chestnut tree – who knew!? I’d never seen one before that I can recall. I didn’t realize they had spiky outer shells. Pretty cool.

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8)  While visiting Aunt Betty at Murrock Farms, I asked her about a photo in her living room. It was my grandmother Lucy (and Aunt Betty’s mom). She also showed me two photos of my grandfather Harrison Stackel, who died before I was born. She said they were chauffeur’s license photos (which back then I believe were like driver’s licenses). Such a contrast. As were their personalities, so I hear (I can only vouch for my grandmother, who I dearly loved).

Aunt Betty, by the way, is as amazing as ever at 92. She just finished reading Hillary’s America (no judgement!) and made biscuits that morning, which we ate for snack after a tour of the farm, which she accompanied us on.

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9)  This teepee has been in our seven-year-old’s room, but I set it up outside one day in hopes of giving the girls a new interest in it. When I was a kid, my sister and I looooved small, private spaces and would have been beside ourselves to play in a tee-pee, so I’m disappointed they don’t use it all that much.

I’m thinking it may get more use once both girls can read (and both write complete sentences without help). Not giving up quite yet.

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10)  I took the girls to Detroit’s Avalon Bakery earlier this month. We got sandwiches and sat outside for lunch. The sandwiches were so-so (I am also not a big sandwich person) but the bread there is really delicious and the treats were also very good.

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11)  While on vacation, I missed the Garden’s huge tomato boom. I was lucky to get some before and after my trip, although not in the quantities I would have gotten had I been here. Still, I was able to roast enough for a large jar, have made marinara sauce twice, bruschetta countless times, BLTs and chili. It’s been so awesome to have farm-fresh produce all summer! Sign up with your local CSA program next year, so worth it.

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12) I pass this mural when I come home from working at the Garden. It’s really sweet, I think and I finally stopped to take a closer look and to snap a photo.

So many great photos from our road trip, which I will share soon. The girls start school next week (Michigan is so late! I’ve been seeing back-to-school pics from friends for weeks now) and I am looking forward to that, but not to the end of summer. As the girls get older, summers seem to get more fun because we can do more, whine less and stay out longer. Michigan summer weather certainly helps (I’m often reminded of San Francisco summer weather with photos of friends wearing jackets and scarves, so I am grateful, even with our drought).

Wishes for a lovely September!

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