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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Korean Cooking Class

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Over the last few weeks I went to my dry cleaning lady’s (Grace) house to learn how to make some of my favorite Korean dishes. When I got to her condo, I could tell right away they were old school. House slippers for guests, white carpeting, photos of grand kids, minimal decor which included a Bible on the coffee table.

Also on display was a shallow bowl of garlic in water, with little green shoots coming out of it. I didn’t know you could do this (to promote garlic shoots to grow), so I’m going to try it!

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Joining us the first night was Grace’s postal courier, who had no idea what Korean food was all about, so I give her props for trying it out. We donned aprons and got to work making bul go gi and bean cake, called nokdujeon (I believe there are several names for it). Grace has her recipes written in a notebook. Some measurments were in grams, because that’s how the rest of the world rolls.

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For the bul go gi, she took out some meat from the freezer, which made it easier to cut into thin slices. She couldn’t describe what cut of beef to get but Google says sirloin or rib eye. Then we cut up mushrooms, green onion and other veggies and spices and put them all in a bowl. The “secret” ingredients to this dish are pear and kiwi pulp (just made in a blender). I knew about the pear, but hadn’t heard of the kiwi twist before.

I also noticed that for all the recipes, she doubled the garlic! Yowza. She did say she loved garlic and there was a lot of it. She crushes it herself to make a paste and keeps it in a large container in the fridge.

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For the bean cakes, we cut up similar veggies and added them to a paste that she made from putting soy beans (previously soaked) and water in a blender. Mix it up and then plop them in a pan of oil like little pancakes.

The bul go gi can be made on the grill instead of over the stove. I had a hard time understanding exactly how to do this – foil? A grill-safe pan? – but for sure the meat takes on an extra layer of goodness when grilled.

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For our meal, she also made roasted garlic, homemade kimchi and homemade bean sprout namul, both mainstay side dishes at Korean restaurants and of course rice. I asked Grace if she plates all the food when it’s just her and her husband eating and she said yes.

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The next time I went over it was just me and we made chop chae, a traditional noodle dish. To save time, she pre-chopped the veggies before I came over. I am impressed with how neat and pretty everything looks. If it were me, I’d just throw everything in a bowl and not worry about the pieces being so uniform.

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I didn’t realize that the noodles used in this dish were made from sweet potato. This is what they look like before being cooked. Like rice noodles, but more brown.

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You cook the noodles in water for several minutes while the veggies are sauteing. When the noodles have been drained and cooled, you add them together with the sesame oil, spices and…wait for it….a CUP of corn syrup. Waaaaah! No wonder I loved this dish as a kid so much. Grace started pouring something out of a container and asked what it was.

Grace:  See-dup? You know, like sugar.
Me turning white:  Syrup!? As in corn syrup?

Gulp. Of course I just smiled and nodded as I read “high fructose corn syrup” on the label. She said I could use sugar if I wanted, which is what I’m going to have to do if I replicate the recipe. I’m actually wondering if sugar is needed at all. The dish is not a sweet dish, so I’m wondering if the corn syrup just gives it that silkiness, which more sesame oil would do. Will need to experiment.

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We also made Korean-style sushi with egg, imitation crab, carrots, cooked spinach and what was supposed to be ham, but when I looked at the English translation on the package it was some type of fish cake. She said she usually uses Spam but tried something different this time. Spam would actually taste delicious. In Hawaii we ate loads of Spam, especially in the form of Spam musubi (rolled up in seaweed and rice).

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I used to make sushi sometimes with my Auntie Melinda, but it has been years and years. I think my technique was pretty good!

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Here are the completed dishes and we had kimchi again as well. Korean food is less intimidating to make than I thought it would be. And it was so super sweet of Grace to invite me into her home and show me how to make all these dishes, not to mention all the work involved.

She still wants to show me how to make mandu, Korean dumplings kind of like pot stickers, which I loved so much as a kid and I’m hoping they are as good as I remember. Yummers.

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.

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe: The Short List

In my last post, I revealed that we already found a home here in Grosse Pointe (we close next week!). Here, I’ll show you the homes that were on our short list, and give the reasons why they didn’t make the cut.

RADNOR CIRCLE

homes.radnorhomes.radnorbackRadnor Circle is little street in a quiet neighborhood very close to “The Hill,” a shopping district about three blocks long (coffee shop, a few restaurants, a high-end shoe store, Brooks Brothers, a couple banks, a real estate company, Rite Aid, kitchen showroom, and a handful of businesses that end with “Associates,” “& Company,” or “Enterprises.”).

The house was (yes it’s still standing. It just makes more sense for this story to put it in the past tense) 3100 square feet with four bedrooms and built in 1950. It had a huge backyard and what seemed to be great neighbors, one of whom was tending to her raspberry bushes the day we looked at the house.

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The kitchen overlooked the backyard (my ultimate), but the style wasn’t my favorite (I’m highlighting kitchens because it’s the most important room in the house to me). The home was in okay condition, but needed updates. The master bath was tiny (my husband gets claustrophobic, especially with bathrooms and especially when our two little girls insist on being in the bathroom with him at the same time) and two of the bedrooms had low ceilings (the husband would have to duck). There was also no family room (though there was a sunroom extension off the dining room, but it would not be usable during winter).

Ultimately, there were too many dislikes and we also felt it was priced a little high (and since we first looked at it, the price has been lowered twice and is still on the market at the time of this post).

N. DEEPLANDS

homes.deeplandshomes.deeplandsbackNorth Deeplands lies in the city of Grosse Pointe Shores. It’s right off Lake Shore Drive and not too far north, which makes it a desirable location for most. The home was built in 1959, and was 3800 square feet with four bedrooms. One cool thing was that it shared a backyard fence with my husband’s dad’s final home – something which felt comforting and was definitely a plus.

homes.deeplandsbarhomes.deeplandsentryhomes.deeplandskiWe quite liked this place and went back and forth about it for a long time. The rooms were dated, but there was something about the way the house flowed that felt right (good ju-ju). Loved the wet bar in the family room and the fact that the kitchen overlooked the backyard.

The bedrooms were fine, but the room that sat above the garage was slanted and odd and if I remember correctly, the upstairs bathroom situation was also weird. And no fifth bedroom for my husband’s home office, which would mean he would have to work in the basement, which was not ideal, especially in this case.

The house price was lowered one time, and is now off the market, which hopefully means it was sold to a great family who will love it there.

RATHBONE PLACE

homes.rath homes.rathbackWe were “this close” to placing a bid on Rathbone. In fact, we called our realtor, told her we wanted to make an offer and met her at the property to see it one last time. The home sat on a dead end private street (meaning the residents living on that street were responsible for repair, snow plowing, etc) in the city of Grosse Pointe. The street itself is beautiful, lined with large stately homes (most much larger than the one we were looking at). It was 3200 square feet and built in 1956.

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The home had many great updates, but unfortunately, not in the style that we prefer. Lots of dark and lots of gold. The selling agent made a point of telling us that all the fixtures in the home were recently updated to brass (which we would have switched out first thing). Still, the home was well taken care of, something that is a huge selling point for us.

The best thing about this place was the backyard. A built-in fireplace, new patio, lots of space and a “secret” doorway to access the city park, which was just over the backyard fence. When we first viewed the house, we didn’t pay much attention to the park, but the second time we went there (the day we were planning on placing a bid), it was Memorial Day. From the backyard, we could see and hear the 30+ groups of people enjoying their holiday. As my husband pointed out, it was a happy kind of noise and something we probably wouldn’t notice after a while. Me, I wasn’t so sure. I felt exposed and hesitant to share my living space with all of Grosse Pointe.

We talked it over that night and decided not to make an offer. My husband wasn’t in love with it, so he was fine letting it go. Plus, it was at the high end of our price range, which would mean we could do very little in terms of remodeling or decorating. It sold a few weeks later.

 STEPHENS

homes.stephenshomes.stephensbackStephens is a coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Meaning that if you say you live on Stephens, people might say, “oh!” Meaning, it’s a very picturesque area, with beautiful (and expensive) homes. This particular home was the Canadian consulate. It was in pristine condition and everything was redone. It had a great open floor plan with sliding doors off the family and dining rooms. At 4600 square feet and six bedrooms, it was a little out of our price range comfort zone, but we looked at it anyway.

homes.stephensliving homes.stephenskitch homes.stephensentryMy husband really liked the spacious rooms and the fact that he would be able to have an office not in the basement (which actually would have been a great place for an office – it was finished like a main floor). And yes the kitchen had the best appliances and cabinets, but the whole place felt very sterile to me and I’m not sure that could have been remedied with decor (which we wouldn’t have been able to afford anyway, had we bought the house).

We didn’t have to discuss it long, though, because two days after we looked at it, our realtor called and said the sellers had received multiple offers (one of which they accepted later that day). It had been on the market for three days.

CLOVERLY

homes.cloverlyhomes.cloverlybackCloverly is a street one block parallel to Stephens. Another coveted street in Grosse Pointe Farms. Of all the places we saw, we loved Cloverly the most. It had a gorgeous facade, big backyard and lots of character. It was built in 1929, was 4200 square feet and had five bedrooms. The owners took excellent care of the place and it showed.

homes.cloverlyliving homes.cloverlykitch homes.cloverlyfamiliyBUT….the garage was small. It wouldn’t fit the motorcycle and it probably wouldn’t have fit both of our cars, or if it did, no one would be able to open any doors. The kitchen needed updates and it faced the street. And it was segregated from the rest of the house (being part of the servants, area back in the day) so whoever was cooking (me) would be totally alone (and not be able to keep an eye on the kids). And, if again I’m recalling correctly, I think this is the home where the basement ceiling was also quite low, which meant more ducking for the husband.

No matter how much we tried to justify its shortcomings, we could not bring ourselves to place a bid. After our first walk-through (I think we did three?), the owners lowered the price by $25,000 (or $30. Something like that). It sold shortly afterwards.

We still look longingly at the Cloverly house when we drive by. It was the one that got away. Fortunately. Because Lord knows I would not be happy up in that kitchen.

 

 

Twelve More Things I’ve Learned (about Grosse Pointe).

Lake St. Clair

Lake St. Clair

A few weeks after we moved here, I made a list of twelve things I’ve learned about Grosse Pointe. Now that another two months have gone by, I’ve learned a few more things:

  1. Wow. Your bedspread matches your curtains. In every room. (More on house-hunting in another post.)

  2. The electric oven is eons better than the gas oven. There, I said it.

  3. Everyone I’ve talked to has warned me about the vigilant and prominent police presence. Above all, do NOT speed, they say. Police are everywhere. Okay, done. So why does everyone ride so close to my bumper? Stop tailing me. Where are you even going? I would say that every time I get on the road, someone gets all up on me at least once. Some old guy in a Jaguar actually passed me the other day on a 25 mph road.

  4. I knew produce was going to be sad. Still. My one girlfriend here (also a California transplant) said to me with a shrug of her shoulders, “I hate to say this, but you really just have to…you know, lower your standards.” Now when I buy avocados, I buy at least five at a time, in case the first two I cut open aren’t usable.

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5. Lazy summer evenings are easily one of my top five most favorite things in life.  Oh how I’ve missed you, Summertime! Contrary to popular belief, San Francisco does not have a true summer. Certain pockets of the city might, but much of the city is covered in fog and cold during the months of June, July and August. Which is why tourist stores display their “I heart San Francisco” sweatshirts at the front of their shops in summer. And why I continue to see Facebook photos of my friends wearing parkas.

6.Kids live here! Sure, kids live in San Francisco, too, but you don’t really see them. It’s hard to explain. In Grosse Pointe, kids are everywhere and they’re made to feel like part of the community. Often kids are unaccompanied or even alone. I’m talking about little kids… five- and six-year olds taking their dog for a walk around the block or riding a bike up and down the street.

7.Running along the lake is just as great as running through Golden Gate Park. Although the dirt paths in the park were a little easier on the knees – yikes.

8.Seriously, stop tailing me already!

9.I may never eat good Chinese food again (unless I’m in Hawaii or San Francisco or London. Or maybe China).

10.Trader Joe’s is the only store that sells organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. I’ve looked everywhere. If you don’t know the difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized, you can check out this explanation at Musings of a Housewife.

11.What’s that smell? Oh, it’s just pesticide. You know, a bunch of chemicals that are harmful to people and animals. It is pretty much on every front lawn. sigh

12.When all else fails, go for a bunny walk. This has helped stave off many a meltdown at our house. We haven’t actually seen any bunnies on these walks (although oh my gosh you guys, I saw a little baby bunny in our backyard last week. It was sooooo cute!) I’m sure the huge, black dog has something to do with that. But we have seen many from the car on our bunny drives.

I’m enjoying these lists. I may just make it a regular thing.

The Band

I’m pretty sure the band broke up a long time ago. We haven’t played out in well over a year and we’re not even rehearsing or trying to book gigs. But no one has said it out loud. Maybe saying it out loud would make it official, and maybe we always want to be The Gun and Doll Show. Forever. I know I do.

I joined the Gun and Doll Show in 2006. Before that, I was a singer and songwriter for an indie pop band (who kicked me out for my lack of being friendly. Or something). Prior to that, I was the lead singer in a classic rock cover band (I still can’t figure that one out). And before that, a backup singer for Alex Dolan (you can hear me on his Americana album), and somewhere along the way, I produced my solo CD, More of You (okay, you get it: I sing).

You never know what you’re going to get personality-wise when joining a new artistic group. Or any group, for that matter. It’s a total hit or miss. But in a creative situation, the percentage of getting at least one whackadoodle in the bunch is very, very high (trust me).  But the group that came together when I joined, just clicked. I’m not saying we weren’t passionate or dramatic or talented. I think we were all of that. But I think it worked so well because really, we just wanted to play good music and have fun (sounds easy enough. You’d be surprised).

Gun and Doll Show girls 2010

The Dolls. 2010

Gun and Doll Show girls

The Dolls. 2014

What started as a creative outlet, has given me so much more. Last weekend we all got together (with our significant others, our kids) over food and drinks at Jen’s house in Napa, then headed to karaoke (minus the kids) at the infamous Trancas Steakhouse (oooh yeahhhh). As I write this post, I’m realizing that during the entire night, not one of us talked about the band. It just didn’t come up. We simply enjoyed one another and had fun. Like always.

The band, reunited. (minus Tom)

The band, reunited. (minus Tom)