The December List – 2017

Back to work tomorrow after a two-week break, although much of that break was spent like this….

1) … because I came down with the flu or whatever nasty business was going around.

2) And then the week before that, the kids and husband had it, so I was dealing with that. I feel like December was a blur of snow and cold and sickness, (but we did enjoy our holidays).

Temperatures dropped into the negatives for several days and aside from not being able to really go outside (which I didn’t feel like doing anyway), I am very concerned about my plants and how they will fare come Spring.

3) It snowed quite a bit this December and the first few snowfalls I was happy to shovel because it’s so peaceful, especially at night when no one else is around except for maybe the professional snow blowers who get their jobs done so fast but never do as good of a job as a good old-fashioned shovel. Although I do envy then, don’t get me wrong. And it’s a great workout also.

Luckily or unluckily the next several times it snowed, I was too unwell to shovel, so my husband did all the hard work.

4)  We went to Mr. Paul’s Chophouse for the first time. It’s an old school dimly lit place in Roseville that doesnt’ take reservations and makes Caesar salad tableside and offers huge steaks (which we shared). Sorry the photo is so creepy, but I had to blur the subject. The steaks were really, really good, as was the Caesar. Fish, okay.

5)  We had ugly sweater day at work, so I bought this cheap number on Amazon so I could participate. Of course the girls looooved it and kept wanting to pet the cat and I’ve never gotten so many compliments from the kids at school. Hahahaha so great.

6)  We were so, so happy to have a White Christmas this year. It snowed a bunch on Christmas Eve as we were driving to my husband’s sister’s place for dinner. We drove about 40 mph on the freeway, so it took forever to get there and back, but it was so pretty! And I wasn’t driving!

7)  And I loved sitting around the tree on Christmas morning while it snowed outside while I pretended I wasn’t coming down with the flu.

8) Santa was more generous than previous years, bringing three gifts per child instead of two (I’m not big on giving Santa the spotlight). We hit a snafu when a couple days before Christmas, the little one brought home a letter from Santa saying that he was “working hard to get her the American Girl doll” she asked for. UMMM, heads up, people, please!

The sweet eighth grade buddies who crafted the letter were obviously not thinking about the poor moms and dads while writing the letter. I did request that next year they keep the letter general, as not to cause panic attacks or crying on Christmas morning for next year’s first grade class.

I actually thought about getting said doll, but I don’t usually spend that much, plus….to get it to the house on time I’d have to pay a lot more than regular price, which I wasn’t willing to do on principle. ANYway, my girlfriend helped me out big time by crawling around her attic to find me not one, but two (for both girls) American Girl dolls, complete with accessories, that her now college-age girls had played with.

Such a great save and the girls were thrilled! Sam, not so much.

9) The girls also got a handful of board games, which they asked for. Dominoes, which they have never played before and is such a great game. And of course fun to play with outside of an actual game. They did a lot of stacking and knocking down.

I wasn’t sure if they were ready for Monopoly, but so far so good. The last couple of days, they have played it for HOURS (without fighting!), which not only makes me so happy because it gives me time to do absolutely nothing  chores and cleaning and organizing, but because it was my favorite game as a kid. Although backgammon was a close second (and sometimes first) for a while.

10) I feel like I am one of the last people to read “A Man Called Ove,” which I started reading this month. I didn’t realize there was also a movie until I Googled it to get the book cover. The actor in the movie looks closer to 69 than the character’s 59, but he has that perfect curmudgeon look.

I’m enjoying the book – it is well-written and funny at times and sad at times and all the things that the back cover promises it will be. However, I find it just a tad too realistically depressing. As soon as I’m done with it, I plan to plunge back into the fantasy world with the second book of the “Darker Shade of Magic” series.

11)  Although both of us were still run down from being sick, my husband and I were able to buck up and ring in the New Year with friends at The Dearborn Inn. I even bought a fancy new dress for the occasion to reward myself for all my freelance work I’ve done over the last few months AND even despite not working out for weeks, it still fit perfectly, so hallelujah!

12) Speaking of not working out, I’m really not looking forward to getting back on that bandwagon again. My body is still tired and congested and once you’ve stopped it’s so dang hard to get back on that horse. BUT. I made a pie for Christmas and a cheesecake last week and plan to make scones this afternoon so…..Here. We. Go.

I always make New Year’s Resolutions, but haven’t gotten around to any for 2018 yet. Make more pie, exercise more, buy more plants, eat more plants, work at Detroit Abloom more, something along those lines.

It is full speed ahead tomorrow at work as I gear up for our May auction. Gotta hit that ground running. Waaaaaaah!!!

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!!

 

 

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Dahlias and Then Some

The dahlias at Detroit Abloom and also my house (yippee!) are exploding with blooms.

I was concerned that the one sunny spot in my backyard wasn’t sunny enough for them, but most of the tubers I planted have survived and are going to produce flowers.

Some, however, got nibbled on by bunnies or aren’t getting enough sun and aren’t going to make it. I haven’t cut the plants down on these because you aren’t supposed to take the tubers out of the ground until late fall, early winter, and if I cut the plant down, I won’t know exactly where to dig, even with a marker.

However, this morning I noticed several evil beetles eating the leaves of my precious Cafe au Lait variety and my heart sank. I killed it of course, but I’m sure another one took its place soon afterwards. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s pretty eaten up. Still so lovely.

I’m obsessed with this variety, because of its pale pink, creamy color. In all their stages, they are stunning. And you never know what you’re going to get color-wise until the bud opens, which is always exciting.

The most perfect Cafe I got was this one (also the close-up first photo). No bugs, beautiful blush color and crazy huge.

Just this week I’ve had five Cafe buds open and I spent a zillion hours photographing them with my new camera. Speaking of new camera, some of these flower photos are slightly out of focus and no, this isn’t on purpose. I’m determined to shoot in manual mode (vs auto), so it’s going to take me a while to figure it all out.

I have at least two purple varieties, one in the front and one in the back. A bunch of the ones I planted were unknowns, as in most cases, when they were digging up tubers at the end of last season, weren’t sure what was what. This year they have a much better labeling system in place, but it IS kind of fun not knowing what you’re going to get.

I can’t remember the variety of the flower in the first photo (Lavender Ruffles?) but the second one is a Vassio Meggos.

I visited Detroit Abloom and the Hoop House (also Detroit Abloom, but a different property) last week with the intention of volunteering, but ended up mostly admiring and taking photos of the flowers.

Their dahlia garden is insane, as you can imagine.

These two are seed dahlias, the bottom photo called Black Beauty.

Aside from the Cafe au Lait, one of my favorites is the cosmos. I love the white ones, and am also a fan of the cupcake cosmos (last photo above).

Other flowers in bloom are Morning Glory,

Japanese anemone,

Zinnias, celosia and a bunch more. There are a few weeks left in our CSA bouquet program. I’m surely going to miss getting mine every week.

The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom is having our annual fundraiser next weekend on Sunday, October 1st from 3pm to 7pm, so if you are in the area, please come by! For details Click Here. And if you can’t come, you can still make a donation online.

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The August List – 2017

I feel like I say this every month, but this has been the busiest month of the year by far.

Not counting the awesome vacation we took to upstate New York, which I failed to post about save for one photo last month. sigh I do hope to post a New York list, but in case I don’t get around to it, know that it was amazing. We swam, we read, we played, we gathered, we had pie on my grandmother’s plates. What could be better.

But I press on. I must not fail “The List,” even if it is fast and furiously put together.

1)  This photo pretty much sums up my August. It’s blurry because top secret holiday catalog information, but welcome to my world. Coffee. Eating meals as I stand and type. And papers everywhere. Apropo because that’s how my brain feels.

After landing a couple of freelance writing gigs, I was asked to take on more responsibility and hours at my job at the school. GAH. I am not complaining. I am grateful. So grateful. BUT. Momma needs a cocktail.

2)  Speaking of cocktails, my friend Renee, cocktail maker extraordinaire, whipped up a version of the to die for concoction we enjoyed at Detroit City Distillery. It consisted of a mixture of mango habanero and lavender simple syrups and couple other secret ingredients and it was soooooo good.

And aren’t we so healthy with our sliced veggies, but this is before I asked her to please go get the Chex Mix already.

3)  We had peaches at The Garden! Last year we were only able to enjoy a handful, as many succumbed to disease or an animal of some sort. This season we had a whole bunch and I made peach cobbler with blueberries. Happy happy.

4)  There was a meet and greet on Belle Isle for the Detroit women who participated in the FEMALE photo project. I’m so very glad I went, as I get so nervous about these things. But it was just lovely.

I think I was the oldest one there which…not that it matters really, but I’m usually NOT the oldest person there, so I took note, but anyway I loved being surrounded by all the positive energy. We’re going to try and make it a monthly or bi-monthly thing. I’m in.

FEMALE photographer and meeting organizer Kacy brought a bunch of rose (too lazy to make accent over the E) single serves she found at Trader Joe’s and guess what? They were pretty stinking great! And I love the can’s shape.

5)  We viewed the eclipse the old fashioned way (thanks to my husband, otherwise we would’ve had nothing) and it was actually pretty cool and very fun.

Noticed all the trippy shadows, but it didn’t cross my mind  to take a photo. I’m so bummed about that, but those make the best memories, right?, where you are just in the moment.

6)  I love all the murals at Eastern Market, especially in early evening when the shops have closed and the sun is going down. I keep meaning go down there one day for the sole purpose of taking photos, but it hasn’t happened.

I did made a quick pit stop at Detroit City Distillery after boxing one night (because now that I am a cocktail snob, I need to only drink very expensive vodka) and got a couple pics.

7)  Our Rose of Sharon plant exploded with blossoms this month, as it always does in late summer. The only way to enjoy it is out my daughter’s bedroom window or by walking to the side of the garage. I could cut off some branches to bring them inside, but they don’t last long in a vase. Beauties.

8)  My dahlias from Detroit Abloom have begun to open and they are gorgeous. I wasn’t sure how they would fare in the backyard because we don’t get much sun, (and admittedly some plants will not produce flowers), but I am pleasantly surprised at how well they are doing.

Also admittedly, I don’t love orange flowers (I’m sorry, nature! I’m working on it!), and a few of the dahlias I have are orange (many of the tubers I planted were marked “unknown” variety, long story).

And yes, they are pretty, too, in their own right, and to spite me they look extra pretty in this photo, but the Cafe au Laits are just magnificent. Wait until you see the latest one (which I picked yesterday, which was technically September, so it doesn’t belong here).

9)  The beekeeper who takes care of the hives at The Garden Detroit and Detroit Abloom held a fundraiser this month. It was at the Detroit City Distillery warehouse (can’t seem to get away from that place), which is housed in the old Stroh Ice Cream building. Which by the way if you haven’t read “Beer Money” it’s a really interesting read.

It was very loud, so it was hard to hear Brian’s speech, but the parts I did hear were fascinating. Bees are amazing. Please support them in any way you can!

10) I forgot to bring my book one day to the Yacht Club. Luckily, my 3rd grader brought hers and it was not a Rainbow Fairy or Geronimo Stilton, but this one about a boy who rents a room at a house where miniature dragons come to life. I only got a few chapters in (girls still not great swimmers, so I have to keep an eye out) and now the book has been returned to the library, but I do hope to finish it some day, it had potential.

11)  I finished “A Gentleman in Moscow” this week and I highly recommend. Take a little while to get into if you don’t know your Russian political history, but it was intelligent and wonderfully written and the characters are deep and fleshed out. Story line is interesting as well. I wondered how such a long book could be based in one very centralized location, but the author tackles that issue with ease. Bravo.

12)  Woo-hoo! I did it! Number 12. On a more somber note, my heart is with Houston and the surrounding areas and states affected by Harvey. Our girls have been so fortunate, so it is difficult to explain certain things, but we talked about it quite a bit and at my suggestion they made cards for some of the families.

If you have not yet donated, please consider it. There are many local organizations who will make sure your money 100% goes to helping Harvey victims specifically. One being www.legacycollective.org (a sorority sister’s organization).

Over and out, August! Sorry you got the shaft. It’s not you, it’s me. Happy September! Back to school yeesssssss!

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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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The June List – 2017

Beignets from the truck at Eastern Market. A summertime favorite.

It’s officially summer! I’m so happy for predictably hot weather and al fresca dining and lazy days.

1.  My baking instincts always kick in during the summer. Probably because of all the fresh fruit available, which makes me want to eat shortcakes and scones and pies. A quiche is always a great place to stash all the fresh produce I get from The Garden. Our chard was beautiful this year and I love Deborah Madison’s saffron quiche recipe.

My friend Julia went to the Ann Arbor farmer’s market and brought back a flat of strawberries for me. The girls helped me chop up the berries and I made our first strawberry shortcakes of the season. The Michigan strawberry season is pretty much over now, but that won’t stop me from making more shortcakes over the summer with store-bought organic berries.

And then at the bottom of the freezer I found the last of our New York-picked blueberries, so I made scones and tried a batch with strawberries, which came our really yummy.

2.  At the Garden this month, we had beautiful speckled and romaine lettuces, which have now all gone to seed, though I have a few leaves left in the fridge.

And also garlic scapes, the flower of a garlic plant that you cook and eat pretty much like you do garlic – stir fries, egg scrambles, pizza, whatever. I like them grilled.

3.  In our own little vegetable garden, we enjoyed a few peas and lots of mixed lettuce greens. The kale is still going strong and we’re hoping the carrots will be ready to pick in a couple of weeks. The green onions look very scraggly and sad, but they look a lot better than the ones I planted last year, which ultimately did not make it.

4.  The rhododendrons I cut back too far two years ago are finally coming back! They were beautiful this year and look healthy and happy. Our azaleas were also abundant this year.

5.  I still want to try growing peonies, but there are only a few spots in our yard that are sunny enough and those spots are full now with dahlias from Detroit Abloom.

They are doing well, but the bunnies keep eating the leaves and I’ve run out of netting and truthfully too lazy to go out and get more, so I’m just hoping for the best on the unprotected ones.

Back to peonies. I found some on my walk one morning growing along the side of someone’s house, which I thought was such a waste of beauty because they were tucked in a pedestrian alley that not many people walk along. Maybe the owners come out and pick them to enjoy inside. I hope so because they were gorgeous.

6.  It’s also spider season and we have a contract with a spider spray company, but they haven’t come by this year, so I don’t know what’s up with that. My Dad and his wife were here for a visit this month and we got to talking about brown recluse spiders, so whenever I see one in the house, I’m convinced it’s a brown recluse that is just waiting for an opportunity to bite me.

For sure there is a huge one in our basement, that lives at the bottom of the stairs. I would vacuum it up, but I’m afraid it will A) make a home in the vacuum dust bin and bite me when I go to empty it or B) I won’t be able to catch it and then it will be angry that I tried to catch it, making it vengeful and therefore out to get me.

7.  I’ve been going to weekly classes at Jabs Gym, which I’ve mentioned here before. I’m not a big sweat-er, but I always leave that class a hot sweaty mess.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I recently discovered that I pretty much can’t do jumping jacks anymore without peeing myself. Or jump squats. Or high knees. Getting older is so amazing! Reading glasses, peeing myself in cardio boxing, and finding several white hairs on my head (which I’ve never had except one strange time in my 20s) – all in a matter of weeks!

There’s a motto written on the wall, which I reworded to make my own.

If I take an earlier class, I always stop downstairs at Beyond Juice and treat myself to a Mango Tango smoothie and sometimes their cashew ball cookies.

8.  Anyhoo. Have you seen the curtains in our master bathroom!? If not, here they are in all their handbag glory. Before you start thinking I’ve lost my mind, they were left behind by the previous owners of the house. I used to hate them, but am now quite attached to them.

9.  My friend Kacy invited me to her husband Arlin’s (www.arlingraff.com) mural reveal party in West Village. He’s painted murals around the world, but this is his first Detroit mural.

The painting is really cool and is a lively addition to the small strip of businesses on the street (including the well-known Sister Pie). It sits on the wall of Detroit Body Garage, where I just took a class yesterday. If you are in the area, check it out!

A home in West Village.

10.  The following week I met up with Terra, owner of Detroit Body Garage, to talk about bringing a group of volunteers to the Garden. I walked her back to her apartment and then just took an hour to myself to have coffee and sit, an experience I rarely allow myself anymore.

Red Hook coffee is a cute little shop with great baked goods (I’m picky and most things elsewhere are too sweet) and their coffee is good. I got a lavender syrup shot, which they make in-house, in my macchiato, which was interesting, but I’m a traditionalist when it comes to coffee, so I probably wouldn’t get it again.

Across the street is beautiful mural by Detroit artis Ouizi. It’s a lovely thing to look at when you’re taking a minute for yourself.

11.  Coincidentally, the next day a group of us went to dinner at Craft Work, which is right next door to Red Hook. My husband and I had never been and we enjoyed the ambiance. Food was good, but you had to know what to get, which we didn’t. My appetizers were delicious, but I should have gotten the burger, which I’ve heard is fantastic, instead of the polenta, which was a little tasteless and dry.

12.  In mid June, my husband and I went to a white party fundraiser for an organization that throws celebration-of-life parties for kids who are terminally ill. There were many touching presentations and our table bid on a bunch of things and we came home with this painting, which is a little crazy, but I love it.

Tonight is the local fireworks display. Not sure if the little one will be able to stay up late enough, but we’re going to try. Hope all you good people have a great July 4th holiday and continue to enjoy your summer!

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The Flowers of Detroit Abloom

If you’re new to the blog, I work with a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization called The Garden Detroit. Last year we had a beautiful garden on several vacant lots, and a seasonal CSA vegetable program. This year we have less manpower and our wooden arbor fell during a winter storm, which really set us back in terms of being able to grow vegetables for a bunch of people.

Harvesting Stock

Because our flower farm project, Detroit Abloom gained a lot of popularity in its first year, coupled with the fact that the lots that project is housed in are actually owned by our organization (no fear of the city taking the land away), we decided to concentrate on that project this season.

One of the CSA bouquets.

Detroit Abloom has CSA bouquet shares, special events, farmers markets and also sells their bouquets at The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown. I believe we still have a couple slots left on our second CSA season, so go to www.detroitabloom.com for more information and to sign up if you live in the area!

Julia watering Larkspur and other flowers in the hoop house.

We held a fundraiser last winter and made just enough to install our new hoop house, which the plants are thriving  in.

Cut flowers for CSA bouquets

It’s been amazing to work more with flowers this year. I’m learning so much about cultivation and the different names and features of the flowers from Nancy and Julia, who run the program. It’s difficult to work without stopping to take photos. I have taken hundreds already this season and here are some of my favorites.

Purple stocks – doubles and singles

Doubles, with some singles hiding in back.

Doubles.

Before this year, I didn’t even realize Stock was the name of a flower. If you told me to guess what a Stock flower looked like, I would have zero idea. The gals planted doubles and singles in the same bed (the seeds came all mixed together, if I’m remembering correctly) and it’s interesting to see the differences between the two.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the iris, but our varieties are unusual and stunning. Still not in my top ten, but I have much respect for these elegant flowers.

Sunflowers are just so….sunny and fun and happy.

While sweet peas are wispy and wild and delicate.

Nutmeg the cat roams the hoop house during the day, often taking a rest in the Larkspur.

Chantilly snaps are also lovely, and abundant at our Manistique property.

We’re only a few weeks into our first season and I’ve already seen so much beauty. Can’t wait to see what unfolds over the course of the summer into early fall!

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