The November List – 2018

I was sitting here feeling pretty good, drinking my espresso, ready to stay up late and knock out my Christmas letter. And then I remembered. THE LIST. Or in this case, THE @#*& LIST. It’s not like I have an actual deadline. And nothing bad will happen if I don’t finish on time or even finish at all, except high anxiety, which hey, whats another notch of anxiety at this point. But I made a commitment to myself and to my dedicated followers (all five of you! I love you!), so here we go.

1) The beginning of November was just as stunning as October in terms of Fall colors (I am well aware that seasons are not capitalized, but I like them that way). I am so glad I went for a neighborhood walk when I did to snap some pics because the very next day the weather turned and that was that.

Here’s one of the maples in our backyard. Glorious!!

Here’s another maple that I now call Old Man Maple ever since I snapped this photo. He’s ancient with a huge trunk and oh soooo tall. He will do some serious damage if he ever falls. He’s sitting somewhat in the middle of our yard and I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but my husband is in favor of cutting him down. Now what kind of juju do you think will befall us if we cut this thing down!? I’m not going to find out.

2)  The night of our first frost, my dahlias turned black, a sign that it was ready to pull them up out of the ground. Of course this happened on a day it was in the 20s and snowing, but last year I waited too late and some of my tubers had rotted by the time I dug them up.

It is such a slow process digging them up (if you want to keep them). You have to be so careful not to hit one of the tubers with your shovel. Obviously I got a little impatient. The above pic is my prized Cafe au Lait (I’ve had the exact same plant two years in a row now). I chopped off the mother. OOPSIES. Nancy says it should probably still be okay, we’ll have to wait and see.

3)  I mean, look at this beauty! It grew from the tubers above. This was the very last bloom of the season and it lasted through November 8, which is pretty good! Just a few miles down the road at Detroit Abloom, the dahlias had turned black weeks before. Something to do with the fact that our house is so close to the lake (a half block), blah, blah, science, blah.

4)  I went to Detroit Abloom for a couple hours to help sort tubers (I purposely waited until luckily the digging part was over!). You have to dig them, dry them, number them (numbers correspond to the variety, which they have on a chart because it’s easier to write a number on a tuber than a whole name), sort them, cover them with peat moss, label them, then store them.

5)  I also spent an afternoon at my friend Julia’s new flower farm. We planted tulips, narcissus, fritillaria and carmassia (and yes, I did just text her to ask what we planted. All I could remember was tulips). And walked through her new house, which is under construction. I am so excited to see all of these flowers in the spring and can’t wait to see how she uses them. Check out her beautiful work at @willarosefloral

6)  Possibly more exciting than planting flowers was the bagel she brought me from Detroit Institute of Bagels. I didn’t know a bagel could taste so good. I got jalapeno cheddar, I think? And the most delicious fresh herb cream cheese you will ever have. If you love me and live in the Detroit area, you will bring me one the next time you see me.

7)  We had a small family Thanksgiving celebration at my mother-in-law’s house. I made two desserts, an apple pie and a cheesecake with gingersnap cookie crust. I’m not sure what made our seven-year-old think of this, but she is thankful for our soldiers this year, which I thought was touching and very sweet.

I myself (I know this is bad grammar. I am in a mood.) am thankful for so many things, but I’m also feeling very snarky, so I won’t name any of those things or they will come out wrong. Okay, maybe one. I’m thankful that even though I can barely stay awake past 3:00pm because apparently I have a vitamin B12 deficiency (my doctor tells me so) and haven’t taken the supplements long enough for them to kick in and my hormones are all out of whack (see last month’s post on Tamoxifen), that I can at least drink enough coffee to keep me functioning until the kids go to bed at 8:00pm. See?

8)  My college roommate Lisa gave me her family’s secret recipe for pie cookies. Don’t they look amazing!?! Buttery, sugary rolls of cookie goodness. This is the photo she messaged me that went along with her recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly. Nailed it!

(Also, knowing Facebook, when I post this blog entry it’s going to choose this pic as the cover pic.)

9)  Remember that one dahlia that never bloomed?! Seven months in the ground, never bloomed. Teasing me every day with the promise of a bloom. It was the tallest plant in my garden, over 6 feet tall. I was so sure it was finally going to open, and then, the frost came. This photo was taken about two days before the frost.

On the day the dahlias blackened, I plucked the bud. Here’s what it looked like. It would have been so beautiful! Also why did I focus on my glove and not the flower!? Probably because it was so stinking cold my hands were shaking.

10)  The mister turned 50 this month! GAH! We celebrated with a night at the Detroit Foundation Hotel, a trendy new (although now not so new) spot in downtown Detroit that used to be a fire station. The rooms are very hip, but also quite bare, which we liked, but it’s definitely not the place to send visiting grandparents. We ate brunch there the next day, which was really good. I had a French-style omelette with wild mushrooms that was cooked to perfection and skinny fries just the way I like them – hot, and crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside.

Photo from Crains Detroit

11)  After check-in, we walked to Campus Martius, as it was the first weekend of the Detroit winter markets, little pop-up shops with locally-made goods and a big enclosed lounge at the end of the block that is decorated so cozy and Christmasy.

12)  For dinner we met up friends, had a drink at the hotel bar and then went to Prime and Proper, a new-ish steakhouse. I got the same drink I’d had the first time I went there (although we didn’t eat that time, only had drinks). Pretty certain the rim is coated with li-hing-mui powder. Ancient Chinese secret that everyone in Hawaii has known about since I was in high school. #soyesterday

They store their steaks in the basement and we went down to take a look. I wasn’t super hungry, so I opted for a burger instead of a steak because who doesn’t love a perfectly cooked high-quality burger? But that was a mistake. It was great, just not the amazing taste I had expected. Everyone else got some cut of steak and those were delicious.

I can’t end the blog with a picture of raw meat, so here is another Fall pic from my neighborhood walk. Those candy colors are just beyond.

And that, my five friends, is the end of the November List! Here’s to a warm and fuzzy December, filled with all the holiday feels.

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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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Lost and Found – Schoolhouse Chair

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A couple months ago while surveying Detroit Abloom (a nonprofit project where I volunteer in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood), I spotted a curious sight.

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Upon closer inspection, a schoolhouse chair had become woven into a tree trunk, becoming one with it. So many metaphors and juxtapositions I could go into but I am lazy, so you can come up with your own.

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I did think it was interesting that I’d been next to that tree so many times before, but never noticed the chair. Maybe because it was the beginning of winter and things were so bare that without all the greenery it was easier to spot. Nature is pretty crazy cool.

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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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