The July List – 2018

I love July so much. Summer is going full force and there is still a lot of it left. Friends have you over for impromptu al fresco dinners (above), pool days turn into pool nights, kids stay up late and wake up late.

1) We celebrated the July 4th holiday with our annual barbecue at Uncle Jim’s house (I actually got in, or semi got into the pool, which happens maybe once a year, if that. Is it 90 degrees? Then no, I’m not in the pool) and by watching the Grosse Pointe Farms fireworks show with friends atop the Grosse Pointe Academy lawn.

2) I finally made it to the John K King used bookstore in downtown Detroit, a place I’d been wanting to go to since we first moved here. Plan to spend at least an hour browsing the shelves filled with over a million books, less time if you have kids in tow, which we did.

They have a huge collection of rare books, but they sadly did not have a copy of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a sci-fi title that my husband and I both read as kids and have been curious to see if it’s really as good as we remember. Yes, the book is available online, but with a new, dumb cover illustration so I refuse to buy it.

3) I did pick up three books, one of which I’d been wanting – Kate Atkinson’s “When Will There Be Good News?” since I read her first two detective stories a couple years ago. She’s also the author of “Life After Life” which is a giant of a book, but goes quickly and is a must-read. I just finished “When Will There Be Good News?” last night and really enjoyed reading it. I’ve thought about it a lot since I put it down, which is always a sign of a good book. Or good anything.

4) We stopped at Lafayette Coney Island before the bookstore trip, as it was on our way and the Mister (who doesn’t like this photo because “no one puts ketchup on a coney dog” insert eye roll emoji) was hungry. He got coney dogs (obviously) and fries, and I shared an order of fries with the girls. The restaurant is right next door to American Coney Island, and Detroiters are very passionate about which restaurant they think is superior.

5)  My sister’s family of four came to visit us this month. We mostly wanted to just hang out since we usually only see each other once a year, but of course we had to do some touristy things, as they’d only been here one other time in the dead of winter.

We randomly stopped at Shake Shack for lunch and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Service was fast and friendly and food was yummy and fresh. Really great for a fast food joint and I’d definitely go there again.

6) The beach area at Campus Martius was fantastic. There was music playing (DJ), foosball, a huge Jenga set, and lots of people-watching.

7) We also went to the Riverwalk, which the kids love. As we were heading back to the parking lot, we watch a group of girls take photos for a quinceanera celebration.

8) On what was possibly the hottest day of the year, we went to Belle Isle and stopped at the aquarium and conservatory (extra hot and humid, we were all dying). We had plans to go to the beach, but when we drove by there were so many people and we didn’t want to deal with the crowds or the parking.

So we decided to try the slide, which turned out to be highly entertaining, especially for me, as I was not participating, and got to watch as my brother-in-law got going a little too fast and caught air on the bumps. Hehe.

9) Why did it hail in the middle of July!? All of a sudden the clear sky turned gray and a deluge of rain came down, followed by a minute of hail. No locusts, though.

10) Have you been to Otus Supply in Ferndale? My book group gals and I Ubered there in lieu of our usually meeting and tried just about everything on the menu. All of the food was quite good, right down to the sourdoughnuts, but my margarita was too sweet. From what our server told us, they also have a great live music scene on certain days of the month.

11) We were invited by friends to a rental cottage in Lexington, Michigan, for a weekend. The drive is about one and a half hours – quick compared to the majority of getaway spots, which are 3 to 5 hours away. It was a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops and lots of summer cottages.

On our first night, we walked through town to the park, where a bluegrass band was playing. We dipped our feet into Lake Huron and skipped stones.

The rest of the weekend was cold, humid and rainy – not ideal – but we made the most of all the breaks in the rain by going for walks (me), or to the beach (them) which you got to by going down a steep flight of stairs, or sitting by the fire (all of us). I walked by so many wild sweetpeas, which I’d only ever seen growing on a farm, so that was exciting for me.

12) A little baby bluejay hung out in our lilac tree for three days. He was the cutest, fluffiest thing and I worried that the blackbirds were going to scare him, or that he’d fall and some creature or cat would find him, but since I didn’t see him after the third day, I’m going to assume he flew away and is somewhere in the trees, happily enjoying summer.

We’re off for what is becoming an annual trip to upstate New York, one of my most favorite places on earth. San Francisco, yes. Florence, absolutely. There are many other beautiful and exotic places, but there is something about dairy country that I can’t shake. Follow along on Instagram, or get filled in on next month’s list. Happy August!

Advertisements

The June List – 2018

Photo by @willarosefloral

I don’t know if it’s the state of the nation or lack of sleep or being home with the kids 24/7 or all of the above, but I woke up in the middle of the night last night with what I think (hope) was a panic or anxiety attack.

Needless to say, after finally falling back asleep (after two hours of freaking out) and waking up early the next day, I told myself I was going to take deep(er) breaths and take more time for me. Which I did this morning at Detroit Abloom, helping them harvest flowers for the CSA bouquet program. It was crazy humid and already hot at 8:30am, but I didn’t mind so much and we finished quickly.

On with the list. June was summery hot, filled with quintessential summertime activities.

1) One of which is afternoons at the pool. We belong to the Yacht Club, so we tend to go there vs. the local/city pool. One day, I was enjoying semi-reading (littlest can’t 100% swim) a book in the shade, and a lady pulled up a chair literally inches in front of me (I moved out of my chair behind the gentleman to take the photo). Ridiculous.

Because I’m non-confrontational to a fault, I stayed where I was (even more ridiculous). Yes, I need to work on that. But I probably won’t.

2) My home garden is looking pretty good. Dahlias popped up this month (they take sooooo long to surface), which was exciting. The bunnies (I’m guessing) snacked on several of them, but even those are now coming back and looking pretty good. I made a rough map/key to show me which variety I planted where, but after a while I got lazy, so we’ll just have to see.

The David Austin roses Julia and I planted in May are finally starting to show life. One plant is completely dead (Squirrels! They dig up everything!), and one I thought was dead and was about to pull it up when I spotted some dark green leaves. I don’t know if I’ll get any flowers this year, I don’t know how roses work and I haven’t taken the time to look it up. My goal this season is simply to keep them alive.

4) A young robin followed me around the garden for several days. He would stay close when I was planting or weeding, hopping away if I moved significantly, but then coming right back. I am reading The Secret Garden with our oldest at night and this guy reminded me of the robin in that book. Maybe they are one of the more friendly wild birds? Or more unafraid perhaps. Or. This one is just a little special, per the husband, who said it also followed him around while he was using the hedge trimmer.

5) Three years after planting our serviceberry tree that my mom gifted to us for our anniversary, we had berries! It was such a nice surprise. They were oh so tiny, but packed a big punch and were very sweet.

6)  Speaking of berries, we had mulberries at the Garden. I was lucky to be there one day during their peak and Michael had already harvested a bunch. Wild berries are the absolute best.

6) I did my summer Costco run, so I’m all set. For a hot minute. #smoothieseveryday

7) My husband and I were invited to a tennis tournament (aka party where you play tennis). I have never played and he was rusty, but we showed up as requested in our tennis whites and ended up having a blast. I actually hit the ball a couple times. Woo-hoo!

There was food from the Imperial Taco Truck and drinks (I brought strawberry-jalapeno margaritas) and an ice luge (of which I did not partake) and a DJ. The party was still going strong when we left around 10:00pm.

8) We were also invited to a Sam Smith concert at the new Little Caesar’s arena, which neither of us had been to. I have avoided concert invitations lately (crowds = anxiety, also see beginning of post), but the tickets were for our friends’ private suite. THAT I can do. And I actually loved the concert. He had a fantastic voice and equally fantastic back-up singers, so I was happy.

9) I went to Gray Ghost Detroit restaurant for the first time, to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Food wasn’t overly delicious, but I enjoyed it. Drinks were great and the ambiance was nice. For a Monday night it was very lively.

10) I cooked lobster tails for the first time. I know, they are so easy, but I’ve always been intimidated by them for some reason. Threw them on the grill, made some herb butter and enjoyed.

11) A lot of firsts this month….. another was pasta from a friend of a friend’s company, Detroit Pasta Co. He makes and delivers homemade pasta and sauce. I tried the pasta only – he brought fettucine and pappardelle (my favorite. well, clarification, my favorite fresh pasta. My favorite shelf and restaurant pasta is hands down spaghetti).

I tossed the pappardelle with shitake mushrooms, onions (I would have done shallots, but didn’t have any), parsley and heavy cream. And a touch of red pepper flakes (necessary on every type of pasta). And made garlic scape pesto for the fettuchine. Divine.

12) Grosse Pointe is not known as a place to showcase your individuality, so I was pleased to see this sight one evening in the Village. Reminded me of San Francisco. You be you, girl.

Please tell someone you love them, spend time in a garden and be good to yourselves this month! Happy July, all!

 

The May List – 2018

Spring was alive and well in Grosse Pointe this month, bringing warmer temps, tree blossoms and flowers.

However.

1) Just when all the blossoms had formed on the dogwood and magnolia (two of my favorite early spring plants), a crazy strong wind storm blew through town, resulting in downed trees, limbs and of course, blossoms.

I was at work during the storm and we all heard a loud crash. The storm shattered windows, too. SIGH

2) My old lilac tree weathered the storm quite nicely and its many blooms survived, giving us a beautiful display of light and dark purples. I keep thinking it’s going to break or topple over after a big snow or wind storm, but it stays strong.

3) The difference in the garden from the beginning of May to the end.

My vegetable garden is not doing well at all this year, due to the horrible squirrels, who dig up every seed and seedling they can find. Last year they didn’t touch my kale, lettuce or string beans, but this year they dig as soon as I’m done planting. I’m wondering if it’s because they are starving because of the long winter we had, or if they’ve just become more aggressive and annoying.

This is such a huge disappointment for me because there’s nothing better than fresh greens on the table minutes after they’ve been picked. Okay, there are a million better things, but you know what I mean. Freshness just cannot be duplicated.

4) Luckily, we are still growing greens at The Garden Detroit, in spite of our move from our large garden to the smaller plot next to our flower farm, and Tom and Nancy are always so nice to let me have some whenever I stop by. I enjoyed bok choy, sauteed with chili oil and garlic, and today for lunch I’m making a speckled lettuce salad.

5)  Detroit Abloom, the flower farm project, had to scramble this season, again because of the tough winter and spring or non-spring that we had. Our flower bouquet share starts today and we were all foraging for fillers yesterday like grasses and clover, to flesh out the bouquets.

It has been slow-going, but I am super excited for another beautiful season! If you are in the area, please come volunteer any time!

6)  Early this month I joined friends for the Susan G. Komen cancer walk in Detroit. We met at the DAC for a light breakfast, then headed out into the crisp morning in our matching leggings and team shirts.

I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that came up during the walk. I had flashbacks to my diagnosis and treatment, and thought about all the women out there who have been lost, and those who are just getting diagnosed. How their lives are going to change forever, how their families will be changed.

I’m just finishing up year five, which means I can stop taking my medication soon, which is both exciting and scary. I want to put it behind me and taking daily medication is an in-your-face reminder, and my doctor says that most people who stop taking the medication see a significant change (more energy, body feels better), but the medication was also my mental crutch, allowing me to believe that if I took it, the cancer wouldn’t come back. Which isn’t entirely true.

7)  On to more happy news. I finished work until the next school year – yippeee!!!! We had a fun and successful auction and I couldn’t be more pleased about the money and enthusiasm we raised for the school.

I ended up wearing a sparkly Rachel Zoe backless dress. I love it and wish I could wear it everywhere. The night ended with lots of tequila drinks and two of the above three girls on stage singing and playing bongos. Oopsie.

8)  If you’ve read enough of my blogs, you know that once the warm weather hits, I get the baking itch. I made a delicious batch of scones this month with plans to make many more throughout the summer.

9)  My husband and I joined another couple for a Memorial Day weekend in Florida. Which was fantastic, but would have been even more fantastic, were it not in the middle of tropical storm Alberto (eye roll). So pretty much we ate and drank our way through Naples, and had to find other non outdoor things to do like go to the movies, shop….

….and play drag bingo aka “Bitchy Bingo.”

10)  My girlfriend and I did manage to take a nice walk along the beach during a break in the rain. We ended up on a nature pathway back to town through mangroves and air plants and other cool vegetation.

There were little informational plaques along the way, which were helpful and fun. As we came to the end of the walk, we got drenched in a downpour, and found shelter in the Naples Grand hotel, wiping ourselves off in the bathroom with towels, but ultimately this was a good move, as we wandered into the spa area and made massage appointments for the next day (another great indoor activity).

11)  I wish I’d had a day to just walk around and photograph the architecture. So many retro-ish apartment buildings. Reminded me a bit of LA.

12)  I picked up several books at the library, two of which are sequels to books I’ve already read. I chose the translated (from Dutch) Adler-Olsen thriller to start with and so far it is just what I’d hoped for. Quirky characters and fast-paced suspense.

The girls are in school through Friday, so I have a few more days to catch up on things before the wonderful madness of summer break begins. Happy June, everyone!!

The April List – 2018

Spring finally came to Grosse Pointe at the end of April. The month brought several snow flurries and lots of cold. This morning isn’t a whole lot better at 35 degrees, but the sun is out and it’s supposed to get up to 54, so I’ll take it.

1)  One night we had a weird mix of snow and ice and I woke up to ice covering everything. It was a bit dangerous to be out, as pieces of ice were randomly falling. It was pretty though, which I would have been more appreciative of if it were oh, NOT SPRING!

2)  I started taking Wednesdays off at work again (I was supposed to be doing that all year but could not get the work done over just four work days a week). One Wednesday I went to the Garden, which was pretty depressing as we are a month behind now, but we did plant a bed of stock, and we are all looking forward to an abundant season.

3) The girls and I planted lettuce and kale in our vegetable bed. I can’t do much else in that spot, as our backyard isn’t sunny enough for most vegetables. Our carrots last year grew about an inch. We’ve been successful with beans, but each plant only gives us a handful so I’m trying to utilize the space in a more productive way, albeit must less exciting.

4)  If you read last month’s list, you know I was anticipating my haircut, which I love. It’s the shortest I’ve gone in about 20 years (I just spent 20 minutes trying to find evidence, but could not). I went to The Zealous Root here in town. The gals did an amazing job with what they had to work with.

Disclosure: My stylist also gave me a digital makeover, so I (sadly) look way sweeter in this photo than I do in real life. I mean, look at those eyelashes. They are epic.

5)  While I was waiting for my hair appointment, I read the cheekiest little book about Grosse Pointe, which I must get my hands on. I went to the store where it supposedly came from, but I think copies are long gone. I will keep searching.

6)  I started this month’s book group pick last night and I think it’s going to be a fantastic read. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I am fully engaged in the plot and can’t wait to dive into it again tonight. It puts my other thriller “The Good Girl,” (that I put down in order to start this one) to shame. Not sure I’ll be able to finish it now.

7)  I did manage to drag my behind to the Detroit Body Garage one Wednesday morning, something I have been meaning to do for months. I took it easy-ish, not pushing myself too hard, so I wouldn’t hate the rest of the week. It felt great and I’m going to try to make it a regular thing.

8)  What else can we talk about?…….oh. So the school auction is coming up and I wasn’t going to buy a new dress for it and then I was. I mostly fit this one, except I may have to pin it or keep hiking it up by the armpit, which, whatever. I can’t decide if it looks cool/hip or obnoxious/slutty, but if the other dress that’s coming in the mail doesn’t fit, than this one it is, regardless of how I end up feeling about it.

9)  I went to the new downtown hotspot Prime + Proper, but only for drinks, as we couldn’t get a reservation on short notice. Craft cocktails were delicious and I hear the food is even more so.

10)  I got to hang out with not one, but TWO puppies this month. Soooooooo adorable. How can you stay mad at spring when you get to spend time with a puppy? Okay, I am still mad at spring for the record, but puppy time certainly helped.

11)  I went to karaoke not one, but TWO times this month with new friends of mine. It was so entertaining and fun. I mean, karaoke is pretty much a ridiculous activity, but I am all over it. The crowd is a mixed bag, which I love (and which also adds to the entertainment factor) and it was great to sing on stage again after so long, even if it was just karaoke, and even when the song was not in the right key for me. Ha.

12)  I fit into my snake pants last week, which I can only do about once or twice a year. Which means one of two things. I purposely have been losing weight. Wrong. I’m super stressed. Right?

I’m actually not sure. I don’t feel that stressed, but I suppose I might be. Either way, I was elated to fit into the pants. The kids have been asking me to make scones, which I will probably do today, which means I will have to wait another six months to a year to wear the pants again, but if you’ve tasted the scones, they are completely worth it.

I have high hopes for May. The weather forecast looks good and my work (is supposed to) slowly taper off, giving me more time at the Garden and my own garden, and also more time to be a mom, which has been rough this year with my increased work load, so bring it on, May, I am ready for you!

The February List – 2018

Oh my gosh. I can’t with The List right now. Every month I feel like I say oh this month went by so fast, but this is IT, people.

1) It’s cold. It was supposed to be done snowing and everyone thought it was done snowing, but as soon as my daughter brought her snowsuit home from school I knew it was going to snow again and it sure did.

2)  And then when it did snow, it was so random and weird weather-wise, that the snow stuck and it was beautiful for a hot second until the next day when chunks of ice started falling from the trees onto your car and your head if you happened to be out walking. We didn’t even let our kids go outside and play and almost didn’t want the dog to go out either but no alternative.

3) And guess what, the snowstorm I’m talking about actually happened on March 1st, so I’m not even technically allowed to put it in the February list, but I did, so there.

4) At the beginning of the month we had our biggest storm of the season come through, snowing all day long. I was hoping and praying we would not have a snow day, but our Head of School (I know, stop. Where am I, England? But that’s his title so.) had already called one the evening before. I shoveled at least three separate times and my husband maybe twice.

5) Had my office not looked like this, I would have relaxed and enjoyed aforementioned snow day, and eventually, I did because what can you do, really?

6)  The kids had an absolute ball and my sweet old Sammy boy was running and jumping along with them. As playful as I’ve seen him in a long time. Sometimes he is so gross and smells bad and chews on his foot and all kinds of really nasty dog things, but he is so dang cute and brings so much love into our home, we adore him.

7) Our oldest turned nine this month. We let her invite a couple friends to the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center (we would have invited all the girls in her class, but we only have one car and felt bad not being able to give all the girls rides back to our house).

(Just FYI if you are reading this and your kid didn’t go it’s because we are still so SF when it comes to emissions and vehicles and I’m sorry, we love your kid!) Although that one time I won my husband an Escalade rental at auction it was AH-MAZ-ing.

My point is we all went there for the first time and it was fun and cool and my favorite part was feeling all the animal pelts to see which one was the softest (there were also molds of poop samples, which of course the girls loved) and watching the girls ride the snowmobile simulator and fishing simulator.

And then they all wanted to play this shoot the squirrel game with laser guns that looked like real guns and I was like what in the holy hell is even happening right now.

8) We got home and it was nine-year-old girls gone wild all up in my house. They are kooks oh my word. But they had a great time and enjoyed my homemade vanilla cake from Marais.

9)  My mother-in-law took us to the Henry Ford Museum for our daughter’s birthday (ate lunch at Buddy’s pizza first – YUM. I just love pizza so much). I had never been there before and didn’t realize that Rosa Parks’s bus was in that museum along with a million other cool Americana items.

We sat in the bus and listened to the docent (although my girls were half listening, ah well) and I was so moved and touched and wanted to stay there all day and write poetry and think deep thoughts.

10)  Our big ski trip (our girls’ first times ever on skis) happened at the end of the month. We and another family rented a cottage at Crystal Mountain, about a five hour drive north. We’d never been and it was really picturesque and lovely.

Another event I should have been looking forward to but wasn’t because I was so stressed out, but as often happens on vacations, I was able to relax and enjoy myself, especially since the girls had phenominal attitudes about the whole ski gear, being cold, first time on skis thing. It was pretty cool watching them and it made me want to go on ski vacations multiple times a year, even though I hate being cold.

I also took a morning off and got a facial at the spa and sat in the steam room for a bit which made me want a new steam shower so badly or at least a sauna in the basement.

11) I hadn’t been to The Garden since before Christmas – what!? I’m not even exaggerating, so sad and completely my fault. I made a lunch date with the crew and they made me the most fantastic toasted sandwich using Trader Joe’s sauerkraut and swiss and homemade vegan Thousand Island dressing.

The photo looks not very appetizing because I’d already taken a bite and also didn’t have time to edit the photo but it was really so good. I want one RIGHT NOW. But even if I had all the stuff I couldn’t because I am cutting down on carbs big time because Hawaii in two weeks oh my gosh.

12) Wait, speaking of delicious, the Auction Chairs are always buying me the best treats, I am not sure why because I’m the only one on our hard-working team actually getting paid (chairs are volunteers as are well, the volunteers), but of course I’m not complaining because treats.

One of the things they’ve given me are these amazing chocolates from Hungary with caramelized lavender and star anise. It’s stupid good and I just had some with my wine. And yes I realize wine has carbs but wine.

To sum up the month: work work, snow snow, some good stuff, more work, more snow. It’s all good, people. Happy March!

The January List – 2018

The first month of 2018 brought more freezing temps during its first half, which meant that when we got several days of 40+ degree weather recently, we were ecstatic.

1) The winter brings such beautiful sunrises and we had so many notable ones this month, though I only snapped a few.

2)  This old man turned 12 on January 6th! (He looks sad in this pic, but he is merely fixated on the treat I am holding up to my face.)

He has become a nuisance in the mornings in his old age, waking me up at ungodly hours, pretending he has to go out, only to fake pee and run back in for his breakfast. This faking and running back is nothing new, but the early morning wake-ups are. Nonetheless, I always cave, especially since we don’t know how much longer he’ll be around.

2)  I forgot to talk about cranberry salsa last month and I’m wondering if it’s a Midwest thing or an East Coast thing or maybe a small town thing? I’d never heard of it or had it before, but at our December book group TWO girls brought a batch, which was kind of fun because one was served over cream cheese and one had jalapenos in it.

I pretty much ate most of the one with jalapenos in it, and after I asked for the recipe and saw the ingredients, I knew why I liked it so much. SUGAR. Loads of it. Which should have been obvious given the fresh cranberries. Alas, I will not be making this dip save maybe once a year as a holiday treat.

3)  Our group skipped a book this month (I read “A Man Called Ove” last month, but that’s for our February discussion), as we decided to have a dinner with spouses instead. After a yummy beet salad and cassoulet dinner, we played several rounds of Cards of Humanity, which I’d never played before. It’s like an adult (and inappropriate) version of Apples to Apples. So bad but so good.

The hosts’ King Charles spaniel was soooooo super cute. I am not a small dog person, but I’ve always loved that breed along with little white Westies.

4)  I’ve been reading the above book by Fuchsia Dunlop. It’s about her wanderings throughout rural China as a study abroad student and how she came to study Chinese food at one of the culinary institutes there. There is something slightly amateur about her writing (maybe it’s because it’s a memoir?), which is not necessarily a bad thing in this instance, as she writes honestly and with passion.

The problem is that I love Chinese food and she talks about it a LOT. Chili oil, garlic, black bean paste. And I’m only ever reading the book in bed, so it makes me very hungry and also very sad, knowing that even if I did want Chinese food  the next day to satisfy my craving, that I wouldn’t be able to satiate my appetite without going into Detroit (which I would more than love to do, but time doesn’t usually permit).

5) Maybe because of these cravings, I bought yet another cookbook. This one is from one of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Burma Superstar. I’ve made the very easy coconut rice twice (I’ve made my own version which does not include the sugar sigh that makes the Burma version so good), but need to get to a specialty store before I can attempt to make some of the other dishes.

6)  I am up to my eyeballs at work, as our deadlines for the year are looming. I’m not sure if I mentioned ever that the head of our department resigned over the summer, so it’s just me running my team (and reporting to the Head of School, which is not the same as having your very own director across the hall), crossing my fingers and forging through the chaos. Godspeed.

7)  I get the organizing bug often and the re-decorating bug sometimes, and it makes sense that it usually strikes when its too cold or hot or wet to go outside. Our living room was still feeling a little too formal and not….”together” to me. I’ve been wanting to get a mirror for over the fireplace for a long time, but hadn’t found the right one and also they are soooo expensive.

I finally found a suitable and affordable (only because Arhaus was having its winter sale and I got it for 60% off) mirror for the space and I think it looks worlds better. I’d been hoping for a gilded frame, but I actually think the subtlety of this muted gray works nicely.

8) I’m sure I told you about the lamp in the corner that I bought from an estate sale when we first moved to Grosse Pointe? I was texting about it with a friend the other day and realizing (again) how cool it is, with its real butterfly specimens pressed between parchment-ish paper.

I’ve never thought to look up what kind of butterflies they were until now, which I did just a second ago. Perhaps the bottom one is some kind of swallowtail? But I’m not sure about the other one. Maybe it’s even a moth?

9)  I bought a boatload of houseplants (eleven to be exact) to brighten and cozy up the space (and of course I had to buy pots for all of them). I am hoping for zero casualties, at least for several months, because no matter how much attention I seem to put into houseplants, they respond by dying.

Don’t over water (I KNOW). People seem to want to tell me this whenever I tell them I have issues with houseplants. I actually think my main problem is that I’m so scared of over watering that I under water. Anyway, this batch of plants is doing well. Which has made me want to buy even more (my husband loves me so much).

I also am trying a yucca plant in our family room. It’s starting to tip a little because it’s so heavy, but otherwise seems happy.

Photo by Susan Martin, of shade plants at her home in Holland, MI.

10)  Speaking of plants, my neighbor’s daughter Susan Martin (her mother Shirley was my sweet neighbor who passed away a year and a half ago), a garden writer and speaker, invited me to a talk she was giving about shade plants at the War Memorial at the Grosse Pointe Garden Center’s annual meeting. I’m not normally one to attend a lecture, but because it was Susan and because my backyard/garden is 90% shady, it piqued my interest.

Himalayan Maidenhair Fern and Toad Lily, two of the plants I wrote down on my list.

I arrived just on time and grabbed one of the last remaining seats. It was such a great talk – Susan was so knowledgeable and personable and engaging – and she gave me so many great ideas for my shade garden and more importantly, hope for it. When I wasn’t crying (which I did intermittently throughout, thinking about and missing Shirley), I was scribbling notes on the handout she gave us. I want to try a million things! Spring cannot get here fast enough.

After the talk, I was approached by a woman who I’d never met, but who knew me through my affiliation with Shirley and also Detroit Abloom (and as it turns out, I’d heard of her, too). Once in a blue moon I will meet someone who already knows me because of my friendship with Shirley. It’s incredibly touching and shows that even a short-lived friendship can be deeply meaningful.

You can follow Susan’s gardening tips and articles on Facebook by clicking here: Gardener Sue’s News. You’ll be so glad you did!

11)  Just as I was about to get back on the healthy/workout bandwagon, I sprained my ankle. Doing a freaking puzzle. How does one sprain an ankle while doing a puzzle, you ask? I’m not sure, but after going to the doctor, we concluded that I was probably standing on it weird (for like two hours straight) or sitting on it at a funny angle.

Regardless of how, I would get shooting pains that would last for 10 to 20 minutes at a time and could not bear weight on it. And then it would go away for 24 hours and then it would come back in full force. It’s been two days without major pain, so hopefully I’m in the clear.

12)  I leave you with this amazing list I found while cleaning up, that our 8-year-old wrote. I dare you to guess what it means (I haven’t a clue). But I can tell you that it pretty much sums up my state of mind lately.

I realize we have several days left in January, but it has exhausted me and I’m on to the next. February is going to be even more nuts work-wise than January was. That and the 8-year-old turns nine. And I think I signed up for my first grader’s Valentine’s Day party. And a ski trip that’s smack in the middle of my deadline. I’ll write about it all next month. Until then.