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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The December List – 2016

IMG_3666 (768x1024)Yikes! So late with the list. Here’s what happened in December…

1)  I’ve always been a stickler for waiting until the day after Thanksgiving to put Christmas decorations up. I stuck by the rule this year, but barely (I started pulling out boxes before Thanksgiving was over). I’m beginning to understand the strong desire to decorate early. It’s dreary. The flowers are gone, the sun is gone. Let’s get some holiday up in here.

2)  I did break my “no artificial greenery” rule this year and bought three faux garlands. Two for the stairs and one for the living room mantle. Just didn’t want to deal with all the needles and clean-up.

After lots of online research (reviews) and one bad purchase (Home Depot), I settled on garlands from Ballard Designs. magnolia for the stairs (top photo) and angel pine for the mantle (bottom pic). They were pricey, but worth it in the long run. I went back to their website after Christmas to buy another one because I was so impressed with how great they looked, but alas they are sold out of both.

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3)  This photo doesn’t do it justice, but the “crazy house” (girls’ term, not mine) on Lakeshore was ultra decked out for Christmas this year. Whoa.

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4)  I am single-handedly keeping Trader Joe’s pot sticker business alive. Here’s my stash. The TJ’s brand pork ones are the best, followed by the chicken soup dumplings in close second (the Filipino guy who works there – and the only other Filipino I’ve met here – told me to use them in their ginger-miso soup. SO good).

The butternut squash dumplings sound good in theory but they are a disaster. Skip them. You’re welcome.

5)  Speaking of Asian food, I asked my dry cleaning lady if there was anywhere I could get good Korean food. Turns out there is. Her house. Whaaaat? Yes, you guys. She offered to teach me how to cook all my favorite dishes. Date to be decided, and you know I’ll be posting about it.

6)  On the same day Japan’s supreme court ruled to uphold the law that married women must take their husband’s surname, our six-year-old asked me, “why are girls Miss if they aren’t married and Mrs. if they are and boys only have Mister.” Good. Question. And a reminder that we have a long way to go.

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7)  Have you seen Pantone’s color of the year!? My favorite shade of pink!!! (They actually chose two colors this year. The other one is Serenity, a soft blue.)

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8)  My husband and I attended a Krug champagne tasting dinner at the Yacht Club with two other couples. We found out at the last minute that it was a black tie affair, so I scrambled to buy a dress (and discovered Halston Heritage in the process. Oh my gosh).

The champagne was of course divine, but the food was….just okay. Well, the lobster was amazing, but I ate it in one bite. Same with the trout (although…three bites for that one). There  were healthy portions of duck and venison, but they were too gamey for some of us, and after dinner we drove to a local spot and shared a pizza.

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9)  Made blueberry scones (with the last of our summer blueberries from New York) for Christmas Day and two sweet potato pies for Christmas Eve. I had a mishap with the grater while making scones (P fetched a bandaid for me).

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10)  We only ate one of the pies on Christmas Eve, so I was able to take the other one to Shirley’s (our neighbor and my gardening friend) house the next day. When we got there, she presented the girls with their very own mini fairy garden. Sweetest. Thing. Ever.

In the spring we’ll put it outside, but right now it’s on our kitchen table. Our littlest plays with it every day.

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Just outside Will’s. Pantone color of the year?

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10)  My husband’s nephew works downtown at the new Will Leather Goods store and we finally made it down there to check it out. It’s a beautiful retail space, with most of the products on the main floor and a second floor loft houses their hats. There’s also a cafe inside the shop, which I didn’t try, but the treats looked yummy.

11)  Our book this month for book group was The Turner House, which I was interested to read because the story follows a family from Detroit throughout history. I couldn’t get more than halfway through. It was kind of blah.

Instead, I re-read the first Harry Potter book, which was just as fun the second time around. I spotted the new illustrated version later, and wished I’d read that version instead.

12)  This cheese. Whenever I see the Cypress Grove label, I get excited. One, because not many places carry it and two, their cheeses are fabulous. The company is located several hours north of San Francisco. I always wanted to visit, but never had the chance.

The Farms Market in town carries Purple Haze, which is a goat cheese (they’re all goat) with fennel pollen and lavender. I tried it for the first time this month (I usually get Humbolt Fog, which is divine with figs and pistachios) and it was equally great. So smooth. Just the right amount of lavender. (Also, can you tell I’m starving right now!?! )

December was a great month, but I did get pretty homesick this month for San Francisco, for friends, for family. Tis the season. I’m so looking forward to this New Year and all its possibilities. Wishing you a wonderful January and 2016!

The June List – 2015

IMG_1365How is it already July? Summer is flying by, as it should. We’ve had many nice days and many rainy days, including a wild lightning storm that went on for hours (the lightning woke me, not the thunder).

maplebranch (769x954)1) One recent wind storm blew several branches onto our backyard, including this huge section of a maple tree (resting at the base of our birch tree).

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IMG_1073IMG_1071 (768x1024)2)  We’d been wanting to try Rose’s Fine Foods, a quirky diner in Detroit featuring locally sourced food, for quite some time and finally went for breakfast. I had pancakes, which were too heavy, and the Crybaby donut (a house specialty) of the day (blueberry), which was fantastic.

I would definitely go back for breakfast (but not for the pancakes), although the lunch menu looked more exciting, with items like rainbow trout and ground lamb tacos.

IMG_1194 (1024x1024)3) Our oldest graduated from Kindergarten with a formal ceremony and punch on the lawn and everything. She wore Lilly Pulitzer, which is pretty much a requirement here in Grosse Pointe.

4)  Speaking of formal, everything in Grosse Pointe (dinners, gatherings) is soooooo formal. In San Francisco, if I asked myself, “am I under-dressed?” the answer would always be No. Here, the question is, “am I over-dressed?” and the answer is always No.

On one hand, I find this amusing (hilarious, even). On the other hand, I kind of love it. I’m a girlie girl. I like dressing up. And it’s nice when other people make the effort, too (can I get an amen?). Sure, I wear cutoffs and tank tops (which I bet I do more than anyone else here) but I also like that at any given time, if I want to dress up, I can. Without anyone asking me if I just came from a baby shower.

IMG_1082 (931x1024)IMG_1084 (768x1024)IMG_1091 (1024x889)5)  Went to the first Tuesday Market of the year at Eastern Market with my mother-in-law and our littlest. I picked up the yummiest cheeses – aged gruyere, white cheddar and imported parmesan (which was the most expensive at $12.90 a pound and of course the only cheese the girls will eat now).

We had lunch at Supino Pizzeria. The thin-crust pizza was delicious and my favorite part was the shaved sausage. Genius. I usually don’t like sausage on my pizza because I hate the chunks. Problem solved with the shaved technique. Why didn’t I think  of that?!?

IMG_1249 (1024x1012) I also bought small cilantro and parsley plants at Eastern Market for I think one or two dollars each? And re-potted them in larger pots (vs the ground, thinking I might want to bring them inside at some point for decoration. The mint I bought at a local nursery. All the herbs seem to be doing well with very little care. Such a change from San Francisco, where I tried so hard to keep herbs alive with never any luck.

IMG_1119 (768x1024)IMG_1124 (768x1024)IMG_11336)  The local shoe shop wasn’t able to fix a broken zipper on my beloved Frye boots (the guy said he couldn’t fix it and if I found a place that did fix it, it would cost more than the boots were worth). The guy at Tip Top Shoe Repair in downtown Detroit didn’t blink at the broken zipper and fixed it for under $20.00.

When I went back to pick up my boots, I noticed an urban garden (I later looked up the name – Lafayette Greens) was right next door to the shop. I took a little detour and walked through it.  The veggies looked amazing – so healthy! – and the quirky sculptures were fun.

beds7)  I gave our four-year-old’s room a summer makeover by exchanging the fluffy pink comforters with Hawaiian quilts made by a) my grandma (the one on the left. I used it as a kid) and b) the little old lady who lives next door to my Hawaii family (she made one for both me and my sister, just because).

fairygarden8) Speaking of next door neighbors, on Father’s Day the girls went next door to help our neighbor set up her fairy garden. They were beyond excited. Super duper cute.

fishfly IMG_1256 (1024x1010)9) The fishflies are here. Every summer they come for a couple weeks. It’s a lake thing. I just read that a female fishfly lays up to 4000 eggs. They stick to everything (as you can see) and smell like fish (surprise).

They live for only about a day, so, for instance, if a few hundred of them happen to land on one of the trees in your backyard and then die, the next day you may be walking under the tree and a slight wind will blow, causing all those fishfly carcasses to rain down on you. Pretty darn gross.

IMG_1106 (1024x768)10)  We amped up the backyard with a new teak dining set from Thos Baker (our summer budget has been blown. ouch). The table arrived split, so we had to wait another three weeks for a new one, and then the umbrella arrived cracked, so we had to wait another several weeks for that. But now it’s all here and we’re enjoying it.

We wavered between a dining set (husband’s idea) and lounge chairs (my idea), but ultimately went with the dining set and it has worked out great. Sometimes he’s right, what can I say.

Weber's Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling

11)  We also bought a new fancy Weber grill, another of the husband’s wants that I didn’t see the need for (at least not for this year). But guess who has been grilling several times a week and who just bought a new grilling cookbook? Yep. I think I was anti-grill because I didn’t understand it, but now that I’m figuring it out, I am loving it. Go me.

IMG_1255 (1024x1024)12)  When people find out I’m from California, the first thing they ask is how I like Michigan. They want to hear that I love it and there are many reasons why I do. I always say that I love the weather (with a reminder that Northern California weather is nothing like the rest of the state). Summers here are picture perfect, with boats on the lake and lush greenery and sounds of kids playing outside ’til the sun goes down.

So even though I still feel very much in limbo and even though I feel like living here has brought some disappointing realizations (friends stuff, music stuff, other things that are seemingly trivial but such a big deal, especially when I am tired and cranky, which I pretty much am all the time), I have never regretted the move.

So…I’m on the right path. I just need to keep walking it. Sometimes in cutoffs and flipflops, and sometimes in Lilly Pulitzer and heels.

The May List – 2015

IMG_0758 (994x1024)1)  May is unmistakably a celebratory month here in Grosse Pointe. The sound of lawnmowers is in the air once again and people rush out to buy colorful flowers to fill their many pots that were covered with snow for so many months. Tulips, pansies, daffodils and petunias were plentiful and trees were in full bloom.

After being here a full year, I still can’t decide whether Spring or Fall is my favorite season. They both have so much to teach us about life and living.

IMG_0712 IMG_0775 (935x1024)2)  We moved into our new house in the Fall, so we didn’t realize how many flowering trees and plants we had on the property ’til now. It was so fun to walk in the backyard and see a burst of color (we have a magnolia tree!) or new plant (so many ferns!) rising up from the ground.

Besides the magnolia, one of my favorite discoveries was the old lilac tree. I knew the tree was there, of course, but none of us knew what kind of tree it was until it started flowering. For a couple weeks we were treated to its delicate purple blooms. Swoon.

IMG_0459 (982x1024) 3) We attended our kids’ school auction this month. These earrings were the raffle prize (did you see the small print? – $11,000). To put things in perspective, at our last school the raffle prize was tickets to a Giants game. Live auction items at this event included a boat cruise down the Amazon and Thanksgiving in Paris. Toto, we are not in Kansas (aka our little preschool co-op) anymore.

5)  Speaking of getting dressed up, remember all the chili and Bailey’s I consumed over the winter? Enter my first compression garment experience. Did it work? I’m not really sure, but it worked for my self esteem, so it was worth the $30.00, I’d say.

6) Speaking of spending an hour Googling “smokey eye” and trying to glue fake eyelashes on for above auction (which I ended up pulling off at the last minute)… is there something wrong with me that I want Kim Kardashian’s new selfie book?

IMG_0952 (1024x1017)7)  Number of dead baby birds seen on sidewalks: six. Number of dead baby birds in our backyard that our dog rolled around in until he, too, smelled like a dead baby bird: one.

P.S. – I actually took several photos of dead baby birds, but just couldn’t bring myself post them (or look at them). Neither can I bring myself to tell you the story of the slow death of one baby squirrel in our backyard. You’re welcome.

IMG_0684 (1024x943)8)  You know it’s spider season when you start seeing trucks like this. Being from Northern California, pesticide is a four letter word, but we’re also anti-spiders and ants. We called the guy that the former home owners used and asked him to spray for just spiders and ants. He promised us the stuff he uses is anti-pesticide and non-toxic. I was skeptical…

Me: So it kills spiders, but it’s okay for kids? and dogs?
Pest Man: Oh sure, sure, once it’s dry in about 30 minutes you can touch it, no problem.
Me:  So….what about birds and squirrels? It won’t hurt them?
Pest Man: No, no, it’s totally fine! (pause). Except if I hit one directly. (crazy laughter).

He told me to “have a good summer, honey” on his way out (this is the same guy who told my husband to “make sure the wife doesn’t wash the windows” the day he sprayed). Oh my gosh.

IMG_0761 (640x960)9)  Are you freaking kidding me, Pandora?! I’m running along Lakeshore Drive when this comes on my workout playlist. Just wow.

IMG_0995 (1024x1024)IMG_0994 (1024x1024)10)  I checked out the brand new Detroit spots Sister Pie and Parker St. Market, which are across the street from one other in Indian Village. The pie was a hair sweet for me (I don’t like too sweet), but it was good, but the shortbread cookies were delicious. The market carries local and artisan finds, mostly food products. They both reminded me of places one would see in San Francisco. I’ll definitely be back.
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11)  There’s a woman’s group called the Grosse Pointe Friends and Neighbors Club. It was founded years ago as an organization to welcome new residents to the area. Perfect. I went to a couple “luncheons” where I met mostly women in the 60+ age range (but some were closer to my age).

I’m sitting at a round table with eight women. They got to talking about the different neighborhoods in the area, saying one was edgier, one attracted young families, one was more laid back, one was stuffier and so on. Then someone says, “Lani, what street do YOU live on?” I swear, in slow motion, all heads turn towards me. Even the two ladies who were talking amongst themselves look up.

Me (smiling): No! I can’t tell you where I live or you’ll judge me!
Blink. Blink. Blink. Blinking and blank stares. A couple confused looks.
Me (said 10 times faster than normal): OkayokayIliveon123xyzStreetinGrossePointeFarms!
As you were, ladies.
#newgirlfail #Iwastryingtobefunny #storyofmylife

IMG_0596 (1024x768) (2)12) Summer break is pretty much here, which means I can look forward to answering questions like, “what shape is a monkey’s poop?” and “why does God exist?” all. day. long. (yes, actual asked questions, in case you were wondering). Wish me luck.

 

The April List – 2015

IMG_0171 (1024x765)1) We finally put some artwork up in the family room. What a big difference! The SF prints were hanging in my husband’s basement office, but he kindly gave them up for the good of the house.  They look much better proportioned in real life (they look weirdly small in the photo for some reason).

2)  “That was my favorite squirrel” – our youngest, looking out the window at the dead squirrel in front of our house.

As the days went by it got more and more squished (“ooh I see blood” and more “my favorite squirrel” language) so I decided to call the city to see if they would scrape it up.

Me:  Hi. I’m new here and I’m not sure if you do this sort of thing but…there’s a dead squirrel on the street in front of our house and it’s freaking our kids out. Could you come pick it up or how does that work?
City Worker:  Now, where is the squirrel, in the middle of the street?
Me:  Umm, pretty much in the middle of the street, yes.
City Worker:  And you say it’s in front of your house? Is it right in front?
Me:  Yup, right in front of our driveway, I would say.
City Worker:  Okay, can I get your phone number, in case there are any questions?
Me: About the squirrel?! Umm, sure.

Can’t fault her for being thorough.

3)  My sister bought me Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Goldfinch” for Christmas, which I finished this month. Not once during the 784 pages did I feel like it was tedious or dragging. Do yourself a favor and put it on your summer reading list (I almost wish I had saved it for a summer read). You will thank me.

4) Michigan vs. San Francisco terminology:
Park = Playground
Pop = Soda
Carry Out = Take Out
Chinese = Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese or all of the above

IMG_0493 (872x815)5)  I finally got a shot of the elusive pheasant!

6)  April 4th marked the one-year anniversary of our move. I went for a run that day and thought about everything that’s happened since we arrived. New house, new remodel, new school, new routines, new weather, new friends. I miss San Francisco more than I can express, but I’m also happy here. I haven’t thought too much more about it, but I will reflect on it more and when I do, I will report back.

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7)  I’m not allergic to shellfish! Best news ever! Unfortunately, we have no idea what brought on my hives last month, but at least we can rule out shellfish. The allergist wanted me to come back for another appointment as a precautionary measure. He said I would need to set aside 2-3 hours, bring a piece of shrimp with me to the office, eat it and wait. He referred to this as an “open food challenge.”

Me: Can’t I just stand in front of a hospital and eat some shrimp? That would be a lot faster, and more convenient.
Allergist: Oh no, don’t do that. The next thing you know, the papers will say “a patient of Dr. R’s dropped dead in front of such and such..”
Me: Don’t worry, I won’t sue you or anything.
Allergist (concerned): Just make the appointment, okay?
Me: Okay.

I walked out of the office without making an appointment. Two days later, I ate an a-load of shrimp at a party. I’m good.

IMG_0344 (1024x1024)8)  April showers bring May flowers. That’s great and all, but the cold! Enough already. April was full of cold, cloudy days and even some snow. We did get a couple days of sun and warm, giving us a sneak peak of what’s to come. I can’t wait.

IMG_0482 (768x1024)9)  Speaking of flowers, I walked outside one afternoon to a beautiful surprise. A blossoming tree in our backyard. I don’t know what kind of tree it is, but the flowers are fluffy and big, similar to magnolia blossoms. So pretty!

IMG_0450 (892x1024)10)  Something you would never see in San Francisco – dry cleaning hanging on a door. One, because I can’t think of any dry cleaner there that delivers and two, because it would be gone in two seconds. Especially if you live near Golden Gate Park like we did.

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Photo from: GPFoundation on Instagram

11)  The Grosse Pointe library system lends out gardening tools. How cool is that? They also have a seed library, where you can search a physical card catalog (containing seed packets instead of cards) and “borrow” seeds to plant.  Residents are also encouraged to save and donate their seeds to the collection. I plan to use both.

IMG_0391 (1024x1024)12)  I have one more month before school is out, which means I can say goodbye to daytime “me” time. I hope to get a sitter a couple times a week so I can work (oh yes, I do have a day job doing payroll for my husband’s company), but also so I can have some down time. Summer will be fun, I know that, but sometimes a girl (especially an INFJ girl like me) needs her space. Can I get an amen.

Enjoy May, everyone!