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.

 

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The January List – 2016

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Oh my gosh. It’s mid-February and I am just starting the January list. Here it is…

1) Snow. Eh. It only snowed once, maybe twice last month. It was pretty, it was white, there were some cute bunny tracks and there was a little shoveling involved. Not much to report.

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2)  My Dad and his wife gave us a spiralizer for Christmas. I’m not very big on kitchen contraptions – I use a toaster, blender, mixer and rice cooker – so I wasn’t too sure about using it, but gave it a try with some zucchini, if only to say that I used it.

It was a lot more user-friendly than I expected and quite easy to clean (huge). The “noodles” were fun, but I was not fooled into thinking they were actual pasta noodles. It’s nice because the girls are able to use it and it’s always great when they can help in the kitchen. Although they will still not eat the finished product.

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3) This handsome guy turned 10. Whenever I try any to do any kind of floor workout, he gets all up in my business. Sometimes he brings me toys or licks my feet. Not super productive, but it does make me laugh and I usually do end up taking him for a walk afterwards.

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4) I went to Arizona! My girlfriend and former San Francisco book grouper Kimberly got married – hurray! I was so pleased that I managed to pack lightly and not check any luggage, so when I got to the gate and they told me I had to check my carry-on, I was bummed.

I begged and pleaded and said that I had to go to a wedding right when I landed (which was mostly true), but they stared at me with no pity whatsoever and handed me my luggage tag. Which ended up in my purse. Oopsie.

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5) The wedding was a beautiful traditional church wedding…

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…and the reception was held at the luxury Royal Palms hotel in Scottsdale. SO pretty. Wish I could have stayed there instead of the Marriott!

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It was fun to dress up and I bought a new Halston Heritage dress for the occasion. I’ve been all about 70s glam recently. Love it. Which is very strange because I’ve never cared for it before. Now I lose my mind over it.

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6) I love this rug that I wove on a loom in college (my favorite class!) and I keep trying to find a place for it in the house.

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I tried our entryway (we are still using the old owner’s maroon rug which I am so over), which didn’t look quite right, plus I don’t really want people wiping their shoes on it.

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I tried our downstairs powder room, where it looked pretty good, but it is too slippy for the girls (who use that bathroom a lot), even if we put a rug pad under it. It’s back in the closet for now. :(

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7)  I forgot to ever talk about our buffet we bought for the dining room. My husband and I have significantly different home decor tastes, so it took a while for us to settle on this piece of furniture. I found it online through Cottage Home Furniture in Maine.

They were great to work with. This particular sideboard did not come with glass door, but I special requested and they were happy to oblige. It arrived a couple weeks later than promised, but they were good about keeping me in the loop.

8)  Our book group book this month was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s an end-of-days (of sorts) type setting, but not as dire or creepy as The Road (if you haven’t read it, oh my. Excellent writing but so depressing) and most of the book focuses on the characters.  The writing was great and engaging. I really enjoyed it.

After I posted this, a friend told me that the author wrote the book while in Leelanau, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A big chunk of the book takes place in that area, so I see now where she got her inspiration for that setting.

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9)  I was at Barnes & Nobles looking for a birthday gift and decided to pick up an adult puzzle (vs a kid puzzle, which we have a ton of). I hadn’t done a puzzle in so long and it was fun. The girls tried to get into it, but of course it was hard for them, but they did manage to put some pieces in, which was exciting for them.

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10) Soooo…..I’ve been on a diet. Of sorts. Just trying to get healthy and strong. I am the laziest exerciser you could ever know, so I never have really pushed myself during workouts. But I’m trying now and it’s really hard, but satisfying. I also kind of hate salad, so when I tell you that I’m eating lots of salad, that is huge.

My big indulgence is balsamic reduction. So bad but so good. (In case you weren’t aware, most store-bought balsamic glazes have caramel coloring, which is a possible carcinogen. Normally, I would not allow myself to come close to the stuff, but it makes me eat salad, so I weighed my options. When I run out, I’ll attempt to make my own).

11)  The girls got a bunch of games for Christmas and one of them is Jr. Monopoly. It’s a great game because both the four-year-old and almost seven-year-old can play and I can actually tolerate it, unlike some of the other games they have. Even though I’m always stuck with the car.

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12) One (very, very, very cold!) Saturday, we drove into Detroit and walked along the Riverfront and Hart Plaza and peeked into the Renaissance Center. After our little adventure, we went to Mercury Bar in Corktown for an early dinner.

On our walk back to the car, we saw a huge flock of birds flying across the sky. Most of them landed on one large tree, so I made my husband drive near it so I could take a picture. From far away, the birds looked like leaves.

It was kind of a magical moment. Watching them swoop in front of us out of nowhere and then spotting them on the tree. I hope 2016 brings more bursts of zen like these for all of us (me, you, humanity), which are much needed in the midst or our crazy lives. Enjoy the rest of your February!

The January List

IMG_96801)  The week my husband went out of town, it snowed. And snowed. I shoveled three times and I have to admit, I kind of enjoyed it. Don’t even try to “just you wait” me. I get that six weeks from now when it’s below 10 out and there’s a driveway piled two feet deep of dirty, heavy snow, I will hate it. Might hate it. But I don’t hate it yet. Nah-na-na-boo-boo.

2)  You know you’re getting old when your three-year-old beats you at a matching game (aka memory game) and you were actually trying to win (we’re competitive up in this house).

IMG_9368 (993x1024)3)  Is it just me, or do the freaking Christmas lights never fit back in the box? Mine always end up looking like this (and that’s one of the better ones). Why don’t I just do away with the boxes all together, you ask? Couldn’t tell you.

Speaking of Christmas lights… it’s the beginning of February, people. The baby Jesus wants to go home. Shut ‘er down.

IMG_9705 (1024x1024)4) Checked out the Detroit Auto Show with some friends. I haven’t been to a car show since junior high, when my Uncle used to take me. I love anything shiny and sparkly, so I enjoyed the whole showy-ness of the whole thing.

The driverless Mercedes car was very cool and they’re supposed to be ultra-safe (I heard an NPR segment), but….not sure I’d be able to fully relax. The concept does seem rather nice, though, no?

IMG_96845)  Our sweet, sweet boy Sammy turned nine this month. How can you not love this face?

6)  When ordering pizza in Grosse Pointe, make sure to ask if they use fresh mushrooms or canned ones. Who even uses those? I don’t think I saw a canned mushroom my entire time in San Francisco. I’d actually forgotten about their existence until I lifted the lid on my pizza box. I’m not sure which word best describes my reaction. Disgust. Horror. Shame. Ick.

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corwall7)  I took a knife skills class at Cornwall Bakery, a new spot in Grosse Pointe Park. I was the only person who came solo, so I felt out of place at the get-go.

It was their first-ever class, so they still have kinks to work out (like timing. I had to leave before the fajitas were done), but the instructor was super nice and I did learn how to hold a knife properly (although my wrist! And my long, creepy fingers. Gah). I wish I’d learned more about knives and the actual act of cutting vs. how to julienne a carrot properly, for example, but I’m glad I went.

8)  AND! Oh my gosh I am just remembering because of this photo. One of the girls brought a bottle of wine and only shared it among her little group (there were eight of us in the class, five in her group). When that went down I was tsk-ing inside my head. San Franciscans do not roll like that. You bring wine, you bring wine for everybody, capiche?

IMG_96229) I love how the lake changes every day in winter. I’ll see beautiful shards of ice sticking out of the lake one day, and the next day they’re gone. Such a contradiction to the other parts of nature. While everything else is quiet and bare, the lake is very much alive. Pretty cool.

IMG_9446 (1024x1024)10)  I love a fireplace. In San Francisco we had a faux fireplace (it had been covered up, but the facade was still there). We kept talking about opening it up and bringing it to life again, but it never happened.

I love coming downstairs in the morning (okay, not really, because my brain is in a fog of sleepiness and one or both of the kids are trying to tell me something and the dog wants to eat and I have to figure out what to pack for lunch…but I digress)…and turning on the fireplace and keeping the kitchen lights dim while I make my espresso. It’s all very picturesque. Until the girls start fighting over who gets the turtle plate. Wah-wah.

IMG_9583 (944x1024)11)  Since I haven’t been able to find a restaurant here to satisfy my Thai cravings, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. Literally. My sorority sis recommended this book, which I bought a couple weeks ago. I’ve always been intimidated by Thai cooking (the ingredients!), but desperate times call for desperate measures. Now where in the world am I going to find birds eye chilies?

12)  I popped into Josef’s bakery the other day for a dry cappuchino and almond croissant (which they were out of. Had a chocolate-almond croissant instead. Not a good substitute). I started chatting it up with two older ladies (long story. someone dropped a spoon). They both thought I was 20-ish. Twen. Tee. I suppose that’s one good thing about being the only Asian in town?