The November List – 2016

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Welp, another month has passed and I never did get to my dahlia post. Perhaps soon. Perhaps never. But now it’s time for the List…

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1) The autumn spectacle of changing leaves continued throughout the entire month of November. Swoon.

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2) The amount of leaves on our lawn was a different kind of spectacle and very daunting. So daunting that I let my husband and kids do most of the clean-up this year.

My excuse (besides too cold and too many leaves) was that I injured my rib cage (or something) from coughing so hard during my most recent cold. And raking made it worse (it did!). And it’s only now starting to feel better after several weeks.

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3)  This is my most used emoji. What does that say about me? Should I be concerned?

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4) I voted! Although, Michigan?!?! I can’t.

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5) Shortly after the election, my sister-in-law told me about a women’s (although I think there was a guy there? whatevs) meeting of the minds at The Red Hook cafe in Detroit’s West Village. Cute place.

And the room was filled with such intelligent and thoughtful women who are trying to change the world for the good of humanity and yes, there is hope. Albeit a small sliver of. See #3.

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6)  Thanksgiving dinner was held at our house this year. My husband’s family (his sister’s family and his mom) joined us for the holiday and luckily for me it was a potluck, so I didn’t have to do much except clean and make mashed potatoes, an apple pie and cranberry sauce.

Aaaaand I bought the turkey from the Yacht Club. I know, so lame, but I was nervous about messing it up. I’ve cooked probably five (?) turkeys in my lifetime and they were all okay, nothing bad happened, but better safe than sorry.

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7) Speaking of pie, it’s officially pie season (although summertime has it’s own pie season I suppose?). So it’s official the second pie season of the year and surprisingly I haven’t had too much of it yet, mainly because it is such a pain to make. Peeling and cutting all those freaking apples! Rolling out the dough that doesn’t want to roll out! But it tastes so good.

I haven’t had sweet potato pie yet – my holiday favorite – but I am planning on making one for next week’s book group. The recipe I use includes bourbon and coconut milk, and is finished with a maple pecan crumble on top. I die.

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8) The day after Thanksgiving, Grosse Pointe puts on a small Santa parade. We walked down to Kercheval and sat on the bleachers placed along the Hill. I loved the marching bands. And the fact that we saw a bunch of people we knew.

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9) Soooo….I started a new part time job (gah!) at one of the schools here. I’ve been so spoiled accustomed to working whenever I want (an hour here an hour there, or late at night when the kids are asleep) that having an actual schedule threw me off my game a little.

I will miss Googling “Victoria Beckham hair” grocery shopping without kids and watching Project Runway having everything in its place (counters and floors clear, laundry done, etc), but I enjoy the job and I’m slowly figuring out some rhythm to my work week. It’s a historical campus – the office is really beautiful AND I have a view of Lake St. Clair. Pretty sweet.

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10) I just this week pulled the last of my kale, one of the first plants I planted in the spring. Certainly was a great year for flowers and vegetables. And I covered my raised bed with straw, because Tom from The Garden told me to. Something to do with keeping the nutrients in the soil or some such.

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11)  Speaking of The Garden, we are full speed ahead with our root cellar construction. Thank you to all who have helped by donating to the cause! A hoop house is going on top, hopefully soon before the nasty weather kicks in.

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12)  The Garden itself is looking rather dormant, but is still beautiful in its own way. A few plants are hung on until just recently – scallions, parsley and kale. There’s still a lot to do in terms of getting all the beds ready for winter. If  you are in the area and want to help, come on down! Bring gloves and a parka. Brrrrr!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around town and in our house, too. We haven’t gotten our tree yet, but we (me and the girls) are super excited to do that in the next couple of days. Wishing everyone a Very Happy Holiday Season!!

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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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The July List – 2016

IMG_6268 (819x1024)July has come and gone in a flash. I’m still loving the heat, although I do wish it would rain every now and then for the plants. Midwestern summers are the best and I have zero complaints. I love sitting in the backyard as the sun goes down, and when it’s cool enough (and sometimes even when it isn’t), sitting by the fire pit with my husband after the girls go to bed.

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1)  We spent the Fourth poolside with the family, but per usual, I didn’t get in the pool, which I won’t do unless it’s above 88 degrees (or thereabouts).

2)  When I was out jogging at the beginning of the month (not many jogging days for me this month – too lazy hot), I passed three people I knew. Actually they passed me, as they were in their cars, driving. But they all waved or gave a honk. My husband does not love this aspect of small towns, but I do.

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3) In my last post I talked about cooking. I’ve also been on a baking kick, which means we’ve had lots of scones this summer. Usually it’s blueberry, but I’ve also tried raspberry. My first batch of the summer came out picture-perfect, but most of the batch I made for the 4th of July party fell on the floor as I pulled it out from the oven. I was able to salvage a plateful, at least.

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4) I’m still discovering new plants and this one growing on the side of a house in Grosse Pointe Park wowed me. One of my Instagram friends told me the name – trumpet vine – which makes complete sense, as you can see.

5)  The time I made a beautiful salad with greens from the garden and fresh (aka expensive) mozarella cheese, and sprinkled it with fish sauce instead of the balsamic glaze. That first bite was the worst. I was able to wash a lot of it off, but every few bites I’d get a taste of fishiness.

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6)  Found this robin egg completely intact under one of the backyard hedges. Couldn’t tell where it fell from. Such a pretty blue.

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7)  Our little 4 x 4 raised vegetable bed did pretty well! The peas were especially delicious, as was the lettuce and kale. It’s been somewhat neglected, as I’ve spent a lot of time at The Garden Detroit, but it has been a great experience in growing food. Both girls helped care for the plants, and tasted everything, even though they didn’t love all of it. Sam, as it turns out, loves peas.

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8)  My husband and I finally tried the new Eastern Market restaurant La Rondinella. The ambiance was nice and the food was great. Nothing exceptional, but we both enjoyed our meals. We took a short walk after dinner. It was nice to be there without the hustle and bustle of a market day, the only other times I’ve ever been.

We then drove to the Detroit Riverwalk, where we watched kids play in the fountains and people walk or ride by on bicycles. We had such a great time that we went back a couple days later with the girls.

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9)  The Garden has a flower farm called Detroit Abloom. They have weekly CSA flower shares, which I subscribe to. They are always so beautiful and I love not knowing what I’m going to get from one week to the next. The cost comes out to $15.00 per week, which is a fabulous deal. And I’m supporting a local business, which we try to do as much as possible.

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10)  I took the girls to a new-ish spot in Grosse Pointe Park, Sweeties, for ice cream. They also have jars of candy for sale. My ice cream was vegan – made with coconut milk – and way too sweet for me, but the girls’ flavors were yummy.

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11)  This is what our fridge has looked like this month, thanks to my work at the Garden and also our weekly CSA share. Although I must confess, I’m a little burnt out on leafy greens and went several days without any. I think I’m ready to get back on board. Especially after all the ice cream we’ve been eating (but it’s seriously been so hot!!! What else can you do?).

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12)  And lastly, my @thegardendetroit Instagram account hit 1000! Super goofy, but it’s a big deal to me and I couldn’t be happier. Also found yesterday that someone from North Carolina, an Instagram follower and fellow farmer, would like to come by and see our gardens as one of his stops on an upcoming trip. That makes me so happy, too.

I hope your August is filled with many things that make you happy! Until next time.

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The May List – 2016

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May was an epic non-stop month. Here’s the scoop…

1) My big news is my involvement with a nonprofit urban farm called The Garden Detroit in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. I met one of the directors in Trader Joe’s and the very next day I was out visiting the farm.

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In addition to gardening/farming, I’ve operated an excavator…

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and started an Instagram account for the Garden (please follow @thegardendetroit )!

IMG_5614 (1024x1024)I’ve already learned so much in just a few short weeks. Too much to put in this list, so I will write an extended post soon.

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2) Last week someone put up this hammock on Lakeshore Drive. Is that even legal? Probably not, but it looked like a good idea and I don’t even really like hammocks.

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3)  One of the book group girls has a place up North at Walloon Lake and invited us all for a girls’ weekend. Only three of us were able to make it, but we still had a great time and yes, we did sit around and read one afternoon out on the deck! Girls gone wild.

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Although things did get a little crazy when Allison busted out the Chicken in a Biskit. Didn’t realize they still made these – don’t think I’ve seen them since elementary school. Even though I didn’t have any (MSG OMG!), I remember their distinct salty and chicken-y boullion cube taste. (Full disclosure – I did, however, indulge on a ridiculous amount of chips and french onion dip).

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We stopped at this little shop on the way (that Allison and I have spied but never been in, as popping into shops is not ideal when on family road trips). Among the little chachkie items, there was cute country-style furniture that was nicely priced.

The next day we drove into Petosky for dinner at Chandler’s and beforehand I was able to load up on my American Spoon supplies, namely their bloody Mary mix, my summer staple.

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4) Breaking news in Grosse Pointe! This excerpt from the police section made me do a double-take. I thought for a second they were talking about my kids. Nope, just a couple of 20-somethings, whew.

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5)  After multiple failed attempts over the last few years of trying to wear false eyelashes, I finally nailed it with some new glue and several YouTube tutorials. I even took a couple of selfies because I was feeling pretty awesome about my new look.

When I came downstairs, my seven-year-old exclaims, “Oooooh Mom! Your eyes are so dark…you look like a witch!” Alrighty then.

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6)  Our peas are growing! They’re so pretty with their little delicate tendrils, don’t you think? Our lettuce and green onions are slow-growing (not enough sun?) and our cilantro finally came up, which was a nice surprise as I thought Sam had displaced or eaten all the seeds.

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7)  We were given several varieties of tomato seedings from the Garden (just assume that when I capitalize Garden from now on, I’m talking about The Garden Detroit), which I planted in one of the last sunny spots left in our backyard. I built trellises out of sticks and kitchen twine, which I hope are tall enough and hold up.

Hoping the squirrels won’t eat them all. Thinking of putting some chicken wire around them but of course that isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. Will watch and see.

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8)  I also planted some lavender this month along our small wall in the back of the yard. They like well-drained soil, which I tried my best to create with sand and stones and a slight mound. Again, will have to watch and see.

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9)  Our littlest had her class picnic last week. The weather was perfect (a little on the hot side, but I am NOT complaining) and it was sweet to see her interacting with her classmates. She and her best friend were unsure about the water balloon game (this pic), so they watched on the sidelines before deciding to try it (they loved it!).

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10)  Our somewhat dilapidated birdbath (inherited by the previous homeowners) was bugging me (literally. Attracted more mosquitoes than birds), so with my husband’s help, I re-purposed it as a fairy garden.

I took the girls to Allemon’s to pick out plants for it, which I thought would be a fun project, which it was, although they were more interested in petting the garden statues (lions, dogs, bunnies) and touching the water fountains than picking out plants.

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11)  My neighbor gave me a wheelbarrow full of forget-me-nots from her garden. At least a third of our flower beds are now filled with plants from her garden! It’s quite sweet, really.

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12)  The end of May gave us some hot, hot, hot weather. And also bugs. The spiders are out, not quite in full force yet, and the mosquitoes and ants are definitely out. The girls try to catch the ants, although when they succeed they usually scream with fright and flail around. Silly girls.

I’m sure June will bring more silliness, hot weather and fun. Looking forward to it and to sharing some of it with you in the June List!

 

 

The April List – 2016

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Ah, April. It’s such an exciting month here in the Midwest because it means winter is officially over. We didn’t get any snow in April that I can remember? Although the temps did drop down to the 30s many nights. Still, the days are sunnier and warmer, which means it’s time for gardening again, which I couldn’t be more happy about.

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1) Before the fun part of gardening can start, spring clean-up has to happen. Which is raking up all the dead leaves, sticks and other plant debris that remained on the ground after our fall clean up. Since our lawn guys made me cry last year with their disregard for our plants, we opted out of a professional clean up this year. Twenty yard waste bags later, I am nearly done.

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Last week, I worked in the front, where the beds are covered with pachysandra. Trying to get debris out from under those cluster-y little plants is nuts. I tried using a blower and that didn’t work, and you can’t rake through them so it’s all by hand. I think next year I will have the guys do the front only, but…I don’t know….maybe as long as I’m able, I will continue to do it all.

2) Prince. I mean, I have to give a shoutout. “Delirious” is the first song I remember having a strong reaction to (I was 10. It came on the radio and I was blown away by it’s craziness as I danced around the room). Aside from his amazing music and talent, he made it okay to be different. To be yourself. And during my junior high and high school years, it was such an important message to receive. Peace and love.

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3)  This is what happens when you take a break from playing Jr. Monopoly to have snack. I know he couldn’t have been comfortable with all the pieces poking on his belly, but he played it cool. Okay, buddy, it’s your spot. Got it.

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4)  So this tree came down. As in we had it cut down. Will tell you all about it in the next post.

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5)  I tackled the take-down of the ferns on my own and it was quite the struggle. I went to pull up ONE fern that was bugging me and this happens. A full bucket of the subway system of roots that this one fern was connected to. Egads.

I love ferns probably more than most people, but now that I have a bunch of other lovely plants sharing the same space, some of the ferns needed to go. And they keep popping up. It’s an ongoing battle.

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6)  We bought a raised cedar bed, which my husband put together for me. My youngest and I planted lettuce, green onions, and peas from seed, and starter plants of kale. Our dog Sam apparently loves the soil I used because he has been jamming his huge nose into the bed, sometimes coming up with a small mouthful of dirt. And probably our seeds. Waaaah.

I thought all hope was lost, but about three days ago, two tiny lettuce plants showed their faces. I will probably buy more starter plants for the other veggies, but I really hope one of the lettuces makes it. The girls have fun checking on it, as do I.

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7)  Even though he’s eaten most of our seeds, Sam is the BEST gardening companion. Whenever he hears the sliding door open or sees me put on my gardening gloves, he is ready to follow me. Mostly he sniffs around and then plops down exactly where I was going to weed or rake or plant, but I love his quiet company.

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8) I finally found a home for this Moroccan lantern that has been in our basement since we moved. I tried to find a spot for it in the house, but nothing really worked. In SF it lived on top of our bookshelf in the living room, but the ceilings are lower here and it doesn’t look right. Clearly it belongs in the garden (you can also see it in the veggie garden pic).

9) My book club’s April book was Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, same author as “Room” (which I didn’t read. wasn’t sure I could handle it). The story is loosely based on newspaper articles surrounding an unsolved murder in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Her realistic portrayal of what life was like during that time (the small pox epidemic, the influx of Chinese immigrants, treatment of women, squalor, etc) was eye-opening and on occasion, riveting.

We meet tomorrow and I’m wondering if the non-San Francisco gals enjoyed it as much as I did.

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10) I love that this is one of the classes offered at our community center. I’m not making fun of it – I think it’s awesome! I hope a lot of kids take it. And I will totally send my girls in a couple years if it’s still being offered.

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11) My husband and I finally made it back to Chartreuse, our hands down favorite restaurant in the area (the ambiance is fine, but I’m talking food). I say “the area,” but it could rival any spot in San Francisco. The pork belly with saffron polenta was just wow, and the vanilla pudding dessert thing we got (again) was divine. You can taste the freshness in every bite.

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12)  After dinner we went to see the art installation by Daily tous les jour in Cadillac Square. It’s an interactive piece, where each swing dings a musical note, which changes depending on whether people are in sync or not.

Bonus: The Hawaii List
Because I still have Hawaii on the brain, here’s a short bonus Hawaii list:

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1)  You’re probably aware that Hawaii has some of the best sushi on the planet. I’m not a big raw fish eater, but when I do have raw sushi, it needs to be the very best. Also, the shrimp tempura. Light, fluffy and crunchy. Why do so many places have to batter it like it is a corn dog?

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2) Growing up, we never had a dryer. My grandpa refused to buy one because the sun can dry your clothes for free. Plus, environmental reasons – wasting electricity, appliances, etc. Even after he died, my family won’t get one. I respect that, but I do not miss wringing out my clothes (especially jeans, those were the worst) and hanging them on the line.

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3) We saw a couple of these little birds poking around the beach on the North side of the island. I pointed them out to my sister and she told me they are golden-plovers. These crazy birds nest in Alaska, but spend most of their time in Hawaii (three months vs. nine months). They can make the trip in about two days, without resting on the water. Impressive.

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4) Something that grabbed me this trip was the mid-century architecture. I knew it was there, I knew it was 50s, but I really noticed it this time. I only thought to snap photos the day before we left, so I didn’t get great ones. The next time we visit, I’m going to spend a lot more time exploring the architecture.

That is IT, guys! I’m so looking forward to a wonderful May. Enjoy yours!

Hawaii Vacation – A Reflection

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There’s a lot I could say about our Hawaii vacation. That it was so many things to be home. Amazing, heartbreaking, nostalgic, relaxing, invigorating, disappointing, delicious, fun.

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In Hawaii I settle into myself differently than here, or even compared to San Francisco, a place that I consider to be my heart’s home. There’s something about the islands that makes you take it down a notch – makes you not care about wearing the same outfit three days in a row, or not think twice about that second helping of dessert, or not worry about whether you should end an email with “Very Best” or simply, “Best,”.

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Mom’s neighbor’s house. She lives in Kalihi Valley with my aunt and grandma. It’s very lush, which means it’s also very buggy!

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I think Hawaii does that for everyone, tourists and residents alike. But for me there is a “coming home” element to it that somehow takes it to a different level. And it’s not just because my family is here (which of course plays a big part though).

My whole perspective on who I am changes. For example, I can walk into a store and feel comfortable chatting it up with the sales reps (which I do NOT do). Or when I’m with people who’ve known me forever (I went to a high-school reunion while I was there) – it’s all so….easy. To just be. It’s hard to explain.

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Class of ’90 (eek!)

They say Hawaii is full of ancient magic (it is no joke, you guys – the ghost stories I could tell you  – many from the mouths of people who don’t, or who used to not, believe in spirits).

But it’s magical in other ways, too. Its beauty, that I appreciate more and more each time I visit, its ability to make me slow down (even when I don’t want to) and its powerful reminder of where I came from, where my mother came from, where her mother came from and back and back and back.

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Mom with our little girl, making leis from her stephanotis flowers.

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Easter, Hawaiian style.

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My trip was hardly deep or spiritual. We did a lot of beach time, family time, eating, lazing around. The usual vacation stuff. But then, when trying to explain the trip and looking at all the photos and really thinking about what Hawaii means to me. There’s a lot there. And the beauty of it is that it will all still be there when I return. Until we meet again. A hui hou.

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