The December List – 2016

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Looking out at the Detroit River (beyond the tree line)

Happy New Year, all! December had the typical hustle and bustle of the holidays and then some. Here are the highlights…

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1)  Early December brought our first snowstorm of the season. The girls were so excited and played outside all day, and that night we got the call that school was cancelled the next day – yipee!

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2)  Everything looks more beautiful in the snow. When driving through Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmer’s neighborhood, I had to stop and snap a photo of this burned home. It looked so calm and peaceful surrounded by all that clean, white snow.

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3)  I’m a little less thrilled about the shoveling this time around. It wasn’t so bad once I got into it, but it does kind of suck being out there at night, huffing and puffing while you watch your neighbor fire up his blower and finish the job in a third of the time and minutes later, having to move aside as the city plows come through and throw wet, dirty snow on the driveway where you just shoveled.

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2)  I chopped my hair off! Something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, but was nervous about since I’ve had long hair for the last 15 years.

I scoured online for the perfect cut and made an appointment with my hair stylist. I knew the experience was going to be traumatic, but it was even more so when I realized that I’d been given a mom bob vs the chic cut I had requested! Oh. My. Word.

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What I imagined I’d look like vs. what I actually looked like. Nailed it!

My stylist was really nice to accommodate me the next day and put more layers put in, but there wasn’t a lot she could do because too much length had already been cut to achieve the look I wanted.

I made an appointment at another salon a couple weeks later, and the gal there fixed it up a bit so now at least I look more hip and less like a suburban mom. At least that’s what I tell myself.

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4)  For some reason (well, I suspect the reason, which was also probably the catalyst for my haircut – the cuckoo election! Gah!)  I have been really into murder mysteries lately. I hate gore and anything too psychotic, but I have been devouring the genre (escapism!?). I just finished the Robert Galbraith series (JK Rowling) which fit my mystery bill perfectly (not too icky, not too scary, great characters, good plot) and I just picked up these three titles from the library. Have read about 10 pages of “The Passenger” and am already sucked in.

My book journal (book title, author, number of pages, and a short review) says that I read 15 books in 2016. Not bad, but I hope to have a longer list this year. Some of my favorites this year were “Beer Money” by Francis Stroh, “Before the Fall” by Noah Fawley (so good. Don’t let the premise deter you) and the Robert Galbraith books. Comment with your recommendations!

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5)  Another hot-off-the-presses article from the local paper.

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6)  So I went to an event at the Yacht Club where a male model was walking around with Chanel shoes on a platter.

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7)  After eight years of a silvery Christmas tree, I switched it up and went gold this year. New glittery balls and a new star. Before I moved to Grosse Pointe, I pretty much hated gold anything and now I kind of love it.

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8)  Sometime around Thanksgiving, I brought up a couple boxes of Christmas stuff to sort through. I put a small box of gifted ornaments (ones people have given us over the years) in the dining room cabinet, so the girls wouldn’t go rifling through it after school.

I completely forgot about that box and when it was time to trim the tree, I started panicking that I’d mistakenly donated that box along with some other holiday items at the end of last year.

When I say we turned over the entire house, I mean I spent over a couple frantic hours going through all cabinets, closets, rooms, the space above the garage (okay, my husband did that one), the furnace room, everything. Except the back of the dining room buffet, obviously. After accepting that they were in fact gone, I found the box several days later while looking for a platter. Oopsies.

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9)  We made sugar cookies for Santa, as we always do, but this year I tried a new recipe that included vanilla and almond extracts, and cream of tartar, which I’ve never used before.

The first batch came out very poofy, but they were super delicious, so I will probably go with the same recipe next year and tweak it. The girls didn’t put up a fuss about it (it could have completely given them a meltdown, you just never know with these things), so it was all good.

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9)  I went to our youngest’s class Christmas party, which was also a pajama party. Holy cow, all those kids in their pjs = so much cuteness.

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10)  I made a sweet potato pie for my December book group. I usually don’t add the bourbon, but this time I did and whoa. The girls were so nice and pretended it tasted good but it pretty much tasted like alcohol! Hahahaha. Note to self. But it looked pretty. And the toasted maple pecans were yum.

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11)  The Garden Detroit’s new hoop house is almost complete! We are so excited. Thank you to all of you who have contributed towards the project. We still need about $5k more, so if you are feeling extra giving this season, you can donate through our website!

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12)  We rang in the new year at a friend’s celebration at the Dearborn Inn. A couple hours before we were supposed to head out, I tried my dress on (I haven’t worn it for about a year) and I don’t know if it got stretched out or if a year of yoga shaved some volume off my booty or what, but it was about an inch too long! Luckily the sweet ladies at our dry cleaners were able to fix it in a jiffy.

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We haven’t gone out on New Year’s Eve since before the kids were born, so it was quite a treat. And I haven’t stayed up til 2am since I don’t know how long. It was a fabulous event. Beautiful decor, dinner, dancing, cocktails, friends and lots of laughter. A perfect way to ring in the new year!

I am nervous but also hopeful for what 2017 has in store for us. Ready or not, it’s here and it’s already moving along quickly! Blessings to all of you for a wonderful year!!

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The September List – 2016

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I’ve stopped pretending it’s summer. Yesterday I found my first red leaf nestled on our boxwood and early this morning, our first big rain storm of the season began. I put on a sweater for the first time today since early spring AND there’s a pot roast in the oven. I’m all in. Albeit reluctantly.

Soooo many things to talk about, I’m breaking my  rule of 12, exceeding the list by two.

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1)  My husband and I just got back from a wedding in Lake Tahoe. The girls did yoga on Nevada Beach the Friday before the wedding, and that same day the rehearsal dinner was held on Pope Beach. It’s not that I’d forgotten how beautiful it is up there, but it was nice to be reminded.

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2)  In my haste to get things off my plate, including my last blog post of vacation photos, I forgot some of my favorite ones. Here they are. That’s my cousin holding the corn and the sweet baby girl, also a cousin.

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3)  After being in the Detroit area for two and a half years, I made it to the DAC for the first time. The building is a work of art and the new deck offers sweeping views of the city.

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4)  Our girls (finally!) started school after Labor Day. The oldest has always and will always love school (thank you Jesus), but our kindergartner has threatened more than once to “sit on the couch all day and not go to school and not get up, never ever.” There were many tears the first week, but they seem to be gone for the most part and some days she actually wants to be the first one at school!

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5)  To celebrate the joyous occasion, a friend had a mom’s back-to-school evening, complete with a ridiculous amount of champagne and homemade margaritas and treats, including the fanciest donuts you’ve ever seen from Donut Bar, a gourmet donut shop in Southfield. Gotta love Grosse Pointe’s “go big or go home” motto when it comes to gatherings. Works for me.

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6)  I attended our second grader’s parent information night held shortly after school began. This note was waiting for me (husband couldn’t come – no sitter). After searching the room for a checkerboard with turtles on it, the teacher told me that Checkers is the name of the class turtle. OH.

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The parents were also given tiles 1 through 10 and had to complete this worksheet. OMG so stressful!

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7)  I’ve been so excited to introduce the girls to the Star Wars movies, starting with episode four (of course). It kind of bums me out that so many kids in our eldest’s class have already seen it and therefore have ruined some of the plot but we didn’t think the girls were ready for it until now. It wasn’t as thrilling for them as it was for me (and there was a lot of – mom, is he bad? mom, is she bad? mom, what is that?) when I first saw it as a kid but….they enjoyed it at least.

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8)  A couple days after Shirley’s passing, a flower appeared along our front walkway that I did not plant or see before (bad photo, taken well after the flower’s prime). A coincidence if you want to call it that.

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But then last week… the rose plant I bought from Trader Joe’s at the beginning of summer that stopped blooming over two months ago AND that I had neglected and hadn’t thrown out due to laziness, started growing again, producing the prettiest lavender-pink blossoms. I’m sure I’ll continue to be surprised by my garden over the years, and each time I will see it as a reminder of Shirley’s promise to live on in those she loves.

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9)  The dahlias I planted many moons ago (gifts from The Garden Detroit’s flower farm) bloomed this month. My favorite variety, Cafe au Lait, began to open a couple days ago and I was so worried that the wind and rain from today’s storm would damage the petals, but so far so good.

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10)  Our youngest turned five! She requested yellow cake cupcakes with chocolate frosting and I found a great recipe online from Smitten Kitchen that turned out great!

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11)  I went for my biannual mammogram this month, which is never fun. But I do love seeing this sweet prayer request table in the clinic’s lobby. I jotted down a request this time, too.

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12)  My former co-worker Jill happened to be in town the day I got back from Tahoe. She quit her lucrative advertising job and is driving all over the country in her (very fancy) RV with her dog Juno. You can read about her adventures here. It was so nice to catch up with someone from my SF life. I think the last time I ran into her was something like 12 years ago at a bar in the Mission? It’s been a long time, anyway.

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13)  My husband and I, along with eight of our friends (four couples) redeemed our tickets to the Great Escape Room in Royal Oak this month. We didn’t know quite what to expect, but the experience was pretty close to the description on the website – “Locked in a room with no way out, you must search for hidden compartments, secret passageways, and clues to plot your Great Escape. It is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game.”

You have an hour to escape and I thought (considering that the puzzles were hard!! and I’m a puzzle person!) we did super awesome, but we didn’t make it out in time. We solved all but the final puzzle, which I’m certain given a few more minutes, we would have done. It was fun and different. Highly recommend. I do not recommend stuffing 10 people into an 8-person limo.

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14)  A thank-you to my mother-in-law, who let me come over one afternoon to divide her hostas and take the extras home. So many! When I moved here, I was so-so about hostas, but they are one of the only plants that love our shady backyard and that thrive with very little care. And they’ve grown on me – I quite like them now.

Happy Autumn, everyone!!

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Saying Goodbye: A Tribute

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I wrote about one of my first encounters with my neighbor Shirley here. I met her in the spring of last year, while she was in her backyard (and I in mine) tending to her garden.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that she played an integral part in getting me excited about my own garden. At most, I’ve watched my Hawaii family expertly grow and care for flowers (orchids, roses, bird of paradise, red ginger) and produce (mangos, papaya, peppers, jackfruit, tomatoes, ginger root), but hadn’t done much of it myself.

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On top of that, gardening is so different in the Midwest than Hawaii or California. In Hawaii, you plant something and it just sort of grows (except my mom/auntie have not had success in growing cherry tomatoes, whereas they grew like weeds for my grandfather, who planted in the same spot). San Francisco is a little trickier because of the fog and cold, and I didn’t get much opportunity (except for pruning) to work with plants while we were there because we had a shared backyard and finicky neighbors.

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Here in Michigan, zone 5 (didn’t even know what a hardiness zone was and that you even had to pay attention to them), the weather plays a huge factor on what you can plant and when. And shade plays a big part as well, which is tricky with our backyard, which is bordered by massive maples and evergreens. And let’s not forget soil acidity. GAH.

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Sedum, ground cover. The first plant we transplanted together.

She taught me how to divide plants, how to transplant them – what soil/compost mixes to use for planting, which plants like shade vs. the ones that like sun, which ones are good for ground cover, perennials vs. annuals, etc.

She reminded me that transplants take a year or two to really flourish (she gave me so many last year. Half my beds are filled with flowers/plants from her garden), so this spring was very exciting as I watched the different plants rise up from the ground, strong, healthy and happy.

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I was aware that Shirley had cancer. I had heard from a couple people (bless this town), though never from her personally. On the outside, she was just as healthy and happy as those spring plants, but this summer it hit hard, and she passed away Saturday morning in her sleep.

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I didn’t have a chance to see her during her last days. By the time I figured out that things weren’t going well, her visitor list was limited, as she needed to reserve her strength. Fortunately, I was still able to communicate with her through email – via her daughter, who relayed sentiments from me to Shirley and vice versa.

I was able to tell her how much she meant to me. More than a teacher or a mentor, she was someone who came into my life when I was feeling not so great about having moved here (small towns are hard to crack, especially as an adult). And being able to work the land gave me a connection to Grosse Pointe that I desperately needed.

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Her daughter wrote back… “Did (Shirley) ever tell you how she became interested in gardening?” (no, she did not) “It was not from her parents–they never gardened. It was a neighbor who gave her a paper cup with a few seeds planted in it which she put on her windowsill. It was the first thing she ever grew.”

She also expressed that “she is happy to know that some of her favorite plants will live on in your (my) garden” and I promised her that I would continue to have the girls plant with me and help tend the land, even though they might not do things exactly the way I want. I promised teaching with patience, in her honor. It’s going to be really hard, but I am going to try my best to stick to that promise.

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One of the most memorable things I learned from Shirley was to say goodbye and thank you to my garden. One afternoon I saw her and her husband walking slowly around their garden, and she told me she was saying goodbye.

My first thought was, “why? what happened? are you moving?” What she meant was that gardening season was coming to an end, and thus she was no longer fertilizing, dividing, weeding. The plants would be left alone to their own devices until the following spring, so she was thanking them for being a part of her garden and saying goodbye until next year.

And so I say goodbye and thank you to you, Shirley. Thank you for being a part of my garden and goodbye. Until we meet again.

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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 June List – 2016

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So wow. June is over. How in the world.

1)  Summer is upon us. The photo above says it all. Lord have mercy.

2)  Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE summer and in Michigan we actually HAVE a summer which is so awesome because, as I remind people often, San Francisco summers are fuh-reez-ing. I can do hot all day long.

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3)  Here’s a little corner in Grosse Pointe over the course of two months. In June, everything is in full bloom. Not as exciting as the first signs of spring, but in summer, you can sit back and settle in for a bit.

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4)  To celebrate summer’s arrival, I made strawberry shortcakes for dinner. This was something Grandma Lucy in upstate New York used to do once in a while on hot summer days (except with a side of corn on the cob, not green beans).  I only had wheat flour, which isn’t nearly as good (and even with white flour, never as good as Grandma’s), but it was still yummy. Will do it again soon.

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5)  I’ve been spending a lot of my free time (HA-ha, what even is that!?) at the Garden Detroit urban farm (which I started writing about and mean to post before this one, but alas) that my own yard/garden has been somewhat neglected. I did get around to taking care of some of our pest issues with this nifty chemical alternative – live nematodes.

Except that I made my husband spray them all over the yard because of the creepy factor. Seven million invisible alive organisms that bury into the soil and hunt down bad bugs? Yes but no.

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6)  Speaking of the urban farm, our CSA share/weekly box of produce started this month. We got the strawberries from another farm, but the rest came from our harvest. Lettuce and kale for days.

I hadn’t ever used garlic scapes before (the curly things). They are the flower bud of the garlic plant and taste just like garlic and slightly more mild, but only just. I found a fantastic pesto recipe online that pairs scapes and pistachios with the other usual ingredients – so good!

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7)  I’m still taking photos for the farm’s Instagram account, and if you haven’t followed me there already, you can find me at screen name @thegardendetroit or click here for the link.

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8)  The yearly influx of fish flies came upon us starting a couple weeks ago. I think they are nearly gone, but ick. Super nasty and stinky. The girls love playing with them, though, which includes putting them on different parts of their bodies. And mine. Sigh.

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9)  For Father’s Day we decided on a picnic at the park. A friend of mine told me you can “reserve” a spot early in the morning (and no one will take or move your stuff!) so I decided to try it. At 7:15 am, there were already several tables set up, but I was still able to grab a nice spot. Small town win.

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10)  Summer nights are the best and my husband and I were able to escape one evening (thank you, Leslie!) for a date at the Yacht Club. After dinner we sat outside at the gazebo, had drinks and watched the sky change as the sun went down. A perfect night.

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11)  I’ve totally slacked off in the exercise department. Yoga classes have stopped for the summer and it’s been too hot to run (unless I want to get up at 5 in the morning, which I do not). As of a week ago, I am back at it, riding the exercise bike and doing minimal stretching. I don’t want to let all my hard work over the last few months go to waste (or to my waist, hehe). Up and at ’em.

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12)  There’s a health food shop in Grosse Pointe called the Sprout House. It’s been over a year since I got food from there, so when Tom (Garden owner) offered to buy lunch from there one day if I picked it up on my way to the Garden, I obliged. Their avocado sandwich is packed with avocados and there are also sundried tomatoes, cilantro and vegan chili mayonnaise. I’d forgotten how good they are.

I love Michigan summers so much. It almost (almost) keeps my San Francisco longings at bay. I hope you are able to take full advantage of your summer days and nights. Happy July, everyone!

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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!