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 – 2017

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Happy 2017! Although if you’ve been keeping up with the national news, not so happy for a lot of us. Anyhoo… we’ve had a warm-ish January with almost no snow.

It finally snowed again last night and has been lightly snowing on and off all day. Like I always say, if it’s going to be cold, let’s get some snow up in here. It makes the cold bearable.

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1)  I was so happy to attend the Women’s March Detroit on the 21st. I was considering not going, but ultimately needed to do it for my kids.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t know anyone in town who was going, so I checked in with my sister-in-law, who wanted to go. It was such a positive and invigorating experience and I felt very proud to be there. I took a bunch of pictures and will share them all in the next post.

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2)  After the March, we went to The Farmer’s Hand in Corktown for lunch. I have been dying to go – Detroit Abloom sells our flowers there and I’d just heard it was a cool spot. It’s smaller than I pictured, but it was packed with plenty of goods, all made in Michigan. I had a salad and a yogurt cup with chia, and also picked up a jar of marinara. Love Ouizi’s murals. If you don’t know her work, give her a Google.

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3)  Our sweet boy turned 11 on the 6th. The girls made cards for him and we sang Happy Birthday and gave him a Kong toy filled with peanut butter, carrots and celery.

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4)  And then….this weekend we found out he has a tumor in his mouth, which had to be operated on right away, which happened to be yesterday. We are still awaiting biopsy results, but it doesn’t look good.

He is never allowed on the couch, but after some begging from me (and the dog), my husband agreed to let him rest off his surgery on the couch, where he is now with our little one, who is also resting after 24 hours of the stomach flu, oh my gosh.

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5)  My husband went to a sausage-making party (indeed) at the beginning of the month and came home with a ton of deliciousness, some of which I sauteed with marinara sauce and a heavy dose of cream because cream. I did pour the concoction over zucchini noodles, so there.

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6)  Winter sunrises are always the prettiest. Or maybe it’s because I’m up too late in the summers to see them? I can never capture their magnificence on film, but here they are, anyway, to give you an idea.

7)  I started yoga again. Ouchy.

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8)  For Martin Luther King Jr day, the girls and I talked about acceptance, appearances and kindness. We did an art project together inspired by quotes from Dr. King. I haven’t been very good at things like this (projects in general) lately, but it was really fun and they really got the point of it.

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9)  The Garden Detroit held a board meeting this month at Tom and Nancy’s house. We’re never all in the same space that often, so it’s always nice when we are. At the end of the meeting, we started talking about moringa trees, which got us talking about moringa seeds and then Nancy brought some out for all of us to try.

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I do not recommend eating moringa seeds. The taste is a heavy sweetness paired with a very tannic bitterness. Kind of like eating mud mixed with corn syrup mixed with gasoline mixed with dog food? And the aftertaste stays with you for a loooong time. They are supposed to be incredibly healthy for you, loaded with vitamins A and C, iron, protein, calcium and potassium. Pretty impressive, but still.

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10)  I have been wanting to check out Wright and Co, a now not-so-new spot in downtown Detroit. We stopped in after dinner with friends one night for drinks and dessert. It was packed. Fun atmosphere, somewhat noisy and the couple plates we tried were yummy.

Detroit’s culinary scene continues to boom. It’s a great time to be here. Oh and haven’t you heard? Detroit was recently named as the number 9th best place to go in 2017 by the New York Times. So come visit! img_3062-768x1024 11)  Work at the school is picking up, as we are gearing up for the annual auction. I went with our team to edmond t. Ahee Jewelers (everyone here just says Ahee) to pick out pieces for the live auction. Besides the beautiful jewelry, there was a treat and coffee station at the back of the store, which apparently is always stocked. Super cute. And tasty.

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12)  I’ve been on a murder mystery kick, as I think I mentioned last month. I asked for recommendations and my friend Deanna said author Tana French, which coincidentally I had written down as a maybe on my book list, so I borrowed “The Likeness” from the library.

It’s the second in her Dublin Murder Squad series, but I was reluctant to read the first, as the subject matter is very dark – dead children, the deep dark woods, etc. I’m halfway through and the writing is really good, especially for a plot-driven genre, and the characters are interesting and complex.

I leave you with a joke that our 5-year-old came up with one morning…
Q: What is a ghost’s favorite body part?
A: Boooobs!

Have a great February, all!

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The September List – 2015

IMG_2904September flew by. It was one of the craziest months I think we’ve had since moving to Grosse Pointe. Our oldest started first grade and our youngest (who turned four this month) is in preschool. Doctor appointments, school shopping, teacher meetings, lunches, homework. I am finally finding some kind of rhythm to the school day as we settle into Fall.

IMG_2687havenotused (1024x1024)1)  When I was out trimming our dogwood, I looked down and saw this little nest. I think maybe the vibrations of the hedge trimmer made it fall out of the tree, but it had been long vacated anyway. I really wanted to take it inside for decoration because it was so perfect, but my fear of potential bugs and germs trumped that thought.

Beignetshavenotused2)  Went to Eastern Market and got beignets from the food truck for the first time. Oh MY. The guy in the truck was a little bossy, telling people exactly where to stand and getting grouchy if you stepped out of line to throw away your coffee (um, so sorry), but the deliciousness of the beignets made me think his crabbiness was actually kind of cool.

IMG_1805 (768x1024) IMG_2656 havenotused (768x1024)3)  There are several little pedestrian pathways in Grosse Pointe that I’ve come across on my runs/walks. At first I was afraid to go down them (would I be trespassing?), but after seeing a couple other folks use them, I decided it was okay  (although the second pic lies behind a wrought iron fence. Definitely private). Now I use them all the time, just because I can. And because it’s fun.

IMG_2734 (769x1024)IMG_2770 (768x1024)4)  The first time I witnessed the dinner napkin as guest towel was during my first visit to Grosse Pointe in 2006 (my husband then boyfriend brought me home to meet the family). I was part confused (am I really supposed to use this beautiful napkin just to dry my hands?), part flabbergasted (but the trees!) and part intrigued.

I didn’t realize it was a thing until I moved here and started seeing dinner napkins in people’s bathrooms! I’ve never seen this outside of Grosse Pointe (although Oklahoma friends, help me out? I don’t remember it, but maybe I just never noticed). And, now I’m thinking of getting some for our powder room downstairs for special occasions. IF I can justify the environmental impact (better to waste water on washing hand towels or better to kill a tree?  Hmmmm).

IMG_2906 (765x1024)5)  My husband and I went to a bowling clinic. And he bought a bowling ball. And I bought bowling shoes. So that.

IMG_2763 (869x1024)6)  Just when I thought it was safe to put away my garden supplies, I saw Shirley over the fence one day and of course she offered me more plants. She dug them up right then and there. They are called corydalis and are used a lot for ground cover. Hoping they will take root quickly and come back next Spring with pretty yellow flowers.

IMG_2945 (768x1024)7)  HOWEVER. I don’t even know why I bothered to plant them because the stupid squirrels have been digging them up EVERY DANG DAY in order to bury the acorns that have been falling by the hundreds each day. From our neighbor’s oak tree. That mostly hangs over our house. And no they won’t trim it because they love their trees so much (we offered to pay 50%). Sigh.

8)  Speaking of squirrels, another one died in our yard. My husband buried it in the exact spot where the girls like to dig. Really?!?

IMG_2970 (893x1024)9) Did I ever show you this? Our four-year-old likes to draw and color pictures for our dog. We tape them to a piece of cardboard near his dog bowls so he can enjoy them. It’s really cute.

hallIMG_2718 (768x1024)10)  We bought a new console table (and cute little succulents – yay!) to replace the bench that was in our entryway (which you can see in the second pic). Now if only we could find a rug to replace the maroon one that we inherited from the previous owners. I will say that the rug is very cushy and feels nice underfoot. Still…I can’t look at it very much longer.

IMG_2927 (1024x768)11)  This is what happens when you see the lunar eclipse and you only have your iPhone camera. Hahahaha. My husband and I sat outside by the fire with drinks (whiskey for him, bloody mary for me) and chatted and checked on the moon every now and then. It was pretty great.

IMG_2963 (1024x1024)12)  Fall is slowly making its way through the foliage. It’s definitely sweater weather now (okay, sweater weather for ME), and yesterday we turned the fireplace on for the first time since winter. I’ve said this before, but living with seasons makes life seem to go back that much more quickly.

Wishing everyone a wonderful October!

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?

 

The November List

IMG_8919 (1280x1280)1) This tree off of Lakeshore Drive is one of the last remaining (pear? cherry?) trees that were planted when the French first settled in Grosse Pointe. I know this because Alan Marschke, owner of the Oriental Rug Gallery told me so. I had to cut his story short to pick up the kids from school (he told me what kind of tree as I was dashing out, but I forgot), but trust me, I am going back to see him soon and will report back.

2) I called the Grosse Pointe Historical Society to see if they knew anything about the tree. They seemed genuinely thrilled to help me find out more about it and they will get back to me in a couple weeks. She may also be able to dig up some historical information/photos for me about the street we live on – sweet!

IMG_9085 (1280x1280)3) Squirrels = creepy. I’ve said it before and now it’s official. (And next year I will be throwing the pumpkins away much, much earlier.)

4) 14 degrees is cold. It is even colder when it happens in early November and you don’t have snow boots or a parka or even wool socks because you weren’t expecting it to be 14 freaking degrees. For a whole week.

IMG_9017 (1280x1280)5) Winter clothes are expensive. Dang.

6) Once you do have the right winter gear, it’s kind of fun to play outside in the snow. For about five minutes.

7) Bunny tracks in the snow are really, really cute.

IMG_8957 (1280x1280)8) It was not fun, not fun at all, having the stomach flu go through our household. The only good thing about that week was capturing this moment where the little one was so exhausted that she crawled into bed on her own one afternoon and promptly fell asleep.

9) A police car pulled into my driveway one morning. Concerned, I went outside to meet him. He was there to deliver my wallet, which I’d left at the Farms Market (aka Fresh Farms Market, a local grocery store). Now that, would never have happened in San Francisco. Score one for Grosse Pointe.

IMG_9099 (1280x1280)10) I went to my first professional hockey game at the Joe Lewis arena in Detroit. We scored, we fist-fought, we won. Gooooo Red Wings (I actually quite enjoy hockey and had a great time).

IMG_9140 (1280x1280) IMG_9139 (1280x1280)11) Small town Christmas parades are awesome (even when its 27 degrees out and your toes freeze because you still don’t have wool socks). It’s one of the reasons why we came here. Not for the parade, of course. But for the small town community thing. I love it.

12) The newness of everything is starting to wear off, which scares me. What happens now, after I’m done unpacking and remodeling and settling in? Luckily, Christmas is just around the corner, and with two little girls in the house and family coming to visit, there’s lots to do to prepare. Wishing everyone a very happy December!

 

 

The October List

IMG_8605 IMG_8589 (800x800)1)  Guess what? I found some delicious Asian food! It’s a 30-minute drive to Johnny Noodle King on Detroit’s Fort Street and it was worth it. They mostly have ramen noodles (duh), but a few appetizers, too. I got my favorite – miso ramen with pork belly. YUM. And I will be back.

2)  The 9-minute mile is so last summer. The 12-minute mile (maybe sometimes 13. or 14. or just walking) is way cooler.

3)  Just when I thought I could not make another design decision (spent seriously 20+ hours researching and finally coming to an agreement with my husband about which chairs would work for our kitchen table), I get an email from Fred the appliance guy, asking what color knobs we want for our stove. Put me over the edge.

IMG_8460 (800x800)4)  Sometimes it’s good to look down. (Case in point: this adorable fairy garden I almost missed).

5)  Most squirrels seen in the neighbor’s yard at one time: eight. Yes, there was a huge oak tree out front. And yes, it was super creepy.

6)  Just because it’s your birthday, doesn’t mean your kids are going to be angels all day because please dear God, give me a break already. On my birthday. For the love.

IMG_8619 (640x800)7)  Where can you munch on blackened filet mignon tips with Bearnaise sauce and get your bowling game on? The Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, that’s where (okay so we joined a couple’s bowling league, no judgement).

8)  Speaking of the Yacht Club, we totally made fun of the Yacht Club and then about four months later we joined the Yacht Club.

IMG_8654 (721x800)9)  Insect of the month: this moth. I think he was in the process of dying (he was moving slowly and I tried to help him get back up in the air, but no go), but still so beautiful. I spent about one minute online trying to find out what kind of moth, but no luck (it is a moth, right? not a butterfly?).

10)  The previous owner of our house called my husband a couple weeks ago, asking him how we were liking the house and to remind him to change the filter in the hot tub. Nicest. Person. Ever.

11)  I called aforementioned previous owner regarding another matter and I told him we took the wallpaper down (he asked me what we’d done to the house – what could I do?). He said that wallpaper cost something like $100 a roll (according to one online source, for a 16 x 20 room, you need 16-20 rolls. And if you remember, the entire stairway, entryway and hallways were covered). Nervous laughter.

IMG_8446 (729x800)12)  There are drive-through everythings here. Post office boxes, pharmacies, kid drop-offs for school even. At first I was like…”okay, these people are LAY-zee!” And then I started using them and I LOVE them (I’m sure I will love them even more in Winter). Speaking of Winter, is it already here? Brrrrrrr….