The December List – 2018

I started this post by writing 2019 in the title, then deleting it, only to write 2019 once again, before correcting it to 2018. I started writing 2019 about two months ago, actually. On checks, work documents, etc. Maybe that means my mind has been ready for 2019 or maybe it just means I’m tired. Whatever the case may be, here we are in 2019! But first, December 2018.

1)  We did not have a white Christmas, nor did we get much snow at all this month. The most snow we got this month (and it was just a dusting) was on December 30th. The girls played outside for about an hour before it all melted away.

2)  I do love the spirit of Christmastime and I love picking out our tree and decorating. We always hang up our German ornaments and my mom’s crocheted snowflakes that I hope last forever.

3)  Our family Christmas traditions are few. We always do a chocolate advent calendar, and then several years ago my Dad and his wife gifted us with a Scandinavian-looking wooden advent calendar. The intent is to put little trinkets in each drawer, but the cavity is so small and even the tiniest trinkets don’t fit (so one year I did chocolate-covered almonds, which is not exciting at all).

Last year my husband and I began the tradition of writing short notes to the girls, one girl/one note per day. Little compliments or notes of encouragement. The girls love them and it’s a good practice for us, too.

4)  I read two books this month. One was our book group pick, “The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn. I wasn’t in the mood for a historical fiction, nor was I thrilled about wanting to read another WWII book (although this one weaves back and forth between WWI and WWII), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was well written, interesting and intriguing. Some of the characters were loosely based on historical figures, and I didn’t know anything about the network of female spies (I do love espionage) and am curious to know more.

5)  Before I get to the other book, let’s talk about book group and the yummy new drink I learned about, the Hugo. One of our members had just gotten back from a trip to Germany and said it was served everywhere there and made it for us. It involves prosecco, sparkling water, elderflower syrup and mint. And possibly lime. It was crisp and refreshing and I like pretty much anything with prosecco in it.

Writing about prosecco made me want prosecco, so now I am sipping on champagne. Kind of puts a damper on my plans to ride the exercise bike and lift weights after the girls go to bed (which is soon).

6)  The other book I read is “Do Not Become Alarmed” by Maile Melody. It’s a suspense novel with the focus on novel. The characters are believable and her prose is simple but great – not super literary or intellectual, but it is good, thoughtful writing. I’m definitely going to borrow another one of her books really soon. Also do not read this book after watching back-to-back episodes of The Innocent Man on Netflix.

7)  I went to my first cookie exchange party. Guess which ones are mine? Hint: Not being a true Grosse Pointer, I was not aware you had to make the cookies presentable, only that you had to bring them. WAH-wah. But mine were delicious, I have to say and I ended up taking two of them back home with me because I loved them so much.

There was a killer fudge and peanut-butter cookie concoction (the ones that look like brownies) which I put in a separate container with a sticky note saying “Mom only.” I rationed it over a few days. Another bar had coconut and lots of butter and I’m sure condensed milk, and that also went into the “Mom only” container.

8)  I gifted myself two plants this month. I’d read about the online shop Bloomscape. I liked the fact that they grew their plants to maturity, have great reviews, are a small company and they fully explain how to care for your plans and encourage you to contact them with any questions (which I have, twice). I got a dracaena and a fern. Yes, you can get ferns at Home Depot, but I wanted to get one from them!

My dracaena arrived tipped and with soil everywhere (inside the crevices of the leaves), huge clues that the shippers paid little to no attention to the “this side up” sign on the box. I was worried about it and called Bloomscape and they were super apologetic and promptly offered to replace my plant if needed. So far so good, although the outer leaves are getting brown. I have such a hard time with houseplants for some reason!

9)  My friend Julia also gave me two of the sweetest plants. One is a pilea peperromiodes (at least that’s what my new plant book says, I don’t remember the name Julia said), otherwise known as the pass-it-on plant, which seems fitting.

The other is a stone succulent, again don’t know official name. It is the strangest thing. It really does look and feel like a stone. I can’t wait for it to start sprouting or blooming or whatever it is that it does.

However. My 9-year-old “accidentally” knocked it off the plant table the other day. I say accidentally because that’s what she said, although at the time she was in the middle of practicing piano and something about a shadow in the window she had to investigate and by doing so knocked over the plant, which was nowhere near the edge of the table. It looks okay. Ish. Hoping it didn’t get damaged, which I won’t know for weeks and weeks, because I’m guessing the stone plant will look like a stone even when not alive!?

10)  My sweet grandma (mom’s mom) passed at the beginning of this month. I had been going through photos of our last Hawaii trip (March) and was organizing the ones I took of her with her four great-grandkids (my kids and my sister’s kids) when I got the call.

At 95, she had lived a long, full life and was probably ready to go, and she left the world surrounded by people who loved her, so really it’s the best possible scenario, but of course any passing is a very sad occasion, and it’s difficult being away from family during this time. I am going back in mid-January for services and am looking forward to reminiscing and celebrating her life.

11)  Even though I’ve had my photography/creative website up and running for almost a year, I’ve only just officially announced it, which is scary because doing so makes it real. You can now find me at www.lanimartincreative.com and follow me on www.facebook.com/lanimartincreative (please and thank you!).

I’ve gotten a lot of bookings for family photos, so that’s the direction I’m going in terms of professional photography, but I also want to hone in on the creative side of it. Making art for art’s sake, doing what I want to do vs. what the client wants. I don’t want to lose sight of the projects that fulfill me and why I bought a fancy camera in the first place.

It’s quite exciting, though, to be getting paid for something you create. Which I have been doing already with writing, but photography is more fun and I feel like I have more of a creative license with photography.

12)  I’ve tried and tried, copied magazine cut-outs, watched YouTube videos and almost sort of got it at times, but on the last day of the month/year, I nailed the smokey eye. I’m so proud, I don’t even care that I’m posting bathroom hair turban selfie pics. I may have taken the look from glam to tranny real fast when I added false eyelashes, but hey, New Year’s Eve begs for a little over-the-top-ness, does it not?

That’s a wrap on 2018. I haven’t made any resolutions yet, but I’m going to. They are going to have to include some self care, or this mom is not going to make it through 2019. Always a balance. Between kids, family, self, work, the world. When to say yes, when to say no, when to give in, when to push back. I plan to figure some of it out!

Wishing everyone a Very Happy New Year!

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The October List – 2018

1) Fall colors are KILLING it this year. I haven’t had the chance to capture the colors on camera (and would pictures really do the colors justice?), but the ombres are beyond and the spectrum of bolds and brights this year are fantastic. I’m sure the weather patterns have something to do with it and if I weren’t so lazy I would Google it, which I will at some point.

2) Halloween night weather was the best it’s been since we moved. No rain, snow or sleet! Temperatures were in the low 50s, high 40s.

A friend of ours puts up elaborate Halloween decorations every year and kids from the neighborhood and beyond come to check them out. A lot of the creatures have movable parts – a spider that jumps and a giant pumpkin monster that lunges towards you as you pass by. He makes all these creatures himself, which is very impressive!

3) It was our first time invited to an annual Grosse Pointe Halloween party (woo-hoo, thank you PC!) hosted by two couples who live across the street from each other. I am terrible at estimating numbers, but have been told it is attended by 100-200 people.

This year’s theme was Studio 54 and at first I was not keen at dressing up at all (Keen? I don’t even like that word. It just came out), but after looking up some 70s inspiration outfits, I realized I had some good options already in my closet.

My husband looked Ah-MAZE-ing in his sparkly silver shirt and matching platform shoes. I’m surprised he didn’t completely fall on his face, which he almost did about five times, once in the porta-potty (no, I wasn’t there!). The party was so much fun, loved seeing all the costumes and hanging out with friends and dancing.

(On a side note, you know you are at a great party when the 20-year-olds start throwing rib bones back on the buffet table? WTF)

4)  I turned 46 this month. Which was actually easier than turning 45. I could write ten pages as to why, but I’ll spare you. The mister and I celebrated with dinner downtown at the Caucus Club. Atmosphere was okay, but food was really, really good!

5)  I stopped taking Tamoxifen on my birthday. The drug that supposedly has been keeping cancer at bay for the last five years. It is both a relief and terrifying. I definitely was feeling the effects of the drug in terms of body aches and dry skin and other random things.

Ever since I’ve been off of it, though, I have been extremely tired, like second trimester slap-in-the-face tired, which I am hoping has something to do with the fact that I’ve had a cold for the last three weeks vs. a drug withdrawal syndrome because it really sucks.

6)  Went to my first Michigan football game! Thanks to an invite from my husband’s Uncle, who has great season tickets. All morning there were thunderstorms and even when we got to the parking lot it was raining and the game got delayed a bit because of lightning, but the clouds parted just in time for us to some tailgating and the game weather was absolutely beautiful. It was a homecoming game, so fans were extra festive and thus the atmosphere was too.

7)  We went to a friends’ house for dinner. She is Lebanese (or part Lebanese? Sorry, I don’t remember!) and made a bunch of ethnic dishes like dolmas, lamb and kibbeh, which OMG if you don’t know (which I did not), is Raw. Lamb. Insert bulging eye emoji.

I’ve had beef carpaccio many times and have watched my Filipino relatives eat chunks of marinated raw beef (I mean), but did not realize people ate raw lamb (although what’s the difference, I don’t know).

Anyhoo…..in the spirit of Julia Child, who taught me a bit about what it means to be a good host and a good guest…I tried it. The ground lamb is mixed with a bunch of spices, and you eat it with raw white onion, olive oil and pita bread. When I went to my happy place in my head and blocked out that it was raw lamb, it was REALLY DANG GOOD. It still kind of grosses me out to think about, but I would eat it again. But only if she makes it.

8)  I had another meal cooked for me by the dad (who was visiting from China) of one of the exchange students at our school. He made two of my favorites – ma po tofu and sautéed shrimp that you shell and dip in super spicy sauce.

He also boiled a WHOLE CHICKEN (which somehow was so much gaggier than the raw lamb), which was then shredded to be eaten with super spicy sauce. And a version of kung pao chicken. And baked chicken wings with MSG. Dipped in (surprise) super spicy sauce. It was such a treat for me, as we don’t have great Asian food around here!

9)  One of the super spicy sauces we dipped our food in was black bean chili sauce my mom sent me for my birthday from my favorite Chinese restaurant in Hawaii called Little Village Noodle House. I’d gifted one of my precious jars (she sent several because she loves me) to said exchange student because I’d heard he couldn’t find a suitable spicy sauce. Mission accomplished.

10) Oh, I forgot to tell you about our Dahlia Festival that took place at the end of September. I say “our” but I have been so far removed from The Garden this year, but I still think of it as possessive, because I do hope and plan to be more involved as soon as I am able (which means actively carving out time and committing to it).

Tom made this very cool contraption called a….flower loom? I have no idea, but you take flowers and weave them in and out of the loom as you feel so moved. It felt very poetic. I’m going to ask Tom to make one for me (I will pay you, obvs!), I think the kids would enjoy working on it next season.

11) Speaking of dahlias, my plants are still hanging on in spite of the near frost we had last week! It’s a miracle! Dahlias die after the first hard frost, but I guess that didn’t happen (one night it was supposed to get down to 32) because my plants show no signs of turning black yet, while just a few miles away at Detroit Abloom, the leaves are blackened and tubers are ready to be dug up for storage.

This particular flower wasn’t from my garden, but gifted to me by Nancy in my birthday bouquet. The petals are insane, SO beautiful in person, as you can imagine. Julia thinks it is a Peaches N Cream, which was a new variety for them this year.

12)  We weren’t the only ones to lose a tree in the neighborhood in the last few weeks (i.e. our lilac tree as referenced in last month’s list). As we were driving to school one morning, my daughter spotted this downed tree. I had to get out a snap a pic. Whoa. Luckily, the pictured house didn’t get hit by it.

That’s October! We are zooming on in to the holidays, I can’t even think about it or I will pass out. Wishes for a happy November!

The July List – 2018

I love July so much. Summer is going full force and there is still a lot of it left. Friends have you over for impromptu al fresco dinners (above), pool days turn into pool nights, kids stay up late and wake up late.

1) We celebrated the July 4th holiday with our annual barbecue at Uncle Jim’s house (I actually got in, or semi got into the pool, which happens maybe once a year, if that. Is it 90 degrees? Then no, I’m not in the pool) and by watching the Grosse Pointe Farms fireworks show with friends atop the Grosse Pointe Academy lawn.

2) I finally made it to the John K King used bookstore in downtown Detroit, a place I’d been wanting to go to since we first moved here. Plan to spend at least an hour browsing the shelves filled with over a million books, less time if you have kids in tow, which we did.

They have a huge collection of rare books, but they sadly did not have a copy of The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a sci-fi title that my husband and I both read as kids and have been curious to see if it’s really as good as we remember. Yes, the book is available online, but with a new, dumb cover illustration so I refuse to buy it.

3) I did pick up three books, one of which I’d been wanting – Kate Atkinson’s “When Will There Be Good News?” since I read her first two detective stories a couple years ago. She’s also the author of “Life After Life” which is a giant of a book, but goes quickly and is a must-read. I just finished “When Will There Be Good News?” last night and really enjoyed reading it. I’ve thought about it a lot since I put it down, which is always a sign of a good book. Or good anything.

4) We stopped at Lafayette Coney Island before the bookstore trip, as it was on our way and the Mister (who doesn’t like this photo because “no one puts ketchup on a coney dog” insert eye roll emoji) was hungry. He got coney dogs (obviously) and fries, and I shared an order of fries with the girls. The restaurant is right next door to American Coney Island, and Detroiters are very passionate about which restaurant they think is superior.

5)  My sister’s family of four came to visit us this month. We mostly wanted to just hang out since we usually only see each other once a year, but of course we had to do some touristy things, as they’d only been here one other time in the dead of winter.

We randomly stopped at Shake Shack for lunch and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Service was fast and friendly and food was yummy and fresh. Really great for a fast food joint and I’d definitely go there again.

6) The beach area at Campus Martius was fantastic. There was music playing (DJ), foosball, a huge Jenga set, and lots of people-watching.

7) We also went to the Riverwalk, which the kids love. As we were heading back to the parking lot, we watch a group of girls take photos for a quinceanera celebration.

8) On what was possibly the hottest day of the year, we went to Belle Isle and stopped at the aquarium and conservatory (extra hot and humid, we were all dying). We had plans to go to the beach, but when we drove by there were so many people and we didn’t want to deal with the crowds or the parking.

So we decided to try the slide, which turned out to be highly entertaining, especially for me, as I was not participating, and got to watch as my brother-in-law got going a little too fast and caught air on the bumps. Hehe.

9) Why did it hail in the middle of July!? All of a sudden the clear sky turned gray and a deluge of rain came down, followed by a minute of hail. No locusts, though.

10) Have you been to Otus Supply in Ferndale? My book group gals and I Ubered there in lieu of our usually meeting and tried just about everything on the menu. All of the food was quite good, right down to the sourdoughnuts, but my margarita was too sweet. From what our server told us, they also have a great live music scene on certain days of the month.

11) We were invited by friends to a rental cottage in Lexington, Michigan, for a weekend. The drive is about one and a half hours – quick compared to the majority of getaway spots, which are 3 to 5 hours away. It was a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops and lots of summer cottages.

On our first night, we walked through town to the park, where a bluegrass band was playing. We dipped our feet into Lake Huron and skipped stones.

The rest of the weekend was cold, humid and rainy – not ideal – but we made the most of all the breaks in the rain by going for walks (me), or to the beach (them) which you got to by going down a steep flight of stairs, or sitting by the fire (all of us). I walked by so many wild sweetpeas, which I’d only ever seen growing on a farm, so that was exciting for me.

12) A little baby bluejay hung out in our lilac tree for three days. He was the cutest, fluffiest thing and I worried that the blackbirds were going to scare him, or that he’d fall and some creature or cat would find him, but since I didn’t see him after the third day, I’m going to assume he flew away and is somewhere in the trees, happily enjoying summer.

We’re off for what is becoming an annual trip to upstate New York, one of my most favorite places on earth. San Francisco, yes. Florence, absolutely. There are many other beautiful and exotic places, but there is something about dairy country that I can’t shake. Follow along on Instagram, or get filled in on next month’s list. Happy August!