The July List – 2017

It’s August tomorrow – whaaaat!? First of all, I am writing this while on vacation in upstate New York, although you would hardly know it was a vacation because I have been working the entire time, but that’s neither here nor there. What I was starting to say is that I’m sitting here after having spent a restless nights’ sleep, a morning berry picking (how many squats did I do looking for those darn raspberries?), an afternoon in the sun and now I’m sipping Prosecco (recommended by the woman at the local liquor shop), which is surprisingly “not too sweet” as I had requested.

Current view.

SO. Please excuse any typos or ramblings or anything that plain just doesn’t make sense because I am running on empty and also relaxed, if one can be both at the same time.

1)  July went by crazy fast. I wouldn’t even know what happened if I didn’t have photos to look at. Fourth of July weekend was really exciting for us this year because it was the first year our littlest was able to stay awake long enough to see the fireworks show. We walked down Lake Shore Boulevard and found a nice spot. I sipped on my homemade craft cocktail, while the girls chased fireflies.

2)  We spent the 4th with family by the pool (not ours). The hammock is always a big hit, although not with me. I’m not a big hammock lover, although I do like the idea of it, but whenever I get in it, I find it uncomfortable and not soothing.

3)  My little vegetable garden that is somewhat neglected did well by way of lettuce, kale and sweet peas (although something ate the bottom of the plant in the second row so they all died. Weird).

My green onions were better than last year, but still very scraggly, and the carrots actually look decent, but we pulled one up and it was so small. Can still eat the greens, though.

4)  The onions at The Garden Detroit, however, are gorgeous. We planted several varieties and they are all delicious.

And I just cannot get enough of our curly kale. My favorite thing is to eat it raw with some cheese (any kind will do, but feta or goat cheese are my favorite kale combos) homemade super-tangy vinaigrette.

5)  The fam stopped at Mike’s on the Water one Saturday afternoon for lunch. I’d been there before, but it has been a couple years. It was packed, so the wait was long. Thankfully there was good people-watching, so I was able to amuse myself. It’s not a place I’d go for the food, but definitely a spot I’d go back to for a casual drink by the water.

6)  Speaking of water, I’ve spent a good chunk of time at the Yacht Club pool, due to swimming lessons (for the girls) and sometimes just to hang out and enjoy the weather.

One Sunday afternoon, I was able to get some significant reading done, while my husband was with the girls in the water. I haven’t been able to really read by the pool in years, so it was amazing. I’m still in a suspense phase, so I was reading “The Widow” by Fiona Barton. I enjoyed it. Good writing, interesting characters and not too creepy.

7)   My book group has taken somewhat of a summer hiatus from committed reading, but we are still getting together once a month, which has been nice. There is always food and wine. Because can you have a book group without food and wine? If you can, I want no part in it.

8) I started doing freelance writing for my first local client (woo-hoo!) Ahee Jewelers, a local shop that has been family run for 70 years. I’m always happy to stop by because it is a beautiful space, not to mention the refreshments table. And no I don’t always take a cookie, but sometimes I do.

9)  On a particularly stressful day, I was at The Garden Detroit headquarters (our Directors’ home) and the flower farm gals let me partake in their succulent jewelry-making. Oh my gosh. You guys, it is just so unique and pretty and so wow. This is the one I made using both dried flowers and tiny succulents. How can your stress level not go down after making something like this, right?

10)  I made my first official Detroit Abloom bouquet this month. The process was at first intimidating, but ultimately fun, as I slowly got the hang of it. Working with flowers is so balancing, I feel.

11)  I won’t even go into my three haircuts I had this month. One of which I did myself because I wanted edgy and got soccer mom and I really, really didn’t want soccer mom, so I had to do edgy myself. I have to say that on my way to get my DIY haircut evened out, I got a compliment from a clerk at Trader Joes (good ole TJs). She loooved my hair. So there.

And no, that’s not me in the photo clearly, but I figured you’d much rather see a picture of my daughter dancing as the sun goes down.

12)  I went to the Detroit City Distillery for the first time as part of a girls’ night out. It had a good vibe and the drinks were delicious. Our bartender was great and made me a drink based on what I told her I liked. It was perfect.

That’s a wrap. Enjoy your August!

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Upstate New York – Favorite Photos

School is in full swing and it’s officially Fall, but I am still in Summer mode. I am trying to catch up with all these little things that, if I don’t do now, will never get underway. This blog, the girls’ blog (a private one that I share with family), photo albums, cabinet organization (right?), closet organization, school paper organization, etcetera. Super dumb stuff, but necessary because given my OCD tendencies, it serves me best to just plow through and get it done. Otherwise = mental.

So…instead of going on and on about how awesome our family vaca was (which I’ve already mentioned several times), here are some of my favorite shots from our trip.

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Food From the Garden

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We’ve been getting a CSA vegetable box (which sometimes includes fruit) every Wednesday, as part of my work with The Garden Detroit. In addition to those goodies, whenever I work at the Garden, I usually end up taking something home – zucchini, tomatoes, kale, chard, carrots, parsley.

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We try really hard not to waste food in our house and now that a bulk of the veggies have been nurtured by yours truly, we’ve been trying especially hard.

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These were sooooo good! Ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, chives, parsley, shallots (which I omitted the second time – too strong), dipped in egg and panko breadcrumbs.

So naturally I’ve been on a cooking kick lately. Which, except for the times when the kids are driving me “flipping bananas” (a term I once used with them out of exasperation that they now think it’s some kind of funny trick one does with a banana), has been enjoyable.

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I’ve made three quiches (two with chard as the main ingredient, one with cabbage), roasted corn and beet salad, peach cobbler, garlic scape pesto, gazpacho, stuffed squash blossoms, grilled patty pan squash with chimichurri sauce and a multitude of tossed salads.

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Many of these were first-time dishes for me, so it’s been fun figuring out how to tweak the recipes to my liking.

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Also, oh my gosh if you’ve ever tried to photograph food, you know what a pain it is. Most of the time my photos make the food look unappetizing, lacking color and texture. I’ve been experimenting with the best ways (time of day, lighting, backgrounds) to photograph food, which has been a nice different way to get my creative juices flowing – always a good thing. Happy summer eating, everyone!

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 June List – 2015

IMG_1365How is it already July? Summer is flying by, as it should. We’ve had many nice days and many rainy days, including a wild lightning storm that went on for hours (the lightning woke me, not the thunder).

maplebranch (769x954)1) One recent wind storm blew several branches onto our backyard, including this huge section of a maple tree (resting at the base of our birch tree).

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IMG_1073IMG_1071 (768x1024)2)  We’d been wanting to try Rose’s Fine Foods, a quirky diner in Detroit featuring locally sourced food, for quite some time and finally went for breakfast. I had pancakes, which were too heavy, and the Crybaby donut (a house specialty) of the day (blueberry), which was fantastic.

I would definitely go back for breakfast (but not for the pancakes), although the lunch menu looked more exciting, with items like rainbow trout and ground lamb tacos.

IMG_1194 (1024x1024)3) Our oldest graduated from Kindergarten with a formal ceremony and punch on the lawn and everything. She wore Lilly Pulitzer, which is pretty much a requirement here in Grosse Pointe.

4)  Speaking of formal, everything in Grosse Pointe (dinners, gatherings) is soooooo formal. In San Francisco, if I asked myself, “am I under-dressed?” the answer would always be No. Here, the question is, “am I over-dressed?” and the answer is always No.

On one hand, I find this amusing (hilarious, even). On the other hand, I kind of love it. I’m a girlie girl. I like dressing up. And it’s nice when other people make the effort, too (can I get an amen?). Sure, I wear cutoffs and tank tops (which I bet I do more than anyone else here) but I also like that at any given time, if I want to dress up, I can. Without anyone asking me if I just came from a baby shower.

IMG_1082 (931x1024)IMG_1084 (768x1024)IMG_1091 (1024x889)5)  Went to the first Tuesday Market of the year at Eastern Market with my mother-in-law and our littlest. I picked up the yummiest cheeses – aged gruyere, white cheddar and imported parmesan (which was the most expensive at $12.90 a pound and of course the only cheese the girls will eat now).

We had lunch at Supino Pizzeria. The thin-crust pizza was delicious and my favorite part was the shaved sausage. Genius. I usually don’t like sausage on my pizza because I hate the chunks. Problem solved with the shaved technique. Why didn’t I think  of that?!?

IMG_1249 (1024x1012) I also bought small cilantro and parsley plants at Eastern Market for I think one or two dollars each? And re-potted them in larger pots (vs the ground, thinking I might want to bring them inside at some point for decoration. The mint I bought at a local nursery. All the herbs seem to be doing well with very little care. Such a change from San Francisco, where I tried so hard to keep herbs alive with never any luck.

IMG_1119 (768x1024)IMG_1124 (768x1024)IMG_11336)  The local shoe shop wasn’t able to fix a broken zipper on my beloved Frye boots (the guy said he couldn’t fix it and if I found a place that did fix it, it would cost more than the boots were worth). The guy at Tip Top Shoe Repair in downtown Detroit didn’t blink at the broken zipper and fixed it for under $20.00.

When I went back to pick up my boots, I noticed an urban garden (I later looked up the name – Lafayette Greens) was right next door to the shop. I took a little detour and walked through it.  The veggies looked amazing – so healthy! – and the quirky sculptures were fun.

beds7)  I gave our four-year-old’s room a summer makeover by exchanging the fluffy pink comforters with Hawaiian quilts made by a) my grandma (the one on the left. I used it as a kid) and b) the little old lady who lives next door to my Hawaii family (she made one for both me and my sister, just because).

fairygarden8) Speaking of next door neighbors, on Father’s Day the girls went next door to help our neighbor set up her fairy garden. They were beyond excited. Super duper cute.

fishfly IMG_1256 (1024x1010)9) The fishflies are here. Every summer they come for a couple weeks. It’s a lake thing. I just read that a female fishfly lays up to 4000 eggs. They stick to everything (as you can see) and smell like fish (surprise).

They live for only about a day, so, for instance, if a few hundred of them happen to land on one of the trees in your backyard and then die, the next day you may be walking under the tree and a slight wind will blow, causing all those fishfly carcasses to rain down on you. Pretty darn gross.

IMG_1106 (1024x768)10)  We amped up the backyard with a new teak dining set from Thos Baker (our summer budget has been blown. ouch). The table arrived split, so we had to wait another three weeks for a new one, and then the umbrella arrived cracked, so we had to wait another several weeks for that. But now it’s all here and we’re enjoying it.

We wavered between a dining set (husband’s idea) and lounge chairs (my idea), but ultimately went with the dining set and it has worked out great. Sometimes he’s right, what can I say.

Weber's Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling

11)  We also bought a new fancy Weber grill, another of the husband’s wants that I didn’t see the need for (at least not for this year). But guess who has been grilling several times a week and who just bought a new grilling cookbook? Yep. I think I was anti-grill because I didn’t understand it, but now that I’m figuring it out, I am loving it. Go me.

IMG_1255 (1024x1024)12)  When people find out I’m from California, the first thing they ask is how I like Michigan. They want to hear that I love it and there are many reasons why I do. I always say that I love the weather (with a reminder that Northern California weather is nothing like the rest of the state). Summers here are picture perfect, with boats on the lake and lush greenery and sounds of kids playing outside ’til the sun goes down.

So even though I still feel very much in limbo and even though I feel like living here has brought some disappointing realizations (friends stuff, music stuff, other things that are seemingly trivial but such a big deal, especially when I am tired and cranky, which I pretty much am all the time), I have never regretted the move.

So…I’m on the right path. I just need to keep walking it. Sometimes in cutoffs and flipflops, and sometimes in Lilly Pulitzer and heels.

Twelve More Things I’ve Learned (about Grosse Pointe).

Lake St. Clair

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A few weeks after we moved here, I made a list of twelve things I’ve learned about Grosse Pointe. Now that another two months have gone by, I’ve learned a few more things:

  1. Wow. Your bedspread matches your curtains. In every room. (More on house-hunting in another post.)

  2. The electric oven is eons better than the gas oven. There, I said it.

  3. Everyone I’ve talked to has warned me about the vigilant and prominent police presence. Above all, do NOT speed, they say. Police are everywhere. Okay, done. So why does everyone ride so close to my bumper? Stop tailing me. Where are you even going? I would say that every time I get on the road, someone gets all up on me at least once. Some old guy in a Jaguar actually passed me the other day on a 25 mph road.

  4. I knew produce was going to be sad. Still. My one girlfriend here (also a California transplant) said to me with a shrug of her shoulders, “I hate to say this, but you really just have to…you know, lower your standards.” Now when I buy avocados, I buy at least five at a time, in case the first two I cut open aren’t usable.

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5. Lazy summer evenings are easily one of my top five most favorite things in life.  Oh how I’ve missed you, Summertime! Contrary to popular belief, San Francisco does not have a true summer. Certain pockets of the city might, but much of the city is covered in fog and cold during the months of June, July and August. Which is why tourist stores display their “I heart San Francisco” sweatshirts at the front of their shops in summer. And why I continue to see Facebook photos of my friends wearing parkas.

6.Kids live here! Sure, kids live in San Francisco, too, but you don’t really see them. It’s hard to explain. In Grosse Pointe, kids are everywhere and they’re made to feel like part of the community. Often kids are unaccompanied or even alone. I’m talking about little kids… five- and six-year olds taking their dog for a walk around the block or riding a bike up and down the street.

7.Running along the lake is just as great as running through Golden Gate Park. Although the dirt paths in the park were a little easier on the knees – yikes.

8.Seriously, stop tailing me already!

9.I may never eat good Chinese food again (unless I’m in Hawaii or San Francisco or London. Or maybe China).

10.Trader Joe’s is the only store that sells organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. I’ve looked everywhere. If you don’t know the difference between pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized, you can check out this explanation at Musings of a Housewife.

11.What’s that smell? Oh, it’s just pesticide. You know, a bunch of chemicals that are harmful to people and animals. It is pretty much on every front lawn. sigh

12.When all else fails, go for a bunny walk. This has helped stave off many a meltdown at our house. We haven’t actually seen any bunnies on these walks (although oh my gosh you guys, I saw a little baby bunny in our backyard last week. It was sooooo cute!) I’m sure the huge, black dog has something to do with that. But we have seen many from the car on our bunny drives.

I’m enjoying these lists. I may just make it a regular thing.