The November List – 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tomatoes!

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The Garden Detroit (the nonprofit where I volunteer) had a stellar tomato season. Most of Michigan, I imagine, had a great tomato season, as it was a hot, hot summer.

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Planting seedlings at the Newport garden.

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Young plants at The Garden.

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Mature plants (though not at full height).

We did get some wonky fruit due to the drought and over-watering (some done by us but also mother nature, the few times that it did pour), but overall, our plants were happy and lush.

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We grow only heirloom tomatoes at The Garden and we had thirty (? I can’t remember, but it sounds right) different varieties. Red, orange, yellow, striped. All so lovely.

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Tomatoes are fun to pick, as they are relatively easy to find and when ripe and the girls enjoyed helping me harvest them on a couple of occasions.

Once while they were with me, I spotted a humongous tomato, which I ate (no one else in the family likes raw tomatoes) over the course of several days. Best BLT ever.

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I have tons of tomato sauce and soup in the freezer. Of all my batches, only one tomato soup batch was thrown out, mainly due to my frustration. I probably could have saved it, but it would have taken some effort (too watery and flavor lacking).

I also made several jars of tomato compote, which is my favorite way to eat them. Slow roasted with garlic and swimming in olive oil.

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My own tomato plants (which were gifted to me by The Garden and planted as seedlings) didn’t do as well as those at the Garden, I’m guessing due to lack of sun.

Also, the squirrel population in our yard is ridiculous and most of the time, if I waited until the tomatoes were ripe, they would disappear. I found many a tomato in random parts of the backyard, half eaten (if you’re going to steal them, could you at least eat the whole thing!?).

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Using green tomatoes was a first for me. I have yet to try them fried, which I may do as I still have a handful of green tomatoes on the counter. I did make a green tomato sauce with bacon and onions and garlic, which turned out surprisingly good.

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Tomatillos are also something I have never cooked with before. Their husks look like lace when they are dried out – so beautiful. I asked around and went online and meshed two separate salsa verde / chicken enchilada recipes.

I roasted the tomatillos with onion, garlic and jalapenos and then blended. Baked with chicken, onions and cheese. They were divine. My husband and I both were wowed by the simplicity and goodness of this dish. So glad I have a jar in the freezer! Yum!

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We began taking the plants down last week. I went through and pulled off any salvageable tomato – the above photo is our very last harvest at our Newport location.

I am already excited to start planting for next year!

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Photos from The Garden

Julia, with colorful carrots.

Hello! Oh my gosh, I can barely keep up with the blog these days. Between kids and trips and gardening and social media…..my poor blog is getting left behind. But I guess it’s a good sign that I’m keeping busy and enjoying summer.

If you’re already following The Garden Detroit’s instagram (user name @thegardendetroit), these photos will look familiar to you. They are some of my favorites taken (mostly) at our farm over the last couple months. Purposely left off are photos of tomatoes, which will need their own post. So many!

Wish you were here to help us at the Garden! Of course if you are ever in the area, stop by and see us.

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Amy, one of our board members, with collard greens.

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Chard

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Tom, director of the Garden. He is usually this happy!

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Conjoined patty pan squash.

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Baby cucumber.

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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 Garden Detroit

I’ve been so crazy busy the last couple of months. There’s lots I’ve been meaning to blog about, but just can’t carve out the time. Although I’m finally sitting down (figuratively, since I always type standing up in the kitchen) to write about the Garden.

I’d been looking for a non-profit group to work with, specifically something garden or literacy-related, but everything I came across had too many hurdles to jump (must take x amount of classes, must be available at such and such a time) or was too far away or a little sketchy of a neighborhood.

So it was very serendipitous the day I met Tom, one of the Garden founders, at Trader Joe’s. I happened to be chatting with one of the staff there about growing vegetables this year (he asked me what my summer plans were). Tom heard the word “garden” and started talking to me about The Garden Detroit, an urban farm in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood, literally blocks from Grosse Pointe. I was intrigued.

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I visited Tom and his partner Nancy (co-owner of the Garden) the very next day and knew pretty quickly that I wanted to be a part of it. I started helping out several days a week, which was easy to do while the girls were in school. Now that it’s summertime, it’s harder to get away. I have a sitter a couple times a week, so I usually use that time to escape to the Garden. Which is proof how much I love it. I am paying someone so I can volunteer at the Garden. Oy.

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Of course Garden gives back to me. Some days it’s more physical than others, but it’s always a stress reliever. And I’ve met a handful of interesting, diverse people, which is so refreshing after two years of living in suburbia. Plus there is all that fresh produce I get to take home  for my labor, and sometimes flowers (the Garden also run a cut-flower farm in the neighborhood). And I’m learning so much about agriculture, organic gardening, Detroit (community, politics) and about working for a non-profit.

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I started an Instagram account for the Garden. User name @thegardendetroit . So many beautiful colors and interesting shapes to photograph. I am helping them also with their website, which should be up and running very soon! I will send the URL when it’s ready.

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When I’m out there, I often think of my Grandpa Longboy (coincidentally, longboy in Ilocano, a Filipino dialect, is a type of plum tree) when I’m planting vegetables or weeding or watering. He worked in the pineapple fields in Hawaii as a means to bring his family to a land of more opportunity and a better life.

These photos aren’t the best quality, but the only ones my Hawaii family could find on short notice. They were taken closer to the end of his life, as is apparent, but also shows that he was in his garden as much as possible, even as he aged.

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By the time I came around, he was known in the neighborhood and among family and friends for his green thumb. Before we built a house on it, he had a plot of land that he used as a vegetable garden and I remember him spending most of his free time there.

He was sun-drying tomatoes before it was hip, coercing people to taste his super hot chili peppers (then laughing at their reaction), making ginger and rice tea whenever I got sick, putting aloe on my burns and bites and constantly touting the health benefits of coconut water. None of this really sunk in, but it’s coming back to me in pieces.

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Last week I was voted in as a member of the board. I’m excited to be a part of this organization and excited to be a part of the revitalization of Detroit.

 

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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