Whew. Summer got away from me on this one….and I realized I need to update the book club and start discussion on Middlesex. Please feel free to hop on over to Goodreads to discuss. I’m in the process of updating the calendar to reflect the “summer break”.
In the meantime, I’d love for a few of the members to volunteer to help me with the discussions of the books – by helping to ask questions to generate discussion points. Any takers? Sometimes having a few different points of view to bring up topics helps lead to richer chats about the characaters, plot, writing, etc.
In the meantime, did anyone read anything great this summer?
Suckers for punishment, B and Gracie (and the dog!) and I got back in the car on Friday and drove back to Michigan. This time we even brought the Namby Pamby. After hitting ever imagineable traffic hiccup and then pulling over frantically to deal with dog barf (thanks buddy for aiming DIRECTLY INTO MY HAND AND LAP) we pulled into the driveway at B’s parents house at 1:30 the morning. This time Gracie decided to peacefully sleep the whole way there (unlike our drive from hell some months back) and we all put ourselves to bed to get ready for the festivities.
Andy why were we gluttons for punishment? Because we had tickets to the Real Madrid- Manchester United game in Michigan Stadium! Many thanks to our good friends and Michigan season ticket holders that were able to order us the tickets when they were first available. We spent some time in the morning with Gracie before leaving her for a fun day with Grandma & Grandpa, and after picking up another friend, the four of us drove to Ann Arbor for the day. After circling around for parking like fools we gave in, paid to park in a garage, and walked over to the Red Hawk for lunch where I had an unusual open-face pulled pork sandwich served on top of jalapeno cornbread – in a word, delicious. From there we meandered to my husband’s favorite AA haunt, Dominicks, where we enjoyed their famous sangria. We made a pitstop at the M-Den for some new Michigan gear for Gracie and perused the soccer t-shirts before heading over to the stadium.
Michigan Stadium is cool for a lot of reasons, but one of the neatest (for me) is the fact that from the outside it looks so incredibly small. You wonder how on earth in can be the nation’s largest stadium and then you walk in and discover you walked in at row 74, and the massive bowl in front of you becomes visibile. Still takes my breath away! In case you were wondering though, Michigan Stadium is uncool in its “no bag” policy and it seriously means, no bags, ladies, your wallet must fit in your pocket, and to that I raise a hearty bulls**t cough, becuase really? I took advice from a friend and after we all filled our pockets with necessities (wallets, iPhones, a backup battery charger -shutup- and a small bottle of sunscreen) I carefully folded a Ziplock bag and shoved it in there too. Once through security I pulled out the bag and we all emptied our pockets of things that did not belong, like, say, sunscreen.
We found our seats and squeezed in for the match among the other 109,000+ spectators. Although I am not a huge soccer fan, my husband and Namby are, and each of their favorite teams was playing (Namby = Man U, B = Real Madrid) so their enthusiasm was contagious. The game itself was great (and since it was sponsored by Guiness they even had adult beverages, much like my college football days, long live Tulane) and it was pretty cool to see so many world class athletes on the pitch- even Cristiano Ronaldo!
After the game we made our way back to the car and worked our way back to Detroit (seeing the team busses on the way to the airport) where we had dinner before heading home. All in all it was a great day, and from all reports, Gracie and the Grandparents had a nice day as well- a little Costco, a little pizza, a little play time. Sunday we had breakfast, took advantage of an outlet near the car (our Chicago parking situation is outlet-less) and vacuumed it out (it is the little things in life) and hit the road home, where we again sat in every traffic situation ever before finally walking in the door around 6 pm. We are exhausted but it was well worth it! I mean, it isn’t every day you get to be part of history!
After coming back from vacation I was more than ready to hit the kitchen and enjoy some homemade meals. We had a few definite wins this week so I thought I’d share. On Monday night we made tacos- so easy, so delicious- with our favorite taco topping. If you haven’t made taco topping yet, what are you waiting for?
Tuesday rolled around and we had our usual “grilled chick x veggies” on the menu but I wanted to do something a little different. So I marinated the chicken (Lillie’s Q Carolina Gold, get yourself some if you are into that kind of thing, it is amazing and if you are in Chicago, Mariano’s sells it) and roasted some broccoli and then I perused my handy dandy Pinterest board and found a recipe for “creamy garlic noodles” that claimed to be very similar to America’s favorite Pasta-Roni. What do I know, I just like a little noodle side dish from time to time so I made them (subbing the called-for Kraft green can parmesan cheese for Mama Francesca cheese blend and the called-for cream for whole milk) and we thought they were pretty awesome. My only complaint is that for a side dish it makes a large amount of noodles- enough for a family of 4 at least. And then, because I was feeling like we needed more green on the table I made Freckled Citizen’s easy cucumbers- I’ve heard them called “table cucumbers” before. Over the course of the week I’ve made two batches, one with apple cider vinegar, another with rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds- both were awesome.
And finally, to jump on the internet bandwagon, I finally got around to trying Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub (coffee, brown sugar, salt, garlic) on a pork tenderloin that we grilled and it was really, really good. Have no fear if you don’t have Trader Joes…it would appear you an order it on Amazon. I think you could use it on any cut of meat, but it lends itself really well to pork. Speaking of pork/rubs, we picked up a package of applewood smoked bacon sea salt last fall and it is also fantastic on pork chops- highly recommend. You could probably find this at most speciality spice shops. I paired the tenderloin with grilled zucchini, some couscous and more cucumbers of course!
And because the topic lends itself here, this is my list as of late of Things My Toddler Devours
Is there anything better than reading about someone else’s vacation? Nope? NOPE! Sit on down, lets do it.
Prior to the Great Summer Vacation Trip of 2014, my entire family descended upon Chicago like locusts.
Ok fine, just my parents and my nephew. My brother couldn’t get away for the week so his son got an entire week of being spoiled rotten by his grandparents and aunt/uncle (that would be me and B) before we gave him back to his parental units. And it wasn’t locust-like since they were invited, but nonetheless, they all arrived in Chicago. After finishing up the work week, vacation officially kicked off and we all headed down to the Chicago Yacht Club to check out the boats & do boat-things, like play my favorite game “Yachter/Not-A-Yachter” which involves watching girls in stillettos try to walk around the docks to catch themselves a sailor-man. Every year like clockwork……
(We take water safety seriously and although there were a few mix-ups that led to no life jacket on the dock (but child firmly in someone’s arms) we have been really pleased with the Stohlquist Infant jacket for our under 30 lb girl- she doesn’t mind wearing it and it is easy to get on/off. Amazon affiliate link, but we bought ours on sale at a sailing event. It has a handle/hook for scooping out of the water, a neck support, crotch strap and a buckle across the front to help stop unintintentional unzipping, although some of Amazon’s photos seem to show an older model w/out the front buckle.)
Saturday morning B and Dad took off sailing the Mackinac Race and my Mom and I quickly shelved all ideas of the zoo and other fun activities when we realized how much we had to do before we took off. We were renting a house for the week and while we had plenty of plans of eating out, we wanted a few casual meals in, so we made many pans of lasagna and cinnamon rolls and stocked up on snack food and things you want at vacation spots, like coffee and booze. Sunday morning dawned way to early and after playing Stuff Tetris packing the car (when did our spacious SUV become so small? why did the sailors have such large bags of clothing for us to bring? why can’t our cooler hold 5 Pyrex 9×11 pans and yet takes up this much space in the car?) we hit the road. Now, when you travel with a 5 year old and an 18 month old, a car trip is a bit of an adventure but with a few stops along the way and a lot of this really terrible CD of kids songs, we pulled into Harbor Springs, Michigan and promptly went out for pizza at Turkey’s with the kids and our friends who were also renting the house with us. Turkey’s is a Habor Springs staple, and it is perfectly fine, but I think part of its glowing reviews is the nostalgia – it is the place where kids are sent to eat out alone for the first time, crumpled $20 in their pocket and all the freedom in the world. So expect your food to be perfectly fine, but most likely it isn’t going to blow your hair back or anything. After dinner there was Yummies because, hello, vacation = ice cream.
Sometime early Monday morning the sailors made it onto Mackinac Island so obviously we decided to decend upon them (unlike-locusts) and we took the ferry over to Mackinac Island and enjoyed the day. The race weekends are a total frenzy over there so we didn’t really see a whole lot and we stuck to the little downtown shopping area/grassy knoll where we watched the horses go by, ran around in the grass and enjoyed the sunshine.
Drinks were had by various members of the party at the Pink Pony & Horns. My favorite store was Poppins, a boutique full of whimsy items that were wholly unnecessary but fun to browse through. Then we meandered and sat on the boat and took in the scenery before a BBQ followed by a ferry ride home. Gracie didn’t nap the entire day and was zonked by the end of it and the pans of lasagna waiting at the house were much needed.
Tuesday we kicked the day off with cinnamon rolls and then spent time walking around downtown Harbor Springs, which is adorable and fantastic and about the point in time when I realized, hey, I have no pants. Seriously, not a single pair of pants made it into my suitcase. How this happened I haven’t a clue, but alas, my shirts felt very lonely and I became irritated at the thought of nothing but the 2 skirts and dress that I brought and began searching for a pair of pants in each of the adorable but low-inventory boutiques in town. Yay? Through much trial and tribulation I found acceptable (i.e. non-$220) options at Craig Ryan and Dressed L’esprit, settling on a pair of white jeans from the latter. Luckily we had laundry facilities in the rental house so I was able to wash as needed (and lets be honest, they needed it). We had lunch at the Pointer Room on the pier, which has great views and some amazing chowder. Later we stopped in for coffee at the Stained Cup, which I ended up visiting every day for coffee, bagels, or sandwiches to take back to the house – a really nice little spot and much friendlier than the more entrenched Hollywood Market, who seems to be in the business of selling coffee to locals and locals only. (Seriously, I tried to order a pastry with my coffee there and was ignored- twice- before I gave up and walked down to the Stained Cup for something to go with my coffee). That night we were down in numbers as the boat was being delivered from the Island to Harbor Springs, we ended up back at Turkey’s, where I enjoyed a calzone filled to the brim with fresh garlic.
Later in the evening, after the little kids were in bed under the watchful eye of the older kids (aka the babysitters), the non-boat delivering adults headed down to the Pier for the always famous Hummer – the tastiest cocktail in the United States.
Harbor Springs has a very cute farmers market so we started there on Wednesday morning, and my child promptly helped herself to a few blueberries at the first stand. As I apologized she ate some more, so then I guilty bought the pint and tried to figure out how to explain to her that no, you cannot just eat the display fruit. My nephew participated in the kid’s scavenger hunt (earning him some Michigan cherries) and Gracie jammed out to the band in between blueberry eating breaks.
By Wednesday afternoon the boat and all of the adults were back in the greater Harbor Springs area. We spent time down at the dock and around the boat, had a casual lunch at the house and let the weary water travelers rest. The house had a great front porch (and a baby gate) so we spent a lot of time just enjoying the view, books, and company. Wednesday evening the older kids babysat while the adults had a fancy crew dinner down at the Pointer Room, where planked whitefish is the speciality and Hummers were consumed by everyone.
On Thursday the Harbor Springs regatta began so we lost the sailors to that while we continued the time honored vacation tradition of relaxing. At one point my Mom and I took Gracie and Z to the park- the park which I thought was right by the beach but is actually on the beach much to my sand-hating disdain- and we stumbled upon the craziest car either of us had ever seen. Filed under “yer doin’ it wrong”.
We eventually picked up sandwiches from the Stained Cup, and that night, after walking around and hanging out with all of the other regatta participants down at the dock, we had a chicken dish and biscuits back at the house, along with wine and good conversation on the front porch.
Friday morning rolled around and we decided we’d walked the streets of Harbor Springs more than enough so meandered over to Petoskey which was holding its annual sidewalk sale extravaganza. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was really fun- after almost buying a new Dash & Albert rug a few times I held off, bought a baby gift and had fun poking around the downtown area before enjoying a casual lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, where we all had a chance to cool down and rest our feet, with an end note of delicious baked goods. We made our way back to the house to rest up before the annual Ugotta Regatta party down at the boat shop, which is the social event of the summer (or at least to us!). The party is casual- after all, the participants show up in their race gear- but there are hotdogs and bratwurst and a band and activities for the kids. Gracie had fun playing with her friends and she even had her first bratwurst (devoured it). She loved all the little toys and activities set out for the wee ones, although I was mean and wouldn’t let her open a bottle of colored “scented” bubbles – seemed like a bad idea.
By Saturday I suspect we were getting a little vacation weary, (and it was rainy and cool) and we spent the morning in, coloring and lounging around the house. There was ice cream (vacation!) and walking around and in the evening we headed down to the pier for dinner in the casual dining room, The Chart Room, which serves my favorite Dijon chicken and spaetzle and I highly recommend it to anyone. My Great Aunt was able to come join us and it was a lovely evening of catching up. The dining room of the restaurant was filled with all the families Gracie and Z had been playing with all week and they spent a lot of time waving and going outside to play with various subsets of kids/adults while they waited for food. It was the perfect end to the trip and it even included a few Hummers.
By Sunday most of the vacationer-s had gone, save Gracie, B and myself (B had one more day of sailing). Gracie and I met up with some Chicago friends and we headed up to Pond Hill Farm and let the kids check out the animals, steering clear of the biting pig (SERIOUSLY, WHY?) and spending a lot of time with the ducks, goats and tire swing.
The chickens and geese were only moderately amusing, and rather than stick around for a wine tasting we opted to drive over to Legs Inn for some famous Polish food. The setting has to be seen to be believed and the food was amazing. Gracie enjoyed her non-Polish french fries immensely. After that we drove the Tunnel of Trees back to Harbor Springs where Gracie took a car nap and I sat in the car and watched the boats come in and chatted with B as they cleaned up/packed up after racing. And then, just like that, we hit the road home…but this year no one got a speeding ticket on the way home and we took a pit stop in Grand Rapids to visit friends with a new baby and let Gracie stretch her legs while we got in some snuggles. By 11 pm we had picked up the dog, and were home, with a hallway of laundry and an air conditioner working in overdrive to cool the house down….