Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hospitality is dead

This morning as I was doing my weekly lawn pooper scooping (one of the joys of pet ownership) one of my neighbors popped her head over the fence to say hello. The quick hello turned to a conversation about fall, new neighbors, pets and getting together. Soon afterwards I was chatting with my friend(also my neighbor) on the phone and I asked if they recalled the chatty neighbors name.

Neighbor Friend: "Sure, it's Chatty Neighbor (CN). Why?"
Me: "She came over to talk to me today and I couldn't remember her name. It was kind of weird actually because they never really talk to us."
Neighbor Friend: "Oh, well I was talking to CN yesterday and I mentioned how welcoming and friendly you and cute husband had been since I moved in to the neighborhood. We talked about getting everyone together for a bbq or something. Maybe that's why CN stopped by.
Me: "Huh."

I don't mean to sound unfriendly or snotty, I was just surprised. We've lived in our neighborhood for over 2 years now, and although I've had passing over the fence conversations with the CN family, we've never really gotten to know them to well. I think getting together would be wonderful. But the thing that struck me more about the conversations of the day was how surprised and thankful neighbor friend was over my family's friendliness.

Neighbor friend is new to the neighborhood, and upon arrival I did go introduce myself and bring a welcoming gift - as I think a good neighbor should. I also send cards to celebrate my friends' birthdays and anniversarys, I volunteer to babysit children and pets for vacations and evenings out, I send thank you cards when I'm invited to dinner and I bring host/ess gifts when I'm invited to someone's house. I send out cards and give out cookies for the holidays and pass out candy for Halloween.

I don't do any of things these things to please other people; I do them for me. I love the domestic arts - cooking, decorating, and crafting, and I truly enjoy creating a family environment with those I know and love. I love the celebrating the holidays and spreading "good cheer" (I've already got my xmas cards picked out!).

But I'm surprised (or maybe not) by how many people just don't do any of these things anymore. I've been to weddings and showers bearing gifts and never received a thank you, and the number of Christmas cards we receive never seems to be as many as those we know.

As I said above, I don't "give out to get" but everyone likes getting personal notes in the mail - including me! I like knowing you enjoyed and appreciated dinner at my house as much as you like hearing it from me, and I love knowing how your family is celebrating the holidays. I live in town because I want to know and share the company of my neighbors, to pass out candy to neighborhood children and see how they've decorated their houses for the holidays. Am I the only hospitable person left?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Yummilicious - and on the way to being even more so

I love food. Everything about it is exciting to me - it's origin, where it comes from, how it grows, the different ways it can be prepared, preserved and presented. One of my favorite places to shop is the grocery store, and I beeline for any store selling kitchen or food related products. I'm a weekly (and often more often) shopper at the farmer's market, and I buy my apples and pumpkins from a farm or orchard (not a parking lot stand). I'm so excited to serve food grown in my garden. I've even found great local wine!

Previous to this year I didn't give much thought to where my food was coming from. I lived in consumeristic bliss, happily making the bulk of my food purchases from the local Meijer, preparing my meals with little concern for the seasonality of my food.

I'm not sure where my transformation started. Maybe it was Fast Food Nation. It progressed to the Omnivorous Dilemma, and Animal Vegetable Miracle. It moved to Local Harvest, Fair Food Matters and Eat Local. And somewhere along the line, my feelings about food and concern for where it comes from started to change.

My first real personal change concerned the origin of my meat products. I'm an animal lover, a foster "mother" and a often guilty feeling omnivore. (I've tried vegetarianism but I love a good bologenese sauce way too much). So if I can't change my taste at least I can change where and how I get my meat. I stopped buying meat from the grocery store and started making my purchases from a local butcher, Quality Meats. I lost my squeamishness for venison and started adding it to more and more recipes. Recently I located an organic farm offering a meat csa and I'm currently plotting my purchases to store in my freezer.

Next I reconsidered my veggie choices. With the Farmer's Market open 3 days/week I've been really successful in limiting most of my vegetables to locally grown, but I've been troubled about my options for the winter, and still getting my out of range produce (i.e. lemons) from my local megamart. I was so excited to learn there are several local growers offering winter csas.

I'm really interested in finding more sources for local food. I'm not sure I could ever limit myself to living totally local - there are some things I just couldn't give up. Recently I read somewhere that even those who eat local allow themselves 12 items outside their food shed they just can't live without. So I started thinking - what couldn't I give up? Let's see..
1. Real Parmesan cheese (and maybe all cheese in general. I did find a local producer of ricotta cheese, and keep perusing the how to make cheese website - which may soon be another blog!)
2. Olive oil
3. Cocoa power/chocolate
4. Vanilla
5. Flour
6. Spices (can I make this one entry?)
7. Salt
8. Milk/soymilk (though I'm doing some research on local options)
9. Rice/cornmeal/couscous
(I'm actually surprised to find that at this point it's getting hard to think of other things I couldn't live without or find a local source for.)
10. Coffee
11. Soda
12. Fish

Update: I stopped at Centre Street Market today and found a flyer for a local cheese producer, which led me to a website listing several local producers. I'll continue to post my food finds in my blogroll for those of you interesting in pursuing other food options as well.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I'm finally done painting and very glad to be - I was getting so tired of it I was starting to slosh paint other places than just all over me (well, and the walls, floor and animals of course). The tape has been pulled off, the furniture put back in places and most of the decor put back up, so now starts the really hard part: deciding what fabric to use for curtains. Last night I stopped at Field's after dinner with my lady friends and 8 samples later was almost chased out the door by the sales clerk (I would have kept going but they were closing). There are just too many choices! That and they have an entire section of Amy Butler prints that I can't get enough of. Any advice on good decision making tactics (than iny meany miny mo)?

I met with a gentleman from SCORE this morning (they offer small business counseling) and Sarah and I are slowly making our way to getting our catering business underway...as soon as we register our name, register for a Federal Tax ID, register for a MI tax ID, get approval from the Health Dept, submit our paperwork for the LLC, meet with a lawyer to draw up and operating agreement....so sometime around 2112 we'll be able to cater your event.

I also spent some time helping out in the Growing Matters garden this morning doing some harvesting with the garden manager...seeing someone else's garden always gives me lots of inspiration. And makes me want a bigger yard.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

So fresh and so clean

I'm painting. Again. Lime green in fact. In my living room. Oh the horror!

I hate the painting process - the taping, the gathering of tools (usually half should have been thrown away last time or are unlocateable), the numerous trips to the store to get forgotten/new items, the drop cloths, the priming, the edging, the taping (I really hate the taping). But the painting - I actually like the painting. I like to see the walls slowly transforming from the boring basic primer white to the exciting new chosen color. I love the smell of new paint and the way it makes a room seem clean and fresh and new.

Painting always throws my house into chaos though. First there's the piles of furniture and wall decor, the stacks "found" items (like the random dog toys and socks you find under the couch), the piles scattered about of necessary "tools" for performing the activity and then of course the animals littered about making a mine field of the not only doing any work but also the moving of any equipment without incurring an injury that requires medical attention.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Here comes the bride...

Weddings are always so much fun. I don't know if it's the love in the air, the beautiful bride or the free food and drinks that always get everyone in such a joyous mood, but weddings always seem to bring out the best in people. Maybe it's the reminder of young love or fresh beginnings. Or the alcohol. Our wonderful friends Stephanie (the best stylist ever!) and Chad we married this weekend and the wedding/reception were full of all the things one should be; great food, family, free drinks, wild dancing and lots of laughter and love.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Seasons change

It's starting to happen. At first you don't even notice it. The first time you wear jeans instead of a skirt out in the evening. That first night you shut off the air conditioner and open the bedroom windows. The first night you rise in the early morning hours to pull an extra blanket onto the bed. The first time you shut some of the windows as it gets near dusk. The first time you grab a sweater before heading out the door. Oh the stores have already known about it; they've had their Halloween decorations out since July, but you're not ready to realize it yet. You're still enchanted by the smell of charcoal in the air, still drunk on the sound of Cicadas, still enjoying the feel of sun baking your back and the droplets of sweat on your brow. But even as you ignore it it's happening.
I realized a hint of it as the hum of Cicadas gave way to the rasping of squirrels grinding their teeth against the tough, green hulls of the walnuts from the tree in our backyard. I felt it again during my hike at Al Sabo when I was chilled by my sweat as I hiked back into the cool, shadowy woods. It was there when I pulled out a blanket to cover up during a movie this week, and present as I put my slippers on as I crept out of bed this morning.
You may not want to realize it, may want to push it back or delay it's coming but the inevitable will soon be here.
It's turning into fall round here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I'm not a very "religious" person, but I've always felt luck and blessed in my life to have a wonderful family, a loving husband, great friends and enough health, wealth and happiness to keep my days full. I probably don't say it enough, but I'm so grateful for all the things I have - and all the things I don't. As today is the 6th anniversary of September 11th, I wanted to express my appreciation for everything that makes my life so special - and recognize those who have sacrificed to make it so.

Thank you.