Category Archives: Local

I Sang with Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney seated pink piano

I did! Me and 19,999 other concert goers.

This was a huge thing to cross off my bucket list. I’ve been a fan for decades, and credit much of my life’s soundtrack to the Beatles and their various offshoots. For years, I’ve been bound and determined to see at least one former Beatle while he or he is still making appearances.

Several weeks and a chunk of cash after I heard Paul McCartney was going to be in Detroit, the husband and I sat in our side view seats, sharing pizza and waiting for the show to begin. We weren’t sure what to expect from the 73 year old musician, and I’m happy to say we were delighted. For three hours straight, Paul played and sang and moved non-stop. Then he did two encores. He gave the crowd what they wanted, talked about his new wife and creative endeavors, and owned his success. Perfection.

It’s like he’s been doing this for a few years or something… And I’m not the only one who was impressed.

Sometimes, it’s worth it to spend a little more than you should, and do something that would make your younger self ecstatic and proud. You’ll never regret it.

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Filed under AutoBio, Local

A Little Love for the Eggplant


Last night, I made baba ganoush, because last week we went to Gita Pita, and now I am, once again, obsessed with Mediterranean food (or at least the idea of it).

I found a simple recipe for the baba ganoush (I added minced onion and raw tomato), and plan to return to the downtown restaurant when my budget adjusts for the cost of preschool. It is a day for which I wait with bated breath.

The thing is, it was just really nice to have success with an eggplant. As vegetarians, we’ve not spent the time with eggplant that we should, and our history of botched attempts goes back to the beginning of our marriage – long before we stopped regularly eating meat and boxed meals. Eggplant Parmesan, simple roasting and oddities like vegan “bacon” were all disappointing failures.

But this… it’s a lovely, seemingly lighter alternative to hummus (which I love). Now I’m wondering how a half-and-half blend of the two would work…

For something completely different: If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, join me and a bunch of cool kids tonight at EmbodyGR, a local non profit focused on yoga, community and service. They have childcare, it’s free and there will be tea. A great way to find calm on the first day of ArtPrize, and set the tone for the close of your week.

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Filed under Health, Local, Recipes

Traditional Tacos and Basic Rice Noodles

I can’t get enough. I have a problem. Please send help (by which I mean gift cards to Tacos El Cuñado and Pho Anh Trang).

Somewhere in my late-Winter/early-Spring attempt to get back on the healthy wagon, I overcame my craving for boxed mac-n-cheese and rediscovered east Asian and authentic Mexican food. Now, I’m finding any excuse to stop at the market’s taco counter, and steadily increasing my home supply of rice noodles (only because the preferred Vietnamese restaurant is on the other side of town).

First, the tacos. Forget greasy cheese, limp lettuce and meat sauce. These traditional-street-food babies bring together warm corn tortillas, vegan options like tempeh, rice and beans and nopales (cactus), pescetarian favorites like shrimp, and fresh pico de gallo and avocado. Most of that food is local, I might add. If I get a taco trio (for less than $10), that leaves me enough to do a tasting at the distillery a few steps away. Ok, just kidding (so far. Talk to me after this weekend).

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Filed under Health, Local

Between Vampires and Snow

Judging by the weather, you’d think we’d gone from Halloween to Christmas in the course of a week.

Me? I’m getting used to shoveling the front steps as our jack-o-lanterns get buried, but am really hoping to see grass at least once more before April.

Please visit rosanevarez at deviantART for more images like the one seen at left. I think he’s just adorable, and reflects exactly how things are over here at the moment.



this year,

is so oddly caught between the vampires and the snow.

Each pushing against the other,

while faux-turkey gets baked…

somewhere in the middle.

And while I love the seasonal cooking,

the wine

and my new ability to bake a pie,

my heart is still in New Orleans.

New Orleans…

Where the immortals drink in 64 degrees

and dine on brass band all weekend.

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Filed under Local, Seasonal

Salty Yellow Tomatoes

yellow oblong tomatoes

Golden ovals from Fat Blossom Farm

I used to go to the farmers’ market with a list. These days, I might have a couple things in mind, but I generally just see what catches my eye.

The thing I’ve found is that it’s way more likely you’ll chat with your farmer if you get adventurous and purchase something you never have before. Sure, I know the kale, summer squash and stroopwafel are going to be fabulous, and I’ll thank them kindly, but why not learn about those weird looking tomatoes?

As much as I love tomatoes, I tend to take them for granted. I routinely pick up the small carton of red grape tomatoes at Meijer, and throw them in eggs, salads and quinoa without even thinking about it. Why is my kitchen not full of all shapes, sizes and colors of these nightshades? Because I am tomato-lame.

But no more. I love an excuse to stop by the Fat Blossom Farm table, and last weekend it featured these yellow tomatoes, most of which had a pale green at one end. I bought them without hesitation, and the collection (or what’s left of it) graces my kitchen counter.

For the most part, I’ve been washing and slicing them into disks to eat raw. While I’ve never been overly fond of adding salt to raw veggies, I’ve done it with these. The flavor is nice, and the small sodium boost can’t hurt (I’ve never really liked much salt, and actually don’t consume a lot… maybe not enough. An exploration for later). But in all honesty, the tomatoes don’t need it.

So that’s about it. Go to the farmers’ market, try something new, eat it raw. Oh, and go to the Enchanted Forest Festival at Fat Blossom Farm. Because why not?

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Filed under Health, Local

Faces of the Irish

mom toddler girl tongue out

Girl likes to party.

Another Michigan Irish Music Festival under our belts. Iris is, obviously, an old pro.

We even managed to locate a decent amount of vegetarian/pescetarian food. Iris ate her weight in tuna wrap, enjoyed a hot chocolate and found an age appropriate dance partner.

Hubs and I decided to make Sunday domestically productive, and will look forward to free-flowing gutters come the next rain storm.

Quite a weekend.

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Replacing Labor with Whimsy (and discounts on cute stuff!)

two toddlers dress up sunglasses

Whimsy Hip

My daughter has great taste in all respects, as you can see.

It’s Labor Day, and it’s also the beginning of September. The days of indoor play and holiday gifting will be here before we know it. Might I recommend The Tea Time Princess?

cherry tea party food fabrics

Cherry patterned tea party accessories

The Tea Time Princess is a collection of clothing, accessories and gifts created by Sopheap H. I’ve been a big fan ever since she made my wedding dress in 2005, not to mention all the gorgeous things she’s designed for Iris. In the past year she’s launched an Etsy shop that exemplifies her love of timeless whimsy and imaginative fun. If there’s a wee one in your life under the age of 7 (8, 10, 40…), chances are you’ll find something for him or her in Sopheap’s line.

A mother herself, Sopheap is passionate about encouraging creative play. Iris and I both adore the tea party accessories pictured here, which are just one of many designs. Mini top hats and purses are also great for dress-up and pretending.

black birthday mini top hat

How dapper!

Something customers respond to in particular are the birthday outfits, which, happily, can include top hats and play food. Iris is actually wearing one of the newest birthday items in the picture above – a colorful dress layered over a ribbon-trimmed tutu. The front of the dress has a large, dotted “2″ candle, and at the back, a rainbow ruffle-bum bustle (my new favorite phrase). I mentioned to Sopheap that the dress could work for 1 or 5 or, heck, even 34!

blue striped onesie bow tie


Can we talk about onesies? Because is there anything more convenient and practical than a onesie? What about a onesie that comes accessorized with a bow tie or bustle? Sopheap makes these for all occasions, and is expanding her preemie and newborn collection.

So, you’ve found something you love at The Tea Time Princess. In honor of her own birthday month, Sopheap is offering my readers a 5% discount when they enter the code SEPTBIRTHDAY5B at checkout. This coupon code is good starting today (September 1, 2014), and through Tuesday, September 30, 2014. When you make a purchase with this code, you’ll receive a second coupon code for your next selection. Bonus!

toddler girl pink green dress hat teaHoping for custom pieces? Sopheap welcomes custom work, and is honored when customers entrust her with these special orders. You’ll find a button for custom orders in the “Shop Owner” section at the left of her Etsy page.

My friend is always coming up with fabulous ideas for her line, and she does it while working part time and maintaining a lovely family (hubby and three kids). Needless to say, she’s a powerhouse, and deserves a great birthday month.

Treat yourself and a special babe this holiday weekend, and have a safe and lovely Labor Day!

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Domestic Bliss

mother toddler daughter african bracelets


On Friday, Iris and I went to an event featuring the Zulu Birth Project. I’m acquainted with a local doula, and she was one of the hosts for an evening with South African birth professionals, Native American singing and traditional African dance.

Iris is a dancin’ fool, and always starting dance parties around the house. So when there were drums and voices and women performing large, joyful movements, she was so there. Outside of worrying that she was going to get accidentally kicked by the performers, I loved watching her participate.

Something else sticks with me from the night… I purchased three bracelets made in South Africa, and was given an interpretation of what my choices suggested. While I don’t typically place significant belief in such things, I do think it’s worthwhile to consider the bigger concepts these readings put forth, and dwell, at least for a few minutes, on my life.

The colors and shapes in my bracelets represented many feelings and elements, but the one most repeated was domestic bliss. I think that, sometimes, this phrase connotes images of a happy, perhaps somewhat suppressed, housewife, submitting to her husband and caring for her children, all the while finding “fulfillment” in keeping a clean, cooked-in home.

But, what if we did a 180, and thought of domestic bliss as something we build together – in my case, as women who embrace our homes from the roles of partner, mother, creator, professional and, yes, home keeper? What if domestic bliss isn’t about submitting to an outdated ideal, but making our homes exactly what we want… spaces in which to relax and grow?

I assume this isn’t a revolutionary concept to most of you, but it is what I’ve been thinking about, and what I’m working toward during most of these wild days.

Let’s start the week.

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Filed under Local, Of Family and Children

Season Opener: Yoga and The Market

relaxed woman post yoga closeup A beam of light crossed my face. It is not a crooked, fresh wax (which the husband said it resembles).

On Saturday I woke up three hours earlier than usual to hang out in funny positions with strangers.

You’ve heard me talk about yoga, and I’ve already bent your ear on my love of the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. It was almost too much when I heard of a free event involving both.

The Market hosts yoga classes throughout the week in its greenhouse, banquet rooms and demonstration facilities. To make the most of the seasonal outdoor farmers’ market opening, they held an open and free session, offering attendees a great discount for future classes. I registered immediately.

It was my first time doing yoga with anyone other than my husband, mother or Iris, and, at the risk of sounding cheesy, there was energy and it was amazing. We faced a giant second floor window, and a hard rain as the class began. After an hour and 15 minutes of gently voiced instructions and soothing music, not to mention a well guided final relaxation, I was more chill than I’ve been in ages. And the sun was out.

After grabbing that discount for next time, I floated down to the first floor and stopped at a table to take it all in. Nothing but food and enthusiastic people in every direction. I bought a freshly made juice and some pitted dates. I gawked lustfully at the seafood counter and oyster bar. I experienced an affection for my city, which is trying to do something good for the food and small business culture here. Making my way to the front doors and terrace meant a great view of the outdoor market, and green park beyond. I bought a small loaf of bread. Such a beautiful way to start a Spring Saturday.

Sometimes, I really enjoy growing older, because it’s like gaining a new sense. Bliss is found in the simplest things – things that were always there, but require a certain… perception to be appreciated. Sometimes, innocence is reawakened when you thought it was long gone.

Have a wonderful week.

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Midwinter Dinner Date

Charley's crab on Grand RiverIt had been too long since my husband and I experienced date night. I made some Iris arrangements (with the help of an endlessly generous friend), asked him out, and on Saturday night we treated ourselves.

Way back at Christmas 2012, our parents gave us a gift card to Charley’s Crab – a local, somewhat upscale seafood restaurant. I think the only other location is in Palm Beach. Anyway, I’d been there a number of times as a child, but other, “hipper” restaurants sort of outshone it as I grew up. These days, it’s nice to sometimes go places that specialize in seafood… it’s like the pescetarian version of a steak house. Although, actually being able to choose from the whole menu is a bit overwhelming. We overcame that challenge with glee.

The Riesling, mussels, salmon pâté, poppy seed rolls, Mediterranean fish chowder, bouillabaisse (for me) and a Caribbean Combo (for him) were all delicious, and helped us reach our butter quota for the month.

No room or time for dessert – we planned to see the 9:30 showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 3D. Ultimately, I enjoyed it a great deal. Somewhat bummed the Mirkwood/Beorn bit was altered, but was an immediate fan of the dragon portrayal (and I don’t even watch Sherlock!). Devastating in all the best ways. I might have been a little put off by the Tauriel/Legolas thing if I hadn’t known about it beforehand, but really, it’s just a movie. I simply wanted to enjoy it. Still, I can’t help but be amused that Legolas looks older than he did in LOTR…

Tremendous indeed.

dragon Smaug Hobbit Bilbo movie

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