Category Archives: MI

Trying to Unpack at Least 5 Years’ Worth of Stuff

Trying to Unpack at Least 5 Years' Worth of Stuff

Kitchen before…..I thought I had done a pretty good job of going through things prior to the move, but apparently not as I found carry-out chopsticks, ketchup packets and a Blackberry charger (neither of us have bberries anymore)…a few boxes down, lots to go!

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Kitchen after…Bought pizza and soda for lunch for us and the movers…and then proceeded to have that for dinner too.  Jet’s Pizza – sort of like Domino’s.  No flavor when eaten cold.  Will be a good late night option for those moments when you have to have some sort of pizza delivered at 1am….if they’re open until 1am.

before living

Living room before…Sad side note: the fireplace actually does not work.  Well it works, but the owner found out that it was leaking off unacceptably high levels of carbon monoxide and had to have it decommissioned.  I guess that’s the smart move here.  I will also be purchasing a carbon monoxide detector immediately.

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Living room after….aka disaster zone.  Does anyone know if there is fabric disinfectant?  Not just Febreeze but like Lysol for couches, mattresses, etc?

b4 porchPorch before

new porch

Porch after….note the cute ceramic elephant in the corner that will be good for plants/drinks/candles….courtesy of Stella Maris – thank you!!!

 

 

 

Michigan Second Impressions, an Official Engagement, and More Pizza!

Last Thursday, I went to visit Mark in Ann Arbor for the second time ever.  The weather was nice, if not fall-like, which is making me concerned for how cold it’s going to be when fall actually gets here.  Maybe we’ll be going to fewer UMich football games and more Detroit Lions football games (since they have a dome).

For some reason I thought it might be a good idea to take a 6am flight out of BWI that landed at DTW at 7:30.  I must’ve still been in work mode when I booked it, since I did a lot of 6am flying over the past two years.  I also must’ve forgotten how miserable it is to set your alarm for 3:30am, and how even a few cups of coffee can’t keep you from falling asleep on the plane with your mouth open, head jerking side to side every few minutes like a possessed marionette.

Upon landing ridiculously early, I took a cab to the Residence Inn and had plenty of time to work out, check emails, Yelp some good Ann Arbor hair places and book an appointment for Friday, before meeting Mark for lunch at 11:30.

We ate at Biercamp, a BBQ and artisan jerky restaurant/deli counter in a small house on the southern part of State Street near the hotel.  The pulled pork sandwich was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, if slightly buttery for my taste.  Mark liked how they actually seemed to have cooked the meat in the BBQ sauce so that each piece was coated, rather than making you put your own sauce on top of dry pork, where you really can’t get the sauce distributed evenly.  The small things in life.  We wanted to try some of the homemade dill pickles, but they were currently out.

After lunch, I went to the local mall to find a cover for my new iPhone.  I was thinking I wanted a cutesy artsy case, but my sister reminded me that those probably aren’t the best damage control if you actually drop the phone (which I’m definitely prone to do). So I got a hearty case at the Apple store (ugh I’m not into the Apple store Kool-Aid – it tastes like conformity) and will go about my klutzy life hopefully a bit better prepared.  The mall there is pretty nifty.  It’s sort of smallish – all on one level – with not the best anchor stores (Penny’s, Macy’s and Sears) but all the rest of the stores are great!  There’s the usual Banana, J. Crew, etc., but then there’s also Michael Kors, Vera Bradley, L’Occitane and Lush.  Alright!  Mom would love it, as those last two are some of her faves!

I then decided I needed a “wedding vision book.”  Actually I had no idea it was called a vision book until someone else called it that….I just wanted an old school photo album with the peel back sticky pages so I could conglomerate all the scraps of magazines that are currently lying on the coffee table, and the bedside table, and the dining room table, and stuffed in corners of my purse.  I tear scraps out of all magazines – it’s really getting to be a problem – recipes, yoga poses, inspiring color combos, etc.  I have a shoebox full of yoga-related magazine bits that I’ve NEVER looked at again.  Maybe I should make an album for those too, so at least they are arranged in some semblance of order.

Well back to the photo album quest: it’s really hard to find photo albums these days since everyone keeps their photos online.  And when you do find an album, it’s of the newer, slip the photo into this perfectly sized slot, kind.  I tried to find a Wal-Mart near Ann Arbor on the car GPS but it kept telling me that the closest one was about 450 miles away.  That GPS is terrible for that kind of search.  I reluctantly went for the iPhone.  I know that’s what it’s there for – to look up every last bit of information that you could ever want – but it sort of feels like cheating, like I should just be able to find these things without it, and I don’t want to waste the data! LOL

Well, as far as I could tell, there isn’t a Wal-Mart close by to Ann Arbor, so I looked for a KMart.  See, my thinking was that Target might be too classy to carry such things as tacky photo albums with sticky paper, which is why I was sticking to the lower end big box stores.  Just in luck – a KMart not too far away that did indeed carry TWO fly paper photo albums!  Perf!

I got Mark from work and we went up to the new apartment to do the owner’s punch list before dinner.  And that’s when IT happened!!  I was taking an initial walk-through when Mark got down on one knee and did the “official” proposal!!  Here is a glamor-shot of the bling.

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And then we cracked a bottle of wine and did the punch list.

For a celebratory dinner we went to Mani, a modern Italian restaurant downtown.  I may have been laughing a little too loudly and was certainly very animated.  The people at the table next to us kept giving us the eye.  Ooops.  Just happy.

We each got appetizers and split a margherita pizza.  The pizza wasn’t amazing.  A bit too dry and cheese that fell off in clumps when you bit into it.  BUT the burrata appetizer I had was SO GOOD!!  Fresh, cool and creamy burrata cheese with macerated sour cherries, mint, fennel, micro greens and salty olive oil crostini.  I could’ve eaten two of these and skipped the pizza altogether.  It was perfectly sweet, salty, sour, crunchy and creamy all together.  Best burrata of the season (and I’ve had at least 3 others at various restaurants).

Friday I got my hair cut (not bad and reasonably priced) and started piecing together the photo album.  It took a lot longer than anticipated given I didn’t have any scissors!  That evening, we drove out to Grand Haven, about 2.5 hours west of Ann Arbor on Lake Michigan to visit a former co-worker at her summer home there.  Grand Haven is also called Coast Guard City, USA, as dubbed first by the locals, then officially by President Clinton.  There didn’t seem to be a great story behind the name that I could glean, other than there is a coast guard station there.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Spring Lake about 2 miles from downtown Grand Haven because the city was packed with 250,000 people for Coast Guard Week which culminated Saturday with a 2 hour parade.  Friday night we walked around and ate a yummy dinner of steak and salads at Kirby House.  There were lots of teeny boppers out at the street fair dressed in their summer cutoffs (I was feeling old and cold in full-length jeans) and lots of campers lining the parking lots with their grills going.  Different tents held various bands – everything from Beatles to 80s hair band covers.  There was definitely that beach town vibe going on.  Also, we noticed that people had already staked out patches of grass with blankets or bits of string to rope off seating for the fireworks display – Saturday night.  We were told later that you weren’t allowed to start saving spots until Thursday night….2 days in advance!  These must be some good fireworks we thought!

Saturday, we walked the 2 miles into town to set up at our friend’s house for the parade.  She has an awesome house on an elevated corner lot right along the parade route.  There were marching bands, old and new cars and various floats in the street.  And out back there were great summer drinks, including Bloody Mary’s made with dill juice and a pickle (yum!) and amazingly juicy pork tenderloin and half chickens grilled up by her husband’s high school friend who’s a butcher.  You know it had to be good since the man deals with meat all day everyday.

After taking an afternoon siesta, we went downstairs to watch the fireworks across the river from the hotel lawn, where the mosquitos were buzzing and humming all over.  We didn’t stay too long out there for fear of giant bites, so we only saw a bit of the show.  It was odd because about 10 fireworks went off and then it stopped.  We thought, hm I’m sure that can’t be the end of it.  And then a woman behind us said, “Was there another fire?”  We said, “Huh? Was there a fire earlier?”  And she said, “Oh a few years ago the fireworks caused a fire and they had to put it out before they could resume.  Ya know, it’s Grand Haven,” shrugging.  And we said, “Oh hm.”  And she said, “I guess you’re not from around here.”  Nope.  So we went back upstairs and heard the fireworks resume a bit later.  Oh well, I’ve seen ’em before.  I subsequently found a YouTube video of the 2005 fireworks fire – it looked pretty massive, like the whole hillside was on fire.  I’m not sure they could’ve resumed the show after that!

All in all we had an excellent time visiting Grand Haven and thank you to our wonderful hosts for having us!  I’m liking our Michigan explorations, from Traverse City to Grand Haven.  We still need to see downtown Detroit, Mackinac Island and perhaps some other small towns along the way.

Sunday we grabbed some fresh salad, local Michigan cherries and a Michigan hard cider at Produce Station – a boutique grocery, garden center and cafe near the hotel.  I loved this place – it has a lot of gourmet-y type food products that you wouldn’t find at the regular grocery store, as well as very fresh produce (as the name suggests) and locally-made products, like the cider, ice cream, bread and desserts.

Monday I flew back to Baltimore at the more reasonable hour of 2pm.  This week I’ve really got to buckle down and sort through things I want to take with me or give away.  I’ve also got to create an area for items that we will move ourselves, since once the movers take our stuff next week, it will be 2-9 days before we get it in Michigan.  I can’t believe the move is almost here.  I can’t believe I’ve been out of work for almost 2 months.  I’m done volunteering, which was a great experience, and now I’m on the farewell tour of lunch dates with various friends.  My friend Graham and I are going to hit the pool and work on our blogs.  Graham is leaving Bmore to travel the world for a year or two and has started cataloguing his planning and future travel at exploringsevencontinents.com – check it out to see where he’s going – I’m jealous of that adventure!

Next time I’m in Ann Arbor it will be for real, and that’s going to be an adventure all its own!

No Decision Necessary: Pizza? Yes please!

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Family Motto: “The only thing worse than bad pizza is no pizza.”

True.

If you know me, you know that pizza is my favorite food.  But it goes beyond just a favorite food.  I don’t know if I can fully describe my affinity for this conglomeration of bubbly bread, scorching hot marina and ooey cheese, but the question of where my next slice of pizza will come from is floating in my mind at all times.  Just out of the forefront of conscious thought, hiding in the shadowy folds of my brain, until it maneuvers its way to just the right spot, and then Wham! Pizza craving hits.  Which happens with what some might categorize as alarming frequency.

My friend Paul called me the “Pizza Ninja” because no matter what was brought in for lunch at work, I would always end up turning it into pizza, oftentimes without meaning to.  Taco day?  Chips with salsa and cheese heated in the microwave = pizza.  Sandwich day?  Tomato and mozzarella panini = pizza.  Pizza day?  Well that one’s obvious.

I’ve also been known to argue that pizza can be 100% of a balanced diet: grains (crust), fruit (tomato sauce), dairy (cheese), vegetables (mushrooms), meat (pepperoni), fats (olive oil) and salts (salt).  Look at the food pyramid.  ImageCheck, check and check.  You really don’t need to eat anything else!

Okay, I guess I have moved on from this college theory; you probably do need to eat something else once in a while 😉

Take, for instance, a few weeks ago:

Friday:  Margherita pizza for lunch

Sunday (in Traverse City):  Some pizza at That’sa Pizza.  No joke, that was the name of the restaurant.  Does this seem derogatory to anyone else?  Or just cheesy…pun intended 🙂

Tuesday back in Baltimore:  Got home late and made Triscuit pizzas.  Yes, that is when you take Triscuit crackers, put little dollops of pasta sauce on them and then sprinkle each with a smidge of shredded mozz and microwave for 30 seconds.  Deliciously salty if you use regular Triscuits (not low salt, reduced fat, cardboard bits Triscuits).  AKA “Nothing-left-in-the-house-to-eat” pizza.  AKA I should be on The Food Network along with Rachael Ray and her “Late Night Bacon”:  Read the comments at the bottom to cry with laughter

Wednesday in Baltimore:  Wanted to try the newest branch of Sofi’s Crepes in Fells Point.  Didn’t intentionally mean to get a pizza crepe, but “The Motz” (diced tomato, shredded mozzarella and fresh basil) was essentially a margherita pizza in a crepe.  Survey says: they should have used a savory crepe, not a sweet shell…I wouldn’t get this one again.

Friday:  Mark’s flight home was uber delayed and he didn’t get to the apartment until 9, so I ordered delivery from our go-to Baltimore pizza spot: Bagby.  LOVE their spicy shrimp pizza.

Sunday:  Made oven-roasted “virtual sun-dried” tomatoes in the oven Saturday.  It takes about 4 hours of cooking over low heat, but they tasted just like store bought sun-dried tomatoes, and maybe even a bit better because they aren’t like sticks of jerky when you bite into them.  Put a quarter of a tomato on a Triscuit with slices of fresh mozzarella, et voila! Le pizza!

Recipe for “Home-Dried Tomatoes” from Food & Wine Magazine:  “Cut larger tomatoes into halves or quarters and scoop out the seeds.  Trickle with olive oil, season well and scatter with chopped thyme and sliced garlic.  Slow-roast at about 250 degrees for three to four hours, until they are intense, condensed and slightly chewy – but still essentially tender.  They keep for a bit in the refrigerator, covered in olive oil.”  Time consuming but so easy and versatile!  Use them on salad, with mozzarella and basil for caprese, with grilled chicken, with a cheese and olive antipasti, or just to snack on as they are!

So as you can see, not only can pizza be eaten regularly, it’s such a blank canvas to paint – there are so many ways to take something basic and make it more interesting.

For a few of my favorite places to find mouth-watering, crave-able pizza:

1. Bagby Pizza in Harbor East.  OMG my absolute fav.  Personal gourmet pizzas with thin crispy crusts and neato toppings like chicken pesto with red onion and tomato.  Spicy shrimp with a spicy marinara sauce base.  And I hear the chicken parm sammy is addicting, but I just stick to the pizza (potentially with a salad added on the side for a few green veggies).

2. Italian Gardens in Kenilworth mall:  Awww taking me back to elementary school when we used to go here on Fridays after school.  We’d get out at 1pm and this intimately-sized mall would be overrun by kiddies eating pizza.  Still delicious, classic NY style za (because you have to call it za when you’re with my dad obvi) with pep and mush.  Somehow we really got into abbreviating when talking about pizza…I guess we were so excited we just had to find a way to get the words out faster.  And perhaps that’s how my love of abbreviating came to be also.

3. Isabella’s in Little Italy:  Fresh thin crust pizza with the perfect ratio of crust:sauce:cheese.  Everything done thinly and delicately and in proportion.

4. Pizza Connection in Hunt Valley:  Totally a greasy hole-in-the-wall, so it’s better to get delivery if you happen to fall within their very small delivery radius.  Again, piping hot NY thin crust.  Best with all the toppings (which are of course garlic powder, oregano: my all-time favorite herb which I love to put on everything, and crushed red: AKA crushed red pepper for those not abbreviating) and folded length-wise with one finger delicately positioned in the crease to keep the slice sturdy.  This technique is also good for avoiding pizza burn (sometimes) because the roof of your mouth is positioned over the bread, rather than the hot cheese and sauce.  Pizza burn is the worst pizza side-effect because then your mouth hurts, you can’t taste the rest of your pizza as well, and also the roof of your mouth peels off in skin sheets over the next day.  Gross.

Other negative pizza side-effects (which do not outweigh the positives in case you had a doubt) include weight gain, lethargy and the dreaded pizza coma.  This is when you fall asleep immediately after eating pizza due to the “carbo overload” which bloats you and makes your eyelids unusually heavy.  It is especially bad when you’re totally dehydrated and start having crazy dreams from which you can’t wake up.  You feel like you are screaming or thrashing around and you are desperate to open your eyes but you just can’t, and in real life you are sleeping perfectly still.  Then you jerk awake, loudly gasping for air.  You of course have terrible dry mouth (AKA poop mouth) and chug a glass of water and fall back asleep, potentially to have the same scene play out again 30 minutes later.  This whole scenario can be prevented by drinking lots of water with your pizza and/or avoiding Papa John’s, which I’ve decided is the saltiest, most dehydrating pizza in the world.

Such a love-hate relationship with Papa John’s.  In college I could eat a whole large PJ pizza for dinner by myself.  Then I went without Papa John’s for 6 months while living in France, and when I got home and ate it again for the first time, I felt like I was being stabbed in the stomach from the inside out.  Apparently those Papa-John-pizza-breaking-down enzymes had vacated my body.  Now I’ve built up my digestive track enough such that I  can stomach a slice or two now and then, but it’s usually a last resort (see Family Motto at top of the post).  It’s still pretty tasty, and that garlic butter sauce is quite the siren!

In Ann Arbor, I have thus far only had the pizza at NeoPapalis (the seemingly-family-owned spot mentioned in my last post), which was very tasty and I will definitely go back.  I also look forward to trying out all sorts of other pizza joints and reviewing them via the blog.  Any suggestions on where to start eating are more than welcome!!  Bon appetit!