10.20.2014

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Seven years ago, Alessandro's sister Nicole shared a wonderful Halloween tradition with me. Trick-or-treating at Greenfield Village. A few of us adults take all of the kids and together they hold hands, enjoy the hundreds of carved pumpkins and complain that they did not get enough candy!

It started with just two children, Ava and Saverio, in 2007; then the group kept growing and growing with the addition of one new child each year. A cute kid in a costume is the most wonderful thing! Seven cute kids in costumes? Just can't even handle it. 

2007: 




2008:





2009:






2010: (Full disclosure, we went to the Zoo this year, not the Village) 
  


2011:






2012:





2013:







 2014:

This year Ava went as a "creepy baby," although I think she just looks really adorable, Maya was a very sleek black widow, CJ broke his 4 year tradition with the super hero theme to be a a scary jester, Saverio and Victoria stuck with their theme as Mario and Princess Peach for the 3rd year running, Francesca was sweet as a cheerleader, and Enzo as his favorite, a Ninja Turtle. 







CJ and Frank below. I really don't know what these boys were supposed to be, but they were creeping Enzo out. 


The gals...


Saverio and his friend that is a girl...



The group! 



There are people dressed up in cool costumes at each candy station...



Frank would want me to tell you all that we made him take this picture...



It is always fun getting the kids together and for me, seeing all of my little ones in one weekend, let alone one day, is the best gift ever.

Have you been to Halloween at the Village? I would highly recommend it. 

10.14.2014

Everyday He's Puzzlin'

Alessandro recently completed what I thought was an impossible task--this 1000 piece Vitruvian Man jigsaw puzzle. 


I am not a puzzle person at all. Alessandro, on the other hand, likes a good puzzle every once in a while, and he only likes his puzzles extra hard. Last year he completed Starry Night, which until I saw this puzzle I had dubbed the most ridiculous puzzle on the planet. All the swirls looked the same! 


But when I saw this puzzle with the reversed ancient writings and everything practically the same shade, I was convinced that this could not be done. But Al became obsessed and finished it in about a month. The challenge of the puzzle increased a bit for him given his complete lack of fine motor skills. He doesn't have the luxury of trying out pieces all willy-nilly to see if they will fit. Instead, he studies the pieces, determines what goes where and then makes his move. This hobby definitely doubles as a great form of Occupational Therapy! 


Despite these challenges, he claims the Starry Night puzzle was more difficult than this one because the puzzle pieces were not conventional pieces and it was just overall more challenging. We had a few visitors throughout the month that he was puzzling, one being our friends Tom and Kate who did contribute a few pieces to the puzzle. We also had all of the kids over throughout the month and surprisingly none of them messed with it. (Except for Maya we think. But it might have been Ava doing a set-up knowing that everyone blames everything on Maya. We're not sure yet). 

Either way, Alessandro came through again with this amazing feat. Congrats dude! I'll be on the lookout for something even harder for next year.  

10.05.2014

Another Year (and a lot of tangents)

Alessandro and I celebrated our birthdays last month, him turning 32 and me 30. I have wanted to be 30 for as long as I can remember. I always thought 30 was such a respectable age. I figured by then I would be into my career, I would live in a home I loved, I would have a husband if I wanted one (I used to never want one as I could never picture liking someone that much), and I would start considering whether I wanted kids (I have always known they are so much work). 

Thirty has not been disappointing so far. I feel extremely fulfilled in my career and I look forward to working with my clients for many years to come. It feels good to have a job where I can make a human being feel like a human being and treat them accordingly. I have a husband who I really like (who knew!) and who is a downright good person. We have been married for a little over 4 years and have been living in our first home together since that time. We have loved our apartment over the years, the kids love it, and we have many memories here. We are going to be looking for a new place this year, so I look forward to seeing where that takes us. All is falling into place. 

Back to our shared birthday week. It's really fun (and romantic) sharing a birthday week with your spouse. Some friends of ours who are a couple also have their birthdays during the same week as us! So between us all, we have birthdays on 9/1, 9/2, 9/5 and 9/7. It's very special. And my sister and her husband have birthdays later in September, just 3 days apart from one another. Al's brother and his wife are one week and two days apart. Any other spouses out there who share a bday week? 

As for our birthday celebrations, it all began at midnight on Al's birthday when I laid all of his presents out in our room for him to see before going to bed. I am not a patient gift giver and could not wait until morning. 



I bought him a couple of hoodies and basketball shorts from Old Navy, a cool neck warmer, which he has become obsessed with and uses more as a hood/mouth warmer because he is weird and always cold these days, and beard balm made here in Corktown, (directions as listed on their website: Step 1. Stop Shaving. Step 2. Apply Beard Balm. Step 3. Awesome Beard). Easy enough. 

I finished it off with these crocs. He was skeptical (as you may be), but I tried to tell him that I have never steered us wrong and to trust me. Turns out they have been a lifesaver on days when his feet are too swollen to get into his much cooler Saucony's. Function over fashion for the win. 

On his birthday morning, we had the best pancakes known to man at The Original Pancake House in Grosse Pointe. He had the Georgia pecan pancakes and I had banana pancakes with tropical syrup. Tropical. Our breakfast was delectable and we could not stop saying, "Oh my gosh, this is so good." Thank goodness it is hard to get a seat at T.O.P.H. or we would be there every day. His birthday was on a weekday and I took the week off (the best gift he got, he says) so we were able to walk right in on this day. 




And since Alessandro is spoiled, I made him one of his favorite foods for dinner--mussels. (He ate mussels the night he propsed, by the way). Of course they had to be accompanied by my favorite food, french fries. Some fancy people may call that pairing moules et frites. 




I used this recipe to make red coconut curry mussels and this recipe from the same wonderful food blog to make herb salted garlic parmesan double fried french fries. I do not enjoy mussels at all. This was my first time making them, and I discovered that I also do not like prepping mussels for cooking. Removing "beards" is not something you should have to do for food. But double-frying is something you should have to do, which made the french fries out of this world good. The herb salt was genius.



His birthday cake was an America's Test Kitchen carrot cake and it was pretty fabulous. 

For my birthday, Alessandro bought me a beautiful necklace from Rebel Nell, a philanthropic-type company that creates unique jewelry from Detroit-raw material. As better explained on their website:  
Rebel Nell was started with the sole purpose of employing, educating and empowering disadvantaged women in Detroit. We make jewelry from unique local materials, while providing a transitional opportunity for women in Detroit.  Our goal is to help these women move from a life of dependence to one of self-reliance, overcoming barriers to employment through the fruits of their own labor.  Working directly with local homeless shelters, we identify women who are ready to make this transition to a new phase in their lives.

Rebel Nell’s product line starts by repurposing graffiti, an abundant local resource here in the Motor City.  We collect this graffiti after it has already fallen off of walls.  Initially these scraps of graffiti look a little rough on the surface, just like many people’s first impression of Detroit.  However, after we take it through our process, we’re able to reveal all the beautiful layers that make up the graffiti, just like the intricate layers that make up our city.  After some hard work and TLC, the women of Rebel Nell turn that scrap of graffiti into a unique piece of wearable art. 

Our primary goal at Rebel Nell is to restore the confidence in the women we hire.  In addition to on the job training, we provide financial management, life wellness and business education to help them successfully transition to an independent life. 
I accidentally found the package in the mail a few days before my birthday, so I got my present early. (You can kind of see the necklace in the photos below). (Sidenote: A few days before our wedding I was doing laundry and found a receipt in his pants for a necklace. That's the story of how I got that necklace early too. There's a theme here). 

On the day of my birthday, I had a sporadic and last minute brunch with a few friends at The Zenith, but the company was much better than the food or service. 

Two pro tips for waitstaff and other service workers: (1) Don't be curt about inquiring whether a person in a scooter/wheelchair can get out of their chair by offhandedly asking, "Does he need to stay in that chair?" If someone can get out of their chair, they or their party will probably let you know during the whole "party of 4" conversation. and (2) If you are going to ask such a question, please direct the question to the person in the chair who can hear you talking about him and who can probably answer for himself. Something like, "Hello, sir. Just to make sure you are as comfortable as possible today, I wanted to confirm that you will be dining in your scooter, or would you like a chair?"  

This also reminded me of a comment we got when we went to see Book of Mormon at the Detroit Opera House. We arrived about 5 minutes before showtime and handed our tickets to the usher who said, "Uh, there are too many handicap people here. We are running out of places to put all of you." We did not have time to be offended though, because seconds later we were being whisked off to the pit where we ended up sitting in the best seats we could have ever imagined. #handicapperks (That's the first time I have ever used a hashtag and I stole that one from Alessandro. It was not even my original idea. So, #hashtagfail). 

Back to friends...





Later on in the afternoon, my mom picked me up when she got off of work and we had a margarita and a botana at Los Galanes in Mexican Town.  



They have the best botanas in my opinion. (No, a botana is not the same thing as nachos as much as you people want to say it is. It is very different. There are like 5 ingredients in all Mexican dishes--tortillas, cheese, beans, salsa, meat. Different preparations of these dishes create totally different dishes. A chicken taco is not the same thing as a chicken enchilada even though they both consist of a tortilla, cheese, chicken and salsa. Also not the same thing as a chicken flauta although, you guessed it--tortilla, cheese, chicken and salsa. Also not the same thing as a tostada, although same ingredients. Get it?)

I am so glad we are all on the same page now. 

My birthday ended perfectly--a quiet Tiger game with my boo. 



I would also like to give a shout-out to my friend Danielle. I mentioned to her that I wanted a makeup lesson as I believe basic makeup knowledge to be crucial to a woman in her thirties, and I still do not know the difference between concealer, foundation, bb cream, cc cream, etc. (Is there one?) And as thoughtful as she was, she remembered and bought me a  gift certificate to a make-up lesson with Russ Simon. Russ is in charge of maintaining Danielle and my eyebrows, and what a feat that is on my end! He works miracles. I am looking forward to gaining some of his knowledge. Get ready--I'm going to be glamour-shot ready all the time now! (Remember those? Did you ever get one? Me and my sisters did not, but our childhood friend and her mom did and we may or may not have been jealous of them at the time. Not now though). 

We are so lucky to have each other, such great friends, and to continue on in this wonderful life another year older. My next age milestone is 60 where I suspect I will know about 50% of life's lessons at that point and where I will be the person that I am and will always be.   

8.30.2014

Must Watch - "When I Walk"

Take a break from binge watching Breaking Bad over this holiday weekend and watch something real! You have to watch this powerful documentary by Jason Silva called "When I Walk."  Jason is a filmmaker who was diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS when he was 25 years old. Lucky for us, he decided to turn the camera on himself to capture the doubt, fear and hopelessness that he experiences after the diagnosis, the fast and unpredictable progression of the disease, the varying reactions he receives from his support system, and the everyday hurdles, big and small, that he and so many others face everyday of their lives.


It's a story of love, loyalty, courage and hope. But also it is scary!  I cannot imagine many things scarier than knowing you are slowly losing function of your body and realizing there is nothing you can do to stop it.  MS is a terrible disease. Alessandro went from walking with a walker to not being able to stand on his own and being confined to a scooter in less than a year. The transition has been a rough one, but he is a champion and I could not be more proud of him.  Is he kicking this diseases ass?  Hell no.  He is terrified of this disease and it is kicking his.  But, he's still in the ring and willing to go more rounds.  That's what makes him a champion in my book. Many of our loved ones have told us that from their perspective, we are handling all of this so well.  While we may not always feel that way, we are handling it as only we know how.

Everyone reacts differently to the hand they are dealt, and Jason's reaction is admirable to watch on screen and Alessandro's in person.  This documentary mirrors our lives in so many ways and is Must See TV for anyone who knows someone who has MS.

It is available online via PBS until September 5th, and can be purchased here. Let me know what you think.


8.05.2014

Family Fun in the D: Mt. Elliott (Splash) Park!

We found ourselves at Detroit's newest family attraction, Mt. Elliott Park, the other day when Alessandro's family came to hang out.  It was great fun for the little ones!  There could have been more amenities for the adults, such as coffee, booze, or snacks that were not animal crackers, but here's to hoping that will come in the future.  The park has only been open about a month or two and I can already see it is a great edition to our fine City.  

Don't believe me?  Enzo will prove it. 




It was a sort of impromptu trip, so none of the kids had any swim-wear, hence Enzo's impressively droopy diaper.  




The other kids had a blast too.  Here's Victoria going all-in.


Francesca managed to stay dry the entire time. 


The girls made friends with this little girl in the bathing suit.  When I was showing them these pictures this weekend, Victoria very excitedly said, "Hey!  There's my fwend!"  So cute.  And as a side note, they look good as a family of seven!  Hint, hint.


Enzo and Frank are best friends!


And check out these good looking boys. 





Saverio loves him some Uncle Alessandro, so he tried to hide on his scooter so that he could go home with us. 




We had a good time at the splash park and I would recommend it.  Don't forget to take a towel!  We were a bit ill prepared, but it still worked out and we had fun with each other.