Review: The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, pictures by Beth Krommes


Since I was very small I’ve had a love affair with picture books. My mother, a kindergarten teacher and artist, nurtured a love for beautiful books filled with diverse stories and artful illustrations by gifting us books for all special occasions. After dinners out, my family would meander over to the nearest bookstore and spend time perusing the shelves, often coming home with a new book to add to our ever-growing collection.

Now, as a new mom, it’s my turn. While we may have boxes upon boxes of magnificent stories tucked away in the shed back in California, we have begun growing Ziva’s own little collection here in Michigan. Hopefully someday we’ll get my collection here for her to enjoy as well. In the meantime, I’ll share with you my favorites, the classics, and ones we discover together.

Over the weekend we visited Literati, the adorable local book shop in downtown Ann Arbor. I headed up to the second floor to find the children’s section and picked my way through the board books until I found one that felt just right for little Z. The House in the Night (by Susan Marie Swanson with illustrations by Beth Krommes) caught my eye with its striking black and white, intricate illustrations, and simple, rhythmic words.

The House in the Night by Susan Swanson, Illustrations by Beth Krommes
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, Illustrations by Beth Krommes

I always loved the books with big spreads of sweeping scenes filled with tiny little details you could get lost in. The art is just beautiful. The black and white with just touches of warm yellow light seem magical. The story has an arch to it like a relaxation exercise, taking you all the way out into a dream like, ethereal space, and then back into the warmth of the scene. I can imagine this one will be sending Little Z off to sleepy land for years to come. Thumbs way up.



Acupuncture and Meditation

I’ve finally done it. I am official practicing meditation for one 45-60 minute session a week. It’s not much, but it’s a start.

It started with the longest, driest winter ever. This is not good weather for someone with psoriasis and a system prone to inflammation. With zero moisture in the air (I may be exaggerating, that is not a scientific assessment), the small patches on my elbow and behind my ears were getting more and more out of hand. I’ll spare you the flakey, burning, painful details. To summarize, it ain’t pretty and it doesn’t feel good either.

A while back I had given the local acupuncture clinic a try, with much encouragement from my mother, but never made a regular commitment to going. I like it at the Community Acupuncture Clinic in Ferndale. There is a calm and warm ambiance, like a relaxing yoga studio. Sharing the room with the other people receiving treatment makes it less scary than it would be alone in a more clinical room. I like the idea of other people being present, all in a resting state with calm breathing (sometimes punctuated by snores). As my inflammation got worse, and my skin became less and less tolerable this winter, I decided it was time to really give acupuncture a real committed try.

I can’t speak on the results yet, but I’ll share once I’m further along in my journey. What I have found is that my weekly acupuncture session is the perfect time and place to practice mindfulness meditation.

Once the needles are in and I’m reclining in my lazy boy (the acupuncture room is all lazy boy recliners in a big circle around the room), I settle in to stillness. Partially out of not wanting to disturb the needles poking out of me, but also because after a long day of work, the best and hardest thing in the world to do is be still and calm.

As time goes on I hope to start practicing at home too, and more often. But a start is a start and I’m feeling good already.

The Power of Music: Concert Memories

Keith Urban moving to the second stage right in front of me at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo taken by Ready Set Sarah)
Keith Urban moving to the second stage right in front of me at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo taken by Ready Set Sarah)

In the last few months I’ve seen tons of posts to Facebook and Instagram from friends at concerts and music festivals. Smokey stages with ethereal lighting and itty bitty figures on a stage.  This got me thinking about how much I miss live music.

In the hot and sticky summer of 2009 I was living in Sacramento and preparing for my big move across the country to Michigan to start grad school. I didn’t have a ton of money saved up, and what I had I wanted to save for moving and school costs.  Going on a vacation felt like too much of a stretch. Mid-recession the phrase “staycation” was the local entertainment marketing rage, and I decided that was the way to go. I went on a concert binge that summer. I saw Kenny Chesney, Coldplay, and Keith Urban. Each show was a different vibe, and wonderful for completely different reasons, but afterwards there was always the same outcome: I felt renewed, rejuvenated and relaxed.

There is just something so cathartic about listening to music live, singing along with a group, and getting wrapped up in the entertainment and atmosphere of the production and crowd.

I usually prefer an outdoor summer concert. There is something truly magical about sitting outdoors at night, listening to great music, looking up at the stars in the hot summer air. The night we saw Coldplay it was beyond any concert experience I’d had before. The Sleep Train Amphitheater in Wheatland, CA is the perfect venue for summer concerts. Nestled into what looks like a hillock in the middle of a farm field, this venue is made for breezy, steamy summer nights. The stage production and surprises Coldplay used for this show felt like they were designed from the imaginative experience of a child. There were oversized large yellow balloons bouncing through the audience during “Yellow”, that when they burst, sprinkled the audience with yellow confetti. There were air rockets shooting multicolored neon and metallic paper butterflies on the audience from every direction timed perfectly with the music and building energy during “Lovers in Japan”, or was it “Strawberry Swing”? I don’t recall, but it was awesome. There was just so much imagination in this show it was like an altered state. They even gave out a CD of the set recorded live at previous shows. It was an incredible experience and the gimmicks all worked on me.

The night I saw Kenny Chesney in San Francisco at AT&T Park, it was less of a production, but enjoyable all the same. The cold San Francisco summer air was enough to make him put on a shirt with sleeves (if you know Kenny Chesney, you know what that takes). Lady Antebellum opened, and though Sugarland didn’t make it to open, Miranda Lambert did and she was AWESOME. AT&T park is great, but cold and big for the kind of show I like. The music was enough to carry us to a warm beachy state of mind.

To be honest, when I decided to see Keith Urban at the Arco Arena in Natomas, CA that summer, I was really going to see his opening act, Leann Rimes. Leann was the first country artist I liked as a child. I used to stand on the trunk at the foot of my mothers bed with Leann’s debut album Blue blasting on the stereo. I’d hold my moms brush to my lips as a microphone and belt out each song, word for word, to my (very tolerant) audience of 1 (my mom). Leann and I are almost exactly the same age (a matter of days) and that just made me love her singing even more.

Excited to see one of my childhood idols, I did a little research online to see where the best seats for my money (which there wasn’t much of) would be. I read a few reviews that suggested there would be a second stage at some point in the show were Keith Urban would play a few songs out in the audience. I looked up the layout of the Arco Arena seating charts and made a guess as to where that would be. When we picked our tickets up at will call they told us the seats we purchased weren’t available because a camera would be placed there, so they were moving us. I was livid! I had purposely chosen that location, how could they ruin my plan! Well, it was all for the best. We ended up seated what seemed like a mere 5 feet from the second stage, right on level with him as he sang. This was our view:

It was AMAZING. I hadn’t been a big fan before the show, but by the time it was over I was sold. 100%.

Up Close and personal. Keith Urban at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo by Ready Set Sarah).
Up Close and personal. Keith Urban at Arco Arena in 2009. (Photo by Ready Set Sarah).
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah
Photo by Ready Set Sarah

Since I moved to Michigan that August of 2009, I have made it to a few great shows. Jay Z and Eminem at Comerica Park in 2010 was most memorable (Dr. Dre showed up! Beyonce was dancing in her seat!). Brian got me a ticket as a birthday present and we had a blast. We also saw Jason Mraz at a local outdoor venue, DTE Energy Music Theatre, summer 2012 around my birthday again (a theme I guess). I love Jason Mraz, but the set list wasn’t fabulous and it was a weeknight. By the time the vibe picked up and he started playing songs more familiar to the audience we were already headed out for the night… but at least it was outdoors!

With New Years Eve creeping up on me this year, I started longing for a musical vacation. It is such a stress reducer for me, seeing bands I like play, the thrill of the evening, the music. Last New Years we went up north here in Michigan to Petoskey and rented a house with a few other couples (Details will have to be for another post). It was so much fun exploring the northern lake towns with my hunny, playing in the snow with our puppy, and hanging out with friends. How could we top that? Well, the Zac Brown Band is here to save the day.

I can’t wait to head down to the historic Joe Louis Arena on the Detroit River tomorrow night to ring in the new year with my brand spankin’ new husband and the Zac Brown Band! I really hope they play “Free,” that violin intro melts me and I can’t imagine how it will rock my soul live.

Here we come 2014!



Holiday Finest

If I had a glamorous NYE party to go to, what would I wear? Red seems to be on everyone’s minds these days across blogs and magazines, and I’m falling for the deep cranberry, crimson, fire engine and cherry hues.
Holiday Finest

Bridal Shoes

Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.  Now for the newest of wedding trends, the all important wedding shoe!

Nina ‘Fonda’ Sandal (Image via Nordstrom)

I love a beautiful shoe, but I’m not afraid to admit that they aren’t on the top of my priority list when it comes to our wedding budget. I knew I wanted them to look special, to be gold and glittery to complement the champaign/macadamia colored bridesmaids dresses, and that I didn’t want to spend a fortune.

When my lovely bridesmaid Jes and I ventured out to Somerset Mall I was drawn like a moth to the flame to the expensive and glittering shoes of Kate Spade, Stuart Weitzman, and Jimmy Choo. Though they are beautiful and leave nothing to desire…besides a bigger budget… I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of treating myself in the shoe department.

After exploring the mall for what seemed like ages, we finally landed in Nordstrom (which was having it’s half-yearly sale for women’s apparel). I’d like to think it was destiny. Immediately I discovered an elegant, spectacular and glittery sandal that was, above all else, comfortable, beautiful and affordable! This Nina ‘Fonda’ Shoe will be LOVELY with my pouffy, glamourous dress and will be less of a challenge to walk in on the stone patio where our reception will be than the extra tall and thin stilettos I’d been trying on all day. I’m in LOVE.

Nina ‘Fonda’ Sandal (Image via Nordstrom)



All that Glitters

Must have-Bridal Shower Brunches in Blush, Coral, and Champaign Gold

With all of the responsibility and choice making that comes with planning a wedding (no matter how big or small), you might think I’d be glad the bridal shower is something out of my hands…. alas, it has become my obsession.

I just can’t seem to get enough of the über feminine, sparkling world of the bridal shower. Whether a tea party motif with stiff collars and pearls, or a colorful “new years eve gone glitter and rose on a sunday morning,” I’m in love and it feels so good.

The color scheme of my heart’s desire. (Image from an endless tumblr stream of reposts… if it’s yours please let me know!)

My heart is particularly happy when multiple of my favorite pretty-girl perks are combined. Here’s just a little taste-

I’m seeing gold (Image via Marcus Design, Inc. )
Pink and Gold Table Setting (image via 100 Layer Cake Blog)
Tea Party Bridal Shower (image via Martha Stewart Weddings)
With a ribbon on top. It’s all about the ribbons. Particularly wide pink or wide black ribbons. (image via Tumblr unknown)
Glamorous cake (Image via Pink Peach Cakes)
Blush, coral and white paper streamers. And darling we must have the Champaign!
(Image via Martha Stewart Weddings)

Really, the Champaign is a must. Pink Champaign, Champaign with berries, mimosas bubbling with sparkling happiness and morning sunshine.

I can’t wait to plan one of these lady-fests one day. Oh unsuspecting bride, you will be thrilled 🙂

xoxo, Sarah

Brinkley Boo the Cockapoo

My heart has officially been stolen. Sound the alarms, there is one cute thief in the house!

The picture that started it all. I found her online… apparently that’s where I find all my loves. LOL. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
We brought her home on Monday, July 16th from out in New Haven, MI. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
On our way to get pet supplies! Brinkley and her Daddy. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
Brinkley Lubetsky’s hot pink tag. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
Brinkley’s first bath. I can’t resist those puppy dog eyes! Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
Working from home just got a little more fun 🙂 Image by Ready.Set.Sarah
Love. mage by Ready.Set.Sarah
Brinkley, welcome to the family. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah

Berkeley Bound

Home sweet home! Image by Ready.Set.Sarah.

After spending an awesome weekend in Calistoga for the vineyard wedding, the Beau and I headed back to Berkeley to the house were I grew up. His parents had visited my mom’s home once before for a brief brunch, but this trip was the first time I have really had a chance to show them around my home turf.

It was a big group of us for the day with his parents, his sister Rachel and her boyfriend Jeremy (now Fiance), Jeremy’s uncle, and my mom and I. After a short visit to our favorite shopping and snacking haunts on 4th, we walked through the sunny streets of West Berkeley to my very favorite mexican restaurant, Picante, where I have been ordering Pollo Asado Burritos since I was nigh 6 years old. Ah the chipotle flavored memories of youth.

UC Berkeley Campanile image by Ready.Set.Sarah.

After lunch my mom went home to rest and we met up with my Dad up by his office, which is right next door to UC Berkeley. It was fun to walk around campus seeing it through fresh eyes. It really is such a beautiful place even with the grime of downtown Berkeley around it… I’m still a UC Davis Aggie all the way (and maybe a little Wolverine), but I can appreciate the bayside beauty that is my hometown. Apparently, at the top of the bell tower (Campanile), The Beau asked my father a very important question… wink, wink. I was down below with The Beau’s sister hanging out in the shade, there really was no bad option on this gorgeous Northern California day.

View from the Lawrence Hall of Science Image by Ready.Set.Sarah.

We ended the 1 day Berkeley tour by taking in the vista from the Lawrence Hall of Science parking lot (one of my favorite views in the Berkeley Hills).

Bay Area Image by Ready.Set.Sarah

That is the city of Berkeley and the campus in the foreground, followed by the bay bridge to Treasure Island and finally landing in San Francisco. Man, I hella love the Bay.

Instagram Obsessed

On the off chance that you aren’t already obsessed with it as well, I thought I’d share. I’m completely hooked, not that I needed another ridiculous and wonderful app/site to spend time on.

The Instagram app is a quick and easy way to share your pics (and crosspost to FB, Twitter, etc). Check out my photo feed here-

Instagram flower- Image by Ready.Set.Sarah!

After tooling around with Instagram for a while I also discovered the app Pic Stitch. This app has many features you can purchase, but there is plenty to do with the free stuff. I’m loving all of my new little obsessions 🙂

Pic Stitch collage by Ready.Set.Sarah!

Mutt March with Nelson & Co.

Nelson, a beauty named Sam, and little Ella Deville at the Michigan Humane Society Mutt March – Image by Ready.Set.Sarah!

PUPPIES! I just got home from a sun and slobber filled morning at the Michigan Humane Society’s Mutt March. The Mutt March is an annual event held on the sprawling green grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House estate in Grosse Pointe Shores, MI on Lake St. Clair. This was our second year walking with Nelson, and this year he brought his little buddy Ella Deville along for the fun.

Here are some glamour shots of Nelson, the brindle French Bulldog that stole my heart-

Nelson the Frenchie – Image by Ready.Set.Sarah!

Now, it’s hard to admit, but the landscape sort of stole the show from our four-legged friends. The Edsel and Eleanor Ford house sits on a large piece of land dotted with weeping willows and tall old trees. Designed by Albert Kahn, the houses on the grounds are all done in the style of Cotswold village cottages (according to their website). The whole place gives me a sense of having stepped back in time.

Houses on the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House estate – the pictures hardly even capture how lovely it really is. Images by Ready.Set.Sarah!

Last year during the walk they were taking down what remained of a wedding reception and even half disassembled the scene was impressive – chandeliers hanging from trees, crisp white lounge areas tucked into bright green trees. This would be an AMAZING place for engagement or wedding photos if you are looking for something in the Detroit area 😉

The details in the architecture are hard not to drool over, the stone facades caped in ivy, the rounded doors and tiled roofs. One of my favorite structures is the gate house –

The beautifully design gate house. Image by Ready.Set.Sarah!

The grounds were designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen. After finishing a lap with the Mutt March we decided to spend a bit more time exploring the paths along the lake. I would love to come back and spend a day picnicking along the water, there were perfect spots to set up a blanket all over the place!

The trees and views, this place is lush and serene. Images by Ready.Set.Sarah!

I can’t wait until next years Mutt March… and maybe by then we will have our very own little furry friend to take along! Fingers crossed.